We’re All Going To The World’s Fair (2021)

Quick synopsis: Alone in her bedroom, Casey (Anna Cobb) takes part in an online horror challenge, one which affects her sanity in this coming-of-age horror from Jane Schoenbrun.

This is weird. I’m still not entirely sure if I liked it or not. I am very glad I’ve seen it, and it is one that I would recommend, but my personal thoughts on it are still going through my head. I’ll admit, I tend to avoid a lot of films like this because they all run together in my mind. The “teen challenge horror” has seen a resurgence lately, and a lot of them have been cheap and kind of shit. I was ready to put this on the file of “nah, won’t bother watching” alongside Slenderman (and where Truth Or Dare should have been). I then realised Anna Cobb was in it. I thought she was the best part of How To Deter A Robber last year so I thought would be interesting. She seemed really different in this though, there was none of the Anna Kendrick-ness to her this time round, which surprised me. It was like she was a completely different person. There’s a reason for that, this was Anna Cobb, that was Abbi Cobb, a completely different actress. I feel that that paragraph may be a disservice to Anna as she is really good in this. She has incredibly expressive eyes. This is her feature debut, and she nails it. I’m really looking forward to what she does next. She’s one of the best things about this film. Although that’s easy to say, as she’s one of the only things about this film. It’s incredibly minimalist, most of the film is her on her own, talking to a camera. I don’t recall a moment of her sharing the screen with anybody at any time. There are moments where she’s talking to someone offscreen, or via webchat, but most of it is just her. Weirdly, it doesn’t end with her. The ending is a guy talking, a guy who is possibly being an unreliable narrator. The film is at its weakest when it’s not on Casey, so it’s frustrating when the film closes not on a different character. The closing is just too long and too much nothing. Much like the opening.

The opening could, and should have been shorter, it’s about 8 minutes of her sitting in front of the camera doing the challenge (saying a phrase three times, smearing blood on the computer, then sitting in front of strobe lights). Could have been done in about 3 minutes and achieved the same. The film itself is only 85 minutes, so that’s almost a 10th of the film doing nothing. It also sets up the film as being something different from what it is, since the whole intro is from the POV of her webcam, it makes you think the whole film will be like that, certainly the minimalist cast would lead you to believe that. It’s not, it mostly is, but the moments where it’s not that don’t add to it. It is kind of a wasted opportunity, the nature of the story would lend itself to her being viewed on a camera or computer screen at all times. Cobb is such a good performer, and has such brilliant facial expressions that it kind of feels like a waste when the film has moments of scenery with her talking over them. As beautiful as the scenes look, you want to see her. This film is at its best when it doesn’t feel like a film. When it feels like home recordings that you’re weirdly intruding on. If the film was entirely recordings from a camera, then the ending of the male character would have a bigger impact. It would put us in his shoes as a voyeur, watching this character on a screen and becoming obsessed with her.

It’s a shame as the writing and directing has potential. It’s strangely hypnotic. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a lava lamp. You don’t watch and think about character and plot, you’re just entranced by everything and lose track of time while observing. The whole thing feels very personal, but also like it should have been a short. It shows promise, it shows potential, but it also shows limitations and inexperience. I expect both Cobb and Schoenbrun (the writer/director) to do great things in the future. Schoenbrun has a great sense of how to make things creepy. But only in short bursts, it struggles to keep that momentum throughout. The scenes themselves are super strange and well done; one in particular where someone seems to be digging into their own arm and pulling out a reel of tickets. It’s moments like that which make you wonder about what the film could have been. Personally, I think this should have been a series of shorts. So we get to see the effects the game has on different people. Would allow the film to maintain momentum and showcase what Shoenbrun is best at: weird shit.

So yeah, see this. Turn the lights off, shut the curtains, turn your phone off, and just be enraptured by what you’re watching. It’s not for everybody, but you won’t see anything else like this. For some reason, it reminded me of the indie game Gone Home (which if you haven’t played, I highly recommend), no idea why. It also has an absolute killer soundtrack which I’ve already purchased.

