Stuart McCunn's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

Mudbound (2017)
35 days ago via Movies on iPhone

It's alright. It's one of those message films trying to make a point rather than the character drama I was expecting. Not sure I still cared by the end.

An Angel for May
48 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

This film has an excellent premise: modern boy ends up in WW2 England and learns valuable lessons about life, etc. etc. You know the sort of cliches it will indulge in even if such films aren't exactly common, but at the same time they're cliches for a reason. This film is proof, however, that a great premise is not enough to make a film great. It needs a great script and great execution as well. And both of these are merely competent at best. The film takes no unexpected detours, no interesting perspectives, no new angles. It's not even interested in examining the difference in culture between 1940s England and today. Instead it just goes from point A (travel through time) to point B (meets random girl in trouble) to point C (realize she suffers a terrible fate and works to rescue her). In fact, remove the time travel and it's virtually interchangeable with any number of coming-of-age films.

The cinematography is run-of-the-mill made-for-TV-movie, with drab landscapes merged with uninspired camera angles and minimal motion. One effective element is the way it displays the difference between modern and old Yorkshire. Present-day scenes always feature the trappings of modern society somewhere in them in the form of windfarms, highways, etc. It's obvious but effective nonetheless since the Yorkshire countryside hasn't changed all that much since the '40s. Indeed, all the '40s scenes are marked by massive factories and indiustrial buildings that you rarely find anymore. The character drama of the present is effective too, for all that it's typical of the genre. Divorced single mum having trouble getting her son to accept her new boyfriend. No wonder people are easily convinced he's run away. The '40s drama doesn't work quite as well, largely because it's never given time to. Tom Wilkinson is great (naturally) but he's really given very little screentime. We don't really have a chance to know this new world.

There are some randomly absurd elements to the film too. Time travel is achieved through the highly unusual element of a magic dog. Or at least that's how I interpret it. There's lightning involved as well, which is a pretty archaic scifi trope. One of my favorite bits was a funny scene where the freshly arrived boy is running through the town as all the locals stare at him. Only it's not like mildly curious staring, they're looking at him like he's a Martian. Have they never seen a boy before? Or perhaps it's his funny 'I gotta run fast only not too fast or the cameramen will lose me' half-jog. I guess the idea is that he's dressed funny (and the gortex raincoat and hoodie obviously aren't standard '40s wear) but is it really so alien? You'd think he was running naked in the streets wearing only prominent Nazi memorabilia the way people were staring at him. Another great scene has the Nazis bombing an empty field in Yorkshire in the middle of the day. It's delightful how little sense this makes.

The film isn't completely bad. I'd actually say it's fine. But it's not all it could have been. It's unambitious and predictable, and in this case that makes the film bland. Only the premise saves it to some degree.

Justice League
57 days ago via Movies on iPhone

Well it wasn't awful. That alone makes an improvement over MoS and BvS. But it wasn't quite not awful enough.

To start with the things the film gets right (and it DOES get some things very right), I found every one of the characters to be fully realized and entertaining. Aquaman has the same brooding grimness that Snyder brought to Batman and Superman, but his is a fun grimness and it gives way to a boyish enthusiasm once battle gets underway. Cyborg is likewise broody, but justifiably so, and his broodiness comes across mainly in the form of confusion. He doesn't know who he is or what he will become. It's effective. Flash is absolutely the best. He's got some darkness in his life, an imprisoned father and destitute living conditions, but he's also funny and likable. He's willing to admit when he doesn't want to do something and is rather neurotic. It's awesome and doesn't clash too much with the grim seriousness of everyone else. As to the returning cast, Wonder Woman is much the same but Batmanand Superman have been completely reworked. Superman has more lighthearted banter and good cheer in this film than the other two films combined. Batman, on the other hand, is much less psychotic than in the last film. In part this is due to his revelation that Superman is A-Ok and his determination to prove otherwise was due more to his feelings of powerlessness than any real threat. But a part of it is just a plain whitewashing of his damaged soul. It makes Bruce feel somewhat artificial and half-hearted. Batfleck can only work when playing up his damaged psyche.

Other good elements: the film did a good job of giving almost every character a reason to go after Steppenwulf. Batman's paranoia from the last film is obviously his motivation here, but the film quite sensibly brought historical motivations that affected both Amazons and Atlantians. Both hold 1/3 of the device Steppenwulf needs, so both are quickly and effectively brought into play. Important when so many introductions are in order. Cyborg gets his powers from the third part of his device, as does, less convincingly, Superman. That leaves only the Flash as a hero for hire, and in his boyish eagerness to be part of the team that kinda works. The banter and humor between the leads was also good, and the overall tone much more tolerable if inconsistent. And there is a noted (perhaps too obvious) effort to emphasize the civilian rescues.

And then comes the bad. The film was a total tonal mishmash. One minute we're angrily pursuing criminals, the next we're facing a magic mothman, then we're calmly investigating while the criminal hangs around in the background. And that's all in the same scene. The opening half hour is the worst. I'd started to expect an epic slog through the movie. It's full of unconnected scenes that give us unnecessary exposition while still not explaining what's going on. Batman's rooftop antics are bad enough, but Wonder Woman's bomb threat rescue is cheesy and unrelated to anything going on. Also, since when did she have super speed? Why doesn't that show up again? And that continues throughout the film. One minute it's all grimdark and menacing, the next everybody's cracking jokes and bantering. I don't think it can all be reduced to Joss Whedon's involvement. Many of the tonally off moments seem integral to the scenes.

The bad guy is the worst example of a blank slate villain since Thor: The Dark World. Steppenwulf has no character motivations except to destroy the world for the sake of destroying the world. He's there to look cool and speak in cliches. Nothing more. The only positive thing I will say about him is that they contextualized his reappearance well, pointing out that his strategy had changed from the last time they'd seen him. But since his last appearance was pretty lame too, that's not much help. Action scenes are generally okay, although the final fight's rather a mess. Half the cast really have nothing to do and they don't utilize the setting well or make everyone's position clear. And when it ends it ends much too quickly.

Also, that CGI upper lip. What is up with that artificial lip? It's just super creepy.

It's not a bad film per se. I did enjoy many of the scenes. But they never came together as a whole and only rarely brought any sense of progression. In the end, the characters rescued it, but a film with this much going for it should never have needed to be rescued in the first place.

The Child in Time
58 days ago via Movies on iPhone

Boring, affected, and not a little pretentious. It never really deals with the conflict at the centre of the story (the missing daughter) and instead dwells around the edges to show its effect on his life. But since we're not shown much of who he was before this it's not clear what changed. And as nothing dramatic happens, it's not clear what the point is.

The film's also stuffed with underdeveloped and pointless subplots. The unfinished book, for example, or the report being worked up for the Prime Minister. None of them are resolved and they never go anywhere or reveal anything. But by far the most pointless plot is the friend who's suddenly decided he'd be happier as a child and so buys a house in the country where he can build a tree fort and do nothing but play all day long. This is treated as a somewhat surreal peccadillo rather than a serious mental breakdown. And, again, I have no idea what this has to do with the main plot. A pointless, useless film.