This Year in Film (2019) – Film List

Personally, I feel this year in film has been a bit of a mixed-bag, as while I do feel we’ve had our fair share of great films this year, I also feel we’ve had plenty of disappointing entries as well. Obviously, I haven’t had the chance to see every film this year, and I will most likely update this list as time goes on, but for now, in no particular order, here are my thoughts on a variety of films I saw this year…

Us

Beginning the year in quite a disappointing fashion, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 smash-hit: ‘Get Out’ was a far-cry from excellent for me. As despite its brilliant reviews, I personally found the film’s story to be bloated with unexplained ideas and ridiculous scenes alike, equalling to a horror flick that places far more emphasis on it’s themes than it’s actual narrative, alongside being incredibly inconsistent with its tone.

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Joker

One of my favourite films from this year, ‘Joker’ directed by Todd Philips, is an interesting take on the comic book genre. Focusing more on being an engaging character piece with themes of untreated metal illness rather than your usual barrage of CG action and explosions, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an eerie original score.

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Knives Out

Director Rian Johnson proves himself a talented filmmaker once again after his smash-hit: ‘Looper,’ as although I personally wasn’t an enormous fan of: ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,’ I knew this director had skill elsewhere, and this was proven to me by ‘Knives Out.’ A hilarious and clever twist on the classic murder mystery, with some great performances from the huge cast, plenty of plot twists and a well-written narrative. I feel you’d struggle to not enjoy ‘Knives Out.’

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In the Tall Grass

One of the many Steven King adaptations from this year, ‘In the Tall Grass’ comes to us from ‘Cube’ director Vincenzo Natali, and with that sci-fi classic being a personal favourite of mine, I had high hopes for this Netflix thriller despite its somewhat weak source material. However, as the runtime continued on, I soon realised the film was far more interested in attempting to explain its bizarre and messy plot rather than experiment with any of its unique ideas.

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Marriage Story

Standing-out mostly for the fantastic performances from the all-star cast of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, director Noah Baumbach takes on this wonderful story of a couple broken apart by relationship troubles and long distances, which, despite not being anything outstanding in regards to filmmaking, still manages to be entertaining, emotional, and very enjoyable from start-to-finish.

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The Silence

Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, ‘The Silence’ directed by John R. Leonetti, best known for the awful ‘Conjuring’ prequel: ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Wish Upon.’ Is another generic horror with weak performances, dreadful CG effects and a plot which feels as if it’s been ripped straight from ‘A Quiet Place’ released back in 2018.

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Haunt

Although the plot of a group of teens heading into a haunted house on Halloween only to get more than they bargained for may initially sound incredibly over done, ‘Haunt’ is actually one of the hidden gems of the year, in my opinion. Utilising some visually impressive sets and lighting in addition to an array of tense moments and creative ideas, the film is certainly one of the better horrors/thrillers from this year despite its issues.

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Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

After directing one of my favourite films of 2017: ‘Logan,’ director James Mangold now takes on the real-life story of the creation of one of the fastest race cars ever built in order to win the iconic: ‘Le Mans ’66.’ Featuring some excellent performances from the main cast in addition to some great cinematography and high-fueled racing scenes, ‘Le Mans ’66’ is a true thrill-ride of a film.

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Toy Story 4

‘Toy Story 4’ is definitely one of the most disappointing films of the year for me, as the original: ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is, in my opinion, near perfect, and this film seems to do nothing but continue the story for the sake of it. As although the animation is incredible throughout the film, and the performances and original score are also pretty great, the narrative and character-arcs simply let the film down and make it the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ series for me.

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I Am Mother

This slick science fiction thriller had me excited for quite some time leading-up to its release. However, when I eventually watched ‘I Am Mother’ I found myself a little disappointed. As the beautiful visuals and solid sci-fi soundtrack are sadly let down by a drawn-out and sometimes bland story. As while not boring by any means, I felt the film was a bit of wasted potential overall.

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It: Chapter 2

Director Andy Muschietti returns to bring the demonic clown: ‘Pennywise’ back to life in this sequel to the ‘It’ remake from 2017. This time around, however, I personally found the film to be a bit of a letdown. As although there were plenty of entertaining scenes and great character moments throughout the film’s extremely long runtime, there were also plenty of ridiculous moments alongside the barrage of enormous CG monsters.

