Summer of Cinema: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

Dear Readers,

Before watching the first Escape Room, I saw the trailer for the sequel and thought that sounds up my street. My recent foray into the horror thriller world with films such as A Quiet Place Part II, Freaky and now this franchise have given me a taste for something with high energy and twists yet still placing plot over gore level. The escape room element gave a clear structure to the film and while watching the film you can almost play along by spotting clues before the characters and trying to find how they will escape. The cinema was fairly busy for this screening and I had a good seat in the middle back so I was fully immersed and genuinely surprised when it ended. I am looking forward to the third installment after the cliffhanger at the end.

The film kicks off with a quick reminder of what happened in Escape Room, the first outing. We are reminded of the characters being picked off one by one and Zoey and Ben’s survival. They think the key to taking Minos down is in New York City so plan to fly there. Moving to the current film and we see Zoey’s reluctance to get on a plane. She has still not recovered from the trauma of being the sole survivor of a crash that killed her mother and made her a candidate for the first Escape Room.

The pair eventually drive to New York from Chicago with Ben suffering horrible nightmares related to his experience of a room in the game. Ben (Logan Miller) and Zoey (Taylor Russell) find Minos headquarters but it is deserted and almost give up hope until a man snatches Zoey’s beloved necklace and leads them to the subway.

This is when the fun begins. The subway car detaches and peals off to a separate tunnel and becomes the first room of the new Escape Room. There are six passengers in the car, all winners from previous Minos rooms. The game goes on with each room containing different puzzles and accidents. A twist to this time is that familiar motifs crop up in the game such as the name Sonya.

There are many twists to the game as in the first film but bigger and better. There were also a lot of character development and plot used from the first film which I liked as sometimes sequels can distance themselves too much from the development that happened in the first film. Just when you think Zoey and Ben are finally free, callbacks from the beginning of the film and the first one appear on screen and the film ends with a massive cliffhanger.

I was surprised when this happened as I got really into the film and the story and I did not predict that it would end at such a crucial moment. The first film ended with a much calmer scene. I really enjoyed this film and it turned the audience into players of the game as when the end scene happens, you realise that everything has a purpose and no scene was there as a filler but rather as a set-up for later.

I think the rooms were more creative this time, especially as they had a theme that is explained later on but also because the characters have all had experiences before with Minos so are aware that it will be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. We also find out each group had their own connection such as Nate’s being all priests and Brianna’s being influencers.

The film was a bit darker this time with the injuries more obvious and the consequences more fatal. The team felt more at one and they survived longer. I enjoyed the twist at the end and after leaving the screen, I could not help but feel as though everything was a clue and that the world was an escape room.

I would definitely recommend this film but only if you have seen the first one as there are big plot points that won’t make sense. There was a good mix of diversity as in the first one and they avoid usual horror stereotypes.

I rate this film 5/5.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Summer of Cinema: Supernova

Dear Reader,

This film has been on my radar since its appearance at the London Film Festival in September 2020. Films featuring older gay characters are not very common much less featuring actors of this calibre. I saw this film late in its running and as a consequence there were only two other people in my screening. It made the experience more intimate and I really found myself connecting with the characters even though our life experiences and demographic are quite different.

I enjoyed the British spirit that was threaded throughout the film. The trip to the Lake District, the poor weather, the stiff-upper lip and the family and friends get-together all felt very familiar to what you see in British films, typically those with a family aspect set in the real, modern world. Although Stanley Tucci’s character, Tusker was American, being in a relationship with a Brit and having lived there a long while, he fits in with the tone.

For me this film was very character driven: it is about the relationship between Sam and Tusker while Tusker slowly loses the ability to function properly. The premise itself seems melancholy but when you see the realities of the illness and the strain it has put on Sam and Tusker, the film hits home.

I enjoyed the simple plot of taking a trip to see family and for Sam’s career. There was no big incidences or twists as such but rather small events and truths uncovered between the pair of them. While Tusker is ill, at the start of the film I had hope that he may not be progressing too quickly but towards the middle, especially at the dinner party, we see that is not the case.

I felt particular heartbreak when Sam discovers Tusker’s notebook and we see the progression of his handwriting and how it gets more and more illegible until there is nothing. The scene where Sam shows Tusker the Dictaphone and plays the message Tusker left for Sam was the emotional peak of the film and for me was the best scene as you saw the devastation Sam was facing. I think this film could work well as a play as there were not many speaking characters and it was not about the locations but rather the people and how their lives were going to change.

Definitely worth a watch for the performances of Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth but leave some time afterwards to process as the journey of the film will leave you emotionally exhausted.

I rate the film 4.5/5. The film had an ambiguous ending which I can take or leave but in this case, I was eager to know what happened to them.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Summer of Cinema: Freaky

It comes as no surprise that Freaky shares the same director (Christopher Landon) as another horror: Happy Death Day as that film also has a comedy trope, time loops. With many of the classic horror plotlines having been used over and over, its refreshing to see someone trying to mix it up a little and also make these films more appealing to those who do not like a simple gore fest. That is also what drew me to this film. It was not going to be doom and gloom, everyone dies. In a comedy horror, you know people will survive.

Dear Readers,

This has never been my favourite genre of film: slasher horror but I made an exception for this one as it stars Kathryn Newton, an actress I love to watch on screen and had the body swap concept which is not a take I have seen on a film featuring a serial killer. The film was like a modern version of the Scream films: set in a small American town, main protagonist is female, killer on the loose, teens at the high school already victims. The comedy aspect from the ‘Freaky Friday’ theme added something different.

I saw the film at a different cinema than my usual and it was very quiet so I got to sit in the centre of the screen with no-one in front of me. The film was easy to get lost in due to the suspense and hopefully none of the cinemagoers sitting at the back saw me jump.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

It comes as no surprise that Freaky shares the same director (Christopher Landon) as another horror: Happy Death Day as that film also has a comedy trope, time loops. With many of the classic horror plotlines having been used over and over, its refreshing to see someone trying to mix it up a little and also make these films more appealing to those who do not like a simple gore fest. That is also what drew me to this film. It was not going to be doom and gloom, everyone dies. In a comedy horror, you know people will survive.

You would be mistaken for thinking that the film had no blood or gore at all. The opening scene establishing the serial killer, The Butcher provides plenty of that. There were some new ways of killing teens that I had not seen before such as with an ancient javelin and a wine bottle down the throat. I definitely was hiding behind my fingers for that one.

We then meet Millie (Newton), an average high-schooler who has retreated within herself after her father’s death. She is invisible at school but hangs out with her friends, Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich). She lives with her mother (Katie Finneran) and older sister, Charlene (Dana Drori) who is a cop. We meet many of the usual high school tropes: the football team, the popular girls, the mean ones. Millie has a role as the team mascot on the cheer squad, a position usually occupied by the ‘loser’ of the film.

