Movie Reviews

Deadly Illusions (2021)

deadly-illusions-2021-netflix-movie-reviewDirector: Anna Elizabeth James

Genre: Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 114 Minutes

Main Cast: Kristin Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Shanola Hampton, Lora Martinez-Cunningham, Greer Grammer, Grayson Berry, Marie Wagenman

Plot: Mary (Kristin Davis) is an award-winning writer tasked with writing one last novel. Struggling with writer’s block, she hires a young girl named Grace (Greer Grammer) to help look after her children and her home. Grace fits in with the family immediately and the kids adore her, but after a while things at home get a little…strange.

My Thoughts: I should have known. I should have known a movie called Deadly Illusions couldn’t be good. It sounds like the name of a punk or emo band that the weird kids at school are part of. But last week I said I was going to stop judging books by their covers and so I gave Deadly Illusions the benefit of the doubt. It really is as bad as it sounds, I’m not sure where to begin. I guess the saving grace (pun intended) is that it was so fantastically bad that I was invested for the whole ride.

Firstly, nothing at all happens for a good hour, it’s painfully slow. Even when the drama does kick in, it’s far too late to save it. Then there’s the fact that most of the plot doesn’t even make sense. Mary gets visited by her publishers, the company is in trouble and they desperately need her to write a new novel to save them. Okay, that sounds fair. But they’re willing to pay Mary $2m in advance, regardless of how well the book sells. I’m no business woman but if that’s how they conduct their finances then it’s really no surprise that they’re struggling.

Moving on to some spoiler territory (I won’t ruin the twisty ending though) – Mary is quite happy to cheat on her husband with Grace, but is furious when she finds that he’s also cheating with Grace? Double standards, much? It’s all just sloppy, lazy writing and half-hearted acting. I wouldn’t recommend this at all, it’s absurdity kept me interested for it’s almost 2-hour runtime but I clearly don’t have anything better to do!

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Best Bit: I don’t have an academy award on my shelves at home so I’m hardly one to judge, but the acting here is sometimes hilariously bad. I won’t give details but there’s a scene where a character comes across a dead body and screams ‘Oh my God!’ and it actually sounds like an excited scream – it was unintentionally hilarious.

Worst Bit: I can forgive so, so much – but there’s a moment where a dog gets kicked for absolutely no reason and that’s just not okay in my books!

Fun Trivia: Kristin Davis broke her “no nudity clause” in this film. She went the whole series of Sex in The City without disrobe.

My Rating: Half a laptop that you should always use to do a background check on anyone you’re about to hire to look after your kids.

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Movie Reviews

Happily (2021)

happily-movie-review-poster-2021Director: BenDavid Grabinski

Genre: Comedy, Romance, Thriller

Runtime: 96 Minutes

Main Cast: Kerry Bishé, Joel McHale, Al Madrigal, Natalie Zea, Paul Scheer, Stephen Root, Natalie Morales, Jon Daly, Charlyne Yi

Plot: Janet (Kerry Bishé) and Tom (Joel McHale) have been married for 14 years now and they’re still firmly in the honeymoon phase. They rarely argue, and when they do they make up immediately. When out with friends they can’t keep their hands off each other and their friends have now had enough. They’ve uninvited Janet and Tom from an upcoming weekend away but that’s the least of their troubles when a strange man turns up on their doorstep.

My Thoughts: I usually sit on a movie for a couple of days before I try and write my thoughts down but sometimes a movie comes along that evokes such a strong emotion from me that it’s a bit of a now or never situation. I didn’t know what to expect from Happily, it sounded quite fun and I recognised a few of the actors so it seemed like the perfect way to wind down after a fraught weekend. It quickly turned into something really funny and interesting and within the same strange vibe that Game Night (2018) has. Basically, Janet and Tom are told that they both have a defect which is why their relationship is so perfect – and after a shocking murder the movie turns into a mystery to solve.

That’s the best part of this movie, the big question. Is this defect real – or is it a cruel prank gone wrong? Janet and Tom are re-invited to the weekend away but they have to question why? Each of the other couples seems to have their own issues and possible motive and it’s wrapped up in this deliciously dark humour. It was all going so well until the movie rolled into its conclusion. I don’t mind an unexplained ending, I can even forgive an ending that leaves more questions than it answers, but the ending to Happily felt really anti-climatic.

