Death On The Nile (2022)

Quick summary: There’s a death, on the Nile.

This had all the hallmarks of a bad movie:

  • Is a sequel
  • Heavily delayed
  • Released in February
  • Middling reviews

Let’s face it though, the reviews don’t count, as they didn’t like the first one either, and I loved it. If you enjoyed that, you’ll enjoy this too as it’s just more of the same. Ensemble cast playing suspicious characters locked in a location. It’s not quite as good as the first one though. It has a lot more wasted time. The first murder doesn’t happen for a long time, and a lot of that running time is somewhat wasted. Some of the performances aren’t that great either. I love Gal Gadot, but she gives some frankly abysmal line readings in this. The visuals aren’t as impressive either. There are some BEAUTIFUL shots in this, shots which take your breath away because of how stunning they are. But then there are scenes that seem too green-screened and fake. Plus there’s one piece of music that used silence too often to be effective.

It’s also awkward to watch Armie Hammer on screen, especially playing someone so sexual. You see him basically dry-humping someone, and in your head is the rape and cannibal accusations, which makes the whole thing slightly uncomfortable.

The rest of the cast is great though. There are some you wish had more to do, but everybody is given a chance to shine. Okonedo has the air of a diva, which is at odds with most roles she plays. Russell Brand gives the best performance he’s ever given. Emma Mackey is distractingly like Lucy Hale, but better (and with a better agent). The worst part of the ensemble cast is how they’re introduced, as part of a larger party, but they’re the only ones introduced, alongside an explanation of why they hate the soon to be victim. It’s a really unsubtle way of showing their potential motivations, there really should have been a better way of doing that.

I have been negative about this, but those are the only negative parts of a very positive film. It’s enthralling to watch and the closing section where Poirot gets pissed off and shuts down the boat is superb to watch, and his deduction is so much fun to see, it set the clues up well enough that you could have possibly figured it out before, nothing is worse than a “reveal” that comes completely out of left field with no foreshadowing. Also has genuine emotion, the handy thing about the delayed deaths is that by the time some of them happen, we are connected with those characters so we feel their deaths. The film also manages to avoid the cliche first-person POV shot of the killer attacking people while the victim stands there and screams “oh it’s you” vague stuff, never mentioning the names BS that harms lesser films. We don’t even know about the deaths until Poirot does. Characters are only known to be dead when he sees the body.

So in summary, a lot of fun, and definitely see it. You’ll enjoy it.

2021 Film Awards

So we’re two months in, and it’s time to finish the summary of 2021 films in the way I usually do: randomly bitching and praising shit nobody has heard of. Some really tough decisions made, and some really easy ones. You might disagree, ask me next week and I might disagree with my own choices, but I had to make them, and here they are. Side note, there’s no “worst film” this year, there were a lot of bad films, but truth be told nothing felt quite bad enough to earn that.

Best Looking:

Blithe Spirit

One of the few things this film did well. It has a great colour scheme so that the visuals really pop. If the film itself was as good as it looked, it would have been one of my favourites of the year.


Almost entirely due to how the final third was directed, film geeks will love what they did with it in terms of how it looks. One of the best examples of using visuals to tell a story.

Come True

Just to warn you, this film is going to come up A LOT in this. I just loved the blue colours over everything. It perfectly matched the music and made the whole thing feel like you were watching it on a CRT monitor. Really unique and I love it.


Striking colours, combined with great costume design. The visuals for a lot of this film consist of dark or boring backgrounds, then bright and stunning foregrounds/clothes to create striking images that you’ll love. There’s something weirdly retro too, makes you think of the time period, and is perfect for story.

Godzilla Vs. Kong

Purely for the sense of scale, this series has been a great showcase for spectacle cinema, and this is no exception. There are obvious plot issues, but I can’t deny how much I loved just sitting there staring at this film.

Love and Monsters

Yeah it’s a surprise to me too, but I love the director brought the world to life. You don’t watch this and feel you’re watching something obviously fake, the CGI is pretty damn good for a film like this. Everything looks and feels like it belongs in that world. It’s so good that sometimes you don’t really notice it, you’re not sitting there going “wow, look at that creature”, the creature is just there, and fits so well into it that it can pass you by.


There were so many times watching this where I thought “yup, that would make a good poster”. Just let down by one of the special effects not really working for me.

Raya And The Last Dragon

The way that Sisu is animated is glorious, a solid character that flows through the air like she’s swimming. I love the way this looked, the little references to Southeast Asian cultures, the amount of water (which is notoriously hard to animate) which looks gorgeous. I just love the way this flows visually. Because of how similar they were I had to choose between this and Luca, this JUST inches ahead due to the building designs.


