Mouthpiece (2018)

I put the original release date in the titles of all reviews on this site, not entirely sure why but it’s something I started doing so it’s now something I can’t stop as it’s the house style. Usually I end up with the previous years date in the title until about mid-June due to US films getting them before us, never had one 3 years out though. If you look at the poster you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a Scandinavian film with English subtitles. It’s actually from Canada, lead exporter of hockey pucks, politeness, and sexy Ryans.

I’m not really sure why it took so long to get a UK release, especially on demand. Maybe it’s the non-sexual nudity, or the female masturbation scene (women enjoying themselves sexually is something cinema is still not comfortable with for some reason). I hope that’s not the case, and it’s probably not, but there’s like a 1% chance that is the case. Either way, it got released on various VOD platforms in the UK this year, and better late than never, if this film came out years ago when lots of stuff was released there’s a chance I wouldn’t have seen it as it wouldn’t have caught my eye. That would have been a real shame as this is the first genuine hidden gem of this year so far and it’s hard to imagine a film I know nothing about impressing me quite as much as this one did.

I often see films described as “performance art”, and that is never more true than this film. It features two characters playing the same character simultaneously, so everything they do is in sync in some way. It’s a GREAT gimmick and it really helps display the inner turmoil of the character and the duplicity of humanity which resides in all of us. There’s a moment where a guy is creepy to her (them? I have no idea whether to refer to the main character as plural or singular, it’s a unique film). One of her swears at her, but the other thanks him.

Now onto the negative, I feel this film could have been smaller. It’s adapted from a play so I expected it to make the most of the gimmick and have the two sides of the character interact with each other but it doesn’t do that too much, instead it introduces a lot of other characters, which slightly detracts away from the core story of a person losing their mother. When I saw what the film was about I expected it to be incredibly isolated and mainly be the two of them conversing with each other. Maybe that’s on me for it not being what I expected, as it doesn’t exactly make the film bad, it’s still a great watch.

As I mentioned, this film was based on a play, and I want to see it now as I’m curious as to how it worked. There are moments here which never would have worked on stage. An example of this is the characters walking around a shopping mall discussing the funeral when it goes into one of them imagining doing a musical number (with subtitles) at the funeral, which then leads to an argument from the two characters (well, two people, as I said, they’re the same character). I have no idea how that could work on a stage but it really works here. The sense of depressive playfulness is great. There are other moments which I’m curious to see how they were done on stage (if they were done at all), mainly the extensive flashbacks. This is how play to film adaptations should be done, they should recognise the differences between the two formats and use it to do things that weren’t possible in the original that enhance the story. I believe the two main characters were also the ones in the play, and that really helps the film as they GET the characters. Would it have been more successful if they cast bigger actresses? Probably. Would it have made the film better? Not a chance. The performers, Norah Sadava and Amy Nostbakken, wrote the original play. So they know the material, and they know how to play every single moment in the most perfect way possible. Seriously, I cannot praise their performance enough, they’re a key part to this working.

I wish this film hit slightly harder, it didn’t leave me a complete emotional wreck, it just made me feel bleak for a while. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hit hard occasionally, the funeral scene is a highlight in terms of staging and performance. It starts with the two versions of her fighting to get to the one to deliver the eulogy, then the one who wins is physically unable to make it up to do it as they keep being pushed back by an unknown force. The two then embrace and walk up, delivering it together. Starting with them alternating dialogue, and then in tandem. It’s thematically the best way this film could end, in terms of narrative, in terms of film style, and in terms of character, you will not find a more deserving ending to a film than this.

Some people will resonate with this film a lot more than I did, and for some it won’t mean anything at all, but I recommend everybody gives it a go, you may love it, you may hate it, but it’s an experience you need to go through. Is it better than Soul? No. But if someone asked me to recommend a film from this year, I’d go with this first, purely because I believe it to be a film more people need to be aware of.

Toni And Cleo (feature-length script)

So as you may know, I occasionally post my own scripts on here, and that’s what today’s is about. Sometimes with my longer scripts I’ll post updates as I go so that you can see it all develop and come together. That’s not the case here, all I’m giving you is that it’s a follow-up episode to this. For those of you who didn’t click that, first off; rude. Second: a school shooting occurred. That’s all that’s relevant from that episode to this one. It features the same situation, but different characters and a different time frame. I hope you enjoy, worked really hard on it and incredibly proud of what I’ve managed to do:

Spoilers, so read that before you read on.

This went through quite a few different iterations while I was writing it. The moment where she burns the pictures of her son as she thinks he’s the killer, and only finds out the truth too late? That was originally the ending. Decided against that as it meant I was unnaturally delaying the characters from getting to that location. They would have gone straight there so narratively it was difficult to make that interesting. Would have just been people driving and talking, and that’s quite difficult to make compelling. My next ending was her finding out that her son was actually a good person, and beat people up for a good reason. Again, I brought that forward, because Toni was too sad and I needed to do something to cheer her up. The other major change was introducing the character of Esther. I never planned her to be in it, she turned up in the script one day and I was intrigued by what I could do with this character. I then decided to adjust the timeline and have a lot of it take place in flashbacks, so the show started on the set of Esther and we kind of worked the story back towards that point. The original opening was Toni’s husband leaving her. I don’t think it added anything to the story or the characters, so I deleted it and it doesn’t feel like it’s missing so worked out for the best.

