Category Archives: Film Review

Greta

Everyone Needs a Friend.

Greta (2018)

A young woman befriends a lonely widow who’s harboring a dark and deadly agenda toward her.

Starring: Isabelle Huppert • Chloë Grace Moretz • Maika Monroe 

*Minor spoilers*

Bags of fun

Huh. Knowing this is directed by The Crying Game’s Neil Jordan, you would naturally go in expecting a high quality thriller. What you actually get is an enjoyable, yet ultimately empty and forgettable movie with questionable central performances. Which I’m gutted to type, honestly because ever since I saw the trailer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release date.

The premise alone is so intriguing. When nice girl Frances McCullen (Chloe Moretz) finds a handbag on the subway, there’s no question of what she will do. She returns it to its rightful owner, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Greta invites her in for coffee and learning that she is widowed and missing her daughter, who lives in Paris, Frances takes pity on the woman – and a friendship is born.

Grieving for her own mother, who has passed away the previous year, Frances finds a natural connection with Greta. Frances’ BFF Erica (It Follows’ Maika Monroe) warns her that the whole scene is a little bit icky – and moreover, that Frances’ wholesome goodness will result in her being eaten alive by NYC. Frances doesn’t see it like that… until she discovers some new (and sinister) information about her new friend.

What on earth is Greta’s game and what does she want from Frances?

Chink chink motherfucker

Needless to say this is an intense stalker story that culminates in a nasty situation. But why? This is my issue with the story. We learn via a secondary source (played by Zawe Ashton), that things aren’t as they seem, particularly regarding the relationship between Greta and her daughter. There’s a vague hint at what G might be hiding but there’s no exploration of why she is what she is. And the climax is cool and all but it’s also shaky and predictable.

I was expecting so much more. I thought I’d be blown away by a motive I’d never even considered, with twists and turns I couldn’t imagine. Instead I got several shoddy false starts and a lot of head scratching time. That said, I still enjoyed myself – and while she’s not given that much to do, I liked Erica (when will MM get the consistently great roles she deserves?).

“I loved you in It Follows.”

About those central performances. I mean, c’mon! Huppert is a dream of an actress with a sting in her tail. Her turn in 2016’s Elle was wonderful – I expected more of the same, if not even more unhinged and delicious. Yet her Greta never really gets going in the way I hoped. It’s not a bad performance, it just doesn’t ever gain the momentum you’d expect. She is chic AF though, which is a given.

In turn, lovely Miss Moretz seems to phone her part in. I do find her acting hit or miss at times (even though I like her) but it’s as if she turned up to filming without really reading the script first. However, I can’t really blame the actresses for this, the film just doesn’t pack a punch and they can only do so much.

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Little

She woke up like This.

Little (2019)

A woman is transformed into her younger self at a point in her life when the pressures of adulthood become too much to bear.

Starring: Regina Hall • Issa Rae • Marsai Martin

*Minor spoilers*

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Blessed image

A modern day, female-centric Big? You got me. This is a fun concept and it stars Insecure’s creator Issa Rae – what else do I need?

Sure it doesn’t have any real surprises but it does also have Regina Hill as ‘big’ Jordan Sanders running around being a complete bitch. It’s horrible obviously but also comedy gold.

When she pisses off the wrong person, Jordan finds herself cut down to size. Literally. Waking up the morning after as her pre-teen self, she is forced to bring reluctant assistant April Williams (Rae) in on the tee – that she’s half the woman she was the day before (in stature anyway).

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“One Venti cup of steaming bitch juice. STAT.”

Through a comedy of errors, Jordan finds herself back in school and April running Jordan’s high-flying company, which is at risk of going under if they can’t impress their biggest client with a new product. What japes!

Well, you can already guess how this will pan out but sometimes there is comfort in that and I did find it funny. Little is written and directed by Tina Gordon, a WOC and you can tell. While she hasn’t done masses yet, I am looking forward to seeing more from her.

Meanwhile, Issa Rae is a dream to watch on the screen, and both her and Hall are actresses I want to see way more in film and TV. Hall’s mega bitch Jordan is deliciously bad, having formed this persona after high school to ensure she never gets bullied again.

