Summer of Cinema: Old

Dear Readers,

I went into this film with not much prior knowledge apart from knowing the director, one actor and the fact that it was set on a tropical island. This was the best way to do it for me personally as watching the trailer afterwards gave away a lot of key details. The screen was pretty busy and I had a good aisle seat. This film eases you in with marriage problems and a family on holiday but after going to the beach, everything falls apart and the story begins to mess with your perception of reality. I have only seen one M. Night Shyamalan film before and it was a long time ago. I knew his films usually had a thriller/horror element and were known for being mind-bending. The screen was semi-packed which gave me confidence in the film, especially as it had already been out for three weeks.

The film title and poster do not give much away other than the ageing element. When I went in I wondered how this would play into things, I imagined the characters being shipwrecked on the island and steadily growing old as we do normally. What did happen was very unexpected. It is hard to talk much about this film without giving away the big idea so I will be talking about the concept of the film and certain plot details.

The film focuses around a family with two young children. They are on holiday from the US but both parents are European from their accents. The trip is one least hurrah before they tell the kids they are divorcing and that the mother has an illness. They check in and are greeted with specially designed cocktails and charming staff. The hotel looks very luxurious and everything seems picture perfect. We meet a few other characters: families on holiday, all Americans so we can assume the Caribbean or somewhere off the US Coast. Nothing big happens until a guest has a seizure and everyone rushes to help. Trent, the youngest of our main family makes friends with another boy his age, Idlib whose uncle runs the resort.

The next day, the manager tells the family of an exclusive beach that is only available to his favourite guests. They are guided to a minibus where the family from the dining hall before have also boarded. They are taken to the beach by a familiar face (M. Night Shyamalan) and told to call if they want to be picked up or the bus will come at 5pm. The group walk through the rocks, armed with deck chairs and heavy picnic baskets and appear on a picturesque, quiet beach. They settle in but notice another man sitting on the sand in the distance.

Things begin to get unnerving when Trent finds a dead body in a shallow rock pool. The man tells the group he was with her and they connected because they both have conditions. While trying to sort out the body, another couple arrive, the woman who had the seizure and her husband. Someone tries to go back through the rocks but ends up blacked-out on the beach. They are trapped.

With all this going on, the parents initially miss their kids ageing up 5 years. The two 6 years, one from each family and Trent’s sister, Maddox who is 11 are all now biologically older. Then the mother of the doctor dies then her dog. Things keep getting weirder and weirder until they work out that they are ageing roughly a year every half an hour. The conditions and illnesses become more prevalent and create problems for the holidaymakers.

I will not give away the ending but it was not one you would expect and had a more logical yet disturbing explanation. There is also a happy ending for some characters so it is not totally doom and gloom.

I liked this film as it had a good concept that was not completely obvious but once it hits, there is little time to find a solution. The characters all had complexities but were easy enough to follow as the concept was enough to hold it together. I also think the casting was great for Trent and Maddox at different ages, especially Trent. I truly believed they were the same person. I related to the characters because I could not see a way out of the situation and any time spent on the problem was wasted periods of their lives.

The diversity was good, it is rare to have two European characters in such prominent roles. There were a few moments that were amped up for shock factor particularly how Crystal and her husband met their ends. Overall, an enjoyable film that makes you cherish the time you have rather than spending that time worrying or not making that change before it’s too late.

I give this film 5/5.

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: 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

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

Honey Boy – My Thoughts

I think it shows how rich and powerful the script and the belief in the director to have a female director narrate this story. It is from a male perspective about male relationships; father and son; roommates at rehab; an all-male AA meeting; the Big Brother programme but I think Alma Har’el added some great narrative and design choices to an already strong script. Her directive decisions elevated the film to include great visuals along with the story. I applaud the producers and studio for promoting a female director especially someone who had never done a narrative film before Honey Boy. I think this example goes to show that women are just as capable as men when it comes to being behind the camera.

Hello readers,

I recently watched the film Honey Boy (2019) written by Shia LaBeouf about his early life as a child actor and his time in rehab. I have been interested in this film since I saw the trailer and I have been waiting for it to come on to streaming services. A few days ago, I noticed that it was now on Amazon Prime so I watched it. This film really stuck with me and taught me about how to structure a film and how trauma can affect you even if you have had a relatively trauma free life. I am glad that Shia LaBeouf made this film as it was very powerful and I think it was a great film to come from childhood trauma.

