Midpoint movie roundup – August 2021

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I got sucked in to watching the Summer Olympics this month, so I didn’t have much time for movies. However, I still managed to watch seven. So without further ado, here they are in order of release date, with the first being a very recent release. As usual there will be some spoilers below.

Jolt (2021) is a new Amazon Original in the long line of recent ‘girl with gun shoots bad men’ movies. I think I saw a comment somewhere that this was a ‘reverse Crank‘ referring to the very silly Jason Statham film, this is perhaps because Kate Beckinsale’s character Lindy is trying to calm herself down rather than hype herself up with an electric shock therapy vest. I think it helps that film really doesn’t take itself too seriously and Lindy is full of wise-ass comments before she kicks people in the nuts.

It transpires that her anger-management issues are being exploited by a shady agency as intent on taking out the bad guys as she is and by the end of the fun there’s a setup for a possible sequel in which she works for the agency. I guess it depends if they get the necessary viewing figures. Beckinsale is certainly no stranger to action sequels and to be honest I’d be quite happy to sit through another helping.

Palm Springs (2020) is a surprisingly good Hulu Original comedy movie that we watched on either Amazon or Netflix (I don’t have a Hulu subscription so it had to be one of the two). It stars Saturday Night Live‘s Andy Samberg as Nyles and Cristin Milioti (The Wolf of Wall Street) as Sarah – a pair of potential lovebirds stuck in an infinite time loop at a wedding in Palm Springs.

Obviously the film owes much to the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day but is original enough in the plotting to avoid too close a comparison. J. K. Simmons (Spider-Man, Juno) has a fun bit-part as the nemesis also stuck in the time loop, but I think it is Milioti who gets most of the best lines and action playing off the jaded character Nyles who has been stuck in the loop for ages prior to Sarah also getting trapped.

Guns Akimbo (2019) has one of the silliest concepts for a ‘reluctant hero’ action flick I’ve seen in a long time (electro-shock therapy vests included) and that is that Daniel Radcliffe’s character Miles has guns bolted onto his hands by the people who run an illegal death-match competition live-streamed globally on the internet. It’s a fun ‘get the girl, kill the baddies’ style action-comedy and Radcliffe continues to break out of the Harry Potter mould. With Samara Weaving (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as bad-ass femme fatale Nix it’s a good combination and worth a watch if you’re willing to leave your brain in the pickle jar for an hour or so.

Ad Astra (2019) was a test of my new 55-inch OLED 4K TV and we watched it with the knowledge that the film received some very mixed reviews on release. It felt to me like a mash-up between Contact, Kubrick’s ground-breaking 2001:A Space Odyssey and Event Horizon, and unfortunately the story was on about the same par as the latter movie. I felt a bit let down that there weren’t any aliens in the film and Siggy said that the only reason she didn’t fall asleep before the end was because she needed a wee.

The film certainly has its moments of hi-def eye-candy and I liked that the outward journey was not without its hurdles. The problem for me was in the third act where there seems to be very little interplay between astronaut father (Tommy Lee Jones) and son (Brad Pitt), and as such very little emotional pay-off after all the soul-searching leading up to the reunion, also there’s a large dollop of Hollywood physics to contend with and a return flight to Earth which begs the question “why couldn’t he just have set off to Neptune from Earth then?”.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Episode IX) (2019) streamed from Disney+ was another test of my new TV rather than a re-watch of a much-loved film, because as you might guess I really didn’t like this final instalment of the ‘Skywakler saga’. It’s a typical J. J. Abrams treatment following the all the usual beats and not worrying at all about character development and seemingly more concerned in fan service.

While the story rushes to its conclusion and explanation of the obfuscating title, there’s a lot of eye-candy on screen – lightsabre duels, the most use of the force in exciting ways we’ve ever seen, a return to some cool locations, and a big-ass spaceship battle. There’s a couple of fun characters, callbacks to previous movies, some good laughs around C3PO and of course the return of Emperor Palpatine which should come as no shock to anyone since his voice is in the trailer and it gets called out in the iconic opening crawl of the movie.

All the damage seems to be done in Act Three with a script that seems to be written by a different team than the first two acts. Logic goes out of the window and I would have rather have watched the battle in the skies of the hidden Sith planet Exegol without anyone saying a word. The final fight on the ground between The Emperor, Rey and Ben has more going for it, but the the final establishment of ‘the new status quo’ still makes me squirm uncomfortably. More ramblings from me about the film can be found here: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

As one smart aleck on YouTube comments “Well, at least we’ll always have this trailer” which promised so much and got our imaginations going.

Prisoners (2013) has been languishing on my various watchlists for years until I watched the trailer again recently and sold the idea of finally watching it to Siggy. I didn’t realise right until the final credits that this film is directed by Denis Villeneuve who has done a couple of my favourite films of late – namely Blade Runner 2049 and Arrival – and has wrapped on the much anticipated Dune reboot which looks truly awesome and I am so looking forward to.

Prisoners is rather more down to earth than those other films and centres on the abduction of two young girls in a small American town with a history of violence. Hugh Jackman plays the distraught father of one of the girls, Jake Gyllenhaal plays the rather oddly named Detective Loki investigating the disappearance and blinking a lot. It’s a rain-soaked, dark film hinting at times at some kind of kiddy-abduction club where members wear a badge with a maze pattern on it, but boils down to a reasonably satisfying Hollywood ending. It reminded me of The Silence of the Lambs for some reason (strange because there’s no cannibalism) and that’s no bad thing.

Who is Cletis Tout? (2001) arrived out of nowhere on Amazon Prime Video recently incorrectly labelled up as a 2021 film. It certainly does feel a couple of decades old with Tim Allen and Christian Slater starring, but it’s aged reasonably well. It’s a kind of crime caper movie about retrieving some stolen diamonds from where they were buried years ago by bank robber Micah Tobias (Richard Dreyfuss) who had a penchant of over-engineered but low-budget Now You See Me-style robberies. His daughter is played by Arrested Development‘s Portia de Rossi and Billy Connolly and RuPaul try to make the most of their small parts.

Tobias and Slater’s character Trevor Finch break out of jail together and are intent on retrieving the diamonds. They get new passports and papers provided by Connolly’s character who uses the identities of dead people in his morgue. Complications arise when Finch is given the identity of the titular Cletis Tout, a journalist who recorded a Mafia boss strangling an escort. The Mafia want Tout dead and send movie-obsessed hitman Critical Jim (Allen) on his tail. It’s good fun.

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