Tag Archives: Film Reviews

ONWARD (2020): The Things I Liked…

Onward (2019), Disney Pixar
Onward (2019), Disney Pixar

Onward is a movie with a beautiful big brother / little brother relationship at its heart. And this relationship is my favourite thing about the latest Disney Pixar animated adventure starring Chris pratt, Tom Holland, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer.

Set in a suburban fantasy world, two teenage elf brothers set off on a quest to discover if there is still magic out there. A quest that neither could do without the other. 

In terms of how much I enjoyed the story, I think Onward is OK. I wanted to have been more engrossed with it all but there wasn’t enough newness to it, theme wise. There wasn’t necessarily much animated cuteness either butI l doubt I’d have noticed that if I’d loved the way the story played from beginning to end. It’s really the last third of director Dan Scanlon’s film that I enjoyed most. Before then, I was more than a little impatient for the results of the film’s central magic spell to manifest.

Other things I enjoyed about Onward include the fullness of Holland’s character Ian’s blue hair and what Scanlon’s film has to say about belief in general – but especially self belief and confidence.

As far as animated movies about sibling relationships go, particularly the big brother / little brother dynamic, my favourite will probably always be Big Hero 6 (2014).

Watch Onward because it’s not bad and perhaps you’ll find even more to love than I did. 

Happy Film Loving 

G

SWALLOW (2019): The Things I Liked…

Swallow (2019), Haley Bennett, IFC Films

Swallow, the story of Hunter, a housewife who finds herself more and more compelled to swallow dangerous objects (a psychological condition named pica) is a movie that’s well acted, particularly by its lead Hayley Bennett.

I wanted to see this one to find out the cause of Hunter’s far from healthy compulsion. The good news is that writer / director Carlo Mirabella-Davis’s film does offer some explanation. Nevertheless, for me, the way the story is told / edited made Swallow seem incomplete somehow.  

As the movie played, I kept thinking ‘something’s definitely missing here.’ I cant say that I’m not sure that ‘psychological thriller’ is the right categorisation. Psychological? Yes. Thrilling? Not quite. Also, I didn’t feel as though Swallow dived in deeply enough in some areas. Whether it be a specific character or aspects of the story. It seemed as though there was a rush to wrap things up at the end, whether it fully made sense or not. For example, I really can’t say that I was shown enough for me to buy the final actions of the live-in nurse. 

Swallow is a body horror film that definitely gets super gross and uncomfortable at times – and not always because of what it shows you but because of what it forces you to imagine. Particularly if for you (and likely every mentally well human), you’re generally grateful for how well your insides work. 

Besides Bennett’s performance, what I enjoyed most is the general cinematography. Whether it be the beauty of the main marital home and the nature that surrounds it or the colours, plus Hunter’s stylish attire.

I can’t deny that at the start of Swallow I found myself frustrated by Hunter. Her repression seemed to fit that of women in the 1940s and 50s. Luckily for me though, compassion eventually kicked in when it became clear she was suffering mentally and otherwise.

Swallow is one you watch if you’re especially curious. It may be just the kind of film you didn’t know you needed. Admittedly, for me, it wasn’t quite that.

Happy Film Loving 

G

SONIC THE HEDGEHOG (2020): The Things I Liked…

Sonic The Hedgehog (2019), Paramount Pictures
Sonic The Hedgehog (2019), Paramount Pictures

The fun trailer, ’being a fan of old school Jim Carrey’ and 90s nostalgia are the main reasons I was drawn to Sonic The Hedgehog; a story about a super fast alien hedgehog. One who must avoid government capture, with the help of a small town cop named Tom (James Marsden). 

As director Jeff Fowler’s movie played, I soon realised that there are only really two things that kept me watching and somewhat enthused. The first is  Marsden’s character. I just generally enjoy Marsden’s roles. The second is Adam Pally as Wade. His dialogue reminded me of how much I really enjoyed his work as Dr. Peter Prentice on The Mindy Project.

I’m definitely not saying that any of the other actors were bad. It’s just that I didn’t find most of the story and particularly the dialogue especially inspiring or fresh.

As for Carrey’s role as evil genius Dr. Robitnik, it turns out that seeing Carrey play a character similar to the ones I used to enjoy watching him play back in the 90s felt far too ‘same old, same old,’ rather than exciting and fun. 

I’m sure that fans of the Sonic The Hedgehog games will enjoy this movie that little bit more. Sadly for me, even with some good special effects, star power, and a few useful notes on loneliness and isolation, I didn’t find Sonic The Hedgehog to be as fun as I’d hoped.

