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

10 Films to watch in Quarantine

Another British classic, a comedy this time a family adventure. Doug and Abby are separating but put on a united front at Doug’s father’s 75th birthday. The family with Lottie, Mickey and Jess drive up to Scotland for the big event. Gordie is dying of cancer but wants one more day with the children while his other son, Gavin organises the big event. Hilarity and family realness ensues. I love this film as it is really funny in a less obvious way. British comedy is often more subtle than other forms and the chemistry between all the characters along with off hand on-liners and the children’s knack for timing makes this film watchable again and again. I re-watched this film yesterday and while I remembered it being funny, I had forgotten the heart and grief that was present. Yes there is a sadness to the film but real life isn’t all fun and games. I have seen this film at least three times and would highly recommend for anyone looking for a laugh. The views of Scotland also are breathtaking. 10/10 as I see no faults with this one.

Hello readers,

Apologies for not having posted for awhile. I got very busy with university work and then the Coronavirus hit. As I now have more time on my hands due to the government-imposed quarantine, I thought I would recommend 10 films to watch if you need an escape from the situation happening around the world at this time. I have used a mix of genres and these are all films I feel provide an escape into the world of cinema with different settings and destinations that show some locations that aren’t accessible at the moment. I’ve included Hollywood and British films. I have enjoyed all the films below and would recommend if you need something to watch. As ever all the film I recommend are available either on Amazon Prime or Netflix UK.

Everest (2015)

You may not think of this film as a likely choice to distract from a global pandemic but I watched it recently and for the whole film I was completely wrapped up in the story and the fate of the group. The film as you can probably guess is about climbing Mount Everest but as I didn’t know, it is based on a true story about a group of climbers in the 1990s who did not have a happy ending. I thought the film had great realism and gave a real portrayal of the difficulty needed when climbing the highest mountain on Earth. The acting was good, featuring some famous faces: Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley and Naoko Mori. 8/10 because it was quite sad at the end.

About Time (2013)

I have not watched this film in years but it is a classic British rom-com that I will be definitely be revisiting in this time period. Richard Curtis always delivers and this film is no different. It was a breakout role for Domhnall Gleeson establishing him as a lead. The film is set in the real world with a fun twist. In the film when Tim (Gleeson) turns 21, his father tells him of a family secret: when every male reaches 21, they have the ability to time travel within their own lives. He uses this new power to improve his own life in small ways. A really touching film with some good old British nostalgia. Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Margot Robbie, Vanessa Kirby and Tom Hollander. 9/10 again for sadness factor but overall it is uplifting with beautiful scenery.

Lion (2016)

This real story tells an emotional journey about a boy who gets separated from his family in India while travelling across the country by train. He is then adopted by an Australian couple and grows up there. Cut to 25 years later and Saroo goes back to try and find his family. This film may have a simple premise but is an amazing true story and contains great scenery of India. It includes great performances from Dev Patel – best of his career-; Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman. I have not seen this film for a couple of years but be prepared to cry. 8/10 a great story but not a 10/10 film.

Green Book (2018)

I happened to see this film after it won the Best Picture Oscar in 2019. When I heard it had won, I was annoyed that a film I hadn’t heard of won. This was before I saw it. One of my favourite films of last year. It was poignant, gentle, dramatic, socially aware. These are all qualities I look for in a good film. As a period piece, it held up with attitudes of the time particularly towards a black, gay man without being overly discriminatory. No main character was racist or homophobic towards Mahershala Ali’s character, Dr. Don Shirley. The films chronicles an Italian-American man acting as a security man for a classical pianist on his tour of the Southern States of the US. They face much backlash from establishments but form a strong bond that isn’t often seen between two older male characters, especially between those of different backgrounds and in the 1960s. I loved the vibe between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali and the fact that when Dr. Shirley is caught naked with another man, Tony (Mortensen) doesn’t so much as bat an eye lid. There could have been more female characters but there wasn’t really room for more than Linda Cardellini who played Tony’s wife, Dolores who stayed at home in New York. I give this film 10/10 as I did when I first watched it. I am really glad that it is available to watch online.

