Saturday, 30 November 2019

Review: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot





Jay and Silent Bob Reboot
Cert: 15 / 105 mins / Dir. Kevin Smith / Trailer



Well, it looks like I may have been hasty in calling Once Upon A Time In Hollywood the most self-indulgent flick of 2019. You live and learn.

Also living and claiming to learn is geek-maestro Kevin Smith, who after a near-fatal heart attack last year has regrouped the troops and crafted a follow-up to 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. When the eponymous pair learn that a movie studio has plans to relaunch Bluntman and Chronic after legally pilfering Jay and Silent Bob’s intellectual property rights, the boys embark on a roadtrip from New Jersey to Hollywood to stop that happening. Yes, like last time.

FINE


It genuinely pains me, reader, to tell you that Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is fine. 'Fine'. Because I don’t want it to be ‘fine’, I want it to be great. Fine isn't great. Fuck it, fine isn't even fine. I want to love this because Smith has made some of my all-time favourite, go-to movies, and I know he’s better than this lazy, opportunistic rehash. Shamelessly anachronistic in both tone and execution, a vast swathe of characters and performers from previous entries in the View Askewniverse enter and leave, each ham-fistedly issuing catchphrases and callbacks that feel like Peter Kay was the script-consultant. Because looking in to the camera and telling your audience they’re being ripped off isn't clever unless you subversively add some new ideas or themes.

More a paid-for backslap than a retrospective or confessional, Reboot is part cosplay, part tribute-act, part reunion. And like most reunions, you look at your watch after about an hour and realize you’re done and you’d rather be at home. The film doesn’t have the inherent silliness of Smith’s glory days and the irreverence just feels forced now. Some things do stay true to form however, and the writer/director is still tone-deaf when it comes to actual sentiment. But that never stopped him in the past so why would it now?

TRUE


The worst part is, this isn’t awful. It just plays like a grindingly average fan-film, like everything Kevin Smith’s critics have been accusing him of for years and now the prophecy has self-fulfilled and Smith is last to notice.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot feels like a first-draft screenplay knocked out quickly by someone who knows precisely what film he wants to make, and knows precisely that there's no one to tell him no. Not because he's successful and powerful, but because the industry stopped paying attention once Smith was happy to self-finance and crowdfund his own failures. In that respect, there's a surprising purity to the project. Well, if something so shamelessly recycled could ever be called pure.

CHEMICAL


Things pick up for the finale, but it feels like a long ride getting there. I didn’t hate this, and despite my moaning I’d be pushed to say I even actively ‘disliked’ it, but the boredom I felt was much worse. The 15-minute pre-recorded Q&A which followed made me laugh more than anything in the movie. This only reassures me that my problem isn’t with Kevin Smith, but this sausage-machine of a movie he’s put his name to. I'm not holding my breath for Clerks 3 or Mallrats 2, although I imagine there'll at least be something more of a narrative.

For a venerable master of communication who’s had a life-transforming experience, you’d think Kevin Smith’s new insight would consist of more than just repackaging action figures from two decades ago then saying “I love my kid”...



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
This is similar to Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
Without being as good.

Although in all fairness, it's not as godawful as Super Groovy Cartoon Movie
.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you're a fan, sure, why not?

But let's be clear, this movie is specifically for fans of Smith's earlier work and no one involved is even pretending otherwise
.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Completists will want it for their shelves, everyone else can stream it.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Given the general reputation of Kevin Smith in the cinematic community, probably not?


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: That First Order Stormtrooper is in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…




DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Review: 21 Bridges





21 Bridges
Cert: 15 / 99 mins / Dir. Brian Kirk / Trailer



Lifting November's pace comes Brian Kirk’s 21 Bridges, the thriller marketed heavily as being ‘from’ the Russo Brothers, despite them being in producer roles, rather than writing or directing. More on the perceived differences between these some other time. No matter, it all goes toward bums-on-seats.

Chadwick Boseman plays Andre Davis, a methodically brilliant NYPD detective with a reputation for acting with his trigger finger at crucial times. When a late-night drug robbery goes wrong in Manhattan and the thieves are on the loose with a ridiculous amount of cocaine, Davis makes the call to close the titular 21 bridges on and off the island in a bid to cut off their escape routes*1.

And it’s solid. Although it’s not groundbreaking.. Much like Knives Out, 21 Bridges isn’t necessarily doing anything new, it’s just having enormous fun in an established toy box. This is a fairly standard narc-thriller lifted by JohnWickian levels of gunfire and screen-violence.

Boseman does well in a role that calls for action above words, and has a quietly effective screen chemistry with Sienna Miller as Detective Burns. Also notably punching above the screenplay’s weight is Stephan James as Michael, one of the hapless crooks. Other supporting players including JK Simmons and Taylor Kitsch are fine, but closer to ‘press-out’ in terms of characterisation. But ten years ago this would have starred Mark Wahlberg and Russel Crowe and been a hell of a lot worse, so let's be thankful for where we are now.

