Booksmart (2019): Review by Motion Picture Maniac

Booksmart (2019): Review by Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

I haven’t laughed this hard or this consistently at a comedy in a very long time. Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is a mercilessly funny, ultra fast moving and pleasantly charming little film that maybe does have some visible first-time-director scars but who cares? It’s a film I had no idea I needed in my life.

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein play two long time high school friends (with more chemistry than a science lab might I add), who have pretty much spent the entirety of their high school days working the books into oblivion instead of ever just having typical teenage fun for once. With one more day to go before they cap it all off with graduation they make the horrific discovery that all the inferior dumbasses, who did nothing but party their youth away, also (somehow) got into prestigious schools and achieved high marks in spite of seemingly not giving a shit.

Feldstein has something that resembles an internal psychotic breakdown and declares that the two of them must compact all the years of missed out fun into a single night – tonight! Thus ensues the type of carnage you might expect. What sets Booksmart aside from your average cheap comedy is many fold, it’s actually very funny for one thing; the jokes work hard to cover a rather wide spectrum, they range from subtle to the bombastic, the delightful to the gross and disturbing. These two friends have been so for long enough that they know some seriously messed up stuff about each other you’d usually want to keep to yourself, I won’t get into specifics but I was nearly crying and who knew cringing could be a good thing?

It also helps that the performances on display are genuinely great, how often does that happen in a movie like this? Great actors playing actual thought out characters, colour me impressed as I even started to find them relatable before long. They have little code words between them that the film never feels the unnecessary need to explain and the way they sadistically tease each other brings relentless laughs. I think I liked Dever’s character best, while Feldstein was certainly a riot, Dever’s Amy had some interesting story going on that I couldn’t help but find really sweet and huggable. Other side characters also have their little motifs and it’s probably them whom people will remember most fondly.

Strangely enough the film also manages to do something I usually can’t stand in comedies – it gets serious for a minute, but I think Booksmart gets away with it because, unlike those other movies, I actually was invested in the characters and their little journey so when things actually started getting emotional I legit cared very much. The filmmakers even try their luck at riffing on teen-party-high school movie cliches which can be very risky, I mean how many times have we seen someone accidentally take drugs and start tripping out like David Cronenberg’s worst fever dream? Fortunately, I think, they pulled it off, it did catch me off guard for a second there but they keep the original laughs coming so well that I ended up not caring; in fact I’d say bravo.

Even Olivia Wilde’s description of the film: “the training day of high school movies” makes me laugh. I laughed here, I laughed there, just laughs everywhere! The pacing is as comfortable as sleeping in on a teacher’s training day while your younger sibling gets no such luxury, the characters are likeable, relatable and I wish I knew them in reality, the film is intelligent, unashamed, tastefully tasteless and I really had fun with it. I’ve heard a lot of people make Superbad comparisons which are true I guess, there’s even one joke that is ripped straight out of Superbad but it doesn’t matter, this is a great film, always room for some technical improvement but I care about that less and less the more I think about it.

 


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A Defence of Game of Thrones Series 8 : Motion Picture Maniac

A Defence of Game of Thrones Series 8 : Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

So I suppose there’s one or two things I should quickly start with: yes I rather liked the not-so-popular season 8 of Game of Thrones, yes I liked it enough to feel like writing a defence and while I do agree that certain elements in the finale did feel somewhat rushed, my overall emotional and cathartic response was never sullied by any timing issues that, for some people, apparently disregard any and all quality the show presented in its previous seven seasons. That and every criticism and comment I touch upon here is something I actually discovered online, not stuff i’ve made up to justify anger at those with an opposing opinion to mine, I like to believe I’m a logical person, and it can be the easiest thing in the world to deduce what a person is getting at with an internet comment they leave lying amongst the context of thousands of others.

Got that?

Was there ever any doubt that the finale to a show like Game of Thrones wasn’t going to please everyone? In fact I’d say a turnout like that seems like the most obvious way for reality to go about it, just think of what the world of entertainment criticism is at the moment. Governed by whatever the Joneses are saying on social media, I mean are you telling me there’s nothing suspicious about people very casually dropping “oh, it’s shit” comments everywhere without any kind of explanation as to why, or hint of legitimate disappointment in sight?

That’s something that bugs me, amidst all this screaming and crying, refusing to eat what you’ve been given malarkey, no one actually seems “disappointed” by the prospect of the final season being… well, a disappointment. There’s too much fun being had and too little explanation as to why this is now the status quo outside of “well, that’s what everyone else is saying”. If you think I’m wrong about that then let me ask you this: why is no one talking about Cleganebowl? Why is no one talking about Tyrion’s tearful final scene with Jamie? Why is no one talking about the fan theories that actually did come true that people hoped would? I’ll tell you why, because that would mean saying something nice about “the worst GOT ever” and doing that does extinguishes fire rather than add fuel. I wonder if it’s even real fans doing the complaining because there seems to be a much bigger concern with being relevant on Facebook and Twitter and joining the determined conversation than trying to delve into the why of all this.

“Season 8 sucks! Just making sure everyone knows that’s what I think, just throwing that out there. See, I’m relevant now, I’m part of the cool gang”.

