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Brahmastra. Part One. Shiva. Quick Review.

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

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Brian and Charles. Very Quick Review.

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

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Luck. (Apple TV +) Quick Review.

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.

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Fisherman’s Friends. One and All. Quick Review.

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.

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 Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power. Global Fan Screening ( Episodes 1-2.)  Review/ Impressions 

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

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Nope. Very Quick Review. (Mild Spoilers)

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.

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Paper Girls (Amazon) Review.

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

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DC League of Super Pets. Why?

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.

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NT Live on Streaming and “Alternative Cinema Content in a Post Pandemic Landscape .

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.

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The Railway Children Return. Review.

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

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Not Okey. Very Quick Review.

A teenage nihilist (Zoe Deutsch.) invents a lie where she Is one of the victims of a Paris terrorist attack in an attempt to win over an attractive workmate (Dylan O’Brien) This quickly spiralled out of control and results in our antihero getting involved with some genuine activists (led by Mia Isaac) in this black comedy. The film sells itself as the millionth take on the darker side of social media fame. In a lot of ways, it is that but whilst watching a more direct and obvious comparison came to mind. This is essentially what would happen if Dear Evan Hansen became self-aware of the central characters’ awfulness and played the entire thing for darkly comedic effect. It even ends with someone performing a spoken word piece that in another version of this story could easily be something adjacent to the generic pump-up pabulum of You Will Be Found. The screenplay cribbes generous notes from a lot of the current YA media discourse. It is solid at offering an absurdist flip on material that is typically played dead straight. Whether it’s poking fun at the specific brand of cynicism authored by Sam Levinson with Euphoria. Poking at the surface level cultural appropriation of Emily in Paris. The splash of genuine realism and emotionally honest ending applied to Evan Hansen. The film doesn’t have a great deal to say on its own merit. This is thankfully offset thanks to very amusing delivery and a great central performance from Deutsch. Ultimately the side of the narrative the film chooses to sell itself on is the least interesting element. Those entrenched in seemingly endless media discourses who can distract themselves and poke fun at some of the battles that go on online will find something to like here. If the narrative had developed its voice rather than mining comedy thanks to riding off the coattails of others it could have been something truly great. For a mid-level Fox streaming offering/ offshoot under Disney, this is an appropriately dark-hearted and in large part effective skewering of current troops and trajectories within the very YA-centric online culture wars.
7/10.

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Resident Evil(Netflix Live Action ) Review. (Mild Spoilers.)

When one has no attachment to the source material and has not seen any other incarnation of it across various media how do you treat something from a reputable franchise becoming the new internet punching bag? This sort of thing where every critic is in a rare to the bottom in an attempt to come up with the snarkiest put down. That was very much the reaction that greeted the eight-episode first season of Netflix’s attempt to make Resident Evil work on live-action streaming TV. Viewers had knives out for it from the second it dropped. That said this watcher went into the opening episode with a relatively open mind. He ended up watching the full thing for one very specific and personal reason. Is the season that bad?
A lot of the criticisms of this season are valid and individual moments may scrape the bottom of the barrel. That said overall this is not the automatic 1 out of 10 that a lot of fans have automatic ire for. It does get close on a few occasions. The very generic pre and post-apocalypse duel timeline structure, on the one hand, shows interpretation of Albert Wesker ( Lance Reddick) relocating both his teen daughters to a relocated Racoon City in Cape Town via flashback. The narrative follows one of the daughters as an adult (Ella Balinska) in the post-apocalypse timeline. This is the exact sort of rote material even less discerning audiences will have seen before. The majority of the season comes across as clunky, occasionally laughable, teen drama nonsense with occasional apocalypse interludes. That said Lance Reddick is the kind of reliable genre actor that always attempts to bring a level of gravitas to even the most generic material. He is the one genuine bright spot amongst the cavalcade of bad to atrocious central performances that aren’t worth mentioning. That said there are moments in which the season can deliver some effectively nuts and bolts gory spectacle despite how one note and played out everything feels It’s like the show wakes up and suddenly figures out how to deliver something much more fundamentally solid before retreating into the quagmire of extreme mediocrity. On a personal note, it was nice to see the side of Cape Town That Hollywood adjacent genre producers would like to see represented get some time on screen. It’s one thing knowing that something may be shot in a particular place. Another knowing that one has quite possibly walked those same streets as the characters on the way down to the beach during multiple trips out there over the years.
Then there’s episode 7. The two genuinely so bad they’re hilarious sequences in the penultimate episode have to be seen to be belied. Some images from the episode cold open have already gone viral but another sequence involving the use of Dua Lipa’s Don’t Start Now genuinely had this viewer doubled over in laughter questioning what an earth he was even watching. The utter insanity of the highest order. The finale might not be anything as bad but does feature a mutant crocodile because reasons. It does feel at times like someone was influenced by the creative energy of Scott Bucks’s run at Marvel TV and wanted to recreate the legendary awfulness of A certain Iron Fist scene involving ice cream multiple times over. That said having seen all 21 episodes that Buck was responsible for show running Netflix live-action Resident Evil is a level up over this very bottom of the barrel. At least Resident Evil has a couple of redeeming moments and one major performance that’s doing its best to polish this turd.
Netflix live-action Resident Evil may not be quite as irredeemable as some would have you believe but a lot of the criticism it has received is fair and accurate Laughable third-act reveals. Paper thin with often embarrassing writing and bland characters aplenty. A couple of effective set piece sequences and Lance Reddick for trying his absolute best with material that does not deserve any kind of weight prevent it from going at the very bottom of the genre TV bin. It still deserves to be there. Just not with the detritus so bad that people try and wipe its existence from the face of the earth.
4/10.

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The Umbrella Academy (Netflix) Season 3. Review (MIld Spoilers)

In terms of superhero adjacent streaming series debuting in 2019 the diverging paths of Netflix’s, The Umbrella Academy and Amazon The Boys are an interesting point of comparison. One has blossomed into one of the best most critically acclaimed multilayered shows on TV. The other is The Umbrella Academy. Season One is mostly fun with some engaging characters and quirky style but was never truly great. Season 2 is a completely all-over-the-place mess. Strong moments and improvement over the opening outing are offset by more expansive plots that ultimately still feel stretched far too thin with moments and storylines that just don’t work. The plotting followed the same formula as season one but the greater scope did offset a certain level of diminishing returns. That said the cliffhanger that closed out the sophomore effort was an intriguing prospect for future seasons. Thus this did go into Season 3 with a relatively open mind. How was the season?
A complete and total mess. However in a very different way to Season 2 which is a big part of the reason this viewer wanted to write this review. Whereas Season 2 had far too much going on the newest effort feels like 60% filler. There is still a degree of fun to be had. Even in the presence of some incredibly weak momentum writing these characters can just be fun to hang around with. Elliot Page’s transition is written into the show gracefully and with minimal fuss, The in-universe reason why it occurs relates to the worst storyline from Season 2 but that’s not Elliot’s fault. That said this is all the good this author has to say about what is incredibly frustrating viewing end.
Yet another world-shattering event is being tackled by our quirky team of heroes and their Sparrow equivalents. This show offers nothing new with the introduction of what might have been a potentially intriguing reset rather than an excuse for the creative team to recycle the same plot mechanics yet again. There is not even any inkling of the overall threat until the end of Episode 3. Not to mention an entirely unnecessary wedding and multiple fake-out deaths in the final two episodes. Not to mention an ending that sets up another variant on the same formula for a potential next season. Watching the writers run themselves in circles so clearly stretching for any inclination to keep the show going is an incredibly draining experience. Despite one character getting the happy ending, they deserved last season. A few brighter moments suggest there might be something here if you cut the season in half. That said the sense of wasted time and potential looms large as the credits rolled on the finale. Would this viewer watch another season? Possibly but it would be the side of him that sat through all 21 episodes of the Scot Buck showrun Marvel TV shows and watched the full season of Netflix’s live-action Resident Evil. The potential this show promised throughout a lot of its first and second season ( despite niggleing issues) is now gone.
Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy starts to circle the drain and fails to avert the feeling of being a large filler with its Not to mention ending simply resetting to a variant of the same formula having wasted the huge promise with the cliffhanger resolution from season two across the next 10 episodes. Massive fans of the first two seasons might get something out of it. That said if one always thought this show was a bit overly pleased with itself for individual tastes watching through the newest 10 episodes will only reinforce that feeling.
5/10.

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Where the Crawdads Sing. Movie Review.

This viewer considers himself relatively on the ball in terms of potential big releases on the horizon theatrically. That said the level of somewhat astroturfed feeling of supposed anticipation for Where The Crawdads Sing blindsided him a little bit. The trailer looked fine. It’s sold as a fairly melodramatic mystery thriller with the level of attempted atmosphere and the cosine of Taylor Swift that will get her army of fans in the door regardless of what the content of the final film is. As a huge fan of the Normal People TV adaptation, it’s also interesting to see what kind of Hollywood careers Daisy Edgar Jones and Paul Mescal will have going forward. It was only until the week beforehand this watcher also realised this was the latest publishing sensation to saunter its way onto the silver screen. So that’s why it’s theoretically treated like some form of mid-tier blockbuster? The question is as someone not familiar with the source material how is the film?
Odd and mostly rather boring. There’s enough differentiation between the two timeline narrative structure that makes them distinctive enough. That said both the back storytelling the fable-like tale of a Carolina marsh girl ( Edgar Jones) and the murder she eventually gets caught up in suffer from a lot of the same problems. The screenplay is far too reliant on hokey melodrama to sell any of the potential heft the narrative appears to be going for. It’s like reading the diary entries of an overeager middle schooler’s attempt to be deep. Edgar Jones does her best with the material she’s given but her performance seems far too overqualified for this level of the problem Then the much darker elements of the story smash in. They may cause audiences to momentarily wake up from the sense of mild drowsiness those not already enamoured with this story will likely go through. That said they are such an awkward fit with the sort of film that otherwise seemed built for unthreatening middle age aged wine moms to go and see following a discussion of the source material. The tonal clash is so violent that this author ended up not being sure who the full package was really for.

Then there’s the legal drama. The sort of sleepy courtroom fare that any sane viewer will have seen a million times before. As with the flashbacks it’s elevated by Edgar Jones and David Statheren showing that they would be capable of so much more with better material. Nevertheless, they tried their best but are effectively unable to raise the legal scenes effectively above a potential cure for insomnia. Much is there is stuff to discuss in this review the entire 128-minute experience is the worst kind of boring. One has to give some credit for the performances for being better than they should be given the screenplay. That said this is the sort of film not distinctly recommendable to anyone unless they have a pre-built relationship with the source material.
Aside from the moments where the injection of darker material comes across as unbelievably awkward Where the Crawdads Sing is the blandest kind of mediocrity. There’s enough quality acting to raise the film above the level of entirely irredeemable. Unfortunately purely from this viewer’s experience with the film, there’s nothing here to suggest why the source material caught on in the way it did. Unless one is predisposed to like the style of narrative there’s nothing in here new viewers won’t have seen before. Given the increasing lack of prime theatrical only initial post-pandemic releases that’s a real shame.
4/10.

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All My Friends Hate Me. Very Quick Review.

This BFI-backed British black comedy is a somewhat one-dimensional but effective examination of the idea that the supposed collective experience of education holds no emotional weight whatsoever. A graduate is excited when his university buddies Arrange a slap-up birthday weekend at a lavish country house. When our hero gets there he very quickly realises his “friends” have regressed and indulged in a deliberately entitled lifestyle. Meanwhile, the lead has embarked on a life that seems a lot less flashy but enables him to follow his passion as a charity worker. . The film’s attempted commentary on class divides should be thuddingly obvious from that plot synopsis. It’s something of a surprise then that the writing is still sharp, quick-witted and dark enough even if the film does not attempt to say anything new on any of the major thematic points it wants to ram home. It does this with the subtlety of a brick to the face. Where the narrative succeeds is in examining and unpacking the inherent nonsense of the idea that doing the same university course at the same time brings along any level of emotional engagement. The tone gets across the clique somewhat impenetrable nature of the emotional bonds built by academic environments. Certain kinds of people will think there should automatically be a level of emotional attachment beyond the shared academic experience. In reality, this is complete nonsense. It can be incredibly awkward for people not automatically enamoured with this specific group attempting to immerse themselves within these types of All My Friends Hate Me plays this for awkward black comedy and mostly does it well. Combine this effect with the fact there’s still a level of quality to the more one-dimensional moments. You have something that might not be as smart as it thinks it is on one level but will certainly connect with a particular audience. The whole package feels destined to become a British cult favourite if it is picked up by the right people Whether or not this will happen remains to be seen. That said it’s certainly the sort of production that will have a certain level of merit in its hypothetical cult status
7/10.

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Elvis. (2022) Quick Review.

