Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
Another fine mess.
Essentially, 'Block-Heads (1938)' is an hour-long farce. This classic comedy plays out as a series of ever-escalating, slapstick-style events that turn its domestic setting and simple story into something altogether more entertaining. It feels more like an elongated short than a fully-fledged feature, focusing on several skits - some of which are apparently inspired by the iconic duo's previous short-form work - that all rely on the central dynamic between Laurel's innocence and Hardy's frustration. Whatever can go wrong, does go wrong and it's usually a joy to watch it do so. There's some real inventiveness going on here and some of the set-pieces are properly funny - a case of mistaken war-time injury stands out as perhaps the picture's highlight. There is the occasional moment that doesn't work so well, though, which is usually when the flick takes a turn for the absurdist or when its age starts to show (if you know what I mean). It's not all that fulfilling as a narrative, either. Still, most of what's on-screen is successful, if a little tiring due to its sheer, unrelenting amount and foot-on-the-gas pace. It's an enjoyable comedy right the way through, made possible only by the brilliance of its leads and their engaging dynamic. 6/10
The Front Runner (2018)
And the runner-up is...
'The Front Runner (2018)' does, to a large degree, idealise Gary Hart, at least politically. Political history isn't my strong suit, so I can't really speak to the quality of his candidacy; I can, however, imagine that that the picture would gloss over some key stuff in order to make its point more aptly (not out of malice but, rather, out of a desire to make its story more impactful). The piece posits that Hart's 'sex scandal' was the turning point for American politics (as well as for politics, in general), the beginning of its degradation into the Hollywood-adjacent, media-fuelled popularity-contest it, essentially, is today. It also suggests that, perhaps, this isn't the best thing, either for the candidates themselves or for the public at large. There is much said about how the press afforded Kennedy and Lyndon 'common courtesy' when it came to omitting the numerous non-wife women that came to and fro from their hotel room, suggesting that such 'gossip' doesn't really have a place either in 'proper journalism' or in 'proper politics'. Indeed, Hart's particular 'scandal' does seem remarkably mild; I mean, what happens between two consenting adults surely can't be the business of the entire country. Still, it's not so much the apparent affair as it is the perceived deceit. If a candidate can't be faithful to their partner, how can they be faithful to their country? This question of integrity is an interesting one and the feature tries to debate whether it has a place in the race for president or not. It also has a fair bit to say about the validity of journalism which involves reporters hiding in bushes and mercilessly harassing innocent family members. On top of this, it makes some brief but relatively resonant points about media outlets dredging up quotes from fifteen years ago and trying to use them to encapsulate someone's entire career. It does do a good job of portraying the sensationalism that the public seem to love, at the place where it perhaps began. While it certainly has a lot to say, it doesn't get lost in its thematics. It tells a rather compelling story with a decent degree of nuance, using long-lenses to hammer home its seventies-styled direction. The performances are all really good, even if most of the characters aren't really characters so much as 'talking heads', so to speak. It's also interesting that Hart had such a rough time with such a comparatively 'tame' scandal - as in, tame compared to some of the stuff that many politicians have gotten away with since then (including a 'certain someone' sat in the office right now - someone who, incidentally, really puts the earlier 'Washington as Hollywood' observation to the test). Overall, the bio-pic is an entertaining time throughout, one that tackles some interesting themes with a distinct visual style. 7/10
The pen is mightier than the sword.
'Colette (2018)' might seem to simply be a 'real life' version of last year's 'The Wife (2018)' - which was also almost certainly inspired, at least in part, by the source story that this adapts much more directly - but it's actually something altogether different. It's much more of a traditional bio-pic than anything else, which might disappoint those who expect a 'snapshot' that encapsulates what would seem to be its core theme. Indeed, that apparent 'core theme' - of a repressed voice finally finding liberation - really isn't what the film is about - or, at least, if it is, it doesn't do a good job of rounding it out. Instead, the piece takes the aforementioned more traditional route to map out a large portion of Colette's life and, in the process, bring to the forefront a whole bevy of motifs and concepts mainly regarding gender equality and personal freedom. It's a very progressive piece that touches on everything from systematic sexism and gender-based repression to biased attitudes surrounding sexuality and trans rights, making an important point about things still very relevant today. This eclectic feel does make for an experience that feels as though it is far wider than it is deep, however. As an example, our lead doesn't really seem all that bothered about not receiving credit for her work - the core (or, at least, most advertised) conceit of the picture - until a key scene incredibly late-on in which she has a total change of heart after seemingly only asking for credit once. I know that she shouldn't have to ask for credit, but the established arrangement was one set-up by both her and her husband, essentially, in tandem, and neither the screenplay nor Knightly herself (in an unspoken way) really gives us any sense of resentment - about this aspect, anyway. I'm not suggesting Knightly's performance is bad - far from it. It's just that we're never given a sense that things are bubbling beyond the surface, like with Glenn Close in 'The Wife (2018)'. West is pretty much too likeable for what his character is supposed to be - though, it's really a fault of the script that his most dastardly moments don't hit home the way they should; even if his actions are bad and we know it, we don't really feel it and we don't really get a sense of frustration on the part of our protagonist, never-mind as an audience-member. That's one of the key issues, really: the piece isn't engaging on an emotional level. It doesn't rile you up or get you really mad at its unfair events, or even properly put you in the head of its hero. It all feels very distant. It's not like it's bad, though. It's a competently executed bio-pic that rests on two compelling performances. The story is also interesting and it's told with a decent degree of nuance. On the whole, it isn't all that gripping, however. It really could have done with hitting home a little harder, connecting with the heart as opposed to the head. Then, I feel that its rather relevant story would have resonated even more. Perhaps, it might have even gone a little way to provoke the change its advertising campaign wants to push. I'm all for that change, but I don't think this is going to be the movie to set the world on fire and make us re-examine our ways. Still, I'm glad that it's going to start a conversation. 6/10
Ryuu ga gotoku: Kiwami (2016)
I'll be keepin' an eye on ya, Kiryu-san.
