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Little (I) (2019)
6/10
A little entertainment goes a long way.
21 April 2019
All in all, 'Little (2019)' is a '2-star' movie with a '3-star' execution. It's not fantastic, by any means, but it's better than it perhaps ought to be. It tells a generic tale in a generic way but does it well enough that you not only don't mind but that you're also entertained, essentially, all the way through, more or less wrapped up in the predictably ridiculous, if strangely satisfying, machinations of the pseudo body-swap story. The basic premise is that it's 'Big (1988)' except she's 'little' and the movie goes through the usual motions associated with this sort of narrative - wherein a magical circumstance forces a character to confront their flaws and, hopefully, change for the better - but it does a decent job with most of them, even if it has maybe one too many sub-plots to be classed as especially 'focused'. It's a testament to the writing that you can truly dislike the lead character at the beginning, when she's grown, and then come to care for her as the plot progresses. It's not like her motivations are ever a mystery but they're well-rounded enough to feel believable, both before and after they begin to change. Martin really is great as the little Hall, feeling like an extension as opposed to a replacement. Hall herself puts in a decent effort but occasionally seems slightly too broad for the established tone. Rae, cast in a role that constantly vies for protagonist status, is also good. However, her character sometimes seems a little more forthcoming than you'd think she would be (personal growth notwithstanding). Still, both central figures fully undergo expected yet satisfying arcs. To that end, the story itself comes together fairly nicely, rounding itself off before devolving ever-so-slightly for a 'dance-party'-esque final scene, despite the fact that it plays out, essentially, exactly as you'd expect. It does feel a tad long, though. The whole thing is just quite likeable, in a way. It's never exactly funny but it's never unfunny, either, and - while it may not be fresh or, even, especially deep - it's enjoyable enough. It's also never boring. At the end of the day, a little entertainment goes a long way. 6/10
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5/10
Over-long, over-written and, accidentally or otherwise, quite toxic.
20 April 2019
With all the on-screen discussion about the current political climate (especially as it pertains to race and the media), it's difficult to believe that writer-director S. Craig Zahler didn't set out to make a 'political' film. Yet, that's exactly what he claims, apparently surprised that 'Dragged Across Concrete (2019)' has garnered attention for its very obvious, certainly not subtextual 'right wing' views. It's chock-full of racist, sexist, homophobic and generally just abusive characters more concerned with getting caught then with doing something wrong in the first place, people who consider backlash against biased police brutality as something that stops honest, hard-working men from just doing their jobs. Frankly, the feature itself is pretty racist, sexist and homophobic, simply because of what it presents and how it presents it. Almost everything here seeks to reaffirm the views of even its most contemptible characters - as opposed to deconstructing, satirising or otherwise revealing them as the idiocy they are. This sort of subsides when the incredibly slow-paced 'story' gets going, but it's always in the background and often rears its ugly head, not least of which because a central character's constant motivation for 'seeking compensation' is so that he can move his familily out of the black neighbourhood he's 'forced' to live in by his slim wage. To be fair, I can see a world in which this was all done to be 'edgy', since much of the piece seems to thrive on making the audience uncomfortable. Still, even accidental '-isms' are '-isms'. It's weird because race didn't even have to factor into the flick; the main plot doesn't really have anything to do with it, other than being driven by and featuring several racist characters. Therefore, it's hard to believe that Zahler didn't intend to at least say something, whether or not he intended it to be racist. There are so many conversations about race, gender, masculinity and the current political climate, all through a very 'right wing', even toxic, lens. I'll tell you this: if it truly is an accident, then it's one heck of a well coordinated one. Look, even if you put all this aside (and that's a big ask), the movie is over-long, over-written and, even, quite dull. It purposefully drags things out but doesn't do it for any real reason, often boring the audience as opposed to engaging them. In general, it isn't very engaging. This is primarily because we don't care about anyone. Essentially, the most likeable character is an 'accidental racist', the kind of guy who says he can't be racist because he has a black friend. Pretty much everyone else (who isn't just a straight-up victim) is horrible, so you don't care when horrible things happen to them. In this world where it's either you win or you die, the best result for me, especially early on, would've been if the lead character was put out of his misery. The thing does have its moments, of course. There's the occasional line that's quite clever, some relationships get fleshed-out relatively well and some decent tension is drawn from a few select moments. In general, though, this isn't a good time. Its nasty but you don't really feel it (because you're not invested and you can always see the strings), it's not entertaining and, worst of all, it's everything I mentioned earlier. 5/10
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Beast (III) (2017)
7/10
Nature or nurture?
18 April 2019
'Beast (2018)' is about toxic relationships, in all their forms: with your lover, your mother, your father, your siblings, your ex, your town, your past, your nature, yourself. Moll, brilliantly and subtly portrayed by Buckley, is caught in a tangled web of manipulation, mistreated by pretty much everyone in her life. The film, essentially, chronicles her growth from timid and trampled-on to uncaged and triumphant (in a counter-intuitive sort of way). She's certainly put through the wringer, pushed to her very limits and then pushed passed even those. Someone almost unrecognisable emerges from the other side. Even though the contrast is stark, it's gradual enough that it makes perfect sense. Her transformation is incredibly satisfying, constantly moving forward and often taking unexpected turns. Of course, it's sparked by the arrival of Pascal, portrayed a little (though, somewhat appropriately) flatly by Flynn. He's an enigmatic entity that undergoes a number of shifts himself, which usually relate to how we perceive him. Since we're constantly in Moll's perspective, our opinion of the guy shifts whenever hers does but, even when she trusts him the most, you're not quite sure what to make of him. This keeps you on your toes and is helped immensely by the fact that the feature isn't predictable at all. The relatively unconventional narrative shifts around in unforeseen ways and makes a number of bold moves, especially towards its end. Its surprise third act is actually a delight, even if the end of the second act initially seems like it should be the plot's culmination. The movie often leans into its more horrific aspects by presenting itself as a horror, using music and atmosphere to create some really creepy sequences. It balances this well with its more conventionally romantic moments, which are actually just as creepy in retrospection, that do a good job of conveying the connection between its two focal characters. The whole thing is exceedingly thematically-rich and layered. Not only does it make you think, it actually gets under your skin. It gets in your head and stays there; it's a rewarding experience, for sure. It's a unique, mysterious piece that's engaging throughout. 7/10
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6/10
The original Steamboat Willie.
