2021 In Film: Day Six (The Good)

Cruella

I will freely admit this film is a bit bloated, but it’s still a lot of fun. Probably the best of the live-action Disney villain explorations (okay, that’s not saying much I’ll admit). It all depends on what they do next though, a sequel could make or break this. There’s a huge gap between the Cruella of the 101 Dalmations film and the Cruella in this, and I’m not entirely sure how they can manage to bridge the gap. They somehow need it for a character we support and like, to become a puppy killer. Or they could just leave it, that would probably be the smartest choice in terms of avoiding watering down this film.

+ Slick, stylish, and just a pure joy to watch.

– Doesn’t have the best use of music. Sometimes uses songs just for the sake of using them.

Best Moment: Cruella’s roaring rampage of revenge. Great fun to watch.

Worst moment: Almost all the bits with her friend from school who is now a journalist. Feels like it’s building up to something big, but never really happens.

Best Performer: Not going to go with Emma Stone. I know most people would, and she is really good. But to me, Tipper Seifert-Cleveland was more important. She set the tone early on, dropping the baton for Stone to pick up.

Worst Performer: Jamie Demetriou, his performance seems a little out of place for this movie.

Best Line: “you killed my mother” “you have to be more specific”

Original review here

Here Today

The first of three dementia-based films I’ll mention in these round-ups, all three having incredibly different tones. On the downside that does mean that you’ve seen a lot of this film before, but it has moments of Billy Crystal being incredible and those moments are soon forgotten. There’s great chaotic energy to the whole thing. It’s great to see Billy Crystal lose control. He’s normally so in charge comedically that it’s jarring to see him lose it, but it’s perfect. There are moments where it feels like it’s going into rom-com territory, and that’s when it’s the weakest. Also when it goes into the “look, a young cool black person has come in to shake up the white establishment” tropes a bit too often. But it has so much heart that it’s forgivable. Like I said, there are three films about this topic out this year. They are all very different, and The Father is technically better, but this one feels more personal to the writer.

+ A film about this topic shouldn’t be this funny.

– There’s a plot point that seems to have been dropped and could have provided a lot more emotion if it was properly explored.

Best Moment: The 180 his family do when they find out the truth, believable and completely heartbreaking.

Worst moment: The very end where he has a vision of his ex-wife sitting nearby. A bit schmaltzy and silly, doesn’t really gel with the rest of the film.

Best Performer: Billy Crystal. He owns this film.

Original Review here

In The Heights

Magic. That’s the best way to describe this. It truly transports you to a different place. This is the first straight-up musical I’ve seen since 2016’s La La Land, and I much prefer this. For starters, the characters are more likeable, the standard of songs across the board is better (although La La Land did have some crackers), and the choreography is consistently solid. I know normally it’s expected to compare musicals to other musicals, or to compare films by minorities to other films by minorities (algorithms consider Boyz In The Hood and Spiral the same, despite being wildly different they’re both “black movies so if you like one you have to like the other, right?”). This? This is more like The BFG from a few years ago, which anybody who knows me knows I absolutely love. It has that same sense of warmth and love to it. But there’s also a darker edge, it’s a film about worry, about family, about legacy. But it’s wrapped up in sun-kissed songs so delightful that you don’t notice how dark the subjects they’re talking about are.

+ The warmth and magic this fills you with.

– There are moments where the song just seems to be there to delay the narrative.

Best Moment: The opening song, a great way to introduce the characters.

Worst moment: There’s a song near the end which could stand to lose a verse or two.

Best Performer: Logic dictates it should be Anthony Ramos as the lead Usnavi, but Melissa Barrera is truly the MVP of this, providing the real emotional core.

Original Review here

Last Night In Soho

This is a joy to watch. The colours, the music, it’s incredible to watch in terms of directing. The downside is the pacing. It’s a pretty big downside though. There are some incredibly repetitive moments, particularly in the middle section. It’s a shame as otherwise, this is a fine film, and if it wasn’t for how tiring that section this, this would be rated much higher. But it really killed all momentum the film had up that point. I would still say you need to watch this though, the performances are great (although Anya-Taylor Joy isn’t in it as much as the advertising may make you think), and like I said, it looks phenomenal. Plus these are the best written female characters he’s ever had in his films.

