Hotel Artemis – Film Review

This film had a great trailer, a great cast, and a great concept, but is it another disappointment from this year? 

We’re in Los Angeles in 2028, and Jodie Foster runs the longstanding Hotel Artemis, a safe haven and hospital for criminals of all kinds (except paedophiles, serial killers and terrorists).  The city is barely surviving its worse ever riot, and when a bank robbery goes side-wards, Sterling K. Brown is forced to take himself and his brother to the Artemis.  They’re not the only visitors and are quickly tangled up in a whole mess of criminal plotting. 

Going into this film you can convince yourself that it’s going to be a simple thriller, and you would be wrong.  The film doesn’t revolve around one thing, one McGuffin, or one plot device.  There’s loads of them, and for the most of the film writer and director Drew Pearce is trying to set them up.  So that means quite a baggy middle, where your expecting cheap thrills but getting a lot of chatting, and emotion.  Thus, the film almost becomes a massive anti-climax, however thanks to a 94-minute run-time and some surprise ultra-gore the last 20 minutes are entertaining.  Which was a huge relief, because honestly I thought it was never going to get going. 

During that baggy middle there is a strong attempt for an emotional connection through the Jodie Foster character.  She’s likeable, and it’s nice to see Foster again, but her story was too familiar and predictable.  There’s a twist involving her past that wasn’t needed, and you don’t really care about her demons until the very end.  And fair enough to Pearce because it does get more touching as it goes on, it was just a bit dull?  A lot of the routes the film goes down were unoriginal, including some of the action, which lets the good concept down.  It’s like: here’s this exciting idea, about future criminal cultish stuff, but let’s just fill this world with things that everyone has seen in every crime movie ever.   

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Thankfully Pearce elevates his weak writing with some competent film-making.  The action isn’t shot amazingly, but it’s exciting enough.  Pearce uses violence well – it’s extremely strong and used in short bursts.  I was also a fan of the films look, especially when it changes its colour palette towards the end.  The characters are fun and well played.  Goldblum in anything is great, Charlie Day was very funny and Dave Bautista continues to impress.  Some critics have called the film lacklustre, and I would disagree with that because of how enjoyable little individual moments were. I was a bit confused by the films messages, and the film gets caught between being political and silly so who knows what they’re trying to say.  Overall the film is likeable, short and full of watchable people. 

 

Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket? 

Yes! 

Sicario 2: Soldado – Film Review

I never bought into the hype of the first Sicario, and saw it as a well-directed thriller with a strong central performance from Emily Blunt.  Did it need a sequel?  Probably not but there’s certainly stories to be found on the drug cartel and the Mexican border. 

Josh Brolin reprises his role as federal agent Matt Graver, and is tasked to start a drug war on the border in attempt to stop the cartels trafficking terrorists across to the US.  He’s given license by the US government to use any means necessary so he enlists the help of shady operative Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro).  

The plot may seem a bit convoluted, silly and backwards, because it is.  Many critics have cited the film as right-wing propaganda, which I don’t think it entirely is, but it definitely stretches some racial political narratives to get the ball rolling.  And that makes the whole movie a bit uneasy, because spoiler alert, the film kicks off with a terrorist attack in a supermarket.  An attack that has no basis in reality, and pretty separate from the rest of the film.  So, what was the point exactly?  Other than to create some form of ultimate baddie and an excuse for some dirty tactics and killing later on.  It felt unneeded.  That aside the plot ends up properly straightforward, though quite irritating.  There are several moments that have no meaning, as the guys pulling the strings keep going back on themselves.  It was frustrating because the film lost all its narrative direction, with the constant starting and stopping. 

Despite this director Stefano Sollima does a good job of copying Denis Villeneuve’s style from the first movie, keeping the action sharp and subdued.  The action is thrilling and a nice break from the plot nonsense.  It’s a gritty movie, with a lot of death, which I wasn’t a massive fan of, but it’s directed well enough to make it pass.  Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are fine in the major roles, however they are playing very uninteresting characters.  They are bad guys, and seem to have no redeemable qualities so I didn’t care about them in the slightest.  Even the attempt to give Alejandro (Del Toro) depth didn’t land, because of how astronomically menacing he is.  The emotional connect with cartel boss daughter Isabel Reyes (Isabela Moner) was there for a brief moment, but wasn’t written with much detail.  It’s amazing that this was penned by Taylor Sheridan, who I like, because the script lacked any sort of weight.   

