Movie Reviews

Happiest Season (2020)

happiest-season-2020-movie-poster-reviewDirector: Clea DuVall

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Runtime: 102 Minutes

Main Cast: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Mary Holland, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Jake McDorman

Plot: Abby (Kristen Stewart) has hated Christmas ever since she lost her parents as a teenager. Her girlfriend Harper (Mackenzie Davis) convinces her to stay with her overbearing family over the holiday and Abby agrees, planning to propose.

My Thoughts: A festive romcom with a stellar cast is like food for the soul to me. Happiest Season might just be my most-anticipated movie of the year, and still would have been even if we had blockbusters in 2020. I’ve always been a Kristen Stewart fan but she just keeps getting better and better. I might be a happily married straight woman but KStew, Aubrey Plaza and Alison Brie all in 1 movie has me hot under the collar. Throw in Dan Levy whilst I’m in the middle of a Schitt’s Creek obsession? This movie was always going to make me happy, let’s face it.

It has everything Christmas movie needs. The right songs to get you feeling festive, gorgeous winter scenes, a family so dysfunctional you start to think yours might just be normal after all, laughs aplenty and a moment or two to make you cry. There is just one glaringly obvious problem though, which I’ll probably ramble too much about. It’s not a new concept in a romcom that someone appears by chance and tempts someone away. In Happiest Season it’s Riley (Aubrey Plaza). You see, Harper hasn’t told her parents that she’s gay, and she’s terrified to. Rightfully so, with a family like hers. But it cost her relationship with Riley, and that gives Riley and Abby something huge in common. Plus, Harper is spending an awful lot of time pushing Abby away- giving her plenty of time to get to know Riley better.

Which led me to hoping that Abby would actually ditch Harper. And this is the movie’s biggest problem. We never get to see how Abby and Harper meet and fall in love, we’re just told that they did. In fact, all we see of them is Harper being a total bitch, so it’s really hard to root for her. I was satisfied with the ending though, I just wish I could have spent a bit of time in the past.

happiest-season-kristen-stewart-dan-levy

Best Bit: Dan Levy is the best friend that everyone needs. He is just incredible here, channeling a bit of David Rose when he forgets to look after all the pets Abby had left him in charge with. But he also delivers such a powerful monologue towards the end of the movie. I’m not the target audience for a speech like that but it brought me to tears.

Worst Bit: Any scene involving Harper’s male ex Connor (sorry Jake McDorman, I’m sure you’re lovely). From Harper’s parents inviting him to dinner to Harper herself ditching Abby to hang out with him, his presence on screen is just, ew.

Fun Trivia: Director Clea DuVall wrote the film as an autobiography. She has said that she wrote it so she could see her own experiences play out on screen.
(This is interesting – was she Abby or Harper?)

My Rating: 4 and a half glasses of spiced alcohol, my favourite thing to drink this time of year.

happiest-season-2020-spiced-alcohol

Movie Reviews

What I Watched: November 2020

It doesn’t feel real that today is the start of the last month of the year…how can a year be so awful and drag for so long but also be over in a flash? Regardless, December is always an exciting month for the blog as I start to think about my Best and Worst of 2020 lists, and what to look forward to in 2021.

November brought on a second lockdown in the UK, which ends tomorrow. Each area is placed under different ‘Tiers’ from then on though and as luck would have it – my town is stuck in the strictest tier, meaning no indoor activities of almost any kind. That sucks as a parent who was looking forward to having something other than freezing cold parks to entertain their toddler, and it also means no cinema, but then there’s no new releases anyway.

That’s put a huge dampener on my mood to put it very lightly, and so I didn’t watch as many movies as I’d have liked to, and I reviewed even less. December is a fresh start though, and it’s still fun to take a brief look back at what I’ve watched over the last 4 weeks.

horizon-line-movie-2020

Horizon Line (2020)

This one I actually got to see at the cinema the night before lockdown 2.0, and I’m so glad I did. It’s one of those disaster movies that works well on the big screen, with the surround sound and the darkness. I was genuinely frozen in place to find out if the couple would survive the ordeal, but it all ended quite abruptly, I wish it had a more satisfying ending.

love-the-coopers-2015-movie

Love the Coopers (2015)

What is bound to cheer me up during a depressing November? Christmas movies! Netflix delivered and suggested a whole bunch for me to choose from. I picked Love the Coopers for the cast but GOOD LORD was it a miserable movie. I’ve actually blocked most of it from my mind since then. Not a bad movie by a long shot, but not the magical flick full of laughs I was hoping for.

Over the Moon (2020) FULL REVIEW

spongebob-movie-sponge-on-run-2020

The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run (2020)

I was gutted to not see this in the cinema, I’ve been a Spongebob fan since the very beginning. I know a lot of people are complaining about the animation style but that didn’t bother me at all. Keanu Reeves has a fun role but the story itself was lacking.

