Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME (2020): The Things I Liked…

The Devil All The Time (2020): Tom Holland, Netflix
The Devil All The Time (2020): Tom Holland, Netflix

The Devil All the Time, director Antonio Campos’s drama/thriller about sinister characters in postwar Southern Ohio is a film I found adequately entertaining.

Tom Holland’s performance as Arvin, a young man devoted to protecting those he loves in a place teeming with corruption and brutality is one of the film’s highlights. Bill Skarsgård’s performance earlier in the film is another bright spot.

Even though I didn’t find the story edit to be as masterful as my favourite movie about various characters that all end up cleverly connected (Magnolia (1999), I liked the way Campos’s movie revealed the some of the key connections.

The most memorable moment for me is when Arvin gets picked up while hitchhiking for the first time. The tension in the car was pretty masterful. Other small favourite moments include one of the town names ‘Knockemstiff’ and Sebastian Stan’s character’s delivery of the line: ‘Some people were born just so they could be buried.’

Thematically, The Devil All the Time is a tad too dark for what I like to watch these days. Yet, on the other hand, what did I expect exactly, with a title like that? Perhaps that will teach me to choose to watch a movie mainly for the talented cast rather than prioritising the story.

If you don’t mind dark tales, then you’ll likely have an even better time than I did. Give Campos’s film a chance if you’re curious. I doubt I’ll watch it agan but I’ll always have my favourite moments to remeber fondly

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE KISSING BOOTH 2 (2020): The Things I liked…

The Kissing Booth 2 (2018), Jacob Elordi, Joey King, Netflix
The Kissing Booth 2 (2018), Jacob Elordi, Joey King, Netflix

Director Vince Marcello’s sequel to hit teen movie The Kissing Booth (2018) focuses on Joey King)’s character Elle’s attempts to juggle a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend Noah (Jacob Elordi), while she’s also applying for college. Then there’s a new friendship with a handsome classmate that could really complicate things.

Considering how I felt about the first movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect with The Kissing Booth 2. Luckily, to my very pleasant surprise, I had a good time. Even though it’s still not perfect, I found this sequel to be funnier and certainly better written than the first movie. I found myself especially glad that I didn’t encounter any stand out bad acting moments.

I like how the story played out, including the moments that surprised me, big or small. As a long appreciator of good teen movies, this one I’ll remember fondly; thanks to the overall execution and the fact that it didn’t force me to question any of Marcello’s decisions. I was simply too busy enjoying the results.

Lastly, I’ve always appreciated the way good teen movies can transport us back to our teenage years (not that mine are extremely far behind me, mind you). As the characters grow up before our eyes, making mistake after mistake, I often wonder whether I was equally clueless at their age. Or was I close to being as wise as I feel I am today? I know what I want to believe. I also know what’s highly likely.

Give The Kissing Booth 2 a chance if you’re curious, and for all the reasons above.

Happy Film Loving

G

I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (2020): The Thing I Liked…

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020), Jessie Buckley, Netflix

There are some movies I’ll start watching, realise their terrible and quit within ten or fifteen minutes. Writer/director Charlie Kaufman’s latest drama/thriller I’m Thinking of Ending Things is not that kind of movie. One might say it’s worse because I’d hoped to like it far more than I did.

I expected more because I rather enjoyed Anomalisa (2015), and had hoped that I’m Thinking of Ending Things would be similarly pleasing and thought-provoking. It may well be thought-provoking for some, but post-viewing, it did not inspire me to think anything significant, except ‘what a waste of two hours.’ Particularly since the peculiar happenings that inspired me to watch the movie in the first place, never really get explained.

Kaufman’s story of a young woman who comes to question everything she thought she knew about her new boyfriend, upon arriving at his parent’s secluded farm is a film that may have fans raving on about the way it explores loneliness, death, sanity and so on. Yet, I for one didn’t want to work as hard and have as much patience as I’m Thinking of Ending Things requires of its audience.

By the third or fourth time that Jessie Buckley’s character says the words ‘I’m thinking of ending things‘, the film had lost me and I’d got far beyond the point of simply ‘thinking of ending things.’ I wanted to stop watching; yet I needed to see how the story would end.

