This review is going to come across harsher than this reviewer means it to and that’s a real shame. This plucky British comedy is a solidly fun time for the length audience will spend with it. An aspiring social media martial artist in training (feisty newcomer Priya Kansara) and her friends stage a wedding heist in an attempt to stop her sister( The Umbrella Academy’s Ritu Arya) from being pulled into a British Pakistani arranged marriage. For a low budget-distinctly homegrown affair the film boasts strong performances engagingly exuberant tone and a general sense of inoffensively solid fun. If one likes this specific brand of fantasy-inflected but still grounded martial arts comedy infused with a certain amount of indebtedness to Larrie Nun’s work on Sex Education as most British YA material these days. The problem is with a limited budget and resources for as fun as the piece is on its merits doesn’t come across as anything more than a checklist of influences. This viewer spotted Gurinder Charter, Edgar Wright, Matthew Vaughn and the Daniels among others. Within that context, it’s pretty impressive that the final product of Polite Society is as good as it is. That said having heard the buzz coming out of various film festivals and how hard members of the UK film press went to bat for it during its week of theatrical opening this viewer was expecting a little bit more than what he got. In terms of the British 2023 breakout festival genre movies certainly don’t hold the candle to the magnificent Rye Lane. That said Polite Society a pretty fun time on its own merits regardless, especially for this brand of broadly accessible British crossover comedy. Just dial down the expectations a bit. 7/10.
Let’s have a look at another one of Amazon’s questionably expensive follies within the streaming world. Daisy Jones and the Six a mini-series adaptation of the popular Taylor Jenkins Read novel via Reese Witherspoon‘s Hello Sunshine brand It’s effectively what would happen if one attempted to pair the added grit and attempted to ground aesthetic from the Bradley Cooper version of A Star Is Born and paired it with a story about what is effectively a glorified Fleetwood Mac tribute act. The results aren’t entirely without some merit. Riley Keogh and Sam Claflin are excellent in the central roles as the band’s leaders and are surrounded by a solid cast of supporting players. The performance sequences do an excellent job of giving our fictional band some level of credibility and also succeed at letting these moments stand alone regardless of their broader context within the narrative. The entire thing is cliché but extremely watchable if one has a fondness for these kinds of sex drugs and rock’n’roll narratives. So why isn’t this better? Well on a basic level while the material isn’t terrible it certainly offers not a lot more than a series of aggressively functional nuts and bolts for this story to build off of. To extend the Star Is Borm 2019 comparison further the season desperately aims for that creative high point during the Shallow sequence where Lady Gaga shreds her voice over the bridge of the titular song. Needless to say, it doesn’t get there. That’s not to say the music is bad. This author would argue it’s pretty good if one likes the 70s pop-rock sound it is going for. That said like with everything else involved in these ten episodes a certain amount of enjoyment involves the acceptance that this particular box of cliches has been done to death. The TV version of Daisy Jones and the Six is fine for what it’s doing. Especially if one has an affinity for seeing these types of stories on screen. That said beyond some strong performances and effective musical sequences there is nothing new here that elevates the material or makes it all that special. Beyond the fan base for the source material, it wasn’t entirely clear why Bezos and friends had given this such a large rollout on top of its reported $140 million budget as a viewer coming to the miniseries version as his first experience. Especially with an obvious ending that very much relies upon a certain amount of deus ex machina with its final reveal. At the end of the day, this doesn’t matter. The miniseries’ fundamental strengths have enough to recommend the typical target audience for this kind of thing. 6/10.
Amazon has a history of handing out some bizarre blank checks. That said they clearly think there is enough of the audience for the somewhat niche products produced by the creative teams to see something of a return on their investment. The latest in this category is Swarm. On paper, an offbeat horror thriller co-created by Donald Glover and his team of collaborators in which Dominique Fishback plays a rabid fan of an established but fictional musician whose devotion to the catalogue of said fandom results in her becoming a serial killer following the suicide of her foster sister (Chloe Bailey) Beyond his role as Troy Barnes in Community, this author has limited experience with Glover and his cohort’s more Artur-driven projects which is a large part of the reason he wanted to check this seven-episode season out.
Swarm is a very odd beast. Don’t get It has some very definite elements Of quality in its corner. Its command of upselling tone is second to none. The outbursts of expected violence have solid viscerally. Dominique Fishbach who has been doing good work in supporting parts for years is incredible in the central role. Unfortunately, this season is also thuddingly pretentious, delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer and convinced of its own perceived importance. The choice to set this is something of a period piece in 2016 where some of the standard themes discussed within the premise had not crystallized as fully within a social media age context feels like a deliberate deflection on the part of the creative team for how unbelievably basic and out of date the whole thing already feels. Glover’s own This Is America music video may have become a viral sensation in 2018 but this show feels like the product of someone still coasting on that success without any evolution in the themes or ideas discussed. Especially for something you can tell on some level is trying to tap into the zeitgeist of 2023. Anything that the show has to say about fandom, feminism obsession and violence in a social media context has been said before and better on a variety of different platforms. To put this another way This viewer questioned whether he was going to continue after watching the first episode. The opening kill that acts as the cliffhanger was so effective he decided to press on with the full season anyway. He kind of wishes he didn’t. Especially when the season throws in a misdirect true crime documentary-esque recap as the penultimate episode. The minds behind this episode will contest that it has something to say regarding the current media obsession with this genre It. most certainly doesn’t. An interesting change of pace in theory that does not work in execution. A pretty effective metaphor for the season as a whole. Great central performance and the perfect command of tone in places but also screamingly pretentious and disappointing in others. Swarm is an intriguing but frustrating viewing experience. Crawling with an effective atmosphere fearsomely supported by a brilliant central performance from Dominic Fishback If this thing had the strength of its convictions it would be an absolute slam dunk. Unfortunately, it’s not a lot more than a screamingly pretentious unbelievably basic exercise on any of the themes it tries to explore. Using a modern but period setting as a clear deflection tactic. Those who get a kick out of streaming series blank checks and Dominique Fishback fans might get something out of this. For everyone else, this is best avoided. 5/10.
In an ironic twist of fate, this blog has covered all the live-action Disney + Star Wars shows. Except for the one that truly transcends the IP and universe in Andor. The return of Mando and Grogu sparked some truly stupid discourse in comparison Yes the first season of Andor is brilliant. That doesn’t mean that they’re more nuts and bolts entertainment The Mandalorian as a show excelled at its best throughout its first two seasons Can’t also exist It’s perfectly possible to have distinct flavours set in the same universe as long as there is enough separation. This author would argue that’s the case here. With that being said going into this season there was a distinct question of whether Mando would go from here given the reset episodes of Book of Boba Fett felt like contractual obligations followed the story’s natural endpoint and the conclusion of season 2 so Disney executives can sell you more merch. best.Much as there’s a slightly more contact-sensitive set of circumstances going into season 3 Jon Favreau and the creative team deserved a chance in terms of figuring out what the show’s feature is from here. What did they deliver?
For a show with such a distinct formula up until this point, The Mandalorian season 3 is a very odd beast. For its first six episodes, it feels like pretty much exactly what was described in the previous paragraph. Desperately trying several new ideas and different scenarios to shake up the status quo enough to justify more when the show should not have ended last season. There are some mid-level Mando and Grogu adventures. Episodes teeming Din Djarin up with a returning Katie Sackhoff reprising her Bo Katan animated role in live action. Sackhoff has been a reliable supporting player in genre material for years. In a way, it’s nice for her to have carved out a reoccurring role on a show with this much in-built audience. That said when there’s such a clear disparity between her and Pedro Pascal in terms of star power with the latter only having to record voice work this season as opposed to consistently taking her helmet off and clearly being on set for the shoot when her co-star was not. It creates a very odd dynamic. There’s an episode showcasing some more Grogu back story with an extended cameo from Ahmed Best. This feels like the franchise doing its best to replay him for being the butt of jokes for the last 24 years. There’s an episode that solves its initial premise within the first 10 minutes before turning into a half-baked neo-noir. It features three celebrity cameos two of which come from actors that rank very high on this author’s personal favourites list. Well, it’s nice to see them here they don’t seem to add much greater purpose than additional name value. Most bizarrely there’s an Andor light episode Focusing on the characters and inner workings under Moff Gideon. It’s not hard to see what this one is going for. Unfortunately, this show doesn’t have the character depth or necessary expansion within its side of the universe to pull something like this off with any effectiveness. Then there’s the two-part finale featuring the return of Moff Gideon himself. Pretty strong stuff very much has the feel of being conventionally more of the same. Even if it returns to the rock-solid fundamentals the show had already established. The entire thing is a very odd beast.
That’s before you tack on an ending that once again sets a return to the formula of the first two seasons making all this seemingly random experimentation seem somewhat pointless in retrospect. Like watching a team of writers do their best with the formula they have but ultimately realizing that even in one of the most popular and expansive fictional universes the side of the story they are dealing with only has a certain number of characters and scenarios available to them. We shall wait to see what next season holds. The Mandalorian season 3 is odd. Well, the weakest of the three seasons by a quite substantial margin its experimentation is intriguing enough in its better moments to say that this season it’s not entirely without some merit. A lot of the runtime feels like corporate-mandated attempts to expand the show’s lifespan with varying levels of success. That’s before the writer’s room clearly decided in setting up the next season that most of that was pointless and reset the material back to the established status quo for a second time. Mando may have been a breath of fresh air out of the gate after the genuine atrocity that was Rise of Skywalker but if this season proves anything it’s that even an attempt to prevent the show from resting on its laurels appears to have simultaneously lost sight of why viewers would be invested in the show in the first place. 6/10.
Full disclosure. This author is a confessed huge fan of the John Wick franchise. That said much as he would argue all the previous films are all great the two initial sequels are a little bit heavy only slightly obtuse lore of the assassins and Continental visitors coming after our monosyllabic antihero. Given the direction the franchise has been heading it was not surprising to hear on paper that the 4th entry was the longest so far clocking in at an epic 169 minutes. There was always the thought before seeing the new film that perhaps Chad Stahelski and crew were losing sight of what makes this franchise so good even with such rock-solid fundamentals. Nevertheless, this viewer was still excited when sitting down for his opening weekend screening. How was it? To be frank, having seen the film a few weeks ago now this author and fan’s jaw is still on the floor. The first thing to say is that despite the extended runtime this fourth entry strips back on the lore for a more back-to-basics approach in line with the first entry. It’s just that the scale and scope are now so expansive with at least two unreal multipart action suites taking place across major cities that combine this franchise’s ability to blend craft and exhilaration in the most effective way possible. It feels like the closest Americans will get in attempting to recapture the mouth-watering action extravaganza of The Raid films ( minus some of the more visceral gore. ) Regardless of the fact the American remake has been teamed for years. At this point, a creative team at 57 North could probably do a decent job of it as opposed to the current hack behind the Hitman’s Bodyguard films that is currently attached. John Wick has always been one of the shining lights of American franchise filmmaking since the first one became a breakout success This latest and potentially final entry in the main series represents a pinnacle for American action movies that have not even been touched since Mad Max: Fury Road and Mission Impossible: Fallout. ( the former being a film this author will admit to respecting much more than actively liking /engaging with.) John Wick has however always retained a sense of emotional connection even with the cacophony of bullets and headshots and this latest entry will be hard to beat for American action movies going forward. There’s a sense that watching everyone involved do their thing for close to three hours in the most impressive way possible. This will make every action film-maker not named Christopher Macquarie to tremble in their boots. With Dead Reckoning: Part One on the horizon the fact that two best American action franchises have entries coming out within six months of each other is a truly tantalizing prospect for fans of a variety of craft-centric yet populist action cinema John Wick 4 is incredible. The kind of insane action spectacle that will inspire generations of filmmakers to come. An absolute extravaganza of the sort of insanely stylistic craft-focused set pieces this franchise is known for up to this point this feels like the absolute apex of what those involved can do. Given the deserved box office success of this entry despite its somewhat definitive ending, there is no doubt going to be more coming from this universe beyond the already announced The Continental mini-series spinoff. That doesn’t mean John Wick 4 isn’t anything other than exceptional. 10/10
In terms of their big-ticket projects, Prime Video has effectively two specialities. A brand of action show targeted squarely at red-state America in a distinct throwback vein. In the other category, you have shows Bezos and friends think we’ll be enormous by birthright but aren’t willing to put any creative muscle behind beyond a big marketing push in allowing these to be the great shows they could be with stronger creative teams. At the near-perfect intersection of these two subgenres, you have the company’s latest attempted TV blockbuster Citadel. A high-concept international espionage thriller starring Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Richard Madden that on paper and based on the marketing campaign looked about as generic as they come. There were already jokes appearing on social media the day the Dobble episode premiere was released about the perceived lack of interest in this thing. Not to mention along with the infamously troubled production that has been well chronicled in various places Amazon had already greenlit 3 international spinoffs before the mothership show’s debut. If everything about this doesn’t scream enormous by birthright nothing else will. Nevertheless, there was a certain amount of morbid curiosity in actually ascertaining whether this thing was as bland as the promo material suggested.
For 90% of these opening episodes, Citadel looks to be exactly what it promises on the surface. Slick to within an inch of its life but offering nothing below its distinctly shiny surface. That is until one realizes that this thing is a complete tonal mass and clearly the result of multiple competing visions. The standard heroes and villains battle between the rival spy agencies of Citadel and the evil Manticore it’s part Saturday morning GI Joe, part Robert Ludlum holiday read spy thriller and 87 North influenced attempt at a visceral action in the style of John Wick. It’s not particularly convincing in any of these attempts. The tonal dissonance is even more stark considering the actors they chose in an attempt to bring gravitas to the decidedly stupid material. Stanley Tucci carries the silliest plot turn with a level of totally earnest seriousness that the material distinctly doesn’t deserve. Meanwhile, Leslie Manville is here chewing every piece of scenery she can get her hands on in a pantomime-esque role. For as distinctly assembled by the committee as the whole thing feels in a lot of ways the fluctuations in tone at least initially make this a potentially more interesting failure than it might have looked on the surface. It’s still not particularly good though. For as much as online predicaments that this franchise has had no cultural impact the day after it releases its opening episodes might be a little premature the prospect of any potential long-term fandom growing around these six episodes ( unless the final four knock it out of the park) seems remarkably unrealistic in the kindest way possible.
For as algorithmically generated as a lot of these first two episodes of Citadel feel there are just enough odd choices floating around the edges to make them potentially intergang failures. One may have to see how the rest of the season plays out to make the final judgment but if things continue progressing in the way that they are looking to based on this opening salvo this might be yet another case of Amazon adopting sunk cost fallacy with their streaming output. 4/10
In some ways, this example might be far too niche for some but to this writer, the following example is a good showcase of how streaming content has been cannibalized and made even more niche in the content search. Boris Becker had gotten out of jail after serving eight months of his two-year UK sentence for crimes related to his bankruptcy and had from posts on social media been seen doing a little bit of punditry work in Germany following his release and deportation. What reminds widely that unpublicised from the tennis news cycle and social media accounts this writer and fan following was that there was a Becker documentary coming noted documentarian Alex Gibney The piece had clearly had the finishing touches applied to it so it could be released following the end of Beckers incarceration arc for maximum exposure. It also happened to be three and three-quarters hours consisting of two feature-length parts. This was a daunting prospect Given how much Becker was a fixture of the BBC punditry team that made this author such a devoted tennis from the mid to late 2000s onwards this author was keen to check the new documentary out despite not knowing of its existence before its arrival on Apple TV +. Becker may be far from a great pundit but what he is is a mercurial and engaging storyteller. After a distinctly surface-level approach of something like Break Point, Citizen Ash and McEnroe, this author and fan was more than willing to give a longer-form project a chance. How was it? That depends on what one is looking for. If they are interested in a fairly exhaustive retrospective of Beckers’s playing career they will be right at home here. The construction of both parts is super conventional but Gibney and his team’s clear access took a huge range of archive footage and The vast majority of players and contemporaries you would want to hear from in the telling of the Boris Becker story on one level this promises exactly what it delivers. It helps that it’s also constructed around two long-form sit-down interviews with Becker himself conducted at the start of his legal troubles and just prior to the 2022 sentencing respectively. Whatever flaws he may have as a person Becker remains a fantastic talker. His delivery could make the phone book engaging even if the course of the extended runtime there’s not that much challenge to the subject’s perception of events within his life. In what is the documentary’s biggest coup Gibney did get Novak Djokovic for what seems like a fairly open chat discussing Becker’s mentality and what was attractive to Djokovic and his team about hiring him as a coach. This in turn highlights the film’s biggest issue. For as good as the career retrospective stuff is the post-career material is mostly confined to the last hour of this three and three quarter hour project with the Djokovic section having the most time dedicated to it. With how much real estate is given over to the main element that presents any kind of crossover appeal given how popular these true crime fall from grace narratives tend to be. There is not much time dedicated to Becker’s internal psychology in terms of what motivated one of the world’s most famous tennis players to partake in the series of actions that he did. Much is there’s a certain amount of interest in hearing it from the horse’s mouth given how long this documentary takes to get there a Wikipedia summary of Becker’s legal history might be more effective for casual fans. On a certain level though it was nice to see a filmmaker like Gibney give one of the primary stories of modern tennis the time and dedication that it deserves. With the said caveat that this decision limits the piece’s appeal to casual viewers. Boom Boom is an incredibly straightforward but pretty effective retrospective peace that can make use of a wealth of archive assets very effectively in the telling of the Boris Becker story. If one is hoping for a great deal on Becker’s post-career escapades ( where the really interesting stuff is given that the filmmaker had access to Becker at a specific point in time) fans might be left wanting. 7/10.
This reviewer is always the first to point out how out of touch the #filmTwitter and festival covering scene is with the trends of what a mainstream audience would want. Occasionally though there are films that cut through and for whatever reason should be enormous but are not For whatever reason. Disney/Fox UK seemed to be putting a fair amount of muscle behind the UK rollout of Rye Lane. A Sundance breakout hit in which two characters ( David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah) have a chance to meet and spend the rest of the day doing various things around West London. On one level this is your basic Before Sunrise ref but the highly amusing trailer and good reviews meant that it was one this viewer was keen to check out thanks to the highly amusing trailer and strong reviews. Was it worth it? Absolutely. This thing is utterly Perfection wrapped up in an incredibly tight 82-minute package. Boasting delightful performances from its leads. a razor-sharp screenplay and strong command of place and location this thing is absolute dynamite on every conceivable level. The fact there are even some fun stylistic moments and genuinely funny cutaway gags when Seth MacFarlane and friends have buried that very comedic concept six feet under multiple times over is even more impressive. A debut feature for director Raine Allen-Miller that oozes confidence in every frame and feels like the discovery of a major new British talent. This is everything formula cinema should be wrapped up in a small but perfectly formed package. The fact that arrived and quickly disappeared during its UK theatrical run is frankly a massive shame
Rye Lane is perfect. A delightful modern romcom that represents everything the genre should be in 2023 wrapped up in a small but perfectly formed package. In a previous generation, this may have been a textbook example of a successful mid-range movie. Hopefully, this thing finds an audience further down the road. It most certainly deserves to be a massive calling card for everyone involved. 10/10
This viewer saw the trailer for Champions and after doing some additional research his heart sank even further. The Farrelly brother that didn’t direct Green Book was making a special-needs sports comedy with Woody Harrelson as a disgraced basketball coach forced to train a team for the Special Olympics as part of a community service order. As someone whose cerebral palsy meant that he grew up around Special Education Needs kids with all sorts of varying abilities and afflictions the main concern was that if the firm employed one-to-one representation between disability and actor (which is important in its own right) It would get a pass from the kind of activists that only look for this in their portrayals of disability on screen without any consideration for tone or content (which in this watches mind is far more important.) This is how you end up with defenders for the simultaneously incredibly important yet unbelievably limited representation in the Oscar-winning CODA (To give the most recent example.) So one will forgive this watcher if one did not think one of the Farrellys could pull off this kind of formula with any kind of nuance. Nevertheless, this fear did go into the film with an open mind. How was it? To this viewer’s surprise he is pleased to report the Champions is perfectly solid. The sort of effectively formulaic sports dramedy can’t resist playing Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping three times but is solidly entertaining as the broad crowd-pleaser it sets out to be. Critically from a representation point of view, it’s consistently funny and open-hearted without coming across as mean or exploitative. It also gives its disabled characters hopes, dreams and genuine lives that stretch far beyond the theoretical limitations of their disability which is among the best things a piece like this can do. The team come across as incredibly endearing without being schmaltzy. Granted the film as a whole never deviates or innovates from its formula but for a piece like this aiming for broad populism that is perfectly fine. It’s not a film audiences will likely remember long term outside of certain activist crowds but remains very pleasant whilst watching. Champions is perfectly solid for what it’s doing. A nuts and bolts formula sports movie that takes all the right steps with its representation elements without talking down or pandering to a specific audience. Plenty of films like this have existed before and will continue to exist long after. That said this is a fine addition to the underdog sports movie subgenre. 6/10.
