Ford v Ferrari (2019) – Zoom zoom

Released: 14th November
Seen: 14th November

In the early 1960s the Ford motor company was having a bit of a hard time. Sure they were financially successful, but Ferrari was still considered the better car even though Ferrari at the time was hemorrhaging money. After the head of Ford, Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) was rejected and humiliated in his attempt to purchase a stake in Ferrari he decided on a new plan… humiliating Ferrari by beating them at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race which Ferrari had won for several years running. In order to accomplish this, Ford hires Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), the only American who hadwon the Le Mans race but retired due to a heart condition. Since that heart condition means Shelby couldn’t handle the race, he hires his old friend Ken Miles (Christian Bale) to handle the driving. Catch is, Ken’s a bit of a hothead who doesn’t play well with others, especially the bosses at Ford who are almost pointedly trying to abuse and screw over the little guys working for them.

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Judy (2019) – Over The Rainbow

Released: 10th October
Seen: 8th November

It’s probably fair to say that one of the most tragic figures in Hollywood history is Judy Garland. Performing since she was 2 years old, Judy went through the wringer despite having the kind of talent that should’ve made life easy for her. With her gifted comedic chops and a voice that no one else could even come close to, Judy had the kind of pure star quality that defied description… she was also turned into a drug addict by a mother who gave her uppers to perform and downers to go to sleep before she was ten. The head of the studio she did most of her early work at (Louis B Mayer, may he rot in hell) would have her living on chicken soup and regularly insulting her looks, calling her “my little hunchback” and putting her on amphetamine pills to help her lose weight (which was sadly common at the time). Go through any biography of Judy and you see the story of a woman who had more talent than anyone else that was repeatedly dragged down by a system that was willing to put her health at serious risk to squeeze every dollar out before discarding her. Her story is also one of resilience, of a woman who kept being knocked down and then got up again because you were never going to keep her down. Her last big moment was a British concert called Talk of the Town, the last thing she did before her early death in 1969. This biopic focuses on that brief period right at the end and that focus helps it, and it’s lead actress, considerably.

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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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Tolkien (2019) – Everybody’s Tolkien At Me

Released: 13th June (Advance Screening)
Seen:7th June

To say that the 1937 book The Hobbit was a game changer would be an understatement. When it comes to the fantasy genre, one could say that The Hobbit and its follow up novels are the reason the fantasy genre still continues to have a life. It’s a work that inspired countless authors and, of course, eventually, lead to three of the most beloved movies of the last 20 years with the iconic Lord of the Rings trilogy. They also made movies based on The Hobbit but we don’t talk about those. Those films were huge though, truly massive moments that are landmarks of cinema and when they ran out of Hobbit movies, someone had to find something to fill the void and since the rights for the stories are with Amazon for that upcoming prequel series, the only way to fill the void would be to do a story about the author himself. You can almost hear the executive squealing with delight when they came up with that idea, even more joyful when they realised that Tolkien was in the First World War so they could do a huge battle scene. Basically, this was a way to get another Lord of the Rings movie out on a smaller budget and it would’ve worked so wonderfully… if, ya know, it was engaging.

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Rocketman (2019) – Hello Yellow Brick Road

Released: 30th May
Seen: 25th May (Advance Screening)

Last year I reviewed a little indie film called Bohemian Rhapsody, you might have heard of it. At the end of that review, I gave the film a 3 and a half rating, a good score for a good film but the more I’ve ruminated on it, the more I realise how the film just isn’t that good. If I were to review it today it’d probably get a 2 and a half star rating. That’s kind of the fun thing about reviewing, as you watch more films you build up a bigger library of references and can spot flaws easier. So when I saw the trailer for Rocketman, I was ready to be a lot more critical about the film. I was ready to not be won over by whimsy but to actually do this properly, and when I found out that the director of Rocketman was the same man who was brought in to replace Bryan Singer on Bohemian Rhapsody after everyone finally realised that Bryan Singer is a bit of an asshole (to put it lightly) I was excited. This is it, a do-over, a chance to try again and make sure that this time I spot a gaudy mess for what it is… and then they just had to screw up my plans by actually producing a fun enchanting film that put the biggest smile on my face. I swear, it’s almost unfair.

