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Ghost Town (2008)
Eventually reveals its surprisingly sweet heart.
'Ghost Town (2006)' starts out quite cringeworthy, especially considering Gervais' initially grating, typically sarcastic persona. It's also never really funny, often hopping from the broadest of the broad (including 'fart jokes') to more subtle and successful fare in mere moments. Eventually, however, the film reveals its heart and the somewhat soppy, generally generic but ultimately appreciated messages within, which makes for an overall experience that's surprisingly sweet and pleasantly watchable (thanks, in no small part, to the effortlessly likeable Greg Kinnear). 6/10
Have you seen 'Inferno (2016)'? 'Inferno (2016)' with Tom Hanks?
Ike Barinholtz questioning his peers if they have "seen 'Inferno (2016)', 'Inferno (2016)' with Tom Hanks" might be one of the only things that provides a laugh in this year's 'Blockers (2018)', but that doesn't mean that 'Inferno (2016)' itself is a barrel of laughs - in fact, it's anything but (aside from, perhaps, the absolutely schlocky CGI 'backwards head' bit towards the beginning and a painfully obvious twist towards the end). Indeed, this 'thriller' is perhaps one of the least thrilling in its genre, a glorified A-to-B puzzle-solver which the audience isn't really asked to participate in and they're always two steps ahead of (making any participation essentially moot, anyway). It's also quite silly, to boot, ultimately making this fairly bargain-bin fodder that's apparently based off of an 'intelligent' book (though I haven't read it, so I wouldn't know) but actually only toes the line of competency for most of its duration. Perhaps it could provide some passing entertainment if you just let it take you and 'don't think about it' (essentially just stare at the screen), but where's the fun in that? 5/10
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Outdated in pretty much every way.
'Crocodile Dundee (1986)' is outdated in pretty much every possible way, not only relying on broad stereotypes and genre clichés but also being pretty sexist, a tad racist, fairly homophobic and oh-so transphobic, to boot. It's also just generally quite dull, relying on a strange two-half structure that sees the flick undergo a severe shift in perspective, though this shift does thankfully kick things into gear somewhat. Its segmented approach means that we don't really get a chance to connect with either of the main characters, since the foundation laid in the first section has us view Dundee from an outside perspective and, thus, isn't built upon in the second when the flick effectively hits the 'reset' button and we're placed firmly within his head-space (despite never really getting an insight into his mind). The little plot that there is doesn't really do anything interesting, either, since the conflict essentially boils down to a 'fish out of water' that can breathe just fine, with our infallible hero simply encountering strange situations which he always escapes unscathed while also making nothing but good impressions on the locals and furthering his 'cool', 'exotic', 'hyper-masculine' persona. It's this persona which lands him a half-baked romance with a woman already in a relationship, one willing to throw her life away for a man who doesn't seem to care, has already expressed several disconcertingly sexist views and will surely, as he did with his last long-standing partner, 'walkabout' without her for a couple of years while he expects her to wait, ever ready with the dinner when he gets back (though, maybe not, if the two - yes two - sequels are anything to go by). 5/10
28 Days Later... (2002)
A refreshing genre experience that often reminds you how much digital cinematography has improved.
