2021 In Film: Day Seven (The Very Good)

Annette

This is weird, and will probably be the most divisive one on this list. You can’t really be ambivalent towards this, you’re either going to buy into it and love it, or absolutely detest every second. Not just because it’s a musical, but because it’s a musical by Sparks, who are an acquired taste in terms of music. Plus, one of the characters is played by a marionette puppet. But for those who like things like this, you’re in for a treat. It may be a bit overambitious at times, trying to do way too much and not really closing all the doors it opens. And I’m sure if you sat down and analyzed it, parts of it may collapse. But just sitting back and having it wash over you is a genuine treat, and I really hope there are outdoor screenings of it in the summer.

+ The general flow it has, the music and visuals work together perfectly.

-There will be a lot of people that this film simply would not work for.

Best Moment: The opening, I watched/listened to it about 5 times.

Best Performer: Adam Driver

Worst Performer: Would it be unfair to say a puppet?

Original Review here

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar

Yet again, another weird film (trust me, there’s a lot of very weird shit in this list). If you go in expecting Bridesmaids, you’re going to be, well maybe not disappointed, but very surprised. The friendship between the main two is wonderful to watch unfold and will cause many moments that will make you smile.

For some reason though, this feels a bit like a film version of a sitcom (I would definitely watch a sitcom version of this if they ever made it by the way). The way that even the background characters feel fully developed, like they can say one line and somehow you already know what they’re like. Plus they’re so well defined that they can be used for different types of jokes. There’s not really one kind of joke, so even if you don’t like one, they’ll be one soon that you will like.

+ The weird insanity to the whole thing. But it makes sense in the world the film has created.

– You may find the characters annoying.

Best Moment: The drugged/drunken night. Weird and very funny

Worst moment: The introduction to the two main characters. It’s not that it’s a bad scene, but it probably could have been done better.

Best Performer: Jamie Dornan. Finally released from the shackles of 50 Shades (there must be a bondage joke there)

Worst Performer: Kristen Wiig. She’s good as Star, not so good as the villain.

Best Line: “All of our stories are from the past. We don’t have any stories from now”. Surprisingly deep line.

Original review here

Black Bear

Doesn’t have the usual Plaza-snark that you’d expect. The way this film pulls the rug out from underneath you is spectacular because really it means what you’ve seen isn’t real, it was part of a film within a film. In a badly written film, this would annoy you and would seem like a waste of time. In this it makes you feel like you’ve been turned around, you have to recalibrate everything you’ve seen with your new perspective, going back over what you’ve already gone through with your new knowledge. Your brain never settles when watching this, it’s always juggling the many balls of this narrative in the air, trusting you are paying enough attention to not drop them. It’s a film that rewards paying attention, and assumes you’re not an idiot. I’m all for films like that.

+ It’s strange, and it’s new. You’re not likely to see something else like this all year.

– Might be a little bit esoteric for some.

Best Moment: When Plaza’s character finally snaps. Weirdly cathartic and feels like that was what the film was building towards.

Worst moment: The opening. Only seems to exist for the purposes of the ending. Doesn’t really achieve much.

Best Performer: Aubrey Plaza. Plays something completely different to what you’ll expect from her, and it works.

Worst Performer: Christopher Abbott, doesn’t really seem to have the chemistry with the two female leads that it needs

Best Line: No, it’s not that I can’t *stand* that you have the thoughts about the world. It’s that I can’t stand the thoughts about the world that you have.

Original review here

Censor

Essentially a love letter to 80s horror. If you’re a fan of those type of films you’ll appreciate this. I feel it would make a great double bill with Malignant. I’m not sure it would play as well to non-Brits. Did America have the same Video Nasty scare as we did? They had some moral panics but they were mainly against the backdrop of religion. It wasn’t about religion here, it was about the Conservative government having policies which increased poverty and therefore led to increased crime, so they needed a scapegoat and distraction (good thing they never did that again, right? *nervous laugh*), and picked horror movies. This is set against that backdrop, featuring the people responsible for deciding what was safe to watch (but that wasn’t censorship of course, only woke snowflakes do that).

Yes, on the surface it is just about a woman and her sister, but it goes so much deeper than that, and I admire it for doing so. This could easily be a cheap slasher, but what Bailey-Bond did with her writing/directing makes it so much more. It’s an experience, and one you’re going to love.

+ The general feeling. Hard to explain, but it FEELS like it’s from another time.