When waiting for her mother to pick her up after the homecoming game, Millie is left alone in the dark. Not a good idea with a killer on the prowl. He finds her and in running away she makes it to the football field again. He manages to stab her shoulder with his new weapon, gained in the first scene but before her death, Millie’s sister comes to the rescue.

The next morning, Millie wakes up in the body of the Butcher (Vince Vaughn) and he wakes up as Millie. With help from her friends after they realise the Butcher is actually their friend, the three figure out that they have 24 hours to stab Millie’s body again with the knife, otherwise the swap will be permanent.

Meanwhile, The Butcher as Millie has taken on a whole new look that gets heads turning. It grabs the attention of Millie’s crush, Booker (Uriah Shelton). He also comes to learn of the swap and the pair have a tender moment while Millie is still the Butcher which made for a strange yet funny scene.

The film concludes with a hunt for the killer at the homecoming party held of course, at an abandoned mill where the Butcher resides. There is a second ending where the Butcher comes after Millie and her family but he is finally put to rest.

I enjoyed the teen tropes of the film and that only characters who had wronged Millie or others in some way were victims. The style of the film was great with Millie’s outfit that the Butcher picks being a favourite. There were some gory deaths but they did not take over from the comedy side of the film. The acting was good and just the right tone for this sort of comedy horror. My issues with the film is that there were a couple of jokes made about rape that were in very poor taste and completely unnecessary. That disappointed me as many films and television shows have moved beyond this humour.

Overall, I enjoyed the film and the acting but it was let down by a couple of comments. I give it 4/5.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Summer of Cinema: Black Widow

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has a strong relevance to Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D, it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film, gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

Dear Reader,

I, like many others have been waiting for this film for over a year. Marvel fans have had some amazing TV shows to keep us entertained in 2021, but when the time came for Black Widow, I had to see the first female Avenger get her due. In some ways, it has been much longer than a year waiting for this film. The friend who organised my group outing has been anticipating since Black Widow’s debut in Iron Man 2 (2010). Natasha Romanoff has always been a mystery. We have seen a little of her back story in the Red Room, training to be an assassin but how did she really become Black Widow and how did she join S.H.I.E.L.D?

I saw this film at a Vue Extreme screening in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush, London so I definitely got the full effect. The screen was massive and the audience was packed for a Friday afternoon. I went with a group of friends and mutual friends and despite not everyone being a Marvel geek, we all enjoyed seeing Black Widow get her moment to shine.

There’s so much to dissect within the film including amazing aerial fight sequences, powerful female characters, an unexpected family drama aspect, humorous squabbling and the long awaited Budapest story.

I will start first with the characters. We have met Natasha Romanoff in several Marvel films as different versions of herself. There was Natalie Rushman in Iron Man 2 and her true name, Natalia Alianova Romanova was revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Despite an appearance in eight other Marvel films, Black Widow has always kept her cards close to her chest in terms of her origin story; we have only been given little bits and pieces.

In Black Widow, we find Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from the government after the events of Captain America: Civil War. She expertly evades Secretary Ross (William Hurt) and ends up in Norway. She still has her trademark red hair but we know that at some point she will dye it blonde for her appearance in Avengers: Infinity War.

We also learn of Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), a Black Widow agent on mission in Morocco. After exposure to a chemical, Yelena wakes up from mind control and goes rogue. Natasha finds her in Budapest and after trying to kill each other, the two remember their past as sisters in America.

Natasha and Yelena were raised as sisters for three years with the Red Guardian – Alexei (David Harbour) and Melina (Rachel Weisz) – a former Widow posing as their parents. The first sequence shows their life together and then suddenly having to leave sleepy Ohio for Russia to train in the Red Room.

When Natasha learns that the Red Room still exists and girls are still being trained as assassins, she agrees to help Yelena take it down. They team up with Alexei and Melina once again who help them find the Red Room. There is a big focus on aerial stunts in this film which is something Marvel loves to dabble in with its flying heroes such as Falcon, Iron Man, Vision and War Machine but we have not seen this so much with Natasha. There is the small airplane sequence where Alexei tries to fend off the police from the wing of the plane; the helicopter jailbreak in Russia with Yelena flying it and Natasha swinging from a cable and of course, the fight sequence when everything falls after the Red Room is blown up.

The Widows and their master, Dreykov (Ray Winstone) has strong relevance in Hollywood after the MeToo Movement and the equality that women in the industry have been working towards since cinema began. Dreykov takes the free will and childhoods of these girls and turns them into killing machines. The big reveal of the film is the identity of Taskmaster. An assassin with the ability to copy any fighting style they see and beat an opponent with their own moves. When Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) is revealed as Dreykov’s daughter who Natasha thought she had killed before defecting to join S.H.I.E.L.D; it shows the lengths that Dreykov will go to for power. Changing the character from male to female for the film gave an added element to the female power as the mysterious villain is often male.

When Natasha and Yelena sit down for dinner with Alexei and Melina, family dynamics that had been forgotten for 20 years come into play with Melina criticising Natasha’s posture and Alexei telling the women to listen to their ‘mother.’ The humour and banter between the four characters demonstrates the closeness they once shared. They are able to fall back into familiar roles.

An element of the film that fans have been waiting for is the story behind what happened in Budapest with Natasha and Clint Barton. It started as a throwaway line in Avengers (2012) but has become a key part of Natasha’s story. When she finds Yelena in Budapest at a safe house, she recounts meeting Clint and him helping her avoid being recalled to the Red Room. We get details such as hiding in an air duct in the Metro for two days and using the same safe house where Natasha and Yelena meet. This is evidenced by arrow holes in the wall. Natasha mentioned before that Clint was sent to kill her but instead gave her a chance to join a different side. Her accidental killing (or so she thought) of Dreykov’s daughter was her proof that she had separated herself from Dreykov and the Widows.

Overall, this film was entertaining and a welcome return for Marvel at the cinema. It was funnier than I expected whilst still maintaining a serious plot and a worthy adversary to destroy. The aerial stunt at the end was like nothing I had seen in a Marvel outing or elsewhere and was amazing to see on a big screen. If you have been waiting to return to the cinema, definitely make this film your first one back.

I give this film 5/5.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Summer of Cinema: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard

The cast for this film is exceedingly good: Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, Samuel L Jackson, Morgan Freeman and Antonio Banderas. This group have 18 nominations and wins at big award shows but even they could not make this film entertaining. The plot was very lacking. Some guy trying to make Greece the leading economy wanted to ‘blow up’ Europe by taking out all the power. He was going to use a massive diamond drill a la Armageddon (1998) to drill into the power line from Europe to North America. Very unbelievable and like something from a 1950s comic strip.

Dear Readers,

Despite the negative reviews for this film, I was entertained by the first iteration and I try to make up my own mind rather than be swayed by the critics. I should have taken the warning as this definitely did not live up to the first. If you’re looking for mindless action with big stars then you might enjoy it but anyone looking for a continuation of the first or any semblance of a plot, should not watch.

