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 Lyle,Lyle,Crocodile. Quick Review.  

When the trailer for Lyle,Lyle,Crocodile first dropped this writers impression upon first viewing is that we were looking at the next instant meme within the film world. Come on. It’s Shawn Mendes as a singing crocodile with songs by Pesek and Paul. . Evan Hansen’s feature adaptation to the beach From M night Shamalan’s Old probably doesn’t help. Even the choice of Mendes and the attempted catering to his tweenage white boy audience felt a little desperate. Nevertheless, the chance to go and see this thing during the standard UK family movie preview weekend with something of an ironic slant was too good to pass up. Has the latest film adjacent meme been birthed?
Not really. No doubt certain audiences will clip out certain sections of the musical sequences and claim that they are best experienced on their favourite variety of hallucinogens. When taken within the full context of the film though beyond the bunkers premise Lyle Lyle Crocodile plays it is incredibly safe. A very standard found family affair typical within its brand of all attempted all-ages family entertainment. There are diversions into the support of pantomime theatrics one might expect from the concept and trailer. Javier Bardem plays the struggling magician that previously owned Lyle before he is found by the child that the film centre. he is having a great time in knowing exactly the level of ridiculousness the off-the-wall antics implied (if not delivered) by the premise suggests. the narrative receives a much-needed shot in the arm every time he appears on the screen. unfortunately, he is only in the film for about 20 minutes in total. Brett Gelman looks as if he wandered in directly from the set of Stranger Things and is effectively playing the same character. The rest of the narrative plays out with a certain level of gurning earnestness. This might be more inoffensive than outright terrible but one has to keep reminding themselves that this is that the end of the day a movie about a singing crocodile. Leaning more into Bardem’s performance would at least deliver on some of the memorability the premise suggests. The most interesting thing about the film in its final form is that it has very clearly been chopped down in the edit to a more family film adjacent to 106 minutes. Two major events in the second and third acts simply take place off-screen. this includes some of the set-ups for the standard “get to the show on time” finale. One should know what to expect from there. As for the songs. They are. find for what they are. those that have an allergic reaction to the Pesek and Paul style of aggressively poppy musical theatre will heat them by default but they are far from the worst things ever. Mendes is the sort of aggressively anonymous pop boy perfect to deliver them. The entire thing from top to bottom screams of an attempt to be aggressively inoffensive. This probably results in a better film overall. That said anyone looking to enjoy the finished film at least somewhat ironically will be left disappointed.
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is a far safer film in the bananas premise and marketing campaign would imply. it does have moments of pantomime energy from Javier Bardem’s presence. everything else about this thing feels decidedly uneventful. Unless one is decidedly indebted to this brand of slightly sterile family entertainment or wants to see what the singing crocodile movie has to offer Lyle, Lyle Crocodile is best avoided.
5/10

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The Woman King. Quick Review.

