Hey everyone, I hope you’re having a fab weekend! As outlined in my recent Blog Update catch-up, there are a bunch of new films I watched in the last month – and in this post, I’m going to run through my overall thoughts on each one!
These range from a bright new animated DC story to an atmospheric novel adaptation, plus the two high-profile films in the post title. It feels like there is a film for everyone at the moment, and it’s great to see people getting back to enjoying the cinema experiences after the barren years affected by COVID-19.
As with my previous film round-ups (which you can see in my Film Reviews category), these reviews are also on my Letterboxd page. Right, let’s get into it!
The moment I knew Dan Trachtenberg was taking the reins to bring the Predator franchise back to basics, I was confident. I love 10 Cloverfield Lane, and that’s a film which makes the most of a relatively basic, bottled setting – and Prey is similarly superb.
Set roughly 300 years before the first Predator film, we meet a Comanche tribe living in the wilderness and Naru, an aspiring young female hunter seeking to prove her worth. Her brother is considered a strong hunter, perhaps the outright best in their tribe. Meanwhile, a Predator arrives nearby to hunt down worthy prey, whether human or animal.
The key thing, though, is we get time to really understand the humans first until they properly meet the Predator. There are hints at the Predator, but they’re kept largely hidden until roughly halfway through, after which the action is gradually built up. There’re plenty of fantastic set pieces here, but they’re so much better because of the patience the film displays early on.
I would’ve loved to have see Prey at the cinema, frankly, because this film is gorgeous. It has both beautiful vistas and gritty, brutal combat with epic choreography. However, if I had to criticise this film, it’s that late-on it starts to toe dangerously close to the line into being over-the-top, but it just about stays within the suspension of disbelief – considering these are lifelong-trained hunters.
The lead Amber Midthunder is brilliant, and will surely get plenty more roles after this performance. She shows youthful self-doubt, but also that fiery inner determination as the Predator hunts everyone down. Her facial expressions do much of the work without having to explain everything to us, and that goes well with the tense atmosphere of the film.
This is a film that has little or perhaps no excess, too. In terms of reinventing and restoring the reputation of the Predator franchise, it’s an utter success, and I’m stoked for the future of these films.
Oh, and also, great dog in this film, which is a very important point, aha!
So, Brad Pitt and a star-filled supporting cast are unwittingly competing assassins, mixing with each other on a bullet train. Come on, that’s a great film concept – and it’s executed in smart and stylish fashion, too!
Bullet Train has the feel of a modern murder mystery, and whilst everyone is sort of a bad person, there’s so much charisma that it’s a wonder it doesn’t get in the way down those narrow train corridors! The cast and slick direction are significant factors to why this works, as the plot itself is occasionally muddled and convenient. The fast and energetic pace of everything smooths those issues out and keep things, ahem, on track – and there’s plenty of visual scenery to feast your eyes on too.
I hope Bullet Train does decent business financially, because it’s a fun thrill ride not based on any existing film franchise – which in terms of blockbusters, is quite rare nowadays. I’m not here to moan about franchise films – I love a lot of them – I just hope a space remains for these sorts of films to perform well. If you’re on the fence about this one, I’d encourage giving it a go, as there’s something (and someone) for everyone in this eclectic mash-up!
DC League of Super-Pets
I’m a huge DC fan, but given the relatively uncharted premise, I went into Super-Pets with relatively neutral expectations. Let’s be frank, it’s hard to predict how a film based on Super-dog Krypto (and assorted other super-powered animals) might end up – but count me pleasantly surprised, because this film is a charming adventure with a surprisingly large-scale DC backdrop.
As Lois Lane is taking up more and more of Superman’s time, Krypto starts to feel sidelined, and this rift happens just as Supes comes under attack from a villainous animal. There’s a full-fledged Justice League on show here, treading the fine line between exciting screentime but not taking the attention away from the main storyline. I enjoyed that the League wasn’t just ignored, and it led to the film feeling more epic as a result.
The main characters are the pets, though, and Krypto encounters a ragtag bunch of rescue pets awaiting adoption. When they inadvertently gain superpowers of their own, they have to find a way to band together in, ahem, a league of their own.
All of the line-up get a decent arc and have distinct characteristics that are just plain fun to follow. This isn’t the most revolutionary storytelling you’ll ever see, but the themes in between the action are all solid, and like I say – it’s extremely fun to watch.
Part of this is down to the superb voice cast, including Dwayne Johnson as Krypto, Kevin Hart as the Batman-esque dog Ace, Natasha Lyonne as the hilarious turtle Merton, and Kate McKinnon as the charismatic villain who I won’t spoil. Just like the Justice League element, the voice cast add an air of authority to the whole production and make it feel suitable for the theatrical release it received.
So yeah, this isn’t groundbreaking, but Super-Pets is a satisfying and entertaining side story that does pretty much everything right and I’m glad got the big-screen treatment!
Where the Crawdads Sing
Look, I’ll be honest, the new Taylor Swift song Carolina for the soundtrack is the element which first caught my attention here (I saved the song until the credits and it’s wonderful, by the way). However, angsty book adaptations are also totally my vibe, so I was more than happy to see Where the Crawdads Sing.
Having not read the book, I went in fresh to the story. Kya, who lives in the marsh, has a largely dysfunctional family who all left her one by one at a young age, so she grew up very self-dependent. This makes her a natural outsider who is easy to root for – but in the world of the story, also makes her an easy suspect when a murder happens in the marsh.
Many flashbacks and sections of backstory are intertwined with her ongoing court case, showing how she got to this point. Everyone is very glamorous considering where they’re growing up, which is something you need to suspend your disbelief for – I don’t mind it, but I understand others might. This, plus the love triangle aspect, feel quite generic and predictable for much of (but not all… ) the film.
It’s all shot well, and there’s a distinct effort to make the marsh a fleshed-out setting, but a lot of Where the Crawdads Sing feels quite middle-of-the-road. There’s one revelation I liked a lot, but it wasn’t enough to elevate the whole journey to get there. Daisy Edgar-Jones does well with her material as Kya, but I feel like she needed to be given more to get her teeth into.
Again, none of this is outright bad, and I’d be intrigued to read the book and see how the two versions line up against one another. For now, though, I consider this a very “okay” YA mystery thriller.
Okay, then – that was a catch-up for some of the films released lately. I have also recently seen Nope, which I have many thoughts on, and will hopefully do a post on soon! We’re in a stretch without a lot of big-budget releases, so it’s time for the smaller productions to shine in the public eye until DC rolls out Black Adam (which I am very excited for)!
Have an amazing day!