Mainly for the use of space, well, lines really. The fluid nature to the animation is reminscent of classic disney at its best. The whole thing just feels like an otherworldly dream. You look at it and you can almost hear the music.


Last Night In Soho

Yes, the neon look is great. And the final sequence is a masterclass in visuals. But the day-to-day stuff is great too. The lighting is done in a way that looks natural but has a sharp focus, almost like a spotlight. And the scenes in the club are full of visual beauty.

Most Disappointing

A Quiet Place Part 2

This is where they’ll be a big difference between “Bad” and “disappointing”. Just on its own, this might have been an okay film. But as a sequel to one of the most unique films (horror or otherwise) of the last few years, can’t help but feel this is a poor effort. The new characters don’t feel like they’ve always been a part of this world, and the shadow of the dads death from the first one doesn’t hang as heavy over it as it should.


I had really high hopes for this based on the trailer, particularly one completely bad-ass moment of her running through a warzone. It just didn’t work for me though. The pacing was way off and it has no idea how to keep the momentum going. I feel you could edit this, take out some of the fluff, change the order of some scenes around, and you could get a really good film. But starting on the plantation for about 40 minutes, doing a near thirty-minute flashback to her before she got there, then going back to the plantation makes the whole thing feel disjointed. Tbh you don’t need to know that much information about her before she got there, just a few minutes to establish her life and who she is, then have her wake up in the plantation, look at the horror around her, then credits. It has nothing to say about the past, and as such says nothing about the present. A lot of it is just misery porn.


I was fully on board with this for a lot of it. Sure there were a few moments where I felt “ouch that’s not good”. Bad music choices, the visuals looked too fake and stupid. And then the ending happened, and shat upon all the goodwill I had. It’s a shame as the concept was promising, and it had some good scenes. But it set up questions it had no intention of answering.

The King’s Man

Not exactly a bad film, but nowhere near as good as the previous ones. I really hope they do a sequel to this one because otherwise, it’s completely pointless. It didn’t set up the other two films or answer any questions we had. It’s just to set up something else, it feels like this is Iron Man, and the original 2 Kingsman films are Infinity War and Endgame, like we’re missing a lot of stuff in the middle. It’s nowhere near as stylish as the other two, with no real stand-out scenes.

Black Widow

I avoided spoilers for this, I assumed it would be game-changing. Nope. It just sets up a new Black Widow, something that could have been a tv show. In Taskmaster it features one of the most underutilized villains in the history of the MCU (and all feels way too similar to what they did with Ghost in Ant-Man And The Wasp), I suppose the real villain is Ray Winstones character, but the true villain is his acting coach. Not quite as dull as Eternals, but I had much higher expectations.


Wonder Woman 1984

I remember talking about this with someone before it came out, I mentioned how this reminded me of Thor: Ragnorak and was looking like it was going to be a technicolour ball of fun, as it is it’s just technicolour bullshit. It’s turned a strong independent female character into “I just need a man”. It’s not even an original story, it’s just another soft adaptation of The Monkey’s Paw, which has been done much better in other media. Also, I genuinely can’t remember that much about Kristen Wiigs character, she’s ridiculously underdeveloped, she’s given barely anything to do once she becomes a villain. It still looks good, but the script is diabolical. This is a BIG film, released just over a year ago, and featured a cameo from Lynda Carter, yet nobody talks excitedly about it.

Best Performer

Amy Nostbakken/Norah Sadava in Mouthpiece

Cheating a bit as it’s two performers, but they’re both playing the same character so I’m counting it. For a lot of these, I’m counting things like believability, facial expressions, dialogue delivery etc. They do all of those things well, but sold this for me was how unbelievably in-sync they are throughout. This goes beyond acting into performance art. The way they physically interact with each other is almost ballet-like in its precision and use of space

Riz Ahmed in Sound Of Metal

I mainly know him from Four Lions, he was in Nightcrawler but that was mainly Jake’s film let’s be honest. This? This was incredible. I didn’t know he had this in him. The pain, the torment, the frustration. His character is suffering, and his performance lets you know that.

McKenna Grace in Ghostbusters Afterlife

If she’s in a film I watch, she’s likely to be nominated in this category, every year. That’s how good she is. It’s not bias either, I didn’t recognise it as her while I watched this, all I thought was “I have no idea who that is but she is absolutely nailing every piece of dialogue here”. The way she delivers bad jokes makes them funny, her comedic timing is impeccable, and she’s talented enough that she carries the emotional setpieces too. She’s in a film with Paul Rudd, and outshines him.

