Bill & Ted face the music and rock 8/10

If you didn’t like the earlier Bill & Ted movies you’re unlikely to like this.

If you did enjoy them then this is a wonderful, natural, progression. All the familiar elements are there: goofiness, time travel, good and less good music, historic figures, ridiculous ideas, a genuine happiness, and Death.

Bill & Ted are older. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reprise their roles looking older and, for Hollywood folks, remarkably ‘normal’ for all of that. There are princesses. And Bill & Ted’s daughters Thea and Billie who play a pivotal role in making a happy ending possible.

This is a feel-good movie filled with unabashed fun and some hilarious moments.

Pinocchio stylish and endearing 6/10

Definitely not a sugary Disney tale. Here Pinocchio is created in a grim, poverty-stricken village. But one where there is love and joy too. At times.

Here, the puppet-come-to-life has a surprising and challenging story. Naïve, very child-like, Pinocchio goes after new experiences. To the adult viewer these are often poor, dangerous choices. To Geppetto they’re upsetting. To the cricket, a bit of a stern moralist, they’re all failures of character.

How else though is Pinocchio to grow? To change from a puppet into a ‘real’ boy?

An oddly engaging telling of the story. It is like a theatre production translated to a movie. Not realistic, but fantastical, fairly dark at times, and strangely compelling.

Though it was dubbed from Italian into English the retention of Italian accents made this more bearable than dubbing can often be.

Pinocchio’s initial abduction is horrid. Though his subsequent joining of the donkey cart despite his dilemma of doing what he wants vs doing the right thing is perhaps more heart-rending even though it shows he has learned and grown.

An often challenging movie that has some splendid acting and scenes.

The New Mutants 6/10 on IMDB

Not the movie I’d expected.

This is a confined horror movie with Marvel TV undercurrents. Way better than I’d anticipated.

With a handful of cast members, a limited stage, and some brilliant and weak acting this would be a great pilot for a Netflix series.

As it is there are some tricky parts what with supernatural aspects of mutantism like alternate realities, scary demons, and some poltergeist-like manifestations.

Nonetheless, the simplicity of the setup and the youth of the characters combined with the uneasy ‘Essex Corporation’ angles make this a credible and engaging movie.

Sure, you know it’s going to work out OK in the end. But that ‘OK’ is still pretty SNAFU. And the journey to it is better than many ‘horror’ movies I’ve seen and avoided comment on.

I hope this turns into a series of movies that lets the characters have some further rights of passage and achieve something like heroic status.

Worth watching if you like superhero movies but want more suffering and character exploration.

Tenet 4/10 tedious macho BS

Tenet was my first cinema visit since ‘onward’ back in March. I wish I’d stayed home.

If you want guns, violence, explosions, and sub-Bond macho bullshit then this is the film for you. It even has Kenneth Branagh playing a cookie-cutter Russian oligarch villain intent on destroying the world.

‘Temporal pincer manoeuvre’ is a phrase you might hear at least as often as ‘tenet’ in the movie. Just a reminder that this is a high-concept thriller where ‘you need to think beyond 3 dimensions’. Nah, it is a trite mashup of familiar ideas thrown into a blender and poured onto the screen pretending to be a Jackson pollock.

At one point such a ‘temporal pincer manoeuvre’ has a 10 minute countdown to its explosive conclusion. If time for the characters runs at the speed it seemed to for me as a viewer then that might be the longest 10 minutes of their lives. They will welcome the end.

The airport heist is perhaps one of the neatest scenes. Though it does go on a bit in its preparation, execution, and repetition. Some of its staging couldn’t be less obvious if there’d been neon signs pointing out the future ‘twist’. If you’ve never seen a movie or TV thriller before then prepare for a surprise.

The car chase heist is perhaps the most tedious action piece. It all seemed very familiar. Almost a shame that the flow of time here prevented characters from making Matrix-like exclamations of “déjà vu”.

It’s not without merit. It is an action movie. And an action-packed one. But for all that it lacks so much. Things like convincing dialog, credible characters, any real sense of purpose, or just something more than a weak premise and characters backed up by guns, explosions, violence, and more macho BS.

Dark Waters – compelling tale of corporate mismanagement

Mark Ruffalo (not Gruffalo as I often think) brings a great story of grit and the rule of law to the screen.

What I really liked about this film is that it seems grounded in reality. Progress is painfully slow at times. People are affected by the events. The passage of time has effects on everyone. And still the battle continues.

What I also liked was the perspective. The lawyers make the point that corporations are entities, people, in their own right. And they should behave like friends. Sometimes they don’t. Whether there manipulated by politics, greed, or just careless or badly-behaves people they must still be bound by the law. In the final settlement DuPont paid out something like $700m. Several times, the point was made that profit on C8-related products was $1b/year. Yet the first settlements, several years after the start of cases, were <$10m. Sure, $10m is a huge sum for any regular person. But it is a rounding error in yearly profits of $1b.

The film portrayed regular people, principled lawyers, and a corporation that seemed like someone who denies wrongdoing until the evidence is overwhelming and then peels off $10 from their briefcase of money to compensate you.

This is in the same vein as Silkwood, Erin Brockavich, and similar David Vs Goliath legal battle stories. Well worth seeing.

Seems DuPont, 3M, and others knew that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA aka ‘C8’) was injurious to health from in vivo and human experiments from early on in its production. And evidence built that PFOA accumulates in biological systems. With this evidence available they continued to pollute the air, water, and land around the Washington works plant, VA.

Where this story really works is in the human element: a farmer asks the grandson of a neighbor for legal help. The grandson grudgingly obliges. As he uncovers inconsistencies, omissions, and loopholes in the documents he reviews he increasingly supports the case.

