Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
bob the moo
(list no longer kept up-to-date....sorry)
Whiskey Fist (2017)
Lots if flaws if you want them, but the through-line is a wonderful bitterly wry anger which pulls it off
Justin is an intern in a PR department. His career looks to be taking off even though nobody can quite put a finger on what he has achieved, and he fits with his male peers well. One night though, he meets a girl, who penetrates him with a bottle of J******s' Whiskey, leaving him pregnant and with his life turned upside down.
There is a lot not to like about this film. I read about it on the Short of the Week site, and the crude description of the film's content put me off a bit. It opens with some so-so sound work, which is a bugbear for me; then it moves into a narrative which is all over the place in terms of start, middle, and end. During the delivery, it drops quite a few lines, aspects, and moments, which are far too on-the- nose and obvious in the message it is bringing. However, despite all this it works and it works because it is consistent.
The consistency is in the tone. The film is erratic, but it is erratic in the understandable/predictable/consistent way that someone in a rage is yes they are angry, but they are consistent in that anger. In the meantime some of their statements are outrageous, stupid, extreme, funny, and blunt all of it steeped in annoyance, gallows humor, bitterness, and mockery. These are the aspects that make it work because they are so tangible, and creatively brought out. So yes it has its faults, it lacks nuance, and could have been something quite different but it is hard to dislike it when there is so much raw energy, drive, and emotion behind it.
By sheer force of will, and experience, the film sells itself, and the flaws become a by-product of the strengths rather than standing out there on their own.
S1: Dark comedy which makes it a hard show to always 'like', although Shawkat and her character make it work
It was by chance that I heard about this show, and in retrospect I am surprised that it was well received and comparatively popular. The reason for this is that it is incredibly dark in what it is doing, plus what it is doing is very much not the part of the show that makes it engaging. On the surface it is a murder mystery, however this is mostly a frame for a biting satire on a generation indeed the conclusion of the mystery also comes around to being that too. I understand that this will make the show a hard sell, and indeed it does spend most of its time essentially showing us the worst stereotypes of millennials in particular those in large cities growing up into an image of life that they don't appreciate is either a fiction, or required a lot of work to get to.
As such we have characters who take pride in the vapid, are narcissistic in the extreme, lack any form of self-awareness or shame, or just feel a total void in their lives while they superficially have a lot in place. This is a dark place to put your characters, particularly when few of them progress from those points (which is part of the point). I did find this difficult because I disliked all the main characters for who they were, who they insisted on being, and how they confirmed my general views of a generation raised on pictures of themselves, whole systems of affirmation by others, and their lives being presented as an image as opposed to lived. I don't say that in a condescending way, because it is not, but rather it is one of relief that I did not grow up with such things as I think I would be precisely this person, or profoundly depressed, but most likely both. Kudos to the cast that they play these characters in depressingly convincing ways.
The exception to these characters is the main one of Dory, who is allowed room within herself mainly because she is lost as to who that is. Shawkat is tremendous in the lead; she has a great range, shows so much with so little, and fleshed out her character so well. Her lost soul is engaging but yet never better than who she is. She seeks meaning, she seeks more, and develops value from these things rather than herself. The end of the show will frustrate many but I felt it was brilliant as it brought the actual main thread (Dory) to a close as she is forced to confront yet another example of who her peers are, and by extension, herself she was as caught up in her mystery as Elliott was in all of his self-important crap. She is a great character, easier to like even if the end she is as much of the satire as the more obvious jokes of Portia and Elliott.
The presentation is pretty cool too; it looks and sounds good, has plenty of well-known cameos doing good work, and has a cool soundtrack which reminded me of how well the theme music of Channel 4's Utopia worked. It is a show I enjoyed, even if the strength of it does make it harder to 'like' since the characters are generally meant to be hard to like. It balances this well though with the mystery element, episode structure, but most importantly, by making Dory the standout character and getting Shawkat to match it with a standout performance.
