Uncut Gems (2019) Review

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Adam Sandler hasn’t been hitting it out the park with his recent comedic movies. With Uncut Gems, he is returning to dramatic acting and leaving behind trying to make people laugh and trying to make them feel something very different. 

Throughout Uncut Gems, you’re following him from terrible decision to silly mistake to awful choice. Adam Sandler is transformed into this character of Howard, a Jewellery store owner who has a gambling problem who is always trying to find the next big score. At first, I was expecting to be rooting for this character, to be cheering him on towards the finale, but really, you’re just cringing and feeling anxious about every wrong choice he makes.

There is a line in this film, delivered by Frozen star Idina Menzel, where she refers to Sandler’s character as the most annoying person she’s ever met. That’s honestly a very accurate description of him. He is uncomfortable to watch, and you are with him for near enough every scene in the film. The characters around him are important and effect the events of the story, but it’s very much about this aggravating man that you just wish would make the right choice yet never seems to.

Uncut Gems is unusual in that watching it is not fun, or even particularly entertaining. It’s an experience that puts you in an uncomfortable state for over two hours witnessing the events unfold. The film assaults your sense’s, you follow characters through busy sets with them throwing dialogue at each other at light speed. You aren’t given time to rest and just as you think one uncomfortable scene has passed, Sandler’s character has fallen into another one for you to witness.

I can see a way in which you might empathise with Howard in this, as things fall apart around him. As much as I thought I should be liking the main character, he is just such an uncomfortable and ugly character to spend time with. I was looking for a reason to empathise with him, but he’d keep giving me reasons to find him annoying. As things unfolded, I found myself giving up trying to root for him.

The film does a phenomenal job of making things feel claustrophobic and anxiety inducing. The whole film is shot in a way that makes everything feel very intimate. Tight angles and close ups are used throughout to really add to that feeling of being trapped with this character’s issues. Even the environments, particularly the jewellers he runs, are grubby and nasty places. At one point you’re at an auction, where things are run smoothly, and everything is neatly arranged which contrasts brilliantly with the mess that is his store & his life.

Uncut Gems was an interesting experience for me. I can’t really pinpoint what I think might improve the film. It achieves exactly what it was aiming for, I just didn’t really like the experience. The weird part there is that I think that is the idea. You’re supposed to watch this film and feel uncomfortable. It’s supposed to raise your anxiety levels. By the time it’s over, you just want to leave the world you’ve been inhabiting and never go back. Credit has to go to director siblings Benny & Josh Safdie for absolutely nailing their target.

Good: It forces you to feel anxious, concerned, confused and angry at the events unfolding, while you just wish he’d do the right thing at some point in the film. It makes you feel like you need a shower afterwards because you feel dirty.

Bad: It’s the least rewatchable movie since Foxcatcher.

TL:DR – Uncut Gems is a great showcase for Adam Sandler’s talent as a dramatic actor. If you’re looking for something to stress you out and spike your anxiety, this is the film for you.

 

Just Mercy Review

Based on a true story, Just Mercy tells the story of a man who is wrongfully on death row, and how one young lawyer strives to do everything he could to reverse the conviction and let justice prevail. Starring Michael B Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson, the film had all the potential to be a really great movie. The only question is could director Destin Daniel Cretton get the most out of this story.

Well they certainly managed to get really good performances out of the entire cast. Michael B Jordan as lawyer Bradley Stevenson and Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian are the undoubted stars of the show. Brie Larson, much like her characters role in the film, is a great support throughout but you’re never in any doubt this is Michael B Jordan’s vehicle. The film gives him a lot to do, but it’s at times a case of just a lot of acting rather than it being something really special. Not to say he isn’t good in the role, just I don’t think it’s the Oscar bait role it might seem like.

Jamie Foxx serves up a fantastic performance in his role as convict McMillian. You get a feel for the character pretty much in seconds of meeting him, and you buy that this man wouldn’t do the things he is accused of. Throughout the film he comes across as a genuinely good man and that helps with the impact of events later in the story. Those events in the latter stages of the film are really engaging and as someone not familiar at all with the source material I was hooked on the courtroom drama. The last 30 minutes are the best part of the film and you’ll be on the edge of your seat wondering which way things are going to go down.

