Movie Reviews

Wolfwalkers (2020)

wolfwalkers-movie-review-poster-2020Director: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart

Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family

Runtime: 103 Minutes

Main Cast: Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Maria Doyle Kennedy

Plot: Trying to settle in their new home in Ireland, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) is desperate to join her father outside the city walls in hunting down the wolves who live in the woods. After sneaking out she meets Mebh, a young Wolfwalker looking for her mother.

My Thoughts: I love Disney. I grew up with Disney movies and I have them to thank for my love of animation. They continue to make fantastic movies – but I miss the older styles of animation that we don’t see in the mainstream studios anymore. Wolfwalkers is absolutely stunning, every single frame looks like a piece of art to be hung on the wall. It somehow looks so simple, but full of intricate details at the same time. You really have to see it to believe it.

This is the kind of movie I want to introduce my daughter to when her attention span is longer than an episode of Blippi! It’s about love, family, friendship, accepting others for who they are, and being open to a world of possibilities. Robyn is headstrong and determined, and will stop at nothing to help her family and friends. Mebh is wild and carefree, and yet guarded at the same time. They’re both really well developed characters and more importantly, great role models for children to look up to. Wolfwalkers is definitely more of a children’s movie but it’s a perfect one.

I don’t know what kind of chance it stands for the major award ceremonies. It’s certainly picked up a lot of attention from smaller critics groups, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t even know the movie existed. The Academy doesn’t seem to give smaller studios a second thought, I don’t think an indie animation has won in the last 10 years. BAFTA are much more open minded, I cried a little when Klaus (2019) won last year so PLEASE BAFTA – do the right thing!

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Best Bit: I love the transformation from person to wolf. It must be so difficult to portray the magic in a 2D animation style but it works so well. I had no idea Wolfwalkers was the third installment of an ‘Irish Folklore Trilogy’ by Tomm Moore so you can be sure I’ll be checking out the other 2 movies!

Worst Bit: *MINOR CHARACTER SPOILERS* So, I knew Robyn’s father was voiced by Sean Bean but I thought nothing of it until a particularly perilous moment. If you’ve watched enough of Sean Bean you’ll know his characters don’t tend to fare well. I had this sudden OH NO moment- but it all worked out okay for him in the end.

Fun Trivia: In early versions of the story, Robyn was a male character. During an online panel at TIFF both directors confirmed that Robyn was originally written to be a boy, but that something in the story ‘just wasn’t working.’

My Rating: A full five pitchforks that you should set aside and leave the wolves in peace!

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Movie Reviews

Minari (2020)

minari-movie-2020-review-posterDirector: Lee Isaac Chung

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 115 Minutes

Main Cast: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Scott Haze, Darryl Cox

Plot: Jacob (Steven Yeun) is moving his family from the West Coast to Arkansas in search of a new way of living. His wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) doesn’t approve of the ‘house on wheels’ that he’s bought. Their son David (Alan Kim) and his sister aren’t upset by the move but are bored senseless. That is, until, their Grandma moves in with them.

My Thoughts: It doesn’t matter how many times I get proven wrong, I still judge books by their covers. Or, I guess, movies by their posters. I tried to watch Boyhood (2014) and couldn’t do it, I was bored just as much as the kids in Minari. It’s tainted that little sub-genre of dramas about families with no defined plot, and I wrongly assumed Minari was cut from the same cloth. Now that it’s getting so much award buzz it landed back on my radar and I finally gave it the chance. It’s a beautiful movie that I wished would never end.

The stand out star by far is Youn Yuh-jung, who plays the kids’ grandma. Oh, she reminded me so much of my own Granny at times, I miss her so much. She wasn’t a ‘proper’ grandma either, she didn’t bake cookies – she made what was probably the world’s worst cheese on toast that I still loved. She had what she called her ‘naughty voice’ which is when your mind just really wants to do something childish like, oh I don’t know, push your granddaughter into a bush whilst taking a walk! David hates the fact he has to spend so much time with his grandma but she never stops trying to win him over, even when he plays a cruel prank on her!

Coupled with that strained relationship is Jacob desperately trying to turn the land around their home into a successful farm. He pours in every last penny he has and puts everything on the line – including his relationship with his wife and I wanted so hard for him to succeed. The entire movie is just so wholesome, and tender. There’s no other way to describe it.

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Best Bit: Pretty much every moment between David and his grandma was pure perfection but when David made friends with another boy and his grandma told him that his penis was broken? Absolutely classic! One of those jokes that means absolutely nothing unless you’ve seen the movie, of course.

Worst Bit: I can’t say exactly because of spoilers but if I say ‘Noooo Grandma, what did you do?!’ you’ll hopefully understand what part I mean. My heart sank into my feet at that moment and it was already down to my knees by then. Do me a favour, if you can, and tell your grandmother’s you love her – for me.

