Ninjababy (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Rakel is shocked to find out that she’s 6 and a half months pregnant in this strange but wonderful Norwegian comedy drama.

Try to think of what film this could be based on that title. It’s actually a strange coming-of-age drama. The closest I’ve seen to it would be Juno, but tonally it’s different. That was quite twee and cute, this has more of a punk and comic-book energy. If they were people, Juno would sit there and read Jean-Paul Sartre, Ninjababy would be reading Persepolis.

Everything about it works well. Almost, the music seems a little wrong. I kind of want to watch this in Norway as it feels like the music was changed for the international release to be a bit more commercial. There are some moments where it works, but otherwise, it just seems like “generic pop song #52” over the soundtrack.

Kristine Thorp is wonderful in the lead role. It helps that she’s incredibly well written. It would be easy to make this character unlikeable. To have the audience reaction be “ffs just sort your life out for once” and think of her as someone who put herself in the situation by being irresponsible. She’s written well enough that you are with her every step of the way. Helped by her performance too, her facial expressions when she finds out she was 6 months pregnant, not 8 weeks, is devastating. She looks terrified, responding “take those fucking pills and shove them up the pill hole”. I have never seen Thorp in anything before, but has some of the best visual acting I’ve seen in a long time. At times cartoonish and exaggerated, at times subtle and realistic. She’s perfect for this, and without her this film would not have the heart that it does.

You wouldn’t expect a scene of someone shouting “Blood and suffering!” would be as heartwarming as it is when it’s done in this. I have no way of leading into that sentence, and no way of coming out of it, but I felt it needed mentioning.

Antlers (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A small-town Oregon teacher and her brother, the local sheriff, discover that a young student is harbouring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences.

I did not enjoy this film. Normally I like to build up to a natural conclusion before arriving at sentences like that. But I don’t want to lure you into a false sense of security with this review for this. It was an incredibly frustrating experience. Part of that is that it felt like it was doing too much, well attempting to anyway. Horror films are best when the core message is simple: Don’t have sex, he’ll break your necks. Give a hoot, don’t pollute or else you’ll be shoot. You know, simple stuff. This? Is it like a rural zombie movie? Is it an environmental film? The fact the film makes a point to have a radio news broadcaster point out local environmental issues would lead you to think that. Maybe it’s about First Nation myths and legends? Or is it even about family abuse? The truth is it’s about all of them, but because it’s only 99 minutes that means it’s also about none of them as nothing has time to develop itself. It stretches itself way too thin.

It feels mostly it’s trying to be a film about a Wendigo, a legendary figure in Algonquin culture. In the myths and legends it’s a spirit that possesses humans and gives them an incredible thirst for human flesh and murder. We’re told this in passing by a “local Native American”, who turns up, tells this story, and then is never really heard from again. His entire character is to pass on information, be the “magical native” teaching them. So they’re using First Nation mythology, and have a First Nation character as an exposition dump because the film feels it’s more important to focus on the white people in the film. On the plus side, they did actually case a First Nations actor to play the part, but the fact he’s just there to give on information feels a little weak.

Going to go into the lore of the Wendigo now, this really has nothing to do with the film itself and won’t change your mind about it, but I feel it’s something that is useful to know about. Now there are slight variations among the different myths. For Naskapi people, for example, it’s a giant that grows in proportion to whatever it just ate, so it can never be full, whereas in some it takes over a human and provides urges in them. But there are two main differences in the original lore, and how it’s presented in this film, one of which is more a thematic or visual choice, and one which is the entire visual aesthetics of the movie. The first one: it has a heart of ice. Now in this film the final battle ends when the main character cuts out the beasts heart, where it’s glowing orange and burns to the touch. Which is basically the opposite. For Western comparison it would be like if someone did a film about Jesus and they had him drown by walking into water. The second one is one you can’t ignore, antlers. Yup, the films title is based on an aspect of the myth that does not appear at all in the original indigenous stories. It’s weird as there other aspects of the legend that it gets spot on: the drapings of skin and bone in the final form, the original form being an almost transparent white with the bones visible under the skin. It is mainly the heart being fire not ice, and the antlers, which are the modern parts. But the film isn’t called “Long claws” is it? It’s Antlers. It’s focused on a part not in the original.

So yeah it uses First Nation stories but rewrites them for their own purposes, it’s quite weird. And it doesn’t even work to make the film good as it’s still a bad watch. But it is indicative of the lack of care and thought that’s gone into it. Scott Cooper directed this and he’s normally done crime dramas (Black Mass, Hostiles etc) so this is new ground for him. He actually did a good job though. The use of shadow and scale is great to watch and provided the main highlights of this film. His talent shows that there is a way to film someone just walking through a tunnel, and have it be visually impressive and use the difference in size of him and the impending shadows to tell us details about the character. The script is the main part that lets it down. It’s incredibly on the nose at points, but then also weirdly lacking in others. Do you ever watch a film adaptation of a book and feel lost because something important has been lost in the translation from book to screen? Like they missed out a plot point that actually explains the whole thing? That’s what this feels like. Like I napped at some points and wondered why certain people were doing certain things and not taking the obvious steps.