Synopsis

Honey Boy is based on Shia LaBeouf’s life but with times and characters renamed. It focuses on Otis, an actor and how as an adult he relives his childhood in rehab and learns about his mental health. Otis was a child actor and chaperoned by his father but his father is an alcoholic and takes out his anger with emotional and sometimes physical abuse. The film is shot with flashbacks to Otis’ childhood and then his recovery in a rehabilitation facility.

Director

I think it shows how rich and powerful the script and the belief in the director is to have a female director narrate this story. It is from a male perspective about male relationships; father and son; roommates at rehab; an all-male AA meeting; the Big Brother programme but I think Alma Har’el added some great narrative and design choices to an already strong script. Her directive decisions elevated the film to include great visuals along with the story. I applaud the producers and studio for promoting a female director especially someone who had never done a narrative film before Honey Boy. I think this example goes to show that women are just as capable as men when it comes to being behind the camera.

Cast

The cast’s performances especially of Noah Jupe as 12 year old Otis and Shia LaBeouf as Otis’ father were what made me think about this film for hours after watching. Personally, it was some of the most emotional and heart-wrenching acting I have seen. Their relationship and the use of the word PTSD when referring to Otis’ childhood really made me question how our mental health works and how trauma manifests itself. As a child, Otis appears relatively balanced apart from smoking and some crying but he doesn’t carry the weight that 22 year old Otis does. He is played by Lucas Hedges who took the character of Otis but through his voice and body language presented us with Shia LaBeouf from that time period and really connected both versions. The public and the media all know about Shia LaBeouf’s drinking, rehab and prison time but his childhood was a mystery. More liberties were taken with Otis’ character at this time as Shia himself hadn’t become the person he turns into but Noah Jupe gave us an emotionally traumatised child actor who we could associate with LaBeouf.

Noah Jupe is really up and coming as an actor and I think this is his strongest performance of his career so far. The roles I have seen him in such as Jack Will in Wonder; Peter Miles in Les Mans ’66 and Marcus in A Quiet Place are all side characters and serve to aid the main character(s) but this is his first real lead role as he is the titular ‘Honey Boy’. He had a great depth to his emotions and even though the story and his experiences are far removed from my own but I really empathised with his situation and it made me think about how I relate to my own experiences in life. I was surprised to learn that he is British as most of his performances include him speaking in a very convincing American accent. I think Noah Jupe is definitely one to watch because as he is this good at 15, just think how good he is going to be in five, ten years.

Shia LaBeouf’s performance obviously came from a deep and painful place and confronting his dad’s words and actions by embodying this character of James based on his father. I haven’t seen a character quite like James, every word and action towards Otis was either criticising or pressurising him. There were no real kind words said as every positive was as the result of mean words said or as a way to emotionally manipulate him. A clever narrative device was James telling his story in AA and this gave him a softer personality but Otis later reveals that his AA story is an amalgamation of other AA stories and I think this sums up the character. Another line that you can hear in the trailer above that really hit to the heart of James was ‘If I didn’t pay you, you wouldn’t be here’.

Back story

I knew that Shia LaBeouf wrote this story when he was in rehab which he is shown doing in Honey Boy and was going to be playing his own father but I had no idea of the trauma and scenarios that he went through. Many people thought unfavourably of Shia LaBeouf after his stint in prison and rehab and I feel this film gives reasons to his actions and I certainly didn’t know that Shia LaBeouf suffered from PTSD and from watching Even Stevens as a child, I never would have suspected what was going on behind the scenes. If you are interested in the history of the film and more of the backstory, watch the interview below where Shia LaBeouf talks about Honey Boy on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Thoughts

I really enjoyed Honey Boy and I think it is such a special film that has really taught me about film-making and how to structure a film. I thought the story was so well shown and I liked all the little call backs that linked the two timelines. The scene with the harness at the beginning that the versions of Otis go through is a great way to create unity between both versions of Otis. There are also similarities between things that Otis learns at 12 years old then regurgitates at 22. Even though the actors Lucas Hedges and Noah Jupe do not look very similar, these small callbacks and similarities help to convince the audience that they are the same person. There were some very artistic shots with the lighting and angles that conveyed the emotions of the characters and added a documentary feel. This was Alma Har’el including her own documentary background.

