Films in December

A rush to the end of the year and I’ve watched a ridiculous 43 films this month.

New Releases
Marriage Story (Netflix) – I put the film on because it appeared at the top of my Netflix page, I knew it had got some award nominations, and I couldn’t be bothered to decide what to watch. I was not expecting to be so completely gripped, moved and genuinely stunned by it. I can’t remember the last time I watched a film that felt so real, like I really was looking in on peoples’ lives. Yes, I can’t say I relate that much to an LA actress, or a New York avant garde theatre director, and I’ve not been married let alone divorced, but I really felt I was watching real emotions and behaviour. The ups and downs of the relationship are so fluid, the emotions so wide ranging and raw that I physically felt the anxiety, anger and stress that the characters were going through. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are phenomenal, in small moments, long speeches and high energy fights it never feels like they’re delivering a script but are really living it. The only thing stopping this being a 10 are that some of the supporting characters feel a little too extreme, their comic relief is much appreciated, but does slightly clash with the two main characters.

Little Women (Cinema) – This is probably my favourite book of all time, I’ve read it more times than I can count and know the characters, storyline, dialogue and even the descriptions incredibly well. It feels like there’s an adaption of it for pretty much every generation of actors and I can’t actually remember any of them disappointing. Greta Gerwig is a wonderful talent and I was excited to hear she was adapting and directing a version, with a cast headlined by the equally talented Saoirse Ronan (Jo), Emma Watson (Meg), Florence Pugh (Amy). I was not disappointed.
The book is beautifully, faithfully and lovingly retold. The only innovation is to shake the story up and tell it in overlapping timelines and flashbacks. I could certainly respect the idea, but it didn’t quite work for me as I felt it spoiled some of the storylines, big moments of character development were lost because we already knew how things would turn out. My companion didn’t like it either, he wasn’t familiar with the story and lost track of characters and ‘when’ we were. However, other than that, the production is lovely – bringing out the threads of feminism without overwhelming, beautiful chemistry from the cast, and a glorious period setting. It is also just as emotional as it should be and is at least a “two tissue” picture.

The Two Popes (Netflix) – Two acting legends portraying two incredible people. Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce portray Popes Benedict and Francis respectively and the film spends most of the time with the two in conversation as Pope Benedict is deciding to resign. These scenes with just the two of them are absolutely gripping, the two personalities are completely at odds, but the two also have respect for each other, for the offices they hold and just as decent human beings. The discussions on theology, religion, politics are fascinating, as are the more personal conversations about football, music and growing older. I didn’t think the flashback scenes worked as well, not having the same spark and leaving me a little bored, but the film is absolutely worth watching just to watch two actors portray two fascinating people.

Knives Out (Cinema) – I LOVE a good who-done-it, and this is a great one. It could easily have been written by Agatha Christie, but also lives easily in the present day with appropriate technology and social issues. The collection of characters are entertaining, extreme but not caricatures and funny but not ridiculous all expertly delivered by a great ensemble cast. The structure of the plot was very well done, the mystery itself really kept me guessing with different options, and the twists and turns kept things interesting and plenty of laughs along the way. The only thing I was a little disappointed by was the cinematography which I found a little dark, I’d rather everything was brighter so I could luxuriate in the locations and sets a bit more, this felt a bit washed out for the big screen. But that’s a minor quibble in a film that’s wonderful entertainment.

Joker (Cinema) – I didn’t want to see this film. Not because I didn’t think it would be good, but because I thought it probably WOULD be good, and when the subject is as hard as this one, being good just means it’s a very hard and challenging watch and I didn’t really want that. However it’s getting to awards season and I was feeling bad I wouldn’t be able to comment on it in that context, so when I stumbled on a convenient cinema showing I decided to got for it. I’m glad I saw it in the cinema as it forced me to keep paying attention, when at home I would probably have taken the easy option and started looking away to my phone.
The film was all the things I hoped (and feared) it would be. An incredibly well written, directed and acted character study. We all know where the character is going to end up and so it’s a film utterly without hope and an incredible sense of doom that makes it a really depressing watch. There’s no way out of that, it’s tense, bleak, violent and sad. Joaquin Phoenix however gives a completely compelling performance, so even when I didn’t want to be watching what was happening, the way he performed it was always interesting, surprising and fitting. It’s a film that from start to finish, I didn’t want to look at, but couldn’t take my eyes off.