Viola Davis can give absolutely anything gravitas. There is a clip from Season One of How to Get Away With Murder that exemplifies this perfectly. she has to deliver a blatantly ridiculous Shonda Rhimes-Esque plot reveal in the most on-the-nose way possible. Yet she delivers said line as if it is demanded in a Royal Shakespeare Company. In this way, it makes sense that she won her Oscar for a decidedly strategy theatre adaptation. The prospect of Davis leading an action movie/ historical epic. in the aftermath of that Oscar now that she now has the cultural and Hollywood cachet to get projects off the ground. Hence we have The Woman King. A very loose historical action movie with a vague basis in the true story of a tribe of female African warriors that protected a small nation in 1830s Africa. Is the film any good?
Absolutely. The Woman King might not have the same blow-your-socks-off energy that makes Top Gun: Maverick such an endearing prospect for anyone with a heartbeat and love of genuine big-screen cinema. That said they are very much cut from the same cloth. old fashioned nuts and bolts action movies that do not set out to reinvent the wheel but are simply ridiculously solid at exactly what they sent out to do. No one will claim the very tried and tested story structure following a new recruit entering the tribe is anything other than entirely perfunctory. Every story beat is entirely predictable from start to finish That said the strong cast and impressively cinematic spectacle behind the camera make sure the final product punches above its weight on several different levels. If there’s one element that prevents the full package from rising even higher it’s that the direction within the action scenes is not quite as confident as it could or should be. For the film to rise to unqualified best-of-the-year type recommendation. That said The Woman King offers the best type of representation for the Hollywood ideal of “strong female character.” The narrative and actions effectively cell or group of heroines cell are central group of heroines are totally badass and that’s the beginning of end and end of it. This is a textbook example of how this style of representation can be handled with a degree of populism that makes it incredibly effective.
The Woman King is ridiculously rocking solid from start to finish. The kind of earnestly fictionalised but cinematic historical epic that’s becoming increasingly rare in the age of cinematic universes and guaranteed mega-blockbusters being the only surefire bats in the theatrical landscape of 2022. It is also the kind of female empowerment story in which the narrative and actions stand on their own in a way that we should be seeing a lot more of in mainstream Hollywood. Ignore the inherent racism within the film’s online backlash. If any of this sounds like it might be up a potential viewer’s street the film is decidedly worth seeking out. Especially if it is still playing theatrically in your city.
8.5/10
PS. Here is the How to Get Away With Murder clip referenced. Mild NSFW warning ahead.

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Amsterdam. Quick Review.

One of online film discourses’ favourite things to trot out every time he makes a new film is that David O Russell is a terrible person. That said his variety of star power-driven mid-level Oscar bait has always proved successful enough for a variety of studios to finance it. As this writer has said in his reviews previously Hollywood is not as moralistic as hayper left-leaning #filmtwitter thinks it is. From a personal perspective, this writer is a fan of Silver Linings Playbook but the rest of O Russell’s filmography comes across as largely forgettable. Thankfully depending on who you ask O Russell’s latest effort Amsterdam appears to be the moment where his bubble has burst. A tooth-gratingly unfunny crime comedy/ satire in which Margot Robbie, Christian Bale and John David Washington are framed for a crime they didn’t commit whilst also inadvertently getting themselves involved in the rise of fashion within 1930s Amsterdam. An $80 million movie when 80% of the budget appears to have gone to the cast salaries this is very much O Russell’s usual shtick. Except well previous efforts of his could get by on the charisma and the ridiculously overqualified cast alone. Amsterdam is a film where it feels like the hubris of the many stakeholders involved in getting this thing out the door is the only reason it exists. Is Disney/Fox the only reason why this thing exists? It’s not just the three leads. As is usual for O Russell a who’s who within the modern A/B list turns up for varying levels of the role some lasting mere minutes. They are working from a script where every line lands with a painful thud lacking any sort of comedic or satirical direction and the sense that this cast has been assembled from a phone book of Hollywood contacts that are here under potential duress. It’s just a parade of famous people assuming that production has the potential to be good thanks to their mere presence. Why is the rating this reviewer is about to assign not even lower one may ask? Well because one of the most famous women alive turns up for screen time that is surprisingly plot-critical. and is dealt one of the most cartoonish deaths for any media character released in 2022. It’s straight out of Looney Tunes. The fact is a celebrity of her stature would agree to something this cartoonish is just inherently hilarious in both the right and wrong ways. Especially given that this person has just dropped an album with a sentiment on the hook of the lead single designed to be sloganeering and eaten up by fans across every conceivable piece of merch you can think of. One of the most baffling yet memorable film moments of 2022.
Amsterdam is objectively terrible. Regardless of David O Russell being an easy target, his brand of star-driven fare has decidedly run out of steam. The huge cast seems to be doing it out of obligation. The full package represents one of the most deserved flops in recent filmmaking. Plenty will delight in O Russell’s misery but regardless of that his filmmaking
3/10.

