Sunday, 10 February 2019

Review: The Lego Movie 2





The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2D / thematic spoilers)
Cert: U / 107 mins / Dir. Trisha Gum & Mike Mitchell / Trailer



Has it really been five years since the first Lego movie? I supposed it must have, since the script for The Lego Movie 2 plainly sets this follow-up half a decade later, and when I check my previous review it is indeed dated 2014. The passage of time can be cruel and baffling for those of us who've refused to grow up completely*1

So. In the intervening years, the Lego town of Bricksburg has slowly morphed into the wasteland of Apocalypseburg. While Emmet (Chris Pratt) continues to bimble along optimistically, his friend Lucy/Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) has become a hardened, cynical warrior - still living in the town, but ready to fight whatever dangers life throws their way, in a bid to protect what little order is left. When an extra-terrestrial warrior, General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz), arrives one day announcing that Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) of the Systar System intends to wed Batman (Will Arnett), the resulting refusal, kidnap and voyage across the galaxy will be an adventure to test Emmet to his limits. Luckily, he's got a new friend to stand by his side…

SMART


First things first, The Lego Movie 2 is fun. It very much relies on you having seen the first entry (although the "2" is in the title so there can be few complaints) and it's still prone to wholesome over-sentimentality. But the sequel is as inventive as its plastic namesake, consistently funny and deceptively smart. If you enjoyed The Lego Movie, you'll get a lot out of this. If you didn't, well…

Whereas the divide between 'collector' play and open-ended adventuring previously fell with Will Ferell's 'Dad' character and his son Finn (Jadon Sand), this second entry shifts that generationally (as hinted at the end of the first movie) featuring his younger sister Bianca (Brooklynn Prince), happy to mix-the-bricks while Finn moves up to advanced sets and more concentrated world-building. To properly facilitate this and illustrate that Lego™ can be enjoyed on a number of commitment-levels (because let's not forget that this is an unashamed two hour pay-to-view advert), the sprawling in-film, in-universe playscape now features pieces and characters from Duplo™ and Lego Friends™. Purists will squirm, and that's very much the point.

OUT


Ferrell takes a back seat for this adventure, still voicing President Business in the animated story and the 'in another room' voice of Dad in the live-action. But Maya Rudolph capably takes the wheel as the squabbling siblings' embattled mother, deadpanning her role perfectly (even if the film's U-certificate means Maya's character can't give a screen-accurate rendition of the outburst in which stepping on a Lego brick in bare feet actually results).

The live-action sections of the first movie were something of a third-act reveal, here they're dealt with head-on, interspersing the animated action throughout. The Lego characters don't (can't?) know the full extent of their real-world status as toys, but they're aware that their home has changed and there are larger, inexplicable forces at play. Rather than trying to iron out the differences between these two versions of reality, the script just carries on playing with them. By the end, the audience is no longer sure which events are the result of kids acting out a story and which are the in-universe characters themselves, continuing the narrative in their own time.

On a meta-level, The Lego Movie 2 feels like the natural - if knowingly post-modern - thematic successor to Toy Story. It's never as up-front as Pixar's flagship series and almost seems more believable (if that's the right word) as a result.

SHORTY


As per this film's predecessor (and continuing the theme cemented by Lego Batman between), there are no Marvel characters to be found here. This, despite the Marvel-half of Lego's Super Heroes line being a mainstay of their licensing model. Instead we get appearances by the Justice League in full comic effect, with Warner Bros going so far as to rope in Jason Momoa*2 for light voicework.

Indeed, Marvel are written out of the proceedings early doors with one cheeky line of dialogue. But not content to leave that where it lies, shortly after we have our hero (voiced by Chris Pratt, remember), blasting off into space for an adventure aboard his new ship, and talking to his plant as a co-pilot. Well, quite.

CARTER


And the playfulness with the leading man's back-catalogue doesn't stop there. A fairly telegraphed but still eminently satisfying sub-plot sees his character introducing a rapid succession of character-cards, each boldly proclaiming skills in a CV of previous adventures. Most of these appear to be nods to the actor's work in other movies (most notably the velociraptors, of course).

