2020 In Film Day 3: The Meh

Films which had moments, but I felt nothing.

An American Pickle

This should have meant more to me. It was heartwarming, and featured Seth Rogen doing something original. So why didn’t I? I guess it’s the script. It feels like it’s never quite sure what the story is, going from possible plot to possible plot before any of them get a chance to develop. Maybe it would have been better as a miniseries I don’t know, all I know is that there was a lot of ideas in this that could, and should, have been expanded upon but instead only lasted for about 10 minutes before never being mentioned again. This meant that it felt nothing in the film mattered as it wasn’t a story but a series of sketches, so if you missed something you wouldn’t have needed catching up on anything as what you missed didn’t effect the plot at all. 

Original review here

+Seth, without a shadow of a doubt. He carries this movie.

-The lack of identity the film has.

Best moment: When we find out what the company is named after. Very sweet.

Sonic The Hedgehog

A film that is nowhere near as terrible as I expected it be. Yup, high praise indeed. The script is an inconsistent mess, it sacrifices logical storytelling for jokes which sometimes aren’t that great. I can’t tell whether Jim Carrey ruins or makes this movie. His character seems to be from a completely different movie, at times it resembles Kate McKinnon or Will Ferrell at their best, adding an air of manic energy and humour to scenes which otherwise would have been dull, and at times it resembles, well, Kate McKinnon or Will Ferrell, being embarrassingly unfunny and just awkward to watch. 

Original review here

+Has some genuine laugh out loud moments (the line about a duck stealing a bagel made me lol)

-Seems very “first draft”

Best moment: The scenes of Sonic at superspeed resemble the Quicksilver moments from the X-Men movies, in the best possible way.

Tenet

Some people may be surprised that this film ranks so low and may think less of me for putting it here. Maybe they’re annoyed that I rate it so low. Well prepared to get even more annoyed: it’s very lucky to be in this section and not the “bad”. It JUST made it into here. Nolan is a great director, but oh do I hate his choices when it comes to sound. He seems to make a conscious choice to make his films difficult to listen to. His defence of this is that it makes the audience “lean in”, but to be honest it makes me tune out, there’s a reason Taxi Driver didn’t have all the dialogue drowned out by the sound of traffic, or why when you’re filming a scene and a plane flies overhead, you stop filming until the sound dies down.  It ended up frustrating me to the point where it soured me on the film, especially when important plot details get told in a single line of dialogue which you can easily miss. I think from now on I’m only going to see Nolan films at cinemas if they have subtitled screenings. And considering how little cinema seems to cater towards those who are hard of hearing, that might prove difficult.

Original review here

+The fight choreography was amazing to see.

-The waste of talented performers.

Best moment: Hard to pick, so let’s just say the action scenes. 

The Gentleman

The cinematic equivalent of a greatest hits album that confusingly is missing a few of their best songs. Guy Ritchie needs to adapt, and needs to do it soon otherwise he runs the risk of seeming like a relic. He needs to justify why he belongs in a modern cinematic world instead of just replaying the Lock Stock formula. Not the easiest thing to do for him as his moves away from that have been his biggest flops, so he inevitably comes back to what he does well. And he does do it well, there’s no denying that, but we’ve seen it all before. There’s nothing new, nothing that makes you sit up and take notice. Really, there’s no reason you HAVE to see this.

Original review here

+Fun at times.

-The ending is too “oh look how clever we are” for my tastes.

Best Moment: Everytime Hugh Grant is on screen.

2020 In Film Day 2: The Bad

Films which were bad, but had at least one moment I would recommend

Becky

Oh Becky, what a pity, you don’t understand, what makes a good movie. This should be better than it is. At the very least it should be fun. It should not be as utterly boring as this is. It’s a teenage girl killing nazi’s, if I’m looking at my watch during this film, that’s on you and your script. So why is it here? Because of the performers and the make-up. It is occasionally very bloody, and when it is it looks great. There’s a moment where Kevin James gets his eye gouged out and has to cut it off. It’s great and you really feel the pain. It’s a shame that watching the rest of the movie is just as painful.

+It’s good that Kevin James is trying new things.

-It seems way too restrained at times.