The film is meant to be a new adventure, this time with Sonia Kincaid, out of jail and joining the team of Michael Bryce and Darius Kincaid. The trio make their way though Italy, first saving Darius then trying to stop the bad guys. Interpol are also on their backs with their own new team, including a special agent from Boston.

The cast for this film is exceedingly good: Ryan Reynolds, Salma Hayek, Samuel L Jackson, Morgan Freeman and Antonio Banderas. This group have 18 nominations and wins at big award shows but even they could not make this film entertaining. The plot was very lacklustre. Some guy trying to make Greece the leading economy wanted to ‘blow up’ Europe by taking out all the power. He was going to use a massive diamond drill a la Armageddon (1998) to drill into the power line from Europe to North America. Very unbelievable and like something from a 1950s comic strip.

The characters were not developed properly and had strange relationships to one another. Sonia and Darius saw Michael as a son even adopting him at the end as a joke. He is infuriated by them but still helps free Darius when Sonia asks. When Morgan Freeman is revealed as Michael’s father (step), I stopped looking for the logic and rolled with it. Frank Grillo’s character was more of a shell, his only trait being that he hated Europe and wanted to leave. He also had trouble understanding a Scottish accent.

The locations in Italy were one of the only redeeming qualities but even they were spoiled by the excessive shoot-outs between Michael, Darius and Sonia and various adversaries. The sound was an assault on the ears at points and there was so much violence with little remorse which marks Sonia and Darius as psychopaths in some definitions, despite them being on the good team.

Overall, a poorly executed idea that could have made a half way decent film with better writing, less gun violence and a more believable plot.

I give this film 2.5/5.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Summer of Cinema: In the Heights

I loved the setting and the massive dance numbers featured in the film. While on the streets of New York, the flash mob like crowds all dancing as one reminded you that this was heightened reality and a musical and not how things really work. That being said, the ideas and fears presented are very real to many people. One of my favourite numbers was 96,000 set at the local swimming pool where the characters all dream of what they would do if they won the lottery after the winning ticket was sold at the bodega.

Dear Readers,

I am back again with my new series, Summer of Cinema and today I am recounting my experience of seeing In the Heights. I went along with a friend and we both enjoyed the film despite its long runtime. Our screen was fairly quiet and we were sitting more forward than I usually choose but it did not detract from this lively, culturally eye-opening and fun musical. If you saw Hamilton, then you will definitely enjoy In the Heights.

The setting for the musical is the area of Washington Heights in Manhattan and almost in the Bronx. The characters in the film are mostly all immigrants from Latin countries and the plot centres around them trying to make it in a world where they have not had advantages that others have had. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and starred in the original musical on Broadway that is the basis for the film.

The cast are a mixture of well-known faces: Anthony Ramos from Hamilton (another Miranda Broadway original); Jimmy Smits (The West Wing); Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn 99) and new comers: Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace and Gregory Diaz IV.

The story is set in Summer and centres around a city wide blackout. The residents all have their own dreams: Usnavi wants to carry on his father’s legacy in Dominican Republic; Vanessa wants to become a fashion designer in Midtown; Daniela wants to make her business work despite moving to the Bronx and Nina wants to leave her college and reconnect with her neighbourhood.

Throughout the film, we see each of these characters and others trying their best to fulfil these dreams. They try to get through the tough times to emerge out of the other side with their heads held high. Many of the songs centre around working hard as an immigrant in New York City and the challenges that come with being an immigrant. Much in the style of Hamilton, the songs are political, personal, full of truths about the world.

This is a story you can’t help but get lost in and swept up with the emotions of the Barrio and even though the struggles of the characters are not similar to my own, I felt that I could relate to their pain and their hope for the future. Especially after 2020, the film feels very timely. The characters make their own dreams come true without waiting around for the right time. They also compromise to make the best out of a situation.

I loved the setting and the massive dance numbers featured in the film. While on the streets of New York, the flash mob like crowds all dancing as one reminded you that this was heightened reality and a musical and not how things really work. That being said, the ideas and fears presented are very real to many people. One of my favourite numbers was 96,000 set at the local swimming pool where the characters all dream of what they would do if they won the lottery after the winning ticket was sold at the bodega.

Overall I enjoyed the vibe of the film and the colours and dance numbers helped me escape to another place for a while but still kept me grounded in the issues facing immigrants in New York. The film was long but the pacing was good and I didn’t find myself worrying about the time once I was enraptured by the film.

I give this film 4.5/5

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Summer of Cinema: Cruella and A Quiet Place Part II

The use of sound in this film elevates it from your usual gore fest filled with horrific creatures and gruesome deaths. One of the characters is deaf and in the sequel she takes over the role of the patriarch and becomes the one to find a safe haven for her family. We get to experience sound the way she does, when the film shifts to her point of view. It was a great technique that helped the viewer relate to a deaf character when this can be tricky to do if you do not know anyone who is deaf in the real world.

Hello Readers,

Welcome to my new series Summer of Cinema. The cinemas have reopened and I together with thousands of others have been going to watch the films that we have been waiting for in the last year. I have made the trip twice this month and I am planning to enjoy the experience many times this summer. I will be continuing my series with a review of every film I see in the cinema this summer, of which I hope there will be many. Time to once again sit back, relax and enjoy the magic of the big screen.

Cruella (2021)

I chose this film for my return to the cinema as I was interested in the concept. A 101 Dalmatians prequel of Cruella in 1970s London and in the fashion world. What’s not to love? The film starts with how Cruella ended up in London as a young child in the 60s and jumps to her life as a common thief with her two friends and their dogs. Cruella who is first known as Estella, gets a simple job at Liberty’s and after an avant-garde unprompted window display, she goes to work for the House of Baroness, a notorious fashion house. Estella then decides to become an even bigger presence in the fashion world than the Baroness and to do this she must unleash her bad side – Cruella.

The film was a bold move for Disney as even though the film is a 12, it is pitched towards a younger audience as well. I think the film bridges the divide between a film for younger audiences and older ones. Many people in the screening were adults. This was a fresh take on a villain’s back story and it created a world that had not been associated with Cruella De Vil in other iterations. Whilst we know Cruella as the dog-napping rich old woman with little joy and a grudge against spotty dogs; Estella in this version is fun, kind-hearted and poor. Later in the film when she takes on her Cruella persona, we see some of the Cruella we have known in other films appear. She is a more toned down version than the original and no dogs are harmed in the film.

One of the best parts of the film for me was the fashion. There were so many wonderful and striking designs made by both the Baroness and Cruella. While the Baroness took measured risks and presented as prim and proper; Cruella smashed the expectations and matched rock’n’roll and feminist angst with a runway show. Seeing Cruella’s ideas to outshine the Baroness get even more outrageous and punk was a fun highlight.

Emma Stone was wonderful in the role and her accents were on point both as Estella and the slightly posher Cruella. She played all facets of Cruella seamlessly. I was initially sceptical of Emma Stone’s casting as Glenn Close gave such an iconic performance as Cruella. My fears definitely were vanquished after seeing the iconic performance that Emma gave. It was like she was born to play the role.

