Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

UNDERWATER (2020): The Thing I Liked…

Underwater (2020), Kristen Stewart, 20th Century Fox
Underwater (2020), Kristen Stewart, 20th Century Fox

It’s the promise of thrilling action sequences that take place at the bottom of the ocean that drew me to Underwater; an action/thriller about a group of researchers trying to survive after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory.

The good news is that I got the well-executed and thrilling scrambling to safety scenes I’d hoped for. The bad news is that besides the initial scrambling and the face-to-face encounter with the monster towards the end, there isn’t much else about director William Eubank’s film that I found particularly impressive.

Starring Kristen Stewart, T.J. Miller and Vincent Cassel; the elements that proved most disappointing include the design of the underwater monster, which, for me, seemed relatively basic and not particularly new. Furthermore, overall, the special effects could have been better. And unfortunately, some of the acting is questionable.

I know that Underwater is a thriller and not a traditional horror movie. Yet, I expected the monster to be scarier than it is. Or, at the very least, for the encounters with the monster to be more terrifying than they are. It certainly didn’t help that we barely see anything, each time the camera is pointed at the monster.

Much of the dialogue felt quite flat, which in part led to the moments that should have been more affecting, i.e. the death of key characters seem rather underwhelming.

Watch Underwater but only if you absolutely must.

Happy Film Loving

G

FORD V FERRARI (2019): The Things I Loved…

Ford v Ferrari (2019), Matt Damon, 20th Century Studios
Ford v Ferrari (2019), Matt Damon, 20th Century Studios

Director James Mangold’s action/drama about the battle between car manufacturers Ford and Ferrari to win Le Mans in 1966 is a movie I’m glad to have finally watched. Especially considering that post-viewing, I don’t have anything negative to say about it.

Starring two of my favourites, Christian Bale and Matt Damon, it’s ultimately the verbal gymnastics in Ford v Ferrari that I enjoyed most. The well-written dialogue between the key characters resulted in plenty of entertaining testosterone, ego and passion-fuelled wordplay.

Additionally, there’s the beautiful friendship between Damon’s Carroll Shelby and Bales’s Ken Miles. And lest not forget the high adrenaline, edge of your seat and excellently captured driving footage.

Mangold’s ensemble cast which includes Jon Bernthal, Caitriona Balfe and Noah Jupe is fantastic. As are the several standout scenes. Including the all-important meeting with Enzo Ferrari.

If you haven’t already, watch Ford v Ferrari because you too may just find yourself with the words, ‘Well, that was super badass and sexy’ escaping your lips.

Happy Film Loving 

G

TRUE MOTHERS (2020): The Things I Liked…

True Mothers (2020), Aju Makita, Film Movement
True Mothers (2020), Aju Makita, Film Movement

Hikari, the teenage biological mother of a young boy decides to contact her son’s adoptive parents to get him back. Such is the premise of director/co-writer Naomi Kawase’s Japanese drama; True Mothersa film that proved to be quite a pleasant surprise.

During the first third of True Mothers, I found the story structure/editing a tad awkward. However, by the halfway point, Kawase’s movie is more engaging. A truth I attribute in part to the story’s focus on Hikari, who’s rather well-played by Aju Makita.

I liked the surprise of the direction True Mothers took in the second half. The way the film revealed itself as Hikari’s coming-of-age story. And as heartbreaking as some moments are, watching her journey from innocent fourteen-year-old to the unexpected way things progress is an experience I don’t regret. 

True Mothers is indeed a story about motherhood and all the various ways the word mother can be applied. Watch it if something about the story particularly intrigues you. And don’t be surprised if by the end of the movie, the thought ‘How wonderful it is to be loved crosses your mind. 

Happy Film Loving

G

MALCOLM & MARIE (2021): The Things I Liked…

Malcolm & Marie (2021), Zendaya, Netflix
Malcolm & Marie (2021), Zendaya, Netflix

There are some rather good things about Malcolm & Mariedirector Sam Levinson’s drama/romance starring Zendaya and John David Washington.

The first is the two lead performances, which, for me, represent some of the actors’ best work. The second is some truly great moments of dialogue that had me thinking, ‘If only I could express myself this clearly during disagreements.’ 

I’m glad to confirm that there’s humour to be enjoyed early in Levinson’s story about the night a director and his girlfriend decide to iron out the issues in their relationship. I was most amused with the scenes when Malcolm failed to notice that all was not well with Marie.

As tensions escalate, there are triggering scenes when you’ll find yourself appalled at Malcolm’s behaviour. Especially when his ego is shinning incredibly brightly and he’s unable to admit any dependence on Marie. Nevertheless, you soon realise that both parties are flawed and in desperate need of sorting through the issues stemming from their codependent relationship; one in which an imbalance of power is undeniable.

Along with the moments of great dialogue in Malcolm & Marie, some scenes had me incredibly frustrated. To the point where I had to pause the film and do something else. Even though the movie is one hour and forty-six minutes long, at approximately thirty-seven minutes into the couple’s argument, I’d had enough. And as much as I appreciated the self-analysis and honest dialogue they were having, it all began to feel unbearably self-indulgent.

Watching Malcolm & Marie soon had me feeling like someone who couldn’t leave their arguing friends because the three of us were in the middle of nowhere and they’re my ride home.

This one is a movie to watch if you’re particularly curious. For me, I wish the whole experience had been more tightly edited and far less frustrating.

