Film Reviews by Strovey

Welcome to Strovey's film reviews page. Strovey has written 184 reviews and rated 218 films.

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Limbo

Seeking asylum can be bleak, so let's put them on a bleak island....

(Edit) 19/01/2022

Limbo is a tragicomedy specifically addressing the hot topic in the good old angry UK, asylum seekers, refugees. Seen from the point of view of the four young men who are awaiting the results of their applications we are thrown into the quirky and dull life on the remote Scottish Island. The director and writer Sharrock cleverly paces the story along these lines. For extended periods of time nothing happens, standing around, walking from point to point, meeting the strange locals, both racist and yet also friendly. The pace is gentle to say the least.

Sharrock brilliantly blindsides the angry racists out there by not showing the four principal characters in a heavenly, can-do-no-wrong, light. Without spoiling the plot, they, like all of us at times, are not entirely honest but the brilliant part is they are not demonised. They are human beings and if you were in the same situation would you do the same – truthfully, most of us would.

There are no cheap flashbacks here to flesh out our protagonists but once again Sharrock shows budget-friendly skills but using Omar’s partially amusing and always heart-breaking once-a-week calls back to his parents, refugees themselves in Turkey, as exposition.

Amir El-Masry is pitch-perfect as the stone-faced Omar who leads us through the story. Just from his skilful performance you can tell his heart and soul are broken from the decision his family has made and the trip he has undertaken. He observes but never fully engages, taking taunts from the equally as bored and oddly friendly and racist island youth as stoically as he takes his friend Farhad’s ideas of managing him and putting him forward to a local talent show.

Farhad is the Ying to Omar’s Yang, fully rounded as a character but more upbeat and the viewers comic-foil he is equally as skilfully played by Vikash Bhai, chain-smoking, with a stolen chicken as his pet (played out very movingly at the story's end believe it or not) he, along with Helga and Boris’ "Cultural Awareness 101", stop the film from wallowing in sadness and presiding in the dark. Again, some skillful storytelling by Sharrock, the absurdity of life sitting alongside the sorry and loss. Another shout out to Sidse Babett Knudsen and Kenneth Collard [Cuckoo] as the well-meaning but comic foils, Collard in particular makes me laugh by just standing there.

The final two characters, in essentially this four-hander, are Wasef and Abedi two ‘brothers’ coming from Africa played by Ola Orebiyi and Kwabena Ansah which basically gives Sharrock a four from four with his casting skills. The two seeming brothers have varied reasons for seeking asylum and their stories conclude very differently to Omar and Farhad’s but they all share the house together and discuss/argue about mundane things such as Friends and playing for Chelsea Football Club.

The cinematography by Nick Cooke highlights the sparse lonely wilderness of the barren island making it almost a fifth character, solemn, unforgiving and beautiful. Shots of isolated bus stops and buildings against the vast skylines further underline the isolation in a stark and uncomplicated way.

Despite the comedic moments of visits to the island supermarket, [the spices rack and rules against urinating] and the integration lessons, we never lose sight of the fact that the four men are truly lost in Limbo, with no idea which is the worst thing, the guilt, the waiting or the bleak life of basically ‘nothing’.

Limbo is a beautifully directed, written and acted film and all involved should be proud of their involvement. A story as old as the human race, moving across the world to find a better place is told with humour, empathy but above all truth. It is a story about a sort of forced camaraderie, where comfort must be taken by shared circumstances and is liberally peppered with absurd set pieces and dramatic tragedy - highly recommended.

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Happy as Lazzaro

If He's Happy He Doesn't Smile Much...

(Edit) 13/01/2022

Happy as Lazzaro is a long film and seems to be two films with the same characters bolted together. The first half seems to be a throwback, a story of exploited workers being preyed upon by the uncaring wealthy. Will they turn on their oppressor, what will become of them all? Fairly straightforward, Lazzaro is the innocent within the tale. He shows no anger or enjoyment but just wants to help as much as he can. He is almost a blank canvas that the other characters bounce off. Which makes the plaudits piled on Adriano Tardiolo a bit odd. He really does not have to do anything but stand and answer questions and run about for people, showing no emotions.

The cinematography is beautiful with some lovely Italian rural locations [Bagnoregio, Viterbo, Lazio] I could almost feel the heat coming through my ‘Big TV’ screen as I watched Lazzaro traipsing about.

Despite the story seemingly being odd but straightforward, the longer we travel down the path laid out for us the more magical or mystical it becomes.

The message through director Rohrwacher’s symbolism seems to be that exploitation is all around in the world and unquestioning kindness and help make little difference. The sharecroppers are exploited by the Marchesa and unhappy in Inviolata but when they are saved by the police and local authorities and taken to live in the ‘city’ they are uncared for, poor and exploited by others forcing them to resort to crime.

Only Lazzaro stays the same, morally, and literally, despite the intervening years. A big old metaphor I am guessing.

Despite the length of the film, over two hours, if you can pace yourself in step with the film it actually does not drag too much, the rural first part could be trimmed slightly as even the dimmest audience member would soon notice what the situation in Inviolata was. We get many scenes and set pieces of Lazzaro being humiliated or forced to work hard. The point is driven home.