Overall this film is a great watch and I would highly recommend to anyone especially those who work in or aspire to work in film and anyone that wants to learn about how trauma can affect you throughout your life. This film gets a 10/10 from me.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Films I have been watching this Spooky Season

After the fun of the last film and the fact that I did not feel the need to hide behind a cushion, I proceeded to the sequel. This is where things begin to get a bit meta. It is a few years later and a film has been made about the events of the first film based on Gale Weathers’ (Cox) book. A couple get murdered at the sneak preview of ‘Stab’ and a copycat is on the loose.

Hello Readers,

It is autumn and most importantly Halloween is right around the corner. In the past, I have celebrated this tradition with trick or treating; going clubbing and dressing up for cocktails and mini golf but as the pandemic is still very much at large, I have had to tone it down to an indoor celebration as I’m sure many people have. I was never really into scary films or even those with a monster theme but this year, I have been watching as many films as I can before the big day.

Scream (1996)

Starring Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, David Arquette and briefly Drew Barrymore, this horror flick could not have a more 1990s cast but rather than being a regular slasher, this film comes with several twists. It is not set at Halloween but I think that the numerous gruesome murders and the serial killer wearing a ghost costume qualify it as one to watch this Halloween. No wonder they made 4 sequels with Scream 5 scheduled for 2022. There’s not much to say without spoiling the film but be prepared for blood and murder.

Scream 2 (1997)

After the fun of the last film and the fact that I did not feel the need to hide behind a cushion, I proceeded to the sequel. This is where things begin to get a bit meta. It is a few years later and a film has been made about the events of the first film based on Gale Weathers’ (Cox) book. A couple get murdered at the sneak preview of ‘Stab’ and a copycat is on the loose. The surviving characters from the first film and some new victims try and put an end to what they unintentionally started. The location may have changed as Sidney Prescott (Campbell) along with Randy and their new friends are now in college but some things don’t change such as Sidney having a killer(?) boyfriend; Courteney Cox sporting some extreme highlights (this time she goes for cherry red) and the killer wearing a ‘Ghost Face’ costume.

The Addams Family (1991)

This film has been a cult franchise since its original outing as a television show in the 1960s and a reboot was risky but the 1990s films have become an icon all by themselves. The cast all reinvent their roles as members of America’s creepiest family. There’s Morticia and Gomez, the parents who have a very passionate relationship and dress almost as vampires and manage their rundown mansion as a palace to the violent and gory. The children, Pugsley and Wednesday are constantly trying to maim or kill each other but somehow never quite manage it. The household is complete with Morticia’s mother; Lurch the Frankenstein’s monster-esque butler and Thing, the severed hand. The family is reunited with Uncle Fester who has been missing for 25 years. Only Wednesday works out the truth that her uncle is an imposter sent to steal the Addams’ family fortune. Will the adults realise that Fester is not who he says he is? or is he who they have been looking for?

I must admit that this film did not live up to the hype for me. I am aware that it is aimed towards a younger audience but I didn’t believe in the plot and found it all a little too strange. The fact that they are not supernatural in anyway makes it seem tricky to believe that they would act in these ways and how did they become so rich when no one appears to have ever had a job? The strong points for me were the characters and the production set. Christina Ricci as Wednesday was a particular highlight. I am glad I saw it as it sets up the back story for the second film but not one I would watch again.

Addams Family Values (1993)

Sequels are always a risk and very rarely pay off as was discussed during a film class in Scream 2 but I thought that this film was better than the first. Now that we have established the world that these characters inhabit and their family relationships, the film can create more of a plot. I think the decision to place the children in the real world at summer camp was a good one as it shows that their behaviour is not what is considered normal and establishes them as outsiders. This also allows Wednesday to meet a love interest, Joel Glicker. He does not have the same supernatural tendencies as the Addams’ but is also ostracized by the other campers for not joining in with their happy-clappy cheesy fun. Meanwhile, Uncle Fester has found the love of his life in new baby Pubert’s nanny and they begin a whirlwind romance but not everything is as it seems.

I enjoyed this film for the iconic scenes such as Wednesday ruining the camp play by showing everyone the true meaning of Thanksgiving and how wrong that immigrants were to treat the Native Americans as they did. There were some very progressive views for a 1990s children’s film but this once again put the Addams family in the right and everyone else in the wrong. They are far from perfect but work as the protagonists of the film. Joan Cusack as the evil nanny and Fester’s betrothed was a stand out this time. A third film was made but featured none of the original Family due to Gomez’ (Raul Julia) untimely death.

