Pray For The Devil. Quick Review.

Another week. Another extremely tired and worthless PG-13 horror effort vomited into a desperate theatrical exclusive landscape. This time a devout Catholic nun in training develops a relationship with a potentially possessed young girl. Has anyone seen any number of exorcism films before this? Then they have already seen everything Prey For The Devil has to offer. Incredibly wrote jump scares in toe.

It also unsurprisingly becomes an incredibly derivative female trauma narrative in the third act. The fact that a combination of words has to be presented together in 2022 is extremely disappointing. If there’s one element that elevates this worthless effort beyond The Invitation (the worst PG-13 horror of 2022 it is the cast. Jacqueline Byers is pretty solid in the lead doing a discount Rhea Sehorn impression. Colin Salmon fills the “actor far too good for this” slot with aplomb. Even 13 Reasons Why’s Christian Navarro doesn’t embarrass himself. One would think anyone who stuck with that show who stuck past season one has the potential to be majorly blacklisted given how atrocious the latter seasons were on every level.

That said despite the actor’s best effort Pray For The Devil is still utterly without merit. It has no ideas to bring to a very tired subgenre. Nothing that viewers won’t have seen done before and better. When Barbarian and even Smile (the latter of which this author did not even particularly like) are horror theatrical released options there’s no reason to go out and support Pray For The Devil unless one is utterly desperate for genre fare.

Barbarian. Journey Beats Destination.

When you have seen and been desensitized to whatever media from across the spectrum can throw at audiences   finding something that can remix a lot of genre staples into something genuinely surprising and fantastic in its own right should be celebrated. This logic has catapulted Stranger Things to juggernaut status in our current media landscape.

So along comes Barbarian. The latest mainstream studio horror from the US arriving in the UK on a wave of good buzz from various genre festivals in the US. This viewer did not know a ton about it beyond the vague premise in the first trailer of a woman renting an Airbnb with sinister overtones and the appearance of a certain actor that had been spoiled in a fake viral marketing campaign. This isn’t as much of a spoiler as one might think but it’s best to know where’s little as possible going in. Plenty of media ( especially in the horror/thriller genre markets itself on this principle.) That said this is one of the most definitive and effective examples of that marketing trope in recent memory

This is to the extent that it’s hard to know exactly what to give away. This review will settle for saying this match. A young woman ( Georgina Campbell) rolls into a run-down area of Detroit having booked an Airbnb for a job interview the next day. When she gets there it’s quickly discovered that her accommodation has been double booked by another man (Bill Skarsgård.) Over the next few days, they discover there might be something in the basement. That’s all one should know If indeed one is truly inclined to know something about the journey this narrative takes the viewer on.

Barbarian won’t be for everyone. Watching this on Halloween night this viewer never had a total grasp only where the plot might be heading in the best way possible. Plenty will check it out as the narrative starts piling down absurd reveals on top of one another. This watcher loved it. Very rarely is it possible to think of a film in any genre that combines so many conflicting tones and styles into a cohesive package that feels like a singular vision in and of itself. Lord knows how this screenplay got signed off and made into something this effective At delivering a truly exceptional exercise in subverting audience expectations. Not to mention tackling one of the most tired and popular themes within 2022 movie-making and doing it so effectively that it may become a definitive text on (insert thematic spoiler here.) Beyond that, this is just a perfect delightfully nasty rollercoaster combining every emotion possible into 108 minutes of runtime. Plenty of people will think it’s far too silly but it also comes across as exactly the film the creative team was intending to make.

As the credits roll if one has seen enough genre films of this stripe it will be perfectly possible to look at the raw plot beats and think about how a certain amount of the reveals and narrative progression were not that surprising. That said it would be borderline impossible to guess any of the sharp left turns the narrative takes to get to the eventual resolution. Combine this needle drop and cut-to-credits combo that will come across as instantly memorable within cult movie circles and Barbarian feels like watching the instantaneous birth of a new midnight movie favourite. It could be playing the late Friday night re-release and retrospective slots for potential decades to come.

Barbarian won’t be for everyone. It takes far too many wild swings to not alienate a section of the audience that won’t be the very standard film suggested by the trailer and marketing. that said this is a master class in how to subvert audience expectations without sacrificing a core audience who will likely be ride or die for this thing in years to come. Striking the kind of tone that James Wan’s Malignant was desperate to achieve in 2021 but did not get anywhere close to beyond the bonkers third act. Barbarian is like that but for the entire course of its runtime. The kind of thing that’s best experienced with an audience who have no idea what’s coming. This watch was so immediately jazzed by the experience of seeing firm for the first time with a busy Halloween audience who were discussing the wild shifts of what they had just seen as the credits rolled this viewer and the immediate fan went to see the film again before it left UK cinemas. Even when one knows the eventual destination Barbarian held up on second viewing. If one is a fan of this kind of visceral genre movie an instant cult favourite has arrived.

Bros. Quick Review.