The issue I had was that it takes forever to get to the good stuff. For a solid hour and half the film is painstakingly introducing plot points and characters. It does so with very little pace as it focuses on explaining every element of the story. It’s a difficult thing to do in this type of film with so much in the story to tell, but it just felt like a major drag for a good 90 minutes and I was checking my watch multiple times between trying to keep myself from falling asleep.

I wanted to be invested in the story early on, but it just felt a little bit too heavy and wordy. I think the film makers wanted to be very faithful to the true story and didn’t want to miss any of the information, and in that sense Just Mercy achieves its goal. Such is the nature of the facts though, some of it just didn’t feel very compelling. There is certainly drama there, but for me we didn’t get to the root of it quick enough and that took a lot away from the film for me. 

This felt like a story that could’ve been spread across an entire eight-hour season of a show, where we could’ve really dived into every detail. The film is a crawl of information that takes a while to get onto its feet, but once it’s on its feet it runs away with you and ends with a tremendous punch. The social commentary and morals on show are scarily relevant today for a story from the early 90’s. Just Mercy is an important film, perhaps more than it is an entertaining one. During the screening I found myself a little bored early on but coming out of the cinema I felt a bit uplifted and hopeful, and it wasn’t just because I was heading to get Buffalo wings. 

Good: Great performances in a powerful story with a really good third act.

Bad: The first part of the film is a drag, and that makes it feel like a long time to get to the good stuff.

7/10 – Jamie Foxx is HUGE

 

Emma. Review

I had no idea what to expect with this film, a rarity nowadays with the number of trailers around. I knew I liked what I’d seen of Anya Taylor-Joy in Split a couple of years ago, but beyond that I didn’t know what I was getting with Emma.

As the film begins, I struggled to pin down what exactly this film was about. The characters are introduced in a flurry of names and I struggled to keep track of who was related and who was familiar with who. By the end I had a grip on it, but it took a bit longer than I’d like to settle into the story.

The first hour of Emma meanders aimlessly before it starts to sharpen its focus. Until then I was asking myself what the story was that this film was trying to tell. As someone not familiar at all with the Jane Austen novel it didn’t do a great job of getting me invested in the characters besides from the titular one, which makes some of the impactful scenes in the second half of the film flat.

Anya Taylor-Joy is excellent in that lead role and carries the entire film. Emma goes against the norm by having its title character quite an unlikable person. She is enjoying playing matchmaker and comfortable playing god with other people’s lives. As the events of the film develop, her character does too and there’s is a clear arc and at the end of the film she’s changed from the young woman at the start.

The rest of the cast have a few stand outs, and as a big Sex Education fan I liked seeing people from that show pop up in this film. Emma’s father played by Bill Nighy provides consistent comic relief, which is needed as most of this film is conversations where names are being thrown about and you’re having to connect it up in your head. Nobody is bad, but the nature of the film means it’s all centred around Anya Taylor-Joy and each of the other characters are only there to react to her, they’re not really fleshed out much in their own right.

That lack of development is a shame as some of the relationships between other characters are key parts of the film. There are scenes and moments that I felt were supposed to really hit an emotional note that just passed by, and that was because I only really been told about certain characters and not actually shown their relationship develop.

Emma has an interesting story to tell, but it takes a bit too long to get to the job of telling it. The first hour would’ve been better spent developing the characters rather than just a parade of names and situations. The production design and costumes are all great, up there with what we had in Little Women. It’s not a bad film, it’s just not as good a film as it threatens to be.

Good: Anya Taylor-Joy is great, Period piece setting is nailed and there’s some good moments.

Bad: Underdeveloped characters left me wanting more, and the first hour felt like sloppy storytelling.

6/10 – A film I wanted more from

 

Sonic the Hedgehog Review

Sonic was never too big of a deal to me. I remember playing a lot of whatever the Dreamcast game was back in the day (what an underrated console that was) but beyond that, I have no attachment to him. Somehow, the trailers for this film had me intrigued, and I went to a 4DX screening of it which made the experience a little more memorable. 

