Soul (2020) – Soulful

Released: 25th December
Seen: 25th December

Sometimes I wonder exactly what devil Pixar made a deal with in order to produce its films, because it’s getting to the point where their output is just consistently great. Even their worst film (The Good Dinosaur, I will not be taking arguments at this time) is better than what a lot of their competitors make and when they hit something out of the park it turns into one of the best films of all time. This year they already made one great film with Onward, which got shafted due to the pandemic, and were meant to release Soul in June. That pandemic made them pull Soul and then they had to rethink its release… enter Disney+, which now houses the best Pixar film of the year in Soul.

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020) – Her Bottom Is The Tops!

Released: 18th December
Seen: 20th December

In this, the year of perpetual pain and suffering, one of the moments that shocked the world was the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman. Probably best known for his work as the Black Panther, Chadwick had an amazing career playing legends from Jackie Robinson to Thurgood Marshall to James Brown and it seemed like he was destined to take over the world as an actor before we lost him far too young. When this happens to an actor in their prime, it’s always curious to know what the last film released featuring that actor and how would such a film reflect upon their legacy… in Chadwick Boseman’s case? Don’t be surprised in a few months when we hear his name read among a list of Oscar nominees.

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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 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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Bill & Ted Face The Music (2020) – Excellent *GUITAR RIFF*

Released: 10th September
Seen: 16th September

Bill & Ted Face The Music Info

The year was 1989, Ted ‘Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) and Bill S. Preston Esq. (Alex Winters) were visited by a time traveler named Rufus (The late great George Carlin) who was tasked with helping them pass a history test, a most excellent adventure that made up the plot of a film that had the truly strange title Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

It almost instantly became a beloved cult film, it’s popularity leading to a sequel 2 years after and a short lived cartoon series. Sadly, for the last 30 years or so Bill & Ted haven’t been able to have many adventures, mostly because Ted keeps running off into The Matrix or stopping buses from going under certain speed limits or seeking vengeance for his dog. Well, now that the world’s slowed down a little I guess we can have one more adventure with everyone’s favourite slackers.

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Work It (2020) – Dance Magic Dance

Released: 7th August
Seen: 11th August

Work It Info

So yesterday I talked about the movie Magic Camp and compared it to the cinematic classic Sister Act 2, except Magic Camp was crap. The idea of a team of underdogs learning some kind of art in order to win a competition is nothing new but when done right it can be a lot of fun. If Magic Camp is an example of taking this story setup and handling it badly, then Work It is a great example of taking that setup and actually making something fun out of it.

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Eurovision Song Contest The Story Of Fire Saga Promo Card

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) – Running on Embers

Released: 26th July
Seen: 8th August

Eurovision The Story Of Fire Saga Info

The Eurovision Song Contest is one of the greatest and strangest things that we, as a society, have ever put together. A competition show like no other, it’s where Abba became world famous and it’s regularly known for having the weirdest and wildest acts to ever be put on the stage. It’s one of those things that’s so perfectly weird that it seems like it should be almost impossible to parody, making jokes about Eurovision is a little bit like putting a hat on a hat but Will Ferrell certainly tried and what he ended up with was… interesting.

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I Still Believe (2020) – You’re Unbelievable

Released: 12th March
Seen: 16th March

About 2 years ago I talked about a film called God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in the Darkness, a biblical sermon disguised as a film made by people who don’t know how films work. In that review, I made the point that a film is going to need more than just religion to work for me. Sure, religion can be an element, but if the entire thing is basically a sermon then I’m not going to be kind to it no matter what the religion is. Enter I Still Believe, a biopic (of sorts) about a contemporary Christian musician named Jeremy Camp and how he met his first wife while making his rise to fame. In theory, this film does what I’m talking about. Faith is a huge factor in the story but there is a story outside of the faith. In theory, I’m OK with this. In practice, it’s a hard pass from me.

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Amazing Grace (2019) – R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

Released: 29th August
Seen: 1st September

In 1972, Aretha Franklin was indisputably one of the biggest artists on the planet. With massive hit songs like Respect, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Think, Aretha could lay claim to being the greatest vocalist of her generation. She was an artist so talented that she managed to record a cover version of an Otis Redding song (Respect) and do it so well that we now associate that song with her rather than him. She was one of the greatest artists in the world up to her passing in August of 2018… and then, shortly after her passing, a documentary about one of her albums was released to universal acclaim by critics and while I get that, I have some problems.

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Yesterday (2019) – All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away

Released: 27th June
Seen: 8th July

The first Beatles song that I remember hearing was Octopus’s Garden. I remember it being performed in my grade school class with big pieces of cardboard cut out into various sea animals and painted with fluorescent paint that a bunch of small children would wave around randomly while singing a cover version of the fifth track from Abbey Road. I’m not sure if we were on key, but we were precious children and so everyone claimed to like it because you’d have to be some kind of monster to tell a bunch of kids that they didn’t do a good job of paying respect to one of the greatest bands of all time. I hope we can all agree that telling a bunch of children that they’re bad at doing a Beatles tribute act would be mean… however, if you want to tell a bunch of grown adults making a million dollar film that their Beatles tribute act is bad then that’s OK. I mean, I plan on spending the next few paragraphs saying exactly that, so it’d be a bit silly if I thought it was mean.

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