Review: Downsizing

Downsizing is a peculiar one. I think it’s really hard to make a ‘serious film’ where the key concept of the movie is that people are shrinking themselves. I don’t know if that’s because I was a child in a time where Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and its various spin-offs were a big thing, but to me the idea of a person shrinking is just funny.

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The thing with Downsizing, though it does have its funny moments, is it’s not really a comedy. The concept of ‘downsizing’ is so that a person takes up less space on the planet and has less of an effect on the environment, so the movie is a pretty serious one with a focus on environmentalism and the selfishness of humanity.

Downsizing doesn’t really deliver its message with much impact. Yes, we all know that the Earth is struggling to cope with the volume of people who inhabit it, as well as the way they treat it. Past this it doesn’t really offer much more exploration into things. There’s no focus on how things change once the project begins, how things are developing or whether the project met its aims. Things just happen, and we’re expected to accept that.

Downsizing touches on a lot of points that would have been really interesting to explore; the import/export business in the miniature world, the wealth divide in Leisure Land, politics between the ‘normies’ and the downsizers to name a few examples, but it doesn’t expand on any of them. It’s disappointing, but throughout the movie Downsizing has a habit of introducing an interesting topic and just leaving it, undeveloped.

The protagonist, Paul (Matt Damon) doesn’t really develop much, and the same can be said for most of the characters. Everyone ends the movie as they started, there’s no journey, no development, nothing to keep you engaged and the movie feels every second of its 2hr15 runtime.

4 star

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Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Going into Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri I had very little idea about the film. I thought vaguely, maybe it won’t actually be about billboards, and the billboards might be a sort of metaphor? Nope, it’s about billboards.

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The billboards, whilst not necessarily a metaphor, are a representation of ­­­Mildred’s struggle to get closure and justice for her murdered daughter. Frustrated, Mildred (played by Frances McDormand) rents out the three billboards and puts up some choice words for the local police chief essentially questioning whether he has done his job properly.

There’s a pretty stellar cast, with Frances McDormand being joined by Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, who is particularly fantastic throughout the whole film, portraying a really complex character perfectly. Everything is sublime and it’s really hard to find any faults in the whole movie.

I don’t want to delve too deeply into things, as I think it’s good to go into Three Billboards as I did, not really knowing much about it. I will say it’s a wonderfully emotional film with a really engaging plot.

Three Billboards does comedy and drama exceptionally well, giving you moments that are genuinely hilarious before smacking you in the gut with some well-delivered emotional trauma. The whole thing keeps you on your toes, in a good way, and you’re on an emotional rollercoaster along with the characters throughout the film’s 115 minutes.

I can’t recommend Three Billboards enough.

8 star

Review: Assassin’s Creed

Historically, movie adaptations of video games have got a bad rep. Perhaps the translation of game to movie doesn’t quite mesh, changing an interactive activity into a passive one, or maybe it’s simply because the majority of attempts have been terrible. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, so where does Assassin’s Creed fit into the spectrum?

Read the rest of my review at Filmoria.

Review: 22 Jump Street

Reboots are a tricky business. Sequels are even trickier. When something is successful, Hollywood has a tendency of latching on and ruining a good thing, so when 22 Jump Street was announced the world got nervous. 21 Jump Street was an unexpected hit, with critics and moviegoers alike.

The last words of Captain Dickson (Ice Cube), “You two sons of bitches are going to college!”, in 21 Jump Street left us with no doubts about where the sequel was headed. Though the opening scene was the focus of much of the trailers and press junkets, and you will no doubt have seen it, it’s still hilarious and provides some great jokes and skits which will set you up ready to keep the laughs coming through the rest of the film. Push past the opening scene and 22 Jump Street heads straight to college, where Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Schmidt (Jonah Hill) are set to work the same case again.

Read the rest of my review at Filmoria.

Review: The Raid 2

Having not seen The Raid, I entered the screening of The Raid 2 with some trepidation. I understand that fundamentally The Raid 2 is a fighting movie, and as I’m not a fan of the genre, perhaps my mind was already made up before the title credits had rolled.

The story, if you can call it that, follows Rama, the main character from the first Raid film, as he sets to uncover corrupt cops within the Jakartan justice system. Going undercover as a heavy working for a local politician, Rama starts his assignment by befriending the son of the kingpin, Uco, in prison which serves as his in with the family.

For me, the plot quickly loses its way, with the film becoming more and more about how much gore and violence it can cram in at the detriment of any plot that had lingered in earlier scenes. Considering Rama’s assignment is to uncover corruption, there seems it be very little of this, and more acting as a bodyguard for Uco.