17 April 2019
'Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)' isn't Keaton's best but it's far from his worst. It just doesn't feel quite as whimsical as most of his work, especially the short-form stuff, which means that it also doesn't feel quite as fun. Until its third-act, it's all relatively mundane - relative, that is, to Keaton's usual rubber-limbed, stunt-driven style. Having said that, it isn't bad, or boring, by any means. It's quite charming and has a few humourous non-action set-pieces, too. Compared to the finale, though, the body of the flick does seem a little flat. It's almost too 'normal', shall I say. That's because it finishes with a large-scale, incredibly wacky, special-effects-driven cyclone. It's here where the famous 'falling building' gag occurs, but that's just one small part of an increasingly frenzied and, frankly, dangerous set-piece that sees our star running about, against the wind, like a madman. He falls on his (previously broken) neck and rolls it off like a champ, seeming sort of invincible in the process. It can't have been comfortable. To be fair, though, it makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. It doesn't necessarily make for a satisfying narrative one, however. The main narrative seems to be abandoned during this segment. It moves aside so the focus can be placed entirely on this new danger, but it never really comes back and, thus, is never really resolved. Even before it goes away, it's quite one-note and, even, somewhat mean-spirited. It seems like the focus is more on the story than the set-pieces - at least, for a while. The story can't quite handle that responsibility, though. Having said that, it does consistently inform the characters and gives everyone decent motivations for most of their actions, so its lack of depth isn't a major issue. Overall, this is an entertaining and well-made silent film from one of Cinema's greats. Like I said before, it may not be Keaton's best but it's certainly not his worst. 6/10
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Guava Island (2019)
6/10
Perhaps it's a movie, a music video, a short film, a commercial, an art-piece or some sort of visual album. Undeniably, it's an experiment.
16 April 2019
In some ways, 'Guava Island (2019)' is a feature film, albeit a very short one. In other, arguably more, ways, it simply isn't. Trying to categorise this surprise release is no easy task. It straddles the line between movie, music video, short film, commercial, art-piece, visual album and parable. Essentially, it's all of these things. Undeniably, it's a bit of an experiment. It's also, no matter which way you cut it, a story. This is a relief, regardless of the narrative's simplicity, because it allows the piece to pretty much fly by, telling a tale that actually feels quite purposeful, if well-worn, in the process. It's framed as a mother's story, which is fitting considering its fleeting and somewhat 'faded' nature, and it certainly plays out more as a kind of 'moral' than anything else. It isn't ineffective but it is, as I mentioned, rather broad, culminating in a bitter-sweet finale that doesn't necessarily hold up to all that much scrutiny. There isn't all that much emotional resonance, either. The bare-bones beats hold weight, of course, and there is some threat that causes adequate tension, but the piece seems to try every check-list trick in the book to get your tear-ducts working to no real result. Some of the themes are quite powerful but they hit the head more than the heart, which is fine but doesn't feel intentional and makes for quite cold viewing. It does feel like Glover wants to say something with this. Its actual construction is a bit bizarre, as it bounces from being a fairly serious drama to an incredibly off-beat musical from scene to scene. This causes a lack of cohesion, as does the choice to often layer the actual Gambino songs, non-diegetically, above the lead character's diegetic singing - which creates a seriously strange effect that I can't quite explain. It's also slightly strange that the music is, from what I could tell, exclusively pre-existing Gambino, but I guess that just adds to the affair's overall intangible nature. In any case, when 'This Is America' starts playing it's very distracting. Despite all this, the flick does exude a rather strong sense of atmosphere and conveys a decent amount of character, too. It isn't groundbreaking, though: the story isn't great and I wouldn't even say it's the best way to listen to the music. Still, it's an interesting quirk that's fun enough while it lasts. 6/10
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Wild Rose (2018)
6/10
The yellow-brick road doesn't go through Glasgow.
15 April 2019
'Wild Rose (2019)' is not so much 'rags to riches' as 'finding your voice', which is one of the things that gives it an edge over its competition. The other, I suppose, is its protagonist and her unique life circumstances. Sure, we've seen this kind of wannabe famous 'wild child' trope before but we haven't really seen it paired with a young mother contemplating the place of her dreams amongst those of her kids (which is, incidentally, something we've not seen that often at all). This is an interesting, gentle and nuanced contrast that's perhaps more satisfying in theory than in practice. That's because, while all the themes are quite unique and well-presented, the final result isn't much more than a rock-solid entry in its genre. I just mean that the sum of its parts is, perhaps, ever-so-slightly more than the whole. This is, of course, going to come entirely down to personal preference, more so than with most pictures. There's pretty much no denying that every aspect of the piece is pretty much spot-on, so your overall enjoyment will just come down to how much the experience impacts you on an emotional level. Since the film does, essentially, all it can, how much you're moved is down to you. This creates an odd feeling - at least, it does for me - that you should like it far more than you, perhaps, actually do. If it doesn't put a foot wrong, then why isn't it truly great? Well, maybe it's because it doesn't take those big risks that could've, at some point, gone wrong. Most of it does feel by-the-numbers, with just its themes and characters being somewhat elevated. Only a couple of the latter really stand out (and even they have their archetypes), aside from the protagonist, of course. She's rather great and she's played to perfection by Buckly. Both acting and singing seem second nature to her, which is a good thing when she's on-screen and in the soundtrack for most of the run-time. That soundtrack is also quite good, especially the couple of original songs - which include an accomplished book-ending piece this really is heartfelt. Overall, the flick doesn't engage me emotionally as much as it perhaps ought to, despite being enjoyable. It strangely feels more like this is down to me than it, even if that's somewhat of a fallacy. The bottom-line is this, though: it's an absolutely solid movie. I can totally see why someone would love it, but I just like it. 6/10
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Hellboy (2019)
4/10
There are things that go bump in the night. This is one of them.