The 4DX thing is a normal cinema except it has moving chairs with fans and water spray and air shooting out of the seat beside your head and the back of the chair poking you occasionally. To be honest I knew nothing about it going into it, so when I was being flung around in my chair like a rag doll within seconds of the movie starting, I was a little taken aback. I tried to ignore it for the most part, but it added to the experience, and being a film that contains a lot of Sonic running around at high speed, it was a lot of fun.

The plot fits neatly into the “Don’t think about it too much” category and the coincidences that are required for the plot to happen are a touch too convenient but it works well enough to push the characters together and that’s when the sparks fly. Sonic himself keeps to the right side of annoying, which is a careful line they had to navigate. When you start to think he’s getting a bit annoying, he does something funny or cute and keeps you on his side.

James Marsden will forever be looked at a wasted Cyclops in the X-men films, but he fits well in this role. He’s goofy, fun, and plays well off Sonic, which is a compliment especially when you consider there was nothing for him to act off for the most part in the film. He has good chemistry with everyone in the film and plays well off Jim Carrey’s Dr Robotnik.

I never really expected this character to work. I fully expected a completely over the top Jim Carrey performance that would be fun but dumb. To my surprise he is a legitimately good villain and will entertain kids no end. There is one line he has in response to someone mentioning breastfeeding that I have found myself chuckling at in my own time since the film.

I was surprised how enjoyable the action was, it’s all simple stuff, but the little touches added a lot to it for me. It’s good nostalgic fun to see the moves I remember from the game, like Sonic curling up into a ball and launching himself at objects, happen on screen. There are probably tonnes more of this kind of Easter egg style secret that I missed because I am not that well versed in the lore, but I found myself having a good time.

Sonic the Hedgehog is a film that knows its place and doesn’t try to break the mould. For a film aimed primarily at kids, it’s surprisingly fun for adults. It’s a film that all the family can enjoy and that’s exactly what it’s trying to be. It’s not aiming to make you feel a deep emotional connection to something or provoke any moral questions. It’s fun though, and that won’t change regardless of the audience’s age.

Good: Surprisingly entertaining and I would be happy to watch a sequel. Probably as good a sonic movie you could make.

Bad: Too much convenience and forgotten plot threads. Some egregious product placement.

7/10 – Sonic 2 is a film I want to see

 

Birds of Prey: and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quin – Review

Oh, Suicide Squad. Remember that garbage pile? Well Birds of Prey is Warner Bros latest attempt to put things right with their DC Universe. Essentially being a Margot Robbie led Harley Quinn film, they decided to bet on one of the few things to come out of Suicide Squad with any praise. The trailers were colourful and crazy, two words synonymous with Harley, so that gave me some hope that this would be a fun time.

Having spent my week watching Drama’s and Best Picture contenders, Birds of Prey was been a great palette cleanser. The 6th film of my week was by far the most colourful and striking visually. Describing this as a palette cleanser is perhaps doing the film an injustice, it’s more like I have spent my week eating Michelin star cuisine, and this is a chicken vindaloo from a takeaway.

It’s loud, bombastic and fast paced. The films firmly focused on Harley Quinn for the majority of the film and having just broken up with Joker, she’s trying to figure out what her life is now she’s no longer the clown prince’s right-hand gal. The Joker’s shadow hangs heavy over the both Harley’s mind, and on the film in general. You can tell they’d have liked to use the Joker for parts of this film but due to the controversy over how Jared Leto was received they just kind of awkwardly step around it.

Once Harley and the film are into their own stride, Margot Robbie takes over completely and is clearly enjoying her time as this character. She does all she can to embody the anarchic yet fun personality the character has always had. She uses Guns, exploding glitter bombs, Mallets and baseball bats and you believe she’s just having a great time doing so regardless of who she’s using them against.

