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The final month of the year has been a good one at the cinema despite the best efforts of Covid.  The eight movies I have seen include more than one of my top ten movies of the year.  I got to see one of my favourite classic films at the cinema, I was also invited to a regional premier, giving me the chance to see The Kings Man three weeks before general release.  Here are the movies I watched:

Petite Maman – A modern day fantasy/fairy-tale written and directed by Céline Sciamma.  Clocking in at just 82 minutes and with little plot beyond the concept, on the surface it is a very slight film, its is however enchanting and enthralling.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City – Just five years after Resident Evil: The Final Chapter the game based franchise has already received the reboot treatment.  Where the original mainly franchise focussed on one character this film operates as more of an ensemble, Kaya Scodelario as Claire Redfield is nominally the lead, but Hannah John-Kamen as Jill Valentine is the MVP.  Leaning more into horror, it isn’t a great film, but it is largely enjoyable and fun.   

The Kings Man – Explaining the origin of The Kingsmen by weaving them into the events of the first world war.  The tone doesn’t completely work as it flips between serious/sombre, and silly fun.  It largely gets away with it as the cast is excellent.  Not as good as the first film but much better than the sequel.

Spider Man: No Way Home – I went into this with very low expectations, I wasn’t a fan of Far From Home, and the multiversity had already been explored to brilliant effect in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  To add to this the MCU hasn’t had its best year.  I was so wrong, not only was the film excellent, probably my favourite live action Spider-Man movie, and also a fantastic cinematic experience as other audience members reacted to what was happening.

West Side Story – I’m not a fan of musicals so was never going to love this, but I did enjoy and appreciate it.  As you would expect from Steven Spielberg it is supremely well made and looks amazing.  The cast is excellent especially Rachel Zegler and Ariana DeBose.

The Matrix Resurrections – Written and directed Lana Wachowski without her sibling and usual collaborator, this belated sequel was something of a risk.  The Matrix was a masterpiece, the sequels were a disappointment, did we need another instalment?  In short yes!  It isn’t a great film, but it has merit for a couple of reasons, it provides a coda that actually makes the sequels better, but most of all, it’s great to see Neo (Keanu Reeves), and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) again, as well as few excellent additions, notably Jessica Henwick. 

The Red Shoes – Never missing a chance to see one of my favourite classic movies projected on the big screen. Powell and Pressburger’s masterpiece is one of my favourite movies and one I have long wished to see at the cinema.  It didn’t disappoint.  

Titane  – It’s taken Julia Ducournau five years to follow up her debut feature, the visceral horror Raw, it was worth the wait.  Comparisons with David Cronenberg are inevitable both for the body horror, and the auto-eroticism, while valid there is a lot more going on.  There is so much to unpick both in the story, and the subtext, I am looking forward to a second viewing.

But what’s my movie of the month? There a few contenders but it has to be the one I am still thinking about, Titane.

Check back in the next few days to find out which of these movies made my top ten of the year.

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Not back to pre covid levels, but a reasonable month at the cinema:

The Doors: Live at The Bowl ’68 Special Edition – A one night only worldwide special screening of restored film of a Doors concert from the Hollywood Bowl.  Show with an interview with surviving band members, John Densmore and Robby Krieger.  The interview is a thinly disguised advert for a 50th anniversary special edition of LA Woman.  The concert itself is fantastic!   

Twin Peaks + Panel – Part of the first Square Eyes festival held at Birmingham’s MAC (Midland Art Centre).   The event consisted of a panel discussing if Twin Peaks the return is a movie or a TV series following Cahiers Du Cinema declaring it the best film of the last decade, and Sight and Sound placing it second in its top ten movies of 2017.  This was followed by an interview with Chrysta Bell who played FBI Agent Tammy Preston in the show.  Finally, they screened “The” episode of Twin Peaks, season three Part 8.

The Eternals – Has the MCU run out of steam?  Not a bad film, but the weakest MCU movie of the year to date, and a shadow of the franchises best movies.  Some of the casting is fantastic Kumail Nanjiani, Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Barry Keoghan, and Don Lee, others isn’t so good, Kit Harington and Richard Madden are very limited actors (please don’t let either of them be the next James Bond). 

