Over the last few years, it appears that one of the big things in horror movies is “What if escape rooms were actually deadly?”. No, not like in the Saw films where you have deadly traps in rooms you need to escape, but literal escape rooms with puzzles to solve and if you don’t solve them fast enough you will die somehow.
The video game movie is obscenely hard to get right, some might suggest that it’s impossible because once you remove the players’ ability to influence the action then you fundamentally change the story to the point where any adaptation just won’t work… I’d suggest it’s just because the people making movies don’t know anything about video games other than they make money, so why not make a movie about them.
Things can go horribly wrong, from the story not suiting the game (Hi Sonic) to the actors being horribly cast (Super Mario Brothers… both live action and the upcoming animated versions honestly. Seriously, Chris Pratt is Mario, that’s a thing that’s happening), it’s so easy to screw up. Then along comes Free Guy to do a video game movie absolutely perfectly.
Remember when the Fast & Furious franchise was just about underground car racing? Remember the early films that were just about this cop who infiltrated an underground racing ring? Feels so long ago, now they’ve turned into superhero films but with cars instead of superpowers where every movie has some giant cataclysmic world-ending event that can only be stopped by Vin Diesel doing a really sick burnout off the top of a skyscraper. It’s the dumbest movie franchise and it is just endlessly fun almost because it is so spectacularly dumb. Now we’re up to Fast & Furious 9 and god damn it keeps getting dumber and I keep just enjoying its celebration of stellar stupidity.
You may have noticed that for a few months not I’ve not been able to do any reviews for films currently in cinema. In fact, the last film I even got to see in a cinema was In The Heights way back in June. Why? Because I live in Australia and I live in a state that’s had such a bad covid infestation that we’ve been in lockdown for over 2 months.
Obviously “Hobbyist reviewer can’t see films in a cinema” is a problem worthy of the tiniest violin in the grand scheme of things but it’s still the reason why I’m about a month late seeing The Suicide Squad and why films like Candyman, Shang Chi, Respect and Free Guy haven’t been reviewed here. If I can somehow rent them, or the lockdown ends soon, I hope to get to them but that’s why this blog is even more out of date than it normally is… but now I’ve seen The Suicide Squad, time to ramble on about how awesome it is.
In 1954, William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies was released and quickly became a cultural phenomenon that would become so well known that the title of the book is able to describe almost any group of people devolving into a mass of internal conflict and violence. You may also be aware of the multiple movies that’ve been adapted from it or, possibly more likely, the Simpsons version of it in the episode Das Bus (Season 9, so back when the show was universally considered “Good”). It’s a classic story that lends itself well to adaptation provided you have a charismatic young cast and can do something interesting to the material that’s been adapted multiple times… and here we find the issues that plague Voyagers.
In 1992 there was a series of Superbowl commercials involving Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, and they were a smash hit. They were so popular that they effectively revived the world’s interest in Bugs Bunny, which at the time was on somewhat of a downhill slide. This led to Warner Brothers having the wild idea to take these commercials and turn them into a movie. That movie was Space Jam and it was a mega hit, raking in 250 million worldwide with a soundtrack that I promise you was everywhere.
I was there, you couldn’t escape the Space Jam theme song or I Believe I Can Fly (Which… yeah, kinda helped a rapist stay out of prison where he belonged, we were distracted by this song). This album won awards, went 6x platinum, it was everywhere. Space Jam was astronomically huge, albeit critically panned and most people recognise it more as a harmless guilty pleasure than anything else… and now, 25 years later, they made a sequel that no one was asking for – and apparently decided it’d be fun to try and make a film that was actively bad instead of just kinda silly.
While Netflix has been kind of hit or miss with a lot of their releases this year, I have to admit that their animation stuff has been knocking it out of the park almost every time. Arlo the Alligator Boy, Wish Dragon and The Mitchells VS The Machines are some of the best animated films of 2021 so far and it’s nice to see Netflix assuring them wide releases. Now the newest release, Vivo, is gunning to be the 4th great Netflix animated film of the year and goddamn it might be the second best of them all (…hey, Mitchells VS The Machines is a hard act to beat, OK?)
In 2018 the film Peter Rabbit came out to a fairly mixed response. Personally I thought it was fine, James Corden hadn’t quite become full cinematic poison just yet (though he had just done The Emoji Movie, so he was getting there) and the film itself had enough silliness and charm to be fine for the little kids. It was cute but I was fine with it sticking to just a single film, a feeling I grew more sure of the more my general disdain for the lead actor grew (the man did Cats, Superintelligence AND The Prom within a year, a trilogy of performances that should end careers). Now having finally seen the sequel… It’s a bit of an improvement on the original, but I can also be done with this series at any point now.
One of the interesting things that’s started happening over the last year and a half of the pandemic has been witnessing big film companies selling off their features to streaming services in order to ensure the biggest possible release in the current circumstances. The Tomorrow War was originally meant to be a big Christmas day release in 2020, taking the mantle of being one of the few holiday blockbusters that weren’t made by Marvel.
Of course because last year was the year we learned “Avoid it like the plague” was a complete lie, that film had to be pushed back in release and was eventually sold off to Amazon for release on their Prime video service… and that change in venue is the biggest weakness of The Tomorrow War.
Normally I start these things with a little fun thing that will provide some context for the review, either on why the film exists or on a bit about the genre or even just a bit about my relationship to the material in order to try and paint a broader picture. Today, just a little mild housekeeping before I talk about Gunpowder Milkshake. My home state of NSW has been in lockdown thanks to covid for the last month, which is why I’ve had the time to basically do one of these every day and why you might’ve spotted I missed out on some recent releases like Space Jam 2, Fast & Furious 9 and Escape Room 2. Well, that lockdown’s been extended throughout August so I’m gonna miss a bunch of those releases too, which is particularly annoying cos I know some of the big ones are gonna be on HBONow and I can’t access that (I think) so please just keep my home state in your thoughts, hopefully we can get things on track and return to normal… anyway, let’s talk about a film that only released in cinemas down here but was also on Netflix in the US so was therefore relatively easy to access.