Films in September 2021

No Time to Die
This film is too long. That’s not necessarily a great way to start a review, but overwhelmingly that was my feeling about the film both during and after. At 2.45 the film is at least 1/2 an hour too long and there would have been no challenge for the film to lose that time from the middle which was ridiculously baggy. I watch Bond films for the action and stunt sequences, and there weren’t enough of them in this film. The four or so sequences were of the expected high production value and engrossing, but the gaps between them were too big and filled with too much exposition (that I didn’t follow) and character stuff (that I didn’t care about). The main villain wasn’t very good either – I didn’t really get what he was trying to achieve and he was incredibly bland (and are we really STILL using facial scarring to indicate a bad guy?). The only really good things in the film were Paloma and Nomi – two female agents who absolutely jumped off the screen and I would very happily watch their spin off film. The rest of it however felt tired, baggy and boring. 5 / 10

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
It’s hard to do a good film of a theatre musical. The bug numbers never manage to capture the joy and energy, and the softer ballads feel awkward. Sometimes that is compensated for by being able to do bigger and more varied things with sets and locations, or big name actors throwing themselves into things. But I’m afraid Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is not one of those successes. It just didn’t feel organic to me, too bitty, too flat. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure the source material was amazing, I felt the story was clunky switching from dealing with difficult issues, to oversimplifying solutions, and the music unremarkable. The couple of big numbers were good, but there were way too many dirgy ballads, and frankly, the whole thing needed a lot more drag queens. 6 / 10

Schumacher
I was a follower of Formula One for most of the duration of Schumacher’s domination over the sport so I was fairly familiar with his story. I was never a fan of his, he was undoubtedly a talented driver, but he and the Ferrari team around him could also be ruthless and for me didn’t feel within the spirit of the sport. That side of him is touched on very lightly in the documentary, and the absence from the documentary of his main teammates at Ferrari feels very significant. The documentary also has a problem in that the end of Schumacher’s story is veiled in secrecy. His wife and children feature in the documentary and they talk very movingly about him, but are very cryptic about how he is following his serious accident and it feels weird. If you’re going to tell someone’s story, you have to tell all of it, otherwise it just feels disingenuous. The documentary has some strong bits, good archive footage and interesting interviews, but it is really flawed. 5 / 10

Cinderella
Cinderella as done by the person that did Pitch Perfect. Sounds good. Unfortunately the same person did Pitch Perfect 3 and this is more at that end of the spectrum. The freshening up of the story is good, Ella is seeking to succeed as a businesswoman and the romance element is slightly incidental to her storyline. The take on the prince was also quite interesting. But the delivery was disappointing, with mediocre acting, zero chemistry, cheap production and a poor selection of songs that were then delivered with way too much auto tuning and post production. It felt more am-dram panto than Hollywood production, particularly given the random British comedians populating the supporting cast. The only saving graces were the brilliant Minnie Driver and Pierce Brosnan who are almost worth suffering through the rest of the film for. Ranking: 5 / 10

101 Dalmations
I’d forgotten how good this film was! The animal animation is everything you’d expect from Disney, beautifully observed and managing to find a perfect spot between making animal and human so that emotions and behaviour is clear with just the simplest of animations. It feels like a very small film in many ways, not the fate of the world or anything about destiny, just two parents trying to find their kids, and that smallness makes it all more important somehow. The scarcity of the songs is also a good thing, particularly as the two that are present (relegated to the start and end so as not to interrupt the story) aren’t that great imho. 7 / 10

101 Dalmatians (1996)
There are some good choices in this live action version of the cartoon. The first is that the animals do not speak, but are still all very emotive characters through what must have been incredibly patient training and filming. The other good choice is losing the songs. Much of the rest of the film remains the same, including the completely over the top villain and the really quite horrible idea that she’s going to skin all the puppies and wear them. I actually found all the talk of murdering and skinning puppies quite upsetting and no matter how cute the puppies are and how well the film is produced, I’m not sure I’d ever want to show it to children. 6 / 10

Rising Phoenix
This is a documentary about the Paralympics and paralympians and if you’re like me and can’t make it through a Channel 4 advert without weeping, then you’re going to need the tissues close to hand with this. The biggest fault with the documentary is one I’ve only really noticed when I came to write this review because when I thought about it I realised the subject was a little muddled and tried to do a few too many things. It’s telling the individual stories of a handful of recent paralympians, and on the way it tells a bit about the history of the Paralympics, and focusses on London 2012 (as a positive) and Rio 2016 (as a struggle). But that’s a lot to cover in 1.45 and on reflection it suffers. Individual stories are abbreviated, the history is jumpy, issues are skirted over and I keep thinking of more and more aspects that I would love to understand better. But it is a film, and it cannot do everything in depth so I think it’s chosen to do a lot of things a little bit. Some people may say that they could cut some of the artistic elements to make time for substance, but actually I think they worked well here and the subject deserves beauty and art as well. If the biggest problem that I have with a documentary film is that I wish it was longer, then I think that’s probably a good thing. Ranking: 8 / 10

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