Searching

Searching (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

After his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a desperate father breaks into her laptop to look for clues to find her.

*Minor spoilers*

This morning I learnt that there’s a name for films using this all-on-the-screen format and it’s “Screen life”. So not only is this an interesting film, it’s also been highly educational. Kinda.

Anywho, Searching is a very tense thriller in which David Kim (the gorgeous John Cho) fights tooth and nail to find his daughter Margot (Michelle La), who has mysteriously disappeared. As he picks at the threads of her life, he realises he barely knows her at all – which doesn’t help when he’s expected to unravel the truth about what happened to her.

With the help of determined Detective Vick (Debra Messing), David delves deeper into Margot’s social media account, messages and emails to paint a picture of where his daughter might be – and who she really is.

I really enjoyed this though I will admit to getting an inkling of the truth half way through. That said it makes you doubt every character you come into contact with, even David himself. And while it centers around Margot’s disappearance it also sets up their relationship really well. The beginning is genuinely touching and gave me the feels not ten minutes in.

I’m trying very hard not to hone in on any of the details for a reason but this was impressive and the screen life format kept my interest throughout, much as it does in Unfriended. I think it might get tired quicker than found footage but here it successfully builds up suspense – and makes you want to upgrade your five-year-old acer laptop for something quicker and shinier (just me?).

My Rating

4/5.

The Happytime Murders

The Happytime Murders (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

When the puppet cast of a ’90s children’s TV show begin to get murdered one by one, a disgraced LAPD detective-turned-private eye puppet takes on the case.

*Minor spoilers*

If I’m perfectly honest the real star of this movie is Bubbles’ (Maya Rudolph) wardrobe. Sis can really dress. The rest of it is… not brilliant. The jokes don’t often land, it’s gross for the sake of being gross and shocking – and it just doesn’t have the heart it thinks it does. That said, I didn’t hate it and I get what they were trying for.

Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) is a disgraced LAPD officer turned private dick. Living in a puppet/human where puppets are washed up and mostly disregarded by society, he’s doing what he can to stay afloat. When a series of murders are committed on puppets, it soon becomes clear that there’s something fishy going on.

Phil himself is present at the first hit where he has the misfortune of bumping into his ex-partner, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy). This brings up lots of old memories about the fateful day that ended his career – and ultimately their partnership. But there’s a murderer at large who seems to be knocking off a very specific list of puppets, including Phil’s actor brother – can our frenemies work together once more to get to the bottom of the case?


Meanwhile, Phil has an even more personal investment in the case because of his former lover Jenny (Elizabeth Banks), the only human on the list of potential victims. Will he be able to protect her?

There are some scenarios that I didn’t hate and some jokes did make me laugh but they aren’t consistent and if I’m honest, it’s mostly forgettable. McCarthy is always my favourite in everything but this doesn’t showcase her talent too well. I feel a little bit torn by all the sex jokes, like they don’t work here but could they have if the rating had been higher and Director Brian Henson (Jim Henson‘s son) had gone all out? Here they feel out-of-place and clunky – and cheap.

I was a fan of Rudolph’s Bubbles though and it wasn’t quite as bad as all the reviews would have me believe. Which really isn’t saying much.

My Rating

2.5/5.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Audrey and Morgan are best friends who unwittingly become entangled in an international conspiracy when one of the women discovers the boyfriend who dumped her was actually a spy.

*Minor spoilers*

I loved this stupid film. I’m in love with Mila Kunis, sue me. Pair her with Kate McKinnon and as far as I’m concerned you’re onto a winner. It’s a very silly romp sure but a very good, girl power one.

When Audrey gets dumped over text by her elusive boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux), her BFF Morgan is on hand to help her through it. After attempting to burn his stuff, he gets in touch and tells her he’ll be home soon to explain everything. Unfortunately, before this happens she is accosted by the feds who reveal his true identity.

Audrey is shocked to learn that her boyfriend is actually a spy. Well, I’ve been out with much worse tbf. When Drew finally makes contact again, he gives her instruction to travel to Europe with a secret package which Morgan encourages her do because why not? Neither of them have ever been. And the rest is a blur of spy activity which the girls quickly discover they’re actually pretty good at.

But who are the good guys, who are the bad guys – and who the hell is Drew really? Via a backdrop of glamorous European locations and elaborate disguises, our girls get to the bottom of just what the fuck is going down – which they find is easier said than done.

Hot on their heels is nimble super assassin Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno) and the feds themselves, led by their boss Wendy (Gillian Anderson). There might be a new love interest in the mix too in the form of pretty Sebastian (Sam Heughan), one of the agents on Drew’s case.

