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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Pleasure. Quick Review

An aspiring porn star relocates from Sweden to the US in hopes of becoming the next big thing in an indie drama that on one level is exactly what it looks like on the tin. An attempt to reframe and offer a female gaze on a decidedly male-dominated industry. Que ensuing debate about how the film presents the concept of performer agency within the business. Much of this might be expected given the narrative formula on display but it’s somewhat refreshing to see a film about this subject that on one level is not lecturers to the audience about its position one way or the other. The decidedly mumblecore presentation gets in the way of just how effective these sequences can be at times. This sort of material is catnip to the mildly pretentious festival crowd whose only regular streaming subscription is MUBI ( who have struck up a very on-brand distribution deal here.) Yet as our central character gets deeper into the industry the narrative implementation of shock value becomes more overt. When the film first appeared on the festival circuit they were distributors who wanted to cut it down from an NC-17 to an R rating. Having seen it in its complete uncut form the one sequence likely mandates that rating is one of the most disturbing things in recent media. The sort of thing that requires a very stiff drink of choice afterwards. That said in eventually presenting both sides of the central argument when depicting the porn industry it’s hard not to think that the film offers no definitive idea of what it wants to do or say regarding any of the events or scenarios depicted. It’s worth seeing for a strong lead performance and the moments that do work. Unfortunately in its attempt to offer a separate take on a very well-documented debate Pleasure eventually falls foul of that lecturer’s tone it spends a chunk of the narrative trying to avoid. Festival-type crowds will eat it up regardless. There are commendable elements throughout Pleasure but it’s the sort of production those in the target audience will recommend realising it has little audience appeal outside of those who were built to champion it.
6/10

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.