Stylistically Baz Lurman has those who will be automatic easy marks for his style over substance approach. There’s also a sizable section of viewers that will reach for the proverbial vomit bucket as soon as they see his name on a poster. Well, this reviewer would definitively plant himself in neither he will admit to being closer to the latter than the former. Well, Lurmans confetti blast to the face might be less egregious Then the filmmaking tropes of Michael Bay or Zack Snyder it is certainly capable of inflicting a throbbing headache on the audience. His 160-minute biopic of the king of rock and roll sounded like a potentially difficult prospect for those not already inclined to buy into what Lurman can offer as a filmmaker. Nevertheless, this viewer did go in with an open mind.
Honestly even as someone who treats Lurman productions with a degree of distance Elvis is perfectly solid. Things don’t perhaps start on the best foot. The prologue infuses Lurmans whirling editing and general glitz with a pantomime villain Tom Hanks playing Elvis’s manager Colonel Tom Parker as if he is an exaggerated version of old man Robert De Niro in The Irishman. Things quickly calm down thought. There is plenty of over-the-top Lurman flourishes to please the audience that will come to the film looking for that. What honestly surprised this viewer was how the conventions of what is a fairly standard music biopic provided just enough grounding in some sense of hugely exaggerated reality to prevent Lurman from going totally off the rales He is helped along by a truly magnetic central performance From Austin Butler. Not only is the central turn this sort of powerhouse performance that elevates every single scene Butler is in including some impressive musical performances blending Butler’s vocals with the genuine article. The full package is a solid attempt to find the heart and humanity in one of the most imitated and mythologized figures within pop culture e. Who knows if any other central r performance could have conveyed this as effectively? One thing’s for sure though. is going to be a Superstar of the future.
There’s almost not a lot to say about the rest of the film. Even if one has had an allergic reaction to Lurman in the past Elvis is worth a viewing just to see one of Hollywood’s potential next big things deliver what might be their magnum opus at the start of a potential burgeoning career. The rest of the film is a conventional music biopic that solidly and engagingly hits all of the beats one might expect it to. Butler’s performance certainly elevates the set but there’s enough restraint in the presentation that this has the potential to appeal beyond the older audience that is typically marked for films like this.
Elvis still has plenty to keep those who inherently buy into Baz Luhrmann’s style satisfied. That said there’s just enough restraint hemmed in by the conventional music biopic structure to not cause a section of the audience to reach for the sick bucket. Thankfully this is balanced out thanks to a sensational central turn from Austin Butler. It doesn’t matter that there’s, ‘s not a lot beyond the decidedly glossy surface one might expect from Lurman. The central performance alone makes it worth the experience.
6.5/10.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Disney +) Review.

As has been covered with each review of a Star Wars Disney + show the blog’s original intention certainly wasn’t to cover all of them. This author did not grow up with Star Wars and is not necessarily a massive fan. That said the three seasons released before this one have been interesting to discuss. Now adding a fourth with the return of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan bridging the gap between the prequel and original trilogy has only furthered this impression. How is it?
No beating around the bush here. In terms of the full six-episode package like Boba Fett before it, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a complete mess. There are definite positives to be found. It’s nice to see Ewan McGregor return as the character and not be encumbered by George Lucas’s screenwriting ability ( or lack thereof.) The first episode offered some solid but basic setup and the last two episodes do a strong job of delivering a slice of effective Star Wars spectacle. This effectively saves the season. The middle three episodes are a perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with Disney streaming and farming IP-related strategy that those that hate it by birth right will use as a stick to beat the final product. Sloppily paced, needlessly stretched out and shockingly cheap looking at times. That’s not even touching the fact that on paper the narrative chosen here for McGregor’s big return highlights fan service of the most shallow kind. This viewer is not going to be too harsh on it. Ultimately the season does deliver some strong moments despite itself so it’s not like the narrative choices are completely irredeemable. There are even some strong moments in episodes 3 through 5. Especially in our central characters’ first confrontation with Darth Vader that closes out episode 3.

On that topic, it’s probably best to acknowledge Hayden Christensen’s return. That said this is hard to judge because Christiansen only has a couple of scenes where is definitively him playing some version of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. When Vader is not in the suit and being voiced by a returning James Earl Jones he is under heavy prosthetics. Christiansen’s take on Anakin only gets one de-aged flashback scene to show what level of acting chops he can bring to the table. In theory, this project is meant to be redemption for these actors’ interpretation of the central characters. One of them delivers a strong performance that is often saddled with weak material. The other is not definitively on screen for long enough throughout the season that his performance can be judged effectively. This all seems like a massive missed opportunity. The fact it was originally developed as a series of potential feature films is incredibly obvious. Given the amount of plot on offer throughout the six episodes, it’s hard not to think that the project should have stayed in that format or been scraped.


Obi-Wan Kenobi is incredibly frustrating viewing. There are moments of quality sprinkled throughout and two episodes that deliver effectively what they’re trying to do. A lot of the season fields are sluggish and overstretched in a way that just doesn’t suit the prestige mini-series format. This isn’t necessarily a problem exclusive to Disney products. It is exemplified when all of their projects are extensions of TV and movie characters regardless. The entire package might be fundamentally flawed but it’s far from the worst thing ever. That said Ewan McGregor deserves a lot better. Whether there will be any more for him in this role remains to be seen. One can only judge based on what this first season brought to the table. from that perspective, Obi-Wan Kenobi in its current form feels like a decidedly undernourished meal.
5.5/10

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The Princess (Disney +/Hulu.) Quick Review

Not to be confused with the recent Diana documentary this reviewer just covered here’s the latest 20th Century Studios R-rated cast off. Star of perpetually YA adjacent mediocrity Joey king is your classic “strong-willed princess” heroine. Set to be part of an arranged marriage and stuck at the top of the tower we watch her escape her captors as the kingdom is in the process of being taken over by some rather pantomime-like villains. As has been stated before by this author it’s sad to see the state that one of the biggest former movie studios is in under Disney as a content farm for streaming content. That said with something like The Princess it’s not hard to see why this got banished to an SVOD graveyard

A blatantly cynical to astroturf a female-centric action movie ripping off John Wick and The Raid films. Except put together by a team with 1/100th of the skill of this sort of craft-focused action s better efforts. It’s like watching someone who has seen all the right influences but only has the Capability to plant themselves at the shallow end of the pool. Cue a lot of speed ramping and general editing choices that on some level are attempting to recreate some level of OTT spectacle but can’t resist throwing in jarring cuts. The action has all the flow of a decidedly jerky attempted roller coaster. Throw in a dose of thuddingly insincere corporate “girl boss” feminism and you have already seen The Princess.

The pantomime-like tone and atmosphere does make this a good candidate for audiences looking to expand their knowledge of entertainingly mediocre to outright terrible films. That said there are better alternatives out there. Someone out there okayed the deranged third-act plot twist in Wild Mountain Thyme as recently as last year. That says The Princess has had enough camp energy to prevent itself from languishing in the very bottom rung of streaming content. That doesn’t mean it is decidedly worth any kind of viewing experience regardless.
4/10.

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Hustle And The Fate of the Mid-Range Movie in 2022

The scope and scale of the Adam Sandler Netflix contract has been a recurring meme at various points through the years since he signed it. Hustle effectively asks what if that contract produced some genuinely solid dramatic material. Taking Sandler’s love of basketball and slotting it into a standard underdog sports narrative is one of those things that seems ridiculously obvious. Sandler is a Philadelphia 76ers basketball scout who is on the brink of retirement after years on the road. His discovery of a raw talent in Spain (Juancho Hernangomez) compels him to make one last push to get the kid into the NBA. They have helped by a cast filled out with several real-life NBA figures playing fictionalised versions of themselves. Que your standard sports movie story. There’s nothing revolutionary here. It’s just a ridiculously solid version of exactly the film one thinks it will be. It helps that the emotional investment and bond between Sandler’s character and his protégé is established quickly and effectively. There are some rough edges but none of the morose personal demons wallows that can impact these stories if they go too far in that direction ( see Gavin O’Connor’s The Way Back.) In other words the perfect candidate for an SVOD subscription release.
This viewer has heard the argument that the film should have been released in cinemas as counterprogramming to Jurassic World: Dominion. There’s no question that in a previous pre-streaming age this would have been the case. This viewer would as the following question. How much would a film like this have been actively made theatrically in a previous life? A well-regarded adult drama that’s not necessarily exceptional or gunning for awards out of the gate faces a distinct argument for its opening to middling or disappointing box office results before finding its true home in the ancillary market and on home video. Some will say this is a perpetually bad thing. To some extent, this viewer might agree. That said the relative streaming success of movies like Hustle shows that there is quality that can migrate streaming effectively. It’s also under no pressure of getting booted out of theatrical release after 10 days thanks to the impending arrival of a generic blockbuster. If this is the film landscape of 2022. Along with certain streamers accepting wider theatrical windows for some of their releases, there’s still plenty of good mid-range mainstream material releasing weekly. It’s just unemployed the scope of platforms than in previous generations.
7/10.

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McEnroe. (2022) Review.

As a huge tennis fan, It should be obvious that this viewer was inclined to check out this new documentary covering the career of John McEnroe. Even if McEnroe’s achievements and his cult of personality feel like they have been thoroughly covered across various projects in both drama and documentary. What surprised this onlooker was that the new firm had a relatively wide theatrical release and was even playing in some multiplex venues. Granted it will be gone from most of those after a week. Even if The subject is still one of the most well-known figures in tennis on paper the new piece looks like something one might see appear at a film festival before appearing as a reliable schedule filler in between the action on various live sports channels. This may be its fate in the US. The opening logos do confirm that it’s a co-production with Showtime. That said after watching it’s not hard to imagine why the UK arm of Universal along with documentary specialists Dogwoof thought this might play well to a broad audience. It’s the kind of efficient, engaging and effective career walkthrough That benefits hugely from the fact that McEnroe himself is an engrossing presence regardless of your thoughts on his sport. The most intriguing and admirable yet odd element of the film is its framing device. Occasionally the constructed career narrative and talking head interviews with all the figures One would expect to see Will cut to a reoccurring framing device. Contemporary McEnroe walks around the streets of modern New York City throughout a single night as if he is in some variety of Neo-Noir project. These might not work for every viewer but give the proceeding a commendable big screen-worthy element. This enables McEnroe as a fully formed piece to differentiate itself From the standard formula for this style of sports retrospective to a certain extent.

The full package is supremely watchable but nothing particularly new even for casual tennis fans. It’s like watching someone do a mid-tier episode of “Tennis Relived” on themselves. Notably, without The Tennis Podcast’s occasionally frustrating ability inorganically insert a “how do we make this about inequality?” angle Even in the stories and careers where that is less relevant. In other words, McEnroe is the exact sort of mainstream adjacent documentary that exhibiters love to put in front of a mainstream audience of both casual and established fans of the subject matter. This is perfectly fine. Ultimately there is a level of comfort in watching a story one knows be solidly told through the medium of documentary. Rather this than filmmakers trying to push the boat out and bungling the execution of a topic that could have been fascinating.
McEnroe is a solid documentary that doesn’t break any new ground in terms of covering a very well-established career within the sport. That said the piece is the kind of efficient and engaging career walkthrough that has the potential to play to a wider audience. It’s somewhat wild to this fan that three tennis feature films have appeared in various places over the last 18 months. Netflix cameras have been following both professional tours this season. One also has continuing escapades and modern stories of players like Nick Kyrios, Bernard Tomic and Benoit Paire. These careers read at times like the script from a pre-constructed reality TV show. There will be plenty more tennis adjacent media in the pipeline. Even outside of the traditional pre and post-Wimbledon bubble.
6/10.

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The Princess. Quick Review.

Really. More Princess Diana media. Even as someone who was all of three years old at the time of her death Princess Diana is this sort of easy audience adjacent narrative that certain viewers and filmmakers will always have an avert fascination with. Ever since Actress Emma Coren deservedly won a lot of acclaim for her portrayal of young Diana in Netflix’s The Crown it seems like Diana-centric projects have gone into production overdrive. Even more so than usual. The one-dimensional emotion porn of Pablo Lorraine’s awards/festival pandering Spencer. The ludicrously over the top, too camp to not be destined for a cult status notoriety of Diana: The Musical. Everything in between. Well here’s another one.

The Princess is an attempt to construct the Diana tale utilising only existing archive footage. Something along the lines of the stunning 2019 Apollo 11 documentary all the work of British documentarian Asif Kapadia. Except in those cases, the presentation did offer what felt like a spectator’s view on the subject matter. The Princess Diana chronicle has been so thoroughly picked clean that The Princess as a piece of work is not necessarily as effective when judged on this standard. That is not to say it does not have some merit in its own right. The documentary offers a snappy and efficient whistle-stop tour of events that feels a little more emotionally well-rounded than other decidedly-dour takes on the same story. This is especially true when looking at the material showcasing Diana’s impact on the lowest most everyday life-like section of society That said if one is familiar with this style of archive piece there is nothing new here. Granted it is better than all the recent Diana media that isn’t The Crown It probably has a future destined as a school and museum piece.This is perfectly fine in some ways.

Students deserve something with some level of stylistic or content-based merit that’s not going to make them automatically hit the snooze button. That said unless one is an easy sell for interpretations of the Diana tale or is a specific find of this type of archive-focused documentary (as with this viewer) there are easily available stronger examples available on streaming and physical media. Well, it might be objectively better than some of the higher profile Diana projects of recent times The Princess delivers the sort of final product that doesn’t enable it to establish a true identity to establish appeal beyond those predisposed to be interested in the subject matter.
6/10.

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Man VS Bee. Netflix. Review.

