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.

DA FIVE BLOODS (2020)

First and foremost, it’s hard to to address the posthumous presence of Chadwick Boseman as the long-departed leader of the titular Bloods — a young man taken well before his time.

The choice to have him remain the only youthful member of the cast makes his ghost loom large, since the remaining cast are all portrayed by their older selves in all the flashbacks to the Vietnam/American War.

Which is not to say he overshadows things at all. The other four Bloods all put in great performances. I’ll always appreciate the absurdly charismatic Clarke Peters (THE WIRE/TREMÉ) being put front and centre, and Delroy Lindo drops a showstopper of a performance.

Turns out, returning to Vietnam decades after the war to retreive buried gold has the consequence of dragging up old traumas. Whodathunk?

Scattered throughout are horrifying archival clips and stills, as well as Spike Lee’s own personally curated lessons in Black History around the men who went to war to prove they were true citizens of the United States only to find themselves used up and discarded.

It’s long one, almost two whole films of runtime split fairly neatly either side of the recovery of the gold at the unmarked grave of their former troop leader (Boseman). The pacing can feel bogged down in places even when it feels like a condensed version of an even more sprawling, structurally novelistic tale. This would make for a fantastic book — to the point where I had to keep checking if it was actually based on something (it’s not, other than true accounts of the war Lee researched while making it).

None of that is to be taken as complaint, mind. It’s a frequently uncomfortable look at the consequence of a war decades on, and of the lasting bonds that linger long after everyone has gone home, learned to live with their nightmares and become old.

Recommended.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY (s02)

Now that introductions and an initial conflict in the first season are out of the way it’s much more fun just to let the characters be themselves… while scattered across the timeline of 1960s Dallas, Texas.

Of course, there’s another apocalypse looming and a trio of time-hopping Swedish assassins to deal with, but really the show shines when it’s letting the family play off and support each other.

Feels a bit more loose and creative this time around, and the soundtrack is bangin’, the whole cast puts in great, hilarious, dysfunctional performances.

A case could be made for spreading the show out over weeks instead of dropping the Netflix binge model all at once, since something like this is fun to keep in conversation rather than to burn through and promptly forget about, but that’s a broader conversation on streaming strategies.

All up, better than the previous season even if the pacing is a little strange at times. If you liked the first one you’ll have a good time again here.

THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR (2020)

The ‘Haunting of…’ series really has a lock on what a ghost story traditionally is — more a melancholic tone of trapped souls and tragedy than sudden loud noises and cheap jump scares.

This is the kind of horror that seeps into your dreams, but the more time spent in the manor the less frightening these ghosts are and the sadder the memories of their stories become.

The same tricks abound as the first season — figures lurking unnoticed in the background, a pervasive sense of dread, overlapping narratives. Production design is excellent, the cast is fantastic, the ghosts are unsettling and sad.

Not as scary as the first season, and much slower, but the anthology setup is definitely a winner. I’m always keen to see what Mike Flanagan comes up with next.

Enjoyed it, nice to have a little closure on the bad dreams too.

HORSE GIRL (2020)

A descent into a fragmenting mind that at first seems like it might land too far the side of twee and meet-cute but veers off into the strange and tragic.

Alison Brie paints a convincing picture of someone suddenly and very rapidly losing their mind to PTSD in a world of pastel mundanity that is both tonally light while uncomfortably grounded.

The sort of weird indie project that Netflix excels at platforming, worth your time if that’s anything like your jam.

I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS (2020)

A young woman goes on a road trip to meet her new(ish) boyfriend’s parents. And… uh… that does happen… but also…

It’s a more successful synthesis of dream logic than anything of recent memory — trippy, unsettling and weird, but just grounded enough to keep you curious and engaged while simultaneously being alienated and slightly uncomfortable.

So much hinges on great anchoring performances from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons, and any show that Charlie Kaufman wants to put on is worth admission just to see what he’s up to this time around.

This is the movie that Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’ wishes it was, and only a fraction as heavyhanded and self-important.

Do not watch any trailers. Go along for the roadtrip if you don’t mind getting no easy answers.

DARK (s01-03)

An elegant, intricate knot. The sort of story that screenwriters all wish they were clever enough to pull off this effectively.

It’s just the right length, brilliantly self-contained and full of endearing characters and so much mystery that you’ll be going right back to the start to figure out where that thread you lost went.

Yes, it’s complex and can be labyrinthine and hard to follow at times, but the creators have done an incredibly impressive job of leaving breadcrumbs in everything from casting to production design. Seriously, the casting of actors as older/younger counterparts of themselves is frequently astounding.

And the plot. Ooooooooh the plot. Young boys start going missing around a small German town, thirty-three years to the day after a similar rash of disappearances happened and we see the effects of this ripple through a small community being affected for a second time in a generation. But what is actually going on is truly best left to be discovered yourself.

While the third season threatened to keel over with another burst of complexity, ultimately I felt it stuck the landing and was genuinely disappointed when we reached the end to find there was none left to be revealed, when the knot showed how thoughtfully it had been tied right from the start.

Haunting, moody and engaging. Truly, one of the great modern mystery/sci-fi shows. Highly recommended.

EUROVISION: Fire Saga Story or whatever (2020)

I’m not gonna spend time drawing anything for this one. It sucks.

Dan Stevens and Rachel McAdams’ charisma are entirely wasted on two hours of unwritten jokes and Will Ferrell improvising badly between occasional bright moments of Eurovision ridiculousness that are neither a love letter to the song contest nor anything approaching a satire.

There’s a good pretense for a film here but this execution is fucking atrocious. Comedy is an extremely generous classification.

Skip it.

REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies

Every once in a while I remember a bunch of films that I’ve recently watched which didn’t leave enough of an impression to want to paint them, so I compile them into a single post. This is one of those posts:

GUNS AKIMBO
BLOODSHOT
JUMANJI 2
DOLITTLE
DOLEMITE IS MY NAME
FANTASTIC BEASTS
A WRINKLE IN TIME
WRECK IT RAPLH 2
RAMPAGE

Continue reading “REVIEW SPECTACULAR 7: Revenge of the Medium Movies”