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I don’t think the film is offensive because it’s obvious that everyone in the film are bad people, doing bad things and nothing is justified as a necessary evil.  However, the film didn’t have the good and idealistic Emily Blunt character to balance it out, or for a reason to be bothered, so it ended up being very dull.  Yet dull doesn’t mean boring, and the film wasn’t boring.  It has a few exciting scenes, and it’s patiently shot and acted.   

 

Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket? 

No, let a whole new host of people make a drug cartel movie that has a point to it. 

My Mid-Year Top 10 Films of 2018

Last year I did this to see if anything stayed in my top ten till the end of the year, and it was interesting because not a lot did.  This year I’ve seen way more films, so it should be a better standard of list.  And are lists boring? Yes probably, and there have been plenty of tweets lately saying how it’s annoying that male critics do them all the time, but I like them.  I like them because when people find out that I see most big releases, they always ask me for recommendations, so this list is for them.  Some disclaimers: firstly, I don’t see everything, especially not all smaller movies and I usually don’t get to them until about a year later, but I have seen 37 movies this year, which is a pretty big sample size for six months.  Secondly these are UK releases, so you might see a couple of 2018 Oscar films, but if they came out this year in England, they make it into this list.  And thirdly this isn’t a list based on quality but instead my own personal enjoyment scale.

 

10.  Annihilation (March)

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The fact that this only came out on Netflix in the UK was so sad, because I was relying on my rubbish internet connection for a good quality image.  That aside the film was really interesting and has a couple of moments that are imprinted onto my mind.  I’m not usually a massive fan of Natalie Portman, but this was about the best thing she’s ever done.  Her character is really dark, and troubled, to a point where it’s reflected in the horrors of the film.  Writer and director Alex Garland is a bit of a hero of mine, and I’m eager to watch this one again.  Full review here: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/03/13/annihilation-film-review/

 

9.  Hostiles (January)

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This is probably the most underrated film of the year so far?  Right from the opening of this movie I was sold to this gritty, but beautiful western.  On a visual level it’s breathtaking, and it has some of the best performances of the year.  Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike are terrific, and it has a stellar supporting cast.  The score adds another gorgeous layer to the film, where composer Max Richter used some funky instruments to make some ambient sounds.  It doesn’t thematically reach the heights its aiming for but I cannot recommend this one enough if you missed it!  Full review here: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/01/07/hostiles-film-review/

 

8.  A Quiet Place (April)

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I knew I would like this film from the trailer, and it didn’t disappoint.  It’s a series of plot devices mashed together to make a really effective thriller.  John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are both great, and the movie absolutely silenced the cinema I was in.  Is some of the narrative a bit annoying? Yes however the conceitedness brings enough excitement to pull it through.  The scene with the fireworks is one of my favourites so far this year (I might do a list of best scenes).  Full review here: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/04/07/a-quiet-place-film-review/

 

7.  I, Tonya (February)

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This one surprised me by how much I loved it.  The way they told this true story was totally engaging, and honest.  It has a great central performance from Margot Robbie, which I thought should have won the Oscar.  The film has the best editing I have seen for a while, where it brilliantly switches from comedic beats to dramatic ones.  It also has some exquisite cinematography during the skating scenes.  Full review here: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/02/07/i-tonya/

 

6.  Ghost Stories (April)

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An actual scary horror film!  I’m a sucker for a British film that reaches for the heights of genre and this does exactly that.  There are plenty of jumps throughout, but the last 20 mins is properly haunting.  The characters are alluring, and I liked the way the story pretty much drifted away into something different by the end.  It has large budget sensibilities as well, which not a lot of smaller British movies achieve.  Full review here: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/04/10/ghost-stories-film-review/

5.  You Were Never Really Here (March)

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When I came out of this one I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not.  Thinking about it makes me realise how brilliant it is, and how much I enjoyed it.  Joaquin Phoenix is a marvel of an actor, and with director Lynne Ramsey makes a richly intense movie.  Her choices to subvert our expectations about what the film should be really worked, and made for a more colourful experience.  It will pick at your brain, rather than thrill you.  Full review here: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/03/14/you-were-never-really-here-film-review/

 

4.  Isle of Dogs (March)

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I haven’t got a bad word to say about this stunning movie that is lovely on every level. Wes Anderson is now a master at his craft, and the detail in this film is outstanding.  The cast is of course extraordinary, and they each get their own moment to express themselves.  I went to the premiere and enjoyed the film, then loved it when it came out on full release.  Full review here: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/02/23/isle-of-dogs-film-review/

 

3.  Avengers: Infinity War

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I definitely wasn’t expecting this to be up here!  I’m not a fan of the Marvel movies at all, and I wasn’t excited going in, but it absolutely blew me away.  I thought the action was fun, and brilliantly choreographed, and the plot quite daring.  There is so much I could praise about this film because each step it took made complete sense. And most of all it made me want to know what’s going to happen next for the first time in this universe.