Magdalena Kolesnik in Sweat

All the way through she gives a good performance, but the scene near the end where she’s being interviewed and she just breaks down completely. She’s helped by some tremendous dialogue which she conveys beautifully. But there’s a moment in the end where she realises that it was pointless, that nobody cares, that she just needs to smile and get back to work. It’s heartbreaking, and she nails it.

Katja Herbers in The Columnist

The second foreign language performer to be nominated here, both fully deserved. This one slightly edged it out because of how wordless some of her best moments were. You could tell her character was trying to hide her annoyance. It’s a difficult role to do as she has to be likeable, but also a serial killer. So she has to have that weird mix of danger and sweetness. It’s a testament to both her performance, and to the writing, that it works as well as it does.

Billy Crystal in Here Today/Anthony Hopkins in The Father

This is going to be tricky making this work for both but the reasons they work are so similar for both I feel okay consolidating them into one. So here goes: Normally they’re actors who play characters who lead a film, in control of every scene. So to see them play somebody so vulnerable is devastating. It’s so unlike them that it really hits home their situations.

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

Read a review which said she looked “like bad drag”. Fuck off. Besides, the important thing is how good she is in this role, and she’s great, her body language in each scene showing who’s in control. You can tell she’s instantly changed a situation to her advantage just by the way she’s standing. Plus she has an unsure confidence, she has to believe she’s doing what’s right, but there’s a part that’s not.

Rebecca Hall in The Night House

She’s always had a lot of promise but somehow manages to find herself in slightly disappointing roles (Iron Man 3, Godzilla Vs. Kong, Dorian Gray), in this she lives up to the potential you always knew she had. She plays a character dealing with intense personal loss, and that loss is written through every fibre of her performance. So even in the horror moments, you are always fully aware that this is a character tinged with sadness and regret. It’s the kind of performance that would be talked about for oscar nominations if they didn’t hate horror movies for some reason.

Niamh Algar in Censor

Occasionally you get a performer who you truly feel is representing the directors vision, and I feel Algar is doing this here. Her performance feels like it suits the character, the film, everything about it. I really hope her and the director work together in the future as they compliment each other wonderfully. She looks broken throughout and it’s amazing to watch. Even when she’s saying things she’s certain about, her face still seems unsure. It’s perfect for the character and I want to see her in more stuff.

Thomasin McKenzie in Last Night In Soho

This could not have been an easy performance for her to deliver, the emotional range needed is off the charts, and she had to do it all in a Cornish accent, and how did they even explain that accent to someone from New Zealand? Have to say, I never noticed though. I knew I recognised her from somewhere, but I couldn’t place where and I assumed it was some random Channel 4 show. The fact that she is this good, and is only 21 is terrifying and exciting.


Julia Sarah Stone in Come True

Already known to cinephiles in Canada due to her award-winning roles in The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom and Wet Burn, this is the first I’ve seen of her and I now want to see more. Her performance is utterly captivating. This is without a doubt one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in my life. Her performance is seen in every moment of her performance, from her body language, her facial expressions, everything is filled with little nuances that sell her character.

Worst Performer

Ray Winstone in Black Widow

You’d think he’d be great at this, he’s basically a mob boss with access to superpowered beings. But his accent is SO bad it’s laughable. It’s so hard to take him seriously as a threat when his accent his travelling more than someone who doesn’t understand the rules of basketball. I haven’t heard accents this bad outside of someone being slightly racist.

Leslie Mann in Blithe Spirit

Again, the accent. I can’t tell what nationality her character was supposed to be, was she supposed to be British and couldn’t quite manage it, or was she just supposed to be posh and her mind automatically leant slightly British?


Lebon James in Space Jam

He can’t act. At all. His character admits that in the film, doesn’t make it better.

Best Soundtrack

Come True

Has one of my favourite songs I heard in 2021. If you listen to this you can instantly tell the tone of the film. Is great to listen to. But even outside of that song, it’s great. Haven’t heard a soundtrack this creepy this It Follows.


One of the best examples of music syncing with animation in a while. The whole thing plays like an art piece, the animation moving with the music in a wonderful flowing motion. Not quite sure how it would work independently, but it is marvellous as part of something bigger.


Following the John Wick rule of using older music, and just like that it worked. It gives the violent scenes an air of beauty and class they wouldn’t have otherwise. Not exactly a soundtrack I would go out and buy, but it suits the film perfectly.

The Suicide Squad

Not quite as good as the others on this list at matching the tone of the movie, but the choice of songs is amazing. Probably one of the ones I’m most likely to listen to on its own.