Projects like this seem like the kind of thing that it would be easy to take Netflix to task for. The product that causes an avalanche of snarky quote tweets that say certain things with the hope of going viral. Then you have the critics who might have watched the series but we’ll give it one star by birthright. The mere sight of that gurning facial expression Rowan Atkinson does when in character gives them a fight or flight reaction. Then they write a quick over-the-top headline relating to how this project is so without merit it is a reason to cancel your Netflix subscription. There’s one thing neither of the camps will admit Even in his older age Rowan Atkinson still has an audience. After watching Man VS Bee he still has a talent for effective and engaging slapstick construction.
What story is that that the premise doesn’t already imply sees Atkinson play a hopeless house sitter starting his new job looking after a rich smart home for two decidedly posh holidaymakers. Everything looks like it’s going to be fine until the titular Bee comes on the scene and causes Atkinson to get into a variety of slapstick shenanigans trying to kill his winged enemy. Many will hate this on concept and performances alone but Atkinson knows his family audience. Solid all-ages slapstick traverses language and cultural barriers. Thus the opening episode lays out the geography of the house very plainly along with showcasing just how many gleefully over-the-top delightfully dangerous set pieces our central character is going to get into. Watching these play out over 9 short-form episodes is a good time for those who don’t dismiss or think they are above this variety of simple but effective physical humour. After decades in the industry mining, his slapstick persona with similar material Atkinson comes across like an old pro at this stuff. One could say the narrative somewhat defeats its purposes with the winged aggressor being a CG creation. That doesn’t matter The best physical comedy relies on a level of cartoon logic regardless of content. The pratfalls and set pieces are more than effective enough to please an audience that would give a project like this a chance. It’s Effectively Jackass swapping out the exposed male genitalia for a variety of property damage.
The 10-minute episode may be a talking point for some. Watching through this season this viewer did not doubt in his mind that had this been released in 2020 it would have appeared on failed short form streamer Quibi. With each episode effectively being one set piece It’s very much up to the viewer how they decide to watch it. Binge. Singular or a couple of episodes at a time. Atkinson will always be doing something reckless in pursuit of his winged adversary regardless of viewing method. Given the format, the ending feels decidedly rushed. There’s a huge plot reveal that effectively gets brushed past as the final episode barrels towards a conclusion. If this had been a longer series that revelation deserves decidedly more development. That said the whole thing mostly comes across as efficient and effective.
complete package
Man VS Bee is a 90 minutes short-form season of slapstick Rowan Atkinson doing exactly what slapstick Rowan Atkinson does. Does that sound appealing? While you might like this. Does the mere thought of it cause viewers to break out in hives? This is probably best avoided. That said Atkinson and his creative team’s gift for slapstick construction and knowing what an audience expects of him is still present and correct. The audience for who this project is for will likely have a solid time with it and that is perfectly fine. Those that see investments like this as the death of all quality streaming content need not apply.
7/10.

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Lightyear. More Interesting For What It Isn’t.  

As a confessed die-hard Pixar fan on paper, it was great to finally see them back in cinemas. The joy of seeing that little bouncing lamp on the screen was designed to bring this viewer a pang of joy like few other media-related events in 2022. One just wishes it had been with a distinctly more interesting product. No getting around this. Well, Lightyear may not be as bad as some people will tell you it’s a distinctly more interesting film to discuss or misrepresent conceptually than watch. On paper, this being the in-universe feature film that was the inspiration for the toy line that eventually led to Andy being enamoured with Buzz Lightyear sounds just weird enough to be intriguing. In practice what Pixar has done here is make an incredibly straightforward space adventure with a new character that channels some of the same essence and catchphrases of his toy equivalent. Chris Evans’s voice work lacks the distinctly believable yet cartoonish approach that makes Tim Allen’s performance so iconic. If anything in a strange way the film fundamentally misunderstands what the appeal of the original Buzz Lightyear is. The deliberately gibberish mythology that the toy has been programmed to believe simply feeds into his delusions of grandeur. It’s what makes Tom Hanks’s delivery of “YOU ARE A TOY” as the hero’s drive towards Pizza Planet in the original so iconic. Thus making a film based on mythology that’s incoherently generic by design as part of the original humour has a ceiling in terms of final results. It’s hard not to feel that Lightyear definitively hits that ceiling. It’s not to say the new film doesn’t have merit. Pixar continues to creatively one-up themselves in terms of just how gorgeous their animation can feel from a presentation perspective. It’s truly stunning stuff that deserves the biggest screen humanly possible. The 3D transfer here is very solid. Offering strong depth and effective pop-out that these days can only be achieved in a theatrical presentation.

The full like a PG-rated interstellar crossed with the Netflix revival of Lost in Space. As a viewer who watched all three seasons of the latter, there’s something to be said for this kind of reliably solid family genre fare. That’s said when you have a product that is on some level trying to convince the audience of reasons for its existence simply being a solid three-star film will not cut it in this day and age. Especially given that we are dealing with Pixar here and there are the last three demonstrably better films to streaming. This author’s fandom for Pixar and Marvel means he will likely have a Disney Plus subscription for however long the service lasts. Projects like Lightyear would be a perfect fit for streaming. The fact the film has delivered relatively poor box office returns compared to expectations suggests that the pioneers of computer animation may or may not be confined to streaming for the time being. This is a sad state of affairs for a company that was originally ( and still is in some ways) the trendsetter for mainstream computer animation. Some viewers’ knowledge of the medium is largely based on Whatever was the last Pixar film that happened to be released. Much is Pixar has the roar aesthetic ability to make even a lower-tier project like this perfectly serviceable on its terms it’s broadly unremarkable.

Lightyear is that rare case where the memes and internet discourse and confusion around the premise or more interesting and engaging than the film itself. Mobius wishes its online presence could be anything like this engaging. Nevertheless in an age in which Pixar is still capable of achieving greatness Lightyear being their first theatrical release in three years doesn’t feel right. Needless to say, the three Pixar films before this sands theatrical release run circles around this lower tier ( but far from terrible) effort.
6/10.

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Stranger Things. Season 4. Volume 2. Running Up That Endgame Hill. (FULL SPOILERS)

Spoiler warning. Given a large amount of this piece relates to the ending and set-up for the final season this should go without saying The best course of action if readers have not seen the final two episodes to turn away now. Otherwise, you could fall under Vecnas curse.
Let’s get this over with. Having already written over 1000 words on the first seven episodes of the season this fan of the show was super excited to dive into the finale when it was released over the weekend. How was it?
Mostly very satisfying. Two episodes totalling 3 ½ hours without credits is something of a daunting prospect. The developments here don’t fix the problems this season has been faced with thanks to its share scope. Joyce and Hopper in Russia do gain some much-needed momentum in the aftermath of the Demagorgen breakout. Even with the Entirely unnecessary hail-mary of the characters realizing, they need to re-infiltrate the prison having already escaped. Argyle is still around and develops a plot function in the finale. There’s no real explanation for what Brenner has been doing between his first demise and re-introduction or why he’s even back in the first place. The show seems entirely hesitant to kill major characters at this point. All of these can be argued as some level of nit-pick to a major problem. However, that doesn’t matter. When the character moments are this effective and the creative team have enhanced their ability to deliver the best blockbuster entertainment possible from the comfort of viewers’ sofa. The 50-minute second act within the daunting 2-hour 13-minute finale should be held up as a gold standard in terms of how to pay off emotional investments in journeys effectively Breathlessly packed with more impactful crescendoes that you can shake several Demadogs at This is mainstream entertainment at its absolute best. An immense amount of payoff to what has been building throughout the seasons made since season one blew up and changed the standards of what we think of as cinematic TV forever. Any true fan who has developed an affinity for the show’s characters and world-building throughout its run should leave the finale with a certain level of satisfaction.
The bleaker tone of the epilogue and the sense there might be something even darker on the horizon works in terms of providing an appropriately effective end to a much darker season. This viewer would be lying if after a 13-hour journey to get here the soft cliffhanger feels like a prologue to the main show’s endgame. This was in the season’s marketing from day one but This watcher can’t help but think that setting up and ending in that relies so heavily on next season after a 778-minute runtime to get to this point feels like a potentially dicey choice. There’s no reason to suspect The Duffer Brothers won’t stick the landing. Especially with Vecna being this series’ best villain yet and the earthquake bringing The Upside Down into the real world. We will just have to wait and see.
The finale of Stranger Things 4 was a mostly very effective end to a strong season for a show that has always been so much more than what it appears on the surface. Elements of the series formula are present and correct but when they are executed this well it’s hard to complain. A terrifically executed culmination of what has been building throughout the follow-up seasons released since the initial and instant cultural impact first entry. The ending also sets the table nicely for a final season where the show’s best antagonist will eventually come back to a Hawkins that feels post-apocalyptic. This doesn’t make for as of an effectively rounded-off ending as the previous seasons when taking Season 4 in isolation. Especially after the 13-hour journey to reach its conclusion. It’s all over to The Duffer Brothers now. Also, myriad Netflix executives will be desperate to green light all manner of sequels and spinoffs.
8.5/10.

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Projects Like “Men” Bring With Them The Worst Type of Online Film Discourse

Alex Garland at his best is one of the most engaging and propulsive genre screenwriters out there. His ability to combine this with enough metaphorical and interpretive elements to please the analysis over emotional response viewer might be his secret weapon. His slightly ponderous FX mini-series Devs was something of a step back. On paper, Garland’s third feature as director is still an exciting prospect. Jessie Buckley plays a woman on an idealistic journey to a British countryside village. When she gets there she finds herself in an entirely male-populated area. All the characters demonstrate traits of toxic masculinity and are all portrayed by the same actor ( Rory Kinnear.) Cue attempted metaphors.
No beating around the Bush. Men gets a few creativity points for somewhat wild swings within the third act. That said this viewer despises the piece otherwise Imagine throwing most of Garland’s creative credentials out the window. Instead, replace his directorial vision with a hollowed-out husk whose only knowledge of modern genre filmmaking relates to furiously worshipping at the altar of Ari Aster for the thousandth time. They then decamp to Reddit and deliver their interpretation of the various meanings and messages to an audience of increasingly out-of-touch neckbeards. They then wait for the latest Film Festival flavour of the month to come down the pipe to appeal to an audience of no one outside their specific bubble. A selection of Garland’s previous work also cultivated this audience but there was a level of organicness in terms of weaving this within the text of the narrative. how they gained an audience. Now Garland and his creative team know exactly how to tailor their work to this audience. These watchers would not know what any degree of populism in filmmaking look like if it slapped them in the face like a wet fish.

Trapped in this excruciatingly pretentious endurance test are two commendable performances from Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear. They are at least trying to sell a script that has nothing to say and takes a long time to say it over a decidedly overstretched 100 minutes. Bezel so the question of whether it’s a good idea to trap an up-and-coming British Oscar nominee in a film fundamentally meant to be an examination of the male gaze that yet was assembled by a creative team with mostly Y chromosomes. This is a thornier issue and a different discussion.
There may be some level of mildly grotesque spectacle in the film’s climax There are admittedly flashes of what makes Alex Garland such an effective genre writer. That said one also has to factor in that given how the narrative has played up until this point it also is indicative of the most boring way possible this story could have reached its conclusion. The juxtaposition of these two factors makes the third act generally nowhere near as strong as it should be. Given this is the only element of the film worth recommending if one is not willing to put in the time to attempt to evaluate the ridiculously overwrought and pretentiously ponderous metaphors this fact is very disappointing.
The limited merit in the third act may prevent Men from being a true worst of the year contender along with The Bubble and Deep Water. That said it doesn’t prevent it from being the singularly most disappointing film of 2022 thus far. A naked and calculated play for an audience that has no genuine grasp on what general viewers would want to see outside of their specific bubble. A piece that will directly alienate anyone that does not want to earnestly engage with its half-hearted attempts at “deeper” meaning. The two central performers might be trying hard to sell it to the audience but even they can’t effectively elevator the film beyond the realm of thinking it’s much smarter than it is. Unless one belongs to the type of online film communities that benefit most from a feature like Men do not waste any time with it or indulge in any of its eyewatering self-indulgence
3/10.

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Spiderhead. Quick Review

Top Gun: Maverick has been sitting on the shelf for so long that the director Joseph Kosinski the meantime has made this Netflix thriller starring Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller. They played a doctor and one of the patients at a medical facility using convicts as Guinea pigs for a series of drug trials at the remote island penitentiary of the title Throw in a screenplay by dead Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and one might think this is Netflix’s latest attempt to astroturf its way on the world of blockbuster film making. Except it’s not. With the limited mostly interior-focused locations, Spiderhead has the feel of one of those COVID lockdown-induced bottle thrillers that just happens to have a couple of big names attached. On paper, this seems like an interesting change of pace for Kosinski whose filmography thus fun revels so completely in the big screen experience. Unfortunately, this suggests that Spidered is more interesting or has any grasp on what it wants to do or say. All the themes one might expect from this sort of base-level morality-focused narrative are discussed but without any major conviction. There are also moments where proceedings invest in broad shock humour that have Reese and Wernick touches all over them. This is a piece that on some level wants to be propulsive and engaging but is somewhat let down by its inbuilt limitation. Above all else, the entire package is not a lot more than a middling episode of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. There’s enough intrigue set up in the opening act that the majority of viewers will want to see the film through to a conclusion. That said much as Spiderhead is far from the worst thing ever it is symptomatic of the kind of star-driven middling genre fare that Netflix has become synonymous with over the past several years. The kind of project designed to squat at the top of Netflix charts for a week and then be distinctly forgotten will exist in a couple of years with Netflix currently going through an attempted course correction remains to be seen. For the time being in terms of new releases, Netflix subscribers can only watch what has been put in front of them. Perpetual mediocrity This will have alienated millions of viewers outside of those like this reviewer who has decided to write this piece and slap his Desired rating at the bottom of its conclusion. Despite the star power here there’s nothing to explicitly recommend or any suggestion that Kosinski and his team just put out one of the most jaw-dropping cinematic experiences of recent memory. In contrast, viewers will forget Spiderhead exists minutes after the credits roll.
5/10.

