Wednesday 22 January 2020

Not Just About Strippers Robbing Rich Guys...

 I’ve been quite preoccupied lately but I did manage to see a film that was talked about, praised and of course then over looked by most. I now completely understand the hype and delight surrounding ‘Hustlers’.

Looking back, I think I just over looked the film as all I saw was a poster of strippers. No context, just well-known faces playing strippers and the colours were all neon pink and purple. The buzz started on Twitter, as most things do, then it elevated to high praise quite quickly. This wasn’t just ‘some run of the mill stripper film’. This was based on a true story about how a group of strippers had fleeced quite a few wealthy disgusting men after the financial meltdown of 2008. But the film was even more than that, it was about friendship and close bonds forged and shattered. It was about finding your tribe and surviving through the worst times together as well as celebrating the best of times. It was NOT just any film.

Based on an article that was published in 2015 written by Jessica Pressler about a group of strippers who had drugged men and stolen their money. Of course, any true story that begins this way is going to grab people’s attention. It’s a fantastic story but the film has been given another edge, it’s about friendship. I avoided saying ‘female’ friendship as gender doesn’t need to be stated. Given the Robin Hood angle as these women were stealing from wealthy men, mostly disgusting men, drugging them so they wouldn’t remember and taking what they believed they were owed or rather earned. The women are given space in the story to talk and aren’t just pretty objects to be admired. They talk about the job, making a living, surviving. They have dreams, modest even, but the best part of the story isn’t the crimes their committed, is the central characters relationship between Destiny and Ramona. Key players in the article that caught the attention of many.

Without going in to great detail as this film should be watched with fresh eyes if you haven’t seen it, the film is a mix of black comedy, crime drama and female empowerment. This, much like the drug the women cook up, is a dangerous concoction that could easily be written off as weak crime thriller fodder but in the right hands, director/writer Lorene Scafaria to be exact, the film is effortless, brilliantly acted and doesn’t turn down a dark hole of hate. The love and respect between Ramon and Destiny, even til the end, is genuine. Why aren’t there more films like this?

Tuesday 14 January 2020

Watch List December

The leftovers from 2019...

Hail Satan?
 Who'd have thought that a documentart about a religion would grab my attention and even make me think twice about religion on the whole? I was surprised at how straight forward the story of the Satanic Temple was. On the surface it looks like its a group of satan worshipers who to put a statue representing their beliefs next to the 10 Commandments statue outside a courthouse BUT in fact is actually a fantastic positive group of people who came together to form the temple. They stand for all the things that those Bible bashers claim to be but aren't. As someone who was brought up Catholic, now not, I know exactly what those 'Christians' are like, maybe not to the extreme that the Americans are but I know them. Thought provoking and brilliantly told story. Hopefully the separation of Church and State will be realised, soon. 4/5

Little Women
Honestly, I was very disappointed when I heard that this was to be Greta Gerwig's next feature. I haven't enjoyed the previous adaptations I've seen, I don't really like the story but I do love the characters. My main problem is that I can't understand why Jo and Laurie don't get together, not married, just not to together. His 'romance' with Amy is literally just filling the void and in any version I've seen, its always going to be like that. Anyway....I loved this film. It was full of passion, creativity, Laura Dern and four brilliant sisters. Each were given a story, each was given a personality and each were fierce and brave in their own way. I was most pleased that Beth was given the heart of the story with just a few simple exchanges and her piano playing. A fantastic film that changed my mind about the story on the whole BUT still think Jo and Laurie would have been better suited, but thats just me. 4/5

Uncut Gems

Lots of screaming, lots of yelling, lots of money, not that many gems. My full review is over at Vulturehound HERE. 3/5

Frozen 2

Unlike the truly terrible (apart from Olaf) Frozen from yesteryear, this is a rare occurance. This Disney sequel is far better, still flawed, than the first. Great songs (can't remember them really) and finally Jonathan Groff stops talking like his reindeer and is given a song and its hilarious. There's an amazing water horse spirit thing and an enchanted forest, plus the cutest little fire lizard. The highlights come from Olaf who recaps the entire first film which is, again, hilarious as well as dropping inspirational and terrifying instagram quotes all over the place. It really was so much better and there's even barely any rock troll moments!! But the entire story is flawed and alot of what Elsa has to do it a bit obvious. But who cares! There's a cute fire demon thing in it! 3/5

6 Underground
I'm not a Michael Bay fan, at all but this cast was too good to ignore. And that is exactly what it is, a fantastic cast who deserved a whole better. The concept is borrowed and twisted and not in a good way. But the characters really do save this piece of high budget trash. Ryan Reynolds wants a franchise but the only way it could work is if he took the reins and made it better, like he did with Deadpool. 3/5

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

For the full experience, please read HERE.  3/5

Monday 6 January 2020

The Rise of Skywalker

SPOILERS. There are SPOILERS in this post, you have been warned.