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Red Joan (2019) – Communism Is Just A Red Herring

Released: 6th June
Seen:22nd May (Advance Screening)

Do you know what’s the hardest part of these reviews to write? This opening paragraph that is always placed above a cut so when you look on the main page you get this little paragraph that provides a little bit of context, either context for the series the movie is part of or maybe a personal story so you can understand where I’m coming from when I talk about a certain film. The idea behind this format is that if you were to scroll through and read the opening paragraph, it might catch your eye and make you read it. It provides a jumping off point, like an introduction to an essay and they’re insanely hard to write because it requires me to find a way to hint at my feelings about the film without going into detail. It’s a taste-test that I offer you to get you to read on and when a movie is great they can be a lot of fun to write and when a movie is awful, they’re even more fun to write. But what about when a film is so middle of the road and so pointless that not only do I not have anything interesting to say about its inception, but its lack of purpose makes me spend a two-hour train ride pondering “Just how the hell am I going to talk about this?”. Well, Red Joan is here to test just how much I can get out of one of the most boring films I’ve seen in a while… which is weird to say about a film with Russian spies stealing nuclear secrets but that’s what we have.

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Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019) – God Damn That’s A Long Title!

Released: 3rd May
Seen: 4th May

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Even though we don’t like to admit it, on some level our society has always had a fascination with serial killers. There’s a reason why we have so many crime re-enactment shows, why there are magazines sold that talk about brutal crimes, movie monsters are inspired by some of the most evil people to have roamed this earth. One of the most infamous men to have ever disgraced the earth with his existence was Theodore Robert Bundy AKA Ted Bundy, a vile murderer who brutalised over 30 women, performing acts so disgusting to all of them that it’s impossible to believe he was ever even remotely close to human. The story of his evil is so horrifically fascinating that it’s been the source of over half a dozen movies and documentaries, a recent Netflix series that became controversial almost instantly as it seemed to fail to actually offer any actual insight beyond what we already knew. Now we have a bright, glossy, star-studded film that tries to cram every strange and disturbing detail of the demonic bastard’s crimes into 108 minutes that was directed by the same man who created the aforementioned Netflix series… and god damn do I mean it when I say they just crammed it in there.

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Fighting with My Family (2019) – PURE ELECTRICITY!

Released: 21st March
Seen: 24th March

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Let’s get this out of the way right up the top; I’m not a fan of wrestling. I’ve never gotten into it, I grew up right when it was really starting to explode in popularity and can even remember kids in my class in primary school yelling “The Rock is pure electricity” and not having a single clue what they were talking about. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that a lot of people really love and I really just can’t get into. So, a film that follows a family that is madly in love with the sport is going to have to work a little harder to win me over. It can’t just rely on a lot of insider knowledge in order for me to be able to get into it, it needs to be a little more than that. It needs to somehow play a balancing act between giving the wrestling audience what it wants while also providing those of us outside that very specific fanbase with something to enjoy. Imagine my surprise when the movie starts and I not only end up enjoying it, I end up loving almost every single second.

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Stan & Ollie (2019) – Well, here’s another nice movie you’ve gotten me into!

Released: 21st February
Seen: 21st February

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When you look back through the history of cinema there are only a few performers who can truly be considered icons. One of the biggest icons in the history of cinema is Laurel & Hardy, a comedy duo who made over 100 films together over the course of about two decades where they basically were the biggest names in comedy. Their partnership started almost by accident, the two of them were part of the old Hollywood system that signed people up to contracts that kept them working for years and turned them into one of the most iconic duos in history. It was almost inevitable that some portion of their lives was going to be turned into a biopic, as it seems Hollywood loves to tell stories about itself. Of all the stories that could’ve been told, the one they picked was absolutely perfect.

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On the Basis Of Sex (2019) – Notorious

Released: 7th February

Seen: 18th February

On The Basis Of Sex Info

When the history of the fight for women’s rights is written, a solid chunk of that book will inevitably revolve around Ruth Bader Ginsburg, current Justice of the Supreme Court and (hopefully) owner of the philosopher’s stone that will grant her immortality so that she may survive for another millennium. She is, unquestionably, one of the key figures in the women’s rights movement and it seemed inevitable that her rise from law student to Supreme Court Justice would be turned into a biopic at some point, and it got one in the form of On The Basis of Sex.

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