It seems slightly sheepish to admit now given the final results of the screen but fluorine Zeller and writer Christopher Hampton’s follow-up to The Father was among this writer’s most anticipated films of the year. Beyond the former film winning Anthony Hopkins a deserved best actor Oscar the film itself was emotionally devastating finding the heart and humanity within the incredibly touchy subject of dementia. On paper, an immediate follow-up with a strong cast sounds like a potentially hugely promising prospect. The new film is very much a spiritual sequel to Zeller’s Oscar-winning effort taking another difficult subject and trying to peel it back in an attempt to find the raw human story. This time Hugh Jackman plays a career-focused businessman whose life is turned upside down when his ex-wife (Laura Dern) turns up on his doorstep asking for more input from him in helping guide their son (Zen McGrath) who is having severe mental health battles and playing delinquent from school. This is hot on the heels of Jackman marrying his second wife (Vanessa Kirby) and then having a newborn daughter.
Let’s make one thing clear. The buzz on this thing has been utterly horrendous. It has been going viral in various Twitter circles for its allegedly very one-dimensional portrait of very serious issues. The film was dumped out in the UK and mid-January with no buzz whatsoever. The UK distributors seemed running scared to some extent from the films That said this viewer found The Father so affecting and effective and still wanted to see what Zeller and Co had to offer here On the one hand it’s hard to argue this film is anything less than a failure. Especially after getting so much deserved acclaim for a movie that on paper sets out to strike a similar tonal balance. Where The Father excelled The Son falls flat on its face. It’s the mental health equivalent of Simple Plans Untitled//How Could This Happen to Me. The thing is that at least one can laugh at Pierre Boliver and his band’s hollering overwrought attempt at creating some variety of message song. Here the one-dimensional attempt at tackling such tricky material results in an endlessly cliched, treating the paper-thin fundamentally one-dimensional material with a reverence that it doesn’t deserve. The cast are all doing their best to elevate proceedings are somewhat undone by McGrath delivering the ultimate “It’s not just a phase mom” energy in what might be the worst calling card for a young actor this writer has seen in recent memory.
That said it was also hard for this writer to get exceptionally mad watching The Son play out on screen. It’s a film that reveals its misjudged emotional register in the first 15 minutes. Then one is simply watching the narrative go through the motions until the inevitable ending hits with the subtlety of being hit by a freight train.
To put it another way, it’s hard for this writer to get enraged at The Son when there was an entire audience of people this award season that considered Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale some sort of transcendent masterpiece. A film that tackles similar thorny issues with a degree of insane one-dimensionality. That said 13 Reasons Why Season 3 and the rancid “twist” ending to Will Smith’s Collateral Beauty are still out there. For as bad as it is the sun is far from the worst mental health depiction on screen that comes to mind for this writer. ‘4/10.
What does it take to bring something intriguing to a genre as over-saturated in 2023 as anything with superpowers? The answer according to this genuinely great new sitcom made for the Star arm of international Disney +. Offering the most ground-level take on conceptual powers humanly possible in That said with the greatest of respect to the creative team on paper this eight-episode season looks like nothing special. A very standard flat-share sitcom focusing on our central character and three others as they negotiate that sense of mid-20s ennui in a world where everyone gets a random superpower of varying usefulness when they turn 18. Unfortunately, Jen (Máiréad Tyers) remains powerless and spends the season trying various methods of activation as well as negotiating the highs and mostly lows of being the only powerless person in a world full of heroes. The fact that this production comes from the company behind Killing Eve and that the writing does have a certain air of the meany post-Phoebe Waller-Bridge copycats. Yet from the very opening scene of the pilot the writing hits just the right balance between acid-tonged NSFW acerbicness and genuine heart this is sort of miraculous. Laugh out loud funny with strong performances and engaging characters. It feels like a successful and genuine attempt to crack a character-focused ground-level superpower story that doesn’t go off into wild bouts of outlandish wish fulfilment/fantasy ( beyond silly employment of both rubbish and effective powers for comedic effect. Even when this show employs an age-old trick in giving a character a very NSFW name and backstory making this a narrative lynchpin for the season it takes the time to invest the audience in the character’s emotional journey. Far beyond the standard response of “haha, this character has a name you can’t say out loud.” The entire thing is one of the most supremely confident debut seasons of a sitcom this writer can remember since the debut of The Good Place. An undeniably formulated but incredibly well-formed peace arrives on the scene with its full creative identity already established. The fact it comes from the production company that barely a year ago was responsible for a series finale that spat in the face of the remaining fandom that stuck with the show through diminishing returns is even more astonishing. More of this please and thank you Extraordinary is genuinely great. A very specific and tired formula incredibly well delivered by a mostly new cast and creative team. Not to mention the fact it’s genuinely committed to offering a strong take on a ground-level superpower story. One of the sharpest new shows around at the moment and an early contender for your best of 2023 TV list. Beyond the obvious warning to not watch this with your parents all the easily offended hoover up this debut season as fast as one can if you’re in the mood for a genuinely hilarious new sitcom. 8/10
There are probably far more articulate writers than this one with thoughts on this wildly divisive but successful A24. awards best play. How much of this relates to the ongoing Brandon Fraser Hollywood redemption arc and what percentage is related to the positive or negative merits of the piece itself remains to be seen. Nevertheless, when the film had its first festival screenings it was nice to hear about Fraser s return given that he has been incredibly open about his struggles before his return here. As the more divisive narrative around the film started to form it was notable that A24 had not put any major effort into marketing as of yet. This was one of the cases where the distributor could market the film to a huge section of their online hive mind as well as the Brandon Fraser fandom sight unseen. Then the trailer did come out. To put it very nicely it looked like the awards bait version of the post-credits scene from Dodgeball. Instead of Ben Stiller donning the fat suit and dancing to Kelis here, we have Fraser as a massively morbidly obese college professor who has accepted that he is eating himself into an early grave. In his mind, there is nothing anyone can do about that. That is until the re-emergence of his long-lost daughter (Sadie Sink) and her request for him to effectively ghostwrite a number of her English assignments potentially causes Fraser to rethink his priorities. Going into the film when it finally arrived on its UK opening weekend this author honestly expected the worst.The gurning nature of the trailer combined with how insufferable a large majority of the A24 cannon is (especially with those that drink the Kool-Aid of the studio’s catalogue online.) Nevertheless, maybe this author would wind up on the side of the defenders for this thing. One never knows until after the credits have rolled. Well there’s viewer did not like the film in any way outside Fraser’s admittedly strong central performance he was somewhat surprised that the trailer is something of a deliberate misdirect This thing is far too tonally abrasive with a level of one-dimensionality that prevents the narrative from tackling the thorny questions it brings up or presenting a solid stance on challenging any kind of misconception on the artistic value or creative around characters as overweight as Frasers Charlie is. Yet the other side of this piece lonely is just as gurning and earnest as that trailer suggests. Right down to a final beat that on paper and potentially in execution is unbelievably powerful when looked at in a certain way. Yet this final sequence also has an indulgence in the cheesy and melodramatic that prevents this viewer from entirely cosigning it in the way he would want to (much as he can see the argument for it working with some audiences.) The current tools that aren’t Fraser aren’t given a great deal to work with. Hong Chau was Oscar-nominated and makes the most she can from an underwritten role. If one wants to understand the critical failure of The Whale however it might lie in the casting of Sadie Sink. She effectively plays Max Mayfield if you updated the character for the 2020s but the writing and performance have none of the emotional complexity the Duffer Brothers are very much capable of at their best. There’s a reason that Kate Bush’s running sequence resonated with so many as such an effective and multilayered metaphor for depression anxiety and the very will keep existing. This kind of transcendent moment is something The Whale is desperate to try and achieve but thanks to its decidedly first-base, surface-level screenplay it will never Some will see the merit and emotional power of a piece like The Whale Others will say it is emotionally manipulative hokey nonsense paying surface-level lip service to some very important themes and ideas. Nevertheless much as these viewer saw both these arguments on display whilst watching very much squarely fell in the latter category. Fraser’s performance is excellent but it’s the sole factor in elevating a decidedly stagey, incredibly pretentious effort that thinks it’s a lot smarter and more credible than it is. There are of course obtuse religious and mortality metaphors being thrown in thanks to Darren Aronofsky’s mindset in the director’s chair. It’s a film this viewer is grateful to have seen. It’s not hard to see why opinion has been so feverishly split. This viewer would be lying if he admitted to finding any deeper merit in something this one-dimensional. 4/10.
The fact that director Jason Moore hasn’t gone on to bigger and better things since helming the first Pitch Perfect is one of the great questions in this author’s mind over the last 10 years. Moore went off to make the Tina Fey/ Amy Poehler vehicle Sisters with a really funny John Cena cameo and then largely disappeared. Moore is back and is part of the camp attempting to spearhead Jennifer Lopez’s multimedia comeback with Shotgun Wedding. Her second major starring role in as many ways although this time pivoted directly to streaming on Amazon. This may not be a bad move in a lot of ways. Lopez has charisma and a built-in audience, especially for this type of streaming vehicle. The set-up here sees Lopez and Josh Duhamel play a feuding couple whose wedding day gets interrupted by the arrival of pirates.. Does the film have anything to offer? Not really. There’s no denying this is a functionally decent premise. The problem with Shotgun Wedding is that it effectively jettisons all the nuts and bolts promised that could be there in favour of shrieky slapstick, and an R rating that feels like something of an obligation as opposed to something the creatives could use to dial up the viscerality. Duhamel and Lopez are fine in the central roles. They are two actors who have been relentlessly typecast to play one specific role throughout their careers. Lenny Kravitz is attempting to make the most of an underwritten villain role. This is also one of the first feature film roles for Jennifer Coolidge post-White Lotus. it’s not hard to think that every casting director under the sun will just want her to play variations on Tonya McQuaid for the rest of her career. One is unsure just how creepy the relationship between Cheech Marin and his much younger wife played by far too good to be here D’Arcy Carden is meant to be. They are of course ultimately all in service of J Lo’s attempted resurgence. Shotgun Wedding seems afraid of committing to any potential audience beyond the broadest reach possible.
In concept, Shotgun Wedding sounds like it might be an effective nuts-and-bolts genre effort. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The film does not have the strength of its convictions in anything it tries to do. This is despite a game cast of effective B listers who are all the factory not here to do a whole lot beyond supporting J-Lo’s continued attempt at reviving her movie career. 4/10
Everyone has those trailers that get out under their skin if they see them enough times. Throughout the winter of 2022, the prime contender for this dubious award in this writer’s view was A Man Called Otto. The Tom Hanks remake of the successful Swedish film A Man Called Ove. Having not seen the original over two minutes the trailer for the US version simply attempts to sell the audience on “it’s Tom Hanks. he’s grumpy.” Nevertheless, in the dwindling market full theatrical exclusives in a post-COVID environment Sony have decided to market it as an initial first-run exclusive for the time being. This viewer was always going to give it a chance but did not go in with a great deal of hope. How is the film?
Honestly. Nothing great but it’s better than this watcher thought it would be. The surprise here might be that Hanks is remarkably good at leveraging his “America’s dad” persona for some blackly comedic beats that are honestly pretty effective. These clashes quite desperately against the multiple scenes of attempted suicide. This strikes something of an odd note against the general tone that is very blatantly sentimental. That said the fact the film works at all with such a jumbled tone is a testament to the script feeling decidedly sharper than it needs to be. The central characters r relationship with the newly moved-in Hispanic family next door is quite sweet in execution and his mellowing throughout the film is believable and endearing. Under the fairly extreme tonal whiplash that can occur from scene to scene is surprisingly accessible and easy to like with its heart on its sleeve. There are no surprises or curveballs if one has seen these style narratives play out before but the full package is pleasantly engaging viewing that’s worth taking the time to seek out. As is always the case with American remakes of popular foreign hits plenty will claim the original is better by default. Well, this viewer doesn’t doubt that that may be the case as someone who was sick and tired of seeing the trailer before the final film shuffled its way into UK cinemas the US version was decidedly better than it had any right to be given its rather thin premise and reliance on the central performance.
A Man Called Otto will not rock any viewer’s world. That said Its mix of saccharine sentimentality and surprising darkness honestly should not work. One can see every beat coming from 10 minutes in with any level of genre familiarity. Yet with Hanks committed work in the central role and enough of the blackly comedic moments being largely effective. The film won this viewer over surprisingly quickly. It’s not going to trouble any viewer’s best of 2023 list and this watcher has no doubt the original will be better in the eyes of most people. its viability as a big theatrical exclusive from Sony is also questionable at best. If one is in the mood for a slice of Soviet blackly comedic laughs you could certainly do a lot worse than watching Tom Hanks be pretty effectively grumpy. 7/10
The trailer for this James Wan-produced killer AI doll horror was something of a viral sensation out of the gate. This writer did not catch wind of it until he saw some of the stunts pulled by Universal’s marketing team putting Meg3an.s in places building for social media showcases doing robotic dances. One look at the trailer sale this is a very standard killer toy movie with the borderline expected slowed-down supposedly eerie cover of a pop song. In this case, Taylor Swift’s “It’s Nice to Have a Friend.” This viewer’s impression of the trailer having seen the marketing was a pretty definitive “that’s all this was. Well, it certainly looks stupid.” Thus he was surprised to see when the opening weekend came around to see a finished film debuting far better reveals than expected in some quarters. Was this thing good in taking a very stock slasher plot and being able to do something interesting with it? let’s find out.
The answer to the proposed question depends on what you’re looking for. If one wants to see an entertainingly stupid slasher movie with some dumb kills and ridiculous moments make three and is pretty effective at delivering a ridiculously silly turn-your-brain-off Friday night horror movie. From the very first scene, however, it’s clear that on some level the very stupid-looking AI doll/ movie wants to say something about consumerist culture. Allison Williams plays an overworked robotics engineer who has to take in her screen-time-focused niece after the death of her parents in a car crash. Thus the new maternal figure decides that she is going to use her technological focus as the incentive to build her charge a new robotic friend in the form of Megan. This entire unbelievably basic strand of story and attempted social commentary is done with all the subtlety of a hammer blow to the face. It’s like RoboCop if it was written by your sozzled wine mom telling their nieces nephews and grandchildren to take it easy concerning screen time and reliance on technology. After an exceptionally dull first act, this watcher was on one level pleased to see that things picked up significantly when it becomes the film that audiences came here to see very veering on just the right side of entertainingly ridiculous. Much as the final product here might not be touching any pretensions towards the pretentious vein of elevated horror it’s also nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is even to pull off a surface-level amount of potential subtext.
The screenplay is from the writer of Malignant a movie that also offers nothing but functionality for 75% of its running time before going completely insane in that astonishing extended showdown that was incredibly glorious and cathartic. It had also been teased from the very opening scene. Megan is probably more consistent than that across the entire film but does not have the insane high point of Malignant’s third act. That said it does not commit hard enough to just being an entertainingly silly slasher movie to be worth an unqualified recommendation. There’s eventually enough functionally ridiculous delivery on the premise here that it’s not hard can see why it has done well at the box office with the first sequel already guaranteed.
Megan is entertainingly stupid enough as a functional piece of genre entertainment to probably get a pass from a lot of viewers. There’s enough fun to be had In watching the camp AI robot go on its killing spree that fans of ridiculous genre entertainment may well get something out of it. How much better would the film have been without the persistent need to fall on its face in attempting to say something? At the very least it’s not hard to see why it’s become a breakout hit. However, the abject failure in the screenplay’s attempt at “social commentary prevents this author from giving it even a qualified recommendation as a full final product. 5/10
If this author had to pick a favourite working filmmaker as of writing this Damien Chazelle would be his answer. The director’s first three films are among this watcher’s favourites in recent memory. He has this fan’s support in terms of checking out new projects for the length of his career. For that reason alone Babylon was among this writer’s most anticipated media of 2022 without a single frame of footage on name recognition alone. Then the marketing was decidedly underwhelming. The final product honestly looked like not a lot more than a half-baked Wolf of Wall Street clone that just happened to be set in the fertile ground/ prime Oscar bait era of classic Hollywood. Then the film opened in the US to wildly divisive reviews and was, to put it mildly, a huge flop. this reignited this viewer’s interest to such an extent that he honestly could not wait to see what an earth this thing had in store and where exactly he would fall on it. Taking his seat in one of his favourite cinema screens available to him excited to see what an earth Chazelle had to offer. To preface the central point this writer is about to make he needs to make something abundantly clear. There are far more extreme movies on the fringes of the indie and critic scenes one is not going to get a mainstream audience in front of Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor or Julia Ducournaus Titane anytime soon. That said in terms of Hollywood-level productions Babylon is without question the most insanely wild swing from a major studio and director in quite some time. This thing makes the aforementioned Wolf of Wall Street look like Paddington. A film that opens in one of its tamer moments with a live elephant unleashing explosive diarrhoea on one of its protagonists and simultaneously goes both down and uphill from there. The entire thing feels wildly excessive and assembled by a 14-year-old edge lord for a lot of its running time. Not to mention an extended third-act sequence featuring a just returned from extended hiatus former Hollywood star engaging in one of the most “I can’t quite believe this section found its way into a major movie” set pieces one will ever see. Not to mention a conceptually insane final montage. This simultaneously should get Chazelle laughed out of the building yet to a large swath of the audience will be inherently defensible. It’s also worth noting that since the film hit digital HD and this particular sequence has been clipped out as the kind of thing designed from the ground up to go viral on social media. Yet it is missing the critical bit of context that makes it such a wild choice. Yet within this smorgasbord of unabashed depravity Chazelle’s core strengths as a filmmaker shine through. The man seems incapable of making anything look and sound less than absolutely immaculate. This thing had a reported budget of $80 million but honestly looks like it cost far more. He also continues the ability to get remarkably strong performances, amazing scores (from a returning Justin Hurwitz) and brilliant moments out of pretty much everyone he works with. Not to mention that underneath the wild insanity, there is a hugely engaging emotional honesty in knowing and showcasing the type of filmmaking and wild parties depicted here absolutely would have existed even have any sort of convention for good taste and modern standards may want to rewrite them out of history. For as one-dimensional as this might sound to some it is honestly never boring even when huge chunks of it do not work in the slightest. yet these are offset by some incredible moments and sequences that balance out pretty evenly in both categories. The entire thing is an insanely wild hugely hedonistic mass that will most definitely have passionate defenders on both sides of the masterpiece/ trash debate for years. Babylon is the kind of major studio folly that will be remembered and discussed for decades to come. Yet within the mountain of cocaine, wild partying and a pile of vomit is a superbly executed golden age of Hollywood awards play that Chazelle can very easily knock out of the park. Certain viewers will champion the film on this merit. Others won’t be able to get past its sheer excess. Yet particularly after this viewer left the cinema on the back of a montage that is effectively ( insert spoiler here) he was honestly amazed that something that swung for the fences that hard was allowed to exist in its final form. Love it or hate it is absolutely a film Damien Chazelle Would make if he was unshackled from all sense of taste and decency. Whether viewers buy into this it’s very much down to individual viewpoints. That said it’s hard not on some level to admire the audacity of this thing’s existence. 7/10.