In The Heights

Another musical, but very different from Annette. I’m not sure these would work on their own, not exactly the kind of soundtrack you’d show somebody who didn’t know the film, you’d needed to have watched this to truly get the songs I think. But once you watch it, you’ll love the music. The best one is probably the opening one, it does a great job of telling you who everybody is. This film had the advantage obviously of coming from an already established musical.

Last Night In Soho

Edgar Wright is one of those directors (similar to Gunn actually) who knows what songs to pick to make a great soundtrack. Definitely the case here, obviously the key musical motif is Downtown, but the rest of the film has songs that suit it too. They’re great at setting the tone.



Musicals normally have a sense of playfulness, except for adaptations like Les Miserables. This is dark, but in a beautiful way, and the music suits that. The opening number is probably the scene I’ve watched the most on youtube this year, when I watched it originally I rewound it multiple times because I wanted to feel the magic again. Part of that was the song chosen. It’s dark, but also playful, a Sparks song about how the film is starting, starring the cast, and the musicians. There are other really good songs throughout, actually I can’t remember any dialogue, in my head it was all music. Such good songs, there’s one where Adam Drivers character is just going on a rant on stage, and the audience are booing him and telling to go away, all in the medium of song.

Most Surprising


Assumed this would be one of those “oh it’s very well made for a low budget foreign indie film”, but this is genuinely one of my favourite films now. The emotion, the performances, the originality. I loved almost everything about it. Not going to go too much into it as will mention it later.

Love and Monsters

Probably not the best film in this category, a lot of the others I expected nothing and was surprised by them, this, I expected it to be quite bad. If it wasn’t for someone messaging me telling me to watch it I would have avoided it. This is much better than you may think it would be by looking at the poster. Heatwarming, funny, and just overall brilliant

Come True

Went into this knowing nothing, came out with one of my favourite films I’ve seen. Won’t be talking about it much in this one because I talk about it A LOT in other categories.


Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Some of these I went in blind and surprised me that way, some I thought were bad, but then checked them out after being told otherwise. This? I went in thinking it would terrible. The early reviews were very negative, and lets be honest it looked like it could miss the point of the originals completely. The first few minutes I was still unsure, it wasn’t until McKenna Grace’s character was on screen and started talking that I started to realise this could be good. It was better than that. Others in this category are better, but none have had such a big difference between expectations and reality. Loved it.

Best Character

Mav1s – Love And Monsters

Not in the film for very long, not even human. But gives the film some more humanity in its actions. Provides emotion, depth, and some very heartwarming moments. Very reminiscent of Baymax.

Red Guardian – Black Widow

The film was disappointing but it was never down to him. His character was funny and added a weird sense of pathos to it. I know the MCU is moving towards focusing on Yelena moving forward, but I’d much rather see more from him, weirdly I’d actually really want a prequel focusing on him.

Christine – How To Deter A Robber

There’s something so goofy and loveable about her. The moments where she’s on-screen are among the best. Essentially the type of character that Anna Kendrick would play.

Peacemaker – The Suicide Squad

There’s a reason this character got a spin-off. A sociopath who believes he’s a good guy. He is basically America personified.


Podcast/Phoebe – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

With just one of these characters, the film would be good, with both of them it’s amazing. The chemistry between them brings to mind classic 80s films like The Goonies. They’re just so perfect together that I had to include them both. They’re both great for the same reason. Incredibly well written and very funny. But the jokes they make don’t detract away from the tension, they’re not cracking wise while staring death in the face, they’re also not making jokes that kids wouldn’t make. They’re goofy jokes, which reluctantly raise a smile.

Best Film


Oh, this is tough. I may regret this decision. Usually, I just list the films nominated and then put the winner. I know there were a lot of films in the best of the year blog, but when it came to what my absolute favourite was, in reality, it was between this and Come True. I felt it would be disingenuous to list films I know had zero chance of winning, pretending they had a chance, would be a waste of my time writing, and your time reading. It is really close by the way, for different reasons. Come True is a film-makers film, Mouthpiece is a scriptwriters film. In terms of look and technical prowess, Come True runs away with it. In terms of originality, this has it. Come True is better from an analytical and film student perspective, Mouthpiece is better from an emotional one. In the end, it came down to this: If I had to watch both, which would I watch first? And the answer is Mouthpiece, it hit me harder.

So, that’s it for 2021, a surprisingly strong year for cinema. 2022 will probably have more foreign-language and independent reviews, so look forward to these getting a lot more pretentious and finding more obscure stuff. Should be fun.

Uncharted (2022)

A treasure hunter (Mark Whalberg) recruits the bartender brother (Tom Holland) of one of his old cohorts to try and find a shitload of goooooooooooooooold.

