The resurgence in comedically inflected whodunits very much impacted by the success of the burgeoning Knives Out franchise is one of this author’s favourite Hollywood trends as of 2022. It’s a more effective use of Rian Johnson as a creative force then. indulging in his attempt to be subversive by having one of the most beloved movie characters of all time become a bitter old man drinking milk out of a space cows udder. See How They Run takes Saoirse Ronan and Adrien Brody Stone along with a fair dollop of Wes Anderson and applies it to a period piece that directly involves Agatha Christie’s reverence over this entire genre of media. Specifically, the narrative is set in short in London’s West End theatre scene around the opening of The Mousetrap. This still has theatrical cultural cachet in 2022 given that it’s one of the most famous whodunits around and the longest-running play in West End history. All this sounds on paper like fertile grounds to make a potentially effective entry as part of this comedic mystery revival. Add to this the fact this is one of the increasingly rare Fox productions under Disney to get a decent-sized theatrical push and a fun marketing campaign and these viewers’ expectations going into an opening day screening were relatively high. How was the film? Incredibly disappointing. The fact we have two incredibly strong examples of this mini-genre resurgence being done so well ( the other being Only Murders in the Building) Makes a final product like See How They Run look aggressively functional. There’s a mild charm in the period details and the performances from the two leads but the central case lacks any major spark or sense that it has any kind of momentum beyond going through the motions. A who’s who of B list British character actors turn up as potent suspects but there are so many of them to the point where they all remain massively underdeveloped for a feature runtime. The entire thing comes across not only as a “grey pound” film ( some of which can be good) but as an entirely milk-toast affair built for audiences who are simply looking to watch something to fill the time. The dry no sugar Weetabix of the current post-COVID theatrical release schedule. The piece is saved somewhat from being worse by one element of its ending. Not the killer reveal. That is as perfunctory as can be expected That said the villain’s motivation does offer some delightfully entertaining metacommentary on a certain element of media discourse that is as old as the media itself. If one is looking for great moments and plot reveals that elevate otherwise mediocre to bad films here is a fantastic example. Unfortunately, most of the under-60s will have deservedly checked out by that point. This viewer’s main thought is that it will be far too late to win them back. See How They Run was woefully disappointing for this viewer. Jettisoning all the potential the comedic mystery revival can offer in favour of something entirely perfunctory with little flavour or value beyond Something one can see in the increasingly barren theatrical exclusive release schedule of 2022. There is one major element the ending that suggests a far more daring and interesting film than the one audiences have received up until that point. This writer’s prevailing thought was why Disney had chosen this thing specifically for increasingly rare cinema releases. It’s the exact sort of streaming filler built for Hulu or Star on Disney Plus. This question remains unanswered at this point. If one is not afraid of some mildly R-rated content I suggest sticking to Selena Gomez asking, Why the Bassoon Cleaner is in the Sex Toy box? One of the best media moments of 2021. 4/10
How do you follow up on the most overrated film of the last 10 years? Mad Max: Fury Road. A visually sumptuous and technically splendid opus with no emotional engagement whatsoever. If you’re George Miller this question has two answers as posited by his follow-up feature. Make something that is just as visually splendid in places but will not have the commercial or awards appeal. Infuse it with an emotional core that eventually reveals itself to have the opposite problem or be far too earnest and sappy in comparison to Fury Road. Hence you have Three Thousand Years of Longing. A fairly straightforward adult-orientated fable/Aladdin riff with Tilda Swinton playing a jaded academic who analyses narratives and Idris Elba as the genie inside the bottle she finds in the grand bazaar of Istanbul. Much of the narrative takes place in a flashback with Elba genie telling Swinton various stories about his life well he waits for her to bestow three wishes upon him in their hotel room. The episodic flashback narratives have moments of wildly engaging with visual invention that screams “this thing will have a cult following in years to come.” The visuals do a great deal of the heavy lifting in making up for the fact that a lot of the screenplay itself comes across like a slightly ponderous Audible Original Drama. Both Elba and Swinton remain committed to the wild shifts delivering strong central turns. For two-thirds of its runtime, it’s the sort of blatantly flawed but engaging peace where the things that work are strong enough to give it a recommendation regardless of any holes that can be drilled into the full package beyond the surface. Then the final act hits and the narrative shift for the sentimental may still alienate viewers that were on board until this point.