The point the criticisms all seem to come back to is Dany’s burning down of King’s Landing, you know, that place populated with all those idiots who cheered on Ned Stark’s execution. The explanation (holy shit, a criticism with an explanation for once) being that she makes up her mind to commit mass murder too quickly and therefor against who she is as a character. I disagree, aside from there having been red flags galore that something like this was coming the whole show, there’s a lot of stuff that goes down not long before the massacre that, I thought, made it totally plausible, I’m not fanboying, if that’s what I think then what am I supposed to do, pretend it isn’t so I fit in? If only everyone could stop pretending to be so impressive with how much they know about filmmaking and take their critic caps off for five seconds, wouldn’t that be the day?

Think about it, her beloved John – more in line for the throne than she is, that’s a slap in the ambitious little face, his family – don’t like her, could they potentially be traitors? Tyrion and Varys, two advisors to “keep her worst impulses in check” either fail her too many times or flat out do try and betray her, Cersei – because of her, two of her dragons are now dead, one died bringing the stubborn Cersei proof that white walkers exist, the other she had killed outright, she’s even the one responsible for this battle starting by killing Missandei, and then she has the balls to just surrender? And let’s not forget the knowledge that years of Targaryen incest have rendered her not right in the head, just like her father. Considering all of those things I’d say it makes sense for her to lose her shit and go crazy, trust was betrayed too many times, I certainly wouldn’t trust Cersei with mercy if I gave it to her.

I get that’s just what I think but why is it more fun complaining about something than just relaxing and allowing yourself to enjoy it? That’s not the same as saying you’ll enjoy it if you force yourself to, but everyone doing the complaining seem like they’re going out of their way to make sure of it? If you think I’m wrong about that then consider how the complaining didn’t stop at just this one mistake, it wasn’t enough to justify the level of anger so you gotta branch out I guess. This single occurrence in a 70 minute episode, one of 73, suddenly defines ALL of the writing in the entire show as “shit” for some reason. “Yeah Benioff and Weiss have been great so far but a character made a decision too quickly so they are, by definition, overall shit writers now”. That’s just over zealous internet baby screaming and I can’t take it seriously at all; it’s illegitimate.

I’m reminded of a rather random comparison – The Santa Claus 2 (of all things):

“Our number 2 elf overlooked the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT DETAIL IN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS!” – “wow, one mistake in 900 years”.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

Even though some people did have their issues with seasons 5 and 7 (issues amplified by their dislike of 8) I don’t recall anyone losing their minds and declaring them to be the shittest thing anyone has ever made (because isn’t everything nowadays with a little bit of hype that’s not a billion % perfect?), but make what many consider a serious error in the penultimate episode and SUDDENLY you’re a shit writer, you deserve to die and no amount of great things you’ve done in the last 8 years up until this point matter anymore. There was recently an interesting Twitter thread that detailed how George R R Martin and the show’s writing team just have fundamentally different methods when it comes to plot progression, and that the seasons written without books to follow aren’t shit but simply feel different. The best some dickhead could come up with in response to this thread was a simple “nah, they’re just shit writers”.

Are you kidding me? Right there I knew it, this has nothing to do with legitimate feelings about the conclusion of a tv show, it’s playground bitching for the sake of it, to, like I keep saying, join in the conversation on the web; some people’s new definition of the real world. I bet you this person absolutely loved all other seasons prior to 8, or rather – the backlash to 8 so you know what side of the argument to be on. Anything interesting or logical in that thread was just thrown out of the window in favour of having a blame figure to exercise aggression on, aside from not agreeing with them these criticisms just come across as too sadistic to be taken seriously, I even have my doubts some of these people dropping the odd “season 8 sucks” comment here and there have even watched it.

This has been the case with a lot of entertainment criticism this past generation, the once noble profession of film or television criticism has been degenerated to mindless screaming on the internet because, apparently, every likes to prove just how much more than filmmakers they know about the craft and it’s getting really annoying. Especially with the existence of favourite targets, filmmakers who could say something as simple as “good morning” online and someone just has to announce why they’re a terrible person for doing so. Then there are the films that make the same mistakes as critical flops that don’t even get half the backlash for the simple fact that they aren’t the favourite target; it’s not about criticising what deserves to be criticised, it’s something much more sinister that has me worried about the future of entertainment. Especially with fans starting selfish and entitled petitions that disrespect all the work that goes into their entertainment they’re too spoilt rotten to eat when given, all because they found one or two things a bit rushed which, in internet speak, means the WHOLE thing just sucks – I really hate that word, “sucks”.

I definitely think I could go on folks, I really really could but I’d better stop before my brain explodes, or yours does for indulging me for this long, this isn’t about me having a moan about someone saying something about about something I liked, I’m legitimately worried about what could be in store for entertainment in the future if this is what the feedback is going to be like, if I were a filmmaker and spent many years of my life making something people don’t like I’ll want to know why, not just read comments about how shit I am. The fan petition thing borders on psychotic given just how easily no one cares about how hard it is to make this stuff, but oh, I forgot, celebrities aren’t real people are they, they’re other worldly entities who are here to serve us, and if they spend many years of their lives making something specifically for us to be entertained and we don’t like it, it makes sense for us to complain about how OUR time was waisted because we watched it for two hours (in the case of some films).

You know what, it’s getting old, the moaning and winging not because of continuity errors, bad sets, cheap cinematography or porno acting, but because a fictional character made decision we don’t like in a fictional story that’s specifically there for enjoyment, I’ve not much faith left for this film critic thing at all, not if children are the ones doing it. Remember that scene in Birdman where the mean critic lady tells Michael Keaton how he represents spoilt entitled children, go rewatch that scene and know that everything she says, I would happily say to modern critics of today.