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Crawl

Going off the initial reviews, I originally had high hopes for: ‘Crawl,’ hoping it would be an extremely tense, edge-of-your-seat kind of experience. But unfortunately, the film felt like a mostly standard thriller by the end of its runtime. Having nothing more than a few tense scenes and a couple of effective jump-scares to make-up for its mediocre CG effects and mostly dull characters.

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Yesterday

Whilst certainly not on the same level as many of the other iconic films from Danny Boyle’s catalogue of work, ‘Yesterday’ was still a pretty entertaining feel-good comedy which I felt had an enjoyable upbeat tone, and enough likeable characters to carry it through many of its cheesy moments and sometimes overly predictable story.

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The Platform

Definitely a futuristic thriller fans of: ‘The Belko Experiment’ should check-out, ‘The Platform’ is just as violent as it is suspenseful, as this Spanish sci-fi thriller deals with a variety of dark themes and ideas, all whilst keeping the audience engaged through its interesting plot, decent performances, and surprising turns.

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Aladdin

This year’s first entry from the usual barrage of pointless live-action Disney remakes, ‘Aladdin’ is exactly what I expected it to be. The classic story most know and love but incredibly dulled down, trying to capture the adventure of the original film through an enormous amount of CG visuals, nostalgia, and a new cast lead by Will Smith which are all rather bland.

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The Hustle

Although I may not have been the target audience for: ‘The Hustle,’ judging by the dreadful reviews from critics and audiences alike, it seems as if I wasn’t alone in finding this comedy just as bland as it was unfunny, with many of the jokes feeling extremely lazy as the film takes all the obvious hits anyone would expect at Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson without attempting much else in terms of humour.

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Despite ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ not quite being the hilarious, gory and extremely weird horror-comedy I was initially hoping for, in addition to coming off the back of director Dan Gilroy’s other film: ‘Nightcrawler’ (which is one of my all-time favourites). I still found the film interesting enough throughout its story to keep me watching, despite it not being overly memorable in its entirety.

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Avengers: Endgame

Marvel finally bring their enormous franchise of superhero flicks to an end (for now that is) with ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ a blockbuster spectacular which gives many viewers the conclusion they’ve been desiring for many years, and although it isn’t one of my personal favourite Marvel films, I enjoyed ‘Avengers Endgame’ for what it was. As the film provides some endings for characters alongside plenty of comedic moments, fan service and thrilling action set-pieces.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Based on the real-life story of Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy makes his awaited return to film after a long break. As this brilliant comedy-drama makes all the right moves to keep its audience engaged within its story through plenty of humour, style and emotion throughout its runtime.

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Jumanji: The Next Level

A sequel to ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ from 2017, as well as the original: ‘Jumanji’ from 1995. ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is very similar to the previous instalment in regards to its tone and story (with some elements mixed-up, of course), and despite some humour and story moments going a little too over-the-top for my taste. The film is still enjoyable enough for those seeking another fun family adventure from this franchise.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Unable to actually decide what I thought of the film initially, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is a true mixed-bag of a blockbuster, having some fantastic monster action with flawless CG effects and a surprisingly ranged colour palette be completely bogged-down by weak characters, cheesy moments, and, at points, a very messy story.

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Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Director Quentin Tarantino returns to the silver screen once again with ‘Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.’ Bringing us a subversion of some of his usual film tropes, to focus more on a story of a man seeking his return to fame in Hollywood, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an excellent 1960s soundtrack.

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Terminator: Dark Fate

Of all the franchises dragging themselves out in an attempt to drawn in whatever loose profits still remain, ‘Terminator’ has been by far the worst, with ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ only further proving this. Being extremely bland and cliché throughout, this time-travelling sci-fi series truly feels as if it’s got nothing more to offer, even with a talented director at the helm and James Cameron back on-board as a producer, this franchise is now really just a shadow of its former-self.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

In another one of this year’s biggest disappointments, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ is the third entry in the ‘John Wick’ series, and sadly, leaves a lot to be desired. As many of the trilling and well-executed action scenes are dragged down by a messy and uninteresting story, as well as a variety of extremely out-of-place comedic moments.

