“The plot is stripped to the bone, and it’s all in the execution” of what's easily the best new film I’ve seen in months. Also on Medium.
“The plot is stripped to the bone, and it’s all in the execution” of what's easily the best new film I’ve seen in months. Also on Medium.
February’s a short month as it is, but nine films over four weeks is a low batting average. One of those was a repeat viewing, two others I reviewed over at Thumped, and I’m writing up one more over the weekend, or perhaps early next week. The rest you can find below. More…
My take on this lurid but tedious spy drama, another miss for J-Law, plus a few words on the even worse Sky animation Monster Family. Also on Medium.
Late with my monthnotes, and late with my Letterboxd reviews as well. Since we’re well into the new year by now, I’m overdue in noting that I logged 171 viewings over the course of 2017, which is about 50 more than I managed the previous year.
Even accounting for the fact that some were shorter (circa 1 hr) documentaries, that’s still a better than average showing. Mind you, I didn’t write as many full-length reviews as I have in previous years, but it surely indicates I was watching more for my own enjoyment and/or edification. (That also classifies as CPD as far as I’m concerned.) More…
I wasn’t enthralled by Guillermo del Toro’s fishy romantic fantasy, but can’t ignore the good work by Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon. (Also on Medium).
Spielberg’s spiritual prequel to All The President’s Men is flawed, but a better bet than Old Man Neeson’s latest one-man-army caper.
This barbed black comedy from playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh was a bit too detached for my liking.
First film review of 2018 is up, on Thumped.com and on Medium.
Another few weeks of genre-hopping, thanks to a free month of Shudder that I ended up letting lapse as I couldn’t find much of anything I wanted to watch. So it goes.
But it was also a month that included one of my favourite films of the year. Shame it bypassed cinemas and went straight to Netflix. The new straight to video? I sure hope not.
Obviously Netflix is better than that, but there is a clear sense that it serves serialised ‘prestige’ TV much better than first-run feature films. And I get the feeling even Netflix’s honchos recognise this, going by all the promos I’m seeing for Bright (which isn’t out till the end of this month). More…
Plus a few words on George Clooney's Suburbicon, which also opens tomorrow.
October’s viewing was a mixed bag: a handful of cinema trips, one of them a press show (for Brawl in Cell Block 99, as previously linked); a few dips into Netflix and other streaming services; genres all over the place; and one classic rewatch that stands the test of time. More…
Vince Vaughn’s strongest role to date here in S Craig Zahler’s ambitious follow—up to Bone Tomahawk, and an avowed exploitation tribute that prompts conflicting feelings.
Compared to July and August, September was a quiet month for movies watched round these parts. Mind you, two involved trips to the cinema as a paying punter, though one I regret spending those few euros on (see if you can guess which one). More…
Based on the true story of the 1983 NI prison break, but its potential as a drama focused on its leads is lost behind its functionally boring escape plot.
If you haven’t yet seen Year of the Dragon or To Live and Die in LA, get that sorted before watching this great discussion of two of the 1980s’ finest crime films. (Be forewarned, the video is NSFW.)
Late with this link but anyway: it’s probably better suited for the telly, but what a delightfully ghastly surprise this is.
It’s won awards and it’s getting rave reviews, but I thought it was awful. And I get the feeling if it were anything but an Irish film it would get ripped apart. The only grace is the genuine connection between the two leads, but it’s not a saving one.
I may not have been blogging much here, but I did ramp up my movie-watching over the summer — mostly thanks to my dive into ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series (not all of which I’ve reviewed, mind).
Among the films I watched in July and August is one of the best of the year thus far in War for the Planet of the Apes. And on average the quality has been pretty good, with only a handful of duds to speak of. More…
One of my films of the year so far, no monkey business.
Despite promising to myself that I would more carefully audit the quality of the films I watch for pleasure/personal edification, I still managed to watch one of the worst things I’ve seen in many a year. Must do better in July. More…
Never mind the silly title: Edgar Wright’s new one is a real treat that deserves to be seen on the big screen.