 


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Venom (2018): Review by Motion Picture Maniac

Venom (2018): Review by Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

OK, this is a weird one, sometimes, having mixed feelings on a film isn’t the surest thing in the world, the answer to the question “what did you think?” simply being “I have mixed feelings” doesn’t feel like it does a rather endearing little film like “Venom” the justice it deserves. Did Venom have bad? Yes, yes it did. Did Venom have good? Also yes, I would be lying through my teeth so hard they would come flying out like bullets if I said I thought it didn’t. Do I feel hesitant to call the overall piece a generally good film? Yeah, I’m afraid so, but why then give it a 6 as opposed to 5? The reason is, when I’m mixed in this particular and oddly specific way, I ask myself the question – would I actively want to see it again? And in the case of Venom; the answer is yes.

Tom “Shut The F*ck Up You C*nt” Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a famous reporter who, through a series of circumstances, finds himself host to a parasitic alien symbiote named Venom, sometimes a disembodied voice in Eddie’s head with some control over Eddie’s body, other times a big black monstrosity with big teeth who likes to bite off people’s heads. Eddie must get over the fact that Venom is here to stay and embarks on a raw meat munching mission, kitted out with quips n’ quotes, to win back his girl and beat the baddie.

The plot is very basic when you think about it afterwards, but is that a bad thing by definition? I’ve seen a lot of people make a comparison between this film and all the Marvel superhero films that predate Iron Man and I think that’s because Venom’s plot is late to the game. It’s as simple as A B C, 1 2 3 and at this point in movie history we’re all used to A 1 B 6 17 C (the same reason some MCU films are feeling familiar in the story department), but again, does that make it bad? Personally I have no idea, I’m disappointed that A B C, 1 2 3 lacks ambition but I also like the aesthetic of the movie ending up that way because it enjoyed watching Tom Hardy go nuts too much for its own good; something I’m not mad about because I too am guilty of doing.

I freaking love Tom Hardy, he’s one of my favourite actors and the primary reason I look forward to films he’s in, films I otherwise wouldn’t think too much about before seeing anyway due to cinematic obsession but I digress. I have read some reviews that call this his worst performance but I couldn’t disagree more, there’s not a moment in the entire movie in which he’s onscreen that I could take my eyes off him, as well as being a much more likeable iteration of the character than what’s found in the source material and the stupid Spiderman 3; he’s like the physical embodiment of a carnival (I’m talking about Eddie Brock and the voice of Venom with that one).

It’s a shame the tone is as inconsistent as it is because when the movie wants to be funny I think it really succeeds, Venom’s quips always had me laughing and big dumb fun action scenes accompany that sort of thing quite well. Unfortunately the jokes are often broken up by evil mad scientist stuff that belongs in a different movie – not badly made, just inconsistent and strange. The directing doesn’t help the tone much since I’m not sure Ruben Fleischer was interested in originality so much as just doing his own version of stuff he liked seeing in other movies, he didn’t bring his own sensibility to the table, Venom doesn’t have an original look or feel of its own, its cinematography is commercial and unremarkable and I think a sequel needs both a different director and an R rating, sorry Ruben but i think this task is better suited to an auteur.

There’s a word I would use to describe Venom, unremarkable, apart from Hardy a lot of it feels just that, even bordering on generic, shoot maybe the story being late to the game is a bad thing after all , the plot, characters and style feel derivative of other works and I, like many others it seems, was hoping for more, in fact I’ll be truthful – I really wanted Venom to be great to spite a critic I can’t stand and who embodies a lot of the arrogance and pretentiousness that has mutilated modern internet film criticism into the popularity contest it is today (no, it’s not Mark Kermode), I mean what is the deal today with judging a film’s quality before it’s even been shot because of, in this guy’s case, the character it’s based on supposedly being overrated and the fanbase is just ill-informed?

No, I’m not grasping at straws in a desperate attempt to say Venom is a good film out of sheer spite and personal resentment towards the current comic book movie critical culture that called it terrible before it was even made, I’m just a bit fed up with movies like Venom doing nothing to help disprove these idiots and falling into status quo’s that make their pompousness predictions look like some kind of prophesising like their smug looks suggest!

All that being said I did enjoy Venom, I enjoyed its action, its cast and performances, its jokes and while the CGI on things like crashing vans and super powered feet leaping from a brick wall wasn’t all that good the CGI on all things symbiote was top notch and impressively detailed, like I said at the beginning, I asked myself if all that is enough to want to see it again and the answer is yes. Venom is a messy, flawed, not sure what it wants to do with itself guilty pleasure that I had fun with during moments of genuine effort such as the action and the dynamic between Eddie and Venom.

Author: Jamie Robinson (Motion Picture Maniac)

 


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The Predator – Motion Picture Maniac

The Predator – Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

 

Shane Black’s The Predator is cringe-inducing miscalculation of tone and narrative pace, a film that doesn’t seem to know why it has been made in the first place; if it were a person it would wonder into your house, curiously stumble about the place with a confused look on its face before realising it’s in the wrong address and leaving before causing any real trouble. The original Predator movie is a classic on all fronts, a very special film to me personally and you know what? I like Predator 2 too, and the Alien VS Predator movies – sue me! This movie, The Predator… oh dear; what the hell happened?

