Sunday, 8 May 2022

Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Blu Ray Review

Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Blu Ray Review

Who you gonna call?

Returning after a Covid-induced hiatus, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is solidly and squarely about seizing on the nostalgia of the original 1984 Ghostbusters movie.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Film Review

But there's a lot here that is about the effect of legacies.

In this latest, Carrie Coon's Callie and her two children, Trevor (Stranger Things' Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Grace) are forced to move onto their grandfather's abandoned old farm in Summerville, Oklahoma.

Resentful of their fate, both Trevor and Callie try to adjust to life in a small town, and to clear the mountain of debt left by her father; whereas Phoebe, sporting a very familiar pair of round glasses and frizzy hair, finds herself drawn to the town's mysteries. Building a friendship with Paul Rudd's feckless summer school teacher Gary Gooberson, Phoebe begins to investigate how a town miles away from any faultlines is having regular earthquakes......

There's a point in Ghostbusters: Afterlife where the movie basically becomes the original Ghostbusters.

It's a series of scenes that the older ends of the audience will remember from 1984 and the younger audience may not be too aware of. 
Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Film Review

But that's part of what Jason Reitman is trying to do here - and it's also part of what ever so slightly cripples the film's intentions by robbing it of any voice of its own. Most of what transpires here is derivative - a new take on Slimer appears, there are mini Stay Pufts, the next generation of Ghostbusters is born and does little to distinguish themselves from their past and an utterly egregious use of CGI pushes the digital image as far as it should ever go.

It's not that Ghostbusters: Afterlife is not enjoyable in parts. There are certainly moments - mainly nostalgia-led - where the goosebumps tingle and Reitman does his best to manipulate them for narrative use.

Carrie Coon once again makes a case for being one of the most underrated actresses of her time, with her Callie largely leading proceedings with heart and humanity before being horrendously sidelined for the younger generation.

Ultimately, Ghostbusters: Afterlife occasionally feels like Ghostbusters: Afterthought as reference upon reference is shoehorned in - it's stifling and unfortunately, more of a rehash than its own future.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

C'Mon C'Mon: DVD Review

C'Mon C'Mon: DVD Review

There's an interesting dichotomy at the heart of C'Mon C'Mon, Mike Mills' paean to childhoods lost, and futures hoped for.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, an interviewer who trudges around the country talking to kids about their hopes and dreams for the future, while trying to reconcile his own past fractious relationship with his sister, Viv (Gaby Hoffmann).

C'Mon C'mon: Movie Review

When Viv has to leave to take care of her son's father's mental issues, Johnny naively offers to take her kid Jesse (Woody Norman) under his wing, believing it will be easy to do. However, as Johnny reconnects with his sister over their difficult relationship with their once-ailing mother, he finds Jesse challenging him at every turn, forcing a re-examination of his own beliefs.

Occasionally meandering, and a little overlong for nothing more than a 3-hander film, C'Mon C'Mon, shot in its monochrome colour scheme, is a film that may try your patience.

While Phoenix is mellow, and Norman is prodigious (rightly Oscar-nominated), the vibe of the film takes a little while to settle in as it builds its almost elegaic and fragile atmosphere.

There's nothing new in a main character being forced to revaluate themselves at the hands of a kid, but Mike Mills takes time to slowly stoke the quietly burning fires among the self-analysis of what life is about, and the ups and downs of parenting.

With its "nobody knows what they're doing they just have to keep doing it" ethos, the film soars when it uses real life interviews with children who reveal the fragility of their outlook in the 21st Century. Children in New Orleans provide more fascinating insights than the normal city-based ones interviewed, but none lack the validity of their hopes and dreams.

It may be an extended babysitting film, and a film about listening to all around you as well as yourself, but C'Mon C'Mon never wallows in preachiness, even as a degree of pomposity creeps in when Johnny starts interviewing himself and recording his feelings. Thankfully, the relaxed Phoenix can sell that side of the narrative with ease, removing subtly any claims of pretentiousness.

However, an over-reliance on voiceover and flashbacks slows the already glacial pace, and pushes C'Mon C'Mon dangerously close toward overindulgence territory from the Beginners and 20th Century Woman director.

Ultimately, C'Mon C'Mon is saved by a delicate Phoenix and a precocious outstanding new child talent - it may not be to everyone's taste, but the reflective vibe is a soothing balm for mentally fragile times.

Friday, 6 May 2022

Trek to Yomi: PS5 Review

Trek to Yomi: PS5 Review

Developed by Flying Wild Hog
Published by Devolver Digital
Platform: PS5

If you thought Ghost of Tsushima was the ultimate samurai experience, then indie Trek to Yomi may need to have a word in your ear.
Trek to Yomi: PS5 Review

Because this is perhaps one of the must-play indie games of the year - a stylised take on the samurai story and a brilliantly evocative game that crackles on every visceral level, Trek to Yomi is a deeply immersive and evocative experience that deserves to rank among the best.

A simple tale that starts as a young student learns from his sensei, Trek To Yomi finds you taking the mantle of that student Hiroki in later years when his village comes under attack from rebel invaders. It's up to you as Hiroki to try and find your master and defend the village from the marauding forces, and survive the onslaught.

In all honesty, it's not as if Trek to Yomi is an original idea - at its core, it's essentially a hack and slash 2D scrolling game, which has limited combat potential.
Trek to Yomi: PS5 Review

But it's in its execution that it soars, as with some gorgeous aesthetics and some clever use of in-game camera the game comes vividly to life, and you're fighting for your life as the chapters of this story unfold.

Combat is familiar to anyone who's played any kind of variation of samurai games. Pressing different buttons unlock familiar combinations of light and heavy attacks - parry an enemy's attack and you can execute the perfect takedown. In truth, there's little that's revolutionary here - and that's no criticism. 

As the game plays out, further combat moves are learned, and become vital to take down chapter ending bosses or trickier hordes of enemies. Each move is tautly executed and can be learned by anyone, new or old, handling the controller for the first time.

But it's the game's visuals which help Trek to Yomi to soar.
Trek to Yomi: PS5 Review

Soaked in a black and white monochromatic aesthetic, the game's atmosphere is wondrous and sets the tone the moment it starts. Add into that the fact Trek To Yomi utilises the kind of 2.5D approach that was evident in Abe's Oddysee: Soul Storm and you start to get a depth that wonderfully betrays the idea of a traditional 2D scroller.

It feels like a samurai film, from rain-soaked moments to epic shadow-led showdowns, this is a game that revels in its genre, and executes it brilliantly.

While the road is fixed in the game, and it's not a sandbox title, the fact your camera view constantly changes adds so much to the execution here and the immersion levels as well. Moving in front of caves, or down slanting pathways that make up the village adds so much to Yomi's world coming alive, and Hiroki's quest having real heft.

There are occasionally some niggles in the game - from time to time, the camera viewpoint obscures the possibility of what you need to do next; and it takes a while to work out what things and people can be interacted with in the village. But in truth, these are exceptionally minor points in an indie that appears to pride itself on quality more than anything.

Trek To Yomi is a title any self-respecting gamer and casual cinephile should own. Its potent mix of atmosphere and game play make it one of 2022's essential titles - its simplicity of execution and its deft use of the basics mean it's a game that you'll want to play again the moment you've completed it.

Thursday, 5 May 2022

Cyrano: Blu Ray Review

Cyrano: Blu Ray Review

Adapted from the 2019 off Broadway play of the same name, Game of Thrones' star Peter Dinklage takes the lead in this latest take on the tale of doomed love and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Cyrano: Movie Review

Under the helm of Atonement's Joe Wright, and making a magnificent fist of some of the Italian scenery around, Cyrano constructs some truly beautiful and tragic moments as this musical spins its tale of the fate of two long term friends, unaware of how each other feels.

Dinklage is Cyrano, a brilliant wordsmith and wit, but whose words fail him when it comes to matters of the heart concerning his long term friend Roxanne (Bennett). When Roxanne falls in love at first sight with Kelvin Harrison Jr's Christian, Cyrano must help Christian woo the woman he loves - and put aside his own feelings.

But with De Guiche (Mendelsohn, all pantomime villain sans twirling moustache) insisting that Roxanne marry him, time is running out on all quarters.

Very much an old-fashioned musical with little wizardry to update it, Joe Wright's Cyrano will wow you with spectacle. 

Cyrano: Movie Review

While Dinklage doesn't hit the right notes with his singing voice, the almost street-poet beats that he employs gives his diminutive lovestruck wordsmith an almost punkish appeal from the beginning. With some wry oneliners and some whimsical edges, Cyrano begins to cast a spell over audiences with some bravura touches here and there.

Despite music from The National, not every song lands - but when they do, they pack a powerful emotional wallop. 

A final act song Wherever I Fall, sung from the viewpoint of soldiers about to be deployed into their last battle is poignant, magnificent and utterly spinetinglingly heartbreaking. It's moments like these that Cyrano could have done more with - rather than some almost comical interludes where Cyrano dispatches a clutch of assassins, a moment which seems out of place and hardly ever mentioned again.

There's plenty of originality from this film, and even though cinema has spun countless versions of it, parts of the two hour run time feel fresh, enticing and enthralling. Beautiful production design helps to build a mood, and while not all the songs can capitalise on this, some moments hang together with yearning and heart.

Cyrano will melt your heart in ways you'd least expect, and while not every moment soars, the majority of this does when you least expect it to.


Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Movie Review

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Movie Review

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Xochitl Gomez
Director: Sam Raimi

Not content with creating just one single cinematic universe, Marvel has now fully adopted the multiverse in a move that will signal endless possibilities for its characters and various iterations over the coming years.

While some elements were explored in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Disney+'s animated series What If?, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness embraces the possibilities in a movie that's more about the FX than the emotions thanks to a strangely underdeveloped plot that seems to hinge predominantly on Benedict Cumberbatch's brilliant surgeon Dr Steven Strange, as he ponders the question if he is truly happy.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Movie Review

In this latest, Strange is pondering his own happiness while attending his ex Christine Palmer's wedding when he's interrupted by a threat destroying downtown and determined to abduct a seemingly helpless girl America Chavez (Gomez, lacking the material to leave anything indelible on proceedings, but still proving solid). But after Strange rescues her, he realises he's seen her in his dreams the night before.

So with forces amassing against America, and with the implication being that they're magical, Strange turns to former Avenger and self-exiled grieving mother Wanda Maximoff (Olsen, easily one of the best parts of the film) to see if she can help.

But soon, Strange finds himself thrust into a fight he never expected and new worlds of possibilities - and dark dangers.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a first for the MCU - a film that dabbles with horror and delivers some truly nightmarish sequences that push the boundaries of family friendly fare. Necks are snapped, demons float in the skies, there's voodoo, possession and corpses - to be frank, it's no surprise Evil Dead's Sam Raimi is on board in the director's seat. Raimi delivers touches of Drag Me To Hell and the kind of jolts you'd expect from Evil Dead type horrors throughout - but they're not quite enough to offset the fact there's not much of an emotional heft to proceedings.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness: Movie Review

It's an FX-heavy moody melancholy film that continues to pursue the new MCU raison d'etre - trauma, grief and coping with its emotional after effects. It's almost as if Marvel is internalising conflicts rather than the usual CGI world shattering finales. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness also delivers more of the kind of internal schisms we'd seen before with Captain America: Civil War, but in truth it doesn't really build on them and offer anything new on the narrative front.

It's great to see Rachel McAdams get extended screen time in this sequel, and along with some fan service moments, there's a subtle performance from Cumberbatch in all his different forms as Strange in the film, with little nuances adding to the overall takeaway of the movie.

The visual effects employed throughout make Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness soar. From a trip through multiverses (including one where characters are paint) to creeping mist and murderous animated corpses, this is a film that will be remembered for its game-changing visuals, as well as building on the Inception-esque kaleidoscopic visuals that the first Doctor Strange employed some 6 years ago.

But there are also some stumbles, in a film that, in truth, could have dabbled a bit more into the darker arts and provided something edgier rather than safer fare from the stable.

America Chavez feels very one note, a MacGuffin in a story where she should have been the emotional thrust. Despite a solid performance from Gomez , she's extended only the most cursory of backstories when a more beefed-up involvement could have helped raise the stakes to more monumental levels.