You Are Not My Mother (2021)

Quick synopsis: In a North Dublin housing estate, Char’s mother goes missing. When she returns, there’s something “different” about her.

I will always be a sucker for a slow-burn horror film. Don’t get me wrong, I adore a fast-paced slasher with blood from the outset. But there’s a weird sense of satisfaction I get from watching the closing section of a slow-burner, when everything comes together and the tension starts ramping up. This is one of those, it’s not the quickest film, not going to be one where you’re sitting there thrilled throughout. But it is one where you’ll be watching and enjoying. It’s the cinematic equivalent of when you read a book by the fire, and you’re so hooked that you finish the whole book in one night. It’s genuinely a compelling watch. It’s set in Ireland, the quiet modern world providing a lovingly simple backdrop to the haunting narrative. That’s the best location for this story, I feel if it was in a large city it wouldn’t have the cosy familiarity that it needs to work. It would also require a different type of audio, you’d need the sound of the hustle and bustle of city life, so you couldn’t get the silence and the darkness that this needs for the narrative to breathe.

That’s the best way to talk about one of the possible downsides of this film, it is slow, and that won’t be for everyone. There are also some plot points which are started, but not really closed. I know that closure is unrealistic, but there are some things which feel like they’re forgotten. Trouble is, I’m not entirely sure how you could have closed them without disrupting the narrative. It’s really tricky, and really picky of me to point out. You also get the feeling that this might work better as a short, it does struggle to fill the length sometimes. There are also moments where characters don’t question things which they probably should, it feels like this is just because if they asked questions and investigated, the film would be over quicker.

This is Kate Dolan’s debut feature as both a writer and a director. She’s found success in her shorts, creating the award-winning Catcalls back in 2017. There’s been a lot of promising debuts over the last few years, particularly in horror, especially from female creators. Some have shown promise (Umma), some have shown potential but aren’t quite there yet (How To Deter A Robber), and some instantly get you into the creator (Censor). This is up there towards the higher quality, I won’t exactly rush out and have a NEED to watch everything she has done, but if I’m watching a trailer and I see the words “By Kate Dolan”, it will be the deciding factor about the film. She has a great talent at narrative misdirection, but then making it seem like the ending was the only possible way, almost like it’s mocking you for thinking one thing was true. Her directing is pretty much spot on too. She knows when to inject suspense into a scene, and when to have it play like a drama. The biggest compliment I can give her as a director is it’s a horror movie that doesn’t feel like a horror movie. That’s a weird point I know, so I’ll just explain it. Often things in horror movies only happen because they’re horror movies: there are people just walking around a house while creepy music plays and they’re terrified. But if you think of it from their reality, they don’t hear the music, so what are they scared of? It makes you very aware you’re watching a movie. This plays out like a drama, so when the horror moments happen, the grounding in reality that the film has established means the horror feels real. These aren’t characters in a horror movie, these are real characters who are living, and are having a horror movie happen to them.

Her work is aided by the performances, the central 3 (Ingrid Craigle, Hazel Doupe, and Carolyn Bracken) work so well together that I could watch a film that’s just the three of them in a room talking for 90 minutes. Carolyn deserves special mention purely because of how physically demanding her role as the mother (and “mother”) is. She technically plays two roles and carries herself differently in both. There’s one scene in particular where she shines and is a great example of her talent. She’s dancing around the room, very graceful and elegant. But then it gets weird, and the dancing has a strange, almost violent energy to it. It is still elegant, but it’s a violent elegance that is beautiful to watch but also terrifying.

That’s how I sum up this film: terrifying elegance. The biggest disappointment is that it’s on Netflix and I didn’t get to see it at the cinema.