I was literally about to start talking about the story and it has taken me some time to think of a cohesive summary: a predator, I big crab-faced brute that communicates through clicking and ripping people’s spines out, crashes to Earth and screws up a hostage rescue operation that the film forgets about after a minute or two of the interruption. A sniper, played by Boyd Holbrook, encounters the creature, steals some of its equipment and goes on the run, meanwhile Olivia Munn is a biologist who gets picked up by the government agency hell bent on capturing the predators and stealing their technology in order to… give them a hand I guess?

MEANWHILE (again) Holbrook sends the predator equipment he stole to his estranged wife and son by mistake and drops them right in it, MEANWHILE (again, again) a much bigger super predator arrives who is also hunting the regular predator who crashed to Earth, MEANWHILE—OH GOD! How much is going on in this movie? It’s not like I’m just doing a crap job of summarizing it, this film, after a fun opening scene of crashing spaceships and Predator carnage, spends its entire first act jumping around from scene to scene without any sense of narrative necessity, flow or cohesiveness, it just kind of goes along, here’s another character, here’s another one, oh and here’s another one.

It’s the kind of mess that suggests there’s a ton of footage missing, that maybe, once, these scenes did have more to connect them but it’s all been amputated for the sake of… I don’t know, shorter runtime, more room to include stuff the studio wanted for future reference maybe, like sequels and stuff like that? Oh I see, if that’s the case then it doesn’t sound like the studio cared that much about a good movie, sounds like they did what Warner Bros. did to Justice League.

Add that to the rumours of paranoid sounding reshoots (just like Justice League) and you get a scary idea of what this thing is, a corporate product handled the same way a school bully gets the weaker kid to do his homework for him. Helmed by a studio that I’m going to guess didn’t really give a damn about integrity but rather something they could police however they wanted regardless of their hired filmmaker’s vision, “just make us a new predator movie, make it how we want, shut up, no we don’t know anything about narrative or structure but just add what we tell you to because meeting financial guidelines makes movies good by definition, right?”

I know I’m blaming the studio a lot but when you look at these problems as they play in the film they really do feel similar to infamous stories of studio meddling in the past, and not the kind of mistakes I can see a filmmaker like Shane Black make through incompetence. I think what I can blame Shane Black for is his decision to include some of the cringiest and unwarranted comedy EVER! I’m not gonna lie, I did chuckle a few times here and there but for the most part I just had to bury my face in my hands with embarrassment, particularly during the scenes on a bus. There’s a mentally challenged predator dog that shows up here and there to make a fool of itself, there’s a horrendous scene in a hotel room involving a slip up with Tourette’s which I really don’t want to think about too much and the fact that so much of the running time is dedicated to this just boggles my brain.

I was massively disappointed with The Predator, when it’s trying to be funny it makes me want to shoot myself, the action scenes are unmemorable, the CGI could’ve been better, the characters are all just walking talking quirks, the cinematography is alright and the actors seem to be having fun but the film gets surprisingly dull after the first hour or so. Even the predator costume doesn’t live up to the A+ perfection of those worn by Kevin Peter Hall, visible lines and crevices on the face suggest animatronics and the CGI on the creature’s eyes – no, sorry Shane, but no.

 

Author: Jamie Robinson (Motion Picture Maniac)

 

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Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

When it comes to my own personal disagreements with Hollywood’s handling of famous tropes, within the context of talking about Unfriended: Dark Web, I must admit that I actually think it is the removal of the human element that makes a home invader or masked killer much more terrifying. It’s often been said that by making the killer more human, more of a character in his own right, he becomes scarier but I don’t think I agree with that, Hannibal Lector is a great character, sinister and creepy but terrifying? I’m not so sure about that.

In fact – do you remember the little French home invasion horror movie Them? Yeah, that scared the ever loving shit out of me if I’m coming clean and that was mostly down to the invaders being kept in the shadows, behind corners, standing ominously on the other end of the hall with their faces covered and without real humanity. They were more of a presence than people, an entity of ghost-like violent intent which is in line with what we imagine home invaders to be like when our mind starts to wonder towards standard fears – the idea of a home invasion is often scarier than witnessing one in a film; Them is the exception.

This is where I think Unfriended: Dark Web got it wrong which is especially a shame because it actually managed to withhold making this mistake for its entire first half. I was surprised at how much I was actually going with this movie while it was taking the time to set everything up, there was an atmosphere to it that was legitimately succeeding in getting under my skin. This young guy has stolen a laptop from where he works because he’s sick of his old computer being too slow for him to really have a conversation with his deaf girlfriend over Skype and during a game of Skype Cards Against Humanity with his circle of dumbass friends the real owner starts sending him threatening messages demanding the computer back.

It’s not long before he starts uncovering hidden files and content that would certainly freak me out if I found them on a computer and it all escalates from there. The first half of this movie functions like a mystery that happens to pertain to the dark side of the internet and I was relishing in it, the movie itself seemed to be enjoying the restrictions brought on by its format, same as the first – taking place entirely on a computer screen; I was even enjoying its move from the supernatural to a more true to life kind of horror. The tone was ominous, creepy and was doing a masterful job of igniting my imagination to do all of the work, I felt afraid to go home to bed once the film was over and wondered what the negative reviews were on about… then the film started showing too much.