The introduction of Esther also allowed me an antagonist. In the original draft the antagonist role was taken by someone very different: Toni’s sister Cleo. This is why the way they interact in the car from the airport is drastically different from how they do otherwise. I felt Toni needed someone who supports her, and Cleo was the best choice. It didn’t require much changing, I changed some of their dialogue to take place between Toni and Esther instead, other than that I kept it the same. That’s kind of weird but I feel it makes sense in the story, the two sisters do react with some hostility when they meet, and that relationship does change so there is the chance it could come off as unnatural. But luckily I made this change when I got to the part of the story where the shooting happens, so the audience just sees it as “they’ve put aside their petty differences because they’ve realised what’s important”. So it weirdly makes sense (albeit completely accidentally).

The other change was the ending. It did end with Esther shooting herself, and ending I was never really happy with, only had it happen because it needed an ending and it needed to be at that point (was going to make it twenty pages longer but when I got to that point I just felt “this has to end in the next few pages, otherwise it would feel wrong”). I’ve changed it so she walks out in shame (was going to have her arrested, but despite being a horrible person, she never technically broke any laws, plus, I knew enough about her character to know she’d flourish in prison). A fantastic ending is out there somewhere, I just need to try and find it.

Yeah, that was that. I hope you enjoyed it, any feedback will be greatly appreciated, and thank you for your time. Oh, and I am aware I labelled this a “feature-length” script, despite it being a television episode. My aim for every episode of this is that they could work as stand alone features with a little tweaking, and I firmly believe that to be the case here. Plus, if I said it was episode three people would feel they would have had to read the first two (which considering I haven’t written the second one yet, would be difficult)

Antebellum (2020)

I’m going to hate myself for saying this, but there’s something VERY Jordan Peele about this film. I know how that sounds, “oh, so all horror films starring black people are Jordan Peele ones now?”. Obviously that’s not the case (it just seems like it because the media can only focus on one black director at a time), but this film is very reminiscent of some of his work. Particularly in the use of music to turn seemingly idyllic shots into horror ones. That’s where the similarities end, this is nowhere near as good as Peele’s work.

In fact, this is actually quite poor. The pacing is one reason, it takes over 40 minutes for the film to introduce a major plot point. This meant it was weird watching for me as I remember watching the trailer and being like “okay this is set in the civil war era, but didn’t she come from modern day and just wake up there? Is that not part of the story?”. And it is, it just doesn’t really go into the modern world until too late in the film. It then stays there for a long time. I get what they were going for but all it really achieved was taking you out of the narrative of the plantation.

As I said, I get the logic behind doing it, horror movies need to start with the horror, particularly for modern audiences who don’t care too much for story and character. So if you had all these non-horror moments in there means you wouldn’t get the audience in the correct mood for the film. But doing it this way means you get taken out, and it really disrupts the flow. I’m not entire sure how you’d fix that, either cut it in half and still put it at the start so her waking up in the plantation is the inciting incident, or you could possibly intercut it, so it doesn’t happen all at once, but in small sections. So you have both narratives happening at the same time.

Also, the way it’s done means you guess the ending. I somehow already knew the ending, but even if I hadn’t, the nature of the flashbacks would have told me. If it started with her in the modern way, then she goes to sleep in a hotel and wakes up in the plantation, then there would have been a “oh maybe it was supernatural” element to it. As it is, you know exactly what happened, and it takes far too long to get there.

Having a THIRTY MINUTE flashback scene is overkill, and really doesn’t work. The writers/directors of this film have primarily worked in shorts, and writing for those is very different from feature length. You can’t anchor the entire thing on one killer scene, and you need to pay particular attention to making sure you have a long narrative, and not just a series of scenes.

There is a fantastic story to be told in this film. About how white America is still haunted by the sins of a past it refuses to acknowledge (it’s very telling how Americans describe the Civil War as “a war to free the slaves”, rather than “a war to keep slaves”, which is just as accurate). About how modern racism is still a thing, and just as cruel and sadistic as it was back then. About how the nostalgia for certain time periods is anchored in “back when those people knew their place” (British people are just as guilty for this btw, forever waxing lyrical about the good days of the empire). The film does make those points, but is more interesting in making those points, than building a narrative around those points.

Onto the good: Janelle Monae gives a great performance, definitely the films best, you are with her character every step of the way. The idea of a racist being dragged by a rope around their neck and being killed by hitting a confederate statue is incredibly smart. As I alluded to earlier, the music is great. Plus the moment of her riding through a “battle” on horseback is incredible, and just what the film needs. It’s a shame as I was really looking forward to this ever since I saw the first trailer. Looked like it was going to be an incredible piece of social satire with a captivating story. So fair to say, the result is incredibly disappointing, and should have been guessed by how the US release came and went and I heard no buzz about it.