'Yakuza Kiwami (2016)' puts a lot of so-called 'remasters' to shame. This isn't just a HD up-res, or even re-skin, of 'Yakuza (2005)'. Instead, it's an entirely different experience, one built upon the engine created for 'Yakuza 0 (2015)'. It updates the combat system, introduces several new side-missions and activities - including a complete 'Majima everywhere' sub-plot that's now considered one of the game's key features - and it even adds some new cut-scenes, all of which are voiced in the original Japanese by most of the original cast (as the western adaptation of the 2005 release only shipped with an almost universally panned English dub). The meat-and-potatoes may still be the same, and thankfully so, but these new additions go a long way in making the experience more accessible for modern audiences. It's actually arguable that this is a better game than its non-'Kiwami' counterpart. That's a refreshing thing to be able to say, especially now that we're in an age where seemingly every somewhat average game is getting a 'remaster' just a few years after its release (I mean, 'Bulletstorm (2011)' is alright but come on) and when certain 'remasters' are considered actively worse than the thing they are 'remastering' (ala 'Batman: Return To Arkham (2016)'). As an observer, the 'Yakuza' series has always seemed like an odd one. After playing 'Yakuza Kiwami (2016)', my first foray into the series, I can confirm that this is indeed the case, at least for the franchise's first ('remastered') outing. There's a distinct dissonance when it comes to its story and sub-plots, with the former usually being played deadly straight to the point that it nears melodrama and the later often being incredibly absurd to the point of being laugh-out-loud. The game loop is, essentially: watch an incredibly long pre-rendered cut-scene, engage in a fight, watch a shorter but still long in-game cut-scene, engage in a fight, run to a location, watch a short in-game cut-scene, engage in a fight, run to a location, engage in a fight on the way, watch another short in-game cut-scene and then rinse and repeat. Somehow, this incredibly repetitive loop ends up being an incredibly entertaining one, though. All the story elements, whether they're main-line or sub-plot, are handled with immense care and attention-to-detail. They're written almost to perfection, frankly. The sprawling crime-epic of a plot carries serious heft, but it is balanced perfectly by the sillier yet still well-rounded side-stuff, which serves more to fill out the world and provide you with interesting people to briefly interact with. These oddities aren't the main focus, but they're crucial in making the experience as enjoyable as it is, especially since they're often properly funny and usually evolve in unexpected and mature ways. The main story can be a little convoluted, but it is gripping throughout, built around likeable leads who you care about every step of the way. Even though things get a little grandiose, proceedings remain grounded and, essentially, small-stakes (the world isn't in danger or anything like that). It really feels like you're playing through a crime-drama, one that isn't afraid to take its time in the quieter moments. The gameplay may seem slightly repetitive but, thanks to the newly reinvigorated combat system, never gets tiring. I fought over two-hundred street-toughs while roaming around the game's hub-world of 'Kamurocho', which doesn't consider the often dizzying number of foes you face in the campaign or side-stories, and I wasn't ever bored by a battle; even the slightly-too-invasive Majimi didn't wear me down. The four combat styles that drive the experience are diverse and deep, especially once you unlock the plethora of skills available. As you progress through the narrative, you'll often find yourself switching styles to suit the situation and to try out new, devastating moves as you unlock them. 'Dragon' is far and away the best style once you've completed its upgrade tree, so you'll probably stick to that after a certain point, though; its 'tiger drop' counter-move is absolutely devastating. Outside of combat, you'll mainly be running to and fro in order to speak to people and help with their problems or progress the plot. It's almost bizarre how such a simple game loop can be so effective. It's probably down to the fact that the story is so fun to watch, never-mind play. Though, playing is obviously fun, too. The various side-activities are so well rounded that you could spend hours doing them - and you'll probably have to if you want to get every available CP point. There's mahjong, shogi, poker, baccarat, roulette, blackjack, cho-han, cee-lo, oicho-kabu, koi-koi, bowling, pool, darts, karaoke, pocket-circuit racing, a batting cage, a photo booth, a hostess club, a claw-machine and an in-depth, rock-paper-scissors-based arcade game. Many of these are fully formed enough to be their own games - or apps, at least. The amount of depth is staggering, almost off-putting, even. So, you won't be stuck for things to do. I guess your enjoyment will come down to home much you like the core story and game-loop, though. There are some clunky game-design elements (like invisible walls, easily getting stuck on geometry and the generally repetitive nature) that are much easier to overlook - and maybe, even, seem charming - if you are taken in by the experience, engrossed by its story and empowered by its combat. I certainly was. I loved pretty much every minute of my time with 'Yakuza Kiwami (2016)'. I can't wait to see what the rest of the series has to offer. 9/10
Mugen no jûnin (2017)
No rest for the wicked.