2021 Film Awards

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

Best Looking:

Blithe Spirit

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

Censor

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

Come True

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

Cruella

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

Godzilla Vs. Kong

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

Love and Monsters

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

Malignant

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

Raya And The Last Dragon

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

Soul

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

Winner:

Last Night In Soho

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

Most Disappointing

A Quiet Place Part 2

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

Antebellum

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

Lucky

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

The King’s Man

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

Black Widow

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

Winner

Wonder Woman 1984

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

Best Performer

Amy Nostbakken/Norah Sadava in Mouthpiece

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

Riz Ahmed in Sound Of Metal

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

McKenna Grace in Ghostbusters Afterlife

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

Magdalena Kolesnik in Sweat

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

Katja Herbers in The Columnist

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

Billy Crystal in Here Today/Anthony Hopkins in The Father

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

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

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

Rebecca Hall in The Night House

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

Niamh Algar in Censor

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

Thomasin McKenzie in Last Night In Soho

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

Winner

Julia Sarah Stone in Come True

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

Worst Performer

Ray Winstone in Black Widow

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

Leslie Mann in Blithe Spirit

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

Winner

Lebon James in Space Jam

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

Best Soundtrack

Come True

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

Soul

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

Nobody

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

The Suicide Squad

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

In The Heights

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

Last Night In Soho

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

Winner

Annette

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

Most Surprising

Mouthpiece

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

Love and Monsters

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

Come True

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

Winner

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

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

Best Character

Mav1s – Love And Monsters

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

Red Guardian – Black Widow

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

Christine – How To Deter A Robber

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

Peacemaker – The Suicide Squad

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

Winner

Podcast/Phoebe – Ghostbusters: Afterlife

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

Best Film

Mouthpiece

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

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

2021 In Film: Day Two (The Bad)

Films that are bad, but at least have one part that I would recommend watching it for.

Antlers

When watching a film like this I don’t just look at what it is, I look at what it could have been. And this could have been great. Local folk horror can be absolutely sublime when it’s done right, IF it’s done right. I don’t feel it’s done right here. It feels like it’s taken inspiration from folklore, rather than adhering to it. So something which could be interesting and informative becomes shockingly pedestrian.

+ The use of shadow and scale to create some really good looking shots.

-Feels unfocused, places dominos it has no interest in toppling.

Best Moment: There’s a shot of a kid walking through a tunnel, it’s very pretty.

Worst moment: The ending. Means the story isn’t complete, and not in an entertaining way.

Best Performer: Jeremy T. Thomas. Very young but great potential.

Worst Performer: Cody Davis. I know he’s young, but his performance annoyed the crap out of me and wanted me to turn the film off (which considering I saw it in the cinema would have been rude). Wasn’t even satisfying to watch his character die.

Best Line: “Lucas I’m Hungry”. A true “oh shit” moment.

Original review here

Army Of The Dead

Got released straight to netflix, and to be honest that’s kind of where it belongs. This tried to do something new by adding a heist aspect, but that never really comes off. It’s just not smart enough to pull off what it needs to. It kind of looks good but also doesn’t. Everything looks clear, but also somehow like scale models, nothing looks real for some reason. If you’re 13 years old, you’ll love it. I mean, it has zombie boobs. But if you’ve ever seen a film before, you’re not likely to see something you haven’t seen done before, and done better.

+ A solid idea, and it’s unique if nothing else.

– Never lives up to the potential

Best Moment: The opening credits.

Worst moment: The introduction of a possible time loop. Never followed up with.

Best Performer: Matthias Schweighöfer. Makes his character incredibly likeable.

Worst Performer: Nora Arnezeder, doesn’t really have the presence required for her role.

Best Line: “Everyone has a mum you cunt, but not everyone is an abuser lording power over quarantined women.” A shame the person who performs it doesn’t do a good job of delivering it.

