Films

Ramblings about Films – whether it’s new, reviews or something else.

REVIEW: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

When Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) realises he’s on the last of his nine lives, he sets out to find the mythical Last Wish and restore his nine lives.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has finally been released in the UK and I’m happy to say it was worth the wait. Considering it’s been over ten years since previous Puss in Boots film and the Shrek franchise is one of those things that makes us millennials feel old when they realise how long it’s been since those films were at their peak, it is kind of impressive how great The Last Wish is.

Everything about The Last Wish just works from story and character to the brilliant animation. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse clearly shook up how animated films could be as there’s elements used in The Last Wish that are as dynamic and entertaining as that film as it moves away from the standard late-2000s 3D animation and instead uses impressionistic imagery not seen in this franchise before. The colours pop, the fight sequences are thrilling, and some of the new character designs are fantastic. Special mention goes to the Wolf (Wagner Moura) who is a looming presence as they’re on Puss’s trail, that character is one of the most interesting in design and in character motivation.

The action and adventure is there from the outset as Puss takes on a giant creature to save a town but it’s how The Last Wish tackles Puss’s character arc that was really surprising. He reluctantly teams up with a chihuahua (Harvey Guillén) and his old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and how the friendship between these three develops is great. For a character like Puss whose defining characteristics is his bravery and being a swashbuckling hero, seeing him face up to his mortality and how that can affect how he sees himself was really interesting and sincere.

As Puss searches for the Last Wish, other characters come into play including Goldilocks and the three bears (Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winston, and Samson Kayo), and Jack Horner (John Mulaney) who all have their own reasons for wanting to be the one to get to the Last Wish first. Amazingly all these extra characters still have their own satisfying arcs that aren’t underdeveloped and they way the story brings everyone together to resolve things in a heartfelt way is impressive.

Honestly, I think “impressive” is the word to describe Puss in Boots: The Last Wish because it’s far more entertaining and visually interesting than one ever could’ve thought it’d be. The way it twists fairy tales/nursery rhymes is fun, it has humour and heart throughout, and it’s just a beautiful film to look at with a wonderful story. 5/5.

Films of 2023

Here’s the ongoing list of all the films I’ve watched this year. Really, my only film-related goal of the year is watching at least 52 Films by Women (both films directed by and written by women) again and I’ll be re/watching a fair few series this year and possibly reviewing them too. You can find out more about what I’m watching on my Twitter or Letterboxd – I sometimes write a couple of lines of my thoughts of a film on Twitter/Letterboxd rather than writing a full review here.

Without further ado, here’s what I’ve watched in 2023! Film titles in bold are films I saw at the cinema and films with an asterisk are rewatches. Any title with a hyperlink goes to its review.

January:
– Top Gun: Maverick (2022)*
– John Wick (2014)*
– John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)*
– John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)*
– Rescued by Ruby (2022)
– Hidden Figures (2016)*
– See How They Run (2022)
– The Sound of 007 (2022)
Rocky (1976)*
Wildcat (2022)
– Rashomon (1950)
Rocky II (1979)
Rocky III (1982)
– Rocky IV (1985)
– Rocky V (1990)
– Rocky Balboa (2006)
Corsage (2022)
Plane (2023)
– 1Up (2022)
– Creed (2015)*

February:
– Lamborghini: The Man Behind the Legend (2022)
The Whale (2022)
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)
– Devotion (2022)

Number of different films watched: 24
Number of times been to the cinema: 5

REVIEW: Rocky III (1982)

World champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is living a life of luxury and is at the top of his game until Clubber Lang (Mr T) arrives on the scene. After a bitter defeat Rocky gains guidance from the most unlikely of places, former rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers).

After wondering when “Eye of the Tiger” was going to make an appearance, it’s finally arrived in Rocky III and it arrived in style. It’s present throughout the film but it’s the backing song for the opening montage which I loved. It was so clever to use that montage to not only see what Rocky’s life is like since we last saw him in Rocky II, but then compare his life to that of Clubber Lang’s. While Rocky is getting all the fame and fortune, big sponsorship deals and celebrity moments, his boxing appears to be falling by the wayside a bit even though he’s still winning. Meanwhile Lang is training on his own and winning fights in just a couple of rounds, instantly proving to be a dangerous adversary.