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Good Luck To You Leo Grande. Very Quick Review

An ageing , sexually restrained and widowed former secondary school teacher (Emma Thompson) hires a free-spirited sex worker (Daryl McCormack) in this stagey but pleasant romantic comedy. The piece doesn’t offer much beyond watching the two central characters meet in the same hotel room on four occasions ( hence the somewhat theatrical feel to proceedings.) That said the core strengths still site shines through. Thankfully they are absolutely the kind of things viewers will be looking for in this kind of limited location project. The two central characters have a sharp, engaging and funny rapport party that’s very entertaining to watch play out. It helps that both central performances remain excellent throughout. The script also approaches themes of body positivity and normalisation within sex work as well as the number of thorny questions inherent within the premise with a level of respect, tact and honesty. If the full package has a flaw however it’s that the narrative ultimately does not have that much progression across its running time. This is one of the sorts of films where just reading the synopsis or watching the trailer gives you a pretty exact idea of every theme and narrative beat that is going to hit. Despite the consistently amusing dialogue and incredibly strong performances, the full feature does nothing to dissuade these thoughts. This viewer was left with the impression the proceedings would have been much more impactful as a short film. Even at a relatively brisk 97 minutes things feel stretched and lacking the impact they should at times. A textbook example of a film is mostly solid in its current form but feels like some reworking could be a ½ step away from true greatness. In its current form, the film is solid and most definitely worth viewers’ time That said Good Luck To You Leo Grande is a prime example of seeing the possibility for a truly transcendent piece in a final film as solid but not as good as it should be. With a shorter more focused rum time this could have been something exceptional.
7.5/10.

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Jurassic World: Dominion. Disappointed Fan Review.

Ever since this viewer first, saw it as part of a 2011 UK cinema re-release the original Jurassic Park has been in his top five favourite films. The ground-breaking effects may be starting to look like a product of their time but the sheer scale and construction of the set-piece sequences still have the power to create cinematic wonder all these years later. The original sequels have their moments and one really funny meme (Alan) This fan hot take on the franchise might be that when taken overall the soft reboot of the Jurassic World movies might have resulted in a better set of sequels than the original offerings before the release of Domain as the supposed final entry. Solid B movies that offer an engaging slice of Dino spectacle without indulging in talking Raptors. Dominion sees the return of director Colin Trevorrow after The Book of Henry should have euthanized his career multiple times over. Not to mention the return of the original trio of main characters from the classic original. . Following on from Fallen Kingdoms cliff-hanger that dinosaurs were now out in the wild. The pretty overwhelming negative reception wasn’t an immediate turn-off. Fallen Kingdom debuted to a majority negative reception and that film has its moments. Thus this viewer put on his 3D glasses and entered the cinema with a relatively open mind. How was the film?
Mostly very disappointing. Granted not as bad as some people will tell you or even at the worst in Colin Trevorrow’s filmography ( he did make one of the worst and most baffling films of all time.) Yet the newest entry’s critical failure is assuming there has been enough mythology set up in the preceding five films to pull off this kind of era spanning the closing chapter with a modicum of effectiveness. The opening 90 minutes are flat-out terrible. Indulging in overly pleased with itself yet basic worldbuilding installed by Fallen Kingdom and the return of various Jurassic World characters who were always a little bit thin in the development department. Things get a little bit better once the World cast and the original crew are united within the same location but bafflingly they’re still kept apart for a portion of the runtime. As with all the films in this series, it does deliver some solid Dino-based blockbuster spectacle. At this point, though after sitting through 90 minutes of gibberingly overwritten nonsense the payoff might be worth it in isolation but certainly not as a conclusion to a six-film decade-spanning multiple trilogy franchise. Yes, it’s not as bad as The Book of Henry ( very few things are.) However, the fact Colin Trevorrow continues to have a career in Hollywood after his last two films is a little bit mystifying. It will be interesting to see if the creative disappointments here will be his final chance.
From the perspective of someone who will go to bat for the first two films in its trilogy Jurassic World: Dominion is not as bad as you might have heard. That doesn’t make it particularly good either. It spends a solid 2/3 of its running time misunderstanding the fundamental appeal and spectacle of the series across both its trilogies. Audiences don’t go to a Jurassic Park film expecting some incredibly basic yet endlessly overwritten mythology. They want to see a B movie involving Dinosaurs stomping on things and causing general destruction. Dominion does deliver the latter after taking far too long to finally get there. It’s far too late to save the film from being anything other than a mediocre disappointment. Especially as the supposed conclusion to the series as a whole. It’s hard not to think the franchises are too lucrative not to be back in some form. Whatever form that takes the original that started it all will always be a masterpiece. The sequels are entirely optional.
4/10

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Top Gun: Maverick Is What The Big Screen Was Built For.

The original Top Gun is a perfect example of a film that will go down to a certain established audience ( mostly dads) as an undeniable classic. Others will see it as a concentrated blast of 80s machismo. The hilariously obvious homoeroticism on display is the only thing that can ever be considered timeless. Yet 36 years after the original’s release Tom Cruise for all his shenanigans is one of the few movie stars that matter in 2022. His re-brand of the Mission Impossible movie series into a spectacle-focused craftsmanship-based stunt series has resulted in some of the very best franchise filmmaking in recent years. The question was could Cruse and his creative team apply some of the same formulae within the context of a Top Gun legacy sequel. The original Top Gun still seems like far too much of a kitsch item on paper as the basis for a truly effective follow-up. That said the early IMAX footage placed in front of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness was incredibly technically impressive. So the opportunity to get to see the full feature in that format was high on this viewer’s list of activities as part of a day trip. Did Cruise and this madman-like commitment to big-screen entertainment deliver?
Most definitely. Top Gun: Maverick is an incredible piece of work. The sort of thing that reminds an audience what a truly dedicated set of professionals can achieve without the need to disappear up their ass or appeal exclusively to the A24 crowd. The films most inexplicable achievement is most definitely mining so much emotional heft out of a very standard set of plot beats With their basis in nothing more than what is a mildly endearing time capsule. Yet it’s hard to complain when Maverick’s final product will have enough to please an audience that does consider the original Top Gun some kind of warped masterpiece. Yet regardless of context, the sequel is far more effective and efficient at crafting this kind of “old guard teaches new class” follow-up. There’s nothing here audiences have not seen before but the execution both on a fundamental and emotional level is note-perfect.
This is before we even discuss the jaw-dropping IMAX cinematography The aerial sequences were the one unquestionably strong element of the original film. with Cruises new found career focusing on offering audiences stunt and spectacle based set-piece driven entertainment meant for the biggest screen possible The dogfights in the new entry have been seriously beefed up Even on a relatively small IMAX screen, it was one of the greatest cinema experiences of this viewer’s life. To say the film’s use of IMAX ratio is reference quality is a massive understatement. Roughly half the film is mastered for the full real estate of the IMAX screen. Experiencing the flying sequences and training missions as they were meant to be seen is genuinely awe-inspiring. An adrenaline-pumping, hair-raising transcendent experience. Especially given a breathless final act which is the unbelievably impressive film at the absolute height of its powers to enthral audiences. The sort that will be watched and admired for decades to come. It’s hard to think about where Cruse can even go from here after creating two films bound to go down as classics within action cinema with Maverick and Mission Impossible: Fallout The first half of Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning was already this viewer’s most anticipated summer film for 2023. On the back of having seen Top Gun Maverick twice that excitement has only intensified. For every Scientology-related couch-jumping embarrassment you can throw at Tom Cruise his modern output is why the big screen exists.
It’s worth noting that his part of the prep for writing this review this author wanted to see how the sequel held up on a regular Theatrical screen. He deliberately chose one of the most generic available to him within hey city. The surprise was how the film still managed to retain its breathless excitement even without the use of The IMAX enhanced aspect ratio. Great films can still be great even if they are not necessarily presented in the most optimum circumstances or presentation.
Top Gun: Maverick is marvellous. A breathless optimization of what makes Tom Cruise’s modern brand of spectacle-focused entertainment pretty much untouchable at its best. It may not be breaking any ground by sticking to its very distinct formula but there’s enough here to please multiple audience expectations and deliver emotional beats stunningly effectively that it doesn’t matter. The fact that all of this has been achieved with its basis in a slightly kitschy novelty item of the original might be the most impressive thing of all. Go and find the largest and loudest scream possible to immerse yourself in a film that truly utilises what the big screen was built to accomplish. The fact this author is saying this about a sequel to Top Gun of all things has major “I don’t make the rules” energy.
10/10

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Benediction. Very Quick Review.

One of the latest instances of British #filmtwitter getting behind films with otherwise limited commercial appeal is this unconventional biopic from director Terrence Davis. Jack Loudon and Peter Capaldi play older and younger versions of the renowned WWI anti-war poet Siegfried Sassoon. Starting in the period immediately following Sassoon’s psychiatric evaluation due to his anti-war stance the narrative flits in and out at various points during his life. We see Sassoon interact with various cultural figures from the time. He battles his faith as well as romantic and interpersonal demons. It is superbly performed especially by Loudon who can deliver both sterling renditions of Sassoon’s poetry over archive footage and powerful renditions of scripted dramatized segments. This is especially true in a very strong first act which hits the beats one might expect for these kinds of stories but does so in a way that offers an emotionally resonant window into the subject’s life. As things progress however the pacing becomes more sluggish and decidedly televisual. Somewhere between a great pound drama and a blatant play for BAFTA recognition. There’s enough core strength to suggest the film might still be worth a viewing if one is particularly interested in the subject matter. That said this will be filling a Sunday night slot on BBC Two in two to three years with a moderate amount of fanfare. The beating heart and central performances deserve more than a complete package that ultimately lets itself down.
6/10.

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Bo Burnham. The Inside Outtakes. Review/Impressions.

This viewer has been a fan of Bo Burnham for years. However, because there tends to be such a large gap between solo projects the release of Inside last year with the first time he got any coverage on this blog specifically. For the first anniversary of the piece’s release, Burnham put together a selection of outtakes be row alternative versions and new sketches To the collective name the inside Outtakes. These were put up for free on YouTube. The new material takes advantage of the release format inserting several hilarious fake adverts that would not work in any other presentation There’s plenty of great new stuff here across both the video outtakes project and the accompanying album. The audio exclusive content includes extended, alternate and newly composed songs from the process of making the main special. If one is looking for an effective safe-for-work musical entry point into a Burnham-style closing song The Chicken might be the best his catalogue has to offer. Dark and poignant yet also unbelievably silly and mimetically memorable. It’s Burnham’s work distilled to its essence without some of the more risqué material that will rub certain audiences the wrong way.

That said well there’s plenty here to recommend this is the first Burnham project in the 10-plus years this fan has been following him where the machinations of the marketing machine to get this thing out there that goes against everything Burnham’s creative persona stands for. Merch drops related specifically to new material from the Outtakes project. Check. Multiple reissues of the album focusing exclusively on the unreleased songs or pairing it with the previously released regular edition for the definitive Inside experience. This bleeds into the video version of the Outtakes as well.

In this way, it Will always be interesting to see a project like this come together. That said the decision to integrate the B roll with a selection of new and alternative material struck this viewer as something that will only truly appeal to hardcore fans. Smashing together two distinctly different projects into one super project that is still ultimately only an addendum to the main piece. This smacks of the knowledge from Burnham and the team behind him that he can put out anything and swaths of his audience will lap it up regardless. As the man himself says in the first 60 seconds of the main special. “ Daddy made you some content. It’s a beautiful day to stay inside. ” It would not be untrue to say this lyric was floating around this viewer’s head as we watched another mildly intriguing but ultimately for superfans only piece involving Burnham fiddling with his various equipment. There’s plenty of merit to releasing this kind of side project and some of the individual pieces are worth spotlighting. As a whole, it falls at the bottom of Burnham’s solo creative output. It never quite escapes its origins as a collection of b-sides. Espesashaly when taken through the sort of singular vision lens that has benefited the majority of Burnham’s previous work. This is perfectly fine. Ultimately those in the tank for a project like this will likely leave the Inside Outtakes heartily satisfied. That said it won’t change the minds of anyone not automatically on board with Burnham’s vision and may give them more material to shout down his fans across the world.

