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Films watched in 2021


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Pet Sematary (2019): It wasn't as bad as I feared it would be.  There's a few changes from the book but for the most part the story is the same.  It's nothing special really but was an OK watch.

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I watched Point Break (the original, obvs) for the first time. Technically I watched the last hour (it was another watch-along and I was late). 

I very much enjoyed what I saw; although I was a bit disappointed that Keanu and Patrick Swayze didn't make out at any point. 

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MONSTER HUNTER (2020)

2.5/5 (Mild spoiler)

The holy trinity of Paul W.S. Anderson, Milla Jovovich and Capcom returns once more for yet another videogame adaptation. And this one was surprisingly fun...at least for the first hour as we're presented with a cross between STARGATE (1994) and HELL IN THE PACIFIC (1968) but after that things take a drastic dip and the film never recovers making this an uneven mess.

The film introduces a bunch of soldiers complete with typically cheesey macho banter but like a lot of Anderson's films the side characters are basically doomed random monster fodder leaving Jovovich to showcase her cartoony one-man-army skills. Tony Jaa shows up, probably tempted by the fact he doesn't have to speak English in the film but I can't imagine what the appeal for Ron Pearlman was. Once again the fanboy in Anderson borrows from the action films of the 80s/90s he grew-up with most notably the soldiers vs bugs carnage of STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997) and the gunpowder self-surgery of RAMBO III (1988). 

The ending feels pretty rushed and a desperate attempt to set-up a sequel. The cliffhanger ending doesn't work as not enough story or characters have been introduced so far for anyone to give a s*** including the giant bipedal CGI cat! Milla's reaction says it all. I can tolerate a lot of Anderson's films but when the cat showed up I just lost it.

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GODZILLA VS. KONG (2021)
3.5/5 (No spoilers)

I didn't care much for the Monsterverse apart from KONG: SKULL ISLAND (2017) so was happy to see King Kong back again compared to Godzilla who I always felt lacked characterization. But despite Zilla's short-comings, GODZILLA VS KONG didn't disappoint although it did feel like chunks were missing and Big G was quite side-lined.
 
I quite liked the plot - everything felt justified but it was obvious we were skipping-over what Kong had been doing since his last film set 50 years prior. Similarly, there's a backstory involving Alexander Skarsgard's dead brother and another with a little mute girl that Kong has bonded with - both of these plot-points could've been expanded to make the humans more developed but they're reduced to just a couple lines of exposition. The same goes for the sudden discovery of the Titans' home and ancestral history - it was fascinating to learn about their origins but again, it needed more time spent on it.
 
The fights are the best thing here; they look spectacular and we're treated to many bouts and not just with Big G or Kong. The rumbles are everything you'd want from giants like these easily surpassing similar scenes of destruction in the TRANSFORMERS or PACIFIC RIM films. Furthermore, Godzilla and Kong finally facing-off actually feels like the grand historic cinematic event that other 'VS' films should have been. The battles look gorgeous and its easy to see why the finale is set in Hong Kong with all those lights but the close-ups of Godzilla's face looked a bit too "man-in-a-suit" and unintentionally funny.
 
The film could easily have been a mess since there's three narrative threads running; one for Kong, one for Godzilla and another for the three human conspiracy theorists which the film could've omitted since they took the focus off the monsters. The "Journey To The Center Of The Earth" was by far the most interesting part of the film so hopefully we'll see more of that in future installments but now that the two big bads have finally fought I'm not sure there's much more story to tell in this franchise.

 

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SOUND OF METAL (2019)
3/5 (No spoilers)

Describing a film about a heavy metal drummer going deaf as "quiet" is an ironic criticism. But that's the whole point of this Oscar-heavy film as director, Darious Marder, tries hard to make the audience see and hear the story from Ruben's (Riz Ahmed) point of view by using its sound design and (non-use) of subtitles to tell the story.

The plot is straight-forward but as often with films with such simple premises, I found myself thinking, "OK so he goes deaf, now what?" I felt similarly about THE FAREWELL (2019) in which a dying grandma's family throw a secretly fake wedding banquet to honour her - like that film, SOUND OF METAL also has a very unsatisfying ending where you're asking, "oh, is that it?" The flat ending also makes much of the 2nd act seem rather pointless OR very relevant depending on how you see it. What should have made the film is how Ruben comes to deal with his condition and forms friendships within the deaf community and its inhabitants - the film focuses on this for a while and you start to feel glad for Ruben's progress but the 3rd act just changes everything and so its easy to feel betrayed by our protagonist.