For those who love the originals, for those who actually the prequels and for those who adore the latest films, this isn’t made for you. To those who don’t really watch Star Wars or were at the cinema and didn’t know what to watch, this film was made for you, so, you’re welcome. Collectively Kathleen Kennedy, Disney, JJ Abrams and that guy Chris who really has no idea what he’s doing, decided it was a fantastic idea to completely change the film, with reshoots, rewrites and cutting 30% of the film as late as October 2019. What I’d give to see the rumoured multiple endings and the original direction and ending of the film. There wouldn’t be THIS much outrage across the fandom or the tepid mediocre ‘I guess it was ok’ reactions from those who, to be honest, aren’t as big a fans as Star Wars fans. Yes, I’m saying this, because in my opinion I believe it. Let’s get started, shall we?
As a film, it offers amazing scenery, visual and practical effects galore, a few nostalgia trips that are appreciated and that’s it. The story is confusing, backtracks quite a few things from the previous films in the trilogy, adds in characters we haven’t seen in decades that were thought to be dead, cuts down characters roles to near nothing, shatters fans hopes for certain characters including the actor who plays him, cobbles together an ending that seriously flawed, denies us a scene that would have greatly improved the film, kills off a fan favourite without justification, shatters another fan base while thinking they did what they wanted, ends appallingly overall and doesn’t give us hope for the future of Star Wars.

The film jumps right into the action after a very quick intro in the opening scroll, with Kylo Ren finding and fighting his way to Exogol, the Sith home world or something near to that. There he meets Emperor Palpatine who is somehow alive and tells him to kill Rey and he’ll give him power and his Final Order, a massive fleet of star destroyer ships. Rey meanwhile is training with Leia’s guidance but as she is now struggling with the light and dark, she keeps failing. Poe, Finn, Chewie and C3PO pick up a message from a spy in the First Order about Palpatine and about the impending doom that will occur. The gang and Rey go on a mission to find a way finder that should lead to Exogol so that Rey can confront and kill the emperor once and for all.

To avoid giving a beat by beat critique that will just feel like a story explanation, similar to what I’ve seen Youtubers do, I’ll dive straight in. Having seen the film twice, I gained clarity on most of the story and characters. Meaning that the first time I just felt outraged and was over heated and immensely annoyed at the death of Ben Solo. The second time around, I could almost enjoy the mediocre tone of the film. No character was given a good send off, but on a whole the film was enjoyable IF you over looked everything that was built up in the previous films in the so-called trilogy. But my enjoyment was stunted by the incredible bad ending, not just Ben Solo dying but the fact we were all denied an actual fight between Palpatine, Rey and Ben. As well as dialogue between Rey and Ben at the end, but I’ll get into that later. We were also given a real slap in the face rip of ending that had been taken from Return of the Jedi with the Resistance or Rebels or whatever they were calling themselves by the end. The film was a mixed bag that consisted of plot and style elements stolen from other Star Wars films, note stolen, not homaged, terrible plotlines for all the rebel characters, a complete change in direction for the entire saga and a dissatisfying end for Rey and Ben.

With the reshoots in mind and the last minute changes, I’d really like to see what the original plan was and I’d also like to see the original cut of one of the final scenes which quite a few people have fixed for fans out there, yes, especially for Reylo fans, but in all fairness, it’s not only Reylo fans who are calling for justice over Ben Solo. Kylo Ren was a huge fan favourite across the ages of fans, seeing this happen with such a, let’s face it, utter shit inconclusive ending, its fair for the outrage. Having Adam Driver missing from nearly all press events was a huge tell-tale sign too. This could be explained as that he was busy promoting Marriage Story, even though that came out a month earlier, but it’s still something not to be ignored. JJ Abrams and the writer of such fan favourites as Superman vs Batman and Justice League Chris Terrio have been next to no help with trying quash outraged fans and disappointed audiences, they’ve continued to try and justify their pathetic attempt to end an epic story.

The major ridiculous plot twist that wasn’t a twist as it was basically blurted out in the first 5 minutes, making Rey Palpatine’s granddaughter was a weak attempt to try and justify Rey’s position in the Star Wars story. Making her ‘someone’ negates the whole point of what the trilogy was meant to be about. You don’t have to be famous to be someone great. But to JJ and that t**t Terrio apparently you are only worth something if you’re famous. Really shoddy character development boys. Rey’s story was set up as different and more interesting than the people of note. Believing that anyone could be a Jedi was the hope we needed and made for a great story, but JJ and Chris just burnt that-wait did the Torries write this? Rey’s story on her own was ruined but her continuing bond with Kylo Ren/Ben Solo was becoming more interesting. Confirming that they are a Dyad, the literal embodiment of the light and dark sides of the force was meant to be a bigger deal but despite being the best parts of the whole film, Rey and Ben didn’t get their epic battle with Palpatine, they didn’t even get to be happy together. Hollywood just didn’t want to give us the happy ending to the saga. This time, a happy ending would have made sense and no one would have complained.