The second half of the film, in the unnamed Italian city, drifts into fantasy or the magical realm as the inhabitants of Inviolata have aged over the years but Lazzaro has not, he is exactly the same. No answers are given, particularly for the ending, which to my way of thinking seemed as if the makers just got bored and stopped at end of that afternoon’s filming and said, ‘Nah that’s it, we’re done.’ Others will see it differently.

Happy as Lazzaro is a beautiful shot, evocative film, with a mystical and magical tone. Sometimes these types of films can be trite a bit long-winded or confusing, so it is to director/writer Alice Rohrwacher’s credit that my attention did not wander and I was engaged in the adventures until the end.

What it was all about is most definitely up to each individual, some people will love this, others will think is boring silliness. I liked it but perhaps it is not as profound as it believes.

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Overlord

Hazell had a tough start to his adult life...

(Edit) 08/01/2022

Shot in black and white so that the story blends in more or less seamlessly with the stock footage from World War 2 Overlord is an odd film from beginning to end. Made in 1975 the end of the war was only 30 years in the past at that time so the scenes you are exposed to will without doubt jarred some memories to the forefront for some older viewers when it was first shown but now 77 years on with an awful lot of veterans from that conflict dead [including my father] or extremely ancient the feeling of disconnect from the film’s topic is more profound.

Herein lies the rub. The stock footage, ADR-ed to within an inch of its life, has virtually no connection to the story. So, we get the acting sections, with the mundane life of Private First Class Beddowes and his mates and then a jarring shot of Bristol Blenheims going at full tilt across the coastline and Channel for what appears to be no reason in the middle of the storyline. As fascinating as this footage is, in particular London Blitz scenes show how extremely dangerous it was to fight those fires in fine detail, it cannot hide that originally this film was going to be a documentary using these World War 2 gems.

Cooper, the director, helped by cinematography John Alcott, who worked on 2001 and A Clockwork Orange, then added in dramatic sequences of the journey of Tom Beddowes as he goes from recruitment to deployment.

A fresh-faced Nicholas Ball rolls up as Tom’s new army mate Arthur and the duo soon become a trio with world-wise Jack, Davyd Harries, to give us the focus and heart of the story. It seems odd that Brian Stirner, now a director of TV, plays his role as if he is from a war film made in the 1940s alongside his ‘girlfriend’ who has no name, played by Julie Neesam the both seemed to be trying to channel a Celia Johnson-Trevor Howard style romance. But the standouts are Ball and Harries who for my tastes are more realistic as sweary and fed-up conscripts. Notable Ball seems to be the only major cast member who was happy to at least cut his hair as short as soldiers in that period would have it, but that is a bugbear for me. Most war films made in various decades in filmmaking history seem to have been hampered by actors with ‘my hair mustn’t be too short’ clauses in their contracts. To check for contrasts check the stock footage and dramatic footage.

This aside the dramatic pieces mainly work and make a somewhat dull storyline, but this dullness is its strength. Tom is plagued by strange dream sequences and imaginings which give the whole proceeding an odd hallucinogenic feeling which can detract or add to the story depending on your viewpoint, I am on the fence about this. It was a tad confusing but also, I could see what Cooper was trying to portray.

Overall, Overlord is an important dramatic story about one ordinary soldier who took part in D-Day, like thousands of others and should be watched just for the content and attempt at something different. Whether you like it will depend on how much allowance you will give the makers, in my case I was feeling generous. I loved Nicolas Ball in his role and I liked the downbeat way of telling a soldier’s tale but I am not sure I would seek the film out and watch it again.

Your decision might be different.

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Supernova

Love Goes on Forever

(Edit) 20/12/2021

Supernova is the type of film that was made more often decades ago, not that there is not a place for it nowadays, there most definitely is, but for younger, less patient audiences, the slow burn and intense focus on a long relationship and the strains a serious illness can put on it most certainly would be divisive. Putting aside those that will hate this because ‘nothing happens’ and ‘there’s lots of talking’ and there’s no exploding helicopters, Supernova is a sad and superb two-hander performed by two top actors at the top of their game.

Thankful Basil Exposition is not in this film so when we turn up in Sam and Tucker’s life, we must glean what has happened prior to events we are seeing and figure it out for ourselves. You know like thinking, intelligent adults. The story slowly unfolds as we see the two men bickering over satnavs, maps and the minutia of a life lived together over decades. It is clear they love each other but the story does not avoid the creaking of the ship of love as it sails life’s seas.

Without doubt the story is shored up and made more watchable because Firth and Tucci, close friends for decades in real life, are quite brilliant in the role of the gay lovers. The loving gay couple portrayed proving you do not need a gay actor to play these roles, just as a gay actor can play a heterosexual. Along with the script, the little glances, subtle signals, and moments of intimacy are there to be seen and genuinely believed, you do not need a brush writ large to demonstrate these and actors at the top of their game, such as Firth and Tucci, prove this.