– May be too slow for some.

Best Moment: The ending section. It’s what the film was building towards and it doesn’t let you down.

Best Performer: Niamh Algar. A perfect conduit for the writing of Bailey-Bond

Best Line: “if it’s the nations sanity they’re worried about, why don’t tey stop slashing social services?”

Original Review here

Freaky

Adored this movie. To be expected though as I loved both Happy Death Days. This isn’t quite as good as them, but I feel part of that might be due to the fact I have actual expectations for this, I didn’t for Death Day. This is better in some ways, the kills are much bloodier, it’s more straight-forward, and it has a stronger supporting cast so comes off more as an ensemble piece. There are some things that don’t quite work though. It goes on too long at the end, and we didn’t see enough of Vaughn as Vaughn so that Kathryn Newton’s performance could make references to his physical quirks.

+ Genuinely captivating story.

– Messy script at times.

Best Moment: The woodshop teacher death.

Worst moment: There’s a joke that’s somewhat uncomfortable to hear, and it’s from someone we’re supposed to like, but it’s hard to like when you see they’re a little bit rapey

Best Performer: Kathryn Newton.

Worst Performer: Well it’s not that Vince Vaughn isn’t good, he is, he’s great at it. But there are times where he’s playing his role just as a teenage girl, and not specifically as Newton’s character.

Best Line: Your touch makes my pussy as dry as sandpaper. I can’t wait to kill you

Original Review here

Free Guy

This is fun. It would be hard to imagine hating this movie. It’s funny, goes slightly deeper than you thought it would, and features more than enough shout outs to keep you happy. Could it be better? Definitely. But considering the synopsis, we should be thankful it’s not A LOT worse. It’s available on Disney+ in the UK so if you live there you should definitely watch it next time you need something to do. Unless like, the thing you need to do is heart surgery, then maybe get that done first.

+ Genuinely nice. It’s not a depressing film that’s all about importance and meaning in life (although it does touch upon existensialism at some points). It’s just a fun watch with nice people trying to get nice things.

– The section where he loses his memory and then gets it back is completely unnecessary (although you do get some cool visuals). Quite a few moments here don’t seem to have a reason for existing, and they pull the momentum to a halt.

Best Moment: Millie realising Walter/Keys likes her. Wasn’t pushed too heavily before that so when she starts adding it together, you do too.

Worst moment: Guy reuniting with Buddy. It feels weird that that’s the big emotion they ended the film on, rather than Millie and Walter.

Best Performer: Jodie Comer.

Worst Performer: Lil Rey Howery. For some reason I just didn’t buy his performance here.

Best Line: “what the shit?” – Chris Evans. If you’ve seen it, you know why.

Original Review here

Halloween Kills

I’m well aware I’m rating this a lot higher than most people have. For some people this film is now shorthand for “disappointing sequel”. I loved it. I actually think I might prefer it to the first one (by which I mean the second one, which is the eleventh one). As much as I did like Halloween (the new one, fuck I wish they gave them different titles), it didn’t do too much that I hadn’t seen before. As a film-watcher I loved it, but as a writer it didn’t do that much for me. There was nothing in there to make me go “oh, okay, that’s new”. But this does. Just the general notion here of looking at HOW a town deals with a tragedy, how the paranoia and panic can cause catastrophe. There are more than a few moments in this film where I was sitting there thinking “It would be such a good idea if they did x”, and then they did it.

+ The brutality of the kills. This isn’t a Michael Myers you can stan, this is one who lives up to the description of pure unadulterated evil.

– Doesn’t stand out on its own. While watching it you’re well aware it’s setting up the third one. Plus there are hints they’re going in a slight supernatural direction. Fuck I hope not.

Best Moment: The flashbacks. Technical brilliance.

Worst moment: This may change depending on how the next one starts, but I feel the ending of this where Michael fights back and kills everyone quickly, that should have been the opening of the next one. Then you put the credits where the ending was here.

Best Performer: Jamie Lee Curtis. Putting anybody else would be sacrilege.

Best Line: There’s nothing in that man but pure evil

Original Review here

Minari

A film that is somehow both underated and acclaimed. It did well at award season, but I haven’t seen that many people talk about it for some reason, not compared to other films. Parasite left a much bigger cultural impact than this did, I’m not sure if non-film people would even be aware of this. That’s a shame as this is such a good film. It’s hard to explain why it’s good it just is. It’s an experience watching it. You’re not sitting there going “oh this is where the narrative is going, that was really good sound design, ooo I like that shot”, you’re just taking it all in. It’s the cinematic equivalent of floating down a lazy river taking in the sights.

