Minari (2020)

Quick synopsis: A Korean family move to an Arkansas farm. I’m really underselling it.

Confession time: I nearly deleted this off the list of films I need to watch this year. Actually there’s no “nearly” about it, I did delete it. I just felt might not be for me. Might be too “arty” and slow. Only added it last month when I thought I’d give it a shot. I was a minute in and thought “I immediately regret my decision”, the decision to delete it, I mean. The fact I denied myself something so beautiful as this for so long is not great. I can’t even explain why the opening is good. It’s literally just the family driving to a new home, no dialogue, just soft music playing. But there’s something about it that’s just so damn cosy and warm that you immediately love it.

I can’t really go into the plot, mainly because it’s not important. There was one character point that made me panic about how the film was going to end, that it was going to get really depressing and bleak as it went on. It didn’t do that. There are moments of emotional frustration, where you just want to grab the characters by the shoulders and start shaking them until they realise what they should do/say. But the character moments aren’t “well I need to do this for the story to develop”, they are believable mistakes for humans to make. This is probably because it’s a semi-autobiographical film, based on the upbringing of writer/director Lee Isaac Chung. It’s a deeply personal story and one that’s told beautifully.

It says a lot about people too. There’s a moment where the family go to church. The other adults are really friendly, and the other kids are kind of dicks (the phrases “why is your face so flat?” and “I speak koraen: jing jang ying low” are both spoken). But then it twists it almost immediately and the kids start getting on once they’re corrected, something as simple as “my face isn’t flat”. Whereas the facade the adults are putting on starts to slip and they start to feel really disingenuous and condescending. It’s incredibly smart and so well done.

It’s not perfect though. The sister character could have been fleshed out better. It feels like if you took her out then it wouldn’t effect the film at all. She’s the only character who doesn’t seem to have their own arc and agency within the film and I had to check she was actually in the film and I didn’t get this film mixed up with another one. But nope, she’s in it, just really ineffective.

It’s weirdly difficult to talk about this film because it didn’t feel like a film. You weren’t sitting there focusing on the story or the acting. You don’t so much watch this, as experience it. It reminded me very much of Nomadland. Which is good, as I loved that film. I should probably do them as a double bill at some point. They’re both really good films with similar colour schemes.

All of this was a long way of saying, watch this film.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (2021)

Quick synopsis: Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren help a man suspected of murder who claims he was possessed by demons.

It would be unfair of me not to preface this with the knowledge that I am not happy with the very existence of this film. Fine, you can do schlocky horror films about demon possessions, but this is based on a real event. And not just “these people claimed their house was haunted, here’s what happened”. It’s a murder. Someone died, there are people in that town who remember that event. The victim probably still has living relatives so to trivialise the murder seems super sketchy. It’s presenting as fact the notion that the murderer was possessed by demons. I’ve had similar issues with these films in the past. They uncritically present the “yup, what this family said was definitely true” side without exploring whether they were in fact bullshitting or not. Fun fact, when someone called the Warrens out on their BS, they responded the problem with the skeptics is “they don’t base anything on God”. That’s their default position, so it’s already coming from a place of bias.

So, what about the film itself? This is technically only the third, but there has been numerous spin-offs too so it’s more like the 8th. I have seen all except the last Annabelle film, and I can barely remember anything from them except for bits and pieces from the second one (probably because I reviewed it). I remember enough to say that these films have no idea about escalation, every single case is presented as “the most deadly they have ever seen”. This has happened a lot now and I’m starting to get bored of it. There doesn’t seem to be an endgame, it’s all the same thing again and again.

This film itself? It’s not great. As I’ve said, I can’t remember too much of the previous ones, but this has been the worst of the main series by a long way. Part of it is the directing, this is the first of the main three not directed by James Wan (who was probably busy with Malignant), so it’s lacking the one thing you can normally depend on for this franchise: a slick style that glosses over a lot of the cracks the series has.