Practical Magic (1998)

Witch sisters are the feature of this film as we see how a love curse affects the Owens Sisters through the ages. This film is lead by two strong actresses, Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. I saw this film with a friend for movie night and one thing we noticed that the film has is a lot of time jumps. Towards the beginning, Sally (Bullock) meets a man and suddenly they are married with kids. I think one of the challenges of a film is how to tell a life story in two hours but this film needed a few montages and ellipses between passages of time. Despite this narrative error, I thought the film was entertaining and even had the epilogue scene set at Halloween.

There were a few dark scenes with murders, exorcisms and untimely deaths but the story and acting was enough to keep me engaged with the characters journeys. This film is set in the modern world with some delightful scenes featuring both generations of Owens Sisters, Sally and Gillian (Kidman) were raised by their aunts played by Dianne Wiest and Stockard Channing, dancing around the kitchen consuming vast amounts of tequila in the vague form of midnight margaritas. When tall, dark and handsome, Detective Hallet comes poking around on Maria Island, weird things keep happening. There are a few things I have neglected to mention but are better to be seen rather than explained here. I would consider watching this film again although not with young children.

Hubie Halloween (2020)

Netflix’s Halloween offering this year is one from Happy Madison, Adam Sandler’s production company. It features Sandler’s usual collaborators of Kevin James and Steve Buscemi as well as Sandler himself as Hubie Dubois. On top of that is a large ensemble cast and this time the whole film is about Halloween set in Salem, Massachusetts: the Halloween capital. If you enjoy Sandler’s brand of slapstick and messy humour, then this film will be right up your street. I thought it was entertaining enough but I didn’t really understand Sandler’s character, Hubie. He put on a strange little voice and still lives with his mother as an innocent do-gooder that does not work for someone of this age bracket.

The rest of the cast did a good job with appearances from Julie Bowen, June Squibb, Noah Schnapp and Paris Berelc but the poor bullied town weirdo character does not work well for an actor pushing 50. This film was just a bit too cheesy for me with not enough explanations and some forced emotional moments. The plot of the most popular girl in school being down on her luck and secretly being in love with the geek is very overdone and did not play well here. The fact that no one has left Salem at all in 30 years and Hubie’s werewolf neighbour were a few things I thought were a step too far. If Hubie had been a normal character but just a bit down on his luck instead of having garbage thrown at him by kids everywhere he goes then this film could have worked better. I think Kevin James’ ridiculous beard and mullet represents how over the top the film was. Pairing it back would have made it a fun Halloween film but instead it is just Sandler making another film with his Hollywood friends.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (2018)

The Hotel Transylvania films are made for kids but I think there’s a fun nature about them that appeals to other ages too. I watched the first and second films back to back last summer so I have been eagerly awaiting for the third to pop up on Netflix. The film is set in the summer but the central characters of vampires, Frankenstein’s monsters, Mr Invisible, mummies, werewolves and other monsters give the film a supernatural theme. Mavis decides that her father, Count Dracula needs a holiday from running his hotel for monsters and where better to take a break than on a cruise just for monsters. There’s some evil forces at work as Ericka, the ship’s captain is not just after Dracula for his charm and good looks. All the monsters and their partners are along for the ride including Mavis’ human husband Johnny, their son, Dennis; the werewolves and their mountain of kids and many others. As this is a cartoon, many liberties can be taken but I don’t think it pushed the limits of the universe already established in the first two films. I enjoyed the spectacular scenes aboard the cruise and the ending at the lost city of Atlantis which is a vague metaphor for the casinos of Atlantic City.

Another Adam Sandler ride but with just their voices, the cast did not turn the film into a friends and family saga. This time Andy Samberg joined another frequent collaborator of Adam Sandler, mostly before he started on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Selena Gomez, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Shannon, Joe Jonas and Chrissy Teigen are a few of the famous voices. I thought the film was playful and entertaining enough for the adults as well as the kids. There was a happy ending as always with room left for Hotel Transylvania 4 due in 2021.

Zodiac (2007)

I did not purposefully watch this film for its murderous content but I tacked it onto the end of the list as it does feature elements of a Halloween film. A serial killer and a mystery with some fairly intense death scenes. This one was on my list for a while because of the director, David Fincher and the cast of Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo and Jake Gyllenhaal. Coincidentally, all three actors go on to star in the Marvel Universe although Gyllenhaal’s character appears much later as villain, Mysterio.

