Martial artist-in-training Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) believes she must save her older sister Lena (Ritu Arya) from her impending marriage. After enlisting the help of her friends, Ria attempts to pull off the most ambitious of all wedding heists.
Polite Society was such an unexpected delight. It’s inventive and fun and blends different genres so well. It’s a martial arts action film, a family drama, a romance, a comedy, a coming-of-age story and it combines all those elements really well and in unexpected ways. It also excellently blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Ria and Lena are the only characters who have been stated to know martial arts, but that doesn’t stop other characters getting in on the action. Plus, there are moments where characters have evil monologues or characters fights are more symbolic of their argument. It’s a really odd but interesting and compelling way to tell a story. (more…)
Edgin (Chris Pine), a charming thief, and his band of unlikely allies undertake an epic heist to steal a great treasure including a powerful ancient relic, from Forge (Hugh Grant), a double-crossing political leader, and Sofina (Daisy Head), a dangerous wizard.
I’m not someone who grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, in fact I’ve only played a campaign once an that was during lockdown over Zoom and I had very little clue as to what I was doing. So, when it comes to any references or homages to the game this film might have, I don’t have the knowledge to notice these things so I very much went into Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves as just someone who likes fantasy stories. Plus there’s the fact it was a story about thieves and features heists – two things a love in media.
I enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves a ridiculous amount. The setting is very much a generic fantasy land with taverns, grand castles, and a variety of creatures including dragons. However, it works because the sense familiarity in the setting and genre tropes means the odd differences standout more and having a shorthand on how this fantasy world works means there can be more focus on the characters and the plot. (more…)
When the daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren and Lucy Liu) return to Earth with plans to destroy the world of humans, Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and his adult superhero alter ego (Zachary Levi), must bring his superhero family together to save the world.
The first Shazam! film was an unexpected delight and while Shazam! Fury of the Gods doesn’t reach the heights of the original, it’s still a pretty fun sequel that builds on the themes of family that was so essential to the first one. That being said, I would’ve like Asher Angel to have more screentime with his on-screen siblings, as adult Billy aka Zachary Levi, definitely had the most screentime with the siblings, both the kid-versions and the superhero-versions. The first film had such a great balance between the superhero and the kid stuff but in Fury of the Gods it was definitely more skewed towards the superhero stuff. Which kind of makes sense but it was to an extent where you sometimes for got that this superhero was a teenager – especially as teenage Billy was a lot calmer and more thoughtful than superhero Billy who sometimes veered off into being almost Deadpool-esque with the abundance on one-liners and acting more like comic relief than a hero with responsibilities. (more…)
After an innocent AOL chat turns racy sixteen-year-old Catholic Alice (Natalia Dyer) discovers masturbation and struggles to suppress her new urges as the act would be considered a sin.
Yes, God, Yes is a wonderful coming-of-age story that tackles religion and female sexuality. Alice attends a Catholic school and, when she suddenly gets these new urges that everyone tells her are sinful, she attends a religious camp to help get her back on the straight and narrow.
The script for Yes, God, Yes is great as it pokes holes in the hypocrisy in religion (specifically Catholicism) and does it in a way that’s natural. It allows moments to breathe and often the focus is on Alice as she observes different people breaking the rules/committing sin and how that goes against what those same people had been preaching hours earlier. Natalia Dyer is such a compelling lead and she captures that naivety of sheltered teenagers when it comes to sex and then the interest and anticipation when Alice discovers how to pleasure herself. When Alice starts to get more conviction in herself and how she views God it’s truly great to see.
Yes, God, Yes is set in the Midwest in the early 2000’s which makes Alice’s uncertainty about sexual slang all the more believable. When rumours spread about her, she denies everything and even says she doesn’t know what she’s being accused of even means. All the 2000’s references are wonderful with Alice playing Snake on her chunky Nokia, the computer with the huge screen, and Titanic being on VHS and a formative influence when it comes to Alice’s sexual awakening.
Yes, God, Yes puts forward a compelling argument as to why a lot of films should be just 90 minutes or less. At 78 minutes, Yes, God, Yes never overstays its welcome and instead manages to capture all the cringey, awkward, funny, and difficult things about being a teenager who is trying to figure out who they are. It’s hard enough trying to figure out what you enjoy in life without having just about anything fun or pleasurable considered to be a huge sin. 4/5.
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.
When a team of mercenaries, led by a man with the codename Scrooge (John Leguizamo), take a wealthy family hostage with plans to steal the fortune from their vault, they encounter unexpected resistance from Santa Claus (David Harbour) who was making his rounds when the family mansion came under attack.