It's a testament to the sold writing that there's plenty here for a young audience, their associated grown-ups and the happy-go-lucky film geeks who've rocked up anyway. The Lego Movie 2 is absolutely packed with Easter eggs and is all the better for it.

FRESH AT THE WEEKEND


We're living through a golden age of animation of course, and we should stop for a moment to fully appreciate the craft of the Lego movies. Whereas the multitude of the corporation's TV-based features feature expressive, 'bendy' character models with working knees and elbows, the cinematic strand has used elements far closer to the relatively rigid toys themselves (with some artistic license).

Along with photorealistic plastic texturing, their blocky structure and appropriately restricted movement is a faultless CGI simulation of traditional stop-animation, and I don't think that gets enough credit. The animators have deliberately placed this obstacle in their own path, making them work harder to achieve the same fluid level of visual storytelling, while also achieving an end result which looks closer to the actual store-bought Lego toys (did I mention that this beautiful film is also a two hour advert?)*3.

But let's not dig too deeply into the toy box. Irrespective of your chronological-age, if you like Lego™, you'll get a lot out of The Lego Movie 2. If you don't, well…



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well, The Lego Movie.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.


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


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It certainly earns a place near the top of everyone's list.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
It's possible I suppose, although you'd have to be a hardened cynic to really get nothing out of this.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Well, the film was written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, formerly of the Solo parish, but since they left that production under something of a cloud, I suppose we'll have to go with this movie starring that uncredited Stormtrooper from The Force Awakens.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Anyway, I navigate my life by the release of Star Wars movies (as those of you who've met me will attest), so all 2014 means to me is "before The Force Awakens". Although I suppose I could meet them half-way and call it "before The Force Awakens Lego". [ BACK ]

*2 Interestingly (or predictably, depending on how you look at it), the powers-that-be have opted for the new bearded, shirtless version of Aquaman, rather than the more traditional model they're still happy to use elsewhere. No judgement in that, just an observation. [ BACK ]

*3 Although like some of the Transformers movies, it's an advert which doesn't hold its own audience in absolute, unvarnished contempt. [ 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.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Review: The Mule





The Mule (Spoilers)
Cert: 15 / 116 mins / Dir. Clint Eastwood / Trailer



I've written before about the position many a movie-viewer unwittingly finds themselves in these days, with the awkwardness of separating the art from the artist. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes not so much. But the feat is perhaps at its most tricky when the presentation we see on screen appears to run a little too closely to preconceptions the audience already hold regarding its stars and creators.

Long story short, that business with the empty chair had already put Clint Eastwood on my watch-list. The flag-waving pompousness of entirely missing the point of a tragic story underlined his name in red. The Mule felt like it was going to be hard work.

STONE


Inspired by a true story (although even the film itself doesn't claim any level of documentary-type insight), Clint produces, directs and stars as 90yr old Earl Stone, a keen gardener who turned his hobby into a flourishing business, the attention of which took its toll on his family relationships. Estranged from his wife, and with his flower-farm in liquidation, Earl chances into a job which plays to another of his strengths: driving. With years of no incidents or licence points, he's just the kind of under-the-radar courier that's sought after by the Mexican drug cartels looking to move their product around the country*1. Earl quickly becomes adept at the job, but how technically 'good' can anyone be at something which is principally 'bad'? Where do the lines of professional pride and personal ethics cross, and is it possible to see that juncture before it's passed? How much slack are we supposed to cut someone who's providing for their family while being part of the machine which destroys other peoples'?

Don't worry, that's not explored. Any of it. What begins as a treatise of the decline of blue-collar America quickly descends into a mawkish and morally myopic "no choice, guv'nor" small-c conservative fantasy of free-marketeering, where disregard of the law and the cumulative misery of others is apparently fine if you're an old white dude who served in the army 70 years ago. The film goes into intricate detail as to how Earl drifts into his new employment, and gets as close to the why as it can without flat-out celebrating him for it. But is the character narratively condemned for his actions? The tone of this review so far probably answers that.