This film contains a favourite trope of mine seen in many other films such as Little Women (2018); The Help (2011) and Atonement (2007), although this last one plays with it a little. All these films are based on books that are written by the author at the end of the film. Atonement is different as there are some false endings given but they all mostly follow the trope. Of course, only Zodiac is an actual true story and the author was a real person whereas the others have invented authors.

Robert Graysmith (Gyllenhaal) spends many years trying to hunt down the Zodiac killer after the newspaper he works at as the cartoonist is targeted with letters. His search destroys his relationships and leads him to write the book, Zodiac. Fellow employee at the San Francisco Chronicle and journalist, Paul Avery (Downey) becomes a target of Zodiac and helps Graysmith with the search. We also have Inspector Toschi (Ruffalo) the main detective on the case who lends a hand to Graysmith near the end. This is a David Fincher film so I found the plot and timeline a little hard to follow as there are a lot of murders and dates to get through but the acting kept me gripped and considering this was a comeback film for Downey, he played it very well. It was very long so set aside a good evening to watch but it was interesting. It appeared to stick very closely to the book which I always admire but I could have had a little more focus on the three characters own lives. Graysmith goes on one date and suddenly is married and his kids call her mom. There was also only brief mentions of a second child before his mysterious appearance. We see some of Toschi’s life with his wife but not enough to grasp what he was like. Of course this is all from Graysmith’s point of view but a little artistic license could have been used. I would consider watching it again to understand the plot but I am not rushing to do so.

Still to watch: Addams Family (2019); Dark Shadows (2012)

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Oscar Hopefuls 2020

The biggest award of the night if of course Best Picture. There is stiff competition this year with every film in the category gaining multiple nominations. I have not yet seen Joker, Parasite or 1917 so I am discounting those. My pick would be Little Women. It is a much needed film for women and everyone else. It is beautiful to watch, the script is powerful and the acting brought the well-loved and well-done characters a breath of fresh air. Performances were noticed due to the two nominations but sadly Greta Gerwig was not recognised for a project that she made happen. She wrote and directed it and put so much love and care into the story. This film moved me more than the other nominations and to see a film called Little Women with four female leads in a game that is usually about men is amazing. Many people say that equally between the genders has been achieved but as most of the nominations that are for both genders contain male nominees, this is not the case.

I was just chatting to someone and talking through who I would like to win the Oscar in each category and thought why not make it into a blog post? As the Oscars will be gracing our screens tomorrow and into the night for the UK audience, I am going to go through my favourites for this year. Hopefuls and Predictions are different: there are those you would like to win and those that probably will. I will not be doing any categories where I have only seen one film or zero as that is not fair.

The biggest award of the night is of course Best Picture. There is stiff competition this year with every film in the category gaining multiple nominations. I have not yet seen Joker, Parasite or 1917 so I am discounting those. My pick would be Little Women. It is a much needed film for women and for everyone. It is beautiful to watch, the script is powerful and the acting brought the well-loved and well-acted characters a breath of fresh air. Performances were noticed due to the two nominations but sadly Greta Gerwig was not recognised for a project that she made happen. She wrote and directed it and put so much love and care into the story. This film moved me more than the other nominations and to see a film called Little Women with four female leads in a game that is usually about men is amazing. Many people say that equality between the genders has been achieved but as most of the nominations that are for both genders contain male nominees, this is not the case.

If Little Women did not win, I would not mind Jojo Rabbit or Ford vs Ferrari as both were enjoyable with so much hard work being put into them.

Actor in a Leading Role is not a particularly diverse category this year with many familiar players from other award shows present. It is great that Antonio Banderas has been included as he has not been recognised elsewhere. My pick would be Jonathan Pryce as I feel his role was more a stretch as an actor than Driver or DiCaprio. His role as the Pope brought such emotion and depth to the story (The Two Popes). He has also never won before and is such a talented actor that it would be a great ending to his career.

Actress in a Leading Role also contains people that have been picked out in other areas and again not much diversity with the exception of Cynthia Erivo for her role as titular Harriet. Considering this is only her third film role in 2 years and she has been nominated for an Oscar, she has done remarkably well. I loved her performance and the film Harriet really stayed with me hours after watching. I am disappointed it has only been picked up for 2 nominations as the film was so powerful. My pick for Actress in a Leading Role would be Saoirse Ronan. This is her 4th nomination and she is only in her mid 20s. She brought such independence, power, spirit and strength to her role as Jo March in Little Women. I love her as an actress and I hope that this will be her year.

