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.

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.

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.

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.

2010’s In Film Day 7 (2017)

January – A Monster Calls

This month was STRONG. It had this, La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Young Offenders (which is now a GREAT sitcom on BBC), so yeah it was a pretty good month. Okay, it also had Assassin’s Creed and The Bye Bye Man so it didn’t have everything. I chose this because it was the first film I saw that year, it’s also REALLY depressing. This is not an easy film to watch on an emotional level, one of the few films I’ve seen lately that seeks to emotionally blackmail the watcher. Reminiscent of a mix between Pan’s Labyrinth and a Neil Gaiman book, can be best described as a modern-day fairy tale. Bayona did a fantastic job of directing this, whilst the Liam Neeson tree is telling stories (it’s an odd film) the film switches visual styles so it almost becomes a living watercolour painting, it’s awe-inspiring and genuinely new, never seen anything that was done like this (the closest is when Hermione was telling the stories of the Three Brothers in Harry Potter and the style switched to a weird animated one). The book is beautiful too.

February – A Cure For Wellness

When I saw this at the cinema the ending of this film was met with silence. Not a “well that was shit” silence, more a stunned silence where nobody was sure what to do next. Everyone slowly came to their senses and walked out the screening, feeling like we’d been bonded by trauma. It was a unique experience, and one I loved. I didn’t love the film though, it had the unfortunate double whammy of being too long, and having underdeveloped characters. It is definitely worth a watch though. It’s ugly, but beautifully so. You may not like it, but I don’t think you’ll be able to turn away from it.

March – Logan

One of the few truly mature comic book movies. A lot of film studios (and audiences tbh) mistake “mature” with “violence” and think to make a mature film all you need to do is add tits and guns (or in extreme cases, penis’s and guns).

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Or this, a penis with a gun

This doesn’t do that, it deals with mature themes. It’s like the entire genre has grown up to lead to this moment. And they decided to follow this with Dark Phoenix? Oh hell no. THIS is where it should have ended. It provided a logical closing point to the franchise and gave it an emotional ending. It felt like closure, and that was shown even by something as small as the song that plays over the end credits. They didn’t pick a bombastic rock song, or a current pop song, they chose Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around. And it works. Comic book movies will never reach some of the heights this film hit again.

April – The Promise

I was going to talk about Table 19, because nobody talks about that film and it’s fucking great. Instead, I went with this, not so much because of the film, but the reaction to it. It’s a 2-hour film about the Armenian Genocide which is really good (the film, the film is good, not the genocide). But it seemed to annoy a certain type of people. By certain type, I mean genocide deniers, a.k.a; dickheads. This is one of those “debates” where there’s only a debate because one side refuses to admit they’re wrong, see also; drink driving (yes, there are people who think drink driving should be legal, at least one of which is a UKIP MP), vaccines, global warming, and the holocaust. The sides are basically this; the people who committed the genocide vs. everybody else. Well I say “everybody else”, America still refuses to officially call it one as they don’t want to upset Turkey (also their autocorrect probably changes Armenian Genocide to American Genocide and it makes them feel guilty when they think about the Native Americans, and the slave trade). This film was flooded with fake reviews condemning it, most of which came out before the film was released, so you know they were genuine. Sadly this film was a box office bomb, so it could be argued that the wrong side one.

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I’ll just post this picture again for no reason

May – Sleepless

I’ve seen quite a few bad films at the cinema, but rarely are they as f*cking tedious as this was. You’d think a 90-minute action film set in Las Vegas would be exciting, you’d be wrong. The only reason certain things happen is because characters are idiots, for example at one point the villain points a loaded gun at the main character, now instead of shooting him, he takes a few steps backwards and gets run over a van (which he somehow didn’t hear coming, in an empty parking lot, the emptiness of which I have a problem with also). I’ve seen defences of this say “yeah but as long as you don’t think too hard about it it works. It’s just dumb fun”. And they’re half right, it’s dumb. It’s not nitpicking to point out that someone who has been stabbed (and for whom the wound continues bleeding for 4 hours) should be weakened by that. But nope, the only indication of it is that he occasionally stops and goes “ah”. A stab wound has the same effect as an ice cream headache. It’s a shame as the cast do their job well, it’s just the script is kinda dumb. There are some odd choices when it comes to directing too. You know that “shaky cam fight scene” that the Bourne movies use? They do that here, only they do it for EVERYTHING in the fight. Someone walks away after the fight; Shaky Bourne Camera, someone gets their phone out to phone someone: Shaky Bourne Camera. It also ends with the most obvious sequel hook in a long time. This film somehow ended up with a B rating from audiences, which just goes to show you can’t trust the general public.