The speech at the dinner with friends in the last third is a masterclass in the subtle acting saying more than any waving of arms and ‘declaiming’. The small supporting cast, seen in this section of the film is believable as relatives and friends and add to the nuance. A quick shout out to James Dreyfus, late of ‘Gimme, Gimme, Gimme’ and ‘The Thin Blue Line’ who pops up in an entirely non-comedic role, almost unrecognisable.

The story never wanders off track or outlasts its welcome and bracketed by some beautifully shot visages of the Lake District, cinematography courtesy of Dick Pope, that four seasons in one day part of the UK looks magnificent, probably better than it does it real life.

But the story is fundamentally a two-hander dialogue driven play between two men. Both face terrible hardships that will end very much differently for them. We get an insight into the raw emotions that the pressure of a debilitating and ultimately terminal illness places on the individuals within a couple. This is personal to me, so I have a dog in the fight.

I cannot reveal what happens to the characters but anyone familiar with dementia knows the final outcome. Supernova is subtle and holds a microscope up to a relationship ending neither person wants. That the couple are gay man is unimportant and the Tusker’s crisis and fight with dementia is not overly sentimental or played for tears, although you will probably cry.

I understand the topic may not be comfortable for everyone, it was not for me, my mother ending her days bellowing at the top of her lungs or lying half comatose repeating ‘I want to go home’ in either situation, due to her not very cinematic type of dementia. I understand that a gay couple may make less enlightened people uncomfortable, and the slow river the film is will turn others off, but truth be told more than a few of us will live this story in one form or another in our lives. Harry MacQueen and his cast bring to the screen a fresh honesty, which shows compassion and love and all the emotions in-between in an exceedingly challenging time in a couple’s life.

No doubt about it if Harry MacQueen carries on in this vein, he will produce thoughtful and interesting films in the future.

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Werewolves Within

Lots of WIthin not much Werewolf though...

(Edit) 02/12/2021

Werewolves Within is based on a video game, a VR video to be clear, that I have never heard of and after watching the film and then looking for clips of the game on YouTube it must be said ‘very loosely’ based on the video game. I mean I am based on the same creature as George Clooney.

The film is a mix of genres going for black murderous comedy and a trapped set of folks trying to find out who is murdering who and why. Everyone, except the two main protagonists seems to have a motive and everyone seems capable so far, so Agatha Christie. The twist is although the humans are in general obnoxious and loathsome, and capable of murder when the deaths and maiming start it appears it might be a werewolf. A werewolf whodunnit? Original and different.

Nope.

I would love to know if Mishna Wolff had ever seen or liked ‘The Beast Must Die’ a Peter Cushing Hammer Horror werewolf whodunnit from 1974? It was a straight as a horror thriller and I remember being mightily disappointed by the conclusion and the film when I first watched it, but I am pleased to say not so with Werewolves Within. The makers went the correct way with the story such as this, it is played for laughs, not guffawing, tear-inducing laughs, but chuckles and smiles throughout the running time. Certainly, from my point of view the way to go with this type of story.

It helps that Sam Richardson plays to his strengths as an actor, a friendly, harmless, almost avuncular character that the audience can both laugh at but like and sympathise with from the start. Then pair him, or sort of pair him up with the attractive Milana Vayntrub who is pitch-perfect as a sub-manic-pixie-dream girl, cute and fun but with enough agency to not be ‘Finn’s love interest’ and you have a hook that should hold much of your audience.

I cannot reveal any of the story because things happen to characters and situations arrive that if described or even hinted at will ruin the film for anyone who has not seen it.

The horror in the film, much like the comedy, is very much lukewarm and herein this is the film’s greatest weakness, it tries hard to not be fish nor fowl, but a tweak with the horror or with the comedy would have definitely helped give the film a stronger identity. When you see ‘horror-comedy’ as a descriptor do not expect An American Werewolf in London, which for a lot of people was terrifying when it came out or Shaun of the Dead which was hilarious, to me and others, on viewing, mind you those are lofty heights to attain to be fair.

The cast is comedic in slant and despite my misgivings they put in good shows, with everything writ large, clearly this is on purpose, so if you run with this and have fun throughout the run time, you will enjoy the film.

Werewolves Within is a fun Saturday night’s viewing when you want to stay in, if you listen to dialogue early in the film and about two-thirds in you will be told who the werewolf is but at this point, after shifting my opinion between a couple of characters I had already settled on who it was and the script underlined it for me. I would not go out of my way to watch the film again and I will have forgotten it within a few months but there are worse films to watch when you are in the mood for a bit harmless fun to watch.

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The Earth Dies Screaming

Look Out for the Blue Peter Robots and You Should Be Fine.

(Edit) 15/11/2021

Made in 1964 The Earth Dies Screaming is a black and white small-budgeted science-fiction/horror thriller about mysterious invasion. Shot in around three weeks the film focuses on seven survivors and how they cope with the strange and deadly event they survived. Willard Parker and his wife Virginia Field are the ‘stars’ that were brought in, and most likely where most of the cast salaries went, although at the end of their careers, they were soon to move into a successful real estate business, they were big enough names to give the film a passing interest for the audiences of the day.