Movies based on video games have a bad reputation, for a good reason though: most of them are terrible. Even the best have only been “okay”. I’m actually not that familiar with the Uncharted games. By “not too familiar” I mean “I’m aware that they exist, but that’s about it”. For films like this that can sometimes be an advantage, and sometimes a disadvantage. A disadvantage because if the film assumes you know the game, it won’t tell you certain things which mean you’ll be lost. And an advantage because you don’t get annoyed at things like “but his belt buckle is a dark silver in the games, not light grey like in this. They ruined it! That belt is the most important thing ever, and the colour actually matters for reasons I can’t explain beyond crying”

I’ll say outright this is not the best film you’re going to see, but it’s nowhere near the worst. It’s the kind of film you’d rent from a video shop and enjoy, but not quite enough to buy it, and if it’s on ITV on a Sunday afternoon it would be a pretty good option for you. It’s very fun to watch and you’re not going to spend a lot of time looking at your watch or bored. You may spend quite a bit of time saying out loud “well that’s awfully fucking convenient”. The whole thing works on videogame logic in terms of physics, which makes sense considering, well, you know.

One thing this does very well is work for outsiders. Like I said, I know nothing about the game, yet the film made sense. It gave you enough backstory that you knew who the characters were, and what their motivations are. There are probably references etc that I missed, but most of them don’t make you aware they’re references so you don’t feel lost for not getting them, you don’t realise there’s something to get. There’s one exception, after falling from a plane he says what happens to a stranger on a beach, who replies “yeah, that happens to me a lot too”, and the way it’s filmed makes it obvious this is a reference to something, especially when the camera lingers on this random beachgoers face for an unnaturally long time. It turns out he voices Drake in the game, so I don’t object to the cameo itself, but the way they did it was more hamfisted than me when I’m drunk reaching into the fridge for some cold meat to eat.

It’s directed by Ruben Fleischer, who gave us not only the Zombieland films, but also the first Venom. Actually didn’t realise the same guy did those. If you told me that the guy who made Zombieland made this, I wouldn’t believe you. If you told me the guy who made Venom made this, I’d be like “okay that makes sense”. There’s nothing bad about the way this is shot, it has some good visuals and the set pieces are busy but never look fake despite how ludicrous the action in them is. Even when you have someone get run over by a car in mid-air, you never look at it and notice the CGI. But on the other hand, there’s nothing that really wows you. You’re not going to get future directors be influenced by it. It’s a shame as there’s potential for great visuals in here, but it never really gives them to us.

The plot……let’s face it you’re not watching this for the plot. It tries to have one, and it does work. The only issue is a major character dies and it seems to not affect the plot at all. In this world he’s a rich famous person, so you’d think that would be mentioned again. There are so many ways you could have used it to affect the plot, but having it just to be “hey, this person who killed him is bad” seems a massive waste.

In summary: see it, but don’t pay full price, and don’t go on your own.

Looking For Venera (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Norika Sefa brings us this touching coming-of-age drama about two teenage girls (Kosovare Krasniqi and Rozafa Cefaj) growing up in Kosovo.

The handy thing about watching films from cultures you’re unfamiliar with is seeing how they deal with plots and stories you already know. Everybody knows the standard coming of age tale that takes place between two teenage girls, but we normally see it from an American or British point of view, seeing it from a Kosovan point of view is a fascinating change of pace. This new perspective brings with it new challenges, they’re not worrying about their dad buying them an unfashionable car, or not having a date for prom. They’re worried about shaming their family, and their fathers being angry enough to hit them (which does happen in this film).

This is a world in which equality is a dirty word, especially in regards to gender. Sefa shows this through shooting the main character in semi-close ups, instead of her being the focus of the shot, she’s often just on the edge or slightly out of frame, illustrating her position within the family dynamic (and with 3 or 4 generations of family in the same house, that’s an important dynamic for the characters). As alluded to, there are a lot unconventional shot choices in this. You have close-ups where characters move out of frame, and quite a few shots contain a lot of characters in shadows meaning you can’t see them clearly. It kind of works for this, teenage stories should be slightly ramshackle and unclear, because teenagers are.

It’s not perfect, some people won’t like it, and I’m in no rush to watch it again. But I would recommend you see it at least once, just to experience a new take on an old genre. It’s the new take that causes the cliche to mean something. When they mention the nervousness of talking to a boy, it’s got different energy and subtext than that same conversation would have in an American film.

The true key to this are the performers. Not only are they great individually but you feel a real-life friendship between the two, you can easily imagine them hanging out offset. They have undeniable chemistry which makes this film what it is, and what it is is something quite unique.

Belle (2021)

Quick Synopsis: An adaptation of Beauty And The Beast, with VR, social media, and kayaks.