6 Underground (Netflix) – This is apparently the 2nd most expensive film made by Netflix (after The Irishman) and every penny is very clear to see on the screen, in fact it’s a shame it’s not on the big screen to see that money even more clearly. This is Michael Bay (mostly) doing what he does best – massive set piece action sequences. They are absolutely spectacular – epic car chases, small scale individual fights, gadgets and gizmos, gun battles and stunts. I was so utterly glued to the screen I forgot to drink my tea. Unfortunately there is considerable attempt to add plot in between the sequences and that’s less good. Ryan Reynolds rescues a lot of it through his usual wit and charm, but the character development and overall plot is an incoherent mess; I really don’t know why they bothered with it. Still, at least you can drink your tea during those bits.

The Irishman (Netflix) – There is no escaping the fact that this ‘film’ is three and a half hour long. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work. If Scorsese wanted to effectively tell this sort of long life story, he should have committed to a 8 part mini-series or something. If he can’t generate that amount of content then he should have shown more control and edited it down so it was at least under 3 hours. The problem is I don’t think Scorsese wanted to do either of those, and no one told him no. The result is a film that is baggy and boring, but also very narrow focus. There are plenty of ‘episodes’ that should have been edited out of a film, and plenty of characters that could have been expanded to a mini-series (not least every single woman). The acting is impressive, and I wasn’t overly bothered by the de-aging effects, but I was really bored and it felt more like an endurance challenge than an enjoyable experience.

Older Films
If Beale Street Could Talk (Amazon) – I didn’t see this film during award season, mostly because by the time it came out I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the award films and couldn’t quite face what I thought sounded like a hard hitting film about race and injustice. I was wrong. It’s actually a love story. Yes, the characters are dealing with a horrible injustice and discrimination and prejudice are a part of every second of their lives, but the driving force in the film is of love and that makes it beautiful. The direction and acting is for the most part very light, while characters are carrying huge weights, the film does not feel oppressive. The love, and the hope shine through the other bleak content, not washing away the problems or undermining them, but making them bearable for characters and audiences. A really beautiful film.

Seven Psychopaths (Netflix) – A smart film that’s playing games effectively with structures and layers. It occasionally feels a little smug, but even that has a self aware tone that I really liked. There’s a good cast, all playing to their strengths and it forms a nice double bill with In Bruges by the same writer/director Martin McDonagh

Catfish (Amazon) – This documentary was released in 2010 and I think filmed a couple of years before that, and I’d expected it to be badly dated by the time I finally watched it in 2019. Surprisingly, the central issues and story isn’t, although the filming quality shows its age. I didn’t actually know the details of the story beyond knowing that the term catfish has become the recognised term for using fake identities online to entrap someone, and the way the story played out kept me gripped. I didn’t entirely believe the documentary makers, the choices they made were clearly for the cameras rather than what real people would do. However the way the actual truth of the story was fascinating and really touching.

Support the Girls (Netflix) – The more I think about this film, the more I like it. While watching it, it’s a little meandering and unclear what it’s trying to do – whether it’s a comedy or a drama, realistic or outlandish. It’s really all of those and none of them. It just follows a couple of days in the life of a manageress of a “sports bar with curves” as she tries to keep it in the narrow grey area between a family diner and a more adult bar. She’s looking after her staff and doing her best and it’s just not really working for her. Some of the characters are a bit on the extreme side to be truly believable, but it’s mostly quietly charming and has really stayed with me.

