PREVIEW: September 2018

Wait…we are actually already at the end of August…I just needed a moment to let that sink in…

I did a fair few cinema trips in August (reviews for Slender Man and Yardie will be up by Sunday morning – guess which one I am dreading writing). As I enter September I have the final few hurdles of my Masters thesis to take on, but I am keeping my evenings free until late September, when I will likely be going away for a few days…must plan something…

For those evenings I have a fair few cinema trips planned, including The Children Act, The PredatorThe NunMile 22UpgradeSearchingAction PointThe Miseducation of Cameron PostThe SeagullFinal ScoreA Simple FavourNight SchoolThe House with a Clock in its Walls and Puzzle. I shall endeavour to get reviews for all of these films up, but as usual that is subject to time available to me.

Thank you as always for visiting this blog, and as ever I wish you Happy Reading for the month ahead!

FILM: BlacKkKlansman (2018, Spike Lee)

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Biopic BlacKkKlansman is distributed by Universal, following its premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. In 1979, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes the first black Police Detective in Colorado Springs. After joining the Intelligence Division, he and Detective Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) start working together to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in order to discover and prevent potential acts of terror.

PROS

  • Spike Lee directs this film with passion and precision, and in doing so makes his best film in easily over a decade, getting a very good balance between intense drama, amusing humour and political comment, while also conveying his detailed knowledge of film history.
  • The screenplay is a very clever piece of writing, with intense drama, amusing humour and political comment that is uncomfortable to watch at times, but for the right reasons, and which cleverly juxtaposes opposing characters and their viewpoints.
  • A beautifully framed and edited piece of cinema, making for a truly visually gripping experience.
  • An altogether excellent ensemble cast, headed by a dynamic turn from John David Washington and a note perfect turn from Adam Driver.
  • An excellent, tone-perfect score by Terence Blanchard.

CONS

  • The final 10-15 minutes do feel a little bit rushed and convoluted, and are the most tonally inconsistent of the whole film.
  • Several quite underdeveloped supporting characters, of whom we know nothing other than a basic understanding of their political standpoints, and whose performers resultantly could do with a little more screentime.

VERDICT: 8/10

FILM: The Happytime Murders (2018, Brian Henson)

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The Happytime Murders is a comedy-crime film, distributed by STX Entertainment. In a world where humans and puppets co-exist, the primarily puppet cast members of The Happytime Gang start to get killed off one-by-one. Investigating the murders are Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) and puppet Private Investigator Phil Philips (Bill Barretta).

CONS

  • A very predictable murder mystery film, and after the first two murders happen it is easy to see what will happen next. However, there are some glaring continuity errors and one major plot hole.
  • The humour is simply not funny as it is far too crass and gross-out to merit laughter. This kind of bad taste, shock value type humour works okay for a 20 minute long episode of South Park, but not for 90 minutes; and such cavalier humour about issues like racism is just not on. Plus even the slapstick is poorly co-ordinated.
  • Very poorly realised characters, a number of whom simply serve no real function within the narrative, and are simply irritants to the audience.
  • Neither Melissa McCarthy nor Maya Rudolph can redeem this cast, and they are both just headaches to watch (which is a real shame). Poor supporting turns come from Joel McHale and Leslie David Baker, while Elizabeth Banks and Jimmy O. Yang are both underused.

PROS

  • Almost everything pieces together like a jigsaw quite well by the end of it all.
  • The human cast members interact reasonably well with the puppets, which are moved very well by experienced puppeteers.

VERDICT: 2/10

FILM: Alpha (2018, Albert Hughes)

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Historical adventure Alpha is distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. It is circa 18,000 B.C., and after being mistaken for dead by his tribe, who then move on without him, hunter Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends an injured wolf, who he names Alpha. The two help each other in their journey to get back to Keda’s tribe, and in doing so the first human-canine relationship is born.

PROS

  • This is a visually spectacular film, with the magnificence of natural beauty conveyed breathtakingly, while the CGI that creates long-extinct animals being rich in texture and detail.
  • Some touching moments in the relationship between Keda and Alpha, and Kodi Smit-McPhee has a great chemistry with the dog that plays Alpha.
  • Some exciting moments that are more action and/or chase driven, which are well edited pieces of cinema.

CONS

  • The film is a misfired jumble of a National Geographic documentary, Lassie and The Revenant, not quite getting a balance between the three.
  • It is a rather predictable narrative, the emotional resonance of which is quite hit-and-miss, plus the sense of suspense and drama is very inconsistent.
  • While there are no bad performances in the cast, there are no memorable ones either, thanks not least due to there being no fleshed out supporting characters.

VERDICT: 5/10

VIDEO GAME: Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (2017, Vicarious Visions)

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Distributed by Activision for PS4, Xbox One, Windows and Nintendo Switch, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is a HD remake of Crash BandicootCrash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Bandicoot Warped.

PROS

  • The graphics are a visually stunning, rich colour palette that maintains those original character designs from the 1990s, but brings them right into the 21st Century, and successfully so.
  • The teams behind this game clearly spent a lot of time taking something from the 1990s and bringing it into the 2010s, and in doing so indulge the nostalgia of us ’90s’ kids well, while also introducing a new generation to Crash Bandicoot.
  • With relatively straightforward controls, it is a fun trilogy of games to play through, with the missions getting gradually more challenging and in doing so require the gamer to channel precision and a mentality that seeks to do successful puzzle-solving.

CONS

  • This game came nearly a decade after Crash: Mind over Mutant, and despite vast amounts of development in video game technology it brings nothing new technically to the franchise, rather it is an out-and-out remake that relies too much on nostalgia.
  • The fact that several tougher aspects of the original three games that this remakes are made quite easier does feel like quite the cop-out at some points.

