Films in February 2022

I didn’t watch a huge number of films in February, and then to add insult to injury I forgot to post the round-up. Two cinema trips for the underwhelming Death on the Nile (full review posted in a separate post) and to finally catch Spider-Man. Then there’s a couple of not random films that were on telly, one foreign language Oscar nominee, the trio of Kingsman films recently added to Disney+ and a rewatch of the two Fantastic Beasts films to see if I had been unreasonably harsh in my reviews (I hadn’t, they’re a missed opportunity). So, a pretty meh month all in all.

Spider-Man: No Way Home
I’m always unexcited by Spider-Man films, and then pleasantly surprised by them when I finally get around to it. I should have seen this one earlier as I may have been less spoiled, and may also have seen it in a busier cinema to experience it with a crowd. Even with those disadvantages though, the film is still great fun to watch. The plot completely passed me by to be honest, I’m not saying it didn’t make sense, because I didn’t really even listen to it to make that assessment. But the characters (old and new) are enough to carry the film. It is yet another case of 20 mins too long, the final action sequence in particular dragged as there were too many villains, and a couple of them had too little familiarity or time to really make an impact. Tom Holland continues to be outstanding, actually playing Peter Parker AND Spider-Man as a single person, and a realistic teenager at that. Zendaya is also wonderfully fresh and powerful as Mary Jane. They make it all believable, even if the plot is nuts. 8 / 10

Hand of God
Italy’s submission and nominee for Best Film not in the English Language at the 2022 Oscars is based on the life of the writer/director growing up in Naples. It does absolutely feel like the way that we remember our childhoods – random moments, events and people; comedy, drama, horror, and absurdity all blending together with no real explanations of why or how things happened. That is how our memories work, but I didn’t find it made for an engaging film. It just felt too muddled. The first third or so didn’t feel like it was going anywhere but was at least entertaining to watch, like you’d been dropped into the middle of a bonkers family. But the second half seemed to be trying to find meaning in events and how they shaped the central character. But I felt he was just a vacuum at the heart of the film, he felt flimsy and passive so there was nothing to latch onto to ground and drive the film. It may all have been true and cleverly observed, but it that doesn’t make for an enjoyable film. It was 2.10 and felt even longer. 5 / 10

The Souvenir
It’s the early 1980’s and Julie is a well off film student, and that’s about all we seem to know about her. I never really got a sense of why she wanted to make films, where she came from or where she wanted to go. She seems to fall into some kind of relationship with someone who works for the foreign office, and has demons. He’s another flat character with no sense of past or future or existence when he leaves the frame of the camera. I didn’t believe either of the characters, I certainly didn’t believe in their relationship and I just didn’t care. The whole thing felt entirely constructed and fake, without depth or richness. The only thing I liked was when Richard Ayoade turned up for a about 3 minutes with more energy than the rest of the entire production put together. 4 / 10

Personal Shopper
I’m not going to say much about this film because it’s much better to go in without knowing too much, and certainly not knowing what direction it’s going to go in. It’s a complicated film, talking about a lot of different things but somehow managing to twist them together. Kristen Stewart is very good as the focal point for the audience to travel along with as the eponymous Personal Shopper (a strange title for the film). The film isn’t necessarily a nice watch, it’s unsettling and occasionally irritating, but it is something different and that’s enough to catch my interest. 7 / 10

Kingsman
The film can’t quite seem to decide whether it’s parodying, or fondly referencing multiple generations of spy films. So the tone wanders around all over the shop, some deaths are treated as comedy while others are emotional; some twists are supposed to be shocking, while others are done with a nod and a wink, but they’re almost all predictable. The style however is where this film excels, the look and pacing of the fight sequences was really something else, managing to keep even me completely engrossed. I don’t think the film quite all came together, but it was original, had some excellent elements and was certainly entertaining. 7 / 10

Kingsman: The Golden Circle
More of the same from the sequel, both good and bad. The style, slickness and originality of the action is still there, I like the blend of the kind of suave cheesiness of The Man from UNCLE with the brutal violence, gore and swearing of more modern action films. But the tone is still not quite sure where it wants to land, sometimes playing violence for laughs, sometimes for drama. It’s a fun ride with a switched off brain, it would have been better if they’d not put any of the more serious stuff in at all. 7 / 10

The King’s Man
The Kingsman films (to which this is a prequel) have a real problem with not knowing quite where they sit on the cheese->drama scale, some elements are played for dramatic tragedy while others for comic caricature. That becomes even more problematic when they start taking on historical events and real people, it makes everything a bit uncomfortable. It’s a shame, because all the components of the film are pretty solid, the comic characters funny, the satirical ones interesting, the dramatic ones emotive and the action sequences well choreographed and creative. But if you try to review it all as a whole, it just doesn’t bond together. 7 / 10
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
There’s some good stuff in there – Eddie Redmayne is utterly charming, as are Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol as Kowalski and Queenie. The style of 1920’s New York is a great setting for the Harry Potter universe and the magical idea of the suitcase is beautifully elegant too. But I thought the rest of it was a little mediocre. The story was a bit of a mess, setting things up a little like a quest (find all the beasts) but then swerving about to a completely disconnected story and trying to tie into a much wider political context without bothering to really explain it. Worst though I thought the beasts were rather under-used, they were actually very tangential to the stories and the interactions felt gimmicky rather than integral.
It was still an enjoyable film, with some nice scenes and a sense of wonder to it, but where I wanted vibrant and full of fantastic beasts, I found we got dark, bleak and full of horrible humans. 7 / 10

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
Underwhelming. There was nothing about this film that really sang to me. Starting from the already fairly low point of the first film, it felt like there was just less of everything – less colour, less fantastic beasts, less charm, and just less wonder. It fell into the modern pit of over colourising everything, and thinking that making things grey makes them dramatic. It doesn’t, it just makes them confusing to look at and unengaging. It felt very artificial and CGI, everything moving fast in a hope that the eye won’t see the lack of detail. The actors mostly did their best to add some depth and charm, but they were fighting a lumpy script and underwhelming visuals. And it’s got a stupid name. 5 / 10

One thought on “Films in February 2022

  1. Pingback: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore – Narrative Devices

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