Healey's House (2014)
Intriguing and engaging even if not easily accessible as a whole (SPOILERS)
Hard to muse on this film without spoilers, so ignore this if you've not seen the film. The short opens with Lily buying a pregnancy kit in a garage while her boyfriend waits outside the lady behind the tills clocks the bruises on Lily's shoulder, and the embarrassed way Lily covers them up. This scene is occurring while at the same time we see Lily and Alex travelling up to Scotland, practicing with a rifle on the way. They visit a house to interview someone on behalf of a London newspaper (they say), and Alex focuses on interviewing and photographing Abi, who lives in the house. As this plays out we learn that something happened in this house many years prior.
What this event was is not totally made clear, however a brief glimpse of a newspaper cutting shows it to be some sort of shooting in which the man was found innocent and set free. From this we can assume that Lily has some connection to whomever was killed in this shooting, and that this is a revenge of some sort. In the broad sweep the film sounds obvious, and I guess in these broad strokes it is; however what makes it engaging is that we are not seeing these broad strokes so much as piecing things together from lots of detail. It also helps that we mostly don't have the whole picture or even close to it, but the film fills us with a dark sense of foreboding and mystery which is engaging and adds tension.
I very much liked that the film stayed with me for some time afterwards, and gave plenty to think on. Of course there are narrative specifics I would like have closure on, but knowing precise details maybe wouldn't add as much as I think they would. Instead what stayed with me was thoughts around what I knew; for example pondering on Lily's knock for help if we saw that at the start we would assume a physically abusive relationship, however we know at the end this is not the case. But at the same time she wants the police and she is saddened by a pregnancy with Alex. This is interesting in that it made me wonder about their relationship, and made me extend what little I knew about her past to make me wonder about who she is as an adult and what type of man she may be with. This is added to by how easily Alex seems to engage in the act of revenge (assuming they kill Abi, which I think they do), and it suggests that Alex enabled Lily's darker side to win over her better angels albeit temporarily.
This and other elements stayed with me after the film, and had me rewatching to try to gleam more. It is not an easy sell as a film, and it seems deliberately difficult at times (and frustrating in the way it doesn't give you everything you'd want in a neat narrative); but it is engaging, intriguing, rewarding, and very well put together by the talented Rob Savage.
S17: Creature from the Pit: By the numbers stuff with some good ideas but low budget and energy (SUGGESTIVE SPOILERS)
A distress call brings the Doctor and Romana to a planet where metal is a scarce resource, with the majority of it controlled by one person, while others follow her or try to survive on the edges of her domain. The Doctor finds an odd metal 'egg' is the source of the signal, however it is not long before they are in the hands of the icy Lady Adrasta.
After the enjoyable and lively City of Death, Creature from the Pit feels like a bit of a comedown. Partly it is being 100% back in studio sets after previously having a run around in Paris and this feeling is not helped by how basic a lot of the sets are. I know it is a pit and a forest mostly, but at the same time it did seem this was used as an excuse to have a lot of simplicity and darkness to cover up shortcomings. It is the writing that adds to this though, because it does play out as a fairly simple idea of a cruel leader, a misunderstood monster, and, saving the day. Actually, that is to do it an injustice because there is a lot to like in here. I liked the device of supply and demand being a key factor in the power, and how Adrasta deliberately kept scarcity to keep power and value (the liberal in me likes to see that presented as "bad" considering how much it must be the norm in some industries). The structure also had a nice sting in it normally it would end with the 'monster' saved and the baddie finished but here we had one more episode of action which brings the 'monster' into the narrative in their new light. That said, it doesn't really spark off these ideas, and instead it is pretty much by-the-numbers in delivery which doesn't mean it is bad (indeed some of it is funny, fun, interesting) but mostly it does the basics.
The set design limits also apply to the effects. The Tythonian "creature" is a nice idea as a presence, but in reality it looks daft and basic. Likewise the tumbleweed controlled by whip doesn't really inspire terror. The performances from the main cast are pretty good, however the supporting ones tend to be more functional baddie, cheeky bandit, big chinned huntsman, etc. Not too many characters of real interest even if Adrasta has conviction, and Organon is quite fun. Unremarkable and showing its limits, but not too bad as a whole.
The Heist (2017)
Gets in, does the job, and gets away clean
From the people behind the meta Gunslinger, this short film sets up an Ocean's Eleven clone to start making fun of the heist clichés, before jumping into more general movie tropes and clichés.