Bag ladies but in like, the best way

Special shout out to the true star of the film, little Jordan Sanders (Marsai Martin) who knocks her part out of the ballpark. She’s all sass and rocks her scenes, particularly in the classroom (her flirt-fest with her highly reluctant teacher – played by Justin Hartley – is a scream). And she’s never better than when she’s sticking up for her underdog new friends – who are also totally adorable.

This is a film about black girl magic, female friendship – and opening yourself up to the best things in life, like well, magic and female friendship.

And I appreciate it for that.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Mid90s

Fall. Get back up.

Mid90s (2018)

Follows Stevie, a thirteen-year-old in 1990s-era Los Angeles who spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of new friends that he meets at a Motor Avenue skate shop.

Starring: Sunny Suljic • Katherine Waterston • Lucas Hedges

*Minor spoilers*

Mid90s-movie

You literally take the hardest hits out of anybody I’d ever seen in my life. You know you don’t have to do that, right? ~ Ray

Oh slow burning indie movies, how I love thee. Jonah Hill‘s directorial debut is beautiful and sweet there’s no denying it. However, I don’t know how long I will think about it now I’ve seen it.

Stevie (Sunny Suljic) comes from a single-parent home with a bully for a big brother. His mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) is still young and gorgeous (having had her first child at 18) – and is dipping into the dating pool again. I would tell you more about her but apart from a couple of minor scenes, we know very little of her.

It is suggested that she’s had ‘a past’ that has included a revolving door of suitors – and this might be why older son Ian (Lucas Hedges) is so tormented (read: such a dick).

Stevie is yearning for something clearly, for when he stumbles across a group of skateboarders outside a local skate shop, he wants in – and makes it his mission to join them. Which is no mean feat when you’re just a kid.

Summer-summer-summertime…

Eventually he makes it into the crew and the new friends become the centre of his new world. The gang are: Ray, Fuckshit, Fourth Grade and Ruben – and they are all dealing with their own issues. Stevie rubs Reuben up the wrong way by quickly becoming the new golden boy – and this leads to an inevitable showdown between them.

The gang in general might not be as solid as they once were. Leader of the group Ray (played by the really fucking good Na-kel Smith) is drifting away from his BFF Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt), determined to leave the hood for something better. Can their friendship survive when Fuckshit is determined to just keep partying? Meanwhile, Dabney isn’t very pleased about her son’s behaviour now he’s part of something she can’t control – can she put a stop to it before it goes too far?

A mood

All in all, this is a lovely debut. There is a sex scene involving Stevie and an older girl which made me feel really icky though – so I am very glad it stopped where it did. Honestly, I get that this happens but he’s a literal child and I do not want to see him sexualised!

The female characters aren’t given much to do either. In fact the only women we actually see are Dabney and the skate groupies on the sidelines. That’s not great, Mr Hill. Come to my room and let’s discuss this further.

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Hellboy

Demons Have Demons Too.

Hellboy (2019)

Based on the graphic novels by Mike Mignola, Hellboy, caught between the worlds of the supernatural and human, battles an ancient sorceress bent on revenge.

Starring: David Harbour • Milla Jovovich • Ian McShane • Sasha Lane

*Minor spoilers*

Hellboy-Still-6

“Who are you calling ‘Helmet’?”

Who are you calling a monster, pal? Have you looked in the mirror recently? ~ Hellboy

This movie has received a lot of negative reviews. Milla Jovovich herself was asked what she thought of all the bad press and she responded that it will be a cult classic instead – and fuck the box office (to paraphrase). Which is possibly the best answer ever.

Having now seen it for myself, I can safely say… I completely agree with her.

Nobody is more surprised than me to learn that I loved this. I adored del Toro‘s HB movies more than cocoa puffs. BUT – I had a high old time with the new Hellboy (though admittedly it took me a moment). David Harbour might not have been my first choice to fill Ron Perlman‘s boots but I’m glad he’s here now.

The addition of psychic conduit Sasha Lane to the cast – as well as a fine turn (as always) from Ian McShane and a little help from a wild and wonderful new friend – and this does have the makings of a film you’d revisit again and again. Screw the people who didn’t like it.