+ The truly inventive and unique visuals. Really makes you annoyed that his version of Ant-Man didn’t work out.

– The pacing. Kills it

Best Moment: The club set pieces.

Worst moment: Jack murdering Sandie. Turns out not to have happened so is only really there to confuse and set the audience/Ellie on the wrong path. It’s like telling a deliberate lie to someone, and then mocking them for believing it.

Best Performer: Thomasin McKenzie. Scarily good.

Best Line: “This is London. Someone has died in every room in every building and on every street corner in the city.” Really dispels the myth of London as a place where dreams come true, reminds you that it was pretty shitty for most of its history.

Original Review here

Malignant

When I came out of this I actually had to message someone “have you seen this yet?”, I needed other opinions, this film did a lot well, but the thing it did best was staying with you after it ended. After watching it, it will bounce around your head for a while. So why isn’t it listed higher? Mainly because of how uneven it is. There are some effects which just look a little bit silly compared to the rest of it. Plus the romance sup-plot does not work.

But what does work is almost everything else. It looks great a lot of the time, there were so many times when I was watching this and thought “that would make a good poster”. Most of the performances are good, and the music is solid. It’s also pretty f*cking weird, especially the third act which is just sheer glorious insanity. I’m doing a disservice to this by ranking it this low, I am aware of that, but the subplot really hurt it. You still have to see it. Plus it features both Madison Wolfe, and McKenna Grace, which means the odds of the two being in a road trip movie together in a few years time has increased slightly.

+ Even if you hate it, you won’t be able to turn away.

– The main “couple” have no chemistry at all.

Best Moment: The third act. It’s longer than most moments, but trust me.

Worst moment: When the thing is revealed, built up as really shocking and strange, but the budget lacks it down.

Best Performer: Annabelle Wallis.

Worst Performer: George Young.

Original Review here

Ninjababy

A refreshing pregnancy comedy. The main character, Rakel, never thinks for one second about raising it as her own, and the film never judges her for this decision. She recognises she is not in a position to do it, so it’s best she doesn’t. It helps that she’s played by Kristine Thorp, who I’m not familiar with (probably because I haven’t watched any other Norwegian comedy-dramas before). Thorp does a wonderful job of making her character likeable. Helped by the writing though, the way the character interacts with everyone around her is delightful.

+ The use of animation overlays gives it a unique visual style and cool punky energy.

-The music choices seem wrong.

Best Performer: Kristine Thorp, obviously.

Best Line: “Blood and suffering!” Never thought that line could be delivered in a weirdly heartwarming way.

Original Review here

Promising Young Woman

If I had to use only one word to describe this, it would be “harrowing”. I imagine this is a more disturbing watch to women, as they’ll recognise a lot of this. I am definitely watching this as an outsider, and even then this is a disturbing watch. It does so much right though. Films have a strange view of rapists. They’re nearly always shown as the creepy guy, or the sociopath, a stranger in the night who breaks into your house and forces themselves on you. They don’t often display them as the “nice” guys who help a drunk woman home and then take sex from them while they’re passed out. A lot of the guys in this film are not good people, even the background characters. At one point she gets cat-called, the standard “show us your tits”, she just stares at them and says nothing, their response to this is “fuck you”, obviously. Just shows how they don’t really want any sign of accountability.

Moments like that have led to this film being called “anti-men”. It’s not, it’s clearly not. It’s anti-rapist and anti-rapist supporters. If you think being against rapists means you’re against all men, that says a lot about you and your friends. The only way you can take this film as a personal attack against you is if you’re the kind of person who needs attacking. The kind of guy who makes sure the drinks his female friends drink have a little bit more alcohol in them than they think, in the hope they’ll be drunk enough to make bad decisions with you later. You’re not a rapist, you’re a nice guy. You’re her friend aren’t you?