Spencer – Set over three days of Christmas in an unspecified year.  The story is fictional but hits all the points you would expect.  Warmer and more accessible than director Pablo Larraín’s earlier film Jackie.  Jonny Greenwood’s score is excellent.  Kristen Stewart’s performance is outstanding and a further reminder she is long overdue an Oscar nomination. 

Bull – An enforcer for a local criminal returns home after ten years away.  By casting Neil Maskell you can’t help thinking they are invoking Kill List (a film director Paul Andrew Williams hasn’t actually seen).  Compelling and entertaining, it is often brutal, although the low budget shows at times.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife – Jason Reitman’s sequel to his father’s movies from the 80’s.  By combining a coming of age story with the mythology of the franchise, Reitman has made both a sequel to the first two Ghostbusters movies, and  “his” movie.  Carrie Coon and Paul Rudd are always worth watching, but the star of the movie is Mckenna Grace.

Bad Luck Banging or Looney Porn – The Romanian submission for the Best International Feature Oscar is as bonkers as the title suggests.  Split into three very different parts that make sense if they don’t totally knit together. The plot centres around the fallout when a sex tape a teacher makes with her husband finds its way online.  The final section is the most satirical and best, but it is the opening that is getting all the headlines! The film starts by showing the sex tape, which is actual porn.

As a TV show and a concert and respectively, I have excluded Twin Peaks and The Doors.  The Eternals was a little disappointing leaving Spencer, Bull, Ghostbusters: Afterlife , and Bad Luck Banging or Looney Porn.  There is an argument for any one of them to get movie of the month but the winner has to be the most original and different film, my movie of the month is: 

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I haven’t seen many movies this month, but have enjoyed most of them.  Here are the contenders:

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – The latest instalment in the MCU introduces characters I had never heard of.  A solid entry into the franchise with a cast of likeable and diverse cast.  Like a lot of the MCU, the storytelling is a little saggy in the middle, and the ending is just the usual CGIfest.

Copshop – More bonkers fun from Joe Carnahan in a film that owes a lot to Assault on Precinct 13 and Rio Bravo. Frank Grillo and Gerard Butler are on great form but the real MVP is Alexis Louder.

Prisoners of Ghostown – a bonkers Nicolas Cage movie made was recently my Movie of the Month, this movie won’t get the same accolade, it’s just a mess!

Candyman -Sequel and soft reboot to the excellent 90’s horror. Beautifully shot with a great socio-political subtext, but it lacks the great horror of the original.

Dune – No, I haven’t seen a preview of Denis Villeneuve’s new movie, this is David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation.  I first saw the movie when I was about ten (around five years before I read the book) and loved it.  The film looks amazing and is perfectly cast.  The only issue is the pacing, he really needed over three house to tell the story. 

The Green Knight – David Lowery’s movie adapted from the 14th century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  Not afraid to embrace its origin, the narrative is poetic and ambiguous.  The photography is stunning, and  Dev Patel is fantastic.  Finally an Arthurian movie to rival Monty Python and John Boorman.  Sadly it didn’t get a much of a release, but believe me its worth the effort to see it on the big screen.

No Time to Die – Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond has really divided opinion.  While it has all the themes and tropes of a Bond movie, the pacing and storytelling is very different from a Bond movie. The performances are great, and Craig is the funniest he has been as Bond. The are a few plot/story choices that are very bold, that I’m not convinced work. On the whole, I liked it but with resonations. 

A couple of Bond movies have been movie of the month, but not this time, my movie of the month has to be:

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Nine movies makes August my busiest movie going month since the start of the pandemic last year.  I have seen some very good films and enjoyed them all, but one really stands out as my movie of the month.  Here are the contenders. 

Jungle Cruise – Given how poor the Pirates movies were you would be forgiven for being concerned about a Disney movie based on a theme park ride, but as bad as the sequels were, the first movie in that franchise was actually really good.  Jungle cruise doesn’t live up to the first Pirates movie, but is better than the sequels.  The plot for what it’s worth involves Emily Blunt hiring a boat captain Dwayne Johnson to take her upriver in search of a MacGuffin pursed by a German prince in a U Boat.  Silly, and predictable but Johnson and Blunt are likeable leads.  The inevitable sequel has already been green-lit.