In the interchangeably morphing online film discourse space post-pandemic debate around awards contenders seems to be getting even more niche and fragmented. Spearheaded by the kind of people who would not know what cinema with a shred of populism if it hit them with the speed and force of an oncoming freight train. The kind of debate-centric film fans whose objective enjoyment of whatever popular media is in the discourse depends on whether it appeared at occasionally audience-friendly but mostly critic-endorsed film festivals. These will get whittled down into the pool of awards contenders for each year. A certain number of them will win Oscars. rinse and repeat for the award cycle every year. there’s no better example of where the rhetoric around the contemporary awards fair is in 2022 than Tar . A 157 minutes dialogue focused drama focusing on Cate Blanchett playing a fictional classical music conductor in a universe that essentially hasn’t changed any of the standard classic or modern music figures one would expect to see in a fact-based drama beyond our central characters insertion. The anti-hero bestows the values of the more classically inclined composers regardless of how her LGBTQ status contrasts against the agreed-upon masters of the genre largely made up of crusty old white men. She’s decidedly hubristic and has effectively bought into her ongoing genius narrative. we want our central figure to make a series of increasingly self-centred emotionally abusive decisions. That’s kind of it. On paper, this honestly sounds like hyper-liberal awards-bait movie mad-libs. Believe it or not, this viewer did go to the UK release of the film with a certain amount of dread but also hope and expectation, Just because something seems targeted at an awards-bait audience doesn’t mean it can’t have some vestige of recommendable qualities even on the admire rather than enjoy spectrum. Or be outright great on its own merit regardless of its place within the awards race. From the 2022 awards cycle Till, Aftersun and All The Beauty And The Bloodshed fit this description nicely from this writer’s perspective. Maybe Tar would offer some vestige of a unique take on topics and themes built exclusively for the online discourse crowd. Was this the case? Absolutely not? Let’s get one thing after the way through. Blanchet’s central performance is as expected very strong. Her portrayal of Lydia tar as a character exudes the kind of quiet authority that on some level is what the material is going for respectably and admirably. No bones about it though. Other than that if one is not humiliatingly entrenched in online film discussion this is a borderline painful viewing The sort of this unbelievably overwritten yet painfully basic affair that exists only to parrot the existing talking points about the potential value and hubris of historical and cultural figures that would be considered “problematic” by section of today’s social justice focused audience. It has nothing to offer beyond reheated leftovers of the kind of exhausting back and forth that takes place on media Twitter every single day.
This writer was trying to think of the last time he was so blatantly out of step with the critical establishment on something. Prano Bailey-Bond’s film classification horror Censor a lot of frankly bizarre acclaim from the British critical set despite being the thinnest possible execution of a pretty good concept (despite a strong lead performance.) The correct answer is probably soldiering through the first season of HBO’s Succession before slapping it with the mental 5/10 that he will stick by. At least Succession has some barbaristic wit in the dialogue and characters It was somewhat engaging to watch the Roys be awful human beings to one another even if there seemed very little opportunity for progression. The writing as a whole didn’t seem so desperate to blow itself as with Todd Field and his collaborators here. If one wants a genuinely fantastic hubris-focused drama season one of FX’s The Bear is available for streaming now and runtime-wise is only an hour and a half longer than Tar at the time of writing. The fact the creatives here have a genuine shot at winning Best Picture. In this scenario, it will just lead to a selection of populous movie fans who aren’t terminally online questioning what on earth this thing even has to offer outside of the lead performance. This author is not he tells his audience that Tar is the worst thing ever. Or even the most egregious case of playing to a specific set of awards voters in the history of these prizes. He is sure there are plenty of films with even smaller audience pools that have turned up in award cycles over the generations. however, in the roughly 15 years this author has been watching the majority of frontrunners every year this is the one that feels the most worthless (outside the admittedly very strong central performance) do those that don’t have an immediate investment in the runners and riders, winners and losers every year. Add on top of that that the film itself feels at least five years out of date with how it approaches a decidedly tired subset of online media discourse. The lead performance will be worth the experience for plenty. That said if one is not already part of a specific audience niche this view would advise staying well away. 3/10
Discussion around industry nepotism has always existed from the moment one industry figure passes their resources knowledge and pool of contacts down to the next generation. As of 2022, it has morphed into the pretty effective social media shorthand “nepo baby” bolstered by online journalism on the topic. Inherently the mere concept of nepotism from a creative point of view is a very neutral thing. There will be those still putting in the work regardless of where they came from and those that will easily coast by on being related to someone famous. This author wanted to specifically spotlight this documentary however because it’s the most nailed-on “nepo baby” adjacent project that this viewer has ever seen. It’s Mary McCartney’s Disney streaming released puff piece documentary about the history of Abbey Road studios. it opens with McCartney delivering wistful narration as she walks the halls of the famous building along the lines of “HI. I’m Mary. As far as I can remember Abbey Road studios has always been part of my life.” If one immediate reaction to this is anything other than “OF COURSE IT HAS. You Marry McCartney” they frankly arent This writer is honestly not sure what else to say.
The McCartneys have prime access to the level of an insane level of star power for such a surface-level hagiography In some ways, this is worth a look just to see the murderer row of musical legends that have lined up for it. Elton John, John Williams, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Roger Watters and the Gallagher brothers are all here. Not to mention archival material from others. That’s not even mentioning Paul McCartney himself whose inclusion should be taken for granted. Even at 81 minutes the fact this thing is structured around a series of chaptered vignettes with roughly half-covering The Beatles and the remaining runtime for the sections dedicated to everything else feels better suited for short-form YouTube videos than a mid-level Disney streaming release.
Like a lot of material in this genre it’s digestible and easy to watch but deserves much greater focus and analysis than this nepotism-birthed project is interested in giving the world-famous location. one might get something out of it if they want to see some absurdly overqualified talking heads wax lyrical about something that to them will always be worth eulogising. That said beyond the absurdly nailed on nepotistic angle regarding the film’s existence Abbey Road deserves better documentary representation. 5/10
As some sort of preamble to this review of the recently released Whitney Houston biopic one could go on a long extended rant about how Bohemian Rhapsody effectively single-handedly revived this variety of hackey, estate-approved tortured musician biopics. Said film is exactly the sort of media Twitter punching bay where the majority of the reasons it has gained this reputation won’t matter to the general public. That’s not to say Bohemian Rhapsody is great. it’s an extremely surface-level, watered-down film of its genre that’s elevated by a genuinely transcendent performance from Rami Malek. Nevertheless, given that film commercial and award success wouldn’t the same writer want to try and continue on his path in resurrecting this variety of deservedly previously dead Oscar bait? Hence we have I Wanna Dance With Somebody. a film with the essential same strengths and weaknesses as Bohemian Rhapsody rooted in Anthony Macartans very superficial whistle-stop tour of a short and tragic but supremely talented global figure. In this case Whitney Houston. There’s honestly not a great deal to say about the film beyond that. Aa This viewer has been rooting for Naomi Ackie to be a major breakout star of the future since she acted circles around Lena Waithe in a vanity project intended for the latter. Her central performance as Houston is good but doesn’t have the immediate sense of Tour de Force magnetism the allowed rain Bram Alex Freddie Mercury immediately engaged the general public. Stanley Tucci in a bad wig is here in an attempt to add some gravitas to the proceedings. All the requisite beats of Houston’s life are hit with all the subtlety of those involved in taking the necessary material of a checklist. . The whole thing reeks of exactly what one would expect it to be given the obvious set of circumstances and influences that led to its creation. One could also swap the film out with sequences from Jennifer Hudson’s Aretha Franklin biopic Respect and viewers would not know the difference. The one mildly interesting thing I Wanna Dance With Somebody has to offer is that it canonises Houston’s bisexuality in a very estate-approved form. This is undeniably a good move on paper. If a celebrity was LGBTQ and those involved in putting together material about them want the question of sexuality discussed when this is a lesser known aspect of the subject’s personal life in a way this allows for the narrative not to get totally out of control. Unfortunately, the film’s very stilted delivery presents the juxtaposition between Houston’s religious upbringing and her LGBTQ relationship with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. It’s disappointing as there was potential for more nuance here. That said nuance is not something the makers of a film like this would ever be interested in,
I Wanna Dance with Somebody is an audience-friendly but aggressively functional music biopic It owes its existence on some level to the films before it that have resurrected a trend in awards movies that were previously dead. It does offer a solid central performance from a clear rising star within Hollywood. Everyone else involved creatively with this project appears to want nothing more than the ability to fight their way out of some tried and tested but formulaic construction. Even the one element that could make this final product more interesting in openly cosigning the subject’s bisexuality is handled with all the subtlety of landing flat on ones face. Houston fans and those that do not have a problem with this variety of formulas for music biopics might get something out of the new effort. that said when the film ended with the declaration that Whitney was “the voice of her generation” and the Kygo track Higher Love that is the most recent Houston media in the public consciousness plays over the credits it’s hard not to have a certain sense of “well that’s just your opinion man”
This review may or may not be more technically orientated than the audience for this writer’s work is used to. That said its fandom for tennis as a sport will very much colour his opinion on the splashy Netflix flies-on-the-wall offering loosely following several desperate stories from across the 2022 season. So let’s discuss.
When the ATP, WTA and grand slams announced at the start of 2022 they were collaborating with Netflix to produce a documentary series on the upcoming season this fan of the sport had a couple of different thoughts. Firstly he varied between obliged and interested in genuinely seeing what would come of the project. If this thing was to blow up in popularity and become the global showcase for the sport that on some level those involved in signing off its existence would want it to be it may or may not become what the general public perceives tennis to be. much is this author has not seen any of the first four seasons this was certainly the impact Drive to Survive appeared to have on Formula One. Given that there was crossover in the production company involved in putting the tennis equivalent together it’s not hard to see why the various machinations of the tennis system would want Their equivalent focusing on the elite level
Then you have the events of the 2022 season itself. Huge chunks of it played out exactly like one of these hyper narrative-driven, emotionally manipulative super slick and ultimately propulsive in the best cases sports documentaries It’s hard not to think the producers were handed last season on a silver platter. if they could not make something compelling out of storylines like the Djokovic deportation, the fact Nick Kyrgioss’s life appears to be a Netflix show in and of itself, this Świątek streak. Rafa Nadal’s Australian Open run topped off with a truly sensational comeback against Daniil Medvedev. The geopolitics around Wimbledon 2022, Ons Jabeurs trailblazing run for Arab women in a sport on a global stage (especially at Wimbledon Carlos Alcarez winning the first of what is surely a double-digit Grand Slam count at the US Open. That’s not even meaning Federer’s Laver Cup retirement. Needless to say, some of this is referenced and covered to varying degrees in the first five episodes of the debut season which is what is being reviewed here. These episodes were released as Part One the Friday before the start of the main Australian Open 2023 draw The critical question from this watcher’s perspective was not what he would get out of it as a pretty dedicated tennis fan. It’s clear that on a certain level based on the initial marketing rollout something like Break Point is targeted to give casual viewers a taste and specific viewpoint on life within elite-level tennis. The question is how successful is it in this regard and will the ongoing series be the injection of interest the stakeholders involved in putting it together clearly want it to be? The honest answer that has seen half the first season Is that it’s kind of hard to tell. There are two very clear statements of intent within the series premiere. Firstly a stretch of opening exposition delivered by tennis pundit and writer Courtney Nguyen effectively lays out to anyone watching this with no knowledge whatsoever a very brief explanation of the Set scoring system. importance of the grand slams and briefly touches on some other tournaments from last season that viewers will be visiting throughout the first season. This opening half covers the Australian Open through to Roland Garros with episodes on Indian Wells and Madrid sandwiched in between. The other key creative choice Making the Kyrgios and Kokkinakis double s run episode the premiere. In a certain way, this makes sense. Beyond region, specifications Kyrgioss is likely the most known current tennis player under 30 on tour and would jump given his media persona to be involved in a project like this. There are certainly illuminating moments on Kyrgioss’s mental health struggles and initial perception as a tennis wonder kid when he first arrived on the scene at Wimbledon in 2014 There’s an exceptionally raw moment where his agent talks openly about his drinking habits in the years following the initial breakthrough. Even for someone of Kyrgioss standing and clear volatility within the sport, this is on some level a brave and very admirable inclusion. It in turn encounters the first of several instances where there is information left out to perpetuate the narrative those behind the camera want to tell. This is unquestionably the most serious of these from across these episodes with the clear omission of the Kyrgioss domestic violence case that reared its head firmly around this time and to the best of this writer’s research is still ongoing as of this writing over a year later. That said this sort of choice is emblematic of the morality and mentality within the genre as opposed to a specifically pinpointed issue with This production in isolation. There are certainly other strong moments sprinkled throughout and effective use of the clear level of unprecedented access the makers were given here. It may only tell make a vague gesture at Nadal’s injury in the final but the Taylor Fritz Indian Wells ankle twist was captured and utilised by the Netflix cameras. Seeing him and his medical team debate whether he should even consider playing the match is the sort of event that this genre of show thrives on. There’s also some Solid material here following the immediate aftermath of Paula Badosa’s meteoric rise to the top. Espesacily in the context of knowing that she will mostly experience a crash back down to earth in this season covered. As a general rule, the narratives chosen for focus are well-presented and engaging. Even if there’s a blatant level of cynicism some of the clear choices made in the storylines that the makers believe will manufacture drama. With the greatest of respect to Ajla Tomljanović and Matteo Berrettini, they absolutely would not be a linchpin of the main Australian Open episode if they had not been in a public relationship at the point the project started. Knowing that they broke up there’s a morbid amusement in the clear retrospective editing going on in the choice to show their unbelievably messy hotel room and clear friction over a choice as theoretically simple as what movie they might watch. Or where is going to complete a press interview from? That said like the example in the Kyrgioss episode this is mostly a systemic genre problem as opposed to something unique to this endeavour. All this before we’ve gotten to the presentation of the actual tennis. The best way to describe what to some will be the most critical element of this entire project is that it’s exactly what you would expect yet also significantly worse than anything one can imagine. The entire thing is hyper-slick, easy watching this has been edited to within an inch of its life. However, there was a clear decision made in the construction of these episodes to cut round any major instances of balls hit and points played unless they absolutely have to. On one level the inherent justification of the creative team was ringing in the ears of this fan. “ This is meant to be about the interpersonal lives of the players. Not the tennis itself.” Yet this writer and fan would argue that the playing of tennis (or any elite level sport in which an athlete has to dedicate their entire existence) very much relates to how we as fans of the sport can perceive their interpersonal lives. Watching their style of play bleed on and off into their style of play on the court as well as their social media presence and how they deal with the broader machinations of the press. As a final product, BreakPoint is only truly interested in having a singular vision or angle. This is fine and effective in some ways. Even as a seasoned watcher of the sport this viewer thought the five episodes were effective in showcasing the kind of all-access pass to the locations and events that are difficult to attain for even the most dedicated fans given that the ATP and WTA (and to some extent the Grand Slams) exist on their monolithic organisation. That said the choice not to put any of the specific stories told in this half-season within the context of the broader tennis season yet only dedicating half an episode to each of the players featured thus far beyond Kyrgioss. There isn’t enough time for anyone not automatically familiar with the sport and personalities involved to gain any fandom or appreciation for these players. Not to mention the physical and mental hardship that is required in terms of playing an elite-level individual sport.
The makers perceived allergic reaction to showcasing any of the sport they are on some level meant to be promoting is made doubly more awkward when another two-pronged problem initially presents itself to any seasoned viewer of the sport. Firstly the creative team here clearly did not get the rights to use even the World Feed commentary in their aborted coverage of matches. This is certainly not a deal breaker although, in the context of clearly having access to so much else to get this thing off the ground, it sticks out as something of an odd choice. It would be decidedly less notable and awkward had the compromise reached not come across as so forced and awkward. They get several existing tennis pundits who would have been doing the genuine commentary for the matches to record exclusive sound bite style recaps and bridge narration that are exclusive to this production. It blurs the line for those of us familiar with these voices synonymous with worldwide tennis coverage and punditry regularly. Names like Robbie Koenig, Pat Cash, Mark Petchey Leon Smith and Catherine Whitaker are all here and plenty of others are here delivering material that could vary easily pass for abridged pre and post-match commentary. That’s not counting on camera contributions from the likes of Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and others. These do manage to split for difference nicely between recognisable faces to the more mainstream crowd and those (aside from Sharapova) who have become figureheads of post-career punditry in tennis. that’s not even touching a moment where covering the Felix Auger Aliassime and Toni Nadal coaching relationship and the “Uncle Toni Darby” at the French Open match against Rafa there’s clear audio sliced in from The Tennis Podcast discussion on the topic when it first hit the headlines. This is entirely separate from Whitaker being drafted in to do large sections of match soundbite material on her own. This entire line of creative choices makes the entire thing more complicated and distracting for regular tennis match viewers than it needs to be.
