Abominable. Movie Review.

One of my stupid claims to fame as a theatrical animation fan is seeing every DreamWorks and Pixar film in theatres for the last 15 years. DreamWorks have a few spectacular highs (especially the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy) but at their worst they can make you as a viewer seem stupider for watching them (I still can’t quite believe I saw Turbo and The Boss Baby in theatres.) how does there second release for 2019 Abominable fair. Compared to the normal onslaught that greets your typical DreamWorks production the advertising seemed very muted (at least in the UK.) If I were to guess it would be because Universal who now owns DreamWorks are more interested in advertising llumination films which have an advertising campaign similar to the iPhone parody episode of Futurama where everyone gets advertising implants in their eyes. I knew it was about a yeti, it was a co-production with the Chinese arm of DreamWorks that got bought out during the film’s production and that Chloe Bennet (as a huge Agents Of Shield fan i’m interested to see where she takes her career now that the final season has wrapped production) was doing the lead voice. I knew very little else. How did the film turn out?
Honestly, it’s a shame the film has just been shoved out into UK cinemas because I actually thought it was on the better end of recent DreamWorks productions that aren’t the Dragon trilogy. Yes it does wear it’s influences on it’s sleeve (ET, the Dragon trilogy and the original Ice Age to name three that I had in mind) but it executes these cliches and beats with a fair amount of conviction. There is a little bit of gross out/ kid pandering humour but the film mostly kept me engaged and amused throughout (even if it’s nothing groundbreaking or hilarious.) It also helps the film is one of the best looking DreamWorks productions (especially when the characters get out the city) with lus and well realised environments that will definitely please those looking at the films more technical aspects. The film is generally a pleasant watch without reinventing the wheel in any way at all. Considering some of the brain rooting sludge DreamWorks have been responsible for in the 2010s films like this are definitely a step in the right direction.

7/10

The Goldfinch. Movie Review.

I mentioned in my review of The Farewell how buzz from film festivals can effect desire to see a film as soon as possible for those us that can’t attend these festivals. It can also go the other way. This was the case with The Goldfinch a two-and-a-half hour drama based on a 700 page Pulitzer Prize winning novel I saw reviews coming out of the Toronto Film Festival claiming but the film was one of the years biggest disasters. It’s belly flop at the US box office seemed to solidify to that notion. I took a chance to see the film when it opened in the UK (where it has also flopped) as I knew it wouldn’t be in cinemas for long. Is it really that bad?
Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong the film is a confused, bloated, pretentious mess but I don’t think the film will live long in the memory of those that like to analyse famous cinematic disasters. It’s too boring and lacking in any truly offensive missteps (beyond its sheer pretentiousness.) A solid cast flit in and out of the narrative but the most interesting thing any of them have to offer from a viewers perspective is trying to work out why Finn Wolfhard was (a) cast as a Russian/Ukrainian character in the first place and (b) laughing at his dreadful attempt at an accent. I know Wolfhard’s one of the most popular young actors around at the moment but would have would have killed them to cast a more natural sounding actor. Other than that if films were food items this would be unsalted crackers. Mostly inoffensive but very dull and with nothing truly interesting to offer. If you like dry and confused character dramas the film might have something to offer but i’d recommend but you take the advice suggested by the film media and avoid it.
4.5/10

IT Chapter 2. Movie Review

I’m not a huge horror watcher but I really enjoyed the first IT (as someone who hasn’t read the novel.) Strong sense of place, good performances,effective threat and good banter between the kids made it one of the biggest surprises of 2017 for me. Thus I was excited for Chapter 2 even if the adult side of the story is notorious for not being as good. The very middling reviews and the 170 minutes time put me off until a couple of weeks after release. How did Chapter 2 turn out.
Honestly,Chapter 2 sucks and it’s a real shame. I have to give it points for some of the performances and one effective set piece (James McAvoy in the hall of mirrors) but aside from Bill Skarsgard everything that made the first film such a surprise has gone. In its place is a boring and bloated mess. It honestly feels like they released a directors/fan cut as the theatrical version. We know this isn’t the case because director Andy Muschietti is working on a supercut of both films together but whether this sees the light of day remains a question. This is not even touching the horror elements. The horror in the first film wasn’t great but the first film might as well be the scariest film of all time compared to this. The film has some of the most poorly executed jumpscares I’ve ever seen. Two of them are on the verge of so bad it’s hilarious. It’s everything wrong with jump scare horror in a 170 minute package.
The film is a borderline disaster on pretty much all levels outside of the performances. All the good will the first film built up in me as a viewer had gone about 40 minutes in. I’d be willing to see how the film plays as part of that previously mentioned supercat if it ever gets released and Skarsgard is so good as Pennywise that I’d be willing to watch a third film if it was just him terrorising people but this would be under significantly diminished expectations.
4/10

Jessica Jones. Season 3 Review.