 

2.  Phantom Thread (February)

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I really thought this was going to be number one right up until the end of the year because of how much I’m in love with this film.  It’s nuanced, thrilling and moving.  Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the worlds great artists, and the subtleties in this movie are genius.  It’s actually a perfect movie with an elegant final performance from Daniel Day – Lewis, and the most pleasing shot choices of the year.  A piece on the film and how it relates to health and eating: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2018/02/13/phantom-thread-health-and-eating/

 

1.  McQueen (June)

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This has just come in at number one, and for good reason.  I was captivated by the story of Alexander McQueen from start to finish.  I was amazed by his fashion, his art and him as a person.  It’s a dark story, where the filmmakers play on that with style.  The film is structured through different McQueen fashion shows, as he goes through his life and his craft moulding around him.  It brought me to tears through the sheer impact of his work, but also the heartbreaking nature of his psyche.

 

 

Here’s 11-20 with points reviews based upon Presentation (P – look of the film), Performance (PA – the acting), Narrative (N – the story) and Effect (E – Did the film have an impact on me?)…

 

11.  Lady Bird –  P: 2.5/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8.5/10

12.  Solo: A Star Wars Story – P: 2/3, PA: 2/3, N: 2.5/3, E: 0/1 – Final Score: 6.5/10

13.  Unsane – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 2/3, E: 0/1 – Final Score: 7/10

14.  Game Night – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 7.5/10

15.  Coco – P: 3/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8.5/10

16.  The Shape of Water – P: 2.5/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2/3, E: 0/1 – Final Score: 7.5/10

17.  Black Panther – P: 2/3, PA: 2/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 7/10

18.  The Post – P: 2/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2.5/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8.5/10

19.  Hereditary – P: 3/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2/3, E: 0/1 – Final Score – 8/10

20.  Blockers – P: 1.5/3, PA: 2/3, N: 1/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 5.5/10

 

I tweet about films ALL THE TIME here: https://twitter.com/insiderobbie

Hereditary – Film Review

Boy was I excited to see this one.  Horror films are the greatest genre when done right, and this film has been praised almost across the board from critics.  The trailer was incredibly enticing, and I entered the cinema anxiously, worrying about how much the film would scare me.  How disappointed was I?

Toni Collette stars as Annie, a miniatures artist, whose mother has just passed away.  Her husband and two children (one a young teenager, one an old teenager) are dealing with the death in their own ways, however in their mourning something more sinister appears to be going on.

This is a classic case of great form not equating to a great film.  On a technical level this film is outstanding, with perfect cinematography, tight writing, and high class performances.  However the film struggles to find a hook or a point of interest by the time it’s done.  And this was properly disappointing because I got about two thirds of the way through and was thinking: this is good, but this is it isn’t it – nothing more is coming.  There was no ‘grab you by the throat’ plot point, and ultimately the film lacked meaning.

Focusing on the positives though, it is an expertly crafted couple of hours.  The film is beautifully shot, with Wes Anderson esque framing, and low key natural lighting.  It parallels stylistically between Annie’s miniature models and reality well, and the opening shot (an example of this) is sublime.  The acting is top draw – Collette is brutally engaging as a very emotive and often deranged mother.  There is a moment where she lists all the crazy things that have happened in her family, and is so captivating because of her delivery.  Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff are brilliant as the children; Wolff in particular is starting to impress me with his range of teenage sadness (Patriots Day).  I was also a fan of the quieter father role, played by Gabriel Byrne as he effectively becomes the only hero of the film.  These actors in the drama are what the film gets right, over the horror stuff.

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However not that all of the horror stuff doesn’t work.  In fact a lot of it is unnerving, and spooky.  One scene involving a séance was the only real scene that got me on edge, but overall the film made me uncomfortable (in a good way) throughout.  It was a little lacklustre at times that’s all, and even though the themes of the film work, (mental health issues passed down through a family like a curse), they could have been delivered with more vigour.  And they could have unpicked more things that they set up, because without spoiling anything, I got the feeling there is a much more interesting road this film could have gone down.  If you’re into slow burn horror movies, you’ll enjoy this, but you might not love it like some critics do.