The Whole Nine Yards (Amazon) – Matthew Perry and Bruce Willis are a surprisingly brilliant double act. Bruce Willis is playing an over the top menacing hitman, and Matthew Perry is bouncing around as the every-man dentist caught up in a suitably wacky collection of mobsters. The plot is just the right level of bonkers, with a nicely thought out subplot of Perry’s wife being horrific. Perry is on top form, throwing himself into physical slapstick and delivering dry wit with perfect timing. It’s a bit cheesy and over the top, and a very dubious bit of nudity in the middle, but on balance, I enjoyed te film.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Netflix) – What a brilliant film! First up, the concept of teenagers getting transported into a video game is a solid one – plenty of opportunities for great action sequences, a built in excuse that the plot of the ‘game’ doesn’t need to make sense, and lots of teenage character building to thread through the whole thing. But there are then two important factors that raise the whole thing to another level. First is the script which is witty, charming, respectful and self-aware. The writers clearly know video games and throw in loads of nods to the genres, write teenagers that feel like present day teenagers and deliver character growth that’s honest and relevant. The second thing is the cast who take that script and deliver it pitch perfect. The adult stars all take the piss out of themselves and really feel like teenagers in other people’s bodies The film is absolutely charming, hilarious and a real joy.

Fighting with my Family (Netflix) – I couldn’t quite settle into this film. It’s a film that I think most people will find really charming – a true story that’s just made for film, colourful characters with good hearts, a mixture of laughs and heart ache, and underdogs to root for. Florence Pugh is her usual talented self adapting yet again to a completely different style and character. But I felt on edge the whole time. There were just a few too many challenges and potential disasters for me to really relax into the film to make it a true feel good film. That doesn’t make it a bad film, it just makes it a bit hard to categorise and left me feeling unsettled rather than satisfied.

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World (DVD) – Why do children’s films have to be so upsetting? I LOVE this series of films, the characters are so vibrant, the voice acting charming, the animation fluid and the scripts a lot of fun. I was immediately on edge when this was announced as the last of the films and everything indicated that it would be an ending. I didn’t want an ending. Even if they don’t make any more films I wanted to be able to imagine the characters living happily ever after and I didn’t want to see them saying goodbye. I finally plucked up the courage to see it and it did exactly what I expected. All the good was still there by the bucket load, but it also had a final section that left me a complete and utter blubbering wreck. Much like Toy Story 4, it wasn’t that the ending was ‘wrong’ it made perfect sense given the situation that had been written, I just didn’t see why that had to be the direction the series went. It left me incredibly sad, whereas the previous films had given me nothing but joy.

The Great Hack (Netflix) – I’d put off watching this documentary because I didn’t want to get any more depressed, or any more angry than I already was at the sorry state of the world this year. Finally watching it now, I found it a little hard to get worked up about it all, but I think that’s down to me becoming numb to it all rather than the content having any less impact. The film focuses on Cambridge Analytica and the growing awareness of how seriously they had influenced several elections. The story is told mostly through following the investigative journalists and human rights experts unpicking the events which is an excellent way into the story, particularly given that there are still major elements that aren’t known. It’s very compelling, and the real characters are big enough to carry a film easily.
I am always conscious in these documentaries that only one side is being told, and I felt that the film skirted over a key issue – what laws were broken, what lines were crossed? While it is clear that Cambridge Analytica definitely broke the UK data protection law when they refused to disclose someone’s personal data on request, and they seem to have lied to various investigatory bodies about deleting data… I don’t think that any of the influencing they did was actually illegal. Every marketer and politician create specific messages for key consumers/voters – it’s just that Cambridge Analytica did it better than anyone else and they were hired by specific parties. If the other side had hired them, would things have gone the other way and would this film have existed? Marketing, adverts and politics have always stretched the truth, taken things out of context and only presented one side of complicated issues; it’s the responsibility of the audience to challenge that, particularly when it comes to elections. And if the people WANT to believe what they hear, then that’s still the will of the people. It’s depressing as anything and I wish that wasn’t true, but I don’t see how you can legislate against it. Yes, we should all as individuals have better visibility and control over our data; but it doesn’t seem like that would have changed the outcome of any of this. Those that are targeted by this kind of thing will not read the privacy statements and will not question why they are being shown the ‘news’ that is appearing in their feeds. They are being shown things that they want to believe and that’s not something you can (or should?) control. Anyway, that’s more of the debate that I would have liked to see in the film.