I should commend the performances I suppose. Keri Russell does what she needs to, never really astounds you but never makes you cringe. Jeremy T.Thomas is probably the best performer, providing a haunting energy to his performance. I feel mean picking on child actors but the kid who plays Clint is just annoying. In wrestling parlance, there are two types of hatred or “heat” a character can have with an audience. There’s standard heat, where the audience thinks “I dislike this character and hope they get their comeuppance”. That’s normal, that’s what you should have. And then there’s “go-away heat” (also known as X-Pac heat after a particularly disliked wrestler from the late 90’s). This is the worst. It’s something that can best be summed up with this:

Basically, it’s where the audience doesn’t hate you in a way that they will pay to see you be defeated, they hate you in a way that they turn off the channel. That’s how annoying this kids performance is. It’s not helped by how 2-dimensional his character is.

So, in summary, I would not recommend this film. It had to be legally shown in cinema due to contractual obligations stopping it from being allowed to be premiered on screening services. I wish I knew that before, I would have waited, or avoided it.

The Nowhere Inn (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Annie Clark (a.k.a St. Vincent) is having a documentary made about her by her friend Carrie (best known from Sleater-Kinney) and is asked to disappear into her alter-ego to make the film more interesting in this mockumentary/concert film.

This was an interesting idea. I like mockumentaries, and like them even more if they’re not comedies. If they go dark, even better. Also, I love the music of St. Vincent so this should be ideal for me.

A strange film that makes no sense, but in a way the fact it makes no sense makes perfect sense. I was all ready to talk about how it should have been less creepy at the start. About how it should have fooled you into thinking it was just a standard documentary about St. Vincent before hitting you with the weirdness. That would make sense from a film-making perspective to lure people in. But then I thought about it, they allude to the fact that this has been edited and made from what they captured for the documentary, and if the events actually happened to this character and they wanted to tell people about it, they would lead with the weirdness wouldn’t they? Plus, by the end, Annie Clark has morphed into her alter-ego of St. Vincent so she would see no problem with exposing the weirdness of herself.

For the first half of this film, I was fully on board with what they were doing. I was interested and wanted to see what happened. But then it got a bit “too” weird and it became more about the weirdness than the narrative. Now I like weird, but what I will always love is a good story, well told. And this film is so focused on becoming a weird experience that it is lacking the storytelling aspect of it in the second half where it just becomes almost like a student art film.

It started to lose me when the St. Vincent character started to take over. The personality shift is a bit too jarring. She goes from 1-100 way too quickly when it should have been gradual. One minute she’s giving free tickets to someone because she is too awkward to say no, and the next she’s making a sex tape with Dakota Johnson. The aforementioned scene with the free tickets is delightfully awkward though, the interviewer getting her to apologise to her girlfriend for her. It’s delightfully awkward and helps tell you a lot about the character.

Might be a weird thing to state about a mockumentary, but it feels like it lacks truth. It’s like they wanted to delve deep, perform an emotional autopsy, but then shied away at the last second. Like there are times where it feels like the film is just a way for the actors to really discover who they are as people and do an emotional deep dive on themselves, really exploring their personalities. But when it comes close to really exploring who they are, it decides not to.

On the plus side, the performances are perfect throughout to the point where there are times you forget you’re not actually watching a documentary. The characters aren’t quite perfect though. Both characters feel incredibly selfish and stupid in how they react to each other. There are two scenes that follow each other, one is where Annie is hosting an obviously fake scene for the documentary. Carrie then derides that for being too fake, and then takes her to go see her father in prison “so I can get real emotion from you”. Just makes them seem incredibly self-involved and selfish.

If you are a massive fan of the artist you may get more out of this, but if you’re going in not knowing too much then it might feel lacking. You probably will love the music though.

My Own Personal Hell-oween: Day Two (Wolf)

Back in the day, I listed this as one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It’s kind of become shorthand for “terrible film” in these blogs. I had hoped to have never had this darken my brain again, but needs must. But maybe I exaggerated how bad it was, maybe it’s not actually too awful and now I’m watching it with low expectations I will enjoy it, maybe even really love it. After all, I hated Supalonely back when I first heard it and now I love it more than I love myself (admittedly that’s not hard).

  • I am really hoping this film is better than I remember it being. There is a small chance that is the case.
  • “History is the truth they want you to remember. Legends are the truths they pushed too far. Myths are the truth they want you to forget”. Yup, the best way to make sure people forget something is to turn it into a myth so that everybody talks about it all the time.
  • “There is truth in all things” I KNEW my therapist was right and that everything is my fault.
  • I have never seen a person look so uncomfortable playing fetch with a dog.
  • Oh, the dog is called “boy”. Evidently the budget for this film didn’t extend to “dog namer”.
  • Come on Lee, don’t be negative, the film might still be good.
  • Oh fuck off. They cut mid-scene while a kid was about to stand up. Why? That’s an incredibly unnatural place to cut unless you’re REALLY good, and these guys aren’t good. They didn’t even check the colours are the same, it goes from a dark brown to smoked out colour. I’m not even joking, I’ll post two shots here, they happen practically next to each other.
  • That, that is unforgivable. There is no excuse. No editor who gets paid should put those two shots together and think that’s acceptable. A first year student film wouldn’t get away with that.
  • First death of the movie, the child (going by how this film named the dog, he’s probably called Child) gets killed off-screen. That was when the film lost me when I originally saw it. It seemed too obvious that it was done for lack of budget and because they lacked decent CGI.
  • Although considering how badly they fucked up a “person stands up” scene I hate to think what they’d do with CGI.
  • It’s fine though, they used sound to convey the death. Well I say death, it sounds like when my dad eats KFC.
  • Our first introduction to the main characters, one with his face mostly covered, both walking away from camera.
  • Well, they walk away from camera until they need to talk, when they need to talk they stand still because this film couldn’t do tracking shots. I remember that being an issue throughout this film, the static camera during dialogue scenes.
  • Oh, we have slight camera movement. Slight. Still not slight enough to not realise how unsteady it is though.
  • A standard dialogue scene, this should be impossible to be bad. It’s just people talking while standing still, how can that be messed up?
  • Oh, that’s how. These are characters we haven’t met yet, and yet when they start talking, the camera is never on them. It always cuts to them halfway through their line. It’s like they were filming it live and the guy on the board had slow reactions. They also randomly cut to other people for about a second.
  • “it feels strange being this far away from the wall” The one that Mexico will pay for?
  • Why does that guy look like he has spunk on the front of his armour?
  • “keep your eyes open” oh thanks for that, I was just going to walk around carrying this big spear not looking where I’m going.
  • Lens flare keeps appearing and disappearing mid-shot. JJ Abrams would have an anger wank.
  • “We’ll rest here”. Erm, you’ve been standing still, sitting down and eating in that spot for the last 5 minutes. Is that not resting?
  • “we don’t want the gods to curse us with snow” As someone who is currently watching this film, I know all about curses.
  • “it’s not the fighting I fear, it’s the unexpected” how about unexpected fighting?
  • I don’t remember any of these characters names so I’m just going to refer to who they look like poundland versions of: Zack Gibson, Generic bald man, Michael Douglas, Karen Taylor, Nick Helm.
  • They get attacked by the natives. Oh no, the invading army is being attacked by the people they are there to kill, this is such a horrible thing to happen.
  • Phew, the invaders one, massacring the people who call this country home. Yay?
  • Drone shot. That’s almost film-making there.
  • Oh, and now we have bad ADR.
  • “I am Germanic, not Pict” “you seem to know a lot about Picts for someone who’s not one”. Because nothing is a better sign of guilt than “knowing something”.
  • “footprints of animals, wolves, men” Manbearwolf!
  • “you can’t trust a Germanic”. Just say German. You’re speaking in modern English, you don’t care that much about anachronisms.
  • Also, that’s racist.
  • “when you look at me, what do you see?” Well I can’t get past that eye make-up to be honest.
  • “but when we draw swords” You’re supposed to be soldiers, why are you sitting around drawing pretty pictures with crayons? This is why the Roman empire failed.
  • A shaky cam shot of the fucking moon. Could you not get a tripod for that? Seriously.
  • “why would it tear them apart like that?” YOU’RE TEARING ME APART LISA!
  • “looks like the claws of a wolf” “what wolf walks on two legs?” Wolf from Gladiators?
  • “it was so fast and horrible” title of my sex tape.
  • “we take this down for the glory of Rome, for our glory”. Oh honey, you ain’t got no glory if you’re in this film.
  • Battle-trained soldiers there standing in that well-known formation of “all facing in the same direction, with the shields being held to the side, leaving your stomach exposed”.
  • This is such an exciting scene, people standing around, doing nothing.
  • “hunting is our speciality” mine’s risotto. Some may argue it’s less useful, but out of me and every Roman soldier, I’m the one with a high score on Pac-Man.
  • Wooo we get to see The Orb. Or in technical terms “stand in a circle”, via flashback. I mean, there was a battle scene earlier that you could have demonstrated it in. And it would have been much more natural than “remember when we used The Orb before and it saved us?” like some lame clip show episode.