Without Wan’s directing to distract you, the flaws are more apparent. It’s just not an engaging story. It’s muddled with no clear idea of what the focus is. It’s also weirdly frustrating at parts. Shying away from things you actually want to see. The murderers lawyer points out that claiming demonic possession as a defence is a stupid idea, the Warrens tell her “come to our house for dinner and we’ll show you the evidence, we’ll prove it to you that demonic possession is real and dangerous”. It then cuts to the courtroom. So we don’t see what convinced her. What a fucking cop out.

There’s another moment which was a little odd. The film has a doctor utter the words “Yes it was a heart attack, and not a mild one I’m afraid”. Something about that line seems weird and I can’t put my finger on it. It just feels like it’s downplaying it somewhat, a really weird sentence that sounds wrong somehow.

There’s a moment where they go straight from “we need to find him, he’s in danger” to Blondie. I was going to criticise the use of Blondie as the segue as it was an incredibly bad use of it and ruined a tense line. But the director makes up for it by using it for a REALLY good jump scare, bringing the music WAY down until the character is approached and bringing it up again. Masterful and shows what the director can do. But then they use it in another scare and just slow it down, and it’s not as effective. There are some good directing ideas here, but not enough to sustain it to the end.

And lets talk about the ending. They convince the court of the possession so the guy only gets manslaughter. Everybody cheers. We then get text telling us what happened and it’s like “Yaaay this person who definitely killed someone got released after serving only 5 years, and didn’t receive any medical help.” This is supposed to be a happy ending. Knowing that a killer is now living a happy life is not a happy ending to me. Especially since the “he was possessed by demons” robs him of taking any responsibility for it.

The Addams Family 2 (2021)

Quick Synopsis: The Addams Family drive across the country, Wednesday thinks she’s not a proper member of the family, somewhere there’s an evil scientist.

I have seen the first one of these, but I didn’t review it for this site. If I had it would have just been me shouting the word “nooooooooooooo” for a few minutes. I had multiple issues with that film, none of which have been really fixed in the sequel. There has been a slight improvement in character design. The first one had almost every human character look more like a bratz doll, every step making it look like they’re going to break an ankle. The human characters look a bit more human here, but there’s still something wrong about them.

The casting is still wrong, but also weirdly right. Charlize Theron and Oscar Isaac would be absolutely perfect in a live action version, but having just their voices feels wrong, especially when the way the characters look doesn’t really seem to suit them. None of this is helped obviously by the casting of the live action ones in the 90s being near perfect. Occasionally a film has one or two perfect castings, those ones had the fortune to have the perfect Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, and Uncle Fester. So any castings will be compared to those, and are unlikely to come off favourably.

Some castings are just the wrong choice. Nick Kroll as Fester for example is just not a good choice. Know who would have been a better choice? Danny DeVito. It would be much less annoying a voice than Krolls is. Also, as much as I love Chloe Grace Moretz, her Wednesday leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of coming off as calm and calculated, she just comes off as flat and bored.

As you can tell by now, I did not enjoy this film. I feel part of that is because it never FEELS like an Addams Family movie. It feels like an animated movie starring them. Like it’s trying way too hard to be cool, way too much music aimed at a younger audience. And yes, I do know the 90s series had MC Hammer in it, but that was mainly restricted to “a song played at some point”. It didn’t do with him what this film does with Snoop Dogg as Cousin It: have him dropped into the plot by private jet, do absolutely nothing, get lifted off again, and then appear at the end to do a rap. You could remove his scenes entirely and you wouldn’t notice they’re not there. They add absolutely nothing to the narrative.

Well I say narrative, it’s mostly “stuff happening”. The plot (that Wednesday might not be an Addams) is predicated almost entirely on Fester juggling with the babies in the hospital, causing a possible mix-up. But the villain, how does he know this? He doesn’t. All of the things that convince Wednesday that she doesn’t belong to the family are things out of the villains control (not just the juggling babies, but also a DNA hair test Wednesday performs coming up “no relation” because Gomez wears a wig). Unless those things happen, the plot doesn’t move forward, but he has no idea those things will happen, he just lucks out. The screenplay is based almost entirely on you not thinking about it for a second, and just hoping you’ll go along with the lazy nature of it.

Great films inspire you to ask questions. The only question I have after this film is: Why?