VERDICT: 7/10

FILM: The Spy who Dumped Me (2018, Susanna Fogel)

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Action-comedy The Spy who Dumped Me is distributed by Lionsgate. After being dumped by Drew (Justin Theroux), Audrey (Mila Kunis) learns that he is a spy and ends up being pursued by his enemies. She ends up having to complete his last mission of delivering a package to Europe, which results in a bonkers road trip with best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon).

PROS

  • Well choreographed action sequences, which are impressively shot and edited, particularly one that involves a Cirque du Soleil trapeze act.
  • Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon absolutely throw themselves into their roles with real energy and enthusiasm.

CONS

  • The comedy in this film really is not very funny, being too dark to be a good-hearted spy comedy, with failed punchlines and poorly choreographed slapstick.
  • A very, very predictable narrative, which gets a very poor balance between spy adventure, friendship-centred comedy and tale of romance.
  • Poorly realised supporting characters, the actors of whom are very underused – I would have loved Gillian Anderson to have had just a few more minutes.

VERDICT: 4/10

FILM: The Jurassic Games (2018, Ryan Bellgardt)

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The Jurassic Games is a direct-to-DVD science-fiction film. The Jurassic Games is an annual virtual reality game show, in which ten death row inmates fight to survive four stages. Only one can win, and the winner will be pardoned of their crimes. The nine losers will be given a lethal injection.

CONS

  • By the time the opening credits have ended we are given wooden performances, artificial sets, appalling CGI, clunky dialogue, uninspired cinematography, degrading depictions of women and shoddy pacing. That sets the precedent for the entire film and is what we get for the whole darn thing.
  • The film tries to be way too many things, and is a shockingly bad blend of Jurassic ParkThe Hunger GamesReady Player OneThe Maze RunnerHalo and even Suicide Squad. What a headache.

PROS

  • A couple of scenes have competent make-up, which is quite vivid in a couple of shots.

VERDICT: 1/10

FILM: The Equalizer 2 (2018, Antoine Fuqua)

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Sony Pictures Releasing distribute action sequel The Equalizer 2. When close friend and former DIA colleague Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is killed during an investigation in Belgium, Robert McCall (Denzel Washington) goes on a revenge mission. But this may just lead him closer to home than expected.

PROS

  • For the most part the action in this film is very slickly filmed and edited, making for some rather tense moments, aided by some gritty injury detail.
  • Denzel Washington gives a stoic turn, proving a quite dynamic lead, and he has a good chemistry with Ashton Sanders, who plays Robert’s son figure Miles.

CONS

  • The narrative focuses too much on brutal action and vivid gore, instead of doing character development, while also being an incredibly predictable narrative.
  • While most of the action is well done, the climax of the film feels like a level from a recent Call of Duty game, and the final fight has incredibly blatant stunt double use.
  • A very underused supporting cast, due to excessive focus on Robert kicking butt, but Denzel Washington just looks and feels too old to be playing such a character.

VERDICT: 4/10

FILM: Christopher Robin (2018, Marc Forster)

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Christopher Robin is Disney’s latest live-action take on an old classic. Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is an overworked forty-year-old who does not spend enough time with his wife (Hayley Atwell) and child (Bronte Carmichael). However, upon reuniting with the Hundred Acre Wood residents, he finds his outlook and approach to life being challenged by Pooh (Jim Cummings) and the rest of his old friends.

PROS

  • An altogether fun narrative, which boasts some real energy and some fun moments of slapstick, while the message that career success is not the most important thing in the world is good and relevant.
  • Very nice production design creates post-World War II London well, while the Hundred Acre Woods residents are brought to charming life by very detailed CGI.
  • Good performances from Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael, while the voice performances are unanimously excellent.

CONS

  • The first ten minutes feel rather rushed, as they establish how Christopher Robin got to this stage of life through a somewhat poorly executed montage.
  • The ambiguity as to whether the Wood’s residents are real is now non-existent, and that robs the film of a lot of the charm that we associate with the old cartoons.
  • Several supporting cast members are underused (including Oliver Ford Davies, Roger Ashton-Griffiths and Adrian Scarborough).

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: The Festival (2018, Iain Morris)

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Comedy film The Festival is distributed by Entertainment Film Distributors. After being dumped at graduation, Nick (Joe Thomas) is persuaded by best friend Shane (Hammed Animashaun) to go to a festival, but will a moody Nick be able to a) let his hair down, and b) move on from Caitlin (Hannah Tointon)?

CONS

  • Book-ended by a very slow introduction and a rather rushed, all too bittersweet conclusion, this is a very predictable comedy with jokes that completely miss the mark, running gags that are never funny to begin with and vulgarity that cannot even achieve a shock value chuckle.
  • While the final crowd scenes will come under PROS, the majority of them do not have any real festival vibe, feeling more like something smaller scale that takes place in Hyde Park than at a huge countryside camping ground.
  • The film reunites The Inbetweeners creator Iain Morris and star Joe Thomas for something very much of that ilk, and actually that kind of comedy was never that funny to begin with, but now that Thomas is in his mid-30s it is impossible to watch without thinking that maybe it is time for Thomas to move on from this type of comedy.
  • An altogether very poor cast, with a dreary leading man in Joe Thomas, wooden supporting turns from Kurt Yaeger, Hannah Tointon, Hugh Coles and Lizzy Connolly, plus cameos from Noel Fielding and Nick Frost in which it really feels like they do not want to be there.

PROS

  • Hammad Animashaun brings convincing enthusiasm to this film that no other cast member manages to.
  • The scale of a festival is successfully conveyed thanks to a good creative decision to film the final crowd scenes at Leeds Festival 2017.

VERDICT: 2/10