LUCA (2021)

Possibly the lightest, summeriest Pixar film to date — one that’s thankfully not interested in heavy emotional subject matter but would rather just present a nice, simple story and it delivers a delight.

Two young sea monsters sneak up on land to win a triathalon so they can buy a Vespa. Friendships are formed, hijinx ensue.

The visuals take on a sort of extremely advanced claymation quality, complimented by saturated colours and an expressive animation style.

Charm in spades, it’s a warm and easy film that unfortunately might end up overlooked due to skipping a theatrical release in favour of jumping straight to Disney+.

Don’t sleep on it though, it’s great.

ONE CUT OF THE DEAD // Kamera wo tomeru na! (2017)

An instant modern classic.

An indie film crew shoots a low budget, single-take film in a cursed power station and zombies show up.

The camera never cuts! shouts the director.

For anyone with even a passing interest in filmmaking this is an absolute gem, and keeps revealing layer upon layer of itself as the crew dies off and the production threatens to collapse.

A hilarious disaster.

Just make sure you stay all the way through the credits (both times!).

Highly recommended.

Bo Burnham: INSIDE (2021)

When this whole pandemic situation started we knew that there was terrible art out there being made about it. Just some really dreadful, insufferably thoughtless bad takes.

But out there too are some diamonds — pieces of creativity that encapsulate and express the time beautifully.

This is the latter. Calling it merely “pandemic art” does a massive disservice to what Burnham has created here. Infact, INSIDE is really the first definitive piece of work from the shitstorm of the last year-and-change that actually feels like a meaningful embodiment of what life has become, and it all takes place in a single room.

Burnham’s comedy had always been brilliantly self-conscious and this is no different, playing big with creative lighting setups and brilliant minimalistic cinematography.

But it also turns against him over the course of a year working on his Netflix special, alone and steadily succumbing to the isolation. And there is familar darkness there.

It’s relatable. Distressing. The results are honest and sincere and uncomfortable, wrapped in dazzling visuals and straining, ragged-edged wit. Oh, and the songs are great.

The experience of the past fourteen months will leave a lasting mark on human collective psyche and culture and many more attempts will be made to express this capsule of time.

Whatever other stories come, INSIDE will rank absolutely among the best of them. The first real masterpiece of its kind.

Highly recommended.

ISLE OF DOGS (2018)

A little late to the party on this one, but glad I got around to it.

All the charm and personality of Fantastic Mr Fox plus all the usual trapping of a Wes Anderson flick.

Positively dripping with style and meticulous production design. The plot is tight and quirky and heartwarming, the voice cast is A+.

So, yeah, again… a Wes Anderson film. You generally know what you’re in for and this doesn’t disappoint.

Recommended.

TED LASSO — s01 (2020)

For a show that’s framed around an American football coach moving to the UK to coach soccer it’s really about everything except that.

There’s an infectious earnestness and shameless good-natured bent it all that you can’t help but get invested in. And damn if the relentless optimism doesn’t just get in there and warm you up.

One of the McElroy brothers (Travis?) said something to the effect of “don’t punch down, don’t punch up, just don’t punch” and nothing embodies that idea so perfectly as Ted Lasso. It’s mature, kind, compassionate and manages to do it with fantastic emotional intelligence while also being anti-cynical and effortlessly hilarious.

I was often suprised, and always pleasantly, to find where it had chosen to place its narrative conflicts and how it chose to resolve them. As such it very quickly works to undermine your expectations of cheap drama for drama’s sake. This show has no interest in playing that way and it’s honestly all the more a ray of sunshine because of it, but what’s more is because it’s not burning up time trying to force conflict in everywhere it becomes entirely about mediation and accountability, and it gives the characters more time to just be.

After the absolute bastard that was 2020 it’s refreshing to watch something that actually just makes you feel good and Ted Lasso knocks it out of the park. Everyone needs a Ted in their corner.

The good news is this has already been renewed for three seasons. I understand why this topped so many peoples’ lists from last year. Do yourself a favour and get on it.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (s02)

Now that introductions and an initial conflict in the first season are out of the way it’s much more fun just to let the characters be themselves… while scattered across the timeline of 1960s Dallas, Texas.

Of course, there’s another apocalypse looming and a trio of time-hopping Swedish assassins to deal with, but really the show shines when it’s letting the family play off and support each other.

Feels a bit more loose and creative this time around, and the soundtrack is bangin’, the whole cast puts in great, hilarious, dysfunctional performances.

A case could be made for spreading the show out over weeks instead of dropping the Netflix binge model all at once, since something like this is fun to keep in conversation rather than to burn through and promptly forget about, but that’s a broader conversation on streaming strategies.

All up, better than the previous season even if the pacing is a little strange at times. If you liked the first one you’ll have a good time again here.

HARLEY QUINN (s01/02)

A motherf***ing charming, bloody delight.

You might feel inclined to dismiss this for its proximity to the aggressively mediocre SUICIDE SQUAD film, or that on the surface it looks wannabe-DEADPOOL edgy — it’s really anything but!

Think of it as Adult Swim-toned Elseworlds DC universe satire wrapped around a sort of romantic comedy and garnished with all the obscenities and gory violence they can cram in. I’m talking people decaptiated by an ice-skating routine and an alcoholic Commissioner Gordon obsessed with trying to make an emotionally distant Batman his bestie.

Thanks to sharp writing, tonnes of heart, a stellar voice cast and some of the funniest characterisations in the DC canon this one’s way better than expected.

Two seasons, fingers crossed for a third and beyond cos this is a gem.

REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies

Every once in a while I remember a bunch of films that I’ve recently watched which didn’t leave enough of an impression to want to paint them, so I compile them into a single post. This is one of those posts:

GUNS AKIMBO
BLOODSHOT
JUMANJI 2
DOLITTLE
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
FANTASTIC BEASTS
A WRINKLE IN TIME
WRECK IT RAPLH 2
RAMPAGE

Continue reading “REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies”