Sheroes (2023)

This film is exactly as good as any of the Fast & Furious films, Expendables or Megs 1&2. It is WAAY more fun and watchable than the last Jurassic Blah film. It is not as good as The Bourne Identity or Oceans Thirteen. It is not trying to be The Bicycle Thieves or The 400 Blows.

Why the hatred for a simple, popcorn action film? Maybe some people just don’t like seeing young women as action stars? Because they’re “unbelievable.” Really? To say they’re unbelievable means you believe ancient Arnie or Harrison Ford can leap about like spider monkeys. (Clue – they can’t.)

All the central actresses delivered great performances from what was, admittedly, occasionally lumpy dialogue. (But still better written dialogue than A New Hope, let’s be honest.) And the supporting cast were also excellent, the bit on the rocky beach with Love Interest Bloke was genuinely touching. I liked that the head kidnapper got to deliver an anti-US imperialism speech whilst twirling his moustachio. BADGES? WE NEED NO STINKING BADGES!

Okay, there were some silly bits. But Will Smith punched an alien in Independence Day – you don’t watch popcorn action films for cinema verite. In fact, partially what defines an action film is ridiculous stunts that make you throw said popcorn at the screen. The third act of Sheroes has plenty of those moments, you’re gonna need a bigger bucket.

Criticisms: there is some choppy editing going on. Like the last scene when they end up next to the plane but the audience is given no wide shot before they get there so it appears as if by magic. And what’s with the weird held shot when they’re walking up the stairs? I feel like they’d planned to throw a comic book filter on or something but couldn’t be arsed in the end so it ends up well stilted.

But I’ll forgive all that for the sense of fun, the beautiful scenery and the way that, unlike the increasingly pompous Fast series, this film blatantly does not take itself seriously. There’s no grave musings on the importance of FAMBLY here. Just women fucking around, having fun and shooting a shit ton of bad guys. YAAAAY!

Babylon (2022)

Poster for the film Babylon (2022) with Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva

I was curious about Babylon. So many reviews utterly panned it. Said it was confused, shouty, simplistic and, most damningly, not as good as the films it referenced.

Twenty minutes in, I was hooked and in that mindstate which is a bit like the stares. If I’d been at the cinema, I would have been shovelling popcorn into my mouth whilst my gaze was glued to the screen.

Yes, as critics have said, you could accuse it of being a re-telling of Singin’ In The Rain but it’s  actually more like Nickelodeon. With added full-frontal nudity and elephant pooh. Like every film made about cinema, there are bits of it that are self-indulgent and perhaps over-egg the pudding on how important cinema is culturally but that’s to be expected. At this level, you’re not making films unless you have a deep love of film itself, as Chazelle obviously does.

I disagree with critics who say there is no story, only bluster. There are three intertwining main characters with their own arcs but they’re carried by many sub-stories and smaller characters who all add up to create a sense of the contingent madness of early Hollywood. Where lesser films would have a narrator explain the expensive bits, Chazelle throws all the orgies and murders, malpractice and misdemeanours on screen. This is show, not tell and I appreciate that.

The three central actors, Robbie, Calva and Pitt give absolutely magnificent performances. Diego Calva has the very slightly easier job here as Pitt and Robbie have to act acting which I think is like asking someone to fake a fake laugh. That’s not taking away from Calva, he’s wonderful in his portrayal of how much love can both build and destroy you. Calva joins the dots so that when his character ends up in the most bizarre scenarios, the motor of his love explains it and we nod along sagely as if it makes sense. Who hasn’t ended up in a dungeon at 4am watching a massive man eat a live rat? Yup, yup, we’ve all been there.

A very envious, very fat-kid part of me will always go UNFAIR when I see Brad Pitt on screen. He’s so handsome that I want him to be a shit actor but the reality is that he was great when he was a kid and every year he gets better. Yeah, it’s annoying, isn’t it? Some of the lines he has to say must have meant things to him in his actual life and Chazelle clearly relishes the meta-narrative this creates and the extra layers of pathos that brings. There were at least three times in this film that Pitt brought me to actual tears. One of those, the melonfarmer wasn’t even saying anything, it was just a static shot of his face and the thoughts we could see going through his mind. How does that even work? I hate him.