Stillwater – A real change of pace for Matt Damon sees him travel to France to visit his estranged daughter, who is in prison for a crime she claims she didn’t commit.  The set-up sounds like a Taken style thriller, far from that, it actually has more than a passing resemblance to the Amanda Knox case.  Damon is excellent in what is probably his most low-key role.

Free Guy – Ryan Reynolds is at his most Ryan Reynolds as a none player character in a video game who become sentient.  The story is very slight, but good fun.  Reynolds is on great form as are Jodie Comer and Taika Waititi.

Reminiscence – Feature debut for director Lisa Joy best known as writer/producer of Westworld.  Blending an old-school noir with a sci-fi thriller.  The central conceit of replaying memories is reminiscent of the superior Strange Days, when you get past that it’s an enjoyable if predicable movie largely thanks to a likeable cast of Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, and Thandiwe Newton.

Pig – Nicolas Cage plays a reclusive truffle hunter.  When he goes looking for his stolen pig, you would expect a John Wick style revenge thriller.  What we get is a much more low-key and thoughtful movie, and Cage’s best performance in years. 

Censor – Set in the height of the video-nasty scare of the 1980’s Niamh Algar plays a censor who losses her grip on reality as her twin obsession for her work and her sister, missing since childhood, overlap.  Algar is excellent, but the real star is writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond who has a clear love and affinity for the genre.

The Courier – Benedict Cumberbatch plays Greville Wynne in the true story of a salesman who is recruited by the security services as a courier for a Russian source during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The real life case on which its based was reportedly John le Carré’s inspiration for The Russia House.  Very by the numbers and lacking any originality, but well made with some real tension and strong performances. 

The Night House – Rebecca Hall is outstanding playing a woman coming to terms with her husband’s suicide.  Living in the isolated lake house they built, she begins to question what is real as tries to understand what happened she.  Including but not depending on jump scares it is far more intelligently constructed than you would expect for the story. 

Our Ladies – Five friends travel from their small town in the Scottish Highlands to Edinburgh as part of a choir from their catholic girls school.  They are given an afternoon of freedom in the big city with the caveat of some very strict rules set by Sister Condron (an excellent Kate Dickie), this all goes out the window as all they have on their minds is sex and booze!  Comparisons with Derry Girls are inevitable, it isn’t as funny or as irreverent, but very heartfelt and no less enjoyable. 

I have enjoyed all nine movies this month, but there is one clear standout, my movie of the month is:

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Soon after starting this blog back in 2009 I started a movie of the month segment.  The first post of every month, usually on the first of the month I would name the best movie I had seen in the previous month.  I started by naming the top few contenders before crowning on the Movie of the Month.  I soon changed to writing a short paragraph review of each film I had seen at the cinema. Then cinemas closed as we went into lockdown following a global pandemic, you may have heard it mentioned once or twice in the past 18 months!  I last posted a movie of the month in August of last year when made two trips to the cinema after the first lockdown.  I managed three movies in November and December between lockdowns two and three but didn’t post about them at the time, so that’s where I will start

November and December 2020

Pixie – The titular Pixie sets out to on a mission to avenge her mother’s death, and escape her small time life by way of a heist, obviously things don’t go to plan. Somewhat derivative, but always fun, and Olivia Cooke is excellent as always.

Wonder Woman 1984 – Sequel to the best of the DCEU, by the standards of the franchise it’s a solid middling entry to the series.  Given how good the great the first movie was, it has to be considered as disappointment.  Gal Gadot remain perfectly cast, Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal are good in supporting roles, but everyone is let down by the story.

Dreamland – It’s impossible to make a dustland-fairytale of 30’s depression outlaws without invoking Bonnie and Clyde. Dreamland also has a hint of Malick’s Badlands at its core. To invoke such films you are always going to fall short, but the movie is engaging thanks to strong performances from Finn Cole and Margot Robbie.

This brings us onto 2021 and the reopening of cinemas in May.

May

Those Who Wish Me Dead – Actor tuned writer, Taylor Sheridan’s second film as a director (he doesn’t count 2011’s Vile) following Wind River (2017).  A rung below Wind River and not in the same ballpark as his masterpiece (as writer) Sicario (2015).  A nice blend of disaster movie and crime thriller, Angelina Jolie is agreat as you would expect, Sheridan regular Jon Bernthal mprovides excellent suport, as do Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult.  The best supporting character is superbly portrayed by Medina Senghore.