Fun Trivia: Steven Yeun’s red hat was a gift from his mother when he was 17.

My Rating: 4 and a half bottles of ‘water from the mountains’.

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Movie Awards

Online Association of Female Film Critics 2020 Awards Winners

A little over a year ago I was accepted as a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics – what an honour! I feel so lucky to be part of  something so important. Last month was particularly special as I got to put forward my nominations for their annual awards, and then cast my vote a few days later. I’ve always enjoyed awards season but being a part of it is just something else. If you missed the winners being announced on Twitter earlier today, here they are, with some of my thoughts.

BEST FILM
First Cow
Minari
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
Promising Young Woman

WINNER: Promising Young Woman
I’m thrilled with this win, there’s nothing more to say!

BEST DIRECTOR
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Regina King, One Night in Miami
Kelly Reichardt, First Cow
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

WINNER: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland
I thought Nomadland was fine, but I didn’t love it. However, it’s looking like Zhao is going to sweep this season and I’ll always be happy with a female win!

BEST MALE LEAD
Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Delroy Lindo, Da 5 Bloods
Mads Mikkelsen, Another Round
Steven Yeun, Minari

WINNER: Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
This was a HUGE surprise, but one I couldn’t be mad with! I was torn between him and Chadwick but when Chadwick is almost guaranteed the Oscar it’s nice to see some love for Riz.

BEST FEMALE LEAD
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland
Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

WINNER: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman
Just assume that any time PYW wins a category, my reaction is “yaaaaaaas!”

BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
Bill Murray, On the Rocks
Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal

WINNER: Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
This movie has no UK release date that I’m aware of, which is a shame.

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Ellen Burstyn, Pieces of a Woman
Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Yuh-jung Youn, Minari

WINNER: Yuh-jung Youn, Minari
Okay, my vote went to Maria Bakalova but I watched Minari for the first time last night and oh my. Yuh-jung Youn would have been my pick if I’d watched it in time. She was the life and soul of that movie!

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
Da 5 Bloods
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari
One Night in Miami
The Trial of the Chicago 7

WINNER: One Night in Miami
The lack of love for The Trial of the Chicago 7 makes me a little sad, I hoped it would win in at least 1 category.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Miranda July, Kajillionaire
Andy Siara, Palm Springs

WINNER: Emerald Fennel, Promising Young Woman & Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Look at that beautiful lineup! Gutted for Kajillionaire but the fact it was nominated enough to be in the running means a lot to me.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Sarah Gubbins, Shirley
Christopher Hampton & Florian Zeller, The Father
Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Kemp Powers, One Night in Miami
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

WINNER: Chloé Zhao, Nomadland

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Collective
Dick Johnson is Dead
The Mole Agent
The Painter and the Thief
Time

WINNER: Collective
I don’t watch many documentaries at all so I bowed out of this category, but I’ll make an effort to watch Collective now.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
Wolfwalkers

WINNER: Wolfwalkers
I’ve heard nothing but good things about Wolfwalkers and I’m patiently waiting to get my hands on a copy. I liked Onward but it’s always nice to see the smaller studios win these awards.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Christopher Blauvelt, First Cow
Stéphane Fontaine, Ammonite
Matthew Libatique, Birds of Prey
Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
Joshua James Richards, Nomadland

WINNER: Joshua James Richards, Nomadland
I might not have loved the movie but Nomadland was, without a doubt, my winner here. It was stunning.

BREAKTHROUGH FILMMAKER
Kitty Green, The Assistant
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
Radha Blank, The Forty-Year-Old Version
Channing Godfrey Peoples, Miss Juneteenth
Natalie Erika James, Relic

WINNER: Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
😀

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Kingsley Ben-Adir, One Night in Miami
Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Orion Lee, First Cow
Cristin Milioti, Palm Springs
Tahar Rahim, The Mauritanian

WINNER: Sidney Flanigan, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Only one of my picks made the nominations list, I think I went too obscure.

THE ROSIE
The Assistant
The Forty-Year-Old Version
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman

WINNER: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Movie Reviews

The Vanished (2020)

the-vanished-movie-review-poster-2020Director: Peter Facinelli

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

Runtime: 95 Minutes

Main Cast: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane, Jason Patric, John D. Hickman, Peter Facinelli, Alex Haydon, Aleksei Archer, Kristopher Wente, Rebecca Lines

Plot: Wendy (Anne Heche) and Paul (Thomas Jane) are going on a family camping trip with their daughter just before Thanksgiving, but whilst setting up they realise their daughter has gone missing. The pair will stop at nothing to find her, especially when the local police aren’t coming up with many leads.