The rest of the birds aren’t developed nearly as much as Harley, but they’re all fun in their own way. Rosie Perez as frustrated detective Renee Montoya is a believable bad ass, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is entertaining and then funny when needed, and she plays it really well. Those two are pretty undeveloped throughout the film. Both are given backstory through the running voice-over from Harley Quinn, but they aren’t really given much to do besides that.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays Black Canary and of the other members of the Birds, her character came closest to having an arc worth noting. Youngster Ella Jay Basco plays Cassandra Cain and does well with what she’s given, but she is essentially a plot device for large parts of the film. They have good chemistry together, but I’d have liked to see a little more of their stories rather than rely on voice-over from Harley.

I understand why this film was so focused on Harley, as she’s by far the biggest named character in here, but her character is the only one we see go through anything and show any growth of note. The rest of the film adopts a “Tell, don’t show” approach which is the opposite of good storytelling in film.

As the main protagonist, it’s odd to find yourself cheering for her as she battles her way through a police station or blows up a chemical plant. She’s a psychopath and a serial killer, but she’s fun to watch. When you have such a flawed protagonist, you need a real dick as the antagonist, and this time round we have Ewan McGregor chewing up scenery and oozing arsehole-ish charisma.

He plays Roman Sionis, also known as Black Mask. I can’t say I have read many comics featuring him but from what I know of the character he’s a crime boss and a pretty feared one. His right-hand man is Victor Zsasz, a character who keeps popping up in live action batman media that doesn’t contain batman after his appearance as a key character in Gotham. That’s not really relevant, I just find it interesting how he keeps popping up.

McGregor clearly just threw himself into the role of being a dickhead, as the character has no redeeming qualities. They say the best villains are the hero of their own stories, well there is no way he is a hero in anyone’s eyes. He is fun to watch, as he always is in any role he pops up in, but there just isn’t much to the character other than he wants something, and these women are in the way.

That brings me onto the heavy-handed Women V Men angle this film takes, and whilst I have nothing against it being this way, it’s never really acknowledged. Sionis builds an army of mercenaries, but none of them are female. There is one moment when a female is trying to get out protagonist’s and it’s a short exchange with a stick of dynamite. This film doesn’t give enough time to developing the group and making them feel like strong characters. The bond between them isn’t there, we are just told they’re a group of strong people, and then they fight their way out of situations to prove it.

When you focus a film so much on the plot and what the antagonist is after rather than the characters, you need it to be an interesting plot. Roman Sionis, whilst definitely a dickhead, just want’s something. Harley and the Birds of Prey are between him and that, and that’s the conflict. There is nothing deeper at play. That type of plot is fine in films where the characters are strong and well developed throughout the movie and it becomes more about them and their interactions than the plot, but Bird of Prey doesn’t do that.

Birds of Prey is an entertaining film and it’s a feast of visual candy for the eyes. Harley Quinn is front and centre, and perhaps that’s needed for the first one of these films, assuming there will be more. There is potential for a franchise here, as the characters have enough to intrigue me further, just I wanted more in this one. This film gets much closer to where Suicide Squad was trying to get to, and if you’re into the superhero genre, it’ll be a lot of fun for you. If only this had come out years ago, pre joker, and they just hinted at him throughout before a reveal in The Batman next year. If Only.

Good: Margot Robbie is electric; the cinematography and colours are a treat and the violence is really well executed. Also a great soundtrack.

Bad: Underdeveloped characters for all but Harley, and a very basic plot.

7/10 – Colourful Fun

 

Marriage Story Review

At last I have completed the list of the Best Picture nominees with the one I could have watched ages ago on Netflix. Fresh from watching Parasite, I got comfortable on the couch and watched Marriage Story. The movie stars Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver as a couple going through a divorce whilst trying to make sure their son is happy. 

There is only one place to start when talking about this film, and it’s with the previously mentioned performers. Scarlett Johansson was in the most commercially successful movie of all-time last year, and yet this is the role she should be remembered for. This is her best work, and she fully deserves the nomination she has received for it with the range of emotions she portrays in this film. She plays Nicole in such a real, believable way that you don’t see the actress and you’re invested in her and when she’s on screen you just want things to work out for her.

