[Early Review] Yesterday (2019)

Director: Danny Boyle

Cast: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran

Screenplay: Richard Curtis

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and language.

 

Yesterday is kind of a strange movie. Ever since I first heard bits and pieces about its story and style, I found myself to be a bit confused. I wasn’t really sure what a film like this could say about anything, and I didn’t really see where a character-driven journey could go that actually made the film’s existence worth it. Really, the only pure driving force that kept me interested was Danny Boyle (127 Hours, T2 Trainspotting) as director. As my screening grew closer, though, I found my curiosity building and my excitement rising, though I couldn’t really tell you why. Upon seeing the film, I still think it’s rather strange, but I cannot fault it for finding a very human and moving story through the eyes of a struggling artist, and it’s a film definitely worth trying.

Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, The Fox, TV’s EastEnders) is a struggling musician trying to find an audience. He knows there’s something special in his music. His manager and close friend, Ellie (Lily James, Cinderella, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), knows it too, but for some reason, he just cannot find the fame he’s been looking for. He’s decided to give up on his dream, but that night, a major power outage occurs across the entire Earth and he is accidentally hit by a bus that doesn’t see him in the dark streets. When Jack wakes up, he discovers that he is in an alternate history where The Beatles never existed. He remembers them perfectly, but no one else does. Now, everyone has fallen in love with Jack’s songs, but they aren’t really his, and he finds that the fame he’s been seeking doesn’t mean much if you aren’t happy with yourself. Jack is in a situation where he must decide if a career of fortunes surrounding a lie is worth losing the woman he loves in the process.

The central relationship between Himesh Patel’s Jack and Lily James’s Ellie is so great and pure. She’s been his biggest supporter for fifteen years, loving him from afar and showing it with her belief and dedication and he fails to see what she needs from him. Sometimes, those relationships between friends really strain because both parties aren’t getting what they need from each other, and Ellie has ended up in a friend/manager column of his life instead of a love column. Now, I fail to see how any person wouldn’t fall in love with Lily James instantly, but for the purposes of this review, I will say that Jack’s eyes are set on the eventual fame and career he wants, and it makes for a moving struggle between two people who obviously love each other but just cannot get their paths to come together in the right way to make it work.

Now, there’s some logic issues to the film that I was hoping wouldn’t keep coming to mind, but Jack wakes up in a version of the world where The Beatles never existed as a band. As the story progresses, we see that their non-existence has an effect on more than just their music’s absence, so the question arises as to how Ed Sheeran (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Pop Star) became a musician if his primary influence never existed. Would he have pursued music? The Beatles aren’t the only band that doesn’t exist. Oasis never became a band and sang Wonderwall. There are writers that didn’t exist. There are products that were never invented. It never really explains what the central break in these timelines is or how it affected certain things but not others. Would Coldplay have existed? The film reminded me of Us or Avengers: Endgame where, if you let the logic gaps or questions bother you then you’ll miss out on the journey itself, so it’s best not to think about it. But the question did come up for me.

In that same vein, there are questions raised about the nature of a song like Back in the USSR, which Jack claims to have written the day of a concert in Russia. Ed Sheeran points out that it hasn’t been called the USSR since before Jack was born, and it’s a funny scene because it does point out the potential for problems in making music at a different time than was intended, or if you didn’t live the life of the person who wrote it. It comes up again with Hey Jude later on. I really liked when Jack’s narrative was tested; I just wanted more of it. For example, later in the film, Jack sings I Saw Her Standing There, which starts with the lyric “She was just seventeen…” and when I heard him sing it, I thought to myself that a song like that probably wouldn’t exist in this timeframe without some controversy. It’s something I wish Boyle and screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love Actually, About Time) would have delved into more.

Then there’s Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, TV’s Saturday Night Live), who in the film essentially plays Kate McKinnon. She’s a very capable actress but sometimes she is used to excess, and the film struggles to find a use for her near the end, causing her to turn into a quite an annoyance by the end. I get what she’s trying to do, but the narrative doesn’t need it.

If the central relationship and moral quandary of the film didn’t work, Yesterday would be a bit of a mess. Thankfully, those two elements make for an extremely satisfying film, one that created conflict even among the people watching the film with me. It isn’t exactly going to leave you in a place you expect, but the film overall is surprisingly enjoyable and a good example of uniquely interesting ideas, even if they aren’t fully fleshed out. This is one I’ll be recommending for some time.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 28 – Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

Director: Alexander Witt

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Sienna Guillory, Oded Fehr, Thomas Kretschmann, Jared Harris, Mike Epps

Screenplay: Paul W.S. Anderson

94 mins. Rated R for non-stop violence, language and some nudity.

