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Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 8

By midlandsmovies, Dec 12 2019 08:58PM

Review - Movie catch up blog 2019 - Part 8


The last catch up review blog of the year covers a whole host of the good, bad and the ugly flicks we've finally caught up with in 2019. Check out our thoughts on:


• Spider-Man: Far From Home (Jon Watts)

• Ready or Not (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett)

• Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria)

• Pet Sematary (Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer)

• Long Shot (Jonathan Levine)

• Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (André Øvredal)

• Dolemite is My Name (Craig Brewer)

• The Highwaymen (John Lee Hancock)

• The Laundromat (Steven Soderbergh)

• Eli (Ciarán Foy)

• Rocketman (Dexter Fletcher)

• One Cut of the Dead (Shin'ichirô Ueda)




Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) Dir. Jon Watts

With anticipated sequels comes much disappointment as the excellent Spider-Man: Homecoming gets a lacklustre Marvel follow up as Spidey and school chums travel Europe fighting new foe Mysterio. The often ace Jake Gyllenhaal cannot bring life to a villain who has nasty vibes of Iron Man 3’s The Mandarin as a duplicitous “faker” of fear. Far From brilliant, it’s entertaining enough but the abundant and plastic CGI undermines the admittedly solid performances from its young cast. ★★★ ½




Ready or Not (2019) Dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Samara Weaving (and spitting image of Margot Robbie) is excellent as a bride who is forced to play a violent game of hide and seek with her upper class in-laws on her wedding night if she is to join her new family. A quirky idea with some satisfyingly bloody set-pieces throughout a mansion, the b-movie thrills are given a leg-up by the cast who provide sleazy delights from the beginning of the game. A large smattering of gore and a thrilling ending makes this one of the most enjoyable guilty pleasures of the year. ★★★★




Hustlers (2019) Dir. Lorene Scafaria

Catch this film for Jennifer Lopez’s fantastic performance as mature exotic dancer Ramona Vega who assists newcomer Destiny (Constance Wu) in the ways of dance before pulling together a crew who scam wealthy businessmen. Solid to the point of blandness my initial reaction was that artistically it’s one of the most overrated drama flicks since the incredibly flavourless Spotlight. Plenty to enjoy along the ride however with a splash of added social commentary but like the drugged Wall Street guys in the movie there’s very little to remember here. ★★★ ½




Pet Sematary (2019) Dir. Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer

With Stephen King adaptations being all the rage again, we get a second take on the story of a haunted burial ground that brings animals, and later children, back to life with haunting consequences. The dry (and always unmemorable) Jason Clarke takes us through a tedious set of ironically lifeless sequences with little tension or horror to be found throughout its duration. It’s not something I’ve said before but put simply – go read the book. ★★



Long Shot (2019) Dir. Jonathan Levine

Man, I really like Charlize Theron. And Seth Rogen is more than likeable in most films too (despite his lack of range). Here, he again plays a schlubby guy who rekindles a relationship with school sweetheart Theron, who is now running as a US Presidential candidate. Straight to the point, but I simply didn’t laugh enough for what is billed as a comedy as each actor plays to their regular stereotype and I just couldn’t get my head around what Theron’s character saw in Rogen (kind of important in a film that’s about love crossing divides). Definitely not the hilarious triumph some critics have labelled it as, it’s an ultimately inconsequential and tiresome lark which tries to mix politics, class, love and ambitions to a hugely varying degree of success. ★★★




Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) Dir. André Øvredal

An inconsistent adaptation, this film has a 15-rating but its mix of tame frights and young protagonists smooths off a much-needed edge as a group of friends tackle a cursed book which writes its own terrifying tales they end up living through. Aiming for the tone of IT or Stranger Things but delivering more of a Goosebumps or Lemony Snicket vibe, a couple of the early stories worked well and although the framing device lends itself to a Creepshow anthology structure, the quality fluctuates too much to be totally satisfying. ★★★