Soul (2020)

Two minutes into this I knew it would break me. Somehow I hadn’t even seen a trailer for this so I genuinely had no idea what to expect, I knew it had something to do with music, but other than that, nothing. This is the part where I say “and I’m glad as it meant I went in with no expectations so I enjoyed it more since it was all a surprise). I’m not entirely sure thats applicable here though as I feel that even if saw a trailer, I still would have enjoyed this. It has so much heart and soul (OMG that’s the title of the movie) that no trailer could have ruined this movie for me. It could have put all the plot points in, ruined the ending, used a Black Eyed Peas song, all things I normally hate from trailers. It could have done all of that and I still would have enjoyed the film.

By this point, you know what you’re getting with Pixar, you’re either going to get one of the greatest kids films you’ve ever seen (Monsters Inc, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo), or you’re going to get something that at some point will make you cry like a baby cutting onions while wearing menthol-shooting glasses in front of a stranger. This is the second one, and very much so. I’m not really sure whether this would count as a kids movie, would you show this to a child? It seems you’d only show this to a child if you wanted them to have an existential crisis. Disney have done stuff like this before, the obvious one being Inside Out, but that distracted you with it all taking place in a childs head, and having a colourful playfulness to a lot of the darkness. This is different, it has a certain playfulness to it, yes. But it’s still a playfulness rooted firmly in the concept that the main character is dead and scared of moving onto nothingness as he feels he’s accomplished nothing. There’s no sugarcoating the medicine in this, it’s incredibly in your face and there is a chance that this will hurt its chances of being loved among kids.

For someone like me? I loved it. Pixar know what they’re doing. They generally make films which can only be made as animated (with the possible exception of Wall-E maybe) and this is no exception. Yes, a lot of it takes place in this world featuring a person and a cat talking, so you can do that live action. But the moments taking place outside of the real world, which exist as more of an abstract concept than a reality? That does things that ONLY animation can do. The fluid nature of the characters being shown as shapes and concepts is not something that would be possible in live action.

So in summary, if you have disney+, you HAVE to watch this. If you don’t, find another way to watch it. The first truly great film I’ve seen this year, and in terms of animated films it will take something truly special to upstate it.

Blithe Spirit (2020)

This, this was not a great movie. It’s in the running for one of the worst of the year already. I hope it is anyway as I can’t cope with films that are a lot worse than this. It’s a shame as I like Noel Coward’s stuff, his dialogue and situations are really good and are timeless, IF they’re performed correctly. The issue is that a lot of adaptations of these kind of films have the actors play the same way: they are full of overacting and BIG body language. Essentially they get performed like people think they were performed on the stage back in the day. The trouble with this is acting is different on stage and screen, on the stage you perform for the people at the back, so you need to be physically expressive and larger than life, especially in comedies, there is no place for subtle facial language. Film is different, the camera is close, so you don’t need to act so big, you can be more subtle, you can be quieter, and a lot of adaptations don’t take that into account and it’s frustrating. Not just because it seems fake and unnatural, but also because, even if the film was made this year, it makes them seem incredibly dated.

So that’s the issue with this film in general. More specifically? It just doesn’t have that spark that the film needs. I often talk about actors performances and mention how it feels like nobody actually enjoyed making the film, and how this can hurt it as everyone seems too wooden. This is the opposite, everyone seems like they’re having too much fun, it’s like they’re all just dicking about and waiting for someone to tell them “okay we’re starting now”. I watched it and I can’t tell what nationality Leslie Mann’s 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?

Coward’s plays are iconic, and it can feel like sacrilege to mess with them. But by continuously restraining adaptations to his own timeline you’re doing his work a disservice. The basic plot for this film would still work today, the concept and the characters would still be suited for a modern age. People update Shakespeare for a modern age all the time, so there’s no reason someone can’t do it with something like this. It would make it seem less dated, and would stop everyone giving the “oh darling how fabulous” style performances they all feel compelled to give in these movies.

On the plus side, some of the dialogue is incredibly funny, and it looks great. Often when films are set before 1950’s directors have a habit of either making everything rather murky and drab, or just gold-colours everywhere. There’s no room for bright reds and blues that pop. This is the exception, it’s a very colourful film and is a visual delight. It’s just the shame the rest of the film isn’t as good.

Let’s See You Do Better: Update 5

I’ve actually finished. A 104 page script complete. It’s not perfect, I added a plot point half-way through writing that I’m going to need to set up better. And I’m thinking of completely changing the opening (as seen here). But other than that I’m pretty proud off what I’ve done. It’s not the greatest Freddy film, but I am confident it’s better than the worst, and really that’s all this was for, was to prove there’s no excuse for film studios to churn out bad scripts. I’m not going to post it all yet, will do once I go through it, but I will give you the ending as it’s probably the most “controversial” part of it.

So to bring you up to speed with the characters:

  • Bruce, summons Freddy to help him stop having nightmares about his mother molesting him. In this he just came out of a coma where he spent every moment in an empty void of nothingness which has driven him slightly mad. He’s also written a screenplay based on Freddy (which is implied to be the first Nightmare On Elm Street film) and posted it.
  • James and Molly. The last survivors. Just before this scene they entered a police station to dispose of evidence of Freddy. In this universe, the town are using Freddy as a form of justice, unleashed on someone if they break the law (or become “undesirable”, which is a fucking chilling thing to think of by the way). All the information about Freddy is at the station, so they hope by destroying it, the town won’t be able to use it as a form of justice anymore because if nobody finds out about Freddy, he can’t be effective.