RIVER


For all Earl's initial reticence at the job and not thinking for a second that a bunch of Mexicans in an urban garage armed with machine guns might just be getting him to transport *gasp* actual drugs, and that bit where he sees the drugs and decides to keep doing the job anyway, he's unapologetically upfront about it all. Once apprehended by the authorities, Earl freely admits to what he was doing and accepts his prison sentence with equal openness. But is there even a nanosecond of actual contrition for his crimes? Is there fuck.

Our hero's just happy to be out of the house and not be being shouted at by his family. Andy Garcia's slimy drug-baron ensures Earl is paid with his requisite amount of cash, and also throws in a couple of bikini-clad hotties to keep him busy until the small hours to boot. The casual misogyny in The Mule is, while intermittent, staggering. And as much as it may be in keeping for the characters it portrays, at no point does the screenplay feel the need to cast any judgement on those perpetrating it. I think the joke here is meant to be the curmudgeonly protagonist who doesn't quite understand how the modern world works. But after about 30 minutes, it begins to appear that this applies to the Eastwood on the other side of the camera as well.

FANTASY


As judgemental as I am, I can envision the script meeting where Clint (in The Big Chair) insists "no, no Earl doesn't have to say he's sorry because he's not and that's fine because that's his character and don't forget this is a true story, and if you belittle or emasculate him then you're insulting everyone who fought for America in all the wars. And yes he gets to be a bit racist, but it's not like he's punching the black people so that's okay. Also Earl definitely needs to have a threesome with two chicks in the party scene because how else will we know he's straight and with fully-working plumbing? I mean apart from his family. And yes, the chicks have to kiss Earl on-camera before the door closes slowly. Yes, both of them… did you not hear the bit I just said about the war, Terry? PUT IT IN."

Maybe I'm just an old-fashioned sort who wants a protagonist they can like. Or if not like, at least gleefully will to self-destruction. And sure, those who lean to the right are entitled to their movie-heroes every bit as much as those on the other side of the fence, but narcotic distribution is something they traditionally get quite beetroot about, so it seems odd that the profession doesn't come in for at least some mild tutting here, and you really have to wonder where the moral baseline is. Can I really believe that the producer, director and star of this film is making it as a way to highlight the absolute hypocrisy of the main character?
As you've no doubt gathered by now, no. No, I can't.

BOSS THE PLANE THE PLANE


But even without my yoghurt-knitting politics coming between me and the screen, The Mule is just not that good a film. Focusing on nobody except the character who apparently cares about no one but himself, it has no message or wisdom to impart, which given the current socio-political climate seems like a shrugging of responsibility. But nor is it a rip-roaring ride of entertainment as we watch a light burn twice as brightly for half as long. No, an old man breaks the law repeatedly out of misguided boredom, he gets caught, he goes to prison. That's it. That's not a story, just a two-hour sequence of events.

Oh, and why would the cartels keep giving Earl a brand new smartphone for each trip if they're not going to use its inbuilt technology to track their multi-million dollar shipment, so that when the old man goes AWOL for a week they have literally no idea where he could be even though he was recruited to their business at his ex-wife's house so maybe start fucking looking there, especially since that's where he fucking is?

Clint, did you write this?



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
It's probably a bit Gran Torino (same screenwriter) but with no moral compass.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Not particularly.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
If you like.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Absolutely not.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Absolutely yes.


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


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Bradley Cooper's in this and he was Rocket in Guardians Of The Galaxy along with Peter 'Maul' Serafinowicz, Benicio 'DJ' Del Toro, Spencer 'Vader' Wilding and Ralph 'Garmuth' Ineson.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Of course the initial thing that attracts the cartel rep's attention is that Earl is an old man steadily driving an old beat up truck. So what's the first thing he does the minute he gets paid after his first run? Yeah, he buys a gleaming new pickup which looks conspicuous-as-fuck no matter who's driving it. Game-face Earl, game-face[ 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.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Review: Beautiful Boy





Beautiful Boy
Cert: 15 / 120 mins / Dir. Felix Van Groeningen / Trailer



And now to the golden, rolling hills of Marin County California, home to Skywalker Ranch and the beating heart of all that is Star Wars. But we're not here for deathsticks, we're here for a tale of weed, pills, crystal meth and good ol' fashioned heroin. So closer to Ewan McGregor's turn in Trainspotting than Attack Of The Clones, then. Which might explain why my brain kept starting Lust For Life at inappropriate moments throughout Beautiful Boy