 

The Resident Evil games are beloved the world over. The movies, not so much. Especially the second film in the series, Apocalypse, which I feel gets a lot of negative attention. I just recently revisited the sequel, and I have a hot take: it’s the best one in the series.

Raccoon City is overrun with the undead. S.T.A.R.S. member Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory, Love Actually, TV’s Fortitude) attempts to find a way out of the city, and she comes across Alice (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element, Zoolander 2), last survivor of the Hive, a hidden facility owned and operated by the Umbrella Corporation, the company responsible for the T-Virus which is reanimating the dead. Together, they join Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr, The Mummy Returns, Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants) and others in an attempt to rescue the daughter of Umbrella researcher Dr. Charles Ashford (Jared Harris, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, TV’s The Terror), who claims he can get them out of the city before the Umbrella Corporation puts their quarantine into place.

Apocalypse looks very cheap. That’s the major criticism of the first two films in this series. They just feel very cheap at times. The aging CG has not helped. They’ve become akin to Syfy Original Movies in a lot of ways. The acting from a lot of the supporting cast isn’t up to par here. There’s also the necessity to fall back on video game references that lingers throughout the entire franchise. That being said, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is probably the closest to the feeling of the games that I’ve gotten without forcing it.

First of all, this one takes place during the time frame of the games. Whereas the first film was planned as kind of a prequel to the games and the third film onward kind of forge their own path, Apocalypse is in the meat of the games. Utilizing what I think is the best creature/villain of the franchise in Nemesis helps here, and taking the well-received lickers and zombie dogs from the first film really add to the enjoyment of the film. Apocalypse feels like a Resident Evil game.

There’s also some nice marketing that works as an in-film meta short commercial for an Umbrella product called Regenerate. The commercial was helmed by Marcus Nispel of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Friday the 13th fame. Watching the trailer all these years later still brings me back to the joy I felt in the theater watching it for the first time.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse is a B-horror movie, but it knows that it is. Much in the same way as The Fast and the Furious franchise, Apocalypse has learned not to take itself overly serious. The goal here is to have fun, just like the video games intend. Jovovich and Guillory are standouts here along with the incredible creature design for Nemesis. This is a simpler film in the franchise that expands the mythology to make way for the crazier shit we’ll see in future installments. I had so much fun watching this again, and I hope you do too.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil, click here.

[Early Review] Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016)

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Director: Sharon Maguire
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Colin Firth, Patrick Dempsey, Gemma Jones, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson
Screenplay: Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer, Emma Thompson
122 mins. Rated R for language, sex references and some nudity.
Nobody was more excited for Bridget Jones’s Baby than…my fiance. Me? Meh. While I mildly enjoyed Bridget Jones’s Diary, I had nothing but bad things to say about The Edge of Reason, so now, some twelve years since we last saw Bridget, was I excited? No. Did I end up enjoying it? Perhaps.
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Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger, Chicago, Case 39) has finally reached her ideal weight, but that doesn’t seem to be solving any of her other problems, especially in her love life. So when a work friend drags Bridget to an outdoor music festival, she meets and spends the night with Jack (Patrick Dempsey, TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, Transformers: Dark of the Moon). A week later, she reunites with her ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth, The King’s Speech, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Then, the shocker: Bridget Jones is pregnant, but she has no idea who the daddy is or what to do with the two men who now want her heart.
I can’t believe I’m about to say this: I actually enjoyed Bridget Jones’s Baby. Way more than I thought I would. I found Jack Qwant to be a much more interesting foil to Mark Darcy. I like that Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver is dealt with in an interesting way that allows his absence to not halter the film’s progression. I even enjoyed the surprising celebrity cameo.
Now, I had plenty of problems with the film. I felt like the first act of the film takes way too long to get going. You know the film is called Bridget Jones’s Baby, so you know she is having a baby, but it takes so long to set it up that it does lose focus. The finale also has the opportunity to take a few risks but instead the plot takes a safe route and the film suffers for it.
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Some of the best moments from Bridget Jones’s Baby had me laughing out loud in the theater and they were scenes that featured in the trailer but worked so much better in the finished film. The cast all know their characters well by now and the new additions like Dempsey and Emma Thompson (Love Actually, A Walk in the Woods) as Dr. Rawlings fit in nicely. Altogether, it’s a fitting conclusion to this trilogy of sorts that should work for fans of the original.
3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

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