 

Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?

Yes!

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Film Review

Something that Infinity War showed me was that a massive blockbuster franchise can be interesting, and can get me excited for what’s coming next.  I enjoyed The Last Jedi but it made me pretty much stop caring about what was coming next in the Star Wars universe – it made me stop caring.  There seems nowhere to go in the saga, and the spin-offs are looking backwards.  They are looking backwards at a character whose main attraction is their mystery, and seedy past.  Han Solo is one of the great movie characters, so why ruin it by explaining it all?  So it’s taken me a while to catch this, but now I have, not all of my worries came true.

One of the positives I’ve heard people say about this film is that it is fun, and I’d have to agree with that!  Yet it’s not out and out silly fun, and handles the tone well.  It’s fun where Rogue One sometimes wasn’t, and serious where sometimes The Last Jedi was too zany.  However I’m not going to only compare it to other Star Wars movies, because actually the film felt the most separate from the main saga – for the first time!  Even though it revolves around an iconic character of the franchise, the content was distant to the usual space opera affair.  It really does have a criminal and dirty aesthetic, away from the melodramatic Sci-Fi stuff which at times was bleak but I liked because it was consistent right the way through.  The film starts grey and ends grey.

All credit to Ron Howard for steering this ship into a more than competent directorial effort.  He was cited as a safe pair of hands, but the film actually has a lot of style.  The action sequences were exciting, cohesive and well put together.  I was a massive fan of how mechanical the film was; with everything having a meaning and a purpose.  Okay so the characters have got to get to a planet to get a thingy?  There’s a special route to the planet though, and we have to fix something so that we can carry the thingy.  This made the usual bore of the same plot more engaging, because it felt grounded in its problem solving.  It’s quite muted visually, which allowed the flair to come from the acting performances.  And I wasn’t expecting much.  Alden Ehrenreich was weird casting, but honestly I thought he nailed.  He’s given the odd bad line, and occasionally makes out of place decisions as Solo, however his imitation of Han is great.  Emilia Clarke on the other hand is a bit of a snooze, though her fraudulent acting doesn’t crumble the entire movie.  Paul Bettany is of course the best part of the film, with his villain being the perfect mix of polite and evil – he was probably more inspired as a baddie than Darth Vader to be honest.

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Not sure I could ask more than what the film gave me.  It’s the first modern Star Wars film that didn’t feel too long, and each set piece was a blast.  The range of minor characters were good company – Lando (Donald Glover) and Beckett (Woody Harrelson) both charming.  Unfortunately the film lacks any form of true empathy, and any emotion presented felt forced, with any quieter dialogue coming across as phony.  I’m still waiting for another “I love you.” “I know,” moment.   Despite this I’m thankful that the film didn’t bludgeon the Han Solo character, and worked as a snappy adventure film.

 

Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?

I was planning on saying NO whether the film was good or not, simply because the only way to gear Disney into new characters and stories is if these back story films stop making money.

The Absent Female in Kramer vs Kramer

One thing that fascinates me about film watching is how our tastes change as we change.  The enjoyment of a film is based purely on your personality and life situation.  For example a friend recently told me he was really into old gangster films, so I asked if he meant like The Godfather (1972) and he said no, like Public Enemies (2009).  He said that he believed that it was the best gangster movie of all time, though I later found out he hadn’t even seen Goodfellas (1990) or any film of the genre before the year 2000.  However Public Enemies is the best gangster film for him because of his small research pool, and I would guess he probably wouldn’t enjoy a classic from the seventies.  The point being that what we like in a film is completely defined by who we are as a person, but also what we’ve seen in the past.  And then your tastes mature, because of the people you meet and the experiences you go through.  You ask me at sixteen whom my favourite director was and I would’ve probably said Quentin Tarrantino, in a typical teenage boy kind of way.  Go ahead four years and though his films are good, they can be slightly repugnant to me.  This is because I’ve changed, not necessarily in some gap year life affirming journey, but just in small ways.  Spending a lot of time with an intelligent and caring woman is a massive step to changing how you view films.  Suddenly those romantic films you adore seem silly because the girl you’re watching them with is telling you how inaccurate the portrayal is of the female in the relationship.  You start to notice where women are ignored or falsely portrayed for the sake of the director, because of this different perspective sat next to you.  Then your eyes are open, and they were firmly open to an absent character in the film Kramer vs Kramer (1979).

