Skip to main content

Everything was dismal as murder.

Cherry
(2021)

(SPOILERS) There’s something almost pathetically juvenile about Anthony and Joe Russo choosing to make Cherry, as if their reward for delivering all those massively successful MCU monsters was a “grownup” movie. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman ranked it the worst film of 2021, labelling it a “spectacularly overblown debacle” and “less a movie than an overdirected 140-minute showreel of gritty brand extension”. He isn’t wrong. Anyone who hadn’t realised on first sniff of their Marvel efforts will now have to admit the Russos’ “auteurishness” is pure affectation, soulless study devoid of actual inspiration or creative spark.

Cherry’s a tiresome, spiked mishmash of Jarhead and Requiem for a Dream, but those movies at least display some degree of prevailing acumen. Indeed, Jarhead director Sam Mendes’ general oeuvre is a fair point of comparison: a journeyman in subject matter – there’s very rarely a sense he’s actually telling a story that engages him: Revolutionary Road and American Beauty, perhaps – who applies himself in as stylistically extravagant a manner as possible. Nevertheless, he seems like someone with genuine vision set next to the Russos. Give Michael Bay material about addiction and blue-collar crime or Middle Eastern combat, and he can’t help himself, whatever you may think of the results (Pain & Gain, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi respectively). The Russos simply roll out a rote roster of technical tics, over-literal soundtrack grooves, trite narration, punchy on-screen captioning, distracting aspect-ratio quirks, laboured chapter transitions, and incontinent subjective camera and cinematography (for the purposes of altered states), amid what they doubtless believe is almost Beavis and Butthead-clever commentary (the banks robbed include “SHITTY BANK” and “BANK FUCKS AMERICA”). Alex Cox they are not.

They presumably believed they had to dress up Nico Walker’s semi-autobiographical, 2018 misery-porn novel Cherry somehow (I say misery porn; unlike Requiem for a Dream, this has a happy ending). Cherry (Tom Holland) joins the army after Emily (Ciaro Bravo) breaks his heart; she comes back to him but too late, as he’s signed up and is off to (Full Metal Jacket-lite) basic training, amid insightful remarks – as in really obvious ones – about the condition that is the war machine: “I started to get this feeling like it was all just make believe”. This follows suit in the Gulf as a medic (horrors of war, PTSD, swathes of lens flare, all-lite, and redundant observations like “Most days, it felt like we were glorified scarecrows”). Cherry survives, returns to Emily, is haunted by his experience – aside from the war carnage, learning his basic training included “about a hundred fucking shots” can’t have done his health much good – and soon enough, they’ve both become junkies. Their addiction – Xanax, OxyContin, heroin – seems to go on interminably and soon graduates to bank robbery.

While derivative, Cherry is just about able to support itself during the Gulf sequences. Once it’s back in junkie heaven, however, it’s a lost cause. You better be sure you’ve got a strong through line, as both War on Terror and substance-abuse subjects are notorious negatives when it comes to successful storytelling (they’re also popular among oblivious Hollywood types, as they’re assumed to be a shorthand for making important statements, by their very nature; trauma, suffering, state of a nation etc). The Russos have absolutely nothing to say here, other than offering the most facile prods in the direction of “things are bad”. It’s your classic sound and fury – or editing – signifying nothing.

Holland meanwhile, the middle-class-lad-made-street, looking like former Spidey Tobey Maguire in specs and entirely unpersuasive as a military man, gets to do lots of ACTING but to little avail. He winds up with a ridiculous moustache, as if he’s auditioning for a remake of Beastie Boys’ Sabotage video. There’s a decent performance from Jack Reynor in there, as a drug dealer, and Henry Jackman’s score seems to belong to a much more artistic, worthwhile piece of cinema, but otherwise, Cherry is rightly consigned away on AppleTV+, where no one can see it.

Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

People still talk about Pandapocalypse 2002.

Turning Red (2022) (SPOILERS) Those wags at Pixar, eh? Yes, the most – actually, the only – impressive thing about Turning Red is the four-tiered wordplay of its title. Thirteen-year-old Mei (Rosalie Chiang) finds herself turning into a large red panda at emotive moments. She is also, simultaneously, riding the crimson wave for the first time. Further, as a teenager, she characteristically suffers from acute embarrassment (mostly due to the actions of her domineering mother Ming Lee, voiced by Sandra Oh). And finally, of course, Turning Red can be seen diligently spreading communist doctrine left, right and centre. To any political sensibility tuning in to Disney+, basically (so ones with either considerable or zero resistance to woke). Take a guess which of these isn’t getting press in reference to the movie? And by a process of elimination is probably what it it’s really about (you know in the same way most Pixars, as far back as Toy Story and Monsters, Inc . can be given an insi

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We could be mauled to death by an interstellar monster!

Star Trek Beyond (2016) (SPOILERS) The odd/even Star Trek failure/success rule seemed to have been cancelled out with the first reboot movie, and then trodden into ground with Into Darkness (which, yes, I quite enjoyed, for all its scandalous deficiencies). Star Trek Beyond gets us back onto more familiar ground, as it’s very identifiably a “lesser” Trek , irrespective of the big bucks and directorial nous thrown at it. This is a Star Trek movie that can happily stand shoulder to shoulder with The Search for Spock and Insurrection , content in the knowledge they make it look good.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998) An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar. Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins , and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch , in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whet

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He's not in my pyjamas, is he?

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) (SPOILERS) By rights, Paul Mazursky’s swinging, post-flower-power-gen partner-swap movie ought to have aged terribly. So much of the era’s scene-specific fare has, particularly so when attempting to reflect its reverberations with any degree of serious intent. Perhaps it’s because Mazursky and co-writer Larry Tucker (also of The Monkees , Alex in Wonderland and I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! ) maintain a wry distance from their characters’ endeavours, much more on the wavelength of Elliott Gould’s Ted than Robert Culp’s Bob; we know any pretensions towards uninhibited expression can’t end well, but we also know Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice have to learn the hard way.

There is a war raging, and unless you pull your head out of the sand, you and I and about five billion other people are going to go the way of the dinosaur.

The X-Files 5.14: The Red and the Black The most noteworthy aspect of this two parter is that it almost – but not quite – causes me to reassess my previous position that the best arc episodes are those that avoid tackling the greater narrative head-on, attempting to advance the resistant behemoth. It may be less than scintillating as far as concepts go, but the alien resistance plot is set out quite clearly here, as are the responses to it from the main players.