Based on the twin-memoirs of the real-life protagonists, the story follows David Sheff (Steve Carell) as he tries to reconcile his teenage son Nic's (Timothée Chalamet) escalating addiction to a range of narcotics with holding together the rest of his family (Maura Tierney as David's partner Karen, and their two young children played by Oakley Bull and Christian Convery), and maintaining a civil relationship with his ex-wife and Nic's mum, Vicki (Amy Ryan). Earnest hand-wringing all round.

BOY


My observation at the top wasn't just glib sarcasm, Beautiful Boy really is Trainspotting for the middle-aged, middle-class fan of generational angst, there are glimpses of bleakness at regular intervals, but on the whole it's a reassuringly safe journey, told from a father's perspective. That said, enjoyment of this film will depend largely on what baggage the viewer has brought in with them.

In an early conversation, Carrell's David has a conversation with his son who is just starting to seriously experiment with drugs. Nic tries to articulate his frustration but only manages something about 'blocking out stupid reality'. When the father asks in a state of genuine puzzlement "…what's stupid about reality?", everyone in the auditorium suddenly realises which side of the fence they're watching the movie from.

GOLDEN


Delicately handled by director Groeningen, the end product isn't quite as syrupy as you might expect but tells most of its story from David's perspective and so avoids a lot of the grit. It often feels like Beautiful Boy is afraid to get its hands dirty, for the fear of not being able to clean them again in time for the closing credits.

Outstanding work from Timothée Chalamet throughout holds the whole thing together. Carrell, Tierney and Ryan are strong too, but this isn't their film. They're a supporting-cast in every sense, and are playing in far broader ways. Also worth noting is the solid casting of Kue Lawrence and Jack Dylan Grazer as younger versions of Nic in the intermittent flashbacks. Their performances aren't showy or overly foreshadowing, but they sell the evolution of the protagonist effortlessly (in all fairness, the only character in the film who actually appears to age).

Beautiful Boy isn't a perfect ride, and our director clearly has an eye on his awards-cabinet when that's unlikely to come to fruition, but it's made with sincerity. Perhaps ironically, that's both the film's biggest problem and its saving grace…



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Beautiful Boy plays like a bittersweet sequel to The Way, Way Back, covering the next darker chapter where everything wasn't alright after all.
But the unfocused anger at the centre of it all is the same
.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Only if you already know you're going to get the right things out of it. Which sort of defeats the object of watching a new film, admittedly.

Although it's perhaps worth noting that as evangelical as I am about my Unlimited card, I didn't get to catch the pre-Christmas advance screening of this and now it's not playing at my local. As a result, I did pay to watch this (albeit the £4.99 that Vue are charging in their region cinemas these days) and I rather enjoyed it. Make of that what you will
.


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


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Difficult to say, but everyone should be fairly proud of what they've made.


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


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


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Timothée Chalamet was in Interstellar, alongside David 'Agent Kallus' Oyelowo, and John 'Yoda In The TESB Radio Drama' Lithgow.


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.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Review: Glass





Glass (SPOILERS)
Cert: 15 / 129 mins / Dir. M. Night Shyamalan / Trailer



"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is being a reasonably successful film writer and director who put out some strong work early in their career then dipped a bit, so that every time they release a film after this, a thousand articles are written asking if they've still 'got it' even though consistency in art is transient at best, impossible to achieve at worst and the critics aren't even after consistency anyway but instead want each film to be better than the last, which is never going to be plausible given the number and range of critical requirements. I imagine."

~ Oscar Wilde.


And so to the timely return of M. Night Shyamalan*1, bringing us Glass, the third entry in a trilogy which only took form in the final moments of 2017's stealth tie-in, Split. That film's antagonist, Kevin 'The Horde' Crumb (James McAvoy), finds himself incarcerated in a secure hospital having been caught red-handed in kidnapping four teenage cheerleaders. He was nabbed by David 'The Overseer' Dunn (Bruce Willis) from 2000's Unbreakable, who's spent the last 19 years becoming a slightly-infamous vigilante in Philadelphia, brushing up against people in an inappropriate fashion then meting out Rorschach-style justice. But outside of office hours. And because duffing people up in the dead of night without the necessary paperwork is the police's business, Dave's been apprehended in the hospital as well.