After delivering such a brilliant cinematic masterpiece, Rian Johnson’s excellent story telling was ignored, negated and just plain disrespected by JJ. Johnson gave us a Rose Tico. JJ just cut her out of the story, even getting her to actively say she’ll miss out on the adventure to do some paper work or study something. Appalling. Finn, who was and is force sensitive was reduced to just screaming everyone’s names, mostly Rey’s. Finn and Rose were great characters, but clearly all JJ and Chris cared about was….was….actually no idea. Did they even care at all? They cared enough to put out rumours of Poe Dameron being gay. They definitely spent time on that. Even adding in a whole new female character from his past to flirt with a bit. Pointless. Oscar Isaacs has said that Poe was gay so I’ll take the actor who advocated for FinnPoe or StormPilot to be cannon. We were robbed of a genuine pairing here. These were just the tip of the iceberg. With plot holes and pointless detours galore such as why bother making Hux a spy just to kill him seconds later? How the hell did Palpatine survive the Death Star, really, how? Cryptic warbling doesn’t cut it. Where is Ben? He wasn’t a force ghost at the end so where is he? Why was Rey more emotional when she healed Ben than when he died? Actually, I can answer that, he wasn’t meant to die. Who the hell had sex with Palpatine? How the hell did Rey’s parents manage to be anonymous for so long? What was the point of death teasing C3PO and Chewie, seriously what was the point?? Also why the hell did Disney and LucasFilm think this terrible mess of a film would satisfy fans and non-fans alike? Its not even a case of all those who liked TLJ hate TROS, it’s a mix of hate and ‘meh, it was ok’. They wanted to avoid further discourse but instead shot themselves in the head with this mess. They could have just given what we all wanted, they would have made money either way.

Thursday 2 January 2020

Jojo Rabbit

Even though I saw this last year at LFF, here’s my review of Jojo Rabbit, besser sp├Ąt als nie.

Going into a Taika Waititi film there is an expectation these days. Before with his earlier releases you literally went into the cinema no knowing what you’d get but you knew you’d be laughing. Looking over his past films, Thor aside, there’s been an odd mix of wonderfully wacky characters within stories exploring love, abandonment, grief, boyhood and usually featuring an odd pairing. ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is all of these elements rolled into one, but the difference between all the past creations and Jojo is that, this is a war film. This is something to bare in mind when going into Taika’s latest with expectations.

‘Jojo Rabbit’’s plot had been loosely explained as the film where Waititi plays Hitler as an imaginary friend of a ten-year-old boy which is literally all you need to know about the film’s plot. But just to add a bit more clarity the film is set in Germany, weeks before the end of second World War. Jojo is an avid member of the Hitler Youth Organisation but after a traumatic incident, he starts to doubt his allegiance to the cause, despite having Hitler as his imaginary friend. His doubts become greater when he discovers that his mother has been hiding a Jewish teenage girl in their home and has to decide whether to turn her in or not.

With star studded cast fleshing out the supporting adult roles, the younger cast are given the main part of the drama which is the real strength of the story. The comedic tone overall is hilarious, poking obvious fun at the Nazi’s and their beliefs about Jews and how they functioned, even to the end of the war and the fall of Germany. The humour is dark in places but as this is a war film, its expected and is still enjoyable for the most part. Waititi’s Hitler is a highlight and brilliantly ludicrous, as in one scene he is seen eating a unicorn, but he actually features less than you’d imagine, which in story terms make sense. All the scenes with Jojo and Elsa, the Jewish teen, played fantastically by Roman Griffin Davis and Thomasin McKenzie are a delight, watching their tentative friendship unfold. Archie Yates as Jojo’s friend Yorki is just so adorable and steals a few scenes. With Scarlett Johansson as Jojo’s mother and Sam Rockwell on absolute top form as a German Officer, the adult and mainly comedic cast round out the story but this film really does belong to the young cast.

There are laughs to be had and comedy is the film’s second nature, war being its first, the balance between the two does work. Smaller elements such as famous pop songs sung in German and random cardboard costumes thrown just give the film that Waititi touch. Overall the film feels like an step towards the unknown which I welcome as I always look forward to what he’ll come up with next.