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Again, posted without context.

June – Gifted

A lot less Nicholas-Sparks than I thought it would be. Bit formulaic but it plays to the formula very well. Chris Evans is very good in it, but is overshadowed by Mckenna Grace, who is very very good, probably one of the best performances this year. Is it just me or are child actors getting better? Manages to do a performance which is funny, moving, and hits all the right spots in terms of body language and facial acting. Great performance. Jenny Slate was also REALLY good in it, but wasn’t in it as much as she should have been. I mentioned this, and not, say, Wonder Woman for this month because of how nobody knows it. And for when Mckenna Grace officially becomes one of the best actresses of our generation it will make it easier for me to find this blog and be like “I fucking told you”.

July – The Big Sick

Incredibly funny, and with the right amount of heart. You’d need to be made of stone not to feel touched by this film. I’ve seen horrors where a few people have sat there not flinching or jumping in fright, I’ve seen spectacle films where people are bored, and I’ve seen comedies where nobody is laughing. Everybody in the screen I was at reacted to this. They laughed at every joke (to the point where the laughter in the room was louder than the laughter on screen, in a scene set at a comedy club), people “awww’ed” at the right parts, it couldn’t have been more perfect if the film studio paid them to react like that. The characters are so well-written as well, every character seems fully fleshed out. They seem like they exist outside of the film. I highly recommend everybody watch this film, it’s still one of my favourites.

August – Atomic Blonde

Essentially a companion piece to John Wick. It looks superb and the music is brilliant. Had one of my favourite soundtracks in a long time And there’s one scene which everyone has to see; a single-shot fight scene that lasts about 15 minutes, one of (in fact probably the) best fight scene I’ve seen all year. It doesn’t cut away before the impact like most do, it’s mostly silent, no music so you hear every hit, and the fight has an effect on people, you can see them get gradually more exhausted as the fight goes on. It’s just so damn impressive and I want more.

September – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

It’s pretty much the first film again, but I liked the first one so it doesn’t matter. It is a very good film, and the use of Elton John is perfect. It’s just missing that something to make it different. Maybe it’s the underutilization of some of the new cast, maybe it’s the way fan favourite characters are disposed of too easily. Or maybe it’s that the villain kind of has a really good point when she points out sugar is more deadly than a lot of drugs. I was going to put “Almost Heaven” for this month, and then just sing “Take Me Home Country Roads” instead of typing anything. That would have made more sense as a video blog though.

October – Happy Death Day

Yeah I had no idea whether to go for this or The Death Of Stalin. Both are REALLY good but for different reasons. Despite not being a horror, Death Of Stalin is more horrifying. But this? This has something about it. The script is incredibly clever and brilliant, plus it’s helped by Jessica Rothe’s performance. She adds JUST the right amount of emotion needed for the role. This is probably one of my favourite horror movies of all time, I have so much love for it.

November – Murder On The Orient Express

Because fuck you this is a great movie. I knew the murderer going in and still highly enjoyed it. There was building work going on at the cinema when I saw it so every few minutes you could hear the faint sound of hammering (and not the sexy kind) going on, and I still enjoyed it. It’s so well done and I am genuinely excited for the sequel.

December – Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle

I HAD to talk about this. Not because it’s good (but it is), but because it’s the only film released that month that I’ve actually seen. I was busy with stupid stuff like working two jobs so I didn’t get time to do really important things, like go to the cinema. It’s a shame, and is a regret that will forever live with me. The world has punished me for missing The Greatest Showman by making me listen to songs from it EVERYWHERE I go lately, so I believe my debt has been paid.

