The House That Jack Built (2019) – Get Me A Wrecking Ball

Released: 7th March
Seen: 14th August

I do not think there is a more controversial director working today than Lars Von Trier. His films have an extraordinary ability to divide an audience in 10 minutes. You either love his work or hate it and there is no real room for anything between those. He is one of the few true auteur filmmakers who also helped invent an entire movement in cinema known as Dogme 95, which I highly recommend looking up because it is kind of insane and will go a long way into explaining why Von Trier’s films are the way that they are. Now I’ve always been iffy on Lars, enough that I have just kind of avoided his work. I saw Antichrist years ago, a film that I consider one of the great comedies of all time (provided you watch it directly after you watch Irreversible) and I’ve seen clips of Melancholia but I have had no real desire to watch any more of Lars’ movies… and then I decided to be a reviewer and he put out a film that I would need to watch and talk about, so I’m not exactly in a great mood right now but mostly I just need a nap.

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Shaft (2019) – Daft

Released: 28th June
Seen: 10th August

In 1971 the world learned the answer to the immortal question “Who’s the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks?” and turns out, that answer would be an icon of blaxploitation cinema and one of the most badass characters to ever appear on film. John Shaft started as a detective novel before his original trilogy of movies (Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score and Shaft in America) and even ended up with a TV series in the early 70’s before the character was retired until the character was revived in 2000 for a brand new Shaft movie that did fairly well but didn’t get any sequels… until now. Now it has a sequel that did poorly at the box office, was distributed internationally on Netflix and is currently the most critically panned movie in the entire franchise. Does it deserve that kind of treatment? Is the film really bad enough to deserve to be relegated to the trash heap of cinema history? Kind of, but only because it’s kind of bland.

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See You Yesterday (2019) – Timely

Released: 17th May
Seen: 8th August

The concept of Time Travel in cinema is one of the most fun and irritating plot concepts we’ve ever come up with. Fun because it allows us to explore history and do variants of “Person from today is stuck in the past” stories that present a fish out of water narrative. Irritating because, every single time it happens, people try to logic the hell out of the time travel and explain why it wouldn’t work that way as though time travel was an actual thing and not a storytelling device meant to act as the most threadbare framework for an actual story. This was evidenced earlier this year with Endgame where people ignored the larger story about acknowledging the past of an entire universe of characters and showing the drastic change and growth of everyone involved and instead said “Actually it makes no sense that they all travelled like that, time travel doesn’t work that way” in a whiny high pitched voice, not unlike Urkel with his testicles in a vice. In case it isn’t obvious, I do not care if the Time Travel element doesn’t make sense because it never has to. It is a variation on the MAGIC SCIENCE that was used in Happy Death Day 2U and nothing more. Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s talk about one of the newest entries into the Time Travel genre and the first Netflix film since Someone Great that actually got a reaction out of me.

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

Released: 3rd May
Seen: 4th May

Extremely Wicked Shockingly Evil and Vile Info.png

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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Polar (2019) – Sub-Zero-Par

Released: 25th January
Seen: 22nd February

Polar Info.png

 

On the 1st of February in 1982, the television sketch comedy series Not the Nine O’clock News aired an episode that contained a song called “Nice Video, Shame about the Song”. The song was a satire of the recently created MTV and in particular the music videos that had begun littering it with insanely strange yet interesting imagery that accompanied substandard songs. This was the era when all you needed to make it in the music industry was a confusing “artistic” music video that ran through every new tool that was made available at the time. The Not the Nine O’clock News team satirized this by making the most garishly elaborate video they possibly could, complete with images of comical satanic rituals and Elizabethan dress-up, all set to a song that was intentionally designed to be confusingly bad. It’s one of the most gloriously pointed critiques of the music video genre and the phrase “Nice video, shame about the song” became a bit of a personal shorthand for films that worry so much about looking cool that they don’t bother thinking about things like plot, character or dialogue. Films like Avatar or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets are films that I would put into this category… and now, we can throw Polar into that very specific group of films

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If Beale Street Could Talk (2019) – Let Them Talk

Released: 7th February
Seen: 18th February

If Beale Street Could Talk Info

In America today, one of the major issues is the way people are shuttled through the prison system, specifically people of colour. Thanks to a large amount of systemic racism that poisoned the prison system, African Americans now make up over a third of the prison population while only making up roughly a tenth of the American population. For me to go further into the details of what this means would be a pointless aside, though if you want the full context you’re going to need for this film then I suggest watching the amazing (and should’ve been Academy Award winning) documentary 13th on Netflix. The story of the prison system and what it has done to black American’s is the backdrop for If Beale Street Could Talk and while you might not need that bit of knowledge, it will make the film a richer experience.

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The Mule (2019) – No Relation to Gladys the Groovy

Released: 24th January
Seen: 2nd February

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In 2014, the New York Times printed an article titled “The Sinaloa Cartels 90-year-old Drug Mule” about a man named Leo Sharp who spent around a decade as one of the biggest drug runners for El Chapo. Dubbed Tata (The Grandfather), Leo would drive around the country in an old truck with hundreds of pounds of cocaine in the back. He’d go undetected due to his age, his clean record and by how fragile he could appear. The article itself is a fascinating read, exploring just how a senior citizen could go from being a veteran to transporting potentially thousands of kilos of cocaine. It’s a tale that seems tailor-made to be a movie and I guess Clint Eastwood thought that too because now we get a film about the 90-year-old drug mule and honestly, it’s not that bad.

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Death Wish (2018) – What A Waste Of A Wish

Released: 2nd March
Seen: 6th December (Catch-Up Screening)

During the ’70s and 80’s, there was a series of films called Death Wish where Charles Bronson played a father whose wife and child were attacked in a home invasion and ended up becoming a vigilante to try and put an end to the injustice in the town. While the series was never a hit with critics, audiences ate it up because it was a revenge story that acted as a little bit of escapism, the idea that any man could pick up a gun and save the town was enticing and managed to endure long enough for a run of sequels that became Charles Bronson’s most famous role. So, what if someone took that cult series of films and polished it up to look mostly acceptable and then threw in an actor with no charm, charisma or ability to move at a speed above a lethargic snail with back problems? Yeah… this is not going to be fun.

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Widows (2018) – Nobody Thought They Had The Balls To Pull This Off

Released: 22nd November
Seen: 27th November

Official Trailer for Widows (2018)

One of the standard genre’s that is almost always guaranteed to be a really good time is the heist film. For some reason, we all just enjoy a movie where a bunch of criminals stick it to someone higher in the social food chain while also making a ton of money. Widows is certainly going to fit that standard mould, a bunch of people plan to steal a large amount of money that will stick it to the people above them in the social food chain and that would be good enough. It would be enough if Widows was just a standard heist film but it also happened to star a group of amazing women, that would be good enough… but this is a Steve McQueen film, good enough doesn’t cut it here.

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