Best Moment: The aforementioned eye-gouge. It’s just a shame it doesn’t effect the plot at all

Birds Of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn

First off, what the hell is with that title? Secondly, all this film seemed to do was do was remind me of Suicide Squad. It made the exact same mistakes as that did; having a group of people bond WAY too quickly, not being sure if it’s gritty and realistic or a Tom and Jerry cartoon when it comes to violence, the terrible characterisation. It’s all here. I’m not sure if this was supposed to set up a spin-off film series for Birds Of Prey but if it was an attempt for that it failed as they’re not featured enough to be memorable. The only one I can remember fully is The Huntress, and that’s partly due to Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance. But the rest are not given enough attention. Black Canary in particular doesn’t have her powers discussed until near the very end. It did have a unique look though, and I love to see that.

Original review here

+Mary Elizabeth Winstead

-What is the villain’s gimmick? He is so underwritten it’s hard to tell

Best moment: The fight in the amusement park. Fun, chaotic, and hella inventive.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga

A film which belongs on Netflix. I would have hated this if I saw it at cinema. But because I saw it at home I didn’t hate it quite as much. I mean, I still don’t like it. It’s still way too cliche to be considered great, and too annoying to even be considered good. It’s also way too American, no film about Eurovision should have, as a supposed centerpiece of their film, a musical medley consisting of Black Eyed Peas, Cher, and Madonna. You do one of songs from EUROVISION, you know, the thing the fucking film is based on. Even if people don’t know the songs, it will be pushing the concept of the contest. As it is you’re just saying that all of Europe’s musicians secretly wish they could be American. 

Original review here

+Fun at times.

-The story doesn’t work. At all.

Best moment: The opening song. It’s bombastic and weird, perfectly eurovision.

Scoob!

The world needed a Scooby Doo movie. They needed something light and fun and nostalgic. Instead they got this. It suffers a real identity crisis where it seems to be trying to aim itself at children, and people who grew up watching the original cartoons. But it handles it badly to the point of alienating both its potential audiences. Also features possibly the ugliest animation I’ve seen all year. It looks cheap and like it’s made for tv, it will age horribly. Although I do have to ask, if you had a talking dog, would you really be annoyed/disappointed if it had a lisp?

Original review here

+At least they tried something new. And if you’re a fan of the original Hanna-Barbera cartoons you will see a lot of references that make you feel things.

-Yet another Scooby Doo film based around “what does Shaggy do?”

Best moment: it is nice to see how the gang all met each other. Very sweet

The Witches

I don’t often say this, but Anne Hathaway was fucking awful in this. Her accent wavered like it was standing on a surfboard in a tsunami. I don’t know what she was thinking but the director should have stopped her. Was she supposed to be Russian? Because it seemed like she was just Russian to get to the next accent in her rolodex. Actually most of the adult performances in this were pretty bad. The only saving graces being Octavia Spencer and Jahzir Bruno. That, and the cosy nature of the opening sequences, are the only things that keep this film being an absolute shit show.

Original review here

+The ending is more in keeping with the original book, as opposed to the weirdly saccharine ending of the first film.

-Completely pointless.

Best moment: There’s a scene where the witches click their lobster-like claws together in unison. Incredibly creepy and echos back to how creepy the original film was at times.

Underwater

A Cthulhu film that tries to hide the fact it’s a Cthulhu film. Bit of a weird choice there, I would have led with that. For me my main issue with this is the inconsistent identity. It tries to be both a slow-paced atmospheric thriller, like Alien, and a disaster movie. So you have a film that’s attempting to be both atmospheric and quiet, as well as bombastic and loud. Those are two things which don’t mesh together at all. As such the thing from the Alien franchise it resembles most is Colonial Marines. It’s a shame as the opening is as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a while. It just never matches that for the rest of the film. Plus, personal preference, I fucking hate shakey-cam.

Original review here

+The music, very creepy at times.

-The inconsistent tone.

Best moment: the opening credits. Sets up the story, and the tone. Perfect.

2020 In Film Day One (The Awful)

This was meant to be posted earlier but I caught COVID so got delayed. And yes, I will be using that as an excuse for everything. “why have you sat about eating chocolate all day?” “COVID”. “Why haven’t you been productive?” “COVID”. “Why did you genetically engineer ducks so they had knives for feet, then try to invade Luxembourg?” “Funny innit? And COVID”

These are the worst of the worst, films I can comfortably say you should avoid. The ones I hate so much that even these short recaps frustrate me. There are two here I think people might disagree with, at least one was highly rated by quite a view people. But again, these are all personal opinions, so fuck it. Eugh, at least after this things can get better.