The final Netflix/Marvel season to stagger over the finish line the final season of Jessica Jones arrived with a certain sense of obligation for viewers like me who had seen all 148 episodes of the Marvel Netflix universe across five individual shows and 12 individual Seasons. Despite how bad it got at certain points (i’m looking at you Iron Fist S1) the completest in me was far too stubborn to give up on this universe until Netflix did. The universes mass cancellation seems like the death rattle for the 13 episode Netflix modal. Considering I’d only give above average grades to 5 of the previous seasons (Daredevil seasons 1 and 3 remain a gold standard for R rated superhero media.) how did season 3 of Jessica Jones turn out.
Honestly well it’s not bad (and certainly better than season 2) the review that I’m about to give could be cut and pasted for the majority of previous Netflix/Marvel seasons.) As with all of these seasons it’s far too long with an inordinate amount of filler storylines and stuff that just fills time. Krysten Ritter is still absolutely sensational in the central role and thankfully there’s less time spent on her love life this season (the underwritten love interest from season 2 comes back for one episode this time around. Jeremy Bob is consistently strong as the villain and his scenes are consistently very engaging.
The season has two other major elements. The Hogarth plot was the worst element of last season and watching an actress of Carrie-Anne Moss’s talent be forced to mope around in the way that she was got borderline insufferable very quickly. While nothing special her plot this time around in which she meets a old frame and discovers that the flames husband is cheating is considerably better. Finally there’s Trish. Considering the show runners half-heated attempt at revealing her Hellcat powers in the season 2 finale I was expecting her plot this season to be absolutely horrendous. Don’t get me wrong it starts off that way.Her Krysten Ritter directed solo vigilante episode is easily the worst episode of the season. Her actual powers are never fully realised. Over the course of the season she becomes an anti-hero and her story becomes a lot more tolerable although like with Hogarth it’s never anything great.
Season 3 of Jessica Jones is a good indicator to the middling quality of the Netflix/Marvel endeavour as a whole. There’s probably a good to great 6 to 8 episodes season in here but this season requires that the typical 13 episode quota be filled. The series finale is stage (especially as a finale to the Netflix/Marvel Universe) closing off some threads but leaving some conspicuously open in a way that implies there could have been a fourth season had this entire venture not been cancelled. That said as someone who has seen all 161 episodes in this universe Daredevil was the only show no that was consistent across its entire run and beyond specific seasons of the other shows I think it’s the one that will have by far the longest legacy. If you ask me it was the general anti climbax of The Defenders miniseries that killed this universe off but that’s another piece entirely.
6/10.

Judy. Paragraph Movie Review

Renée Zellweger delivers an absolutely incredible central performance in what is otherwise a fairly standard but solid biographical drama focused on concerts performed by Judy Garland in London 6 months prior to her death. Whatever problems the film has the central performance keeps it engaging throughout. This is to the extent that a lot of the supporting cast are significantly underwritten. Jessie Buckley one of the best UK actresses working today gets a supporting role as in as Garlands assistant and Michael Gambonn turns up for around 5 minutes of screen time as there promoter who brings the concerts to London. Judy’s mother/ daughter relationship with Liza Minnelli seems like an afterthought only having one extended scene. It’s also hard not feel like the films edges have been somewhat softened as it’s the kind of BBC Films production that will probably play the 9 p.m Sunday slot in 3 years time. For all these problems so much time is given to the powerhouse central performance (Darci Shaw is also excellent playing Garland at the height of her teenage fame) that the film is very recommendable if you like this type of biopic.
7/10.

Ready or Not. Paragraph Movie Review.

Samara Weaving is the new bride forced to play a deadly game of hide and seek with her rich new relatives in this enormously enjoyable satirical horror. A sharp script, effective fore, some great set pieces, a central performance from a clear star in the making and a 95 minute run time come together to create one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in recent memory. Yes the film has faults and hardly any development for the relative characters but for this type of film that’s forgivable. It also owes a great deal The Purge and The Cabin in The Woods among others but it’s so much fun that I didn’t particularly care. Highly recommended for genre fans and much more deserving of your time then then the bloated mess of IT Chapter 2.
8.5/10

Glow. Season 3. Review.

