UNCHARTED (2022)

Who is this actually for?

It’s middling as an action film in its own right, and alters so much about the characters and lore from the games that it’s certain to irritate its established fanbase.

CG is wonky, performances don’t fit, characterizations are wrong, plot is so full of holes and leaps that it limps from one sequence to the next. Almost everyone is miscast, and those who aren’t are wasted.

Steals a few famous sequences from the games, but forgets that the joy of them comes from the interactivity, so having badly chopped recreations slapped together completely fails to capture any of their kinetic excitement or snappy writing.

The Uncharted games exist as a way of modernising classic Indiana Jones-type movies, which themselves were modernisations of pulp adventure serials. Taking the games and putting them back on film feels like a copy of a copy of a copy.

Apparently this was successful enough to declare it a franchise, so look forward to a bunch more utterly benign movies completely missing the point, I guess.

Watch something good instead.

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (2021)

There’s not a lot to say, really. It takes a leaf from Stranger Things (literally, if you factor Finn Wolfhard’s casting) by putting the focus on kids chasing a supernatural mystery.

It’s most interesting when it’s doing this, and kinda loses steam in the back half when it more or less becomes a beat-for-beat recreation of the original film, but with a few creative spins.

It’s weird to think of “how tasteful is the fan-service?” as common consideration in modern filmmaking, but here we are. And it’s fine. Lots of callbacks and cameos and references, nothing too egregious or eye-rolly.

Perfectly servicable legacy-quel, and not much more. Worth a watch, don’t think about it too much.

OB-EWAN’S KESHOWBI (2022)

Nice to look at, fundamentally pointless. The embodiment of all the the things wrong with modern Star Wars.

Rather than take this opportunity to tell smaller, self-contained stories within the broader universe (ala the first season of The Mandalorian), we’re instead given the same tired runaround of connecting every arbitrary object and event to something that already existed in the other films. It’s fan-service at its flattest and most uninspired.

VFX are excellent, but performances are mixed, some of the action sequences have absolutely horrible geographic logic and choreography, the plot meanders and then goes nowhere important.

How can it?

Given that this takes place between Episodes III & IV, nothing of the conflicts it chooses to explore can have any consequence, and therefore there are zero stakes. Why have Vader and Obi-Wan meet and fight now, since we all know that both will survive? Why have Obi-Wan and Leia go on adventures when they’re barely acquaintances years later?

If anything, forcing all these characters to meet up now undermines any of the impact of the later films, and in many ways directly contradicts pre-established story beats. They actively make the good parts of Star Wars worse by this incessant need to only ever revisit the same handful characters and locations.

For a franchise with this much (very much strained) goodwill and financial backing, it’s a shame that it’s so utterly allergic to doing anything interesting with itself.

Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with it, and would be highly skeptical of anything Star Wars yet to come.

A waste.

DEATH ON THE NILE (2022)

It’s fine.

Sure, the CGI is distracting, the cast is a mix of flat and overused or charismatic and underused, and the mystery is eminently guessable from the first few scenes, but…

…well, there is no “but”. Much as I like Branagh, his Poirot is at his best in the opening flashback before being largely set aside until it comes time to start throwing around accusations in the final act.

Honestly, I worked out the guilty before the murder had even taken place, and was only briefly diverted from my confidence by thinking maybe there was a meta-twist that I wasn’t considering. Solving the mystery early isn’t in itself problematic—it’s arguably the point of a mystery thriller—but unfortunately there isn’t any real sort of tension or curiosity drawn out.

Passable light entertainment, but there are far, far better whodunnits out there.

RESIDENT EVIL: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021)

Awful.

Just staggeringly bad all the way down.

The writing is terrible, the direction is terrible, the characters are terrible, the vfx are terrible, the acting is terrible, the adaptation is TERRIBLE.

And worst of all, it doesn’t even have the decency to be fun. Just excruciatingly boring from start to finish, with the worst creative decisions made at every conceivable turn.

I couldn’t even be bothered painting anything for the review, so enjoy my warning scrawled with my left hand.

Do not watch. Do literally anything else.

ATLANTA // s03

Another cracking season from one of the best shows on television.

It’s surreal, hilarious, meandering, thoughtful, unexpected, harsh and subtle, often all at once. Whenever you think you have a handle on things, it just zags around you in really wonderful and creative ways.

This season has the primary cast (Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakieth Stanfield, Zazie Beetz) on tour in Europe — this time tackling new success and the same old bizarre tics of humanity. There seems to be even less of a focus on Glover’s Earn this time around, which only gives the rest of the cast more time to shine.

Every episode is its own self-contained story, every one of them is a strange little gem. There’s no real moral lessons: it’s just odd and messy and human.

Oh, and there are some fantastic unexpected cameos throughout.

Really, the worst part about this show is that there’s only one season left.

Highly, highly recommended.

X (2022)

Every once in a while a film comes along that works as a perfect distillation of a bygone era, and X is just that.

Lean, economical horror executed in perfect reverence of 70’s exploitation horror movies, while putting its own spin on audience expectations and overworn tropes on sex in horror.

Camerawork, production design, SFX and performances are all exceptional — exactly hitting the tone and style of a forgotten slasher flick, but with all the benefit of decades of hindsight.

Gory, titillating, hilarious and fun. If you’re a genre fan then you won’t want to miss it.

Highly recommended.

MEN (2022)

Unsettling A24 folk-horror, with fantastic production value and a third act that will split audiences entirely in half with how little it decides to explain itself.

Thematically, it’s very plainly about the abuses that men visit upon women and how they trap them, but it’s how it refracts this idea into vague abstractions and the supernatural that make it symbolic, creepy and grotesque.

There’s a good deal of confronting imagery, a bunch of body horror, plus depictions of stalking, gaslighting and psychological/emotional abuse that will turn a lot of people off immediately.

It’s confusing and oblique, while also being very direct and almost literal. An extremely subjective movie that I enjoyed a lot, and will spend a while trying to entangle exactly what the fuck happened.

HEAVY SPOILERS BELOW

Continue reading “MEN (2022)”

CHIP ‘N’ DALE: RESCUE RANGERS (2022)

Well this was a fun surprise.

Basically, it’s modern-day Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, all the way from blended animation/live action through to the Noir mystery detective story.

Cameos are an absolutely hilarious mix of unexpected cuts, absurd jokes and examples of just how deep Disney’s bench of IPs actually is these days.

Mulaney and Samberg are perfect casting, the animation is great, the concept and execution are excellent.

Solid comedy, well recommended.

MOON KNIGHT // s01

More of an archeological adventure with superhero elements than a straight superhero show.

Definitely draws some influence from the 90s version of The Mummy, and the globe-trotting adventures of National Treasure and Indiana Jones. As such, it feels very disconnected from the rest of the MCU, but this only works to its own benefit.

Oscar Isaac is really giving everything to his performance, split between two distinct personalities at odds with one another while in the service of the Egyptian god of vengeance.

It’s this focus on character, while using the capes and magic stuff as set dressing, that puts this a cut above the rest. It’s short too, coming in at just six episodes, so it packs everything in without overstaying its welcome.

No prior knowledge of any other Marvel stuff required, just a fun standalone little adventure. Hopefully more of the Disney+ shows work to this kind of structure.