Fisherman’s Friends (Amazon) – A film for a quiet Sunday afternoon, or when you’re feeling a bit poorly. It’s just a nice, feel good film. The plot has all the components and turns that you’d expect – romance, sadness, underdogs, characters seeing the errors of their ways… it’s perfectly predictable, but they all work. The characters and actors aren’t A-list but they’re all familiar and charming, although I wasn’t convinced by Somerset born James Purefoy laying the Cornish accent on with a trowel. It’s a nice film, with a lovely soundtrack and some beautiful shots of Cornwall.

Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix) – A role that was absolutely written for Eddie Murphy, playing to all his well known strengths playing larger than life comedic characters, but also his less commented upon dramatic skill at playing a REAL person. On paper the film is quite a straightforward comedy which isn’t particularly to my taste, but it’s purely Murphy’s talent that adds a depth to it that made me pay attention.

Bullets Over Broadway (Amazon) – I find Woody Allen films very hit and miss, but generally the older the film the better. Bullets Over Broadway definitely follows this rule. It’s fast paced and fun to watch. The story and characters are on the ridiculous end of the spectrum, but they’re all a consistent level of daft so it really works. The cast is full of great character actors throwing themselves into it and delivering Allen’s words at the pace they deserve. It wasn’t exactly laugh a minute, but I had a fairly consistent smile even if I wasn’t laughing out loud.

Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans (Amazon) – Despite many many recommendations, I’ve never seen Horrible Histories, but the film does a pretty good job of selling me on the series. The history seems pretty accurate and cleverly delivered to be both educational and entertaining. It’s got loads of details in it that reward careful watching, and it’s also really very funny. Only two things give me pause. The first is that I’m not sure I would have chosen the story of Boudicca – to maintain the family rating the horrific elements of the story are completely removed, so the Romans are slightly comedic rather than rapists. The second (on a slightly lighter note) is that I didn’t like the songs, I could see they were clever, but they felt squeezed in and they really emphasized the low budget.

Spinning Man (Netflix) – This film is playing with some very interesting ideas that don’t *quite* land. The central character (the always charming Guy Pearce) is a suspect in a missing person case and the audience follows him along as the police, his family, and even he himself wonder whether he did it. He is shown very early on having problems with his memory, and as a professor of Philosophy he talks about the concept of truth – that no one can tell the truth, only their own understanding of what is true. The ideas are all there, and the twists and turns of the plot are well paced, but it doesn’t quite all come together. The flashback memory sequences are a bit confusing and there are a number of stupid choices made by people that make it hard to fully lose yourself in the film. But it’s a solid attempt with some good turns by Pearce, Minnie Driver and Pierce Brosnan.

The Hole in the Ground (Netflix) – A well put together small scale horror film. I would imagine it didn’t cost a huge amount of money to make, but it’s effectively put together and uses creative camera work to really show off the locations. The plot itself is absolutely standard horror stuff that really doesn’t even attempt to do anything new with the ideas, but the concepts are classics for a reason and it’s creepy and chilling. I found myself disengaging a bit when the more action stuff kicked in, but as a whole it’s competently done.

The Disaster Artist (Amazon) – The Disaster Artist is about an absolutely bonkers character named Tommy Wiseau who wants to be an actor but is un-hireable because he’s terrible, so he decides to make his own film, which is also terrible. The story is utterly bizarre and completely unbelievable except for the fact that it’s apparently true. It’s one of those films that is painful to watch, but also completely hypnotic. James Franko plays Wiseau completely straight making him scary and compelling, Dave Franko meanwhile plays the slightly dreary ‘normal’ actor who is caught in Wiseau’s orbit. The whole thing is just really odd. The slightly tricky thing is that it’s true except for the fact that no one knows anything about Wiseau – where he came from, how he had enough money to fully fund the movie, or how old he was. Rather than guess at that, the film just keeps all of that as a mystery which is a bit frustrating, but is a far better choice than making something up. A very weird film.