Violent Night is kind of exactly what you’d expect and it does what it sets out to do and does it well. A Santa who’s disillusioned by Christmas and how children just seem to want money or video games, gets caught up in a home invasion and fights to take down the bad guys and save the family – some members of which you wouldn’t necessarily mind if they didn’t make it out of this situation alive.
Violent Night does the feuding/dysfunctional family thing really well. The majority of the family members are self-absorbed and bordering on narcissistic and the saving grace is young Trudy (Leah Brady) and her mother Linda (Alexis Louder). It’s Trudy’s connection to Santa that brings a surprisingly emotional heart to the film as she’s the only one who still believes in him and her being so nice and caring starts to make him believe in the good of others again.
The Father Christmas lore in Violent Night is pretty cool. His naughty or nice list and his sack full of presents are both inventive and how he gets up and down a chimney is especially cool. While Violent Night is obviously a Santa takes down bad guys film, it’s nice to see that the charm or magic of Father Christmas isn’t lost.
David Harbour is great as a jaded Santa who starts taking down bad guys almost by accident. The fight sequences are well-shot, innovative and fun, and the violence is pretty bloody and gory at times too. Definitely the kind of stuff that makes you grimace even when you’re also laughing at the mercenaries misfortunes. The action and comedy balance well and there’s some wonderfully dark Christmas-related puns.
With brutal fights, some fun booby traps, and the fact that throughout all the carnage Violent Night still manages to retain the general spirit of Christmas, it could well go on to become a Christmas cult classic as it executes its simple premise well. 3/5.
After arriving in Boston to try and find stolen paintings belonging to his Italian girlfriend’s rich father, Fletch (John Hamm) encounters problems straightaway when he finds a murdered young woman in the house he’s renting. With the police convinced he’s the murderer, former-investigative reporter Fletch strives to prove his innocence while simultaneously searching for the missing paintings.
Confess, Fletch is a reboot/adaptation but as I’d never seen, read, or even had heard of the books/films before I saw the trailer for this film, it’s safe to say I took this film on its own merit and have no reference point for it. I think that’s a good thing as Confess, Fletch is an old-school mystery in the best possible way and I had a thoroughly good time with it.
It’s the dry wit and sharp script that makes Confess, Fletch so much fun. There’s so many quips but they never undercut any drama of the moment and Confess, Fletch is the sort of film that rewards you when you give it your full attention. Fletch, as a character, is brilliant. He’s charming, quick-witted and can talk himself out of (or into) just about anything. He’s almost annoying with how smooth and confident he is, but he does it all with a smile so you can’t stay mad at him. It’s easy to see why the two detectives on his case (played by Roy Wood Jr. and Ayden Mayeri) get so frustrated nearly every time they talk to him.
The mystery has a lot of avenues and it’s fun to see how it all plays out and if and how all these eccentric people Fletch encounters are connected at all. John Hamm has great comedic timing and is a brilliant lead here but Confess, Fletch thrives because the supporting cast is just as good. Fletch’s girlfriend Angela (Lorenza Izzo) has a rivalry with her father’s wife (Marcia Gay Harden), then there’s John Slattery playing Fletch’s old boss and Kyle MacLachlan as an art dealer. Everyone has their own eccentricities and agenda and the dialogue between them and Fletch is often top-notch.
The humour in Confess, Fletch comes from the characters and it it’s really a funny and charming film. I’d love to watch many sequels with John Hamm in the lead role as these sort of clever but fun mysteries are truly timeless. I hope I’m wrong but due to the release and lack of promotion I can see Confess, Fletch going the same way as The Nice Guys – a funny mystery that’s ripe for sequels never getting them as it doesn’t find the audience when it’s first released. 4/5.
When workaholic realtor Jim (Eddie Murphy) and his wife/business partner Sara (Marsha Thomason) get a call to view a mansion, they and their kids soon find things aren’t what they seem when they get stranded in the old mansion overnight.
The Haunted Mansion is one of those Disney movies I missed as a child. I definitely went through a phase of considering myself too old for Disney movies – even the live-action ones – but as it’s Spooky Season I thought I’d watch a family friendly horror film because I didn’t want to get too scared or have to pay too much attention. Considering that was where my mind was at when I chose to watch this film, I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed The Haunted Mansion.
The scariness and laughs are well balanced and the atmosphere is perfection. The mansion itself is gorgeous and suitably creepy with its creaky lifts, secret passage ways, and a huge graveyard with a fair amount of ghosts. The set design is just fantastic and the mansion becomes its own character – as it should be. The way lighting is used throughout, whether that’s candlelight or flashes of lightning, adds to the atmosphere and tension and provides some good scares too.
Eddie Murphy is pretty great here and his brand of sometimes over the top comedy works well to lighten things up when things are getting a little too serious or scary. Because that’s something The Haunted Mansion does really well, it balances the comedy and the horror to make scary stuff that walks that fine line of fun and terrifying for kids.
