Free Guy | Frasier, Season 11
MOVIE REVIEW /// Free Guy
Movie summary: A bank teller discovers that he's actually an NPC inside a brutal, open world video game. (IMDb)
Have you already seen the first Lego Movie and Ready Player One? If so, then you've already experienced large parts of what Free Guy has to offer. It's nowhere near as good as the former, but definitely more enjoyable than the latter, mainly thanks to this movie having a more charming lead in the reliable Ryan Reynolds, and a better female lead in Jodie Comer.
I have to admit that this is the first major role I've seen Comer in (Killing Eve is somewhere in the backlog along with dozens of other series) and I really liked her as both Millie, an indie games developer, and Molotovgirl, her online persona. You can tell just how good she is from having amazing chemistry with everyone she shares a screen with, regardless of their performance.
One weakness Free Guy does share with Ready Player One is using pop culture references because it can, rather than because they fit naturally into proceedings. This is just one of the issues that stops this movie from feeling more substantial than it does - this is a 'fast food movie', pretty much forgettable once it's over even if you enjoyed it while it lasted.
Then again, I wonder how much people who don't really follow (or understand) game development will care about the story at all, with the ultimate goal being to prove that Antwan (Taika Waititi) illegally used code for his hugely-successful online open-world game that was originally created by Millie and Keys (Joe Keery) for their own AI-based game.
The writing feels strangely unbalanced, with some very real world problems surrounding the treatment of game developers surrounded by an ocean of throwaway one-liners and puns. It left me with the same impression I had for much of Django Unchained: the tone was so inconsistent that I sometimes couldn't tell if certain parts should be taken seriously and others were intended to be funny.
Fortunately, the focus of the movie is really on Guy and Millie, who are just great together and I hope that any sequel finds some way of teaming up Reynolds and Comer for a lot more shared screen-time based on how good they are together here. Regardless of any other issues I may have with Free Guy, I could happily watch the pair of them rampaging endlessly through more action scenes and quiet moments.
The key thing for a follow-up would be just to improve the consistency of the whole - in addition to the tonal issues, the script very much feels like multiple people worked of it and not all of them are 'plugged in' to gaming culture. There are some decent observations countered by ludicrous stereotyping and the movie often fails to walk that high-wire act of keeping things balanced between laughing at and with the various aspects of gaming.
Despite all the issues, I still enjoyed Free Guy and would be fine watching it again, although it's the kind of movie that is good for background noise and only really paying attention at certain moments. I saw it on Disney+ (I think it's on HBO Max in the US, weirdly), but I'll admit that I wouldn't have felt my money was wasted if I'd paid to see it at the cinema - a soft recommend from me.
Free Guy is a fun way to spend a couple of hours, but is a bit too shallow to be memorable outside of references to other pop culture that are already more famous than Guy will likely ever be. Reynolds is as enjoyable to watch as he usually, but his chemistry with Jodie Comer's Millie is what elevates this movie and it'll be interesting to see how things change in the apparently-greenlit sequel.
[7/10 - Good]
TV REVIEW /// Frasier, Season 11
Season summary: Daphne and Niles deal with their upcoming baby, after Daphne becomes pregnant; Martin becomes engaged to Ronee Lawrence, the boys' old babysitter; and Frasier continues to do his show, and his love life begins to blossom with the entry of Charlotte Connor into his life. (Frasier Wiki)
Frasier's eleventh and final season had some way to go to correct things from how they ended up by the time the previous season was over, never mind set things up for the show as a whole to end. The stitched-together feel of this season means it never comes close to the show's prime, but does manage to recover a little of that old magic to round things out rather well.
The opening of the season provides the biggest feeling of whiplash as the writers work at double-speed to see off Felicity Huffman's Julia and return Frasier and Roz's relationship to normal. It's weird, because I normally wouldn't praise a show reverting to the status quo so sharply, but the characters were so badly-written to get them where they were at the end of the tenth season that it feels like a relief here.
Another big plus is that Daphne's family is barely involved, which removes one of the biggest group stains imaginable from any kind of story. The biggest presence they have is in the finale, but trading up for the talents of Robbie Coltrane and Richard E. Grant at least makes her brothers bearable - her mother is unfortunately still as horrible a character as ever.
Outside of correcting mis-steps from the previous season, this final season's greatest strength is the emotional moments where loose threads are quietly disposed of: Maris' final story is absolutely hilarious, but definitely feels like a big moment due to her influence over Niles; and Lilith's last appearance has a similar impact, if not more so, thanks to how she and Frasier have been tied together.
The biggest 'problem' of the season is that it doesn't really flow all that well, with some of the more serialised elements clashing a little with the more standalone parts. There are a lot of really great episodes that have some fantastic moments, but a lot of them feel really disconnected from where the characters are now - a number of them could slot into previous seasons with little issue as a result.
Just to be clear, there's a reason that's a 'problem' and not a genuine complaint. The season as a whole might not feel particularly cohesive, but it really does re-affirm just how good a show Frasier was a whole and makes the ending much sadder than it could've been. The fact that there are so many great moments makes you wonder how much longer it could've actually kept going.
Ultimately, this final season really does see the show off on quite a high note and I don't think that's just because it's better than the season that came before. I definitely wouldn't rank this as one of the show's better seasons, but it's that Frasier standard again: if this was a season for almost any other sitcom, it would be considered great, but for this show it's 'only' very good.
Frasier's eleventh season picks up the pieces from the disastrous season 10 and quickly rights all the wrongs, sending the show out on a high note, if still a distance from its very best. It does feel more continuity-driven than ever, so it's difficult to pick out any great episodes, but it works in the season's favour by the end and sees off this incredible cast in an emotional, if not conclusive, finale.