As for her co-star Adam Driver, it took me a few minutes to get over the Kylo Ren factor. Having only previously seen him as the Star Wars character, him popping up and immediately talking about what he loves about Nicole is jarring. At first it felt like an SNL sketch, and I was waiting for the “Gotcha” moment. It never comes. What happens is just like ScarJo as Nicole, Adam Driver disappears, and you just see his character Charlie (Great name).

If there is one scene this year that deserves an award for the sheer incredible acting and performances of those involved, it is in this movie. The argument that the two engage in is terrifyingly real. I’ve never been divorced, or married for that fact, but I have had arguments with people I love, and it’s one of the most difficult feelings we ever process. Things are said that you don’t mean because in that moment, just for a split second, you just want to hurt the other person. Somehow these actors manage to capture that sickening feeling and translate it into something on screen that you can feel happening. Writer Director Noah Baumbach wrote and directs a solid film, but their performances elevate it to the top tier.

Laura Dern in her role as ScarJo’s divorce attorney is as sharp as a pocketknife and is magnetic when she’s on screen, although it didn’t quite match the tone of the film all the time. One of the other lawyers in the film is played by Ray Liotta, and I found he stuck out like a sore thumb. He was just a bit too over the top and felt like a caricature of what his character was supposed to be.

In the courtroom scenes you a different side of divorce, where the lawyers are using every little piece of information they have to try and turn the case in their client’s favour. What I don’t recall seeing in most courtroom scenes is the pain on the faces of the people involved, and that is clear to see here.

What it made me feel, and think about, is that feeling of loving someone but knowing it isn’t meant to be. It’s a personal thing that may hit you differently depending on where you are in your life, but for me it came at an oddly profound time. It also made me think about my own parents’ divorce, and how I have never even given it a second thought. Then I think to the odd moments I remember of them interacting and how weirdly nice it was to see them get on, and that feeling is something Marriage Story managed to evoke in me in its final act.

Marriage Story is an engrossing film, and one that crosses a few different boundaries. It’s funny, its heart-breaking, it’s the reveal that Adam Driver can sing pretty well, and that alone should be enough to make you want to watch it. It’s on Netflix, so nobody has any excuse for this one, it should be on everyone’s lists.

Good: This might actually be two real people who happen to look like Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, their performances are just that good.

Bad: The Lawyers were a little too evil and conniving to believable in such a grounded story.

9/10 – Statue Worthy Film. 

 

The Lighthouse Review

I was feeling very apprehensive about my viewing of The Lighthouse. I was unsure what genre the film fit into, and the Black and white filter with an odd aspect ratio felt like a useless gimmick. Would this critically acclaimed film surprise me? 

For those of you who haven’t heard of this film, it’s about these two men who are working together maintaining a Lighthouse in the 1890’s, and the film shows their relationship and their descent into madness. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star as the two men, and I have to say they both are one hundred percent committed and go all in for the roles.

The cinematography is a big part of the film. The black and white filter adds to the feel of this being set in the 1890’s and the aspect ratio does genuinely add a feeling of discomfort and claustrophobia while you’re watching. Some of the shorts are beautiful to look at, and the score does a great job accompanying the visual storytelling. I do feel like the aspect ratio is a distraction, and I wanted to see the full wide shot of the beautiful landscape shots.

The story they’re telling though, is very hard to put a finger on. The films not actually that slow, but so little happens for long periods of the film. We see them carrying out odd jobs, Pattinson gradually getting more disgruntled with Dafoe barking orders at him, and the environment they find themselves in is a grim one for the most part. The titular Lighthouse, and the actual light inside it, are reserved by Dafoe’s character, and Pattinson is now allowed up there.

Ordinarily, I’d find this intriguing, and in fact I did at first, but then I found myself waiting for something to happen. The intrigue around what is going on is then broken by something otherworldly happening. I think the more fantastical elements of this film are meant to be figments of Pattinson’s imagination, but you’re never sure. Perhaps this is intentional, to try and blur a line between the reality and fiction in the characters mind, but it just seems odd to me. There are tentacles about at times, but it’s just there because they’re an unsettling thing to look at. I don’t expect a film to try and creep me out the same way I get a little unsettled when I come across the tentacles in my Calamari at a restaurant.

