Despite having a Cineworld Unlimited Card that entitles me to see as many films as I like for a very reasonable flat monthly rate, I still don’t see as many as I really want to. To make the cost of the card price-effective I basically need to see 25 movies a year at the cinema, which may not sound like many to a lot of readers, is a pretty daunting task for me, due to external commitments. However, last weekend my fiancee went away to visit family and have a small hen party with some friends from school, and she took Murphy, our dog, with her. There was plenty I could have done at home – lots still to make for the wedding, the house was in dire need of a clean, the garden is rapidly becoming a woodland, and I’ve got a stack of reviews to write and LAMB duties to admin, but sod it, these opportunities don’t come along often for me, so I jumped on my bike and saw five films in a row on Saturday. Do I regret this decision? Completely. But was it a great day? Yes, yes and yes! Here’s what I saw:
Cars 3 (2017)
Easily the worst film on here and the one I watched most out of the desire to see as many films as possible (had I not had to walk my neighbour’s dog in the morning this list might also have included Despicable Me 3, so let’s all be grateful about that). I liked the first film well enough but haven’t gone back for a re-watch in years, despite almost every other Pixar movie (excluding Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur) being in fairly heavy rotation in our house, and I agree with the general consensus that Cars 2 is the worst Pixar movie and is really ruining the bell curve for the other films. Cars 3, which sees a return to form story-wise on a racing-centric story with Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) at the forefront, is much more similar in quality to the first film, and might have the potential to be the best in the franchise. The plot mainly concerns McQueen having become one of the older cars in a sport about to become overtaken by a brood of younger, faster, far more tech-savvy cars, headed by Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer). McQueen’s efforts to compete see him throwing his lot in with a new sponsor, Sterling (Nathan Fillion, becoming a Pixar regular in smarmy semi-villainous roles) and young, enthusiastic trainer Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). The wacky supporting roles have been turned considerably down but are still present for the younger viewers, but this is a far more grown-up story than I was expecting. Some plot turns feel unnatural and seem to have been the product of a writers’ room where the phrase “What haven’t we done yet?” was written on the board – Demolition Derby! Beach Driving! Having a female character with depth and agency! – but that’s fine. No, my biggest problem here is still the world, and how quickly everything falls apart with even the shallowest of surface scratches. I try not to have that problem with these films, but it’s so difficult when the film throws in scraps of information that make me want to stop the film and ask questions as to the logistics of literally every aspect of this world. For example: one car talks makes a brief mention to his grandfather. That was enough to send me down a mid-movie spiral of questioning everything. How do cars have ancestry? Are they born? Do they start out as Micro Machines, grow up through remote-controlled cars (tangent spiral: was Toy Story‘s RC a young Lightning McQueen?), then go-karts, then Smart cars, then regular cars, then vans, then trucks etc.? That’s possible, I guess, but has no mention in the film. I’d imagine that after some form of coitus that I’m not going anywhere near, the mother car would lay some kind of egg – probably in the form of a spare tyre – that would grow and hatch a fully-formed full size car, butterfly-style. Elsewhere, two minor characters reveal themselves to be brothers, but are different kinds of car. My first thought is they come from the same mother with different fathers, or vice versa, so that’s less of an issue. What puzzled me more was the notion that the new souped-up cars entering the racing world are better designed and better equipped to handle the modern tech-specs of racing. How? Can cars redesign themselves? Could McQueen become like them with years of training? If cars drive more, do they build up axle muscles? How do cars improve themselves to reduce drag? From previous films we know McQueen had his stickers replaced with working lights, and at one point in this film Cruz is temporarily fitted with a racing spoiler – is that like wearing a hat, having a replacement limb, or growing a tail? Other problems: Why does this world include school buses? Who rides in them? Why would they need buses of any sort? Surely they’d have vehicle-carriers instead? Also, I find the script to be far too light on car lingo and far more lacking in puns than any decent film of this sort should expect, which adds to further inconsistencies in the film’s logic. Characters tell each other to “run” somewhere instead of “drive”, to “watch your step” instead of “Mind your tyre”, that they’re “covered from head to toe” instead of “covered from chassis to roof”. Compare this to classics like The Lion King, where every other line was “matter of pride”, “mane event”, “getting wildly out of wing”. Without this it just feels lazy.