  • They’ve been standing in the dark now for at least 10 minutes. It’s a sub-90 minute film. I’ll leave it up to you to ascertain whether I thought that was a good use of time.
  • The “werewolves” move too fast to be seen, only made clear by camera swooshes that are too quick for any of those trained soldiers to see them. Except for when we actually see them, when they’re just running back and forth like drunk students.
  • There is no way they are fast enough to drag someone away without you being able to slice at them.
  • Phew, they’ve stopped standing around in the dark. They’re now walking in the dark.
  • “A little bit of snow and that thing is still out there”. Wouldn’t snow on the ground make it easier to track something?
  • It’s now daylight, they’re still standing around. Have they been like that all night?
  • Her make-up is doing a stunning job of staying streak-free during all this.
  • “there was more than one, I swear it”. Well, yeah. We saw three of them at the same time. Was there any doubt there was more than one?
  • “That’s not the Roman way, we offer peace first, war second”. By peace they mean “allow yourself to be ruled by us”. So it’s not really peace, just a decision on how to accept invasion. If I went up to someone and said “Give me your money or I’ll shoot you in the face”, the fact they handed over their money and I didn’t shoot them does not make it a peaceful transaction.
  • “I thought I saw something in the trees”, yeah they’re called leaves mate.
  • “if we can train them to fight for us, or unleash them on our enemy” I’d argue those two things are very similar.
  • “that thing took us all on and we barely survived” and you think you could train it? Are you an idiot?
  • “I’d say the gods are angry”. Why, have they been watching this film too?
  • Apparently being sent to Britain was basically a punishment as it was such an awful and desolate place. Thus proving that the Romans made it to Rochester.
  • “who would live here?” SPONGE BOB SQUARE PANTS
  • “He knows something” *five seconds pause” “I do”. Well that was worth the wait.
  • One of the women strip off and we have one of the few things worth watching this film for. No, not those, you perverts. The make up. She has scratches on her back and they look magnificently brutal and real.
  • “there is an evil in the black forest” That’s just what they tell you to keep you away from the gateau.
  • “More ramblings from the old man, should have killed him”. And how does that tie into the “we offer peace” thing?
  • “then why did you choose to be here?” “I didn’t, the council chose for me”. Bloody council, did they catch you putting the bins out on the wrong day again?
  • “this is insane” he says crying, then immediately is back to normal.
  • “What kind of a man are you?” A twat.
  • “these things move so fast” they don’t though, we’ve seen them.
  • Oh good, more standing around. This time with added spittle on beard.
  • No idea what frame rate they were using but some of these shots are jerkier than Jamaican chicken.
  • I think not-Michael Douglas died. He got separated from the group. Because that’s something a highly trained group does when they are walking slowly, lose people.
  • “he was hurt by the thing when we were in the orb” that was ages ago though wasn’t it?
  • Oh good, bourne-style shaky cam of someone standing still. Exciting!
  • “You don’t want to do this?” what’s that, watch this film? I’m well aware of that thank you.
  • That snow cleared up fucking quickly by the way. Almost fully green scenery now.
  • Wth is that accent? That could be said at almost any point during this film by the way.
  • “you have always been the better soldier” if only we saw some evidence of that. Like start in Rome, with him getting a commendation or something, then land at the English shore after hearing reports of violent attacks on the soldiers stationed there. Despite being the invading army, it nearly always feels like they’re on home turf in this film. Probably because they all have English accents.
  • They’re not werewolves, they’re just naked people. Not even hairy.
  • “they want us to turn” It’s normally bears that do that (or otters, or cubs), and usually only with consent.
  • Oh no, thingy died. He was stabbed by what’s his name.
  • Thankfully it’s near the end so I should mention the other things that have been prevalent throughout: bad performances, different background audio between two shots set in the same scene, heavy breathing.
  • The surviving Romans are all banging. Not in a sexy way.
  • We finally get our first clear shot of a werewolf. It’s a normal person, only with dirt, and bad fake teeth. And they’ve gone from “we’ve stabbed them but we can’t harm them” to three of them being killed in quick succession really easily.
  • And the bald guy is now dead. That’s all the men dead now.
  • Ohhhhh I remember how this film ends now. It turns out women can’t become werewolves so if they survive the bites they’re fine. Neat idea, never explained.
  • “we do not fight with wolves”, smart, using swords is a much smarter idea.
  • Yup I was right, the women don’t turn. This is explained off camera, because the camera is far more focused on seeing people have this explained to them than have us see the person speaking it.
  • And this ends with a knife in the head. Sadly not in mine, so I will still remember it exists.
  • The cast for this film included the director and the editor, explains a lot. Helps contribute to the “student film” feel of it, only this was not student, this was a professional film. And it fucking sucked.