So without further ado, here’s the ending:

Read it? Good. So yeah, I did the ending to a Freddy film where he barely features. I know some people won’t like that but I think it suits this film better. This was never Freddy against the teens, this was always about someone using Freddy for his own ends, and that person is more important to the story than Freddy is.

Quite like the ending i’ve got (even though I blatantly stole the final scene from Watchmen), because I went abstract as hell. It made sense as if it’s a dream world, you don’t want a normal fist fight, you want something that can only exist in this film.

Coming 2 America (2021)

It’s been a while since I’ve done this, I hope I can still review in the eloquent way you’re used to. Here goes:

Film yes good? Or film be bad? What be story?

Okay now that’s done, let’s onto the serious bits. Well I say “serious”. One of the most unrecognised downsides of cinemas closing is it’s meant that film marketing has changed. I used to find out when films were on by watching the trailers at cinema, obviously I can’t do that now. Because of that there are films coming out which I don’t know anything about, or in the case of this film, assumed was still in pre-production. I guessed it was coming out soon when cinemasins did a video on the original. I’ve kind of stopped seeing that channel as essential now that a lot of the “sins” include stuff like: “stacks cereal boxes in a way I don’t like”. But I will still watch it if it’s a film I know. I’m really glad I watched it for this, as otherwise a lot of the jokes wouldn’t have landed. That’s both a big flaw, and a great part of this film. It’s full of references to the original, so if that was one of your favourite films you will thoroughly enjoy all the returning characters. If, however, you watched it years ago and can barely remember it, there will be a lot of moments in this where you’re trying to remember who that character is, not remembering them because they were only in a few scenes in the original.

Returning characters aren’t the only cameos though. There’s a moment full of them. The kings birthday. It’s overblown and cultish in a way that’s entertaining in film, but is a horrible to see in reality. I was surprised enough by the Morgan Freeman cameo, then it gave us Salt-N-Peppa, then Gladys Night. It’s fun, and very nice to see.

What’s not nice to see is the incident which kicks the plot off, when it’s discovered that Eddie Murphy’s character has a male child so has a possible successor that he doesn’t know about. He seems confused about this as doesn’t remember having sex with anyone else. We find out that during the trip in the first film, he was drugged by Leslie Jones character, who then fucked him whilst he was unaware what was going on. Basically, he was raped. The other characters (including his wife) seem to blame him for it and at no point is the woman criticised or reprimanded for it. It’s kind of uncomfortable to watch nobody bring it up. Some of the American characters are….well they’re not great. Their general story arc seems to be “let’s go to Africa and be rich. We’re rich!”. With the exception of his son, most of them just come off as selfish, never changing or learning anything.

Jermaine Fowlers character is the exception, not only does his character grow, but he plays him well. A mix of confidence and uncertainty that plays very well in this film. Which is good as Eddie Murphy’s character isn’t as strong in this film as he was in the first one. I think that’s partly because the film doesn’t know how to treat him. For most of the film he is the king, but his character never seems like he’s in charge. For this story to work his character has to be the comedic straight man, and he sometimes is, but then he’s treated as the standard Eddie Murphy character. It’s inconsistent and harms the film. It’s a shame, the original is still a classic, so anything less than very good means this would be a disappointment, and that’s definitely the case for this. Wesley Snipes is entertaining as hell though.

2020 Awards

Worst Film

Babyteeth

A film that by all rights, I should have loved, instead I hated it with a passion. Part of that is probably just because I didn’t like the characters. But part of that also might be because it has a euthanasia sex scene.

Fantasy Island

The only film I paid to see at the cinema this year. But even if I got in using my trusty cineworld card, I would have been disappointed with this. A lot of the things made no sense. Character motivations were muddled, and it was a complete waste of the potentially exciting premise.

Brahms: The Boy 2

I’m assuming this is bad, I genuinely can’t remember anything from this movie. For all intents and purposes, it’s like I never watched it.

Unhinged

An ugly film with an ugly soul, seemingly directed at similar people.

“Winner”

Artemis Fowl

Fuck you, disney. Your desire to do a book series yet take out the one thing that made the series stand out is a ridiculously stupid idea. It would be like if the makers of Harry Potter didn’t want to put any magic in the films. This film was doomed from the moment they posted the casting notes. I don’t get how you can fuck up a property more than this unless it’s deliberate.

Most Disappointing

See the section about the worst? Yeah, but every single film from that list (with the exception Of Brahms: The Boy 2 Electric Boogaloo) there. All of them I had, well maybe not high, but I had hopes for them. I expected them to be fun, or in the case of Babyteeth to make me feel things. But added to that list are:

Harley Quinn

No I’m not putting the full title here. I really wanted this to be more fun, but for a lot of the time it felt restrained, like it was an 18 film cut down to a 15. It had bits of brilliance, there’s one set-piece in particular which is creative and a lot of fun to watch, I just wish the rest of the film was like it.

Run

Controversial choice, as I did really like this film. But this subject is “most disappointing”, and that, sadly, is the case for this. I went in with incredibly high expectations, I expected this to be a 10/10. I wanted this to be one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and it’s not, it’s just very, very, very good. So yeah, that’s on me.

