PREVIEW: December 2018

We are about to enter the final month of 2018…how did that happen!?! Carol services, cheesy jumpers, not wholly tasteful decorations and lots of food are happening over the next four weeks, and I cannot wait, because…CHRISTMAS! My favourite time of the year.

This month I did quite a few cinema trips and film reviews, my review of Peterloo being Post 400 on this blog. I have some more lined up for this week. I am seeing Assassination Nation tonight, Creed II tomorrow night, and then my first cinema trip of December is on Sunday morning – Ralph Breaks the Internet. Keep your eyes peeled for reviews of those. After Ralph Breaks the Internet, I have a number of other cinema trips planned for December, including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseThe Old Man and the GunSorry to Bother YouWhite Boy RickTulip FeverAquamanMary Poppins ReturnsBumblebee and Holmes & Watson.  I will endeavour to get reviews of all of these films posted, time permitting of course.

For the month ahead I, as ever, wish you all the best and Happy Reading! I am going to end this post with a little video that my church’s network made, which gets to the real reason for Christmas…

 

FILM: Nobody’s Fool (2018, Tyler Perry)

Nobody's Fool (2018 film).png

Comedy film Nobody’s Fool is distributed by Paramount. Danica (Tika Sumpter) is a successful marketing executive in a long-distance relationship with Charlie (Mehcad Brooks), who she has never met in person and communicates with via phone calls and social media. When her street-smart sister Tanya (Tiffany Haddish) is released from prison, she comes to stay with her, but after learning that Charlie and Danica have never met in person, Tanya begins to suspect that Danica is being catfished.

CONS

  • By Jove, does Tyler Perry lack talent in both directing and screenwriting. His direction feels rather lazy, and his screenwriting is just an absolute mess.
  • The screenplay is a real mess, thanks to Tyler Perry playing to some stereotypes that feel at best a little outdated and at worst somewhat problematic, several highly unlikeable characters, poorly realised character arcs, a cavalier approach to something as serious and emotionally impacting as catfishing, a ludicrous, soap opera-esque twist, and an ending that sends out totally the wrong message about romance.
  • The slapstick is dreary and the verbal gags for the most part are terrible. Were it not for the energy that Tiffany Haddish brings to the delivery of her lines, her comedic scenes would be frankly unwatchable.
  • The characters are for the most part highly cringy to watch, and in a number of cases that is simply down to bad acting, the stand-out examples being Mehcad Brooks, Amber Riley, Missi Pyle and Chris Rock (in quite possibly the worst scene he has ever appeared in).

PROS

  • Tiffany Haddish brings great enthusiasm and energy to Tanya, while Tika Sumpter plays the more serious Danica well off of her and has decent chemistry with Omari Hardwick. Whoopi Goldberg, however, steals several scenes as Tanya and Danica mother, thanks to good comic timing and a sense of warmth.

VERDICT: 2/10

FILM: The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018, Fede Álvarez)

The Girl in the Spider's Web poster.png

Based on David Lagercrantz’s novel of the same title, crime-thriller The Girl in the Spider’s Web is distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, following its premiere at the 2018 Rome Film Festival. Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) and Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) find themselves caught up in a web of spies, cyber-criminals and corrupt government officials (from both Sweden and America) known as The Spider Society. For Lisbeth, however, it becomes far more personal as her estranged father (Mikael Persbrandt) and sister (Sylvia Hoeks) are connected to it all.

CONS

  • The biggest issue with the film is the narrative. It is quite convoluted, yet at the same time rather dull and feels like somewhat of a slog to get through, thanks to a rather plodding pace. The other issue is the fact that it ultimately feels like an attempt to be a Bond film but ends up more Die Another Day than Skyfall, thanks to some frankly ludicrous action sequences, and even some of those are dull.
  • Poorly realised supporting characters, who ultimately bring very little to the table and whose arcs are quite predictable and altogether rather underwhelming (though none more so than the reveal that Lisbeth’s estranged family are connected to The Spider Society).
  • An overall poor cast, with several wooden turns (including Sylvia Hoeks, Claes Bang, Synnøve Macody Lund and Andreja Pejić) and several members who are not used to their full potential (notably LaKeith Stanfield and Vicky Krieps).
  • Cinematographer Pedro Luque and editor Tatiana S. Riegel come across as playing it safe in their technical decisions, meaning that there is nothing interesting (on a technical level) in Lisbeth’s investigating and the action sequences (especially the chases) are just not at all exciting in the slightest.

PROS.

  • Claire Foy gives a stoic leading turn as Lisbeth, conveying both intellect and quiet determination as the character.
  • Some very vivid work by the make-up department, who use fake blood and injury detail effectively.

VERDICT: 2/10

FILM: Selfie from Hell (2018, Erdal Ceylan)

Selfie from Hell (2018)

Horror film Selfie from Hell is distributed by Viva International Pictures. When Julia (Meelah Adams) takes a selfie, she inexplicably falls into a coma and is at death’s door. Her cousin Hannah (Alyson Walker) starts investigating and, while going through Julia’s vlogs, discovers that she is in way too deep on the dark web.