I thought that the other actors were all amazing in their roles, especially Emma Thompson as the villain and the children who played the younger versions of Estella and the gang. My only issue with the whole film was that Estella and her friends were around 11/12 years old then it jumps to 10 years later but the actors playing them in the 1970s look at least 30 and not in their early 20s. Emma Stone could just about pull this off but the other two were pushing it. Once I let this go, I enjoyed the story and let go of realism.

The music for was another iconic part of the film with some great classic 70s tracks that paired with Cruella’s bold fashion pieces created a punk rock London scene that I would love to experience.

Overall I give this film 10/10. Every element was on point and my expectations were lowered as it is a Disney film but I feel like the film was suitable for all audiences especially with the period setting and witty dialogue. If ever there was a prequel or continuation of a well-loved classic to live up to or even surpass the original, it would be Cruella. A warm welcome back to the cinema and a great start to a Summer of Cinema.

A Quiet Place Part II (2021)

In contrast to Cruella, I have been waiting for this film since it was announced that there would be a sequel. I do not normally enjoy ‘horror’ films such as these with monsters and jump scares but A Quiet Place bridges the gap between ingenious filmmaking and scaring for scaring’s sake. At the heart of the films is a family that represents everyone. Their struggle to survive in the post-apocalyptic world, especially after the death of a child and the man of the house touches a nerve with many, especially after the past year.

The use of sound in this film elevates it from your usual gore fest filled with horrific creatures and gruesome deaths. One of the characters is deaf and in the sequel she takes over the role of the patriarch and becomes the one to find a safe haven for her family. We get to experience sound the way she does, when the film shifts to her point of view. It was a great technique that helped the viewer relate to a deaf character when this can be tricky to do if you do not know anyone who is deaf in the real world.

I am especially attached to the characters because of the actors. John Krasinski and his wife, Emily Blunt play husband and wife as well as John directing both films. This is rare in the film world and of course their on-screen chemistry is reflected by their real life bond. They already know how to move around the other and as they have children of their own, acting as parents is second nature to them. The actors who play the kids, Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds are two of the best young actors in Hollywood today and both do excellent jobs reprising their roles in the sequel and picking up where the first film ended.

While a direct sequel, this film also has a flashback to the first day of the apocalypse and we get to see a glimpse of who the family were before they became survivalists. We get to see John Krasinski and their other son again amongst other members of their small town. The town is actually a replica of the one we see in the first film. I personally did not notice any difference but then again three years have passed in between the two films.

We also have a new character introduced, Emmett who takes over John’s role as the adult male. While Emmett does help the family out when they are being pursued by monsters, it is Millicent’s character who assumes his role as the protector and forward thinker. She becomes the one in charge of saving the family after she hears a clue on the radio and goes to search for an island that she believes will be a new home for her family. In the other storyline, we see Emily Blunt step up to protect her new baby and her son, Marcus who gets badly injured at the start of the film.

The family flee their burning house to find somewhere new to hide when they come across a disused flour mill, or so they think. After being pursued by a creature who we get to see up close for the first time, Marcus gets caught in an animal trap and they seek shelter. By coincidence, the mill is being occupied by Emmett, a friend from before the meteor struck. He offers them shelter and after Regan (Simmonds) leaves to find the island, he goes to get her back and the two form a father-daughter bond.

Marcus then steps up as the man of the mill and looks after his baby sibling while his mum ventures to the nearest pharmacy for medical supplies. What follows are tense encounters with the monsters all set to a backdrop of a genius soundscape that helps the audience immerse themselves in the characters’ world.

There were a few jump scares and seeing the monsters close up wasn’t pleasant but again this film centred around family and human survival. There were twists and unexpected moments that had me holding my breath, not daring to make the slightest noise. Leave your popcorn at home again for this one.

Overall I give this film 9/10. I think some elements could have been expanded slightly and it was missing something that makes a film 10/10 for me but it was a worthy sequel and the acting was on point. Another great venture for John Krasinski and co.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

TV Shows I’ve been watching this month

Hello readers,

As lockdown is easing gradually in the UK and life hopefully will be returning to its pre-pandemic state, cinemas will be opening and production will increase. However, we are not quite there yet and this month I have been mainly watching television programmes that I find comfort in and sticking to old favourites. With real life becoming more exciting soon, maybe my watching habits will as well. The five shows I am going to write about in this post are all ones that have been in my life in some form for a while. For example while WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are new shows they are a continuation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the 23 films that culminated in Avengers: Endgame in 2019. Both of these shows pick up after Endgame and focus on some heroes who have not had their own films.

Shameless US – Netflix

I first became aware of this show around a year ago through a friend. I was introduced through the characters of Ian and Mickey and their ground-breaking relationship. For me they have been a great example of a romance that is not conventional or stereotypically confined by their sexuality. The show as a whole is set in Southside Chicago where every character has to fight for survival.

Shameless centres around the Gallagher family, the same as the UK version which this version is based upon but that is where the similarities stop plot wise. The family is headed by eldest sister, Fiona who is 21 in the first season. She has been raising her siblings since she was young and officially since she was 16 and her mother ran off from the family for good. Next is Lip, short for Philip, the smartest in the family with a high IQ who is 16 in season 1. Then there is Ian who is gay and has set his sights on the military by attending a junior cadet programme. He is 15 in season 1. After Ian comes Debbie, she is determined and is the only one of the Gallagher clan to still love her father. After her is Carl, a reckless kid with his heart in the right place. The youngest Gallagher is Liam, who is a baby in season one and somehow black with two white parents. Frank Gallagher is their father who is more interested in money, drugs and creating social change than his kids.

The show follows their lives and all the ups and downs. Other main characters are Kevin and Veronica who live near the Gallaghers and have formed a close bond with Fiona. Kevin works at the Alibi, the local bar and V works as a nurse at a care home. Other notable characters from season one are Karen and Sheila Jackson who become involved with the Gallaghers and Mickey and Mandy Milkovich. Mandy is Ian’s best friend and he meets Mickey through her.

I am up to Season 8 of the show but all together there are 11 seasons with the final season (11) being shown on television currently. Only 9 are on Netflix but hopefully the newer ones will be added soon. While this show is definitely for adults with lots of swearing, nudity and drugs; there is a lot of heart and every character goes through an amazing journey with hardships and successes.

WandaVision

The first venture for Marvel into television form with Kevin Feige helming the shows. WandaVision follows the story after Endgame as mentioned above. We are introduced to a new agency, S.W.O.R.D who have taken over from S.H.I.E.L.D as the governing body associated with superheroes and the Avengers. A phenomenon occurs when the town of Westview is trapped in a forcefield that no-one can penetrate. At the centre is Wanda Maximoff living as a 1950s housewife with her husband, Vision, who fans will know perished in Infinity War at the hands of Thanos.