14 April 2019
'Hellboy (2019)' is actually worse than I could have ever imagined. It's a real mess. Its plot is poorly constructed and its filmmaking is ill conceived. Worse still, it isn't even entertaining... like, at all. I mean, there's a brief, almost miraculous window where a few, but only a few, of the movie's many plot-threads somehow manage to come together in a relatively satisfying way. This climax is perhaps the only part of the picture that actually resembles a competent piece of story-telling, though. I do only mean "competent", too. It's not like the thing suddenly turns into Shakespeare. Even so, the opening stands in stark contrast to this, as it's perhaps - no joke - one of the worst things I've seen in the cinema in quite sometime. It sets the tone for a clunky, clumsy and curious experience that keeps getting worse and worse (until it somehow gets slightly better). Seriously, it's strange how bad it is. Pretty much everyone involved is capable of so much better and, as evidenced by the Del Toro efforts (which I won't compare this with), it's not like the source material is unsalvageable. To be fair, David Arbour is doing a really good job with what he has, standing out as the flick's best aspect. The other actors are doing just fine, too - even if some of them can't quite pull off the accents they're attempting. The other departments are almost all slacking, however. At least, that's how it seems in the final product which, of course, could all be down to a sloppy, maybe studio-meddled, final edit. The editing is one of the weaker aspects, feeling generally choppy in the moment and bizarrely unstructured as a whole. Several scenes happen which ought to be game-changing, but they're just forgotten about pretty much as quickly as they're introduced. Others take a long time to tell a short story, shall we say, and are often left unresolved. You'll wonder why both of these types were included in the first place. Don't even get me started on the flashbacks. Throughout it all, there's a ton of noticeable ADR - which signals some post-production fiddling. Even though it's often used to repeat unnecessary, ham-fisted exposition (yes, I said "repeat"), it doesn't fulfil its traditional purpose and change, or clarify, the narrative in any meaningful way. Still, I can't help but feel like what's on-screen isn't all that close to what was - originally, at least - on the page. There are enough signs, and seams, to point to this, if not quite prove it. Either way, the film doesn't feel like it's about anything - and I'm talking narrative here, never-mind theme. It meanders about, taking far too much time to linger on its hefty amounts of meaningless gore, until it sort of gets into gear towards the end. Here, not only does it have a relatively clear, beat-to-beat story, but it also gives its hero a bit of an arc. By this point, though, it's too little too late. 4/10
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Mid90s (2018)
6/10
Oh, Boy.
13 April 2019
It might try to disguise itself as a sort of pseudo mood-piece, a visual poem driven by nostalgia, but there's no denying that it runs on a narrative like so many others. Little, to no, exposition doesn't excuse a weak story and it doesn't mean that there has to be a bevy of themes to take the place of a more rigorous one. See, 'Mid90s (2019)' is the sort of film where nothing really happens but where that just so happens to kind of be be the point, taking its cues from the recent 'Skate Kitchen (2018)' and, even more noticeably, its brother-piece 'Kids (1995)'. It tries to evoke a feeling through a sense of time and place. It's not necessarily all that successful - at least, not all the time - primarily because you don't really get a solid grip on its setting, especially for a flick named after it, and because the characters that we spend time with don't exactly exude the kind of camaraderie that's supposed to be oh-so enticing to us. Most of the movie is dedicated to candid scenes of kids behaving badly, which are engaging enough but don't evolve in the way you'd expect. Indeed, the entire affair ends just when you think its about to get interesting, abruptly cutting off several core-players' in-progress arcs with no real resolution. It doesn't help that it feels as though it's sometimes trying to be 'edgy' for the sake of it, even if it also has quite a few moments of pure authenticity. In any case, you often find yourself actually empathising with the parents and their very valid concerns. If you don't want to see drug-use depicted without judgement - and, essentially, consequence-free - maybe skip this one. It might sound like I didn't like it at all but there were certainly things to enjoy. The soundtrack, for one, is great; it evokes almost all the intangible feelings of youthful alienation and rose-tinted nostalgia that the movie itself can't quite crack. Most individual scenes also play out in rather entertaining ways. Na-Kel Smith's character is refreshingly mature and his performance matches - though, all the performances are pretty great, to be honest. It's just that the feature didn't feel as though it was really about anything. Was it about skating, the mid-90s, childhood, nostalgia or just friendship? The latter is the thing that shines through, being the most enjoyable aspect and most prominent theme. Still, as a whole, it sort of felt like there was something missing. I wasn't bored, but I didn't exactly care, either. 6/10
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6/10
Mundanely bizarre and bizarrely mundane.
7 April 2019
'The Sisters Brothers (2019)' belongs to that very real, cross-genre subset of stories that aren't really about anything in particular. Indeed, its title pretty much doubles as its synopsis, as it just sort of follows its eponymous siblings as they go about their day-to-day lives. Very little that happens actually seems 'out of the ordinary' for them, which is probably why the whole affair feels so 'run-of-the-mill'. I mean, it's not bad. It's just that it's neither unremarkably remarkable nor remarkably unremarkable; it occupies that almost bland space in-between. Moment to moment, the movie mostly works. It charts the adventures of its bickering brothers in rather broad sweeps, though these are interspersed with a few more intimate scenes. Its events are mundanely bizarre and bizarrely mundane. Nothing is treated as being extraordinary, per se, but plenty seems out of the ordinary to me. It's not realistic but it's not unrealistic. It's also not a comedy but it's not not a comedy, either (that makes sense, trust me). It's a film full of oxymorons. The narrative feels as though it was written linearly. It takes strange turns and stays where it ends up for long stretches. It also starts things and then finishes them within a couple of scenes, which almost makes them feel pointless and certainly makes them lack consequence (though, consequences are present elsewhere). The flick feels very long and, even, unfocused. It's never funny but it's quirky enough that it seems as though it's trying to be. This shifting tone isn't too much of an issue as it seems kind of cohesive, but it doesn't make for a sure-footed viewing experience or, even, yield any real results. Plus, the characters don't really change (internally) and their relationship remains the same so I'm not sure it can count as a 'character study'. It probably sounds like I don't like this movie but it's more like I'm having difficulty understanding it. Not in terms of the text itself but in terms of how and why it came to be. It's certainly an odd duck. With a budget of around thirty million dollars, its been a box-office bomb. It's easy to see why, frankly. How can it find an audience if it doesn't even know what it is? It's an indie movie, really, so it should've expected indie movie profits. The feature itself isn't bad, by any means. It just doesn't feel like it's about anything and it isn't all that engaging. Moment to moment, it works quite well; at times, it's rather entertaining. I think, in the end, it just needed to say something. 6/10
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Shazam! (2019)
7/10
Say his name: Sandberg!