Artemis Fowl

It’s a good thing I don’t write these immediately after seeing the film. If I did it for this then this section would just be “No. No No. Noooooooooooooo. No.” This could have been good, as it is, it is a film made for nobody. People who aren’t familiar with the books will dislike it because it’s a bad movie, and people who like the books will HATE it due to the changes made. In the original book, Artemis Fowl is kind of a sociopathic genius. In this, he surfs. He’s in trouble at school, but we’re not entirely sure why. He’s not an evil genius, he’s just a kid. It also destroys a lot of the relationships between characters. The relationship between Holly and Root is changed completely due to Root being a woman now, so we don’t have that “you’re the first female here, I put you to a higher standard as you will be used a scapegoat if you fail” relationship. Butler is known by his first name so you don’t have that moment where he whispers his first name to Artemis as he dies. This film inspires nothing but hatred. I know a few people who love the books, I’ve yet to hear a single possible good thing about this.

Original review here

+There’s a chance someone might read the books from this. I doubt it, but there’s a chance.

-What does the thing they’re searching for actually do?

Worst moment: Butler does a twirl. That will mean nothing to those who haven’t read the books but will infuriate those who have.

Babyteeth

Quite a few people liked this, but to me it just sat wrong. The characters weren’t likeable, and didn’t even have a glimmer of humanity yet we were supposed to buy them as a good couple. For this “girl falls for bad boy” film we need to see a reason for her to like him. Yet all he does is steal her shit, break into her house, and kiss other people in front of her. I don’t just not like him, I actively dislike him. And he never gets any better throughout the film, he just continues being a prick. I dislike a lot of films, but this is one of the few films where I actively felt like a worst person for having watched it.

Original review here

+The colours and music are superb. 

-You know everything else I said about this film? Yeah, that.

Worst moment: Three words: Euthanasia Sex Scene.

Bloodshot

The trailer ruined this film. It gave away the key plot point (that he was being manipulated), but that didn’t happen in the film until much later than you’d think. So you can skip most of the film if I’m being honest. That lack of thought and care can be seen throughout the film. There are logical inconsistencies throughout, and some of the background characters are just there to exist, they’re not fleshed out at all. 

+The scene with the flour (although for that to be good, you have to ignore that flour is flammable)

-The lack of thought that went into the script

Worst moment: The trailer. Impossible to enjoy this film when the trailer ruins the plot.

Brahms: The Boy 2

The only saving grace of this film is that it is so forgettable that it’s hard to insult it. I can’t pinpoint specific scenes or moments to tear apart and dissect. I can’t critique a performance or a directorial moment. I’ve got literally nothing. If you were to ask me questions about this film I don’t think I’ll be able to tell you anything. I’m not even sure I can tell you the title to be honest. 

Original review here

+Not as long as some movies

-It gave me NOTHING to work with

Worst moment: The retcon of the first movie. 

Downhill

I like everyone involved in this film, so I should have loved it. It just….it does not work. I feel maybe Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus’s comedic styles don’t work together, they’re incompatible and so when they try to lead a film it just comes off kind of ugly and disjointed. It’s a good idea, a remake of a french film that I think I should watch. But it seems like it’s meant more for an awkward character-based comedy, rather than the “ohuh” kind of comedy this goes for. Maybe Steve Coogan would have worked better? Hard to tell. All I can say is that you probably should avoid this.

Original review here

+Some funny bits

-How small it feels. It feels like a TV episode, not a movie.

Worst moment: None really. There are no peaks and valleys from which to judge it, it’s almost all valleys

Fantasy Island

This looked interesting. I almost expected it to be akin to W.W.Jacobs “The Monkey’s Paw”. A short story about a monkey’s paw (OMG that’s why it’s called that) that grants wishes but with horrific consequences. It’s a tale (or tail, if you want to make a monkey pun) that has inspired episodes of both The Twilight Zone and The Simpsons. It’s an iconic short story that would be perfect for a full-length horror film. They didn’t do that though. It’s nothing like The Monkey’s Paw, and is instead like a big pile of monkey crap. This should have been great, it should have been clever and scary, instead it’s neither. It also features possibly one of the dumbest twists I’ve ever seen. With this, and Truth Or Dare, I think Lucy Hale is becoming a red flag for dumb blumhouse horror movies.