My Thoughts: Whilst scrolling through Netflix I spotted The Vanished and the description sounded exactly like the kind of movie I love to watch. I’d never heard of it though so I checked out some reviews on Letterboxd and they weren’t the greatest which put me off. However. We’re still living in a worldwide pandemic, with no opening date for UK cinemas in sight and when it comes to new movie releases, beggars can’t be choosers so I was willing to give it a go. And actually, I’m glad I did, because whilst this wasn’t a perfect movie, I enjoyed it a lot.

In my opinion, the best movie in this sub-genre is Prisoners (2013), so that’s where the bar is set. The Vanished definitely isn’t up there on that level, there are a lot of things it gets wrong and for a relatively short movie it drags quite a bit in the middle. Where it lacks in intruige it overflows in the mystery element. The disappearance of the young girl happens so early and the clues and hints as to what has happened to her are abundant. It’s probably a fun movie to watch together with someone so you can throw your theories around. I for one am glad I watched it alone and not with my husband, who you all know has the weirdest super power of spotting twists a mile off.

It’s a tough movie to review without giving anything away, so if you have seen it let me know! I won’t claim to have worked out what happened but I was close. I’m always happy to be proved wrong! Don’t take my word for it though, give it a go whilst we’re still waiting for the big hitters to be released. I’m known for loving terrible mystery movies so I might be setting you up for a disaster, but I definitely think there’s something to enjoy here.

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Best Bit: As with all movies like this, it’s such a great moment when the pieces finally click into place and you realise what’s happened just before the characters do. I also greatly enjoyed the moment the plot went from a simple disappearance to an absolute mess, I wasn’t expecting that.

Worst Bit: The movie definitely wanted me to suspect one particular character but I never could. When you watch enough mystery movies you get a bit of a radar for characters that you know you can trust, no matter what light the movie decides to show them in. So it was a little annoying and I really felt for this particular character!

Fun Trivia: When Anne Heche is in the campsite’s shop renting movies, there’s a copy of the movie Volcano on the shelf. Anne appeared in the movie Volcano in 1997.

My Rating: 3 and a half pink blankets…if you know, you know!

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Movie Reviews

Greenland (2020)

greenland-movie-review-poster-2020Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 119 Minutes

Main Cast: Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Roger Dale Floyd, David Denman, Hope Davis, Scott Glenn, Andrew Bachelor, Merrin Dungey, Holt McCallany

Plot: There’s a planet-killing comet hurtling towards Earth and the panic has set in. John Garrity (Gerard Butler) along with his estranged wife (Morena Baccarin) and their child (Roger Dale Floyd) have been selected by the Government to be transported to a top-secret underground bunker to seek shelter, but the trip there won’t be easy.

My Thoughts: You know the movie industry is in a sorry state when one of your most anticipated movies of 2020 is a disaster flick starring Gerard Butler. That’s harsh I know, and actually quite unfairly so because Greenland is a really decent watch! Love them or hate them, there will always be a place for disaster movies and when they’re done right they can be highly entertaining. There are always the genre-typical cliches but they’re part of the fun, and Greenland was genuinely really tense a lot of the time.

The drama kicks off pretty quickly when the first piece of debris falls in Florida and causes a huge aftershock, with the awkward moment of John’s Government alert going off in front of his extended family who haven’t been selected. Then, chaos erupts. That’s also when one of the many cliches comes to light, their son has Type 1 Diabetes, and you just know that the bag of medical supplies packed is going to get lost and cause no end of trouble. Isn’t that part of the fun of this kind of movie though?

I genuinely didn’t know how Greenland was going to end. I had my theories of course but I couldn’t be certain. It’s a satisfying conclusion after a whirlwind final act. We’re due an onslaught of Covid-related disaster movies in the next couple of years which will range from good to downright awful, so perhaps now is the time to watch a movie where the world falls apart without the mention of the C word!

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Best Bit: Just when you think everything is going to be okay, the plane shakes and…oh my god. I stopped breathing at that moment and didn’t start again until the end of the movie, I swear.

Worst Bit: In the ‘so terrible it’s almost brilliant’ corner we have…the security at the military base containing the planes bound for Greenland. There’s a huge, angry mob outside that seem quite happy to just be angry on the spot because pushing your way to the front is apparently a piece of cake. And if you get turned away once you get there? Just pop round the corner to leave, a path that must be concealed by witchcraft as there are no guards there and the mob is seemingly oblivious!

Fun Trivia: The comet is named “Clarke,” in a tribute to the late Arthur C. Clarke, author of the 1993 novel “Hammer of God,” which describes the impact on Earth of a planet-killing asteroid. The novel predates the movies “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact,” which deal with similar events.

My Rating: 3 and a half stacks of pancakes – there’s plenty of time to eat them before the world ends, don’t worry.

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