6 April 2019
David F. Sandberg is shaping up to to be quite the director. After proving himself in the horror genre with both 'Lights Out (2016)', his debut, and 'Annabelle: Creation (2017)' (another franchise course-correction), he has burst onto the big-budget blockbuster scene in style with what's easily DC's best live-action post-'The Dark Knight (2008)' picture to date. In fact, 'Shazam! (2019)' at its worst is far better than even the very best of the prior entries in the 'DCEU' (or 'Worlds Of DC', was it?). Its success, I feel, almost all boils down to two simple things: character and joy. Of course, neither of those things really are simple, which is why so many movies miss the mark on them. In terms of character, the picture makes a point of painting its central children as precisely that: kids. They're immature, innocent and error-prone, which makes them prime candidates for character arcs. This, obviously, most keenly pertains to our protagonist, who gains the body of a hero far before he gains the heart of one. His arc is an expected but satisfying one that's actually somewhat unique. Even if the film is never as emotionally resonant as you'd perhaps like, it always makes the right decisions - and, even, takes some risks - when it comes to its characters and their relationships. You care about them all and really want to see them succeed, to see them learn from their mistakes and bond as a family - a dynamic which helps the piece immensely overall. When it comes to joy, the flick has you covered. It's often properly funny and nearly always manages to make you smile, both thanks to its heart and its smarts. It actually deconstructs some superhero tropes in subtle, world-appropriate ways and this makes it feel quite 'realistic', or grounded, in proportion to a lot of similar fare. There are moments of pure delight (mainly during the 'power testing' scenes) and, on the whole, the affair is always fun. This is true even when it takes some of its darker turns, of which there are a few. It's surprisingly 'edgy', in a way, and isn't lacking in its 'horror' aspects (thanks solely to Sandberg, no doubt). These sequences are successful, although the creature special effects aren't as convincing as the superhero ones, but often clash slightly with the overall tone; still, they're peppered throughout the piece so that they aren't too jarring and that their culmination doesn't feel like a typical 'superhero finale' but instead like the proper conclusion to the narrative. The finale, too, is surprisingly well-handled, given the track-record the genre (and DC, in particular) has. It's always legible, has a number of decent twists, includes the film's best joke and finishes the narrative off nicely, to boot. It's a great end to a great piece, even if it can't quite replicate the brilliance of the earlier aforementioned 'power testing' scenes. In the end, the movie is pleasantly surprising and genuinely good. It seems to me that all DC had to do was say his name: Sandberg! 7/10
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Pet Sematary (2019)
5/10
Maybe they should have let this remake rest.
5 April 2019
Two thirds of 'Pet Sematary (2019)' (and, no, that spelling never gets any less annoying to type) is, essentially, build-up. Build-up to what, you ask? Well, not all that much, to be honest. The final segment is easily the best in the film but, even there, there's nothing remotely close to scary. The feature runs on themes of 'grief as horror' - which are, in general, quite interesting and, even, under-explored - but it doesn't do all that much with them, stumbling over its messages and character motives in pretty much every scene. There are so many things that don't really make sense, to the point that their inclusion is questionable. I'm not talking about 'plot-holes', per se; rather, a mishmash of generic horror concepts which have no real place in the plot. Most of the actual 'horror' is haphazardly cobbled together from worn-out tropes and tired clichés, thrown into the first two acts so that the audience 'doesn't get bored'. That isn't a solution, though. The solution would have been to restructure the entire affair, to focus more on the aspects of grief that are so close to being... something. Instead, we have a generic concept (I mean, it was generic in the 80s, to be frank) that's executed generically; every aspect is done in the most contrived way possible, to the point that it almost seems by design. Even the family dynamic feels under-cooked, probably because the flick rushes through its scenes but drags out its plot. The cinematography is also muddy and, often, overly-dark, giving the picture an indistinct and generally dull appearance. To top it all off, Clarke is uncharismatic, acting pretty much the same no matter the circumstances. If it wasn't for Lithgow, the movie would be in deep trouble. Look, it's not terrible. It's competently constructed and has a decently tense final act. It isn't scary, though, not even thematically. It's predictable, generic and, frankly, it's quite boring for quite a while. Maybe they should have let this remake rest. 5/10
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Missing Link (2019)
6/10
Big shoes to fill.
5 April 2019
Laika's latest outing, for better or worse, carries with it a certain expectation of quality, thanks to their previously pretty much entirely untarnished record. Of course, 'Missing Link (2019)' really shouldn't be judged solely against its ancestors, as that's simply not fair (even if it's, essentially, inevitable and, even, somewhat understandable). It initially seems like a bit of a departure for the studio, perhaps spurred on by their new Annapurna Pictures partnership. However, you soon come to realise that it takes a similar approach when it comes to its story-telling: family-friendly but fairly uncompromising. There's a good amount of action here and it all feels suitably tangible. As usual, it comes with consequences, too. These stakes help drive the adventure, which is always quite propulsive and pacy. It also takes some unexpected - or, maybe, risky - turns and has a decent thematic underpinning. In general, though, it seems to lack a sense of urgency - even though, by all rights, it shouldn't - and the characters are a tad flat. Around halfway through, the lead seems to regress into a slightly more selfish state so that the flick can manufacture some conflict. It feels as though the writers realised that the hero needed to undergo the arc that he ultimately does but didn't go back through the piece to refine what they'd already written. It doesn't help that the arc itself is quite basic and, almost, expected. It's also strange that the protagonist only changes whenever he's told to by the female lead. The film is probably trying to imply that he's undergone some internal reflection after their confrontation(s) but, instead, it seems more like he's doing his subsequent good deeds simply to 'get the girl' and further his own agenda. It's perhaps a small thing but it's something that I noticed. On the whole, though, these small character issues don't detract from an undeniably beautiful picture. Laika continue to hone their stop-motion craft with each movie they produce. The facial animation, especially, looks superb. On top of that, it's consistently entertaining. While it isn't as emotionally engaging as it could have been, it's a solid story that will keep you watching until the end. 6/10
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One Week (1920)
7/10
Need a house? Want it flat-packed? There's no-one better than IKEAton.
4 April 2019
'One Week (1920)' is simple, succinct and superb. This Keaton short makes use of pretty much all his skills to tell a relatable but heightened tale about an 'IKEA'-style build-your-own-house and the newlywed couple that tries to build it, stumbling over the instructions and ending up with a surrealist but endearing monstrosity as a result. The humour, as usual, mostly comes from the fantastic physical acting on display, which tends to play off the always full-scale and unexpectedly constructed house (itself somewhat of a character). There are also some spectacular stunts which Keaton makes look easy, as he always does. Perhaps the strangest gag is also an oddly prophetic one: the camera-man covers the lens with his hand to maintain Seely's dignity as she leans over the side of her bath-tub, which is a jarring but surprisingly meta moment that only takes you out of the experience as much as it makes you smile in bewildered wonder. It's, essentially, pre-modernist post-modernism. The story is constantly forward-moving and pacy, becoming the perfect container for the narrative's anthology-esque structure. The characters, as limited as they may be, are all instantly likeable, to boot. All of this makes for a brilliant little piece that doesn't give you time to even consider boredom (a running theme with most of Keaton's work) and always manages to make you smile. 7/10
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Sherlock Jr. (1924)
7/10
Elementary, my dear Gillette.