Original review here

+More horror movies should take place on tropical islands. Allows very unique sets.

-The wasted potential.

Worst moment: I’m tempted to say the twist ending. But really the moment where someone asks for a second wish and gets it granted because “plot reasons”. Without her first wish the film has even less emotional impact than normal. Yet without her second wish it would be impossible for the plot to develop. So the script needed both to happen as it wrote itself into a corner. 

Spree

I never brought into this movie. At no point was I sold, outside of the concept. An uber driver/streamer who livestreams as he kills should be a lot of fun. It’s not. I think part of it is due to the character. He comes off as a whiny little bitch. Incredibly annoying to the point where I don’t want him to succeed. And some of the people he kills are also awful racist and other youtubers. So it’s just pathetic people killing horrible people. And the kills aren’t even that imaginative. It could have been an interesting study into how people can be so desperate for fame that it can drive them to do horrible things. That’s a story that’s been told before, but can be very compelling when done right as it’s not done too often. As it is, the film is just “internet bad”, whilst being aimed at people who watch youtubers. It’s insulting to the audience, it’s insulting towards the culture, and it’s insulting to the people involved that they had to work on this.

Original review here

+Good idea.

-The youtube-style editing of constant close-ups.

Worst moment: When he watches clips of a stand-up comedian. We just see punchlines, we don’t see the setups. So we actually don’t know whether she’s good or not, we’re just taking the films word for it. 

The New Mutants

I’m hoping that Morbius will finally give us a mainstream comic book movie with darkness and fear. Maybe my expectations were wrong and I was expecting something it was never meant to be. But then again, even without that, there are still a lot of flaws with this film. Woefully inconsistent characterisation (especially when it comes Anya Taylor-Joys character), CGI that should not be this bad in a film this big, and incredibly unsubtle symbolism. The X-men series seems determined to keep being an embarrassment and every time you think it can’t continue being bad, it proves you wrong. If the series ended with Logan it would have been great, but it’s not just that they continued, but that the films after that are so bad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as bad as Dark Phoenix. But that’s like saying “well at least the shit I did in my pants isn’t liquid”.

Original review here

+The central romance REALLY works. Even when the characters are just sitting near each other, you can sense the sexual chemistry between them.

-A sad end to the franchise

Worst moment: The narration, it happens multiple times yet doesn’t really add anything. 

Unhinged

This film had an ugly soul. It adds nothing and just seems like someone working through a mid-life crisis. It’s not a film but a series of scenes. Stuff happens but it very rarely matters what order as even after killing people in broad daylight, that doesn’t seem to increase the presence of police. The reaction to it has been even worse, with people sympathising with Russell Crowe’s character in this, despite the character being as despicable as his band was. But this film kind of plays into that. In terms of how the camera treats him, it doesn’t show him as a horror movie villain, it almost films him like the hero in a western. This isn’t helped by the moral of the story seeming to be “let people walk over you, if you stand up for yourself the people you love will be killed and it will be your fault”

Original review here

+Neat idea.

-Very stop start. This would have been improved if it was one long journey of chaos and destruction (sort of like Mad Max)

Worst moment: A long-ish scene that takes place at a restaurant. This occurs AFTER he’s run someone over and killed them, and after he’s burnt his ex-wives house down. Still no police turn up though

Scoob! (2020)

Films are designed with a lot of things in mind. Budget (no point attempting to make Die Hard on a Clerks budget), the directors vision, the writers vision, even the actors vision (Johnny Depp’s performance in Pirates Of The Caribbean completely changed the franchise), but also you have the audience. You need to know who the film is aimed at. There’s not point doing a Die Hard sequel that is a romantic comedy, it will annoy the audience. This is why Birds Of Prey was a weird film, as it seemed to be aimed at young teenage girls, but then the rating made it so they couldn’t see it. I bring that up for this film for two reasons:

  1. To pad out the review.
  2. Because I’m not sure who it was aimed at.

The humour was very childish, but it was full of references to obscure Hanna-Barbera cartoons, one of the main characters is Blue Falcon, who’s television show ended in 1977. People might know Captain Caveman, but only through Family Guy and Simpsons references to the character. It’s just a bit of a weird choice as the intended audience won’t understand the references, and the people who would understand it won’t like the film.