All that stuff about getting my imagination to do all the work, presenting the threat in a purely suggestive manor and showing just the right amount of creepy stuff to get the job done via snuff films all gets abandoned once the owner of the computer physically makes an appearance. What was it I said earlier – the idea of a home invasion is scarier than actually seeing one in a film? Yeah, suddenly my imagination stopped being able to conjure more than what the celluloid was capable of, once this guy is revealed to have a voice kitted out with emotions such as anger and even fear he stops being what we perceive such people to be like in the backs of our minds.

It especially doesn’t help that whenever this guy appears on Skype cameras he is accompanied by a wild glitching effect that smothers his form with pixelated mishmash, which you would think would achieve the effect I’m complaining about the film not having, disguising his human shape and making him appear as something more sinister than simply a home invader etc. But the effect is so bombastic and in your face (not to mention the questions it invokes like why is it even happening in a logical sense) that it ends up achieving the opposite result, not scary, just bizarre and over the top – despite effort to continue keeping the threat obscured I don’t think it worked as well as simply suggesting the threat exists and is on to them.

Unfortunately it still has further down hill to go from there, once people start dying it just gets sillier and sillier, characters I thought seemed pretty capable for hapless horror movie victims start making silly mistakes that guarantee certain death if they would JUST NOT DO THAT! The major threat at work also begins to frame our poor victims for its crimes by changing faces in snuff film footage with Photoshop, something the police would be able to determine in a very short amount of time, and they only do it to one frame so I’m not sure what the whole process is supposed to achieve without the context of what the video footage is as a whole because they only Photoshopped ONE SINGLE FRAME!

They trick a police dispatcher using badly stitched together audio that invoked a little bit of laughter because it wouldn’t fool Ralph Wiggum from The Simpsons and the final straw, without spoiling anything, was the revelation of a twist that, while indeed putting things into perspective and explaining why the hell any of this has been happening, doesn’t actually make that much sense because it implies the baddies have been relying one helluva lot of blue moon luck this whole time. It really made me stop and rethink a bunch of stuff that had transpired along the way and if it was intended by the big bad to happen just like then WHAT? Are they magic, did the movie secretly keep the supernatural motif from the first film without telling us? I don’t know, I don’t think it made sense and the film could’ve done without pushing and straining itself that far.

So the movie gets 5/10 for the most obvious reason ever, it’s half a good film, half a bad film, it started strong, made good decisions and showed off some real understanding of how horror works, then it reaches the halfway point and goes completely off the rails, showing the threat too much, adding bombastic effects, characters start making really dumb decisions, the baddies make even DUMBER decisions that somehow WORK all the while relying on the luck of the universe to provide success to their plan and leaves one with a feeing of overall disappointment. I think it’s worth a look but be prepared for some disappointing foolishness as the second half kicks into gear.

 

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Out Of The Shadows (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

Out Of The Shadows (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

The problem with Out Of The Shadows is that it’s a strong contender for the title of most generic movie I have ever seen in my life, absolutely EVERYTHING feels pulled from every other film – EVER, from the story, to the characters, dialogue and ending; I was quoting that song by The Smiths almost every time someone in the movie opened their mouth.

A pregnant married couple move into a new house (stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before) completely unaware that it has a dark past (re-insert that lyric here) and soon the wife starts hearing scary things (come on, sing it with me), the husband does not believe her despite all the weird stuff going on around his work as well as his new house (stop me oh-h-ho stop me) and it’s not long before the wife starts losing her marbles and goes crazy (you bored yet?), of course it’s not long before the supernatural forces really make their presence known and blah, blah, blah.

I really did start to wonder how the screenwriters, one of which was also the director, could have possibly mustered up enough passion for this project in order to put it to film, I don’t understand it, there’s not one original bone to be found anywhere in this mass grave of a horror film. This is not the kind of film I can see getting filmmakers excited or eager in anyway to start shooting, my only guess is that they were motivated by the prospect of making their own version of stuff they had seen and thought cool in other horror films; they weren’t interested in originality but simply ripping off stuff they liked from films I suspect were already rip-offs.

Of course I don’t know this to be the case and I despise critics who overthink films to the point of supposedly uncovering some sinister (made up) truth about the filmmaker’s personality but I’m definitely getting a strong vibe that my suspicions are true on this one. I mean there is not one single line of dialogue that came from the heart, characters don’t speak as characters, they speak as pawns in a script, spouting lines I think I’ve heard a thousand times already in other films! The actors tried very hard, most of them anyway, but saddled with this dialogue there’s not much they could have done to elevate the quality beyond ABC, 123, “I’m an actor reading from a script”. I honestly cannot see this film being made for any other reason than “hey, that movie was cool, shall we do the exact same thing, because, you know, it’s cool”.

The movie is only an hour and twenty minutes but it is so boring, a horror movie with scares more likely to invoke uncontrollable laughter than any kind of chills, it just plods and scuffs along through every clichéd and unoriginal scene like it thinks the audience hasn’t been able to decipher what’s going to happen next – beat for beat. When the ghosts start appearing we are treated to some unforgivably corny VFX, not scary, not one bit, just embarrassing and awkward beyond belief.