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Yaaaaaas (Blood) Kween

Directed by Dog Soldiers’ Neil Marshall, it is extremely gory – with limbs flying and eyeballs exploding left and right. It is bloody for the sake of being bloody in places – and I am down for that.

Sure, some of the dialogue is utterly laughable but in that 90’s action movie way, particularly the one liners. In fact, most of the things this movie has been criticised for are the things I loved about it. It’s fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously.

There’s a wonderful and grotesque segment inside Baba Yaga’s walking house which I adored – and the story itself, while stupid in place, is firmly grounded in old English folklore so what’s not to like.

Jovovich plays it pretty straight as super villainess Numue the Blood Queen but has a comedic sidekick in the form of pig faced Gruagach (voiced by Stephen Graham). And while we failed to stay for the post-credit scenes (rookies), this does climax with a hint to what could follow in the Hellboy universe and I’m there with bells on.

Yeah, I probably would

Glynn and I were pretty much the only two people in the cinema enjoying ourselves but I’m not mad about being in the minority – come see me when this is the ultimate cult classic in 25 years time and I’ll tell you – I told you so.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Pet Sematary

Sometimes Dead Is Better.

Pet Sematary (2019)

Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocate from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home.

Starring: Jason Clarke • Amy Seimetz • John Lithgow

*Minor spoilers*

Which way to certain doom?

She won’t come back the same ~ Jud

Hmmm. I waited a long time for this updated adaptation and now it’s here, I’m not sure.

I mean, it looks good – let’s start there. There are a couple of really sweet SK nods that I appreciate. The house and the setting of the cemetery itself is spot on. I love the Wicker Man aesthetic of the local children in masks (even though they aren’t used at all, which is a shame).

John Lithgow‘s Jud is magnificent – but there’s a lot of character development missing for me. While they go in quite hard on the Zelda/Rachel story arc (which pays tribute subtly to another SK classic), they don’t pad out the family enough for me to give much of a damn.

Louis: loving life

Jason Clarke (good-looking Piers Morgan) is Louis, the tormented father with the power to bring his dead child back from the dead. He’s alright but I do feel the character could have been played by any slightly hot dude of a similar age. Rachel (Amy Seimetz) is actually quite good at times as she deals with the PTSD of her sister’s illness – but as with a lot of female characters in King’s stories, she isn’t given that much to do beyond look stressed out. A modern adaptation could of had her kicking more arse? (Just me?).

I also have issue with how easily Louis resurrects his daughter, Ellie (played by Jeté Laurence). In the book there’s much more examination of his moral quandary – and how much the decision plays on him. The film is only 101 minutes so we don’t have the luxury of spending too much time with the to and fro but still. I think perhaps having the book so clearly in my mind (I read it in the last year and loved it) hasn’t helped but slightly hindered my enjoyment.

There he is

I have to mention the trailer too! It gives so much of the film away that it really damaged things for me. Yes, I get that this is a story that most people know, either from the book or from the 1989 film but this version offers a different take on the story (sort of) by choosing to kill off a different kid. Had we not known that this was the case then ‘the scene’ would have packed quite the punch. While keeping our eye on Gage, we would have completely dropped the ball on Ellie.

I suppose the ending is different and it deserves a nod for that. It’s pretty dark and maybe I would have liked a bit more time to sit with that rather than just have it end. I can’t help think how good this might have been had they made it into a series instead.

All of the above said, Glynn and Matt enjoyed it much more and for some of the reasons I didn’t – so it really is down to a matter of taste. My verdict is: not terrible but ultimately, what was the point?

⭐⭐⭐½ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Us

Us (2019)

A family’s serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.

Starring: Lupita Nyong’o • Winston Duke • Elisabeth Moss 

*Spoiler free, I promise*

I’ve seen Us twice in the cinema so far and it is hands down the most interesting film I’ve seen all year.  I understand that it might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it really is mine.

Reviewing it is not going to be easy because I could never do it justice but I’m going to try.

In 1986, young Adelaide Thomas is momentarily separated from her parents at a Santa Cruz fairground. Drawn to a hall of mirrors, Adelaide encounters a doppelgänger of herself and is scarred by the experience. Her parents try everything to get her to speak (she has been rendered mute), including dance and art therapy.