What We Did on Our Holiday (2014)

Another British classic, a comedy this time, a family adventure. Doug and Abby are separating but put on a united front at Doug’s father’s 75th birthday. The family with Lottie, Mickey and Jess drive up to Scotland for the big event. Gordie is dying of cancer but wants one more day with the children while his other son, Gavin organises the big event. Hilarity and family realness ensues. I love this film as it is really funny in a less obvious way. British comedy is often more subtle than other forms and the chemistry between all the characters along with off hand one-liners and the children’s knack for timing makes this film watchable again and again. I re-watched this film yesterday and while I remembered it being funny, I had forgotten the heart and grief that was present. Yes there is a sadness to the film but real life isn’t all fun and games. I have seen this film at least three times and would highly recommend for anyone looking for a laugh. The views of Scotland also are breathtaking. 10/10 as I see no faults with this one.

Long Shot (2019)

I wanted to put in an American rom com as well as British ones as the Americans also do comedy well. This film has elements of a stoner comedy as well as action and romance. Seth Rogen plays Fred who bumps into Charlotte, his babysitter and childhood crush. Charlotte is now big in politics and about to announce her candidacy for President. She hires Fred as a speech writer and the two set off on a round the world press tour and bond together. I thought this film was the right balance of comedy and drama with some very real danger but also heightened reality. I saw it in the cinema last year and will definitely be watching on Netflix again. 8/10 as some scenes are a little over the top but overall a good time with great female representation.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)

I really love this film and have seen multiple times in both the cinema and on DVD. A fun way to update the Jumanji film from the 1990s featuring CGI and special effects as I’ve never seen before. The trope of body swapping has been newly revived with teenagers possessing the bodies of action heroes. The film starts by showing the game of Jumanji turning into a video game in 1996. A random boy gets sucked into the game. Cut to 2017 and group of kids find the video game in their school’s junk room while in detention. They then enter the game and must complete it to escape. A great mix of teenage angst mixed with action, comedy and the chemistry between Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson. They are well-known friends and collaborators so seeing at as teenagers was fun. I would also recommend the second Jumanji film; Jumanji: The Next Level but it not on streaming platforms at the moment. I give this film 9/10 as it can sometimes feel a little bit of a boys world but the characters of Martha and Bethany do hold their own.

Chalet Girl (2009)

One of my favourite rom coms and again another British one. This time it’s a trip to Austria for a snow filled story. Kim, a skateboard star needs a job. She finds a position as a chalet girl for a rich family in Austria. She then decides to learn to snowboard using her skills from skateboarding. She begins to get out of her shell and have fun with her new friends. She also finds romance with Johnny, son of the family she caters for. Will he pick Kim over his girlfriend? Filled with an amazing cast of Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Bill Nighy, Tamsin Egerton, Sophia Bush, Bill Bailey and Brooke Shields. While this film is set in snow, it is not a Christmas one and I think is watchable any time of the year. 8/10 as the ending is a little rom com cheesy but feel good all the same.

We’re the Millers! (2015)

This film always makes me laugh and never disappoints. One for families with teenagers as features some risque scenes and bad language. Starring comedy geniuses Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, the Miller family take a family vacation to Mexico and road trip back. In reality, Mum, Dad and the two kids aren’t related and just happen to know each other. David deals weed and he is threatened by local drug lord to take a shipment over the US/Mexican border. He enlists Rose; his neighbour and stripper; Kenny; his other neighbour and naive teenager and Casey a local runaway girl that Kenny knows to become the Millers. So many hilarious moments occur particularly when they meet the Fitzgerald family made up of Kathryn Hahn; Nick Offerman and Molly Quinn. This film has some interesting scenery but for me is about the characters and their unlikely bond. 10/10 for the ability to make me laugh over and over.