Godzilla vs. Kong – I missed Godzilla: King of the Monsters at the cinema in 2017, but caught it on streaming during lockdown, it was really poor!  This new entry to the franchise is better, but that isn’t saying much given the seriously low bar.

Cruella – Emma Stone is fantastic as the young Cruella de Vil, she even manages to outshine Emma Thompson, who as the films villain you would expect to be the more showy part.  The only issue, the film cannot decide if it’s a retelling, or a prequel to 101 Dalmatians.

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Mr Do It – Based on a true story is something of a stretch.  The weakest of The Conjuring Movies but still good fun.  Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are both great as ever.

June

Nomadland – Chloé Zhao’s third feature following the sublime The Rider won her the best director Oscar (only the second woman to win), it also won Best Picture and Frances McDormand’s second Best Actress award.  I originally saw the movie via streaming, but thought it deserved a big screen viewing.  It did! 

A Quiet Place Part II – The title tells you what you need to know, this isn’t A Quiet Place 2, this is part 2 of the story.  Picking up directly after the events of the first movie, along with a perfectly judged flashback, it is exactly the film it needed to be. 

Nobody – Writer Derek Kolstad is best known for John Wick, he hasn’t moved far from that premise with this movie.  What if John Wick was played by an ordinary person? That’s pretty much what this is with Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk in the lead.  For some inexplicable reason, it really works, the movie is great fun!

The Farther – Another Oscar winner in the shape of Anthony Hopkins as best actor.  A directorial debut from Florian Zeller based on his own play.  The acting and staging always feels a little stagey, but the structure of the movie outweighs this.  Best to watch without reading too much about it.

Monster Hunter – Video game adaptation from the husband/wife, director/star frequent collaborators Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich.  Far from a masterpiece, but filled with sufficient action and fun to make it worth watching. 

In The Earth – Ben Wheatley’s lockdown take on a folk horror is a tough film to get a handle on.  Not as inaccessible as  A Field in England but falling short of his best work, Kill List, Sightseers and High-Rise.  The performances from the small cast are all excellent.  

Fast & Furious 9 – The Fast & Furious franchise evolved from a retelling of Point Break to Mission Impossible.  The quality of the films varies greatly, but they were never dull, until now.  The bigger the stunts get, the less interesting the film becomes. At least Charlize Theron is having fun!

July

Freaky – What if the director of Happy Death Day remade Freaky Friday as a high school slasher horror? That is exactly what Freaky is, and it is so much fun!  Vince Vaughn is really good (yes, really) but is totally overshadowed by Kathryn Newton who is excellent. 

Black Widow – Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow was never the biggest star in the MCU, but in many ways she was the most interesting.  There is no way of reconciling the fact it took so long for her or any other female character to get her own movie within the biggest franchise in movie history.  Scarlett Johansson is excellent as you would expect, as are co-stars Rachel Weisz and David Harbour, but the MVP by a mile is Florence Pugh who has  genuine chemistry with Johansson.

Another Round – In 2012 Thomas Vinterberg made an outstanding film called The Hunt starring Mads Mikkelsen.  The pair are back with another stunning movie.  Exploring men’s relationship with alcohol, and each other it asks a lot of questions of its characters and audience, to its credit it doesn’t try to answer them.  The winner of the best foreign language movie at the Oscars this year, I think it’s a better film than the (six out of eight that I have seen) nominations for best picture. 

The Suicide Squad – Not to be confused with the 2016 film with a very similar title.   Notably better than that film, but then the bar wasn’t that high!  As before, Harley Quinn remains the most interesting character, although she was the best moments of the film she isn’t as well served, or the film as good as Birds of Prey. The performances are all spot on, but the plot is somewhat thin especially for the 132 minute runtime. 

To name a movie of the month from just two or three choices doesn’t really work, for this reason I will just name one movie of the month(s), and hopefully return to naming a movie each month moving forward. My movie of the Months is:

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I have posted my Movie of the Month every month for over ten years, until April. With the lockdown, cinemas were closed back in March.  A little slower to return than others I have seen just two movies.