+ How believable most of the characters are

– The sister seems a bit underwritten. You could take her out and it wouldn’t change much.

Best Moment: The racist kids. They start off saying horribly offensive things, then start getting on with the kids, because that’s what kids do. Meanwhile the adults are pretending to be nice, but are actually super racist.

Best Performer: Youn Yuh-jung

Best Line: “There’s a Korea smell” “you’ve never been there”

Original Review here

Nobody

I really struggled where to put this one. Part of me wanted to put it in the next one. I did really enjoy it, and have since watched it again and it still holds up. I did really enjoy it. Any other year this would have been up there. But there were A LOT of very good films this year. And do I see it as being as essential as the others? Sadly, no. The villain is just too underwhelming, the plot is too basic, and the ending is a bit flat. Still well worth a watch though. It’s incredible what they made here, and is well worth your time.

+ The fight scenes. So well done.

– Underdeveloped side characters.

Best Moment: The bus fight. Not as bombastic as the one in Shang-Chi, but more impressive considering how long some of the takes are.

Worst moment: The ending, a bit meh. Not the final fight scene, the very end, the last two or three scenes.

Best Performer: Bob Odernkirk. Obviously. Especially since he did most of his own stunts.

Best Line: Give me the goddamn kitty cat bracelet, motherfucker!

Original Review here

Nomadland

Yet another film scuppered by the year it came out. Most other years this will be ranked among the best, but there were SO many great films this year that hit the emotional beats this one did, and better. This is really good, and available on disney+, so if you have that service you should definitely check this out. So why is it here and not the next one? It’s a little unfocused, little too lacking in narrative for me to feel a real personal attachment to it. There are moments where it will break you, but that momentum isn’t there for the whole thing.

+ Provides a look at a life often unexamined, feels very real.

– Feels very Oscar-bait.

Best Moment: Sharing stories around campfire after Swankies death.

Best Performer: Frances McDormand. Damn she’s good.

Best Line: I can’t remember the exact line, but there’s a moment where a guy is talking about his sons suicide, and how he loves the road because you always see everybody again, so he keeps travelling because it helps him think he’ll see his son again. That will BREAK you.

Original Review here

Pig

Nicholas Cage gets his truffle-hunting pig stolen. That’s it, that’s the film. This should be awful. With that synopsis, you’d expect it to be something like Taken, just a ridiculous action movie. There’s a scene where he walks into a fight club full of people who hate him, normally that would be a precursor to him just beating the shit out of everyone to prove his manliness. For this? He just stands still and lets everyone punch him in the face. That’s what this film does to you, and it’s great. This is one of the most intimate and personal films of the year, and I love that Cage is now doing things like this.

+ It’s basically art. Beautiful to watch everything happen.

– Some aspects are a bit unexplored.

Best Moment: Him sitting down with a chef he used to know. So tense and beautiful dialogue.

Best Performer: Cage, easily.

Worst Performer: Alex Wolff, just seems a bit of place.

Best Line: “They don’t even know you because you haven’t shown them.”

Original Review here

Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings

This has one of the best villains in the MCU. Most of the villains so far have been “Same as hero, but evil”, yet they’ve still lacked the personal touch that this one had. This also manages to balance the humour and action well, you don’t get many “let me pause this fight so I can make a joke” moments. With the bus fight it has one of the strongest action scenes so far. So why isn’t this rated higher? The third act. You have this beautiful story about family and legacy, a deeply personal tale where we connect with the characters involved and have an emotional connection/investment in. So how does it end? CG big battle where one or two equally powered people square off.

+ Nice to see how they deal with the “Mandarin” from Iron Man 3.

– Awkwafina gets too good at archery way too quickly. Is it just so she has something to do?

Best Moment: That bus fight.

Worst moment: The entire third act.

Best Performer: Awkwafina. She’s a genius.

Best Line: The first time I witnessed pure artistry. 1968. Planet of the Apes. I was sitting in a cinema next to my mum watching mastery unfold before my very eyes. After the film, I asked her, “How did they get those monkeys to do those things?” And she patted me on the head and she said, “It’s not real, pet. It’s just acting.” That’s when I knew. If they can teach those monkeys to act that brilliantly, just imagine what I could bring to the world.