The cinematography is capable but bland, in an early scene it comes across as very pedestrian and uninvolved in the emotions at play, not helped by the performance of a guy who is clearly possessed belonging in a spoof of this material rather than an attempt at the real thing. A moment in which our hapless heroine of a mother-to-be is on the verge of a mental breakdown and screams “I’m not crazy” almost had me falling off my seat from laughter because a crazy person was literally the only thing she looked like. I found the film to be unoriginal, clichéd, generic, un-scary, badly written, predictable and all of these things collaborate with each other to make it just plain BORING.

Leave No Trace – Motion Picture Maniac

Leave No Trace – Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

 

Leave No Trace is an odd little film for me to review because it’s good, but I don’t think quite as good as everyone else is saying, critics I think of as being hard to please are shouting its praise loud enough so that even those who live in the woods can hear tell of how good it is; and 100% on Rotten Tomatoes is something to go amiss. I myself cannot go that far, there are things about it I come very close to loving but don’t quite get there, I do feel lucky this time around that I didn’t outright dislike the film everyone else is loving to bits and be “that guy” but I’m still not sure what it was this film did that blew everyone else away; even if I still thought it was time well spent – like I said, an odd film to review.

What we have here is the story of a PTSD afflicted war veteran father who lives out in the woods with his daughter, despite what that implies they wash, read and maintain good order, he has educated her himself and they seem to have relatively peaceful lives. Beyond that I feel like giving away anymore would be spoiler territory, just know the plot goes to various places from there, I went in knowing what you would think only necessary for a brief summary but it still felt like too much as I was watching it.

What I liked is the film’s handling of the “feels”, everything designed to tug at your emotions works, the performances are believable and a real draw, tense moments feel tense, eerie moments feel eerie and heartfelt tender moments are just so. Ben Foster made me forget what it was he did that annoyed the general consensus way back when he wasn’t considered all that good, here he comes across as someone who, you would think, has already won an Oscar and is simply reminding people why he deserved it in case they forgot; his performance is heart-breaking and highly sympathetic.

An actress named Thomasin McKenzie plays his daughter and apparently she’s been in a few things before this, which I am unfamiliar with but if the right people see her in this then she’s definitely going places. Young naïve characters like this are often extremely annoying because the actors or the director try to cute them up, make the naiveté invoke smiles intended for puppies; but there is none of that to be found here. When she’s in danger, I didn’t scoff, I legitimately cared and felt uncomfortable; her lack of familiarity with the real world was not irritating but rather quite involving.

Everything I’ve just mentioned is worth recommending the film on, it’s an interesting story with good performances, good editing and a subtext I often ponder in my own life, society can be as toxic as thick chemical smoke and often treats its inhabitants like faceless slaves but any who wish to leave it behind are forced right back in and made to conform against their will. It gets one to think about deliberate choices like the ones made by the characters here, what is homelessness beyond its legal definition and why is the almighty government so offended when someone just wants a break from it all; why does it suddenly care so much?

But there are other things I’m quite mixed on, at first glance I thought the cinematography was great but it wasn’t long before I noticed it was lacking in cinematic language, I felt a lurching halt when certain things weren’t shot in a way I felt they needed to be in order to be effective, a character recovering from emotional trauma is given a wide when I couldn’t help but feel the camera should have been closer. That sounds like a nit pick but it is so much more important than most seem to realise and if they didn’t make me stop and think about what a scene could have done to improve its emotional payoff or cinematic language then I would say a word.

I’m also not too sure if I’m going to remember this film for years to come, it does lack real grit or a nasty edge of some kind that, I think, I really could have done with, it’s rated PG and I’m not sure why, a film like this should be relentless and unforgiving, it doesn’t exactly play it safe but it missed out on some real opportunities to, well, get real for lack of a better word. Not that it doesn’t feel real, like I said earlier, tense moments are tense but there’s empty room where it could have done so much more.

I liked the ending very much but the scenes building up to it felt like the film knew it was running out of steam, desperately trying to conjure up scenarios so that it could get to this ending in one piece, the third act feels slower than the rest of the film, and just when you think they’ve made a really ballsy move to eradicate any sense of safety the film quickly recovers and does the exact opposite of maintaining its tension by implementing even more safety, grinding the pacing to a violent stop.

Leave No Trace is a good film but that’s it, I don’t need to see it again, it has good acting, reasonably good visuals and a good story but lacks grit or edge, I liked it for what it was but I’m also frustrated that it didn’t reach its true potential. A film to recommend that isn’t bad at all, but it could’ve been better – I think.

Looking For Lennon (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

Looking For Lennon (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

First, John Lennon’s great-grandfather did this, then he did this and then he did this. Next, his grandfather did this, then he did this and then he did this. Then, his father did this, then he did this and then and then and then…

There’s an awful lot of information to be found in Looking For Lennon, a documentary on the life and history of, you guessed it, John Lennon, but no soul, no true purpose behind its existence except as a go-to archive for the most hard-core of Lennon fans who feel they need to know more than just his music. Incidentally I am not one of those people so I couldn’t help but find this documentary quite boring if I’m being totally honest with you, greater documentaries are more than just a long list of cold facts, they, like any fiction film, need personality, atmosphere and a beating heart – Looking For Lennon, despite trying from time to time, has none of these.

I don’t want to call it lazy, there are quite a few instances in which an interesting visual has been attempted, interviewees have not just had a camera aimed at them while they ramble stuff relevant to the point, the editing has been jam packed with sweat, blood and tears (always a good indicator that someone gave a damn because editing can be HARD) and new information on someone like John Lennon doesn’t sound like the easiest egg to hunt. I think the filmmakers knew what they were doing… to an extent – they’ve found and interviewed all the right people, they’ve got the information and lots of it but if I could compare the film, as a whole, to anything it would be those random little BBC/ITV documentaries about someone famous you might catch a small glimpse of as you skim through the TV guide.