Tenet – Christopher Nolan’s latest film is near impossible to review without describing the plot, you just need to watch it.  The cast is excellent particularly the leads John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki.  The effects (famously practical as you would expect with Nolan) and spectacular.  The story takes some time to get into, but once you get a handle on it, it’s far less confusing that has been suggested.  It needs another watch, as I’m sure there is lots more to reveal itself with repeated viewings.Tenet

The New Mutants – Set within the X-Men universe was billed as a horror tinged take on the genre featuring a younger cast.  Shot three years ago and originally set for release two years ago,  it has been beset with reshoots and delays.   The final result is in many ways the smallest film in the franchise, this isn’t a bad thing considering the last time they did this was Logan, the best X-Men movie to date.  Sadly, The New Mutants is no Logan, however it doesn’t plumb the depths of The Last Stand, Apocalypse, or Dark Phoenix.  The setup, is good, the cast is good, the film just lacks any depth.  Surprisingly for the premise and the 15 certificate, it is surprisingly tame and lacks any real horror. the new mutants

Of the two films seen this month, there is a clear winner for Movie of the Month:  TenetTenet Movie Poster

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This will be my last Movie of the Month for the foreseeable future.  I have been blogging for over eleven years, although I post far less than when I started, the one constant is Movie of the Month, I have posted every month without fail and usually on the first of the month.  However, world events have overtaken me, and I, like the rest of the nation will not be visiting the cinema due to the lockdown associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The movies I saw this month are:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire – I went into this movie not knowing anything about it, other than how good it was.  To give anybody reading this the same opportunity, I am not going to give a synopsis.  The film is beautiful to look at, and tells a beautiful that unfolds to devastating effect. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The Invisible Man –  Following the abject failure of The Mummy (2107) Universal’s overly ambitious  so-called Dark Universe didn’t happen.  This left the door open for the Blumhouse treatment.  The story is as grounded and real as The Invisible Man could be, and also benefits from the always brilliant Elisabeth Moss.  Not only better than expected, but genuinely good. The Invisible Man

The True History of the Kelly Gang – A grubby and grimy Western that subverts the myth of the legend of Ned Kelly.  A Dark and unsettling  movie that  filled with outstanding performances. The True History of the Kelly Gang

The Hunt – Far blander than the its controversial reputation would suggest.  A 21st century take on an often told story.  A final act revelation even softens the any chance of controversy.  In no way revolutionary or outstanding, but well made, fun with couple of really good actions scenes.    The Hunt

I have averaged 111 films per year at the cinema for the last ten years.  Its unlikely I will see that many this year, regardless of how many films I see this year, I am confident that this month’s movie of the month will make my year end top ten: Portrait of a Lady on FirePortrait of a Lady on Fire poster

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We are in an interesting period in the movie calendar:  The awards bait movies have been and gone, the blockbusters are waiting in the wings, amongst the dregs there are often a few gems, there certainly has been this month:

The Rhythm Section: As a big fan of Mark Burnell source novel this movie had a lot to live up to, it sadly fails. The story has been simplified from the novel loosing the nuance and a lot of the meaning.  On a positive note, Blake Lively is very good.The Rhythm Section

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn): Suicide Squad (2016) was a horrible mess of a movie, but it had one thing going for it, Margot Robbie was excellent as Harley Quinn.  Birds of Prey understands this and has Harley front and centre, not to take away from the supporting cast are also excellent.  It is fun and funny, simply everything a film like this needs to be, and everything that Suicide Squad wasn’t.  Also surprisingly violent, properly violent, not just comic book violent.   Its a shame it isn’t finding more of an audience.Birds of Prey

Underwater: Disater/Sci-fi movie set seven miles under the sea at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.  Aside from being unoriginal, and very predictable, there is nothing actually wrong with the movie, it just never really gets going, and is all just very average.  Kristen Stewart is very good though.Underwater

The Lighthouse: Robert Eggers follow-up to The Witch is just as intense, but even more bold and visceral.  It isn’t always clear what is going on leaving a lot of the film open to interpretation, the film is all the better for this.  Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are both excellent.The Lighthouse

The Lost Boys: Re-mastered version of the classic 80’s teen horror.  As fun and funny as ever. Great to see it on the big screen.The Lost Boys

Dark Waters:  A legal drama based on a true story is a departure from the expected for Todd Haynes. There is a constant sense of dread, this combined with a lack time is spent in courtrooms makes it feel more like a conspiracy thriller.  Mark Ruffalo is utterly brilliant in the lead; Anne Hathaway isn’t given much to do in a much smaller supporting role, but has a few great moments.Dark Waters

