Happenings

Film Fight 2017: October

A huge month, with eight films appearing!

First up, Bladerunner 2049 is the sequel I’ve been most worried about in the last few years. I was at least hopeful when Denis Villeneuve, director of last year’s excellent Arrival, was announced as director. I wasn’t disappointed. Let’s get the bad out of the way first: it’s probably a bit too long. That said, the slow and deliberate pacing that lets you soak in the world is a big part of what makes the mood work. We get shown some absolutely immaculate visuals, particularly in the Wallace Corp. building, and a soundtrack that lives up to the original. The story itself and the questions it raises are worthy of this being made. Very worthwhile. (See my Bladerunner 2049 Twitter review)

You never know what you’re going to get with a Stephen King adaptation but Gerald’s Game is on the better end of the spectrum. It’s a small horror, set largely in one room, that manages to build a lot of tension through a simple premise. The coda is completely unnecessary (and detracts from the film), but it’s decent enough overall. (See my Gerald’s Game Twitter review)

Time loop films are some of my favourites so I was happy to see that Happy Death Day was mixing Groundhog Day style loops with a slasher film. A girl is murdered on campus repeatedly, and has to figure out what’s happening. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, despite the subject, making it very watchable. The end is somewhat predictable, it’s not a classic, but I’d still watch it again at some point. (See my Happy Death Day Twitter review)

The Babysitter is a comic book horror that wants to wink to the camera. It tries to ape the visual style of Edgar Wright, without quite pulling it off; I’m more than happy for the attempt, though. It’s a bit cheesey and cheap, but dumb fun. Have with a drink and enjoy. (See my The Babysitter Twitter review)

Armando Iannucci has a tonne of great satire behind him, so it’s initially a little strange that The Death of Stalin isn’t quite that. It’s less farcical than expected, with a much darker vein running through it. That’s not a bad thing. There some great lines and moments, making for a brilliant look at the period. Must see. (See my The Death of Stalin Twitter review)

Bomb Scared is a dark, comedic farce about an ETA unit failing to do anything of note. It’s reminiscent of Four Lions, with the subject matter and style, and that is in its favour. Worth seeing for the sometimes excellent dialogue. (See my Bomb Scared Twitter review)

After the dour Thor: The Dark World, it’s great to see Thor: Ragnarok lighten up. It has a weird comedic tone, that works surprisingly well. It’s probably the funniest MCU film since to date, with some fantastic new characters. It does suffer from some plotting issues, and the villain is ill-defined, but it is still worth seeing. (See my Thor: Ragnarok Twitter review)

Finally, The Meyerowitz Stories is surprising for a few reasons. It manages to get some excellent dramatic performances from comedic actors. Both Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller turn in pretty damn good performances. That’s the only real positive here. It’s a tedious slog of a film. I wanted to like it but found myself bored through almost every scene. Dull. (See my The Meyerowitz Stories Twitter review)

The winner for October is Bladerunner 2049 as, despite the length, it delivers everything you’d want in a sequel.

Film Fight 2017: September

The first month in a while where Netflix Originals haven’t outnumbered cinema releases. Six films in total.

First up, Logan Lucky sees Steven Soderbergh take on a quirky heist, with an over-the-top cast of characters. It sounds like it shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it’s a lot of fun. The cast is excellent, and the direction pulls it all together slickly. The final act is way too long, but it’s otherwise good. (See my Logan Lucky Twitter review)

Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson in a buddy comedy about hitmen should work a little better than this film, The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The storytelling is heavy-handed (lots of exposition) and the pacing is uneven. The humour and action moments help smooth things out a little. Fine. (See my The Hitman’s Bodyguard Twitter review)

Darren Aronofsky is a director with few mis-steps, Noah being the most obvious. mother! sees him back at the top of his game. I can’t adequately describe the film, it has to be experienced. That experience is suffocating, tense, visceral, surreal, and beautiful. The plot is fairly indirect, but there are obvious motifs and parallels to think consider long after you’ve left the screen. It takes time to settle after you’ve seen it. Great. (See my mother! Twitter review)

American Assassin is spy thriller cliche after cliche. There are no original beats, even if it ticks over well enough. I saw this just 3 months ago and I can barely remember a single scene. Forgettable. (See my American Assassin Twitter review)

Angelina Jolie directs the beautiful yet brutal look into the rise of the Khmer Rouge, First They Killed My Father. Seen almost entirely from the perspective of the children of a displaced family, we see the atrocities that the organisation inflicted upon the ordinary people. Worth seeing, but could do with being edited down slightly. (See my First They Killed My Father Twitter review)

Finally, Kingsman: The Golden Circle sees us return to the over the top world from the original Kingsman film. The comic-book spy action and sense of humour are intact, but the film is flabbier; trying to service far too many characters leaves us wanting a little less. Okay. (See my Kingsman: The Golden Circle Twitter review)

The winner for September is mother!, for being another stunning cinematic experience.