'Blade Of The Immortal (2017)' is based upon the manga series of the same name, which leads to an occasionally episodic feel and a generally unconventional structure. Typically, you can see the 'seams' where one entry into the series would have ended and another would have began, making for a journey comprised of distinct - yet cohesive - parts as opposed to one that flows totally naturally. Still, by this journey's end, it certainly feels to have been an epic and, despite its fairly lengthy run-time, it definitely doesn't hang about, with action-sequences punctuating every handful of scenes (at least one for each adapted volume of manga, I suspect). These are, essentially, the highlight of the film. Takashi Miike (in what's erroneously labelled as his 100th feature) directs these battle scenes incredibly well; they're far more brutal than balletic. Make no mistake: these are fights, not dances. This definitely doesn't mean they aren't choreographed to near-perfection, though, as they are fantastically fast-paced, expertly performed and properly painful. Indeed, the focus usually is placed solely upon this pain (not necessarily in a sadistic way); even if the set-pieces are always entertaining, they're often teeth-clenching and gut-wrenching. This is because our hero really does get a rough time of it. The picture opens with him taking on a hundred foes and ends with him taking on even more, but he never walks away unscathed. He gets hurt, really badly. Still, he always survives thanks to the core conceit of the piece: our hero has been cursed with immortality. Of course, this places the experience distinctly within the fantasy genre, as do its occasional moments of over-the-top gore. It is, essentially, a comic-book movie. However, even if it's not necessarily realistic, it's consistently believable. The core relationship is fairly basic but it's still satisfying. Plus, the main 'villainous' characters are actually quite well developed, leading to some interesting questions about revenge and it's morality - especially when it come to who 'deserves' it and to who started the cycle. There's also a decent 'political intrigue' going on in the background that serves to deepen the world and, again, those secondary characters. Really, there's nothing groundbreaking going on; it's not especially deep in terms of character or theme. What is here is done rather well, though, and serves to add weight to the events of the plot. Perhaps more importantly, it means that we care about the characters, especially when their lives - even their apparently immortal lives - are in mortal danger and they threaten to join the literally in-the-hundreds body-count. The flick also looks great, with manga-panel framing and beautiful cinematography brilliantly bringing it to life; it's also easy to forget that it's a period piece, as the set-design and costuming sell this impeccably. Generally, it's a very entertaining samurai film. It's a violent odyssey that might occasionally seem slightly episodic and, as such, a tad repetitive but is ultimately a satisfying and brutal adventure that doesn't pull its punches and isn't afraid to explore its fantastical conceit. Despite its flaws, including a couple of odd design decisions early on (such as the passing of two years being conveyed via a single line of dialogue and two isolated instances of select dialogue being 'artfully' written on-screen), it's an enjoyable experience throughout that I'd highly recommend to fans of action-cinema, as long as they aren't put off by good a bit of blood. 8/10
Takes a while to get going, but is rich and engaging once it does.