The ace in the pack for The Earth Dies Screaming is Hammer Horror stalwart director Terence Fisher, a man who made a living on managing small budgets and wringing horror and tension from situations that the money would not allow. He followed on with two similar films Island of Terror and Night of the Big Heat that had near identical premises but had slightly larger budgets. Whatever you think of this film and any of the others he made around this period you must admire the man’s ability to deal very successfully with what he had and to make interesting fun films.

At just over an hour in running time the who film is never going to wear your patience down because before you know it the odd ending is playing out in front of you. The opening scenes, showing the aforementioned train derailment, plane crashes and people dropping dead, is snappy quick and lets you know what has happened if not why. In fact, this is a strength, rather than bog us down with convoluted explanations and exposition as to what is happening, like Jeff and has new friends you never know, you are only privy to what they know – and that is not much.

The characters are set up quickly, so the audience knows who is who and what is going to happen. Parker is the solid and dependable de facto leader and Dennis Price, in the middle of his downward spiral of alcoholism and guilt over his career and homosexuality reducing him to roles and films like this, is nonetheless superb as the slimy and clearly, but never revealed, criminal Taggart. Thorley Walters a mainstay of classic British TV and films rolls up as the drunken fool to great effect too. The three female cast members are obviously restricted to the standards and expectations of the day but they do well with what they have and Virginia Field especially with the little she is given that does not involve making meals or being terrified.

The actual fear and tension build from the mysterious robots that turn up at the halfway point. For all the world they look like something made on the set of Blue Peter but that is half the fun of the action, but then, four years before Night of the Living Dead, the robots make the corpses into zombie-things, with plastic lenses glued over their eyes. Despite the laughs that can be got from their appearance they are eerie and scary as they creep around hunting down the remaining humans.

This is a harmless piece of schlock made in the sixties and should be watched with that in mind. If you like to see into the past of Britain looking at the old cars and refrigerators then you’ll enjoy it, if you are looking for terrifying horror-action this is the wrong film, but it is a fun effort – think an old episode of Dr Who that was lost but has been found again.

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Fubar

If They're So Funny, You Live Next Door to Them

(Edit) 04/11/2021

Written by Michael Dowse and Paul Spence, who also played Dean in the film this film is a mockumentary about two slacker metalheads which nowadays and even twenty-years ago when this film was made, was a familiar idea.

The conceit of the story, or documentary if you will, is that metalheads are useless, stupid and mainly drunk, which as we all know is not the case in real life, you can be all of these things and not be a metalhead and you can erudite, bright and intelligent and be a metalhead, unfortunately this seems to be the only thing the film wants to tell us. So be warned you once you have got this point, whether you think it is hilarious or tedious, that is it – for 76 minutes, there is nothing else the makers want to tell you, no shade or pathos, just two selfish, idiots, behaving like selfish idiots, realistically to their credit, I could easily see where some might think this was a real documentary.

At the beginning of the film when Farrel is showing Dean and Terry his other films to persuade them to be the topic of this ‘documentary’ Terry whilst viewing shouts ‘Turn up the good, turn down the suck!’ and it is a shame they did not take their own advice.

What you have in Fubar is a documentary maker following the lives of two fools you would not want to live next door to or want to know. With a bit more thought they could have been more likable and less stupid, but the most unforgivable part of the whole project is that both Dean and Terry and self-centred and only really like each other. When the story takes a darker turn and it believe me it does – is this part supposed to be funny, I do not know – their behaviour is again supposed to be funny but in fact it selfish, meanspirited and frankly appalling.

You could say Fubar could be showing versions of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar as they really are. When you make two characters in this vein you want to spend time with them, not dislike them and want to be thousands of miles away from them (I am). Wayne’s World whilst silly and not realistic is a nice place to be.

Fubar is not funny and I found it depressing and confusing. Perhaps it is a Canadian sense of humour thing, or I do not understand the culture but for a mockumentary surely you ought to show your audience something, make them think, in this case I only thought, ‘These guys are a-holes, and I don’t like them.’

I am almost certain that is not what they were intending when they made the film.

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Before We Vanish

Did Not Take the Concept of Finishing a Story Strongly

(Edit) 02/11/2021

Before We Vanish, is born of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Invaders from Mars, and a myriad of fiction of any format where friends, family and the public in general appear to be ‘taken over’ by ‘something’ and only a handful of people are aware. The classic paranoia induced fright-fest brought to the fore when the west felt anyone who was not tuned fully into their rhetoric was a communist and had communist friends hidden in plain view all around us. Although this paranoia subsided in subsequent decades the legacy it left has allowed films such as Before We Vanish and it is like to be made over the preceding years and be popular and usually reasonably successful.

The first act of this Japanese take on the paranoid invasion tale is the strongest. You are not fully up to speed to what is going on and the three aliens are introduced to show you they are three entirely different characters, despite only being human in appearance. To this end the film looks as if it is going to deliver an exciting and at least partially original take on this type of tale.

Unfortunately, the story seems to lose confidence and the story loses its way near the end, and I admit I have no prior knowledge of the source material but because of this interesting start, I found this possibly more disappointing than I normally would.