Wanda’s life is now in black and white with a cast of friends and co-workers and a laugh track. As her life moves through the decades into the 1960s, 70s and 80s; we learn why Wanda is living out sitcoms from different decades.

What makes this show unique is that WandaVision completely inhabits the techniques and styles of every television decade including the special effects and props of the time. This show is a continuation of Wanda and Vision’s story in the Marvel Universe and we learn more about Wanda’s life pre-Avenger but it is also an homage to the great American sitcoms of the last 70 years.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier

This show is also in the Marvel Universe but unlike WandaVision, it is more similar to the Marvel spectacles we are used to from the MCU. The show is being released weekly and only two episodes have been streamed so far but the story is beginning to take shape.

In the show, we see Sam Wilson or ‘Falcon’ and Bucky Barnes or ‘The Winter Soldier’ in the months after Endgame where the world is trying to adjust to half the population suddenly appearing again. Sam is still working for the government as a contractor with his Falcon technology and Bucky has gone down a more solitary path. He lives alone in New York as a newly pardoned contract killer. Apart from his therapy sessions and missions to make his past wrongs right, he doesn’t have much to do with the Avengers.

A new threat appears in the form of Karli Morgenthau and her crew. They are dedicated to making the world how it was before everyone came back. Terror attacks have been threatening the population around the globe so Sam persuades Bucky to team up once again. What really convinces him is the debut of a new Captain America. John Walker is as close to a super soldier as he can be, without the serum but Sam who gave up the shield, definitely does not approve.

Bucky is still attached to his life long friend, Steve Rogers and together Sam and Bucky get back into the action. So far we have had an episode on a back story for both Sam’s family in New Orleans and more of Bucky’s past and a second with some action scenes between the pair. One delight of the series to audiences is the comedy between them. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have had great comic chemistry since their interviews together for Captain America: The Winter Soldier back in 2014 and this series has amped up their natural back and forth to their on screen characters. A particular favourite scene is when Sam and Bucky are made to go through couple’s therapy with Bucky’s therapist.

Another element that I applaud Marvel for showing is race inequality. Sam as a black man gave up the Captain America mantle but then it was given to another white man. There is also a very pivotal scene where Bucky tries talking to another super soldier who was given the serum like him. This man was treated differently to Bucky however as he is black. After this revealing conversation, Sam is questioned by a passing policeman for arguing with Bucky and until Bucky tells the officer that Sam is an Avenger and a hero, Sam faces arrest.

Love, Victor

This show has been out for a while but I am watching it weekly on Disney Plus. It is based on the film Love, Simon that debuted in 2018 which is based on a book by Becky Albertalli. I loved the film of Love, Simon and the representation and awareness it brought to young adult audiences from a major studio. Love, Victor is in the same universe as Love, Simon but picks up the story from another point of view. Victor Salazar has just moved to Creekwood, Atlanta with his family and starts at the school where Simon went. He has some trouble adjusting to a more open and accepting society and trying to work out his own feelings so he messages Simon online for advice. This starts a dialogue between the two which is presented as a voice over from the original actor, Nick Robinson.

While Simon’s story was not easy, he was from a liberal white background whereas Victor’s family are Latino and religious. They also are not as open as Victor would hope so he has trouble even processing his feelings, let alone telling his family. He starts dating a fellow student, Mia and gets along well with her but he has an attraction to his co-worker, Benji who is openly gay and has a boyfriend.

I thought this show was a good twist on the point of view that studios normally show of a supportive and accepting family. Victor’s family is very close but he still fears their reaction. I am up to Episode 7 out of 10 and Season 2 is already confirmed so I will see how Victor’s story plays out.

Taskmaster

This show is one of my favourite game shows on TV as the format is never boring and all the contestants are comedians that I like. The aim of the game is to complete the tasks and then be judged by the Taskmaster to receive a maximum of five points. The winner of each episode gets to take home all the prize tasks. The show is currently on Series 11 and has had two episodes aired.

This series the contestants are Lee Mack, Jamali Maddox, Sarah Kendall, Mike Wozniak and Charlotte Ritchie. Each contestant pre-records their tasks with the help of Alex Horne, the Taskmaster’s Assistant at the Taskmaster house or sometimes on location around the area. The tasks can be creative, fun, tricky, challenging and really put people to the test. Many people complete the tasks in a unique and funny way which makes for great entertainment. The other entertaining part is watching the Taskmaster’s reaction in the studio and see the contestants plead their case for points.

This show does not need to be seen in order and I would recommend starting from series 4 or 5 as that is when the show really hits its stride.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

François Ozon: How French Cinema moved me

François Ozon has made this film into a visual masterpiece. The plot of the film does not have many big twists or dramatic moments but with his direction, you feel as though this tiny French fishing town is the centre of the universe and all that really matters. The emotions of the characters go from big to small and are only present in front of certain other characters which was a good decision. It let the characters preserve their feelings and let them build up to crescendos which did not always end well for them. The locations used are all picturesque and fit into ideas of life in France at the time. There are strong and bold colours without crazy patterns to distract the eye. The fashion is all time-accurate with lots of double denim and block designs. The music used also contributed to the tone and emotions of the film. His writing, while macabre at times never tipped into depressive or gory but toed the line of acceptable for a death-obsessed teenager to say. His choice to focus on Alexis and let the audience be one step ahead of him was a great way to tell the story.

Dear Readers,

It has been a while since my last post; I had intended to do Top 20 of 2020 TV shows but the post did not spark ideas for me so I have decided to park that post for a while and focus on another topic. I may get back to it for a second post next month. Instead, I am going to talk about two films that I have recently discovered are by the same director and were two of my favourite films of the past few years.

I recently watched Summer of 85, a recent release to streaming services and was so moved by this film. It was sad at points but the film did not leave me emotionally drained at the end. I have seen very few films that deliver such a dramatic and devastating event but within the final act are able to build the viewer back up and let them walk away with a sense of gratitude. I will also be talking about Ozon’s 2018 film, By the Grace of God. It is a long one but I loved every minute and I remember saying at the end that I needed more of the film despite it being two and a half hours. I sometimes struggle to stay focused on a long film, especially ones with subtitles but this film captured maintained my attention the whole way through.

Summer of 85 – Original Title – Été 85

This film centres around Alexis and his relationships in the summer of 1985 in Normandy, France. He has moved to the idyllic seaside town only two years before so has not made any meaningful friendships. He borrows an acquaintance’s boat and after capsizing is rescued by David, a town native. From there, a whirlwind friendship, relationship and anything else in-between occurs. They make death pacts, reveal their deepest secrets and spend every minute together. A British au pair, Kate complicates matters and Alexis’ summer of love becomes a summer of death. The story is told in a flashback fashion where the narrator has written about the events and is recounting them. This is interspersed with the present and what Alexis’ life is like while writing the story. This is an interesting narrative technique that played well with the story. I will not say much more about the plot as a major detail is given away at the beginning and this played into my view of the film.