'Hostiles (2017)' is a slow and strangely-paced piece that ultimately succeeds because it's a relatively deep character-study. Director Scott Cooper talks about the movie only being a western in location, in so far as it's a story that could take place during pretty much any point in history. This is true, as its through-line of overcoming personal prejudices and your own past self is a very relevant theme, especially as it relates to the American Western and how America is coming to re-evaluate the genre itself - as well as its own society. Plus, the feature doesn't shy away from the systematic elements of such a prejudicial period and isn't necessarily an 'everything works out okay' affair, making sure the inherent bleakness of the situation is constantly present. It takes quite a while for these themes to properly manifest themselves, however, which leads to the first half of the flick feeling unsteady and, in a way, like it's not sure what it's about. Of course, this is remedied by its end; it's ultimately a nuanced experience which has a good handle on its core principles. It isn't an action film either, despite several competently painful action scenes. Instead, steady filmmaking drives the story forward as our well-acted characters slowly unravel their hidden, and somewhat unexpected, depths. It's very much a journey, both inside and out, and this is reflected in the way that it's told; wide-shots of sweeping vistas swallowing our ant-like convoy contrast with several quieter camp-side character moments. There's very little exposition, putting you square in the situation and making each small reveal all the more impressively blindsiding. Usually, these come in the form of a hidden depth to a preexisting relationship, all of which are rendered extremely realistically. By the film's end, so much has happened that it can be hard to keep track of it all. What isn't hard to track is the distinct journey of our hero and his struggle to overcome the bias-based beliefs that keep him in his own personal civil war. It is unfortunate that the Native American characters who act as a catalyst for his change are, arguably, the least developed in the picture; it's not like they're inactive, or even especially weak, but they aren't afforded the same care as most of the other players and, as such, can sometimes seem more like plot devices than people. Really, we should have a 'western' told entirely from a Native American perspective by now; that would be the really interesting take. Nevertheless, the third act becomes properly beautiful, allowing us to revel in the connections of our characters and the destination they've worked so hard to reach. It isn't long before brutality seeps back into the fray, though, making the serenity you've just experienced all the more bittersweet. The ending is hopeful, yet tragic. All the way through, this is a film that pulls no punches. It's an impactful and surprisingly deep 'heart of darkness'-style journey. It may take a while to get going, but it's a rich and engaging experience once it does. 7/10
The Favourite (2018)
It wasn't my favourite.
'The Favourite (2018)' certainly feels far longer than it is, thanks to - I feel - its 'chapter'-based and slightly episodic structure. It's never exactly repetitive - nor, indeed, boring - but it does settle into a strange, laid-back pacing that paints many of its, essentially, single-location events with what is ostensibly the same dry brush. While there is, of course, more to the piece than its aspects of black comedy, I do feel that your mileage will vary depending on how funny you find it. It functions far more as a comedy than as anything else (a period drama is the next closest thing, I suppose) and, for me, it just wasn't funny enough for that to be its sole function - or, rather, for it to be all that successful at it. There are chuckles here and there, don't get me wrong. It's not devoid of merit in other areas, either. Lanthimos' direction is prevalent, including his typically dead-pan panning, and the period design - from the sets to the costumes - all looks fantastic. The only issue I have with the film's look is the occasional distracting use of fish-eye lenses, which don't fit with its overall aesthetic. I guess the most noteworthy thing about the affair is the acting - it's certainly drawing awards attention. It is strong across the board, with the absolute stand-out being Olivia Coleman with her portrayal of 'Queen Anne'. Her character is easily the most interesting aspect of the narrative; she's unpredictable, child-like, physically-impaired and there's a real sadness to her, too. Coleman, of course, pulls it all off impeccably, being intimidating and insecure all at once. The other lead characters are portrayed well but, in terms of development or general intrigue, pale in comparison to the Queen. The flick is a strange one. It's not exactly compelling but it isn't disengaging, either. It is generally entertaining, too. It does feel very long, though, and, even if the ending nicely ties its themes together, seems as though it should have ended a full 'chapter' earlier (at least, that's how I felt as I was watching it). Like I said before, I think your enjoyment will depend entirely on how funny you find it. That's completely subjective. In the end, while I usually enjoyed it, it wasn't my favourite. 6/10
Style over substance.
'Mandy (2018)' certainly is an experience. It's a slow-motion, hallucinatory fever-dream built upon unique, eye-catching visuals and impressively inventive formalistic filmmaking. Its story, however, is simple, to say the least. This is by design, yet it lacks the drive and depth required for a 'simple story' of its kind to really have an impact. It just takes ages to get going - I mean, what is, by all rights, the inciting incident occurs around an hour into the piece (followed by what's essentially the title-card, seventy-five minutes in). Even when it does kick into gear and become the movie it is, for all intents and purposes, advertised (and was conceived) as, it sticks to the same lax, surrealist, visual-favouring pacing as before, except this time it centres around a wild-eyed, 'Nic Cage'-esque Nic Cage performance and includes several distinct, almost vignette-like moments of grisly, gut-spilling gore. Cage himself is, in essence, largely absent from the first half of the film, which makes his sudden transformation into protagonist seem jarring and unearned. Plus, his zany take on the character doesn't really suit what we've seen before and feels strange considering that he acts this way even before he tastes the drug concoction that kicks him into full-on, homicidally crazy mode. The two-half feel is probably what hurts the overall experience the most but it isn't necessarily detrimental to its overall effect. It works more as a 'treat for the senses' than as a traditional narrative; as such, it's difficult to ever be bored. There are also some really inventive, free-flowing visuals and a couple of well choreographed fight sequences. Still, the movie is never all that compelling and a few strange choices do take you out of the experience. Everything just takes so long and is, ultimately, quite unfulfilling. When someone promises you Nic Cage delivering 'heavy metal vengeance', this isn't necessarily what jumps to mind. I guess it's up to you if that's a good thing. 6/10
You're pushing your luck, Scoob.