I love my local cinema, I really do, I encourage everybody to go see films at the cinema if they can. But they do sometimes annoy me. There have been multiple times where they’ve shown posters and trailers for films they then don’t screen: Popstar, The French Dispatch etc. So I suppose I should be glad that they at least showed this, once, at 7:45 on a weekday.

Now that I’ve seen it, I’m no longer annoyed by this, I’m f*cking pissed. This is astounding, and I hate that I left the cinema, text people how great it was, and yet they are unable to watch it like I did. This deserves to be watched. It’s probably the best film I’ve seen so far this year, not my favourite, but definitely the best. The emotion, the music, the story, the animation, it’s all so wonderful.

It is an adaptation of Beauty And The Beast, but a very loose one. It uses it as a foundation, but then takes it in a new direction. It’s like the original is a stick figure of a person, and this is a Picasso. You can see the similarities, but you wouldn’t recommend it to fans of the original.

You may be forgiven for thinking this goes a bit silly and light. That would be wrong, it goes dark. The revelation that the “beast” is a teenager who’s being beaten by his father, and the moments where he is hunched over and shaking are when he’s protecting his younger brother are heartbreaking. As are when the dad approaches the main character and attacks her in public.

The music is FANTASTIC too, wasn’t in English (obviously) but the melodies are terrific and haunting. There’s a weird ethereal beauty to it, like a fog made of reassurance and kind words. Definitely the best soundtrack of this year, not exactly the kind of songs you’ll listen to on their own individually, but definitely the kind where you’d sit down and listen to the whole soundtrack on your headphones.

The animation? It’s strange, some may hate it, some will love it. There are moments where it’s a bit “off”, but when you remember that those scenes are taking place in a virtual reality world it all makes sense that the buildings would have that weird feeling to them. There are moments where it feels like the backgrounds to some scenes are photos, and it’s certainly an acquired taste, but it’s one I like. The director, Mamuro Hosoda, also directed Wolf Children, and The Girl Who Lept Through Time, both of which have been highly recommended to me by multiple people.

So in summary, you have to see this. It could have been a cliche romance, instead, it’s a heartbreaking tale of online identity, systemic abuse, PTSD, art as therapy, plus it doesn’t end with a romance. There’s no “she loves him” ending, it has a “she loves herself” ending. Much more beautiful. I already know I’m going to buy it, I have to see it again. Have you ever been at a gig and there’s a moment where the singer stops singing, the band stops playing, and people stop cheering? In that moment where the only sound is thousands of people singing in unison? The mass emotion and passion seem to carry everybody today to a better place? Sure, life is shit, but at that moment, everybody belongs, everybody is as one, and it’s glorious. That’s what this film is like. Stunning, beautiful, and an experience you’ll carry with you.

Moonfall (2022)

Quick Synopsis: The moon is out of orbit and will soon crash into the earth. It’s also not a rock but a spaceship.

This movie is fucking stupid. There’s no denying it. I mean, just look at it, how can this not be incredibly dumb? Luckily it knows how dumb it is and never really tries to be more than that. It’s not aiming to win any awards, which is good as it’s definitely not going to.

It’s also quite fun though. It’s ridiculous, I kind of want to watch this with someone who knows a lot about science, just to hear them get annoyed. There are so many instances where you want to shout out “that’s not how science works!”. But it’s so ridiculous that you just kind of roll with it.

It’s not really a film meant for analysis, which is good because if you do that it is lacking. I don’t mean in terms of intelligence (because that’s obvious), but the story is a bit meh. I’m not asking for fantastic storytelling, but when an entire sub-plot can be excised that says something. There’s a whole section about the guy’s son (along with her daughter and nanny) driving to get somewhere. A complete waste of time, doesn’t influence the plot at all and would not be missed if it wasn’t there. Those two characters aren’t particularly fun to watch either, they’re kind of bland. The only thing it adds is some car chases which the lowered gravity makes a bit more unique. Although those chases only happen because they happen to meet the same bandits 3 times.

It’s also aggressively American. Despite it being possibly the end of the world, we only really see how it affects America. Think back to Independence Day and the sequences of world landmarks being blown up, yes it was cheesy and a bit silly, but it showed that it was a worldwide event. This briefly mentions over countries in passing, but we don’t see it. For some reason, only America is considering how to stop this (although their solution is to nuke the moon, which is actually something they genuinely considered doing in real life, not even lying). It would have been good to see it as a multi-national collaboration, especially since they could cast actors who are unknown in the US but famous in other countries for quick cameos etc just to increase the visibility of the film in those countries.