The idea of removing concepts, absorbing them, from humans, only after they visualise them, leaving them confused, sad, or even happy was a strong, interesting idea that was not explored further. The aliens were always going to invade no matter what (apparently) so there was no obvious reason or motivation for this interesting act.

The acting throughout, from my limited knowledge of Japanese culture and expectations, appears uniformly good, with no one having histrionics or demonstrative actions that were not suitable to on-screen events. In particular Masami Nagasawa is excellent as the put-upon graphic designer who is married to ‘alien’ husband Shinji and the laid back and carefree alien played by Masahiro Higashide is a charismatic and fun presence but all the acting for me was of a high standard.

The real problem comes with the direction the film takes, story strands, particularly at the end meander and suddenly become unconnected and leaves the viewer confused but more importantly unsatisfied.

The ‘invasion’ such as it was a poorly CGI-ed damp squib and the final scenes do not truly click together with the story preceding them, which is huge shame.

This Japanese alien invasion film is a good-looking, well-acted, fun and interesting story that sadly fumbles the ball at the end and is good twenty minutes too long. If the screenplay and direction had focussed on the third act and made the overall feeling less ‘baggy’ what was an okay film would have been interesting and provocative science-fiction effort.

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Free Guy

Pygmalion what have you done?...

(Edit) 28/10/2021

Free Guy is not original, take a few steps back and you are looking at a mangled version of Wreck-It-Ralph, which was funnier and more entertaining, and with a loose thread you can trace back to Blade Runner, the awful I Robot, A.I. and even Lars and the Real Girl, all of which go back further to the sculpture and statue coming to live and indeed love, Pygmalion. Okay, it is tenuous but boil the meat off the bones and you the story of something inanimate, created by the protagonist, coming to live and learning to live, love, hate and all points in between. Is the ‘statue’ really alive, is Free Guy really alive? That is the story, the trick is what you do with that story, how you package and what tricks and traps you add to it.

The initial setup with Ryan Reynolds and his friend – the problems that throws up with the storyline are brushed over so I will brush over too – Buddy, played with charming likeableness by Lil Rel Howery, sets the story up and sets it up well. It is amusing and shows the life of the NPCs to some effect. The real problems start when the ‘player’ of Molotov Girl, played by the latest British star to catch the evil eye of Hollywood, Jodie Cromer, sashays her way onto the screen. Guy is immediately affected by her she is the one.

Perhaps it was just me but there was no chemistry between Cromer and Reynolds at all on the screen, nothing. I just could not see his bland character falling for her even blander character, they were strictly 'pass by in the street characters' with ne’er a glance back. But we are being set up for an unlikely computer character love match with a ‘real person’ – interesting perhaps but how do you get yourself out of this?

The answer is double up with another chemistry-free love-interest, so it is a love triangle between three people none of which you believe even looked like they would be friends, yup, it is Walter ‘Keys’ McKee played by Joe Keery, who unfortunately was not believable as love-interest or a game genius, but he tried hard.

The film runs with two stories side by side in-game and real-world, neither is sufficiently interesting or believable enough to keep your attention. True there are some fun moments, some truly impressive screen effects but these alone do not make a great, or even good, film.

The biggest problem for me is the casting. All the main cast are reasonable actors with decent work behind them but in this film it did not work. Cromer and Keery come straight off the back of hugely popular television shows but for crying out loud that is not a reason to cast someone, well it is if you want to make money and get bums on seats, but they must fit together and in this film they do not. Reynolds, Cromer and Keery have no chemistry between them – they are inert. The star, Ryan Reynolds, like a lot of ‘stars’ in Hollywood seems to get by playing the same character in every movie, in this one he is the harmless version, in Deadpool, he is the harmful version, but it is the same character. Deadpool is much a better version, so perhaps a violent, nasty, foul-mouthed Ryan Reynolds is better.

For a film where one of the characters is a computer-generated, bland, one-dimensional NPC it takes some skill to make the most seemingly computer-generated, bland, one-dimensional character a human being in the real world. Taika Waititi chews the scenery with obvious delight, clearly thinks everyone is having as much fun as he is.

Despite the effects, the video game tropes and nods, after a while your attention starts to wander, only the introduction of the monstrous 6-foot 7-inch Aaron W Reed as a sort of ‘super-Free-Guy’ brings you attention back online, here there is some funny moments.

The story peters out to a huge lame ending that makes no sense

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Nobody

Haven't I Seen This Before Somewhere....

(Edit) 20/10/2021

Nobody is a fast, action-packed, violent tale of vengeance, living in the same street as John Wick, Derek Kolstad wrote it, and Nobody is nearly the same film. Given that deadpan and comedic Bob Odenkirk is the lead, fresh off his turn in Breaking Bad and the spin-off Better Call Saul you would expect this film would have a more fun element to it. At the beginning we do get a sense of underlying comedy and with the violence non-existent this is the better film. Even the over-the-top cartoon violence of the ‘bus attack’ being more personal the film held my attention, Odenkirk gets battered and hurt, in real he would be dead or seriously injured, but this film is not about that and it is churlish to pick out realism as a failing.