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The Northman. Quick Review(Suggestive Spoilers)

Robert Eggers is one of the brand of filmmakers that gets treated like a messiah on certain film discussion portions of the internet. His films are for the hugely pretentious built-for analysis over genuine substance crowd that loves his brand of purely aesthetic-driven filmmaking. Eggers will always have a devoted cult audience that will treat each new project of his like some sort of rebirth for organised religion. Even if the products themselves are ridiculously niche. This writer would say the same thing about the hugely overrated but admirable work of Ari Aster but that’s a conversation for another day. The prospect of giving Eggers a studio budget seems like a wet dream for a certain type of online film nerd with no genuine grasp of what audiences outside the hyper-specific circle of contacts want to see. That said despite treating the release with some level of cynicism this author can’t deny that the trailer campaign was stunning. Maybe this would be the film to convince him that Eggers Work had an audience beyond the type of film festival watcher that’s going to eat all his work of that plate with a spoon and then ask for more. How was the film?
Both more and significantly less than this author’s expectation. There’s no denying a lot of the craftsmanship and aesthetic elements of the presentation are effective and admirable. Eggers delivers a film that’s abrasive, brutal and badass in all of the best ways for this sort of genre fare. That said the incredibly single-minded filmmaking will be incredibly hard to swallow for those directly on board. There are only so many times you can watch Alexander Skarsgard and his company of Vikings go about their bloodsoaked business before those not on board with the one dim tone will start to find proceedings a little dull. The finale is two naked men having a full-frontal sword battle on top of an active volcano. Now imagine layering a functionally impressive but caustic vocal and instrumental score on top of the final confrontation. The film has stayed at that one register for the previous two hours. In some ways, the piece is nothing other than a parody of itself. Then the certain watches that had already branded the film a masterpiece before they’d even seen it on directories name alone will be amazed when the film underperforms at the box office. To be successful with the kind of budget at play here something like The Northmen needs to have a broader appeal than the type of audience described in this piece. This was something that Robert Eggers was clearly and simply not interested in. Thus he gets the underwhelming box office that much as online film discourse would not like to admit it is probably accurate for this sort of single-minded one-dimensional affair.
The Northmen is a perfect example of the fact those already predisposed to like its specific style and presentation we’ll get something out of it regardless of what anyone else thinks. However, that same audience will get angry when the film underperforms at the box office because the final product realistically has very limited appeal outside of a bubble of potential viewers who will lap it up. Eggers can have his cult fanbase of audiences that think the A24 logo is a birthright rather than a simple distribution company. There were things to admire in Eggers’s big studio-backed swing That said this viewer would be lying if he didn’t acknowledge there were sections of the film so fixed on providing one thinmg border on a joke at times.
6/10

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Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022) Review

The Lonely Islands comedic output may be decidedly uneven but the great stuff on the crew’s creative CV does stick out. From the early Internet memetics of the SNL shorts that found a global audience, The brilliant cult favourite Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and the underrated time travel rom-com Palm Springs. For every one-joke song or film that doesn’t work there’s something great as a counterpoint. On paper director, Akiva Schaffer and Andy Samberg working with Disney might seem like an odd fit. That’s before one remembers they have a foot in IP-centric family movies having already worked on songs for The Lego Movie and its sequel with Lord and Miller. Thus when Schaffer’s update of the Disney Afternoon animated series started getting some solid reviews this viewer figured it was worth checking out. Even if the main credited writers were behind the abominable Robert Downey Jr version of Doolittle. Were they able to redeem themselves?
Definitely. On one level this new incarnation of Chip and Dale is what might be expected. A fairly straightforward neo-noir influenced Roger Rabbit riff. Except in this world, it is implied that cartoon characters have genuine interpersonal lives beyond simply being extensions of the mythology, characterization and world-building audiences see on screen. Thus not only can Roger Rabbit himself have a cameo. He could theoretically interact with the characters in a way that goes beyond the typical “Hey. You recognise this thing” of Space Jam: A New Legacy and its ilk.
No getting around this. The new Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers is completely bonkers in the best way possible. If it was simply What it looked to be on the surface it might still be relatively solid As a parody of hard-boiled detective narratives. The thing that makes it over the top is the reference humour. This might sound like a counterproductive statement. On one level reference, humour offers nothing more than a cheap acknowledgement of a particular movie or franchise and nothing more than that( cue the Captain America meme.) Here the writers utilize appearances from across the animation and celebrity industry in hilarious ways. Imagine if Eric Kripke’s version of The Boys universe and the final act of The Cabin in the Woods had a PG-rated baby with one another. Instead of using generic representations of copyrighted figures or inventing your own in a way that’s just different enough to skirt around protocols here the creative team have somehow got permission for A smorgasbord of characters from a variety of rights holders to make appearances even if it’s full a matter of frames. Combine this with a script that feels written by people that know their animation but are willing to poke merciless fun at various stylistic incarnations. The results are glorious. Even if part of the underlying amusement comes from the mental image of seeing a roomful of Disney’s legal team staring with abject horror at the final draft of this script. The fact the film exists in the form it does is honestly hugely impressive in a certain way. As long as one isn’t too tied up within the idea of reference humour in and of itself is not being an inherently bad thing the film is a great time,
Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers takes what could be a very safe nostalgia sequel and inject it with enough deranged energy to fill multiple projects several times over. It Won’t win over those fundamentally opposed to its very specific style of meta-commentary. Those that stick with it will find a genuinely hilarious piece of entertainment. Well, there’s a certain level of corporate synergy here there are more than enough weird edges to be perversely impressed that the creative team got away with Presenting the final product in the way they did. It’s also that despite most Disney Plus originals being terrible streaming-only gives you the runway. Good to great films can flourish even with the direct-to-consumer model in which potential viewers don’t even have to leave their couch. The irony is this viewer would have loved to have seen the 2022 Rescue Rangers in a cinema with a large crowd of animation lovers. Outside of The obligatory Post Malone cover of the theme song, it’s the kind of thing that would benefit from a large collective experience in the best way possible.
8.5/10

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Father Stu. Quick Review.

The prospect of an even nominally faith-based film will give certain audiences an allergic reaction regardless of whatever content or merits the actual piece has. One way filmmakers could in theory get around this is by offering a distinctly harder-edged alternative to religious-centric stories. Enter this Mark Wahlberg vanity project directed by Mel Gibson’s girlfriend ( and featuring the man himself as the protagonist’s alcoholic father) based on the “ inspiring” True story of Father Stuart Long. The criminal bad knuckle boxer who eventually became a dedicated Catholic priest before his diagnosis of Motor Neuron Disease and death far too young.
The thing this film taught me as a viewer is if you want to make A religious movie with rough edges cast actors that can so easily slide into caricature. No getting around it the first half of this film feels like an R-rated sketch/parody of “inspiration porn” narratives. At its best one might say that director Rosalind Ross is going for a very poor man’s David O Russell impression. At its worst, It’s like an R-rated version of Andy Samberg’s “Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals” sketch. Instead, he’s now convincing the animals to become Catholic.

Another early scene early on has Mel Gibson being hyper-aggressive as he is stuck in traffic ending with him throwing out a slur to the person in the car next to him. All of this is jointly and jovially soundtracked as the piano line to Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 comes in. This watcher felt ashamed for getting an incredibly dark but very hearty laugh from the juxtaposition. It once again brings up the question of whether or not the filmmakers have any self-awareness whatsoever when putting this thing together. This writer honestly isn’t sure.
In its second half, the things change family drastically playing up the More respectable religious side of the narrative. The problem is the tonal shift is decidedly earnest and very much at odds with what the film was trying to do in its opening stretches. Thus it’s in a weird nether region. Too close to parody in its attempt to offer a hard-edged version of these kinds of projects. Also far too earnest in the delivery once it gets past a cerin to appeal to anyone beyond the hardcore religious conservatives who would support media like this. It’s a very odd mixture that never comes close to coalescing in the way the filmmakers envisioned.
Father Stu is a decidedly odd beast. Far too close to dark comedy in its attempt to offer a harsher take on this kind of faith narrative. Yet far too sappy and earnest to appeal to anyone beyond the typical audience for this kind of story. The piece has already been a deserved box office bomb. There’s no reason to give it any kind of validity.
4/10.

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Stranger Things 4. Volume 1 Blockbuster Entertainment at it’s Most Bombastic and Ambitious (Review) Suggestive Spoilers

 Note. Suggestive spoilers ahead. It’s probably best to come back to this review  after finishing the seven episodes that make  up this release. 

Just after the midpoint within the return of the one Netflix show remaining that has not been prematurely cancelled after two/ three seasons there is what has to be the TV moment of the year so far. A character escapes the curse put on her by the villain. She uses a mixture of friendship, determination and sheer force of will to determine that she will not meet her end at the hands of the season’s new big bad. The buildup has been expertly handled but the payoff as she attempts to escape the spell put on her that could easily result in the character giving in and embracing death. It is utterly spectacular. There’s a harsh cut to black without revealing what the outcome of the set-piece is. This viewer was sat on his sofa knowing the episode could well end here resulting in one of the most aggravating yet brilliant TV cliffhangers of recent memory. Then, cutting back to the real world the character falls to the floor with the curse broken and the character is safe surrounded by the members of the ensemble that have been part of this particular plot thread. It’s an utterly enthralling and expertly handled 5 minutes. That said what has been the main talking point in the wider media discussion around this sequence ( and the new batch of episodes as a whole.) It is soundtracked by an orchestral remix of Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush The track had been established as a recurring plot point as the character’s favourite song along with the fact music has the ability to beet the monster. This is the perfect example of launching swaths of the wider discussion around this show being purely driven by the nostalgia elements. In reality, this shows ability to remix various elements of pop mythology into its own story with fun characters, great dynamics, engaging performances and strong world-building. Yet the 80s coat of paint is all section of the wider audience can think on.
Stranger Things is easily in this watcher’s personal top three for currently ongoing streaming TV series. Season 2 might have some missteps but 1 and 3 are perfect for what they are trying to be. There was a sense of “where do you go from here?” after season three. The conventional episode runtimes were starting to sag under the weight of so much stuff going on at any one time. The answer for the hotly anticipated season 4 after a three-year COVID induced hiatus is to increase the runtime to fit the enormous scope. Not to mention a far darker tone well still keeping the adventurous core and fun dynamics of what makes Stranger Things resonate with so many( 80s pop culture aficionado or otherwise.) The central plot especially is easily the best and most intense material that has been accomplished thus far while still feeling like a narrative and maturity related extension of what has come before. It’s fantastic stuff. The main pre-release bone of contention seemed to be the extended episode runtimes ( 5of the 6 regular episodes here comfortably hit 70-75 minutes without credits.) Not counting the undisputably feature-length volume one finale ( the first of three that finish the season Not to mention the $30 million per episode productions budget have been used by some as a proverbial stick with which to Beat Netflix accountants o the head by some online. Certain audiences and commentators will never change their minds. That said having seen having these episodes much as a lot of the side plots have things to nitpick at and criticise the sheer scope and scale Of what creators The Duffer Brothers are attempting to do here cannot be understated. . To say the results are mostly incredibly effective is a massive understatement. That said with such a huge palette to work with there are some casualties along the way. One of the season’s initial 3 core plots remains decidedly disconnected from the others even after 539 minutes of viewing time. Episodes can go long stretches without two continuous scenes from the same strand of the narrative. Johnathan’s new stoner friend adds absolutely nothing. For the most part, however, this is the sort of blockbuster event piece that combines character, scope and spectacle in a way that most movie and TV studios can only dream of. It might not be quite as well-formed and packaged as the previous seasons but the very best stuff in these episodes is the show at the very height of its powers. The final beat of the 93-minute Volume 1 finale might be convoluted and obvious to some but sets the stage for a truly epic finish.

After the disappointment of the Ozark finale and the weekly dumping of mediocre movies and the general sense, the streaming landscape has moved on from the Netflix model. One of the pioneers of the streaming platform returns and rightfully takes it takes his throne as among the best Original programming the modern streaming landscape has to offer. There’s the question as to whether or not the final four hours of this gargantuan return will stick the landing. Given how well the best material in these seven episodes land there’s nothing here to suggest the two-part finale won’t be an epic of world-shattering proportions. The season thus far might fall victim to its sheer scope at times. That said but at several points, it is good as long-form serialised blockbuster entertainment can be. Bring on the finale
8.5/10.

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Deep Water. Quick Review.

Ben Affleck is the serial killer to his promiscuous wife (Ana de Armas) lovers in this incredibly po-faced attempt at “elevated trash.” A Fox cast off this thing has been relegated to streaming for very good reason. Judd Apatow’s The Bubble might be the worst film of the year but this is certainly the most profoundly dull. The narrative desperately wants to resurrect the erotic thriller for a modern audience. Instead what emerges is an atrocity that treats the trashy and thin material with such an undeserved reverence that it borders on parody. Much is the two lead actors are trying to sell it their chemistry has all the sex appeal of dental surgery. This viewer started to question how on earth they even ended up together in the first place. then there’s a third act that feels lacking a conclusion in an attempt just to get this thing out the door. The end credits revealed that Sam Levinson. has a co-writing credit on this dumpster fire. This makes an absurd amount of sense. Especially given the attempted highbrow but realistically low brow tonal mess of the entire project. This critic can’t even begin to comprehend the complete mess that is the half of Euphoria Season 2 that he has seen. That’s a piece for another day. The other core factor the makers of Deep Water, don’t seem to want to acknowledge is the fact the modern erotic serial killer thriller already has a resurrection. It’s the Lifetime/Netflix series You. That said, because. The latter embraces its trashy elements with a genuine sense of humour I’m genuinely compelling lead performances. Even at its most meandering in season three, You was able to deliver three of the best episodes of 2021 to finish that season off with a massive flourish. Penn Badgley and Victoria Pedretti have more chemistry in their little finger than. Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas do several times over. If one is. desperate for some elevated trash on the big screen Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta is available. The latter features an item used in a specific way that you will never be able to unsee. Deep Water, wishes it has that level of relevance. As opposed to being a deservedly berried incredibly pretentious embarrassment./
Even if one is desperate To see the return of modern mainstream erotica to the world of movie star feature film making don’t see Deep Water. A major embarrassment for everyone involved that has been tucked away so that it has the least amount of exposure or potential career damage as possible.
1/10

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Fresh. Quick Review

This reviewer heard some buzz regarding this Fox/Disney acquisition from Sundance when it premiered. Given it’s an adult-orientated movie from the House of Mouse it forgoes theatrical release and is sent straight to streaming. Daisy Edgar Jones plays a central character struggling with the perils of modern dating. She meets Sebastian Stan in a supermarket meet-cute. Things progressed to the point where he takes her away for a weekend. In this viewer’s opinion, that’s all that should be known going in. It’s a shame that one of the film’s key poster campaigns gives a very obvious hint as to where the narrative might be going. Especially considering its 35 minutes before the title sequence and any sort of vague hint as to what the hook of the story entails. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with this hook. Edgar Jones and Stan deliver solid performances and the film’s transformation from anti-romcom to contained location thriller are mostly solid enough. That said unfortunately the plot is never really able to take advantage of what ends up becoming the central gimmick in the way it should. This is not exclusively in its hesitance towards any gore. With strong enough writing, the restraint in terms of what is shown onscreen could prove an effective tool. This is not the case here. Not to say the choices made don’t have momentum or the sense of wanting to see how the third act resolves itself. It’s more that while solid enough you have seen this kind of film before. It could be diving head first into the more grungy side of the story or showcasing a more restrained character-focused approach. Fresh does neither and ends up in an awkward middle ground as a result. Given the strength of the central performances, there’s the general sense the film should be better than it is. It’s far from awful and potentially worth a look if you like this specific variety of paranoid limited location storytelling. That said with a more defined focus in terms of the exact tone the narrative wanted to hit this could have been so much better.
6/10

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Ozark. Season 4. Part 2. A Frustrating Finish.

