All My Life (2020) – Oh Life, Oh Liiife, Do Do Do Do

Released: 19th November
Seen: 22nd November

All My Life Info

In the romance genre there is an interesting variation that I will lovingly refer to as the “Oops, cancer” film. We’ve seen the story play out before numerous times, boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, either girl or boy gets terminal cancer in a way that’s handled with all the grace of the breast cancer reveal in The Room. Recent saccharine films with this story include I Still Believe, a film that was more about preaching the word of god than telling a story about a couple in love going against a powerful disease, and Irreplaceable You, which took the “Oops, cancer” moment and used it as a jumping off point for a film about a dying wife trying to set her husband up with someone to look after him when she’s gone. The films made with this “Oops, cancer” reveal currently take up a solid quarter of the lifetime TV movie schedule. It’s also a film trope that lives and dies on the charm and liability of its leads… so, how does All My Life fare? Better than most, but it still has problems.

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Zeroville (2020) – Zero Fun

Released: 2nd November
Seen: 11th November

Zeroville Info

Sometimes a film is filled with subtext meant to make the audience think as they leave the cinema. Sometimes a film is working on layers that can be unravelled for decades to reveal new ideas and meanings with every viewing… and then there are films that are pretentious self-fellatio giving trainwrecks that want you to study them and find out what they mean when in reality they don’t mean a single goddamn thing, but the director threw in enough strange and weird shots that you could believe that there is something deeper there… welcome to Zeroville, a film that discovered it likes the smell of its own farts and wants you to know just how awesome that odour is.

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Honest Thief (2020) – Honestly? Not Great

Released: 22nd October
Seen: 11th November

Honest Thief Info

Can we, as a society, just admit that Liam Neeson action films have become repetitive and stale? Is that a thing that we can collectively do? Hell, let’s be honest, they were getting stale roughly around the third time he played a character who had a member of his family taken. It’s now to the point where you could write a Liam Neeson action film using a madlib form, they all have the same basic plot and only change the minor superficial details. It’s always the same and every time it gets a little bit less interesting and Honest Thief is just another one for the pile.

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Stage Mother (2020) – Life Is A Drag

Released: 23rd October
Seen: 2nd November

Stage Mother Info

Drag has been given something of a resurgence lately thanks to the phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race. While Drag has always been around, recently it’s exploded in the mainstream with the hit reality series. Now, not only do we have Drag Race, there’s the horror equivalent in Dragula, a campy queen version on YouTube in Camp Wanakiki and probably a half dozen others for various kinds of queens.

From TV shows like AJ and the Queen (which should’ve had more than one season and I will die mad upon that hill) to movies like Cherry Pop or the Hurricane Bianca series, we’ve seen a huge uptick in entertainment focussed around drag queens. Well, Stage Mother is another one of those, it doesn’t exactly do anything new but I can’t think of a better way to introduce the topic than to point out that this movie probably wouldn’t exist without that explosion in drag.

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The Empty Man (2020) – Yep, Empty

Released: 23rd October
Seen: 31st October

The Empty Man Info

The Bye Bye Man
The Snowman
The Slenderman

Movies that begin with The and end in Man in the horror genre have lately filled me with dread lately. With the exception of The Invisible Man, I can’t think of a good film with this combination of words in the title so imagine how I felt seeing the poster for The Empty Man. If you thought I was prepared for a long slow boring film that tried far too hard to be smarter than it was, then you know me far too well… and you also just described the film to a T.

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The Craft: Legacy (2020) – Wicked Witchcraft

Released: 28th October
Seen: 29th October

The Craft Info

In 1996 there was a low budget horror film called The Craft. The Craft came out early in the horror resurgence of the 90s, as in it was released about 6 months before the monster hit Scream completely revived the genre. It was a story of four social outcasts who bonded over a shared love of magic and how their usage of it for personal gain and revenge ended up backfiring on them horribly. It’s perhaps best remembered for the completely mental and brilliant performance by Fairuza Balk, a performance that’s so iconic it basically defined her entire career from that point onward. The Craft became somewhat of a cult hit, even influencing the monster hit series Charmed (the theme song from that series was used in this movie, plus the writer-director claimed to have pitched the series and had his idea stolen) so it has quite a legacy… enough that 24 years later we’d finally get a sequel, and not a good one.

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The Lie (2020) – Pants On Fire

Released: 6th October
Seen: 17th October

The Lie Info

One of the many repeated tropes of horror that has worked time and time again is “Someone does a murder, they or someone who loves them helps them lie to cover it up, the secret comes back to haunt them in the end”. This simple concept has led to literary classics like The Tell-Tale Heart, to cinematic classics like Rope and even been used in fun 90s slashers like I Know What You Did Last Summer. When done right, it’s a setup that creates tension right off the bat and the way the characters react to the knowledge of what they’ve done (or how what they’ve done turns them into the ultimate victims) creates the emotional core of the story… when done wrong you get The Lie.

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Antebellum (2020) – The Horror Of The Past

Released: 1st October
Seen: 7th October

Antebellum Info

In my review of Vampires vs The Bronx I opened with a lengthy paragraph about how great Horror is when it’s used as a metaphor for some kind of social issue. Race is one that pops up a lot in horror, the genre has always been a useful way to put that issue into ways that can be understood by all. If you would like to know more about the history of race in horror cinema I suggest you go watch Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror which is easy to find, Shudder put it up for free and I’m linking you to it so go and learn. Go and learn so then you can come back here and sit with me as I try to understand why Antebellum just didn’t work for me as much as it could’ve.

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The Boys in the Band (2020) – The Band Plays On

Released: 30th September
Seen: 1st October

The Boys In The Band Info

In 1968 the groundbreaking play The Boys in The Band premiered off-Broadway. Written by the late Mart Crowley (who passed away in March of this year), the play revolves around a group of gay friends coming together for a birthday party which slowly turns into a chaotic night of revelations, bitchiness and a lot of self-loathing. It’s one of the first plays that showed gay men as actual characters with love lives and personalities, it’s so ahead of the curve that it premiered roughly a year before Stonewall putting it right at the start of the gay liberation movement. The 1968 play would later be adapted into a feature length film in 1970. 50 years after the off=Broadway play premiered, in 2018 it was revived on Broadway and now here we are, 2 years later and we have a new film adaptation and it’s just wonderful.

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The High Note (2020) – A Little Flat, But OK

Released: 24th September
Seen: 30th September

The High Note Info

So, we’re approaching the final quarter of the year. The home stretch. The time when the fat lady starts warming up so she can hit the high note. The point when everyone should have started working on the “Good Fucking Riddance 2020” banners that we will all be hanging up because this year has been, to quote Jake Tapper, a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck. This has definitely been reflected in what has been available at the cinema. 

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