Which only leaves Elijah 'Mr Glass' Price*2 (Samuel L. Jackson), now permanently in a wheelchair due to the brittle nature of his physiology, in the slammer for engineering a train crash (among many other things) and resident in the same facility as the other two due his belief that he's a super-villain. Our authority figure in this setup is Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who is more of a mind that our triumvirate of eccentrics are in fact suffering exaggerated and specific delusions of grandeur. Are they superheroes or are they just mental? That should be the tagline on the poster.

TOYS


So, Glass toys with the notion of what it means to actually be a superhero, although while Shyamalan delights in archly asking the questions, he also makes it abundantly clear that he's not prepared to commit to any answers. Landing in the same year as Fox's first X-Men movie, Unbreakable deconstructed comic book tropes fairly well considering that wasn't really a thing at the time. But in 2019, that's very much a thing, and Glass doesn't quite know how to deal with it.

The film essentially combines the cast of its predecessors, with Spencer Treat Clark returning as David's son, Joseph (now acting as 'guy in the chair' to his dad's hooded-justice act), Charlayne Woodard reprising her role as Elijah Price's mum*3 and Anya Taylor-Joy coming back from Split to even up the numbers in having each leading character paired with their 'real world' past. This feels like an attempt to give the story more gravity than it ultimately manages. And Shyamalan expects you to have watched those previous entries in the canon, because there's little-to-no concession for anyone who hasn't. Viewers taking a punt on Glass as a standalone flick are likely to spend a lot of the run-time trying to catch up through scripted inference rather than exposition*4.

BEL


Bruce Willis is on solid, taciturn form as Superhero Dave, pulling just the right blend of cynicism and confusion into his performance to sell the character once more. And James McAvoy is absolutely fantastic as Kevin of course, playing revolving host to around twenty distinct personalities. He's the gleefully theatrical chef who's been tasked with creating a pudding that cannot be over-egged. Although much like Split, the main thrust of James' screen-time is dedicated to Hedwig, Patricia, The Beast and Kevin himself. Other characters phase in and out, but they feel closer to a quickfire round on Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Samuel L. Jackson on the other hand, is the more interesting player here, as it feels like he's only putting in around 80%, even if the actor's part as Glass is less gung-ho than his other roles. 80% of Sam Jackson is still great fun of course, but he's noticeably reticent in this*5.

As a film, broadly speaking, Glass works very well. It's typical of Shyamalan's preposterous self-indulgence and definitely thinks it has more to say than it actually has, but it's a well-spun yarn nonetheless. But an audience reared on nitty-gritty comic-book detail over the last two decades has learned to read forward, as well as everyone in the room expecting a third-act reveal anyway. And it's that detail where our intrepid writer/director begins to flounder…

IC

And so to the spoilers. No highlight-to-read this time, there are just too many I'm afraid. You read that spoiler-warning at the top, this is your last chance to turn back. The thing is that Dr Ellie Staple is not all she seems. And that's meant to be a reveal as we go on. Except that it's mercilessly telegraphed from the moment she gets Dunn, Crumb and Price*6 into the same secure hospital.

Whereas Price is imprisoned for acts of terrorism and in the special facility for his own care due to his incredibly fragile skeleton, that kind of medical treatment doesn't come for free in America. Who's paying for his? Not revealed, not discussed, not even raised. Moreover, his mum still visits him on a fairly regular basis, so this isn't like some secret black-site where the government will torture secrets out of Price until there's nothing left. Isn't his mum suspicious about why her son is being impeccably looked after in his old age, when Pensylvania State still carries the death penalty for crimes way below the pay-grade of his own?