Note. Although this doesn’t include any direct spoilers it might be best to turn around until readers have seen the ending.
No beating around the bush with this one. You can check out this blog’s previous Ozark reviews if you want this author’s thoughts on Season 4 Part 1 All the cards looked in place for a potentially strong finish. Did they stick the landing?
Not really. On one level these final episodes and especially the finale aren’t as bad as some may have you believe. This watcher would argue that from a pure plot perspective something approximating the plot points covered would have been a solid endi0ng always how the show was going to end. The problem is the writers have had such a pension first shock deaths throughout the show run that they’re stuck scrambling to introduce new characters this close to the end of the series when these particular story roles could have been filled by previously established figures and performances that were previously taken off the board. This means that the new threats do not have time to establish themselves or their story impact before they are inevitably called upon to fulfil their narrative role. By the end of the third episode, most of the set-up in the season’s first half has been dustbined for alternatives that are similar but not identical The other thing these final episodes are strangely obsessed with is Rian Johnson’s style “subversive for subversive stake” storytelling. A lot of time is spent establishing potential alternative happy endings for the Byrde family and those around them. Only for the finale to snap back to an ending that might be more in keeping with the tone of the show overall but also feels like a weird betrayal. The genuine ending doesn’t have the build-up or impact it should The performances may still be commendable despite the flip-flopping writing. The production is still generally committed to keeping the visual aesthetic of the show. That said this is endlessly frustrating viewing that even if it stuck the landing would only result in half the show being above average.
Ozark season 4 part two was endlessly frustrating viewing. Somewhere within the skeleton of these seven episodes, there is a solid ending that feels tonally in keeping with what has come before. In a way that’s very much the ending that viewers got. However, the journey to get there
was packed with wildly shifting tones And the writer’s clear realisation that they do not have enough characters left alive for their overall ending to work effectively. Thus although the final beats feel in keeping with this show as a whole they feel strangely distant from this half-season when taken in isolation. Especially with these final episodes’ wildly shifting landscape.
Season 3 might be one of this author’s favourite individual seasons of any Netflix show. That said this watcher would have a difficult time recommending Ozark as a whole. Unless one was really in the mood for a mid-tier family crime drama. Only 17 Of the shows 44 episodes rose above average Given the potential shown by the strong stretch leading up to the conclusion the fact he didn’t stick the landing is still a rather large disappointment.
Season 4. Part 2 Rating. 5/10.
Season 4 Overall. 6/10
Ozark. Final Rating 6/10

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Senior Year. Quick Review.

For her incredibly limited comedic range, this writer will also stand up for the fact that in the right role Rebel Wilson can be genuinely funny. Maybe this is only because this critic is willing to go to bat for her breakout role in the first two Pitch Perfects as being genuinely great. Maybe it’s because she’s capable of delivering some occasional solid zingers. Nothing about her general perception or sense that her team make genuinely below average films is changing. Especially with this excruciatingly lame. “thirtysomething goes to high school” comedy. After being stuck in a 20 year coma Willson’s character wakes up thinking it is still 2001 and desperate. to finish her senior year of high school. You can plot every single beat. from that single sentence. To be entirely fair the film does have one idea. with some comedic potential. This is its attempted satirical commentary on the amount of creativity stifled within the results-based school culture. If you want to see this done effectively look at Jemima Kirke’s season-long guest arc as the new headmistress in Sex Education season 3. Unfortunately. Senior Year’s comedic styling is more along the lines of” How do you do fellow 20120s kids Weren’t the early 2000s a different time.” Sam Richardson has none of the charisma he showed, so effectively in Werewolfvs Within. Justin Hartley plays the same character he has spent six seasons deconstructing and reconstructing on This Is Us. His performance would not be out of place on Kevin Peterson’s “The Manny.” All of this is soundtracked to the most generic studio mandated playlist of early 2000 pop culture hits. Including a mandatory appearance of The Bad Touch by Bloodhound Gang. The sense of humour has the feel of someone discovering the titular song and thinking the central line of the chorus that everyone remembers is the funniest thing they’ve ever heard.
3/10

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RRR. (Rise, Roar, Revolt) Quick Review.

Full disclosure. This writer is not expressly familiar with this variety of Indian action movies. That said the week that this three-hour epic focusing on two revolutionaries as they fight the villainous British in the 1920s dropped around the world it started gaining a lot of crossover buzz. So at a loose end one afternoon this author decided to take in a screening and see what all the fuss was about. What did he find?
Oh boy. This is a lot of movie. Throughout the extended runtime, our two heroes take on pantomime esque villains, indulging in ridiculously badass over the top action, and getting involved in dance battles. Then there is a musical sequence involving public flogging and an extended final battle that just oozes cool. All of this sounds like a tonally inconsistent disaster on paper. The thing is the piece completely runs with its wild narrative and tonal shifts expecting viewers to come along for the ride. It certainly helps that the sense of scale is up on the screen for all viewers to see. Knowing this got an IMAX 3D release in some territories made this author incredibly jealous. See this on the biggest screen possible if you can. The wild shifts and tone won’t be for everyone but the film is so self-assured with the way it presents its tone to the audience This is something that has big potential for crossover on the global market. Watching the gloriously self-aware yet insane ridiculous antics play out on screen with me and one of the couples there to experience it is one of this viewer’s favourite cinema viewing experiences of 2022 thus far. There are sequences here so gloriously insane that describing them with the written word would make them sound too silly. Yet here they are in all their big-screen glory. Given that the film is 3 hours the pacing does dip somewhat around the halfway mark. Yet the pacing comes roaring back with its trademark level of flair.
RRR won’t be for everyone. It’s too tonally inconsistent and ridiculous to appeal to those that exclusively grade their films based on analytical/thematic merit. That said the people who it is for will have a great time. A 187 minutes splatter painting containing every wild tonal shift one might be able to think of. Yet delivered with an unbelievably entertaining sense of self-confidence that most Hollywood films would dream of.
8.5/10

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Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off. Very Quick Review.

This viewer covered an incredibly mediocre celebrity adjacent documentary with a Netflix effort on Abercrombie and Fitch. Now let’s cover a much better genuine example. Tony Hawk: Until The Wheels Fall Off has one of the most striking openings of any film released in recent memory regardless of platform. The audience witnesses current day Tony Hawk in a purpose-built skating arena attempting and mostly not landing a series of stunts and tricks. These surely must be taking a toll on his body and general health at his age. Yet the kinetically edited sequence is a perfect approximation of the ethos of both the film and Hawks character as depicted here. He never gives up and is doing what he loves. As someone who only gave the documentary a chance because Hawk seems like an engaging figure in interviews, This viewer was surprised to find one of the best public figure documentaries he has seen in quite some time. Honest without being exploitive. A celebration =without being hagiographic. The 2-hour runtime offers an effective beginner guide to his career. From his role in the expansion of skater culture in the mid-80s, its eventual downturn and rebirth with Hawk very much the central figure in all of it. Offering. Engaging testimony from the man himself and those around him. The piece is just remarkably solid, from top to bottom. It offers nothing new from a presentation perspective. You have seen this style of talking head HBO documentary plenty of times before. However, unlike a lot of material in its genre, there seems to be a slightly wider sense of scope and scale here without depriving potential viewers and fans of what they came for. It’s excellent stuff and definitely. Worth picking out Above the avalanche of similar products meant to sell the audience on the career of whoever they are featuring well, just making them also seen as “relateable in a generic sense. One of the best. In its subgenre for quite some time.
8.5/10.

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The Lost City. Quick Review

Adventure author Sandra Bullock gets trapped in the jungle with her cover model Channing Tatum after being kidnapped by eccentric billionaire Daniel Radcliffe in this action-comedy. The film arrived in UK cinemas having gotten some good buzz and strong box office from its US release. It starts incredibly strong as one of the best mainstream comedies in quite some time. Built on a foundation of quippy dialogue, well-staged slapstick and a genuinely amazing cameo from a certain A-List actor that has unfortunately been spoiled in the marketing. Bullock is a solid leading lady. Tatum gets to show off his underrated comedic chops and Radcliffe has just the right mixture of threat and scenery-chewing as an obligatory British villain. The first half suggests this could be something truly special The best mainstream studio comedy since Instant Family in 2019. Unfortunately, the piece doesn’t quite keep up that level of amazing momentum as it reaches the climax. The switch from odd-couple buddy movie to standard adventure fare is solid enough in its own right. Unfortunately lacks the magic or dynamite comedic set pieces of the narrative opening stretches. It remains watchable but this viewer was instantly reminded how much he won’t stick up for the rebooted Jumanji series ( especially Welcome to the Jungle) for being the textbook example of how to do this genre effectively within a modern context. Even Disney’s Jungle Cruise was fairly solid. Not to say The Lost City doesn’t belong with those but it Came out of the gate so effectively that this viewer wished it had been able to elevate itself for the full running time and become something truly memorable. As it is the opening act is strong enough to give the film a solid recommendation. Especially if you’re looking for something light and fun to watch as the summer months approach. That said it could have been so much more.
7/10.

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Everything Everywhere All At Once. What Do I Even Say?

For the most part, this writer isn’t a fan of A24. Not to say there isn’t plenty of good to fantastic films in their back catalogue. It’s more the general aesthetic of picking up the decidedly middlebrow festival fare. They then sell it to a niche audience of #filmTwitter eccentrics who have no idea what the general public wants to see. They instead send thirst twists and random hot takes for whatever the flavour of the month is. Thus when an A24 film starts getting an insane amount of hype expectations for those outside the circle for the kind of films they distribute will be very much put in check. That said if you had looked at any variety of film discourse over the last few months it would have been impossible to avoid the breakout success of Everything Everywhere All at Once. Beyond something that had already been labelled a future classic in some quarters all this viewer knew about it going in were the directors, that it was a multiverse movie and Michelle Yeoh was in the title role. The most Intriguing element of it was that it came from the Swiss army man directing the duo of Daniels. This author would include Swiss Army Man and its majorly deranged energy on the list of potential crossover A24 films. The fact that a filmmaking team that came across as so maverick with their debut feature has now made one of the most acclaimed films of the year (at least with US audiences and critics) seemed a little impossible. With the film just about to open in the UK the chance to see what all the fuss was about at an early screening could not be missed.
Wow. Having seen the film last night it is actively quite hard to describe what this watcher experienced. Other than to say it was the most purely entertaining, crowd-pleasing piece of cinema released in the past few years. Certainly, since the one-two punch of Parasite and Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse created universally acclaimed genre classics in back to back years (2019 and 2020.) Everything Everywhere is a completely insane, wild, utterly hilarious and emotionally resonant multiverse adventure anchored by a brilliant central performance from Michelle Yeoh. Importantly it is also executed with mechanical precision despite the inherently bonkers nature of the events playing out on screen. Every frame is bursting with all varieties of visual and verbal gags. Insanely inventive often gust gut bustlingly funny plot turns lead into yet another inventive twist or mechanic. This is mainstream cinema in its purest form. The ability for general audiences to spark their creative imaginations, with a story that can engage and emotionally invest anyone regardless of personal background. It’s a film that everyone should experience at least once. If this writer were to offer any hot takes it would be that 10 to 15 years ago this sort of mid-budget but the massively acclaimed mainstream accessible movie would have been handled by a studio with worldwide ambition. They would try to get the brilliance of the film out there to the widest audience possible. As opposed to being in the pantheon of the distributor like A24. They will be able to sell it to their audience. The thing is that a film like this deserves so much more than being a flash in the pan success on film-related social media. This author is conscious of feeding into the overhype. That said he cannot emphasise enough that the sheer amount of joy in realising films this insane yet mainstream-friendly can still be made and have an audience. Find the biggest screen and best audiences possible. UK cinemagoers are in for the ride of their lives.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is just concentrated wonderfully. this writer feels like he should issue a disclaimer that as with any piece of media the film won’t be for everyone. Yes, it’s hard not to imagine a large swath of potential audiences instantly falling in love with the insanely controlled shenanigans this peace offers. This fan certainly knows he did.

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White Hot. The Rise of Abercrombie & Fitch. Quick Review.

Full disclosure This critic only watched this Netflix documentary for one reason. He wanted to see if Summer Girls by LFO got referenced. This is unquestionably one of the worst songs ever recorded. Thankfully is so stuffed. with hilarious non-secretaries that it’s insanely memorable. The doesn’t seem to have quite as much penetration on UK based worst song ever lists. It certainly deserves to be down there. If one hasn’t heard this majestically terrible piece of music here it is.