Trust me, SO MUCH has been missed from this blog: Baby Driver, Blade Runner, Colossal, Lego Batman, AND HOW COULD I NOT MENTION GET OUT! WTF Lee?

Black Christmas (2019)

So this will probably be the last film I see this year. In my review of Knives Out I mentioned that I think that probably be the last great film I see this year. After seeing this movie I can categorically say I was I definitely right. This movie is not a great movie. In fact it’s kind of bad, and for reasons I hate to bring up as it makes me sound like a dick. So the reason I didn’t like it? The politics. Now I don’t want to be one of those “keep politics out of films” dickheads. This is essentially a film about how patriarchal power structures silence and oppress women, particularly when it comes to justice for rape victims. That’s a message that is, depressingly, still incredibly relevant and is well worth discussing in a film, the issue is that the film itself isn’t good.  It means well and what it says are things that have to be said, but they have to be said better than this. I haven’t seen anything this hamfisted since Kermit’s date night.

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Not the worst thing someone has put in a pig though

It deals with themes such as sexual assault and the PTSD that can come from it, but it does it really badly. For a film about someone breaking out and trying to escape that memory, the main character isn’t given much of a personality outside of that. Almost all her actions (and most conversations) in the film come from that one event, so whilst the character is trying to not let it define her, the film insists upon it.

The other characters aren’t written much better either. Nobody is given any depth, especially the villains. Horror movies need compelling villains to kill characters, or you need characters you care about and feel scared for. This film has neither. The villains are so 2-dimensional they’re practically stick figures. I’ve had occasions where trailers have spoilt the film, this almost does it in the opening text crawl. It has a quote about using the supernatural to punish people made by a character who founded the college the film is set at. So when you see a statue of that same person oozing a black liquid then being used on people wearing the same clothes as the killer, you can pretty much guess what’s going on. That’s a big issue with this film; how predictable it is. As soon as I saw one character I literally thought “he’s too obviously evil to be evil”. But no, I was wrong, it turns out that he, and all the characters who you might think would be evil, turn out to be, shock horror, evil!

So the black sludge, the scene with the reveal is where the film takes a weird left turn. It manages to be both weird, and predictable. I get you don’t want to do the same thing as the original film, but when you divert this much from the original then what’s the point of remaking it anyway? It would be like doing a remake of Psycho and it turns out Norman Bates is possessed by a ghost. Actually, that is actually exactly what it is, the villains in this use the black sludge on impressionable students so that they get possessed by the founder of the college. Here, the film misses an opportunity to do two really interesting things.

One: a debate about whether possessed people who kill people are evil or whether the possession is to blame. Yeah, that doesn’t happen here, possessed or not, they all get locked in a room and burn to death.

Two: throughout the film, the main character gets close to a guy called Landon. He gets caught and possessed by the spirit of the founder. The college founder is an old white guy who owned slaves and is possessing men to get them into the positions of power which he feels they deserve. Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on a slave owner, but I don’t think his “only men should rule the world” extends to non-whites like Landon. The intersectional nature could have been a really interesting subject to tackle, but it doesn’t. And I think that’s REALLY white. I don’t get how they can miss such an obvious political point to make.

So should you see this film? Regrettably, I’d have to say no, it’s just not fun, or scary. It’s yet another horror film restricted by its rating as it can’t get as violent as it needs to at some points. This is very notable with one death where we see a dead body on a chair, it gets spun around and before we get a full shot of the face and the damage done to it, it cuts to a reaction shot. If you do that “slow-motion chair spin” shot it should end on a reveal of the face, that should be the closing shot of that sequence, the slow nature of the chair spin is a build-up to that moment. In this it’s like a build-up to the revelation that she’s dead, which is something the audience already knew from the second we saw her, so what was it for?

