Tag Archives: Film Review

BOOKSMART (2019): The Things I Liked…

Booksmart (2019), Beanie Feldstein
Booksmart (2019), Beanie Feldstein

Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart is a comedy set in high school, and one that focuses on two A students who spent so much time working hard that they forgot to party. Now that it’s the last night before graduation, they set about making up for precious lost time.

Starring Kaitlyn Devers, Beanie Feldstein, Jason Sudeikis and Noah Galvin, I think everyone generally performed well and Booksmart is a movie with some parts I really enjoyed. To my surprise though, more so than the comedy focused scenes between Feldstein and Dever, the moments that really commanded my attention were actually the more emotional / dramatic scenes. Scenes like the argument towards the end and the very last scene in the movie.

The funny moments that stood out most include all the ones that featured Sudeikis – even though he’s hardly in it. I especially appreciated the moment the Cardi B. reference happened. There’s also Galvin’s generally great comic timing, delivery and his potentially nightmare inducing rendition of Alanis Morrisette’s classic ‘You Oughtta Know.

The music, cool shooting and editing style, particularly the way the high school experience is captured is certainly memorable.

As for what I loved less about Booksmart, that would be the unfortunate slight cringe factor that stemmed from some scenes between Feldstein and Dever going on too long or coming across as too high energy and overdone. 

I say see it for yourself if you’re curious. It’s certainly highly hyped but there is some cleverness within.

Happy Film Loving

G

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017): Good Movie…

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Chris Pratt
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), Chris Pratt

To those who’ve already read my thoughts on Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), you’ll know that I didn’t completely love the movie. Regardless of that truth though, I’m still determined to see as many of the stand alone films of each Avengers Endgame (2019) character as possible. And with that goal in mind, a few days ago I sat myself down to two hours and sixteen minutes of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

My expectations weren’t exactly the highest, as one might imagine. So picture my surprise when I found myself having a good time almost immediately.

In trying to understand what had changed, it became clear that , the story is simply much better this time round. I found it more interesting. I definitely enjoyed the surprises within the script as well as the elaboration on the backstory of several of the main characters. I’m also quite sure that there weren’t any sentimental moments or attempts at humour that felt hugely forced. I imagine that everything was that little bit better because the actors were more comfortable in their roles.

I still stand by the truth that I didn’t enjoy Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), but I’m also sure that my appreciation of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. isn’t a result of me learning to ignore any of the humour that doesn’t quite land or ignore any general corniness within the script. I really did like the new characters, find the story more fun, and appreciated the special effects that little bit extra.

With all that said I now say, watch it because it’s good and especially if you’re sure I’m not completely mad.

Happy Film Loving 

G

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL & VILE (2018): The Things I Liked…

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019), Lily Collins, Zac Efron
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019), Lily Collins, Zac Efron

Ted Bundy, one of America’s most infamous serial killers is very much at the centre of director Joe Berlinger’s film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. Yet the story is really told from the perspective of Bundy’s longtime girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer. As such, like Kloepfer, we don’t get to be there with Bundy as he commits his shockingly evil crimes (thank goodness!) We also don’t get to know any real shocking  details about the crimes until the trial towards the end. What we do get is a front row seat to watch Bundy some time after he commits a crime and pretends to be as normal and decent as the next guy. It’s sad but like a true psychopath, he succeeded at it. A lot.

Starring Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Jim Parsons and John Malkovich, I watched Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile because of the very interesting subject matter and the new perspective. Another reason is to see Efron succeed in a more serious role than he’s taken on in recent years. I’m happy to say that he does well. I was particularly impressed during the moments he gave the audience a glimpse into the true darkness within his character’s soul. His time at the dog’s home is one such example.

I don’t believe there was a single dull moment during this movie and contrary to what the trailer made many feel, I don’t consider Berlinger’s film to be one that glorifies or celebrates Bundy. It’s instead a movie that portrays Bundy as he was known to be and part of that is that he was sadly almost as charming as he was wicked, evil and vile.