They tried to be more than that but I would say that they failed because if I came across on TV I would change channel faster than if I was taking part in a race, being required to watch the whole thing for this review I almost fell asleep on multiple occasions. It never quite manages to escape its rather televisual appearance and they in which it presents all of its information is just really dull and uninteresting, the fact that I wasn’t interested before has nothing to do with it, there are plenty of subjects I don’t find interesting but documentaries about them have riveted me. This is pretty much the John Lennon/documentary version of the film All Eyez On Me, it had all the relevant information on Tupac but it had no drive, no weight, the equivalent of someone going “first he did this, then he did this, then he did this…” and on and on it goes.

A die hard Lennon/Beatles fan might enjoy it since they’re already interested but I cannot in good conscious say I liked this film because it bored me, the information did not intrigue, excite or entice me in any way because information on its own isn’t enough, it needed to do more, more than just talk about some place a member of the Lennon family hung out as a youth, be about the “why” instead of simply the “what”. You know what it reminded me of? Charles Dickens’s England presented by Derek Jacobi, that hilariously awful television garbage about places in which Dickens may have sneezed, granted Looking For Lennon is, of course, much better than that but not by much.

The information is fine but what it need was a soul; a reason to exist beyond the words “based on John Lennon’s Wikipedia page”. Don’t blame me for not being interested in the subject, the film could’ve made me interested like others have done but it didn’t. For fans only.

Tickets for for Looking for Lennon’s final screening at FACT Picture house is on Thursday 21st June at 18:30.  Tickets can be purchased here.   Available on VOD from Friday 22nd June.  

Read Phil’s Quick Capsule Review tomorrow.

A Wish For Giants (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

A Wish For Giants (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

 

OK, look, I get it, I have been in the position of the filmmakers here, I am an aspiring filmmaker myself, I understand the trials and tribulations that come with producing a work of hopeful professional quality while not having the money, technology or experienced talent necessary to do so. I know how hard it is to shoot something in a place that roles its eyes and likes to remind you that it’s doing you a favour by letting you shoot there, while background bystanders whom are too stupid to see that a film is being made like to stand in the way, blatantly stare into the camera like they don’t know what it is and jeer at the crew; making loud obnoxious noises while the cameras are rolling because funny (yes, that is intended as a “fuck you” to people who do that, may they die cold and alone).

I also get that good acting talent can be as hard to come by as finding Mr Bigfoot himself – my point is: I know this thing isn’t easy, it’s very hard, very stressful and if exercised long enough can lead to the creation of some genuinely admirable pieces of art. But, I have to be honest here, in spite of all that, I didn’t think A Wish For Giants was really all that good, I didn’t like watching it – I didn’t like that I had to keep watching it and, while I applaud the filmmakers for their efforts as this could not have been easy, there’s still a lot to be learned if they want to produce better work in the future.

The plot concerns a young girl whom is struck with terminal illness and makes a last wish to meet… (Drumroll)… Bigfoot, yes, the king of the sasquatches himself; sounds cute right? Except, if you ask me – no, no it isn’t. The film presents her extremely naive (to the point of suspected stupidity) longing to meet Bigfoot as something to smile puppy dog eyes at and go “awww” and shed a single tear when I couldn’t help but find it typically annoying of a child character in a very traditional sense. No understanding of what’s real and what isn’t, no realistic sense of how the world works and everything she says sounds weak and ill and “awww”, I get it, she’s a child, but that’s no excuse for being annoying.

I wasn’t keen on the acting, I don’t know how many takes were shot for each scene but from where I’m sitting it all looks like the first take, I wasn’t there so I don’t know but from what I’m seeing, that’s the impression I get; I just could not find the performances believable. Everyone comes across as awkward, like they’re too aware of the camera and cannot escape the fact that they’re only acting, it’s very typical of a student effort, in the vein of the half-assed performances myself and my friends would give in those crappy short films I forced them to help me make when we were teenagers.

I don’t want to blame the actors too much though because the dialogue was almost always an endless string of clichés. People say things in the movie, express thoughts and feelings, that don’t sound at all natural, like they’re not saying these things because it makes sense for their characters to do so but rather because the screenwriter thought hey, that’s just what movie characters say in situations like this. But these clichés are often all the characters have to go on, very rarely is there anything to their past or personalities that could give reason to the things they say, this leads to the drama being more of a chore than actually having any weight.

The same can be said of the villain, why does he scream at his maid like a psychopath? Well that’s just what characters like him do in these things. Why can he never get the dying girl’s name right? Same reason, he’s just a movie asshole. There’s also an overreliance on dialogue, the movie is more concerned with talking than showing, this leads to the whole thing feeling too long as well, scenes often go on longer than they need to and sometimes don’t even need to be there at all. It’s an interesting story that I can imagine being told much more smoothly, without all the character clichés and abundance of dialogue, and be better paced for it.