It is a simple idea and essentially it is one joke repeating in different ways. It works very well though as it is slick, very well paced, and of course consistently funny. The scenes will be recognizable to most people general but also in the specifics (such as the Elliot Gould character, or the dig at Don Cheadle's mockney accent). It is only 4 minutes long, which is the perfect length and it uses its time well; as it moves into general clichés it had the potential to become worn thin, but then it circles back round to a very nice internal twist on the joke with the final scene, and cut to credits. Like a perfect heist, it gets in, does the job, gets away clean.
Delicate and rewarding
Despite seemingly set in Northern Ireland, this film does not overflow with words in the way people from that country often can. Instead the film focuses very much on the experience, on letting us into the main character's head. It does this in a plot that focuses on a teenage boy faced with a dying parent. It is a plot that is not unusual, but often it is one that short film can use to provide plenty of showy performances in the delivery, with lots of dialogue and tears. North is much better than that in doing much less on the surface.
We don't know much about the nature of the illness of the mother, beyond that it is fatal; nor do we have much focus or debate about the euthanasia part of the story, instead it is focused on a boy overcoming his denial (and selfishness) to be there for his mother and focus on what she needs. I can't imagine the situation myself, but the film succeeds in making me understand it a bit through Aaron. His rage, his feeling of exclusion from the reality others are dealing with, but also his acceptance in the end of what is happening. Each part of this is played out well, with deft touches and allowing the cast to do good work. While we focus on Aaron, I liked that the film did not split the adult/child line totally, and used Richard's reaction not Aaron's outburst to show that everyone is struggling whether they are adult or not.
Performances are all impressive, but particularly Keoghan in the lead as he does so much with his body, face, tone etc that the dialogue doesn't feed him. Beyond him McAleer and McCourt were both excellent in their key moments. Sheerin's writing and direction makes it all work together, making sure his cast have everything they need, and providing a slow and well-framed pace to the drama. It isn't full of fireworks or showboating, but it is rewarding and subtle in what it does.
Mother's Day (2017)
Leaves the detail and commentary out of it, leaving a more impacting piece
This silently observational film joins a group of children being taken on a bus to visit their mothers in prison; it is a charity- organized event. We see them travel, see their mums, and then head home again. There aren't any talking heads really, or constant text on screen telling us things; it is just children who are separated from their mothers, getting to see them for part of a day.
As such it is impacting, and the stat at the end saying 1 in 10 children have their mother in jail in California is intense. As a liberal, I do lean towards sympathy but I liked that the film doesn't really allow your political views to come into it. For example I'd guess some of the mothers we see probably are there due to hugely unfair sentencing systems mixed with bad situations they can't escape but I'm equally sure that some of them would be hard to defend even for a bleeding heart like myself. The good thing is that we don't know any detail at all not even enough to be worried about it. Instead the film focuses on the children none of whom have done anything to justify their situation. By doing this I think it is much more impacting because it makes it about children, and it is hard not to reach the conclusion that something is not working in this situation, even if we can all argue the politics of the details and specifics.
Clown Face (2017)
Very strong performances make the most of the writing
Despite the absurdity of the father having on clown make-up, this is actually a pretty straight and enjoyable short film. It focuses on two characters, and creates and presents them in a way that is engaging and entertaining. It doesn't really have a story, so much as focus on these two characters interacting. The father is post- mid-life crisis, where he left his wife, bought a second-hand Porsche, and made many other stupid mistakes. The daughter is an adult who is reluctant to humor her father as he now wallows in his regret and looks for something to cling to.
If it sounds pretty dark, it is but also it isn't. The scene is convincing, and the two performances bring years of these people into these few moments in a way where you believe them and understand what is behind any specific statement or reaction. It is very smart and well done. The slightly comical edge is brought in by the specific patheticness of the father, and the absurdity of the clown face. The details of his collapse are very easy to believe due to them being such a cliché but yet seeming real by his delivery. It is not laugh out loud funny, but it does blend the comical with the real characters to make for a great scene which satisfies as a short film.