Robin Hood (2018) (Netflix) – The legend of Robin Hood gets a film every few years and very few of them make it to the status of classic. The only 2 I can really remember are the Disney one (which is BRILLIANT) and Kevin Costner’s Prince of Thieves (which is not). I don’t think Taron Egerton’s version is going to be entering onto the list of classics. I’d heard pretty terrible things about it, but to be honest, I didn’t think it was that bad. Yeah, there were some meandering accents and historical accuracy has gone out the window, but how is that different to any of the others. At least there was a bit of a different take on the characters and storyline that meant I wasn’t bored and I find Egerton a likeable actor pretty much in anything he does. As a popcorn movie, I actually thought it was solidly entertaining, but I doubt I’d bother watching it again.

He’s Just Not That Into You (Netflix) – Rom-coms do not date well. The world is thankfully moving pretty fast when it comes to anything related to gender and relationships and what was acceptable and funny ten years ago can easily become creepy or unequal. I think if you see a rom-com at the time and then go back to it, you can still view it fondly, but I’ve somehow not seen He’s Just Not That Into You in the 10 years since it was released and there were a few moments that I found a bit frustrating. There’s nothing that had me cringing or shouting, so it’s relatively minor stuff, but it was enough that I couldn’t quite get comfortable watching it. Which is a shame because the cast is great, and I love the way all the storylines and characters twine together and there are a lot of really lovely bits. I just wish I could have let myself enjoy it more.

All the Money in the World (Netflix) – The problem with this film is that it’s based on a true story which is almost impossible to believe. I spent the whole thing in disbelief and reaching for my laptop to look things up. It is a fascinating story, and fascinating characters rich people behaving awfully but intersecting with ‘normal’ people; both groups look the same, but their ways of life are so completely different they can barely recognise each other. I had a problem engaging with the film as it just seemed unreal, even the most relatable character of the mother had an accent that I couldn’t get on with, although Michelle Williams was otherwise excellent.

Missing Link (DVD) – This was unfortunately a miss for Laika studios, who had yet to put a foot wrong and really impressed with works like Kubo and the Two Strings and Coraline. However this film just didn’t really come together for me. The plot and characters were too simplistic, the visual style unremarkable, the script flat and the voice acting just a bit unremarkable. None of it was particularly bad, and it passes the time amiably enough, but it didn’t absorb me in a way that their previous works really did. I was disappointed.

Wild Rose (Amazon) – A fairly standard film trope of the struggles of a talented underdog, trying to reach her dream, but the concept is maturely delivered here. The underdog isn’t really helping herself, she’s arrogant, obnoxious, selfish and makes mistakes over and over again. Jessie Buckley, and Julie Walters as her mother, create incredibly true and vibrant characters. However I think the rest of the film lets them down a bit. Other characters are a bit simplistic (the wonderful Sophie Okonedo is reduced to little more than a fairy godmother) and the final section has a very misjudged section that allowed everyone to have their cakes and eat them which completely undermined the previous drama. The excellent performances from Buckley and Walters can’t rescue the film from being too gritty at the start for a feel good film, and too cheesy at the end for a real drama. It’s still a good film, but it could have been something really special.

Lovelace (Amazon) – The ‘true’ story behind porn star Linda Lovelace and Deep Throat is fascinating but also impossible to really know. The construction of the film is interesting, showing two different interpretations of events. The first is that events unfolded around Linda and while she was fully consenting to becoming a porn star, albeit in a passive and naive way. Everything is then shown a second time (based on her autobiography) where her husband is completely controlling and abusive, forcing her into prostitution and pornography. I think the duality of the story could have been delivered better. It would have been more interesting I think to have the first half of the film shown as if Chuck Traynor was the lead character, rather than seeming like it’s telling Linda’s story and then blindsiding the audience with a different version that’s still told from Linda’s point of view. The performances are well done though, particularly Amanda Seyfried who gives believable depth to each version of Linda.