Don’t Breathe 2 (2021)

Quick synopsis: A blind veteran has to defend a young girl from people who want to kidnap her.

I went into this knowing there was a chance I wouldn’t like it. I didn’t like the first film, mainly because I saw it as just a group of terrible people being awful, I had nobody to root for and my main hope was that the winner would be a gas leak under the house.

It was clear that the reaction to The Blind Man from the first one meant that a sequel would turn him into an anti-hero. It’s a bit weird as the first film tried so hard to make him hateful so when you’re watching this that is always in the back of your mind. It’s like in Cruella where no matter what she does you know she’s capable of attempting to skin dogs alive. Only for it to be comparable to this she would have had to have kidnapped and raped them too, now I haven’t seen the original animated 101 Dalmatians, but I’m fairly sure she didn’t do that (maybe in the original book).

This feels like it’s trying very hard to give him redemption. It even has a character say

“you’re a bad man, a man who’s done terrible things. At least you think that, I’m the same”.

No, but he actually is evil. He’s not an anti-hero. The previous film, again, had him forcibly impregnate someone. I’m all for morally ambiguous characters but there is a limit. There are some evils you can’t be redeemed from, and what he did is one of them. It would be like having a film called Hitler 2: Electric Boogaloo, where it turns out he faked his death and now runs a dance club in Argentina where he helps youths stay out of trouble and fall in love.

Now, onto this film itself. It’s……it’s so forgettable. I would have rather it be bad than be as bland as this is. It’s nothing. It’s a film which if I didn’t make notes I would REALLY struggle to come up with a summary at the end of the year. The characters aren’t that memorable, the situation is cliche, and most of the dialogue seems very first draft.

On the plus side, it’s quite well directed in parts. This is the directorial debut of Rodo Sayagues, and he already seems experienced in it. The best parts of this film are due to him. There’s a tracking shot in this which belongs in a much better film. There are a few issues with cohesion and clarity, but for a first-time film this is incredibly strong and great showcase for what he could do.

Stephen Lang continues to do a great job as the lead, but he still reminds me too much of Kevin Nash for me to be entirely comfortable.

Overall, it’s hard to recommend this, but I do say as someone who went into the film with expectations to dislike it. Maybe if it was a standalone film I would have been more appreciative of it. But as it is it’s so incredibly nothing that it’s hard to overcome my expectations.

Malignant (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Green Knight (2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gunpowder Milkshake (2021)

Quick synopsis: A young hitwoman (Karen Gillan) has to team up with her estranged mother (Lena Headey) to save a young girl from assassins.

Confession time, I used to be an idiot (hah! “used to”), I remember when I was around 5 years old and hearing about film directors, and I couldn’t see the big deal. “all they do is point the camera at the people talking, what’s so hard and important about that?”. First off, with thoughts like that, it’s no surprise I later enjoyed the work of Kevin Smith. Secondly, I could not have been more wrong, it would be like saying “what’s so hard about writing? It’s just rearranging 26 letters”. It’s the choices that define a director, a good one makes a film coherent and special, bringing their own unique style to it. A great one blows you away with the creative decisions. I’m talking about someone like Edgar Wright, who has his own definitive look and feel.

So obviously it has its imitators, and this feels like one of them. I’m not that familiar with the work of Navot Papushado and even after watching this film I’m still not that sure. Whenever you watch it you can’t help but wonder what Wright would have done with it. Even someone like Snyder would have been interesting to see. The ultra slick action sequences, the stylised look, and the general world-building and sense that it’s an adaptation makes it feel much closer to John Wick though. That’s a huge downside for the film, as being compared to John Wick will make everything seem worse by comparison.

That’s a shame as it’s a real fun film. Everybody is giving it their all, and if you’re looking for a film to sit back with in a group of friends and kill time, you won’t go wrong with this. It’s just……..it should be better. It’s not quite slick enough to get by on being as brainless as it is. In a world of John Wicks, this just isn’t good enough to stand alongside. There’s also an issue with characters. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this feels like it was definitely shot with the male gaze in mind. It’s made a mistake a lot of similar films made, where “strong female characters” just means “they wear good looking clothes and can fight”, they don’t have agency or enough characterisation to get them through. They’re PHYSICALLY strong characters, but narratively and creatively they’re still weaker than any character in a 70s exploitation film.