This film seems to not like Scooby Doo that much, seemingly spending a lot of time mocking the characters. There’s a time and a place for slightly cynical and wry reboots, but that time and place will never, and should never be, scooby doo. He is brightness and light in a dark world. A symbol of skepticism and grounded reality-based courage in the face of fear. It’s about facing your demons head on, and realising that 90% of the time, the villain is not some mystical demon from an unspoken world, but a rich old white guy who just wants more money. It’s a childish franchise, with all the joy and wholesomeness that that entails. And trying to turn that into some cynical semi-gritty film just to suit modern audiences destroys the entire point of the character. It would be like doing an Assassin’s Creed game set not in the lush landscapes of medieval Italy, but instead in 1980’s Britain, where you just spend your time sitting around waiting for a bus.

It has some comedic moments, but they’re just enough to make up for how pedestrian a lot of the film is. The animation is….well kind of plastic. It reminds me of video games in the late 90’s. After the success of Mario 64, platform games felt the need to force themselves into 3D designs, even if it didn’t suit the characters. It was done because “progress” and the old 2D games felt outdated. But since the games were so ill-suited to a 3d environment/design, the push to feel modern only made them look more dated, like they were unsuitable for modern audiences (whereas if they stayed 2D, it wouldn’t have been noticeable). The animation for this is similar, the modern animation style doesn’t suit these characters. In 20 years time when people draw the Shaggy, Velma etc. They won’t be doing it based on these designs, they’ll be doing it based on the classic style, because that will definitely outlast this.

This year needed joy, it needed something wholesome. It needed Scooby Doo, and this? This isn’t Scooby. Also, no Matthew Lillard, which is unforgivable at this point as he pretty much IS Shaggy.

Becky (2020)

Hadn’t heard much of this film, but it has Kevin James playing a Nazi and a sociopathic 13 year old hunting him down. This should be a lot of fun. Plus it’s short enough that it won’t outstay its welcome. Basically I wanted schlocky fun.

With that in mind it’s weird how the main issue with the film is how empty it is. It has nothing. The entire film could be done in 4 minutes and you wouldn’t really lose anything. I’m not asking for a Die Die You Nazi Bastards film to double as a philosophical insight into the unbearable lightness of being but I expect it to scratch a little deeper than the surface. I mean, it has 100 minutes to fill, give us something we wouldn’t have got from the trailer. The only added moment is that the nazi’s are searching for a key that will help them with their agenda of saving the world from the curse of black people existing. Why do they need the key? The film doesn’t say. It could be for a weapons cache, but that would be a bit weird as they already have the capacity to kill people, and it’s not as though guns are difficult to buy in America, you just need to prove you’re white and boom, you have your license. The way they treat it, like it is the only thing they need to bring a cuntpocalypse on the world, so maybe it’s something mystical? We don’t know, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure the film-makers do either.

I guess that’s the biggest issue, just the complete lack of care and thought that went into it. It’s like they had the general idea and thought that would be enough to carry the film. The only people that seemed to care were the performers, and the make-up team who do really good work here. There’s a scene where Kevin James’s character gets his eye gouged out so it’s just dangling there, he cuts it off. It looks and feels brutal to the point where you almost have to look away as it happens. Weirdly, this doesn’t effect the film at all. There’s no moment where him losing an eye changes the plot at all. That’s weird, and again shows the lack of thought and care that went into the script. I’m not asking for it to become his entire personality, but at the very least have it change SOMETHING.

So yeah, it’s a shame. It’s worth seeing for the performances, and the weirdness of seeing Kevin James in a role like this, but once you get past that, it really has nothing to offer.

Run (2020)

To say expectations were high for this is an understatement. This was written and directed by Aneesh Chaganty, who gave the world Searching, which was without a doubt my favourite film when it was released that year, and is probably in my personal top 5 of all time.

I was incredibly excited by the trailer, but there was a small niggling in my head that I knew what was going to happen. I mean, the trailer made it pretty obvious that (spoiler) the mother was keeping her hostage so it wasn’t really shocking that that turned out to be the case. To go from the SHOCKING reveal in Searching to this can’t be seen to be anything other than a let down. Searching made you feel dumb you didn’t figure it out, this seems to go the opposite way and try to make you feel smart for figuring it out almost immediately.

