Category Archives: No Spoiler Reviews

THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019): The Things I Liked…

The Lighthouse (2019), Robert Pattinson, A24
The Lighthouse (2019), Robert Pattinson, A24

The Lighthouse, a fantasy / drama / horror about two lighthouse keepers struggling to maintain their sanity while living on a remote, mysterious New England island is a movie that noticeably builds and builds; especially where the tensions between its two characters is concerned. It also becomes more and more intriguing, fantastical and has a permeating sense of dread as it plays, resulting in an ending that makes sense but also left me with some questions.

I definitely can’t deny overall that writer / director Robert Eggers’s 1890s set film is a good one. I enjoyed the cinematography, some of the dialogue and definitely the great performances by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe. In terms of how I feel about Eggers’s movie in its entirety, for reasons that include the film’s genre (fantasy especially) and the general loudness based on the sounds and noises the two men had to endure; plus the inclusion of much of the less than sanitary / unsavoury aspects of being a lighthouse keeper in the 1800’s, I can’t say that I loved The Lighthouse. 

Should you find yourself quite curious, give it a chance because it’s unlike most. It also has that stage play quality, likely due to the dialogue style and single setting. Who knows, you may just find yourself far more enthused by the whole experience overall than I was.

I know for sure that during the movie and when it was over, I desperately wanted to believe that the job and experience of being a lighthouse keeper these days is quite different; at the very least, far more sanitary.

Happy Film Loving 

G

BLACK AND BLUE (2019): THE THING I LIKED…

Black And Blue (2019), Naomie Harris, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Black And Blue (2019), Naomie Harris, Sony Pictures Entertainment

In Black and Blue, the latest action / drama starring Naomie Harris, Harris plays a rookie police officer whose body camera captures a corrupt cop shooting a drug dealer. What I hoped would have followed is a truly engrossing, gritty and desperate race against time to get the footage in the right hands.

The race and subsequent pursuit does happen. It’s just that the end result isn’t as gripping as I’d hoped. The acting isn’t bad, but the story and execution certainly could have been stronger. Especially since soon after the film started and throughout, it felt as though something important was missing, and nothing refreshingly clever and / or new happened.

I really wanted Black and Blue to join Training Day (2001) on my list of favourite cop movies. However, even though both films share commonalities in theme / story, the gap between the two movies is simply too large – because Training Day is far more engrossing, cleverly written and well executed. Plus, Ethan Hawke’s character didn’t make any decisions that had me mad. Whereas Harris’s character did some thing’s that could hardly be excused by her rookie status. Or maybe I’ve simply watched too many cop movies.

I did actually like aspects of the way Black ad Blue handled Harris’s character’s ‘identity crisis,’ which really says more about her acting than anything else. Also, there were moments within Black and Blue that had me thinking, ‘Yes! This is when things really get good‘. But the movie never went to the point of having a scene that I could choose as my favourite moment.

Watch it if you’re super curious. Otherwise, maybe just rewatch Training Day.

Happy Film Loving

G

WAVES (2019): The Things I Liked…

Waves (2019), Alexa Demie, Kelvin Harrison Jr., A24
Waves (2019), Alexa Demie, Kelvin Harrison Jr., A24

Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie and Lucas Hedges, Waves is a coming of age, raw, emotional and sometimes funny drama / romance centred around the teenage children of a couple in modern day America.

I liked the way Waves opened; the colours, camera angles and music, all of which worked to remind us of the seemingly carefree youthful abandon of late adolescence. As hectic, bright and beautiful as those moments were, it’s not too long before you realise that everything isn’t quite right. Tensions become apparent and it’s clear something is going to change – and not in a good way.

Tyler (Harrison Jr.) is a promising and troubled high school athlete unable to truly open up to his parents, so he suffers behind closed doors. His younger sister Emily (Taylor Russell) who seems to fade into the background much of the time certainly doesn’t have the focus of her parents – especially her father; at least not the the way her brother does. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s Tyler’s troubles that end up tragically and irrevocably altering the lives of more than just his immediate family.

Waves (2019), Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, A24
Waves (2019), Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, A24

Considering the themes of familial tragedy and some very modern / American issues, it’s unsurprising that I shed a few tears as Waves played. Particularly because of the very real and raw way writer / director Trey Edward Shults’s film captures the emotional turmoil suffered by its characters. Some of it so heartbreaking that I have to liken certain moments to having to watch an inevitable car crash while being completely unable to help.

Waves is the kind of movie you watch for the film making artistry, great acting and the ways it beautifully and realistically captures some of the most delightful and heartbreaking events in the lives of teenagers and parents in modern America. You will laugh and smile, be very concerned but also often moved by the generosity of spirit displayed before you.