This is not helped by the inconsistent look. The fight scenes are over edited to the point that some of them feel like bad marvel fight scenes. The sound also isn’t great. Some of the hits are muffled so the hits don’t land quite as hard as they should. As an example there’s a scene where she bowls a bowling ball at someones head and it hits with a dull and cushioned thud. So you don’t know whether it killed them, knocked them out, or just injured them. With the right editing that could have been clearer.

It’s not the only scene which isn’t as good as it could be. There’s a fight later on where she doesn’t have use of her arms. It’s a really good scene, but it should be great. It’s a solid 7/10 when it has potential to be the highlight of the year. It feels like the filmmakers felt hampered by the restrictions, instead of being excited by the opportunity to creatively think of the new set pieces it allows them to have.

In summary I think this is a case of right film, wrong time. I would have loved to have watched this in the 90s. The music is great, the performances are good and it is in general a lot of fun to watch. It has a really distinct colour scheme and is pure joy to watch. It’s just……as an audience member, I want more.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Martial-arts master Shang-Chi confronts the past he thought he left behind when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a Marvel film that had so many people WANTING it to fail. The internet seemed full of people who were desperate for any bad news so that they could say “see! Go woke, go broke!”. They NEEDED it to be bad. Sucks for them then that is incredible. Comic book movies need a compelling villain. Loki was the only bearable part of the first two films, and the villain problem is why some Marvel films haven’t quite hit as they needed to. Wenwu is one of the most compelling villains in the MCU so far. Usually a lot of their villains are “same powers as the hero, but evil”. Sadly, this does do that, but the fact that the villain is the heroes father adds an emotional level to it. Especially since he’s not inherently evil, he’s misguided and being controlled by forces beyond his control. He was a villain before the events of the film, a figure of pure fear for people across the globe. But by the time the film starts all he wants is to get his wife back. That’s what inspires everything he does, and it’s weirdly beautiful. The downside of him is there is so much time spent on him, that the bigger bad that he’s doing it for only really matters in the third act, and doesn’t last for long. It’s his desire and love which leads to the third act CGI battle.

That’s the biggest issue, how underwhelming that final third is. It seems too big that it becomes impersonal, which considering the main core of the film is personal relationships is a bit weird. Instead of being a controlled dynamic set piece, it’s just CGI against CGI, and lets be honest, CGI hasn’t exactly been the MCU’s strong point so far (just look at some of the flying scenes in Captain Marvel for example).

It’s weird as there are some great fights in this. There’s a great rhythm to the way the fights operate. The way they use the surroundings brings to mind the best of Jackie Chan, where the layout of the room effects the way the action operate and it becomes almost a puzzle coming together, and means every fight is different. They also do a great job of demonstrating character through the action. You could show somebody the bus fight and they would get not only the main character, but also Awkwafina’s character.

Time for me to mention it. Awkwafina steals the show here (much like she did in Raya). She’s absolutely hilarious and serves as the audience in terms of introduction to the world, with Shang-Chi explaining everything for her. An incredibly unsubtle way of doing it, but it’s effective. She gives the best lines of the film, which considering the return of the fake Mandarin also happens (spoilers btw) is really something. One downside of her character? Her character arc doesn’t really work. She starts off as the standard “uncertain what to do in life and constantly changes plans” character, then picks up firing a bow and arrow, and is unnaturally good at it. She becomes good at it so far, and becomes so important in the final fight that it feels like Marvel knew she’d be a popular character and wanted to make her powerful. Does the MCU not have any normal characters? It’s okay to have characters who can’t fight, the way they’re treating it seems to be that if you can’t kill people, you’re worthless.

The mid-credits do a good job of setting up the future, with Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner working together (with Banner in full human form). If this is picked up in the future it could be exciting, but I doubt they’re going to deal with it in the new Spider-man movie (how fucking stoked are you guys for that, btw?) so might have to wait a while for that storyline to be moved forward. Eternals is released this year but that will have to be introducing so many characters that I’m not sure they’ll have time to deal with the ones we already know. The Doctor Strange, Thor, and Black Panther films will probably have their own things going on. So the best bet will be in The Marvels, and that’s not out until November next year. The MCU is juggling a lot of balls right now (lol, I said balls) and it’s going to take some skill for them to make the whole thing a coherent narrative again. Fingers crossed.