But maybe that wasn’t the point. Maybe it wasn’t about the end point, but the journey, and this is one hell of a journey. Everything in this film is expertly done, the performances, the music, the directing, everything is as you need it to be. It’s so well done that even though you know what is going to happen, you’re never bored or distracted throughout. THIS is how you build tension in a movie.

Crucially, it’s incredibly minimalistic, a listed cast of 4 and 99% of the film takes place inside the house. This means that you REALLY feel the characters isolation and desperation. It’s an incredibly smart choice that really suits the film. So many films that try to do this get bored of their locations and characters so break it up with other locations, but this usually breaks the tension completely. So for this film to have the intelligence and bravery to stick to it’s guns for the betterment of the film is admirable.

So yes, go see this film. You probably do know where it’s going, but it’s great. And I haven’t seen a closing scene this genius since Knives Out.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)

Well this was a shock. The character of Borat was thought to be dead, and for good reason; how can you trick someone when everybody knows who you are? Plus, what would it have to say? Didn’t it say everything it needed to say in the first movie?

So it was a genuine shock when they announced this film, not that it was being done, but that it had already been completed and was being released in a few weeks time. I love a surprise release, and they haven’t come more surprising than this.

What’s a bigger surprise is how easy it was for him to get people to say some really stupid shit. The character may be from Kazakhstan but the film is very reminiscent of Russia, in that it’s funny, until it very suddenly definitely isn’t. And it happens very quickly when he goes into a shop and asks whether one of the gas they sell will kill gypsys. The shop assistant replies that he needs to get the bigger one.

It gets much worse, with a scene late on in the film where he gets a festival full of people to sing that journalists should be executed, after choosing between that or injecting them with COVID. Oh yeah, this film mentions COVID, and brilliantly. COVID is the first pandemic in the age of mass misinformation, and the stuff that people say in this is shocking, but also not unexpected. Maybe that’s a weakness. A few years ago, someone saying that the leader of the opposition in America created a disease in China and then unleashed it on the world just to take down the president would seem insane. Today it’s actually US government policy. So how can it be possible to shock and surprise when stupidity and hate is the default setting of half the population?

Enter Rudy Giuliani, a guy who led New York through the aftermath of 9/11, and has since destroyed his reputation with, well just his general personality, although launching a fundraiser and asking guests to donate $9.11 probably didn’t help. In this film it’s not so much what he says, but what he does, he goes to a hotel room of young woman who is interviewing him, lays on her bed, and then he, well he fluffs himself. It’s incredibly creepy and is filmed in almost haunting silence, like you’re watching a slow-motion disaster. This was huge news, in that it made the actual news. On the downside this meant you knew it was going to happen, on the upside it means that there’s a slight chance (very slight) that Borat decided the election, weird.

What’s also weird is that this actually has a good plot(brilliant segue there, fucking seamless). It acknowledges the first film, and focuses on Borat living in shame and Kazakhstan being ashamed of him (which is very based in reality considering their reaction to the film), which causes him to have to go in disguise for this, travelling US with his daughter. Oh yeah, he has a daughter (Tutar, played expertly by Maria Bakalova), and truth be told she provides some of the most shocking moments. Not only the aforementioned Rudy moment, but she swallows a plastic baby from top of a cupcake and goes to get an abortion, saying her dad put it inside her. To which the doctor tries to talk her out of having an abortion because America.

She also provides a lot of the emotional weight. Particularly when a babysitter (Jeanise Jones), is genuinely shocked and tries her best to help Tutar. She’s not scripted, her initial behaviour was to help this poor woman, that’s her genuine human nature, and it’s wonderful to see it in this film. Obviously people agree, as they raised $150,000 for her. I think that’s thee important message of this film, and I don’t know where it was intentional or not. But when rich white guys are dicks to people, there will always be others there who are looking to help. Whether it’s a black babysitter who is concerned for Tutar, a young white girl who calls her own father out on being a creepy bastard, there will always be kindness in the world, you just need to find it. There’s a moment where Borat goes to commit suicide by hugging a Jew (it makes sense in context) and ends up having a beautiful conversation with a holocaust survivor. Keep in mind he enters the synagogue dressed in what can only be described as “Jewface”, dressed head to toe in hate. And this woman, who has seen what this hate leads to, she approaches him without hesitation and gives him a hug. It’s stunningly beautiful and incredibly heartwarming. Sacha Baron Cohen obviously thought the same as he actually broke character and told her that he was just playing a character.