Adrian (Talia Shire) is brilliant in Rocky III. She’s always been quite quiet and mousy but as it’s been a few years since she’s had their son and been by Rocky’s side for everything, it’s great to see how she’s come out of her shell. Her and Rocky’s relationship is still pretty great and loving but now she really feels like his equal, not afraid to push him to get him to say what he truly feels and shows how she really knows him.

The fights in Rocky III are my favourite in this series so far. The way they’re shot puts you right in the action with more point-of-view shots of Rocky, Lang, Creed, and wrestler Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan). The fights are entertaining and gripping and they work so well – especially the ones featuring Lang. Mr T is a great addition to this series and unlike Creed who’s always had a little bit of likeability to him even when he was the “bad guy” in the previous films, Lang is portrayed as a straight up villain. Sure Mr T has the charisma but he channels it into a ferociousness that’s different to Creed’s and makes him a real, intimidating threat to Rocky even before they get into the ring – especially as well as verbally antagonising Rocky, he takes jabs at Adrian too which gets under Rocky’s skin.

I know there’s obviously a lot more Rocky films to watch but I do feel like Rocky III rounds out a pretty perfect trilogy of films. It covers the highs and lows of Rocky’s story so well without anything getting stale, and each film goes deeper into the different relationships Rocky has. Whether that’s his romance with Adrian, his working relationship with Mickey (Burgess Meredith), or even the start of a potentially great friendship with Apollo. Everything wraps up really nicely so it’ll be interesting to see if the next Rocky films have some of the same emotional weight to them as Rocky III and its predecessors do. 5/5.

REVIEW: Plane (2023)

After a terrible storm forces commercial airline pilot captain Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) to land, he has to fight to save his crew and passengers after realising they’ve landed on an island run by militia.

Plane is a proper 90s throwback action movie that does a simple premise well and has a lot of fun while doing it. A film being called a “90s throwback” may be deemed an insult but honestly with Plane it’s a compliment. It’s a solid action film done well with a great couple of lead characters.

Gerard Butler is probably a bit underappreciated for what he can do in an action film because he’s been playing this kind of charismatic but tough guy for years now but that doesn’t mean what he does isn’t good. Butler is allowed to be Scottish in Plane and naturally one of the first things his character does is be insulted someone thought he was English. Butler’s captain is just a good buy, he’s a reassuring presence for his crew and passengers and he is good at his job. Shoutout to his co-pilot Dele (Yoson An) who is also pretty great and the two of the make a good team. Not going to lie, Dele is the kind of nice secondary character that you fear for because he’s so likeable and not a big name so could potentially be expendable.

Butler also makes a good team with Mike Colter’s Louis Gaspare, a prisoner who was being transported on the plane. The two characters compliment each other well and become reluctant allies as Gaspare is more of a military-mind and a planer while Torrance wants to go in all guns blazing to save his passengers.

The bad guys as a group are pretty intimidating and there is a lot of blood spilt when they are around but there isn’t really a memorable villain leading them. In Plane the gunshots and stabbings are visceral and the sound effects on some of the killings do make you wince.

Overall Plane is a really good time. It’s a simple action film that’s very enjoyable with a group of leading characters that are easy to like and feel for. 4/5.

REVIEW: Rocky II (1979)

After Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) goes the distance with champ Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), he retires from boxing and plans to get an everyday job and settle down with the love of his life Adrian (Talia Shire). But when Creed wants a rematch in order to restore his reputation, he begins to insistently goad Rocky to accept the challenge.

I don’t know how controversial this may be but I preferred Rocky II to the original. One of the fun things about watching these films for the first time is that while I’ve been aware of them though pop culture osmosis, I don’t know what happens in each film nor do I really know which films are considered to be the best/worst.

