February 2020 Roundup
The Call of the Wild
20th Century Studios // Directed by Chris Sanders // Starring Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Karen Gillan, Bradley Whitford, Colin Woodell
Harrison Ford opposite a CGI dog in the one-thousandth iteration of The Call of the Wild? It wasn’t the most intriguing prospect – and that’s from a big Harrison fan. However, the movie itself defied my fears. A heart-warming and endearing effort from Chris Sanders, though hugely saccharine throughout, The Call of the Wild is a surprisingly entertaining and engaging movie that’s as emotional (at times) as it is nice to look at. Themes of grief, abuse, finding one’s self and answering that call from the wild are woven throughout the narrative and our protagonist, Buck, is an adorable lead – however, being fully CGI has it’s downfalls as certain moments highlight this to the detriment of the scene – whilst Ford turns in a wonderfully gruff, grizzled and forlorn performance as John Thornton (also narrating sections of the movie) that provides much of the movies emotion. It’s sentimental, it’s mawkish but it’s touching, entertaining and not bad...not bad at all.
Brahms: The Boy 2
STX Entertainment // Directed by William Brent Bell // Starring Katie Holmes, Ralph Ineson, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery
The sequel to a ropey movie that really didn’t need a sequel (or warrant one). Brahms: The Boy 2 sees a young boy discovering a strange doll with a strange name (...Brahms) which leads to TERRIFYING CONSEQUENCES. Those last two words were sarcasm. Brahms: The Boy 2 is awful, just terrible. It’s lacklustre in all departments, lacking in scares, atmosphere and tension, boasts some abysmal CGI and, as a final nail in the coffin, it’s actually rather boring. Add in some pacing that makes a PlayStation 4 update seem supersonic and the movie just meanders along to a conclusion which makes no real sense. An end without an ending. Katie Holmes is game enough and Ralph Ineson is fine for what he has but as for the movie itself? Stick to Dead Silence or, hell, even Slappy from Goosebumps. Avoid at all costs.
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
Netflix // Directed by Michael Fimognari // Starring Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Jordan Fisher, Anna Cathcart, Janel Parrish, Ross Butler, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac
I loved To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (it ranked 16th in my Best of 2018 list) – it was charming, cosy and boasted a wonderful lead performance from Lana Condor. The follow up (also via Netflix) picks up after and whilst it’s not quite as sharp or successful as the first, it’s still enjoyable and has plenty to admire. Lana Condor is just as delightful here as she has new relationship issues to deal with as an old flame responds to one of her love letters – if you haven’t seen the first movie, you’ll probably need to in order to follow along – though the feelgood factor takes a hit somewhat in this second part of the announced trilogy. The old characters get greater development, new characters fit in nicely and the comedy is present and well. Fans of the first will dig this, but it won’t be for everyone. Me? I’m already waiting for part three.
Focus Features // Directed by Todd Haynes // Starring Mark Ruffalo, Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Mare Winningham, Bill Pullman
An attorney who falls into some dark places as he attempts to uncover some nasty truths about a major corporation. Boohoo, a lawyer in trouble? Not quite. Dark Waters is a mostly compelling thriller that allows Mark Ruffalo to shake off the MCU shackles and act, which he does very well as you’d probably expect (though Anne Hathaway is disappointingly underused). The movie itself isn’t entertaining per se, but it’s engaging and provides some solid moments during the investigation that covers a substantial time period. It’s effective rather than exciting and the narrative is more than strong enough to grip the attention even if it is overly long.
Focus Features // Directed by Autumn de Wilde // Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Josh O'Connor, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Bill Nighy
Ah, the old Jane Austen adaptation – guaranteed to be stuffy, stiff and packed with questionable accents. In Emma’s case, this is untrue. Led by Anya Taylor-Joy’s great performance as the titular matchmaker, Emma bristles with some fine comedic moments and, of course, social politics. In fact, everyone involved – including Bill Nighy and Mia Goth – are all clearly having fun in their roles and the supporting cast is strong. There are a few moments added for titillation which aren’t always successful but the playful tone keeps things moving along nicely and ensure this doesn’t become stale quickly. The obvious characters arcs aid the story (those, in themselves, are lifted from the novel) and whilst this isn’t a must-watch, there’s plenty to enjoy here and pitting Taylor-Joy and Nighy together? Chef’s kiss.
True History of the Kelly Gang
IFC Films // Directed by Justin Kurzel // Starring George MacKay, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult, Orlando Schwerdt, Thomasin McKenzie, Sean Keenan, Charlie Hunnam, Russell Crowe
Before 1917 and after Ophelia, George MacKay was Ned Kelly in a very-Australian flick about a...well...Australian gang. With a cast featuring Russell Crowe, Essie Davis, Nicholas Hoult (all delivering their A-games), True History of the Kelly Gang is a gritty, grubby and authentic feeling effort despite the movie announcing at the beginning that none of the movie, in fact, should be taken as truth. Visually, the movie is scintillating – Ari Wegner captures the tone expertly, though it’s an anarchic tone that may be too raw for some moviegoers. You’d be forgiven for not knowing about this movie, it hasn’t received the best marketing but you’d be remiss to avoid this.