21 & Over (2013)

I have only seen this film once but found it really funny. It features three college friends as one of them turns 21. His high school friends go and visit for a night of fun which quickly turns into a quest to get Jeff Chang to his medical school interview the next morning. Miller and Casey soon find themselves handling a very drunk friend while navigating parties, cops and how to get back to their friend’s dorm. While at heart, this film is a college frat boy comedy it contained many truths about friendship and the pressures one can feel to be a particular person. A progressive yet slightly left-wing approach to gayness. I enjoyed this film especially when Miller and Casey have to complete the party house levels to get to the top. 8/10 as some portrayals of women were a little mean and some jokes didn’t make the mark but overall a fun late night comedy. Again not so much the scenery but the adventure.

Happy Watching,

Robyn

Crown for Christmas – 17th December

The third of the Hallmark Christmas Trio. This film however does not star Lacey Chabert but Danica McKellar the other Hallmark Christmas star. She has starred in more Hallmark films than Chabert but as she is older so has different roles. This film reminds me of Maid in Manhattan because the main character is a maid but the film then evolves into A Christmas Prince where an American stranger becomes the governess to a European princess.

Firstly, I thought that the King looked a bit young to have a 10 year old daughter and his prospective wife hardly looks 30 but apart from this the film was quite enjoyable. If you love the Netflix Original Christmas films or Hallmark ones then this definitely would hit the spot.

The basic premise is that Alison who is struggling to pay bills works as a maid at a hotel. She finds a watch just as she gets fired and hands it back to its rightful owner, King Maximilian. As a thank you, she is hired to go to Europe and be his daughter’s governess. The King must re-marry soon and his people are arranging a marriage with another royal but he wants to marry for love. Alison becomes like a mother to the princess and becomes closer to the King.

A particular highlight was the snowball fight with the princess and all the staff. I enjoyed this film but thought it very predictable and not as good as the other Hallmark Christmas films I previously reviewed. Another thing is that everyone sounded British when they were meant to be from a European country. American films often do this such as The Princess Diaries or A Prince & Me. It is as if they think all Europeans sound the same. Overall 3/5.

A Christmas Melody- 16th December

Lacey Chabert has dominated the Hallmark Christmas film market and this film is no different. I have coupled the Hallmark films together with the third one coming out tomorrow. I think these films have had a bit of a bad press as cheesy and predictable but I think they make great Christmas films and I haven’t been exposed to them as they aren’t shown on UK television. I think its great that Amazon Prime are showing these films as I think they are modern classics.

In this film, Lacey Chabert is Kristin Parson, a fashion designer living in Los Angeles. Then she gets an opportunity to move back to her home town, Silver Falls in the Mid-West with her daughter Emily. Her aunt’s house becomes available so after her fashion boutique goes under she makes the move. She reconnects with an old school pal who is Emily’s music teacher.

The focus of the story is the talent show that the elementary school are putting on. Mariah Carey also stars as a mother of one of the popular girls and the head of the PTA. Other actors in the film I didn’t recognise but I thought they all did a great job.

I would say that this was a family film, as all Hallmark films are and it is not set around the big day so one to watch in the lead up to Christmas. I give this film 3.5/5.

Home for Christmas – 8th December

I’ve seen this film floating around on Amazon Prime for a few years but have resisted watching it until this year. I hadn’t heard of it before but I’m really glad I took a chance on it. It was warm, full of heart and genuinely moved me.

The premise is that Beth is stuck in life, she works at a struggling cinema and can’t seem to tell her boyfriend she loves him. When he dumps her, she makes a series of life choices that lead her down a different path. Between her new love interest, changing career and mum pestering her to move abroad, Beth has a lot on her plate. She is also a big fan of rom-coms and references them constantly. As a film fan, I enjoyed this touch.