21 Bridges won't set the box office alight (not least because a lack of full distribution meant catching this on a foray into London), but it’s a tight and diverting movie with its roots in 70s cop-cinema. It’s a product of the cynical times we live in, healthy enough in small measures.



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Think Die Hard 3 but with more bite and less banter.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Just about.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Repeat viewings aren't really on the cards, so this is probably a streamer.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Let's not get carried away.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's possible.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Chadwick Boseman is in this and he's been in all manner of MCU shenanigans with Sam 'Windu' Jackson, among others.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 It's worth noting that The Bose also gets the tunnels and ferry services closed as well, but I imaging 21 Bridges Plus Tunnels And Ferries isn't quite as snappy a title. [ BACK ]

DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Review: Harriet





Harriet
Cert: 12A / 126 mins / Dir. Kasi Lemmons / Trailer



To the awkward past now with Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, a biopic of Harriet Tubman who escaped slavery in Maryland in 1849 and went on to rescue around 70 others before serving in the American Civil War.

Cynthia Erivo leads in the title role, and indeed goes on to carry the whole film. The problem being that the rest of the cast aren't quite as good, so Erivo ends up doing all the heavy-lifting. And while she's capable enough to pull that off, the resulting film is uneven. The pacing is also all over the shop, and I must confess to clock-watching when the end didn’t appear to be in sight.

Harriet’s first group-rescue is a lengthy and tense affair, but the fact that it takes place after an hour, in the dark and is by necessity conducted as quietly as possible lends the sequence a soporific quality, which I’m pretty certain is not intentional. Lemmons seems to be stronger in the quiet, more reflective moments than the scenes of high drama. Overall it’s competently made, but the Q4 release date whispers ‘awards-bait’ a little too loudly.

Despite the heavy subject-matter, I found Harriet more educational than emotionally engaging. And that’s fine, but if I want enlightenment, I’ll watch a documentary. The film is about more than dates and markers of course, and even more than about freedom, it’s about hope. And while I can be snarky about the month in which Harriet lands, I can’t deny the overall need for this.

Oh, and am I the only one who kept getting distracted every time Terence Blanchard's score kept segueing into the opening fanfare of Goldfinger?



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Okay, it's not as good as 12 Years A Slave (what is?), but Harriet is a step above Free State Of Jones, even though all three would sit on the same shelf anyway..


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Only for the cinematography, tonally this is more a Sunday-night-in.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is, as above.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Probably not, if only because Cynthia Erivo is fantastic in everything.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's possible.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.
Fair
.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Clarke Peters is in this, and he was in Three Billboards along with Woody 'Beckett' Harrelson.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…




DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Review: Them That Follow





Them That Follow
Cert: 15 / 98 mins / Dir. Dan Madison Savage & Britt Poulton / Trailer



An understated oddity now, in the shape of Them That Follow, a drama centering on tensions in a small religious community in present-day America who believe in proving their worthiness before God by communing with rattlesnakes; if you don’t get bitten, that means you’re pure*1.

It would be easy to make a shrieking affair of this fairly wide target*2, but what Dan Madison Savage and Britt Poulton bring instead is more a character/social study. There are definite notes of folk-horror, but the monsters here are all human and the only supernatural element is the old-fashioned deity to which the town is so slavishly penitent.

The film is visually quiet, but there's an air of grim urgency. We learn of our protagonist’s pivotal circumstances early on, setting the ticking countdown timer for the rest of the film. For the most part there's no real escalation, the film just simmers constantly then boils over in its third act.

As well as the efficiently oppressive cinematography, there's some great sound design. The audience hears every creaking floorboard and faltering breath between dialogue which is a masterclass in subtext and double-meaning, delivered with absolute conviction by an enthusiastically downbeat cast.

On a filmmaking level, Them That Follow is great, but I'm not sure if I can say I actually enjoyed it, and I have no idea who I'd recommend it to. Other than yourself, dear reader…



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
This has the quiet fatalism of A Ghost Story, the pacing of It Comes At Night and the foreboding of Mandy (before that film goes absolutely mental).


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Unless you're actively excited to see it, probably not.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Hard to say, but everyone's on very solid form here.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Nope.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Nope.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Kaitlyn Dever is in this, and she was in that Booksmart with Billie 'Connix' Lourd.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Although 'trial-by-rattlesnake' feels like something of an evolutionary cul-de-sac, although I suspect the type of people who'd go in for it wouldn't believe in that in the first place. I mean evolution, not cul-de-sacs. They're easily provable. Oh hang on, so is evolution. Ah well, as you were. [ BACK ]

*2 I mean it's not like they're luddites or anything. There's a microwave shown in the kitchen and they use power-tools to amputate limbs when the need arises. Speaking of which Terry, you're going to cut right into that kitchen table. At least put a chopping board down or something. Jesus was a carpenter, he's probably going to be the most pissed off about what you're doing, think on. [ BACK ]



DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.