And then we have David, 'The Overseer'. The police have been after him for some years now, and upon his arrest (when he's taking down Kevin), Dunn is immediately transferred to the same facility. Eventually, David's son Joseph turns up to plead his dad's innocence and ask for his release. But he approaches Dr Staple on a purely moral/sympathetic level, not with any legal challenge. This implies David isn't under arrest at this point, hasn't actually been charged with anything, and also that Joseph knows this. So how has Joseph been informed of this hospital where his dad's being held, and again - who the hell does he think is paying for the treatment of someone who apparently hasn't even been diagnosed with any medical condition by the state?

So let's round out the trilogy. Casey, the young woman kidnapped by Kevin in Split, finds out that her ex-captor is being held in - yes, this same building - and just turns up on the fly to visit him, morbid curiosity mingling with Stockholm Syndrome. And obviously Ellie allows this to happen because she wants to observe the results. Hey, why not just let people in off the street to watch, while you're on? For a secret organisation that's been putting down superhumans for a millennia, you may as well have a fucking flag hanging outside saying "THEY'RE IN HERE LADS".

PHOENIX


So when the plot moves forward and Ellie finally lets David touch her hand, that's when we get an insight into her past, and it's revealed she's part of some pseudo-illuminati who hold their meetings in busy public restaurants waiting for the last civilian to finish the cheeseboard while they look at their watches. And again, when we see this it bears all the hallmarks of A Shyamalan Twist™, except that it's been the blatantly obvious solution since act I. Oh, and while we're on the subject, David is only shown up until that point of getting flashes of people's Bad Deeds™. Thieves, murderers and what have you. When he looks into Ellie's past, it's that scene in a restaurant where the waiter is pulling the blind down and she's like "Okay everybody, thanks for coming. Right…". While Ellie knows the group's work is technically unpleasant, she also believes it's necessary and right. Not 'a bad thing'. So why would it show up in Dave's psychometric burst? If this is just going off of things that Dave doesn't like personally, he could end up using his Batman-gig to go round twatting people who heat fish in the canteen microwave at work or enjoy Mrs Brown's Boys. I wouldn't argue with that.

But I digress. At the end of the day, Dave is the only one actually shown to have super-powers. "Mr. Glass" thinks he's a supervillain, but he's just got a crippling disability paired with a high IQ and no morals. Ellie's notes on him even state in huge letters "also known as Brittle Bone Disease". That's not a counter to his genius-nefariousness, just a disability. Similarly, Kevin has a multiple personality disorder, and one of the characters he projects is super-fucking-strong and great at climbing*7. Not like 'Spider-Man' great, he's actually clawing into the concrete to get purchase.

Early in the film, Ellie is speaking to the group trying to dissuade them of their self-imposed special status. And with Elijah and Kevin, she's absolutely right. They're don't have superpowers, they're just clinically insane. Attempts at the science of psychology in Glass come off as cack-handedly as they did in Split. Until we see someone actually performing the supernatural (ie Dunn*8), they are merely mundane. Batshit crazy, but mundane.

When Ellie slyly intones "we can't let them know what they are", this is (for 66% of the subjects) the lie, the part which defies logic and undercuts the rest of the film.

CONCHORDS


So despite a hinted showdown at Philadelphia's new tallest building, no one really expected a Marvel Studios-level of finale here. But it appears that the budget didn't even stretch to a group of extras gasping from a distance. And as for the coda, where Mama Glass, Overseer Jr and Mrs Beast sit in satisfied awe watching people's reactions to the wasn't-actually-deleted-aha! CCTV footage of yesterday's superhero battle, I don't think they know how viral marketing works. All that video actually is, is a fight in a hospital car park between two nutters while a bloke in a wheelchair keeps shouting "but COMICS!" until getting punched to death. By this time tomorrow they'll be in the same places, totally enraptured by a video of burping baby or a cat being surprised at its own farts.

Anyway, like I said: I quite enjoyed Glass, because I wouldn't have picked it apart in so much detail otherwise.

But seriously M. Night, if you're going to 'deconstruct' superheroes, we're going to expect to examine the pieces…



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
It's closest in tone to Unbreakable, even though there's far less to reveal in this chapter.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you're a fan of the Unbreakable and Split, absolutely.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
As above, yes.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well, let's not get carried away, yeah?