The Witches

Again, that might be on me, in retrospect I should have realised beforehand that this would not be a good movie, based solely on the complete lack of advertising for it. I really, really wish this was better. I wanted to love this movie. I love the original, and I love Anne Hathaway. Plus I wanted it to be so unquestionably brilliant that racists wouldn’t be able to attack it “see, you change the leads to black people, and it ruins it”. Truth be told, they could have done more with the racial aspect and played it into the story, especially considering when and where the film was set.

Winner

Tenet

The film that was supposed to save cinema, and which had such bad sound design that it would have been better to watch it at home where I could have had subtitles. I’m starting to realise I don’t love Nolan films as much as it seems I should. Interstellar, Dunkirk, they all left me feeling emotionally hollow if I’m honest. They’re very well made, and I appreciate the undeniable genius of the craft that goes into them, but I have no love them. On a personal level, they mean nothing to me.

Best Music

1917

Glorious and epic. Just what a film like this needed.

Spree

If only for the SENSATIONAL use of “I Will Follow Him” over the end credits, will definitely use that in my own stuff.

Babyteeth

One of the few good things about this film. I’m not going to buy this film, or even watch it again. But if possible I would purchase the soundtrack. It created an aural soundscape that complimented the colour scheme. It was weirdly beautiful, and fantastic.

Winner

Bill And Ted Face The Music

OBVIOUSLY! The music is a big part of this, bigger than it has been in any of the previous two films. So if it didn’t work, the film wouldn’t have worked. The final scene with the song is a moment of pure beauty, and the music is a big part of that.

Best Moment

Sonic The Hedgehog – Closing Credits

Weird choice I know, and this won’t be the last time I mention a credits sequence in this section. But the closing credits are essentially the film told but in the style of the old sonic games (a.k.a, the only good ones). No reason for them to do that and nobody would have noticed if they didn’t, but they did, and it’s wonderful. It felt like the only part of the entire film made with love for the source material.

1917 – The Trench Run

Incredibly tense and wonderful. Weirdly enough, it seemed to be improved by a mistake. There’s a moment during this run where the actor stumbled and nearly fell over. It was kept in and it weirdly enhances the scene. It makes you realise that for all the chaos going on around him, he is essentially just a scared youngster. He’s not a badass super soldier, he’s human, fallible, and fucking terrified.

Vivarium – The Drive

There’s a short moment in this film where the couple drive to a house. That’s all it is, a couple driving to look at a new house whilst a song by The Specials plays. Yet the way it’s filmed means it’s one of the best things I’ve seen. Incredibly tense and creepy, a great example of how a director can change a written scene so the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Underwater – Opening Credits

Again, a weird choice. But the way these were done were almost perfect. They set the location up, gave us plot background, and let us know the tone of the movie, so by the time the actual film started you were not only informed of what was going on, but you were also in the right state of mind and knew exactly what film you were about to see. Other films have done this, obviously, but few have done it quite as masterfully as it was done here.

Winner

Parasite – Peach Fuzz

When the family put their plan into action to get the housekeeper fired. It has the pacing and style of a comedic heist movie. It’s interesting to watch, the performers absolutely nail every moment of it, and most of all, it’s fun and playful. A bit of lightness in the darkness of the rest of the movie. If you showed someone this with no context they might think it’s just a cheerful light comedy as opposed to the genre-defining genius it is.

Best Looking

Babyteeth

Considering this was one of the worst films I saw this year, it’s appearing a weirdly high number of times in positive awards.. That’s how good it looked, good enough for me to look past the annoyance I felt. The colour schemes, the saturation, it reminded me of Lady Bird in terms of visual style. It seemed like a throwback of some sorts, but not to a specific time in reality, but to a specific time in your life. Very strange, but very good.

Birds Of Prey

Not a great film, but it had a great look to it. Like being shot in the face with a cocaine paint gun.

Onward

It’s Pixar, their films always look good. They have a certain elastic reality to them so they look both real and fake at the same time. Also, the colours! OMG the colours. Watching this film is like eating a unicorn laced with LSD.

Parasite

The colours! Nah I’m just kidding, this is not about the colours, I’m not some kind of weird person with a child-like mind who looks at films like “ooo, look at the pretty colours”, nope, this is about the pretty shapes instead. The way the director constructed each shot and used the straight lines visible in modern architecture to highlight the class divisions between the characters is masterful.

Winner

1917

This would be there based solely on a single shot. The shot of the town at night, the way shadows and light were used is a showcase for how great cinema can be sometimes. As it is, the rest of the film looks great too.

Best Character

Birds Of Prey – Huntress

Part of that is due to how Mary Elizabeth-Winstead plays her. A superhero lacking confidence and who is slightly socially awkward due to how they know they are supposed to behave. I would definitely watch a solo film by her. I really wanted more from her in this. Maybe if there’s a sequel it will be more focused on her.

JoJo Rabbit – JoJo

Brilliantly played, and brilliantly written. Yes, he’s a nazi, but he’s not fuelled by hate, more by ignorance. He has a definite innocence to him, Difficult to do, if you make him too innocent he comes off as stupid, if you make him too knowledgeable, he’ll come off as, well, like a nazi.