The Brighton setting was something different and even though most of the film was not Christmassy, it was a great film. I really related to some aspects of Beth’s life and many of the scenes were funny and something I hadn’t seen before. The cliches were there but self aware as Beth’s boyfriend dumped her saying ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ and she begged him not to be the cliche she knew from films.

Another cliche used of a character talking to someone and you think its a love interest but is really themselves or an animal. This time Beth was talking to a cardboard cutout of Ryan Gosling. I enjoyed the witty dialogue and amusing situations that were somehow plausible yet ridiculous.

I would definitely watch this film again and not just at Christmas. A great rom-com and a surprise performance from April Pearson who is known for her role as Michelle in ‘Skins’. Overall I would give this film 4.5/5.

What I have been watching this January // 2019

Hello readers,

Another post for me in the same month is rare I know but as I am still on university holidays, I thought I would write about what I’ve been watching this year. I have had quite a lot of spare time so I have been watching many TV series and films. Not everything listed below came out this year. Hope everyone is having a good 2019 so far!

I will start with the films that I have seen.

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol 2011

I watched this at home a few days ago and as a lover of the latest film I had high expectations. They were certainly met. The dynamics between the main cast: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner really gave the film the human spark it needed to not be a mindless action thriller. There were amazing stunts and cool gadgets – the magnetic suit for one, stunning locations and spine-tingling suspense. I would definitely watch again and I will be watching the earlier films in the Mission: Impossible franchise. 5/5.

Cast:

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, an IMF spy, constantly on the run and never out of danger.

Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, the funny computer genius who has just passed field training.

Paula Patton as Jane, a colleague who is out for revenge.

Jeremy Renner as Brandt, an analyst who gets caught up in Hunt’s mission.

Léa Seydoux as Moreau, an assassin looking to trade documents for diamonds

Mary Poppins Returns 2018

I was quite late to the party with this one but I managed to see it last week at the cinema. This film appear to have sparked a controversy as while some people were disappointed with the outcome, it has been nominated for four Golden Globes and three BAFTAs. I, however, really enjoyed it. I have seen the first one but not for a while so it wasn’t fresh in my mind but the overall feeling of this film is updated yet similar to the original. The songs and sets are different and the characters have grown up but Mary Poppins is still there to save the day. The animated scenes were inspired by but didn’t copy the original. The film gave me a heartwarming feeling. Great bit of fun for all the family. 5/5.

Cast:

Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins, the magical nanny returning to the Banks’.

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jack, the lamp lighter who joins in on the fun.

Ben Whishaw as Michael Banks, he’s all grown up and struggling with finances.

Emily Mortimer as Jane Banks, she rallies for women’s rights.

Pixie Davies as Anabel Banks, the most responsible Banks child.

Nathanael Saleh as John Banks, the sensible one.

Joel Dawson as Georgie Banks, he likes to wander off and fly kites.

Julie Walters as Ellen, the housekeeper and cook.

Meryl Streep as Cousin Topsy, who can everything but not on a second Wednesday.

Colin Firth as Mr Wilkins, chairman of the bank who is determined to repossess the Banks’ house.

Finding Your Feet 2018

This heartwarming comedy will tug at your heart strings and put a smile on your face. Sandra discovers her husbands affair and runs to her sister’s council flat in London. By finding her long forgotten love of dance again and meeting Biv’s fun friends, Sandra gets a new burst of life and reconnects with her sister. I particularly liked the sequences in Rome and Biv’s eccentric zest for life. It also shows to me that older actors can still make a great entertaining film and younger leads aren’t always necessary.

Cast:

Imelda Staunton as Sandra, whose husband has been having a secret affair for years. She lived in a big house in Surrey but moves in with her sister at the beginning.

Celia Imrie as Biv, a woman who lives every day like it’s her last. She swims in cold water pools, does weekly dance classes, goes on dates and buys her stuff from the charity shop.

Timothy Spall as Charlie who lives on a canal boat and takes a shine to Sandra.

