I could glibly give my own one word review to match with the title; something like "Shit." But I guess I'll go a few steps further and talk about this pointless, overhyped trainwreck.
I've never seen any of Mark Duplass' work, outside of "The League". As a director and writer, he's completely unknown to me. As an actor, I have a respect for him because of his comedic work on "The League", but my impression of the content he chooses to make is usually that it seems like boring or kitschy hipster bullshit. His friend, Patrick Brice, who directed and co-wrote Creep, seems even less worthy of my time and attention, yet here we are.
The co-writers star in a very not-good "found footage"-ish movie about a cameraman showing up to a gig where he's supposed to film someone for the day. The man turns out to be Duplass, which was a surprise to me, because for some reason I thought he was playing the cameraman in the scenario. At least that means I got to see more of his acting than the stiff, unbelievable bullshit that came out of Brice.
Duplass' character claims to be dying of a brain tumor and is recording videos for his unborn son. The seemingly-dimwitted cameraman films scenes of him doing stupid bullshit. All of it felt like an exceptionally weak improv exercise, probably because they outlined the move and then improvised each scene upwards of 10 or 20 times, ultimately choosing the one they liked later. As such, the details of the movie that stick are neither interesting or compelling. There's no tight script to hold this together; there was no real script at all. Instead, there's a huge focus on the endless cringey monologues Duplass gives about childhood baths with his father and a wolf mask found in a closet, named "Peachfuzz". "Peachfuzz" was apparently almost the name of the film, but they smartly changed it. Unfortunately, they didn't just erase all the footage and forget all this ever happened. So you have to watch boring scenes of nothing, followed by someone obviously being creepy but the person filming being too stupid to just leave; you just groan your way through the insufferable plot.
It might not surprise you to find out that this was touched by the hand of Blumhouse. It may not seem relevant or important to the review, but the 100% correlation between Blumhouse and shit-garbage is too much to ignore.
Okay, that aside, Duplass is a good actor, but he's improvising dumb horseshit where he's just fucking with the guy and then stalking him, while Brice does nothing more to protect himself than change a lock and call the police then give up when they don't do anything. The movie is just over 75 minutes, mercifully short, but I was looking at the clock by 35 minutes in, sure that this couldn't go on much longer, hoping it would stop so I could watch anything else. I at least had the option of looking at Black Friday sales on my phone while they meandered through Take 18 of Peachfuzz singing a song, which must have really cracked those knuckleheads up, but us real people having to watch the fucking movie didn't appreciate it, I can assure you of that. Then Brice gets killed and it's all part of serial killer Duplass' snuff collection. Whoopty-fuckin'-doo. What a fucking turd.
Now, for some reason, there's a huge amount of people that like this movie, find it frightening, find it to be well-made; those people don't belong in this world. If your reaction to this film is anything but contempt, you and your lack of imagination are the problem here. You obviously have led a sheltered life to find meaning in these fucking dregs. Because there's nothing here. People praise of this film is the fucking Emperor's New Clothes, if I've ever seen it.
So, don't watch this. It is not good. It was a bad idea from the start and shooting it using nothing more than a bunch of aimless improv was not a smart idea. There is no horror, there is no drama, there is no comedy. It's the film equivalent of a facepalm.
The Ritual is tough for me to think of much to say about. Not that it's bad or dull or mediocre; in fact, it's a well-made and interesting movie. There's just very little worthy of saying or explaining to you that wouldn't ruin the movie.
The film starts off with some British cunts drinking and discussing their next boys' outing. Where in the world will they go to party? One friend suggests a Scandinavian hike getaway. The idea is mostly pooh-poohed. One of the friends, Luke, insists on stopping to pick up some liquor, because he's still trying to party like they're young. Unfortunately some very stereotypical junkies are holding up the store. The would-be hiker is robbed while Luke hides and watches. After refusing to give up his wedding ring, Luke's friend is killed while he silently watches from safety, unable to bring himself to intervene.