Dolemite is My Name (2019) Dir. Craig Brewer

The last good Eddie Murphy film? Dreamgirls (13 years ago)? Bowfinger (20 years ago)? Well, as a fan of his early 80s hits (Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, Coming to America) it’s gratifying to know he’s way back in form in this real life tale of Rudy Ray Moore – a hero of 70s comedy and Blaxploitation films. Murphy is joined by a talented support cast including Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Keegan-Michael Key and Wesley Snipes, and has a terrific script to work with along with space to improvise. It’s reminiscent of The Disaster Artist where a similar low budget filmmaker creates a passion project with erratic results, but to some accidental success. The film therefore reminds us of how superb Murphy can be with the right material. ★★★ ½




The Highwaymen (2019) Dir. John Lee Hancock

Netflix pulling together two fantastic actors (Woody Harrelson & Kevin Costner) with the director of the stupendous Saving Mr. Banks in a period crime drama focusing on two of America’s most infamous outlaws must be a recipe for success, right? Well, sadly it’s a definite no. Mind-numbing detail, a lack of chemistry between any of the cast and a drama vacuum only serve to remind you of far better films on the same subject. The two leads take their investigating rangers on a wild chase to nowhere in a tedious drama. ★★




The Laundromat (2019) Dir. Steven Soderbergh

What the hell even is this film? With a cast featuring Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Gary Oldman and more, you’d think that alone would deliver a certain level of quality but oh how wrong you will be. With echoes of The Big Short with its focus (and explanations) of money laundering, the style, tone, comedy and drama are hilarious undisciplined as this massive misfire tries to scattergun pot-shots at the morally corrupt players involved in the Panama Papers. With three stories that simply don’t work together as a whole, it’s like Soderbergh attempted to complete a puzzle using pieces from different sets and what a holy mess he’s ended up with. And the final result is an even bigger let-down because of the talent involved. ★★




Eli (2019) Dir. Ciarán Foy

Eli has a rather interesting beginning as we are introduced to a young boy with a rare disease that causes severe allergic reactions to the outdoors. He arrives with his parents to a secluded medical facility (clearly not a good idea) and after some suspect “treatments” begins to see strange things which are chalked up as hallucinations by Lili Taylor’s creepy doctor. The major problem with the film for me was the squandering of a really fascinating idea despite the inclusion of a couple of well-executed ghostly and sacrificial set-pieces. Yet it fails through its technical flaws and poor script which just doesn’t bring alive the premise it sets up of [BIG SPOILER WARNING] a boy not knowing he is in fact a child of the Antichrist. A really wasted opportunity in my opinion. ★★




Rocketman (2019) Dir. Dexter Fletcher

Pack your bags and join a fast-paced musical biopic featuring the classic songs of Elton John in a star-filled romp through campy history and heartfelt melodrama drama. Director Dexter Fletcher (fresh from helping to “finish off” Bohemian Rhapsody) takes a different angle in this flick though, delivering a more conventional musical. For me, it’s not my favourite genre so although I love Elton John’s genius back catalogue of hits, the film was more like Moonwalker with a collection of music videos punctuated by a simple retelling of some of Elton’s important life moments. Taron Egerton (John himself) and Jamie Bell (lyricist Bernia Taupin) are both excellent but I’d rather listen to a Greatest Hits than re-watch this slightly formulaic, but well-intentioned, flamboyant diversion. ★★★ ½




One Cut of the Dead (2019) Dir. Shin'ichirô Ueda

Made on just $25,000 with a cast of unknowns, this surprising Japanese “horror” is an underground bloodbath success which takes familiar zombie tropes and its relationship to the editing and construction of smaller fright flicks. We begin when a group of actors are filming their zombie film at a water plant before a real zombie attacks takes place as the director and camera operator carry on filming. At the halfway point the credits roll (!) and the film backtracks to show a different version of what you have just witnessed. Clever and knowing with plenty of comedy, One Cut of the Dead is as much about low budget zombie filmmaking as it is a low budget zombie film. Takayuki Hamatsu as the director takes centre stage but a fantastic, and funny, support cast play their “roles” spectacularly. A genuine indie gem, the film is in love with other rom-zom-coms but its true romance is with the filmmaking process itself. ★★★★



Michael Sales


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