A big upside is how it looks, it looks incredible. There’s a lot of effects work going on here and it never looks too fake. For some reason, there are conversational scenes that do look fake though. It’s weird, they can do massive grandiose scenes, but then you have two people talking and you can tell it looks like it’s in front of a green scene. How can they mess up something that simple?

So in summary: don’t pay to see this, wait until netflix, then get drunk as hell and watch it.

Nightmare Alley (2021)

Synopsis: In 1940s New York, Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) joins a travelling carnival and meets Mary Cahill (Rooney Mara). Together the two of them set up a fake psychic act to con people out of money in this neo-noir thriller by Guillermo Del Toro.

This was not what I expected. I knew it would be dark, and I knew it would be impressive. But I thought it would be fantastical and strange. It’s not, it’s incredibly grounded, in fact, it’s downright sceptical towards a lot of the tricks of the trade, James Randi would be proud. The story isn’t as focused on the carnival as the advertising would make you think. Most of the characters are only that prevalent in the opening. Now in the past, I’ve talked about how I dislike that kind of thing, how losing all your characters after the opening can make it seem like it was pointless. But it worked for this. Even when the characters aren’t on screen, their presence is felt in the actions of the main character. So they never really feel like they’re not there.

Plus it helps that the rest of the film is incredibly compelling. This is essential a Del Toro film noir, and I love what he did with it. He’s perfect for that genre and it makes me wish he did more. His visual style suits it so well. There’s a dark beauty to the visuals and the lighting makes everything sharp and impressive. The music is good too, but it is probably the least memorable part of the film. Everything else is a 8/10 but that’s just a 6. Across the board the performances are fantastic. As much as I’ve enjoyed Bradley Cooper as an actor, this is probably the first time I’ve seen him in something and been truly lost in his performance. It baffles me how this film has been nominated for so many awards, yet his performance hasn’t (as of the time of writing anyway).

I should point out that this is a remake of a 1947 film starring Tyrone Power (whose daughter Romina makes a cameo in this), which itself was based on a book. I don’t know how much it changes from those two source points, but I want to know. Because of this film, I want to see the original, I want to read the book. The original was not a financial success, only finding acclaim afterwards. Sadly it looks like this might do the same. It’s a shame as this is probably the best-made film of the year so far. Seems like one of those films where people who see it like it, but not enough people see it. I’m hoping it makes it back on streaming etc as this deserves to be successful. If you sit down and watch this you’re going to like it. You might now enjoy it, but you’ll like it. This isn’t a happy film you watch with your family, this is a film you watch on your own like you would read a book. You set time aside, turn the lights off, and sit in the dark as you let the world take you in. Set aside something afterwards though, the ending is brutal. Well not the ending itself, but the inevitable aftermath. You know what the ending means, you know what it will end up leading to for the character, and so does he, but he can’t do anything about it. He has to just resign himself to his fate, and as an audience, so do you. It’s bleak, but really the only way this story could end.

This could be the final week this film is available for viewing at many cinemas across the UK, so get to it as soon as you can. I say it a lot, but this truly deserves a cinema viewing if you can.

Black Medusa (2021)

Synopsis: By day Nada (Nour Hajri) is a reclusive young woman in a boring office job. She doesn’t speak. By night she picks up men in Tunis’ vibrant nightlife. Here too, she doesn’t speak. She listens to their stories. She goes home with them. And then she kills them.

I’m still uncertain about this. It’s definitely not an easy watch, it’s certainly not cosy, but what it is, is intriguing. It’s one of those films which you watch and you think “maybe I should turn it off” but if someone grabs the remote you tell them to put it down and live the film on.

This film is nothing if not incredibly brave, not many films would start with the main character raping a stranger with a broomstick (the last Spider-man film excluded, obviously). This takes an unflinching look at the character and her actions. It doesn’t condemn her, but it also doesn’t focus on giving her too much of a tragic backstory (there’s a moment early on in flashback but it’s not one that’s focused on throughout the film, it’s a relatively brief moment). It’s not “she is evil”, or “she is good”, it just says “she is”. We’re not asked to judge her, we’re just asked to observe. There’s a cold, emotionless feeling to the killings. We don’t focus on the faces of the victims, sometimes it’s not even on her, we’re watching from a distance, in the dark. It’s strangely compelling.

From a technical standpoint, a lot of this is wonderful. There are some great long shots. The camera staying still as the characters walk towards it from the far end of the street, really highlights how empty the streets are in a way that a more traditional tracking shot would not have. The sound too, the way they use silence when she’s walking down a street really highlights the emptiness of the location. There’s a scene where she kills someone in a house and it is so artfully done, there’s no music, no dramatic cuts. Just the sound of the knife hitting flesh, and shoes squeaking on the floor, to a static camera.