I haven’t seen the original (or the first remake) to judge whether it’s good compared to them, I imagine people who saw those will actively HATE this film as they change almost everything about the plot. I can’t imagine either of those two films are worse than this, but I can say with 100% certainty that it’s not as good as the song by the same name by former X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene

Knives Out (2019)

I went into this expecting to be slightly underwhelmed to be honest. I knew it had had good reviews, but I was concerned it would be overly stylised and too self-knowing to truly be enjoyable for me on a personal level. Yeah, I was wrong. I loved this film, it will probably be the last “great” film I see this year. December is usually full of overly sentimental family movies, so I can’t see anything topping this. Still, what a way for the year to end. This is one of the best scripts I’ve seen in a film all year. It reminds me of Searching, which as anybody who speaks to me for more than a few minutes will know is a good thing. Like that film, this is also one which goes where you wouldn’t expect it to. That’s always a good sign for a whodunnit. If you figure out the ending in the opening thirty minutes of the film, the film has failed (the exception is Murder On The Orient Express, I already knew the ending of that film but it was so well done that the film was enjoyable anyway). This is different though, you get told the “killer” relatively early on, the rest of the film is dealing with hiding that fact, and figuring out who hired the detective in the first place.

This could be viewed as a mistake, if the audience is here to find out the killer then why are you revealing it that early? The answer? Because they can. The script is good enough to carry that subverted expectation. It’s not just a good script in terms of story, the dialogue is brilliant too. It’s REALLY subtle in parts, there are unsaid jokes throughout the whole thing. My two favourites are in regards to how the family speak to Marta, the recently deceased’s nurse. When we first see her a member of the family comes up to her and says “I wanted you at the funeral, but the rest of the family voted against it”, and you feel “oh, well at least that family member is nice”, but then it happens again, and again, and again. Practically every family member says that to her. The other thing they say: her families country of origin. They all say different ones. Some say “your family came here from Ecuador”, whereas some describe her family as coming from Mexico. It’s a brilliantly subtle piece of writing that indicates how the family actually view her, and the fact it’s never explicitly pointed out is genius, once you realise it you’ll laugh every time it happens again. It was so subtle I expected it to be brought up later as a plot point and be flashbacked back to in a montage so you realise “oh yeah”, but it never was, and for that it deserves applause.

It’s not just the script though, the acting is brilliant too. It’s been marketed as an ensemble film but I wouldn’t really say that’s the case. There are definitely a few main characters, in reality, it’s more of an ensemble supporting cast. Some of the characters are entertaining but nowhere near enough is done with them. I can’t really go into more details without spoilers but trust me, there are some actors in this who deserve more.

If I had to say something bad about this film? I’d struggle to find something to be honest. The directing could be slightly better. It looks great, some of the images the film constructs are superb, but there is a feeling it could flow slightly better visually. Like if you took each shot individually it looks great, but put together they’re only okay. Compared to the way that someone like Edgar Wright does visuals and you get the feeling it’s somewhat lacking. For a normal film, this would be fine, and the shot constructions would lead to it looking fantastic. But for a film with performances and a script THIS good, it pales in comparison. The script is a 9.7/10, the directing is “only” a 7.9. Yeah, I’m really struggling to find bad things about this film if THAT’s what I’m going with. Go see it at the cinema, I’m probably going to do so again.

Ben Is Back (2018)

Damn you Cineworld. This film, for whatever reason, wasn’t shown at my local cinema. It’s weird, they had trailers for it, and posters up, but then didn’t show the actual film. It’s a shame as I really wish I saw this with other people. It’s a film that’s crying out for witnessing alongside people so you can see their emotional reaction. I really liked this film. I thought it would suffer from being very similar to Beautiful Boy. In reality, all it does is make Beautiful Boy look worse. It makes it seem slightly more selfish in comparison. I’m not saying it was selfish, but that film ended with details about the family the film is about, whilst this one ends with details for addiction centres to contact if you’re suffering too.

