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Animal Crackers (2020) – Moderately Adequate

Released: 24th July
Seen: 29th July

Animal Crackers Info

In 1930 the Marx Brothers released Animal Crackers, probably one of their best films. It contains several of Groucho’s best lines, the song Hooray for Captain Spaulding is one of the classics from the group and it was based on one of their highly popular stage plays. I bring this up because I was genuinely stunned, one might even say I was perplexed when I saw that there was going to be an animated film based on the Animal Crackers property… and then I watched it, realised that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the Marx Brothers and then wrote this paragraph because the movie doesn’t exactly give me a lot to work with for a good opening.

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Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs (2020) – Fairy Fail

Released: 2nd July
Seen: 8th July

In 1937, Disney released what many regard as the definitive version of the German fairy tale Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. It’s certainly the version that most of us think of when we talk about that legendary fable, to the point where the question “What are the names of the seven dwarfs” is answered with “Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Sneezy, Dopey and Bashful” instead of the names used in the original Grimm’s fairy tale. Do you even know what the dwarfs were named in the original Grimm’s fairy tale? Trick question, they didn’t have names and were referred to either as a collective or by “The first one, the second one, etc”. With Disney’s version looming large over the history of the story, every version since then has had to try and do something to make it stand apart from the most well-known iteration of this story. Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs decided to be confusingly boring, which is fun.

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Artemis Fowl (2020) – Artless and Foul

Released: 12th June
Seen: 16th June

In 2001, Eoin Colfer released Artemis Fowl which was the first in a series of eight novels surrounding the adventures of the titular Artemis as he fights fairies, tries to save his father and… uh… do his taxes? I’ll be honest, I never read the Artemis Fowl book series as around that time I was just getting into the Harry Potter series (Yes, I’m aware that I bet on the wrong horse there. Sure Harry Potter had a good run of movies but… well, now I have to deal with liking the work of a transphobe so the Artemis Fowl fans won this in the long run) and didn’t have time for another book series about a 12-year-old in a battle with fantastical creatures stories, When I heard there was going to be a film of Artemis Fowl released this year I was mostly just happy to see Disney making a film that wasn’t just a remake of their earlier work. Then the apocalypse happened and Disney seemed almost eager to move this film to their streaming service… and having seen it, I can see why because oh god this one isn’t good.

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Necrologies (2018) – Lots Of Fun

Released: 7th March (DVD release)
Seen: 10th April

One thing I’m noticing about films I am being sent to review is that a lot of people want to try the Anthology film as an early work, and I totally get why. It’s a good way to get a bunch of first-time filmmakers to make little short films and string them together without needing to come up with a 90-minute long plot. You just need a good wrap around and a basic idea of the kind of film you’re making and voila, you’ve got yourself an anthology. It’s really hard to do a great anthology film though, I’d probably say Creepshow and VHS are the gold standards of the genre and over the last few weeks, we’ve stumbled upon some anthology films that would probably just barely make the Bronze ranking… well, today I have an easy Silver medalist of Anthology films, it needs a bit of work to get to gold but it’s still wildly impressive on its own merits.

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The Black Gate (2017) – It’s a very pretty gate

Released: 9th July 2019
Seen: 8th April

The Black Gate Info

I know that I’ve been a little harsh on some lower budget features and I swear it’s not intentional. Lower budget features and first-time films tend to come with some serious drawbacks in terms of just what is actually available for the filmmakers to use. Your first film isn’t going to be some grand epic where you have access to the world’s best lighting and sound equipment or an editing bay with high tech CGI to correct issues you didn’t spot on the day. Let’s be honest, your first film will probably be made with mates, shot on a weekend and edited using a pirated copy of Premiere that you’ve had since you downloaded CS2 back in the early 2000s. Sometimes your first film will not look that good and the sad truth is that it’s a little hard to look past sometimes. I promise you, my problems with these films are never about the things that can be explained away by budget because we’ve all been there. Any film student who had to put together a 5 minute short film on a budget of nothing knows how it feels to try and make that work, I’m judging these films based on things that are fixable at any budget level… which brings me to today’s offering, The Black Gate.