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Star Wars – Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Arguably the most disappointing film of the year for many, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ attempted to close the enormous legacy of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, which unfortunately, failed quite miserably. As overly fast-pacing and an extremely messy (and unsatisfying) narrative really dragged the film down despite its fun moments and exciting action scenes, further proving that this franchise needs a long rest before it’s inevitable return.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home

Most likely my favourite Marvel film of this year, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ hardly breaks new ground when it comes to superhero flicks. But the main cast’s great performances mixed with plenty of exciting action and a surprisingly interesting antagonist, leave ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ an enjoyable and mostly faithful comic book adventure for the iconic web-head.

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The Lion King

The second of this year’s live-action Disney remakes, ‘The Lion King’ directed by Jon Favreau, is definitely one of the worst, in my opinion. As although the film’s CG effects are near-flawless, the film simply lacks any of the charm, heart and personality of the original film, resulting in the remake being nothing more than a boring experience.

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Little Monsters

Although the film is help-up by some strong performances and some interesting ideas, ‘Little Monsters’ never manages to break the structure of your usual zombie film. Coming across as an occasionally fun yet mostly bland horror-comedy, which is just as predictable as it is dull, despite many of its decent comedic moments.

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Serenity

Whilst I personally didn’t dislike ‘Serenity’ as much as many others, the film still suffers from a variety of issues, as director Steven Knight attempted to achieve something very different with this film, which at some points works quite well, and at others doesn’t work at all. As many of the unusual performances and can really drag down the film’s great cinematography and editing.

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Fractured

Overly predictable and formulaic, ‘Fractured’ focuses on the potentially compelling narrative of a father’s family mysteriously disappearing within the walls of a hospital, yet despite its few effective scenes, ‘Fractured’ soon ends-up feeling like a path nearly every viewer has been down before. Resulting in the film becoming just another forgettable Netflix Original.

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The Lighthouse

Despite my dislike of director Robert Egger’s other film: ‘The Witch’ back in 2016, ‘The Lighthouse’ had me gripped to the screen throughout its runtime. As the film’s bleak greyscale colour palette along with it’s eerie original score and intriguing story, leave the ‘The Lighthouse’ a film that’s just an interesting to discuss as it is to watch.

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Parasite

I went to experience Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ mostly due to its outstanding reviews rather than due to its trailers (which I personally found quite poor). But yet, with some absolutely gorgeous cinematography and brilliant performances, ‘Parasite’ is now definitely up there with some of my personal favourite foreign flicks such as: ‘Oldboy,’ ‘Veronica’ and ‘The Host,’ in addition to possibly being my favourite release of this year.

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Captain Marvel

One of the blandest Marvel films I’ve seen for a while, ‘Captain Marvel’ focuses far too much on pushing its themes of female empowerment that it forgets to actually craft a likeable protagonist or an interesting origin story, making the film seem forgettable more than anything else.

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Surprisingly, ‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ was more enjoyable than I was initially expecting. As while far from as memorable or as enjoyable as the original for me, there were more than a few moments of humour between the cast that had me laughing, despite the film’s tone going even more over-the-top than before.

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The Irishman

Iconic director Martin Scorsese returns to bring us another tale of crime and regret with ‘The Irishman,’ and while the over three hour-long runtime can definitely make the film drag at points, the brilliant performances and phenomenal filmmaking are sure to keep those paying attention engaged for the majority of the film’s runtime.

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Hellboy

The latest superhero to get his own remake is the iconic: ‘Hellboy,’ with the remake this time falling far, far from the mark. As a ridiculously messy story mixed with poor CG effects and dreadful comedic moments, leave the film pleasing no one, despite David Harbour’s serviceable performance as the horned anti-hero.

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1917

Made to appear as if it was filmed entirely within one shot, ‘1917’ is a brutal, gripping and engaging story involving two soldiers who set off in a race against time to save thousands of men from a doomed battle, and while not flawless, the film is definitely impressive for both it’s narrative and filmmaking.

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Fighting with My Family

Directed by actor and comedian Stephen Merchant, ‘Fighting with My Family’ is a light-hearted British comedy-drama based on the true story of WWE wrestler: ‘Paige’ portrayed extremely well throughout the film by Florence Pugh, and despite a few cringey scenes, ‘Fighting with My Family’ was a huge surprise for me. As a very investing story and some brilliant moments of humour leave the film a genuinely enjoyable experience that seemingly went under most people’s radars upon its initial release.