Eventually, his legal partners work with him and the battle for justice gains momentum.

Parasite 8/10

Weird, I saw Parasite at a Cineworld preview and thought I’d put a review up. Seems not. I’d rated it 8/10 on IMDB but not written anything.

Great movie. Go see it. Not sure it should’ve beaten Joker at the academy awards but that’s a different argument.

The characterisation and the boldness of the poor characters is excellent. The separation from ‘normal’ life of the wealthy characters is similarly well done and credible.

What made it real fun was the tension of ‘will they be found out’ and then the farcical components of…well that might be a spoiler.

Had it been a British movie I think folks might have ‘seen it before’. As it is, the novelty of Korea and the exoticism of the society brings a fresh perspective and makes this a bold, exciting, and very funny movie.

Birds of Prey 6/10

Hard not to like Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. The story is a relatively mundane mashup of elements like heartbreak, revenge, theft, and the like. All combined with a difficult-at-times mix of surprisingly harsh violence, wackiness, and comedy.

It’s fast and entertaining but is perhaps a bit lighthearted and comic-like rather than comic book compared to other DC movies. Admittedly, most of those are poor at best so this is an achievement.

Some elements are great. The fairground showdown is a great mix of cartoon and grim violence and choreography.

Some elements are terrible. Ewan mcgregor as ‘black mask’ for example. There’s a good Begbie-like unpredictable note of viciousness. But only now and again. Most of the time it’s more Robbie Rotten. Victor Zsasz? More like ‘moody henchman’.

The rest of the Birds of Prey aren’t made enough of. The exposition from Harley is helpful, but we don’t get to gauge how reliable it is. some of the BoP action is a bit low-budget-TV which doesn’t suit the good cast and potential for outlandish mayhem that would be possible. Huntress and the bike-car chase could’ve been more engaging. There’s a really constrained feeling to all the scenes. This works in the club for example, but some of the street scenes reminded me of Batman (Michael Keaton): OK, but more impressionist than realist.

It’s an OK movie. Worth watching for some fun scenes and Margot Robbie as Harley.

If you liked suicide squad this is a step-up, but similarly pitched. Otherwise, you might give it a go but think generously.

Dolittle 5/10 some fun, a lot of ok

Emma Thompson as the parrot-narrator is a nice touch. But the level of exposition for the background and the ongoing story is a bit much even for a children’s movie.

Accents. Oh dear. RDJ gives Dolittle an accent that might be Welsh but perhaps is more a ‘cross-Celtic transatlantic fusion’? Still, he keeps it within about 20% of it’s starting point throughout. Much of his dialog seemed a little disconnected from the picture. Not sure if this was syncing or post-production drop-in work. Irrespective he gave a nice portrayal of an eccentric recluse who wants to help despite his personal grief.

The baddies were suitably small-children-film-friendly. Fiendish and ridiculous. Michael sheen was a fun dick dastardly type. Jim broadbent was a bit OTT but fitted the film.

The animals. Mmm some great animation and the animal-speak / human-speak bits were done nicely. There was a bit too much anthropomorphism though. Animals moving in ways that weren’t quite right. Hey, it’s a children’s film so accuracy isn’t its main thing.

It had the same problems most children’s films have: beginning and middle too too long with a quick resolution at the end. And some of the audience was restless as some things dragged on.

OK and worth catching on TV/streaming with young children.

The Rhythm Section – 5/10

Like the pilot episode of a TV series that wasn’t commissioned.

The two leads (Blake Lively, Jude Law) do a fair job with a bag of cliches stitched together into what seems a slightly credible picture of day-to-day spy-asset management.

The signposting of later events and ‘twists’ could only have been more obvious if there’s been a fourth-wall-break at each point. ‘Expect a reprise of this kitchen-based fight where the protagonist applies the lesson learned’, ‘look, deadly snake toxin in a syringe’ and so on.

Like many current ‘intelligence service’ like films this one features a lot of locations. Seems getting a reduced carbon footprint doesn’t apply if you’re on a mission for cold revenge. It also makes for lazy elision of events in the transition.

Despite the cold-turkey, the Rocky-style training events (though no montage-a missed cliche) the protagonist does not emerge totally awesome. Each mission/contract goes awry in a different way. I liked this. But a dash of realism on top of the rest can’t save this movie from being generally weak. Shame, as it had elements of several respectable movies in it.

Ignore it and hope no one tries to resurrect the idea for a one-season streaming series where U17 was only the front man for a deeper conspiracy that affects every subsequent contract Stephanie takes on.

1917 relentless, pointless, predictable 6/10

Some remarkable depictions of grisly war scenes. And a very human scale to measure the enormity of some of the parts of this bit of a bigger battle in a bigger war.

The ‘single shot’ style, or whatever, and the filming of one run of events in a larger theatre of play makes for a limited narrative. Like the early days of cinema, it shows effectively one perspective. Not that engaging for an audience brought up with quick cuts, multiple perspectives, and simultaneous yet separate events.

Predictable? Like a teen horror flick predictable. Makes M N Shyamalan look like a master of cunning and surprise.

Pointless? As a cinematic event, somewhat. As events in a war, apparently – the benedict cumberbatch character says as much.

It is relentless. Even when the remaining messenger has almost faded with fatigue and stress he keeps on going. Thankfully in a more human way than many glossy Hollywood thriller hero-types.

It’s a story. It’s not that well told. It’s long, oh so long. And it is both surprisingly and reassuringly anticlimactic.

I can’t really recommend it.