'Scooby-Doo 2: Monster's Unleashed (2004)' isn't as good as the first film. It doesn't feel like a sequel or even an adaptation of its source material, really. In some ways, it seems 'straight to DVD', with only the returning cast and comparable CGI signalling it to be anything else. Perhaps it's the now somewhat garish set-design and costuming, the odd story structure and lax character development or maybe just the over abundance of young-skewing, child-pandering and plainly unfunny humour. The biggest cause, I think, is probably the fact that it isn't really a satire anymore, aside from one or two brief moments (mainly concerning the show's long-running 'unmasking' trope). Whatever the reason, this piece feels decidedly cheap - or low-effort, perhaps - and decidedly less interesting because of it. I guess Gunn got onboard with the neutered final result of his first go (or, he just didn't care) because, here, things are definitely aiming for a broader audience. There's no real subversion, it's filled with bland and basic character-work and the fan-focused deep-cuts are far and few between. In a way, this makes the experience more consistent. It feels far less two-minded, probably because the original script wasn't R-rated, and there are less 'inappropriate', faux-'edgy' moments (though there are still some here and there). It makes the affair less charming, though, because it feels like it was engineered as the most basic version of a live-action 'Scooby-Doo' film. It isn't devoid of entertainment and there are a couple of chuckles, to boot (mainly surrounding Peter Boyle and Tim Blake Nelson's new characters), but I'm sad to say that Shaggy isn't quite as good as he was last time around, either. Lillard turns in a perfectly fine performance and acts well off the more dog-like yet far too focused-on Scooby Doo, but something's ever-so-slightly off (I think it's the writing) and he isn't necessarily the highlight of the piece. It's difficult to say what is, however (perhaps Boyle's 'Old Man Wickles'). Most of the flick is generic and, quality-wise, average, at best. It doesn't really feel like anything at all, good or bad. Still, a bit of 'Scooby Dooby Doo' never did anybody any harm. 5/10
Get jinky with it.
Originally, 'Scooby-Doo (2002)' was set to be much more mature, commenting on the tropes of the television show that its now (young) adult audience had grown up with. While I don't think that James Gunn's (yes, that James Gunn's) original script should have been brought to the big screen in all its initially R-rated 'glory', it is a shame that so much of it is so heavily neutered, considering that its remnants of subversive satire are by far its most successful aspects. The final result, then, is a strange mix of the tongue-in-cheek, slightly cheeky and, sometimes, too 'edgy' for its own good and the supposedly kid-friendly, frankly infantile and altogether far less successful. This leads to some strange moments, such as a brief but noticeable sight-gag implying that Shaggy and Scooby are using the Mystery Machine as a 'smoke house' - which is a remnant of Shaggy literally being a stoner in the original screenplay - and a moment in which Fred, whilst in Daphne's body (due to a body-switching fiasco), makes a leery and cringe-worthy comment about being able to look at himself, as Daphne, naked while peering down his/ her top - which is a holdover, again, from the much more raunchy original screenplay. Still, not all is lost in translation. The characters are represented, generally, as the antithesis of what they were in the television show - or, at least, that's the intention. Fred, especially, is brought to life as a self-obsessed but ultimately somewhat incompetent 'leader' and his is probably the most successful characterisation. Daphne is represented as more of a capable, eventually 'kick-ass' character and, ultimately, is the one who 'saves the day', so to speak. While the casting of 'Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (1996 - 2003)' star Sarah Michelle Gellar is an inspired way of trying to bolster this interpretation, much of her bumbling persona comes across as counter-intuitive and, somewhat, misses the mark. Velma is represented as the sort of repressed, insecure 'brains behind it all' who's tired of not being given the spotlight, but her character ultimately feels very 'standard' in terms of subversion - even if she is portrayed well. Perhaps the least changed character is Shaggy (because the Studio rightfully 'chickened out' of putting a glassy-eyed drug-addict in a leading role of a children's film) but, ironically, he is the most entertaining thanks to the pitch-perfect casting of Mathew Lillard; he's an absolute treat and it's a joy every time he's on-screen, as he brings his cartoon character to life and acts opposite his CGI co-star with an energetic, unembarrassed vigour. Speaking of Scooby, he's actually quite entertaining but the effects used to render him are somewhat dated; plus, he's the source of most of the 'kiddy', yet strangely crass, humour in the flick. Still, you believe he's there thanks to the pretty excellent interaction with his fellow cast members. To be fair, the feature does do a good job of feeling like a live-action 'cartoon', thanks to its slapstick set-pieces and colourful set-design. Many of its most cartoony moments are actually quite enjoyable to watch, even if they sometimes cross the line into straight up silly territory. The picture as a whole is a decent experience, one that's intermittently entertaining but usually just average. It stumbles slightly whenever its two mission-statements tug against each other too hard, often feeling like a film of two minds that perhaps should have taken a steadier step in either direction. Still, I think I prefer a piece that tries something different to one that plays it completely safe; that's what makes one this quite charming. It's not great, though, even if it perhaps could have been. It's always a relatively good time, however, and there are even a few chuckles here and there. In the end, it really is Mathew Lillard that makes it. 5/10
Death Wish (2018)
So bad that it's bad.