It never felt at all unsettling to me, it just seemed out of place. The lighthouse, the tasks, everything about the work they’re doing is so mundane and real that these unusual fantasy elements don’t sit right for me. The film does a good job of setting up this harsh, unforgiving place, that introducing these supposedly creepy elements just felt silly to me.

There are points when the characters go off on what are supposed to be Shakespearean monologues that just didn’t make any sense. They are full of big words and fun sounding syllables, but they come off as just rambling nonsense. I think that might’ve been the point, but it just did not work. There is this running thing with a seagull in the film, which is somehow trolling Robert Pattinson, but I never saw it as anything but a bird standing there.

The Lighthouse is a film that is trying to be clever, and for me it came across as artsy nonsense. The idea of watching two men driven mad is appealing to me. The lack of freedom, the longing for human interaction other than that of the person you work with all day the monotonous, horrible work and harsh conditions. They are all things that would contribute to it, but they aren’t what the film shows. It shows two men driven mad seemingly by some other force, and that just isn’t interesting to me.

I know a lot of people really enjoyed this film, and I am glad for them. To me this is a waste of two terrifically committed actors and will be my example going forward of amazing performances in a poor film.

Good: Performances and Cinematography at times.

Bad: Lack of a coherent story, weird scenes that don’t fit, Aspect ratio is needlessly distracting.

3/10 – Whatever this film is trying to do, it did not work on me. 

 

 

Queen & Slim Review

Now and then a movie comes out of nowhere and surprises you, and that’s sort of exactly what I thought Queen & Slim was positioned to do. Technically a 2019 film, just released over here in the UK in 2020 for the Oscar season, Queen & Slim is a stylish, modern take on the Bonnie and Clyde story on the surface. 

There is a lot of caveats to that. For example, the first scene of this film is the very first date that our two main characters meet. Played by the excellent Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, the two leads are sort of chalk and cheese, but find themselves pushed together as the events of the film unfold. We are never given their names, but they are the titular Queen & Slim.

Their awkward conversation follows them into the car and on their way home, when they are pulled over by a white cop. An altercation ensues, and things turn out badly with Slim shooting the cop in self-defence when the policeman decides to ramp things up by introducing his gun into affairs. To me this scene played out a bit odd, because I just struggle to believe this is how a police officer would act.

I am then reminded of the harrowing number of cases of black people being threatened and much worse by white cops in the US, and it really makes you lose a little faith in humanity. Something that on the surface to me seems completely unrealistic and against human nature, is just a fact of life for some people.

From that incident, Queen & Slim are on the run, and initially things are intense. The first act flies by, and then we reach the middle section of the film that seemed to drag a lot for me. Once their plan is laid out, we kind of have a good idea of where things are heading and for me, they just kind of slowly make their way through things. In this part of the film shows a bit more of Queens character, her previously icy demeanour starting to melt as she begins to get closer to Slim.

Their romance never quite felt genuine for me. There were cute moments sprinkled in but not enough for me to think that these two characters are in love to the degree the film tries to sell you. It felt too convenient for these characters to reach the point they do in their relationship in the 6 days over which this film takes place.

The side story, or rather side effect of the main story, is this cult following that Queen & Slim attain. As they travel south from Ohio, they encounter people who have heard of their exploits and for some parts of the black community they have inspired a sort of rebellion in them. This element of the film, while I think is coming from a good place, felt a little off to me. There is a scene that we see which is shocking, but as much because it doesn’t fit into the rest of the film as anything. Police Brutality is a real issue, and one that needs to be addressed. I just don’t know if the way this film portrays “Fighting” police brutality is a good message to be spreading.

Queen & Slim is a very interesting movie to watch, but I don’t know if it will stay with me the way I thought it might. There are scenes that threaten to make you cry or make you jump. The script has some odd moments, ones that I literally found myself scratching my chin whilst watching and wondering what was going on. The characters would be talking in a scene, and then suddenly they would stop talking, but the conversation would carry on seemingly in their heads. It isn’t addressed, but it happened, and I found myself thrown off by the characters on screen with their mouths closed but still hearing their conversations.