I stand by my original review

Malignant (2021)

Quick synopsis: Madison (Annabelle Wallis) is a pregnant woman living in Seattle with her abusive partner. She starts receiving visions of people being murdered and………..actually you know what? A synopsis would not help you that much here. Just watch the trailer, then watch the film. It’s fucking strange.

I watched this on the 25th September, and I still haven’t properly gathered my thoughts about it. It’s something unlike anything else you will see this year. One of the most unique films and I’m still not sure how it got made and given a wide release. It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen this year, but also has a weird sense of familiarity. It’s the kind of film I may not buy, but I do want to see again just to experience it.

It’s a really strange film, incredibly uneven. There are moments where it looks slick as hell and incredibly well produced, but then moments where it looks really cheap and kind of silly. I have never both enjoyed and been disappointed at the same time as much as I have with this. Some of it feels like it’s a tribute to horror movies of time past, there’s a definite air of the giallo horror movies of the 70s and 80s, but also very reminiscent of the early horror movies of Peter Jackson or Sam Raimi. It mostly works, but there’s one moment which is supposed to be horrifying but I heard laughter in the screening I went to.

One thing that is pretty even throughout is the tone. It’s consistently uneven. There are some sub-plots here which definitely could have been cut. Chief among them is a romance sub-plot that felt so unnaturally shoe-horned in I wanted to hit both characters with a cheese grater and tell them to stop being so damn horny. It might work if the performances are better, but they’re incredibly flat a lot of the time. So wooden they might as well be an IKEA shelving unit.

Now onto the good. The music is great. Both in terms of the songs picked, and the original score. It’s incredibly brutal in parts, not shying away in situations when lesser films would.

And the third act? It’s the cinematic equivalent of throwing lasagne against the wall and playing in the mess it’s created. It’s chaotic, it’s strange, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

The visuals are brilliant in parts. Some of the effects aren’t great, but the actual look and colour schemes are beautiful. It says a lot about both this film, and how much of a pretentious dick that I am, that there are a few scenes in this where I thought “wow, that use of focus and shadow is very Citizen Kane”. There are so many shots here which could have been a poster.

So in summary go see it. You may love it, you may hate it, but you will be fascinated by it and feel yourself unable to turn away. I am so glad something like this can get made, I am all about this kind of big-ish budget experimental cinema. A truly risky move from director James Wan, but one I feels pays off.

The Green Knight (2021)

Quick synopsis: Gawain, a young knight (Dev Patel) is determined to prove himself to his uncle King Arthur at a party when the event is crashed by The Green Knight with a deal: someone can strike the Knight with an axe, and in one years time will get the same given to him. Gawain cuts his head off and is horrified when the Knight gets back up and re-attaches his head, leaving after reminding Gawain of his promise.

That was not a quick synopsis I know. But this is not a quick film, it is long, and it is slow, and it is powerful. I had the trailer for this before quite a few films this year. It looked like it was going to be a weird one. A24 films have a habit of being a bit weird, and their horrors are usually deeply disturbing (although is this a horror? What is it? I’ve watched it and still not sure). It was then announced that the cinematic release for the UK had been cancelled. I’m used to films being cancelled but this was the most disappointing, I didn’t want to have to watch this on a computer screen as it wouldn’t really feel right. Thankfully it came to Amazon Prime. Now I do have some issues with Prime, it’s probably the major streaming service I use least, primarily because of how much it seems to have contempt for the people who use it

I have to say, and this surprises me quite a lot, I think this may have actually been better to watch at home than at a cinema. This is a strange film, the kind of one you need to set out a block of time to watch it, and then set aside some time afterwards to get back to normal. And at home it allows you to take the film in at your own pace, and you need that for something like this. It’s like a very rich meal, no matter how much you’re enjoying it, it’s difficult to tackle in one sitting.

I can’t really explain why this is. I’ve seen weirder films. I’ve seen more devastating films. But for some reason this one sat really heavy with me. It’s the film equivalent of wading through a thick swamp, and I already know I’m going to need a second viewing of it.

I will admit, this film does gain something if you’re familiar with the Arthurian legend on which it’s based. There are some character motivations that you won’t understand (and you might even think it’s actually a plot hole), and the ending may frustrate you if you don’t know how the original story ends. It’s a film that encourages research. Normally I hate that but this film is so fascinating that I don’t mind.

On the subject of the ending: there is a chance they have changed it from the original tale. It’s incredibly open to interpretation. But in a sense it doesn’t matter. What will happen isn’t important, what is important is that no matter what does happen, he has accepted it.

This is superbly directed by the way, the only previous film of David Lowery that I have seen was Pete’s Dragon, and I wasn’t too impressed by that, but he completely nails this. Every scene is full of incredible detail and love. He injects the film with a strange energy and tone which I am all for.

Dev Patel continues to impress with his performances. He’s quickly becoming one of my favourite performers to see on screen. His presence lights up the screen in this, providing a balance of cocksureness and doubt. Somebody who feels he has a lot to live up to, and is determined to prove his worth, but does so by making some terrible mistakes. The whole concept of the film is from him making a bad decision, if he just made a small cut on the Knights face, he’d have been fine. But because he was so desperate to prove himself, he decapitated them. He has proven himself, but over the next year he sees his life turned into a story, people are more concerned with telling his tale than learning from it. The story is more important to them than the person. You can just see how that breaks him, and it’s perfect.