The action when it happens is frenetic, well-choreographed and exciting, particularly when it is small and personal, but it is as if director Naishuller (Hardcore Henry) forgot the whole first acts of the film and we end up with every Russian, fighting Bob, his brother RZA and his 82-year-old dad played by Christopher Lloyd, funny but stupid. Yet again though it appears to thousands of men with guns willing to die horribly to serve their gangster boss, all dying in horrible ways. It is all a bit familiar.

Nobody is a professionally made well-crafted action film, with ultra-violence, gunplay and even Home Alone booby traps, yet for me the best filmmaking, the most effective sequence comes at the very beginning of the film a choppily edited opening sequence underlining the boring mundane life Hutch lives. Quick, sharp, to-the-point and in few repeated shots you know exactly what our main character appears to be.

For lovers of action-packed-violence, this will be enough but for those that worship at the ever-diminishing returns of John Wick it will not be enough, they will like it but will forget it soon after watching and waiting patiently for ‘John Wick 6, He Kills the Whole World’.

Nobody is a revenge story, told in a cartoon-style with little or no sense to the plot from the beginning that gets even more nonsensical the longer it goes on but it is made for a specific audience. For those that like being on ‘Revenge Street’ but perhaps prefer a little more meat on the bone I would recommend Blue Ruin or even something like the original Death Wish, even Straw Dogs having said this for action, and let us be honest, mindless violence there are too many to pick from.

As you may have guessed this type of action-film with bish-bash-violence leaves me mainly cold and under the right circumstances I could fall asleep watching most of them, I really liked the original John Wick but due to the success of that film we have Nobody which does not do anything different enough to distinguish it. Cardboard cut-out Russian gangsters (sigh) lead by famous Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov raised my eyebrows and from that point they never really dropped again. I wish someone would make this type of film and try something innovative and different, similar to zombie-films, ultra-action films are in serious danger of overloading the market and disappearing up their own fundamentals. Shame really, there could be something there for good filmmakers to get a grip of.

Nobody will be watched by a lot of people and forgotten fairly soon, which is disappointing there is a lot of talent on show and that is not just my writing about it.

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Lars and the Real Girl

A Man with Mental Health Problems who doesn't Slaughter Random People.....that's a different take.

(Edit) 12/10/2021

What we have in Lars and the Real Girl is a modern retelling of Pygmalion. A lost, lonely man, delusion perhaps, bestows, life, love, on an inanimate object, a facsimile of a woman. In Pygmalion, the love of the sculptor fantastically brings that object of his love to life but with Lars and the Real Girl writer Nancy Oliver has the love for ‘Bianca’ transferring to the family, friends and town community, bringing them ‘to life.’ Oliver has writing chops having contributed to Six-Feet-Under and True Blood but here she shows a softer side. Much like those TV shows we are in a fanciful place, after all if the last few years have shown us a lot of people are plainly and irredeemably awful, but the reaction to Lars’ problems in the story is beautiful, poignant and dare I say palate cleansing. Even with this wishful thinking Oliver shows a proper understanding of mental health and wrote a careful and gentle depiction. The most telling line comes early in this film from the superb Emily Mortimer as she talks to the equally superb Patricia Clarkson, ‘How can I help?’ Indeed.

Director Craig Gillespie more recently of the, in some ways similar, ‘I Tonya’ and the ‘I haven’t seen it yet’ Cruella, has the perfect cast to work with. Ryan Gosling, an actor who goes from eclectic roles with admirable ease, is perfectly cast as the soft and gentle Lars who has been profoundly affected by early events in his family, in particular his mother’s death due to his birth. As mentioned previously Emily Mortimer is impressively believable as the kind and caring sister-in-law Karin and special praise must go to Paul Schneider, most recently seen in Amazon’s ‘Tales from Loop’, who has the challenging task of, at least in the opening acts, the least sympathetic character, he clearly is playing the part of the cynical viewer. Patricia Clarkson is equally impressive as the clever, understanding and helpful town doctor, Dagmar, we would all love our GP to be this impressive lady. The ‘real girl’ of the story is played with cute vivacity by Kelli Garner to round out the main and consistently top form cast.

UK viewers will be delighted to see Canada’s answer to Mackenzie Crook, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, who when he rolled up early on as Lars’ work colleague, I thought it was Mackenzie Crook for a few seconds.

The film begins by fooling you into thinking it is a full-on comedy, the introduction of Bianca by Lars to Gus and Karin had me laughing so long and loud that my wife, still in bed, called down the stairs to see if I was okay, but much like I, Tonya, the ‘funny’ soon gives way to the drama but in such a skillful way it does not jar and you really do not notice. If you are made of stone, or one of the irredeemably awful people I mentioned earlier, you will not latch on the underlying sadness of the fragile and lost Lars. What Oliver’s screenplay, the directing and acting all are trying to show us, and successfully achieve, is that understanding, empathy and compassion are always the strongest and kindest way to help each other. With Lars’ delusion this could have been a huge joke of a film, but it is to everyone’s credit the initial hilarity drops off like Autumn leaves and we end up with a sensitive and small peek at mental health and the importance of compassion in friends and family.

The whole film is intelligently made, with a clear comprehension of mental health, a refreshing and interesting take on the topic that is very much in the fore of local and national discussions these days.