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The Lost King. Surprisingly Berserk

The bones of King Richard III being found in a Leicester car park is one of the most intriguing human interest stories to hit the UK in quite some time. The sort of stranger-than-fiction tale primed for a grey-pound film adaptation. Hence for the 10th anniversary of the events depicted here comes the screen version with awards baiting British Pedigree. Reuniting director Stephen Freeasus with screenwriters Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope following their Oscar-nominated crowd-pleaser Philomena seems like such an obvious play on paper. One could argue a certain amount of this materialises on screen as well. For one thing, Sally Hawkins is playing Philippa Langley the woman credited with spearheading the initial investigation. Coogan writes himself a role with the put up an ex-husband. The events and discovery of the king’s bones are dramatised on screen. So far so straightforward. Except this is a far weirder much riskier narrative device hiding just below the surface.
Now it’s time to get into the deranged stuff. Within the opening act of this dramatisation s Hawkins’s version of Langley goes to see a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III. She then gets followed and has sporadic visions of this incarnation of Richard as portrayed by the actor she saw on stage (Harry Lloyd.) As the narrative progresses Langley in this version of the story has full-on conversations with the Shakespearean incarnation of the titular Last King. On one level this might be trying to say something thematic about the ubiquity with which certain media interpretations of historical figures take hold as the main narrative without any consideration for what their broader trait might have been. From a functional drama perspective though this narrative choice is completely beserk and brings up all sorts of ethical questions. These go beyond the fact that Leicester Uni is in the process of attempting to sue the filmmakers for their portrayal within the piece. Did the real Philippa Langley sign off on this? Hawkins’s interpretation of the character spends the entire film on the verge of a nervous breakdown. in another version of the same story with an identical narrative device, she could just as easily have gotten sanctioned on mental health grounds. Instead, because the core of the story is still effectively played out (they do find their bones) Langley gets treated as a hero where 5 minutes earlier she could have just as easily been detained as a total nutcase. Were the film not distinctly targeted at an audience who would choke on their tea and biscuits if they were to see any media above the compulsory 12A rating. You know what though. From this viewer’s perspective, these grey pound dramas are so dime a dozen that to see one that takes an active risk of this memorably audacious is definitively refreshing. Whether or not this swing for the fence works will depend on individual viewers’ discretion. it’s definitively sold effectively by Hawkins in the central role. Whether or not there are active grounds for defamation within the drama doesn’t seem to have crossed the players involves minds as they doubled down on the increasingly and potentially unhealthy depiction of the central characters’ mental health. That said having seen so many of these kinds of British comedy dramas over the years it’s rare to find one that any audience who sees it will not forget in a hurry.
The Lost King is that rare example of a film that may look inoffensive on the surface but hides a memorably audacious plot device just below the surface. Whether or not this bonkers decision works for individual audience members is down to individual taste. That said it’s rare to see a film of this type stick so definitively to a decidedly divisive mechanic. Much as the decision to include it may end up with the filmmaker getting egg on their face on several different levels The wild swing of its very existence is worth supporting. Not your typical Sunday afternoon matinee fare.
6/10

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Moonage Daydream. Review.