I’ll say this, the lighting in the woods at the end was very well done, it couldn’t have been easy to pull off, the bigfoot costumes were pretty damn good and believable and another scene involving a car being flipped over was GREAT; very good stuff. But the acting lacked passion, the script was clichéd and repetitive, the soundtrack was way too on the nose and forced the emotion right down you’re throat, the camera work, while interesting at times involving some good placements/set-ups, felt too worried about looking professional and came off as flat, I found it sappy and unbelievable and the ending I could see coming a mile away.

If we judged films on how hard they were to make then there would be a lot more good ones floating about, I’m hoping if the filmmakers behind A Wish For Giants read this review they don’t take what I’ve said personally but at least understand it. I can’t lie and say “oh yes, well done guys, I thought it was great” because that wouldn’t be my honest true opinion, I didn’t like the film I saw for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, but truthful feedback, no matter how harsh, can lead to improved worked in the future; as long as it’s constructive of course.

If it helps I have both made and appeared in short student films, as well as some I got my friends to participate in that we made for fun, and guess what? They SUCKED! I also get that, sometimes, the concept of a critic can seem unfair, a person who gets paid for telling other people who slaved over a project that they didn’t do it well is unjust, but unlike those critics I hope I have been helpful in some way; as I tried to be constructive and didn’t degenerate to just saying the director’s name over and over again in a squeaky voice, *cough, Mark Kermode, cough*.

Show Dogs (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

Show Dogs (2018) – Motion Picture Maniac

A Blog Motion Picture Maniac

The degree of filmmaking present in Show Dogs has left me scratching my head to the point of self-scalping trying to work out how such a war crime of a film could be given final cut, let alone even released, especially since we live in a world where studios aren’t above dumping a half completed film and starting again with a different director all because the tone was too comedic; and I guarantee that the Phil Lord and Christopher Miller version of Solo: A Star Wars Story would have been Return Of The King compared to the evil filmic genocide Show Dogs.

The temptation to simply write “it’s bad” was pretty damn strong since I don’t like repeating myself and an in depth review of this monstrosity would sound too similar to my last 1/10 review. Hollywood is the one that doesn’t seem to mind repeating itself because most worst films ever nowadays all seem to make the same careless and borderline malicious mistakes, after some pondering I thought you know what, I don’t want to be like that same idiot who ended up becoming the topic of video essays for unfairly reviewing BVS with a single word: “Really?”

Show Dogs is about Rottweiler police dog that goes undercover into a dog pageant show to thwart some criminal plan to sell a baby panda and steal the winning who, by winning, has made themselves worth something on the black market… apparently. No more beating around the bush – this film is EVIL, it makes amateur college short films look worthy of preservation by the National Film Registry, it has not one single good point to be found among its ocean of bad mistakes and I don’t know if it should be exorcised, experimented on or simply encased in cement and thrown into a sinkhole.

Our hero dog, Max, is voiced by Ludacris who’s dialogue and delivery never really seems to switch to a different tone appropriate to the situation, as though, when he was recording his dialogue, he had no idea what was supposed to be happening as his character was speaking so he just gave the line as tough sounding and “cool” (when really he just sounds like and arrogant douchebag who never shuts up). Off he goes, pumping out one-liner after one-liner, some intended to be cool, others meant to be funny – ALL extremely annoying.

The visual effects are unacceptable, animal characters are either entirely CGI or have horrifying CGI mouths that are just cringe inducing to look at, that’s when these real life dogs don’t very suddenly become fully CGI so they can do all the action movie jumping, dodging and rope swinging; I wouldn’t complain if it didn’t make want to shoot myself from embarrassment. The editing has no flow, no sense of timing or efficiency, the cinematography is flat and artless, the music is kids movie generic, the jokes made me want to rip the screen from the wall and WHAT THE HEL IS WILL ARNETT DOING IN THIS THING?

Ok, it’s not like Michael Caine appearing in Jaws 4 but still, this movies bares such a strong resemblance to the kind of hideous schlock that shows up straight to DVD in second hand pawn shops that I am aghast at how he ever could say yes to such a project. I was wishing myself to sleep from the opening shot onwards but we haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet folks, oh no, I’ve described to you how the film is ugly and cheap looking, lacking in any artistic integrity/value and pretty much in the same vein as Nine Lives or Pudsey The Dog The Movie; but it still manages to get even worse than that.

You may have already heard of this controversy, you may not, I know I hadn’t, but there is a sequence in the film in which Max undergoes a bikini wax thus making him weary of any other humans going back there. Later on, Will Arnett has to prepare Max for an examination by the judges, which involves them getting a good feel of his evenly shaved ball sack, he has trouble restraining himself, snapping at Arnett every time, so when the dreaded examination actually occurs, Max must do his best not to bite the judge lest he lose the competition.

To stop himself from biting, Max imagines several other characters telling him to go to his happy place and think of himself dancing with Arnett beneath the stars. So let’s summarize, Max must allow himself to be fondled against his wishes and go to his happy place so he doesn’t react negatively, all in a comical context, call me pretentious but when this happened I thought it all seemed a bit child-molesty and it turns out I’m not the only one. Seems this scene has stirred up quite the fuss and I completely see why, I’m sure the intention was just to be funny but that just makes it all the more disturbing; how could they not have realised early on in the scripting process?

Show Dogs is really rather horrible, badly made across the board and just when you think it cant get any worse it goes and stoops into unintentionally offensive territory, watch the trailer, it’ll explain everything, take pride knowing I saw it instead of you and move on with your life; something I’m going to have trouble doing since I sat through the whole thing.