3 April 2019
It's a strange choice to have most of the story be housed within a wish-fulfilling dream-sequence but, thankfully, Keaton pulls it off with style. See, while the most entertaining aspects of 'Sherlock Jr. (1927)' are, indeed, found within this, frankly, loosely-connected segment, it's the book-ending 'real-world' sections that hold all the real narrative weight, as limited as it may be. Without these parts, the picture probably wouldn't be as good because it wouldn't get you connected to its almost instantly likeable protagonist and you wouldn't really have a nicely set-up - though, admittedly, poorly paid-off - conflict to be concerned with. Of course, there is an argument to be made that the affair could have been set entirely within the dream, thereby being a more wholistic film with the conceit that Keaton really is the world's greatest detective. Nevertheless, what we have is a fantastically fun, effortlessly endearing silent action-comedy that moves at a break-neck pace (literally) and is stuffed with more blink-and-you'll-miss-them stunts and special (practical) effects than you can shake a stick at. Seriously, some of the stuff here is almost certifiably insane and Keaton shows it all off so casually, to the point where it just seems... well, easy, I guess. It most certainly isn't. The amount of practice, acrobatic skill, technical knowledge, teamwork, ingenuity and just sheer daring needed to pull even the simplest of this stuff off is nothing short of staggering. You're often on the edge of your seat just watching the shot, hoping Keaton will be okay. In this way, the excitement isn't overly 'manufactured' - though, it obviously is to a degree. The gags aren't just impressive and nerve-racking, though, they're also often funny - whether it's because of their joke-like structure or just because of their straight-up originality. You'll often laugh at the simplest of things, which is a testament to the brilliant physical acting on display. The flick, which plays out like one of Keaton's more traditional shorts (for the better), also moves quickly enough that its story doesn't wear thin, even if it threatens to, and you'll never be even close to bored. It's just a joy, really. 7/10
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The General (1926)
5/10
Is anyone going to talk about the whole Confederacy thing?
1 April 2019
Let's get this out of the way first: 'The General (1926)' is a pro-Confederate film. Of course, its very Southern take on its Civil War setting may have just been an ill-considered backdrop for its mainly train-based stunts and occasional grand-scale battles but Keaton made a movie supporting the Confederacy, around sixty years after the war was over and with enough hindsight to see exactly what it was that each side was fighting for (and who was on the right side of history), whether he intended to or not. It mightn't sound like a big deal - and, perhaps, for the critically-minded viewer it isn't - but realising you're watching what's essentially propaganda (even if it never mentions the specific ideologies of either battling side) and seeing that flag being waved around not only by the 'heroic' side but by our 'hero' himself is disconcerting, to say the least. I mean, there is always the possibility that it's trying to be ironic or satirical. Even on retrospection, though, this seems like a bit of a reach because there's no real criticism; if its intention is to be satire, it falls incredibly short. I will also note that the picture is based on a 'true story', fairly loosely speaking, which goes some way in explaining the choices made. It certainly doesn't excuse them, though; after all, a story from the Union's perspective is not only possible (see Disney's 'The Great Locomotive Chase (1956)') but is also seemingly just as interesting, if not more so, and definitely isn't as problematic. I don't want to get too hung up on this but it did, fundamentally, dampen my enjoyment of the piece and I don't think it's helpful to ignore it just because the flick is undeniably well-made and pioneering. Look, it's not as if the movie is impossible to appreciate, either. Some of the stunts are superb and to think that this was filmed nearly a hundred years ago is simply staggering. Still, the movie, even on face-value, isn't as good as some of its peers. I'm not going to pretend that I'm especially familiar with Keaton's work but I do get the sense that he's best suited to shorter fare. This feels fairly long and most of it is just action without any real character or, even, story behind it. The action is mostly impressive, don't get me wrong, and it's all terrifically tangible, too, but there seems to be something missing. I suppose it could be the comedy, really, as the feature isn't all that funny. I'm not sure if it is trying to be, though, as most of its gags come across more as escalating action-beats than anything else. It could also be the heart, as a paper-thin and ultimately shallow romance is all we have to keep us invested in either of our leads. Nobody is really all that likeable, not even Keaton himself. This is actually a big part of what makes these pictures work: their ability to present us with a person and have us root for them right away, without the need for complex wants or needs. Here, that seems lacking. What you're left with is a visually-impressive action movie that isn't really all that exciting - mainly because the people involved don't feel like real characters and, as such, you don't truly care about them. It's not that engaging, either. On top of that, you have the unfortunate fact that it's pro-Confederate and, apart from anything else, that just leaves a sour taste in your mouth. 5/10
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6/10
Yeah, buoy.
25 March 2019
By its own admission, 'Fisherman's Friends (2019)' is only 'based on a true story' in the loosest of senses, making a point of pointing this out during its credits via an unusually strong disclaimer. Of course, this is absolutely fine - indeed, it's perhaps better to use real-world events more as inspiration for a piece's premise than to claim absolute authenticity while delivering something that, in many cases, couldn't be further from that - but it does make you wonder why many of the issues that typically plague 'true tales' appear here, and why the filmmakers didn't make use of their apparently larger-than-usual dramatic license to 'fix' (or reduce the impact of) some of them. Furthermore, the flick sticks to convention past the point of pure predictability and into the realm of bizarre detriment, as a very late and contrived 'all is lost' moment unnaturally and unnecessarily drags its duration way beyond its seemingly perfect finish-line. It's not as though this totally ruins the thing, but it does feel completely artificial and take the steam out of what was becoming a fairly enjoyable experience. In general, the feature does exactly what you'd expect it to but it does it well enough, for the most part, that you don't really mind. In its second act, it becomes unexpectedly entertaining as its down-to-earth characters and overall upbeat, 'feel-good' nature start to win you over. This is in stark contrast to, as I mentioned, its laboured final act and, even, its rocky start. The ending itself does a decent job of bringing everything back together and putting a smile on your face, but it is severely dampened by what's just preceded it. As a whole, the flick isn't very deep. The core group isn't really rendered all that well because only a select few are given any real character - never-mind an actual name in the credits - and, even then, most of their development is pretty basic. Most of them are more than watchable, though, and their often humourous inter-group dynamics are certainly believable. Pretty much the entire thing is an easy watch; it's never really boring. It's never exactly exciting or emotionally engaging, though. It also doesn't really say anything, other than maybe making a broad statement that people are more important than money. The best thing, honestly, is probably the music, provided by the real Fisherman's Friends. Now, that's got character. 6/10
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Us (2019)
8/10
One heck of a 'second album'.