The two actors who play Alexis and David have brilliant chemistry and every scene with just the two of them is like watching friends or relatives you know. They have such vivid emotions and whether they are angry, sad, happy or otherwise; as a viewer you can connect with their characters. Félix Lefebvre who is Alexis plays a magnificent part for a young actor. He is the link between the past and present and we see the world through his eyes. Whenever he is on screen, you experience events through his emotions and feel what he wants you to feel. Benjamin Voisin who plays David has an energy about him that instantly makes you want to be around him. He certainly has this effect of many characters in the film. Through Alexis, we see his beauty and eventually his darkness. Philippine Velge is a great supporting actor as Kate with a near perfect British accent. She can also speak French with a British accent which makes me think she was raised in Britain. Her role becomes pivotal to the plot and even though she is not French, she becomes part of the community for Alexis.

François Ozon has made this film into a visual masterpiece. The plot of the film does not have many big twists or dramatic moments but with his direction, you feel as though this tiny French fishing town is the centre of the universe and all that really matters. The emotions of the characters go from big to small and are only present in front of certain other characters which was a good decision. It lets the characters preserve their feelings and allows the build up to crescendos which did not always end well for them. The locations used are all picturesque and fit into ideas of life in France at the time. There are strong and bold colours without crazy patterns to distract the eye. The fashion is all time-accurate with lots of double denim and block designs. The music used also contributed to the tone and emotions of the film. His writing, while macabre at times never tipped into depressive or gory but toed the line of acceptable for a death-obsessed teenager to say. His choice to focus on Alexis and let the audience be one step ahead of him was a great way to tell the story.

I loved this film, even though there were sad moments. By learning of the big event at the start, I felt prepared as a viewer. The final act after this event was useful to repair the sad emotions I experienced, so walking away from the film, I felt hopeful and not depressed. This is a technique I have not seen used very often. Many films with a devastating ending, usually leave the viewer with those emotions but Summer of 85 left me with a better outlook. This is a film I would love to live in and experience for myself as the 1980s is a well documented era but most films I have seen set in this time period are based in America or England and not Europe. The subtitles did not distract from the quality of the film and if anything, it helped me to focus more on every word said rather than looking at my phone at the same time.

I give this film 10/10.

By the Grace of God – Original Title – Grâce à Dieu

By The Grace of God tells a tale that had unfortunately become more and more prevalent in the last decade but it does so in such a way that enables the viewer to feel optimistic about the victims going forward. It depicts how the victims of a Catholic priest find each other in their 40s after being sexually abused as young boys. They form a website to spread awareness and raise funds to prosecute the priest. It is based on a true story but rather than a harrowing tale, it represents fighting back and how to overcome your abuser. The film is told from the point of view of a victim who is now a businessman with children. He has lived with this childhood trauma but finally decides to do something about it. Many of the men in the film have managed to suppress or deal with what happened to them and form attachments with friends and partners but for a few men it has not been as simple. Just talking about what they went through leads to the men questioning their own relationships and lives.

The cast themselves were amazing in their portrayals and embodied the stories of the real men that went through the trauma as children. The man who played the priest did a great job at making the viewer comfortable in his presence despite his horrific crimes. It shows how the boys aged around 8 to 10 years old were happy to be in his presence. Many of them said nothing to their parents at the time, either too ashamed or not fully understanding what had happened.

When watching, I did not realise that François Ozon was the director but I was hooked to the film. It is not really a film to be enjoyed but one to learn from. The way the website and the community of the men and their families comes together was told in a way that eased the viewer into this story and helped them build up an attachment to the group and what they want to achieve. Not that anyone would side with the priest but at first, he denies the allegations and you will the men to find more evidence and support them on their quest for justice. Nothing explicit is ever shown but enough is insinuated with flashbacks to make you understand what was happening. The mind is very suggestible and even a hint of maliciousness can help you fill in the blanks. Religion played an important role in the film and many of the men struggled with how they saw religion after their experiences. Some had walked away from the church and some still went with their families, blocking out the connotations.

At the time of viewing, I was very moved by the film. Although, I think to properly describe my feelings, I would have to re-watch it. I will say that it was a very powerful and necessary story that left me wondering why it took so long to convict this criminal. Again, the subtitles did not detract from the story. I saw this film at the back of a cinema and I was able to hang on every word. Some films are so strong that language is not a barrier when conveying its message.

I give this film 10/10 but I would want to re-watch to confirm this rating.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

My Top 20 Films of 2020

A recent viewing for me over the Groupwatch Feature on Disney Plus. The animated version was a childhood favourite of mine so I was sad that I did not get a chance to watch it at the cinema last September. Its release on Disney Plus was a delight for me and despite some controversy surrounding its locations, I think this is an important film for Asian representation in Western culture and especially for women. Mulan volunteers to fight in the Chinese Imperial Army some one thousand years ago. In the live action version, Mulan lives in a poor village and takes her father’s place due to his ill health whereas in the original version, Mulan is a princess and takes his place to prove herself. I loved Yifei Liu’s performance as Mulan; I remember they spent a long time trying to find the right actress and I think the casting was perfect. She was able to portray vulnerability and femininity at the beginning and then brute strength and leadership as a soldier. The fight sequences were impressive and used clever techniques as well as offensive action. Scenes with the snow avalanche and the final showdown were particularly impressive as well as the general production design. It did not feel like a typical cuddly kids film and I think it was a good move to get rid of the songs, no matter how great they were. I really loved this film but it was missing that extra something that makes me give a film full marks.

Hello readers,

A friend suggested this concept to me after talking about one of their favourite films of the year and I thought it would be great way to say goodbye to a horrific year for the world. Despite cinemas being closed for most of 2020, film found a way via streaming services. I was surprised at how many new films Netflix was putting out but it certainly kept me entertained. I’m listing my top 20 in no particular order apart from my IMDb rating. Going through all the films I saw released in 2020, I realise that my total viewing is only slightly longer than this list but each film on the list did bring me some joy this year and that’s what really counts in my eyes.

Onward – 10/10

This was the last film I saw at a chain cinema before lockdown and I am glad it was this one. It was a great story with an interesting new universe, a great cast and a feel-good story. I loved the dynamic between the brothers played by Chris Pratt and Tom Holland. They are elves living in a modern fairy tale land which is a blend of technology and mythical creatures. The characters go on a road trip/quest to try and fix a spell and see their late father one last time. This Pixar animation is a lovely tale for adults and children and I am glad I saw it in the cinema. It is now available on Disney Plus.