Anything can be interpreted as having some level of subjectivity. Something like Three Thousand Years of Longing may not be the most obvious example of this but it is certainly one of the fairest. Hugely flawed but worth the experience. 6/10.
The much-deserved worldwide success of RRR and the incredibly thin theatrical release slate have resulted in much longer runs fur Indian cinema that always had a presence at the UK box office. These are now taking up some of the premium screens during their opening week of release. In a certain way, this could have been anticipated. Brahmastranot only positions and markets itself as the most expensive Hindi language film. A genuine ground-up attempts to build a shared universe using this as the first feature. When RRR director SS Rajamali tweeted out the trailer this writer figured it was worth having a look at. It looked like a generic blockbuster with an Indian coat of paint but did get across some fairly impressive-looking CG spectacle. Playing for a full two weeks at one of this author’s local cinemas with not a lot of other options he figured it was worth having a look at. If nothing else seeing Indian movies in cinemas enables one to conveniently go for a bathroom break during the interval. How is the film? Exactly what you would expect. Hyper derivative, ridiculously earnest big-budget nonsense. Sections of it come across like this weird passion project with nonsense mythology and world-building that’s on one level incredibly overwritten but also feels farted out by an AI fed exclusively on a diet of Marvel movies. On one level this is not unsurprising. This is India’s attempt at creating a homegrown spin on the Marvel formula for crossover appeal. However, it’s not just Marvel that Bamastra cribs wholesale from in terms of its western franchise influence. The incredibly threadbare narrative shows a DJ developing elemental powers. He is acclimatising to the new world around him and his new world of heroes lovers and villains. Taken wholesale from Harry Potter, Avatar The Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Z. Along with Shang Chi if you are looking for a more specific Marvel connexion. All were built around the central amulet of the title. On one level the entire thing feels just about as basic as you can get. that being said. The derivativeness is played so earnestly with huge stretches where the budget is very clearly on screen that if one is in the mood for this kind of very base-level blockbuster this author would say that something like Bamastra could very well scratch that itch. This is combined with a theatrical audio mix so loud that it could theoretically blow someone’s ears off ( especially after two and three-quarter hours) This viewer’s prevailing thought as the credits rolled was that this screening was a better use of his Unlimited card than 90% of the theatrical exclusives that are offered in western cinemas post-COVID. For as generic as Brahmastras full package feels it was designed for the biggest, loudest and highest spec format imaginable. If one is looking for entry-level spectacle filmmaking set to these parameters this would honestly be a solid option 5/10
A lot of discourse within the streaming era revolves around the fact there are no longer any bona fide box office draw movie stars as of 2022. Certain media outlets’ coverage may consent that Tom Cruise is the last of his kind in terms of drawing in an audience. Yet anyone who has been exposed to the marketing for the George Clooney/ Julia Roberts 2om romantic comedy Ticket to Paradise will tell you that at least on a marketing level Universal/Working Title is certainly looking to sell this product on the star quality of its two leads. Content-wise it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Clooney and Roberts play an estranged, divorced and bitter couple. They decide to team up in an attempt to sabotage their daughter( Kaitlyn Dever) marking a Bali to seaweed farmer ( Maxime Bouttier) that she just met. An audience with any knowledge of this variety of rom-com can pretty much fill in the blanks from there. Toss in the director of the Mamma Mia sequel, the exotic Bali location and the fact that middle-age skewing productions like this are Working Titles’ bread and butter. You have a very functional genre effort Except that might be underselling Ticket to Paradise somewhat. Yes, it’s an unbelievably safe charisma-driven star vehicle meant to appear pretty much exclusively to an audience of middle-aged wine moms. That said given the merit the distinctly formulate package has on its terms. They are likely to eat it up. Clooney and Roberts have enough gentle star power to engagingly coast through a script that may be basic but has enough solid zingers within it to be pretty pleasant viewing for those that like this sort of thing. Things are helped along somewhat by a ridiculously overqualified and underdeveloped supporting cast. Beyond the Booksmart reunion, Kaitlyn Dever and Billie Lourd especially are far too good for material this thin. That said they probably got a free holiday out of it. It would be easy to point out and dismiss something like Ticket to Paradise sight unseen. Especially given the way the trailer and marketing plant their feet in the decidedly mediocre. It is thankfully a little bit better than that. That’s not saying it’s great. It is ultimately still a distinctly star-powered formula romantic comedy. That said the script and performances generally have enough gentle charm and charisma for the full package to quietly punch above its weight. This genre has mostly migrated to streaming in an avalanche of mediocrity at this point To see a solid entry as a big theatrical exclusive is a little bit refreshing. It won’t last regardless of how the film performs but effective counter-programming in a blockbuster-dominated theatrical release schedule should be supported. 6/10