Actor in a Supporting Role is tricky as all of these actors are established Hollywood greats. Brad Pitt has won the SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe for this role so if he won this one it would be the set. I think however that his performance was not as inspiring as others we have seen this year. Tom Hanks also another great actor has been nominated but as I have not seen his film I cannot comment. My Pick would be Anthony Hopkins for his role as former Pope Benedict. Like Jonathan Pryce, his role brought such emotion to the film and I am not surprised that they have both been nominated.

Actress in a Supporting Role again doesn’t have any diversity other than nationality: American, British and Australian nominees. I am glad there is no double nomination for Margot Robbie as there was at the BAFTAs. I think nominating the same person twice in the same category is too much. I am not very happy with Scarlett Johansson’s double nomination either but at least she had seminal roles in both films whereas as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, Robbie barely had any lines. My pick would be Florence Pugh as this is her first nomination and she did an amazing job as Amy March in Little Women. She has only been acting on screen for 6 years and her progression to being nominated so early is amazing. Saoirse was also nominated early in her career so this could be the start for Florence.

For Animated Feature Film, I have only seen Klaus and Toy Story 4. Both very different films with different animation styles. My pick would be Toy Story 4 for nostalgia reasons. Watching the film, I felt a strong connection to my inner child and even shed a few tears near the end. Klaus was very moving and a beautiful story but it did not elicit the same response.

In the Cinematography category I have only seen two of the nominations and with both I did not particularly notice the cinematography. I would have to go with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood as some of the shots were interesting whereas with the Irishman, nothing noteworthy springs to mind.

Costume Design is a strange category this year. There are a few nominations that confuse me such as Joker and The Irishman. The other three are worthy nominees and my pick would be Little Women due to the detail Jacqueline Durran put into each characters costume. I’ve heard Greta Gerwig explain all her choices and I think so much thought and care went into the costumes that it is a worthy winner.

Directing again is all male nominees which is so disappointing as there were some amazing female led films this year such as Little Women, Harriet, Blinded by the Light, Honey Boy, Queen and Slim and Breakthrough. Out of the selection I would pick Bong Joon Ho even though I have not seen Parasite due to the fact that is not a white man. All the other directors have been recognised many times in their career.

For Film Editing, most of the nominations surprised me as the editing again was not particularly noteworthy apart from Ford vs Ferrari which I think would be a worthy winner. The editing of the Les Mans scenes made the film feel exciting and really highlighted the achievement of Ken Miles.

For the Make Up and Hairstyling award, I would like Bombshell to win as the three main actresses and John Lithgow looked very much the part. I have only seen one other nominee, Judy and while Renée Zellweger was made to look like Judy Garland, I think the effect in Bombshell was more impressive.

For the Original Score, I would like Joker to win as Hildur Guðnadóttir is making waves for female composers but as I have not seen the film, my pick would be Little Women as the score added so much to the film and Alexandre Desplat is an amazing composer.

For Original Song, I am pleased that Rocketman – (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again is nominated and I wold love if this song wins as represents such a pinnacle moment in the film and Elton John’s life. Stand Up from Harriet is also a worthy nominee but I did’t think the song was the best element of the film.

For Production Design I would chose Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood or Jojo Rabbit as both had amazing design that really contributed to the film. The 60s vibes of Tarantino’s Hollywood spectacle were the best part of the film. Jojo Rabbit was also a historical setting but with a more satirical view of Germany in the war.

Sound Editing is a tricky category for me as I am not much of an expert on sound editing but I would like Ford vs Ferrari to win as the sound very much added to the adrenaline of the racing. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is also a worthy nominee as the sound is a big part of any Star Wars film.

Ad Astra would be my pick for Sound Mixing as I haven’t seen all the nominees but this film had beautiful sounds. The setting was also amazing but this is nominated for sound mixing not production design.

Visual Effects is a tie category for me as I think Avengers Endgame and The Lion King both had great visual effects. Avengers Endgame means more to me as a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Lion King looked amazing also but I prefer the 1994 original.

I would love if Greta Gerwig won Adapted Screenplay for Little Women as she has been snubbed in the Directing category. Her interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s story was so different to other versions of the story. Starting with the girls when they were older was a great new idea. The lines were so strong and meant a lot to me as a woman. It was also relatable and funny in places.