So yeah, in summary I loved this film. but there is a chance you will completely hate it. It is very slow, it leaves a lot of things unsaid and it is improved by background reading. It is frustrating, with characters seeming important and then leaving. A truly divisive film, but one that will definitely inspire a strong reaction, even if it is one of hate. This is the closest film has got to the old storytelling medium of “telling a long story around a campfire”. A few years ago Warner Bros. were attempting to kickstart an Arthurian Cinematic Universe. If they were like this, I would have been in full support of it.

The Columnist aka De Kuthoer (2019)

Quick Synopsis: Femke Boot (played by Katja Herbers) is an author who is fed up with the constant abuse she gets online, so decides to fight back with murder in a slick social satire.

I was looking forward to this since I first saw the trailer. I showed someone it and they said “Oh that looks right up your street”. And it is, it’s funny, has something to say, has a good look, and looks violently fun. The closest to this I’ve seen is probably I Blame Society. But that wasn’t as focused as this is. This has a definitive villain, but also doesn’t. The problem the main character is dealing with isn’t a single person, it’s a societal imbalance. When that’s handled badly it can ruin a film as it makes the characters journey seem hopeless as if they can’t win, what’s the point of trying? But when done well it will annoy you and you’ll love seeing the character fight back. This is in the second category.

It’s a film that’s deeply uncomfortable to watch, in a good way. The handy thing about this type of plot is you don’t need a big breaking point. You don’t need a “oh, this is what set her off”. There’s no “this is the one incident which caused her to be angry”, it’s just “she’s a woman that has expressed opinions about sexism on the internet”, and everybody will automatically understand her rage and annoyance.

The film would fall apart without the performers though. If you don’t buy what the performers are selling, it won’t work. I know nobody in this film, so I went in with a blank slate in terms of expectations, and I love so many of them. Claire Porro plays Femke’s daughter, and she injects a mischievous energy to her performance, making you aware that even when she’s sitting there looking beaten, she has a plan. She’d make a great villain in a Bond-like movie. Tremendous talent for someone so young. She injects a level of fire to a film that’s already burning, simply fantastic to watch.

While Porro is good, it’s definitely a showcase for Herbers. She gives a great performance. It’s weird to judge performances in foreign languages as it’s based almost entirely on physical performance, you’re not aware of word emphasis etc which could be ruining it. So for all I know, she did terribly and her line delivery was terrible. But for me, judging by what I saw, she was great. It’s a difficult role to do as she has to be likeable, but also a serial killer. So she has to have that weird mix of danger and sweetness. It’s a testament to both her performance, and to the writing, that it works as well as it does.

Now onto the writing, I kind of assumed this was written by a woman, or at the very least directed by one. Not the case, written and directed by men. I kind of like that as it shows that it’s not just women who are disgusted by this behaviour, other men are too. It could be argued that they’re taking away women’s voices, but alternatively it could also be argued that they’re using their position of privilege to amplify issues which others face. If they stay silent, nothing changes for them, they can go on and live their lives. They put themselves in the firing line by calling out their peers, and doing it in such a visceral and clever way that it’s hard to ignore.

Trust me, this film is bloody, and this film is violent. But it’s also very very funny. Not just in the actions but the dialogue too. There’s a sense of playfulness to it that is artfully done enough that it never takes you away from the violence you’re seeing. And it’s very violent, there’s a fantastic montage of her killing misogynistic assholes and I’m all for that kind of violence in cinema.

I guess it’s time to talk about the misogyny that drives this film. It’s a story that so many people will be familiar with. A woman posts an article online saying something like “hey, maybe blackface isn’t a good idea and we should really stop it, and just saying It’s Tradition isn’t good enough”, and gets a lot of hate mail, most of which is misogynistic in nature (“This woman should be impaled cunt first”) . Lots of death threats, lots of people calling her an ugly cunt etc. It’s an ugly part of the film, but it’s an honest part of the film. Whether we like it or not, that is what the internet experience is for a lot of women, and it’s, well it’s not “nice” to see a film say this, but it is good to see a spotlight shone upon it.

Weird thing about this film is something that was completely accidental. Now, there was an incident last week where a twatface dickhead shot people because he wasn’t getting laid enough (that’s not me being glib, that’s pretty much what he said). And here’s a picture of him, and a picture of one of the guys in the film who sent the aforementioned “impaled cunt first” message.

There’s…..there’s definitely a similarity there isn’t there? Very creepy, and the fact it reminded me of such a horrible event does slightly taint it somewhat. But that also kind of shows the power of the film and how accurate the portrayal of the culture is. Good satire reacts, great satire predicts.

So, the downside of the film? The ending, it’s in the trailer so you know it’s coming. Although I suppose with this it’s not so much the destination as it is the journey, and it’s one hell of a journey. There also will be some people who don’t think the ending is complete, but I loved it. It just required you to step away from the film and realise the next steps for every character, I love when that happens as it makes the characters seem like real people.

