Movie Roundup – June 2021

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Luca (2021) is a fun animation from Disney / Pixar about a young sea monster who lives off the coast of an Italian fishing village and wants to explore the world of humans. It’s somewhat of a retelling of The Little Mermaid in which Luca falls in love with a Vespa moped rather than a human, and the added element is how Luca transforms from monster to human outside of water. He is introduced to the human world by an adventurous friend. The pair then team up with a local human girl to enter a competition in their village which is a kind of triathlon combining swimming, pasta eating and cycling.

Sacha Baron Cohen has a very small but very funny part in the film as Uncle Ugo visiting the sea monster family from the deep, and all the voice acting is generally very good and matches the fun animation style. By the way there will be spoilers in this post, but it should come as no surprise to learn that the trio win the competition and more importantly the hearts of the locals.

Yesterday (2019) is another fun film based on the idea that a struggling singer (Himesh Patel) wakes up in an alternate reality in which The Beatles (and a few other things like Coke, cigarettes and Manchester band Oasis (it figures)) do not exist. It’s based on a book by Jack Barth, converted into a screenplay by romcom aficionado Richard Curtis and directed by Danny Boyle with his usual eye for a colourful shot.

I suppose essentially it is a romcom but also relies on the viewers’ love for The Beatles music. You can’t really lose with a film like this and I enjoyed it immensely and even felt a tear come begrudgingly when Patel’s character Jack visits John Lennon (an uncredited Robert Carlyle in lots of makeup).

The Night Eats the World (2018) was recommended to me by someone who loves zombie films a whole lot more than I do (although, you know saying that, I do seem to watch and enjoy a fair few of them) and told me it was a bit of a different take on things. It certainly is and certainly resonated with me after 18 months of lockdown. The film is about Sam (played by Norwegian actor Anders Danielsen Lie) who wakes up in a locked room after a party to discover that while he has been asleep the world has suffered a zombie apocalypse.

Trapped in an apartment building in Paris he then figures out how to stay alive and discovers the various resources available to him in the other apartments in the building. In a way it is almost the type of ’empty world’ story I really enjoy, but with the addition of some spritely zombies favoured in modern films such as Train to Busan rather than the classic lumbering zombies of older films from the genre.

It’s my favourite film of this batch and I thoroughly recommend it, even if you’re not a big zombie fan.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019) on the other hand is my least favourite for June (although Escape Plan 3 came close to winning that dubious accolade). This film was such a disappointment given the strong cast members – including Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Tilda Swinton. The story is non-existent, character motivations are unclear, some supposed clever fourth wall breaking simply doesn’t work and some subplots come to nothing.

There’s a trio of plucky kids at some kind of home for delinquent orphans who feature now and again during the film and seem to have their Act 3 content left on the edit room floor. I was expecting some kind of sassy Stranger Things action but no. And then there’s the trio of out-of-towner hipsters including Selena Gomez hiding out at a rundown motel who you think might have an interesting story, but no. Even Swinton’s character seems to just be a mash up of clich├ęs – visiting alien / samurai sword master / creepy undertaker. it’s all so fucking lame.

Escape Plan 3 (2019) is not much better, but at least it contains some nice fight sequences, possesses a recognisable if wholly predictable story and doesn’t pretend to be anything cleverer than it is. Although it obviously reprises characters from previous instalments of the franchise (the second of which I’m not entirely sure I’ve seen) it doesn’t actually feature an ‘escape’ as such – more the opposite in fact since they have to go into a prison to rescue hostages – but Infiltration Plan would be confusing.

50 Cent is in the movie again but hardly features, which is a shame because he has more range than Sylvester Stallone or Dave Bautista. There’s a kind of Fast & Furious vibe to Sly’s crew and they’re all very pally while they’re risking life and limb to get into a situation to kick the shit out of a bunch of two-dimensional baddies. It’s a very linear film with no twists or turns and as a result rather dull despite all the fisticuffs. Also, despite my earnest hope I don’t think there was a single Superman punch in the whole movie which I think is unforgiveable!

Killing Gunther (2017) features one of Sly’s peers in the burly form of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular character – the world’s greatest assassin – but he’s not in it properly until the final thirty minutes or so.

It’s quite a funny action film with a very kinetic style. Written, directed by and starring Taran Killam it also stars Hannah Simone (New Girl) and SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan among a motley crew of assassins intent on killing the mysteriously elusive Gunther. This is very much a relief from all the other films

In The Shadow of the Moon (2019) tells the story of a Philadelphia cop (Boyd Holbrook) who has spent his career trying to solve a series of mysterious murders. From the trailer I thought it was a vampire film, but it’s actually even more bizarre and involves time travel along the lines of The Terminator, with the killer travelling from the future to bump of specific people to change the timeline and avoid a future catastrophe.

It’s very good for a Netflix film, but probably one for sci-fi geeks like me. If you start picking at the story, I fear it might come unravelled quite quickly, so I’ll move on.

The Maltese Falcon (1941) is a must-see noir film for any movie fan. I’ve seen it a few times over the years and it never fails to impress me. Humphrey Bogart is brilliant as Dashiell Hammett’s private detective Sam Spade who manages to navigate his way through the various machinations of the ne’r-do-wells who visit his smoky office. Peter Lorre is also (who also starred alongside Bogart in 1942’s Casablanca) great as Joel Cairo.

Watching the film is unusually rather better than reading the book which I’ve also done a few times over the years but usually manage to get confused by the twisting plot. They’re both packed full of the smart one-liners and cynicism that made Hammett’s work such a hit, but the film also possesses a quite a modern feel despite being 80 years old.

Blue Iguana (2018) is a McGuffin-driven comedy action movie more like The Pink Panther than The Maltese Falcon, and perhaps more like Killing Gunther than anything else on this list. Like The Pink Panther, the Blue Iguana is a special diamond worth a bundle that a crew of misfits is after.

Unlike The Dead Don’t Die this cast may be made up of lesser known individuals but they are helped by a good story and some inventive plotting. The Great‘s Phoebe Fox plays Katherine who hires a couple of crooks (Sam Rockwell and Parks & Recreation‘s Ben Schwartz) in the US to come over to London to steal the diamond. It has a bit of a Guy Ritchie feel to it in terms of the story and the action, but lacks the killer script that elevates Ritchie’s gangster films. Good fun though!

Like Father (2018) is a Netflix film written and directed by Lauren Miller Rogen about a phone-addicted workaholic executive (The Good Place‘s Kristen Bell) who ends up on a Caribbean cruise with her estranged father (Kelsey Grammer) after being left at the alter.

It’s no great surprise to find that father and daughter eventually rebuild their broken relationship, and apparently it’s all thanks to cruise company Royal Caribbean. The movie verges on being one long advert for the company at times and I guess it’s no surprise that Seth Rogen has a small part in the movie. He got the biggest laugh from me when he refused to smoke a joint that was being passed round, although judging by his recent Twitter posts he seems to be more interested in pottery than pot these days.

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