Little Joe: Director Jessica Hausner’s first English language movie; Sci-Fi thriller with about a plant that is engineered to have antidepressant qualities.  The film has the dread and anxiety of a horror movie but without gore or violence.  The pastel colour design is disturbing in itself, as is the unusual score.  Emily Beecham and Ben Whishaw subtly brilliant in an un-showy way.  There is an interesting subtext that could be about medication, mental heal, or GM crops, maybe it’s about all three?Little Joe

Greed: Writers/Director Michael Winterbottom reteams with long-time collaborator Steve Coogan in a film about an unscrupulous fashion tycoon.  Often funny but with a very serious message, far from the directors best work but still very good.Greed

Color out Space: Things start to get a little strange for family living in an isolated woodland home.  Directed by Richard Stanley, his first feature since 1992, and based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft.  Nicolas Cage, does exactly what you expect him, Madeleine Arthur probably has the most screen-time, and is also very good.   I expect it to divide opinion, I loved it!Color out Space

Not the best film, of the month, but the most surprisingly good: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn):Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

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The new year has started strongly with some excellent movies:

The Gentlemen – Guy Ritchie, returns to what Guy Ritchie does, British gangsters.  While not as fresh and original as his early work, it is a refreshing change from some of the rubbish he has made more recently.  It’s all too slick and contrived to be great, but is really good fun.  Worth watching for standout performances from Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant.The Gentlemen

Just Mercy  – The true story of Bryan Stevenson (a guest of Desert Island Discs a few years ago – still available on BBC website) a Harvard law graduate who sets up the Equal Justice Initiative, to help people who can’t afford suitable legal representation.  The story is powerful and moving concentrating on a wrongly convicted death row inmate.  Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx are both excellent, Brie Larson isn’t given much to do. Just Mercy

Seberg – Focussing on a small period of Jean Seberg’s life when she is targeted by the FBI’s surveillance program COINTELPRO following her brief relationship with Hakim Abdullah Jamal (a cousin of Malcolm X and proponent of the Black Power movement).  The period detail looks amazing Kristen Stewart is superb but the film is a little lacking in direction and drive.Seberg

1917 – Set on the Western Front in northern France at the height of WW1, two young British soldiers are tasked with delivering a vital message.  Made up of long takes (up to nine minutes at a time) and near seamlessly edited together to look like a single take.   It’s not the first single take movie, and far from the longest take, but it is certainly the most ambitious given what is depicted.  Although fictional, it is inspired by a true story told to writer/director Sam Mendes by his grandfather.  An outstanding and breathtaking movie that is so much more than the (effective) gimmick of its shooting.  Dean-Charles Chapman and particularly George MacKay are both excellent. 1917

Long Day’s Journey into Night – A man returns to his hometown for his father’s funeral.  He reminisces about an old friend killed years before, and sets out to find a lost love.  The whole film has a dreamlike quality as it skips around in time and space until the final hour depicts an actual dream, shot as one unbroken long take shot.  A lot is left unexplained leaving the viewer to decipher the story from the flashbacks and the dream.  Stunning throughout, the film is at its best in the final hour.Long Day's Journey into Night

Bad Boys For Life – 25 years after the first film Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back for the long mooted third installment.  The film essentially has one joke; the family man wants to retire, and his partner has nothing to live for other than his job.  Sound familiar, Lethal Weapon did it better 30 years ago.  Having said that it is fun and the action is well choreographed.  Bad Boys For Life

Bombshell – The true story of the downfall of Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News for sexual harassment.  Centring on three women; Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie, the performances are ultimately stronger than the movie itself.  The production has been praised for the make-up by Kazu Hiro (who won an Oscar for Darkest Hour, and is nominated for this), I found it distracting.  On investigation Theron, and Kidman look incredibly like the characters they are portraying, but prior to watching the movie, I and many audiences outside America didn’t know who these people are.  The performances would have been enough on their own without the prosthetics.  I felt more engaged with Margot Robbie playing a composite of multiple people, and Kate McKinnon playing a fictional character. Bombshell