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
The film's not getting too much critical love, so that's a possibility.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There's not.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mace Windu's in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 FUN FACT: The 'M', somewhat unimaginatively, stands for 'Monsieur'. [ BACK ]

*2 Mate, come on. 'The Horde', 'The Overseer' and 'Mr Glass' sound like crap wrestler names. [ BACK ]

*3 Now, Charlayne Woodard played Mrs Price (great character naming, M. Night) back in Unbreakable in the scenes where Elijah was a young boy, and again with ageing-prosthetics for when he'd grown up into Samuel L. Jackson. The prosthetics weren't great. In fact, they were pretty damned awful, but the movie was a long time ago and even off the back of The Sixth Sense's success, we don't know what the budged restrictions were for makeup. Anyway, we're here in 2019 now and Sam Jackson is 70 years old. A damn good looking 70, but there we have it. Sharlayne Woodard, the actress playing his mum in Glass, is 65. And I'd like to say she's a damn good looking 65, but I'm afraid I can't tell because the prosthetics she wears in this movie are unforgivably bad. Someone's glued lumpy foam rubber over the bottom half of her face but not the top then gone 'yeah that'll do'. It looks fucking atrocious and is an insult to the performer and the audience alike. There. I said it. [ BACK ]

*4 And fuck it, I'm just going to say it. Perhaps the sole exception to this verbal implication is the cameo appearance by M. Night Shyamalan. He's one of those directors who resolutely can. not. act. and so shows up in his own movies almost wearing a t-shirt of his own face with "LOOK IT'S ME!" printed underneath in 200pt Impact. Not only was his cameo in Unbreakable of the glaringly worst variety, Shyamalan also has an appearance in Glass as the same fucking character, who then talks to Superhero Dave and verbally references his cameo in the first film, practically staring at the audience as he does so. Shyamalan comes in for a lot of flak, and I think most of it is unfair. But for the love of god man, stay behind the fucking camera... [ BACK ]

*5 Even more oddly, he gets a "AND SAMUEL L. JACKSON" credit in the film's opening titles. The "&" is usually reserved for a smaller-role in a film by a more well-known actor, almost like a guest star, in the billing pecking-order. And yet here Jackson is, getting the '&' in a movie which is named after his own character. Bizarre. [ BACK ]

*6 Although our leads' superhero monikers resemble a 1970s club-circuit wrestling troupe, their street-names make them sound like a branch of chartered accountants. Fuck it, I'd be reaching for the lycra, too. [ BACK ]

*7 Oh, and since they're containing Kevin and The Horde (terrible name for a band) with a strobe light by the door to trigger a personality-switch every time he gets agitated, why doesn't he just summon The Beast safely at the back of his cell, then wrap his black jacket (we see him wearing this in there) around his head and charge the door? Once he's on the other side he can make a run/fight for it. Seriously, has this organisation really been doing this shit for a thousand years? Because they seem pretty dreadful at it. I think they're regretting putting Ellie in charge of regional operations.

In that bit at the end where she grandly proclaims "And now, with your permission, we can move on to the next city!", does the scene cut before someone raises their hand and asks "Hang on, are… are you the only one doing this? You've been in Philly for fucking months on this and there were only three of them. There's weird shit going down all over the world and you're here submitting purchase-recs for thousands of dollars worth of disco lights, giving them group therapy and fucking jigsaws when you could just wheel them down to the basement and inject them with floor cleaner? Are we paying you for this? Terry, are we paying her for this? Fu-u-u-u-uck…" [ BACK ]

*8 "Oh, but his weakness is water!" everyone goes (including Dave), "it's his Kryptonite!". That's the second time they've tried to pull that one. Apart from the fact that we see Dave punch through an industrial plastic tank while he's submerged in it (so it's clearly not affecting his super-strength too much, even if the tank is worn to begin with), 'water' is the weakness of every land-mammal on the fucking planet. Well done M. Night, you've invented drowning? [ 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.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Review: The Front Runner





The Front Runner
Cert: 15 / 113 mins / Dir. Jason Reitmen / Trailer



Well, this isn't a great start to 2019. Having already grumbled about The Favourite (not my favourite) and Colette (not my… okay, that one doesn't work), the descent into awards season silliness seems rife with movies designed to wind me up, and since there will be no quarter asked nor given this year, I have too many thoughts on The Front Runner to hold back out of politeness. Also, this review is basically a bunch of tweets I did, so there's that as well.