Part one of Netflixs attempt at a piece of the tennis pie with Break Point is pretty much exactly what you would expect for this genre… until it isn’t. Hyper narrative-driven, emotionally manipulative, missing out key factors and details in service of the narrative being delivered and with the participating athletes essentially being employed to dole out trailer lines and motivational quotes. Until one starts to realise the series of odd choices piling on top of each other that even for casual and non-fans of the sport limit this project’s appeal. Never truly given one player enough spotlighted time to win over any individual fandom (outside of perpetuating the same Nick Kyrgios narrative that has essentially not evolved since he broke onto the scene.) Yet also never gaining any real access to the raw sport at its best where the quality of the hitting power, competitive spirit and athleticism speaks for itself. There’s plenty of good stuff here. The entire thing is very slick and easily digestible. even for seasoned fans. A great involuntary opportunity here to get what is effectively a behind-the-scenes pass to the machinations of such global sport and the mental toll of playing events week in and week out. That said without putting any of the individual stories told from across the 2022 season in any greater context and not letting the raw quality of the best tennis footage available speak for itself it’s hard to imagine what non-fans will get out of this beyond it being just another sports documentary. This takes us back to the original question. What exactly did the ATP and WTA hope to gain from this project? Having seen the first half season of the final product this author and is are honestly still not sure 5.5/10
Sometimes a project doesn’t need a great deal beyond a very specific log line to sell it to a certain audience. Given that Call Me By Your Name was this author’s second favourite film of 2016 the thought that Luca Guadagnino and Timothée Chalamet were re-teaming for YA adjacent cannibal movie (beyond the inherent irony of Armie Hammer not being in it given what is now known about him) was two inherently intriguing not to be a potentially tantalising prospect for this viewer. Add Taylor Russell to the mix and this only sweetens the deal. Most of the crossover audience for this type of film probably know her best from Trey Edward Schultz’s flawed but intriguing Waves. That said Russell made an immediate impression on this viewer having watched all three seasons of the Netflix Lost in Space reboot. Russell and Mia Sandwell as the rebooted Penny and Judy Robinson were the stand-out players in that show delivering the kind of performances that signalled much bigger things for both of them. Thus even if Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake signalled a filmmaker that was potentially too long and self-indulgent to gain mainstream attention this author was still excited to check out what he would do within such an eye-catching premise. How is the film? Pretty good. There was a slight warning sign early on when it looked like the film was heading towards the sort of attempt at elevated YA that also birth to be atrocious Bodies, Bodies Bodies in 2022. Thankfully while the film has an air of the kind of indie-focused naturalism meant for the festival and genre crowds it also has enough momentum fur possible broader appeal. That is assuming one can get around the inherent abrasiveness and juxtaposition within the premise. The fi;m feels like a very earnest throwback to the genre-inflected romances in the post-Twilight boom of the early 2010s. Except for this time with the sort of genuine credentials and hard R rating that’s not afraid to attempt to show the audience some grisly credibility as an effective cannibal movie. Mark Rylance delivers a wonderfully skin-crawling performance as a recurringly ominous villain. He also resulted in one of this writer’s favourite cinema-going moments of 2022. This is based on a moment in the extended first act where Rylance has the majority of his screen time. As part of a certain amount of backstory exposition, the audience is told that he ate his relatives. This prompted a spontaneous walkout from one of the other patrons at the screening. This is a hard R-rated cannibal movie. It’s a disturbing moment but also the exact sort of thing one might expect given the genre we are dealing with here. it was also somewhat surprising to see that Timothée Chalamet is very much the supporting player here. He only comes in at the end of the first act. from that point on after Russel’s character escapes the clutches of Rylance. It becomes the sort of earnest yet authentic and effective teen road movie one might expect. All with enough strong delivery and momentum combined with excellent performances to escape the tag of critic bait in certain circles. That said if this was entirely going for mainstream attention Guadagnino may or may not have been noted into oblivion until the final cut had reams of unnecessary backstory telling the audience how cannibals came to exist in the universe. Beyond the explanation of where the title comes from the firm thankfully doesn’t take this approach. It certainly makes the piece a lot more intriguing and offers the kind of moral questions where the implied imagination of the viewer could be a lot more horrific than anything the creative team could come up with. With the film’s genre and influences it’s not hard two functionally plot out the series of story beats from minute one. That said there’s more than enough time dedicated to building Russel and Chalamets relationship as central characters that certain audiences will engage with their journey. The film makes a series of choices that may well assign it as nothing more than a future indie-spirited curio that can cross a certain amount for the mainstream divide. This is perfectly fine. Ultimately Bones and All is certainly a y film that delivers on its premise. Bones and All pretty effectively delivers the film it promises from its logline. When combined with strong performances, effective but not over-the-top naturalism and enough scrunge to please visceral genre fans it will most certainly connect with the right audience. Whether or not these viewers remain remarkably niche it will still hold a certain level of appeal to them. If this prospect of the film sounds intriguing to a viewer it’s well worth a look. The sort of thing that will have a small but dedicated audience of cult genre fans in years to come. 8/10
Do you know that there was a theatrical Walt Disney Animation Studios production pushed out into the world on November 22nd 2022? Better question. Did the mouse house want the general public to know that this release even existed? That is the question currently surrounding the discourse one of the most memorably notable flops this author can remember in his time as a film watcher. $72 million worldwide on a budget reported to be anywhere from $135 to 180 million dollars isn’t just any old flop. It’s a crater that immediately levels a hole in the atmosphere and digs a big enough hole for itself that it could result in a systemic change within Disney’s theatrical animation. There’s the immediate most obvious reason for the film’s astronomical underperformance. As a viewer and fan who goes and sees films theatrically every week when there are major releases around there was not one trailer to any genre or family adjacent films in the lead-up to Strange Worlds’ arrival. It’s hard to appropriately articulate how against the norm this is for a company as monolithic as Disney. The new Walt Disney Animation Studios project ( especially in an era after the second CG Disney renaissance restored faith in this arm of the company. The arrival of a big new release in the pre-Christmas schedule is normally a huge event in family movie circles. That only ever appeared to be one trailer released online ( which this author didn’t watch) Going in to see opening weekend Was a weird experience. As that weirdo who openly chooses to see 3D prints when available, this was only the second time that a Disney 3D master was only available in what US moviegoers would refer to as Premium Large Format locations. Hence the 3D-only version is available only for two screenings a day on the opening Saturday and Sunday. The popular narrative is the 3D dead outside James Cameron ( who arguably has just resurrected it in the mainstream. Regular 3D releases theatrically from Disney have chugged along as a niche for years without the majority of the mainstream noticing The rest of the screen was given over during weekdays to the third week of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. It’s hard to remember such a blatant lack of faith product from a major studio with the release of this size and budget Where our corporate overlords hiding a potential major embarrassment here. Or a weird strange normally destined for some variety of cult fandom.
Honestly Strange World is the most frustrating kind of mediocre. The sort of thing where the discourse around its colossal underperformance is legitimately more interesting than the content of the film itself. This is the exact sort of multigenerational family adventure one will have seen in this stripe of animation done before and better several times over. ( Some of the better offerings by Disney themselves. The animation and select visual design here may be pretty but top-tier Disney and Pixar productions have the raw talent and resources in their technical teams to craft animation that’s effectively photoreal at this point. That’s without using it as a marketing tactic like they did with Jon Favreau’s photoreal Lion King. One might think “so what?” Disney’s very open strategy with certain sections of its creative output is the ability to resell bland products That pander to some level of familiar nostalgia. Strange World might technically be an original property but its reverence for this brand of old-fashioned and tired-feeling adventure movie could very much fit that description.
However and much more pointedly two immediate Disney live-action flop comparisons jumped to this watcher’s mind whilst watching. These were 2012s John Carter and 2013s The Lone Ranger. Two gargantuan and infamous Disney flops from the post-Jerry Bruckheimer/ Pirates of the Caribbean’s peak period. Disney was trying to rebrand a section of their releases to have a vestige of male appeal. This was before they realized that the corporation had enough traction as a monolithic entity to just buy male-appealing properties outright with the purchase of Marvel and LucasFilm. The rest as they say is history. If Disney accountants likely looked at the final product as a piece that has a reverence and nostalgia Kind of 50 sci-fi difficult to market to today’s children. It’s simultaneously an original property without any truly distinctive character or major merchandising opportunities in and of itself it’s not difficult to see why they perhaps did not invest a great deal In pushing the film out to a wider audience. There is of course a much more cynical and obvious creative reason for the film’s lack of major presents The film features Disney’s first openly LGBT Hero within the central family dynamic. From a creative perspective, it’s nice to see that Disney has graduated from simple nods that can be cut out in territories where blatant homophobia means any LGBT content gets permanently blacklisted. Simeltaineasly the hero’s brief allusions to his sexuality in discussions with his father about his boyfriend aren’t substantial enough to be a major lynchpin and emotional core of the narrative. . It’s a step in the right direction It’s not a major enough element to make any substantial impact on the film’s quality unless one grades films on how representative they are. Or to those who live their lives vicariously in the hyper-liberal echo chambers within certain sections of social media. Critically modern Disney wants everything produced at the level of Strange World to be some level of cultural event. The film’s LGBTQ content may not be as much as will be reported by some but is more than enough that it can’t be cut around in the territories that will respond negatively to accepting this on screen. Morally wrong on every conceivable level. Absolutely. Unfortunately short of some level of violent revolution attitudes within homophobic nations aren’t going to change in any conceivable way for this foreseeable future. Disney may see these markets as ultimately just as important as those with a more liberal mindset. Ultimately regardless of individual nation stance on a range of LGBT issues Modern Disney, it’s still going to act like some variety of all-encouraging ruler to that audience regardless of cultural factors. When presented with something like Strange World where marketing may be unsalable or result in backlash throughout certain markets why invest the money and Resources in attempting to make it a world-conquering juggernaut ( the only business the company seems interested in at this level) It fundamentally can’t be due to a creative decision that while correct hampers the film with some level of marketing albatross it will never be able to overcome There’s much more to be written about the majorly embarrassing belly flop of Disney Strange World both in a contemporary context and down the road, once we know how its financial cratering impacts Walt Disney Animation Studios going forward. It certainly has the potential to result in major creative restructuring. Whether or not Jennifer Lee and company will survive putting out a product that coasts so definitively on its laurels remains to be seen. What the author wanted to get across with this piece was how much the content of the film itself feels like a deserved footnote in the context of the ongoing media narrative/ potential creative fallout. As a viewer who has watched and loved huge chunks of the second renaissance Disney’s theatrical animation cannon, it’s their worst offering in 15 years. The kind of thing that makes one believe that a level of fundamental change is needed before another of the company’s major content pipelines becomes fundamentally infested with An infection of blandness As is the case with anything Anything from the mouse house that is this much of an objective to failure there will surely be defenders and insisters that Strange World will have a cult following in years to come. This viewer would counter the fact that the film is so lacking in creative risk that it would be unlikely to appeal to anyone looking for any variety of bizarre choices or big creative swing within their Disney content. Not everything needs to fit this category but there’s no excuse for something this bland. Regardless of the lack of marketing or debates around how much the LGBT angle heart the film’s marketability globally Strange World itself from a content perspective is best exemplified by a bland shrug. It has gotten the deserved rejection from mainstream audiences. 5/10.
What are the advantages to the prospect of dramatizing a real story? Especially when the content and outcome are well-known and deeply traumatizing to anyone who follows the entertainment news. cycle. That was the question makers of She Said had to deal with. As the first dramatization covering the investigative reporting at the heart of the initial Harvey Weinstein sexual assault case and the birth of #metoo. What does the drama offer that any factual or written piece cannot provide?
The answer Director Marie Schrader and the creative team here play everything as straight down the line as possible. There’s no denying this will always be the case to some extent with how the birth and expansion of the Weinstein scandal are portrayed in future productions. This is ultimately a very harrowing subject matter with lots of potential stakeholders and a large number of repercussions if the tone or representation of a particular figure takes too much creative licence either for those on screen and/or their legal teams. The clear decision here is to present everything as a very standard frontline journalism movie. This creates two problems for the film’s commercial prospects outside a very specific bubble. First, this variety of the importance of this story drama doesn’t add any new layers or slant to this variety of Oscar bait Carry. Mulligan and Zoe Kazan deliver strong work in the central roles. Pretty much everything about the film resonates a solid if unspectacular job from top to bottom. She Said’s main concern is being one of the first out the gate from a drama perspective and assuming this will have reverence in its own right. It forgets to be anything other than exactly what one would expect.
Secondly, the choice to focus mainly on the front lines of the story There’s no chance to dig into the emotional or psychological aspect of being involved in the breaking of such a critical cultural story In the context of the film’s narrative take on these events the journalist’s victims and perpetrators are not a lot more than vessels to get to the point of unfurling an outcome the niece audience for a piece like this will already know. On one level this is perfectly fine. The story in itself is well performed and dramatic enough to emerge pretty solid at exactly what it set out to do. Unfortunately, The drama offers no hook or explanation of what advantages it would possess over any non-fiction piece covering the same events. The piece’s coarse strength may be enough for a film festival audience who were always likely to give something like this claim unless the creative team royally messed up. For a general audience who may not even be ready to see these events depicted on screen, She Said offers nothing to convince them why these traumas are worth experiencing again. She Said it was perfectly solid as exactly the film one thinks it will be. That said it doesn’t offer any specific reason or advantage for its existence as a piece of drama in relation to how fresh the first Weinstein scandal still feels within entertainment history. Especially given that Universal marked the film as a wide theatrical exclusive awards play when streaming or premium cable is likely the new home for this type of material. No general members of the public beyond critic/festival attendees or those that try and consume as much media as they can want to go and see a drama about such recently harrowing subject matter. More importantly those behind the scenes that don’t offer any concise reason for why a drama about this case should exist at this point. The final product represents the sort of thing that critics are likely to shout about when it has understandably flopped yet It’s far too niche and potentially traumatizing to appeal as a night’s viewing to pretty much anyone else. That’s not to say they won’t likely be more accessible takes on the subject matter with more historical distance. Just that making the film at this precise point was always going to result in diminishing returns beyond the viewers that we’re likely to see its praise regardless of any marketable appeal. If one re really in the mood for a drama about the impact of the Weinstein era Hollywood Kitty Green’s excellent The Assistant is widely available. 6/10.
The first Enchanted is a film that really should not work. The shortest possible pitch of “What if Shrek was earnest?” sounds like something that should have been tried and failed after the DreamWorks juggernaut was released in 2001. Critically well before Disney’s response during the 2007 holiday season. Yet it’s one of those lightning-in-a-bottle projects where everyone involved knows the assignment and tone they’re working with. They also know how to execute what is effectively a one-joke premise to the best of their abilities. Add to this one of the best mainstream breakout performances this writer can remember from Amy Adams in a role she was born to play. Two of the three Menkin and musical numbers are incredibly memetic Disney earworms and one has a substantial mouse house cult favourite. This author has always wondered what they might do with the sequel that sat in development hell for years. Pretty much exclusively for the novelty of seeing Amy Adams please Gisele once again.
With the emergence of Disney + and our corporate overlords strip-mining every potential piece of Potentially saleable the sequel was finally able to get off the ground. Quite honestly this was one of this viewer’s most anticipated films of 2022. Not because he expected it in any way to be good. Disney + is mostly where the company farms out the complete garbage it doesn’t want viewers to see. This author and admitted fan just wanted to see the cast in these roles and if they still had it all these years later. Thankfully all the major players were returning in some capacity.
The sequel landed with something of a thud over the US Thanksgiving weekend this viewer and admitted fan became incredibly nervous that Disney was about to break his heart. If we have to live in a world where everything must be equalised the mere prospect of Enchanted coming back with the original cast would rank very high on this viewer’s list of material he would want to see. Nevertheless still want to give the film a chance with some level of trepidation. how is it? Honestly. Nothing great but not as bad as you might expect. Maybe it’s because the creative team here were able to maintain some of that chemistry all these years later. Perhaps it’s because there’s enough central commitment to the obvious flip on the original one-joke premise. More likely it’s because having seen the depths of how Disney + regularly scrape (Artemis Fowl, Secret Society of Second Born Royals, Sneakerella, The Ice Age Adventures Of Buck Wild and the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid animated movies all say Hi. Base level Enchanted by comparison remains perfectly fine for exactly what it set out to be. Story wise it takes the route you might expect. 15 years after she emerged from the portal to New York Gisele, Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and a re-cast Morgan move out from New York to the suburbs. However, this is not the life Gisele wants and through a series of circumstances and teen angst driving a wage between her and her stepdaughter, she wishes for a spell that ends up turning her into the evil stepmother within a Cinderella narrative. There are two immediate red flags here. Taking the story out of New York was one given how tight the original is to offer it’s a very fantastical perspective on the Big Apple. This very quickly becomes less of an issue as the narrative starts to unfurl. It might not capture the same spontaneity as the original but the soul and tone are very much still here even in the new location. The potential problem area is the teen angst element. Given how Disney productions typically write teenagers in the most cliche way possible it might be safe to expect that here. the angst signed in the story is very much a key driver of the main plot. That said there’s just enough of it to fulfil this role without it necessarily getting massively overbearing. Or going full Disney Channel Original Movie on itself. the major new element the sequel brings to the table is that Pip the chipmunk now has a full speaking role. This is provided by Grifin Newman in full Blank Check ” five comedy points” mode with a requisite silly voice. It’s perfectly fine for this variety of distinct shtick-based Disney sidekicks. The kind of thing that he and David Sims knock out in their sleep for a podcast audience in the tens of thousands per week despite 70% of the content being tangents. Needless to say, there are hundreds of free hours available of Newman delivering pretty much exactly this vocal performance.
The rest cast thankfully steps into their roles 15 years later with no difficulty whatsoever. One can tell there was some compensation and rewriting based on how logistically available the cast outside of the core family was. Patrick Dempsey is essentially flipped into the James Marston role in the most obvious example. The latter only has a couple of scenes. Thankfully the one performer to which this applies the most effectively is Amy Adams. she slides back into her sstar-makingrole with a level of comfort that comes across in her performance It’s one of those instances of a genuinely perfect match between actor and character.
The one element the sequel can’t subvert into acceptable is the new songs. Menkin and Schwartz do return here but they seem decidedly on autopilot for the entire project. proverbially stuck at a 5/10 with no means of getting beyond that. The original film may only have three musical numbers with this sequel being a full musical but that doesn’t mean any of the new songs are memorable in any way. That said having also seen Spirited by the time of writing this review workmanlike Menkin and Schwarz is a lot more tolerable than autopilot Pesek and Paul but this is the very definition of damning with faint praise.
Disenchanted is a perfectly acceptable legacy sequel. In a lot of ways it’s not the disaster, it might have been. The cast still has enough creative energy to get by with enough commitment to the flip of the original one-joke premise to mostly be a fun enough time. given how long this first sequel took to magicking itself into existence with this final results it’s hard not to think that any greater attempts to expand this series will result in further diminishing returns outside of Amy Adams. That said given how barrel-scraping garbage Disney + puts out every week this could have been worse. if one will forgive him this reviewer is just about to question his sanity by putting on the first in what is sure to be a yearly line of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid animated sequels.
David Harbor gets another attempt at branching his potential Hollywood career out beyond Jim Hopper in this fun but flawed alternative Christmas offering. He plays an alcoholic but for all intents and purposes real in the mythological sense on screen Santa. The man in the red suit has to unleash his best visceral action hero routine when a present delivery coincides with an attempt to secure a large family fortune led by a scenery-chewing John Leguizamo and his band of thugs with Christmas-related code names. This is another attempt from John Wick adjacent production company 57 Degrees North at bringing that style Of simple but crunchy and effectively stylized nuts and bolts US action movie back into the mainstream. Thankfully this is more Nobody than Bullet Train. Thankfully violent night doesn’t have the equivalent of the frankly atrocious scenes between Aaron Taylor Johnson and Brian Tyree Henry discussing Thomas the Tank Engine. What it does have is David Harbour in a Santa suit dispatching bad guys in the sort of craft and set piece focus that appears to be the production company’s bread and butter from their first three solo offerings. Harbor is effectively doing the same cantankerous R-rated performance as the disastrous 2019 Hellboy reboot. Thankfully he is shepherded by a creative team who mostly knows what they’re doing this time. The script is nothing more than a somewhat threadbare mashing together of Die Hard and R-rated Home Alone rifts but the narrative is self-aware about this fact without necessarily crossing over into smarmy territory The action set pieces are nicely effective and efficient beyond the inherently I’m one-joke premise. The film gets more mileage out of that central conceit than the initial opening involving drunk Santa vomiting on an unsuspecting bystander from on high might suggest. It’s nothing exceptional but everyone here plays proceedings with just the right level of camp to keep things broadly engaging. There are other pleasantly morbid amusing details. Like the fact that a certain artist very infamous in certain circles for suing the online equivalent of a musical dictionary for his inclusion now has a needle drop in soundtracks and action scenes of the David Harbour killer Santa movie. That would have been an interesting creative/ label/representative meeting. At 113 minutes the film is decidedly a little too long. The pacing slows down enough in the second act to be noticeable when in reality pieces like this or probably best served not going above a tight 90 minutes. Cut the final 113-minute edit down to the former runtime and you could have something genuinely great here. Given that Violent Night is likely to develop a strong cult following regardless the creative team will not mind if this proceeds to be the case. It’s hard not to think that with a tighter edit pass on several different levels, this thing could have graduated beyond amusingly effective novelty. Violent Night is a fun addition to the alternative Christmas canon. It’s pretty much exactly what it looks to be on the surface but it’s effective enough at delivering on the premise that the target audience for a film like this won’t necessarily mind. Effective action beats are nicely integrated with the novelty factor. All delivered with performances that vier just on the entertaining side of camp. Feeling a little bit bloated at 113 minutes with a tighter edit Violent Night would have had strong potential to Worm its way into alternative Christmas classic status. Given that the final cut is likely to develop a strong following as a curio in Christmases to come regardless the creative team will not mind. Violent Night is not a lot more than exactly what the premise suggests but it’s pretty effective at delivering exactly that. 7/10.