I say watch Berlinger’s movie, Just don’t watch it expecting explanations and / or deep dives into Bundy’s past that highlight what could have led him to such darkness. For this is a film about Bundy but the focus is on Kloepfer’s experience.

Parsons and Malkovich’s characters are memorable. Overall though, it’s really Collins by whom I was most impressed. She may be an actor with a forever youthful face, but the lady has great instincts. Her telling of Kloepfer’s story will have you mad at Kloepfer, sad for Kloepfer and by the very end,a little surprised in general but definitely extremely relieved for Kloepfer.

Happy Film Loving 

G

GRETA (2018): It’s…

Greta (2018), Chloë Grace Moretz, Focus Features
Greta (2018), Chloë Grace Moretz, Focus Features

Greta, a Neil Jordan directed drama/thriller about Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young woman who befriends a lonely widow and lives to regret it is a film I’d really hoped to enjoy. 

Also starring Isabelle Huppert and Maika Monroe, the experience of watching Jordan’s movie left me wanting for a more thrilling, even, clever, better-written and structured film.

It’s odd but I think that the idea of Greta’s lunacy along with the idea of the nature of the scary things that were happening actually proved more terrifying than the result of what the acting and the way the story is told really made me feel. 

Performance-wise, I unfortunately still find Moretz’s acting to be generally quite awkward. Huppert didn’t perform terribly but I don’t think the surface level feel of the script helped her much either. 

The few glimmers of hope in this otherwise mostly disappointingly executed film include the clever set-up that leads to the syringe scene and the dancing that immediately followed. Reason being, this is when we get a little glimpse into the extent of Greta’s ‘crazy’, even though it’s never properly explained. The other kind of highlight is the moments in the film that ‘play on Frances’s reality.’

Overall, besides reminding me of ‘stranger danger’, especially in a big city like New York, Greta confirmed that everyone really ought to be aware of their own vulnerabilities. Especially if people close to you haven’t helped to lovingly point them out.

Watch it, if you’re really curious.

Happy Film Loving 

G

WINE COUNTRY (2019): It’s…

Wine Country (2019), Netflix

Wine Country is a comedy about long time friends who gather for a 50th birthday party in Napa. Having not been together in their group in a while, as one might expect, tensions soon arise.

Directed by Amy Poehler who also stars alongside Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch, the premise of the story is the main reason I was interested. Especially since it reminded me of two memorable comedies. Namely Bridesmaids (2011) and Girls Trip (2017) – both of which are focused on the often unspoken tensions between us and our very closest friends.

Poehler’s film is one that started with some promise. It’s just that approximately fifteen minutes in, my interest started to wane. The story, dialogue and some of the character development proved not quite engaging enough to keep me focused. I enjoyed the few scenes that featured Fey and I recall laughing a couple of times in between. Yet overall, the characters of Wine Country just didn’t capture my imagination and heart the way the ladies from Bridesmaids and Girls Trip did. It certainly didn’t help that some jokes were dragged out for too long and the seemingly endless singalongs proved annoying.

It’s really mainly the sunshine-rich location and Fey’s character that were the key highlights of Wine Country. Almost everything else, particularly the comedy felt as though I’d seen it before but executed in a more memorable way.

I say watch it if you absolutely must. Who knows, perhaps you’ll find more to love and if you do, you’re very welcome to let me know in the comments precisely why I’m crazy.

Happy Film Loving 

G

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014): The Things I Liked…

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), Chris Pratt
Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014), Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel are among the stars of Guardians Of The Galaxy. A James Gunn directed action / adventure / comedy about a group of intergalactic criminals and their attempt to stop a fanatical warrior with plans to purge the universe.

The main reason I wanted to see this film is because I’d really like to watch the last two Avengers movies but I’m behind. And I’ve never been one to jump to watch a sequel before seeing the films that came before.