My pick for Original Screenplay would be Knives Out as the script was very different to many of the films going around and a great take on the murder mystery film. I have seen this film twice and it was great to see all the hints and red herrings when you know the ending. Marriage Story was strong but didn’t impress me as much.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone enjoys the Oscars this year.

Robyn

Little Women

After hearing the announcement of the cast featuring Saoirse Ronan, Timotheé Chalamet, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Meryl Streep I became very excited. The director Greta Gerwig is one of the only female directors to be nominated for an Oscar for Lady Bird. That was a film I also absolutely loved and it also starred Saoirse and Timotheé. As Laurie and Jo, the pair were just stunning. Every little movement and look heightened the possibility of a love story between the two.

This film really means a lot to me for a number of reasons so this review was always going to be a love letter to Little Women but after seeing the film yesterday, I was truly moved and surprised by the version I saw. This will contain spoilers as it has been out for a while so turn back now if you want to watch in the future although the story has been around for 150 years.

Years ago I tried to read the book of Little Women but gave up due to the complex language. However, after seeing the BBC adaptation at Christmas, a couple of years ago starring Maya Hawke, Kathryn Newton and Michael Gambon, I fell in love with the story. The strength in all of the sisters living in the times they did but managing to be such strong characters was something I really cherished. The fact that it was published in the 1860s in a time when women were not particularly valued as authors really shows the power of the little women.

After hearing the announcement of the cast featuring Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Meryl Streep I became very excited. The director Greta Gerwig is one of only a few female directors to be nominated for an Oscar for Lady Bird. That was a film I also absolutely loved and it also starred Saoirse and Timothée. As Laurie and Jo, the pair were just stunning. Every little movement and look heightened the possibility of a love story between the two.

The story of Little Women follows four sisters: Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth March in 1850s America. The Civil War is raging during their childhood with their father away fighting. They live in a modest house in Concord, Massachusetts with their mother, Marmee (Dern) and their maid, Hannah (Jayne Houdyshell). They are restricted by society at the time of how a woman should present herself and do with her life i.e. get married and have children. They often lament at being poor compared to their friends and others but are soon put in their place after helping out a local family with 5 young children living in one room.

Each sister has their own story, Jo is boyish and doesn’t want to marry. She loves writing and is constantly writing plays for her sisters to act in. Jo is also the main character of the story as it is mainly told from her perspective. Jo’s dream is to live in New York and become a novelist.

The next sister is Amy. She is younger than Jo and Meg and is annoyed at being treated as a baby all the time. For example, she is not allowed to go with Meg and Jo to a dance. She has aspirations of becoming an artist as she loves to paint. She is also cultured and is in ways the smartest sister. She is picked to go to Paris with Aunt March as she knows French and is a good companion.

The sister with perhaps more humble aspirations is Meg (Watson). We hear from Jo of her dreams to be an actress and Jo even suggests running away together but Meg corrects her that she wants to be a wife and live a quiet, happy life. Meg is the oldest sister and often goes to balls or dances which is required to hopefully meet an eligible rich man to marry.

The youngest and most fragile of the sisters is Beth (Eliza Scanlen). She is not interested in finding anyone and her biggest dream is for all of them to be together. She has skills at the piano and Mr Laurence (Chris Cooper) is taken to Beth and even gives her his grand piano. Beth is the kindest and least selfish sister. She even gets scarlet fever visiting the poor family when her sisters keep forgetting.

Laurie played by Timothée Chalamet is a character that interacts with every sister in a way. He lives next door to the March Family with his grandfather. From meeting Jo and Meg at a dance he is enamoured with Jo. She is bold and fierce and cares deeply. They become best friends but Jo never sees him that way. He becomes more relaxed and even angry when he meets Amy in Paris after being rejected by Jo. His nature is a caring one but has a temper that can match Amy’s. Not having any women in his life draws him to the March family and their business. There are many scenes where the sisters are all talking at once but understanding each other. Timothée and Saoirse have great chemistry from playing love interests in Lady Bird so it is not hard to imagine them together as Jo and Laurie which is needed as the audience need to believe in the potential of Jo and Laurie ending up together.

Marmee is a a character that encompasses all the sisters. Greta Gerwig said in an interview that a part of Marmee’s character went to each sister. Her anger at life to Jo, her caring nature to Beth, her desire to be a wife and mother to Meg and her boldness to Amy. Laura Dern is a very dynamic actress and I loved her portrayal of Marmee.