Everything in Rocky II just clicked better for me. Perhaps it helps that now I know these characters so I’m not starting from scratch and am more invested in their relationships. Rocky II follows a similar format to the first in the sense the first half is Rocky trying to live a life away from boxing before getting pulled back into it again and then the second half is the training montages with the boxing match at the end. There’s a surprisingly emotional hurdle for Rocky in that second half though and Stallone really brought a level of sincerity to this character/story that I wasn’t expecting.

Rightly or wrongly, I’ve often thought of Stallone as more of just an action star rather than a proper actor, at least when he was young (I have seen Creed and admit he deserved a load of awards for his performance there). Seeing how Stallone portrays the love he has for Adrian and the life he’s trying to build makes me think there was always a great actor in this action hero stereotype. Knowing also how this character/story was created by him, makes this franchise feel like a real labour of love and I’m already looking forward to revisiting Creed once I’ve seen Rocky’s story in full.

One thing I really enjoyed was Rocky’s relationship with his coach Mickey (Burgess Meredith). Their dynamic was excellent and while Mickey was no nonsense and gave Rocky tough love when training him, he also was ready and willing to be by his side when Rocky needed it the most. Mickey’s monologue to Rocky in the church was excellent and possible one of my favourite moments in the film – alongside the training montage where hundreds of schoolkids though the streets of Philadelphia with Rocky. Both scenes got me emotional for different reasons.

Rocky II provides a great rematch for these two larger than life characters and it was good to see more of Creed’s home life to as it made him more sympathetic and it was a good juxtaposition with Rocky’s situation. The final boxing match was really engaging and all the character elements came together really well. A very worthy sequel. 4/5.

REVIEW: Rocky (1976)

When world heavyweight boxing champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) needs a competitor for an exhibition match, he chooses to go for an underdog. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a small-time Philadelphia boxer making his living working for a loan shark, but when he gets the opportunity of a lifetime, he strives to go the distance.

On run up to Creed III I thought I’d re/watch the series. I’ve seen (and loved) the Creed films before and I had watched Rocky a good 6+ years ago but hadn’t seen the many sequels so thought it’d be fun to get all the backstory and references and see what all the fuss is about with this franchise. As I said, I had seen Rocky before, but as it’d been so long ago I remembered next to nothing about it so this was like a first time watch.

I kind of find Rocky fascinating. This little film started a whole franchise and while we all love an underdog story, it’s kind of unbelievable that it grew from this film which feels so incredibly small and indie. Also, where is “Eye of the Tiger”?! I’m guessing it’s in one of the many sequels but it’s kind of wild that the song that’s so synonymous with the Rocky franchise and character isn’t even in the first film. The actual Rocky theme is pretty great though and does suit the characters underdog origins.

I prefer the latter half of Rocky, after he’s invited to compete against Apollo Creed and then starts training and his relationship with Adrian (Talia Shire) develops, as the first half is a lot slower and is more of his everyday life which isn’t really that great. However, I don’t think the latter would be half as impactful if we didn’t see where Rocky came from. Honestly the ending and how Rocky slowly opens up to Adrian before the fight makes me appreciate the first half more with hindsight. You need to see how Rocky is kind of coasting through life and not really believing in himself, so when he does start to really work for his dream it’s all the more impactful.

The start of Rocky and Adrian’s romance does make me a bit uncomfortable as her shyness/hesitancy and Rocky’s persistence does feel a bit like he’s stomping all over her boundaries. I know this sort of thing was pretty normal in the 70s (and even today in rom-coms the (often male) love interests persistence tends to be rewarded) but the way it’s shot and Shire’s performance does make Adrian and Rocky’s first kiss feel a bit off to me. As their relationship evolves and the balance they find in each other, it does become a sweet romance – Rocky saying “she’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps” is one of the most romantic things I’ve heard in a film in a while. Was such a unique way of saying the usual “she completes me” line.

Rocky is a pretty great underdog story and, for a sports movie, features very little boxing. It’s more about Rocky as a character and the connections he has with his friends, trainer, and girlfriend. The slow and meandering first half is worth it as the final act is pretty great. 4/5.

REVIEW: Wildcat (2022)

Wildcat contains trigger warnings for PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and discussions of alcoholism and domestic abuse.