Though '28 Days Later... (2002)' uses digital cameras in an undeniably groundbreaking and trendsetting way, watching this 'zombie movie' (even in HD on its Blu-Ray transfer) really just reminds you how far we've come in today's world of super-crisp, high-definition, 'film-competing' digital cinematography. It's often, to an extent, an exercise in resilience, as you sometimes have to squint and strain your way through its most 'SD' of sequences. It's the energetic way that Boyle uses the camera that makes the piece work, though. The influence of the feature is undeniable and even reaches to its fast-moving fiends, for this is the feature that first introduced the world to the 'runner zombie' and, naturally, it's also the one in which the concept is arguably done the best. Its creatures are surprisingly, creepily versatile and viciously relentless, to boot; it isn't hard to see why they were essentially copied across many a film to come, with varying degrees of success. The narrative itself is full of subtext and often pulls back to focus on the too often overlooked, eerily quiet aspects of a near-extinct population. All of this makes for a refreshing genre experience with a phenomenal score that's only really hampered by some dated visuals and a story that only goes so far in being entertaining. 6/10
Call Of Wolfenstein: Overlord
'Overlord (2018)' certainly has tonal issues, often being properly horrific but seeming to want to inject humour at the most inopportune of moments. It's also quite schlocky essentially every time it tries to do anything more traditionally 'war movie'-esque. This is especially prevelant in the moments where it wants us to believe its heroes are being overtly and defiantly heroic, in spite of their army-given orders or previously quite unlikable (sometimes contemptible) character-traits, or in the times where it tries to tie its events directly into the narrative of the overall Second World War - which is actually quite disturbing not in its slightly jingoistic and strangely campy ending but in its undercurrent of Nazi experimentation, something that did really occur to an extent perhaps less sensational but far more despicable than what's seen here. Really, the issues come down to the writing, which isn't as nuanced as it perhaps thinks it is but also isn't as straight-forwardly 'genre-specific' as it perhaps ought to have been. There are times when the flick works, though, which mainly come when it slips straight into the fantastical, horror territory where it feels most at home and, indeed, adept. Here, it puts the historical context further into the background than before, using it as a backdrop for a sort of silly but played-straight science-fiction flick that actually works well when it tries to scare and make squirm. The visuals are pretty much universally good and, aside from a couple of unnecessarily glorified gore-shots, the violence is presented as believably painful and properly gruesome, too. Ultimately, this makes for a flawed experience that's at its best when it just lets the viscera fly like it is slick, big-budgeted and generally very well put-together grindhouse-bound 'trash art'. 6/10
Scattershot, for sure, but still thematically rich and entertaining.
'Widows (2018)' is scattershot, for sure, and a number of its elements take a considerable amount of time to conflate, if they ever really do. It's certainly much more than the sum of its parts, though, and it's never really confined to one particular genre. Having said that, the piece is very much a 'thriller' and, as well as only being properly thrilling on occasion, it often brings with it the less successful, somewhat 'sillier' elements that you might expect from such a film - especially one based upon an ITV series from the 1980s - without having the 'knowing' vibe, or humour, that could mitigate such factors, making them all the more jarring. Most of the characters remain quite distanced from us, too, despite assured direction and a solid script. Still, it's ultimately an entertaining, thematically rich piece that moves slowly but surely in a steady, culturally-significant direction. 7/10
Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)
It may play by the rules, but it always has fun while it does.
Though it is always clear and forward-moving, the story is, especially in retrospection, a little messy. 'Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)' does feature some nice, if heavy-handed, themes and messages, but they ultimately don't amount to much more than "this is bad, isn't it?" The film also conforms quite heavily to the confines of its genre, hitting practically every cue and cliché it can while always seeming to be aware it is doing so, yet never going the extra step to satirise any of it. Still, the flick has a consistent style, several distinct characters and an excellent sense of tone, meaning that, even if it's never exactly funny (to the point of being 'laugh-out-loud', at least), it's always a lot of fun. It's an entertaining horror-comedy that works both before and after all hell breaks loose towards its final third, in which its horrors are all rendered with a wonderful, splattery practicality. The flick feels very much in the vein of the phenomenal 'Cornetto' trilogy, but, make no mistake, it doesn't come anywhere close to it in terms of quality. Despite this, it's still a very enjoyable, though pretty predictable, experience that remains engaging throughout. 7/10
Flat characters, flat camera-work and a flat-out fantastic final act.