Margot Robbie has to cover a frankly ridiculous amount of ground from sobbing, childlike pain to full coke maniac fuck-the-world-ness. This is a character not so much raw as flensed by life and she is achingly well aware that she doesn’t even have skin to protect her from the cruel eyes of the world. Her portrayal of someone simultaneously broken and brave is perfect, she doesn’t falter on either the big notes or the small, quiet spaces. I don’t know how she coped with filming this, I hope she had a month off in a sensory deprivation tank afterwards.

I’m apparently alone in thinking the film was okay in length. I didn’t find myself becoming bored or thinking that a scene was filler. Could it be shorter? Certainly but then I feel you would lose some of the world-building. All that stuff is crammed in there to flesh out the perspective Chazelle is creating. And it works. This film, with its actually disturbing Roaring Twenties and its frantic careening from one sensory assault to the next is the film Luhrman’s Great Gatsby wanted to be. That film seems positively polite now, compared to Babylon.

I do have criticisms. I wish we could have seen more of the Sidney Palmer and Lady Fay Zhu characters. But that would have shifted it to more of an ensemble feel than a main story plus subs, that would have been an entirely different film. Nevertheless, it says something that Chazelle, with actors Jovan Adepo and Li Jun Li, created stories that could each be their own feature film. This richness is why I love Babylon.

If there was one thing I would change about Babylon it’s that I would replace the period-accurate music with contemporary pop covers. That may sound like madness but I think one of the main reasons people hate on Babylon is that it’s overhyped, oversaturated, overheated. It’s a trip.

This is on purpose. It’s not a documentary.

Without spoilers, if he was going for trad realism, would Chazelle really have included the homage collage at the end? No. Chazelle is telling us a story about stories, he’s telling us a story about cinema and about a time, one hundred years ago, that was different to now but also exactly the same.

So, if he’d used modern songs, that might have been enough to signal to people, ‘Hey, this is not trying to be some historically accurate re-telling, this isn’t a PBS special. It’s a wild film about the wild days of film.’ 

I loved Babylon. I laughed, I cried, I ate things absentmindedly because I was so gripped by the images flickering in front of me. It made me think things I’d never thought of before and it also helped me forget my own life for a few hours.

What else do you want cinema to do?

The Matrix Resurrections

FIlm poster for The Matrix Resurrections, l->r Morpheus, unknown, Neo, Trinity, Bugs

Currently re-watching #TheMatrixResurrections and loving it.

It could slip into being too meta / post-modern / empty bricolage and yet it does not.

“Nothing can breed violence like scarcity.”

For those of us who were inoculated with Marxism early and are now fat and old, there are extra layers of nostalgia, pathos and deep regret.

And yet, against all odds, hope.

Trinity and Neo are every old revolutionary, every one of us that keeps marching, shouting and making trouble. ??????

I DO NOT Want A Lego ‘The Lady Vanishes’

Credit Note
06 Jul 2023
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Jyoti Mishra

Alfred Hitchcock's: The Lady Vanishes
yoti's 2023 MBP
Cancellation Date: 06 Jul 2023
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SO – I bought Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes on iTunes and was appalled by the crappy encoding. This amazing film was rendered into a blocky, cyberdelic nightmare of hanging faces and shifting backgrounds. I complained.

Apple told be to get bent.

SO… I complained again.

And they caved.

Never give up. Be the squeaky wheel and you will get the grease, baby.

Living (2022)

Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood in Living, a gentle and exquisitely sad film. Photograph: Ross Ferguson

Just watched Living with BIll Nighy, the Ikiru remake and I am sooo drained from the sad beauty of it and dehydrated from crying. Aimee Lou Wood is flawless, her performance is impeccable. I’m sure Oscars are in her future.