Eternals

This was so close to being in the next section (the Meh). But then I actually remembered watching it, how utterly bored I was. Seen some reviews say “but it’s setting up things”, that’s not good enough. You can’t judge a film as good by what it sets up, you need to take it on its own merits, and this just isn’t good enough. The representation is pretty good, but the script itself is severely lacking. It’s trying too hard to be big, so we ultimately don’t care about the characters, which in a film as heavily character-based as this is a disaster. So much of the films run-time is wasted, most of the flashbacks are a waste of time and completely devoid of tension since we know what happens (very much like IT: Chapter 2 in that regard).

+ Shows off their powers rather than just telling us. Admirable.

-The action scenes are so pedestrian they’re at risk of being run over. There’s no sense of inventiveness or cleverness to them.

Best Moment: Hiroshima.

Worst moment: Conquistadors laying waste to an Aztec city. Should be a highlight, it should feel like it means a lot, but it’s a bit weak and doesn’t have the emotional resonance it should.

Best Line: “I’ve watched humans destroy each other when I could stop it all in a heartbeat. Do you know what that does to someone after centuries?”. THAT! That should be what the movie is about. The fear of how your inaction leads to disaster. That should haunt them, especially after Thanos (who is barely mentioned).

Original review here

How To Deter A Robber

I was worried about this before I sat down to watch it. The trailer both interested me, yet also made me worry that the pacing would ruin it. That did turn out to be the case. The first half of this film is such a slog to get through that you’d be tempted to turn it off. Resist that urge though, the actual robbery itself is a highlight. It’s really funny, incredibly well written, and flies by beautifully. But like I said, it’s REALLY let down by how poor the rest of the movie is.

+ It’s a good indication of the talent Maria Bissell has as a writer and director. She is definitely one to look out for in the future.

– The set-up really needs to be improved. Once the robbery does happen it becomes a much better film, but that doesn’t happen for about 45 minutes, which in an 87 minute-long movie is far too long,

Best Moment: Outside of the actual robbery itself (which is more a long section than a moment), the bit just before is delightful. You have the characters duct-taping knives to Roombas, generally showing what would happen if the kid from Home Alone had the same intentions but was drunk and not good at planning.

Worst moment: When the main characters think their neighbours’ house is being robbed so go inside the house and then do a seance. Really unnatural character-work and only seems to exist to make them suspects.

Best Performer: Abbie Cobb. Something of the Anna Kendrick about her (or Gillian Horvat depending on how much of a pretentious film-watcher you are). Her line delivery is perfect and I adored her performance.

Best Line: “beer with green food dye. Oooo nice”. Okay the line isn’t good, but the delivery is awesome.

Original review here

Mortal Kombat

Here’s an indication of the quality of this film: I can’t remember where I watched it. I might have watched it at home, I might have seen it at cinema, I genuinely don’t know. From a technical standpoint, it’s fine, but the script is so full of nonsense that it’s hard to enjoy. There are some weird choices made though, especially in terms of sound (why does Kano make a lions roar noise?).

+ Sub Zero, that character is chilling (pun not fully intended but I’ll take it). Basically a horror movie villain.

– The fighters are distinguished by a dragon-shaped birthmark, one which you can also get by killing somebody who has it (like conkers). Stupid. Very stupid. Nobody has accidentally been killed and then their killer suddenly notices a weirdly specific birthmark.

Best Moment: The opening. It’s a great fight and very inventive.

Worst moment: It has a fight in a pit, and then doesn’t recreate the pit fatality. Wasted opportunity there.

Best Performer: Josh Lawson. Makes a great Kano.

Worst Performer: Tadanobu Asano. Raiden is supposed to be a god, I don’t know who you should get, but it should be someone with a definite screen presence, which this actor just doesn’t have.

Best Line: I have risen from hell to kill you.