This is a film that is nearly very good, but just didn’t quite hit me for six like I thought it was going to at the start. It’s a good film that consistently shows signs of being great, but never makes it there. It feels like Queen & Slim was being positioned as an Oscar winner, and the lack of nominations it’s received tells you it never quite fulfilled it’s potential.

Good: Great performances and a well-made film, shines a light on important issues.

Bad: Unfulfilled potential, and the message feels a little heavy handed to me.

7/10 – A good film, and I am interested to see what the people involved do next. 

 

Booksmart Review

I missed Booksmart when it released in early 2019, and I shamefully have waited until now when it appeared on Amazon Prime to watch it. I’d heard nothing but positive things about this coming of age story so seeing it pop up on the streaming service was a nice surprise just before the Academy Awards this weekend.

Staring a cast of relative unknowns, and being director Olivia Wilde’s first feature length project, Booksmart has no right to be as genuinely brilliant as it is. Coming on the heels of me watching the second season of Sex Education, review of that here, Booksmart feels like it’s set in a very similar world. The 80’s fashion is toned down, but everything still feels a little stylised, everyone’s outfits are a little bit cooler than in the real world.

Amy and Molly are the two girls we follow through the film, played by Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein, and they have really believable “best friend” chemistry. You immediately believe they have been friends for years and have the relationship that kind of time builds between people. They have been the bookworms, studying and forgoing the partying their peers are indulging in that we all associated with our college (High School) years. It struck a note with me because it reminded me of my college years, going around to a mate’s house and drinking alcopops and pretending to enjoy beer.

I also once woke up in the middle of the night feeling very unwell, so I staggered out of the room to find a toilet, only to discover a drum kit where I thought the toilet should be. In my head I then returned to bed and slept it off. In reality, as my friend discovered the next day, I had decided to return to the room, move aside the dressing gown hung on the door, and proceeded to throw up all over the door. I then replaced the dressing gown and went back to bed.

Allegedly, it’s never been proven.

Anyway, back to the film! Booksmart took me back to those days of being carefree and having no responsibilities. The characters of course don’t realise that, to them the graduation they’re about to have and the crush they have on their classmate are as big an issue as anything life will ever throw at them. When our lead characters decide that they’re going to let their hair down for a night and party for the first time, I found myself hopeful that they would have a good time.

Ridiculous situation’s come thick and fast for the girls, and the laughs follow each one of them. I found myself chuckling a lot throughout Booksmart, and a few times I was howling with laughter, quite a rarity nowadays in films. Sometimes they’re a little juvenile, but that’s my kind of silliness, and I think there is a scene somewhere in there that will make most people laugh at some point in the film.

Much like Sex Education, it isn’t all about the laughs. Booksmart explores the challenges of growing up in your teens with all the anxiety and uncomfortable conversations about sex and sexuality. The awkwardness of the romance is painfully real, and without really being able to judge, I think it does a great job with LGBTQ+ representation without drawing any overt attention to it. Early on there is a conversation about Amy’s crush, and it’s a girl, and that’s just how it is. Her sexuality isn’t a plot point, she has feelings for someone are, and that’s the important part of it, not their gender.

Booksmart is a… smart film about coming of age, and it approaches it from a different angle to most films I have seen in this genre. Combining this with Sex Education, this new wave of media about growing up that is directly addressing the most uncomfortable parts of that part of life is really refreshing. I loved this film, and I can’t see why most people wouldn’t.

Good: Funny, Heart-warming, relatable, great performances, surprisingly well shot movie and a great soundtrack.

Bad: A bit of a slow start had me checking my watch and staring at Instagram, but that’s all that stopped this being a ten for me.

9/10 – Near perfect coming of age film.

Marvel-lous Endgame, but is the buzz gone?