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Kung Fu Hustle

Throwing knife handles at you enemy has never worked

(Edit) 30/09/2021

Stephen Chow approaches the very real discipline of kung-fu in the way I view most kung-fu movies, it is all a bit silly, a bit preposterous and really should not be taken too seriously. Therefore, it is obvious that this type of kung-fu movie would appeal to me more than the kill everyone, dead serious, ‘look at this, ‘look at that’ kung-fu movies that have been made over the decades.

Imagination is no limitation to Chow and here we see deaths, cartoon violence and wirework all thrown together to make an action-packed laugh-filled movie.

The story is packed with dance-sequences, jaw-dropping martial arts fight sequences that are never ever taken seriously. It is a cartoon made flesh.

Chow is without doubt the anti-hero for most of the running time and it must be said he subverts your expectations as characters come to the forefront, seem to be the focus and then drift away, die or change their viewpoint.

The style is slapstick and daft in the main but with the storyline, the action, it makes sense and with Chow and his ‘teams’ acting and timing it works perfectly and in lesser hands it could have been a dull disaster. The line is fine and the skill in getting this correct cannot be underestimated.

In particular one sequence had me actually ‘laughing-out-loud’ and chucking about it long after it had passed, well known by viewers and fans of the film the knife attack and snakes in the box scene is very funny and skilfully put together. A masterclass in a simple slapstick, comedy-of-errors, set-up, ‘Who threw a handle?’ indeed.

Not afraid to use computer effects for the snakes, daggers and axe attacks Chow mixes the traditional kung-fu balletic choreography with more modern methods and once again he melded them almost seamlessly.

No film is perfect there are moments that jar and moments that do not quite work but in such a frenetic and fun-filled action comedy the target is going to missed from time to time. The story, such as there is, slightly confuses you but in reality we are here to sit in watch the fun, laugh and have a good time.

Stephen Chow delivers this fully and even if you do not like silly comedy or kung-fu too much it would still pay you to watch Kung-Fu Hustle on a rainy boring day when you need cheering up. It is fun, colourful and entertaining – you cannot really ask for much more.

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The Book of Henry

Should Have Burned Henry's Book before Reading It.

(Edit) 30/08/2021

The Book of Henry appears to start off as one type of film or story and ends up as another, only to flip back at the denouement. That is the who films great strength and equally its biggest weakness. The idea is fascinating and the story somewhat different, but the execution is poor, really poor, and actually in hindsight really sloppy.

Despite some reviews I saw after the event Jaeden Martell, the Nazi-teen in knives out, is good in the pivotal role of ‘Henry’ and from my limited experience of a prodigy gets it more or less correct. If nothing he is too nice at points, annoying his peers with facts in a ‘matter of fact’ I have actually seen being done in real life. The role of Peter, by Jacob Tremblay is a cinematic artifact, he is only there to show how kind and nice Henry is, he could have been a pet cat and therefore the actor, no matter how young, is left with little to work with. Naomi Watts plays her role well and looks the part of a slightly dippy world-worn single mum, she isn’t glamourous and does not have even, ceramic, glow-in-the-dark teeth, all good. The journey she goes on, particularly at the end is frankly ridiculous, does not play in the character or how she is throughout the story and makes little to no sense.

Here in lies the rub. Henry and his mother, has no real proof of what is going on next door, Christina, who mainly looks sad and says ‘I’m fine’ for most of the film never tells anyone or confirms the heinous events that are supposed to happening. Therefore, the crux of the story, the reason, for us watching, are sort of nebulous and looking at in a cold manner, illegal. Although it must be said Maddie Ziegler who plays here is a superb dancer, so she does get to show that off even though she is another actor given little to work with. Henry’s solution seems illogical and does not follow his way of thinking as demonstrated prior to the ‘events’ beginning.

If you are in the right frame of mind this film is light and interesting entertainment but like a lot of output these days, particularly in this frame, ten minutes after the film finishes the first thing that comes to your mind is ‘hang on a gosh-darn minute’.

The plot-holes and inconsistent tone are big enough to drive two very big trucks through, side by side.

The surprises, suspense and tugging of the heartstrings are all there in this film and work well, I never got bored, but the adult logic, the ‘you’re supposed to take this seriously’ side is barely clinging on at the start and has dropped into the void as we get the final third.

The Book of Henry gets weaker as it progresses and certain ideas and scenes do not ring true, even with the universe of the film, and here days later I’m still trying to figure out what Lee Pace was doing in the story or why and how the school principal got or indeed kept her job as she seems to go from playing by the book with Henry to acting on one single hunch, at a dance performance, at the end. Of course, we also have a scene with the poorly used and written Sarah Silverman that is a bit yukky or ‘WFT?’ considering the topic on display. Ludicrous.

Writer Greg Hurwitz has some clunkers in his credits and seems to have great ideas that he either lacks the support of production or his own confidence fails him to fully flesh them out and create a decent story. A film featuring adult themes, with real-world things happening in them is made for adults, so treat us like adults.