Original review here

Prisoners Of The Ghostland

Definitely the weakest Nicholas Cage film of the year. A film like this, with the talent behind it, has no right to be as utterly dull as this one is. I love that it is new, it is unique, and it is stylish. But there’s so little to draw you in once you get past the superficial. It should be a lot more fun than this. It doesn’t help that Willy’s Wonderland came out the same year, that’s also insane, and features Nicholas Cage. But it’s a lot better, and when you compare the two (which is inevitable), this looks a lot weaker by comparison.

+ Very one of a kind.

– Incredibly flat and one dimensional once you get past the surface.

Best Moment: Nicholas Cage’s balls explode.

Worst moment: When he meets up with Psycho again. Mainly because the editing was a bit weird.

Worst Performer: Bill Moseley. Far too Foghorn Leghorn to be taken seriously. Plus he moves too much which makes his character look nervous.

Original review here

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

These films seem to have somehow become a cultural phenomenon without actually doing anything new, and with deeply oversaturating their market. This film is probably the closest to being in the previous blog, it’s kept out by one AMAZING jump scare. But other than that this is a rather poor movie. It’s without the style of the others, the script is incredibly dull and there’s so little meat on this film it’s basically a decaying corpse of a franchise.

+ Some good directing ideas.

– These films refuse to look at the Warrens with a critical eye, taking everything they’ve ever said as the definitive truth.

Best Moment: There’s one REALLY good scare. (sadly, it’s repeated again so loses the impact somewhat).

Worst moment: The ending. “Yay, this person who DEFINITELY killed someone will be released after only a few short years, not learning that his actions have consequences. He gets to live the rest of his life happily whilst the family of the victim of his brutal attack have to see it unfold unscreen and be told how the murderer was a nice guy really. Yay” Fuck off.

Best Line: Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you are scared but you hang in there.

Original review here

Wonder Woman 1984

Not as bad as Justice League, but definitely more disappointing. The drop in quality between this and the first one is basically vertical. Two scenes, two scenes would have improved this. All it needed was young Bruce Wayne. He’d have been around 12 years old in this timeline, so his parents would be dead, but he wouldn’t be Batman. Now if you went up to a 12 year old Bruce Wayne and gave him one wish, it’s not difficult to imagine he would wish for his parents back. You’d have some emotion there, but then imagine the end, when he was to cancel that wish. He essentially has to kill his parents. Imagine what that would do to a person. Not only would that be absolutely heartbreaking, but it would also explain why he’s so wary of Superman. He’s seen what Gods can do when they interfere with humanity. The very existence of Superman is a constant reminder to Bruce of the worst moment of his life. It would also explain why he doesn’t kill, he’s done it before and it emotionally ruined him. That would have taken 15 minutes at most and would have given this film the depth and nuance it deserved. Instead, we get an opening of young Diane doing the Amazonian Olympics and cheating (in a scene that makes no sense once you look into it and realise they knew exactly how many people would reach each point). This film also ruins her character, reducing her to “a woman who just needs a man”.

+ Great colour scheme to the whole thing.

– If you think about some of the plot issues for more than one second, everything falls apart.

Best Moment: THAT cameo at the end. Would be game-changing if anybody paid attention to the film.

Worst moment: So, Wonder Woman raped a guy, right? She put Trevor in the body of someone without their consent, and put that person in danger. They had sex, which the original person did not consent to.

Best Performer: Gal Gadot, obviously.

Best Line: Welcome to the future. Life is good! But it can be better. And why shouldn’t it be? All you need is to want it. Think about finally having everything you always wanted.

Original review here

Zack Snyder’s Justice League

I really wanted this to be good. I want DC films to be good, and it annoys me that a lot of the ones in the main DCEU have been bad. The first Wonder Woman was great, and I absolutely LOVE the Shazzam one. But it’s hard to continue to support them when they make films like this. It’s better than the original, but that’s not saying much. The reaction to it has been baffling too, with DC fans claiming it’s one of the best films ever made. Someone tweeted that that, Batman Vs. Superman, and Man Of Steel are the best DC films ever made. So, better than Dark Knight, better than the first Christopher Reeves Superman, better than any of the animated films, better than Joker. No, that’s definitely not the case. This isn’t even as good as Green Lantern. A lot happens, well, I think a lot happens, what does happen happens so slowly it feels like nothing does.

