It’s the time of year to catch up on a few films that I missed in the cinema in 2018, and there have been a few surprises along the way… I will start with one that was a real disappointment:
Billed as a film about a woman struggling in the male dominated and chauvinistic field of stand up comedy in the 1970s, I was hoping for an insight into that world. Instead, Tony Pitts’ film is fairly mundane domestic drama for most of its running time. Maxine Peake, is of course, great in the title role, but I was much less interested in her relationship with her abusive husband than I was her career ambitions. Pitts proves he is a better actor than director in a supporting role, but it is Alun Armstrong, as a disillusioned comic, who steals every scene he is in.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Set in Afghanistan just after 9/11, 12 Strong is a very straightforward tale of a special forces unit defying the odds as they go about a near impossible mission. Not as jingoistic as I feared, but otherwise very predictable and nothing more than a time filler.
Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Drooled over by critics and public alike, and still with Oscar expectations, I was curious enough to give Black Panther a watch. I can only conclude that I am utterly immune to the charms of Marvel movies, as once again, I was left totally unmoved. Sluggish to start with when bogged down in exposition, I struggled to engage at all with a plot full of the usual comic book gibberish. I found it a slog and a bore, despite the obvious high production values.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Tag garnered a certain amount of buzz earlier in the year and it turned out to be a really agreeable watch. The basic story of a group of adults who have carried on their game of tag that they started as kids, seemed a tad limiting, but it is fun. Jeremy Renner didn’t quite work as the best player in the group and the slow motion scenes of him avoiding being caught became a bit wearisome after a while, but Isla Fisher is excellent as the over enthusiastic wife of one of the players.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Another comedy and one that got a much less favourable reaction on its big screen release, Overboard turned out to be an unexpected delight. A remake of the Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn film that seems to be on one of the ITV channels every weekend, it is much better than it had any right to be. Sure, Eugenio Derbez lacks Russell’s charisma but that is more than made up for by the wonderful Anna Faris as the struggling mother who tricks an amnesiac Derbez into believing he is her husband. The film moves at a swift pace and it has a number of genuine laughs. Now, someone please pick up Faris’ superb sitcom Mom, now that ITV2 have dropped it.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Mark Felt: The Man who Brought Down the White House
You probably need to be as fascinated in the Watergate scandal as me to get the most out of this one. Based on a couple of sources, this is the true story of how Mark Felt, a senior FBI official, became ‘Deep Throat’, Woodward and Bernstein’s key source as they uncovered the full story of Nixon’s involvement in the break-in and the subsequent cover up. Liam Neeson isn’t perfect in the lead role and the subplot involving his daughter wasn’t needed. However, the plot is fascinating, the period detail rich and the supporting cast – in particular Marton Csokas, Josh Lucas and Bruce Greenwood – are all top notch.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
You may need some patience to enjoy this film. I initially found it hard to engage with the lead character, cartoonist John Callahan as he faces a life in a wheelchair after a car accident. Boorish and a bit boring, Callahan is culpable for the accident, and I struggled to have any sympathy for him. However, over time, I began to get drawn into the story, helped by the brilliant lead performance by Joaquin Phoenix. I could have done with more of Rooney Mara as his girlfriend, and less of his sessions with AA, but on the whole, Gus Van Sant’s film worked.
Rating: 7 out of 10