A Fall from Grace (2020) – Graceless Melodrama

Released: 17th January
Seen: 21st January

Tyler Perry is a director whose work I’ve never watched before. I’ve heard about it, it’s reputation precedes it, but I’ve never seen anything he’s made. Most of his films came out before I did this reviewing thing so I would react like most people and look at the posters and say “That looks like shit” and then go see something else. The ones he’s released since I started reviewing never made it to the cinema near me so again, no reason for me to try and see them. I will say that I respect the man for what he’s done in the industry, there aren’t many black writer-directors who are getting consistent work and somehow Tyler Perry has made it so he is making a movie every year, often with a largely black cast. He recently opened the first black-owned movie studio which is absolutely incredible and he deserves a spot in cinematic history just for that alone. I respect him… but that doesn’t mean I have to like the movie he made, which I really don’t.

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Ghost Stories (2020) – Boo!

Released: 1st January
Seen: 4th January

The anthology film is a sad rarity nowadays, especially in Horror. Horror used to be a haven for great little films that told several short scary stories but we haven’t had a truly great one in a while, the last one I can remember being truly special was the V/H/S series (I’m aware Nightmare Cinema came out last year to decent notices but I haven’t been able to see that one yet). The big thing that makes these films particularly special is how they link together. That connection is what takes something from a series of short films to a cohesive anthology film. V/H/S did it with the gimmick of every story being done in a found-footage style, a simple little gimmick but an effective one that allowed each story to flow naturally between each other and made it feel more like a single film rather than a series of shorts. Netflix is now having a go at it by distributing the movie Ghost Stories and… oh boy.

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6 Underground (2019) – Bury it!

Released: 13th December
Seen: 24th December

During the promotional tour for this movie, the star Ryan Reynolds was happy to describe the film as “The most Michael Bay movie ever”. This kind of warning had me worried because I have a bit of a history with Michael Bay movies and the promise of the most Michael Bay movie ever sounds more like a threat than anything. See, I still contend that the last Transformers movie is so bad that it should basically bar Michael Bay from making a movie with a budget that’s above 5 million until he learns how to make a movie… and then Netflix in their infinite wisdom promised to release his latest film 6 Underground and my life is now actively worse because of it. Seriously Netflix, I understand that you need to have content that you own outright because everyone else is taking their content away to put on their own streaming platforms but how hard would it be for you to have just the tiniest bit of quality control. Not much, just enough to stop encouraging Michael Bay to keep making movies.

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Marriage Story (2019) – Love And Divorce

Released: 6th December
Seen: 7th December

This year I don’t think I’ve been that kind to Netflix original movies. As I look back, most of the year I’ve called them anywhere between average to awful with very few bright spots on the way. It almost feels like I was picking on them but I probably wasn’t any meaner to them than any other production company, they just happen to be the one where I have to visit a site labelled with their name so it’s easier to associate them with the bad product. I can’t forget that I saw Sextuplets on Netflix, it started with their logo and the only way to see it is to go to their site. Meanwhile A Dog’s Purpose, my worst film of 2017, has associations with Universal, Amblin, DreamWorks and Walden Media and I don’t even think of it as being a movie by any of those companies, I just see a bad movie.

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Dolemite Is My Name (2019) – Brilliant

Released: 25th October
Seen: 26th October

The 1970s was the era of the blaxploitation film. If you look up a list of blaxploitation movies they will list every year of the 70s with milestone movies like Shaft, Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song and Coffy. While these movies often featured racial stereotypes that might be termed problematic today, they’re also a subgenre of film that features an entirely black cast and often featured black directors and writers trying to make films for black audiences of the day. It was also a genre that made worldwide stars out of people like Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and the subject of the newest Netflix biopic Rudy Ray White.

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Wounds (2019) – It Hurts

Released: 18th October
Seen: 26th October

The end of October is a great time to put out every horror movie, no matter what the content or style is. It’s a time when the slashers, the zombies, the vampires and just the flat out weird as hell horror films have their time in the sun. You could release pretty much anything horror related during October and it’d be appropriate. You can release great horror films and even awful horror films, bad movie nights are a thing and a bad horror movie around Halloween is a gift for people wanting something gloriously stupid to laugh at… and then there’s Wounds, a bland horror movie that tries its hardest to be creepy and weird and never fully gets there, though not for a lack of trying.

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El Camino (2019) – Breaking Moderately OK

Released: 11th October
Seen: 13th October

Adapting a TV series into a film is not easy. The two mediums, though similar in many ways, are substantially different when it comes to storytelling. Going from a 22-42 minute long episode of TV to a two-hour long movie can change what kind of story you’ll focus on. They’re also made for a variety of reasons, either to provide commentary on the series (21 Jump Street or The Brady Bunch Movie), act as a long episode that couldn’t have been done in the normal series runtime (The Simpsons Movie or DuckTales The Movie: Treasure Of The Lost Lamp) or take on the form of a finale and give the series some much needed closure (Serenity or The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie!). There are other reasons to make the leap, like brand name recognition or the increased quality of cocaine, but these three seem to be the biggest reasons. El Camino seems to be going for the “much-needed closure” reasoning but forgot that we didn’t actually need that closure.

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Fractured (2019) – Broken

Released: 11th October
Seen: 12th October

Sometimes all a film needs is a great concept and that can do most of the work. Sharknado is a great example, the idea is so out there (It’s sharks… in a tornado) that no matter what those films do I can enjoy it because the idea itself is so perfect that I’ll buy it. This can also work with good films, “Killer who kills you in your dreams” gave us Freddy Krueger, “Plant that eats people” gave us Little Shop of Horrors, a good concept can make a film easy to enjoy. So when a concept as perfect and as effective as “Guy checks his daughter into a hospital, hospital pretends she never checked in” comes across I was ready to love it because that idea has so much potential… shame Fractured wasted so much of it.

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In the Tall Grass (2019) – Hey You Kids, Get Out Of My Lawn!

Released: 4th October
Seen: 5th October

Stephen King is a master of taking things that aren’t normally scary and making them terrifying. Puppies, classic cars, a cell phone, he’s taken them and twisted them into the stuff of nightmares. In 2012, Stephen collaborated with his son Joe Hill for a short story called In the Tall Grass, because now Stephen wants us to be scared of lawns. One of these days he’s going to make a film about a killer lamp and then someone will make a movie about it and I’ll end up enjoying that almost as much as I enjoyed this film.

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Sextuplets (2019) – More Like Suckstuplets

Released: 16th August
Seen: 23rd August

In ancient Persia, there was a method of execution known as Scaphism. It’s one of the most creative methods of execution ever created. First, you take two boats of identical shape and place the victim inside one of them, leaving a spot for their head to stick out the end. You put the other boat on top, creating a box that floats, and feed the victim as much food as you can. Then honey and milk is forced down their throat and poured over their head. Soon, their entire head was covered in flies and other assorted bugs, then the milk would work through their digestive system and they would begin to have severe diarrhoea that would fill the boat. They would float around for weeks, slowly being eaten alive by the flies and the bugs that got attracted by the boat full of excrement, one of the most elaborate torturous painful methods of execution known to man… anyway, I saw Sextuplets and now I know how the people in the boat felt.

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