Nighy so reminds me of my Dad, of a lost ideal of literally gentle men that has now been replaced with snivelling shitbags like Ben Shapiro, Andrew Tate and Jordan Peterson.

And where is the honour and decency in our politicians?

Fuck me.

Monster Hunter (2020)

Movie poster for Monster Hunter (2020) featuring Milla Jovovich in te foreground (holding a sword and looking intrepid), Tony Jaa behind her doing the same and then a ferocious monster behind them, roaring.

I really don’t understand the low score for this film, I expected something dull and lifeless. But it’s a hoot, from the start to the last meowing post-credits scene. It is way, way better than I expected from the critical savaging it got at release.

PEOPLE – IT’S A MONSTER FILM! The clue is in the title. Don’t expect the emotional heft of Petit Maman – it’s a MONSTER FILM.

Milla Jovovich and Tony Jaa running across a desert looking scared and determined, holding various swords and bows, dressed in a medieaval style.

That being said, Jovovich puts in excellent work conveying both the physicality and battle-pain of her character, you can believe she’s a hard-ass officer. It helps that the fight choreography is on-point, I’ve seen a lot worse. Her and Jaa have some good chemistry going on and I loved that there was ABSOLUTELY ZERO lovey-dovey stuff; they were just comrades in a world full of nasty huge beasties. When the monsters and the CGI do appear, it’s waaaay better than most blockbuster offerings lately and the whole adds up to pure, silly FUN!

Part of that is the comedy, which is very restrained and old-fashioned cheesy! It hasn’t got that arch smug quippery that every Marvel film has now. It’s more simple buffoonery and hairball-related japes. Ron does get a couple of good one-liners in, bless him.

Get some popcorn ready or a big pizza and settle in for a genuinely action-packed and thrilling monster romp.

Three Thousand Years Of Longing (2022)

The cinema poster for Three Thousand Years Of Longing. Idris Elba towers behind Tilda Swinton, around the edges of the frame are assorted historical figures.

I missed this in the cinema so I gave an excited but slightly worried squeak when I saw it had come on to Amazon tonight. Would I like it?

Since my life isn’t long enough to waste writing negative reviews, you know that I loved it.

I was looking forward to it because I’m a huge fan of George Miller. You know, the guy who wrote and directed the Mad Max films. You say, ‘oh the ACTION director’ and then I counter with Babe, Babe: Pig In The City, Happy Feet 1 & 2 and, of course he produced the outrageously overlooked The Year My Voice Broke and its sequel, Flirting. How’s that for a fucking CV? This motherfucker has more range than twenty average filmmakers.

Sheba has her very hairy legs shaved by a servant while the Djinn kisses her.

From the first narration by the, er, Narratologist, 3KYOL hooked me and each scene plunged the barbs deeper into my stupid mouth. As ever, I’m going to try and keep spoilers to a minimum but what I can talk about is the richness of this film. The basic plot you need to know is this: woman who is a professional analyst of myths finds a Djinn, a genie. And he needs her to make three wishes.

This is a film, like The Banshees Of Inishirin or Everything Everywhere All At Once, that makes you realise how truly awful most cinema blockbusters are. How pretentious, smug, asinine and hugely, hugely lazy they’ve become. And I don’t just mean Marvel and DC, though they seem to be trademarking smug complacency as a film genre lately.

A huge room full of colourfully-dressed people. A sultan has his favourite concubine drawn up by his servants.

Born into this ‘will this lukewarm vomit do?’ film culture, 3KYOL is a defiant howl, a shriek, a refutation of the erasure of wonder and intricacy from cinema. The mise-en-scene is marvellous, we’re transported from one story to the next and each is a pageant of saturated colours, and supernatural sounds, of scenes that look painted as much as filmed. The score, by Junkie XL, supports the stories incredibly well and I’ve been listening to it again whilst writing this. It’s going to be a future favourite, for sure.