There’s one other moment where this film definitely wins out for me: when it shows us WHY the character is addicted to drugs. He got put on highly addictive pain medication by his doctor. This information is showcased in the best possible way; by having Julia Roberts approach the doctor who prescribed them saying they’re not addictive (and who is now suffering from dementia), and basically calls him an asshole. It’s a great scene, and it’s one which showcases an ugly truth that the world tries to hide; the role of prescription drugs in drug abuse. Drugs addicts are usually showcased as having their journey start with “they wanted to be cool so sparked up a marijuana doobie at the discotheque with their fellow cool cats” or “Their parents asked them to tidy their room so they rebelled by injecting heroin into their eyeballs”. This allows us to not care about drug users as we see them as junkies and losers, which makes it easier to dehumanise them and support policies which harshly punish them (and ironically driving them more towards drugs). This means that any form of funding for addiction centres is pushed against because “they’re just loser junkies, they shouldn’t get government help”, so that money instead gets spent on expensive bottles of whiskey for politicians (that’s not a joke btw, the houses of parliament has a fully taxpayer-funded bar which has led to at least one politician getting so drunk he couldn’t vote, which is his job. If I drank at work I’d be fired). This film shows HOW addiction can start, and how it can happen to literally anybody with the way the medical system is operated which decides to just throw pain pills at everything because things like physical therapy will take too long and doesn’t make drug companies any money.

I guess I should actually start talking about this film, right? Fine *sulks*. I’m starting to really like Julia Roberts. I didn’t at first as I saw her as emblematic of what I dislike about Hollywood, style over substance with really bland stories which just play it safe, over sanitised films you feel you’ve seen before you’ve seen them because of how formulaic they are. Those films don’t allow you to see much performance as a lot of the characters are flat and don’t get to showcase much genuine emotion. Lately, she’s been in some films that show how talented she really is. Her performance helped to anchor Money Monster (which is a real forgotten gem), and she is BRILLIANT in the remake of Secret In Their Eyes. Her great run continues in this. Her anger, pain, and the emotional frailty this situation is giving her are all over her character and she performs them perfectly. Lucas Hedges also continues to show that he is really f*cking good. He’s in a weird position as he’s been critically acclaimed, yet hasn’t yet gone into full mainstream where you can use his name to sell a film to a casual audience. I feel he’s nearly there though. He’s just one film away from fully breaking through, and when he does it’s going to be magnificent. He has a great future ahead of him, and I look forward to it.

So yeah, if you get a chance to watch this, you have to see it. It’s that damn good. It’s emotionally devastating and beautifully ugly.

Good Boys (2019)

They’re kids, but they’re swearing? Hilarious! Hahahahaahahahahaahahahahahaahahah. The story is terrible and sexist, but look, there’s a kid swearing, hahahahahahahahaha.

That’s what I worried this film would be like. That it would focus so much on making these kids seem like adults that it would forget to make them kids. That it would just be a gimmick, and a gimmick which will wear itself out pretty quickly. This film actually worked though, was really funny, heartwarming, and most importantly, it let the kids be kids. It had plenty of moments where it played off their innocence and naivety. The best moments are when it comes to drugs, and they refuse to throw it in the river because of the negative effects it could have on the environment. Moments like that are kind of cute and wholesome, kind of like a season finale of a long-running sitcom. It also has a surprisingly good attitude to women. There is a moment where they fly a drone camera in order to spy on two women, but they get called out on it and are suitably chastised.

Actually, that’s pretty much a good summary of the general tone of this film, a season finale. You feel like you’ve known them for a while. That’s not always good though, the familiarity doesn’t really breed contempt, but it does sometimes seem to breed complacency in terms of the script. There are moments where it is a little bit too by-the-numbers, a little too bland. And then there are moments where they accidentally sell a sex doll to Stephen Merchant. The madcap moments are brilliant, with one notable exception.

There’s a scene where they go into a frat house to buy some drugs (it makes sense in context) and the frat guys are complete dicks, so one of the kids ends up shooting him with a paintball gun. This leads to a scene where a room full of men in their 20s are attempting to beat the shit out of pre-pubescent kids. And the stuff they do should logically kill them. That scene’s a little uneasy to watch, mainly because it completely takes you out of the film, you realise you’re watching something fake and it breaks the immersion.

