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)”

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”

FUTURE MAN (s01-03)

A slacker janitor beats an impossible videogame that turns out to be a recruitment tool from time-travelling warriors that need him to be their saviour.

What ensues is a ridiculous romp across multiple timelines, the most callous disregard for the dangers of time-travel, a whole episode dunking on James Cameron and some of the funniest, wildest character arcs in recent memory. The cast is great too!

It’s really silly, really fun, really entertaining. Season three was the last as well so you’re not on the hook for too big a ride and it’s constantly changing itself up in new and bizarre ways.

Definitely worth your time.

THE PLATFORM (2020)

CUBE, except vertical and the levels represent society. Low budget sci-fi horror with a decent hook and some visceral, nasty things to show you.

Fairly blunt in its sociopolitical metaphor, but it’s not really trying to be clever beyond making the broad strokes of commentary. It’s fairly plain what it’s getting at, but beyond face-value it doesn’t really say anything much deeper.

Stomach churning at turns, nihilistic at others, ultimately it’s an okay thought experiment that isn’t entirely sure what to do with its premise beyond the obvious.

Worth a watch, just not over dinner.

VIVARIUM (2019)

An extended TWILIGHT ZONE episode in all the right ways. If that’s your jam then this is worth a look without reading anything further at risk of spoilers.

What of the plot can’t be extrapolated from the title and the first few minutes of the film are best left untold, since so much of the unfolding events work their magic through a well crafted dive into what the fuck is going on here??

It’s very slow and kinda bleak, building to a hallucinatory climax. Quite grounded despite an otherworldy sort of scifi pretense and solid, minimal production design.

Once its setup is established it spends its time playing out much as promised, bouyed up on great performances of unravelling sanity by Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg and a new contender for the most horrible uncanny child performance in a thriller/horror film. I hate him. Great job!

I avoided the trailer, but watching it afterwards I noted that it gives away a lot of the first half, so definitely skip it. Drags on a little in the middle but a bit of tedium is selling the experience of the characters.

Otherwise, this is worth a watch!

DEVS (2020)

Minimalist contemporary-set scifi with excellent production design and a languid, contemplative pace.

Not for everyone, mostly because it’s very slow and it chooses to skew hard into heady philosophy — pretty standard territory for writer/director Alex Garland. But those inclined towards this sort of thing will love it.

Skirts around the whole “mystery box” approach pretty handily by not being coy with its premise and so spends good time with a host of characters grasping what the devs department at a Silicon Valley tech giant is actually doing.

Nick Offerman and Alison Pill are standouts and the cinematography is top-notch, there’s a good sense of real-time events unfolding as episodes take place roughly over the course of a day each but this can lead to little bits of drag here and there. Can be a bit “telly” rather than “showy” with characters but compared to how clumsily WESTWORLD has swung towards blunt expositional dialogue this season I’m willing to forgive a much smaller show a few faults when it excels in other areas.

Overall, pretty good. I’m always keen for more scifi like this so I’d recommend checking it out.

UNDERWATER (2020)

Great cast, great production design… but ultimately it’s a pretty by-the-numbers wannabe creature feature which feels stuck together at a disjointed pace in a way that sacrifices any tension or tone for predictable jump scares and expositional dialogue.

Not outright bad in any regard, just kinda middling and doesn’t flex as much on an interesting premise as it could have.

Has some cool moments but mostly it’s just okay.

COLOR OUT OF SPACE (2019)

There’s something inherently difficult in translating this specific short story to the screen, given that the titular “colour out of space” is supposed to be indescribable by nature and film is an inherently visual medium.

Still, there’s some interesting work done with colour grades and some really neat glitch-style VFX that do a fine job of translating cosmic horror in a creative way, even if the story is a little choppy and doesn’t flow together as well as it should, especially in the back half when the body horror gets turned up and things get stomach-churningly weird. It’s clumsy and clunky at times but pretty forgivable because it’s trying. Surprisingly understated from Nicolas Cage too, which is neither criticism nor compliment especially — he could have gone bigger but did it really need it?

There are some really unsetting images on display right alongside some ethereally beautiful ones and more than one homage to the big daddy of Lovecraftian films, THE THING. And it gets points for swinging out in a creative direction moreso than I was expecting.

Mostly good, if a little lacklustre overall but genre fans will find a lot to like here.

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.