Original Review here

The Father

This is the one I’m most likely to regret putting here. This is superb, the performances are incredible and the way it puts the audience in the shoes of what Hopkins character is going through. I just feel the directing could have been a bit stronger. Zeller is so determined to pull the rug out from under you, he never grounds you. I know it was done the way it was to put you in Hopkins shoes, but there are times where it’s a bit too unsubtle and you are fully aware of what’s going on, even when you’re lost you’re using context clues to put together the truth, and I’m not sure the character is doing that. He is seeing everything as the truth, so we’re not fully in his shoes, we are always observing him, not being him. Yes, I am aware this is needlessly picky. It’s an amazing film, you do need to see it.

+ Great gimmick.

– It feels too much like a play, doesn’t make use of the move to cinema.

Best Moment: The ending, it will break your heart and tear you to pieces.

Worst moment: The slap. Shocking, yes. But doesn’t achieve much besides that, plus we’re not sure if it actually happened.

Best Performer: Hopkins. It’s strange seeing someone usually so strong play someone so defenceless.

Best Line: “I want my mummy” Trust me. It’s brutal.

Original Review here

The Suicide Squad

You may notice a theme here, brilliant films with one flaw that’s too big to overlook. This has the same issue which a lot of similar films have had: the villain. Starro The Conqueror is great, and incredibly disturbing. But Peter Capaldi is wasted. He’s barely given anything to do. What he is given, he does brilliantly, which just goes to highlight how underutized he is. This would be like getting Jimi Hendrix to record guitar for your album and getting him to just play one note. The worst part is this means he can’t be used again in the DCEU. A bit like Idris Elba in the MCU, they had a great actor and they wasted them. Still definitely worth a watch though. It’s funny, incredibly brutal, and a pure joy to watch. From the opening section you’re put on your backfoot, the film constantly revealing itself to you piece by piece so you have enough to know what’s happening, but unsure of what will happen next.

+ I appreciate how dark the reveal is. What Starro has been doing (well, what the government made him do) is horrific and will shock you to your core.

– Basically ignored Birds Of Prey, waste of certain talent.

Best Moment: Peacemaker and Bloodsport killing the members of a camp. Brutal, in an incredibly funny way, and the pay-off is hilarious.

Best Performer: John Cena. He NAILS every aspect of Peacemaker here, and you can tell he’s loving it.

Best Line: “I was happy in space, looking at the stars” INSTANTLY makes the character sympathetic.

Original Review here

Together

This is a difficult watch. At the time of writing, COVID-19 is still a thing, and restrictions are about to be lifted because the PM wants more friends. So watching a film about the pandemic is awkward. I want it to feel passe, I want to actually have to explain parts of this to people, for it to be so irrelevant that it loses something. But it’s not, it’s real, far, far too real and it hits too close to home to be comfortable. But that’s a good thing, this won’t start the fire for revolution in somebody, but it might put some flammable material down and hand a lit match over, telling them they’ve got everything they need, the decision belongs to them.

+ Very very funny, until it’s suddenly not.

-Not timeless.

Best Moment: Horgans massive rant against the government response.

Best Performer: Both Horgan and McAvoy. Absolutely perfect together, they have a natural chemistry I want to see again

Best Line: “are you okay?” Simple, but so perfectly placed.

Original review here

Willy’s Wonderland

Nicholas Cage has gone from “big action star” to “I’m just gonna do the weirdest shit possible” and I am all for it. This is basically a horror film version of Five Nights At Freddy’s (the second film in the last few years that can be described as that, the first one being the Banana Splits film). This isn’t the best film you’re likely to see, but it is one of the most fun. The passion and energy the creators have is visible in every frame, you get the feeling that nobody here is doing it for a paycheck. The story is, well it has a story which is more than be said for a lot of similar films. A good story too, the characters are well developed, their motivations make sense etc. Overall it’s a lot more professional and maturely made than you would think a film with this subject matter is.

+ It’s Nicholas Cage kicking the shit out of robots.

-The animatronics look a little fake at times, and the shakey-cam style is annoyingly overdone.

Best Moment: Super Happy Fun Room. They literally kill a child, that rarely happens in films.

Best Performer: Nicholas Cage. He delivers an utterly captivating performance without saying a word.

Best Line: He’s not trapped in there with them. They’re trapped in here with him.

Original Review here

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