Make no mistake, the atmosphere of 'Peterloo (2018)' is simply stunning, with phenomenal set-design and costuming combining with expert acting and often impressively rural vistas to immerse you in Britain of 1819. The flick feels lacking in the narrative department, though, mainly when it comes to the attachment we have with its proceedings beyond a surface - and, in a way, historical - level. This is because there are a copious amount of characters who don't really have any character, aside from their political views and the way in which they voice them - often through verbose, long-winded and, frankly, sometimes dull (though also sometimes rousing) speeches. The players whom initially seem to be the focus, or become the focus for an extended period of time, tend to fall by the wayside for incredibly long stretches, too; they don't actually have all that much screen-time and often blend together or come out of nowhere mid-way through ( which is an issue perfectly encapsulated by the sheer number of cast members and the fact that they're often credited as a name followed by a descriptor, i.e. 'Tuke, The Painter'). This makes for an experience that lacks a driving force (indeed, I'd be hard-pressed to name the protagonist, even if I had to) and, thus, lacks a sense of story, a sense that this tale had to be told in film form as opposed to being written in a history book. There's also an absence of empathy with any of the people on screen, other than in their function as people (whom, in essence, really existed) that we will (or, rather, should) naturally sympathise with - especially when they suffer. In many ways, the experience seems to get lost within its self. It's clearly a political message, which is fine, but it tends to serve this function far more than it does retell a real-life tragedy in any real depth. It often appears to use its historical founding as a way to push its specific message - perhaps even massaging the truth to do so, though I don't know if this is the case or how accurate the feature is in general. In the process, though, it fails to provide proper nuance and also follows a strange structure simply so that its focal event, portrayed in a jarringly invigorating and appropriately frustrating final act, can be placed at the end of proceedings to mitigate the sense that it led on to anything other than death. This is a move which feels as though it is aching to draw blank parallels to today (as does the rest of the affair) but doesn't really do so, in a macro way, because we have the knowledge that the eponymous event, as unjust and vexing as it truly is, was arguably the first step in achieving the reform that the flick spends so much time talking about and, even if it wasn't, that that reform would still eventually come. It's not like the film is ever particularly boring, per se, just that it isn't as focused or as engaging as it could have been. The camera-work is usually restrained and the editing is sometimes straight-up bizarre, holding on shots of background characters as they watch others talk (whilst barely reacting) for minutes at a time. That's not to say I don't admire unconventional cutting, rather that the editing is often distracting and takes focus away from what you want to be looking at. This mainly occurs during the repetitive speeches, which are usually surprisingly watchable in spite of the way they're sometimes put together (perhaps in an attempt to vary them). They don't ultimately amount to much, though; they don't paint a picture of why the central incident occurred or serve to make us empathise with any of the characters. To be fair, for a two-and-a-half hour affair, the picture goes by pretty quickly. Despite that length, I wouldn't call it an 'epic', though. There's just an almost underwhelming feeling that nothing much has been achieved, that this story could've perhaps been better served. It's not bad, but it's not great. 6/10
Juliet, Naked (2018)
An enjoyable, if slightly forgettable, entry into the better half of its genre.
'Juliet, Naked (2018)' has some interesting themes - especially surrounding the different, but equally valid, meanings of art to the consumer and to the artist themselves, and the way that one's appreciation for something that someone else could consider 'trivial' can become an integral part of their identity and that it is in no way less legitimate because of its apparent 'triviality'. The flick also has some very well rounded characters, who are all performed excellently; Ethan Hawke's weathered singer-songwriter, in particular, always carries the weight of a tangible past with him. The film is an entertaining time throughout, too, and is a pleasant experience on the whole, one that's as predictable as it is confidently crafted. There doesn't seem to be that extra 'thing', whatever that may be, that could've set this apart from the crowd, though. Ultimately, this makes the piece a perfectly enjoyable entry into the better half of its genre, one that doesn't necessarily stand out from the others in that same category but isn't actually worse for it, just slightly less memorable. 6/10
The Fog (1980)
Whatever's in the fog, it isn't Carpenter's best work.
A fantastic first act is followed by a slow, somewhat mediocre second and a frenzied but rushed third, ultimately making for a flawed film that has moments of pure, albeit slightly campy, spooky joy but also feels lacking from a story perspective. While the flick generally demonstrates Carpenter's impressively assured, genre-confident direction, it occasionally seems somewhat hollow and is just generally a bit too straightforward - at least, for its pacing and structure. The story issues aren't helped by an enigmatic but ultimately superfluous opening scene that essentially spells out everything that's going to happen and thus reduces a lot of potential mystery. There are also several false, though thankfully always grounded, jump-scares that end up becoming quite grating. Plus, a final scare comes out of nowhere and doesn't really make all that much sense. Still, the suspenseful stuff is usually successful and there's a great sense of atmosphere - especially in the feature's opening third, as I mentioned. There are a number of well-crafted frights and, on the whole, it makes good, if sparing, use of horror (including some inventive, though slightly tame, horrific imagery). When it's at its best, the picture makes you forget about its flaws, including its rushed relationships and generally weak characters, by being a confident 'haunted house', a ghost story told to entertain rather than straight-up scare. 6/10
It's entertaining enough, but it isn't quite the 'Twinkie' of its satirical sub-genre.