'Death Wish (2018)' is played totally straight, whether by intention or ineptitude, and, despite its background 'debate' and infrequent sequences supposedly shaded in grey, ends up being a movie which pushes the age-old falsity that a 'good guy' with a gun (and, here, not a very good 'good guy', at that) is better than any sort of actual gun control. It's a film that actively pulls itself into the debate surrounding America's current political climate but doesn't have the guts to properly pick a side (and, in doing so, perhaps accidentally picks one). There are some sequences that are laughably bad but the piece never comes close to being 'so bad that it's good', instead residing in the awkward space between mostly mediocre and occasionally idiotic. The focus on firearms is intense and our 'hero' goes from casual civilian to, essentially, cold-blooded serial-killer in the space of a scene, with his reaction to his first kill being nothing short of psychopathic, making the movie feel morally dubious, at best. It's also generally haphazard in its construction, especially when it comes to its dodgy overall editing, which causes several large continuity errors and leads the piece to feel as though it has actually been cobbled together in the wrong order. Ultimately, this remake that nobody wanted is one of the worst efforts of the year. 4/10
'Transformers' in disguise.
Likeable characters, unproblematic humour, a reasonable run-time and no racial stereotypes or general leeriness mark 'Bumblebee (2018)' as an absolute miracle of a movie: a 'Transformers' film that's actually genuinely good. That's something I never thought would happen, especially considering that the franchise's latest attempt was my least favourite film of last year. How Knight managed to keep still-producer Bay at bay is beyond me but the original, innocently age-appropriate screenplay shines through like a diamond. It's brought to life with a fantastically deft hand which allows the flick's robotic battles to actually be exciting, as they should have been from the very beginning, mainly because they're consistently well-choreographed - not to mention legible - and feature actual characters, regardless of their metallic nature. We care about pretty much all of them thanks to some nicely done development, which actually dominates the screen-time. This is the most believable any of these movies have ever been, thanks to the incredibly impressive special-effects combined with the great performances and writing. For the first time, the focus isn't just on metal-on-metal combat and the film is all the better for it. It's a highly enjoyable breath of fresh air and I'd recommended it to even those who have grown tired of seeing the 'Transformers' on the big-screen, especially since this seems like a soft reboot of sorts. I actually can't wait to see what they do next. Perhaps they'll stay this course or regress to what once was. Either way, I would be happy to see an entirely Cyberton-set picture, an 80s cartoon brought vividly to life; the snippets we see here are wonderfully accurate to the television series and have a unique aesthetic I'd love to see more of, if it's given the time and attention it deserves. 7/10
All the Money in the World (2017)
Stuck in Italy with you.
The impressive, last-minute replacement of he who shall not be named is pretty much seamless and, as such, is totally secondary to the overall effect of 'All The Money In The World (2017)'. This historical thriller is a pacy, evolving and somewhat unexpected look at the events surrounding the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, one marked by brilliant performances and nuanced characters. It does a decent job of diving into the differing mentalities surrounding the situation, as well as wealth at large, while always being a captivating, sometimes gruelling and frustrating experience. It's riveting stuff that really is some of Scott's best work. 7/10
Holmes & Watson (2018)
It's intermittently amusing but ultimately average.