But the faultless CGI, the haunting music, all would be empty bluster if it wasn’t balanced by the story. Here, the writers (Miller and Augusta Gore) weave the whole arc of the film out of a series of smaller stories that are like the courses in a sumptuous meal. You never want to stop eating as you’re enjoying each dish so much but you also want to know the whole meal, to hold the experience in your head as well as belly. I really did not want this film to be over, I loved the stories of the Djinn’s fall so much. Each had that fairytale inevitably that the best stories do; they have their own undeniable flow and power and the best writers know they can never guide them, they can only move out of the way or be drowned.

On the left, Tilda Swinton, on the right, Idris Elba with pointy ears as he is portraying a Djinn. A still from the film Three Thousand Years Of Longing.

The film (because, yes, hold on, I must remember, this is a film) uses the growing relationship of Swinton and Elba as its trunk. This could have all gone terribly wrong had either of them not had the chops or if their union had lacked chemistry. But they do and it does not. So they sell the heart of the whole film: this is a love story about love stories and about love and the love of stories. This layering, of a Narratologist telling her love story and even, as we see in a couple of scenes, occasionally lying is delightfully complex. It’s a confounding puzzle that I’m sure I will love more with each viewing as I see yet more layers I missed this first time round. The slow burn of the central couple keeps us guessing as much in their body acting as in the words they use. I loved their approach/retreat confusion, it was so endearing and thus the sweeter when it was broken. Again, layers. Swinton and Elba are adult lovers, they have a depth and realism in this fantasy film that’s sadly missing from most ‘realistic’ cinema. I can’t tell you how much it means to me, to see people acting as real lovers do. Maybe we’re only allowed to see this in fantasy now? If so, what does that say about our culture?

On the left, a woman screams, on the right some kind of spider demon gnashes its dripping maw

This film made my heart leap and soar. I wanted so, so much for the lead characters. In the sub-stories, I was entranced by every idiosyncratic detail and many of the images are now with me forever. Which is why this is great cinema. In his direction, in his storytelling about storytelling, Miller has yet again broken through the boundaries of the form without explicitly breaking the fourth wall. As much as the Everycity of Babe: Pig In The City, he’s stretching and warping what we usually accept as part of the film we are served. This is what Miller does – he’s the motherfucker that gave us Erik’s Opera and Will & Bill The Krill. He is perhaps one of the most adept living storytellers, able to operate on multiple narrative levels concurrently while others can’t even manage one.

But more importantly, this is a beautiful film about love and honesty and hurt and the things we all put away in boxes, some named, some un-named. Anyone who has ever loved and lost will see a part of their story in this film, somewhere. It’s an entreaty as much as it’s a warning, it’s an invitation to feel and be free, to take that chance and make that connection.

Does it have a happy ending?

That depends on who you are and what you want from your stories about love.

Meet Cute (2022)

First – this is not a romcom. Well, it’s about as much a romcom as Punch Drunk Love or Eternal Sunshine are. There are funny bits but it’s the baby chickens on Eraserhead’s dinner plate funny.

Fundamentally, it’s a science fiction film that uses the mechanism of time travel to explore determinism, identity, existentialism and, most of all, the dream myth of love. If that sounds up your street, I think you’ll like this film prodding your grey matter back into life after MAJOR MOTION PICTURE hibernation.

In the end, it’s about the mess that life is and the simple, reconstructive force that redemptive love can be, once we stop dodging it.

Both Cuoco and Davidson deliver stellar, nuanced performances that, in a fairer world, would have them up for awards. But this isn’t an Oscar-bait movie; it’s an open rumination rather than a polemic.

In a TikTok culture where every piece of media seems geared to appeal to the emotional maturity of children, seeing an adult film about the reality of adult love is almost shockingly refreshing. Not one “wait – WHART?”, not one 30+yo acting like they’re 14. Real love: messy and stupid and horrible and wonderful and crushing and sedimentarily deep with a lifetime of hurts.

What would you do with your time machine?

Slumberland (2022)

Well, the credits are rolling and I’m wiping away my tears. Again. Oof, I probably shouldn’t have watched this film once I’d seen the premise.

But what a film! You know how Pixar do kids films but they gut you if you’re an adult? Slumberland just did that to me.