A struggling thirtysomething New Yorker. ( Natalie Emmanuel) discovers she has a connection to a prestigious English bloodline and goes over for one of her new family’s weddings In this pathetically low-effort slice of Gothic horror. This viewer wanted to write this review because here we have a prime example of a film that may not seem that bad on the surface. Critically it offers absolutely nothing new to the conversation. It may not be an obvious worst-of-the-year contender like Deep Water or The Bubble. It’s still relevant that every single idea here has been done before and better previously. It’s the filmic equivalent of one of the snacks That may functionally cure one’s appetite but offers no nutrition whatsoever. It will instantly be forgotten once It has been passed out to an unsuspecting public. The cast may be filled out with recognisable TV actors but they can’t elevate the most painfully derivative mainstream script one is likely to see all year. Desperate to convince the audience it has seen a Jordan Peele film Without any of the humour or spectacle That makes Peele’s work effective both within and outside its genre. The narrative takes far too long to get to one of the most painfully obvious third-act reveals possible for this type of film. If audience members don’t get The species and clasic genre text our central character has unexpectedly been inveigled in within 10 minutes of our heroine arriving at the central manor house they frankly aren’t trying hard enough. Things could be mildly redeemable If there was some level of spectacle or genuine visceral payoff to this brain-dead excuse for genre leftovers. Unfortunately, Sony/Screen Gems have edited this down to a US PG-13 ( despite The UK 15 certificate.) All the tropes of bad PG13 jumpscare horror are present and correct. How inherently lacking in any kind of merit the film is perhaps best encapsulated by an epilogue that teases a major comeuppance-focused action sequence before cutting away to credits before the events have even taken place. Farted out in the worst way possible. The Invitation is a functionally worthless addition to the. Already a massively over-saturated gothic horror genre. It has been chopped to ribbons to secure US PG-13 rating. Everything here has been done before and better with very little on offer. Easily one of the worst of the year. Not because it does anything especially egregious but because it is the firm equivalent of reheated slop that Sony and scream Gems believe they can sell on to an unsuspecting genre public who will take anything there offered theatrically in the current climate. Even they deserve better than this. 1/10
On the night of 22nd August 2022, this author wanted to go and see a film in cinemas with his Unlimited Card. A reoccurring theme in his writing over the past two years relates to how streaming has completely gutted what remains of the theatrical window and release schedule. The fact that something like Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero was getting a minimum one-week theatrical run in both Subbed and dubbed incarnations playing one of the biggest screens at local multiplexes was to this writer the perfect antithesis of how the prospect of theatrical releases has changed. No hate to any Dragon Ball fans out there. This viewer has gone deliberately out of his way to hunt down theatrical screenings of Pokémon and Yi-Gi-Oh movies. Massive anime franchises and films from various directors and studios do you have an audience on the big screen. It was just that in previous years any theatrical screenings would be a decidedly limited engagement. In the fight for screen space at your local overcrowded multiplex depending on what variants an anime film is released in it might get one or two screenings in subbed or dubbed editions over a few days and then migrate to streaming or physical media. Unless it was the new Studio Ghibli or something that had potentially wider appeal outside of the audience they typically would show up for theatrical presentations of anime. Sony’s acquisition of Funimation and the general broadening of the creative teams and directors whose work is more broadly known helps expand the range of anime screened in cinemas That said the new Dragon Ball Super film getting a major theatrical push with a full run across both versions would have been unheard of even five years ago. Especially with its topping of worldwide box office charts the week of its opening. . Therefore out of a desire to see something projected beyond anything else this viewer watched Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero as his first major introduction to the franchise. Did he have any inclination of what was going o? Sort of. The weird thing about watching this with only a vague knowledge of some of the characters by cultural osmosis was that this newbie was simultaneously totally lost