Give it a chance if you’re especially curious. 

Happy Film Loving 

G

GUNS AKIMBO (2019): The Things I Liked…

Guns Akimbo (2020), Samara Weaving, Daniel Radcliffe, Madman Films
Guns Akimbo (2020), Samara Weaving, Daniel Radcliffe, Madman Films

Guns Akimbo, is the story of Miles (Daniel Radcliffe), a nerdy video game developer whose life changes drastically and against his will, when he becomes the next contestant in an underground live-streamed real-life death match.

Watching Radcliffe play a character extremely far removed from the one he’s most known for is a key reason I wanted to see Guns Akimbo. The fact that the trailer gave me slight ‘The Hunger Games for the social media age’ vibes is another reason.

Post viewing, I can now say that I found Guns Akimbo to be an OK movie overall. For me personally, it’s not really until the forty five minute mark that things became most engaging. After this point is when the memorable, well executed scenes, particularly regarding the humour, action and music took place. An example being the fight scene featuring a funny and well timed ’Stop. Hammer time’ reference.

There’s also one or two scenes that have rather stylish camera work and / or great special effects; plus an unexpected turn in the story. It’s arguably no wonder then that Quentin Tarantino came to mind a few times. Tarantino is an absolute master in terms of style, story, music and overall execution. And what writer / director Jason Lei Howden does with these elements in Guns Akimbo made me see him as one of Tarantino’s promising students. One who still has room to grow. Especially considering this is only his second feature length film.

Earlier in the movie there’s a scene where I thought that Miles could have ended his troubles by simply taking the time to explain his predicament to an injured officer but he didn’t. Later on we do get to see why that would have likely not worked. Still, I wish the writing had been so tight that I wouldn’t have had to question any of the character’s choices at all. 

I’m happy to say that on the strength of the parts of Howden’s film that I really did enjoy, I’m now intrigued to see what he does next. 

If you haven’t seen it yet, perhaps give Guns Akimbo a chance if you’re especially curious. 

Happy Film Loving 

G

THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 (2019): The Things I Loved…

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (2019), Mel (Bobby Moynihan), Chloe (Lake Bell), Buddy (Hannibal Buress), Illumination
The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (2019), Mel (Bobby Moynihan), Chloe (Lake Bell), Buddy (Hannibal Buress), Illumination

An animated comedy about what our pets get up to when their human families are out of the house; I found The Secret Life Of Pets 2, the sequel to 2016’s animated hit The Secret Life Of Pets to be a much better film than I expected. 

I really enjoyed the fun adventures of Chloe, Max, Snowball, Gidget and friends; particularly the way all the separate stories were written to work well together. There’s also a good number of fun and memorable scenes, moments and new characters to take in.

One of my favourite scenes happens at the veterinary office waiting room, especially the moment when ‘starting fires’ is mentioned. Character-wise, Rooster who’s brilliantly voiced by Harrison Ford is an unforgettable new character.

Overall, there’s really zero doubt in my mind that if you had a good time with The Secret Life Of Pets, this sequel too will be fun. I only advise that you remember to leave your ideas of ‘what would really happen in real life’ at the door. This is especially important in reference to the ‘silent new character’. 

Watch it because it’s fun, good and features great voice work by the likes of Kevin Hart, Nick Kroll, Tiffany Haddish, Patton Oswalt, Jenny Slate, Eric Stonestreet and more. 

Happy Film Loving 

MILITARY WIVES (2020): The Things I Liked…

Military Wives (2020), Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan, Transmission Films
Military Wives (2020), Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan, Transmission Films

Miltary Wives is a movie I don’t regret watching. Set in England and directed by Peter Cattaneo of The Full Monty (1997, it’s a story about the relationships between a group of women who form a choir to lift their spirits while their partners are away serving in Afghanistan.

Starring Kristin Scott Thomas (Kate) and Sharon Horgan (Lisa), I wanted to see Military Wives for a better understanding of what life can be like for the wives. Also, both Thomas and Horgan are great dramatic and comedy acting talents. Talents whose skills really shone through during the funny and the tension filled moments between Kate and Lisa.

Another reason I was drawn to Military Wives is the music I heard in the trailer. Particularly Cindi Lauper’s brilliant Time After time. A song I definitely selfishly wanted performed in its entirety at least once in Cattaneo’s film. We do get to hear Lauper’s song sung by the choir, just unfortunately for me, not fully – let alone more than once.