Trying something a little different here, based on Khoi Vinh’s monthly movie diary roundups. Rather than clumping my Letterboxd reviews here at random, as I remember to reblog them, I’ll do a single post every month, starting with last month. Even less a couple I’ve already posted here, May 2017 was a busy one. More…
Studio Ghibli’s first non-Japanese production, and a beautiful one it is too. Plus a few words on the latest entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Bad restaurant reviews are the best restaurant reviews, and Jay Rayner brings us a doozy here. I normally think of Rayner as an insufferable dick, the smug dandy from MasterChef and that, but I can warm to comments like this: “I have spent sums like this on restaurant experiences before, and have not begrudged it. We each of us build our best memories in different ways, and some of mine involve expensive restaurants. But they have to be good. This one will also leave me with memories. They are bleak and troubling. If I work hard, one day, with luck, I may be able to forget.”
The third entry in the Freddy franchise trades the inventive gore and straight-up weirdness of the original, and the sexuality allegory of the unfairly maligned second effort, for a more fantastic scenario that nevertheless has its queasy moments (the ‘string puppet’ scene near the start, especially). It’s not as well paced as you might remember it (Freddy’s barely in it; I doubt Robert Englund had to wear the makeup for more than a week) and pretty much runs out of steam in the final act, where it’s more a showcase for the technical skills of the special effects artists than a story worth following. Indeed, I forgot about the Harryhausen tribute at the end; I burst out laughing, but not in a bad way.
Plus a few words on literal shaggy dog story A Dog’s Purpose.
Technically skilful and visually accomplished, with a great performance by the lead, but dubious themes indeed.
What a treat this is: a genuinely funny, sweet and touching comedy-drama about a non-traditional family and the unique creature who shakes up their lives. But it arrived before most people cared about such things, and doesn’t fit neatly into the Disney canon, so is unfairly overlooked (even by me, hence why it’s taken me so long to see it).
The first ‘straight’ genre pastiche from the Astron-6 collective, The Void is a film very much in thrall of its influences in lieu of its own worldbuilding: it’s basically Carpenter’s The Thing, Prince of Darkness and a few others crossed with Fulci’s The Beyond, by way of Hellraiser and Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft flicks. What’s more, the awful lighting makes it largely impossible to appreciate the practical effects, which are Empire Pictures weird-veering-on-hokey rather than other-worldly terrifying, so I don’t know why they bothered. I didn’t hate watching it, though.
Yoshitoki Ōima’s slice-of-life manga perhaps naturally loses some of its plot clarity and character development in the translation to the big screen, compressing an 18-month-long story into a two-hour movie and all that. But the spirit is intact, as a disconnected group of teenagers – one of them deaf – try to mend the wounds they inflicted on one another when they were younger and knew no better. Emotionally genuine, and beautifully animated. Very much recommended if you liked Toradora!
Late with this owing to a busy week: a long-delayed round-up some of my favourite sounds from the last couple of years. Emphasis on the ‘some’, mind you, as all I can think of now are the records I forgot to include. Such is life.
My first film review in weeks, for various reasons mostly related to not being able to make it to press screenings. Shame it’s for another dud, and that’s coming from a fan of the people involved.
I really wanted to like this. I really did. I was even willing to forgive the handful of creaky moments in its first half hour — paper-thin characters, hackneyed set-ups and more — because the pace is so exciting. When the titular giant ape makes his first appearance, it’s at a genuinely unexpected moment, and the chaos is handled beautifully by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). I was ready for a thrill ride.
But it’s all downhill from there. You see, it’s one thing to reference other movies, to pay visual or thematic homage; that’s something the otherwise narratively impoverished A Cure for Wellness does to its credit. It’s another, however, to simply mash-up the plots of a few different movies and hope that nostalgia will fill the cracks.
So James Mangold finally got to make his R-rated Wolverine. And? Strip away the air of ‘serious film’-ness surrounding this super-anti-hero flick and it’s a fairly ordinary road movie, gussied up by a gritty pomo western style, relatively extreme violence, and uncharacteristic potty-mouth dialogue. All very cute, like when Jackman says ‘fuck off’ in that Avengers cameo. Fanboys can shove it.
Macon Blair’s directorial debut, a blackly comic revenge film, suffers from first-film-itis for much of its running time. Its obvious influences (mostly his old filmmaking pal Jeremy Saulnier, with a smattering of Edgar Wright) get in the way of a story that’s unevenly focused as it is, one minute a me-against-the-world drama, the next a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style cringe comedy. Things improve markedly in the final act, however, with an explosion of violence that brings a film with quirky, flighty tendencies back down to earth hard. David Yow (he of noise rock legends The Jesus Lizard) is a revelation as the primary heel of the piece, and Elijah Wood brings his usual charm as the oddball sidekick, but it’s Melanie Lynskey in the lead who holds it all together, just about, as the woman who decides she can no longer bear to let the bastards get her down.