David Bowie is one of these media consumer musical and cultural blindspots. Not to say that his classic songs aren’t classics for a reason. More than the prospect of the first documentary officially sanctioned by the Bowie state following the star’s death Will be a more exciting prospect to fans with knowledge of his wider catalogue. This viewer’s main interest was seeing how it compared to the embarrassing unauthorised Bowie feature drama Stardust starring Johnny Flynn (it is indeed “time for a tasty debrief.”) With no rights to use any of the music or any sanctions from the Bowies stakeholders beyond a vague handwave the inapt piece was a very specific case of “you were so preoccupied with whether you could you didn’t stop to think if you should.” With that sorry excuse for a biopic, decidedly memory holed we can move on to something that does have the Bowie team seal of approval. This can be a dicey prospect in and of itself but Moonage Daydream deserves consideration. So how is the documentary from this perspective overview not automatically enamoured with the subject word about catalogue or cult of personality?
Incredible. The critical factor to note about Moonage Daydream is that it’s not really a documentary. There are talking head pieces and interview snippets from across bowie’s life and career. The film is much closer to something like an extrasensory experience. Does that sound pretentious? Possibly. That said a mix of terrific editing and stunningly immersive sound design let the 135-minute experience wash over the viewer in the most effective way possible for this tone of the material. The live performance sequences are frankly electrifying. Crafted for the biggest screen and highest spec sound system possible the entire thing will be catnip for those that love the big screen experience ( regardless of their familiarity with Bowie) The knowledge this had an early IMAX release and is something of the showpiece in one of this viewer’s favourite film formats was both incredibly unsurprising and deeply frustrating given that he missed that special engagement. Needless to say based on his experience watching on a screen that had not been upgraded since it opened in 2009 yet could still convey how stunning this was as a piece of spectacle the IMAX experience for this has the potential to be mind-blowing.
By framing the final product as more of an experience than any kind of career retrospective. the Bowie estate gets around the problem inherent with these kinds of hagiographies in that their fingerprints aren’t too heavily associated with the final product (at least with someone Not as familiar with Bowie history.) it also feels emotionally honest to the subject’s multitude of chameleon-like personas throughout his career. Honouring his legacy but not by giving off the consistent energy that the final proiduct has been tampered with by its stakeholders to approximate a version of Bowie’s story with the edges supremely rounded off. Find the biggest and loudest cinema possible and immerse yourself in one of the year’s best films.
Moonage Daydream is absolutely astonishing. Even from the perspective of a viewer, not that familiar with the David Bowie back catalogue. A wonderfully kaleidoscopic theatrical showpiece tribute to one of the most influential media figures of the last 50 years. Whatever one’s familiarity with the subject work if the documentary is still playing anywhere near potential viewers theatrically this writer would recommend doing everything in one’s power to get the chance to see this projected. Pure big-screen spectacles are relatively rare in the age of streaming. The fact one of the three released thus far in 2022 has deservedly made $1.5 billion as a strong contender for the year’s best film is only a great thing. Heres another. It deserves a chance to be seen outside the fandom for its subject.
9/10

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Don’t Worry Darling. Review. (Suggestive Spoilers)

When Olivia Wildes’s directorial debut Booksmart was released into the world it was the exact sort of thing gleamed onto by a very specific stripe of film Twitter pundits. They saw it as some variety of revelation. Thats despite it being nothing more then your standard teen comedy just from a female perspective. It was decidedly above average for its genre with two breakout performances from Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein but nothing that will rock anyone’s would. Even with that film’s underperformance at the box office creatives and studio heads at least initially saw something in Wildes’s direction to give her a notably bigger production for her second feature.

In Don’t Worry Darling. Florence Pugh and Harry Styles play an idealised 1950s suburban couple whose lives may not be all they appear. The drama related to the film’s production has been thoroughly picked over by every major gossip outlet one would expect to cover a story of its potential magnitude. This writer had been following it with the level of bemused interest as someone who thought Booksmart was largely very overrated, to begin with. That said the finished film did deserve a chance regardless of all the rumours and conflict surrounding it. Did it deliver when given said opportunity?
No. This author would contest that the discourse within the film marketing rollout and release has propped up a final product that beyond a very glossy surface is the very definition of blandly mediocre. Whatever the vestige of truth regarding what went on behind the scenes here the final product suggests that at least initially Wilde had the resources to call in the best behind-the-camera talent available. The drama simultaneously looks impressively cinematic. It counterproductively feels distinctly over-stylised to within an inch of its life. It was designed for high-spec theatrical presentation which is not often the case with this variety of mid-level drama/thriller fare. No doubt there will be plenty of people arguing that we as a film-watching public should be going out and supporting theatrical exclusivity for a broader range of movies. Espasacly for that has mostly pivoted to streaming in 2022. Not when its the derivative,