24 March 2019
While its political commentary isn't as immediately obvious as in Peele's predecessor, 'Get Out (2017)', it's certainly there; 'Us (2019)' touches upon themes of class, oppression and nature vs nurture in subtle but unmistakable ways. Its majority plays out like more straight-forward 'genre' fare, with most of its metaphor being subtextual. What I mean is that the movie makes a point of being satisfying on a surface level, even though it's undoubtedly more rewarding if you're willing to dive into its allegory at least a few levels deep. Also, I say 'straight-forward' but it's really anything but. Sure, it plays with several tried-and-tested tropes but it always tries to subvert your expectations, and it usually succeeds. Some of its twists and turns are more predictable than others, and may even make retrospection slightly more difficult than you'd perhaps like, but these also tend to form in rewardingly counterintuitive ways. It takes a few leaps in logic and doesn't answer every question but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I feel it becomes slightly too unambiguous for its own good. A final act exposition dump takes some off the wind out of the pacing, even if the information is interesting and well presented, and the snippets of backstory we get often lead to more questions than answers, in a quite unsatisfying way that means it's better to ignore the stuff you don't see than to try and make absolute sense of it. Indeed, the sensory experience outweighs the logical on more than one occasion. Again, I don't think this is necessarily bad; the picture is frequently tense, suspenseful and, even, somewhat unnerving. It's never exactly scary but it knows exactly what it's doing, especially when it comes to getting you on the edge of your seat. The doppelgängers are performed exceptionally well, each with their own creepy little quirks and properly evolving motives. The soundtrack, too, does a great job of keeping the tone in check. Once things kick off (after a rather long but necessary first act which sets up the core family and gets us rooting for them), the piece is pretty much unrelenting. It's brilliantly made, in every area, and actually sticks with you for a while, even if that isn't for the reason you may expect it to. At the end of the day, though, the (somewhat unfair) question on everyone's lips is: is it as good as 'Get Out (2017)'? Well, no but, frankly, little is. In the end, it's one heck of a 'second album'. 8/10
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6/10
World, here he comes.
23 March 2019
'Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)' is pretty much just more of the same. Despite being no better or worse in terms of quality, it does expand upon the world of the first in a fairly satisfying way, not by piling on excess lore but by spending a bit more of its time and its seemingly larger budget on a plethora of creature designs. It's not just Perlman and Jones who are caked, pretty much head to toe, in make-up this time; there are only two main players who aren't, to some degree, painted a pasty colour or plastered with impressive prosthetics. This goes a long way in making the supernatural side of things seem more tangible. Plus, most of the designs are satisfyingly creative and unmistakably 'Del Toro'. It does, however, make the movie seem a little bit 'Men In Black (1997)', with long shots featuring background agents wrangling oddly-shaped demons and a market scene with a variety of entities who all have their own little throwaway quirks. It sometimes feels a little bit like the film wants to focus on these difficult-to-create but often quite irrelevant moments more than tell a tight tale, which is understandable but ultimately detrimental. It's not a huge issue but you do start to notice the length of time spent on characters with little to do, really, other than look cool. In general, though, the structure and, even, pacing is improved upon from the first, mainly because the audience's surrogate character, Myers, is now missing. This means that the majority of the time can be spent on Hellboy himself, with the left-over space usually being dedicated either to the two other members of his team - both of whom thankfully get beefier roles - or to the villain - who is yet another improvement. The story itself plays a bit more with Hellboy's desire to be accepted by humanity, and whether or not their acceptance is even necessary. It's a nice idea even if it isn't capitalised on fully, with most of the movie playing out like more standard fantasy-action fare. The action scenes are spruced up a bit, making use of subtle - but noticeable - speed-ramping and generally tighter choreography for a faster feel. This style does sometimes seems at odds with our quite clumsy hero, especially since he's often competing with trained martial-artists at full speed, but the piece makes sure to pepper in the occasional moment of brute force to balance things out. Overall, the picture is an entertaining one. Of course, it isn't without its issues and, like its predecessor, it's only truly engaging to a certain degree. It feels more like a 2004 superhero film than a 2008 one but it still manages to balance its character and action rather well, crafting a visually-creative and predominantly practical world in the process. 6/10
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Hellboy (2004)
6/10
He's fireproof; you're not.
22 March 2019
The prevailing problem with 'Hellboy (2004)' is that it feels the need to over-explain everything that happens. Whenever something even remotely strange - or, indeed, story-related - occurs, someone will surely say something expository to 'take its edge off'. This, of course, becomes grating after just a short while, especially when most of what's explained is shown on-screen as plain as day and doesn't really need any further analysis. It's a mentality that leads to the piece's other main problem: John Myers. He's the audience's surrogate, supposedly used to ease us into this supernatural world, but he's not really the protagonist that the picture really wants him to be. That's because most of the movie is torn between him and Hellboy, leading to an odd 'back-and-forth' pacing that makes sure neither of them get the screen-time or development they deserve. On top of this, he doesn't really serve his purpose, anyway; his rookie status affords the film a 'free pass' when it comes to blatant exposition, but most of it isn't even delivered via this method. It's weird that he was felt to be necessary as the incredibly long prologue does a decent job of introducing you to the narrative's supernatural elements, as well as its overall tone and, even, Hellboy himself (who's then strangely hidden in his adult form for quite some time). Myers isn't a bad character but he doesn't do anything, really, other than take time away from the more interesting ones. Despite the picture's generally messy nature, it's still a solid effort. One of the main positives that pops out straight away is its special effects prowess. The make-up on both Perlman and (a criminally underused) Jones truly is terrific. Apparently the only parts of the former that are actually visible are his eyelids (even his eyes are covered by demonically yellow contact lenses) and the latter is pretty much completely lost under a layer of impressive prosthetics. In both cases, however, the performances shine through. The piece's practical effects are matched pretty much perfectly with their computer-created counterparts. Of course, some of the completely CGI stuff looks a little rusty on retrospection - especially when the remotely-controlled and quite cumbersome 'right hand of doom' gets a more dexterous digital double - but a lot of it - most of it, even - holds up surprisingly well. The completely digital doubles often look good, which is especially rare, but the flick finds a brilliant balance between the 'real' and the rendered, to the point where the two are difficult to differentiate during some select shots. Another of the movie's highlights, in usual Del Toro fashion, is the way in which the monsters are brought to life with such care and attention. They're treated like proper characters rather than side-shows. Hellboy is, for all intents and purposes, a human, a flawed individual trying to do right by those he loves and deal with his unfair, essentially race-based ostracism. If that isn't relatable, I don't know what is. At its heart, it's a story about a group of outcasts sticking together, relenting against their unfair judgement and - in some cases - initially destructive nature. That's the most interesting stuff but it isn't capitalised on all that well. The feature is messy, as I mentioned, and has about five climaxes but no real denouement. Every line of dialogue also sounds 'monumental', if you will, in that early 2000s way where everything has to sound 'cool'. I wish that someone would say something 'normal', as that would help normalise the strange situations (most of) our characters are supposed to find ordinary and add to a sense of 'realism' - or, at least, help ground the story in a more tangible world. In the end, I feel that the movie manages to overcome most of its issues, even if they definitely impact its overall effect. It's enjoyable but not always as engaging as you'd expect. Still, as I said, it's a solid effort. 6/10
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7/10
If you must blink, you'll miss a frame.