Hollywood comedy hack director Sean Anders was out of absolute nowhere responsible for the rather lovely Mark Wahlberg fostering comedy Instant Family. This is the lead example this viewer also always comes back to where any discussion of truly unexpected upward quality anomalies within directors who you had previously written off come up. it was the first of his films that felt like it was drawn from personal experience by an actual human as opposed to just being assembled by mainstream comedy AI. Any suggestion that Anders might be able to fuse the more personal with broad appeal again with such effective results on paper goes out the window when you look at his newest project. A big original Christmas musical made for Apple TV starring Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds. Yet another adaptation of A Christmas Carol adjacent story with songs by Pesek and Paul. if that does not seem like the most auto-generated pitch for a piece of mass-market entertainment this writer doesn’t know what does. That said with Anders having made one film this fan will defend to the hilt it kind of makes all of their subsequent output worthy of a chance Even if Anders’s filmography before and after Instant Family is a wasteland of terrible. In that vein is Spirited any good? Not really. Spirited is pretty much exactly what you would expect given some of the setup described in the previous paragraph. It does admittedly have one relatively novel plot beet. In the film’s universe all the various elements that make up a standard Christmas Carol template work in an office together with festive staff on call and mementoes for all of the characters that have gone through the process of being Christmas Caroled over the centuries. It’s conceptually neat to take the logic we have seen applied to millions of on-screen incarnations of Santa and utilise it for something else equally festively ubiquitous as A Christmas Carol. Unfortunately, that’s where these viewers’ praise for the film pretty much ends. As leads in a musical Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell have the somewhat disastrous combo of only being able to play themselves in 90% of their filmography and not being trained vocalists in any way at all. This results in a typically one-note performance from both of them. Not to mentation a race down to the bottom (occupied by Pierce Brosnan’s rendition of SOS from the first Mamma Mia film) for worst on-screen singing in a musical film. They are certainly not helped by Pesek and Paul. compositions here. In this writer’s review of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile (another Pesek and Paul joint) he mentioned the online backlash against the duo’s work for their style of aggressively bombastic overly poppy musical theatre. If you got an AI programmed by a bunch of Pesek and Paul. detractors to generate what they think a musical from the pair would sound like you would essentially end up with the songs from Spirited. One dimensionally desperate to create a fabricated jazz hands athletic with OTT choreography. Not to mentation an inestimable attempt to make everything sound like the final version of Defying Gravity. Of their post-Greatest Showman work (the point where they exploded into the mainstream as two of Hollywood’s three mainstream musical songwriters) it is their most blatant attempt to recapture the lightning in the bottle thus far. to be fair they seem relatively committed to this task. The set pieces are very much stranged like huge Broadway numbers with plenty of extras and choreography to go around. This was a $75 million production. Watching the finished product this reviewer was surprised it was not higher. This thing looks expensive. Those that like this variety of over-the-top musicals may get something out of it but for those familiar with the tropes of the genre we’ll see that the newest entry has very little to offer to those not already enamoured with its songwriting style. if anything this is more proof that Hollywood does need to hire more songwriters than just Pesek and Paul not forgetting Lin Manuel Miranda. Whether this will happen in the foreseeable future if any of the three creatives mentioned have a major commercial dropoff in their work remains to be seen.
Spirited is exactly what it looks to be on the surface. A blustering original Christmas musical headlined by two A-Listers who can’t Sing and are only capable of delivering a OneNote performance as themselves. Combine this with songwriters on autopilot and you have something that may appeal to very specific fans of the genre but may be hard to get into for those not already enamoured with this specific category of pop music. For all the instances where the sizable budget is decidedly on screen (not always the case for this variety of streaming movies. ) Even this viewer had options to either see the film theatrically or at home he is glad he chose the latter. Spirited may avoid worst-of-the-year contention but offers nothing particularly new or interesting (or even memorably atrocious, ) A poster child for the one kind of musical mainstream Hollywood knows how to make in 2022. 4/10
When you have seen and been desensitized to whatever media from across the spectrum can throw at audiences finding something that can remix a lot of genre staples into something genuinely surprising and fantastic in its own right should be celebrated. This logic has catapulted Stranger Things to juggernaut status in our current media landscape.
So along comes Barbarian. The latest mainstream studio horror from the US arriving in the UK on a wave of good buzz from various genre festivals in the US. This viewer did not know a ton about it beyond the vague premise in the first trailer of a woman renting an Airbnb with sinister overtones and the appearance of a certain actor that had been spoiled in a fake viral marketing campaign. This isn’t as much of a spoiler as one might think but it’s best to know where’s little as possible going in. Plenty of media ( especially in the horror/thriller genre markets itself on this principle.) That said this is one of the most definitive and effective examples of that marketing trope in recent memory
This is to the extent that it’s hard to know exactly what to give away. This review will settle for saying this match. A young woman ( Georgina Campbell) rolls into a run-down area of Detroit having booked an Airbnb for a job interview the next day. When she gets there it’s quickly discovered that her accommodation has been double booked by another man (Bill Skarsgård.) Over the next few days, they discover there might be something in the basement. That’s all one should know If indeed one is truly inclined to know something about the journey this narrative takes the viewer on.
Barbarian won’t be for everyone. Watching this on Halloween night this viewer never had a total grasp only where the plot might be heading in the best way possible. Plenty will check it out as the narrative starts piling down absurd reveals on top of one another. This watcher loved it. Very rarely is it possible to think of a film in any genre that combines so many conflicting tones and styles into a cohesive package that feels like a singular vision in and of itself. Lord knows how this screenplay got signed off and made into something this effective At delivering a truly exceptional exercise in subverting audience expectations. Not to mention tackling one of the most tired and popular themes within 2022 movie-making and doing it so effectively that it may become a definitive text on (insert thematic spoiler here.) Beyond that, this is just a perfect delightfully nasty rollercoaster combining every emotion possible into 108 minutes of runtime. Plenty of people will think it’s far too silly but it also comes across as exactly the film the creative team was intending to make.
As the credits roll if one has seen enough genre films of this stripe it will be perfectly possible to look at the raw plot beats and think about how a certain amount of the reveals and narrative progression were not that surprising. That said it would be borderline impossible to guess any of the sharp left turns the narrative takes to get to the eventual resolution. Combine this needle drop and cut-to-credits combo that will come across as instantly memorable within cult movie circles and Barbarian feels like watching the instantaneous birth of a new midnight movie favourite. It could be playing the late Friday night re-release and retrospective slots for potential decades to come.
Barbarian won’t be for everyone. It takes far too many wild swings to not alienate a section of the audience that won’t be the very standard film suggested by the trailer and marketing. that said this is a master class in how to subvert audience expectations without sacrificing a core audience who will likely be ride or die for this thing in years to come. Striking the kind of tone that James Wan’s Malignant was desperate to achieve in 2021 but did not get anywhere close to beyond the bonkers third act. Barbarian is like that but for the entire course of its runtime. The kind of thing that’s best experienced with an audience who have no idea what’s coming. This watch was so immediately jazzed by the experience of seeing firm for the first time with a busy Halloween audience who were discussing the wild shifts of what they had just seen as the credits rolled this viewer and the immediate fan went to see the film again before it left UK cinemas. Even when one knows the eventual destination Barbarian held up on second viewing. If one is a fan of this kind of visceral genre movie an instant cult favourite has arrived. 10/10
The box office failure of this LGBTQ rom-com in the US has been something of a talking point among those that emotionally invested in the success of media. Oh no. A fairly standard R-rated rated com with the only mild novelty being the sexuality of the characters underperformed theatrically. In an era where the majority of this genre (regardless of sexuality) has pivoted to streaming. This shouldn’t be in the least bit surprising for anyone who’s paid attention to media trends over the last five years. Thus the film arrived very quietly in the UK but did get rolled out on a decent number of multiplex screens. Was this the kind of breakthrough in representation for the mainstream to get behind? all the kind of middling effort that will still enable fans and activists to write any potential criticism off as just homophobia.
The truth is that it occupies an awkward middle ground. Bros are consistently funny and solidly charming. Even as a mid-level theatrical release it’s the kind of thing that this viewer would give a solid if far from a glowing recommendation. The dialogue is snappy with laughs throughout. Performances are solid across the board. as someone only familiar with Billy Eichner through his role in The Lion King CG remake, he has some comedic chops although he can prove a little grating over the 115-minute runtime. The real find here is Luke McFarlane who before this had starred in a variety of heterosexual Hallmark moviesMcFarlane combines a level of ease with the distinctly R-rated material whilst oozing natural charisma. If his agents play their cards right we could be looking at our next major Hollywood star. The narrative also leans into earnest conventionality rather effectively. The thing is that while the script does have enough genuine laughs to paper over its gaping cracks it also wants to satirise and play into playing a certain distinctly irritating variety of male machismo. This is not helped by the marketing containing perhaps the worst poster of the past several years. The marketing is playing decidedly into this awful impulse to attract the audience implied by the terrible title. ultimately the narrative does want to try and subvert this with the previously mentioned level of sincerity. Ultimately though the tone also wants to attract the exact audience is trying to target for comedic effect. There is more than enough here to like and recommend regardless of the half-hearted attempt at subversiveness that falls distinctly flat on its face.
Similarly well Eichner and the creative team won’t want to hear this there’s plenty of adult crossover YA and LGBTQ material with a global audience that’s just as frank with its discussion of sex, identity and gender as anything the creative team behind something like Bros can offer. The show may be inconsistent at times but Laurie Nunn and the creative team behind Sex Education at their best would eat Eichner and friends for breakfast from a quality perspective. this is without the pacing problems and long runtimes that have plagued these Judd Apatow adjacent comedies for going on 15 years at this point.
Bros is a distinctly likeable modern rom-com The sort of easy-to-watch consistently funny offering that’s very easy to recommend despite the overlong runtime and pacing problems that come with the territory in terms of this variety of R-rated comedy. It’s also simultaneously nowhere near as smart or progressive as those involved think it is. Combine that with a marketing campaign that leans into all the worst elements of Male machismo in the most grating way possible (regardless of the sexual orientation of the characters) and it’s hard not to see why the film flopped in the US regardless of the homophobia argument. In this genre’s migration to streaming, it might be fair to argue that unless one has massive star power on hand ( like the recent Ticket to Paradise) this genre is not that viable on the big screen. This Will be looked at as hugely detrimental by some viewers. UltimatelytThis writer would argue it doesn’t particularly matter. In an age where high-spec TVs are more accessible than ever ( these may provide better quality than your local cinema) There’s no reason to specifically hunt down mid-range comedic films like this in a theatrical presentation. Well, the creative team behind Bros may come across as thinking it’s much more transgressive as a piece than it is it’s also destined to find its home on streaming. Given the modern landscape, this is perfectly fine. 7/10.
Everyone has seen a trailer well their initial reaction is to go “well this looks stupid.” A prime contender for this viewer would be the 2022 horror hit Smile. A nurse (Sosie Bacon) witnesses a suicide that transfers a titular curse, whereby she is stoked by supposedly creepily smiling figures. As of yet no one has survived or broken a curse without killing themselves. You have seen this exact premise done to death across a wide variety of different horror subgenres. Except in a 2022 context it’s now infused with the modern jump scare and a central MacGuffin/ put device that looks more silly than creepy. Nevertheless, the trailers and marketing did suggest that Paramount would have a hit on their hands as this is the exact sort of thing that plays well with a mainstream horror crowd. So it has proved. Within the landscape of the downturn of a post-pandemic, box office Smile has been one of the few non-blockbuster bright spots. It’s fairly safe to assume that those behind it are now attempting to gleefully fast-track some variety of sequels but they can churn out as rush out as fast as possible. Even still this critic avoided the film for weeks thanks to the combination of not being a massive horror fan and the laughable trailer. With so little coming out as a theatrical exclusive in 2022 (and it looking to stay that way until Netflix and Amazon can get their way into the multiplexes) there was a weekend where Smile was the only thing available not already seen with this viewer’s unlimited pass. So this watcher went along begrudgingly but he did still have some level of open-mindedness. Surely it can’t be that bad? it’s not. in part because Sosie Bacon delivers a central performance far too strong for the incredibly thin material and also because this in turn means the creative team taking the silly premise with some level of seriousness. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Despite Bacon’s committed work in the lead role to say this thing is “no plot, just jump scares” would actively be underselling how hard this thing relies on the most tired trope within modern horror. Jumpscares can be done effectively. There’s a superb one in Mike Flanigans The Haunting of Hill House and David Bruckner’s underseen The Night House features another decidedly memorable effort in the recent past. That said most jumpscare horror can be treated with a level of inane inevitability if one has seen enough of it. As soon as the audio drains out of the mix one simply waits for the 3…2…1 BOO to occur accompanied by a string of music before things reset and a cycle happens again. That is all Smile is. Relying on audiences’ investment within this brand of horror and expecting that the curse has some level of creep factor to it. Even in the moments throughout the film where there’s some effective build-up to a scare one knows tension will instantly deflate because the resolution always comes back to that stupid-looking smile. The creative team are committed to not nudging or winking at the audience which makes things innately much better but this is still extremely through the motions style modern horror.
Smile may not be as bad as the fiercely generic trailer suggests but that doesn’t mean it has anything new or interesting to offer. It’s also not difficult to see why it’s become a breakout post-pandemic horror hit. it’s the exact sort of meat and potatoes jumpscare horror that plays well in the mainstream. this author is not attempting to compare it to whatever variety of majorly overrated independent fair A24 put out this week. Filmmakers like Ari Aster and his ilk are some of the most overrated currently working. That said (especially with the strength of the performance) Smile is crying out to potentially have more meat on the bone than the most written collection of jumpscares humanly possible. Paramount are laughing all the way to the bank so they won’t care regardless. 5/10
There’s a moment during the second act of Dwayne Johnson’s gestating DC antihero movie where the character played by James Guns’ wife Jennifer Holland from Gunn’s ongoing Suicide Squad run gets a one-line cameo. Is this blatantly nepotistic? Sure. That said this viewer was blatantly more invested in what these characters might be getting up to, than anything in this perfunctory effort. This viewer isn’t entirely convinced that Johnson would be willing to do a choreographed dance title sequence to a song that sounds like a rebirth for hair metal produced in 2010 that was unearthed by Gunn and his team 11 years later. that said Peacemaker has a great first season and Black Adam feels devoid of any redeeming qualities. that was before Gunn got effectively handed what looks to be the keys to the Kingdom in terms of DC visual media. Johnson has been trying to get this vehicle off the ground for many years at this point. To the extent that when one sees the final film it feels like a project from the first wave of Johnson’s movie career before studio executives unlocked his natural charisma. This brought up a broader question for this viewer? If Johnson feels subjectively miscast in his vanity project why did he invest so much time in getting this thing over the line regardless Yes Johnson has an appropriately imposing physique to play the part from a physical perspective. The stoicism required deliberately robs him of any personality the character or his performance might possess. As a viewer not familiar with the character beyond knowing he originated as a Shazam villain it was somewhat crazy to see the power set and origin elements of both characters mirrored pretty much exactly on screen. Except DC already gave the world a pretty good that earns its quality precisely because it leans into the silly but wish-for fulfillingly earnest the character and his power set are. The sequel has been sitting on the shelf for over a year at this point. regardless of the final product will likely only be remembered as part of Hollywood’s Who major 2023 attempts to turn the slightly manic theatre kid energy of West Side Story remake breakout Rachel Zegler into the next major star The only thing Black Adam can offer Is an embarrassing po faced flip on the same material. This barely scratches the surface of what other strains of embarrassing the film has to offer. After delivering one of the worst performances of all time butchering the ABBA songbook anytime Pierce Brosnan chews the scenery will look tame by comparison. Aldis Hodge is far too good an actor for a role like Hawkman. Even Noah Centineo appears to be building a solid niche for himself in 15 Netflix teen and tween movies that look functionally identical. The finished product feels like a commemorative choose-your-own-adventure narrative from across the 30 years of modern superhero blockbusters where every choice made is incorrect Namely fusing the pantomime theatrics within the majority of the pre-MCU superhero efforts with the trend-changing shared universe attempt of post-MCU superhero entertainment. That’s not even touching the desperate feeling mid-credits scene that was getting spoiled by the creative team days in advance in an attempt to drum up any potential interest in this failed bellyflop of everything wrong with bad genre movies in 2022 Dwayne Johnsons Black Adam is terrible. this sort of painfully forced studio embarrassment can trip up the careers of everyone involved. the fact that Johnson is miscast in a project he fought so heavily for is just the icing on a cake that has been going stale for far too long. Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s previous collaboration with Johnson was the Disney Jungle Cruise movie. That was arguably just as generic as Black Adam but it at least had a sense of fun knowing exactly what it was and how to pull it off most effectively. Black Adam faceplants when attempting to clear the same rather low bar 3/10
When the trailer for Lyle,Lyle,Crocodile first dropped this writers impression upon first viewing is that we were looking at the next instant meme within the film world. Come on. It’s Shawn Mendes as a singing crocodile with songs by Pesek and Paul. . Evan Hansen’s feature adaptation to the beach From M night Shamalan’s Old probably doesn’t help. Even the choice of Mendes and the attempted catering to his tweenage white boy audience felt a little desperate. Nevertheless, the chance to go and see this thing during the standard UK family movie preview weekend with something of an ironic slant was too good to pass up. Has the latest film adjacent meme been birthed? Not really. No doubt certain audiences will clip out certain sections of the musical sequences and claim that they are best experienced on their favourite variety of hallucinogens. When taken within the full context of the film though beyond the bunkers premise Lyle Lyle Crocodile plays it is incredibly safe. A very standard found family affair typical within its brand of all attempted all-ages family entertainment. There are diversions into the support of pantomime theatrics one might expect from the concept and trailer. Javier Bardem plays the struggling magician that previously owned Lyle before he is found by the child that the film centre. he is having a great time in knowing exactly the level of ridiculousness the off-the-wall antics implied (if not delivered) by the premise suggests. the narrative receives a much-needed shot in the arm every time he appears on the screen. unfortunately, he is only in the film for about 20 minutes in total. Brett Gelman looks as if he wandered in directly from the set of Stranger Things and is effectively playing the same character. The rest of the narrative plays out with a certain level of gurning earnestness. This might be more inoffensive than outright terrible but one has to keep reminding themselves that this is that the end of the day a movie about a singing crocodile. Leaning more into Bardem’s performance would at least deliver on some of the memorability the premise suggests. The most interesting thing about the film in its final form is that it has very clearly been chopped down in the edit to a more family film adjacent to 106 minutes. Two major events in the second and third acts simply take place off-screen. this includes some of the set-ups for the standard “get to the show on time” finale. One should know what to expect from there. As for the songs. They are. find for what they are. those that have an allergic reaction to the Pesek and Paul style of aggressively poppy musical theatre will heat them by default but they are far from the worst things ever. Mendes is the sort of aggressively anonymous pop boy perfect to deliver them. The entire thing from top to bottom screams of an attempt to be aggressively inoffensive. This probably results in a better film overall. That said anyone looking to enjoy the finished film at least somewhat ironically will be left disappointed. Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is a far safer film in the bananas premise and marketing campaign would imply. it does have moments of pantomime energy from Javier Bardem’s presence. everything else about this thing feels decidedly uneventful. Unless one is decidedly indebted to this brand of slightly sterile family entertainment or wants to see what the singing crocodile movie has to offer Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is best avoided. 5/10
Viola Davis can give absolutely anything gravitas. There is a clip from Season One of How to Get Away With Murder that exemplifies this perfectly. she has to deliver a blatantly ridiculous Shonda Rhimes-Esque plot reveal in the most on-the-nose way possible. Yet she delivers said line as if it is demanded in a Royal Shakespeare Company. In this way, it makes sense that she won her Oscar for a decidedly strategy theatre adaptation. The prospect of Davis leading an action movie/ historical epic. in the aftermath of that Oscar now that she now has the cultural and Hollywood cachet to get projects off the ground. Hence we have The Woman King. A very loose historical action movie with a vague basis in the true story of a tribe of female African warriors that protected a small nation in 1830s Africa. Is the film any good? Absolutely. The Woman King might not have the same blow-your-socks-off energy that makes Top Gun: Maverick such an endearing prospect for anyone with a heartbeat and love of genuine big-screen cinema. That said they are very much cut from the same cloth. old fashioned nuts and bolts action movies that do not set out to reinvent the wheel but are simply ridiculously solid at exactly what they sent out to do. No one will claim the very tried and tested story structure following a new recruit entering the tribe is anything other than entirely perfunctory. Every story beat is entirely predictable from start to finish That said the strong cast and impressively cinematic spectacle behind the camera make sure the final product punches above its weight on several different levels. If there’s one element that prevents the full package from rising even higher it’s that the direction within the action scenes is not quite as confident as it could or should be. For the film to rise to unqualified best-of-the-year type recommendation. That said The Woman King offers the best type of representation for the Hollywood ideal of “strong female character.” The narrative and actions effectively cell or group of heroines cell are central group of heroines are totally badass and that’s the beginning of end and end of it. This is a textbook example of how this style of representation can be handled with a degree of populism that makes it incredibly effective. The Woman King is ridiculously rocking solid from start to finish. The kind of earnestly fictionalised but cinematic historical epic that’s becoming increasingly rare in the age of cinematic universes and guaranteed mega-blockbusters being the only surefire bats in the theatrical landscape of 2022. It is also the kind of female empowerment story in which the narrative and actions stand on their own in a way that we should be seeing a lot more of in mainstream Hollywood. Ignore the inherent racism within the film’s online backlash. If any of this sounds like it might be up a potential viewer’s street the film is decidedly worth seeking out. Especially if it is still playing theatrically in your city. 8.5/10 PS. Here is the How to Get Away With Murder clip referenced. Mild NSFW warning ahead.