Equally, audiences will need an idea of what happened in WandaVision to fully be on board with Olsen's performance - and there are moments when she teeters dangerously close to the hysterical woman stereotype which is worrying. 

Ultimately, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a different detour for the Marvel genre - it may not always successfully achieve its end goals, and while it offers a solid outing for the blockbuster, it really doesn't quite revel in its own possibilities to hit the highs of a timeless genre-redefining classic.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Eternals: Movie Review

Eternals: Movie Review

Cast: Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Barry Keoghan, Kumail Nanjiani, Don Lee, Salma Hayek
Director: Chloe Zhao

There's no doubt that Marvel's tried to do something different with Eternals, a film about interstellar beings and their relatable human conflicts.
Eternals: Movie Review

A more dour and muted affair with a side-serving of fight scenes and CGI carnage, Eternals is the story of the Eternals, a group of gods who have lived among humankind for millennia. But when their head Ajak (Hayek, regal) is killed by their enemy the Deviants, the group faces a return of a threat they'd thought vanquished centuries ago.

It's easy to dismiss the Marvel formula and the way the machine churns content out of the system, and to dismiss it when they try something new. In truth, Eternals is not the greatest to come from the Marvel stable, but its desire to push something more intimate into the MCU is to be applauded.

It's just unfortunately that the film takes a while to get anywhere, and its characters are less than exemplary, with them mainly being of a too po-faced and serious nature to fully over engage with.

There's a great mix of diversity in the cast, and Zhao handles the different stories with sensitivity from Jolie's Thena's mental illness to Chan's Sersi and her conflict - but it's not quite engaging enough, despite the bum-numbing 2hr 37 minutes run time.

A lot of the usual CGI fight scenes pepper most of Eternals, as in truth, there's little else to do outside of large amounts of exposition and hypothetical gnashing of teeth. It's sad that Eternals becomes just another Marvel beast to feed and falls into the trap, especially as Zhao's worked so hard early on to make things feel different.

Ultimately, Eternals is a film about potential, but one that ironically never reaches its own.

Eternals is now screening on Disney+

Monday, 2 May 2022

The Worst Person in the World: DVD Review

The Worst Person in the World: DVD Review

Cast: Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie, Herbert Nordrum
Director: Joachim Trier

Divided up into a series of chapters, and with an effervescent lead heading proceedings, The Worst Person in the World is a film that's been steeped with praise, and lavished with potential awards' talk.

But yet, it remains strangely aloof as a character piece, a film that barely takes you into the life of its lead Julie (Reinsve) other than to see her react in a series of circumstances and no further.
The Worst Person in the World: Movie Review

In The Worst Person in the World, Reinsve is Julie, a woman turning 30 in Oslo, who rambles as much from one set of studies to another as she bounces between from relationships. When she meets graphic novelist Aksel (Lie), she seems to settle down into a relationship, despite the age difference between them.

However, the relationship eventually comes under strain after she randomly meets Nordrum's Eivind and they connect on an emotional level one night. With their lives in orbit around each other, Julie must decide what's best for her and her future.

The Worst Person in the World purports to be a romantic comedy that's the antithesis of what you'd expect from the genre. While it's presented in a formidable style, and brightly shot and executed, it can't help coming off feeling shallow and occasionally uncentred with it being more concerned over events at a surface level rather than a deeper level.

It's not helped by a voiceover which seems to feel it's smart to vocalise Julie's actions just as she does them - a move Trier seems to think is smart and amusing but only adds to a growing sense of frustration at what the film is trying to do.

There are some bravura moments within though - chiefly a sequence where Julie flicks a light switch, and the entire world pauses around her as she heads to meet someone. It comes like a bolt from the blue in the movie, a stylish touch that really gets to the heart of the feeling within a relationship and one which gives the viewer goosebumps.

Ultimately, The Worst Person in the World wouldn't work were it not for Reinsve. Her dazzling performance delivers more than the film itself could ever hope for, with bright eyes and emotional gamuts providing where the rest is wanting.

IT may be lavished with praise, but The Worst Person in the World is simply passable enough to be enjoyed - with more depth, it could simply have been sensational.

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