On the Rocks (2020)FULL REVIEW

Shithouse (2020) FULL REVIEW

lego-star-wars-holiday-special-2020

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)

This was EPIC and I’m so sad it was only around 45 minutes long. The Lego games and movies always deliver on their humour and this was no exception. Rey finds herself travelling back in time through the original and prequel Star Wars movies and it pokes a lot of fun about the things fans both love and are annoyed by. Plus, Lego Ben Swolo and General Hux have the greatest scene ever that I’m furious never made it into the movies.

orange-years-nickelodeon-documentary-2020

The Orange Years: The Nickelodeon Story (2020)

I don’t tend to review documentaries because I don’t watch a lot of them, but after rekindling my love of Spongebob this was something I had to see. It was fascinating to learn about how Nickelodeon started and how it was run but crickey it was so dry, considering it’s subject matter. The most interesting parts got thrown into the end credits like an afterthought!

I also watched Standing Up, Falling Down (2019) and Happiest Season (2020) at the end of November but I adored them both and I want to dedicate more time to writing about them. Believe it or not, I’ve been watching some TV Shows too! I’ve finished The Queen’s Gambit which was surprisingly fascinating – you can trust the hype. I also watched The Undoing which was absolutely fantastic and had such a satisfying ending. Plus I’m up to date with The Mandalorian which is as glorious as always.

Blogathons

Girl Week 2020: Female Directors of 2020

For 6 years now, one of my favourite movie buffs Dell at Dell on Movies has hosted his Girl Week blogathon, celebrating females in the movie industry. Many bloggers have been posting this week and I’ve snuck in at the last minute with a post of my own. If you want to find out more check out Dell’s announcement post and give him a follow if you haven’t already.

gw20202

In 2019 and 2018 I posted about the female directors of that year so far, and it feels right to carry on with that theme. At this point in November in 2018 I had watched 47 new releases, and just 4 of them were directed by woman, which shocked me. In 2019, I’d seen 70 new releases, and only 8 were directed by women. That’s still really bad, isn’t it? I told myself after that I would make a concentrated effort to improve that figure by you know, 2020 happened and I have to admit I haven’t kept track. So with that in mind, allow me a minute (or 20) to look at my Letterboxd account and run the figures.

Number of 2020 releases watched so far: 77
Number of 2020 releases watched that are directed by women: 16

You know what? I’m reservedly happy with that number. Of course I wish it was higher but that’s double the number of last year when I’ve watched roughly the same number of movies overall. I think it’s mainly due to having virtually no blockbuster movies this year, freeing up my time for indie releases. I’ll list all 16 for you now, and I may as well do a top 5, right?

365 Days – Barbara Bialowas, Tomasz Mandes
Emma. – Autumn de Wilde
Mulan – Niki Caro
Misbehaviour – Philippa Lowthorpe
High Note – Nisha Ganatra
Desperados – LP
The Old Guard – Gina Prince-Bythewood
She Dies Tomorrow – Amy Seimetz
Unpregnant – Rachel Goldenberg
On the Rocks – Sofia Coppola
American Murder: The Family Next Door – Jenny Popplewell

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-kimmy-vs-the-reverend

#5 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend – Claire Scanlon

Chosing a 5th place was tricky because looking back at my film diary, I ranked a lot of these 7/10. The one I had the most fun with though was the interactive Kimmy Schmidt movie. The show cheered me up during the tough days of having a newborn baby, and now the movie is here cheering me up in a terrible year!

birds-of-prey-2020-margot-robbie-booby-trap

#4 Birds of Prey – Cathy Yan

It almost feels surreal that I was at a cinema this year to see Birds of Prey. I don’t generally rate the DC movies but this was so much fun, and Margot Robbie is the perfect Harley Quinn. It sucks that WB didn’t give it the marketing it deserves, and now it’s been hailed as a flop.

kajillionaire-2020-evan-rachel-wood-movie

#3 Kajillionaire – Miranda July

Kajillionaire just represents everything I love about indie movies. Great characters, great acting and a weird as heck story. I’m so glad I got to see it at the cinema before they closed again, and I’m hopeful that a streaming service picks it up soon so I can watch it again.

broken-hearts-gallery-romcom-2020

#2 The Broken Hearts Gallery – Natalie Krinsky

I’ve seen The Broken Hearts Gallery twice now and loved it just as much on a rewatch. There are hoards of average romcoms released every year but every now and again there’s a diamond in the rough and this is one of them.

happiest-season-white-elephant

#1 Happiest Season – Clea DuVall

I haven’t written a proper review of Happiest Season yet (that’s coming next week) but there’s just no way I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I’ve always been a Kristen Stewart fan, I would walk on all the LEGO barefoot for Aubrey Plaza and these last couple of months I’ve binge watched an unhealthy amount of Schitt’s Creek for Daniel Levy so it would have taken a disaster for me to not love this movie.

Movie Reviews

Shithouse (2020)

shithouse-movie-review-poster-2020Director: Cooper Raiff

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Runtime: 100 Mminutes

Main Cast: Cooper Raiff, Dylan Gelula, Amy Landecker, Logan Miller, Olivia Welch, Abby Quinn, Joy Sunday

Plot: Alex (Cooper Raiff) is having a tough time settling in at college. He misses his family terribly and his roommate is a jerk to say the least. One night he pushes himself to try harder and attends a party at Shithouse, which is where he meets Maggie (Dylan Gelula), a girl who understands him.