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Jojo Rabbit

Heartfelt, emotional and brimming with comedic charm, ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is another one of my favourites from this year. Being a completely different take on the war genre by giving the audience a new view of the events of the Second World War through the eyes of a child, all under the excellent direction of Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok).

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Missing Link

From Lakia animation studio, the production company that brought to life many of my favourite stop-motion animated films, such as: ‘Coraline’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ comes another fun family adventure. Shame this one couldn’t have done better at the box-office, as the film is wonderfully put together, featuring plenty of humorous moments alongside the great voice acting and beautiful animation.

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Ready or Not

One of the most surprising films of the year for me, ‘Ready or Not’ may have your usual cliché plot for a modern horror, but somehow the film manages to carry it through. Managing to be extremely funny, violent and fun throughout nearly the entirety of its brief runtime.

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Doctor Sleep

The long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic: ‘The Shining,’ ‘Doctor Sleep’ attempts to continue the story of the ‘Overlook Hotel,’ and does so with mixed results. As although the film does pay plenty of the respect to the original film, I couldn’t help but feel the film doesn’t stand on its own very well, having a mostly predictable story with some pretty bland characters within its nearly three hour runtime.

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Child’s Play

From the producers of the ‘It’ remake from 2017, this reimagining of the 1980s horror classic: ‘Child’s Play’ does have some great elements, such as some hilarious scenes of dark comedy gory, and creative death scenes and even a pretty memorable voice performance from Mark Hamill as the iconic killer doll: ‘Chucky,’ and yet, the film never quite manages to escape its remake roots and goofy original idea, usually feeling more unnecessary than anything else.

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Wounds

Regardless of its atrocious reviews from both critics and audiences, I actually quite enjoyed ‘Wounds.’ As although this psychological horror may have some bland cinematography and an over-reliance on jump-scares at points, the film’s weirdly unique narrative and main performance by Armie Hammer simply won me over by its end, despite the film being nothing that memorable in the long-run.

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Pet Sematary

In this new interpretation of Steven King’s classic novel, Jason Clarke and Amy Seimetz portray: ‘Louis’ and ‘Rachel Creed’ a couple who move to rural Maine only to soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden within the woods near their new home, and aside from the dark and interesting plot the film provides. ‘Pet Sematary’ is nothing more than a bland jump-scare fest with little focus on building character or atmosphere.

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I Lost My Body

This unique animated French film co-written by the writer of the beloved: ‘Amélie,’ is very charming and beautifully crafted throughout the entirety of its tight runtime, with a variety of stunning shots and plenty of creative ideas, ‘I Lost My Body’ is certainly worth a watch despite being overshadowed by many other films released this year.

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Uncut Gems

After many poor attempts at comedies in recent days, Adam Sandler gives one of his best performances in years with ‘Uncut Gems,’ portraying a shady jeweller who’s actions and consequences carry the film brilliantly from start-to-finish, despite the film’s shaky camerawork and bizarre original score being a little distracting at points.

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Midsommar

Although I quite enjoyed ‘Hereditary,’ director Ari Aster’s first film from 2017, ‘Midsommar’ was most certainly not for me. Feeling far too pretentious at points with a slow-paced narrative and weak characters, the film’s unique ideas and attractive visuals simply couldn’t save from becoming the boring experience it eventually ended-up being for me, with the exception of another excellent performance by Florence Pugh from this year.

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Unicorn Store

Led by a mediocre and sometimes irritating performance from Brie Larson, ‘Unicorn Store’ attempts to be a fun, colourful, and heartwarming tale of a grown woman letting go of her childhood. Yet unfortunately, the film passes the mark for most of its goals, as ‘Unicorn Store’ is far more dull and forgettable than the whimsical and uplifting tale its story attempts to be.

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Whilst I definitely would’ve preferred an anthology-type structure when it comes to an adaptation of the ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ book series, this Guillermo del Toro produced horror does still have some entertainment value, and I could see the film being very appealing to younger viewers desiring a gateway into the genre.