The song does get referenced in this film about the rise and fall of the titular fashion brand. Unfortunately, like a lot of Netflix documentary content, there is not much substance here. Very standard talking head stuff discussing the initial ubiquity of the brand to its desired target audience. and its gradual decline and loss of relevance within the fashion landscape. There’s Some mildly interesting stuff about the tokenism racism and positive discrimination going on within the corporate structure of the company at the time. However, this is nothing that potential viewers couldn’t get from similar pieces or any corporate failure documentaries. In the age of streaming, these are delivered in a very easily watchable tone and style. It might be worth knowing to some that the Abercrombie and Fitch CEO at the did get a kick out of being referenced along with the fact “New Kids on the Block had a bunch of hits and “Chinese food makes me sick. That said much as it might not be the worst thing after there’s nothing to expressly recommend this documentary over the millions of similarly structured pieces in Terms of the narrative and delivery. Die-hard fashion fans or those that developed an attachment to Abercrombie in their youth Might get something out of it. Otherwise, audiences will move on quickly
5/10

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Morbius. Quick Review. (Spoilers)

Let’s get this one out of the way. Sony’s ill-conceived “Spider-Man without Spider-Man” universe continues with a film that’s been sitting on the shelf since pre-pandemic times. Its lead actor is fresh off giving one of the worst performances in recent memory in House Of Gucci as well as being a general easy target/Hollywood punching bag. Surely this screen adaptation of the comic character no one asked for is primed to be one of the worst of the year. Morbid curiosity is certainly what got this writer to sit down and give the film something of a chance. Was it as bad as feared?
Yes and no. As a film, Morbius is both exactly what In the know viewers might expect and much more than that in all the wrong ways. The first act is uneventful enough. An entirely derivative po-faced origin story that’s been chopped to the bone in the editing room. Large swaths of what feels like it might have been an extended first act have gone walkabout. Then after the origin of our living vampire antihero, things go decidedly off the rails. Hilariously overdramatic speed ramp focused editing, CG that’s incoherent and looks borderline unfinished. Unbelievably muddy visuals don’t help. Unlike the first Tom Hardy Venom where there are moments where it is genuinely laughed out loud funny in a so bad its entertaining way. The first half of the film is so dreadful that it will be hard to recommend the film to ironic viewers of the feature. The least interesting thing about the final product was its initial red flag. Well, Jared Leto’s performance isn’t especially good it’s nothing like as embarrassing as what might be expected. The continued media circus around his particular style of “ method acting” continues to suggest the performances he gives on the screen will be just as insane and salacious as the way they reported. This is decidedly not the case here. Well, Morbius is terrible it’s not Letos fault.
Morbius is both exactly as bad as expected yet not consistently amusing enough in a so bad its entertaining way to be entirely recommended unless viewers want to skip to the second act. That said the fact a studio of Sony’s clout and influence let this final cut out into the world says something about how desperate they are to cash in on the Spiderman brand. When the film develops into a gloriously incoherent high camp disaster it’s entertaining as hell in all the wrong ways. Then there are the two mid-credit scenes. These are an inclination of just how desperate Sony are to sell this disaster to an audience. Any sane executive would look at the way Marvel reacted to the venom 2 mid-credit sequence in Spider-Man No Way Home and leave the appearance of Michael Keaton’s Vulture on the cutting room floor. That said the studio is so desperate to hold on to the one valuable IP they have and its new connection with a much broader more popular hub of that IP that they will use whatever scraps they’re allowed to make their leeching offshoot seem more inherently watchable. This is regardless of whatever slap they might get from their larger and more profitable parent company.
Mobius is roughly half the embarrassing disaster viewers might have expected. Unfortunately, the other half of the film despite the presence of one of Hollywood’s favourite punchline bags in the lead role is mostly quite dull. Whether experiencing the half of the film is somewhat ironically enjoyable is worth it for some viewers remains to be seen. Even for marvel completionists or fans of Sony’s misbegotten attempt to leech off the Spiderman IP, there’s very little here beyond the pathetically desperate mid-credits teases.
2/10

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Dog. Quick Review.

Look at this poster. It’s Channing Tatum with a dog. There have been enough bad family-centric animal movies in the last 20 years that surely a film that looks as generic as this one does on all levels has nothing to add. Well yes and no. On one level this is exactly the sort of film you’d expect from that poster. Channing Tatum is a former army ranger who has to transport his fellow soldier’s dog to his teammate’s funeral. So far it is a standard potential for animal-related hijinks premise. There are some of the typical bonding and misadventures audiences expect from this type of narrative. That said this is a decidedly more sombre and more ambitious film than viewers may be expecting. The piece wants to be a serious examination of the mental and physical impact left by several tools of duty as well as offering a standard “one man and his dog” movie. It’s a credit to the creative team the narrative mostly succeeds at what it sets out to do. As the credits rolled this viewer became annoyed that he could not rate the film higher than he is going to. This is because ultimately despite the greater ambitions and scope of this particular example you have seen this archetype done a million times before. The film does nothing to deviate from this very expected set of third act plot beats. If it had been more daring in this regard it would have gone from something commendable and worth seeing to the potential for true greatness. That said if an audience likes dog movies but is decidedly stuck with schmaltzy Marley and Me clones Dog rises above its generic marketing and is worth a look.
6.5/10

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Peacemaker. Season One. Quick Review.

James Gunn’s rebooted The Suicide Squad was in this writer’s top five favourite films of last year. This statement might suggest this watcher only takes in the latest comic book films. This fan will stand up for the reboot and its merits to anyone who will listen. Especially given the atrocity of the Warner Brothers studio mandated 2016 film. As someone who has found Gunns R rated work, consistently straying into edgelord territory. Suicide Squad was the perfect property for him to indulge his maverick side whilst also acknowledging a level of mainstream accessibility. Gunn was also applying the found family formula But he perfected it as a writer, throughout his continuing work on Guardians of the Galaxy. Then you have John Cena. In this viewer’s mind, Cena is one of the most underappreciated comedic actors working right now. Regardless of the memes or his wrestling persona, the man has genuine comedic chops His ability to deliver the most absurd lines completely deadpan. will always be hilarious. This viewer was very excited to see it. Gunn and Cena teaming up for this TV spin-off based on the latter’s Suicide Squad character. That said, there was still the open question as to whether or not Gunns Suicide Squad would translate effectively to a streaming series. Things looked promising when the delightfully absurd opening title sequence was released. Featuring the entire cast Doing an entirely stonefaced choreographed dance routine to a title song that sounds like the rebirth of 80s hair metal. How was the show.

It was awesome. On one level it would be very easy to look at these eight episodes. and say “you like James Gunns Suicide Squad. Well, here’s some more of it.” This is doing a disservice to just how effectively Gunn and the creative team’s tone transitions from feature film to serialized streaming series. The sense of controlled chaos that made the film such a delightful surprise is present and correct It’s wild, over the top. wonderfully splatter heavy entertainment packed with loads of. Ridiculously NSFW Quotables. Thankfully it never loses sight of being a longer form streaming series with an overarching plot. If there is one weakness, it is here. The overarching plot that Peacemaker. And a series of new and returning characters from the film get themselves involved in some delightfully wacky and out-there moments. It does, however, feel rather perfunctory for this style of antihero story. When the cast is this committed to the wild tonal shifts and the dynamic between all the core team is so much fun this doesn’t necessarily matter. Well there might not be as much going on under the proverbial Kettle helmet as something like Amazon’s The Boys. (the current gold standard for R rated superhero content.) Peacemaker was a great time.
Coming in as a. self fan of the film. It is spinning out of. Peacemaker was a great season. It’s got the same sense of controlled but committed wildness that made Gunn’s reboot such a delightful surprise This author is excited to see that James Gunn has committed to at least another season of this show along with more potential spin-offs for his take on these characters. Whatever wildly tasteless adventures await. they will rank high on this viewer’s most anticipated TV list.
8.25/10

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Goodbye Flagship Wittertainment. Coda. The Next Chapter.

A few weeks ago this author published his piece covering his relationship with and attachment to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film review show on BBC Radio 5 live. There was some speculation in the piece on how exactly the show would continue following its final BBC transmission on April 1st, 2020. Needless to say, as soon as that show ended fans got their answer. Blazing atop Apple Podcast, not 15 minutes after our dynamic duo had finished airing on the BBC was the trailer for the new Kermode and Mayo Podcast, Kermode and Mayo’s Take. From what pre-release information can be found the duo have partnered with Sony. and some of the production team behind the BBC show to produce a more general media review podcast. What exactly this will cover remains to be seen With a couple of caveats (until we hear the first episode,) this seems like a good move from our dynamic duo. Personally, this listener is hoping for some of the banter that makes Kermode and Mayo a distinctive and highly listenable partnership. not for it overrun the show in the same way. It had been done for years in its BBC incarnation. This could go either way, but the assumption that there will be no mandate in terms of length does give this former fan hope he can jump back on board with more focus on media coverage. Less formulaic inside jokes with listeners. desperate to tell the audience about what qualifications they have earned, please. The prospect of indulging in a broader media review podcast. Is not necessarily our dynamic duo going as far out of their comfort zone as one might think? Projects like Kermode and Mayos Home Entertainment Service have expanded the brand beyond its original remit of film discussion reviews. The Entertainment Service series itself was a little bit rough around the edges This was thanks to being an entire lockdown conceived and adjacent project. But there’s nothing to say a similar format can’t work in audio form. We will just have to see. When the new podcast Kermode and Mayos Take launches on May 5th. This author does not know exactly or even plans to cover His initial thoughts on the podcast after they start released. That said, he did want to make note of the next chapter/development having spent so long typing up his initial essay. He is at least curious to see how the new podcast pans out both from a release and content perspective. We shall have to wait and see.

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Toy Story In Concert. Edinburgh (Usher Hall.) Review.

In the age of Disney +, the entire Pixar canon is available at the push of a button for nothing more than the cost of a subscription. This doesn’t account for the viewers that still have physical media collections. Some (including this writer) still treasure them in the age of continued streaming dominance. What will persuade viewers to pay theatrical event prices for a screening of something They could easily sit on their asses at home and watch with their favourite snack of choice. The opportunity to see a favourite film with live orchestral accompaniment might satisfy that requirement in terms of providing an experience beyond a standard film screening. This takes us to the Novello Orchestra. Full disclosure. Having now seen three shows including two live scores from this collective this viewer had always been meaning to cover one of their Events/ tours. One of the most incredible cinematic moments of this viewer’s life occurred when seeing them perform the live score accompanied by a screening of The Muppet Christmas Carol last festive season. It was only when a certain scene appeared in its extended form that this die-hard fan realised the version of the film cleared for use with this event was the still being 4K restored directors cut with the full “When Love Is Gone” put back in. To this fan’s knowledge, it was the first time Disney has cleared this particular Version of the film for public screening anywhere for at least ten years. Even if the extended sequence drags the pacing down somewhat it was a truly magical moment to see this edition of the film with full orchestral accompaniment for the deleted sequence.
Having seen the Novello Orchestra do such an impressive job with previous shows and their Muppets live score this attendee went into the Toy Story event with high expectations. Needless to say, they were met. The best live scores can give you both an appreciation for the film seeing it in a unique presentation As well as the musicians and Iconic score being performed before your very eyeballs. The Randy Newman Disney aesthetic has been style parodied to the point where it becomes meaningless in some quarters. That said his work with Disney is the kind of thing you want to see in a Disney sanctioned live orchestra event. Filled with iconic motifs and memorable moments this enhanced the viewing experience in a way you can’t get sitting at home eating popcorn as you watch Buzz and Woody on Disney +. The one note this watcher would typically make with live score presentations is that they aren’t the best conditions for the first viewing of a film. In sections where score and dialogue overlap the orchestra can muffle the isolated dialogue track. This doesn’t matter. These Disney Novello Orchestra concerts aren’t aimed at first-time viewers. They are aimed at a broad target audience with a clear love of these iconic characters and franchises. Some may be more than happy to sit at home And fire up the film on physical media or streaming. Events like seeing a live score perfectly played by a series of seasoned musicians who are objectively very good at what they do are creating memories that will last a lot longer than a typical film event. It’s what has enabled this author to write this piece. The original Toy Story needs no introduction.
If an attendee ever gets the chance to see A Novello Orchestra concert or live scored presentation they come with the highest Recommendation. The chance to see these great film scores perfectly played to an audience that’s mostly there for the love of the films is an extremely memorable experience. Whatever events or Disney collaborations they have in the pipeline automatically have this fan’s interest.
10/10

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What An Earth Even Is “The Nan Movie.”

