The Good Place
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This is not a bad movie. X-Men: Origins was a bad movie. The choices made in that film were so mind-bogglingly dumb that you were torn between rage and unintentional hilarity. This film is something much worse: it's mediocre. The plot is mediocre, the acting is mediocre, the characters are mediocre... There is not one point watching this film where I cared if the end credits appeared early and dissolved the whole thing in a sea of blackness. Nothing about this film is interesting or original in any way. The only elements that stand out from the pack are the ones that absolutely obliterate what little continuity had survived the series and even then the most intense emotion you feel is disgust with a hint of irritation. This is a poor end to two decades' worth of character setup.
It's like Wolfenstein except without the gungho hero. I'd expected the film to lean more into the horror and place our band of innocents in the middle of hell, from which they'd then have to escape. But actually, they make the conscious decision to confront this evil. It left me a little confused. The thrill of a horror film comes from the feeling of helplessness and dread. While they get the dread right, I never found any of it particularly horrifying. Yet none of the leads were badass enough to provide the thrills that can bring either. In all honesty, I think the film needed to be a bit more crazy. And once they leave the normal world behind it shouldn't keep coming back. I fully expected that when the horror film hit the war film would stand aside, but that's not what happened. I suppose that, for me, the genres just didn't mesh fully and the more realistic scenes felt like they limited the mad ones. Maybe that's nitpicking, but it's more what I wanted out of it.
The film is certainly fun. The Nazi experiments are appropriately gruesome and Euron Greyjoy makes a great villain. That little boy is too stupid to live, but this is standard fare for kids in horror films AND war films, so it's the genres working in sync for once. Certainly it's the best Nazi zombie film I've seen.
A fun, lighthearted romantic comedy with an unusually deep love story. Instead of a sudden sweeping romance, we're treated to a couple who've known each other for twelve years, took a dislike to each other, and went off with other people. Now newly single they get together as friends and things grow from there. It's touching how close they become without any romance, and believable that they wouldn't notice how ideal a couple they would make.
Most of the jokes fall flat and there's really nothing to it. Steve Martin is at least funny as a congenitally dishonest ex-gangster but Rick Moranis gives in an uncharacteristically dull performance as his FBI minder.
The two leads are excellent and there are a number of clever and inventive scenes and framings (including a fictional meeting of the two queens with a constantly moving and evasive Elizabeth obscured behind translucent cloth) but ultimately there's not much underneath all the trappings. The drama varies between being mundane and being overwrought and the character work brings little new except for a shared feminism between the two queens that didn't really feel authentic. There was also an odd use of colorblind casting that just feels bizarre. I'm all for telling stories from the viewpoints of minorities but just casting them as historical white guys seems to do little beyond Making A Point. Like the film itself, it's hard to say what that point is.
Still, the film does its job adequately. The tribulations of Mary's reign are shown well enough, though what caused the decay of her authority isn't really that clear outside of her choice of husband (sexist the 16th century may have been, but are we really to believe that gender prejudice alone led to her downfall?). The costumes are top notch and the scenery is stunning. Surprisingly accurate too in its depiction of medievalized cities/castles, apart from an oddly craggy Carlisle. The film is worth watching once for its performances and cinematography, but it's probably not going to stick very strongly.