The box office failure of this LGBTQ rom-com in the US has been something of a talking point among those that emotionally invested in the success of media. Oh no. A fairly standard R-rated rated com with the only mild novelty being the sexuality of the characters underperformed theatrically. In an era where the majority of this genre (regardless of sexuality) has pivoted to streaming. This shouldn’t be in the least bit surprising for anyone who’s paid attention to media trends over the last five years. Thus the film arrived very quietly in the UK but did get rolled out on a decent number of multiplex screens. Was this the kind of breakthrough in representation for the mainstream to get behind? all the kind of middling effort that will still enable fans and activists to write any potential criticism off as just homophobia.

The truth is that it occupies an awkward middle ground. Bros are consistently funny and solidly charming. Even as a mid-level theatrical release it’s the kind of thing that this viewer would give a solid if far from a glowing recommendation. The dialogue is snappy with laughs throughout. Performances are solid across the board. as someone only familiar with Billy Eichner through his role in The Lion King CG remake, he has some comedic chops although he can prove a little grating over the 115-minute runtime. The real find here is Luke McFarlane who before this had starred in a variety of heterosexual Hallmark moviesMcFarlane combines a level of ease with the distinctly R-rated material whilst oozing natural charisma. If his agents play their cards right we could be looking at our next major Hollywood star. The narrative also leans into earnest conventionality rather effectively. The thing is that while the script does have enough genuine laughs to paper over its gaping cracks it also wants to satirise and play into playing a certain distinctly irritating variety of male machismo. This is not helped by the marketing containing perhaps the worst poster of the past several years. The marketing is playing decidedly into this awful impulse to attract the audience implied by the terrible title. ultimately the narrative does want to try and subvert this with the previously mentioned level of sincerity. Ultimately though the tone also wants to attract the exact audience is trying to target for comedic effect. There is more than enough here to like and recommend regardless of the half-hearted attempt at subversiveness that falls distinctly flat on its face.

Similarly well Eichner and the creative team won’t want to hear this there’s plenty of adult crossover YA and LGBTQ material with a global audience that’s just as frank with its discussion of sex, identity and gender as anything the creative team behind something like Bros can offer. The show may be inconsistent at times but Laurie Nunn and the creative team behind Sex Education at their best would eat Eichner and friends for breakfast from a quality perspective. this is without the pacing problems and long runtimes that have plagued these Judd Apatow adjacent comedies for going on 15 years at this point.

Bros is a distinctly likeable modern rom-com The sort of easy-to-watch consistently funny offering that’s very easy to recommend despite the overlong runtime and pacing problems that come with the territory in terms of this variety of R-rated comedy. It’s also simultaneously nowhere near as smart or progressive as those involved think it is. Combine that with a marketing campaign that leans into all the worst elements of Male machismo in the most grating way possible (regardless of the sexual orientation of the characters) and it’s hard not to see why the film flopped in the US regardless of the homophobia argument. In this genre’s migration to streaming, it might be fair to argue that unless one has massive star power on hand ( like the recent Ticket to Paradise) this genre is not that viable on the big screen. This Will be looked at as hugely detrimental by some viewers. UltimatelytThis writer would argue it doesn’t particularly matter. In an age where high-spec TVs are more accessible than ever ( these may provide better quality than your local cinema) There’s no reason to specifically hunt down mid-range comedic films like this in a theatrical presentation. Well, the creative team behind Bros may come across as thinking it’s much more transgressive as a piece than it is it’s also destined to find its home on streaming. Given the modern landscape, this is perfectly fine.

Smile. Quick Review.

Everyone has seen a trailer well their initial reaction is to go “well this looks stupid.” A prime contender for this viewer would be the 2022 horror hit Smile. A nurse (Sosie Bacon) witnesses a suicide that transfers a titular curse, whereby she is stoked by supposedly creepily smiling figures. As of yet no one has survived or broken a curse without killing themselves. You have seen this exact premise done to death across a wide variety of different horror subgenres. Except in a 2022 context it’s now infused with the modern jump scare and a central MacGuffin/ put device that looks more silly than creepy. Nevertheless, the trailers and marketing did suggest that Paramount would have a hit on their hands as this is the exact sort of thing that plays well with a mainstream horror crowd. So it has proved. Within the landscape of the downturn of a post-pandemic, box office Smile has been one of the few non-blockbuster bright spots. It’s fairly safe to assume that those behind it are now attempting to gleefully fast-track some variety of sequels but they can churn out as rush out as fast as possible. Even still this critic avoided the film for weeks thanks to the combination of not being a massive horror fan and the laughable trailer. With so little coming out as a theatrical exclusive in 2022 (and it looking to stay that way until Netflix and Amazon can get their way into the multiplexes) there was a weekend where Smile was the only thing available not already seen with this viewer’s unlimited pass. So this watcher went along begrudgingly but he did still have some level of open-mindedness. Surely it can’t be that bad?
it’s not. in part because Sosie Bacon delivers a central performance far too strong for the incredibly thin material and also because this in turn means the creative team taking the silly premise with some level of seriousness. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Despite Bacon’s committed work in the lead role to say this thing is “no plot, just jump scares” would actively be underselling how hard this thing relies on the most tired trope within modern horror. Jumpscares can be done effectively. There’s a superb one in Mike Flanigans The Haunting of Hill House and David Bruckner’s underseen The Night House features another decidedly memorable effort in the recent past. That said most jumpscare horror can be treated with a level of inane inevitability if one has seen enough of it. As soon as the audio drains out of the mix one simply waits for the 3…2…1 BOO to occur accompanied by a string of music before things reset and a cycle happens again. That is all Smile is. Relying on audiences’ investment within this brand of horror and expecting that the curse has some level of creep factor to it. Even in the moments throughout the film where there’s some effective build-up to a scare one knows tension will instantly deflate because the resolution always comes back to that stupid-looking smile. The creative team are committed to not nudging or winking at the audience which makes things innately much better but this is still extremely through the motions style modern horror.