As for what I liked a little less about Cattaneo’s film, I did notice a few moments in the first half when some of the comedy quips by a couple of the wives (not Thomas or Horgan) felt a little wooden and not particularly well timed. The other downside is that there isn’t much that’s particularly new about Military Wives. I didn’t learn much Iabout the military wife experience that I wasn’t already aware of. Plus, the plot is quite reminiscent of 2003’s Calendar Girls. Both movies are funny and feature women working through their differences so they can deliver something for the greater good.

The best moments for me, besides the humour and the music is whenever the camera was on the two leading ladies. I enjoyed watching women taking care of each other. All the singing, especially when the choir’s skills had improved even had me contemplating joining a singing group. I didn’t because I’m busy but the idea was nice for a while.

Also, if it helps, the most heavily featured song in Military Wives, the one performed at the Festival of Remembrance at the end is written by hit making song writing duo Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers.

Happy Film Loving

G

FROZEN 2 (2019): The Things I Liked…

Frozen 2 (2019), Walt Disney Pictures
Frozen 2 (2019), Walt Disney Pictures

As a non-enthusiast when it comes to musical films, the main reason I wanted to see Frozen 2 had zero to do with the music. I was curious because of the animation style – especially when it comes to Elsa and her beautiful outfits. It turns out that both her style and the way she’s animated are favourite things overall about Frozen 2.

Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck’s film became most engaging for me approximately one hour in. This is precisely at the point when Elsa’s ’water action’ sequence begins. A time when I finally felt like something truly exciting to watch was actually happening. Before this point, I was being disappointed and a tad annoyed. I lie. I was more than a tad annoyed by the seemingly unexciting musical numbers and Anna’s ability to jump to conclusions when Kristoff was trying to ask her ‘the question.’

Frozen 2 (2019), Walt Disney Pictures
Frozen 2 (2019), Walt Disney Pictures

There are a few somewhat pleasantly moving moments here and there, especially in regards to Elsa and Anna’s sisterly relationship. Yet some of these moments ended up feeling a tad forced.

I’d definitely say that it’s after the one hour mark that Frozen 2 becomes fun. Unsurprising since my two favourite moments happen after the one hour mark. One of them being the one musical moment that grabbed my attention in a good way – at precisely one minute into Iduna’s Scarf.

Disney and musical fans will have the best time with this. I’m only one of those things. I therefore find myself glad that Elsa and Iduna’s Scarf were there to get me through.

Watch it if you’re curious.

Happy Film Loving 

G

JOKER (2019): The Things I Liked…

Joker (2019), Joaquin Phoenix, Warner Bros. Pictures
Joker (2019), Joaquin Phoenix, Warner Bros. Pictures

I’ve liked Joaquin Phoenix ever since his brilliant performance in Ridley Scott’s much loved Gladiator (2000). I therefore had no doubt he’d deliver a truly memorable performance as Joker, Gotham City’s most iconic villain.

Watching Aurthur Fleck’s journey from social outcast to psychopathic murderer is a viewing experience I enjoyed for more than just Phoenix’s brilliant physical and emotional performance. Before Joker, I don’t think I’d truly paid attention to the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life. The clever use of this song, the film’s musical score and soundtrack is another key highlight. 

Joker (2020), Joaquin Phoenix, Warner Bros. Pictures
Joker (2020), Joaquin Phoenix, Warner Bros. Pictures

Joker is undeniably a good film. Yet, for me personally, there is something about it that meant I found myself not particularly overly enthusiastic post viewing. One might even say that Joker is quite depressing because it’s almost ‘too real,’ when compared with what’s been happening in the US. Another reason it seemed something of a downer is the film’s heavy focus on people who are, to put it lightly, ‘unpleasant’. I of course understand director Todd Phillip’s reasons considering the nature of the story being told. Yet it’s never easy for me when the protagonist is also an anti-hero of the most insane and murderous kind, particularly when there’s no humour involved. 

Overall, what I like most about Phillip’s film, is how well mapped Joker’s journey from victim to anti-hero is. From powerless to fully empowered and in control. From ‘how much more can he take?’ ‘Where can he go from here?’ to ‘There it is’. ‘The camel’s back has completely snapped and there’s no going back

Lastly, I can’t deny that my colour loving self rather enjoyed the red suit, yellow vest, plus  green shirt and hair look. Especially while Joker was on those famous stairs.

You’ve probably already seen it. If not, do it for Phoenix’s performance and all else that’s good about it.

Happy Film

G