Unexpectedly decent, this. The postmodern Wes Craven approach is writ large in its first half, and the obvious references pay off in grisly amusement rather than belly-laughs, as they should. It’s also effectively atmospheric, as the tropes start to die off and our main characters succumb to the creeping realisation that there are no rules to this horror movie. If there’s anything really wrong it it, it’s that it suffers from the same problem as that other colossal horror tussle: it’s far too long before the titular characters go one on one.
Opening tomorrow round these parts, this modern gothic horror is more something to admire from a technical standpoint than to love as a story in and of itself.
It’s bland, it’s pat, it’s sentimental — nothing like the extraordinary true story it sets out to re-tell.
Bittersweet but beguiling, this German comedy-but-not-really is worth its near three-hour running time.
This courtroom drama based on the libel action taken by notorious Holocaust denier David Irving takes too long to shake off the Hollywood tropes and get to the good stuff.
A humourless action slog for the World of Darkness set. A bit more fighting and a lot less blathering on about bloodlines and whatnot would’ve helped.
Fede Alvarez’s reboot of the Sam Raimi horror classic pretends to add depth with a thinly veiled subtext of demonic possession as metaphor for drug addiction, but it’s drowned out amid a witless torrent of wince-inducing gore — and a thoroughly nasty, cynical tone. I walked out on this halfway through when it first hit cinemas, and after catching up on Netflix I see I didn’t miss much.
Olympus Has Fallen comes with a certain charm to its ridiculous premise and theatrical violence. Only a trace of that tongue-in-cheek attitude is present in this cheap and nasty sequel, which takes its jingoism far too seriously. It’s also a film that constantly takes its audience for mugs, and can’t even be bothered to get Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman in the same place on the same day. That’s pathetic.
You know what? The more I think about this one, the more I like it. Well, maybe 'like' is too strong a word, but you get my meaning.
The wry title makes things pretty clear: the book is about Kim Gordon, not the band that made her name, and rightly so.
For sure, Sonic Youth was an enormous part of her life, but she’s as multifaceted as any person, and she doesn’t shy away from her struggles in defining herself as an individual distinct from that all-consuming identity. Identity, image, marketing: between her unconventional adolescence, her complicated relationship with her older brother, and her adult life in the venn diagram of creative worlds, these concepts loom large, constantly intersecting and blurring lines. Gordon’s clear, candid writing cuts through a lot of it, unapologetic as she is about being an artist, a creator, a woman in a man’s world.
Here’s a diegetic twist on the found-footage horror where the meta-narrative is more than just a series of links between episodes, as a team of cops race against time to rescue a missing family from a masked assailant, following clues from digital cameras recovered at the crime scene, but uncover a mystery far more messed-up than anyone could have expected. Props to French film prodigy Nathan Ambrosioni (he’s only 17, the bastard!) for a decent attempt at the kind of genre blend that usually separates or scrambles. However, it’s still primarily a found-footage psycho slasher, set in a spooooky abandoned building, in the deep, dark woods — hitting the cliché trifecta — so your mileage may vary.
It’s hard to find a fair review of this one on Letterboxd; it’s all ‘this is shit/boring/etc’ with zero argument. That’s decidedly unfair to a remake that does quite a few things right.
So busy this week that I forgot to link this one when it went live on Tuesday evening. Despite what I said before, there might be one more film review from me before the year is out, if I can bring myself to write at length about Collateral Beauty.
Probably my final film review for 2016, since I’m missing a bunch of screenings over the next fortnight. And it’s one I liked, but didn’t love. Give it a watch if it shows up on your streaming service of choice.
I liked it just fine; the story is nothing special, and the songs are blah, but the animation is stunning.
It takes a good while for this belated sequel to get going, through a messy, meandering first half-hour that feels a lot longer, till all the pieces are in place for a souped-up showdown between our heroes and the nefarious Tall Man, gleefully icky and technically impressive (for its day) special effects and all.