Terence Stamp as the creepy butler Ramsley is perfect. He’s unnerving and intimidating in equal measure while being delightfully polite. Potential vague spoiler alert but this needs to be said; perhaps it’s how I watched this as an adult but the real villain of The Haunted Mansion is racism, it may be implied but I’m pretty sure that’s where they were going with Stamp’s character and I find that surprisingly interesting for a Disney horror film. Though, all horror films have layers and are often about other things.
The Haunted Mansion is a good, fun, spooky, family horror film. A lot of the special effects still hold up which is always a nice surprise and the sequence with the skeletons was a real highlight. 3/5.
After discovering she’s almost 11 weeks pregnant, Cherry (Alexandria Threwhitt) has a big decision to make in just 24 hours, whether or not to keep this unplanned pregnancy.
Films about women’s access (or lack thereof) to essential healthcare like abortions and the morning after pill are becoming more common nowadays as women’s right to choose is still being debated – and in some places being outright denied. Personally, I’m a fan of this timely sub-genre, whether it’s a dramatic period piece or a teen road trip comedy as no matter what the central characters decide it’s a huge decision and the circumstances of their pregnancy can be so different.
Cherry is in her early twenties and has had a load of dead-end jobs, is still mostly living with her mother and has no real direction in her life. Her life is a bit of a mess and while some of this is down to her, it’s also obvious that everyone has their own things they’re going through and when people are absent it’s sometimes not because of maliciousness. Alexandria Threwhitt gives a great and compelling performance as Cherry. She bounces between her family, her friends who she sort of ditched and her not so serious boyfriend/the would-be baby’s father a she tries to figure out if motherhood right now is for her while finding it increasingly difficult to talk to the people in her life about what’s going on with her.
As Cherry tries to decide what to do, she talks to her parents about parenthood in a roundabout way, trying to get their advice and guidance without telling them why she’s suddenly so interested in about the circumstances of her own conception and birth. The scenes with her dad (Charlie S. Jensen) are especially good as it’s clear they both have different ideas of what it is to be a parent and support their family. Her father said he was a good father because he worked all the time so they could be secure but to Cherry that meant he was never around and their awkward relationship is testament to that.
I want to mention the doctor Cherry sees, played by Sandy Duarte, quickly. Perhaps it’s because some of the films I’ve watched recently that deal with this topic have had doctors that have been judgmental or unhelpful, but it was so refreshing to see this doctor – who herself was clearly very pregnant, be kind and non-judgemental towards Cherry. She gave her all the information she needed, talked her through all her options and refused to judge her no matter what decision she made but was still firm that Cherry needed to decide one way or another as there was no ignoring what was happening to her body.
Cherry is one of those wonderfully short (its runtime is less than 75 minutes) but poignant and funny indie dramas. It has a great soundtrack and the sunny streets of LA and Cherry’s shiny red roller-skates help give this film almost a sense of whimsy even though Cherry has big choices ahead of her. 4/5.
After a snowstorm traps a group of eccentric townspeople in the local, secluded inn, new ranger Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson) tries to keep everyone calm as he looks for the mysterious creature threatening the community
Werewolves Within is based on a videogame but it’s not a game I’ve played, or had even heard of before I heard about this film, so I can’t comment on how well it works as video game/movie adaptation though historically they’ve been kind of hit and miss (and mostly miss). Werewolves Within as film though, is definitely a hit.
Finn is the new guy to town and with postal worker Cecily (Milana Vayntrub) acting as his guide to the town and its people, he soon learns that everyone has their own quirks and there’s bubbling tension as developer Sam Parker (Wayne Duvall) wants to knock down homes and businesses to put down a gas pipeline and the town is divided between those who want to sell their homes to make it happen, and those who don’t. So naturally, when something appears to be stalking the town the people are quick to point fingers and tempers fray.
Werewolves Within is a horror/comedy but it mostly feels like a really fun whodunit! There are some scares, including some pretty funny ones, but it’s the mystery and the characters that made Werewolves Within really work for me. There’s a lot of interesting characters and the script is great as a lot of the time, things that are mentioned in passing at the beginning have an alternate meaning as the film progresses. It’s fun to try and figure things out alongside Finn as he’s the perfect person to take on this case as an outsider – however, being an outsider can also be to his detriment as these people have known each other for a lot longer.
Werewolves Within is just a lot of fun. It has a great script along with great performances – the whole cast are perfect for their roles but it’s Richardson who is a solid lead performance, grounding any and all of the absurdity that ensues – and with a 90-minute runtime, Werewolves Within is an entertaining horror/comedy/mystery hybrid. 4/5.