Buckley, Toni Colette, David Thewlis and Jessie Plemons all perform brilliantly. Still, none of it proved enough for me. Regardless of the ‘stylish’ way the story is edited and told; the scares and other creative choices, it just didn’t result in a satisfying experience for me. Instead it felt incomplete.

I’m sure that very serious fans of Kaufman will likely enjoy this the most. For everyone else, sure, give it a chance if you’re SUPER curious.

Happy Film Loving

G

MULAN (2020): The Things I Liked…

Mulan (2020), Yifei Liu, Walt Disney Studios
Mulan (2020), Yifei Liu, Walt Disney Studios

Even though I’m aware of the legend of Mulan, I’m not a hundred percent sure I’ve seen the classic animated version, before watching the new live-action film. What I’ve always been aware of however is how popular the story is – and that, combined with the stunning trailer visuals of the Niki Caro directed remake are the reasons I was always going to watch it.

As a fan of stories about underestimated characters who end up going far beyond all expectations, I enjoyed this element of the Mulan story. The tale of a young Chinese maiden who disguises herself as a male warrior to save her father.

The stunning visuals, vibrant colours and Yifei Liu’s physical performance as Mulan are the things that stood out most about Caro’s movie. There’s also the well-scored scene where the triumphant stair climb takes place.

The things I wish were different about Mulan include some of the editing, which didn’t quite flow as seamlessly in parts as I expected. For example, the transition from Mulan thinking about taking her father’s place, to the moment she’s in his armour felt oddly abrupt.

My main issue with Mulan is how oddly soulless it felt. For me, Caro’s film didn’t dive deeply into anything. I say this of course, as someone who hasn’t seen the animated Mulan movie. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel as emotionally captured by the story. At least not in any way close to how Cinderella (2015), my favourite Disney live-action movie made me feel. I still cheered for Mulan, yes. I only wish the story didn’t feel as surface-level as it did.

Watch Mulan if you’re curious and certainly for the visuals and gorgeous rich colours.

Happy Film Loving

G

AVA (2020): The Thing I Liked…

AVA (2020), Jessica Chastatin, Madman Films

Starring Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell and John Malkovich; Ava is one of those films I watched to the very end for three reasons. Firstly because it’s Chastain, Farrell and Malkovich. Second, even though I wouldn’t call AVA good, I hoped to find something I’d like about it. Lastly, Each quarter managed to do just enough to hook me so I’d stay curious enough to want to find out how the next moments would unfold.

Directed by Tate Taylor; Chastain is Ava, a deadly assassin who works for a black ops organisation. While abroad on a high profile hit, things don’t go according to plan and soon our protagonist finds herself a target.

The main issue I found with Taylor’s film is the hugely underdeveloped story and dialogue. There are unfortunately next to zero impressively smart, surprising elements in Ava. A reality that made the movie feel like one of the most ‘basic’ action movies I’ve ever seen.

Even though the three leads can certainly act, none of it proved enough to save Ava. Everyone did the best they could with both the script and stunt direction. Yet, sadly, the action sequences much like the rest of the movie offer minimal delights.

The parts I did enjoy most are the last interactions between Malkovich and Farrell’s characters. It was also great to watch Farrell use his natural Irish accent in a movie again. The last time I saw him do that was in In Bruges (2008).

If you’re extremely curious about Ava, do what you must. Otherwise, maybe watch Atomic Blonde (2017) instead.

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN (2020): The Things I Liked…

The One and Only Ivan (2020), Walt Disney Studios
The One and Only Ivan (2020), Walt Disney Studios

Starring Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie, Helen Mirren and Sam Rockwell, I was drawn to Disney’s partly-animated adventure/comedy The One and Only Ivan, because I knew that the ending was going to be a happy one. What I didn’t know until I saw the movie is that The One and Only Ivan is based on a true story.

Set in a circus at the mall, at the heart of the film is Ivan, a gorilla who’s trying to piece together his past as he and his elephant friend Stella plan to escape from captivity. Though director Thea Sharrock’s movie is quite predictable, I found that I didn’t mind too much. Especially since my main motivation for watching the film was to see a bunch of animals get their happy ending. 