Back from war in Afghanistan Harry Turner, a young British soldier struggling with depression and PTSD, finds a second chance in the Amazon rainforest when he meets Samantha Zwicker, an American scientist and conservationist, and together they foster an orphaned baby ocelot.

What I really liked about Wildcat is that while the starting point is Harry’s relationship with the baby ocelot and how he learns to be a mother figure to it and teach it all it needs to know to survive in the wild, it branches out to being about Harry’s mental health and how putting all his love, focus and attention into this ocelot could be detrimental to him and the people around him.

Wildcat went into Harry’s mental health issues more than I was expecting and while it was a very open portrayal of his struggles, it also showed how loving someone who has such dark thoughts and can hurt themselves, is a struggle for the people around them too. The ocelot is like a lifeline to Harry and though he still cares about Samantha and his family, it’s like he is pinning all his happiness on the ocelot’s survival and success, which is not healthy for either of them.

The conversation work Samantha and her team do is invaluable, and Wildcat does a good job of going into the dangers the animals in the rainforest face. Plus it’s nice to see that she’s understanding of some of the locals actions as often the only way they can really earn money is through logging and mining – both of which is detrimental to the wildlife. It never comes across that Samantha knows best because she’s American compared to her Peruvian co-workers and locals who she often helps out and learns from. It’s clear that the logging and mining is part of a wider problem that people with more power and influence need to solve, not the people who are just trying to earn enough money for their families.

Wildcat shows the incredible bond humans can have with wild animals and Harry’s relationship with the ocelot is very sweet and it’s always lovely to see footage of cute animals that we don’t typically see. Wildcat is a really thoughtful and impactful documentary and one that’s incredibly honest. It’s both sad and hopeful and it truly gives you an unfiltered look into the life of someone struggling with depression and shows how there’s good days and bad days. 4/5.

My film year in review and my film-related goals of 2023

In 2022 I was very chill about film-watching and didn’t make myself watch things like the awards buzzy films just to keep in the loop (which was one of my goals last year!). I do think my whole procrastinating/mindless scrolling through social media did possibly have an affect on my film-watching like it did my reading at times though. I did also re/watch Doctor Who from Christopher Eccleston to the end of Jodie Whitaker’s era (I kind of stopped watching when the Ponds left and didn’t start again until the middle of Thirteen’s run) which took me six months so watching a couple of episodes of Doctor Who took the same time as watching a film might’ve.

In total I watched 177 different films, about 40 of which were rewatches. I said 2021 was the year I’d watched the least films but turns out 2022 now beats that which I’m OK with as I still watched a lot of good films, including these which made my Favourite Films of 2022 list. I still do enjoy watching films, whether they’re the latest blockbuster or something more obscure that I’m only watching because there’s an actor I like in it, but it’s nice not to put any pressure on myself to hit an arbitrary number or anything. I did see 45 different films at the cinema which was more than I expected because unlike previous years I didn’t really spend many Saturday’s at the cinema watching two or more films in a row like I used to. Again, I think this is a sign of me being choosier over what I want to watch rather than going to the cinema just for the sake of it. I did have an unlimited card which meant for about £16 a month I could see as many films as I like but I don’t think I was using it to its full potential as I used to so I cancelled it. I did get a similar card for a cinema that’s a lot closer to me (as in less than a 10-minute walk away) so I can go see a film at like 6pm after work and walk there rather than having a 30 minutes’ drive to the cinema.

I completed my 52 Films by Women challenge for both directors and writers again this year which I’m always happy about. Though it wasn’t intentionally I did like how only one of the films directed by women was a rewatch – which was of course, Mamma Mia! (more…)

My favourite films of 2022

As a new year begins it’s time to look back at the favourites of the year. These films are all pretty different but they were all films I enjoyed and made me laugh and/or cry or just made me feel big emotions.

RRR
Films like this is the reason why I don’t put together “favourites of the year” lists until right at the end of the year, or at the very beginning of the next because I watched RRR towards the end of December and if I’d already put together a favourites list then it wouldn’t have made it on the list. RRR is big and bombastic and it’s just a load of fun with fantastic songs and dance numbers.