CONS

  • Erdal Ceylan comes across as highly uncertain in both his direction and his (co-)screenwriting, both of which are frankly all over the place.
  • The screenplay is frankly awful. It is all over the place and also very illogical, with a number of highly predictable moments, very cheap jump scares, scarcely any attempt at suspense, poorly realised characters and dreary dialogue that does not come across naturally.
  • Very wooden acting from the entire cast, both in their delivery of the dreary dialogue and in their interactions with each other and the sets and props.
  • On a technical level this is bad horror, thanks to underwhelming cinematography and editing, frankly dreadful make-up that would not even be impressive on an AS-Level Film Studies project and a dreadful score by Peter Allen, which is super strings heavy (and unnecessarily so).

PROS

  • Cinematographer Jeremy Walter Cox does use silhouettes reasonably well in the climax, while his use of shadows is competent.

VERDICT: 1/10

FILM: Robin Hood (2018, Otto Bathurst)

Robin Hood (2018 film poster).png

Oh boy. How many more times will the tale of the legendary outlaw be made for the big screen? Thank you, Lionsgate, for distributing yet another Robin Hood film. Lord Robin Loxley (Taron Egerton) has returned from the crusades to find that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) is taking the people of his beloved Nottingham for every penny they have, under the pretence that it is for the war effort. Robin is trained by John (Jamie Foxx) to become the best warrior that he can be, and soon he becomes the mysterious Hood, stealing money from the Sheriff and returning it to Nottingham’s residents.

CONS

  • Dreadful direction from Otto Bathurst, who cannot give the more character driven moments any weight or emotion, and helms some of the sloppiest action scenes imaginable, which is not helped by dreary cinematography and poor editing.
  • An appalling screenplay with clunky dialogue, no decent character development, little to no sense of dramatic stakes and no emotional weight behind it, plus the film ends with a blatant effort to set up a franchise, which is at very best a bad sign.
  • A unanimously bad cast. The supporting cast is full to bursting with wooden turns – in particular Jamie Dornan and Tim Minchin are a slog to watch. As for the main cast – Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx and Ben Mendelsohn are all bad here and it feels like they were all only doing it for the pay cheque. Mendelsohn speaks with an irritating lisp, Egerton is wooden and has no chemistry with the wooden Eve Hewson (who plays Robin’s love interest Marian), and Foxx does not even give his African accent any consistency.
  • It is hard to believe that this film had a $100 million budget. Overly complicated, flimsy looking exterior sets and bad CGI makes Nottingham (at very best) unappealing to look at. The costume designs feel a little too modern and the material quality of the costumes feels very cheap – they look like Primark clothes designed by somebody with no real artistic flare, to be perfectly blunt.
  • Incredibly lazy work by the make-up department, especially in the Crusades – a man has his hand chopped off, we see the stump straightaway, but there is not one drop of blood…they really did cut corners to secure a 12 (UK)/PG-13 (USA).

PROS

  • The production design for the interior sets is pretty good. By no means is it outstanding, but it has a decent enough period feel.

VERDICT: 1/10

FILM: Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) (2018, Tom Edmunds)

Tom Wilkinson and Aneurin Barnard in Dead in a Week: Or Your Money Back (2018)

Comedy-drama Dead in a Week (Or Your Money Back) is distributed to UK cinemas by Altitude Film Entertainment. He has failed as a lifeguard, he has failed as a writer and now he has failed to commit suicide ten times. As such, William (Aneurin Barnard) decides to hire experienced assassin Leslie (Tom Wilkinson) to kill him. William signs a contract – he pays Leslie £2000 to kill him, but if Leslie does not manage it in a week then the job is off and William gets his money back. However, William soon gets a reason to live…but he is bound by a contract with Leslie…uh oh…

CONS

  • In an age where suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, it is absolutely appalling that so much of the humour revolves around that, while also belittling the serious impact that mental illness can have on a person. I have had friends my own age or younger take their own lives, I have seen how much devastation it causes, and I have seen countless friends and family members battle depression, so to see a film make light of these matters sickens me to my stomach.
  • A poorly directed film, with action sequences that have not one iota of excitement and exhilaration to them (there was better action in Moonlight quite frankly), half-hearted slapstick and a very plodding pace – thanks not least to dreary cinematography and editing.
  • The overly padded out narrative is highly predictable, with no dramatic weight, very little in the way of genuine stakes, and half-hearted action and slapstick. Frankly it is hard to tell what Tom Edmunds approached more lazily – his direction or his screenwriting.
  • A large number of the supporting characters are absolutely ghastly, the relationship between William and Ellie (Freya Mavor) is (at very best) surface-level, and Christopher Eccleston’s head assassin Harvey is no more than a cheap rip-off of Ralph Fiennes’s Harry from In Bruges.
  • An altogether very wooden cast (with the one true exception being the film’s one pro), the wooden turns ranging from Aneurin Barnard to the most minor of supporting players. Aneurin Barnard also has zero chemistry with Freya Mavor, making their scenes together a real slog to sit through.

PROS

  • Veteran actor Tom Wilkinson brings an interesting brand of charm and warmth to the role of Leslie, emphasising the fact that he is far too good to be in a film like this.

