KINGDOM: s02 (2020)

Zombie plague + feudal Korea + beautiful cinematography + devious political machinations = an absolute winner following a similarly great first season.

Lots of twists and turns, great choreography and characters. It’s on Netflix now.

Highly recommended.

THE SNOWMAN (2017)

Did they forget to add real credits at the start or did the graphic design place just give up?

Did they spend all their budget on these banging scenic wide shots and that one big swanky party scene?

Why is this character named Harry Hole? Is it a translation error?

Why does Michael Fassbender always look dead? Is it alcoholism or bad grading?

Why does Harry continue to live in his apartment when the walls have been torn out to spray for toxic mold and not replaced?

How is the killer already in his car when we already know he was following way behind this woman?

Why are there random white flashes in scenes?

Why do we see scenes from nine years in the past even though nobody in the present was there to remember them?

Why do only two people in the film smoke when they keep cutting to cigarette butts at crime scenes (which nobody ever finds or comments on)? Why does The Great Detective never see them right there?

Why is it suddenly daytime? Why is it suddenly nighttime? Why is it suddenly daytime? Why is it suddenly nighttime?

Why do they say the killer only strikes when it snows when we’ve seen that it wasn’t?

Why is half the dialogue recorded in voiceover or badly dubbed in? Is this a prank?

Why does Chloe Sevigny just suddenly have a twin? Why did they need a snow truck to drop Harry off when we already saw that the house is literally 10ft from where he just was? How did he know to look in the tank and how did the killer get in/out?

Why doesn’t Magnus get a promotion? He literally has every bit of useful plot information immediately ready as soon as someone asks for it. Is it because he has to wait to be told to give people crucial information?

Why do neither of the detectives working on this case know the same information?

Why does everyone in Norway except for two third-tier supporting characters speak with a proper British accent?

What is his relationship to his ex-girlfriend’s son? Why do they hang out? Is he just using him for his cell phone? WHY DOESN’T THIS POLICE DETECTIVE OWN A CELL PHONE? Why is he having police matters forwarded to a minor’s phone?

WHY SNOWMEN? Like, they ALSO show up at every crime scene but nobody ever makes any connections. IT’S THE NAME OF THE FILM AND THIS NEVER GETS EXPLAINED.

Why coffee beans? We the audience know why, but nobody else ever once comes close to even noticing them.

What is the deal with the entirety of Val Kilmer’s plotline? Why do we see something that nobody in the rest of the movie knows happened?

Are we in the middle of this? The start? Near the end? There’s been zero signposting of progress in either the killer case or the plot.

Why are the police just leaving a crime scene to be eaten by birds?

Is lying down on top of someone whose house you just broke into and who just attacked you because you broke into their house really the best way to resolve this situation?

Why does nobody ever follow up on JK Simmons? He’s literally the last person to see a victim alive after taking her photo with his phone IN PUBLIC WITH WITNESSES and then gives her his room card. HOW DID THE KILLER GET IN THE ROOM? How does nobody notice Rebecca Ferguson’s giant recording device? You can see it across the room! How did the killer find and move her gun when she was in the room the whole time? When/where did she get changed?

Who was the girl who had her boobs out for JK Simmons? She didn’t seem happy about it but then she just shows up again opening doors for people and then that entire plotline gets dropped. Who is she? IS SHE OK?? Why was Rebecca Ferguson even following her in the first place?

How does Harry know where to go to find his not-family? How does the razor-wire gun work and why does that exist? Why do none of the letters in the trailers show up in the film?

How did Harry not see the killer standing in the middle of a frozen lake in daytime not forty paces away? Is it because he’s just slightly out of shot? Why did the ice suddenly break when Harry was standing right there not a minute before?

How does Harry always only have half a cigarette even when he didn’t have a lit one two cuts earlier?

Is this meant to be a parody and something (a lot of things) got lost in the edit? It’s two hours long! What did they cut?? Besides all the resolutions to all the plot threads, that is.

How did they get this cast in this film?

And then why does the movie just… end?

Can someone give me whatever this cost to make?

ATERRADOS (“Terrified”) — 2017

Super effective at creating a sense of dread as a group of specialists investigate a rash of supernatural occurrences in a small Buenos Aires neighbourhood that begin to seep and bleed from house to house.

Full of unsettling imagery and well executed horror tropes, even if it ultimately isn’t really sure how to best drive the terror home in the final act — it all feels very plausible until it suddenly doesn’t, partially due to some mishandled digital effects and a few little holes in the script.

Still, there’s some imaginative camerawork and genuinely creepy moments. If you’re a horror fan at all this Argentinian film is overall well worth giving a spin.

ROCKETMAN (2019)

I’ve really never been one much for biopics, finding that the restrictions of condensing a person’s lifetime down to a relatable 90-120min slice with a clear through-line and character arc tends to oversimplify what it is to be a person, even a great and notable one.