That’s why I think this is a great film. It works brilliantly on its own, you’re not there thinking you have an unfinished story like you do with something like Brightburn (or even Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 to an extent), but it also sets up the future plans. I’m excited to see what happens, and I like being excited for cinema. When I do the round-ups at the end of the year I can sometimes struggle to not repeat myself, but there is so much I didn’t mention in this review. The lead performance, his sister, the brutal nature of some of the fights, hotel california, Abomination, Wong, the sonic connections. There is so much to talk about with this, and that’s really what you need, to feel excited, to become a fan again, to the point where you become like a little kid describing something he loves “oh, and another cool thing, and then this happened” etc.

Here Today (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Comedy writer Charlie Burns (Billy Crystal) forms a friendship with local singer Emma Payge (Tiffany Haddish) and starts depending on her more and more as he begins to suffer from the effects of dementia.

What is it with 2021? Normally you get a film about dementia every few years. This year there’s been three. Annoyingly, all three have been really good but in different ways. The Father dealt with the frustration of being deep into it, the confusion and panic that causes and the absolute hell that is daily life for not just the person suffering, but also the close family members. Supernova was based on the fear of knowing what’s coming, and wanting to exit it before it happens. Also the fear of loved ones watching it happening. This? This was different. This was more about coming to terms with it yourself and trying to hide it from others out of some misguided sense of pride.

All three have had one really important similarity: the performers are all a certain type, they all play people who are normally in control of the room. Anthony Hopkins normally plays people who are in control of situations. Stanley Tucci normally plays people who are smarter than everybody. And Billy Crystal normally plays characters who’s minds are quicker than everybody else, so they always have a quip ready for any situation. I’m not sure if the casting implications were intentional or not but it’s brilliant either way as it means we see them out of their comfort zone.

As an audience member I have a strange view of Billy Crystal, I never really seek out things he does. But I will always be glad to watch something he’s in. He’s clearly got a great comedic mind that never feels like bullying. His voice runs through this film, not just because he’s in it (obviously), but he also co-wrote and directed it. It’s not just about him. He’s confident enough as a writer and a performer that he allows others to take the spotlight. In this that shared spotlight goes to Tiffany Haddish, who I’ve seen before in Keanu, Lego Movie 2, and The Kitchen. She does a great job here, her character could be annoying and unlikeable if played by someone else. She provides her with enough humanity and warmth that even when she is doing incredibly cliche things, it works and you love her.

That is a downside of this film. It occasionally feels like you’ve seen a lot of it before. You will know what’s happening before it happens most of the time. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable because the way they do it is still great. It’s like a rollercoaster, just because you can see the track coming up doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

There are a few moments where it feels like the film is slightly going off the rails and it has a chaotic energy that really wakes you up. There’s one scene in particular which stands out, when Crystal’s character interrupts a live recording of a TV show he works for to chastise the performers delivery. It’s genuinely hilarious and the reaction from it gives you a very warm feeling. It’s a scene that’s really needed as it closes off one of the running jokes, and it’s also the last big laugh scene of the movie. After that it gets very serious. You need that comedic high before you go to the depressing lows, it accentuates both beautifully. When this film hits, it hits hard. Part of that is because of how funny it is, the mood whiplash the film provides is perfect.

This is not a perfect film though, the plot is a little bit too predictable at times, and the moment where he has a “moment” at work in front of colleagues is never really followed up on enough. It felt like they couldn’t think of a good way to carry on that story, but ignoring it means that a huge part of his life and character is ignored, and it would have been nice to see how the cast react to the news. Either they’re told, and we get to see their concern or worry. Or they just get told he’s gone away, and we see how they react to that. As it is it’s just dropped and forgotten.

There are also moments where it seems to be veering into rom-com territory, which is just strange to watch and doesn’t really work. It works better when they focus on the friendship and don’t bother with the romantic side (which they don’t up dealing with anyway).