VERDICT: 1/10

FILM: The Wolf House (2018, Joaquín Cociña/Cristóbal León)

La casa lobo (2018)

Chilean/German animation The Wolf House premiered at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. After escaping from a German colony, a young lady named Maria (Amalia Kassai) flees to Southern Chile, where she takes refuge in a house and raises a “family”.

PROS

  • The stop-motion animation utilises multiple different artistic styles, including paper-mache, sculpture and hand painting, all to very good effect thanks to the rich detail and the seamless transition between artistic styles.
  • This film is ultimately a unique and very, very brave experiment, not least because of the variety of styles, but also because it uses these unique creative choices to convey a tale of a need for family and the struggles of overcoming past traumas. As such it is a fascinating film to watch and will entice the viewer.
  • A terrific voice performance from Amalia Kassai, which conveys real emotion and heartfelt reflection thanks to its nuances and maturity.

CONS

  • The first few minutes feel quite dragged out and a bit uncertain, but once it finds its feet it is a generally consistent pace, despite feeling a little disjointed here and there.
  • The film could have benefited from a few extra minutes of length to explore some of the themes in slightly more depth.

VERDICT: 8/10

SHORT FILM: Trees Down Here (2018, Ben Rivers)

Trees Down Here (2018)

Documentary short Trees Down Here made its UK debut at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival. A short film of Cowan Court, director Ben Rivers turns the camera on the interactions between architecture and landscape within which students of Churchill College, University of Cambridge live and work.

PROS

  • An interesting exploration of the relationship between architecture and landscape, exploring their relationship and how, despite architecture being fascinating and significant, nature is of great importance and needs to be factored into creative decisions.
  • Ben Rivers uses the camera well, capturing all the necessary components for this topic with a degree of intimacy, but at no point is he intrusive and his symbolically his incorporation of a snake and an owl into the film works tremendously well.

CONS

  • This film is ultimately style over substance, as Ben Rivers makes interesting stylistic choices to give the documentary an intelligent, arthouse feel, but the subject matter is never explored in any great depth or with much in the way of substantial weight.
  • Ben Rivers ultimately should have opted to make a feature length documentary rather than a 13 minute short, as the subject matter is an interesting one, therefore the rushed, tightly constrained (time wise) manner in which he undertakes it means that the whole thing feels like wasted potential.

VERDICT: 5/10

FILM: The Grinch (2018, Scott Mosier/Yarrow Cheney)

The Grinch, final poster.jpg

Based on Dr. Seuss’ iconic children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Illumination Entertainment bring us festive-animation The Grinch. The Grinch (Benedict Cumberbatch) hates Christmas and cannot understand why the Whos of Whoville love it so. Fed up with the cheer and joy they are expressing for the holiday, he decides to ruin their Christmas by stealing their gifts and decorations.

PROS

  • A stunningly animated film, The Grinch boasts the best CG animation to date from Illumination. Full of detail and texture, it also boasts a rich colour palette that brings warmth and joy to this depiction of the festive season.
  • In an age of mass consumerism, the fact that this film conveys the message that Christmas is not all about gifts and consumerism, but about family and love is very relevant. It may not convey the true reason for the season (the birth of Jesus), but the relevance and importance of a message like that in an era like this is undeniable.
  • Some very fun moments in the narrative, which are brought to the screen with real energy and enthusiasm, and a generally warm feel to the whole film.

CONS

  • At times the narrative does feel quite padded out, highlighting that Dr. Seuss’ book is better suited to a 30-40 minute television special. While it has fun moments, the subplot of Mary Lou (Cameron Seely) and her friends trying to catch Santa amounts to very little (if anything), while there is a little too much time dedicated to The Grinch interacting with the reindeer.
  • The Grinch, as a character, is not well realised at all. Rather than the genuinely rotten Mr. Grinch depicted in previous versions, he simply feels like a grouchy old man who is fed up with the commercialisation of Christmas, so his transformation lacks weight.
  • There are no bad voice performances, yet no memorable ones either. Benedict Cumberbatch is disappointing as The Grinch though, by sounding like a cheap imitation of the titular House M.D.

VERDICT: 5/10

SHORT FILM: Yellow is the New Black (2018, Serguei Kouchnerov/Fabien Polack)

Image result for yellow is the new black

Animated short film Yellow is the New Black from Illumination Entertainment is attached to the theatrical release of The Grinch. Set during the events of Despicable Me 3, two Minions (Pierre Coffin) end up being chained to a criminal who is escaping from prison and are pursued cross country.

CONS

  • The fact that they went with a Minions short rather than come up with something original, shows a real lack of creativity on the part of Illumination and frankly comes across as lazy.
  • There really is nothing redeemable about this assembly line animation. The Minions are highly irritating, the other characters are incredibly one-note cardboard cutouts, the action is sloppy, the narrative predictable, the gags unfunny and the animation charmless.

PROS

  • Well, you go into this short with an idea of what to expect, so it at least delivers the type of thing you expect (and thank goodness it is only four minutes long).

VERDICT: 1/10