Well it’s a romp alright and I laughed my arse off. McKinnon is always good but sometimes suffers for the material she’s given while Kunis has tremendous comic timing. Together I totally bought their chemistry as best friends – and I found it refreshing that there’s no side story in which the two of them fall out. Their friendship remains intact to the end.

I hope they turn this into a franchise because I haven’t had this much fun with female spies since well, Spy. But also Charlie’s Angels.

My Rating

4.5/5.

BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan with the help of a white surrogate, who eventually becomes head of the local branch.

*Minor spoilers*

There’s a lot to say about this movie and yet I don’t think I’m going to go all in. I enjoyed it very much and found it very moving in places. It also made me laugh, shake my head, feel disgusted – basically most of the emotions you would associate with a Spike Lee movie.

The narrative focuses on Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black cop who, with the help of his team, manages to infiltrate the KKK. While he charms a number of organisation members over the telephone, he has an obvious issue when it comes to meeting them face-to-face. Enter Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) then, Ron’s Jewish (and white) body double.

Will Flip be able to keep his end up in person, while Ron cons KKK founder David Duke (Topher Grace) over the phone? And will he come to realise, as Ron warns him, that he has more stake in the game than he knows?

Given the pressure being piled on him by tightly wound Klansman Felix (Jasper Pääkkönen), who knows?

Meanwhile, Ron tries to romance the lovely activist Patrice (Laura Harrier) who doesn’t know who he really is, which is a bad scene given that she hates pigs. Having experienced more than her fair share of police brutality, she kind of has a point – can he persuade her that he’s one of the good guys, changing the system from the inside?

BKKK is very much a Spike Lee movie with some very clear Lee signatures. It pays homage in tone to some of the great blaxploitation movies and blends dark humour with even darker imagery. The final scenes splice truly frightening KKK rhetoric with real life terrorist footage – and it’s a hard pill to swallow. As it fucking should be.

Denzel‘s boy John is remarkable as Ron while Adam Driver is as dreamy as ever. He’s so tall I would like to climb him like my favourite childhood tree. Which might be missing the point a little. One of my favourite scenes is the one in which Flip muses how little he’s cared about his own heritage up until this point.

I also have to say that Pääkkönen, as the truly frightening Felix is a stand-out for me. He’s repugnant obviously but is played to perfection, a ticking time bomb of a character, hell bent on exposing Flip as Jewish and a cop to boot, something no other member of the Klan believes.

My Rating

4/5.

The Festival

The Festival (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

After Nick’s girlfriend dumps him, his best mate Shane has the perfect antidote to his break-up blues: three days at an epic music festival.

*Minor spoilers*

When Nick (Joe Thomas) gets dumped at graduation by his university girlfriend Caitlin (Hannah Tointon), he’s devastated. Luckily for him though, a good friend will never let you stay down for long – and Nick has Shane (the amazing Hammed Animashaun).

Shane insists that the pair head to the festival they both have tickets for, even if Caitlin and her posh friends will be there. He’s all about helping his friend over his heartbreak but he also has his own agenda – to see and hopefully meet his hero, DJ Hammerhead.

But things are never as easy as you want them to be and after meeting festival veteran Amy (Claudia O’Doherty) on the train, the trio are forced to make the rest of their journey by foot. Much to Nick’s disdain, Amy is a talker.

The festival poses its own set of challenges, not lease avoiding Nick’s ex and her new love interest. But you don’t think everything’s going to according to plan do ya? What follows is a raucous comedy of errors that lead our new friends on an adventure of a lifetime. Or at least a Summertime.

The Festival won’t change the world but it’s not the worst way to spend a couple of hours. It’s pretty standard Inbetweeners-style fare, maybe not as funny but it does have stand-outs in O’Doherty and Animashaun. Also a cameo from Jemaine Clement as Shane’s over-the-top step father, which doesn’t hurt.

As expected it’s quite fixated on bodily-fluids, awkward sex and bestiality so not the most sophisticated of feature films but I’m guessing nobody has bought a ticket expecting anything more (or less).

This isn’t my most detailed review of all time but there’s not really that much more to say. Will Shane get to meet his hero? With Nick get over his ex and by extension himself? If you can be bothered, you’ll see how it all turns out for yourself.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Slender Man

Slender Man (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

In a small town in Massachusetts, a group of friends, fascinated by the internet lore of the Slender Man, attempt to prove that he doesn’t actually exist – until one of them mysteriously goes missing.

*Minor spoilers*

The Slender Man will always be a fascinating subject matter, ever since his conception on the horror forum Creepypasta (don’t fact check me, I don’t know his exact origin). There have been several films about his legend over the years – The Slender Man (2013) and the Beware the Slenderman documentary (2016) to name a couple – but so far none have been very good. Somehow, this seems to be one folktale that is difficult to get right.

