Unfortunately, 90s cheese ages better with action fare than with drama, or else I could’ve complimented this film on going for a more character-focused approach to its apocalyptic proceedings. As it is, it’s full of cringe-worthy relationship moments (see the weird teen marriage and estranged father-daughter who had one good day on a beach when she was 5 so I guess that’s all we need to care about them hugging on a beach as the world ends??) that threaten to ruin the epic spectacle and story.
A great character study: Rocky is a quiet, soft soul (his refusal to let Adrian leave is cringey though) prone to passionate, long-winded rants (his one to Marie misses the mark, but see his rambling rejection of Mickey before the quiet jog out afterwards); he punches cow carcasses to train for boxing bouts before heading to the pet store to buy food for his turtles. He doesn’t care about fame or money or victory, he just wants to “go the distance” and find his love (see the excellent ending).
Really hard to enjoy, thanks to unlikeable main characters, uninteresting hijinks, and distasteful attempts at humour. It seems to be a problem in tone management though, because underneath its sickening candy comedy shell is a rather intriguing web of dark character drama (see the eating disorder cover-up, drug addiction, and tale of a suicide attempt). The overdose to ambulance ride sequence feels like it finds the right groove but it’s overshadowed by a shallow shrug-it-off ending.
All the right ingredients for a compelling biopic: Great turns (Leo’s a good lead but Kate, I mean Cate, is a standout support), a complex character to study, and an epic plot that flies high (the dual ambitions in film and aviation make for a riveting back-and-forth script) but also digs deep (“Howard, we’re not like everyone else. Too many acute angles”). Interesting editing adds some spice while a soaring climax and a great final line wrap things up nicely (“the way of the future…”).
Call me bewitched but I found this really charming. It doesn’t waste any screen time (love how it introduces the “want to be normal” crisis right off the bat), and the many narrative states (on TV, in real-life, in a dream, in an alternative timeline, under a spell) put a unique twist on the typical romantic arc. Ferrell and Kidman are both engaging in their own way, and the side characters have their moments too (Nina especially: “We could electrocute him. There’s a ton of wires around here”).
The plot is just-got-robbed-poor (there’s no heist, fugitive, or character tension to be found), and only a couple of the many jokes land, so two acts in and things are looking bleaker than a corn dog at a hot dog party before the marvelous moustached Mike McKinney shows up and finds his fate to add a jolt of comedy and give the plot a needed twist. The climax lets things down again but by then the continued earnest charm of David Ghantt has at least made him somewhat of an engaging lead.
Falls prey to the gross guy’s perspective a few times (see the casual homophobia, teen boobs fantasy, the “bro code” being more important than the girl’s well-being), but not as often as I feared thanks to its loose, authentic-feeling storytelling and a few moments of surprising depth (see Brad picking up Stacy). Brad’s job woes and Spicoli ordering pizza to history class are two comedic highlights (“Just what in the hell do you think you’re doing?” “Eating some food, learning about Cuba”).
Bits of unneeded romance and a meh double-twist are the only hiccups (and small ones at that) in this solid, no-frills heist thriller. The planned deceptions are fun and well-crafted with just the right amount of wrenches thrown in, and the intertwining of it all with the World Cup excitement was a nice added touch. I was waiting for some more noble motivations for both Thom and the crew to make themselves plain but in the end, leaving it with the chaotic-neutral “passion” felt refreshing.
A smooth and well-balanced mix of compelling legal procedural and emotive drama that ends nicely with the climax of Ken’s character arc (“You’re nothing like him”). Some of the script is a bit on the nose, some supporting performances slip up, and the dead screen-space for some of the dialogue scenes is strange, but it’s made up for by some moments of cinematic excellence (see the gradual realization on the train), great performances by the main trio, and some cool camerawork in other places.
Gets off to sort of a bland start pre-quest, with more to chew on in acts two and three. Aside from the riveting final meeting, even those are hard to engage with in the moment (the visuals are great but the bizarre symbolism and plot movements are hard to wrap your head around), but looking back, it’s impossible not to appreciate the poetic artistry of it all, from its thought-provoking take on the classic “hero’s quest” story arc to its almost playful engagement with themes of time and honour.