and completely within his element. The new film offers very little inclination of what exactly these characters’ interpersonal relationships are or why one should care if they’re not already immersed in the lore of Dragon Ball. That said you know what this viewer is intimately familiar with. Shonen anime fights. Dragon Ball gets mercilessly parodied in many circles for being nothing more than ridiculously overpowered God-like beings firing blasts of energy at one another. There’s something refreshingly honest and comforting in knowing this parody has its grounding within the deliberate text of the franchise. Sometimes even if this new viewer had one has no idea what exactly is going on a piece like this can default two expectations in a way that provides some mildly endearing turn-your-brain-off entertainment. This was very much enhanced by seeing Super Hero in its English dubbed edition. This viewer doesn’t know how the quality of Funimation’s English Dubs are generally received in 2022 but the voice work here gives off the appearance of a mildly elevated Saturday morning cartoon. This is fine on one level. Various incarnations of Dragon Ball have played on Saturday morning since the franchise broke through to western audiences. That said it was a little bit jarring knowing how much things like the 4Kids era of westernisation within anime get roundly laughed at ( and deservedly so.) it’s a little bit jarring neutrally that the English audio recorded in 2022 is not that far away from something that one might have seen in the mid-2000s. That said not knowing a great deal about this franchise this writer will reserve judgement on the dub’s production beyond those thoughts. Watching Dragon Ball Sper: Super Hero knowing nothing beyond a few vague details about the franchise and its impact was a bizarre theatrical experience. It felt simultaneous like knowing nothing and knowing everything. You may not have seen Dragon Ball specifically but as someone who grew up watching a lot of westernised Saturday morning Anime of the early to mid-2000s, there’s something or feeling right at home with the ridiculously earnest God-like beings that are so overpowered to the point of being comical fighting each other. It was certainly more accessible than the other time in recent memory the only major new theatrical offering was a new movie from a previously established franchise and audience. This author doesn’t know specifically if it’s heresy to say that Dragon Ball is more accessible than Downtown Abbey. This writer thinks it might be more accurate that he is more familiar with the influence Dragon Ball has over anime culture specifically. That said the fact that it was the only major theatrical release the week of its opening says something depressing and potentially life-threatening regarding the state of theatrically exclusive movies. The world may have pivoted pretty exclusively to watching a plethora of mediocre streaming content from the comfort of their sofas. That said there are still those of us that like to get out and experience movies on the big screen.
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
This documentary has been building a lot of buzz in the Scottish independent cinema scene since it debuted. The kind of stranger than fiction piece, that’s the bread and butter of people who watch these things for the insane twists and turns. On that level, My Old School is a solid entry into this genre but perhaps Has been done no favours by getting a major theatrical push. It’s a BBC Scotland production and despite a level of endearing scrappiness, it belongs nowhere near a cinema outside of the festival scene. For those that like this tone within documentaries this is decidedly worth your time. To say anything more about it would be revealing the secrets best left unspoiled on first viewing. A broader discussion occurs below the rating but if you want to dip out of this review now take the number below as a definite recommendation. 7/10. A talking head piece related to the case of Brian McFadden. A con man and failed medical student who is committed enough to his professional dreams that he enrols back into his old Glasgow secondary school under the false identity of Brandon Lee ( not that one.) He attempts to fool both the school and potential universities after ageing out of the possibility of obtaining a medical degree. Directed by one of Lee/McFadden’s former classmates the reminiscence and recollections of the story are engaging and entertaining. These are complemented by animated segments that may showcase the piece’s limitations in some ways but do offer a level of distinction between this and other films of its nature. The one other major selling point is to get around the main subject not wanting to be interviewed on camera Scottish national treasure Alan Cumming is drafted into lip sync McFaddens audio interviews. This works remarkably well. Not only is Cumming committed to the act of delivering the performance in this way but the storytelling is far more immersive The thought That the main subject did not want to participate on camera quickly fades from memory ( at least from this viewer.) The full package might not be the absolute revelation some of the Scottish-focused marketing wants to focus on. Thankfully those that like this variety of narrative-focused documentaries will find something worthwhile here. 7/10.