Of course without much sound or music in the film the audience's patience will be tested as the pacing of the film is compromised. The sound design has been praised for being 'inventive' but when you see the film, isn't it an obvious choice to let the audience hear things from Ruben's point of view? The use of sound design and subtitles here is hardly rocket-science and shouldn't be a surprise at all.

I really wanted this film to be about the triumph of the human spirit or over-coming great odds - I think the film wants to be those things but I don't think it really hit the nail on the head. What we get instead is a story about a man wanting to fix himself. Like Joe, the deaf community leader says in the film, "We're here to fix this (*points to forehead*), not this (*points to ears*)."

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PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN (2020)
4/5 (No spoilers)

Carey Mulligan is 'Cassie', a troubled lonely woman haunted by the rape of her best friend years before. What follows is a  sociopathic feminist revenge-thriller loaded with creepy-manipulative schemes - think GONE GIRL (2014), FATAL ATTRACTION (1987) and a bit of FALLING DOWN (1993). But unlike those films, I found it hard in this movie to root for our misandristic/'jaded' heroine.

The first 20 minutes presents Cassie as a crusader looking for trouble and baiting men; she feigns drunkeness in bars just to teach men a lesson about taking advantage of women - its as pointless as deliberately leaving my wallet on display in an unlocked car just to catch-out opportunist thieves. Whatsmore that plot-point should've been saved for a separate movie all of its own since it served NO purpose to the main plot (except to highlight the film's feminist agenda). It's easy to sympathize with Cassie but equally easy to find her unlikable; sure she deserves justice but she's so calculating and angry like an incel. 

The plot and pacing is very good and there is a lot of "plotting" going on...but I had a major problem with characters not questioning Cassie's excuses and explanations (or lack thereof) for her schemes. And this won Best Original Screenplay?! Also the love interest (Ryan) is presented as such an embarrassing simp, was this an attempt to satirize or make fun of good guys? The message here was men are either misogynist A-holes or weak saps who beg for dates, either way they're all crap...except your dad of course. 

There is humour in the film but its awkward (the pharmacy scene was cringey). The production design is colourful and girly in a candy-store way but although the film deals with sensitive political issues, I feel they're dumbed-down by the 'need' to be a commercial hit with its use of pop music and girly colours. 

The ending was unexpected and brave but I lost all respect and stopped rooting for Cassie completely because she crossed the line and the final plothole here just lost me. This is probably the most feminist film since THELMA & LOUISE (1991). I really enjoyed it but I didn't like the character.

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  • 2 weeks later...

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MORTAL KOMBAT (2021)
2.5 (Mild spoiler)

I was looking forward to this and was quite pleased to see that the fans had generally been positive about it despite many critics hadn't. But then I realized that fans of videogames are generally fans of that medium first and cinema second. In other words, take a film fan's word for it when they say the movie sucks, not a gamer's. 

The film's opening 10 mins are great but the rest just doesn't live up to the start so it's quite obviously a horribly unbalanced film. The plot is boring; there's all this talk of tournaments and a rivalry between 'Earthrealm' and 'Outworld' but we never see any of it and there's almost no explanation given for why any of this s*** is even happening. It's like the film was made purely with fans in mind so if you aren't very familiar with the property a lot of it will go over your head. The plot lost me quite early on but what's worse is that nothing redeeming made me want to go back and try to understand it.

It's a fairly over-crowded film with too many characters squeezed in, they're also pretty weakly-written and feel very randomly placed - its like a messy superhero team movie. Josh Lawson (Kano) has a lot of charisma but his constant plays for comic relief become too much at times (eg. the dinner scene) while Lewis Tan (Cole) feels rather flat as a leading man. 

Overall, the film feels like a 90s B-movie due to its casting of little-known TV actors and lack of scope - it wants to be a big blockbuster but it feels like the focus on action, violence and fan service is trying to compensate for lack of story.

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