Die in a fire.

Back on point, the ending of this where she dies (spoilers) is hauntingly long. Incredibly uncomfortable as it happens in real-time. This is apparently realistic, that is how long it would take for someone to die by that method. It also completely absolves the guy doing it of any innocence. To do something for that long is not a “spur of the moment”, you have to be a calculated scumbag to do that. So it’s so satisfying when he then gets arrested at a wedding. It did originally end with the murder, so glad they changed it. It now has a much more satisfying ending. not quite as realistic, but it means you end the film with some sort of closure.

+ Such an important movie, as some of the responses to it have proven.

– It’s weird for a near two-hour film to have this many underdeveloped themes and characters.

Best Moment: The opening, sets the tone perfectly.

Worst moment: Not really a moment, but the romance with Bo Burnham’s character feels underwritten, so the reveal near the end doesn’t land.

Best Performer: Carey Fucking Mulligan. Obviously.

Best Line: “It’s every man’s nightmare to be accused of that” “do you know what every woman’s worst nightmare is?”

Original Review here

Supernova

The second of three dementia-based films, and probably the one I’m least likely to go back to. It is still very good though. This one is more focused on the coming storm, somebody who knows what is going to happen and is scared of it. The downside to this approach is it means you don’t really FEEL what he’s going through. You don’t see what he’s fearing that much. Compared to Here Today or The Father, where you knew exactly what they were going through, here he mostly seems composed, with a moment every so often to remind you, but moments which are said rather than shown.

+ The relationship between the two.

– When the two aren’t on screen together, the film seems to lose a step or two.

Best Moment: The dinner party

Worst moment: When Tucci’s character is talking to someone about stars going out in a blaze of glory. Very unsubtle.

Best Performer(s): Tucci/Firth. They work so well together as a couple.

Best Line: You know what the hard part is? It’s that you’re… you’re just… you’re not supposed to mourn someone while they’re still alive.

Original Review here

The Night House

This really sucked me into it. I felt like I was inside the film and it was all happening around me, rather than seeing it on a flat 2D-screen while pet-watching for someone (for some reason my brain thought I saw it at the cinema, that’s how much it sucked me in). The director, David Bruckner, also gave us The Ritual, another highly recommended film. He’s a director you really need to keep an eye on in the future. He’s doing the next Hellraiser film, so it might be time for me to actually watch one of those.

+ The look. The whole thing looks like a damn postcard.

– Some may find it a bit dull. Plus, the “good guy” still murdered a lot of innocent women. And the film never really focuses on that.

Worst moment: When it reveals that her husbands suicide note saying “Nothing is after you” meant “there is a demon called Nothing, he is after you”. That’s just deliberately vague and unhelpful. Purely to drive the plot forward.

Best Performer: Rebecca Hall. Easily.

Best Line: “I was the depressed one, he was the one there helping me. Maybe I infected him”. Damn, that’s…..that’s worrying. It’s beautiful though in how it captures the thought process of someone with depression. You feel guilty about being depressed, and that you’re to blame for any bad things that happen to anybody. It cuts deep, too deep.

Original Review here

The Power

There’s a line in this “I grew up in Our Lady Of Grace, a children’s home”. Okay, not a great line, but the utter contempt on the face of the nurse opposite when she gave that line was great and summed up societies attitudes on children from them. Especially since it came straight after the nurse said there’s no link between poverty and health it’s just “people round here live like animals”. That’s what this film is, it’s a magnifying glass on injustice.

+ The general sense of dread

– The editing could be better in some of the ending moments. Plus the character seems to be written just to garner sympathy at times, could be better written.

Worst Moment: Screaming match at end, comes off a little silly.

Best Performer: Rose Williams. The physicality is incredible, and there’s something of the Natalie Portman to her

Worst Performer: Diveen Henry. Purely because for one line her accent wavered.

Best Line: “A place people die in should never be allowed to get that dark”

Original review here