Is still a really good watch though. The writing is brilliant, as are the performers. I now want to see Louisa Krause in more things, there’s something of the Helen Hunt about her and she is just incredibly loveable in her role as his deceased ex-wife. Her scenes are a good example of the best and worst of the film. The flashbacks are all from his POV. It’s a brave move that takes some getting used to but it makes sense, it’s his memory so that’s how he’ll remember it. It really puts you in his shoes. Sadly she has an appearance at the end which doesn’t really work for me. Crystals character goes to a cabin they shared, he’s there with his family being all cosy and facing the future, and gets a vision of her sitting nearby. I get what they were going for but it didn’t really work for me and just seemed a little silly. Would have been better if it dissolved from him and his family there, to him and her there in the past talking about the future. Would have given the film a moment of visual beauty, which it doesn’t really have enough of (the beauty mainly coming through character moments).

The section leading up to that shot is great though. His family being told about his condition, and the instant 180 from “we hate him” to “he’s our dad and we need him, we can’t have our final interaction be what it was” is believable and is genuinely making me tear up just recalling it here. That’s what this film leaves me with. Not the dull final shot, but the emotion the whole thing made me feel. Truly beautiful and I highly recommend it (plus the ending is made up for by Haddish doing a Bob Dylan cover, which I truly didn’t expect).

Censor (2021)

Quick Synopsis: A film censor (Niamh Algar) is convinced a horror movie she is watching is linked to the disappearance of her sister in this throwback horror directed and written by Prano Bailey-Bond

This is a strange film. It’s essentially a love letter to 80s horror movies of a specific type, the ones with gore so exaggerated it was obviously fake. The way it’s done is masterful, it would have been okay if they told this like a modern film, and made it feel like a 2021 film, it still would have worked. But the fact that the director used film-making techniques to make it FEEL like it was from the 80s REALLY helped it. It sets it’s tone very early, using low-tech dated logos. Changing the logos can be a great way to get people IN early, it allows you to set the tone immediately and I wish more films did it as it seems like the only genres that do are comedies, occasionally horrors do but not often.

That feeling permeates the entire film. It feels like it’s not just from the 80s, but from a very specific time in the 80s, when video nasties were a concern and horror had an underground boom, where cheaply made slashers were everywhere and being sold in weird video shops. It brings to mind not only the time, but also those films. I mentioned this was done by the way it looked, but the sound also helped. It has a weird lo-fi soundtrack that really suits it.

The whole thing just FEELS like it’s from another time. Even the script feels like a throwback. In a modern film it would have been death throughout. This is more about setting a tone, all building up to a murderous scene of carnage and horror. And WHAT an ending, it plays with reality beautifully and ends in a way that’s both beautiful and bloody. This is a horror based around the characters, the scenes on their own don’t mean much. But because you’ve grown to love these characters, know their backstories etc, you GET the ending. You get why it happened and what it means, and why it hits as horrifyingly and beautifully as it does.

It’s not just the directing etc, the performances are great too. Niahm Algar 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. She’s backed up by a group of performers who are more known among British sitcom fans, featuring stars of The Thick Of It, Nathan Barley, and Alan Partridge. It’s definitely a showcase for the talent of Algar though. Occasionally you get a performer who you truly feel is representing the directors vision, and I feel Algar is doing this for Bailey-Bond. Her performance feels like it suits the character, the film, everything about it. I really hope the two of them work together in the future as they compliment each other wonderfully.

I also want to see more from Bailey-Bond. This is her debut feature film and it’s incredibly strong. It’s like the work of someone who’s three or four films into their career. She’s done a few shorts which are now on my list to watch. (Man Vs. Sand, The Trip, and Nasty). The best parts of this film are due to her, and I’m glad that unique voices like hers are finally being amplified.

It’s hard to discuss this movie and why you should watch it without spoiling moments of it. I normally have no objections to spoiling plot points, but I feel I can’t for this as it will severely impact your viewing experience. This is a film that needs to be watched as blind as possible. You need it to unfold as you watch it and “enjoy”.