Elf (TV) – I know this ranks very highly with some people and has become a staple of some people’s Christmas playlists, but it didn’t do anything for me. Nice idea, but it just made me want to go and watch things like Big or Toys again. It wasn’t terrible, I just don’t get on with Will Ferrell

Django (Amazon) – A classic spaghetti western and although I generally don’t get on with westerns and expected to find the dubbing annoying, I actually got along ok with the film. I wouldn’t say I was blown away, but it felt like it actually got on with things, still having some of the classic beautifully framed shots, but not dragging things out like I’ve found other westerns to. I think there’s also something about the ridiculous dubbing that kind of works with the ridiculous story and characters, like it’s all almost played for laughs. Or maybe I just had incredibly low expectations.

The World’s End (Netflix) – The thematic sequel to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and unfortunately it just doesn’t live up to their pedigree. It’s a promising enough idea and the assembled cast is charming as ever, although I never quite bought into Simon Pegg as the bad boy. But after the initial entertainment from the introductions, once it actually got into the grit of the film, I found myself rather bored. The fight sequences in particularly lacked the creativity and fun of Shaun of the Dead and I just zones out. It just didn’t have the spark that the other films had.

Mid90s (Netflix) – Noodling film about skateboarding kids in the eponymous period. Maybe for people who have a connection to that time and place, it would have meant more, but I didn’t recognise anything in it and was utterly bored. It’s another film that shows the uncomfortable awkwardness of teenage years, and another one that I just didn’t enjoy because I just don’t find it fun to watch that pain, frustration and stupidity. The acting from the young cast is impressive, and there are some well observed moments, but the film as a whole did absolutely nothing for me.

Justice League (Netflix) – For all that I usually love a superhero film, I just generally do not get on with the DC films. The superheroes are too overpowered – they all have a ridiculous collection of skills that makes it hard to feel any jeopardy. The alter-egos are more interesting, but the film-makers have to be very good to find a way to blend the action heroics with the character angst. The film-makers responsible for the DC Extended Universe films are not up to the task. Justice League is the crowning glory, bringing together Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman and introducing Aquaman (who then gets his own film), Flash (not the one from TV) and Cyborg (who’s name I had to look up). There are just too many things thrown into this film, each character has a complicated set of skills that make no sense and just feel like they’re made up each time a new problem needs to be solved. Wonder Woman is watchable, Flash is some very welcome comic relief and Aquaman has some potential, but the rest of them are just a bit dull. The superhero genre has huge potential for films, got right they can blend fun and action, with complex character development and heart. DC just never seems to get it right.

It’s Christmas, so there was a whole load of re-watching of classics and family films:
Wreck-It Ralph (TV) – I don’t like the title. That really is the only criticism I have of the film, everything else about it was just so bright, original, entertaining and expertly crafted that the title really is the only thing that stands out as not being completely perfect. The care and attention that went into the design of the world, the characters and the storyline created something that seems to effortless that you come out wondering why other films aren’t that good. In many ways my gushing about this film almost doesn’t seem right, because it’s not really a groundbreaking film. It doesn’t try to do anything epic like some of Pixar’s films do, but that doesn’t feel like a lack of ambition, instead it feels like all of that creativity and skill has instead gone into producing a near perfect animation.

Paddington 2 (Amazon) – Lovely. Just lovely. Laughs, tears. Everything. Pure loveliness.

Inside Out (DVD) – What an incredible film. The writers of this film have clearly done vast amounts of research on not only neuroscience, but psychology and then they’ve taken that and turned it into something truly beautiful. The simplicity of the presentation and the progression towards the overall messages of understanding the contributions of different emotions are incredibly powerful. I’m tearing up just thinking about it, and I was pretty close to a blubbery mess in the film itself. It’s a film that keeps coming back to me; when I talk to people about it they keep pointing out additional levels and interpretations. It really is an incredible achievement.