From a content and performance perspective, Florence Pugh is acting circles around every other cast member in the central role. She elevates the decidedly mediocre material into something mildly compelling She can give the threadbare script some level of gravitas it decidedly doesn’t deserve. Enough to see the narrative play out to a resolution. The problem is that those that have seen enough material within this brand of psychological thriller/drama will watch the price go through the motions wondering which variant of the resolution the creative team went with. Especially in an age where two excellent examples of this subgenre in the streaming TV space have been nominated for a total of 37 Emmys between them over the last two years. The fact that one of them comes from Marvel Studios will automatically disqualify it in the heads of some viewers but that’s their problem. By the time Don’t Worry Darling Meanders towards a conclusion it answers the prospect of which ending it’s going with some variation of all of them and the final results are genuinely embarrassing. It’s safe to say that Alex Garland may not have made the worst toxic masculinity movie of 2022. The ironic thing being the one element “Men” gets right is the admittedly wild ending sequence. This is not even mentioning Harry Styles’s performance which is better than some watching me think but enters the realm of embarrassment any time he has to overact or deliver any kind of, massively emotive dialogue. There’s also a wide variety of hugely pretentious insert shorts that come across like everyone involved here really thought they were making the next Black Swan. They were not. The three teenagers who whooped with paroxysms of joy at the mere appearance of Harry Styles on-screen credit as this viewer left his screening won’t care though.

It would be very easy for this writer to relish in Don’t Worry Darling’s failures as someone who thought Olivia Wilde’s directorial prospects were massively overstated, to begin with. That said this is giving the film deviled more brain space than it deserves. Much there are bright spots this is the kind of over-stylised but threadbare thriller the discerning viewers will have seen plenty of before and will go on to exist long after Don’t Worry Darling is a vague footnote exclusively for the production drama. Much as there are bright spots the narrative’s lack of anything majorly interesting from a content perspective combined with a genuinely terrible final act makes the whole thing feel a bit pointless. Unless one likes this specific brand of psychological thriller or is interested in what earth the final product looks like given over behind the scene reporting viewers’ time would be much better spent elsewhere.
4/10

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Do Revenge. Quick Review.

All you need to know about Do Revenge is this. After a sex tape leak In the opening scene, the central character (played by Riverdales Camila Mendes) conveys a speech that feels like it could be delivered by Veronica Sawyer. Behind this, the intro to Olivia Rodrigo’s brutal is specifically timed so that the smash into the guitar solo is played over the title logo. The prospect of what is effectively a queer-coated Heather’s fan film for the Olivia Rodrigo generation is not automatically a bad thing. Granted Heather’s ending can’t play dramatically in 2022 without intense backlash ( note that this writer hasn’t seen the musical adaptation. ) That says more about how painfully relevant a film celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2022 still is. All the other archetypes and performances typical of this style of teen revenge narrative are here. Just with plenty of extreme liberal buzzwords that fall somewhere between the open-heartedness of Sex Education and the general sense the creative team put these in because they will get them automatic good notices within certain audiences.  
There’s still plenty to like here. Mendes is joined by Maya Hawke fresh off her dalliances effectively selling her in-built Stranger Things audience on her artistic soft porn masquerading as a folk music career. The two have solidly snarky chemistry and deliver strong engaging lead performances. They’re joined by several YA adjacent actors that one may recognise as “ that person from that thing” if they have consumed any team-focused media within the last five years. Not to mention a recurring celebrity cameo that fits “bizarrely memorable” to a tea. Fun set pieces and enough bite within the dialogue help make this pretty pleasantly easy watch for this variety of team black comedy. Even if the film never develops an identity beyond its influences. It’s not hard to see why this has become a word-of-mouth hit since it dropped. With the media, it’s indebted to accessible within the same genre and target audience it won’t be difficult for the teens of today to connect with the material something like Do Revenge is directly lifting from. This viewer is somewhat surprised the firm has received a certain level of acclaim given that it does not have an original bone in its body. That said this very fact is not an automatic disqualification. Something like Do Revenge proves that a film can be entirely successful at achieving what it sets out to do with its lack of originality in place as a parameter.
6.5/10.

