Films in Aug and Sept 2022

I’ve had a fair amount of life stuff going on recently which means I’m very behind on writing up reviews, but I’ve also not been watching much, so at least it matches.

See How They Run
There’s a kind of sub-sub-genre that could be vaguely described as Agatha Christie murder mysteries but not taken seriously, but not a completely stupid parody, so still a proper murder mystery, just emphasising the slightly ridiculous characters. Think Knives Out. See How They Run is more directly connected to Agatha Christie as it’s set around the early days of the Mouse Trap (it doesn’t spoil the show, and you don’t have to have seen it, but there are a couple of jokes you may miss). I really enjoyed the whole thing, the mystery was solid, the characters large but believable, and I chuckled fairly consistently. I really wish there were more films like this, just easy going solid entertainment. 8 / 10

Do Revenge
I really enjoyed this! It’s a high school spin on Strangers on a Train and knowingly plays up to all the tropes of high school movies – ‘kids’ blatantly played by 20-somethings, with too much money, no schoolwork, overworked cliches and overblown relationships. There isn’t an ounce of realism in this film and it was therefore a brilliant bit of escapism. The actors are all charismatic and utterly believable playing preposterous characters; the twists of the plot are both predictable and ridiculous and it’s a riot of colour and energy. Exactly what I needed. 8 / 10

Coincidentally I read Persuasion earlier this year and given that I usually hate this kind of book, gave this one the dubious positive review of being “the best one I’ve read” with a “quite likeable” lead character. I therefore went into the film tentatively, particularly given that it seemed to be getting terrible reviews, but I actually rather liked it! It didn’t take itself too seriously, and I thought the breaking of the 4th wall and Dakota Johnson’s performance was actually really fitting for the book and brought a nice energy to the whole thing. There were a few too many characters to keep track of (the same problem I had with the book), but the more comic characters were played beautifully. 8 / 10

There’s quite a clever idea behind this film – the toy Buzz Lightyear is tie-in merchandise to a film, and this is that film. I like the meta-ness of that. I also loved the trailer, set to David Bowie and absolutely beautiful. Sometimes Pixar manages to pull off that balance (Inside Out, Wall-e), but here the two ideas just fight each other. On one hand you’ve got a kids’ film with an overblown (and frankly annoying) lead character, a robot cat and band of misfits. On the other hand you’ve got a complicated plot relying on understanding Special Relativity and ethical dilemas about when you should fight a situation, and when you should make the best of it. the film does look absolutely beautiful, but as a whole, it just didn’t work. 5 / 10

A former soldier with a lot of stuff going on is forced into a road trip with a former military service dog who also has a lot of stuff going on. It’s not exactly challenging to guess where this story will go and it doesn’t even try to subvert the genre in the slightest. But this sort of story works for a reason, and so long as you’ve got a charismatic lead (Channing Tatum – tick) and an excellent dog (tick) then you’ve got a recipe for success. Plenty of humour, plenty of emotion. Big tick. 7 / 10

This is a terrible film. If not for some of the names attached (Roland Emmerich, Halle Berry) and the scale of the budget and effects, you would assume it was knocked together in a basement somewhere. The plot makes very little sense even if you can ignore the horrifically bad science, the script is clunky and the acting hammy. It is at least pretty to look at, but it completely fails to capture any of the energy or entertainment of Independence Day and it makes even Day After Tomorrow look like a masterpiece. The only thing it has going for it is that it’s not offensive in any way except for the waste of some money and a small amount of talent. 4 / 10

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
I don’t know why I decided to give this film a second try, maybe because the concept of making a sort of superhero team out a random collection of literary characters in a steam punk setting is so good. But the reality is a mess. The script is absolutely dire, a messy plot, inconsistent characters and just terrible dialogue. The look of it is also a problem because everything is so dark it’s hard to understand what’s going on, and to be honest just not worth the effort. An absolute waste. 4 / 10

The Wind
I feel like I should write something really carefully considered about this film, but I just can’t seem to be bothered. It’s supposed to be a horror film, and it’s relying on the unsettling nature of the utterly desolate setting of the edges of America in the late 1800’s, a pair of couples trying to make their way surrounded by frankly nothing. But within about 10 minutes my attention wandered and I disengaged. The cinematography was beautiful and maybe in a cinema would have been enough, but the story and characters were fairly unremarkable, and the jumping timeline kind of ruined any sense of surprise. It’s not terrible, and at least it’s under 90mins, but it could probably have been under an hour and not lost 6 / 10

Sister Act
A thoroughly entertaining and feel good film. Yeah, it’s a bit dated now and there are plenty of daft moments, but when I stumbled across it on television I still found myself laughing, smiling, and singing along. The only thing that surprised me was that it was actually a bit light on the songs, particularly as most of them get reprised. 7 / 10

There’s absolutely no reason this film shouldn’t have been great, it had a massive budget, an excellent cast, talented crew and the kind of creative freedom only a name that Ridley Scott can bring; it had “how can it possibly fail?” written all over it.
The answer is apparently that it can fail through sheer laziness on the script writers parts. The story made no sense! Plot holes you could drive moons through, astronomically stupid characters, bludgeoning the ‘suspension of disbelief’ barriers until they break and a casual disregard for science, health and safety, or common sense that is just offensive. Maybe they forgot the basics while they were droning on with “where do we all come from” mystycism. Alien was just about some believable people trying to survive and that was why it was tense and engaging, idiots trying to find the answers to life’s eternal questions… who cares.
If you can’t make the plot work without characters making stupid and random decisions, the plot doesn’t work. If you insist on your characters being stupid and random, then I’m not going to care when they get splattered, in fact I’ll likely give a little cheer. Oh and insisting on putting female characters in their underwear (and utterly impractical underwear at that) isn’t going to help your case either.
The only positive thing I will say for the film is that the cast did their best with awful material. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender were superb, Idris Elba was charming (with the exception of his meandering accent) and Charlize Theron took her idiotic character and made her interesting for a little while. The cast deserved better. As did the viewer. 5 / 10

Alien: Covenant
Given how utterly awful I found Alien Prometheus, I didn’t have high hopes for Covenant, and yet somehow I think they actually managed to make something worse. Just like Prometheus, we’ve got an incoherent plot, stupid characters and interminable mysticism and talking, when all I really wanted was running and screaming. There’s also way too many characters to keep track of, a lot of stuff happening in dark uninteresting caves and a slightly under-whelming hero. The only positive is that there were a lot less gratuitous underwear shots, so at least it only insulted my intelligence not my morals. 5 / 10

Birds of Prey
This was exactly what it needed to be and should be – bright, exciting, engaging and with just enough substance to it to raise it above disposable fluff. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is mesmerising, she may seem bonkers, but she’s actually seeing things possibly more clearly than anyone else. The world she lives in is insane and she’s just reacting accordingly. The rest of the Birds of Prey can’t quite find the space to shine for most of the film, which is a little disappointing as for most of the film any scene without Harley in it is just a little duller and starts to lag. In the unchallenging competition of the DC cinematic universe, this is the first one that hasn’t disappointed me. 8 / 10


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