+The idea of studios releasing original directors visions of films that failed is very exciting.

-Watching it feels like the whole thing is in slow motion.

Best Moment: Wonder Woman taking out robbers will always be great, and it’s really amped up here.

Worst moment: Okay weird choice but I’m going with a moment that wasn’t in the film. The moment in the original where Superman is being interviewed by some kids on their phone. That was the only time that character felt right. Wholesome, a symbol of hope and optimism. The fact it’s not in here hurts it.

Best Performer: Affleck still kills it as Bruce Wayne.

Worst Performer: Eisenberg, obviously.

Worst Line: “You won’t kill me. I’m your best friend. Besides, who’s gonna give you a reach-around?” Eugh, just no.

Original review here

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)

Quick synopsis: Venom/Eddie Brock have to deal with Cletus Cassidy, a serial killer who develops his own symbiote after biting Eddie and drinking his blood in this not-MCU film directed by Andy Serkis.

There are a lot of things that give me bad feelings about films. Sometimes it’s the trailer making me feel they’ve got the tone all wrong (How To Deter A Robber), sometimes it’s the casting notice making it clear they had no idea what the character was (Artemis Fowl, describing him as warm-hearted), but this is the first time that the length of a film made me feel uneasy. 97 Minutes. Now I don’t know if any of you have read the series this is based on (Maximum Carnage), but it’s LOOOOOOOOOONG. It’s longer than Civil War and Infinity War. Condensing all of that into 97 minutes is not easy. Their was a game based on the series released on the SNES back in the day, that’s longer than this film. Considering that Carnage wasn’t really introduced in the first film, we saw a brief glimpse of him but no details.

The short run-time means we don’t really get a glimpse into the character, but also weirdly we’re given too much. They’ve tried to give him a sympathetic edge, showing that he’s doing it for love or some shit. Just…….just let evil people be evil. Not everybody needs good intentions. They need believable intentions yes, and they need to make sense, but stop trying to insinuate that under every mass murderer is just a frustrated person who needs a hug.

Also, a weird thing to say considering how I talk about how the film is too short, but there’s a lot of wasted time here, especially at the start. The subplot of Venom and Eddie Brock splitting feels like it could be a film on it’s own (I mean, Separation Anxiety was a thing in the comics, right?). Here it resolves itself incredibly quickly. Do we at least get a good glimpse into Carnage the serial killer? Nope. It’s really strange actually. The film pretends there’s some deep personal relationship between Cletus and Eddie. Cletus specifically asks for Eddie to interview him. Doesn’t really explain why he’s so obsessed with him when he doesn’t know he’s Venom. It would have been SUCH a simple fix too. Just have a moment where he witnesses Eddie/Venom so knows the truth. Instead, no he’s shocked, and he bites Eddie just for the taste of it (diet coke). Honestly I don’t think this should have had Carnage it. This should have been about Venom and Eddie trying to co-exist whilst trying to catch someone else, and have him and Cletus have a Hannibal/Clarice style relationship for this film. Talk about how Cletus is a sociopath, but connected (maybe the home for troubled youths is the same one that another villain went to) so useful. Use this to build up the relationship between the two, then when the next film comes out you have Cletus become Carnage. That way when it happens you think “oh no, this sociopathic killer is now even MORE dangerous”. We have no idea what he was like as a killer because we don’t see him as that, we don’t know how dangerous he is really.