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The Kid Who Would Be King

A decent fantasy adventure for families, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) definitely has some areas in need of improvement. As the film is brimming with cheesy moments and a very out-of-place original score. Despite this, however, the film still manages to utilise its fun story and exciting action scenes to the best of its advantage, resulting in an entertaining if not perfect family flick.

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The Christmas Chronicles (2018) – Film Review

From director Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie) and producer Chris Columbus comes another Christmas family adventure with ‘The Christmas Chronicles,’ and while the film may be nowhere near as memorable as many other festive classics. I can still see the film being a mostly entertaining ride for families and younger viewers alike.

Plot Summary: When brother and sister: ‘Teddy’ and ‘Kate Pierce,’ are left alone on Christmas Eve, they devise a plan to catch ‘Santa Claus’ on camera, which soon turns into an unexpected journey that most children could only dream of. As they manage to hop aboard ‘Santa’s sleigh and join him on his task of delivering presents all over the world…

Although the two films do differ from each other in many ways, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this film and ‘The Santa Clause’ from 1994. As both Christmas flicks focus on characters going on a magical adventure with ‘Santa Clause,’ with them usually having strong themes of family and belief throughout. However, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ also seems to focus more on exciting action set-pieces.

Whilst Judah Lewis and Darby Camp portray the siblings decently well throughout the film (aside from the occasional line of dialogue) Kurt Russell is without a doubt the stand-out of the cast, as he brings his usual charisma and talent to create a fresh and memorable portrayal of Saint Nick himself. This is dragged down by the film’s characterisation however, as both of the siblings are pretty bland and dull from start-to-finish. As a pleasant little detail, ‘Santa’s list even includes several of Kurt Russell’s real-life grandchildren.

The cinematography by Don Burgess is also mostly generic throughout the film, usually serving its purpose without drawing the audience’s attention away from the action on-screen. Speaking of which, the action scenes throughout the film are handled surprisingly well. From the fast car chase through the streets of Chicago, to ‘Santa’s sleigh soaring through the night sky. The weak CGI throughout the film can detract from some these scenes however, with ‘Santa’s elves in particular having some very distracting CG effects at points.

The original score by Christophe Beck is decent overall, as while not incredibly memorable, and many could see it as slightly weaker when compared to many of his other soundtracks such as: ‘The Muppets,’ ‘Frozen’ or ‘Ant-Man,’ the score does have a festive and pretty up-beat tone throughout the film’s runtime. ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ even gives us a new spin on the classic song: ‘Santa Clause is Coming to Town,’ as ‘Santa’ shows off some of his style as he sings: ‘Santa Claus is Back in Town’ in an attempt to add some cheer to those around him.

My main issue with the film is the story’s general cheesiness, as although the film does avoid the occasional Christmas film cliché. The film is still brimming with cheesy lines and scenes throughout the film’s narrative. However, I found this to be a problem mostly around ‘Santa’s elves, as not only did these characters have an awful new redesign, but they seemed to be purely used for the sake of being cute. I also couldn’t help but think the film could’ve been improved if directed by Chris Columbus, as although director Clay Kaytis doesn’t do a terrible job by any means, I feel the director of: ‘Home Alone’ (a true classic for many) could’ve definitely made the film better for what it was.

Overall, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is a mostly fun adventure for a film night on Christmas Eve, as while the story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Kurt Russell’s memorable performance mixed with some entertaining action scenes and a very festive atmosphere all result in the film being a decent watch. So maybe check this one out one year if you’re in the need for a festive fantasy adventure, just don’t have your expectations too high. Final Rating: 6/10.

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Bird Box (2018) – Film Review

‘Bird Box’ is based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, which mostly aims to be a dark horror/thriller with an original and twisted story as well as a few other interesting aspects in regards to its filmmaking. Unfortunately however, the film soon falls into a pit of disappointment which it really struggles to escape from, resulting in ‘Bird Box’ becoming nothing more than another generic Netflix fright-fest.