Godmothered – 9/10

I was pleasantly surprised by this Disney film that I saw over Christmas on Disney Plus. It represents the maturing of the Disney company as I have seen other content in the last couple of years with more feminist and LGBT story lines than previously included. This tale focuses on a fairy godmother who goes to Earth to help a little girl and save her godmother academy. The little girl is now an adult with children of her own and a job at a local news station. Eleanor, the godmother is not well versed in the modern world which leads to some hilarious incidents. There was a lot for adults but this is definitely a film for children. It is also set at Christmas but this is more in the background. The ending was not the usual marry a prince which I liked and shows that romantic love is not the be all and end all. A great cast with Jillian Bell, Isla Fisher and June Squibb.

Dating Amber – 9/10

I enjoyed this film set in the 1990s in Ireland with a great twist. It features Eddie and Amber who are both gay but pretend to date each other to get their fellow students off their backs. They embark on a deep emotional friendship and are able to be themselves for the very first time while exploring their sexualities. This was a very sweet story about finding yourself while also discussing some darker themes and it is worth its 15 rating with some older discussions. Starring upcoming actors Fionn O’Shea and Lola Petticrew along with Sharon Horgan and Simone Kirby. A great Irish film with comedy and heart.

Palm Springs – 9/10

This American comedy is the only film I saw in the cinema last year since lockdown started. It was in a cinema in Turkey but I have not wanted to attend in the UK so far but hopefully cinema will be back soon. This film played on the Groundhog Day trope with someone getting stuck in an endless time loop only in this film there are three people in the time loop. It made it a fun twist. The film is set at a wedding in Palm Springs and it begins with Sarah entering the time loop that Niles is already in. The two of them make the most of the endless days and gradually become closer and look for ways to leave the loop. It was a fun comedy that took my mind off 2020 for a while. Some great comedy stars star, Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti with other known faces: Peter Gallagher, Tyler Hoechlin, Camila Mendes, J.K. Simmons and June Squibb.

The Lovebirds – 9/10

This film moved onto Netflix after cinema shut down and I was glad it did as I got the chance to see it. It was a great buddy comedy with a couple who are going through problems. They end up on the run after a misunderstanding and encounter many interesting characters while trying to clear their name and fixing their relationship. It is a blend of comedy, drama, adventure and a little horror. With comedy gold Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani and set in New Orleans, a great film if you’re looking for something new and distracting.

The Old Guard – 9/10

This was a great film and one of my favourites released this year. It was a great story and I think the fact it is based on a comic book really made it a step above past action films. I am a fan of the director, Gina Prince-Bythewood and how she made this film into a fan favourite and cult phenomenon. The idea is something that has been played with before but rarely outside of the superhero genre. The team are made up of immortals who have been fighting evil for hundreds or thousands of years. They spend their infinite time helping secretly around the world to solve problems and take down criminals. When a new immortal is found for the first time in a hundred years, she joins the group and tries to protect the immortals from the threat of exposure from a man trying to harness their immortality for themselves. I loved the characters and their backstories and the relationship they all have with each other. The romance between Nicky and Joe is a highlight along with Andy’s character. The cast of Charlize Theron, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Harry Melling, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marwan Kenzari and Luca Marinelli make this film, a great one and I am looking forward to any potential sequels and I will definitely be re-watching soon.

The Half of It – 9/10

This indie Netflix original uses a well known trope with a more diverse outlook. Paul has a crush on Aster and pays Ellie to write love letters for him. While a friendship blossoms between the two from completely different social circles, something else develops between Aster and Ellie. The story is set in a small fictional town, Squahamish most notable for its conservative church and railway line. This gives an idea of the views of the townspeople when it comes to outsiders or those who do not comply with their religious beliefs. I was pleased to see that the romance is not the main focus of the story but the sweet friendship that develops between Ellie and Paul. This is not to say that the love story between Ellie and Aster was not explored. A lot of the shots were done to show the cinematography of the piece and to enhance the plot. I watched this film via Netflix Party with a friend and we both enjoyed. It was interesting to see a teen film with a slower pace and a less studio vibe.

My Spy – 9/10

I was happy that this film appeared on streaming services after the pandemic ensured it only had a limited run. A family action comedy that provided some well needed escapism in the first lockdown. We see tough team up with cute when JJ, a CIA operative is assigned to track the family of a former agent. Sophie, the former agent’s young daughter manages to suss out JJ’s mission and they team up to get the job done. I enjoyed seeing Dave Bautista is a role where he plays a human rather than as Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy and while he is the funny one of the group in the Marvel films, he gets to show a different side in My Spy. Sophie is played by Chloe Coleman, a rising child star who has no trouble carrying the film as the co-lead. It’s always fun to see a hardened stoic man softened by a smart kid. There are some laughs but also a lot of action. An all round enjoyable film.

All The Bright Places – 9/10

There was a lot of anticipation for this film as it is based on a bestselling novel by Jennifer Niven. While it has a depressing premise, I enjoyed the film. I feel like it has similar tones to The Half of It with a focus on the cinematography. I think it was important for the film that the author was a writer on the film and helped maintain the feel of the story. It stars Hollywood heavyweights Elle Fanning and Justice Smith who have both starred in their share of big films. Other stars include Luke Wilson, Alexandra Shipp and Keegan-Michael Key. This film shows the complex love story between Violet and Theodore and how they battle their past demons. Set in Indiana but shot in Cleveland, the unique locations add to the motifs and details of the film. It is a sad one but I think this is an important depiction of mental health and I hope it prompts more conversations amongst young people.

Mulan – 8/10

A recent viewing for me over the Groupwatch Feature on Disney Plus. The animated version was a childhood favourite of mine so I was sad that I did not get a chance to watch it at the cinema last September. Its release on Disney Plus was a delight for me and despite some controversy surrounding its locations, I think this is an important film for Asian representation in Western culture and especially for women. Mulan volunteers to fight in the Chinese Imperial Army some one thousand years ago. In the live action version, Mulan lives in a poor village and takes her father’s place due to his ill health whereas in the original version, Mulan is a princess and takes his place to prove herself. I loved Yifei Liu’s performance as Mulan; I remember they spent a long time trying to find the right actress and I think the casting was perfect. She was able to portray vulnerability and femininity at the beginning and then brute strength and leadership as a soldier. The fight sequences were impressive and used clever techniques as well as offensive action. Scenes with the snow avalanche and the final showdown were particularly impressive as well as the general production design. It did not feel like a typical cuddly kids film and I think it was a good move to get rid of the songs, no matter how great they were. I really loved this film but it was missing that extra something that makes me give a film full marks.

The Prom – 8/10

I’ve always loved a musical and this one was no different. The film is based on a Broadway musical and a true story about how a school in Indiana prevents a female student from bringing her girlfriend to the prom. When some washed up Broadway stars hear of the story, they rally to the cause and fly to Indiana to help Emma just live her life. This film debuted on Netflix with some A list actors: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, James Corden and Keegan-Michael Key. I thought this musical had a fun vibe and while a little cheesy it had a great message of acceptance and love. The songs were a great fit and are more universal than some musical songs. The design of the Prom at the end was a lovely celebration for all sexualities and I’m glad that the story was told.