The film itself is great.  It is a simple concept (custody battle of the child of a divorced couple) told very gently, and it breezes by.  Dustin Hoffman (ugh) is fantastic as father Ted Kramer and gets wonderful treatment as a man creating a tight bond with his son, and understanding the perils of leaving your wife to become a bored housewife.  And the film pretty much focuses entirely on that – how Ted realises that he loves his son over his work and was negligent of his wife’s needs.  Yet we rarely see his wife’s point of view.  Joanna Kramer, played of course superbly by Meryl Streep, is absent for most of the movie after the first ten minutes.  She disappears and is shown to have abandoned her child.  Now she’s left for good reason, and that’s explicit, but the decision to keep her out of the frame and elevate this character arc from Ted is something I locked into.  It was under my nose because I’ve started to understand the role of the female in cinema more, because of my learning new values, following feminist writers on twitter and spending time with that female who has changed my life so much.  The idea is conceited yes, and I’m certainly no radical progressive or anything, but once you start looking for the disregarded female it’s hard not to see it.  So I’m sat there watching the film, wondering how harmful it actually is.  Yes the film ultimately has a positive message, and yes the idea is how Ted changes, not the dynamic of this new attempt at purpose from Joanna, however there’s part of me thinking the film could have benefited with more of her.  Not only thematically, but also stylistically.  The joys of the film come from Ted’s interaction with his son, any two shot of them is sublime, and Ted’s interaction with neighbour Margaret (who is also divorced).  Therefore a look at the other side with Joanna could have given the film something more?  Or perhaps it would have lessened the impact of the beautiful life transition Ted has.  There is a mark on the film, because the man wins whole heartedly, and the woman is shoved into the dark without a real chance to protest her point.  I’m not sure how big of a shame this is, because the film works, but it’s certainly a representation of how gender usually works in popular cinema.

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It is a classic film, and this criticism is probably a common one, considering it’s an Oscar winner that came out almost forty years ago.  I’m using it as an example to try and key into how I’m evolving as a person and how my film tastes are evolving.  At twenty I am always looking for a new film to get into my top ten, so that I can remove the stuff that’s been in there since I was that geeky teenage boy.  It’s cool to see how my attitude is changing, and all my favourite directors and critics are well over the age of thirty so I’ve got some way to go before I’ve reached their calibre of understanding what films really mean to me.

Love, Simon – Film Review

This film’s first trailer was appalling, and I had no desire of seeing it till a couple of weeks ago.  It’s had good things said about it, and the last trailer made it seem more appealing.  Basically it’s another teenage comedy of age movie, except here the main character Simon is gay, but hasn’t told anyone yet.  On his school’s blog that reveals ‘secrets’ about its students, an anonymous poster comes out to the world.  In an attempt to not feel so isolated Simon begins emailing this student, and suddenly his immediate life starts to change.

I think it’s important to note that this film is a proper middle to upper class painting.  The American class system is strange, but the film revolves around well off kids, whose main problems are trying to get into Ivy League schools.  Their parents are good looking, happy, liberal and successful who obviously love their kids more than anything else.  This is fine, just a little soul-sucking, because middling USA is so uninteresting.  Teenagers going to Starbucks, performing in a school play, and going to tedious parties is boring, so the films setting is a little dull.

What keeps the film from getting stuck in that setting is its main character.  Nick Robinson as Simon is great, and likeable.  He’s laid back, smart and believable.  Some of the decisions he makes to get the plot going in the middle are frustrating, and thin, but Robinson’s acting is good enough that you enjoy being in his company.  Other than that the adults are the best thing about the film, with Tony Hale and Natasha Rothwell as the teachers having the funniest moments.  Simon’s parents are also played well (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) and they steal the emotional scenes late on in the film.  The other kids are fine, but aren’t given anything interesting to do.

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At times the movie is fun, and moves along nicely, then all of a sudden there’s some bad dialogue that had me cringing.  This happened a lot, and has ruined any thoughts of me wanting to see it again.  The character Martin (Logan Miller) was actually intolerable, and the film sort of relies on his involvement, which is a shame.  Though despite this the film worked on an emotional level, where the message of the film lands.  It’s about a young man struggling to open up to massive part of his personality, and I think how even in a progressive society it’s still hard to come out and feel accepted by the people around you.  This is all dealt with well, and the dramatic scenes that come from it have some punch.  It is also directed with some style, having some terrific cinematography throughout.  So it is an okay film that is schmaltzy, sometimes excruciatingly cheesy and often bland but with enough sentiment to save it.

 

Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?

Sure, I wouldn’t be rushing out to see it though.