The Invisible Man – Cecilia

Obviously, for the reasons listed in the best performer, oh no, I’ve spoiled that section now. Ah well, I’ll live.

Winner

Onward – Ian and Barley. 

I put them together as they function as a pair. Without the relationship between the two, the film would be a lot worse. It’s essentially a family love story. It goes through the same story beats, just without the kiss at the end obviously.

Best Performance

An American Pickle – Seth Rogen

Anybody who plays two roles convincingly in the same film is doing a good job. Especially when you can always tell which character is on screen all the time. He carries both of them differently enough that even when they’re not speaking, and are in the same clothes, you know exactly which one is which. That’s not that easy to do unless you resort to extreme physical performances which can be distracting. The differences here are different enough for you to pick out, but subtle enough that you can’t define them.

JoJo Rabbit – Roman Griffin Davis

He’s 12, and this was his debut. How the hell did he manage this? I assumed he was one of those stage-school kids who’s been acting his whole life due to being related to someone in the industry. For him to come in and do THIS well shows he’s either got a hell of a future in acting, or a hell of a drug problem in his mid 20s. Either way, big things are coming.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm – Maria Bakalova

Another great newcomer. and something even more surprising considering it’s not her native language. Not just that, but she’s anchoring the film alongside someone who is an expert in this field, and she more than holds her own.

Winner

The Invisible Man – Elisabeth Moss

She has strength, but is fragile. Kind of like a flower made of iron. A lot of that is due to how well the character is, so I’ll go into that in that section. But the way Moss plays her is perfect. She needed to play her as someone who has gone through severe trauma and is still suffering mentally from the damage done to her which restricts her ability to live a normal life, yet also strong enough that you know she has the mental strength to do what needs to be done. If Moss played her too far towards either side it would have been ruined as she would have either come off too weak, or so strong that you don’t believe she’s still suffering. It’s a REALLY difficult line to walk, and she not just confidently walks it, she’s doing fucking cartwheels.

Best Film

1917

January was a great time for cinema, saw so many good films in that month (including JoJo Rabbit, which you’ll be hearing more of), but this was the first film that was simply stunning from a technical view.  Not included as the best because I’ve only seen it at the cinema, I’m not entirely sure whether it will also work on a small screen or whether you’ll lose something.

JoJo Rabbit

A film with this subject has to be REALLY good or it will be deemed a failure. It has the potential to offend so many people that the slightest flaw will cause the general public to circle around it like sharks circling around handbags at a disco, or food. Trust me, this is superb, one of the funniest and sweetest films I’ve seen all year. The rest of 2020 may have been bad, but at least it gave me this piece of brilliance.

Onward

Not a lot of love for this film, and I don’t get why. Even by Pixar’s incredibly high standards, it’s still really good. The voices are well-suited to it, and the story is emotionally satisfying. It deserves it’s place among Pixar’s greatest, and it disappoints me that people don’t seem to love it as much as I do.

The Invisible Man

A real surprise. I expected it to be kind of cheap and schlocky. Like it would not be great, but would be entertaining and fun. I was very wrong, this is not a fun watch, and it’s not cheap. This is a script that you felt the writer HAD to get out of them. It has the air of a passion project for everybody involved. The best part? It didn’t NEED to be this good. It didn’t need to have this much care to make money. It could have been made cheaply and still made money. But the fact that they spent enough money to get this film made, the fact that the script is THIS good, the fact that it has power and emotion to it, THAT’S why I love this film. A film about an invisible man has no right to be as well-crafted as this is.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield

A late entry, but deserves it’s place. This is the best of British film-making, showing the best writing, the best actors, and the best locations. The whole film is basically a showreel for British cinema. Despite watching it at home, I felt like I was watching it at the cinema. It just sucked me in completely until I forgot that I was just sitting in bed watching it while eating pringles.

Winner

Parasite

Incredibly haunting. Been almost a year since I saw it and I’m still not entirely sure I’m over the ending. This is one of those films that sticks with you, the kind of film where after seeing it, you want to have hour-long discussions in the pub afterwards. It’s annoying that soon after this we were banned from going outside, because I wanted to go out onto the streets and tell everybody to go see this film.

2020 In Film Day 5: The Amazeballs

1917

I don’t often like war films, particularly British or American war films. I feel I’ve already seen every story that can be told, at least by the standard studios. How many different ways can there be of saying “War is hell, but our good old British boys were brilliant! That’s it Wilfred, punch those pesky Germans in the nose”? Plus there’s often a weird nostalgia about them. We should not be nostalgic about war, it’s hell. For Brits I feel it’s more “remember when we mattered?” mixed with “We were the good guys twice! This is why Britain is great. Ignore everything except those two moments in history. Even the bits straight after where we interfered in the Middle East and caused most modern Arab conflicts with our decision making in regards to Israel. So ignore that”. It would have taken something incredibly new for me to be into this, and it was. It’s done almost like a single shot, with only one really obvious edit. It’s almost like the film knows you’ll be disappointed by the obvious edit, so follows it up with an incredibly lit sequence set in a bombed out city. The look of that entire sequence is incredible and I love it. 

Original review here.

+The fact they pulled it off

-the opening section seems a little bit too “walk to point A, now walk to point b, now back to A again”, it’s the only part where I felt the film needed a cut.

