PALM SPRINGS (2020)

Much more subdued than what you might expect from a Lonely Island movie but still light, easy and fun all the same.

Effortlessly charismatic performances from both Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti and the always welcome JK Simmons wildcard.

Could have maybe gone a little bigger on its premise, but it’s also really charming while keeping its humour away from the sort of rambling aimless improv you’d get from, say, an Apatow version of this.

Good for a lazy day if you want to feel colour and sunshine pouring out of your TV.

THE LAST OF US: Part II (2020)

What a ride. Brutal, bleak and uncompromising in its determination to make you feel every twist of the knife and to question your part in how far Eillie is willing to go for revenge.

It’s significantly longer than I was expecting, which at first I thought was a fault, but the back half actually contains and surpasses much of the emotion and spectacle of the first, and of the original game, and I found its bolder choices always backed up its thesis statement that violence begets violence.

This is an unpleasant lesson, of course, and Naughty Dog’s stubborn refusal to sway from making you truly feel that these are almost exclusively terrible people while investing significant time and effort into making you empathise with them is a large part of what will make this game stand out long after the naysayers have gotten over the fact that this is not a fanservice sequel but rather a direct continuation of the consequence of the choices that very flawed people made in the first game.

Yes, it is at times tropey. Yes, it is at time quite ham-fisted in what it is trying to convey. Yes, it seems like it could have ended cleanly in more than a few places. But ultimately it’s unafraid to shy from the sort of harshness that makes something like The Road both miserable and incredible at once, and that lingers long after the credits.

It is staggeringly well crafted, beautiful and horrifying to look at, emotionally draining and tense throughout.

Ignore the hate, make up your own damn mind. There’s an incredible, one-of-a-kind journey into darkness to be found here.

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD.

Continue reading “THE LAST OF US: Part II (2020)”

EUROVISION: Fire Saga Story or whatever (2020)

I’m not gonna spend time drawing anything for this one. It sucks.

Dan Stevens and Rachel McAdams’ charisma are entirely wasted on two hours of unwritten jokes and Will Ferrell improvising badly between occasional bright moments of Eurovision ridiculousness that are neither a love letter to the song contest nor anything approaching a satire.

There’s a good pretense for a film here but this execution is fucking atrocious. Comedy is an extremely generous classification.

Skip it.

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.

THE VAST OF NIGHT (2019)

A nice, simple little scifi thriller with the look and feel of an early Cold War-set episode of STRANGE TALES or THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

Does a great deal with very little, and has some really creative camera work that beautifully describes the distances around a small town somewhere in 1950s America.

Some incredibly long and seamless shots and two extremely charismatic lead performances, but to say anything of the plot would be to ruin the tone and the expectation it so wonderfully builds with steady, thoughtful pace. Could have perhaps gone a little further with some of its more creative reaches to really elevate itself it greatness, but I’m not going to hold that against it since restraint stops it tipping over into gimmicky and helps it feel authentic.

Recommended — don’t read anything up about it!

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”

GOOD OMENS (2019)

While the main thrust of the plot may be about a mixup of the Antichrist at birth and his coming into his power at the cusp of the apocalypse, the real shining heart is the friendship between an angel and a devil who are both terrible at their jobs.

Seldom is casting so fantastically on point as Michael Sheen and David Tennant, so much so that I almost neglected to shoutout the rest of the cast performances. It’s hard not to think of these two as Aziraphale and Crowley, harder still not to believe that they’ve been friends for centuries.

I’ve not read the book but the adaptation has all the hallmarks of a Gaiman/Pratchett collaboration: smartly funny absurdist wit, good pacing and a soundtrack by Queen. So, a quintessential British comedy miniseries.

Recommended.

THE FAREWELL (2019)

A Chinese-American family returns home to attend a cousin’s wedding, except the wedding is fake and the family are really gathering to say goodbye to their grandmother whom they haven’t told is dying.

Awkwafina should have received more than just the hushed critical attention she got for this — she really anchors the perspective of an outsider watching a familiar yet alien culture navigate a complex situation, and does so with gravity and a genuine, moving charisma.

Each of the family members offers some insight into the clash of culture between East and West, but seldom do we really get to see that conflict from the modern Chinese perspective and what their own misconceptions of Western culture are like, especially regarding something as universal as a death in the family.

Deserves all the praise. It’s a wonderful film, highly recommended.

PAIN & GLORY // DOLOR Y GLORIA (2019)

I’m starting to think this Antonio Banderas guy might have a bright future ahead of him.

This only really lost attention last year because it was up against the fantastic PARASITE and PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE — it’s a warm, understated and craftsmanly slice of film with a mesmerising lead performance and a mellow, retrospective tone to it.

As much a meditation on a long life of storytelling as it is a story within a story of itself. Doesn’t have the dazzle of its rivals but isn’t aiming for that sort of thing, and is no less a beautiful film.

Recommended.