The benefit of one of your favourite actors/ actresses being in something is that you are always more inclined to check it out as a viewer. That was my relationship to the first season of Glow. I know next to nothing about wrestling (although I did see Fighting with my Family this year) but it was the new project starring Alison Brie in the lead role and I’ve never seen her be less than great in anything. So I tried the first episode and was really surprised with its quality. Season 1 was a very pleasant surprise but it was with Season 2 to that the show transitioned into one of my favourite Netflix originals. It was a more ambitious and developed season tackling a broad range of issues that I wouldn’t have expected coming out of the very entertaining but mostly quite lightweight tone of Season 1 . Going into the release of Season 3 I was excited to see what relocation to Vegas would do in terms of storyline opportunities and the show had put just enough time i’m into each member of the very large ensemble cast but I was invested in the characters and their drama. How did Season 3 turn out?
I think Season 3 is in the middle of the park as far as the quality goes. It’s very solid. Better than Season 1 but not as good as Season 2. That said I can see see why certain viewers might not be as into it this time around. This season makes very clear from early on that whilst in Vegas the characters are performing the same show show with the same matches night after night. The writer’s room is smart enough to know but this will be incredibly boring from an audience perspective. As a result if this is a much more low key and character focused season that reduces the focus on the wrestling significantly. The shows characters and writing are strong enough to keep the season engaging throughout. The final two episodes are particularly strong. If you enjoy so regardless of how much wrestling may be involved in each storyline I think you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of this season. If you’re watching specifically for the wrestling angle your mileage may vary.
Despite the more low key tone this was a very solid season of what is a very good show regardless of how much you know about wrestling. With the recent announcement of the fourth and final season,even if Netflix have a tendency to end shows prematurely given where the story has left off and what’s been set up I think a final season to explore these plot lines and finish the story is about right for this show.
8/10

Crawl. Paragraph Movie Review.

Kaya Scodelario and Barry Pepper star in this straightforward but nicely effective creature feature as a father and daughter who get trapped in a basement full of alligators. The film is as cliche as they come but it manages to maintain a good sense of tension throughout and never outstays it welcome at a brisk 87 minutes.of Nuts and bolts action horror that is perfect Friday night viewing.
7/10

The Farewell. Movie Review

As someone who follows the buzz coming out of the film festival/ premiere circuit but who is very rarely able to go go to any festival/ premiere screening (that being said I’m travelling to see the UK premiere of the new Makoto Shinkai film next month) you occasionally come across those films for which the buzz is so strong that is immediately goes the top of your “I must see this as soon as screening becomes available.” This was definitely the case with Lulu Wang’s The Farewell which I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about since the start of the year. I took the first chance I could to see it a couple days prior to the UK release. Did it live up to the hype?
The answer is a very big YES. This is a lovely film. The film is proof if proof were needed that this sort of gentle drama can still be incredibly comparing (take note British ” grey pound” film industry.) Wonderfully performed with a quiet power that is actively quite difficult to describe (at least for me.) Despite it’s very specific focus on Chinese culture and custom I found it’s depiction of how various different personality types and generations on can choose to deal with the prospect of grief and how this causes inner conflict within families very relatable and moving in places. It’s wonderful on so many different levels.
If your a fan of quality and emotionally engaging drama this is an absolute must see. The subject matter might not sound like something you need to rush out and see but what as with all media,any theme or subject matter can be effective if its pulled off in the right way (I recently saw the UK production of the absolutely wonderful post 9/11 musical Come From Away which is another poster child for this fact.) I’m looking forward to seeing what’s Lulu Wang does next.
9.5/10

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Movie Review

The 2015 Goosebumps film is much better than you’d think it should be. It was a clever and self aware way to adapt to the franchise for a feature length runtime. Match as you don’t need to bother with the 2018 sequel (which looks like a TV movie you would find on Nickelodeon) you can thank the first films modest success for this films existence. It’s taking the same approach of adapting some disparate stories from a popular book series but this time wants to be be a slice of legitimate teen horror rather than knockabout slapstick. With the backing of Guillermo Del Toro the and some solid reviews I wanted to see whether this approach could be pulled off a second time.. Did they manage it?
Honestly…no. I’m not much of a horror fan but even I could see but this film was a pretty blatant attempt to copy the success of other recent media. Goosebumps has already been mentioned but there’s a fair amount of Stranger Things in the perioud setting and team horror (one climactic set piece it’s incredibly similar to a set piece in Stranger Things 3.) There’s also a little bit of Until Dawn, a heavy dose of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which despite some rough edges is better than it has any right to be ) and a fair chunk of Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House. Despite two nicely constructed set pieces and a strong lead performance that suggest a good career ahead for Zoe Margaret Collins I spent most of the film wishing I was watching/ playing any of the things previously mentioned. There’s also the fact that the film succumbs to the generic jumpscare phenomenon that simply isn’t scary if you’ve seen more than 1 modern horror film in the last 5 years
This film could have been something is the filmmakers had taken it in another direction. That said despite a few bright spots in its current state it’s far too bland and indebted to other things to be anything beyond a mild curiosity.
5/10