This film isn’t for everybody, for starters, it’s subtitled which may put some people off. It’s not too big an issue but there are a few moments where the subtitles aren’t placed greatly, they linger long after a character has spoken. I know that was probably an outside company that did that, but it’s still not great and does harm your enjoyment. It’s also in black and white, but sometimes that worked for it, there’s a scene in the woods where it’s incredibly bright and striking, in a way we don’t associate with black and white movies often, the character is truly happy, and we can tell from the lighting. But then it almost instantly changes and becomes a lot darker. The way they did it could not be done as effectively if it was in colour.

But then are times when the lack of colour hurts it, where so many things take place in shadows that you can’t really tell what’s going on. It does feel like it could be a bit more straightforward in some ways too. It’s a relatively simple story but it’s being told like an art-house student film in terms of how long the cuts are, and what it refuses to show you.

As frustrating as it is enjoyable. You will be annoyed at what you’re watching, but you won’t be able to turn away. It’s fascinating and unique. Plus the sounds of the stabbings were wonderful in how “wet” they sounded. As fascinating as it is though, I do wish it was better. I wish there was more character work, I wish there was less stuff there only for the sake of “well this is ART”. Ultimately, I wish it had a point to it.

Licorice Pizza (2021)

Quick synopsis: A coming-of-age comedy-drama about a romance between a 15-year-old boy and a 25-year-old woman.

I can sense this is one a lot of people will read and disagree with me about. I just never got past the general concept. It just doesn’t sit right with me. The film ends with them getting back together and it making them happy. It’s presented as a good thing. The whole thing would have been improved if there was even a hint of uncertainty about the whole thing. I don’t like stealing endings from other films, but if they just redid the ending of The Graduate it would have improved it a lot. Add some uncertainty, make it clear to the audience that these people are making terrible choices. I’m not sure why they’re those ages either. Her character is so immature and he is starting businesses all the time so nothing would have been lost if you cut the difference and made them both 20.

It might have been easier for me to enjoy it if the two leads were likeable. They’re not, at least not when they’re with each other. They bring out the worst in each others characters, it makes Cooper Hoffmans character (Gary) seem more of an insecure incel-like asshole, and it makes Alana Haim’s character (Alana) seem more petty and stubborn. The two are never less likeable than when they’re with each other. There’s a moment where he tries to get her an acting gig, telling her “if they ask if you can do anything, say yes, always say yes if they ask anything”. They ask her if she would be comfortable doing nude scenes, she says yes. He’s annoyed. He explains later “oh, so you won’t show me your boobs but you’ll show the whole world?”. It just shows that he’s not mature enough for this kind of relationship, which is to be expected because, you know, he’s 15. But her reaction, of leaving, then coming back and flashing him, means he wins. His insecure way of dealing with things got him what he wanted. It would be like if a film showed the main character sulking because the restaurant wouldn’t give them a free meal, and then the restaurant acquiesces. Nobody learns a lesson, and everybody seems a little bit less likeable.

There are also moments where she’s needlessly needling him, just verbally poking him and exploring his biggest flaws just to annoy him. This isn’t cute, it doesn’t make her fun or playful, it makes her seem really manipulative, honestly considering the age it seems kind of abusive.

When they’re apart from each other, they’re much better. Her anger is aimed at more just causes, his determined nature and optimism make him seem more like a teenage wheeler-dealer than the sad sack he is when he’s with Alana. When they’re dealing with other characters they’re a bit more tolerable. The trouble is they meet other people far too often, and it branches off into plot points that only happen very briefly. For example, Gary is shown at the start to be a former child actor. Alana accompanies him to a performance (because he needs to be accompanied by an adult) and he hits the main performer in the back of the head. In this section, there’s tension with another child actor (played by Skyler Gisondo), but then he’s never seen or heard from past that section. Characters just flit in and out of the film without rhyme or reason. It feels like an ensemble piece that has been half-written and is going to complete the other characters arcs soon.

On the plus side, it has a very unique look to it. The moments where the couple meets with historical characters are quite fun, and the soundtrack is among my favourite of the year so far.

It feels not enough like a compelling story, and more like a 15 year old lying to his mates about what he got up to over the holidays “I dated an older girl, went to new york, played pinball, and sneaked a beer” A lot of people will like this, they’ll find it charming. Just wasn’t for me, I wasn’t charmed, and I found the narrative lacking. I’ve seen some people say “well you’re not watching the movie correctly if you’re looking for a narrative”. Possibly. The only Paul Thomas Anderson film I’ve seen before was Inherent Vice, and I didn’t rate that too highly either. Maybe I just don’t vibe with his style of film-making, it happens sometimes.