That’s a shame as the rest of the film is believable to the point of embarrassment. It makes you remember what an idiot (and kind of a dick) you were when you were younger. The situations aren’t universal, but the motivations are. It’s a film about acceptance, personal growth, and adjusting your ambitions. These are things which we all went through as kids, and are still going through now. It’s that kind of relatability which anchors the best moments of the film. None of this would matter if the actors weren’t at the top of their game, thankfully they all are. We all know Jacob Tremblay is talented, but Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon are great too. Noon, in particular, gives a strong performance that carries the film through some of the weaker moments. Molly Gordon and Midori Francis are also great, and share a chemistry which makes me wish they could lead a film together.

So in summary, you don’t HAVE to see this film, but I strongly recommend you should.

Crawl (2019)

It’s been a while since we’ve seen a fun animal-based disaster movie. By which I mean one that’s realistic, so that counts out Rampage etc. Shame as they’re great to see in cinemas and really allow directors to show off what they can do. This is a film about alligators hunting people who are trapped in a house during a hurricane, that sounds fun. Also, it’s only about 90 minutes long and scores very highly on rotten tomatoes. All good signs.

With that in mind, I have to say, I don’t see it. I don’t get the great reviews for this. I was not a fan of it. For a 90 minute movie, I spent a lot of time looking at my watch. It never really engaged me. I think part of that is because it only had 2 main characters who were present throughout the whole thing. For a lot of the movie, one of those characters was in a safe space and wouldn’t get harmed, the other was the main character. As such there was no real sense of dread as you knew that they were going to survive at least until near the end. It’s impossible for a film like this to get a sense of dread if you know that the characters aren’t in danger as the story won’t let them be. This film does kill some characters, but they’re characters who appear for a few minutes, and then die. Their entire purpose is to get some blood in the movie, but since you don’t really know who they are you don’t care about them. This could have been solved very easily; instead of setting it in a house, set it in an office block or a shopping centre. Just SOMEWHERE where you have more characters. That way you can start with a group of 5-6 people and then whittle them down as we get to know them. If you avoid establishing which ones are the main characters then you give an air of “all bets are off” so you don’t know who’s going to survive. The issue with this is because there are only two people, and they’re in a confined space, there’s not much you can do with that from a narrative standpoint. Most of this film consists of the characters making progress, and then that progress is immediately negated. It also features one instance of really weird editing. There’s a moment where a character is struggling to reach a flare, and it flashes back to her in her youth, reaching her hand out to her dad to help her out of a swimming pool. A bit weird but nothing more than that, but there’s then a scene almost immediately after that where she’s literally reaching out to grab her dads hand to help pull her up onto the roof. I feel that’s a much better thematic link and it’s really strange they wasted it. I almost forgot that though as it’s near the end and the closing shot just looked kind of cheap and weird, almost like it was from a video game.

The two characters we do have are kind of intriguing though. Kaya Scodelario’s character veers from really smart to really dumb, depending on what the plot needs at that moment. For example; when she struggles to move the body of her father, she immediately finds some sheets to put him on to help move him. Very smart. But as she drags him she drops her phone where the gators are. That’s not the dumb part. The dumb part is she sneaks to get the phone, and then when she has it, instead of going back to safety with the phone, she stands still and makes the phone call in an unsafe area. There’s also a scene where she gets the attention of someone by shining a flashlight outside, yet when the police arrive a few scenes later, resorts to shouting instead, which can’t be heard over the sound of the wind and rain. There are also MULTIPLE scenes of someone standing in waist-deep water instead of just moving to stand on the thing right near them that gets them out of the water (in one example, a character literally stands next to some stairs).

I’ll admit some of it was good. The aforementioned moments where the characters were smart are great to see. And you can’t fault the acting at all. Also, with the exception of the closing shot (actually most of the exterior scenes) it all looks and feels real. You’re never really too aware of CGI.

So yeah, that’s it. I wouldn’t really recommend this tbh, unless maybe you’re super drunk.