I’m quite sure that the following opinion isn’t popular but as Gunn’s movie played, it wasn’t too long before the thought ‘I don’t think I like this.’ came to mind. As I wondered why, several reasons began to surface. Reason one, it feels quite a lot like Star Trek. I’m not saying that I hate Star Trek, but I’m also not overly enthused by it either. Reason two, some of the humorous moments work but there’s a bunch of others that feel as though the script is trying too hard to be amusing. So much so that several attempts to make the audience laugh came across to me as forced. Thirdly, I found that out of the four or five main sentimental moments, I only really appreciated two of them; the one on earth and the one involving Groot. The rest just felt rather corny, for want of a better phrase.

As for the things that stood out most in a positive way, those include Zoe Saldana’s physical performance, Karen Gillian as the less favoured sibling, and of course, the visual effects that show what space actually looks like.

Knowing Guardians Of The Galaxy as a movie that many people love, I mostly see it as a reminder that fantasy is definitely not my favourite genre. Especially when most of the actors are sporting plenty of make up / prosthetics. Nevertheless, to everyone who had a great time, I’m seriously very pleased for you.

Happy Film Loving 

G

JOHN WICK (2014): The Things I Liked…

John Wick (2014), Keanu Reeves, Lionsgate
John Wick (2014), Keanu Reeves, Lionsgate

Everything that happens at the start of John Wick may not feel as well-put-together story-wise as one might prefer. Reason being, the main focus of John Wick is the fight choreography, stylish shots and shoot-out fun. The story is merely secondary. 

Directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, I liked seeing Keanu Reeves as a highly-skilled and certainly well-dressed hitman. I had fun as the camera followed him when he moved around the city of New York, enacting revenge against the people who killed his precious dog.

It’s clear to me now, why before I watched John Wick, the question All that for a dog?‘ came up so frequently for many viewers. The story could have been written in a way that meant such a question never came up at all. But, the filmmakers had other plans. And anyway, the way I see it, the killing spree wasn’t so much about the dog, but rather, everything the precious canine represented.

All-things-considered, John Wick isn’t my favourite revenge movie, but it also isn’t the worst. In terms of good cinematography, the scenes that feature a noticeable light blue wash over the film’s imagery were particularly memorable. I appreciate how the colour of the lights communicate the coldness of the characters and their actions.

I’m quite sure that it’s not just me who kept picturing how good a John Wick video game might look, as I watched the movie. Fans of Shoot-out games, fake graphic violence and stylishly executed action sequence will likely have the best time.

Happy Film Loving

G

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016): Good Movie…

Doctor Strange (2016), Benedict Cumberbatch, Marvel Studios
Doctor Strange (2016), Benedict Cumberbatch, Marvel Studios

‘Fun’ and ‘good’ are the words for Doctor Strange; Marvel’s story of a brilliant neurosurgeon who’s drawn into the mystic arts while seeking physical and spiritual healing.

Starring the well-voiced Benedict Cumberbatch, director Scott Derrickson’s film is definitely a superhero movie. And as someone who was in the midst of superhero movie fatigue at time of release, I’m happy to say that the film’s different class of weaponry / enemy really worked to make the experience that little bit different and certainly more interesting.

I don’t know how great a thing this is but the impressive visual effects in Doctor Strange kind of kept my beloved Inception (2010) at front-of-mind, at least half the time. In fact, I couldn’t help but wonder about how much more amazing I’d find Marvel’s move if I hadn’t seen much of the style of effects first in Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Arresting visuals aside though, the execution of the growth of Strange’s character from beginning to end; that – particularly how satisfying it was to watch the growth because he needed it is my favourite thing about Derrickson’s movie.

I absolutely took some time aside to fantasise about personally having Strange’s abilities… without the suffering that came before, of course.

Watch it if you haven’y already. It’s worthy.

Happy Film Loving

G