Meryl Streep was brilliant as Aunt March, her comic timing and straight talking brought an authority to Aunt March who acted as a role model to the girls especially Amy and Jo who often sat with their aunt. She never held back any thoughts which was unusual for a woman of the time and she also never married which was even more unusual. There’s a great part where Jo is trying to sell her novel to her publisher and he insists that if the main character is a woman she must be married or dead by the end. That was how society saw a woman’s place in that part of the world.

Greta’s interpretation of the story surprised me as it was not told traditionally. We started with the girls in their adulthood, Jo in New York, Meg married with children, Beth sick and Amy in Paris. The film then went back and forth between the glow of their childhood and the coldness of their adulthood. A few moments that really moved me were Beth’s death, Jo rejecting Laurie, Jo seeing her book ‘Little Women’ being printed, Meg getting married, Laurie finally choosing Amy and the ending where the sisters are all together at Aunt March’s house now turned into a school.

All of the actors were very good at their roles and two have been nominated for Oscars – Florence Pugh for her fierce and bold portrayal of Amy and Saoirse Ronan for her feisty and tempestuous role as Jo.

I think this film will become a classic in the days to come and a masterclass in how to take a well-known, well-portrayed tale and weave it into an emotional, dramatic performance that leaves you feeling like you have lived as a March sister in their house in Concord. Overall I give this film 5/5.

Knives Out – 2nd Watch Review

I saw this film for the first time the weekend after it opened. I had seen the trailer and thought it looked interesting. With the starry cast and original storyline, not to mention the acclaimed director, Rian Johnson, I was hooked. My first reaction was pure delight. I love a whodunnit murder mystery and they have faded out of popularity this century but seeing Knives Out and its updated version of the classic Agatha Christie tale was amazing. So many films these days, especially American ones are reboots, remakes, sequels, third sequels; based on books, games, apps or true stories, it was nice to see something original.

I saw this film for the first time the weekend after it opened. I had seen the trailer and thought it looked interesting. With the starry cast and original storyline, not to mention the acclaimed director, Rian Johnson, I was hooked. My first reaction was pure delight. I love a whodunnit murder mystery and they have faded out of popularity this century but seeing Knives Out and its updated version of the classic Agatha Christie tale was amazing. So many films these days, especially American ones are reboots, remakes, sequels, third sequels; based on books, games, apps or true stories, it was refreshing to see something original.

The ending truly shocked me and when it was all explained by the Private Investigator, I did not expect what unfolded to happen.

I saw this film again last night and I was a little concerned that seeing it a second time around might ruin the magic as I knew the result but it did not. When viewing this film a second time, I could spot all the small clues that led to the answer.

The basic storyline of the film is that a family gather for their father’s 85th birthday party. There are arguments and family drama and the next morning, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), head of the family is dead. Many think a suicide but after Private Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is hired by an anonymous source, foul play is suspected. Harlan Thrombey is a rich man with a grand mansion, he makes his money from writing mystery novels. He has three children, one deceased before the film starts. There’s Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis), self-made estate agent and her husband, Richard (Don Johnson). Their son, Ransom (Chris Evans) is the black sheep of the family and he leaves the party early.

Next is Joni (Toni Collette), widow of Harlan’s son, Neil. She runs a beauty business, Flam and receives a yearly allowance from Harlan. There is her daughter, Meg (Katherine Langford) who Harlan pays for to go to college.

The youngest son is Walt (Michael Shannon). He runs Harlan’s publishing company and is trying to get his father to agree to selling rights to film and TV. His wife, Donna (Riki Lindhome) is not a main player and is never questioned as a suspect. Their son, Jacob (Jaeden Martell) is always on his phone and is part of alt-right wing parties. He is only 16 so isn’t questioned either.

There is also Harlan’s mother, Wanetta (K Callan) who is disregarded by the family due to her age. She becomes a vital part in the investigation.

The non-family members are Fran (Edi Patterson), the maid and Harlan’s nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas). Marta was the last to spend time with Harlan. There is also the two Detectives, Lieutenant Elliott (Lakeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan)

I love this film and the differences between the characters are all subtlety outlined by their responses to certain questions. Joni says to Benoit Blanc that she saw a tweet of a New Yorker article about him. Linda then says she read about him in the New Yorker. Richard, Joni and Walt all appear to have motives at the beginning of the film.

I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen it as it is really something you have to see for yourself. I read a Buzzfeed article last week about why its still so popular 5 weeks after release. My answer is that it is a great story with a twist and the acting was superb. Overall 5/5.