CANDYMAN (2021)

A modernisation/continuation of the 1992 original, but lacking any of its iconic tone or atmosphere.

Tells its themes rather than showing, and kinda wastes a great idea for connection to the first film that really only materialises in the final minutes.

A couple of cool looking kills, but let down by a disappointing absence of Tony Todd in the title role.

Ultimately, it feels more defined by what it lacks in comparison to the original than by what it brings as a reimagining of the legend.

Sadly, forgettable.

NO TIME TO DIE (2021)

Flat.

Some beautiful shots that prop up a meandering narrative that’s a full hour too long, without any really distinct thrills of its own in a franchise that usually defines itself by unique thrills. There’s no memorable sequence that compares to anything from Casino Royale through Skyfall. There’s nothing here that holds a candle to the more recent Mission Impossible films.

And that’s the problem, really. Skyfall felt like a very natural conclusion to Craig’s James Bond, but now we have another film having to re-tie things up, unfortunately now including loose threads from the terrible Spectre. It feels anticlimactic and played out, especially since we kind of already did this dance already, and better.

The highlight is a brief Knives Out reunion with Ana de Armas, who blusters in to kick ass and be absurdly charming for about 15min before vanishing from the film entirely.

All the classic Bond tropes are present: a gadget car, a transforming vehicle, a fancy trick watch, a henchman with a gimmick, a villain with a visual hook, a stylish island lair, and a monstrous global plot.

But it keeps forgetting to have fun and just be a Bond movie, rather choosing to focus on lackluster relationships with Léa Sedoux and Christoph Waltz. It’s making the same mistake as Spectre of trying to force engagement by tying things together retroactively, but that’s not what a Bond film is meant to be.

The fourth best Craig Bond film, or the second worst depending on your perspective.

FREE GUY (2021)

It’s fine.

The best jokes are things that were clearly thrown into the background by a VFX crew who’ve spent a lot of time in GTAV or Saint’s Row, but otherwise it’s a pretty boilerplate action/comedy/romance that asks you not to think too hard about any of its pretense.

Some good throwaway cameos, visuals absolutely nail the aesthetic, cast is charismatic.

Writing’s flat, and even Taika Waititi can’t make some of the dialogue sound good. Lots of the jokes don’t really land. Pacing is all over the place, making it feel both too long but also like it doesn’t have the time to do anything more than lip service to its more interesting ideas.

It does that weird trope movies do where they show a lot of people around the world all simultaneuously watching a livestream and yelling encouragement that just feels entirely false, like they’re trying to artificially inflate investment in the stakes that people don’t really have. Stop cutting away to people who aren’t involved in the action.

Overall, an extremely medium movie. Better than Ready Player One, with about 90% less cynical brand recognition. Not sure how much that says though.

Watch it or don’t.

MALIGNANT (2021)

Starts out seeming like THE GRUDGE before taking a couple of left turns into campy, ridiculous, and absurd. Your mileage may vary.

It’s definitely entertaining, fantastically shot, and will either intrigue or baffle with its originality.

It’s also strangely melodramatic, frequently silly and the actual twist is so hilariously weird that you’ll either find this to be a work of genius or throw the whole thing out.

Feels like modern day 80s horror trash, a solid three-star film. You already know by now if this is your jam.

So, recommended. Or not. Your call.

But if you just HAVE to know the twist:

Continue reading “MALIGNANT (2021)”

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND (2021)

An absolutely baffling Japanese-American neon Western wherein Nicolas Cage is strapped into a bomb suit to rescue a governor’s daughter who has gone missing and maybe ghosts did it or maybe it’s a curse?

There has to be a fascinating story behind the production. This is a hot mess. It’s weird and surreal, disjointed and kind of hilarious, but not entirely clear how much is intentional or how much is the result of some insane catastrophy.

There are no establishing shots so the whole geography of the world feels about a hundred feet from anything else. Things appear and disappear without motivation or explanation.

At one point Nicolas Cage has a ball blown off and screams “MY. TESTICLLLLLLE!!” with the strangest delivery of any line, possibly in any film. This is what you come for in a Nicolas Cage film.

And yet, it’s still wildly boring for long stretches and even its most absurd moments and creative shot work only manage to sporadically elevate it to actually compelling.

Is it good? Almost definitely not.

Was I entertained? Absolutely.

Do I recommend it? Uuuuuh… I don’t know?

SHANG CHI & THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (2021)

It’s great!

The best fight sequences in the MCU spiced up with a real kind of classical martial arts film flavour. Bucks the usual Marvel first-movie formula and takes a hard right turn in wild Asian mysticism and fantasy in the back half which was a pleasant surprise.

Compelling villain (the legendary Tony Leung!) and a solid emotional through-line. Simu Liu kills it in the title role, Awkwafina brings a great levity without falling into comic movie bathos. There’s some significant deviation from the source material but it’s all for the better.

And I mentioned that the fight scenes are great fun, right? Choreography feels frantic and snappy and the editing doesn’t get in the way. Sure, the climax turns into an insane CGI party, but it feels fitting for the high fantasy turn.

A little bit Hong Kong martial arts flick, a little bit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a little bit classic MCU. Very promising for the future direction of Marvel, they’re setting the bar high for Phase Four.

Recommended!

BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (2018)

An abandoned motel straddling the California/Nevada state lines plays host to six strangers with dark pasts.

The cast is inspired, the production design is excellent and the stagecraft is fantastic. Cinematography is creative and makes the whole production feel like an elaborate stage play. Soundtrack is stacked with 50s bops.

Pacing’s a little off and it drags some in the back half, but its style and character performances really elevate it as a solid, well executed Noir thriller.

Recommended.

VIVO (2021)

A colourful celebration of Latin American music, soundtracked by and starring Lin Manuel Miranda as the titular kinkajou.

Skews to a younger crowd, with bright colours and high antics. Some of the designs are honestly pretty ugly but the story has heart and the songs are all original Mirandas, including some great performances from Gloria Estefan.

Good for the kids, but lacking that extra layer of depth that makes an animated film truly great and memorable.

THE TOMORROW WAR (2021)

It’s… fine?

Creature design is fantastic, VFX are A-grade, story is intriguing enough in principle:

A war in the future recruits people from the present to battle an unstoppable alien force. Hijinx ensue.

However, so much of the overlong runtime boils down to characters moving towards an objective while shooting in flat, uninteresting sequences.

Maybe I’ve just crossed my threshold of interest in seeing Chris Pratt as a generic soldier hero bro.

There’s some clever ideas and some great shots mixed in, but overall it doesn’t really cohere to capitalise on an interesting idea and ends up being merely competent.

It’s not bad, it’s just not great.

Probably just watch Edge of Tomorrow again instead, it’s more fun.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

Absurdly violent, ridiculously silly and very, very entertaining.

The smartest move was definitely to just ignore that they made one of these in 2016 and throw a whole pile of fresh C-list characters into the grinder.

Never once takes itself seriously, yet manages to take enough time to bring an emotional core to each of these assholes to make the stakes stick and the action meaningful.

Soundtrack’s great, characters are fun, story is appropriately bonkers. Most importantly, it’s a good time!

Easily the best DC film, requires zero comic knowledge to enjoy.

Definitely recommended.