Plot Summary: In the wake of an unknown global terror, a mother must find the strength to flee with her two children down a treacherous river in search of safety. Yet due to the unseen deadly forces pursing them, the perilous journey must be made blind-folded…

As the film jumps back-and-forth between the two different time-periods, the film’s structure can become very frustrating at points. As I personally found the initial chaotic event far more entertaining than the other time-period the film provides, yet this was always cut short as the film continuously cuts between the two at unusual points. The film also chooses to wrap the majority of its story in mystery, never really exploring what the monsters actually are, or how their abilities work. The film even chooses to never actually show the creatures on-screen at all throughout the runtime, and although I agree that not everything has to be explained within a story, the way ‘Bird Box’ presents it makes it noting but frustrating, as the film introduces questions without answers.

Sandra Bullock portrays a struggling mother alongside Danielle Macdonald, Trevante Rhodes and John Malkovich who all portray people attempting to survive in a brutal world, and they do their best considering the weak characters they had to work with. The majority of the supporting cast are also decent, with Sarah Paulson even having a short appearance within the film. However, I actually found she was incredibly wasted in the small (and mostly pointless) role she had within the narrative.

In spite of the film’s many wilderness scenes being shot near the beautiful Smith River in the far north of California. Nearly the entire visual presentation of: ‘Bird Box,’ is extremely dull, as the cinematography by Salvatore Totino and editing Ben Lester never really excel beyond ‘okay.’ Usually having scenes consist of many boring shots which never really add much to the tension or atmosphere aside from the occasional moment, this of course also alongside the extremely bland grey colour palette.

This is also the case when it comes to the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, coming off as nothing more than your standard score for any modern horror/thriller with a slight technological twist, which is very surprising, considering these composers did excellent work on the soundtrack for: ‘The Social Network’ back in 2010.

Although the novel obviously came out before last year’s ‘A Quiet Place,’ I also couldn’t help but notice many similarities between the two films. Such as the lack of a certain sense, the apocalyptic setting, a theme of family and the eerie atmosphere/tone (despite the idea of the monsters making you kill yourself being very original). I also couldn’t help but feel the film never made enough use of its concept of simply witnessing the creatures drives characters to suicide, as this is a terrifying idea, and could’ve provided some very gory and truly shocking moments.

In short, ‘Bird Box’ is one of those few films that gets a large amount of attention for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, as personally, I thought the film was nothing but bland and forgettable in many aspects. Aside from perhaps the main performance by Sandra Bullock and the original idea of its story. There wasn’t much I enjoyed about this adaptation, perhaps give it a watch if you’re really interested, but, in my opinion, there are many similar films which explore these same ideas just with a much better execution. Final Rating: 3/10.

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) – Film Review

The western genre used to be extremely popular back in the golden age of Hollywood, but in recent years the western genre has mostly died off, as aside from a few honourable mentions such as: ‘True Grit,’ ‘The Sisters Brothers,’ and ‘Django Unchained.’ The western genre as a whole has run mostly dry, until now that is. As iconic directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men) return to the silver screen for this brilliant western anthology.

Plot Summary: Consisting of six different stories of life and violence in the old west, including the tales of a singing gunslinger, a bank robber, a travelling impresario, an elderly prospector, a wagon train and a perverse pair of bounty hunters…

This diverse set of stories and characters really keep the film engaging from start-to-finish, as the film constantly jumps between characters and locations all whilst ensuring that it keeps its decent pacing and usual Coen brother’s dark sense of humour intact. Resulting in the film feeling extremely refreshing, as superhero blockbusters and jump-scare filled horrors have really taken over the film industry in recent years. So, revisiting an old yet classic genre (especially with this modern spin and the Coen brother’s brilliant direction) is truly a breath of fresh air.

The performances by every member of the enormous cast are pretty excellent all around. As Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Thomas Waits, Zoe Kazan, Jonjo O’Neill and Brendan Gleeson (just to name a few) are all brilliant when portraying their varied and interesting characters, with Tim Blake Nelson definitely being the clear stand-out for me with his extremely funny and charming portrayal of the title character: ‘Buster Scruggs.’

Throughout the runtime, the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel is almost flawless, as the film utilises a variety of beautiful shots which perfectly capture the visual appeal of classic westerns. The original score by Carter Burwell is also great, as the soundtrack uses slow guitar stings and an enormous list of classic country songs to build-up atmosphere, with the best of these definitely being: ‘When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings.’

