Cineworld: Ricki and the Flash; American Ultra; The Visit

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Been watching a few films since the last review update came out, so there are three today and another two coming along soon – both YA adaptations. Firstly, though, three completely bonkers films, with mild spoilers lurking beyond the cut…

Ricki and The Flash features several of my favourite things to find in any film: songs, hair metal, the blackest of black comedy, and Meryl Streep looking ridicumazing. The weird set-up immediately made me warm to it – the trailer made out that Ricki was a rock star, but it’s got a lot more ennui than that: she’s a never-made it, singing in a pub band for money and working in a supermarket as her day job. She is basically every over on The X Factor ever (although she doesn’t go on about her dead loved ones). She’s estranged from her family for… reasons that you kind of just have to go with, but is reunited with them when her daughter’s marriage breaks up. Everything that happens after that, plot-wise, is kind of predictable, but the characters for the most part feel pretty fresh, and it’s nice that none of them are either entirely loathsome nor entirely loveable. The film is funny and sentimental but it earns both through not shying away from drama and tragedy. And it’s full of rock songs. What’s not to love? Well – the final third is a bit flabby and suffers from way too many song montages and the film could – and should – have made more of Ricki’s kids and her new partner, all of whom are a bit lost in the mix, but other than that, I loved it. Bear in mind, though, that I also love The Wedding Singer, Mamma Mia and Rock of Ages, so your mileage may definitely vary.

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I have to give a lot to American Ultra purely for its sheer balls-to-the-wall adrenalin-fuelled-barminess. It’s so crazy and fun and ridiculous that you can easily get swept along with it, even if it is a bit shonky in places, and the plot is pretty dumb. I imagine it’d be a film you might enjoy drunk or stoned, and it has a similar vibe to other stoner comedies like Pineapple Express. OK, so the plot is nuts, and there are some questionable parts (such as… spoiler… all the BME characters getting killd early on. SIGH) but it rattles along quite breezily, it has some nice set-pieces and whilst it’s dumb as all hell, it has a lot of fun revelling in it.

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The Visit has been hailed as a return to form for M Night Shyamalan, and it’s certainly more coherent than, well, the majority of his ouvre. It does itself favours by starting out with a breezy piece to camera from Kathryn Hahn’s single mother character. Opening a horror film with a popular comedy character and using a bright colour palette grabs the audience’s attention immediately. After that, the film gets a little more into standard genre fare, but it does so with some style and a few unusual scares. The plot sees two kids visiting their estranged grandparents’ farm for a week whilst mom and her new partner go on holiday. They conveniently take camcorders with them to do a ‘found footage’ style tale (apart from a couple of times where they are filmed naturally that must have slipped by the continuity editors). Fortunately, although it’s ostensibly a found footage film, it uses better quality film and a clearer colour palette than most others in the genre. And although there are scenes in darkness, none use infra-red, so points for that.

The shocks start slow and they are interspersed with humour from beginning to end, which is quirky and works so far as it lulls you into thinking it won’t be that shocking, and then you’re whomped with a twist that, when it comes, gives you shivers. I think I should have predicted it, but I didn’t – much like The Sixth Sense, I guess – and I guess that’s a decent twist, when you don’t get it, but it’s pretty obvious in retrospect. There is also a deliberate nod to a fairy tale that properly gave me chills in the way a horror hasn’t in a long time. The film’s more ‘gross’ moments are also made better for being minimal and underplayed. There is a completely uneccessary horror trope chucked in for good measure towards the end that will offend some people and is really not cool, nor called for – indeed, it would be more chilling without it in some ways. Other than that, it’s a decent little film that blends well the new and the classic of horror whilst filming it in a fresher style and giving it a quirky humourous flavour throughout. For the most part, I would recommend it, even if afterwards you can mock me by saying how OBVIOUS the twist was and how you guessed it all along. FINE.

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