One of online film discourses’ favourite things to trot out every time he makes a new film is that David O Russell is a terrible person. That said his variety of star power-driven mid-level Oscar bait has always proved successful enough for a variety of studios to finance it. As this writer has said in his reviews previously Hollywood is not as moralistic as hayper left-leaning #filmtwitter thinks it is. From a personal perspective, this writer is a fan of Silver Linings Playbook but the rest of O Russell’s filmography comes across as largely forgettable. Thankfully depending on who you ask O Russell’s latest effort Amsterdam appears to be the moment where his bubble has burst. A tooth-gratingly unfunny crime comedy/ satire in which Margot Robbie, Christian Bale and John David Washington are framed for a crime they didn’t commit whilst also inadvertently getting themselves involved in the rise of fashion within 1930s Amsterdam. An $80 million movie when 80% of the budget appears to have gone to the cast salaries this is very much O Russell’s usual shtick. Except well previous efforts of his could get by on the charisma and the ridiculously overqualified cast alone. Amsterdam is a film where it feels like the hubris of the many stakeholders involved in getting this thing out the door is the only reason it exists. Is Disney/Fox the only reason why this thing exists? It’s not just the three leads. As is usual for O Russell a who’s who within the modern A/B list turns up for varying levels of the role some lasting mere minutes. They are working from a script where every line lands with a painful thud lacking any sort of comedic or satirical direction and the sense that this cast has been assembled from a phone book of Hollywood contacts that are here under potential duress. It’s just a parade of famous people assuming that production has the potential to be good thanks to their mere presence. Why is the rating this reviewer is about to assign not even lower one may ask? Well because one of the most famous women alive turns up for screen time that is surprisingly plot-critical. and is dealt one of the most cartoonish deaths for any media character released in 2022. It’s straight out of Looney Tunes. The fact is a celebrity of her stature would agree to something this cartoonish is just inherently hilarious in both the right and wrong ways. Especially given that this person has just dropped an album with a sentiment on the hook of the lead single designed to be sloganeering and eaten up by fans across every conceivable piece of merch you can think of. One of the most baffling yet memorable film moments of 2022. Amsterdam is objectively terrible. Regardless of David O Russell being an easy target, his brand of star-driven fare has decidedly run out of steam. The huge cast seems to be doing it out of obligation. The full package represents one of the most deserved flops in recent filmmaking. Plenty will delight in O Russell’s misery but regardless of that his filmmaking 3/10.
The bones of King Richard III being found in a Leicester car park is one of the most intriguing human interest stories to hit the UK in quite some time. The sort of stranger-than-fiction tale primed for a grey-pound film adaptation. Hence for the 10th anniversary of the events depicted here comes the screen version with awards baiting British Pedigree. Reuniting director Stephen Freeasus with screenwriters Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope following their Oscar-nominated crowd-pleaser Philomena seems like such an obvious play on paper. One could argue a certain amount of this materialises on screen as well. For one thing, Sally Hawkins is playing Philippa Langley the woman credited with spearheading the initial investigation. Coogan writes himself a role with the put up an ex-husband. The events and discovery of the king’s bones are dramatised on screen. So far so straightforward. Except this is a far weirder much riskier narrative device hiding just below the surface. Now it’s time to get into the deranged stuff. Within the opening act of this dramatisation s Hawkins’s version of Langley goes to see a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. She then gets followed and has sporadic visions of this incarnation of Richard as portrayed by the actor she saw on stage (Harry Lloyd.) As the narrative progresses Langley in this version of the story has full-on conversations with the Shakespearean incarnation of the titular Last King. On one level this might be trying to say something thematic about the ubiquity with which certain media interpretations of historical figures take hold as the main narrative without any consideration for what their broader trait might have been. From a functional drama perspective though this narrative choice is completely beserk and brings up all sorts of ethical questions. These go beyond the fact that Leicester Uni is in the process of attempting to sue the filmmakers for their portrayal within the piece. Did the real Philippa Langley sign off on this? Hawkins’s interpretation of the character spends the entire film on the verge of a nervous breakdown. in another version of the same story with an identical narrative device, she could just as easily have gotten sanctioned on mental health grounds. Instead, because the core of the story is still effectively played out (they do find their bones) Langley gets treated as a hero where 5 minutes earlier she could have just as easily been detained as a total nutcase. Were the film not distinctly targeted at an audience who would choke on their tea and biscuits if they were to see any media above the compulsory 12A rating. You know what though. From this viewer’s perspective, these grey pound dramas are so dime a dozen that to see one that takes an active risk of this memorably audacious is definitively refreshing. Whether or not this swing for the fence works will depend on individual viewers’ discretion. it’s definitively sold effectively by Hawkins in the central role. Whether or not there are active grounds for defamation within the drama doesn’t seem to have crossed the players involves minds as they doubled down on the increasingly and potentially unhealthy depiction of the central characters’ mental health. That said having seen so many of these kinds of British comedy dramas over the years it’s rare to find one that any audience who sees it will not forget in a hurry. The Lost King is that rare example of a film that may look inoffensive on the surface but hides a memorably audacious plot device just below the surface. Whether or not this bonkers decision works for individual audience members is down to individual taste. That said it’s rare to see a film of this type stick so definitively to a decidedly divisive mechanic. Much as the decision to include it may end up with the filmmaker getting egg on their face on several different levels The wild swing of its very existence is worth supporting. Not your typical Sunday afternoon matinee fare. 6/10
David Bowie is one of these media consumer musical and cultural blindspots. Not to say that his classic songs aren’t classics for a reason. More than the prospect of the first documentary officially sanctioned by the Bowie state following the star’s death Will be a more exciting prospect to fans with knowledge of his wider catalogue. This viewer’s main interest was seeing how it compared to the embarrassing unauthorised Bowie feature drama Stardust starring Johnny Flynn (it is indeed “time for a tasty debrief.”) With no rights to use any of the music or any sanctions from the Bowies stakeholders beyond a vague handwave the inapt piece was a very specific case of “you were so preoccupied with whether you could you didn’t stop to think if you should.” With that sorry excuse for a biopic, decidedly memory holed we can move on to something that does have the Bowie team seal of approval. This can be a dicey prospect in and of itself but Moonage Daydream deserves consideration. So how is the documentary from this perspective overview not automatically enamoured with the subject word about catalogue or cult of personality? Incredible. The critical factor to note about Moonage Daydream is that it’s not really a documentary. There are talking head pieces and interview snippets from across bowie’s life and career. The film is much closer to something like an extrasensory experience. Does that sound pretentious? Possibly. That said a mix of terrific editing and stunningly immersive sound design let the 135-minute experience wash over the viewer in the most effective way possible for this tone of the material. The live performance sequences are frankly electrifying. Crafted for the biggest screen and highest spec sound system possible the entire thing will be catnip for those that love the big screen experience ( regardless of their familiarity with Bowie) The knowledge this had an early IMAX release and is something of the showpiece in one of this viewer’s favourite film formats was both incredibly unsurprising and deeply frustrating given that he missed that special engagement. Needless to say based on his experience watching on a screen that had not been upgraded since it opened in 2009 yet could still convey how stunning this was as a piece of spectacle the IMAX experience for this has the potential to be mind-blowing. By framing the final product as more of an experience than any kind of career retrospective. the Bowie estate gets around the problem inherent with these kinds of hagiographies in that their fingerprints aren’t too heavily associated with the final product (at least with someone Not as familiar with Bowie history.) it also feels emotionally honest to the subject’s multitude of chameleon-like personas throughout his career. Honouring his legacy but not by giving off the consistent energy that the final proiduct has been tampered with by its stakeholders to approximate a version of Bowie’s story with the edges supremely rounded off. Find the biggest and loudest cinema possible and immerse yourself in one of the year’s best films. Moonage Daydream is absolutely astonishing. Even from the perspective of a viewer, not that familiar with the David Bowie back catalogue. A wonderfully kaleidoscopic theatrical showpiece tribute to one of the most influential media figures of the last 50 years. Whatever one’s familiarity with the subject work if the documentary is still playing anywhere near potential viewers theatrically this writer would recommend doing everything in one’s power to get the chance to see this projected. Pure big-screen spectacles are relatively rare in the age of streaming. The fact one of the three released thus far in 2022 has deservedly made $1.5 billion as a strong contender for the year’s best film is only a great thing. Heres another. It deserves a chance to be seen outside the fandom for its subject. 9/10
When Olivia Wildes’s directorial debut Booksmart was released into the world it was the exact sort of thing gleamed onto by a very specific stripe of film Twitter pundits. They saw it as some variety of revelation. Thats despite it being nothing more then your standard teen comedy just from a female perspective. It was decidedly above average for its genre with two breakout performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein but nothing that will rock anyone’s would. Even with that film’s underperformance at the box office creatives and studio heads at least initially saw something in Wildes’s direction to give her a notably bigger production for her second feature.
In Don’t Worry Darling. Florence Pugh and Harry Styles play an idealised 1950s suburban couple whose lives may not be all they appear. The drama related to the film’s production has been thoroughly picked over by every major gossip outlet one would expect to cover a story of its potential magnitude. This writer had been following it with the level of bemused interest as someone who thought Booksmart was largely very overrated, to begin with. That said the finished film did deserve a chance regardless of all the rumours and conflict surrounding it. Did it deliver when given said opportunity? No. This author would contest that the discourse within the film marketing rollout and release has propped up a final product that beyond a very glossy surface is the very definition of blandly mediocre. Whatever the vestige of truth regarding what went on behind the scenes here the final product suggests that at least initially Wilde had the resources to call in the best behind-the-camera talent available. The drama simultaneously looks impressively cinematic. It counterproductively feels distinctly over-stylised to within an inch of its life. It was designed for high-spec theatrical presentation which is not often the case with this variety of mid-level drama/thriller fare. No doubt there will be plenty of people arguing that we as a film-watching public should be going out and supporting theatrical exclusivity for a broader range of movies. Espasacly for that has mostly pivoted to streaming in 2022. Not when its the derivative,
From a content and performance perspective, Florence Pugh is acting circles around every other cast member in the central role. She elevates the decidedly mediocre material into something mildly compelling She can give the threadbare script some level of gravitas it decidedly doesn’t deserve. Enough to see the narrative play out to a resolution. The problem is that those that have seen enough material within this brand of psychological thriller/drama will watch the price go through the motions wondering which variant of the resolution the creative team went with. Especially in an age where two excellent examples of this subgenre in the streaming TV space have been nominated for a total of 37 Emmys between them over the last two years. The fact that one of them comes from Marvel Studios will automatically disqualify it in the heads of some viewers but that’s their problem. By the time Don’t Worry Darling Meanders towards a conclusion it answers the prospect of which ending it’s going with some variation of all of them and the final results are genuinely embarrassing. It’s safe to say that Alex Garland may not have made the worst toxic masculinity movie of 2022. The ironic thing being the one element “Men” gets right is the admittedly wild ending sequence. This is not even mentioning Harry Styles’s performance which is better than some watching me think but enters the realm of embarrassment any time he has to overact or deliver any kind of, massively emotive dialogue. There’s also a wide variety of hugely pretentious insert shorts that come across like everyone involved here really thought they were making the next Black Swan. They were not. The three teenagers who whooped with paroxysms of joy at the mere appearance of Harry Styles on-screen credit as this viewer left his screening won’t care though.
It would be very easy for this writer to relish in Don’t Worry Darling’s failures as someone who thought Olivia Wilde’s directorial prospects were massively overstated, to begin with. That said this is giving the film deviled more brain space than it deserves. Much there are bright spots this is the kind of over-stylised but threadbare thriller the discerning viewers will have seen plenty of before and will go on to exist long after Don’t Worry Darling is a vague footnote exclusively for the production drama. Much as there are bright spots the narrative’s lack of anything majorly interesting from a content perspective combined with a genuinely terrible final act makes the whole thing feel a bit pointless. Unless one likes this specific brand of psychological thriller or is interested in what earth the final product looks like given over behind the scene reporting viewers’ time would be much better spent elsewhere. 4/10
All you need to know about Do Revenge is this. After a sex tape leak In the opening scene, the central character (played by Riverdales Camila Mendes) conveys a speech that feels like it could be delivered by Veronica Sawyer. Behind this, the intro to Olivia Rodrigo’s brutal is specifically timed so that the smash into the guitar solo is played over the title logo. The prospect of what is effectively a queer-coated Heather’s fan film for the Olivia Rodrigo generation is not automatically a bad thing. Granted Heather’s ending can’t play dramatically in 2022 without intense backlash ( note that this writer hasn’t seen the musical adaptation. ) That says more about how painfully relevant a film celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2022 still is. All the other archetypes and performances typical of this style of teen revenge narrative are here. Just with plenty of extreme liberal buzzwords that fall somewhere between the open-heartedness of Sex Education and the general sense the creative team put these in because they will get them automatic good notices within certain audiences. There’s still plenty to like here. Mendes is joined by Maya Hawke fresh off her dalliances effectively selling her in-built Stranger Things audience on her artistic soft porn masquerading as a folk music career. The two have solidly snarky chemistry and deliver strong engaging lead performances. They’re joined by several YA adjacent actors that one may recognise as “ that person from that thing” if they have consumed any team-focused media within the last five years. Not to mention a recurring celebrity cameo that fits “bizarrely memorable” to a tea. Fun set pieces and enough bite within the dialogue help make this pretty pleasantly easy watch for this variety of team black comedy. Even if the film never develops an identity beyond its influences. It’s not hard to see why this has become a word-of-mouth hit since it dropped. With the media, it’s indebted to accessible within the same genre and target audience it won’t be difficult for the teens of today to connect with the material something like Do Revenge is directly lifting from. This viewer is somewhat surprised the firm has received a certain level of acclaim given that it does not have an original bone in its body. That said this very fact is not an automatic disqualification. Something like Do Revenge proves that a film can be entirely successful at achieving what it sets out to do with its lack of originality in place as a parameter. 6.5/10.
OK. Let’s rip this plaster off. This writer has often shown his contempt towards those online film pundits who treat the very mere presence of the A24 logo as some sort of Messiah complex. This came up a little bit earlier in the year with Alex garland’s disastrous men but here it is crystallised at its nadir. with the completely irredeemable Bodies, Bodies Bodies. Maria Bakalova and Amandla Stenberglead lead a team of toxic teenagers as they play a game of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies during a hurricane. The only thing is that a killer might be in their midst. That’s it. The film markets itself as some sort of satire but appears to have no target beyond the very vague presence of “zoomers, man”. It has no defined targets or thesis beyond knowing these people are insufferable and expecting an audience who wouldn’t know what populism is if it slapped them in the face like a wet fish to lap it up. They will deflect any criticism of this pile of bilge with” it’s ironic man” as rapidly as the characters on screen. Anything that outright requires the shield of irony as a distinct explanation as the sole reason for why a piece of media works for an audience is a conceptual failure. This isn’t Amazon’s The Boys, In that case, the deliberately irredeemable characters are simply a foundation to set up intriguingly well-developed mechanics and world-building. Eric Kripke and his team know when to push buttons but also know when they can fall back on ridiculously solid fundamental strengths. Or even a Succession where after a season this viewer could acknowledge some level of objective quality in the snide way the Roy family banterer with each other. Even if this viewer questioned what possible evolution there could be (haven’t seen the following seasons.)
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies has none of those excuses purely because what it attempts to plaster onto an incredibly thin attempted ironic satire to the bare minimum of genre conventions for this variety of horror. There’s also the fact that this kind of teen discourse has limited extensions beyond a purely online space. This viewer was left with the impression that you’d have to be within a very niche circle that could perhaps be divided up even further. Anyone not immersed in this world with half a brain cell has better things to do with their lives. The most infuriating thing about watching this pathetic excuse for a dumpster fire is knowing that it will have strong defenders who live inside of a different variation of the very privileged Film Festival-type bubble the film is attempting to poke fun at. These people deliberately poke holes in anything that might have even been seen by a wider audience and are truly flabbergasted that no one wants to watch their obscurer 3-hour indie film. Some of these can be good but the sense of gatekeeping among those films that latch on within similar spaces( as Bodies, Bodies bodies has done) Has genuinely put this writer off attempting to ever sell his film writing/ reviewing ability to an audience again.