'Zombieland (2009)' is relatively fun but it just isn't all that funny, aside from a brief but inspired cameo late-on, and, though it satirises the genre in general, it isn't as sharp as something like, say, 'Shaun Of The Dead (2004)' - instead, it's an experience that falls victim to the very tropes it aims to dismantle. It's entertaining enough and there are a few memorable set-pieces, but it isn't anything all that spectacular. It certainly doesn't come close to being the 'Twinkie' of its satirical sub-genre. 6/10
Should be more than enough to spike your interest, even if it's flawed.
'Horns (2013)' is more a mystery than anything else and there thankfully is a nice, self-contained little story at the heart of the piece, one that doesn't really focus on the eponymous horns so much as use their abilities to see the story through to its end (in terms of both theme and plot). The eventual, albeit disappointing, reveal isn't necessarily obvious, either, as the film spends a lot of time successfully muddying the waters when it comes to whether or not our 'hero' might actually deserve the spiky things growing from his skull. While it's usually entertaining and not afraid to also be properly dark, the flick does have its fair share of quite severe tonal issues and a third act that doesn't really live up to what it could've been - bolstered by that disappointing reveal I mentioned earlier. This ultimately makes for an experience that's enjoyable but flawed, sometimes frustratingly so. 6/10
The Spirit (2008)
There's no egg on Sam Jackson's face, but the same can't quite be said for everyone else.
I think 'The Spirit (2008)' is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek but, even then, it's not all that great, stumbling over its schlocky story and faux gritty tone on numerous occasions. It's ultimately just a rather cringe-worthy and quite ham-fisted attempt at satire, one told with a fumbled 'Sin City (2006)' aesthetic. Still, it's not entirely devoid of merit mainly thanks to Samuel L. Jackson and his ostentatious, scenery-chewing performance as the flick's villain, which provides a few select, somewhat entertaining moments and essentially saves the piece from being a total waste of time. In the end, though, I still wouldn't really recommend it. 5/10
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Not quite 'Bohemian Rhapsody', more like 'I'm In Love With My Car': undeniably entertaining but ultimately quite shallow.
'Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)' does feel like it's trying to do a deep-dive on Mercury himself, showing the highs, lows and everything in-between in an attempt to humanise him, to show the man behind the musical myth. It never quite manages to do so, however, despite a blistering lead performance. It always seems to just scrape the surface of the man's psyche, only occasionally dipping a little deeper into his inner workings but still never really coming close to painting a clear picture of his out-of-spotlight self. Instead of focusing fully on this, the piece just glosses past important moments and relationships in order to get back to the 'fun' stuff, ultimately coming across as pretty shallow (especially when you stop to think about it). Thankfully, though, that 'fun stuff' consists of a series of admittedly check-list and narratively flimsy, yet undeniably entertaining, scenes in which we're treated to the origin of several key Queen tracks and then given a performance of each of them, or even a full twenty-minute live-aid concert, all presented in ear-pleasing surround-sound. The only downside to these sequences is that the actors are lip-syncing the songs, despite having performed them properly on the day. While this allows us to hear Queen in all their glory, it does take away from the believability of the picture in some key moments and gives off an ever-so-slightly disingenuous feel; the characters in the film aren't the same as their real-life counterparts, no matter how well they represent them, and they aren't really singing. Still, as I mentioned, hearing these songs blasted from a cinema-quality sound-system is a treat; it really is difficult not to smile when they're being played. It's not like the film is ever unenjoyable, either, even in its most 'check-list' or hollow of moments. It also doesn't scream "troubled production", despite being the very definition of the term behind-the-scenes. The most you can tell it's a tale of two (or three) minds is in the sometimes strange post-production choices, which are clearly Fletcher's doing. Overall, while the movie isn't always deep, it definitely could've been deeper, and it strangely misses out a significant chunk of its star's life, it's ultimately an entertaining time that will certainly please fans of the band. 7/10
The Addams Family (1991)
There are some strange contrivances and contradictions within the plot, especially considering its forced and all too convenient final few moments (mostly concerning the true identity of a key character), but the majority of the piece is a frightfully fun, delightfully devilish time that's quirky in the best possible way. 'The Addams Family (1991)' does strangely seem to condone the dangerous behaviour of its protagonists, especially the small macabre siblings who take teasing to a whole other level, which is nearly always amusing, yet portrayed in an oddly consequence-free way that makes it feel quite challenging - at least, for its supposed target audience. Still, though it creaks in places and is certainly a bit hokey in others, this is an enjoyable - if predictable - feature that's built on suitably ostentatious, highly entertaining performances and a wryly knowing screenplay. 7/10
Paints a pretty clear picture of a real-life person without ever feeling like a typical bio-pic.
'Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot (2018)' is sometimes unfocused - in fact, often so - but it is also always engaging and, though it usually focuses on hardships, entertaining, too. There are several human moments that break through the flick's messy structure and occasional tonal hiccups and, though it's never incredibly emotionally impactful and feels far too long, it's always compelling and paints a pretty clear portrait of a real-life person without actually feeling like a bio-pic at all. This is helped by the fact that it's backed by great performances and a dedication to see them brought to life in as real a way as possible. In fact, 'dedication' is a term that's very applicable to this particular picture considering that it has been in 'development hell' since the late nineties. 7/10
The Hate U Give (2018)
Incredibly compelling, frequently moving and very powerful; urgent viewing that demands to be seen.
After a brilliantly impactful opening scene, 'The Hate U Give (2018)' introduces us to some incredibly heavy-handed, out-of-place and mood-killing narration - its only real, but unfortunately quite major, issue. Though it's a shame it was included (to this extent, at least), it subsides somewhat after the first act, only popping up sporadically and to cap off proceedings, and it can't diminish the effect of the overall piece, as the picture really is a powerful, emotionally affecting experience that speaks volumes even at its quietest. It features many surprisingly poignant scenes and often cuts to the heart of an incredibly divisive, seemingly increasingly pervasive issue. It's certainly one of the most timely, thought-provoking and touching features of the year; I was almost brought to tears, and not just out of sadness, on several occasions. Aside from the narration, the flick rarely puts a foot wrong (which makes the voice-over all the more frustrating). Ultimately, it's incredibly compelling, frequently moving and, frankly, urgent viewing that demands to be seen. 8/10
Descends into utter chaos, following its source story, but can't quite conflate its themes.
Much like it's source story, 'High-Rise (2015)' descends into utter chaos in its latter half but, unlike that same story, it almost feels like this is an accident, although it almost certainly isn't. Here, the flick just ends up feeling aimless, unable to conflate its anarchic themes with its newfound anarchic film-form and narrative structure - as admirable as it is that it attempted to do so, to tell the story through the very fabric of its film-making. It's just a bit boring, to be honest, and it gets progressively more so as it goes along, ultimately making for a pretty disappointing picture that isn't really entertaining despite the fact that it features some interesting visuals, several more-than-decent performances, a few ambitious themes and that it is told with a fairly solid style. 5/10
Forrest Gump (1994)
One of the most entertaining, affecting and crowd-pleasing experiences ever put to screen.
'Forrest Gump (1994)' constantly threats to become unfocused and, really, it's a miracle that it isn't completely so, especially since it covers so much time and so many key historical events. Thankfully, its focal character is constantly, well, in focus, which is really because of the fantastic, sweet yet weighty screenplay that's delightfully delivered by the film's rightfully famous star. The flick really is a roller-coaster of emotions, running the gamut from genuinely funny to genuinely sad, sometimes within the same scene. It's all held together by tight film-making that knows exactly what it's doing, ultimately creating perhaps one of the most entertaining, affecting and crowd-pleasing experiences ever put to screen. It sometimes gets stick for being 'too mainstream' but all that means, really, is that it hits as wide an audience as possible and hits them as hard as it can. 9/10
Home-spun, entertaining and unexpected but sometimes slow and meandering.
Built around a sweet, polite, small-town police officer and her attempts to solve a murderous mystery seemingly by being as nice as possible, this strangely pleasant yet decidedly dark tale is somewhat satirical and screams 'Coen' as soon as it starts, with a totally phoney 'based on a true story' title-card that's supposed to excuse some of the more extreme coincidences and absurd-isms found in the plot. 'Fargo (1996)' is an entertaining time that feels as home-spun as its supposed to, doesn't always take the expected route and focuses on fairly realistic characters who are mostly atypical of the usual archetypes found in this type of story, but it is also sometimes slow and meandering, too (which is actually Coen trademark). 7/10
In Bruges (2008)
Rough around the edges but generally entertaining.