One aspect of the film I absolutely adore is the Coen’s usual style of writing, as every character throughout the film is given plenty of comedic moments and memorable lines, which really helped make many of the characters with slightly-less development more likeable. Another element that also really drew my attention during my first viewing was the incredible sets and costumes the film had on full-display, as considering the locations/costumes are some of the main factors of engaging the audience into the story and it’s time-period. It was clear they were pulling-out all the stops. As every location always felt very real and lived in, with the character’s clothes being no different.

My personal favourite narrative of the six would most likely be the opening story, sharing the same name as the title of the film: ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.’ This opening was just such as joy to watch, balancing dark humour with a classic western set-up brilliantly, in addition to the fantastic performance from Tim Blake Nelson as already mentioned. However, this is also where my biggest criticism of the film comes in, as although they definitely aren’t awful, the last two stories are easily the weakest of the film. As although we do get some great character moments and fun scenes within these stories, I couldn’t help but feel they simply weren’t as memorable or as charming as the others leading-up to them. Perhaps if these two stories we’re placed earlier in the film it wouldn’t be such an issue, but it simply leaves the viewer with a bad taste in their mouth afterwards.

In conclusion, ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ proves once again that westerns are far from gone when it comes to film, as the Coen brothers once again take the audience for a trip into the wild west with complete success. As this anthology is just as hilarious as it is visually-impressive and well-acted, regardless of whether or not the stories are quite on the same level. Final Rating: low 8/10.

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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) – Film Review

A strange, violent, and very unpredictable film, Dan Gilroy director of one of my all-time favourite flicks: ‘Nightcrawler,’ works all his charm and creativity into this horror/drama/mystery/dark comedy? It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the genre of this film is. Alongside this, similar to some other films I’ve reviewed, I’d say this is definitely not a film for everyone. But for those to who it will appeal, you will surely enjoy yourself.

Plot Summary: Following the discovery of a series of foreboding paintings by an unknown artist, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art…

‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ is mostly built around the shocking deaths throughout the film, as various characters get killed off in different ways. Leaving the rest of the characters in a state of confusion and panic, this allows the film to delve into bits and pieces of characterisation (granted not a lot) in addition to exploring various ideas of what ‘art’ actually is and we criticise and commercialise it, and despite the film not going incredibly in-depth with these ideas, I did still find many of them and the themes of greed and ego interesting.

Jake Gyllenhaal is essentially the main protagonist of the film: ‘Morf Vandewalt’ a very eccentric and strange character who seems to be a parody of over-the-top art critics. Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, and John Malkovich also all lend their talents to the film. Along with the decent writing, their great performances really help give each character a distinct personality. Unexpectedly, however, Zawe Ashton is a true stand-out of the film for me, only really knowing her from Channel 4’s ‘Fresh Meat,’ here she portrays a very different character than ones before.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit also gives the film a very clean look, utilising many different shots throughout. I still think the film could’ve done more with the camerawork, however, especially when compared to Dan Gilroy’s previous films. The does also combine cinematography well with the beautiful sets and locations, giving the film a great visual appeal. The original score by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders also lends its hand to the creepy atmosphere at multiple points throughout the film, yet can also change to more calming or light-hearted when it needs to.

Although the tone can vary throughout the film, it never comes off as unbalanced. Comedy is used at points during the story but never to the point of ruining the eerie atmosphere or character moments. However, when the film does shift into full horror, we get easily my favourite moments of the film, as it’s these moments we get some very cool CG effects and unique visuals. As well as a great build-up of intrigue and tension, with the eventual death at the end of the scene usually being very creative, despite not always being very gory.

My main two issues with the film resolve mostly around the pacing of the film, as the film can come off as very slow and can drag the story down at points. As well as the use of John Malkovich’s character: ‘Piers,’ as this character appears in the very first scene of the film and then again later into the runtime. However, he doesn’t really have any impact on the narrative, and felt to me like the film was just using his bland character to fill-up screen-time.

In conclusion, I couldn’t decide as to what I thought of: ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ upon my initial viewing of the film, and I’m still not entirely sure now. As whilst the film does suffer from a fair amount of problems and isn’t the incredibly entertaining piece of gory fun I was hoping it would be. But I still enjoyed myself due to its weird atmosphere and interesting ideas, and it is a film I could maybe see myself returning to at some point. Final Rating: 6/10.

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