The most beautiful moment comes at the very end, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s Sacha Baron Cohen as himself, or as Borat. He tells Tutar (or Maria), “you were amazing”. It makes sense in the film to be said by Borat, but he says it in Hebrew, which makes me think it was Cohen. It’s…..it’s beautiful. And weirdly, that’s what I’ll remember from this film, the love. And I NEVER thought I’d say that coming into this.

Underwater (2020)

The opening for this had me very excited. Mainly because they set up the story through the opening credits. They told you there’s a deep drilling operation going on, and that there are rumours of strange sightings nearby. It also points out the normal hazards so that you know that even without the “strange sighting” they are still in danger. It’s a fantastic use of the opening credits and is a great example of effectively maximising time to tell a story.

The music is good too, it’s like a synth Jaws. Creepy and claustrophobic, it will haunt your mind while you listen to it. It gets better once the film starts because you have this intense creepy music, and then….silence, nothing, playing over a shot of empty rooms. It’s really creepy and meant I was fully on board for this film and ready for greatness.

Then it started, and I was disappointed. For a film that did so much in the opening credits, the film itself took forever to do nothing. It’s trying to be a mix of a disaster movie and Alien, and it fails to do either. They’re two genres which are really hard to pull off, because Alien is a very specific subgenre of sci-fi/horror. It’s one which is dependent on the use of silence and tension to effectively affect you. Whereas a disaster movie is built on noise and spectacle. So for this film to work it would need to be a loud impressive spectacle movie with great use of silence. You can see why that be difficult to do properly, and this doesn’t. Also, just a personal choice, I didn’t like the amount of shakey-cam in it. I found it nauseating. I was watching it on a small screen so I imagine it would have been even worse in cinema. It wasn’t during intense action scenes, just standard walking scenes would have it, and it just put me off.

I mean, the performances are good, Kristen Stewart is shaking off her cinematic demons with aplomb, Vincent Cassel is also good in it, it’s a shame that TJ Miller just seems to play himself though, especially considering that who he is is someone who would phone in a fake bomb threat.

Oh, also this is a Cthulhu film, this is discovered near the end and doesn’t effect the film at all. It could just be a random beast and it would have made no difference. Having it be tied to that mythology is a waste and makes it look like they were trying too hard. Also, they kill it with an explosion, Cthulhu don’t go down like that.

So yeah, stay for the opening credits, then leave.

The Witches (2020)

I love the original (as evidenced here), I love Anne Hathaway, and I like a lot of Robert Zemeckis’ work, he has made some great films which are both terrifying yet also suitable for kids (I’m thinking primarily of Who Framed Roger Rabbit). So I was really looking forward to this. Well, I would have been if I had known about it. I didn’t even know it existed until about 3 weeks ago when I glimpsed a trailer for it. I’ve seen more from films which aren’t out for another year than I did for this, it’s almost like the studio had no faith in it, and for good reason, it’s a mess.

First off, the film has narration from the lead character. But the lead character is a child, and the narrator is obviously an adult, so you know that no matter what, they’re going to survive. Also, it’s Chris Rock, which, I love the guy, but he’s wrong for this. He works for Everybody Hates Chris, because it’s a comedy, but he doesn’t inject either the sense of playfulness, or the dread necessary for this film to work.

This film has a real issue with voices, now I think about it. Anne Hathaway is playing it like she couldn’t pick between five different accents, so just decided to do them all, sometimes switching mid-sentence. It pained me to say that, as I LOVE her stuff usually, her performance in Rachel Getting Married is still one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in film. But her accent in this film is soooooo bad. I suppose it wouldn’t seem quite AS bad if the role in the original wasn’t Anjelica Huston, who is perfect and I will hear no arguments against it.

There is another vocal performance that was much much worse, and almost hurt my ears with how piercing it was, but I won’t name them as I haven’t heard the performer in anything else, so that might be their actual voice and saying it’s awful would be kind of bullying.