21 March 2019
'Kubo And The Two Strings (2016)' is a visually-stunning and suitably entertaining stop-motion animation from the studio behind two of the medium's most accomplished works. It never quite manages to match the overall quality of those aforementioned titles, especially when it comes to story and character, despite the fact that it more than rivals them in terms of pure, gloriously frame-by-frame spectacle. Where the flick falls ever-so-slightly flat is in its narrative, as the ambitious yarn never quite knits together as neatly as you'd expect it to. Don't get me wrong; it's enjoyable, unique and generally well-told, taking a few bold turns that show it isn't afraid to challenge the youngest in its 'all ages' audience. There are some exciting set-pieces, which are animated incredibly well, and some engaging character interactions, too. It's just that its ideas and themes don't necessarily conflate all that satisfyingly, and are sometimes just strangely presented, to boot. There is also a somewhat odd pacing that sees the third act feel incredibly rushed and, essentially, lacking in a proper denouement. I will also say that the choice to not cast Japanese - or, at least, Japanese-American - actors in the lead roles is a bit of a shame, as well as a missed opportunity. Though, it is nice to see a film that's inspired by and rooted in Japanese culture. Overall, the picture is an enjoyable adventure that has several accomplished set-pieces and a few emotionally-resonant moments, thanks to its believable relationships. Despite its few story and pacing issues, it's a fun time that pushes stop-motion, visually, in all the right directions. 7/10
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8/10
It's no secret: it's great.
17 March 2019
'Everybody Knows (2018)' feels incredibly domestic. It realistically portrays a rich, character-filled family as they navigate their way through a personal tragedy which trudges up their past, reopening old-wounds and surfacing long-repressed secrets in the process. It somehow feels very small-scale yet suitably, almost dauntingly, sprawling, featuring a tangled web of stunningly well-drawn core players whose roles in the story consistently undulate to create this enigmatic, almost tense experience that keeps you guessing throughout. You're never exactly sure of anyone's motivations and the flick does an amazing job of keeping your suspicions alive, stoking their flames at the very moments they threaten to go out. It's not exactly a 'thriller', despite some truly thrilling sequences, but rather a 'drama' in the most traditional sense of the word. By focusing on the true-to-life family dynamics that spin out of its somewhat sensational central conflict, it manages to find its own (somewhat unconventional) pace and tone. Both of these aspects are crucial in creating its realistic feel, as is its rustic aesthetic and deep rooting in Spanish culture. You really get a sense of time and place with the piece, to the point that its idyllic opening makes you long to visit. This section of the film, especially, manages to capture that somewhat nostalgic sense of 'family'. Not long after, a fantastic party sequence perfectly goes from slightly tiring but fun to frantic but hopeless, perfectly mirroring the experience of the people seen inside it. The picture is a particularly confident one, as it never feels the need to inject false excitement - or 'drama', even - just for the sake of a potentially absent-minded viewer. It weaves an interconnected web between all its characters and grounds them firmly within their culture, making statements about class in the process. Then, it tugs on these connections as hard as it can to see if any of them will break. The way it uses its core conceit to dredge up unspoken tensions and supposedly forgotten secrets truly feels inspired - which is odd because many narratives go down a similar route. Every core player is presented as a fully-rounded individual, with a tangible history that isn't always spoken but consistently informs their world-view. Perhaps, though, it's the way that the relationships themselves are presented that feels like the real revelation. Character development is never done in a bubble; characters only change when forced to by their interactions with another person, which mimics the way this works in real life. There isn't a single moment that feels out of place - aside from, perhaps, the odd instance of ever-so-slightly iffy exposition and one 'out of perspective' scene. The ending, too, almost feels as though it comes a little too soon, even though pretty much everything that needs wrapping up is done so. You feel like you want to know more, which, I suppose, doesn't really discredit the ending so much as go to show how good the rest of the piece is. Still, it feels a tad sudden and an extra moment of denouement wouldn't have gone amiss. Overall, this is a very engaging and nuanced movie. It has an excellent sense of time and place, features some more-than-impressive character-work and is even genuinely surprising a couple of times. It has real, if slightly 'low-key', emotional and thematic resonance, too. It's great. 8/10
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6/10
Endearingly strange.
16 March 2019
'Howl's Moving Castle (2004)' is certainly a strange film. It's an endearingly strange film, though. It's filled to the brim with interesting ideas, inventive visuals and inspired animation, which makes up for its somewhat scattershot central story and slightly strange pacing. The characters are all very well realised - and beautifully dubbed, I'll add - but the titular Howl is ever so slightly inconsistent (or, at least, presented inconsistently). Of course, his enigmatic nature is a part of his appeal, but he seems to lack a solid motivation - as do several of the other side-players - and the more we learn, the less it makes sense, in a way. Even our protagonist loses her drive part-way through, putting aside her quest simply to spend time as a housemaid. In her case, however, her character always shines through as she's constantly a wise, kindhearted person who's willing to forgive even those who have done her the most wrong. The narrative she finds herself caught up in isn't quite as strong-willed, but it's suitably tumultuous and charmingly off-beat. It keeps you engaged through its duration and is certainly unique, allowing Miyazaki and his team to play around with their intriguing designs and animation techniques. I especially enjoy the tar-like henchmen that pursue our heroes; their bulging bodies squeeze through small gaps, twist together as they struggle to stay upright and merge with one another to form huge, undulating masses. Overall, though it has some issues and doesn't hit home as hard as it perhaps should (in its more emotional moments), this is an entertaining affair throughout. It's a visual treat, too. 6/10
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6/10
Say "yes", anyway.