So I come out the other side of Elton John’s story feeling that Taron Egerton’s performance deserved more attention than it got and that the method of interweaving music and theatricality into a musician’s life story was creatively handled and well produced, but that what makes someone who they are is harder to quantify than with a handful of scenes, quick sketches of a time and a place punctuated by abstracted narrative music videos. These were/are real people who all lead rich and complex lives, and so much is lost in the simplification to a product. Life is still going on for them. Elton is even due in town on his farewell tour fairly soon.

The best “biopic” is still WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY – a parody of the genre that plainly states the story beats of this type of film so bluntly that it necessitates a more creative angle from anyone hoping to do it seriously, much like how CABIN IN THE WOODS so thoroughly satirised the horror genre that filmmakers had to think twice about their own approach.

I digress.

If you’re a fan of his music and are intrigued a little more by the life behind it then there is certainly plenty to love about ROCKETMAN. Egerton was hand-picked for the role and truly does great things with it, going so far as to learn to sing in brilliant mimickry of one of the all time rock’n’roll greats. It’s very straightforward, but that’s not a bad thing.

Absolutely watch this over the trainwreck that was BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY.

BIRDS OF PREY (2020)

A movie with an identity crisis: trying at once to step away from the pre-existing DCU while at the same time still allowing itself to be shaped by it in all the wrong ways.

I don’t really care a whole lot for the sort of post-production face-tattoo neon-edgelord style that SUICIDE SQUAD had going on, and I really feel like this was a pretense deserving of a few more polish and tighten passes on the script and some snappier direction more akin to a SCOTT PILGRIM or a DEADPOOL than the fairly middling thing that’s happening here.

The titular “Birds of Prey” don’t even really enter into it until the last part of the final act for some fairly stagey action sequences and it never really coheres into the sort of character piece it wants to be. Everyone except Harley (Robbie, who looks like she’s having a blast) is just sort of “in the movie” for the most part.

There’s some good stunts and the performances hit all the notes but it’s cut together in a way that feels like an afterthought rather than an intention.

Low mid-tier DCU, not the worst, but felt (like Harley herself) to be too defined by the shadow it’s trying to escape from under.

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019)

The two MALEFICENT movies exist in a weird tangent of the Disney live-action reboot universe.

On the one hand they’re an interesting perspective shift on the classic Sleeping Beauty tale with a surprisingly A-list cast (Jolie! Pfeiffer! Ejiofor! Fanning!) mixed in with some surprise appearances (Warwick Davis! Ed Skrein!). They’ve got the sort of largely well-done fantasy special effects that only a swollen purse and high-grade talent pool can produce.

On the other hand they’re overly melodramatic, exposition heavy and self-serious in a way that doesn’t serve much more than generic fantasy cliche tropes. Also, the humans (with few exceptions) are quite unambiguously the villains, especially in this film, so there’s little conflict in siding with this supposed “Mistress of Evil” who never does anything considerably evil at all. It sort of gets handwaved away as being the perception of her by commonfolk, but I still feel like Angelina Jolie must have signed on expecting something vampier and more fun than the little she really gets to do.

Characters are paper thin, plot goes nowhere interesting, action is pedestrian and stakes aren’t engaging, even the design is at most blandly pretty. The first one was okay but this feels unnecessary.

BRIGHTBURN (2019)

What if Superman hadn’t been sent to Earth as a refugee but rather as a kind of sleeper agent to a race of cruel alien warmongers?

Alternatively: Superboy the movie but he’s creepy and psychotic and it’s vaguely a methaphor for puberty.

A further case for the notion that the origin story is the least interesting part of a hero/villain fable, particularly when the morality of the protagonist is implied to have been decided for him by his host planet’s programming and no amount of nurture from his adoptive family will sway him back to “good”.

Kinda predictable despite being mostly well executed with some disgustingly visceral horror stuff in there too. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t quite live up to the potential of the premise in any way that something like CHRONICLE hadn’t already managed.

REVIEW SPECTACULAR SIX

Somehow I’ve managed to run up a backlog of stuff to review while editing my novel, and I’ve not the time to paint up something for each of these so here’s a handy bundle all in one place!

JOHN MULANEY & THE SNACK LUNCH BUNCH
UNCUT GEMS
MARRIAGE STORY
UNDER THE SILVER LAKE
THE GOOD PLACE (finale)
BOJACK HORSEMAN (finale)
FINAL SPACE (s01)
WHAT DID JACK DO?
TITANS (s01/02)

Enjoy!

Continue reading “REVIEW SPECTACULAR SIX”

READY OR NOT (2019)

Basically Hide & Seek: The Movie with a dark sense of humour and rapid ramp up into a grand and bloody crescendo.

Never once takes itself seriously, the cast is great, the plot’s a rolling good time right through and Samara Weaving makes for an iconic figure, splattered with blood in a torn wedding dress and bright yellow sneakers.

If horror comedies are your jam at all, this one comes highly recommended.