Lists: 2017 Movies, Paul Newman Movies
Choose Life 5/10
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Let’s go from the worst film of the day to perhaps not the best, but certainly the most entertaining. I like but don’t love Spider-Man as a character and have enjoyed his films in the past, with Spider-Man 2 a clear winner of the pre-Homecoming films, although now that has some steep competition. It’s been a few years since I last saw Spider-Man 2, but I think if I watched it today I might give the edge to Homecoming. Tom Holland is the first actor to be fantastic as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, as well as being the most age appropriate. He nails the awkward, gawky, nerdy kid and the super-excited, adrenaline-fuelled perma-quipping superhero, and is so much fun to watch. He has great chemistry with everyone he interacts with, particularly his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and the rest of their academic decathlon team, including Zendaya, Tony Revolori and Laura Harrier. In fact the whole cast is strong across the board and pretty perfectly cast. Michael Keaton is the latest Spider-Man villain, and again he has a good shot at being the best one, even if he doesn’t get to be truly villainous until the final act. The action varies in scale but is always entertaining, it’s just a shame that considering how many action sequences there are in the film (at least five) footage from four of them was shown in most of the trailers, whereas I think maybe only two could have suffered that – perhaps the early bank robbery and either the Washington monument or moments from the ferry ordeal – to leave the rest as a surprise, as I don’t think many extra bums were placed in seats due to the multitude of action beats in the marketing material. This is very much a Marvel movie both in feel and plot integration, with major and minor plot points dealing with events from Avengers Assemble and Captain America: Civil War, plus the inclusion of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) and other cameos and references here and there too. However it’s not essential to have seen all the prior films, nor should it feel like an integral part of the film’s structure is removed when Marvel don’t produce the next film in Spider-Man’s lineage. Basically, this has the potential to be my favourite superhero film of the year where Lego plays only a minor role. Oh, and if the Tom Hardy Venom movie ever gets off the ground, I need someone to reference that his character looks like the character known as Shocker, who is played by poor-man’s-Tom-Hardy Logan Marshall-Green.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 9/10
The Beguiled (2017)
Going from Spider-Man: Homecoming to Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled felt like cinematic whiplash. This is a single-setting civil war period piece concerning an all female school in Virginia that receives an unexpected guest in the form of an injured Union soldier, who just happens to be rakishly handsome and played by Colin Farrell. The ladies of the house – Nicole Kidman as the headmistress, Kirsten Dunst her one remaining teacher and the students: Elle Fanning, Angourie Rice, Oona Laurence, Emma Howard and Addison Riecke – are all impacted by this arrival, improving their appearances are are eager to impress him at any given opportunity, despite many of them being very young children. At just over 90 minutes this is not a long film, but nor is it eventful, so the pace is often painfully slow. The performances are all terrific, as are the costumes, production design and cinematography, but the story was dreary. Fortunately there are moments of black comedy, often courtesy of the girls playing up for Farrell’s attention, and Farrell’s attempts himself to be someone they all wish to impress. To be fair, my screening was marred by various rude, selfish and misinformed individuals within the cinema who deemed the often very quiet film required a running back-and-forth stage whisper commentary, along with key jangling, seat climbing (and bashing me in the knee) and arriving an hour into the film, walking around it trying to find their seat whilst discussing how dark it is and how they can’t actually find their seat, before realising they were in the wrong sodding film. Ahem. The Beguiled doesn’t need to be seen on the big screen. It’s a small film that will work equally well at home, and I feel it is worthy of another watch to judge whether my surrounding impacted my opinions. Even if they didn’t and it’s a film I still have problems with, there’s still more than enough quality here to make it a recommendation.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 7/10
Full review coming soon, Lambcast episode can be listened to here.
Lists: 2017 Movies, Christopher Nolan Movies
War For The Planet Of The Apes (2017)
I really enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes but found Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a little disappointing, as I saw it after all the hype and found it just OK, which is also the case for War for the Planet of the Apes. At this point it should go without saying that the visual effects are stunning and the motion capture performances are terrific (though even if these kinds of performances were eligible for academy awards, I don’t think Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Caesar would be quite good enough this time around). War is a solid film, but for some reason I still find it difficult to really care about anything that’s going on or who it is happening to. Considering I’d been in a cinema for over 10 hours at this point I wasn’t sure if the boredom I felt in the first hour was due to exhaustion or lacklustre pacing, but I was relieved once we arrived at the predominant second half location, as it allowed an entire page of my notebook to feature a hastily scrawled “PRISON ESC-APE!!!” I’m nothing if not a true comedic genius. The addition of Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape is welcome as both a figure of immense pity and the film’s chief source of comic relief, a wafer-thin line Zahn walks well. Woody Harrelson is good if under-used in an occasionally Brando-mimicking role (director Matt Reeves was not subtle with his Apocalypse Now homages, even having “Ape-ocalypse Now” as graffiti in one scene). I’m happy if the franchise stops here, but if they continues, I’d appreciate them keeping with using the apes’ perspective, so maybe they could re-tell the events of the original Planet of the Apes, but from an ape society we’ve grown up with, that could be interesting. Anyway, this is still worth watching for the visuals and effects alone, plus Bad Ape, but try to lower your expectations from people saying it’s the greatest Apes movie and one of the best of the year.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 7/10
The Big Sick (2017)
Kumail Nanjiani plays himself in the true story of a section of his own life in which he was an aspiring stand-up comedian in Chicago (alongside the likes of Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler and their club manager, David Alan Grier) who started a relationship with a heckler named Emily (the always adorable Zoe Kazan), whilst his family (parents Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff, and married brother Adeel Akhtar) attempt to set him up for a traditional arranged marriage with a Pakistani girl. Oh, then Emily falls in and is induced into a coma, because everything was just too straightforward before that point. The Big Sick follows a lot of traditional independent rom-com cliches, but remains fresh and funny due in part to the chemistry of the leads, the realism of their situation (an early scene in which Emily is attempting to leave Kumail’s apartment in the middle of the night is hysterical) and the stand-up segments. The families throughout all feel lived-in and realistic, something particularly exemplified by the arrival of Emily’s parents, played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Hunter specifically is fantastic. The Big Sick won’t surprise you, but it will entertain you. It’s charming, delightful, emotional and often very funny.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 8/10