Film Fight 2017: August

Another big month with 7 films…

First up, The Incredible Jessica James is a decent indie film about a woman teaching kids how to act and write, while trying to sort out her own career as a playwright. It’s a little uneven, but it’s a film with a good heart. The final scene is far too cheesy, but that’s a small moment. Watch. (See my The Incredible Jessica James Twitter review)

Chadwick Boseman turns in an excellent performance in Message From The King, a pretty decent indie crime thriller. As most of these things go, there are no big surprises or huge stand-out moments but everything works reasonably well, a few bad lines aside. Reasonably good. (See my Message From The King Twitter review)

I was excited to see another time-loop comedy but Naked doesn’t deliver. It’s obviously low-budget, but it’s also weakly-written and doesn’t seem to care much about its concept. The lead is caught in a time loop mere hours before his wedding, starting off naked. It errs between being precise about the timing, and then being extremely loose. Some laughs, but mostly meh. (See my Naked Twitter review)

On paper What Happened To Monday should be something I would enjoy: a sci-fi action film about cloning in a world where you can only have one child, starring Noomi Rapace and Willem Dafoe. It doesn’t live up to that hope. There are plot holes everywhere, some terrible dialogue, and mediocre acting throughout. There are some interesting ideas, but they can’t overcome the poor execution. (See my What Happened To Monday Twitter review)

Charlize Theron continues to be an action badass in Atomic Blonde. The movie is stylish but slowly paced, building up the world around Theron’s secret agent. The action set-pieces are exceptional, with one lengthy fight in a stairwell likely being the best action sequence of the year. So many good fights. Watch. (See my Atomic Blonde Twitter review)

You know how Tom Cruise has two modes of late? He either does sincere action-guy, or somewhat charismatic but down to earth rogue. American Made sees him do the latter. It’s a true-ish story about a drug smuggler. Well-made, with a decent pace, and fun enough. It’s easy to watch, but not particularly standout. (See my American Made Twitter review)

Finally, Death Note is an adaptation of an anime series, in which a young boy gets a book that allows him to kill anyone he likes. As you might expect, there are consequences. The film rushes through a lot you would like to see explored more, but the depth of the premise is apparent by the end. I’d have preferred a mini-series to allow the story to breath, but it’s still watchable. Willem Dafoe is particularly good as the demon, Ryuk, who controls the book. Decent. (See my Death Note Twitter review)

The winner for August is Atomic Blonde. An easier win than most months recently, but not undeserved.

Film Fight 2017: July

Another big month as the summer blockbusters hit and Netflix release a film a week. Seven in total for July…

First up, The House is a comedy that has its situation sorted, it just desperately needs a plot. The few story points that do exist are just there to set-up bits for the comedy. Some work, some don’t. It definitely has funny moments but probably not enough. Meh. (See my The House Twitter review)

Okja is the latest film by Joon-ho Bong, the South Korean director behind Snowpiercer. This is a very different film, looking at the abuses and lack of humanity in the modern livestock system. The story is reasonable enough and it is as well shot as you’d expect, but the goofier moments detract a lot from a fairly serious film. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, for example, appears to be in a completely different movie. Okay. (See my Okja Twitter review)

There is a lot to be said about the privacy implications of social media that a film could really take a deep dive into but The Circle is not that film. While the cast is great (Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega), the film itself is far too lightweight and superficial. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. Maybe a little disappointing but still watchable. (See my The Circle Twitter review)

Was another Spiderman reboot really needed? No, but Spiderman: Homecoming makes it worth your while. Tom Holland is excellent as a breezy and fun take on the character, playing against Michael Keaton as one of the most menacing villains the MCU has seen. It’s well-paced, fun, with decent set-pieces. Most importantly, it stands head and shoulders above recent Marvel films by doing something different rather than just fitting the mould. Very good. (See my Spiderman: Homecoming Twitter review)

To The Bone is a difficult watch but worthwhile, tackling the issues around eating disorders. It’s thoughtful, and doesn’t demonise the sufferers. There are moments of levity, and some solid performances. Worth seeing. (See my To The Bone Twitter review)

Christopher Nolan tackling a war film? Dunkirk doesn’t disappoint. From the start, the audio design is fantastic and absolutely gripping. The action is relentless. The pacing is tense. The minimal dialogue works brilliantly. This is a film that isn’t afraid to be an audio-visual experience, without the crutch of exposition. Great. (See my Dunkirk Twitter review)

Finally, War for the Planet of the Apes is the blockbuster action film you expect if you saw the last film in the series. Some of the story doesn’t quite add up, and the last act in particular loses a lot of ground to stupid plotting, but we’re here mostly for the performances. Andy Serkis deserves at least a nomination for his work as Caesar, bringing a great deal of humanity to a CG ape. Well acted and shot. (See my War for the Planet of the Apes Twitter review)

The winner for July is Dunkirk, as an incredible cinematic experience.

Film Fight 2017: June

After a busy few months, June is thankfully pretty quiet, with just three films.

First up, Wonder Woman is the first good DC film in the new extended universe. Patty Jenkins packs in some excellent set pieces and decent character moments, against the backdrop of a huge superhero movie. Gal Gadot is fantastic too, wiping away some of the memories of the more campy Wonder Woman of days gone by. Sadly, it’s marred a little by a fairly poor turn in the last act, but that’s not too bad overall. Good on the whole. (See my Wonder Woman Twitter review)

Another Netflix indie crime film? Okay, then, Shimmer Lake is for you. Told in reverse (you see one day, then the previous), the structure helps make what might have been a fairly ordinary robbery a little more interesting, as the reasons for tensions at the start are revealed towards the end. It’s let down by a little too much exposition. Decent enough. (See my Shimmer Lake Twitter review)

Finally, Baby Driver lets Edgar Wright showcase his visual flair in a different way. Following the story of a getaway driver in over his head, what we get is some beautiful visual choreography. The titular character, Baby, and the camera are engaged in movements similar to old Hollywood musicals, whether in a car or not. This gives the film a more understated and playful feel than Wright’s previous work. Fun, and beautifully crafted, if a little weak story-wise in the last act. (See my Baby Driver Twitter review)

The winner for June is Baby Driver for the beautiful visuals.