Finding Dory (TV) – How has it taken 13 years to get a sequel to Finding Nemo? Still, it was certainly worth waiting for because it was absolutely everything that Finding Nemo was. It’s laugh-out-loud funny pretty consistently and it’s emotionally manipulative as anything and had me sniffling basically from start to finish. Yeah, you have to completely suspend disbelief and it gets a bit daft at times, but it’s just so much fun. The new characters and voice actors are absolutely brilliant and I didn’t even find myself missing the characters from the tank in the previous film. Heart breaking and hilarious. Everything I want from a Pixar film.

Zootopia (DVD) – The lines between Disney and Pixar are really blurring under John Lasseter’s leadership of Disney and that’s turning into a really really great thing for Disney. Zootropolis does all the things we’ve always expected from Pixar – smart, bright, original and with a huge heart. It’s playing with classic ideas of the cop genre, taking a keen new recruit and throwing them into the reality of the city and partnering with a more worldly wise companion (in this case a conman). I laughed pretty consistently through the film thanks to the verbal and visual gags, particularly the elegantly included grown up references that in no way would detract from a child’s entertainment. There were a couple of slower segments in the middle where plot was explained and the kids in the audience got a bit fidgety. Also the moral message was really hammered home until it became a little frustrating, but given how important a message it is, I shouldn’t really complain. Another great entry into Disney’s catalogue.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (DVD) – Without a doubt, the best Christmas movie of all time and a staple for my Christmas schedule for decades. The music is absolutely amazing, the mixture of Dickens and Muppet is perfect and it is great fun to watch for all the family. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen at Christmas in 2018, with a packed audience and it made me so happy I cried.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu (DVD) – I’ve got no idea about Pokemon, but when I saw this in the cinema it was with two obsessed with pokemon go players. I think it’s really quite impressive that all of us enjoyed the film thoroughly, it quite slickly delivers both the basics for newbies and the richness for fans. I wouldn’t say I understood everything completely, but it was a kind of happy lack of understanding as it all just bubbled over me. The universe of the film feels utterly credible even if it is bonkers, it all seems to have just about enough internal consistency to let you go with it. The plot is well paced and even if elements are predictable, and twists are telegraphed it manages to put enough spin on old tropes to get the job done. But if all that sounds a bit underwhelming, the most important thing is that it’s really fun. I laughed loads and was charmed even more; Justice Smith and Ryan Reynolds both have such a natural delivery that it’s impossible not to be charmed into going with whatever they say. It’s also visually stunning, there’s so much going on (I love the use of famous buildings from around the world all blended in the new city).

The Money Pit (DVD) – I’ve seen this film more times than I care to count and it always has me in absolute hysterics. The start and end can drag a little and now look extremely 80s but the centre section as the house disintegrates are absolutely hilarious. Tom Hanks and Shelley Long make a believable couple and do brilliant jobs of acting without words. I laugh so hard it hurts every single time I watch it.

Mixed Nuts (Amazon) – I find I have to be in exactly the right kind of mood to watch a farce, you have to be willing to sort of throw yourself into it like the characters, letting go of reason and dignity to just enjoy the unraveling disaster. If you approach Mixed Nuts like that I think there’s stuff to enjoy in there – the characters are all insane, but the cast throws themselves into it and hits all the notes that you expect. The bits that are played more seriously fall completely flat, but thankfully are fairly thin on the ground. It’s certainly not a classic Christmas movie, but it’s not without some charm at the right time of the year.

Happy Feet (Amazon) – A cute little film that just seems to try too hard to tick all the requirements for a great cartoon, but manages to mesh into a bit of a disjointed mess. The singing, dancing, Robin Williams, cute penguins and witty sidekicks should all add up to a fun film, but somehow it just doesn’t work. The animation felt a bit clunky, the songs felt unexciting, the accents were annoying and the plot drifted about all over the place and eventually settled on a preachy environmental issue.

One thought on “Films in December

  1. Pingback: Films I Saw in 2019 – Narrative Devices

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