On the weekend beginning March 18th a very small corner of the UK Film discussion scene found a new easy target. This would enable critics to plug out their worst list with a film that seemed so severely out of touch that it’s hard to believe it’s even got released in 2022. This was the feature-length adaptation of Catherine Tate’s sketch character Nan. Not screened for press the avalanche of one-star reviews and questioning the film’s very existence appeared by birthright. If you dug a little bit deeper or even saw the film there was more going on here than it might seem on the surface. The final cut has been thrown out into UK cinemas with no credited director, A trailer released two weeks before a full theatrical release and a Warner Brothers logo on both trailer and film that is two years out of date. Having a Cineworld Unlimited card effectively means you can treat whatever gets released as if it was available on SVOD. As a lover of interestingly terrible films, The Nan Movie seemed like It would make for a fun thing to tear apart in a review. What did he find?
This viewer says this without hyperbole. The Nan Movie is one of the most fascinatingly awful things he can remember seeing in quite some time. Roughly half is what you might expect. Catherine Tate in heavy old-age prosthetics On a vaguely defined Road trip with her son ( Matthew Horne) It uses this as a thinly veiled excuse to make every kind of phobic joke under the sun. There is the material out there that can push buttons in a way that’s effective, subversive and interesting. Then there’s this style of comedy that uses the word gay as an insult and leaves it at that. An escaped relic of a time vortex stuck in 2005. It has somehow emerged into the post COVID cinema landscape of 2022. That said this is only half the film. What if this viewer claimed the other half of the film was an attempt at thoughtful drama with a de-prostheticsed Tate attempting to give Nan. a mostly played entirely straight origin story. The “jokes” in this section are effectively used as punctuation to the kind of thing that 5-10 years ago would have attempted to pack in all those older-skewing UK audiences in the wake of the success of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise. The scene in which young Nan goes to see Citizen Kane sounds like it should be a massive meme. It is played entirely earnestly. The film was originally directed by an acclaimed UK theatre producer/director Josie Rourke While these flashback scenes may not be great they at least represent some sort of creative vision. This sort of thing seems a functional level above this sort of cheaply produced feature adaptation of a sketch character. Every time there was a jarring transition between one of these sections and a comedic set piece involving a Tupperware box full of piss this viewer became increasingly fascinated by the frankensteined theatrical edition. This was clearly at one point a project with some level of ambition. Studio salvage edits are always an interesting prospect in seeing how much the original intention comes through. Recent examples include Artemis Fowl, The Woman In The Window and Chaos Walking folks. The cut of The Nan Movie as it currently exists seems like an entirely different prospect. A salvage edit where the two competing tones and visions are at war for attention from the first minute until the last. This is not even getting onto the animated interludes. These are a clear attempt to stitch the film together and account for missing footage during the road trip sections. The filmmakers retroactively add in a plot point about Nan’s son (Mathew Horne) being an animator. Whenever there is a clear instance of absent footage stitch the Live-action sections during the road trip “animations ” are utilized. These sections look like they were drawn by a five-year-old in 10 minutes on a budget of about ) £0.50. They easily win the prize for the most baffling thing this viewer has ever seen projected on the big screen in all his years of going to the cinema. The kind of thing that enables the film to be marked as finished only on a technicality. This is the closest this viewer has ever seen to an unfinished film getting an Unbelievably wide theatrical release. It’s hard to describe just how repulsive these sequences look until there is footage available ( not at the time of writing) They look like the stuff of nightmares. Then there’s the ending with its incredibly sappy attempt to bring the two timelines together and hit the final mawkish emotional beats. These might be effective if the studio mandated final product hadn’t been so clearly mangled in the edit As the credits rolled the thought the original vision for this movie deserves some kind of director’s cut could not leave this watcher’s head. He is not saying it would have been great. Rather it seems ( from what exists in the theatrical version) like a valiant attempt to take a one-note sketch character and do something with her. That said Who knows how Warner Brothers might have reacted to the original edit. There is far more to be written about the behind the scenes story here once the full picture is known. For now, this viewer can only report on what he saw in the currently released cut. This is a fascinating prospect on its own merits.
The Nan Movie is one of the most fascinatingly terrible mainstream releases to escape its way into British cinemas. On the one hand, it’s the scathingly unfunny, decidedly out of touch disaster that every critic that posted their one-star review is determined to tell you about. On the other hand, dig a little bit deeper and you can find a picture of waring creative visions. This suggests the behind the scenes narrative is more interesting than the film itself. In no way would this viewer recommend The Nan Movie to anyone other than those interested insane terrible movies that Wind up bizarrely fascinating in terms of how the hell they ever saw the light of day. For as weird as the final cut might be The Nan Movie is the best example of this in quite some time.
3/10.

Ticket to Paradise. Quick Review.

A lot of discourse within the streaming era revolves around the fact there are no longer any bona fide box office draw movie stars as of 2022. Certain media outlets’ coverage may consent that Tom Cruise is the last of his kind in terms of drawing in an audience. Yet anyone who has been exposed to the marketing for the George Clooney/ Julia Roberts 2om romantic comedy Ticket to Paradise will tell you that at least on a marketing level Universal/Working Title is certainly looking to sell this product on the star quality of its two leads. Content-wise it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Clooney and Roberts play an estranged, divorced and bitter couple. They decide to team up in an attempt to sabotage their daughter( Kaitlyn Dever) marking a Bali to seaweed farmer (
Maxime Bouttier) that she just met. An audience with any knowledge of this variety of rom-com can pretty much fill in the blanks from there. Toss in the director of the Mamma Mia sequel, the exotic Bali location and the fact that middle-age skewing productions like this are Working Titles’ bread and butter. You have a very functional genre effort Except that might be underselling Ticket to Paradise somewhat. Yes, it’s an unbelievably safe charisma-driven star vehicle meant to appear pretty much exclusively to an audience of middle-aged wine moms. That said given the merit the distinctly formulate package has on its terms. They are likely to eat it up. Clooney and Roberts have enough gentle star power to engagingly coast through a script that may be basic but has enough solid zingers within it to be pretty pleasant viewing for those that like this sort of thing. Things are helped along somewhat by a ridiculously overqualified and underdeveloped supporting cast. Beyond the Booksmart reunion, Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd especially are far too good for material this thin. That said they probably got a free holiday out of it.
It would be easy to point out and dismiss something like Ticket to Paradise sight unseen. Especially given the way the trailer and marketing plant their feet in the decidedly mediocre. It is thankfully a little bit better than that. That’s not saying it’s great. It is ultimately still a distinctly star-powered formula romantic comedy. That said the script and performances generally have enough gentle charm and charisma for the full package to quietly punch above its weight. This genre has mostly migrated to streaming in an avalanche of mediocrity at this point To see a solid entry as a big theatrical exclusive is a little bit refreshing. It won’t last regardless of how the film performs but effective counter-programming in a blockbuster-dominated theatrical release schedule should be supported.
6/10

The Invitation. (2022) Quick Review.

A struggling thirtysomething New Yorker. ( Natalie Emmanuel) discovers she has a connection to a prestigious English bloodline and goes over for one of her new family’s weddings In this pathetically low-effort slice of Gothic horror. This viewer wanted to write this review because here we have a prime example of a film that may not seem that bad on the surface. Critically it offers absolutely nothing new to the conversation. It may not be an obvious worst-of-the-year contender like Deep Water or The Bubble. It’s still relevant that every single idea here has been done before and better previously. It’s the filmic equivalent of one of the snacks That may functionally cure one’s appetite but offers no nutrition whatsoever. It will instantly be forgotten once It has been passed out to an unsuspecting public. The cast may be filled out with recognisable TV actors but they can’t elevate the most painfully derivative mainstream script one is likely to see all year. Desperate to convince the audience it has seen a Jordan Peele film Without any of the humour or spectacle That makes Peele’s work effective both within and outside its genre. The narrative takes far too long to get to one of the most painfully obvious third-act reveals possible for this type of film. If audience members don’t get The species and clasic genre text our central character has unexpectedly been inveigled in within 10 minutes of our heroine arriving at the central manor house they frankly aren’t trying hard enough. Things could be mildly redeemable If there was some level of spectacle or genuine visceral payoff to this brain-dead excuse for genre leftovers. Unfortunately, Sony/Screen Gems have edited this down to a US PG-13 ( despite The UK 15 certificate.) All the tropes of bad PG13 jumpscare horror are present and correct. How inherently lacking in any kind of merit the film is perhaps best encapsulated by an epilogue that teases a major comeuppance-focused action sequence before cutting away to credits before the events have even taken place. Farted out in the worst way possible.
The Invitation is a functionally worthless addition to the. Already a massively over-saturated gothic horror genre. It has been chopped to ribbons to secure US PG-13 rating. Everything here has been done before and better with very little on offer. Easily one of the worst of the year. Not because it does anything especially egregious but because it is the firm equivalent of reheated slop that Sony and scream Gems believe they can sell on to an unsuspecting genre public who will take anything there offered theatrically in the current climate. Even they deserve better than this.
1/10

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. Dragon Ball Virgin Review.

On the night of 22nd August 2022, this author wanted to go and see a film in cinemas with his Unlimited Card. A reoccurring theme in his writing over the past two years relates to how streaming has completely gutted what remains of the theatrical window and release schedule. The fact that something like Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero was getting a minimum one-week theatrical run in both Subbed and dubbed incarnations playing one of the biggest screens at local multiplexes was to this writer the perfect antithesis of how the prospect of theatrical releases has changed. No hate to any Dragon Ball fans out there. This viewer has gone deliberately out of his way to hunt down theatrical screenings of Pokémon and Yi-Gi-Oh movies. Massive anime franchises and films from various directors and studios do you have an audience on the big screen. It was just that in previous years any theatrical screenings would be a decidedly limited engagement. In the fight for screen space at your local overcrowded multiplex depending on what variants an anime film is released in it might get one or two screenings in subbed or dubbed editions over a few days and then migrate to streaming or physical media. Unless it was the new Studio Ghibli or something that had potentially wider appeal outside of the audience they typically would show up for theatrical presentations of anime. Sony’s acquisition of Funimation and the general broadening of the creative teams and directors whose work is more broadly known helps expand the range of anime screened in cinemas That said the new Dragon Ball Super film getting a major theatrical push with a full run across both versions would have been unheard of even five years ago. Especially with its topping of worldwide box office charts the week of its opening. . Therefore out of a desire to see something projected beyond anything else this viewer watched Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero as his first major introduction to the franchise. Did he have any inclination of what was going o?
Sort of. The weird thing about watching this with only a vague knowledge of some of the characters by cultural osmosis was that this newbie was simultaneously totally lost and completely within his element. The new film offers very little inclination of what exactly these characters’ interpersonal relationships are or why one should care if they’re not already immersed in the lore of Dragon Ball. That said you know what this viewer is intimately familiar with. Shonen anime fights. Dragon Ball gets mercilessly parodied in many circles for being nothing more than ridiculously overpowered God-like beings firing blasts of energy at one another. There’s something refreshingly honest and comforting in knowing this parody has its grounding within the deliberate text of the franchise. Sometimes even if this new viewer had one has no idea what exactly is going on a piece like this can default two expectations in a way that provides some mildly endearing turn-your-brain-off entertainment. This was very much enhanced by seeing Super Hero in its English dubbed edition. This viewer doesn’t know how the quality of Funimation’s English Dubs are generally received in 2022 but the voice work here gives off the appearance of a mildly elevated Saturday morning cartoon. This is fine on one level. Various incarnations of Dragon Ball have played on Saturday morning since the franchise broke through to western audiences. That said it was a little bit jarring knowing how much things like the 4Kids era of westernisation within anime get roundly laughed at ( and deservedly so.) it’s a little bit jarring neutrally that the English audio recorded in 2022 is not that far away from something that one might have seen in the mid-2000s. That said not knowing a great deal about this franchise this writer will reserve judgement on the dub’s production beyond those thoughts.
Watching Dragon Ball Sper: Super Hero knowing nothing beyond a few vague details about the franchise and its impact was a bizarre theatrical experience. It felt simultaneous like knowing nothing and knowing everything. You may not have seen Dragon Ball specifically but as someone who grew up watching a lot of westernised Saturday morning Anime of the early to mid-2000s, there’s something or feeling right at home with the ridiculously earnest God-like beings that are so overpowered to the point of being comical fighting each other. It was certainly more accessible than the other time in recent memory the only major new theatrical offering was a new movie from a previously established franchise and audience. This author doesn’t know specifically if it’s heresy to say that Dragon Ball is more accessible than Downtown Abbey. This writer thinks it might be more accurate that he is more familiar with the influence Dragon Ball has over anime culture specifically. That said the fact that it was the only major theatrical release the week of its opening says something depressing and potentially life-threatening regarding the state of theatrically exclusive movies. The world may have pivoted pretty exclusively to watching a plethora of mediocre streaming content from the comfort of their sofas. That said there are still those of us that like to get out and experience movies on the big screen.

My Old School. Quick Review. (FULL SPOILERS)

This documentary has been building a lot of buzz in the Scottish independent cinema scene since it debuted. The kind of stranger than fiction piece, that’s the bread and butter of people who watch these things for the insane twists and turns. On that level, My Old School is a solid entry into this genre but perhaps Has been done no favours by getting a major theatrical push. It’s a BBC Scotland production and despite a level of endearing scrappiness, it belongs nowhere near a cinema outside of the festival scene. For those that like this tone within documentaries this is decidedly worth your time. To say anything more about it would be revealing the secrets best left unspoiled on first viewing. A broader discussion occurs below the rating but if you want to dip out of this review now take the number below as a definite recommendation.
7/10.
A talking head piece related to the case of Brian McFadden. A con man and failed medical student who is committed enough to his professional dreams that he enrols back into his old Glasgow secondary school under the false identity of Brandon Lee ( not that one.) He attempts to fool both the school and potential universities after ageing out of the possibility of obtaining a medical degree. Directed by one of Lee/McFadden’s former classmates the reminiscence and recollections of the story are engaging and entertaining. These are complemented by animated segments that may showcase the piece’s limitations in some ways but do offer a level of distinction between this and other films of its nature. The one other major selling point is to get around the main subject not wanting to be interviewed on camera Scottish national treasure Alan Cumming is drafted into lip sync McFaddens audio interviews. This works remarkably well. Not only is Cumming committed to the act of delivering the performance in this way but the storytelling is far more immersive The thought That the main subject did not want to participate on camera quickly fades from memory ( at least from this viewer.) The full package might not be the absolute revelation some of the Scottish-focused marketing wants to focus on. Thankfully those that like this variety of narrative-focused documentaries will find something worthwhile here.
7/10.