BRAND NEW CHERRY FLAVOR (2021)

Part Cronenberg body horror, part Lynchian psychological trip, part weirder-bits-of-TrueBlood.

Incredibly well shot and put together with a great specificity of vision that conjures a distinct and uniquely nightmarish take on 90s L.A. drenched in neon and black magic.

Some truly disgusting visuals anchored by a fantastic cast of strange, funny and rich characters.

Not for those with weak stomachs, but horror fans should definitely find a lot to love here.

Wonderfully weird, highly recommended.

VIVO (2021)

A colourful celebration of Latin American music, soundtracked by and starring Lin Manuel Miranda as the titular kinkajou.

Skews to a younger crowd, with bright colours and high antics. Some of the designs are honestly pretty ugly but the story has heart and the songs are all original Mirandas, including some great performances from Gloria Estefan.

Good for the kids, but lacking that extra layer of depth that makes an animated film truly great and memorable.

NARCOS (s01-03)

A little late to the party on this one, sure, but better late than never.

The sort of prestige crime drama usually reserved for HBO, it marks a period of Netflix when they were trying especially hard to establish themselves as a viable rival. It really shows.

Usually I avoid discussing plot since I often prefer myself to be able to start watching something without knowing where it’s going, but that approach is kind if moot here since Narcos is explicitly about the burgeoning cocaine trade in Medellín, Colombia during the 1980s and 90s — most notably charting the rise and fall of legendary cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Performances are fantastic. Story is tense, engaging and frequently horrifying as the drug war escalates and corruption seeps into everything. Interests become conflicted, power shifts, lots of innocent people get caught in the crossfire.

A dark and depressing tale, the effects of which are still being felt to this day.

Recommended.

BLOOD RED SKY (2021)

Terrorists hijack a plane and unwittingly set off a vampire hiding onboard.

If nothing about that premise makes you immediately say “fuck yeah” then I don’t know what more I can tell you to sell it. It’s ridiculous and it’s fun and it takes itself just seriously enough to stay firmly a horror movie with an emotional core rather than to devolve to a trashy comedy like it easily could have.

Makeup work is great, cast is solid, execution is exactly what it needs to be.

An A-grade B-movie.

Recommended.

SWEET TOOTH s01

A tremendously sweet and strange tale about a human/deer hybrid boy traversing a post-apocalyptic world.

Each episode feels like a chapter from a storybook. The characters are endearing and the cast is great. The connection between the hybrids and The Sick which has ravaged the world is a solid, dark mystery.

Production values are excellent too — it was a good move to handle the hybrid elements with a mix of CGI and prosthetics/animatronics, as it really grounds the fantastical elements.

Deceptively sinister, but infectiously heartwarming.

Highly recommended.

Bo Burnham: INSIDE (2021)

When this whole pandemic situation started we knew that there was terrible art out there being made about it. Just some really dreadful, insufferably thoughtless bad takes.

But out there too are some diamonds — pieces of creativity that encapsulate and express the time beautifully.

This is the latter. Calling it merely “pandemic art” does a massive disservice to what Burnham has created here. Infact, INSIDE is really the first definitive piece of work from the shitstorm of the last year-and-change that actually feels like a meaningful embodiment of what life has become, and it all takes place in a single room.

Burnham’s comedy had always been brilliantly self-conscious and this is no different, playing big with creative lighting setups and brilliant minimalistic cinematography.

But it also turns against him over the course of a year working on his Netflix special, alone and steadily succumbing to the isolation. And there is familar darkness there.

It’s relatable. Distressing. The results are honest and sincere and uncomfortable, wrapped in dazzling visuals and straining, ragged-edged wit. Oh, and the songs are great.

The experience of the past fourteen months will leave a lasting mark on human collective psyche and culture and many more attempts will be made to express this capsule of time.

Whatever other stories come, INSIDE will rank absolutely among the best of them. The first real masterpiece of its kind.

Highly recommended.

ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)

Y’all, Zack Snyder is not a good filmmaker. I’m sorry if this is how you had to find out.

His pacing is awful, his characters are flat, and his one usual exception (that famous eye for dazzling cinematography, usually by filming comic compositions other people designed) is almost entirely absent here.

TL;DR: movie bad, too long, not fun, very boring, do not watch.

Otherwise, FULL SPOILERS AHEAD…

Continue reading “ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021)”

THE MITCHELLS vs THE MACHINES (2021)

Sony Animation has really been knocking it out of the park lately!

Kinetic, hyperactive and full up with heart, this is the very definition of a modern family film run through a Gen Z TikTok filter and imbued with strong, colourful energy.

Hits all the usual beats of this sort of fare and does so with infectious enthusiasm and personality.

The animation style is brilliant, the voice cast is A-grade, the dog is hysterical.

Recommended.

HIS HOUSE (2020)

An impressive debut from writer/director Remi Weekes, centring in the experience of a Sudanese refugee couple who have settled in the United Kingdom only to find something terrible has followed them across the sea.

Some really well executed scares, quick pacing and an organic escalation into horror that makes excellent use of both characters and setting to tell a larger tale of trauma and escape.

Absolutely one of the better horror films of the last few years, well worth your time.

THE MIDNIGHT SKY (2020)

A decent enough sci-fi drama trapped in an identity crisis.

There’s two tales happening in parallel and it takes a long time to become apparent how they’re linked, and only in the final ten minutes or so do the two threads really twine together. Problem is, George Clooney’s story is where we open the story and spend significant time before swapping to Felicity Jones’ imperiled space mission.

Something certainly got messed up in the edit here, and to some extent it seems like a marketing problem. Clooney is the bankable star and a decision was made to put his part of the story at the forefront of scene sequencing and this damages the story by relegating Jones’ arc to a B plot when it’s arguably the more important of the two.

And this is a shame! There some solid drama and well-executed action sequences that are overall held back by the story being told out of a better order.

You could still find plenty to enjoy here, but don’t be surprised if you find your attention flagging because the focus is scrambled.

Solidly medium movie, could have been very good with a few changes.