Enola Holmes – 8/10

This spin on the classic Sherlock Holmes tale offers a female led perspective and introduces a younger cast supported by well-known actors. Set in Victorian England, Enola is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. She is raised in the country by her mother away from proper society. When her mother leaves with no explanation, Enola heads to London to find her encountering a wayward Viscount and a mystery along the way. A lawsuit over the addition of more human characteristics to Sherlock’s personality was issued by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle but this has now been settled. I thought this film was a fun take on the Sherlock story and gave younger and female viewers a point of view in the story. I enjoyed the film and the story. It was a delightful story with enough intrigue to keep you interested and beautiful production design. A talented cast featuring Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Helena Bonham Carter, Louis Partridge, Burn Gorman, Frances De La Tour and Fiona Shaw.

Work It – 8/10

Dance films are always an upbeat fun watch for me and this film was no different. What sets this film apart from every other dance film is that the main character is not a professional dancer. Quinn’s best friend is in the high school dance troupe and when she lies in a college interview, saying that she is a dancer, she needs to make that happen. She is not allowed into the troupe so forms her own with a group of outsiders and becomes the rival team at a competition. This is a film about learning to accept your flaws and living your best life anyway. The different styles of dance shown create a diverse story rather than just hip hop or ballet as in some films. There is also a brewing romance between Quinn and the choreographer she convinces to help them. I enjoyed the fun-loving nature of the film and it stars some great young actors: Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Liza Koshy and Keiynan Lonsdale. If you are a fan of teen films or dance films, then this is one for you.

Desperados – 8/10

A slightly out-there plot that could only happen in the modern world, Desperados also reunites actors Lamorne Morris and Nasim Pedrad who played husband and wife on television show, New Girl. Wesley meets Jared and at first her relationship is great but then he ghosts her and she sends a ranting and insulting email. He is in Mexico and was in a car accident so while he is recovering, Wesley flies to Mexico to delete the email before he sees it. What ensues is a girls trip with her two best friends and a ridiculous adventure. Each of the three women have things to confront about themselves and this trip offers the chance to do it. Wesley then bumps into a blind date she had before Jared and develops a friendship with him. This film was cheesy but had some real content and was a plotline I hadn’t seen before. It stars some great comedy actors: Anna Camp and Robbie Amell as well the aforementioned actors. I watched the film over the summer and seeing Mexico was something to take my mind off the pandemic for a while.

The F**k-It List – 8/10

This film is about finding your own path in life and not just going along with what others expect of you. Brent Blackmore spends his whole life studying to please his high-achieving parents. When he joins in with his senior prank and it goes wrong, Brent posts a ‘F**k-It List’ listing things he wish he did in high school. Slowly his college offers dwindle and he is banned from graduation. He goes viral and opportunities start opening up. This is a fun teen comedy with some real heart and a good message about being yourself. Set in sunny California, this film is for everyone that felt they missed out on something in life and needs persuading to pursue it. Featuring an up and coming cast of Eli Brown, Madison Iseman, Andrew Bachelor and Karan Brar.

Extraction – 8/10

A fast-paced action film set in Bangladesh in a world of weapons and arms dealings. The son of an international drug lord is kidnapped from his school in India and mercenary Tyler Rake is dropped into the city of Dhaka to rescue him and extract him back to India. The action never stops and a bond forms between Tyler and Ovi, the boy. I enjoyed the different setting and the city made a great location for this type of film. Chris Hemsworth is great in this type of role and it’s a good film to show his range after his high profile role in the Marvel universe. Despite the high stakes and difficulty of the mission, Tyler never gives up. In the background, his colleagues work to get information about the kidnappers and their motives.

Birds of Prey – 8/10

Another film I saw when cinemas were open and life was normal. I am not normally a fan of DC Universe films, I have only seen a few, namely Wonder Woman and Shazam but I went to see this film with a friend and I thought Margot Robbie could carry the film as Harley Quinn. Sometimes giving a secondary character a solo film doesn’t work but Harley really had her own tale to tell. The film starts with Joker having dumped Harley and she takes it hard. She spends the time getting back to what she does best: fighting bad guys. She meets a young girl on the run from an evil sexist crime lord who has also done Harley harm. She teams up with other female heroes to form the Birds of Prey and take him out. Her outfits were really fun and different. Her character is not how women are usually presented in superhero films such as Black Widow who was originally a sexy assistant or Captain Marvel who is a strong and sarcastic pilot. Harley is neither of these things but forges her own path. Even though she is a comic book character, her story of recovering from a toxic relationship and learning how to be her own person without that relationship is relatable to many women. A fun film about the strength of women and how they can be tough and violent yet vulnerable and broken.

The Boys in the Band – 7/10

This film has a long history as it is based on a play that debuted in the 1960s in New York City. It was controversial at the time as the main characters are all gay men and being homosexual was still illegal in America or certainly looked down upon in many states. The film itself features actors who are out as gay in the roles which the playwright insisted upon. The original cast featured gay actors too at a time when it was dangerous to be out as gay in America. The film is about the men all gathering for someone’s birthday party in a New York apartment and they all come away as different men than they were before. Secrets are spilled and dares are made and surprise guests appear. It does play out like a play with a few scenes not set in the apartment. Ryan Murphy is on as a producer and there are some talented people involved such as Zachary Quinto, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Andrew Rannells. Its an interesting piece and says a lot about how it felt to be gay in that time and place.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – 7/10

A very cheesy and almost parody of the Eurovision Song Contest, the film celebrates the energy and vibe of the contest as a strange, trashy event where anything goes even Australia being in Europe. This film features Lars and Sigrit who by freak accident get the chance to represent Iceland at the contest. They have been trying to get their musical duo going for a while and get the chance of a lifetime. They head to Scotland for the contest and face rivals, potential lovers and extravagant costumes. This film was not made to be taken seriously and I thought it was good for what it was: a fun musical film to honour a ridiculous tradition but it did not inspire me. Starring some big names: Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams as the duo Fire Saga along with Pierce Brosnan, Dan Stevens and Demi Lovato. Of course, Graham Norton stars himself as he has been the UK commentator for a number of years.

Parasite – 7/10

This film was a cultural phenomenon when it came out especially as it made history and won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. I thought the film was good but not 10 out of 10 good. The story had many twists and turns and could only happen in that sort of society with such a class divide in the same city. It spoke volumes about how people treat each other, not just in South Korea but worldwide. The film is about a poor family living on next to nothing, the teenage son gets the chance to work for a rich family and he gets positions for each of his family members. Things take a turn when they realise that they have stumbled into a chilling situation. The director Bong Joon-ho has made films like Snowpiercer and Okja as well as many South Korean ones. I was not familiar with the actors in the film but they did a great job at creating the story of the film. I thought some of the plotlines were a little far-fetched and I was a little confused about the genre and message of the film as the ending was so bleak. I know that this film meant a lot to many people so I wanted to include it even though there were other films I enjoyed more this year.

Happy Watching,

Robyn