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Bodies,Bodies,Bodies. Quick Review

OK. Let’s rip this plaster off. This writer has often shown his contempt towards those online film pundits who treat the very mere presence of the A24 logo as some sort of Messiah complex. This came up a little bit earlier in the year with Alex garland’s disastrous men but here it is crystallised at its nadir. with the completely irredeemable Bodies, Bodies Bodies.
Maria Bakalova and Amandla Stenberglead lead a team of toxic teenagers as they play a game of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies during a hurricane. The only thing is that a killer might be in their midst. That’s it. The film markets itself as some sort of satire but appears to have no target beyond the very vague presence of “zoomers, man”. It has no defined targets or thesis beyond knowing these people are insufferable and expecting an audience who wouldn’t know what populism is if it slapped them in the face like a wet fish to lap it up. They will deflect any criticism of this pile of bilge with” it’s ironic man” as rapidly as the characters on screen. Anything that outright requires the shield of irony as a distinct explanation as the sole reason for why a piece of media works for an audience is a conceptual failure. This isn’t Amazon’s The Boys, In that case, the deliberately irredeemable characters are simply a foundation to set up intriguingly well-developed mechanics and world-building. Eric Kripke and his team know when to push buttons but also know when they can fall back on ridiculously solid fundamental strengths. Or even a Succession where after a season this viewer could acknowledge some level of objective quality in the snide way the Roy family banterer with each other. Even if this viewer questioned what possible evolution there could be (haven’t seen the following seasons.)

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies has none of those excuses purely because what it attempts to plaster onto an incredibly thin attempted ironic satire to the bare minimum of genre conventions for this variety of horror. There’s also the fact that this kind of teen discourse has limited extensions beyond a purely online space. This viewer was left with the impression that you’d have to be within a very niche circle that could perhaps be divided up even further. Anyone not immersed in this world with half a brain cell has better things to do with their lives. The most infuriating thing about watching this pathetic excuse for a dumpster fire is knowing that it will have strong defenders who live inside of a different variation of the very privileged Film Festival-type bubble the film is attempting to poke fun at. These people deliberately poke holes in anything that might have even been seen by a wider audience and are truly flabbergasted that no one wants to watch their obscurer 3-hour indie film. Some of these can be good but the sense of gatekeeping among those films that latch on within similar spaces( as Bodies, Bodies bodies has done) Has genuinely put this writer off attempting to ever sell his film writing/ reviewing ability to an audience again.

Bodies, Bodies, Bodies is completely vile in the least interesting way possible. A devastatingly one-dimensional, thinly veiled attempt at satire. Focusing on the sort of team targets that do not exist outside of social media. The defensive shield of irony is on display from minute one. The film is so lacking in any major substance beyond the thinnest of genre tropes, there’s so little to be ironic about. The worst element of this viewing experience was watching this excruciating disaster play out on screen knowing that it will have defenders Despite it being fundamentally divorced from any audiences beyond themselves. The Gwyneth Paltrow vagina candle of film hipster culture. An insufferable pile of one-dimensional nonsense Random blue checkmarks on Twitter will tell viewers it’s some kind of ragingly daring deconstruction. It’s not. A24 and distributors of its ilk need to stop idolising films like this as opposed to the genuinely brilliant talents they have given and platform and distribution. The Daniels, the Saftie Brothers and Bo Burnham to name the three most obvious.
0/10

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See How They Run. Quick Review.