One final thing: De Kuthoer does not translate to “The Columnist”, it actually means “Cunt whore”. So don’t compliment Dutch writers by calling them Kuthoers. That’s a mistake you only make once.

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall ask for The Rocks help to take a small boat down the Amazon river so they can find a magic tree.

To say I went into this with low expectations would be an understatement on the scale of “cheese is good on toast”. So much of it pointed to it being a bad film. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Rock and he’s always entertaining to watch, but he’s not someone that will make me go see a film just because he’s in it, he does have a history of films which are kind of forgettable and bland (I’ve seen San Andreas, cannot remember anything from it). Plus as much as I find Jack Whitehall amusing, his character seemed incredibly one note and stereotypical.

I was wrong. Not about Whitehall, his character is quite one note and once you’ve seen him in one scene you know exactly how his character is going to react to everything. You can also guess he’s gay. It’s not explicitly stated, but it is signposted more than Disney usually feel comfortable doing, with him saying that none of the women he was asked to marry “were really suitable for him”. That’s as obvious as they make it, and they count this as progressive, doing the bare minimum.

Other than that, it’s actually fun. It’s not a movie that’s going to change your life. But it is one that you can put on and comfortably watch. It’s the kind of movie they don’t make anymore. A fun adventure movie for kids that will inspire kids. It won’t inspire them to buy merchandise, or to go online, or purchase the video game. It will simply inspire kids to play. To go outside, pretend to be the characters and jump around the park. That’s something weirdly sweet coming from a film based on a theme park ride.

It’s not all fun though, the CGI is unforgivably bad for a film of this budget, normally when I see something this ropey in this type of film, it’s a bridge going over a canyon. The pacing is a mess, and the story is so incredibly formulaic and bland. It also is too obviously hoping for a sequel. It’s also lacking a truly impressive scene. There’s no big action sequence that the film builds towards. No “holy shit” moments. A film like this requires a big marquee moment which everybody who watches will remember. It needs a cinematic mountain to climb, this doesn’t have that. It has the occasional action sequence but they’re more like cinematic small hills. The excitement level stays pretty constant throughout, with no notable highlights.

Maybe kids won’t notice, but adults will. They’ll still have fun though. The film is a wonderful throwback movie to a simpler time. It’s not saying anything major about the human condition or society. You won’t learn anything, and you won’t be changed as a person. But you won’t be annoyed or angered either. You’ll just be taken to a different place for the duration of the film. And sometimes that’s enough.

Nomadland (2020)

Knew nothing of this film going in, that’s becoming a running theme with these reviews lately. Truth be told I don’t actively seek out films, I don’t go onto film sites and search for recommendations. My knowledge of what films to see come from four sources:

  1. Trailers at the cinema
  2. Personal recommendation (is why I watched Love And Monsters)
  3. If it gets nominated for a lot of awards (Sound Of Metal)

My fourth one is the one I’ve used the most this year. And if you ever wondered how the hell I found some random films, it’s likely to be from this. I go onto every week to look at the films that have been released that week, if I haven’t heard of it at all I’ll quickly google it and see if it intrigues me. That’s why I end up hearing about films such as Come True (very much yay), Blithe Spirit (very much not yay), and I Blame Society (I don’t know yet as I haven’t seen it, but it looks great). When I say “it intrigues me” I mean that I read a quick one line synopsis, if that hooks me I usually just add it to the list. So there’s a lot of films where I haven’t even seen the trailer (if I had then I wouldn’t have seen Mouthpiece as I’ve since watched the trailer for that and it did nothing for me, which is a shame as it would have meant missing out on one of my favourite films of the year).

So yeah, despite it being one of the most critically acclaimed films of the year (well, technically last year. I’ll stop using parenthesis soon I swear), I went into this knowing very little. Highly recommend going into it this way as seeing everything unfurl in front of you is a delightful experience. I say “delightful”, it’s actually horrible. This has the tone and look of an apocalyptic future. It resembles a word in the near future left ravaged by war. So when is this film set? 2011. That’s a stunning indictment of American capitalism.

But that’s not really what this film is, it’s not about dystopia and bleakness. It’s ultimately about humanity and hope. It’s about beauty and life. It’s about everything and nothing all at once. It feels all too real, but sometimes that realness gives you a warm glow inside.

The feeling of reality is helped by the cast, mainly because Chloe Zhao decided to cast non-actors, instead reaching out to people who actually live the nomadic life. Risky strategy, but it definitely works. These characters know the perfect way to play every single piece of dialogue, bringing the characters to life in a way that few other films could. I should also mention the way that Zhao shot a lot of it. She doesn’t go to make it look like a dramatic film, it’s shot almost like a documentary. Again, this makes everything feel real. It doesn’t often feel like you’re watching a film, but more like you’re standing there alongside them, it truly makes you feel like part of a community (then the film finishes and you’re back to a reality where you’re alone with just a cup of tea for company, and you cry). Considering this film stars Frances McDormand, one of the best performers around, making you forget that she’s an actor is something incredibly difficult to do. But both the talent of the film, and the talent of McDormand herself, make that easy to do.