Of course I won’t explain why because that would enter spoiler territory, but also because it’s an ending best watched knowing as little as possible. Some people will love it, I read a few other reviews on Letterboxd and that’s clear, but it felt like a huge letdown to me. I was waiting for one final twist that would lift up the shock factor but it never happened. In the end, it’s going to be a memorable movie for me and I would always prefer that to it being completely forgettable.

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Best Bit: Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – who gave Joel McHale permission to have a body that fit?! Moving on! I just loved the humour in this. There’s a joke leading up to a suspenseful moment where you think you’re about to see a dead body in the back of a car but it turns out to be about 10 boxes of pizza instead and I really fell for it.

Worst Bit: I won’t say why but during the reveal at the end I just felt so damn sorry for Charlyne Yi’s character Gretel. The confession came out of nowhere and it didn’t fit in with the tone of what else was happening at all. Even when she got her moment to shine afterwards it still felt off.

Fun Trivia: Happily was scheduled to have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18, 2020. However, the festival was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

My Rating: 3 omelettes that Joel McHale definitely should have made himself!

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Book Reviews

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

It’s been almost a full month since I last wrote a book review, because it’s taken me almost a full month to read my latest book! I’m a slow reader at the best of times but I also read exclusively at bedtime and I’ve been so tired lately I’ve only managed a few pages before my Kindle is literally falling out of my hands and onto my face. I promise it’s only tiredness that’s lead me to take so long to read The Last Wish though, I really enjoyed it!

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski is the first book in a series of tales of Geralt, the Witcher. You might have already heard of the Netflix series starring Henry Cavil, and/or the series of hugely popular video games. I’ve poured hours upon hours into the latest game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and as reluctant as I was to see the Netflix show – I gave it a go and was pleasantly surprised. I’ve heard only great things about the books and I’ve had The Last Wish on my kindle for over a year now since it was on sale, so I finally gave it a read.

This first book feels less a full novel and more a collection of side quests that Geralt finds himself a part of. It makes for really easy reading and fans of the show will enjoy the fact that it matches the first season quite closely. It has a strong resemblance to the detailed side quests that you find yourself on whilst playing the game. Geralt himself has a more much level head than I do when playing though, I’m so quick to take sides and the real Geralt really does take a step back. It’s going to make me think a little harder about my decisions when I next play the game.

As much as I’d lie to – if I read the entire collection of Witcher books it would most likely take me months and I’d like to read as wide a variety as possible. I’ll probably read the next book after a few others. All in all though I was impressed even though my expectations were already high. There’s something to enjoy for fans of the games, the Netflix show and even for readers who know nothing about Geralt!

Movie Reviews

Cherry (2021)

cherry-movie-review-apple-2021-posterDirector: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Genre: Drama, Crime

Runtime: 142 Minutes

Main Cast: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, Jeffrey Wahlberg, Forrest Goodluck, Michael Gandolfini, Suhail Dabbach, Daniel R. Hill

Plot: When Cherry’s (Tom Holland) childhood sweetheart Emily (Ciara Bravo) drops the bombshell that she’s moving away, Cherry throws everything away and joins the army. However, Emily never left and when Cherry returns home from Iraq, he’s suffering badly with PTSD and falls into a life of drugs and crime.

My Thoughts: Tom Holland must be the busiest guy in Hollywood recently, he’s in movies left right and center! I’d rather be watching Chaos Walking (2021) than this if I’m completely honest, but with no cinemas open and a VoD release still a few weeks away, I’ll settle for Cherry (2021) quite happily. It’s not getting great reviews but the Russo brothers directed 4 MCU movies that I loved so I was quietly optimistic going in. It’s riddled with problems for sure, but I think it’s far from being a disaster. The biggest issue is that it feels like two very separate movies.