Cut to the remaining four cunts on a hike, honoring their fallen friend's memory. They mostly argue and bicker and make you wonder why they were friends in college in the first place. There's still an underlying tone that they blame Luke for standing idly by. They hike trails in the Swedish countryside until one of them hurts his knee and they decide to leave the trail and try to take a direct shortcut through a forest to get to civilization more quickly. In the woods, things go poorly.
Now, I can tell by reading a synopsis of the novel it's based on (something I never would have imagined from the trailers or even watching the film) that the screenwriter drastically improved what was on the page. Some of it seems a little silly compared to the handling the film gives it. So it absolutely deserves credit for removing all the hokeyness from the film and keeping it grounded. In addition, it sound like the plot involving the murdered friend and Luke's complicity in doing nothing to stop it is invented whole cloth for the film. Which is genius. If the arguments between the friends were about the fact that Luke is the only one who was never a success and the others have failing relationships and unfulfilling lives, it wouldn't have worked. Pretty much the entire third act is completely modified. So, kudos to the screenwriter, Joe Barton. It sounds like you truly turned this story into something more by giving it some depth.
The actors do a fairly good job of mostly playing characters I didn't like or care about. It's probably to the benefit of the film that I had no use for any of these pricks, so I was fairly sympathetic toward Luke by the end despite starting off with his cowardice and lack of any redeeming traits. He's the only one that seems to take their situation seriously, so the audience automatically sides with him. It's not an acting-heavy film, but everyone pulls their weight and fits their role well.
The visuals are exceptionally strong. For what it is, the film looks excellent. In many ways, the film reminds me of The Descent and David Bruckner has the same sort of ability to create a crisp visual style as Neil Marshall. Not to mention that the plot has strong Descent similarities, with a group of friends going on a remote vacation where the environment is more dangerous than expected and they're whittled down by supernatural enemies, leading me to feel like it was a bit of a rip-off when I initially saw trailers. But this film, somehow, feels more rich and balanced than The Descent and the color palette and mood of the final act and the dream sequences definitely make it worthwhile, especially since you think early on that the movie is mostly going to imply the horror instead of showing it. Not so. (I'll go so far as to say that I think it's a better movie than The Descent, as much I enjoyed that movie in the past. The pieces of this just fit together better and the pacing feels just right, comparatively.)
It may have taken me a long time to finally get around to this and, while I wouldn't say it's groundbreaking or features anything totally unexpected or life-changing, I'd been more inclined to recommend this to others than many better movies I've watched recently. There's something sold and intriguing about it and they definitely wrung everything out of the film that they possibly could have. So, if you too have been putting it off, go ahead and watch it with my recommendation.
I think I came away from The Old Guard somewhat disappointed. I'd seen the effort that Charlize Theron put into fight training, I'd seen the stunt work, I'd seen the concept. I just though there would actually be more to the film. What's there is fairly enjoyable. Greg Rucka isn't a bad writer, but perhaps he was too in love with his own concept. I felt like the movie put more effort into setting up sequel concepts than developing this film.
It's a fairly standard action movie about ancient immortal warriors who can't be killed... until they can. Eventually their time is up, because of... reasons. Then they stop healing and die for good. It's Highlander-esque in minor ways, but mostly concentrates on the idea of the warriors already somewhat disillusioned with continued existence and their fight to make the world better using their ability to... well, I guess just kill people. Eventually there's some contrived reasons about the magical nature of their actions having echoes that better mankind, but it's a little thin.
Really, much of the plot is thin. While the "finding a new immortal and training her" aspect seems promising and mostly works, it also felt abbreviated. Meanwhile, the antagonists' plot mostly just seems cliched. The big bad guy is a dickhead pharma entrepreneur with delusions of creating human immortality. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a rogue CIA operative who serves them up to our pharma bro and then has a change of heart by movie's end. That's a problem too: it doesn't feel like most of the characters have thought through their motivations. The CIA agent has apparently discovered the secret history of these immortal warriors, meaning he knows their importance and the good they do, but gives them up to have them vivisected for a potential cure for death because of the flimsy excuse that he watched his wife die, immediately changing his mind when he stops to think about it for a second. None of it makes much sense, but it's mostly a list of excuses for action scenes. Which there aren't as many of. I thought it'd be more John Wick-like in its abundance of action, but it can often get talky in the middle, particularly as the other immortals poorly explain their existence to their newest member.