Best moment: the run across the battlefield. It’s cinema at its best.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

Who would have expected this film to be so beautiful? Yes it’s also horrifying in the things that people say and believe, showing a real nasty undercurrent to American culture in the age of the Tangerine Tyrant. The writers must have known that they would be showing the uglyness of it, but I’m not sure they realised the beauty they would capture as well. An elderly holocaust surviver who’s response to anti-semitic hatred is to embrace the the person doing it and give them love. There’s even love within the hate. There are people who think that democrats and journalists should be executed, but even they show a glimpse of warmth, pointing out how sexism is wrong. 

Original review here

+The Rudy bit. It probably isn’t the best bit of the film, but the way it effected reality and seemed to cause a real switch in the way that the media viewed him.

-With how heavily focused it is on both Covid and Trump, it will seem outdated really quickly.

Best moment: There’s a bit at the very end where Borat turns towards his daughter and says “you were amazing”. But it was said in Hebrew, so it’s more like it’s aimed at the actress and is from Sacha-Baron Cohen, not Borat. It’s beautiful.

JoJo Rabbit

I can say a lot about this film. I can tell you how funny it is. How heartwarming it is. How, sadly, relevant it is in modern times. But everybody has already said that. There’s nothing I can write which will convince you to see it if you’re undecided. I haven’t written it yet, but there is a good chance this will win most of the awards in the end of year awards. Everything it does, it does brilliantly. It will hurt you, and you will love it for it.

Original review here

+The character work. JoJo is superbly written. Even though he is wrong, you can still like him and you get why he believes the things he does. 

– Controversial opinion; I don’t think Scarlett Johansson was that good in this. She never became the character, throughout she was constantly still Scarlett Johansson just doing an accent. If she was any other actress she wouldn’t get the plaudits she did for this.

Best moment: The sentence ““You’re not a Nazi, Jojo, you’re a 10-year-old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club.”

Onward

I’m going to start off by talking about the worst part of it. It made it look like I was crying when I totally wasn’t, it was just dusty. I don’t cry, because I’m a man. Beer. Sports. Chicken Wings. But yeah it’s wonderful. It’s not the strongest Pixar film, the story itself is a little weak, but the way they tell it is brilliant. You can always depend on Pixar to bring something special to the table, and it does here for sure. A story about family love, particularly the love between brothers, something which isn’t really touched upon in film. Almost definitely the best kids film I saw this year, although considering the other films were things like The Witches or Artemis Fowl, that’s not saying much.

Original review here

+The sheer beauty that can be seen throughout. The look, the heart, it’s just so nice.

-The plot is a little weak and it definitely wastes a lot of what it can do..

Best moment: When the dad fully comes back. You don’t see it, but it is fucking beautiful.

Parasite

A film so good it made The Academy admit that foreign-language films exist. I saw this in probably the worst circumstances; knowing nothing about it, but hearing it was really good. So I went in with high expectations, but still not sure what it actually was. Was it a horror? Comedy? Drama? Porn? I had no idea. By the end, I’m still wasn’t sure exactly how to categorise it. It’s kind of a comedy, but one that leaves you feeling hopeless at the end. This film will annoy you and inspire you in equal measure. I had a chance to watch this on the plane before I saw at the cinema. I refused, despite knowing nothing, I knew it was going to be wrong to watch in that environment. I was correct, despite not being “spectacle” cinema, I simply cannot imagine watching this on a tiny screen. It would have felt like a disservice.

Original review here

+It pleases me how well it was received. Hopefully it builds to more eyes on Korean cinema.

-Can feel a little mean-spirited at times.

Best moment: The moment where we see them conspire to get the housemaid fired. It’s a glorious piece of cinema that could have worked at any point in the last 70 years.

The Invisible Man

This film is good, I can’t recommend it to some people. The way it uses the idea of someone gaining invisibility, and uses it to tell a story about gaslighting and domestic abuse is harrowing. It’s almost too plausible, as such I can’t really recommend this to people who have survived an abuse relationship due to how it will almost certainly trigger negative memories and create new worries. But if you’re not someone who has survived that stuff, you have to watch this film. This is how remakes etc should be done. Using old ideas in new ways to comment on 21st century life. If they tried to kick off their “Universal Monsters Universe”with this, I would have been into it. Oh god, that means I would have gone to see The Mummy in cinema.

Original review here

+Elisabeth Fucking Moss.

-The audio let it down at times, just using loud noises instead of carefully placed music for tension.

Best moment: Choice of two. Either the ending where she gets her revenge, because of how immensely satisfying it is. Or the throat slit in the restaurant due to how sudden and shocking it is. If we’re judging it based on the scene itself, the throat slit. In terms of how it fits into the actual narrative of the film; the ending.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield

I didn’t get to see this at the cinema, and that is a huge regret for me. I watched it on Amazon Prime and as soon as I finished it I knew I needed to have it on DVD. I needed to be able to show this to people, it’s that good. It has an intangible feeling to it that causes it to feel timeless and modern at the same time. Part of that might be due to the source material, but a lot of it is due to the director and the performers. Dev Patel gives a performance where you just want to see him talk on stage and describe things for hours. A lot of the supporting characters are also injected with such warmth and humour that you instantly connect with them. Not all of them though, some are so disgusting and slimy that you want them to get their comeuppance.