Smile may not be as bad as the fiercely generic trailer suggests but that doesn’t mean it has anything new or interesting to offer. It’s also not difficult to see why it’s become a breakout post-pandemic horror hit. it’s the exact sort of meat and potatoes jumpscare horror that plays well in the mainstream. this author is not attempting to compare it to whatever variety of majorly overrated independent fair A24 put out this week. Filmmakers like Ari Aster and his ilk are some of the most overrated currently working. That said (especially with the strength of the performance) Smile is crying out to potentially have more meat on the bone than the most written collection of jumpscares humanly possible. Paramount are laughing all the way to the bank so they won’t care regardless.

Black Adam. (2022) Review.

There’s a moment during the second act of Dwayne Johnson’s gestating DC antihero movie where the character played by James Guns’ wife Jennifer Holland from Gunn’s ongoing Suicide Squad run gets a one-line cameo. Is this blatantly nepotistic? Sure. That said this viewer was blatantly more invested in what these characters might be getting up to, than anything in this perfunctory effort. This viewer isn’t entirely convinced that Johnson would be willing to do a choreographed dance title sequence to a song that sounds like a rebirth for hair metal produced in 2010 that was unearthed by Gunn and his team 11 years later. that said Peacemaker has a great first season and Black Adam feels devoid of any redeeming qualities. that was before Gunn got effectively handed what looks to be the keys to the Kingdom in terms of DC visual media.
Johnson has been trying to get this vehicle off the ground for many years at this point. To the extent that when one sees the final film it feels like a project from the first wave of Johnson’s movie career before studio executives unlocked his natural charisma. This brought up a broader question for this viewer? If Johnson feels subjectively miscast in his vanity project why did he invest so much time in getting this thing over the line regardless Yes Johnson has an appropriately imposing physique to play the part from a physical perspective. The stoicism required deliberately robs him of any personality the character or his performance might possess. As a viewer not familiar with the character beyond knowing he originated as a Shazam villain it was somewhat crazy to see the power set and origin elements of both characters mirrored pretty much exactly on screen. Except DC already gave the world a pretty good that earns its quality precisely because it leans into the silly but wish-for fulfillingly earnest the character and his power set are. The sequel has been sitting on the shelf for over a year at this point. regardless of the final product will likely only be remembered as part of Hollywood’s Who major 2023 attempts to turn the slightly manic theatre kid energy of West Side Story remake breakout Rachel Zegler into the next major star The only thing Black Adam can offer Is an embarrassing po faced flip on the same material.
This barely scratches the surface of what other strains of embarrassing the film has to offer. After delivering one of the worst performances of all time butchering the ABBA songbook anytime Pierce Brosnan chews the scenery will look tame by comparison. Aldis Hodge is far too good an actor for a role like Hawkman. Even Noah Centineo appears to be building a solid niche for himself in 15 Netflix teen and tween movies that look functionally identical.
The finished product feels like a commemorative choose-your-own-adventure narrative from across the 30 years of modern superhero blockbusters where every choice made is incorrect Namely fusing the pantomime theatrics within the majority of the pre-MCU superhero efforts with the trend-changing shared universe attempt of post-MCU superhero entertainment. That’s not even touching the desperate feeling mid-credits scene that was getting spoiled by the creative team days in advance in an attempt to drum up any potential interest in this failed bellyflop of everything wrong with bad genre movies in 2022
Dwayne Johnsons Black Adam is terrible. this sort of painfully forced studio embarrassment can trip up the careers of everyone involved. the fact that Johnson is miscast in a project he fought so heavily for is just the icing on a cake that has been going stale for far too long. Director
Jaume Collet-Serra’s previous collaboration with Johnson was the Disney Jungle Cruise movie. That was arguably just as generic as Black Adam but it at least had a sense of fun knowing exactly what it was and how to pull it off most effectively. Black Adam faceplants when attempting to clear the same rather low bar

 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.

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.
PS. Here is the How to Get Away With Murder clip referenced. Mild NSFW warning ahead.

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

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.

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.