Fire Island
Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite classics so I tend to have a soft spot for any retellings and Fire Island was so much fun! It’s so funny and gay and clever and a top tier Jane Austen retelling. It’s so fun, has big romcom moments and the found family trope I love so much and Conrad Ricamora is a perfect awkward Mr Darcy.

The Woman King
The Woman King is a stunning film on every level. The whole cast is brilliant and I got goosebumps multiple times due to the action, score, and performances.

Language Lessons
I love all these films on this list but this might be my favourite. Language Lessons gave me all the emotions and I loved how it was a story about the power of friendship and the power of human connection no matter the distance.

Plan B
It’s kind of a shame that there is now so many films about women’s struggle to get reproductive healthcare and nearly every one of them gets me in a different way. My favourite of this unfortunate subgenre is Plan B, directed by Natalie Morales, the director and co-writer of Language Lessons. It’s so funny and the ride or die friendship at the core of it is excellent and how the parents are surprisingly awesome too really sealed it as a favourite.

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once is weird and funny and action-packed and heartfelt and beautiful and wonderful. I didn’t know what to expect when I watched it (had just heard positive buzz but had no real idea what it was about) and just wow. Truly a special film and the whole cast is outstanding.

Top Gun: Maverick
Considering I wasn’t fussed about the original Top Gun (it’s fine but I didn’t get the hype), I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Top Gun: Maverick. I think one of the reasons I loved it so much is it’s part of my favourite subgenre of film – people being really competent at their jobs. It’s just so satisfying.

Confess, Fletch
I’m so pleased I got to see this film in the cinema. It’s proper old-school and charming in the best way. It’s a fun and clever mystery with a load of twists and a wonderful lead in Jon Hamm. I definitely think this favourite is probably the most underseen on this list.

The Banshees of Inisherin
I’m a big Martin McDonagh-fan so there was always a good chance I’d like his latest film but I really liked The Banshees of Inisherin. It’s funny and sad and kinda depressing at times – the dark humour is in full force – and the whole cast is incredible and I’d love for Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan and Kerry Condon to get all the awards.

Prey
I’m well-known for being a wuss but I can just about handle Predator movies and Prey is a fantastic prequel. The tension and scares are great and having it focused on a female tracker and how the “less-advanced” technology goes up against this alien creature was interesting and thrilling.

What were some of your favourite films of the past year?

REVIEW: RRR (2022)

After a young girl is taken from her village by the British Governor (Ray Stevenson) at the whim of his wife, the village’s protector, Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao Jr.), sets out to find her and bring her home. As the Governor’s life is deemed to be threatened, loyal and almost unstoppable police officer Raju (Ram Charan Teja) is put on the case to find and stop this protector.

In some ways I don’t want to say much about RRR because it’s a feel that defies explanation and it’s all the better for it. Considering I’d heard nothing but good things about RRR on social media, I didn’t really know what it was about (besides being anti-British/colonial rule and having bonkers set pieces) so everything was a wonderful surprise and I want everyone to be able to experience this film like that.

RRR is a three-hour historical epic but it’s one of those rare long films where not a single minute is wasted and I never found myself bored or thinking that the story was dragging. RRR is also a musical, an action film, a drama, and a romance and all those elements come together so well and sometimes in unexpected ways. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a three-hour film that was so fun, engaging and thrilling.

The action and set pieces really are astounding. Every big moment would be a standout in any film but this one has like seven of them – it truly is impressive. What makes the set pieces so good is that they’re all grounded in the characters. It makes the drama and stakes more tangible as well as just being highly entertaining.

Really though, the thing I loved most about RRR is the two main characters and their friendship. RRR is truly one of those power-of-friendship kind of movies and the tension of knowing that Bheem and Raju are on opposite sides but have so much in common is so good. The actors are fantastic and their chemistry is excellent and their friendship, and everything it goes through over the course of them film is just the best.

RRR really is something special and is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s fun and bombastic and at the same time has a really important story about Britain and India’s past and the harm that the British did and the strength it took to fight back against it. 5/5.