Original review here

+The way the film envelops you and takes you over, drawing you in so you can’t help but feel a part of the world.

-Some of the characters just disappear from the film. This could be the book though.

2020 In Film Day 4: The Good

Bill And Ted Face The Music

I was so close to putting this in the Amazeballs section. It was close to greatness, and it’s definitely what the world needed at the time. It provided hope in the dark days of 2020. Was one of the few films that you knew going in would make you happy. It just doesn’t seem quite “enough” to justify being considered amazing. Too small to be considered big, but it feels too big to be considered a small movie so the limitations would be forgivable. Don’t get me wrong, it is very enjoyable and you will like it. But you won’t FEEL it for long afterwards. It won’t stick with you for an extended period of time

Original review here

+Brigette Lundy-Paine. I don’t know who this person is, but they are AMAZING.

-Isn’t as smart with the time travel mechanics as the first two.

Best moment: The ending song. Some people may disagree but to me it was perfect and was the only way that song could go. 

My Spy

A film which didn’t get to come out at cinemas in the UK due to *motions in general at 2020* which is a shame as I feel it deserved that. It certainly would have improved my experience as it would have meant I wouldn’t have watched it on Amazon Prime and it’s non-working subtitles. It was a very sweet movie. But again, didn’t do much to push it to that next level. It’s a shame this wasn’t the film to push Batista to the next level in terms of marketability, but it is a good start as it shows he has more strings to his bow than you’d expect. This is probably his best non-MCU film. A lot of the laughs are cheap but they do work. It also has more genuine heart than you would expect.

Original review here

Best Moment: The opening hostage situation. Sets the tone perfectly, and has foreign language covers of modern pop songs

+Very, very funny.

-You can predict every moment just from watching the trailer

Palm Springs

It’s not often I get to describe what is essentially a rom-com as “truly horrifying”, at least not good ones (I would still describe PS I Love You as horrifying, because I paid to see it). But most romcoms aren’t this. Most romcoms don’t deal with the situations this does. Most romcoms aren’t, and it pains me to say this, as smart as this. The character work in this is great to see. You can truly sense the unsaid backstories of everybody in it. They don’t feel like characters, they feel like actual people.

Original review here

+It’s new. I like new ideas, and this is definitely one.

-It could do more with the location. It doesn’t do much in terms of memorable music or shots.

Best Moment: I can narrow it down to a single line: “Being a source of terror is not fun and it’s not fulfilling, I know from experience“. Oh my blog, that line. It says so much about him and his history.

Run

I was very excited for this. I loved Searching (as anybody who has spoken to me for more than two minutes can tell) and was curious what the creator would do next. I think that might be its biggest flaw; it wasn’t as good as one of my favourite films ever. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the film, I just expected something a lot smarter. It is still good, the way it builds tension is superb, the cast are all great, and it’s directed perfectly. It’s just…..it’s not a 10/10 movie like I wanted.

Original review here

+The minimalist cast and location mean that you feel as trapped as the character. Really simple piece of film-making but one that so many would be scared to do.

-Not as clever as it needs to be. 

Best Moment: The scene at the very end where the daughter has turned the tables on her former “mother” by visiting her in prison and drugging her in revenge for what she’s done. It’s beautifully chilling and haunting, probably the best closing shot I’ve seen all year. 

The Lovebirds

I saw the trailer for this before watching Fantasy Island, and that probably turned out to be the best part of that film. I wish I saw this in the cinema as I feel it deserved that. It’s on netflix which isn’t too bad (and means you definitely should watch this if you have it). It reminded me of a more cynical and bitter Date Night. Whereas that film was focused on a couple who were very much in love but still frustrated, this is focusing on a recently-ex couple. So recent that they haven’t really had time to process single life yet, and that informs a lot of their decisions. This isn’t a “oh they broke up but still love each other and are kind” break up, this was a break-up where they said things that can’t be unsaid, when they argued they brought out the big guns, and when they do that it hits fucking hard. Importantly, they are based more on “I don’t think you’re doing as good as you can be” so even the hate is kinda coming from a place of love. The dynamic between the two is wonderfully written and that goes for the rest of the film. It’s smart, funny, and was SOOOO close to being in the amazeballs section.

Original review here

+The characters

-Very cliche in parts.

Best moment: At the end when the police tell them they obviously weren’t being investigated for murder as everything was on camera. Very funny and original, reminded me of the end of Keanu. 

Vivarium

Again, something VERY close to being in the amazing section. There’s just something that stops me putting it in there. If this was objective then I would definitely put it there. But these are subjective, and I will never pretend otherwise. I did love this film, but it’s not something I will ever want to see again, and for that reason it goes here. Similar to Hereditary or The VVitch. You definitely should see this at least once though. It’s available on Shudder (at least for people in the UK, don’t know about other territories). So it’s worth a watch, but you might not need to watch it again. Delightfully uncomfortable viewing with possibly a career-best performance from Eisenberg. 

Original review here

+The general feeling of dread that is over the whole thing.

-Can be frustrating at times and feels a bit pointless

Best moment: When they’re driving to the house. So creepy despite the fact it’s just two people driving to a house.