‘Long’ is another word to describe this movie. It’s not quite the bladder busting 3.5 hour length of The Irishman (2019). However, by the half way point in Shults’s well-captured and highly affecting movie, you’ll think ‘Yeah, I think it’s wrapping up now.’ Except it doesn’t wrap up because that’s when act two – or more fittingly, ‘the second wave’ begins. And sit back you must, because you’re going to need what it has to tell you, especially after the tragedy of ‘the first wave’.

Watch it because it’s good and if you’re curious.

Happy Film Loving

G

POKÉMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU (2019): The Things I Liked…

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019), Warner Bros. Pictures
Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019), Warner Bros. Pictures

I enjoyed Pikachu’s cuteness, his red cheeks and the vibrant yellow of his fur. I remember being relieved when 20 minutes in, I finally heard Ryan Reynolds as the voice of Pikachu. Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that I can’t say I had a good time while watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

From director Rob Letterman and set in  a world where people collect pocket monsters (Pokémon) to do battle,  Pokémon Detective Pikachu focuses on  an intelligent monster (Pikachu) who wants to be a detective, and his new lonely friend Tim (Justice Smith).

I must first admit that I never really got into Pokémon as a child and I’m sure this has a little something to do with why I didn’t enjoy Letterman’s film – but only a little something.

In all honesty, I really thought the film would have been funnier. But instead, the main focus is on a troubled father / son relationship resulting in some rather emotional scenes, most of which felt awkward and somehow out of place. Certainly out of place with my expectations at least, but also I feel, out of place with the tone that was set in the trailer.

There’s even a moment where it seemed obvious that the simple removal of a certain item of headgear towards the end, could have prevented a lot of mayhem, but I guess to keep the story moving, the obviousness of that solution seemed to be deliberately ignored.

Overall, Pokémon Detective Pikachu is a movie very likely most enjoyed by long time fans of Pokémon. As a non-superfan, I unfortunately think that the script / story needed more work.

Happy Film Loving 

G

MARRIAGE STORY (2020): The Things I Liked…

Marriage Story (2019), Adam Driver, Netflix
Marriage Story (2019), Adam Driver, Netflix

Marriage Story is a good movie. Beautifully written, well acted – by everyone, including Ray Liotta, Laura Dern and young Azhy Robertson.

Directed by Noah Baumbach of Greenberg (2010) and Frances Ha (2012); Marriage Story is a film I wanted to see because of its director’s previous works. I’m also a big fan of the lead actors, (Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver), I loved the very well edited trailer and I wanted to see what Baumbach’s movie had to say about this thing called marriage. Particularly the very type that ends in divorce.

Categorised as a comedy / drama, you’ll indeed smile and laugh but certainly not as much as you’ll be moved almost to tears if not actual streaming tears. This one is a film that deals with the classic challenges faced in many modern relationships. Especially, the kind that can arise where both parties are ambitious and with clear ideas of what they want for their life and career. It’s also a story that features the one thing that’s always there as one of the key reasons for the breakdown of all relationships; ‘ineffective communication’. 

Marriage Story (2019), Scarlett Johansson, Azhy Robertson, Adam Driver, Netflix
Marriage Story (2019), Scarlett Johansson, Azhy Robertson, Adam Driver, Netflix

I’m glad to confirm that the things I liked most about the trailer for Marriage Story are the very things that stood out beautifully in the  finished film. Great writing / dialogue, editing so well executed that I personally didn’t need a second to question any of Baumbach’s creative decisions; they all made sense to me since everything felt rooted in a level of unquestionable realism that resonated with me.

As you watch Baumbach’s movie, almost throughout you’ll find yourself smiling, then sad within seconds. Yet it’s unlikely you’ll be mad that you decided to watch at all.

Other things that stood out about Marriage Story… I loved the humour, perfectly choreographed scenes and the film’s general rhythm. There’s also the heartbreaking yet fun to watch courtroom drama antics, that last big argument and Driver’s character’s singing at the very end. That scene was just somehow perfect. 

Definitely watch it because it’s very good.

Happy Film Loving 

G

TEEN SPIRIT (2018): The Things I Liked…

Teen Spirit (2018), Elle Fanning
Teen Spirit (2018), Elle Fanning, Interscope Films

Teen Spirit, the Max Minghella directed music / drama about a small town teenager with dreams of pop stardom is one I watched for two main reasons. The first being my curiosity about Minghella’s directing talents, especially since I’m such a fan of much of his late father‘s great works. The second reason is, I simply needed to hear Elle Fanning’s British accent. 