Bodies, Bodies, Bodies is completely vile in the least interesting way possible. A devastatingly one-dimensional, thinly veiled attempt at satire. Focusing on the sort of team targets that do not exist outside of social media. The defensive shield of irony is on display from minute one. The film is so lacking in any major substance beyond the thinnest of genre tropes, there’s so little to be ironic about. The worst element of this viewing experience was watching this excruciating disaster play out on screen knowing that it will have defenders Despite it being fundamentally divorced from any audiences beyond themselves. The Gwyneth Paltrow vagina candle of film hipster culture. An insufferable pile of one-dimensional nonsense Random blue checkmarks on Twitter will tell viewers it’s some kind of ragingly daring deconstruction. It’s not. A24 and distributors of its ilk need to stop idolising films like this as opposed to the genuinely brilliant talents they have given and platform and distribution. The Daniels, the Saftie Brothers and Bo Burnham to name the three most obvious. 0/10
The resurgence in comedically inflected whodunits very much impacted by the success of the burgeoning Knives Out franchise is one of this author’s favourite Hollywood trends as of 2022. It’s a more effective use of Rian Johnson as a creative force then. indulging in his attempt to be subversive by having one of the most beloved movie characters of all time become a bitter old man drinking milk out of a space cows udder. See How They Run takes Saoirse Ronan and Adrien Brody Stone along with a fair dollop of Wes Anderson and applies it to a period piece that directly involves Agatha Christie’s reverence over this entire genre of media. Specifically, the narrative is set in short in London’s West End theatre scene around the opening of The Mousetrap. This still has theatrical cultural cachet in 2022 given that it’s one of the most famous whodunits around and the longest-running play in West End history. All this sounds on paper like fertile grounds to make a potentially effective entry as part of this comedic mystery revival. Add to this the fact this is one of the increasingly rare Fox productions under Disney to get a decent-sized theatrical push and a fun marketing campaign and these viewers’ expectations going into an opening day screening were relatively high. How was the film? Incredibly disappointing. The fact we have two incredibly strong examples of this mini-genre resurgence being done so well ( the other being Only Murders in the Building) Makes a final product like See How They Run look aggressively functional. There’s a mild charm in the period details and the performances from the two leads but the central case lacks any major spark or sense that it has any kind of momentum beyond going through the motions. A who’s who of B list British character actors turn up as potent suspects but there are so many of them to the point where they all remain massively underdeveloped for a feature runtime. The entire thing comes across not only as a “grey pound” film ( some of which can be good) but as an entirely milk-toast affair built for audiences who are simply looking to watch something to fill the time. The dry no sugar Weetabix of the current post-COVID theatrical release schedule. The piece is saved somewhat from being worse by one element of its ending. Not the killer reveal. That is as perfunctory as can be expected That said the villain’s motivation does offer some delightfully entertaining metacommentary on a certain element of media discourse that is as old as the media itself. If one is looking for great moments and plot reveals that elevate otherwise mediocre to bad films here is a fantastic example. Unfortunately, most of the under-60s will have deservedly checked out by that point. This viewer’s main thought is that it will be far too late to win them back. See How They Run was woefully disappointing for this viewer. Jettisoning all the potential the comedic mystery revival can offer in favour of something entirely perfunctory with little flavour or value beyond Something one can see in the increasingly barren theatrical exclusive release schedule of 2022. There is one major element the ending that suggests a far more daring and interesting film than the one audiences have received up until that point. This writer’s prevailing thought was why Disney had chosen this thing specifically for increasingly rare cinema releases. It’s the exact sort of streaming filler built for Hulu or Star on Disney Plus. This question remains unanswered at this point. If one is not afraid of some mildly R-rated content I suggest sticking to Selena Gomez asking, Why the Bassoon Cleaner is in the Sex Toy box? One of the best media moments of 2021. 4/10
How do you follow up on the most overrated film of the last 10 years? Mad Max: Fury Road. A visually sumptuous and technically splendid opus with no emotional engagement whatsoever. If you’re George Miller this question has two answers as posited by his follow-up feature. Make something that is just as visually splendid in places but will not have the commercial or awards appeal. Infuse it with an emotional core that eventually reveals itself to have the opposite problem or be far too earnest and sappy in comparison to Fury Road. Hence you have Three Thousand Years of Longing. A fairly straightforward adult-orientated fable/Aladdin riff with Tilda Swinton playing a jaded academic who analyses narratives and Idris Elba as the genie inside the bottle she finds in the grand bazaar of Istanbul. Much of the narrative takes place in a flashback with Elba genie telling Swinton various stories about his life well he waits for her to bestow three wishes upon him in their hotel room. The episodic flashback narratives have moments of wildly engaging with visual invention that screams “this thing will have a cult following in years to come.” The visuals do a great deal of the heavy lifting in making up for the fact that a lot of the screenplay itself comes across like a slightly ponderous Audible Original Drama. Both Elba and Swinton remain committed to the wild shifts delivering strong central turns. For two-thirds of its runtime, it’s the sort of blatantly flawed but engaging peace where the things that work are strong enough to give it a recommendation regardless of any holes that can be drilled into the full package beyond the surface. Then the final act hits and the narrative shift for the sentimental may still alienate viewers that were on board until this point.
Anything can be interpreted as having some level of subjectivity. Something like Three Thousand Years of Longing may not be the most obvious example of this but it is certainly one of the fairest. Hugely flawed but worth the experience. 6/10.
The much-deserved worldwide success of RRR and the incredibly thin theatrical release slate have resulted in much longer runs fur Indian cinema that always had a presence at the UK box office. These are now taking up some of the premium screens during their opening week of release. In a certain way, this could have been anticipated. Brahmastranot only positions and markets itself as the most expensive Hindi language film. A genuine ground-up attempts to build a shared universe using this as the first feature. When RRR director SS Rajamali tweeted out the trailer this writer figured it was worth having a look at. It looked like a generic blockbuster with an Indian coat of paint but did get across some fairly impressive-looking CG spectacle. Playing for a full two weeks at one of this author’s local cinemas with not a lot of other options he figured it was worth having a look at. If nothing else seeing Indian movies in cinemas enables one to conveniently go for a bathroom break during the interval. How is the film? Exactly what you would expect. Hyper derivative, ridiculously earnest big-budget nonsense. Sections of it come across like this weird passion project with nonsense mythology and world-building that’s on one level incredibly overwritten but also feels farted out by an AI fed exclusively on a diet of Marvel movies. On one level this is not unsurprising. This is India’s attempt at creating a homegrown spin on the Marvel formula for crossover appeal. However, it’s not just Marvel that Bamastra cribs wholesale from in terms of its western franchise influence. The incredibly threadbare narrative shows a DJ developing elemental powers. He is acclimatising to the new world around him and his new world of heroes lovers and villains. Taken wholesale from Harry Potter, Avatar The Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Z. Along with Shang Chi if you are looking for a more specific Marvel connexion. All were built around the central amulet of the title. On one level the entire thing feels just about as basic as you can get. that being said. The derivativeness is played so earnestly with huge stretches where the budget is very clearly on screen that if one is in the mood for this kind of very base-level blockbuster this author would say that something like Bamastra could very well scratch that itch. This is combined with a theatrical audio mix so loud that it could theoretically blow someone’s ears off ( especially after two and three-quarter hours) This viewer’s prevailing thought as the credits rolled was that this screening was a better use of his Unlimited card than 90% of the theatrical exclusives that are offered in western cinemas post-COVID. For as generic as Brahmastras full package feels it was designed for the biggest, loudest and highest spec format imaginable. If one is looking for entry-level spectacle filmmaking set to these parameters this would honestly be a solid option 5/10
A wacky inventor (David Earl) strikes gold when one of his latest failed experiments (a robot comprised largely of a mannequin head with a washing machine for a body and a voice box) unexpectedly comes to life in this incredibly likeable British comedy. As someone familiar with Earl through his work with Ricky Gervais to see him deliver something as a writer and central performer with a genuine beating heart was very refreshing. We watch him and his companion getting into slapstick misadventures that remain solidly constructed and often hilarious throughout. This viewer’s immediate thought whilst watching was that the tone had replicated the appeal of classic Aardman productions in live action. Nick Park would be proud. The third act and sense the narrative needs a villain in its expansion from a short film to a feature feels incredibly bolted on. Thankfully even when going through the motions the peace never loses any of its central charms. It’s the exact sort of widely accessible Sundance breakout hit we should be supporting and showing to the largest audience possible. It was in UK multiplexes for a week but this deserves so much more. Not least to be found by a broad yet specific audience who’d like a certain strain of good-natured British comedy. The fact this didn’t immediately occur upon its initial release in cinemas as it might have done in the past. This is more an indication of the sad state of mid-level theatrical exclusives in post COVID UK cinema environment 8/10
Of all the careers and legacies tarnished by the dawn of #metoo the allegations and ousting of John Lassiter were the most difficult to process from a personal perspective. As a viewer who grew up with a lot of classic era Pixar and watched him guide Disney feature animation into the CG era in real-time. At his best, the man was/is a creative genius. Being involved in some of the most iconic family entertainment to ever exist and spawning a legion of imitators. Ultimately because left-leaning film and media coverage thinks Hollywood has far more morals than it does it’s not hard to see why even in a disgraced state getting Lassiter to kick start the animation arm tied to a mid-level Hollywood production company might seem to investors like an attractive prospect. Hence we have Luck the first feature overseen by Lassiter as head of Skydance Animation. The main brand is mostly known for spearheading creative teams on Tom Cruise’s blockbuster efforts over the last 10 years (otherwise known as some of the best big screen entertainment ones can find.) There’s no reason conceptually they can’t build a footprint within the animation. Especially if Lassiter brings a chunk of former Pixar employees along with him. What do the initial results look like? Mostly not good. The thing with Luck is that Skydance has a studio that had a chance to establish a genuine creative animated identity One may argue they did this. Only if this identity was content with being creatives that are desperate to tell you they have at least seen a Pixar movie. Hiring a director best known for Disney’s direct video efforts doesn’t help. The narrative has some level of potential with the unluckiest person imaginable discovering the land of luck. Unfortunately what could be an opportunity for real creativity with a genuine artistic blank slate beyond the premise turns into the most generic CG animated family film possible. Luck itself is conceptualised by stereotypically Irish leprechauns. The first act has a mild charm and some decent slapstick. It’s the genuinely atrociously middle section that lets the whole project down. The ending writes itself from its descent into atrocious returning to generic pablum. If Skydance Animation had come out the gate swinging with a genuinely solid opening feature there would be endless discourse about the createive value of people who left-leaning Twitter see as Problematic. In the end, this feature is nothing more than an attempt to recreate Pixar’s glory years. I.E which every contemporary CG animation studio has tried to do in some form since the early 2000s. Hence the film very well-defined and easy target status. Having given the film a chance it’s hard not to think that on some level this is very solidly earned. There’s nothing here for even more discerning young audiences. While Luck is far from the worst thing ever it won’t trouble or spark Amy imagination’s beyond those attempting to make a cheap facsimile of better material. 4/10.
The first film telling the story of the popular Cornish folk band was very typical within its style of production line Britcom. That said in an era where British multiplexes are awash with this kind of “grey pound” material Fisherman’s Friends was one of the better efforts. It will not rock any viewer’s world but the sense of very mild affable charm with this screen adaptation of the band story was likely as good as you can get with the material. It was successful enough for investors to think there should be more. Going into the sequel this viewer did not have a great deal of expectation. Ultimately this is the prime example of a sequel that no one asked for. That being said there was a level of mild shock from this cinema attendee as the opening scenes played out The dawning realisation became just how surgically soulless the whole enterprise of the sequel’s existence feels. There’s a moment very early on where Dave John’s character describes himself as the meat within an interviewing journalist pasty that sets the tone for the rest of what was about to unfold. The marketing for the sequel is desperate to tell audiences that it’s centred around the band’s headlining slot at Glastonbury. In reality, for the follow-up to existing with the story having been told in the original the narrative manufactures a lot of painfully forced drama and rage-inducingly base-level “politically incorrect” gags. There’s also a genuine attempt to tackle James Purefoy’s character’s alcoholism and a moment where someone falls down a mine shaft in one of the most bizarre tonal shifts this watcher can remember. At least r since a certain scene involving Jamie Dornan’s declaration involving a honey bee. The whole endeavour feels shockingly sour as if it was made by people that did not even see the first film. This blatantly isn’t true as the screenwriters of the original takeover directing duties here. The entire thing is equal parts corporately atrocious. There is one mildly rousing performance sequence opening the third act. By that point, any inclination to tag this project as anything other than a total disaster is long gone. It of course ends with the obligatory 2021n credits cover of Wellermen. This brings up the immediate thought that the success of Nathan Evans could be a big reason why this sequel exists. Thanks, Nathan. You may indirectly be responsible for one of the worst films of the year. Not to mention one of the most baffling British productions this reviewer has seen in quite some time. It would be nice to think that Fisherman’s Friends: One and All is destined for a legacy on the autopsy table of those that analyse baffling creative failures. There’s certainly enough material there. That said this viewer isn’t sure that be enough interest in the film’s mere existence to drum up that sort of reaction. In reality, the sequel is still targeted at the sort of over 50s crowd who will lap up anything if it comes across on the surface as potentially inoffensive. Even they deserve much better than this. 3/10.
We have arrived at a point in 2022 web blockbuster TV has so thoroughly eclipsed film as the avenue for truly immersive huge budget storytelling. The best of this material put a chunk of what is regularly on the big screen to shame. The antithesis of this ( certainly from a budget and scale perspective) is the arrival of amazons megabudget attempt to bring the Lord of the Rings to serialized long-form TV. The commitment and budget made-up front by Amazon is quite frankly insane regardless of the quality within the initial five-season plan. This viewer was excited but had a greater intense curiosity simply to see what a dump truck of Amazon money and a Token licence gets you from a creative perspective. Especially after summer in witch ( regardless of its faults.) Stranger Things 4 has set the bar in terms of character scale and budget within truly big screen adjacent television. As someone who believes cinema has a future in branching out and showing alternative content like blockbuster TV samplers and pilots on the big screen the chance to see the first two episodes in a theatrical presentation at a favourite venue of this attendee was a chance that could not be passed up. Based on initial impressions did the premiere of Amazon and streaming TV’s biggest gambles pay off? Quick Note. The theatrical version shown as part of the global fan screening events is the same content narrative-wise as the streaming version of the two-episode premiere that’s out globally as of this writing. There’s an episode-specific credits break but the majority of the credits for both episodes are saved until both episodes have had their full runtime. The previously that opens episode 2 on streaming has also been removed. Other than that the content is identical. The theatrical edition runs for 123 minutes in total. Now back to the review. Audience expectations for The Rings of Power will entirely depend on what one brings to it. If one is expecting an entirely original or transcendent narrative within Middle Earth you will be disappointed. The two episodes very quickly establish themselves as extortionately expensive fanfiction. Plenty of supposed fans will review bomb the show based on this principle and what they perceive as the audacity to have some diversity in the cast. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these. Especially that fan fiction argument. Especially in a universe as expensive as Middle Earth. If there is a great benefit to the series premiere it’s that it does a solid job of building some intriguing species-specific plots with strong moments and often stunning spectacle. Watching these episodes theatrically but knowing they can be viewed two days later on phones worldwide was a frankly baffling thought. The narrative is indebted to a certain amount of what Peter Jackson established with his previous live-action Middle Earth in which previously established on-screen characters it decides to utilise. Thankfully the showrunners are also clearly committed to forging the show’s huge narrative scope. It’s engaging stuff on pure audacity alone even if the characters not previously established with previous live-action incarnations don’t get a lot of time to bad in across the runtime. This may come with time though. Alternatively with the narrative already starting to buckle under its weight throughout the premiere the opposite might be true. Only time and further episodes will tell. Based on this theatrical edit of the two premiere episodes Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is off to an inherently flawed but ambitious and audaciously engaging start. A soaring epic with huge scope and potential for even further expansion. It might seem like the sheer scope of this project is already far too large for its good. There are enough very strong elements in this premier to make this viewer definitively give the series more time to find its footing. Certain audiences will hate it for godless but there is massive potential here. It’s just a case of whether this show can be wrestled down into a cohesive package by the creatives. It certainly has more promise than recent attempted IP-based TV blockbusters Amazon’s Wheel of Time or Apples Foundation. We shall see how the rest of the season ad the future of the show plays out. 7/10
It’s insane to think that with only two feature films under his belt before this one the arrival of a new Jordan Peele film is already some kind of genre event. Combine this with the deliberately secretive marketing campaign and you have a recipe for not knowing a whole lot going in. Clearly about some variety of extraterrestrial force but apart from that vague detail the specifics of how the narrative tackles this bit were a surprise to this viewer How was the film and where were the secrets effective? Yes and no. Nope was incredibly frustrating viewing. There’s no question that the film is incredibly well made. Gorgeous looking with beautiful wide vistas as we watch Daniel and Keke Palmer try to catch a sighting of an alien presence. The brooding atmosphere provides an engaging experience purely on its terms. This is bolstered by one of the most immersive sound mixes this watcher can remember in quite some time. This viewer happened to be watching in a cinema that had not been upgraded in 25 years Elements of technical filmmaking still shone through. As with all Peele’s works the performances are universally excellent. The third act is one of the most breathless and purely exciting things released this year. Yet the film is nowhere near as great as it could or really should be. This is mainly because the characters are some of the thinnest for a major production possible. Combine that with a series of plainly obvious metaphors within the construction and you have something that’s generally a lot dumber than it thinks it is. The kind of thing designed for the overthinkers of Reddit to tell you how secretly brilliant it is as they watched Daniel Kaluya’s character OJ on the run from an alien ship that’s designed to look like a biological nucleus. That’s the level of potential analysis we are dealing with here. It’s a shame. If the script had backed up the atmosphere and performances this could have been one of the best mainstream sci-fi blockbusters of recent memory. In its final form, it’s just unbelievably Viewing. The elements to recommend seeing it on the biggest high spec screen possible are present and correct. So are several factors that hold the complete package back from being as transcendent as the best moments might suggest. For stretches of its run time, Nope is a stunning advert for the big screen experience and an engaging piece of atmospheric sci-fi in its own right. However, the decision to pander to the analytical side of #filmtwitter, Reddit and similar forums without having the merits to back that up leaves their full package feeling a lot smugger and less effective than it should be. Peele still has the talent to continue to be a strong effective voice within the field of genre filmmaking. For his third feature, the decision to straddle the line between art house and blockbuster has backfired rather spectacularly. It’s his weakest feature thus far. This is not to say Nope doesn’t have greatness within it. The final product is good but could have been so much more. 7/10.