The Front Runner is a film from Jason Reitman based on the 1988 American presidential campaign by Gary Hart, which went up the spout when it turned out he'd been having bits on the side. There's a Wikipedia article about the whole thing here. It is every bit as entertaining and dramatically crafted as the film version, although mercifully shorter.

HART


Dear lord, this was boring. Whose side am I supposed to be on, here? Gary Hart? I know he's the subject, but is he our protagonist, too? The film shows nothing of his background as a senator. Is he a good one? Gary's a Democrat so he's nominally on the 'good' side, but is he good at being good? What's his actual professional background? There's never any doubt as to his affairs and he remains unrepentant throughout, even in the scene when his wife finally confronts him. Gary's not sorry for what happened, he just regrets being caught. That wasn't new then and it certainly isn't now. No, Gary's not our hero here.

Am I supposed to be on the press's side? Those sweaty, sex-case-looking guys staking out Gary's house and confronting him with non-questions like they graduated from journalism school earlier that day? Or how about the younger dude from the Washington Post who's literally handed more evidence of Gary's philandering, then just sort of waves it about in the air, unsure what his job is? Or the behind-the-scenes journos who mumble over each other in the office from scene to scene? Are this lot all crusading for freedom or are they bound by the political allegiances of their publications? Not explored, any of it. No, we're not on the press's side, they're just tertiary characters.

MORPH


Maybe I'm supposed to be cheering on Gary's wife, who doesn't look surprised, outraged or even saddened by any of it, just tired. Tired and resigned to a life of 'I don't even care any more I'd divorce him but I can't be bothered with the paperwork'. No, she's not in the film enough for it to be about her. Shame, since there’s a stronger hook for a perspective there.

Am I supposed to be with Gary's campaign-team, also massively surprised that a man who's made a lucrative career of nodding through people's opinions and promising he'll definitely look into things when he's in power MIGHT JUST BE A BIT OF A CHANCER? Odd, given that their job is to dispel EXACTLY THAT but with cheering, badges and flyers. Go back to being J.Jonah Jameson and making drummers blub, mate.

CHAS


Or is this about Crying Lady Who Got Caught Coming Out Of Gary's House who claims she's intelligent and qualified and people just think she's a bimbo, but we don't see her before or after sitting in restaurants painting her cheeks with mascara so there's no context for this? Gary mate, she might be younger but she's not even as hot as your wife, what were you thinking here? Is this the lesson? I sincerely hope not.

Maybe we're supposed to side with Female Campaign Intern Who Sits Necking Wine With Perceived Floozy, quietly gazing off into the middle distance suggesting some manner of socio-political insight into the whole thing? The one whose character is used so sparingly in terms of screen-time that any character development is abbreviated to 'yeah she knows Gary’s a wrong'un although she'll just keep working for him until the campaign folds'.

DAVE


Am I supposed to be remotely concerned in 2019 about these revelatory events depicted in 1988? 'But man had affairs!'. You don't say. 'Press couldn't believe that politician might be bad man!'. Oh mate. Is The Front Runner supposed to hold any modern relevance when the currently unfolding saga in America gets further beyond parody on a daily fucking basis? Does this film genuinely believe it's supposed to sit on the same shelf as The Post and Spotlight?

But most pertinently, how come when we get an advance screening of a film about contemporary social injustice and civil unrest on the other side of the world, nigh-on 25 people decide to walk out in the first ten minutes. But when there's one about a failed yet unremarkable presidential campaign from a deeply flawed white guy from 30 years ago they'll just sit and lap it up like there's some sort of vital new perspective to be gleaned from it all? Is it because of Wolverine? REALLY?

The wardrobe and makeup design was quite good.



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The Ides Of March, if you don't want character-development.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you're having trouble sleeping, sure.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
If you need a paperweight or something to use up excess bandwidth, sure.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It is not.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Oh hell, yeah.


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


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The voice of Neeku Vozo 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.