Of all the careers and legacies tarnished by the dawn of #metoo the allegations and ousting of John Lassiter were the most difficult to process from a personal perspective. As a viewer who grew up with a lot of classic era Pixar and watched him guide Disney feature animation into the CG era in real-time. At his best, the man was/is a creative genius. Being involved in some of the most iconic family entertainment to ever exist and spawning a legion of imitators. Ultimately because left-leaning film and media coverage thinks Hollywood has far more morals than it does it’s not hard to see why even in a disgraced state getting Lassiter to kick start the animation arm tied to a mid-level Hollywood production company might seem to investors like an attractive prospect. Hence we have Luck the first feature overseen by Lassiter as head of Skydance Animation. The main brand is mostly known for spearheading creative teams on Tom Cruise’s blockbuster efforts over the last 10 years (otherwise known as some of the best big screen entertainment ones can find.) There’s no reason conceptually they can’t build a footprint within the animation. Especially if Lassiter brings a chunk of former Pixar employees along with him. What do the initial results look like? Mostly not good. The thing with Luck is that Skydance has a studio that had a chance to establish a genuine creative animated identity One may argue they did this. Only if this identity was content with being creatives that are desperate to tell you they have at least seen a Pixar movie. Hiring a director best known for Disney’s direct video efforts doesn’t help. The narrative has some level of potential with the unluckiest person imaginable discovering the land of luck. Unfortunately what could be an opportunity for real creativity with a genuine artistic blank slate beyond the premise turns into the most generic CG animated family film possible. Luck itself is conceptualised by stereotypically Irish leprechauns. The first act has a mild charm and some decent slapstick. It’s the genuinely atrociously middle section that lets the whole project down. The ending writes itself from its descent into atrocious returning to generic pablum. If Skydance Animation had come out the gate swinging with a genuinely solid opening feature there would be endless discourse about the createive value of people who left-leaning Twitter see as Problematic. In the end, this feature is nothing more than an attempt to recreate Pixar’s glory years. I.E which every contemporary CG animation studio has tried to do in some form since the early 2000s. Hence the film very well-defined and easy target status. Having given the film a chance it’s hard not to think that on some level this is very solidly earned. There’s nothing here for even more discerning young audiences. While Luck is far from the worst thing ever it won’t trouble or spark Amy imagination’s beyond those attempting to make a cheap facsimile of better material. 4/10.
The first film telling the story of the popular Cornish folk band was very typical within its style of production line Britcom. That said in an era where British multiplexes are awash with this kind of “grey pound” material Fisherman’s Friends was one of the better efforts. It will not rock any viewer’s world but the sense of very mild affable charm with this screen adaptation of the band story was likely as good as you can get with the material. It was successful enough for investors to think there should be more. Going into the sequel this viewer did not have a great deal of expectation. Ultimately this is the prime example of a sequel that no one asked for. That being said there was a level of mild shock from this cinema attendee as the opening scenes played out The dawning realisation became just how surgically soulless the whole enterprise of the sequel’s existence feels. There’s a moment very early on where Dave John’s character describes himself as the meat within an interviewing journalist pasty that sets the tone for the rest of what was about to unfold. The marketing for the sequel is desperate to tell audiences that it’s centred around the band’s headlining slot at Glastonbury. In reality, for the follow-up to existing with the story having been told in the original the narrative manufactures a lot of painfully forced drama and rage-inducingly base-level “politically incorrect” gags. There’s also a genuine attempt to tackle James Purefoy’s character’s alcoholism and a moment where someone falls down a mine shaft in one of the most bizarre tonal shifts this watcher can remember. At least r since a certain scene involving Jamie Dornan’s declaration involving a honey bee. The whole endeavour feels shockingly sour as if it was made by people that did not even see the first film. This blatantly isn’t true as the screenwriters of the original takeover directing duties here. The entire thing is equal parts corporately atrocious. There is one mildly rousing performance sequence opening the third act. By that point, any inclination to tag this project as anything other than a total disaster is long gone. It of course ends with the obligatory 2021n credits cover of Wellermen. This brings up the immediate thought that the success of Nathan Evans could be a big reason why this sequel exists. Thanks, Nathan. You may indirectly be responsible for one of the worst films of the year. Not to mention one of the most baffling British productions this reviewer has seen in quite some time. It would be nice to think that Fisherman’s Friends: One and All is destined for a legacy on the autopsy table of those that analyse baffling creative failures. There’s certainly enough material there. That said this viewer isn’t sure that be enough interest in the film’s mere existence to drum up that sort of reaction. In reality, the sequel is still targeted at the sort of over 50s crowd who will lap up anything if it comes across on the surface as potentially inoffensive. Even they deserve much better than this. 3/10.