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Rutabaga (2018) – Building Up To Something Special

Released: 13th March 2019
Seen: 4th April

Rutabaga Info

In my review of The Platform I mentioned that I had a fair amount of films sent to me for review purposes. These films were supplied by The Movie Agency who have given me a total of 6 films I’ll be going through over the coming weeks. I wanted to pick something light from the selection to begin with, so I picked the shortest one of the bunch because I knew I had less time today than I would normally like to have which is how I ended up reviewing a movie from 2018 called Rutabaga, a film I can genuinely say I enjoyed but probably not for the reasons I was supposed to.

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Onward (2020) – Spellbinding

Released: 26th March
Seen: 21st March (Advance Screening Weekend)

Onward might go down as one of the unluckiest movies in recent Disney history since its release just happened to fall when the coronavirus pandemic basically shut down everything, including most theatres. Normally a Pixar film is basically guaranteed to make 100 million in the first week, get its budget covered in the second week and be on the way to one of the highest grossing films of the year. That’s now not happening, thanks to corona. If you want to be in genuine shock at just how suddenly this hit, go look at the box office of Onward. Onward is still technically the top grossing film in America and yet it’s barely cracking a thousand bucks a theatre. I bring this up because it explains why they made a pivot and released this one straight to VOD in the states and why it’ll be on Disney+ soon. So now the question becomes “Is this film worth a slightly higher than normal rental price to stream at home” and honestly? Yeah, because it’s a pretty great film.

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I Lost My Body (2019) – And No Body Lost Me

Released: 29th November (2019)
Seen: 1st February

Netflix really has been trying hard to push some good high-end properties lately, which is a nice change from what was scarily becoming a pattern that would leave me screaming “Why did you pay money for this?”. Partially they do this because they know that other services are popping up that’ll offer high-end products that they will inevitably need to compete with and the best way to prove that is to own properties that will get them Oscar nominations. They don’t even need to win, they just need the nomination. You can tell their attempt has worked pretty well since this year Netflix has almost a half dozen films nominated for some award. Best Animated Feature contained two of those nominations, the first being for Klaus and the second for this weird little gem that’s… well, it’s different, I’ll give it that much.

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Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) – Round Two. FIGHT!

Released: 26th December
Seen: 27th December

Two years ago, the world was surprised when the reboot of Jumanji came out and was actually really good. They had the near-impossible task of making a sequel to a Robin Williams movie just a few short years after he left us. It was the first time any property that Robin had touched would get revisited and somehow not only did they make it work, they even paid homage to the legend himself with some subtle and unsubtle nods. It ended up making almost a billion dollars at the box office and so naturally there was talk of a sequel. A sequel to Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle would have its own problem to deal with. Now that they had proven that they could make a film that honoured the original star… could they do something that didn’t rely on our love of a legend?

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Cats (2019) – Jellicles Can’t

Released: 26th December
Seen: 26th December

In 1939, T.S. Eliot wrote a book titled Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. In it, he wrote a series of poems about… well, cats. The book was beloved by many and would be the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber to create the musical Cats in 1981. That show would go on to be the fourth longest-running show on Broadway, just behind The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago and The Lion King. It would also be the 6th longest running show on the West End, behind The Mousetrap, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, The Woman in Black and Blood Brothers. It’s made billions around the world on the stage and has delighted audiences for years with its story of cats that compete to kill themselves in a magical ritual… and then Tom Hooper managed to get some blackmail photos of a lot of famous people and forced them to appear in his adaptation of the infamously strange musical. That’s the best explanation that I can come up with for why these people turned up. Blackmail and kidnapping, they certainly weren’t there because they wanted to be.

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