The lead performers are great though. Octavia Spencer continues to be amazing, providing the emotional depth the film needs. I’m unfamiliar with the work of Jahzir Bruno, but he gives a performance behind his years here. You can criticise a lot of this film, but you definitely can’t fault his performance. You can’t fault the general feel of the opening of the movie. Before they leave for the hotel the general feel of the film is one that you can’t help but notice, and really from a directing standpoint the feeling of those moments are the highlights of the film.

The actual witch-based moments don’t come off as well, with one exception. When the main character is having the witches described to them, shapes form on the ceiling to demonstrate what is being spoken about, it’s a moment of wonder and brilliance that is truly worthy of the story. The rest? A woeful mix of bad CGI and weird visual choices means that everything looks fake and kind of stupid. One of the most obvious examples of this is when we see a story from Grandma’s youth where her friend gets attacked by a witch, and gets turned into a chicken. It could be haunting but it never comes off as such, it just seems funny. This is especially annoying as it replaces a scene in the original which I love. In the original the girl is cursed and ends up in a painting, never being seen to be moved, but she does move unseen, and she ages in real time until one day she disappears. THAT’S terrifying. A simple “turned into a chicken” isn’t anywhere near. It could have been, if the parents killed the chicken and ate it. But they don’t.

There is one really creepy moment in this film though. The witches in this have claws, a bit like lobsters. There’s a scene where they click them all together and it’s super unsettling, I wish the film was more like it. It’s that kind of unique innovation that the film is lacking. There’s a moment where the witches all get turned into mice (oh, spoilers, I guess) and it’s a very exaggerated moment where they fly up and land as mice. It’s kind of a cool visual but it’s very flat, there’s no musical accompaniment. It could have been a very cool moment (think of the head exploding scene in Kingsman), but instead it’s just nothing.

I suppose that’s the big issue with this, how nothing it feels. It’s over 100 minutes yet it doesn’t feel like it. I don’t mean that in a good way, it just feels like nothing happens. It introduces very few characters and yet they somehow all feel undeveloped. I just….I just want more.

The Personal History Of David Copperfield (2019)

When 2020 comes to an end I will have a multitude of regrets, as will any year. But one of the big film-related ones will be that I did not see this at the cinema. I feel I owed the people involved in the making of this film that much. It truly is worth seeing. Luckily for you it’s easy to watch as it’s available on Amazon Prime. I highly recommend watching it on that, even if you just get a free trial then cancel after.

Anyone who has ever watched a television show is familiar with A Christmas Carol, and I LOVE The Muppets version, but no matter how good an adaptation I see of it, I never feel the urge to read the book. After this I felt the urge to read the original book to see if some of the brilliance is in that, the well-written characters and situations, the dialogue etc.

I just felt entranced when watching this movie, I was lost in the lush visuals created by director Armando Iannucci, who also did the screenplay. I feel I can’t judge the screenplay completely as, like I said, I don’t know what is taken from the original, and what he created. But either way he deserves plaudits for this, if he kept the dialogue then he should be applauded for having confidence in it and knowing to keep it (much like Muppets did with Christmas carol), but if it’s all his own dialogue then it’s one of the greatest scripts of the year. I feel it was a blend of the two with some of the original dialogue merged with specially created dialogue.

The performances too are great. Dev Patel gives what has to be a career best performance as the lead, giving a slight playfulness to a character which in other hands could be seen as a bit annoying and pretentious. It also has a great supporting cast, Morfydd Clark plays a duel role, and plays both great, but her performance as Dora is incredible, giving the character verbal tics which just make her incredibly loveable and easy to root for. Ben Whishaw is normally one of the most likeable people in any film he’s in, he has a kind face which makes him easy to root for. So his performance as Uriah Heep is stunning, he provides him with a level of sliminess where you never ever feel comfortable when he’s on screen.

If I had a downside it would be that some important characters disappear from the plot, in particular the narrative disappearance of Darren Boyd’s Edward Murderstone. This might be unfair though as it could happen in the book.

So should you see this? I feel you have to. It’s a delightful piece of film-making which is guaranteed to have you having a warm feeling inside you when you reach certain points. I haven’t felt this much cinematic magic emanating from a screen since I watched The BFG, and as anybody who has spoken to me can attest, that’s high praise.