There are some amusing moments but, on the whole, 'Holmes & Watson (2018)' is just totally average. It's not as bad as most reviews purport it to be but it's nowhere near as funny or generally accomplished as you'd expect from a reuniting of Ferrell and Reilly - who are both often hilarious in real life and made the excellent 'Step-brothers (2010)' together. The film is not as much a parody as it is a cash-in on the relatively recently lapsed copyright associated with the Sherlock Holmes character and his earliest of stories, making for a strange missed opportunity when it comes to where the laughs are (supposedly) coming from. The piece also leaves something to be desired in terms of its story - in particular, the central 'mystery' - and its character arcs, the latter of which are mostly rushed through in a bizarre (and lazy) musical moment towards the finale. I didn't necessarily dislike the experience while it was occurring, but it's almost instantly forgettable and the handful of successful jokes don't exactly make you howl, either. 5/10
A Christmas Story (1983)
Leg lamps roasting on an open fire.
Even with its somewhat unreliable narrator and his frequent fantastical daydreams, 'A Christmas Story (1983)' is a decidedly more realistic Christmas movie, with its focus on the little familial triumphs which remain in your memory long into adulthood. It's clearly based on a series of short stories as opposed to a long-form narrative, as it very much feels like small 'skits' strung together, but this works in the picture's favour as it replicates the typically sweeping, 'everyday as adventure' feel of childhood. It also allows the audience to empathise mostly with the disembodied narrator, who reflects on his time as a child with the kind of glee only someone who experienced the events could and provides a knowing edge to a lot of the movie's otherwise innocent events. Indeed, adults will probably get more mileage from this typically nostalgic piece than children. 6/10
My Brother the Time Traveler (2017)
It isn't awful, but it lacks the charm and personality required to really make a movie like this work.
'My Brother The Time Traveler (2017)', or 'Christmas Time' as it's listed as on Amazon Prime (for some reason), is a low-budget, insular family-drama with a very slight sci-fi slant that somehow managed to make its production money upfront via Kickstarter, which is strange simply because the oddball premise of the piece is something both difficult to communicate and, frankly, somewhat 'undesirable'. It has a really weird, inconsistent tone and, as such, is never funny, though you can usually tell when it's trying to be. The performances are all decent (save one minor but annoying appearance by a 'tenderloin') and the conventional central story is handled with enough cut-and-paste care to carry you through the brisk ninety minute experience. It isn't really effected by the 'time travel' stuff, though, as the film, at large, isn't actually about that at all; it simply uses the idea of it as a basic function to push the overall plot through all the beats you'd expect. Overall, the flick isn't awful, just generally dull and lacking the charm and personality required to really make a movie like this work. 4/10
The Grinch (2018)
The definition of 'average'.
Pretty much the definition of 'average', 'The Grinch (2018)' really is just fine in every way. It's fairly impressive in terms of its visuals and voice-work but is certainly nothing new, or even compelling, when it comes to its narrative. Really, the visuals and voice-work are only really to the expected standard of today's bigger-budgeted animated fare and the strange 'Illumination-esque' designs, combined with the pulled-back (certainly from the, frankly, creepy Carrey incarnation) but still oddball Seuss stylings, prevent the piece from appearing as aesthetically-pleasing as anything that Disney - or, more specifically, Pixar - are putting out today. The point is that the fact that it looks pretty pretty isn't enough of a selling point to recommend the piece and that's probably the biggest selling point it has. I suppose someone who isn't familiar with the source-story and is young (or willing) enough not to notice the basic nature of the narrative may get more mileage from this bland but inoffensive, family-friendly Christmas flick. 5/10
The Santa Clause (1994)
I wanna be Santa Claus, so I'm gonna kill Santa Claus.
'The Santa Clause (1994)' has its heart is in the right place but it's oddly inept, based upon a strangely nonsensical, decidedly dark core conceit and such a rushed, haphazardly constructed story. Still, it's pretty fun, to be honest, and there are quite a few laughs to be had - most of which are at the picture, rather than with it (save a couple of surprisingly funny 'Tim-Allen-isms'). It's a bizarrely entertaining watch, one that's by no means a good movie but certainly isn't a terrible one, either. 6/10
'Twas the night before Christmas and one thing was certain: everyone thought this was directed by Burton.
'The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)' is perhaps the only example of both a Halloween and a Christmas movie all in one (as well as being one of the only true examples of the former in general). It's a splendidly strange stop-motion musical that blends the horrific with the holiday-cheer, the spooky with the snow-angels and the macabre with the mistletoe in a decidedly delightful, certifiably classic, brilliantly Burton-esque way (though it's not directed by the big man himself, instead unmistakably being a Selick affair). It's not incredibly compelling, nor especially memorable on the music side of things, and suffers from some strange pacing issues, too, but it's almost instantly iconic thanks to its whacky, genre-confident visuals which are brought to life wonderfully, one frame at a time. 6/10
Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Nothing's gone forever, there are still remakes (and sequels).