Joanna Lumley as Jackie a fellow dancer and a lawyer, she knows how to have fun.

David Hayman as Ted who lives next to Charlie on the canal. He’s Charlie’s best friend and is always there for support.

Overboard 2018

A hilarious comedy about a woman taking revenge a bit too far. Kate is working multiple jobs to put herself through nursing school and support her three daughters. After a billionaire playboy throws her off his luxury yacht, she uses him for her own gain. Leo, himself falls off the yacht and wakes up with no memory. Kate convinces him that she is his wife and takes him home. She makes him do manual labour and earn money until she can pass her upcoming exam. Full of heart and funny scenes this film was a delight to watch. The only slight downside was as most of the characters were fluent in Spanish they spoke it frequently with no subtitles. It didn’t impede too much on understanding the main plot though. 5/5.

Cast:

Anna Faris as Kate, a wannabe nurse struggling to balance work, studying and looking after her children.

Eugenio Derbez as Leo, a selfish billionaire who becomes a doting husband after her gets amnesia.

Eva Longoria as Theresa, Kate’s friend who is in on the act and helps her keep it up.

Mel Rodriguez as Bobby, Theresa’s husband, he lets Leo work for his building company.

John Hannah as Colin, Leo’s chef and employer on the yacht.

Roma 2018

I’m going to start by saying that I didn’t really enjoy or understand this film but seeing as it won two Golden Globes, some people must appreciate it. The film set in Mexico in 1970 is telling the story of Cleo, a domestic servant and the family she works for. It is in black and white and while this does give the film some atmosphere, I think that the film didn’t have a strong enough setting, dialogue or plot. There were also a lot of long shots such as the beginning and many unexplained events. The acting was okay but I didn’t really connect with the characters enough to care about what happened to them. The family appeared to care for Cleo at some points but still treated her like just a servant. Confusing. 2/5.

Cast:

Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, the domestic worker who works for Sofia and her children.

Marina de Travia as Sofia, the lady of the house and the mother of 4 children.

Fernando Grediaga as Antonio, the husband and father who works as a doctor and is away a lot of the time.

Verónica García as Teresa, Sofia’s mother who helped out the family.

Attack the Block 2011

I really liked this action comedy. It is set in and around a block of flats in South London. A gang of teenagers find a strange creature and kill it. It turns out to a an alien and the rest of the fleet descend on the block. Sam, a nurse teams up with the gang and they defend their home. They also have to avoid angry rival gang members and keep little wannabees out of the way. Featuring appearances from Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega, this award winning film is definitely worth a watch. 4/5.

Cast:

John Boyega as Moses, the gang’s leader who is just trying to survive childhood.

Jodie Whittaker as Sam, a nurse who gets sucked in to defending the block

Alex Esmail as Pest, the token white guy in the gang and the first to be injured.

Leeon James as Jerome, Moses right hand man

Luke Treadaway as Brewis, a rich boy who is the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nick Frost as Ron, a drug dealer with his own weed room.

I have also been loving many TV shows, most of them are Netflix Originals.

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Series 3 2019

This third and final series is the climax to A Series of Unfortunate Events. I really liked the film that was made but this series really does justice to the books. It uses two episodes for each book. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire have been on the run from the evil Count Olaf since their parents died in a mysterious fire. They have discovered that their parents were in an organisation V.F.D but they don’t have all the answers yet. Can they ever escape from Count Olaf’s grasp? What is in the sugar bowl? What is V.F.D? Could one of their parents still be alive? Find out if you dare in series three. I really loved the series. The acting is superb and the story is very well thought out. It definitely does the books justice. 5/5.

Cast:

Malina Weissman as Violet Baudelaire, the oldest sibling and an inventor. She always ties her hair up with a ribbon when she has an idea.

Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire, the middle sibling and the researcher. He has read many books and his extensive knowledge comes in handy.

Presley Smith as Sunny Baudelaire, the youngest sibling, a toddler who likes to bite things and often comes to the right answer before her siblings.

Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket, the narrator of the Baudelaire’s tale. He has pieced together the story for us to watch unfold.

Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, an actor who travels with his troupe and is desperate to get his hands on the Baudelaire’s fortune.

Lucy Punch as Esmé Squalor, the forth most important financial advisor and Count Olaf’s girlfriend. She travels with Olaf in hopes of finding the sugar bowl. She wears ridiculous ‘in’ outfits.

Kitana Turnbull as Carmelita Spats, a spoiled little girl who loves performing and travels with Esmé and Count Olaf as their ‘daughter’. She hates the Baudelaires and calls everyone ‘cake-sniffer’.

Alison Williams as Kit Snicket, the sister to Jacques and Lemony. She has been trying to help the Baudelaires.

COMEDIANS of the world: UK: Ellie Taylor 2019

I watched Ellie Taylor’s special and really enjoyed it. She talked a lot about marriage and impending motherhood but in a very funny way and many of her opinions. She is one of my favourite comedians and it’s great to see her representing the UK in this series. There are many different comedians from around the world in this collection.

The Good Place Series 3: Episode 10 and 11 2019

Since the series has come back from it’s mid series break, it has taken many turns. The four humans, Michael and Janet finally got to the Good Place but they only reached the mail room. They have to work out what to do next. Eleanor and Chidi talk about the events of episode nine and Michael is concerned about the points system. The next episode takes place in IHOP but I don’t want to give too much away. It’s hilarious as always whilst teaching about philosophy and what makes a good person.

Cast:

Kristen Bell as Eleanor, the shrimp loving Arizona trash bag with a thing for mailmen.

William Jackson Harper as Chidi, a philosophy teacher who struggles with choices and gets nervous stomach aches.

Jameela Jamil as Tahani, a rich self entitled party hostess who only does charity for her own gain and grew up in her sister’s shadow.

Manny Jacinto as Jason, a Jacksonville Jaguars fan who has been in many dance crews and doesn’t have much brain power but a lot of heart.

Ted Danson as Michael, a demon who enjoyed torturing the four humans but is now working with them to get to the Good Place. He loves human quirks.

D’Arcy Carden as Janet, a human search engine with powers to get you anything you want. She has been rebooted so many times, she is starting to behave like a human.

Sex Education 2019

This series is filthy, dramatic, funny, quirky, relatable and entertaining. Set in a rural part of England, Sex Education tells the story of Otis Milburn, a 16 year old who wanted to be that person in the corner. His mother is a sex therapist and after one piece of great advice to the school bully, Otis and scary Maeve Wiley set up a sex clinic for the students of Moordale High. People start coming to Otis with all sorts of problems. Otis is also trying to be a teenager and sort through his own issues with sex and relationships. He is helped by his best friend Eric who is constantly pushing Otis out of his comfort zone. Otis’ mother, Jean is an overbearing, involved mother with a vibrant sex life. I loved this series and watched it all in two days. Very graphic so definitely for over 18s. It has been watched by 40 million Netflix users this month. 5/5.

Cast:

Asa Butterfield as Otis Milburn, unlicensed therapist navigating being a teenager and dealing with his embarrassing mother.

Emma Mackey as Maeve Wiley, she has a bad reputation, is very smart and is always broke.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric, Otis’ best friend who is out and proud but struggles with his father accepting him and his outrageous outfits.

Gillian Anderson as Jean Milburn, sex therapist and single mother, Jean worries about her son and doesn’t do boyfriends

Connor Swindells as Adam Groff, the headmaster’s son. He doesn’t care about school and prefers to bully the student body. His father is constantly disappointed in him.

Aimee Lou Wood as Aimee, one of the Untouchables who struggles with their endless rules, she always has a boyfriend and is friends with Maeve.

Kedar Williams-Stirling as Jackson, the head boy and competitive swimmer. He has a lot of pressure from his mum to do well and needs plenty of advice about girls.

