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The Round-Up #21 - November 2023

NYAD (2023)

No doubt this woman is something of a lunatic, but in a good way of course. Well, good for her, at least. What I wasn't buying was Bening's portrayal of her, which may or may not be accurate, but for some reason (cough*overacting*cough) she just rubbed me up the wrong way. Jodie Foster was the pearl here if you ask me, as dutiful assistant to Nyad. If I had been her, I would have become completely exasperated by the selfishness abounding and would have walked less than halfway through.

The Marvels (2023)

If it wasn't for all of the sub-par tv shows and the majority of the last few years' back catalogue of movie flops, Marvel would look quite healthy. If they hadn't happened and then they released this, you would bet your house it was wasn't made by the same company, such is the nosedive the company has taken. In that regard, this comes off as just averagely wasteful from a company that can, and has, done so much better. Not as bad as purported to be, but nonetheless, still a waste of money and time. Just an egregious, albeit sometimes entertaining, noise.

Muzzle (2023)

I cried like a ten-year-old girl at Marley & Me. No such warm, fuzzy storytelling here. Aaron Eckhart plays Jake, a dog-handling police officer who loses his partner, Ace, and takes on a new dog as replacement. Pitched firmly in drama, this isn't fun, but accomplished and easy to watch as Jake investigates the identity of his partners' killer. As much time is spent here with Jake's reaction to his loss as the pursuit of justice, so more melancholic tragedy than non-stop thrill-a-minute action.

Old Dads (2023)

Burr is nothing if not massaging his already outspoken image. As a man of a similar age, I enjoy his work most of the time, but it's still best found on stage. Being truly out of step with the woke generation is inevitable, I guess, and you either try to keep up, or get left behind. Even get annoyed about it if you want, but you should also know by this age that you're akin to an aged labrador barking at your own farts, for all of the good it will do you. We get old and stop understanding the generations that come after, it happens to all of us. Still funny, just not often enough.

The Automat (2021)

Even at my ever-increasing years, this rose-tinted and wistful saunter down memory lane is both mystifying and delightful. A collection of some impressive talking heads, most notably Mel Brooks, eulogising the good old days of the Automat, a place completely alien to my English eyeballs and tastebuds, numerous decades later. The story of Horn & Hardart, the creators of the convenient (and cheap) restaurant chains in New York and Philadelphia is a photo album of times gone by, before Burger King and Wendy's were a glint in the eye. An informative, pleasing documentary of a time where everything was right in the world, allegedly.

Genie (2023)

What would Tom Cruise do? He probably wouldn't sit through this, I imagine. This isn't dreadful for the right audience but for everyone else, it's a bit of a predictable, schmaltzy chore. McCarthy is skating is a little too closely to Hallmark territory than she should be and she needs to just bloody well stop it. The performances are good, the story less so and the script so cheesy you could make a fondue out of it. Both festively heartwarming and cinematically unchallenging. Sunday afternoon family fodder.

Blackboard Jungle (1955)

If nothing else, this holds up a very red flag. Granted, the cast look mostly like rejects from West Side Story and there is a palpable lack of school shootings in it, which makes you question just how bad the kids really were in mid-fifties America. Glenn Ford plays the part of a determined (possibly naive) new teacher at a notorious public school, frequented by a host of ne'er do wells, including a young Sidney Poitier before he got all Mr Tibbs. This proves that things don't really change much in terms of education of the young, aside from the number of metal detectors at every entrance.

The Magnificent Myersons (2023)

This had 'inventive, intelligent New York indie' written all over it and for large parts, it lived up to the assumption hinted at by the poster. Being a sucker for a Big Apple story, I was initially hooked. This involves the titular Myersons, three generations, uniquely introduced as they wander separarely to a dinner that they will all attend, including a surprise guest. Not as clever as it hopes it is or written well enough to make you wonder if it's you that's missing something. You are. But we all are, so...

Ultimately aggravating with strong performances from the cast, which doesn't make up for the distinct lack of closure. Shame, as this could have been really special.

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Liberally dotted with faces that might have expected this to be less derided at point of release. Cloverfield, as a franchise, has always fared pretty well with audiences maybe more than critics, and even then, them that purport to know their stuff were fairly agreeable. At least until they decided to put this episode in space as humanity faces obliteration. It's a suitably weird headscratcher, moving quite some distance from the original inspiration, scientifically ridiculous but nonetheless watchable throughout with a great turn from Chris O'Dowd's arm.

Studio 666 (2022)

One of those from Spooktober that I never actually got around to at the time. As you can imagine, there is a good reason Dave Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters play music as opposed to acting. They're pretty good at one and not so good at the other. Still, this is a competent excuse to display innovative bloodletting in the name of Satan. Well made, even if it is just a tensionless collection of deathscenes with incidental musical bouts as interludes. More funny than scary and more grisly than sophisticated. Worryingly easy to watch.

Fair Play (2023)

This is what happens when you put a woman in charge. *ducks from all the flying kitchen utensils that you really should be washing up*.

Honestly, this was great, helplessly watchable and rubs me up in all the right ways. Men can be horribly inferior in so many ways and this displays all of these weaknesses and inadequacies in the spotlight for most of the audience to point at and sometimes unfortunately recognise. Great performances and a whipsmart script make me want to watch it more than once and you can't say that every day.

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

I saw Spirited Away years before sitting down with this and was completely lost for a couple of hours. This may be due to age or cinematic weariness, but whilst this did have moments that made me feel the same way as my first visit to Ghibli, I wasn't as moved to the same extent as some of my peers. Beautiful, magical and enchanting, of course and even whilst not at the pinnacle, in my opinion, still so much better than most of its kind.


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