The resurgence in comedically inflected whodunits very much impacted by the success of the burgeoning Knives Out franchise is one of this author’s favourite Hollywood trends as of 2022. It’s a more effective use of Rian Johnson as a creative force then. indulging in his attempt to be subversive by having one of the most beloved movie characters of all time become a bitter old man drinking milk out of a space cows udder. See How They Run takes Saoirse Ronan and Adrien Brody Stone along with a fair dollop of Wes Anderson and applies it to a period piece that directly involves Agatha Christie’s reverence over this entire genre of media. Specifically, the narrative is set in short in London’s West End theatre scene around the opening of The Mousetrap. This still has theatrical cultural cachet in 2022 given that it’s one of the most famous whodunits around and the longest-running play in West End history. All this sounds on paper like fertile grounds to make a potentially effective entry as part of this comedic mystery revival. Add to this the fact this is one of the increasingly rare Fox productions under Disney to get a decent-sized theatrical push and a fun marketing campaign and these viewers’ expectations going into an opening day screening were relatively high. How was the film?
Incredibly disappointing. The fact we have two incredibly strong examples of this mini-genre resurgence being done so well ( the other being Only Murders in the Building) Makes a final product like See How They Run look aggressively functional. There’s a mild charm in the period details and the performances from the two leads but the central case lacks any major spark or sense that it has any kind of momentum beyond going through the motions. A who’s who of B list British character actors turn up as potent suspects but there are so many of them to the point where they all remain massively underdeveloped for a feature runtime. The entire thing comes across not only as a “grey pound” film ( some of which can be good) but as an entirely milk-toast affair built for audiences who are simply looking to watch something to fill the time. The dry no sugar Weetabix of the current post-COVID theatrical release schedule. The piece is saved somewhat from being worse by one element of its ending. Not the killer reveal. That is as perfunctory as can be expected That said the villain’s motivation does offer some delightfully entertaining metacommentary on a certain element of media discourse that is as old as the media itself. If one is looking for great moments and plot reveals that elevate otherwise mediocre to bad films here is a fantastic example. Unfortunately, most of the under-60s will have deservedly checked out by that point. This viewer’s main thought is that it will be far too late to win them back.
See How They Run was woefully disappointing for this viewer. Jettisoning all the potential the comedic mystery revival can offer in favour of something entirely perfunctory with little flavour or value beyond Something one can see in the increasingly barren theatrical exclusive release schedule of 2022. There is one major element the ending that suggests a far more daring and interesting film than the one audiences have received up until that point. This writer’s prevailing thought was why Disney had chosen this thing specifically for increasingly rare cinema releases. It’s the exact sort of streaming filler built for Hulu or Star on Disney Plus. This question remains unanswered at this point. If one is not afraid of some mildly R-rated content I suggest sticking to Selena Gomez asking, Why the Bassoon Cleaner is in the Sex Toy box? One of the best media moments of 2021.
4/10

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Three Thousand Years of Longing. Quick Review.

How do you follow up on the most overrated film of the last 10 years? Mad Max: Fury Road. A visually sumptuous and technically splendid opus with no emotional engagement whatsoever. If you’re George Miller this question has two answers as posited by his follow-up feature. Make something that is just as visually splendid in places but will not have the commercial or awards appeal. Infuse it with an emotional core that eventually reveals itself to have the opposite problem or be far too earnest and sappy in comparison to Fury Road. Hence you have Three Thousand Years of Longing. A fairly straightforward adult-orientated fable/Aladdin riff with Tilda Swinton playing a jaded academic who analyses narratives and Idris Elba as the genie inside the bottle she finds in the grand bazaar of Istanbul. Much of the narrative takes place in a flashback with Elba genie telling Swinton various stories about his life well he waits for her to bestow three wishes upon him in their hotel room. The episodic flashback narratives have moments of wildly engaging with visual invention that screams “this thing will have a cult following in years to come.” The visuals do a great deal of the heavy lifting in making up for the fact that a lot of the screenplay itself comes across like a slightly ponderous Audible Original Drama. Both Elba and Swinton remain committed to the wild shifts delivering strong central turns. For two-thirds of its runtime, it’s the sort of blatantly flawed but engaging peace where the things that work are strong enough to give it a recommendation regardless of any holes that can be drilled into the full package beyond the surface. Then the final act hits and the narrative shift for the sentimental may still alienate viewers that were on board until this point.

Anything can be interpreted as having some level of subjectivity. Something like Three Thousand Years of Longing may not be the most obvious example of this but it is certainly one of the fairest. Hugely flawed but worth the experience.
6/10.

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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