But being amazing wasn't a prerequisite for finding this entertaining. You can't fault Charlize Theron for much of anything. Her ethic for training and making fights look good is beyond reproach. If this doesn't prove that to you, watch Atomic Blonde instead. The rest of the cast is well-played, but none of them feel like real people. They're actors delivering dialogue and exposition, not characters with lives outside the scene. It just needed more for everyone to do and to probably develop everyone a bit more, as - by movie's end - they still feel like strangers and the bonding that's taken place feels undeserved.
Sometimes, you just want a fun action flick instead of another dreary, deep drama or brooding horror film and, in the midst of a pandemic, big action films are hard to come by for the moment. If this doesn't suffice for a bit, perhaps your standards are too high.
My daughter specifically wanted to watch a "mystery" movie, so - thinking back to my review of Gretel & Hansel - I remembered that Sophia Lillis had previously starred in Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase. It was right there on HBO, so away we went. It's obviously a movie for older kids and teens. There's nothing particularly nuanced about it. Compared to the 2007 Nancy Drew film with Emma Roberts, this one feels like a Hallmark Channel film.
Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase feels like a made-for-TV movie. Ellen DeGeneres apparently produced the film and it had a fairly minuscule budget for this day and age. It seems like it may have briefly been in theaters and made barely two-thirds of a million dollars. So it was probably made more for streaming to begin with. Which is ultimately where I watched it, so fair play to them. But, still, it has none of the gloss of film production to it. There's little scope. It doesn't look much better than your average episode of a show made for Freeform. Of course, it was brought to you by the director of Poison Ivy, The Rage: Carrie 2, and the Stripped To Kill series. (Aside from this and Carrie 2, she also wrote much of the crap she directed, including Poison Ivy, a movie I can tell you from personal experience is not good, very dumb, and typical of the "erotic thriller" genre of the time.) Given her pedigree, director Katt Shea is a strange fit for this upbeat movie about teens.
Still, at least it has Lillis, who definitely brings more charisma to the tale than it probably deserved. Unfortunately for her (and we viewers), the script was not up to the task at all. It's ironic that the writers were story editors on "The Handmaid's Tale", "Blood Drive", and "The Vampire Diaries", because this story felt edited to shit. The movie isn't quite an hour and a half and, yet, it's full of unnecessary teen drama and other padding bullshit, very light on actual mystery and development, chock full of hokey "comedy", and constantly feels like every other scene was edited completely out to minimize the amount of time it took to speed through the story. The pacing can be largely thrown at the director's feet, but the script is fairly idiotic. People are full of dumb decisions; much of the plot is nonsense that bears no resemblance to reality or behavior that appears human in any way; the dialogue is often laughably stupid and only Lillis' innate charm prevents her from seeming like a complete dumbshit. If you look at only the writing, Nancy Drew is kind of an idiot. She, like many of the characters, only display their ability to think when it's necessary to advance the story that the writers wanted to tell. That means that whenever it's more convenient, everyone makes bad decisions, poor arguments, the world works however they'd like it to for expediency instead of being grounded in any kind of reality. Only seven months after this movie released, a Nancy Drew show premiered on The CW (where it's still being produced), making it clear that the premise could be taken somewhat seriously, even if you keep it lighthearted. It doesn't have to be written like a quickie Hallmark Movies & Mysteries production starring Candace Cameron Bure.