There’s no denying that a faster pace would have helped my enjoyment overall. And it did prove arduous watching the animals get excited about their initial plan to escape captivity. Particularly considering how clear it was to adult viewers just how dangerous an actual escape would be for the animals. Perhaps, since The One and Only Ivan is ultimately a movie for children, it may be that the futility of the initial escape plan wouldn’t be so obvious to a young audience, meaning those scenes wouldn’t prove as taxing as they did for me.

The good news is that even with the elements that bothered me, I’m glad I stuck with The One and Only Ivan, because of the happy ending I wanted. 

As for the question of whether I’d call The One and Only Ivan a great Disney film. No. Yet it’s also not completely terrible. As such, if you’re curious enough, give it a chance. Just don’t leave your patience at the door – and remember, it is ultimately aimed at children. 

Happy Film Loving

G

TENET (2020) Review: The Things I Liked…

TENET (2020), John David Washington, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Tenet, Christopher Nolan’s latest action/sci-fi movie is, as expected, a notable cinematic experience. Nolan’s story of a protagonist on a mission that unfolds beyond real-time, as he journeys through a world of international espionage is a film that pulls you in immediately in a brilliantly immersive way, thanks to the engaging action and powerful musical score.

Like in Nolan’s much-loved Inception (2010), you will need to pay close attention as Tenet plays. The complexity of the story and great production demands it. Yet, whether or not you’re a science expert, you will still be able to follow what’s going on enough to enjoy this movie, just as long as you pay attention.

Another bit of good news is that even though both Tenet and Inception are action/sci-fi movies that sometimes aesthetically appear similar, I’d say that that’s mainly because the film making team is the same because the stories are quite different.

Forced to choose a favourite of the two, I’d opt for Inception because I connected to the story, and especially DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb character more than I did to John David Washington’s ‘the protagonist’.

As for specific highlights, the character I enjoyed watching most is Kenneth Branagh’s Andrei Sator. Once you meet him, you won’t soon forget. At least I did not. For me, the main stand out scenes happen towards the end starting with a memorable scene that involves several vehicles on the road including a fire truck. Everything after that just gets better and better until the satisfying end that may or may not leave the door wide open for a sequel.

There are just two things I didn’t love about Tenet. The first one being that I wasn’t fully convinced by the ‘love connection’ between Elizabeth Debicki’s Kat and the protagonist. And by love, I don’t mean romantic love. I just didn’t understand why he cared so much for Kat, a seemingly random woman even though her story is empathy inducing. Perhaps it’s the time not being linear aspect of Tenet that didn’t allow for everything I needed to see, in the order I needed to see it to fully understand why Washington’s the protagonist truly cared for Kat as much as he did.

The second thing that would have made Tenet better for me is similar to the first; I wanted to connect to Washington’s character more and sooner. It seemed as though too much of his personal story was kept a mystery.

Overall, there’s certainly more to love about Tenet than not. As such, watch it because there is only one Christopher Nolan, and we must enjoy his creative gifts while we can!

Lastly, I will be watching Tenet again next week because I want to experience everything that it does so well all over again.

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE SECRET GARDEN (2020): The Things I Liked…

The Secret Garden (2020), Julie Walters, Studio Canal

I had hoped that watching The Secret Garden would take me back to the pre-teen phase of my life. A period when I loved to read.

Having now seen this remake of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel about an orphaned girl who discovers a magical garden hidden at her strict uncle’s estate, director Marc Munden’s movie did take me back. It also reminded me that The Secret Garden was a book I recall having to read for school. However, even though it featured a magical garden, which I imagine young me would have loved. I don’t remember particularly loving the book – and this is why I shouldn’t be surprised to realise that I don’t love Munden’s movie.

The actors including Colin Firth, Julia Walters’s and Dixie Egerrickx performed well enough. I just found this version of the story to be quite simplistic and lacking in depth. In fairness, it is based on a Children’s story. Yet I had hoped to find it more than watchable at best.

My favourite thing about The Secret Garden is the actual garden itself. I mean, who wouldn’t want their own lush, colourful secret garden with magical properties?

Besides my issues with the story, my only other complaint is about the moments the musical score seemed to be unnecessarily loud and overbearing.

Watch The Secret Garden if you’re especially curious. Or, you could watch the 1993 film adaptation of The Secret Garden instead. I hear it’s much better.

Happy Film Loving

G