The energy of this film is of those best Pixar bittersweet moments. And the feel is dreamlike hyper-reality, like Babe or the even weirder sequel, Pig In The City. Or Happy Feet’s opera sequence. Indeed, I had to check this wasn’t written/directed by the Mad Max don, it’s so similar in specific peculiarity.

This is a film meant for kids that outshines allegedly adult fare in its acting performances, writing and direction. It is Paddington good and I don’t say that lightly.

Where is this level of commitment in grown-up fare? Why are adult films more escapist, less emotionally confrontational than this work? Just bunging in sex scenes and swearing doesn’t make a film adult, it makes it dull in the worst Frank Miller way.

The only warning I would give is for adults watching this: if you’ve been through recent heavy familial trauma, you might want to give it a miss. And one criticism: I lost interest most in the vast CGI sequences. The bin lorry chase was good but the rest kind Marvelled me into a light doze.

But then, when the actual actors came back on screen, BOOM, riveted.

Slumberland could have coasted by and I would have been fine with that. The fact that it tries to connect, that it gives so much is why it has to be an 8/10

Honor Society (2022)

(This is very much a deliberately vague, no spoilers review)

Watching Honor Society was a funny-sad-oh-what-OH NO-awh rollercoaster that left me feeling good in the way that alleged feel-good movies rarely do.

This is very nearly a perfect film. I think it’s Mean Girls-level in terms of the whole ensemble being perfectly cast and not one actor phoning it in. The tiniest scenes here are given the same directorial weight as the set pieces. It’s a joy to watch the cast all meshing with each other, like the silliest clockwork you’ve ever seen. Again, no spoilers but there are journeys here that certain characters take which would have seemed ridiculous in lesser hands. Props to the writer, director and actors playing those roles.

The film starts with the normal bed-in for a US high school film but gets going more speedily because Honor (Angourie Rice) breaks the fourth wall throughout. I’d hate that normally because this is film, it’s meant to be show, not tell. Here, however, the expositional dollops are served so skillfully and are so piquant that it all flies along splendidly.

We have the plot: Honor is determined to get a coveted scholarship to Harvard but discovers that to do so, she has to sabotage three competitors. All four of them are vying for the recommendation from school counsellor and dodgy perv, Mr. Calvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

This is great, we have shenanigans. We have increasingly unlikely and therefore increasingly entertaining plots to destabilise Kennedy (Amy Keum), Travis (Armani Jackson) and Michael (Gaten Matarazzo) that Honor weaves from the centre of her web of evil.

If the film had just given us this, it would have been enough. But there’s a turn that takes this film from a 7/10 to a 9/10 for me. The turn itself isn’t that shocking or even that unexpected (one of the earlier scenes really does telegraph it in a little too heavily) but it is, nevertheless quite a turn. It would have been so easy to fumble the emotional switch-up.

What carries it all are the frankly outrageously accomplished performances from Rice and Matarazzo. As I’m typing this, they are 21 and 20 respectively. Which is wild. It is staggering. In the scenes leading up to the twist and after, they display an intensity, a core of total investment that absolutely sells the twist, the plots, the whole damn film. Both of these kids are gonna win Oscars in the future, trust me. They are scarily good.

Without that level of acting, the message of the film might seem trite and homely. But because of the commitment they bring, it totally works in the way that the end scene of It’s A Wonderful Life totally works and if you don’t cry at that, you’re a psychopath. Or a Tory.

I put this film on expecting an enjoyable piece of fluff, just something to watch while I was scoffing tea. But it made me stop eating and pay attention. It delivered way above my expectations. I haven’t even taken my plate back through because I had to write all this while the film was all fresh in my head.

This film is beautifully sentimental in an age of scorn, of hateful cynicism. It’s that text from a friend when you’re feeling down that makes you smile and feel loved. It’s the glowing, overheated blush of realising you mean something to someone.

It’s a reminder that whatever this nightmarishly reified capitalist society tries to sell us, there are some things that are transcendently rewarding, some things that are priceless.