But it still managed to rate above average, so... why? Well, it's so short you barely notice. The stupidity passes so quickly and so rarely influences the plot that you give it a pass. The TV quality look of the film and below-average production values don't get in the way of what little does work and it isn't actively negative. It's a movie aimed at teens and, for the shit that usually gets shoveled at that group, it isn't the worst. It's dumb amusement with a pretty good cast. Aside from Lillis, Laura Wiggins is good as her frenemy, Helen; Sam Trammel turns in his usual level performance as Nancy's father; it was nice to see Andrea Anders as Nancy's aunt; Linda Lavin, who hasn't been a household name since around my birth, gets to show off that she actually was a pretty good, likable actress. If this were a Hallmark production, I'd assume the rest were a bunch of Canadian actors, local to either Vancouver or Toronto, depending on where it was filmed. It isn't, but the cast is fine. They mostly do their best with the very spotty material given them. And, since the crux of a mystery film is in the details and you heard how the writers handled details, it's probably best that this film was mostly forgotten and Nancy Drew quickly moved on to greener TV pastures. I don't mind the idea of a good mystery film aimed at teens (I mean, I did just enjoy Enola Holmes yesterday), but the demographic is often an excuse to dumb things down, cut corners, and deliver the minimum product on a lower budget. So what you get ends up being less. Though his movie ends up being more than the sum of its parts, that's not saying much. They were lucky that it turned out as well as it did, entirely on the backs of its cast. Perhaps this should be a case study for what kids and teens don't need more of, even if inoffensively mediocre.
Enola Holmes isn't an overly ambitious movie. It doesn't attempt to rewrite the Sherlock Holmes world in a grandiose way. It doesn't take nearly as many risks as Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes in shaking up formulas. It's mostly a simple story, relying heavily on the acting talent and star-power of Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavill to carry it along.
It is a good enough film, giving Brown plenty to show off with, something "Stranger Things" has severely lacked. The monosyllabic Eleven may show off her ability to do a tremendous amount of weighty acting mostly with facial expressions, but Enola Holmes shows off her wit, her charm, and a range that she hasn't gotten to adequately explore. Every to-the-camera aside in the film couldn't be more adorable, more charming, more charismatic... But the shaky plotting does detract somewhat from the character. We're told constantly that she's trained her entire life to do just about everything except deal with people and society. Instead of being a fish out of water, she does surprisingly well at fitting in, though this training we're constantly shown and told about fails her again and again when actually tested. If anything, Enola comes off as weak, which she definitely should not. I expected her to put up more of a fight throughout the course of the movie, often just laying down for circumstances when they were against her. Perhaps if she'd broken Mycroft's nose or choked out Miss Harrison, I'd have had more respect for her. The whole thing is, of course, based on a series of books, so perhaps the fault lies there. The move is ultimately fun, if uneven.
Aside from Cavill and Brown, Sam Claflin returns after the recent viewing of The Nightingale. After his villainous turn there, he appears as Mycroft Holmes, playing the antagonist for much of the film, which seems to be his forte. He can exude arrogance and haughtiness like no one else, it seems, though this was a much more enjoyable role than previously seen. I could mention Helena Bonham Carter, but I probably shouldn't, as her roles barely registers a pulse; she isn't bad, she just isn't that noticeable at all. The rest of the various character actors filling out the cast do their best and it feel like a well-made movie, something more deserving of a theatrical release than most movies that make it into theaters. I suppose that's the paradox of our times: good things seem to be made for streaming services to watch on TV at home while the crap shows up in the theater.
The main "mystery" of the film is mostly an underwhelming formality, much more focus put on the search for the Holmeses' mother, Enola's quest for independence, humor, and the burgeoning love story. But I suppose that's understandable for a property aimed primarily at children and teens. Despite the fact that I started watching it by myself, my five-year-old detached herself from reading to start watching it with me and seemed to enjoy it more than most other "age-appropriate" movies that she's seen in recent memory. (Though the mystery elements were a bit lost on her. I don't think American five-year-olds really get plots involving Victorian traditions, suffrage, and voting within the House of Lords.)
After a lot of depressing, dull, and unfulfilling movies over this month, Enola Holmes was a rare treat, though probably not too memorable beyond being a hell of an acting reel for Millie Bobby Brown, who is either going to be a hot, young acting juggernaut in a few years or will sort of drift away and become a strange distant memory for those nostalgic of this era. I don't know how her acting talents will manage to be squandered, but only time will tell. If she keeps taking such an active role in her career, as she did in producing this film herself, then she might have a very bright future.