It’s almost 2 and a half hours long, and split into different parts or chapters. However, the moment around half-way through when Cherry comes home is very much the ending of one story and the beginning of another. The direction and point of the story changes completely from that moment on. I liked the first half much better than the second – the first focused more on the issues of masculinity but the second half was mostly depressing. If the drugs and robbing banks half of the movie could be cut right down and made to blend in better, I think this could have been a great movie.

Tom Holland is brilliant. He’s whizzed to fame from landing the role of Spider-Man in the MCU and with his baby face it would be so easy for him to be typecast into similar roles but he’s really trying to show a wider range and I think he’s got buckets of talent. After last year’s The Devil All the Time and now Cherry, I’m excited to see what he does next. If you’ve got the time to spare and an open mind I’d urge you to give Cherry a watch, it’s not going to be in my Top 10 of the year by a long shot but it’s far from being rubbish.

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Best Bit: Tom Holland’s character narrates his life in some scenes in a ‘breaking the fourth wall’ manner, looking at the camera and talking to the audience. I love things like that- and it’s reflected in other hidden jokes too. The banks that Cherry robs all have made up names like ‘Shitty Bank’ and ‘Credit None’, and the doctor he goes to see has a name plate on his desk that says ‘Dr. Whomever’. There are probably more that I missed!

Worst Bit: It’s the scene that the movie is going to be most remembered for but oh man. Yes, you read all the other reviews correctly. There is a POV shot from what is supposed to be the inside of Tom Holland’s bum hole. I’m laughing just typing it!

Fun Trivia: Tom Holland’s brother, Harry Holland appears in a cameo as one of the drug dealers. He is set to reprise the same cameo in Marvel’s Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).

My Rating: 3 and a half bottles of bleach that I need to wash my eyes out after watching that particular scene!

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Movie Reviews

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

raya-and-last-dragon-movie-review-2021Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Family

Runtime: 107 Minutes

Main Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Alan Tudyk, Jona Xiao

Plot: Many years ago in the land of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. When an evil force threatened their lives, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save the humans, leaving behind a powerful stone that turned the humans against each other. Raya’s father tried to unite them all but failed, leaving Kumandra’s fate in Raya’s hands.

My Thoughts:  I really hope this is the last time I have to watch a new Disney movie in my living room instead of on the big screen, it’s just not the same. Also, is it just me or has Raya and the Last Dragon had virtually no marketing? I don’t watch regular TV to see adverts there but I’ve heard nothing on the radio, seen no posters on buses or billboards, nothing at all. So if you read reports on how Tom and Jerry (2021) is beating this at the box office, don’t for a second think that it’s because Raya is a bad movie. I don’t think it’s up there with the instant classic Disney movies, but it’s still great.

It’s biggest strength lies with its characters. Raya is instantly likable and she’s fearless. As with most Disney movies, the sidekicks are the scene-stealers. Sisu the dragon made me laugh every time she was on screen, Awkwafina did such a great job voicing her. Izaac Wang voices a young boy named Boun, an energetic kid left fending for himself whilst running a restaurant on a boat. He’s so lively! And I haven’t even mentioned half of the supporting cast yet.

Raya and the Last Dragon has some strong Moana vibes to it, but I can’t help but compare it to Onward. Both great animated Disney movies, both with enthralling characters and a stunning fantasy world. But both are missing that extra bit of magic that’s stopping them from being great. Once the disaster had taken place and Raya’s mission was clear, it felt like a quite generic adventure movie. Travel to each location, get the piece of stone, restore the peace, and so on. It’s a fun journey but there aren’t any surprises along the way.

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Best Bit: I thought Raya’s little rag tag gang couldn’t get any better. Then they added a con-artist baby and I lost my mind. After that, they got a big ol’ brute join them and don’t even try to tell me he wasn’t one of the regulars at the Ugly Duckling from Tangled!

Worst Bit: If having to watch this at home instead of the cinema wasn’t bad enough, I had to suffer through my husband making terrible jokes whilst half-watching the movie and half playing his Playstation. “I hope her Dad doesn’t lose his…chiseled chin!” Ughhhhh!

Fun Trivia: The land of Kumandra is inspired by the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Laos.

My Rating: Three and a half tomatoes I wish I had to hand to throw at the back of my husband’s head.

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