Though it's a little rough around the edges thanks mainly to some brash, backwards-thinking 'edgy' dialogue (a McDonagh trademark), 'In Bruges (2008)' plays fast and loose with convention to usually crowd-pleasing effect, making for an unpredictable and pacy piece that doesn't stick to the confines of its genre. It's a generally entertaining, twist-and-turn-laden time that has some tangible consequences and proper payoffs for pretty much everything it sets up, including a complete central character arc. Ultimately, though, this tight thriller is let down by the occasionally forced, sometimes (purposefully) inappropriate humour and its overall detrimental 'edginess'. 7/10
La lengua de las mariposas (1999)
Values atmosphere over plot but is usually pleasant, well-written stuff.
'Butterfly's Tongue (1999)' certainly values atmosphere over plot but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as we follow a young child through his every day exploits and tend to feel the way he feels (except that we view each moment through an adult lens) during the varied, almost anthology-esque events which are indicative of how a kid sees the world - as loosely connected but in-the-moment experiences that each subconsciously add up to form their eventual world view. Most of the film is pleasant, well-written stuff that excels at feeling naturalistic and is also loosely nostalgic, even if some subplots - and even individual sequences - seem like total non sequitur and a couple of scenes are strangely inappropriate for what seems to be the perfect target-audience (strangely graphic sex scene, included). It seems as though it all builds up to a message that only really forms itself - at least, in the foreground - in the film's final moments, though. While this ending is emotionally resonant and actually quite poignant, it feels somewhat rushed and causes the rest of the flick to seem retroactively unfocused, especially if this was always supposed to be the thematic outcome. 6/10
While not quite as good as 'Halloween (1978)', this is still a painfully violent and generally entertaining slasher.
'Halloween (2018)' is the belated sequel to 'Halloween (1978)' that ignores 'Halloween II (1981)', 'Halloween II (2009)', 'Halloween (2007)', too, and every 'Halloween' in-between. Look, you could write a whole think piece about why the title is bad, in fact I have, but the more important thing is the quality of the film itself. Surprisingly, it's not bad; it's not bad at all. See, where reports of the picture being a straight-up comedy that removes all reference to the main thesis of the first feature - that Michael Myers is the Boogeyman and that you can't kill the Boogeyman - had me worried and doubting its quality or even competence, the movie itself puts all those worries to rest and proves that you can't judge a book by its cover (or its bad title). All I'm saying is that every reported decision made it seem like David Gordon Green and co were taking the story in the wrong direction, especially since this is being billed as the 'true successor' to John Carpenter's 1978 classic. However, the final result is something very much in keeping with that original picture (and perhaps even its most immediate sequel, even if it's never referenced and perhaps causes a couple of issues with the new, series rewriting backstory) and it clearly has a reverence for it - though, this does occasionally lead to some 'fan service' that does seem slightly out of place. After a slightly rocky start, the piece becomes a rather compelling and enjoyable time that often makes you squirm in your seat thanks to the revamped brutality of its antagonist. Here, Michael Myers - or, The Shape - truly is a frightening foe. This is mainly because of his unrelenting, indiscriminate blood-lust and the shocking, painful way in which it is presented. He just kills anyone who gets in his path; men, women and children. The violence is shown in an impactful, gruesome and generally wince-inducing way and it almost makes you want to look away - almost. It's not like it's way too extreme, rather that it's appropriate for what's happening. When someone is hurt, you feel it; when they're killed, it's almost upsetting. Although some silly moments slip into the fray, including a particularly absurd and out-of-character kill late on, most of the carnage is certifiably nasty and it makes you dread The Shape's next inevitable deadly encounter. It's actually refreshing to see violence portrayed in this way, especially as it's always consequential and never feels like we're even close to 'rooting for' the killer (which can happen in some Slasher fare). Plus, a man with a knife really is a scary thing and this knows it; it doesn't worry about 'the inventiveness of kills' or anything like that. The only real downside to Michael's representation is that his killings come across as purely random and, while that is quite unsettling, it doesn't line up with the 'target choosing' sort of stuff we see in the first film and sometimes makes for an aimless vibe. This is especially true of the finale, in which Michael and Laurie face off, as it seems as though the former simply stumbles across the later by chance rather than fate, as is supposed to be the case (though you could argue that the two are intertwined). Still, that sequence is pretty crowd-pleasing. Speaking of Laurie, I found her character to be a rather good representation of trauma. I thought that Curtis did a good job of portraying an older, harder survivor and that the family dynamic was a rather well-conceived one. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though she's in it enough - or, at least, the flick doesn't focus enough on her character. Even her granddaughter doesn't get enough screen-time, and she's the second closest thing to a protagonist we get. The story in general is a bit weak, as it both follows a similar path to the original but also feels very unfocused and coincidental. There's quite a bit of odd exposition, too, and a particular plot-point which threatens to head in a direction that, if it had continued on that path, would've almost made me want to walk out. Luckily, it didn't go the way it looked as though it would and was resolved quickly enough so that it was only stupid, not movie-ruining. I'll just quickly touch on the 'comedy'. While there are certainly moments that feel out of place, too long and sometimes tonally jarring, most of the humour is, in fact, just witty writing used to make you care about characters that sometimes only have one or two scenes before they meet their end at the hands of the Boogeyman. This means that, for the most part, we care about everyone killed and there aren't really any moments that are so out of touch that they take you - or, at least, me - out of a particular scene. Overall, I really enjoyed 'Halloween (2018)'. Even though it certainly isn't quite as good as 'Halloween (1978)', it generally swaps out suspense (Michael is on-screen a lot more and he doesn't tend to stalk his victims for that long before he makes the kill) for visceral violence and I think that's the main thing that it has improved upon. I do wish we had the suspense of the first with the violence of this one, though, as that could've been a truly gruelling and scary film; one of the main issues with Carpenter's genre-defining piece is that the kills don't really hold up all that well outside of the context of the film itself (looking back, I mean). This new entry into the series isn't as tight and, while it's sometimes teeth-clenching, it's not scary. Plus, if a sequel comes along, and I suspect it will, it will severely dampen this one's ending. I had a good time with the film, though, and I was on the edge of my seat by its end. 7/10
The Thing (2011)
Not as good as 'The Thing (1982)'; not even close.
Yet another film that shares the same continuity as its predecessor but also bizarrely has the same title (ala 'Halloween (2018)'), this belated prequel has a hard act to follow. 'The Thing (2011)' starts off on a pretty poor foot by having the odd mission-statement of shedding light on the events that led up to John Carpenter's suspenseful, mysterious and purposefully ambiguous classic. Most of the movie is actually fairly dull and its attempts at the unnerving, 'you don't know who's the thing' thing that the first film did so well usually fall flat, too. Yet, the main problem - or, at least, the most noticeable one - is the fact that the fantastic and, frankly, frightening practical effects from the original have been replaced with weightless, unremarkable CGI that's also fairly unconvincing. The worst thing about this is that the feature originally included a number of rather impressive on-set effects, as seen in several behind-the-scenes featurettes, but the studio apparently got nervous and had them replaced. I certainly can't merit the piece for something that's not in the final product, but it's definitely a shame. Still, the flick surrounding these dodgy visuals isn't all that great, anyway. It's certainly no match for its predecessor, that's for sure. 4/10
For all its impressive rap-battles, the film makes it clear that the real battle is inside; when it comes out, it's incredibly compelling.
'VS. (2018)' is a compelling and, at times, emotionally resonant film that focuses on a troubled teenager (played by a guy who doesn't even come close to passing for seventeen) who, after being bounced around from foster home to foster home, finally finds an outlet for his inner anger when he stumbles upon the Southend rap-battle scene. It's an engaging and enjoyable time throughout, one that's brought to life with confident - if ever-so-slightly unremarkable - filmmaking and is based on an assured, effective screenplay. The acting is surprisingly good across the board, especially from the lead (who makes his feature debut), as it feels totally naturalistic and adds to the piece's realist aesthetic. It also bolsters the subtle and generally excellent character-work - which is what really drives the feature. The focus on character even runs through the flick's lyrically-accomplished and occasionally challenging battle sequences, which ultimately show an excellent understanding of the culture and even aim to dismantle some of its most toxic of tropes. While these sequences are the loudest and most energetic, they're rarely matched by the sheer power of the picture's quieter moments - a fine feat, indeed. When the two worlds collide in the impressive - if slightly convenient - finale, you'd be hard-pressed not to get a smile on your face. 7/10