My Thoughts: I might be in my 30’s with a husband, child and mortgage but I’m still a big kid deep down so let me start by saying that the title alone was enough to make me want to watch Shithouse. It won the biggest award at SXSW this year, quite the feat during a year when the festival was cancelled! In its most basic form, Shithouse is a coming of age movie, but deep down it’s so much more than that. It’s a movie for the kids who never fit in, who cried on the phone their Mum and stood awkwardly in the corner at parties.

It’s rare for a movie to show that side of college in the first place, let alone from a male perspective. Boys cry too, you know? Alex even has a stuffed toy in his room that speaks to him through the power of subtitles. When he meets Maggie it seems she has it all figured out, but the more he gets to know her it’s clear to see she’s struggling too. Even his roommate Sam (Logan Miller) is having a hard time, it’s just difficult to tell when he’s forever getting drunk and boasting about his comedic skills.

This is Cooper Raiff’s directional debut but I’d never have guessed. I’ll definitely be looking out for what he makes next. As an actor he does a great job but you can tell he doesn’t have the experience with bigger projects when he’s on screen with Dylan Gelula or Logan Miller. All in all, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Shithouse as much as I did. It’s a low budget movie that doesn’t need to try and be bigger than it is, and I highly recommend it!

shithouse-2020-review-sxsw-festival-winner

Best Bit: There’s no stand out moment for me, per-say, but I just loved how real it all felt. That’s the joy with indie movies I guess, they don’t have to pander to a wide audience so it’s easier to find something that really resonates with me. There’s no magical click of the fingers to solve a problem for Alex, he has to work at it.

Worst Bit: Again, no specific moments jump to mind but the middle section REALLY drags. It’s important to the story but it slows the whole movie down to a snail pace and my mind started to drift.

Fun Trivia: The film was set to have its world premiere at South by Southwest in March 2020, but the festival was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The South by Southwest film competition nevertheless went ahead, and Shithouse won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 goldfish that, should you ever go on holiday, you shouldn’t leave in the care of Maggie.

shithouse-movie-dead-fish

Movie Reviews

On the Rocks (2020)

on-the-rocks-2020-movie-review-posterDirector: Sofia Coppola

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Runtime: 96 Minutes

Main Cast: Rashida Jones, Bill Murray, Marlon Wayans, Jessica Henwick, Jenny Slate, Liyanna Muscat

Plot: Laura (Rashida Jones) feels stuck in a rut and has deep concerns about her marriage. Finding a woman’s toiletry bag in Dean’s (Marlon Wayans) suitcase is the final straw. After confiding in her father (Bill Murray) she gets roped into following Dean to find out if he’s being unfaithful.

My Thoughts: Can I make a confession? I’ve only watched one other movie directed by Sofia Coppola which was Lost in Translation (2003) and I really hated it. I know it’s one of those movies everyone loves but ugh, I couldn’t get into it at all, it bored me senseless. I love to check Letterboxd to see what’s trending and what everyone is watching and On the Rocks has been in that top list for a while now, but once I saw the director I just couldn’t watch it. Then I read Movie Rob’s review and told him my thoughts. Turns out he wasn’t a fan of Lost in Translation either but he enjoyed this! That’s all I needed to give it a go myself.

And I’m so glad, because I really enjoyed it. It was still quite slow paced and didn’t grip me from start to finish, but there was a lot to enjoy and it played on my mind a lot afterwards too, one of those movies you find yourself liking more after you finished watching it, if that makes sense? Rashida Jones is such a likeable lead, I’ve been a big fan of her since Parks & Recreation. It’s Bill Murray who steals the show however, playing an eccentric, wealthy father. The role feels like it was written for him, there’s noone else who could play it the same way.

I wasn’t expecting the adventure element that the movie had, I guess I thought a movie like this would mostly take place in one location. It certainly helped to keep things going and those scenes with Rashida Jones and Bill Murray together in his car are by far the best ones. I’m not sure I’ll be giving Lost in Translation a second chance any time soon, but I at least won’t shy away from any more of Sofia Coppola’s movies.

on-the-rocks-bill-murray-rashida-jones

Best Bit: *SPOILERS* Maybe I’m feeling cynical this year, but I really didn’t expect the outcome. I was so pleasantly surprised, because I think most movies like this would have ended with the suspicions being correct but the person left hurt being okay in the end and finding peace with it but this ending was just so wholesome.

Worst Bit: Other than it being a bit slow the only bit that really lost me was when Laura was happy to leave her kids behind for a few days while she went to Mexico. That was just a little bit too silly for me, although I understand why it needed to happen for the story.

Fun Trivia: A picture of Bill Murray and Barack Obama playing mini-golf in the film appears which happened in real life when Bill Murray was presented with The Mark Twain Prize.

My Rating: 3 and a half beautifully wrapped birthday presents containing a really handy gadget for the kitchen, but also disappointment.

on-the-rocks-movie-kitchen-present