Alistair Petrie as Mr Groff, Moordale’s headmaster and Adam’s dad. He knows how to deal out the punishments and does not let up for anyone, even his own son.

Mikael Persbrandt as Jakob, a plummer that is fixing Jean’s bathroom.

Friends from College – Series 2 2019

The second series in this hilarious comedy drama about six 40 year olds who have been friends since college. Set in New York City, the series concentrates on their relationships with others and each other. In the last series, a lot of drama went down and the gang is still recovering. Max and Felix are engaged now, Lisa and Ethan and separating, Sam and her husband are in trouble, Nick is finally dating someone his own age and Marianne is still living her carefree life. I love this series and the second series definitely delivered on the drama and comedy. A stellar cast, this series is amazing. 5/5.

Cast:

Keegan-Michael Key as Ethan, a young adult author who is desperate to know if his wife, Lisa wants a divorce or not after his affair was revealed.

Fred Savage as Max, a publisher who works closely with Ethan and is engaged to his long term boyfriend, Felix.

Nat Faxon as Nick, a player who only went out with girls in their 20s. He finds a woman his own age but can’t let go of Lisa who has been crushing on for 20 years.

Annie Parisse as Sam, a working mother who is the most successful of the group. She is having trouble with her husband, Jon after her affair with Ethan was revealed.

Jae Suh Park as Marianne, a carefree actress with nothing to tie her down apart from her daredevil on again off again boyfriend.

Cobie Smulders as Lisa, a lawyer who disappears after sleeping with Nick and reappears with a new boyfriend a year later

Billy Eichner as Felix, a doctor who is so done with the drama from Max’s friends.

Lost in Space 2018

This show has been out for a while but I watched the last few episodes in the series this year. I started it months ago but have been watching it sporadically. It’s about the Robinsons who leave Earth for a better future but crash land on a strange planet. They have to work together with others that land there to get back to the mother ship. There are alien robots, lying doctors, brave engineers and daring escape attempts. There is a lot of family drama involved and problem solving. The last episodes were the best for me as the middle of the series dipped from the great opening but still enjoyable. It’s different from the original series and the 1998 film. 4/5.

Cast:

Maxwell Jenkins as Will Robinson, the youngest and bravest. He manages to befriend a robot.

Taylor Russell as Judy Robinson, the doctor and the eldest, she takes risks to protect her patients and her family.

Mina Sundwall as Penny Robinson as the engineer who likes to do her own thing and bend the rules.

Molly Parker as Maureen, the mother and a rocket scientist. She designed their ship, the Jupiter and lied to get her son on board.

Toby Stephens as John, the father and a soldier. He was absent for most of the kid’s childhood and is trying to make up for it.

Ignacio Serricchio as Don West, an electrical engineer who doesn’t have a family so is always up for danger.

Parker Posey as Dr Smith, a survivor who is determined to reach the new world. She manipulates people to get what she wants.

Les Miserables 2018/9

An adaptation of the beloved book, this series is not a musical, but a drama. Only three episodes have aired but I am really enjoying Les Misérables so far. It tells the story of many different characters, a prisoner, a police chief, a factory worker, a little girl, two swindlers. It illustrates the gap between the rich and the poor in the early 1800s in Paris. The acting is excellent and I can’t wait to see what happens. 5/5.

Main Cast from first 3 episodes :

Lily Collins as Fantine, a factory worker trying to feed herself and her child

Dominic West as Jean Valjean, a prisoner who got 19 years for a loaf of bread. He goes from one place to another, escaping his past.

David Oyelowo as Javert, a governor turned police chief, hunting Valjean for his crimes.

Adeel Akhtar as Thenardier, a pub owner who brags about being in the war. He cheats people from their money.

Olivia Colman as Madame Thenardier, a mother who cares for her own children only. Gets as much money as she can from anyone who comes her way.

Thank you for reading!

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