The fight scenes, which obviously form a large percentage of the film, are well choreographed and slick. I always find it hard to really lose myself in a fight scene, where the only weapons are fists and feet. I cannot dispel the power of disbelief long enough to assume that the downed enemies will stay down from simply being punched, but they do and Rama is able to take down each foe with ease.

There didn’t feel like there was any real threat posed to Rama. As Rama constantly proves that he is more than capable of protecting himself, taking down enemies with ease, the foes that are presented to him are easily dispatched and it’s only in the final moments of the film that you start to fear for Rama’s wellbeing.

The Raid 2 is in UK cinemas from April 11th, and is a must see for fans of the first film and martial arts films. Viewers going in expecting a plot-driven film will be disappointed, but for pure action alone, you would be hard-pressed to find a better suited film.

3.5

Review: Last Vegas

Billed as The Hangover for pensioners, my first cinema trip this year was to see Last Vegas. With a central cast of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, the “Flatbush Four” head to Vegas to celebrate the marriage of Billy (Michael Douglas) and his 31-year-old fiancée (of course), where they meet Diana (Mary Steenburgen), a lounge singer in a casino.

The bulk of the film feels very predictable, with the first 30 minutes introducing the characters and their respective problems. The tone of the film is light, and there doesn’t ever seem a doubt that each problem won’t be left resolved. Some jokes you can see coming a mile off, and in a world where the shock factor seems to be the highest indicator of laughs, a change of pace on that front is not necessarily a bad thing.

Once the foursome arrive in Vegas, the predictability continues with gambling, parties, scantily clad women, and rather creepily, the Flatbush Four judging a bikini contest of girls young enough to be their grandchildren.

One gripe I do have is that what should have been the films biggest laughs, were left a little stale for me as they were featured in the trailer, which by the time the screening rolled around, I had seen more times than I care to count. The average cinema-goer doesn’t go to the cinema quite as often as I do, and judging by the laughs the gags still got, I was perhaps the only person who felt these certain jokes had become over-worn.

With six Academy Awards between the four main actors and Mary Steenburgen, the film is expectedly well-acted. Robert De Niro in particular stands out, stealing most scenes he is in, providing the emotion throughout the film as well as plenty of laughs.

Leaving predictability and perversion aside, Last Vegas is still a pretty good comedy film, more than matching recent comedy films I’ve seen (Anchorman 2 not standing). Whereas some recent comedies have jokes which are few and far between, Last Vegas keeps the jokes coming, and all feel well-timed and at the right level.

7.0

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

As a writer, going into something knowing you’re going to have to write about it and being presented with a pile of mediocre blandness is terrible. Things you love, easy to write about. Things you hate, easy to write about. Things you just don’t care about either way, not so easy to write about.

Going into the latest Cineworld secret screening, I knew I was facing the world premiere of a movie, and as a pop culture blogger, knew I would be writing about the film I was soon to be watching. Scanning through a list of future releases, I had my fingers crossed for American Hustle, but luck was not on my side and the title card revealed we were seeing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a month early.

Based loosely on a 1947 original, the 2013 Walter Mitty stars Ben Stiller as a daydreaming magazine photo proofer, and Kristen Wiig as his love interest. The film also stars many other big names; Adam Scott, Patton Oswalt, Shirley MacLaine, and a person who, thoughout the whole film I thought bore a striking resemblance to Sean Penn (the credits revealed that this person was actually Sean Penn).

Walter Mitty himself is bland and boring, and readily admits to having never been or done anything noteworthy or mentionable. Walter regularly “zones out” and daydreams at inopportune moments throughout the day, filling his day with fantasies and awkward moments with colleagues.

Throughout the course of the film, Walter goes from a day-dreamer to an adventurer as he tries to track down a freelance photographer to find a lost negative needed for the front cover of the final issue of the magazine they work for. Unfortunately, I found the whole film to be a little lacking in plot, and instead found that it relied heavily on the special effects of Walter’s daydreams, and the visual spectacular of the places Walter finds himself during his travels.

I felt I cared little about the fate of the characters, and didn’t really buy into the reality that Walter would just up and leave for Greenland, given that his job is on the line. There was just so much about the film that I wanted to invest in, but couldn’t because the characters didn’t develop fully and the plot didn’t give me enough opportunity to get behind the film.

Walter Mitty is by no means terrible, and probably won’t appear in my list of the ten worst films I’ve seen this year (though the jury is still out on that one), but when you leave a film thinking “Well, it’s not what I wanted to see, but at least it’s out of the way” you can’t help but feel the mark has been missed somewhat by the film-makers.

6.0