'Mary Poppins Returns (2018)' certainly isn't as good as the first film despite following it practically beat-for-beat - in terms of both its narrative and (perhaps less acutely) its set-pieces. It's not bad by any stretch, though, even if its mainline plot is similarly secondary, if more persistent, and Blunt, while fairly captivating in her own right, is no match for Andrews. There's really only one memorable song (or two at a push) and, though most of them and their accompanying dance scenes are enjoyable while they're occurring, you'd be hard-pressed to recall any of them or even their choruses, certainly word-for-word, after the credits have rolled; pretty much any of the songs from its predecessor come to mind first. There are also some bizarre moments that seem straight out of something else, such as an extended chase sequence. However, the addition of an overhanging grief makes for some nice thematic resonance and the special effects are still, generally, spectacular (aside from the first fantastical sequence, which is weirdly subpar and contrasts with the brilliant, seamlessly implemented 'cartoon world' stuff later on). Even if, on retrospection, most of it doesn't make sense (and not just the purposefully fantastical stuff), the feature certainly leaves you with a smile on your face, if not a song in your head. This is thanks mainly to its superb final set-piece, which captures the wonderful whimsy that all the others were just shy of reaching. Generally, it's an uplifting experience, even if it reminds you of the original's joys more than providing you with new ones. 6/10
Mary Poppins (1964)
A jolly holiday with Mary.
There's surprisingly little plot considering its considerable run-time and what is there doesn't really come about until very late in the piece, with the 'feed the birds' stuff and subsequent changing sensibilities of Mr. Banks being pretty rushed despite having the most thematic, and narrative, resonance. Still, 'Mary Poppins (1964)' is an undeniably charming, whimsical and wonderful affair which has an inflated run-time simply because of its extended 'song and dance' set-pieces, only a couple of which go on for long enough that they begin to get a bit boring. It's an enjoyable, endearing experience with some catchy tunes (alongside a couple of not so catchy tunes, too) and some splendid special effects. It's generally delightful. 7/10
Aquaman with a Kodak.
Essentially, 'Aquaman (2018)' is an adaptation of the animated 'Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis (2015)', except it's twice as long, twice as sloppy and, generally, just twice as bad, doing less in its one-hundred and forty-three minutes than that film does in its brisk seventy-two and only making changes for the worse (some of which have to do with the fact that this film, somehow, comes after 'Justice League (2017)'). Funnily enough, it's around the time that Pitbull's new 'Africa' cover starts playing that the film really takes a dive as it's here that its 'macguffin' treasure hunt really sinks in, leading straight into a conventional and old-fashioned feeling 'superhero' story that, even at its best (which is a decent Sicily-based action-scene), floats along providing nothing more than a shallow level of engagement. If this is the best that DC can conjure up, we're in deep trouble. 5/10
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge.
Though 'Straight Outta Compton (2018)' may not be one-hundred percent historically accurate (with some 'undesirable' events being omitted seemingly simply due to the people producing the piece), this extremely entertaining bio-pic cuts to the heart of its story in an impressively acute way, always feeling innately cinematic and properly engaging as it weaves together its complex characters and events into a single narrative. It does brush past, and even entirely omit, a couple of its key players in an effort to focus on the trifecta of Cube, Dre and Easy, but this is just a casualty of a more concise narrative and is, essentially, completely necessarily, if unfortunate, in order for the film to work as well as it does. The two-and-a-half hour picture flies by as it really drives home the messages found within its focal group's music (even the ones they couldn't write into their lyrics) and paints a clear picture of the time, place and general situation that lead to its creation. Plus, all of the flick's actors give near-perfect performances that aren't just imitations and actually recreate the iconic songs themselves. 8/10
Pineapple Express (2008)
Were the filmmakers high when they made this? Probably.
'Pineapple Express (2008)' is essentially a stoner-comedy that isn't shy, at all, about its stoner aspects, often coming across more as a commercial for its pot products than anything else - especially in its first act. Still, when it gets going it's a fast-paced, frantically entertaining buddy-on-the-run piece that's made all the more enjoyable by the inclusion of some unexpectedly crunchy fight-choreography and several rather confident action set-pieces, all of which culminate in a balls-out absurd but undeniably fun finale. The flick's constantly propelled by likeable, sporadically funny and surprisingly realistic performances on the part of pretty much every one involved. 6/10
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Naturally expands on the first film, even if it never reaches its quality.
'28 Weeks Later (2007)' expands on the first film in a surprisingly natural way, even if it answers a nicely ambiguous question which that superior picture purposely left hanging. It's a relatively consistent-feeling affair, even if it never captures the isolation or relentless fury of its predecessor. It does get a bit 'been there, done that' when the plot kicks in simply because of where it starts and where it ends up, though it does take a number of risks and isn't afraid to be pretty grisly, either. It's also a fairly distinct experience in its own right, one that's fairly enjoyable throughout. 6/10