With any piece of visual media one question, one should always be asked. Does the budget fit the scope of the story we are telling? In decades and generations past plenty of shows, (some of which went on to be genre classics) have produced great material on an absolute shoestring. If you want a strong example of what this aesthetic might look like in the streaming age look at Amazon’s adaptation of the acclaimed comic book. What little pre-release hype there was for this first season seemed to sell this to audiences as Amazon’s Stranger Things. There are some surface-level similarities. The story starts in 1988 and follows a group of four “Paper Girls” on a sci-fi-inflected adventure. This is where the points of comparison effectively end. As someone not familiar with the source material having seen this season the ambition within the narrative is obvious. A timeline hopping multiple generations interacting time travel narrative. Huge tonal shifts as events play out with mech fights and tridactyl cameos at various points. The one major difference is the budget here would not fulfil their craft services in the latter seasons of something like Stranger Things. There’s something mildly endearing about the scrappy nature of the way this season is assembled. The creatives are doing their absolute best to put as many of the stories on screen as they can on screen with the limited resources available. What’s pleasing to report is that the show is one of the best new genre offerings this year despite the look of a mildly elevated CW production. With limits on spectacle, the narrative and writing drill down into the wide range of emotions possible with this variety of time travel narratives. From camaraderie and humour to crushing bleakness and world-ending time wars. All of this not only comes together and can remain cohesive across a full season in an incredibly impressive way. It helps that the four central performances and their chemistry are all really solid. The leads not only sell their effective team dynamic in a way that’s endearing and incredibly watchable. They are also can pull off very distinct individualist reactions to the way that scenarios pan out across the various timelines. This is obvious from the first interactions and helps elevate an opening episode that is mostly build up before the narrative truly kicks off. The adult cost is mostly strong at playing into the narrative and interacting with our heroines in a way that feels organic. The one sour note might be the appearance of Jason Mansukiss who turns up to effectively play the same character he always does in his currently wildly overexposed career. One can get over this and take the limited budget for what it is The eight episodes in this first season are some of the best YA material this viewer has watched in quite some time. The TV adaptation of Paper Girls is held back by its low budget. That said engaging character dynamics, well-rounded use of time travel mechanics and tonal shifts as well as strong cast chemistry and performances make these eight episodes well worth the time. One could ask what the season might have looked like if the creative team were given the budget to make the story’s huge scope speak for itself in the transition to the screen. That said the fact that there’s still so much to recommend here even with this blatantly not being the case is a huge testament to working within your limitations and still creating something this is well worth the investment. 8/10
The thought Of initially covering this very kid-centric animated feature didn’t seem too appetizing. Just look at any of the trailers or general marketing campaign. It’s exactly what viewers think it is. The sort of targeted at the very young animation with enough mildly amusing moments and DC references in hope that adults don’t see the film as anything other than a cure for insomnia. That said This writer wanted to say something about it in the wake of recent news. Even if something like Super Pets was built under a previous regime after Warner Bros animations Lego licence as a major Post COVID theatrical exclusive is frankly baffling. This is not to brand the finished film as the worst thing ever. As a fan of theatrical animation generally, this watcher has seen far worse animated offerings that primarily exist as babysitting services. In the same way, the much darker adult-orientated Matt Reeves take on The Batman Super Pets theatrical film feels like a pitch pilot for a slate of animated streaming series. New management at Warner Bros/discovery means this may likely never happen. Beyond this what does a cinema presentation have to offer for a likely already failed mid-level animated project Not a lot? Prime fodder for those that brand animation is exclusively slapstick focused for an audience young enough to not know any better. He’s the thing. The better material from the likes of Illumination (including the recent Minions sequel) actively has a level of slapstick energy that will prove appealing to the right audience no matter the age. DC Super Pets may prove a mid-level distraction for the length of its runtime but no one in or outside the target audience will remember it once the credits have rolled. There is much better move versatile family entertainment out there that may well offer a much more long-lasting legacy. Super Pets on the other hand offers a cynical likely already failed attempt at corporate synergy that is so naked and calculated you can start to feel the merchandising wheels turning already. All this wouldn’t matter if the film offered something that was creatively engaging. Unfortunately, this is the last thing the minds of the suits who greenlit wet Super Pets would have been thinking. Does the question then become what would we lose if a commercial theatrical product player Like super Super Pets didn’t exist? The honest answer might be absolutely nothing. This is a shame not only for the thousands of hard-working adults that put time and effort into fulfilling a specific brief on a project like this. On a much more self-centred level from this view is the perspective it also takes up an increasingly valuable post-COVID theatrical exclusive slot in a time where these are becoming rare. 4/10.
Disclaimer. Given the subject matter addressed in Prima Facie ( The NT Live pro shot of which will be discussed here this piece contains a very brief mention of sexual assault.) Individual discretion is advised. The post-COVID theatrical exclusive landscape is very bleak. Yes, there are still blockbusters coming along and cleaning up at the box office every so often. Where the multiplexes appear to be struggling( from this attendee’s perspective) is in the little details. Independent venues and chains more lenient with theatrical windows have plenty to choose from. Ultimately film festival-type audiences will always have something of an appetite to hunt down niche indie or foreign language titles with limited appeal beyond a certain hive mind. Mid-range multiplex titles can now run for months with little competition still playing theatrically long after they’ve bypassed the now 30-day theatrical window. This viewer loved Top Gun: Maverick. Second the best film of the year and a genuinely jaw-dropping IMAX experience. Yet to still see it chugging away at both this viewer’s local multiplexes three months after release with little in the way of competition and a full screen to itself is somewhat disconcerting. Thus any post-COVID box office success story not tied to an enormous blockbuster is likely to get increased coverage. This brings us to the second element within this story this writer wants to discuss today. The concept of what the modern released lexicon might think of at event cinema has existed in some form since the late 2000s. Beyond cult film events and special screenings, a lot of What one might think of as event cinema refers to live streamed or prerecorded theatrical screenings of theatre or opera pro shorts. Most of which have some form of limited engagement. One of the main proprietors of this type of screening is NT Live. These bring National Theatre productions to a wider global audience through the medium of the big screen. Having been lucky enough to see a few National Theatre productions live on tour and one of my all-time favourites in its original West End run but the opportunity to see these shows have mostly come through these NT Live Pro-Shot theatrical presentations. NT Live always seems to bring with it a solid level of niche success for those involved in making these pro shots happen. That said hot off the heels of success immortalising the one women West End revival of Fleabag in its original form it would have another massive one-woman success in the post-pandemic UK box office headlines. Prima Facie is the one-woman play starring Jodie Comer. She plays a barrister determined to get the win in her favour until the day she becomes a victim of a sexual assault has created all manner of hyperbolic headlines regarding its box office success since the pro short theatrical presentation began rolling out worldwide on 21st July 2022. Highest grossing UK event cinema release since the pre-pandemic as immediately reported by several UK outlets covering both cinema and theatre. From the second the first box office receipts started rolling in many will look at the success of a piece like this as a huge win more broadly for UK cinema.
Having seen the NT Live of Prima Facie the weekend after it initially debuted this author had two recurring thoughts on it. It’s great to see the star power of someone like Comer bringing a level of accessibility to what is a very challenging text. She is certainly on a path towards being adjacent to the increasingly diminishing Hollywood A-List. Anyone who can survive the genuinely atrocious ending of the show that initially broke you out despite said conclusions active contempt for the fandom it cultivated. Even if this writer would argue Killing Eve (in the one season worth the investment) was never quite as great as some may tell you. Comer has a long career ahead of her both in critic and fandom circles. Comer’s performance in her first major piece of theatre is genuinely extraordinary. The sort of knockout that will make every viewer take notice when watching one of our next great actresses at the height of her powers. If anything the text might be a little bit too conceptually ambitious for its own good. It effectively requires a performance of Comer’s unbelievable raw quality to unlock its full potential. It’s the sort of piece where one can imagine several well-intentioned but not particularly prepared drama societies or performers having a go at in the future before falling squarely flat on their faces. Given the subject matter, the pro shot won’t be for everyone However it’s worth seeing on the merits of a truly jaw-dropping central turn alone. It’s the perfect barnstorm combining a well-liked actress with strong critical and fandom acclaim and giving her a text designed for from both sides of the critical/ audience divide. The success of a piece like this in worldwide cinemas is a good story but should not be that surprising. Audiences will very much still show up if the concoction of elements it’s primed for a certain level of success even with typically niece genres such as theatrical exhibitions of pro shots. Successful projects like this may pave the way for more alternative content to get a wider theatrical platform. Not just theatre and opera as is typical. This critic would love to TV series play specific episodes with limited theatrical runs. It’s one thing sitting on your couch gorging out on the latest huge budget streaming offerings. it’s another being immersed in the world of whatever is being told theatrically with little opportunity for distraction. Especially in an age where TV has so thoroughly eclipsed film as the avenue for truly groundbreaking and immersive storytelling. That said there was another reason this critic wanted to specifically talk about the successive this particular NT Live presentation and in many ways why he chose to go along and see it theatrically.No beating around the bush here. Beyond Comer being one of the best actresses working today the other reason this viewer specifically sought out the theatrical exhibition for Prima Facie is that for years NT Live’s can be relatively difficult to get hold of legally after their first run. Things are a little bit better now thanks to the National Theatre’s pandemic-induced NT At Home programme and the launch of a dedicated streaming service Things are still not as ideal as they could be. These pro shots go into the archive and only appear to be publicly available when the National Theatre says they can be. Even with the implementation of a specific streaming platform, the library rotates with windows to see certain productions rotating regularly. This seems a bit functionally irrelevant in the age of streaming. on one level it’s nothing more than an extension of attempting to make the “Disney Vault” physical media marketing mechanic work for a new age. The best way for this author to illustrate this is using his two favourite National Theatre productions both of which he has had the chance to see live. Both also have NT live Incarnations. The first is the theatrical adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. The puppetry used to bring the story to life on stage blows the distinctly mid-tier Spielberg film out of the water. Having seen and instantly fell in love with the original London run in 2010 and seeing the NT Live when it premiered in 2014 the chance to own a physical or digital copy of a production that is in this viewer’s top five shows. Having not had the chance to see a revival or touring production ranks very high on my list of media this fan would be all over if it were ever to see a fully and readily available;e physical or digital release. To the best of this fan’s knowledge, it has never happened. it has popped up for limited windows on streaming a few times but chances to own and appreciate the astounding work of the show a rare. The closest available may well be they presumably out of print making of DVD produced to promote the original production. As of this writing War Horse typically gets more of now playing than the other example this author brings to the table. This is the NT adaptation of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Having seen the 2017 UK tour production this writer was immediately impressed with it. The way it simulates putting the audience inside an autistic mind through the use of incredibly effective lighting and sound design is unbelievably impressive. A true extrasensory experience A pro-shot of it has been preserved having been recorded during the original West End run in 2014. To the best of this author’s research, the full recording is not legally and publicly available as of this writing. Granted a great deal of what makes the production so effective may well be to do with the live experience Without effectively judging the transition to a recorded format it’s impossible to tell definitively. No doubt the National Theatre will put some marketing behind Prima Facies’ debut on its streaming service. The question of how long it will stay there remains to be seen. The preservation opportunities it will have become particularly president when streaming windows are deliberately limited in the first place. This is why even if one has a mild interest in seeing one of the past or future NT Live offerings the easiest way may prove to be theatrically (even with increased event cinema prices.) The success of something like Prima Facie is good news for the cinema and theatrical sector as a whole. It shows there is still a market out there for non-blockbuster and alternative fare that goes beyond a typical slice of counter-programming. Or the independent arts scene that may wash with critics but have limited commercial appeal. if anything this should be an opportunity for cinemas to branch out and increase the scope of what might be considered alternative content that may or may not be available in the confines of cinema. That said the fact the theatrical first run is still arguably the easiest way to see an Nt Live offering given how the National Theatre treats its archive and streaming offerings (in this writer’s limited experience) is certainly a factor. Who knows if this will change in future? For the time being whilst the success of something as challenging as Prima Facie should be celebrated it is not the saviour of alternative cinema content as framed by some more hyperbolic media coverage.
In the era of legacy sequels, some can bring a certain energy best summarized by the following question. How and why do they even exist? Who asked for a sequel to the 1970 version of The Railway Children? Full disclosure. This reviewer has never seen the specific version this is a sequel to. The Railway Children as property has always seemed like the sort of sleepy Sunday afternoon text your grandma probably enjoyed as she waited for her afternoon caffeine to knock her out into the land of nod. If one has been paying attention to a certain variety of post-Harry Potter British family movies the existence of a film like this is not in the least bit surprising. Following the success and stamp from the British film culture permanently embodied by the Wizarding World local distributors and filmmakers have been trying desperately to put just enough polish on the dose Worthey Sunday afternoon for hoped worldwide and generational crossover. A lot of this has been spearheaded by Harry Potter producer Heyday Films and David Heyman himself. So whatever Sunday afternoon text is getting a modest update can slap a “from the producers of Harry Potter” on their trailer. This template is present and correct within the new Railway Children A 40-year time jump now follows a new generation of children being evacuated in the final year of World War Two. They are taken in by the original Railway Child now turn grandmother Jenny Agutter and mother Sheridan Smith. Their adventures involve helping a black American teenage army deserter against those looking for him and giving him the courage to stand up for what he believes in. The whole package is inoffensive enough and will probably entertain the target audience of those over 80 but in an age of zip zang boom kids’ entertainment, this variety of mildly plodding formulaic fair won’t distract hyperactive imaginations for very long. . Some will commend the narrative for its genuine attempt to tackle racism within the context of what is normally a children’s film. It’s effectively a child-centric remake of the Oscar-winning Green Book. There is something inherently hilarious about the fact a sleepy family film has the same take on potentially thorny topics as a multiple Oscar winner. Even in the context of “ How to Solve Racism by Libby Age Five” the entire enterprise comes across as more basic and half-hearted than it should be. Children and parents deserve more than this. The entire thing comes across as the sort of thing the creators will save for a family. It feels destined to accompany your grandparents dozing off to sleep after eating too much Christmas dinner after having left BBC Two running in the mid-afternoon of Christmas 2026. In some ways this is fine. There is a place for unthreatening scheduled fillers of the future. This viewer isn’t sure that place is the post-COVID cinema landscape. Especially with something this sleepy being the only major wide release offering in British cinemas the week of its opening. The Railway Children Return office is the kind of inoffensive schedule filler that is destined to appear on mid-afternoon TV schedules for the next 15-20 years. Distracting in the mildest way possible there’s nothing in it to get true be aggravated at. That said like a lot of this specific variety of British family films there is nothing explicitly recommended either. Certainly, 2022 children are much more likely to gravitate towards the new Minion’s film as opposed to the relative tranquilly of The Railway Children. On a certain level, this is perfectly fine. However, the suggestion is that this is an all-ages film. Its main audience is simply an extension of the “grey pound” nostalgia who will likely be “in the tank” tank for a legacy sequel to a British family film from 50 years ago. 5/10
Even knowing there was going to be an exhausting amount of discourse when it was announced that Illumination had been chosen for the job of making Nintendo‘s first foray into features in 25 years with an animated Mario movie the amount of baffling discussion around the final product has surprised even this watcher. It started the moment the review embargo lifted There was an immediate divide between those who mostly accepted the Mario movie conceptually for what it likely was always and those who perhaps when expecting more from a franchise that has history, iterations and lineage but no plot. As a general animation fan seeing the strong divide in the reviews from both sides, he was intrigued to take in a 3D screening of the film on opening weekend and see where he fell on it. What did he find? If one imagines conceptually what an Illumination Mario movie might look like chances are they can think up something close to the effect of the final product without having seen it. It’s a bright, zippy celebrity voice-driven animated adventure with enough fun nodes and Easter eggs to the source material to please long-time fans without it coming across as an advert for its existence. Despite the somewhat mixed results in the all-star voice work it’s a solidly fun time that effectively fulfils the brief given to it. This is why the debate and discourse around it so is somewhat baffling. It might be fair in their heads for certain critics to go into every animated film with the potential to discover the next Pixar. Or the subversive much better than you might think efforts of The Lego Movie See also this stylistic and ambitious leap forward of Spide-Man; Into the Spiderverse. When you look at the strong artistic voice coming across in the final product of the latter two on some level the corporate overlords gave the creatives a certain amount of free reign to make whatever they wanted beyond a very broad tie-in concept. Given the stranglehold Nintendo possesses over its intellectual property it’s blatantly unfair on some level to expect that anyone involved in the creation of the Mario movie on a ground level thought they had similar ambitions to make the next Lego Movie or Spiderverse. From the very start the choice of illumination to make this thing suggests Nintendo wanted the slick, safe solemnly fun family adventure that’s illuminations bread and butter. That’s very much what the company delivered. Might it be fairer for Nintendo to take more creative risks with inevitable further feature adaptations given their financial rewards here? Possibly. That said When taken on its own merits and assessed against its corporate criteria The Super Mario Bros animated movie is incredibly solid at what it sets out to do. From this writer and viewer’s perspective, the debate around the Mario movie is not necessarily a lower your expectations or an excuse to trott out the inevitably tired “it’s for kids” excuse. It’s certain audiences inability to accept that even on big-scale projects like this everyone involved may not have the capability to make the next era-defining corporate masterpiece with a wide range of creative freedom. Sometimes one just has to make what is put in front of them. On this level, the Mario movie is a pretty successful endeavour. That’s not to say it can’t be criticised as a somewhat shallow affair Beyond its many incarnations Mario is a somewhat shallow franchise with the meaning derived from what the player brings to it. This is a good metaphor for the movie version in and of itself. 6.5/10.
To the extent, a DC theatrical superhero offering can be this viewer has always considered the first Shazam rather underrated. It’s a very effective superhero origin movie that both plays up the silliness of the character’s powerset but gives itself a level of grounding within the execution of the found family trope to be solidly effective on all fronts. On paper, the prospect of a sequel reuniting much of the same creative team with new villains Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu and Spielberg’s West Side Story break out Rachel Zegler was something this author was quite looking forward to. That said between poor reviews being a crater-worthy box office flop and star Zachary Levi outing himself as an anti-vaxxer on social media prospects for the new film were not looking good. Nevertheless, as a fan of the original, this viewer still wanted to see what Billy Batson and his friends had to offer with this follow-up. Was did he find? Mostly a disappointment. Fury of the Gods might be better than Ant-Man and then the Wasp Quantummania and a significant jump over the atrocious Black Adam but this is not saying a lot. Fundamentally misunderstanding the strengths of the first film in an attempt to go bigger and effectively blowing everything up Into a two-hour episode of Power Rangers. The goofiness feels decidedly forced when compared to the wish-fulfilment nature of the first film. There’s occasional fun to be had. watching Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu ham it up. That said every character Who’s not an immediate fit for the slapstick Saturday morning cartoon tone feels decidedly side-lined. This includes all the teen versions of these characters plus Zegler who is trying her best to give an actual performance in a film that has the emotional register of pulling a one-dimensionally silly face at one’s friend before swiftly moving on to the next one. It’s far from the worst in its genre and when it comes to this variety of disappointing blockbusters but compared to the breath of fresh air the first film was in carving out its niche within the overcrowded superhero scene the sequel feels decidedly more generic and dull. The fact it ends with three specific mid-credits teasers for entirely different things is a good indicator of the fact that until we see what James Gunn and Peter Saffron have planned for their soft reboot DC has no idea where things might be going with their theatrical film division. Even with diminished expectations Shazam Faury of the Gods is a pretty major disappointment. Trading in all the strengths of the first film for a lot of misjudged mediocre spectacle can only get you so far. Given the massively diminished box office returns it seems the general public has responded with a pretty definitive shrug. Regardless of there being any potential feature for Zachary Levi and the Shazam character, It’s not hard to see the confluence of factors which have made the film decidedly inessential. It’s a shame. Given how surprising the first film was follow-ups could have enhanced it into a severely underrated effort for this genre. That said we don’t live in this timeline. 5/10.