I suppose it is also helped by being based on a non-fiction book (Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century) which I now need to read I think. You’d think being based on a non-fiction book would mean it lacks narrative. It kind of does, but also doesn’t. It’s not a standard “A leads to B, which leads to C” style plot. It’s the cinematic equivalent of just wandering around somewhere (almost nomadically you could say) and observing. Sometimes you meander, taking stock of what’s in front of you at that moment, sometimes you move forward quicker, and sometimes you stand still. It’s the moments where characters just sit around talking which are the highlights. A key example of this is a guy explaining how his son committed suicide. He talks about how living on the road means you never say goodbye, because you know you’re going to see everybody further down the road. That’s why he does it, because he feels it means his son hasn’t said goodbye, they’ll always meet each other later on. Just writing that bit and remembering it almost brought me to tears just now. That’s how powerful it is.

In summary, you really need to see this. It’s one of the most compelling things I’ve seen all year, and it deserves everything you could give it. Plus it’s available for free on disney+ right now so….yeah.

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

I really enjoyed the first one. Probably one of the best all-round superhero movies of the last few years. When I saw the trailer for this I thought it looked a lot of fun, it brought to mind Thor: Ragnarok. I felt sure that this would be incredibly fun, just balls out insanity and slickness. Then it came out, very quietly, in December, I think. That was not a good sign. If it was a film the studio had faith in, they would have delayed it until the cinemas were open (like what happened with A Quiet Place 2), or made a bigger deal of what streaming sites it was on to purchase (like Disney+ have been doing with their stuff). The way they released it had all the hallmarks of a “let’s quietly put this out and hope nobody notices”. I delayed watching this as I was certain it was going to get an actual cinema release when they re-opened.

So yeah, that put a few worries in me, and then those worries increased when I heard people talk about it. Well, they didn’t talk about it much, which was the problem. The only time I’ve heard it mentioned was when I made a reference to The Monkey’s Paw in an earlier review and someone asked if it was about this film. The fact that nobody talked about this film is not a good sign. Now I’ve seen it has my opinion changed? Well I’ll say this, the fact that I knew NOTHING about the post-credits cameo is a sign of how few people discuss this film. I’ll spoil it here, it’s not really relevant to the plot so I think it’s okay. It has Lynda Carter do a cameo, the original Wonder Woman, she turns up, saves a child, says she’s been doing this a while, then winks to camera. Holy crap the implications for this and the future of the DCEU are huge, yet nobody talks about it.

Turns out there’s a reason for that, this film is not great. It seems like the type of sequel that was made by completely different crew from the original, which is weird as it had same director for both. Although it has to be said that Patty Jenkins only directed the first one, she didn’t write it, whereas she did write this one, so maybe that’s the problem. The script is just so poor, full of logical inconsistencies. A big issue is that it is a prequel, yet the events of it were not mentioned in Justice League or Dawn Of Justice. Nobody seems to have remembered the time a guy gave everybody in the world a wish and how it led to chaos. It doesn’t seem like everything from it was forgotten, just the effects reversed (although considering a few people died due to wishes, do they come back? The film doesn’t say). Also, she doesn’t use some of the things from this film again, and they would have come in very useful.

Also the way the film plays with the wishes is inconsistent. At one point the villain says he can give out any number of wishes he wants because he is the wish-stone, yet before that he asks someone to make a wish on his behalf. And some of the wishes only seem to work in a way that advances the plot, it’s like it knows it has a narrative to fulfil. It’s a shame as it could have been interesting, if they made it smaller. Having it all over the whole world makes it TOO big. If it was focused on one city it would have allowed the audience to get a better look at the effects of the negative side of the wishes. Instead we spend way too much of this film in watching people travel. Plus, it would have given plausible deniability for this film never being mentioned again. You’re telling me that a worldwide event like this wouldn’t have caught the attention of Mark Strong’s character from Shazam?

Here’s the thing; if I wasn’t thinking, I might have enjoyed this film. It looked good enough and the performances were good. But as soon as you think about this movie for more than a second, the flaws are too apparent to ignore. Some are just basic storytelling mistakes like how the main villain had a difficult childhood, a fact which informs a lot of his decisions during the movie. Also a fact which isn’t properly explored until right near the end of the film, bit of a weird choice, and not a good one. Also the opening scene isn’t needed. There’s a whole opening set during an athletic event in Wonder Woman’s childhood where she got caught “cheating” and admonished for it. seems to be just so they can tell her about the dangers of not putting effort in, but there must have been a much more natural way to do that, and one that doesn’t take about twenty minutes. The film is two and a half hours, and does not justify that length at all. I could have forgiven the film not making sense, but I can’t forgive how dull it is a lot of the time. Looks great though.

So in summary; see it if you must, but there’s nothing saying you must.