Director Colin Treverrow is clearly king of the ‘wow that looks cool dude’ directors but absolutely does not care at all if anything you see on the screen for two hours or so makes any logical sense whatsoever, unfortunately he is not directing surrealist arthouse.

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Melancholic

Another reason to never visit a bathhouse...

(Edit) 19/08/2021

Melancholic is an odd film, even within the pantheon of odd Japanese films, the subject matter would seem to point to a dire, violent, depressing story, and in all honesty it should be. Somehow it is not, the violence is there, bloody and visceral but not an unnecessary gore-fest, and the death is very real but Melancholic is definitely infused with a sense of humour and a slow, soft, calmness as much as any film covering this type of topic could be.

Yoji Minagawa as Kazuhiko plays his role in perhaps a slight too much over-the-top way a bit to ‘on the nose’ making me think throughout that no one would really shine to him and particularly not a vivacious and fun young girl, Yuri, his mood is more ‘permamiserable’ which for me skewed the whole story without necessarily detracting from it. Therein lies the problem with the film, the tone is hard to decipher, as the director, and the dialogue, seems to point to fun and light-heartedness but the topic, much like Kazuhiko, is not that.

The change that is needed in Kazuhiko’s life is brought about by outside influences and his acceptance of circumstances, this seems to be the message, although due to the characters and how they behave it seems to get lost. The meekness of our lead somehow translates that he will accept anything that happens stoically and just get on with it. A social comment of some sort but a little heavy-handed?

The events at the bathhouse even after the late-night extras are revealed are not quite what they seem and the entire story, message relies on how much you buy into our hero just drifting into some fairly unusual and absurd situations.

Whilst we are given a good outline of Kazuhiko’s character and background, he’s not fully fleshed out, this seems to have little in development for some important supporting characters other than what their role in the story is.

All in all the story builds up well and the cinematography and filming locations give off a realistic vibe and you can enjoy yourself as the story builds up and whips along. The ending is a little pat and does not follow the film's playbook to my mind, but it does not detract hugely.

I could not help feeling that some elements of Melancholic were rushed, particularly the ending and that with more budget and some fine polishing this could have been a proper gem. It is a fun and interesting story and theme, but not quite ‘there’.

Seiji Tanaka’s future output is definitely something worth looking out for.

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Godzilla vs. Kong

Calling Kong a monkey does not end well, even if you are good looking.

(Edit) 09/07/2021

Set after the conclusion of the last film, when Godzilla battered the living daylights out of Ghidorah we have another King Kong, Godzilla blockbuster. The whole point of this film, regardless of plot, or actors, is to see these two CGI behemoths pummelling the tar out of each other. So, for all intents and purposes this film completely fulfils its purpose. Godzilla and Kong do batter, punch, kick, fire breath and ram things into each other’s heads all over the place, out at sea, and Hong Kong, which they flatten with some aplomb, in garish, confusing mishmash of roaring, punching, kicking and deafening roaring action.

The actors do not far so well. The story is a bare sketch the sole purpose to get the monsters to fight. For a film, that I guess must really be trying to appeal to younger children at the most the child actors are at the forefront the human action. They do not beat the monsters on screen, but they do beat the adult actors into the background. With preposterous silliness to play with the three main youngsters acquit themselves very well. Millie Bobby Brown is already an established and fine actor so we know that any scenes are going to be fun and believable, equally Julian Dennison since his breakout role in Hunt for the Wilderpeople carries the role of comedy sidekick skilfully and with the ease that some much older and more experienced actors could learn from. Entirely deaf Kaylee Hottle is the newbie and is quite enchanting. The children are the resourceful heroes of the day and should at least get their contemporaries in the audience whooping with joy as unbelievable as their shenanigans are.

This leaves us with the adults, good actors too, but they are very much trailing behind 300-foot monsters, super-kids, explosions and collapsing building. Lumbered with not much characterisation, nails on blackboard dialogue they do their best and leap and jump and look concerned through the running time.

The CGI and effects are good, you can see where the money has been spent although it is for me, once again, noise and light salad, much less than the sum of its parts.

All in all, as a monsters fighting film this is good. Anything else and the weaknesses show. I know that Godzilla vs Kong has many fans old and young alike but purely from my point of view once again we are taking a trip to the continent of Non-Plussed-Land. As my grand daughter said after Skull Island why did they CGI Kong to look like a man in a suit and here we are clearly following the original series and not King Kong, either 1930s or Peter Jackson variants. I just prefer my giant apes not 300 feet tall and to resemble a real ape but that is just me.

Some points to note.

1. Kong was constantly called a monkey throughout the film. Is this a deliberate wind-up by the filmmakers, if it is, not funny, if not that’s probably worse, ignorance.

2. The exceptionally beautiful Eiza González gets killed again, the last film I saw her in was Baby Driver.

3. Over the course of these three films in this monster universe how many people are killed? Honestly it must be millions and the cost or rebuilding would bankrupt the world.

I know it is a silly monster film, I know we are not supposed to take it seriously, but these are the things that just get into under my skin and stay there. I think about them when I am watching the film.

If you like monsters lathering the bejesuses out of each other this is the film for you, if you like some sort of logical storyline to go with this battle, maybe not so much.

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