Tries to do a bit much that doesn't work so well, but the core strengths are there
The original Guardians of the Galaxy was quite a fresh entry in the crowded world of Marvel. With so many famous characters we at least have heard of, and so many films all crashing into one another with cross-overs, references, solo films, and so on, the arrival of a nostalgia soaked film which had a great sense of humor, fun, and a lack of 'big important things' made for great entertainment. Accordingly it was a big hit, which puts pressure on it as a sequel and (more importantly) as a franchise and part of a bigger product. In short though, it does manage to deliver on the same strengths that the first film had although that is not the whole story.
The second film opens with confirmation of that silly fun an epic battle against a space monster plays out to the background of Groot dancing, and only becomes the focus to allow for other characters to show themselves again and join the fun. This sense of silly fun, combined with funny dialogue, is the core of the film and it is consistent throughout. Add to that the music, the action, and the overblown nature of it and it is a continuation of the strengths of the first film. There is other content in here too. There are themes of family in 3 different threads, with emotional content between characters and factions. Not all of this works, and it does make it feel a bit heavier than it can bear at times. That said, while it doesn't totally work, it is still well judged since less time on it would have lost a lot in the film, while more time would have tipped the balanced too much in that direction although these individual moments of the film don't totally sit easily with the humor or pace.
The effects and action look good and, while frantic and busy, I didn't find that they overwhelmed with empty noise in the way that can easily happen with these things. The cast are all good when it comes to the comedy elements, although not all so well when the emotional stuff comes around (Saldana/Gillan I thought didn't work so well although Rooker/Cooper did). Pratt likewise is best when asked to be fun, and less effective when processing a lot about his father. Bautista stands out as the best I think perhaps because so much of his material was heavily 'fun' focused. The many famous faces in small roles add to the weight of the film (not in a good way), and although they do add value, they also distract and fill out space.
Although it does try to do a bit too much, and doesn't stay away from areas where it is weaker, the sequel plays to its strengths enough to please fans of the first film, and to carry it through the moments and aspects which do not work as well as the core.
Insecure: Broken as Fuck (2016)
Season 1: Trying a bit too hard at times, but does have a good heart to it
Clearly HBO have confidence in this show, as I see the second season was started in a slot following Game of Thrones which had the potential to give the show a great boost in viewers. What it did for me was to make me decide to watch the first season; I had heard good things about it, but a couple of things put me off. Firstly it does sit in a genre/form which I don't often engage with. Secondly it was likened to Sex and the City which for fans of that is a good thing, but I never took to that show either. Finally, there were a lot of positive reviews which highlighted how good it was that these 'voices' were being heard on such a show by which they mean it is a non-race-as-an-issue show which is created by and focuses on African Americans. While this is a true statement to make regarding Insecure, it also made me worry that the positive reviews were at least in part motivated by the desire to support and be seen to support the show for this reason. Whatever, I decided to try it.
My experience was that many of my doubts were justified, although I still enjoyed the show even if it was touch and go at one point. To speak of the good; Issa is convincingly a person in the comedic, in the fantasy, in the sexual, and in the emotional she is very real and engaging, with warmth, flaws, good intentions and so on. The show is best when it gives her the material and space to be this way. Same is true of Molly, albeit she has a tighter focus as a character that limits how much it is true. Ditto Lawrence. Outside of these, the characters do feel a bit broadly written, and mostly these characters are supporting and/or involved in broader moments within the show.
In these broader moments, it does feel like the show is trying too hard. I guess part of this is me being outside of the worlds of people turning 30, dating, and African-Americans living in LA; but there does seem to be a lot of material that felt broad to the point of being a cliché or stereotype. The show also feels like it is working hard to be hip, cool, loud, and fun almost like it is buying permission to be vulnerable, quiet, or reflective (the aspects I liked the most). Around the middle of the season these aspects were close to making me think to stop watching, but Issa kept me there, and rewarded that. I still wasn't totally sold on it, but it had enough in it as a show, with its energy and voice, that I will return for the second season.
Will be interesting to see how it does there and what aspects it pushes to the fore and what impact that has. Hopefully it can do as good or better with the characters since this is what held me.