Although for that to happen, the rating would have to change. Venom is a brutal character, that’s never put across in these films due to the rating. I’ve heard people say “the one f-word the rating allows it is the greatest I’ve seen in years”, which is bullshit. I’m not saying a film like this needs every other word to be a swear word, but it should have a rating that would allow it to. The violence should make it an 18-rated film. Every time this film goes close to being violent, it cuts away. Characters die bloodlessly or off camera and it’s just not satisfying to watch at all.

On the plus side, the performances are all great and it’s directed beautifully (although it does seem a bit like Serkis is aiming for shots which will look good on a poster). And the post-credits scene could be a genuine game changer. So maybe see it, but you don’t need to rush out.

How To Deter A Robber (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A young couple (played by Vanessa Marano and Benjamin Papac) face off against a pair of burglars in Wisconsin.

I was interested by this. The concept seemed fun and the trailer? Well my reaction to the trailer was to send someone a link to it and say “this looks like it will be made or ruined by the pacing and directing”. The concept seemed wacky and fun, but the way the trailer was edited made it look weirdly slow-paced. The concept was crime-comedy, but the directing seemed Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a weird mix that doesn’t really seem suited. That was just the trailer though, there was always a chance the actual film would be the opposite.

It’s not. This film is dreadfully slow. It seems like a short film unnaturally stretched out. There are moments here which add nothing and a lot of this film is kind of tedious. You have a lot of the film just setting the plot up, and it doesn’t really do a good job of that. Part of that is that it’s not needed, there are quicker and better ways of setting up what it sets up. It doesn’t help that the situation doesn’t develop naturally. The plot drives the characters actions, their motivations solely being “we need this to happen so the plot can develop”. Chief among this is the “inciting incident” where they think their neighbours house is being robbed, so they break in, and then…….do a séance? Okay then. That’s something believable. They fall asleep and wake up to the house having been robbed. It doesn’t make character sense, and it wasn’t really needed. They could have had the same end result if they just went to the house and found it robbed. The only way this would have changed the plot is would have had to think of another reason for them to move to their uncles house (at the moment they do so because they’re under suspicion of being the robbers because they’re the ones who phoned the police, which is obviously what robbers do after they burgle a house). It’s unnatural and overly written, and there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason for them staying that nearby if they think they’re in danger. Considering it’s a snowy area they could have just gone with “snow is too heavy” and would have saved time. Plus it would have made the most of the gorgeous setting, something it only really does in the closing stretch. Maybe it’s because Bissell is used to those visuals that she doesn’t realise just how beautiful it has the potential to be. She sees those kind of things all the time so they’re standard to her, but to the rest of the world it’s something new and exciting, and I wish it used it more.

The set-up to the robbery itself is also pretty funny too, when they duct-tape a knife to a roomba, when they get nervous about handling guns etc. It all feels incredibly real. It does still have a few moments where the film is sitting around waiting for the plot to start, but it’s mostly good.

And then the robbery itself starts. And it’s here where the quality of the writing and directing really shines and we get a better idea of what Maria Bissell is really capable of when she’s at her best. It’s slick, smart, and funny as hell. It’s just a shame that doesn’t start to happen until halfway through the runtime. It’s a shame as when the film is good, it’s incredible. Like I said, the robbery itself is a delight to watch (that sounds wrong). If the film was just that, it would have been one of the best things I’ve seen all year. The characters are at their best, and we’re introduced to the robbers themselves, one of whom is played by Abbie Cobb. I’m not too familiar with her work but she is incredible. There’s something of the Anna Kendrick in the way she plays her and I would love to see her do more stuff. The writing is at it’s best here too, the dialogue has a natural flow to it which really makes the situation seem real.

So in summary, see this film, but you don’t need to pay too much attention for the first half of it. As a directorial feature debut, this is incredible and shows a lot of promise. It’s just when it’s compared to other films that it seems to lack, maybe that’s unfair but it’s really the only way you can do it. It has made me want to see what Bissell does next as she’s obviously incredibly talented and has the potential to one day do my favourite film, it’s just she hasn’t quite managed that yet.