Happy Film Loving

G

TO ALL THE BOYS – ALWAYS AND FOREVER (2021): The Things I Liked…

To All The Boys: Always and Forever (2021), Lana Condor, Netflix
To All The Boys: Always and Forever (2021), Lana Condor, Netflix

I remember being pleasantly surprised by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, back in 2018; the story of the romantic life of two high school students, Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo).

Then came To All the Boys – P.S. I Still Love You (2020), a film I concluded was okay compared to the first. Having now watched To All the Boys – Always and Forever, the final instalment, I can say that minus one or two minor niggles, director Michael Fimognari’s film is close to as satisfying as high school romance stories get. Especially for girls who picture themselves in Lara Jean’s position.

It certainly helps that Peter is quite decent, somewhat mature, and the story feels generally quite grounded in the reality of what life is like for high schoolers in similar predicaments. I enjoyed letting To All the Boys – Always and Forever take me back to the romantic ups and downs of high school life and remembering just how absorbing my high school romances were.

Other highlights include the general look and feel of the visuals, including the colours, illustrations, plus a perfectly fitting, sometimes rebellious soundtrack.

The only parts that had me raising an eyebrow or two involve the situation with the pink sofa on the New York subway. Particularly the expectation that I’m supposed to believe they fully carried it there. There’s also the fact that Peter’s father looks very unlike him and some of his dialogue left me wanting.

I say watch To All the Boys – Always and Forever if you enjoyed the first two movies. The story is wrapped up rather well.

Happy Film Loving

G

MISSING LINK (2019): The Things I Liked…

Missing Link (2019), Hugh Jackman
Missing Link (2019), Hugh Jackman

Missing Link, the story of Mr Link (a Big-Foot-like character) and his adventures with explorer Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), plus adventurer Adelina Fortnight is an animated movie I found to be fun in parts and watchable.

The reason I’m not more enthused by writer/director Chris Butler’s film is that story-wise, it felt oddly superficial and more basic than I expected.

What I did enjoy are the interactions between Lionel and Link, plus the moments of heart, most of which happen in the more engaging last quarter. Emma Thompson’s character is another welcome highlight, and it proved quite satisfying to see Lionel’s growth/evolution as the story continued.

I watched Missing Link because the cast which also includes Zoe Saldana and Zack Galifianakis intrigued me. Yet, overall, I wish I could include Butler’s film on my list of favourite animated movies I’ve seen in recent years, but I cannot. Nevertheless, I say give Missing Link a chance if you’re particularly curious. It may just be what you need when you’re after an easy-viewing animated film experience.

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE LION KING (2019): The Thing I Liked…

The Lion King (2019), Walt Disney Studios
The Lion King (2019), Walt Disney Studios

It has taken much longer than planned for me to finally watch the recent live-action remake of The Lion King (2019). Like many fans, I loved the 1994 original. I enjoyed it for reasons including the brilliant soundtrack, the story and beautiful animation style.

The main reason I couldn’t get beyond the first 15 minutes of director Jon Favreau’s live-action version has something to do with the animation.

There’s no denying that the film is quite the achievement in terms of computer-generated imagery (CGI). Nevertheless, I prefer the 2D animated film; firstly because of the cuteness of the characters. CGI Simba is cute too but different. Also, I prefer the voice work in the first movie. Second, and this one took me by surprise; but, I’d much rather watch the real creatures of the jungle/the African savanna in a well written David Attenborough documentary; than sit through ‘very close but not quite there’ computer-generated images.

Unsurprisingly, for me, The Lion King remake has proven to be largely unnecessary. Mainly because it’s essentially the very same story and seemingly shot for shot. This sameness and the weird space the movie occupies between real and not real is what led me to abort my viewing session. And instead, think about rewatching The Lion King (1994) instead.

Furthermore, I have an irrational fear of rodents. As such, I should have known that all wasn’t going to be well when, at the start, the camera spent what felt like an eternity, following a rodent-like creature around. 

Considering this review is very late, you’ve probably already watched or at least tried to watch The Lion King; in which case I sure hope you had a much better time than I did.

Happy Film Loving

G

LITTLE FISH (2019): The Things I Liked…

Little Fish (2020), Jack O'Connell, IFC Films
Little Fish (2020), Jack O’Connell, IFC Films

Little Fish, Jack O’Connell and Olivia Cooke’s sci-fi/romance about a memory loss virus that threatens to erase the history of a couple’s love and courtship is more cleverly-executed than expected.

It’s important to note that director Chad Hartigan’s Little Fish is a story that focuses more on the couple’s relationship rather than the science of the virus. Little Fish is a beautiful yet heartbreaking love story. One that for me, proved quite watchable in the most part because both leads are great performers. And the portrayal of life with memory loss is captured well. It’s just unfortunate for me that my favourite moments do not happen until close to the end.

I did believe the relationship between O’Connell and Cooke’s characters, However, I didn’t find myself as absorbed with it all; likely in part, on account of the story edit or general editing style. Additionally, the timing of the release of Little Fish may not help everyone’s enjoyment of it. Particularly since it may feel more than a little too real, pandemic-wise for some.

When forced to weigh Little Fish against other movies that spend at least 90% of the time looking closely at a central romantic relationship, I wouldn’t say that Hartigan’s film is my favourite. I’m afraid that ‘coveted title’ belongs to Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones’s Like, Crazy (2011).

Overall, I say give Little Fish a chance if you’re curious. After all, a fair number seem to enjoy it. And there truly is a clever moment or two near the end. Just be sure to pay attention.

 Happy Film Loving 

G