Well cinemas are finally open and showing new films again so I thought now would be a good time to recap most of the digitally released films I watched over the past few months. You can find 7 short reviews here, and a couple of other reviews I just had to get off my chest for Scoob! and Artemis Fowl by following those links. I’ll be back with full reviews for Tenet and The New Mutants over the weekend.
Da 5 Bloods – Spike Lee is back after BlacKkKlansman with a war film following four ageing Vietnam vets who return to the country to find the remains of their fallen squad leader, Stormin’ Norman, and the treasure they buried. The film cuts back and forth between their search and flashback of them during the war, which exemplify how Norman brought them together. In the end, whilst there are moments of real brilliance in Da 5 Bloods it is a bit of a mixed bag thanks to being overly long and messy, meaning that Lee’s message does get lost in there. But the performances, particularly that of Delroy Lindo, are fantastic. Whilst it isn’t perfect I do highly recommend Da 5 Bloods because when Lee gets it right he’s a truly brilliant filmmaker.
Extraction – Netflix has been pumping out quite a few action films starring a huge name in the last couple of years. We got Triple Frontier and 6 Underground last year, and during lockdown we got Extraction and The Old Guard. Extraction stars Chris Hemsworth as a mercenary who has to save the disnapped son of an Indian drug lord. Written by Joe Russo, of the MCU, Arrested Development, and Community fame, you’d expect at least a good story or interesting characters to draw you in. However between the action sequences there was almost nothing of substance. Extraction’s saving grace however is the action. Director Sam Hargrave has previously been known as the stunt coordinator on many MCU films, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that he knocks the action out of the park. Really it is just a shame that the rest of the film didn’t really live up to action.
The Half of It – The Half of It is a really lovely coming of age romance film about three teens who all feel as though they are stuck in rut and are trapped in their small town. Where most coming of age dramas focus on the romance between its lead characters Alice Wu instead focuses on the characters accepting who they are and learning to be more comfortable with themselves in The Half of It. Wu’s film is a gentle one, and watching these people come out of their shell is a genuinely lovely, if unexceptional, experience.
How To Build A Girl – Caitlin Moran’s adaptation of her own book of the same name How To Build A Girl ends up being a very conventional coming of age story for its lead character. Thankfully in Beanie Feldstein the film does have a star with enough charm to overcome the fairly formulaic character work. Similarly there are enough good comedic moments in the film as well to make it pleasant enough. But on the whole there isn’t anything in How To Build A Girl to really make it stand out or elevate it beyond average in any way.
The Old Guard – Netflix’s second big action film of the year, The Old Guard follows a group of near immortal centuries old warriors, headed up by Andy, played by Charlize Theron. The group tries to avoid any kind of spotlight and recognition, but are forced to act when the first new immortal for centuries awakens. The Old Guard is just a really solid action flick, and a huge part of that is Charlize Theron, who is an absolute badass, and manages to elevate the film. She particularly stands out in director Gina Prince-Bythewood’s action sequences, which are really well executed. Sometimes the film does step too far into setting up potential sequels, particularly towards the end of the film, but it doesn’t hold back the majority of it.
Palm Springs – Palm Spring was an absolute delight to watch over lockdown. We’ve all seen these movies that take place on the same repeating day, with the prime example being Groundhog Day, and so it can be hard to do something really new with that. In Palm Springs the writer Andy Siara has not only managed to do something genuinely new with this well worn film set up, but it is an absolute joy. The Rom-Com aspect of the film works brilliantly, thanks largely to the wonderful lead performances of Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, who are both funny, relatable, and have great chemistry. What I loved most however was the way the film managed to have a dark and nihilistic edge to the film whilst still being a sweet and irreverent comedy. An absolute must watch.
The Vast of Night – Andrew Patterson’s debut film is an atmospheric science-fiction mystery that brings big vibes that are reminiscent of early Spielberg movies. It might not be for everyone with its slow pace and heavy focus on dialogue, but there is a lot to love here. Firstly the film really captures that small town feeling exceptionally well, particularly in the opening sequence. Most importantly the two leading performances from Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz are really what make The Vast of Night. Both are such charming leads, that are capable of carrying a film essentially centred around the pair’s conversations. But as a film fan it was Patterson’s direction that was exceptionally exciting to watch. Not only does he work with cinematographer M. I. Littin-Menz to capture some beautiful shots, but some of the long and slow takes from Patterson as we travel through the town are stunning. Patterson is really someone to watch in the future, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.