12 March 2019
'The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)' is a pretty consistently unsettling experience. Of course, that's by design. It tells the tale of teacher who becomes obsessed with her young student due to his poetry prowess, tackling a bevy of themes in the process. The lead character isn't necessarily 'likeable' but she's certainly understandable; her desires come from a relatively reasonable place - though she obviously takes things too far - and she always feels as though she's doing the right thing. The boundaries she crosses are made all the more uncomfortable for an outside viewer because you don't know her true intentions and, as an audience member, you're constantly kept at just the right distance to be able to question them - though, ultimately, you're given a firm understanding. It is important to state that she doesn't want to harm the child, which is why you can engage with her as a protagonist; her actions may inadvertently be doing so - or heading down that path, at least - which clearly prevents her from being a traditional 'hero'. In fact, I'd wager that most people won't be 'on her side' by the film's finale. Regardless of this, the picture clearly wants to make its central conceit, or debate, seem valid, in the sense that it needs you to believe our protagonist is, in some ways, 'right'. It doesn't quite achieve this, however, because every time she posits her (and, by extension, the movie's) world-view, she comes across as pretentious as opposed to 'enlightened'. She's so caught up in her own small mindset when it comes to what she considers 'cultured' that all of her related pondering and 'talking down' honestly comes across more as "you don't like what I like just because you're not smart enough to understand it... because social media". Still, this can be seen as more a fault of the protagonist than of the piece itself, even if it does somewhat dampen the story's conceptual through-line and its thematically ambiguous ending. I will also say that the lead, despite everything, is still quite compelling to watch. You're never exactly 'rooting for her' but she is quite a complex character and, as such, is quite a fascination. The whole thing is oddly engaging, if uneasily so. It's not exactly entertaining but it's never boring and, despite its strange pace, it keeps you watching until the end. It's not for everyone, that's for sure. Still, it's an interesting flick with a unique premise and a solid execution. 6/10
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7/10
A real marvel.
10 March 2019
It takes a little while for 'Captain Marvel (2019)' to come into its own but, once it does, it's certainly enjoyable. It sets itself up to be somewhat generic, broadly speaking, so that it can pull a superb subversion later on. This 'twist', for lack of a better term, is rather unexpected, which is partially due to the casting of certain key players and the track record that the genre (as well as cinema as a whole, actually) has with such things. It's an invigorating, societally relevant plot-point that shakes things up and adds an appreciated dosage of subtext, too. It's not the only reason why the piece is ultimately as successful as it is, though. Another key aspect is the inclusion of one (scarily good CG) Samuel L. Jackson, whose chemistry with the equally good Brie Larson is what really makes the movie work. Their interactions are what keep things feeling light and energetic - though, that's not to imply that the narrative fails to deliver its darker, or more serious, moments. It's actually quite resonant in a number of key places, which is partially because the affair doesn't feel as though it's taking itself too seriously - it's not dour, that's for sure. Ben Mendelsohn takes a tricky role and does wonders with it, making sure that the humour doesn't undercut the emotion so much as make it seem more realistic. The actual plot focuses quite a bit on investigation, as the central character tries to untangle the mess of maybe messed-with memories inside her head. The whole thing is quite compelling, with the answers slowly being revealed to both us and the character at the same time. This is another aspect that feels fairly unique, especially among the slate of 'origin stories' within the 'MCU'. Some of the revelations are slightly obvious - though, maybe just to those familiar with the tropes associated with this type of story - but this isn't a big deal because most things are encompassed by the larger, more subversive 'reveal', which is harder to see coming, and because it's undeniably satisfying when everything is eventually on the table. I guess the most macro, or obvious, theme is that of empowering determination, a 'get back up' mentality that prevents others from dictating what one can and cannot do. The third act, which sees this theme come full circle in the name of compassion, is fun and fulfilling, despite being driven by a now somewhat overpowered (near indestructible) 'superhero'. Ultimately, the picture is entertaining and, even, somewhat unexpected. It easily sits somewhere if the better half of the 'MCU', pulling off a decently original 'origin story' around ten years after they, essentially, stopped being required. It also has one of, if not, the best (now sadly posthumous) Stan Lee cameos in the business. Obviously, it's not perfect but it's still a real marvel. 7/10
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ParaNorman (2012)
8/10
Brains... and heart.
8 March 2019
Laika's second outing is a cine-literate, self-aware and subversive 'zombie' movie that, essentially, turns the sub-genre on its head. 'ParaNorman (2012)' also takes cues from similar sub-genres to tell its tale of an outcast kid who just needs to be listened to - a skill which he himself has pretty much perfected. It's an entertaining, intelligent and heartfelt affair that's knowing in all the right ways. It uses its brains to cut right to the heart of its audience. By subverting expectation and commenting not only on the genre but also on the audience's almost unquenchable thirst for it, it manages to make a comment on quite a few resonant themes. Generally, it deals with 'outsider culture' and what it feels like to be ostracised by your society simply for being 'different', taking aim at 'mob mentality' in the process. Like 'Coraline (2009)' before it, it maintains its 'family friendly' status despite its deep - and fairly 'adult' - storytelling and its often quite creepy visuals. Primarily, this is because it never forgets to be fun. Again, the focus isn't on fear so much as overcoming that fear, showing that it's often misplaced and actually causes pain rather than protect from it. The flick is rather funny and is a treat for genre-fans, too. It's also suspenseful when it needs to be and makes bold choices at a number of key points, hitting its emotional beats incredibly well. It does seem to lose some stream towards its middle section, ever-so-slightly pulling back from its protagonist's main 'quirk' in favour of the wider situation. Still, it soon gets back on track and is always enjoyable. It also looks incredible, the stop-motion seeming so fluid that you could almost swear it's CGI. The faces, especially, are amazingly emotive. It's a great second effort. 8/10
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