I watched a YouTube video yesterday on John Campea’s channel where he discussed the potential that the excitement for the Marvel Cinematic Universe was drying up in a way. If you don’t know who he is, he is a movie & TV critic who used to run movie news shows and now does his own thing. His video is worth a watch if you’re interested in his take on it, but I won’t go into his video too much here. 

This will contain spoilers for all the MCU including Avengers Endgame & Spiderman Far from Home.

What I realised listening to the topic was that I agreed with the points being brought up about the future of the MCU. The recent announcements at D23 were interesting, but none of them really got me excited for the projects. Here is where the sporting analogies begin, it felt a lot like a fixture list being released for a football team. Each season fans eagerly wait for the fixtures to be announced before reading them and there is a universal acceptance that yep, we will all be watching them. That is what I felt watching the D23 Marvel panel. Yep, these are all films I will watch.

Contrast that with the Phase 3 announcements that unveiled all the films that led into Infinity War & Endgame. At the time it looked a little different to what we got, with Spiderman popping up and The Inhumans being bumped down to an Agents of Shield storyline, but the hype around it was incredible. I remember my jaw dropping when they revealed Civil War. I couldn’t believe that was happening so soon. In my mind back then, Civil War was the next big event to follow Infinity War. But there it was on screen, Captain America: Civil War.

That slate brought us to where we are right now, a Post-Endgame world. Endgame was an incredible experience, something never seen before and when we look back on the first 10 years of the MCU we will realise it is without doubt the greatest movie franchise ever. Sorry Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. If you combine all those movies, you have ten Star Wars films, three Lord of the Rings films, and eight Harry Potter films. That makes a total of twenty-one films which is still two less than the MCU has covered. Twenty-three connected films all combining in one epic finale which delivered on the years of set up.

Endgame was brilliant, but did it actually harm the future of the MCU? With the separation we now have from the film, I think it may well have. Endgame finished a few of our main characters stories, with Cap retiring as an old man and Tony Stark sacrificing himself. Those two were the pillars which the MCU stood upon. Civil War was a film about them two main pillars being divided, Endgame was them coming back together before leaving the MCU they had built to fend for itself.

In sports terms, Endgame for Marvel was like winning the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup in one season, or like winning the Superbowl. But in doing so they lost their best two players. What I think has been an unexpected and tough loss to take, is that their new star player they had to take over from the old guard has just left as well in contentious circumstances.

Regardless of what studio executives might say about “This was always a possibility” etcetera, I think it’s clear Spiderman was being positioned to be the new face of the MCU. They know exactly what they had with Tom Holland in the role, and they wanted to bring that front and centre with great supporting players like Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Thor, Guardians and Doctor Strange. That stable of characters could carry the load while Spiderman becomes the leader of a new collection of characters. Now they are back where they were in 2008.

The current slate is full of characters I know very little about, but the MCU has proved prior knowledge means nothing and they can still make incredible films, for example let me present exhibit A, Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians came out at a time when we had the MCU stalwarts well in their stride, Cap and Iron Man were known around the world and any films connected to their MCU was a must see.  Shang-chi and Ms. Marvel aren’t doing that, they are coming out in the wake of what felt for a lot of people like the perfect end for the MCU. Spiderman Far from Home even felt like a perfect epilogue, showing the world in recovery and answering some of the questions.

Winning a Superbowl is hard. Losing your Key players before trying to do it again is even harder. Often, we see a team win a Superbowl and then struggle to reach the same level for a few years. In the Premier league, teams go in cycles, winning for a few years then rebuilding. But there are exceptions. The challenge for Marvel chief Kevin Feige is now to turn the MCU from a title winning team, into a dynasty. Think Tom Brady. Think Bill Belichick. Think Sir Alex Ferguson. They have built teams that win, and then keep winning.

I am not sure it’s even possible to do that in the entertainment industry, perhaps I didn’t sleep enough, and this makes no sense. But if it is possible to apply that analogy, I think the MCU may be the best position to do it. I wrote yesterday about DC, and how they are possibly able to take a shot at being the next big thing. I didn’t say that the reigning champion would give it up without a fight.

ChAzJS