I’ll start by confirming that the talented young Fanning’s accent is of course good. In fact, I found it so convincing that I actually forgot to question it.

As for Minghella’s directing chops, there was a  period where the film’s great pacing slowed down in a noticeable way. The other moment I wasn’t delighted by is when the predictable exploitative love interest storyline took hold. Perhaps I’m just too avid a movie watcher to have not seen that coming but I definitely wish that particular scenario wasn’t so obvious to me, in effect making that moment of the film feel tedious.

Besides the above mentioned two instances, Teen Spirit is well acted and kept my full attention most of the time. Particularly since I very much connected with Violet’s (Fanning) hustle for a better reality. And as she made that final walk to the stage, it could not have been more intense and moving because of all it must have meant.

Watch it if you’re curious.

Happy Film Loving.

G

LITTLE JOE (2019): The Thing I Liked…

Little Joe (2019), Emily Beecham, Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing
Little Joe (2019), Emily Beecham, Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing

Starring Ben Whishaw and Emily Beecham, the first thing that stood out about Little Joe, the sci-fi / drama about a genetically modified plant designed to make people happy is the film’s premise. Especially the creepy factor rooted in the idea that senior plant breeder and single mother Alice (Beecham) may have to choose between her actual teenage son and her ‘other son’ Little Joe – her happiness inducing plant. 

The second key highlight is the colours in director Jessica Hausner’s film. Particularly Alice’s blouses, the backgrounds she appears in front of in several scenes and the way both worked so well with the colour of her beautiful red hair. 

I truly wish that I had a longer list of favourite things about Little Joe but unfortunately that’s not the case here. I wanted to like the execution of the story / the challenges faced by of a single working mother with a teenage son but there’s something quite simplistic and surface level about it all.

I’m certainly no scientist but some of the the dialogue in Little Joe – sometimes pertaining to the science sounded a tad amusing and not in .a good way. There’s also a scene where the yanking of an arm supposedly led to what seemed like an overly dramatic fall that I simply didn’t buy.

Last last but in no way least, the continuous beep sound effect among others that kept happening every so often, plus the questionable musical score. Let’s just say that I’m not a fan of prolonged sounds that are irritating and have directly nothing to do with what’s happening in a scene.

As for the question of whether you should watch this? Only if you really REALLY must. The idea was promising but the story and general execution sadly didn’t deliver for me.

Happy Film Loving 

G

1917 (2019): The Things I Liked…

1917 (2019), George MacKay, Universal Pictures
1917 (2019), George MacKay, Universal Pictures

1917, the latest release from American Beauty (1999) and Skyfall (2012) director Sam Mendes is a memorable film that features all the great things we’ve come to know and love about Mendes’s work. 

Once again partnering with notable cinematographer Roger Deakins, a fair amount of the visuals and lighting in 1917 have stayed with me long after viewing. Especially in regards to at least two stand out scenes which involve running – and snippets of which you get to see in the film’s trailer

Dean Charles-Chapman and George MacKay who play two young British soldiers tasked with delivering a life or death message across enemy lines performed well. Anyone if not all with siblings can likely relate to the sense of urgency and arguably foolhardy determination displayed  by Charles-Chapman’s character, in his effort to get the message to his brother’s battalion. I for one started tearing up almost immediately, finding myself moved and often at the edge of my seat, wishing desperately for a successful message delivery. 

The brotherly bond, humour, beautiful friendship and stunning moments of great cinematography definitely make up several of my favourite moments in 1917. However, I’m not sure that all those combined had me more excited and happy to be experiencing Mendes’s movie more than the scenes featuring the more seasoned actors. 

I’m sure that having been a long time fan of Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Richard Madden had something to do with it. Maybe it’s the fact that their dialogue plus the ways they were captured onscreen was just incredibly arresting. Perhaps it’s their gravitas, great voices and excellent dramatic timing, but… every scene featuring the above five actors were some of my absolute favourites. Especially Scott’s single scene and when we finally get to meet Cumberbatch’s Colonel MacKenzie.

In terms of what I wish were different about 1917, I’d say a bit more of an even pace and perhaps a slightly differently edited story because there were moments where I felt as though my surrender to the story teller was interrupted with small moments of recognition that my expectations of how seamlessly everything would flow were not fully met. To put it another way, in some moments I got lost in the story in a great way, whereas other moments had me wishing I was that little bit more satisfied with it all; you know, kind of the way Green Book (2018) had me feeling and led me through the story in a way that proved completely satisfying.

I wouldn’t say overall that 1917 is my favourite war movie. That ‘highly prestigious’ title still belongs to The Hurt Locker (2008) – but it does have a fair amount of highlights you’ll be glad to have experienced.

Happy Film Loving

G