Does Slender Man finally nail our boy in all his glory? Well, no. No it doesn’t.

Unfortunately, this movie’s main crime is that it’s boring and there’s not really any coming back from that. Our leads – Joey King and Julia Goldani Telles – really try to keep up their end and they are the best things in this but it still falls flat. That said, it is by no means the worst film ever made, there are parts that work, if only the makers had followed those through.

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My exact face when I found out there’s Slender Man porn

Our foursome, Wren (King), Hallie (Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair) and Katie (Annalise Basso) are just like any friendship group. They’re slightly rebellious, have precocious banter in the school hallways and enjoy heavy sexual tension with the boys. When the same boys boast about a secret ‘project’ they’re doing together one night, the girls are naturally intrigued.

When they find out that the boys plan to summon Slender Man via a video on YouTube, they’re keen not to be outdone and impulsively watch it themselves. The video, reminiscent of the one from The Ring is a mish mash of dream sequence and bizarre symbolism featuring the skinny one. Although it makes little sense at this time, it is haunting and deeply effects each of the girls.

Katie seems the most spooked, staring out into the middle distance and being quieter than normal. Shortly afterwards she goes missing on a school trip (to a grave yard?). This leads her friends to dig deeper and try to make a bargain with Slender Man to bring her back. Well, you can imagine how reasonable a child killer compared to The Pied Piper of Hamelin might be.

slenderman
Got wood(s)?

Although a lot of the forest imagery becomes tiresome quickly (and the film is REALLY REALLY DARK all the time making it hard for 40 year olds with bad eyesight to follow), there are a couple of things I did like. Firstly, I should say that Slender Man is not revealed too soon which I really appreciate. When he is though the effects are questionable and I just think less is more when it comes to an enigmatic character like this.

While the girls are researching SM on a Creepypasta-esque website they stumble across a series of ‘real life’ sightings and these are really creepy and effective. Likewise when Hallie spies him in the trees at school, that’s a potentially iconic image.

There’s also a pretty tense scene in the library as Wren receives a visit which I thought was good. Ultimately though, a couple of cool ideas are not enough to see this one through and it loses steam about half way. As each of the girls experiences their own sighting, to varying degrees of horrible, their friendship is pushed to the limit. How are they going to stop him before it’s too late?

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Prank calling had suddenly got a whole lot more serious

As I type this I realise that I can’t even remember what happens to Wren and Hallie and that is not a good sign (I looked it up, oh yeah). I would say this is one that might be worth a look when it comes on Netflix but would probably piss you off if you’d spent £10+ on a cinema ticket.

Back to the drawing board I guess.

My Rating

2/5.

Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.

*Minor spoilers*

When you put away childish things, life can get really fucking dull. Or so we’re lead to believe, I wouldn’t know, I’ll never tidy away my Funko pops and comic books.

Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) knows though and as a middle-aged working-class workaholic, he’s all but forgotten the magic of childhood. Which is shame ‘cos of all the childhoods his is probably up there as one of the most magical, you know?

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Constantly working late and perpetually disappointing his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and their daughter Madeline, Chris has allowed all the joy to be sucked out of his life. When his boss, the sniveling Giles Winslow (the fucking fabulous Mark Gatiss) of Winslow Luggage demands he give up a precious weekend away with the family to stay in the office and make drastic financial cuts, he is torn. He knows what he should do but also wants to do right by his career.

Perhaps what he needs is a little help from an old friend or two to give him perspective?

This is a film that has obviously been lovingly made. The CGI animals are not jarring at all and the performances are as competent as expected (including the voice work of Jim CummingsPeter Capaldi and Toby Jones). However, I think this is another film that is not for me. I personally find Pooh and friends creepy in a way Paddington isn’t and I don’t know why. Especially you, Piglet.

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“I’ve been seeing someone else… his name’s Paddington…”

I also got a lot of anxiety every time Pooh smeared honey all over everything which I thought was just me until I mentioned it to my friend Helen, who wholeheartedly agreed. Honestly, there’s one scene that brought me out in hives. Stop doing that, you bad bear!

So, I can objectively say that this is a well made film but it was ever so slightly boring in places. It only really gets going in the final segment, as Pooh, Tigger and pals travel with Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) to Lon Don to try and save his job.

Pooh was always around when I grew up but he wasn’t a core part of my childhood and maybe that also goes some way to explaining the disconnect I felt to this film. I think die hard fans with cream themselves.

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You can stay, Tigger.

*Shrug*

My Rating

3/5.