In present-day, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) have two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). We meet them as they head back to her families beach house in Santa Cruz on vacay.

While Ade is apprehensive given her connection to the beach, she allows Gabe to take the family anyway, where they meet up with their friends, Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker) – and their teenage twin daughters. Gabe is eager to impress the couple, who are rich AF but clearly despise one another.

All is well until Jason disappears for a moment – and Ade panics. While temporarily missing, Jason sees a man in a red jumpsuit with blood dripping off his hands. He chooses not to tell the others, given Ade’s current mood.

ABBA had started to do PAs in people’s homes

Later, back at the holiday home, the family are stalked by a family in their drive way. It is here that things become frigging sinister and I don’t want to give the game away. I can say that the ‘visitors’ are the Untethered (as well as doppelgängers of the entire family) and they do not come in peace.

What follows is a story of fairy tale proportions, of parallel worlds and of mystery. Adelaide and family must fight to protect each other at all costs – and in the process Ade must face up to the trauma of her childhood, which is finally starting to make sense.

Cutting crew

This film is stunning with incredible double performances by a solid cast. Lupita in particular is mesmerising as Adelaide and her doppelgänger Red. Support in the form of Moss is also satisfying – while Duke brings a welcome comic relief. The kids are outstanding – the bickering siblings really come into their own when they’re required to fight their own doubles – and I love their scenes.

The imagery, the music, the story – in the hands of the mighty Jordan Peele it just works brilliantly. On second viewing I noticed far more foreshadowing and clues to what is going on, and I genuinely love this movie. It’s frightening and beautiful in equal measure with an insane final sequence between Adelaide and Red. The dance/fight choreography is pure perfection.

Art Attack’s new presenter was proving really popular

I cannot wait to see what Peele does next. And with new Twilight Zone episodes and a writing credit for the 2020 Candyman remake, I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long.

⭐⭐⭐⭐  out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?

Shazam!

Shazam! (2019)

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM! – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the adult superhero Shazam.

Starring: Zachary Levi • Djimon Hounsou • Mark Strong

*Minor spoilers*

Sure, Shazam! is a little less dark than your average comic book movie but it has its moments. We went with Beau at the weekend and we all left with a smile on our faces – so yes, good clean family fun all round.

Billy (Asher Angel) is a fourteen-year-old tearaway with one objective – to find his birth mother. Running away from every foster home he’s ever had, all he cares about is reuniting with the woman who lost him when he was a little boy.

It’s all about faaaaaaamily

When Billy takes this quest one step too far, he’s placed by his exasperated social worker into a new home with foster parents Victor (Cooper Andrews) and Rosa Vasquez (Marta Milans). This is his last chance saloon but to say he’s thrilled by the arrangement would be a damn lie.

His eye is still on the prize and he’s not there to make friends, despite the efforts of his new foster siblings; Freddy, Mary, Darla, Eugene and Pedro.

When he accidentally meets The Wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) – there’s a whole convoluted intro to the wizard which I’m leaving to you, the viewer – he inherits crazy powers and begins his journey toward hero-dom.

For, when Billy says the magic word – it escapes me now – he becomes the very adult Shazam (Zachary Levi).

Capes are out, didn’t anyone tell you?

With the help of new friend/bro Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy begins to figure out his new super skills. But with bitter super-villain Dr. Thaddeus Silvana (Mark Strong) on his tail and after the powers for himself – he’s going to need more than just lightning fingers to keep the city safe.

The message here is a sweet enough and it’s actually quite upsetting when Billy (as himself) finally meets his mum. I know I cry at everything but I did get a lump in my throat. Billy just wants what we all want: love and acceptance.

One of these things is not like the others

The Vasquez’s are heavenly with a wholesome but firm parenting style – and the kids aren’t annoying at all, not even once. The more I think of this silly film the more I realise I really enjoyed it. I’m glad I went and I definitely would have avoided it had my step-son not wanted to go.

The effects are great – the seven deadly sins are brilliant – the ‘training’ montages are a scream and Mark Strong makes a fine villain.

I’m looking forward to the sequel which is rumoured to be starring Dwayne Johnson. Bring it.

Just kiss already

⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

What are you watching?