Parasite – I will not give the obligatory synopsis, or even genre for director Bong Joon Ho’s movie.  I went in knowing nothing.  I had seen snippets of the trailer, and nothing more.  I think the film is best enjoyed this way.  While there are no outstanding performances, the whole cast is sensational.  The direction is sublime, and the story subtly brilliant, with movements of humour, pathos, and overflowing with subtext. Parasite

Queen & Slim – A line from the movie (and trailer) “Well, if it isn’t the black Bonnie and Clyde”, seems to have attached itself to the marketing of the film.  The setup and subsequent road-trip actually has more in common with Thelma & Louise, than the criminal exploits of Bonnie and Clyde.  The story snowballs from an incident that has been explored in many other movies, this is possibly the subtlest and most powerful I have seen.  The brilliance of the film is that it gives a hint of the power of legend, media and public perception, but it never tells that story instead sticking with the main protagonists Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith.  A first feature for director Melina Matsoukas, I will be interested in seeing what she does next. Queen & Slim

1917, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Queen & Slim, would all have been worthy winners, but they all fall short of the amazing movie of the month winner: Parasite.Parasite Poster

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I normally post my Movie of the Month on the first of each month, this was pushed back as I decided to look at my top ten of the year, and spoiler, one of this month’s movies crept into my top ten.  Here are the nine films I saw at the cinema in December bringing my screening total for the year to 104:

Knives Out – Rian Johnson’s homage to whodunit movies in the vein of Agatha Christie works both on the surface as a frothy thriller but more importantly as an hilarious parody.  The all star cast is fantastic especially Daniel Craig as the detective Benoit Blanc. Knives out

Motherless Brooklyn – Writer, director and star Edward Norton has been working on this passion project for about two decades.  Based on contemporary novel from the 1990’s by Jonathan Lethem, Norton has transported the story back to the 1950’s.  The period setting gives it a strangely more relevant story both tonally and thematically certainly more so than a 90’s or contemporary setting would have given.  The setting also helps the film to look fantastic, and sound even better thanks to a jazz soundtrack. Motherless Brooklyn

Jumanji: The Next Level – More of the same from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.  As you would expect from a sequel, it lacks the originality, and therefore the surprise of the previous film, but is still tremendous fun largely thanks to the fantastic cast particularly Karen Gillan, and Dwayne Johnson.Jumanji The Next Level

A Beautiful Day In the Neighbourhood – I had never even heard of Fred Rogers until this film was made, but understand he was a big deal in America.  The brilliance of Marielle Heller’s movie is all the exposition is neatly handles by the character of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a journalist writing about Fred Rogers.  Tom Hanks is outstanding as Rogers.Tom Hanks (Finalized)

JoJo Rabbit – A satirical comedy about a ten year old member of Hitler Youth, whose imaginary friend is an incarnation of Hitler, sounds like a bad idea.  But when the Writer, Director, Hitler is Taika Waititi it all strangely works.  The film is light and very funny, that makes it even more hard hitting in the serious moments.  An absolute masterpiece. JoJo Rabbit

The Nightingale – I have been waiting five years Jennifer Kent’s follow up to The Babadook, it was worth the wait.  What has been tagged as a revenge thriller, but it is so much more than that, a damning indictment of colonialism it is brutal but never gratuitous.The-Nightingale

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The end of the Skywalker saga, again!  Not as good as The Last Jedi, but has some great moments and a fitting end to the trilogy. Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker - Copy

Judy & Punch – Punch &  Judy dates back around 500 years, and is certainly not what you would call politically correct, it therefore sounds like a strange thing for director Mirrah Foulkes feature début about domestic abuse.  It bizarrely works, and is a hugely satisfying feminist fable about empowerment.  Mia Wasikowska is amazing as ever!Judy & punch

Little Women – Many of the best films set in the past tell us about both how things are not just how things were, films like Motherless Brooklyn! But some films go beyond that, they also gives us a glimpse of how they could be, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s often told story is one such film.  Saiorse Ronan is getting a lot of praise for her performance, but Florence Pugh absolutely steels the movie.  An early career masterpiece from Gerwig makes me wonder what she will do next!Little Women

A fantastic month of movies; Knives Out, and A Beautiful Day In the Neighbourhood, Motherless Brooklyn  are good enough to have won in many other months.  JoJo Rabbit, Judy & punch, and Little Women are even better, but also miss out to the outstanding movie of the month, that also made my top ten of the year: The NightingaleThe Nightingale Poster

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