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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Last Christmas (2019) Give It Away

Released: 7th November
Seen: 2nd December

2016, as a year, is generally remembered as a total dumpster fire where all forms of joy and happiness went to die. Entire nations turned on themselves and decided to do objectively stupid things like leave a certain European union or elect a pumpkin man that was assembled in 2013, had already begun to rot and somehow gained racist sentience (with that one sentence, I do believe I’ve gotten rid of the exact kind of reader one would hope to get rid of) and on top of that it seemed like every other day a celebrity that we loved died, culminating in the shocking death of George Michael on Christmas Day. Yes, there were more shocking deaths after him, but I need to save those for when the time comes to talk about the next Star Wars film. Anyway, naturally with a legend like George Michael there was a whole back catalogue of music that someone was inevitably going to take and turn into a tribute to the late performer. You would hope that they would make a film that was as joyful and cheeky as he was, something to celebrate his life… instead, they made a film that is the definition of saccharine and looted George’s pockets for discarded songs.

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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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Downton Abbey (2019) – Royally Sweet

Released: 12th September
Seen: 20th October

Downton Abbey hit TV screens in 2010 and from the moment that it started it was a monster hit, racking up between 9 million and 12 million viewers an episode over the course of its six year run. It took home Emmys like they were on sale. Fifteen Emmys over six years is insanely impressive for a show that wasn’t made explicitly for American audiences. It starred some of the best actors in the UK, including the icon Dame Maggie Smith in probably one of her most beloved performances. The show ended in 2015 with a Christmas special and… I’ve never seen a single episode. I just never got around to it, despite my absolute adoration of Maggie Smith, so I walked into this film with no knowledge of anything beyond “It’s about fancy rich people and the servants who keep them from dying of starvation” so we’re going to talk about if this movie works without having seen the source material, which is often going to happen with movie adaptations of TV series. Short answer? Yeah, kind of works… for the most part

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Murder Mystery (2019) – Whodumbit?

Released: 14th June
Seen: 25th August

The murder mystery genre has been kind of slow lately, the last major film in the genre being the Murder on the Orient Express way back in 2017. It’s always been a pretty fascinating genre, a large scale whodunit where someone is murdered and we follow the investigation into who the killer is. Often these movies would maybe take place in one location with everyone staying put so they could figure out who the killer was without having it spread. It’s also a genre that’s ripe for parody, as films like Murder by Death or Clue have proven how the genre can be taken to create some genuinely great comedy… and then there’s Murder Mystery, the store brand version of a comedy-mystery movie with all the ingredients and none of the flavour.

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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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After (2019) – 50 Shades Of Bland

Released: 4th July
Seen: 4th July

In April of 2013, Anna Todd released the first chapter of a story titled After onto the website Wattpad. Wattpad is a website known mostly for fan fiction and in Anna’s case, she was big into One Direction. This would prove to be good for Anna because One Direction was still really big at the time, indeed probably at the peak of their collective career. So this fanfiction would focus on Harry Styles, the heavily tattooed member of the well-loved boyband, and create a tale where Harry Styles was a college boy who broods and has a bit of a dark side to him who would end up falling for the sweet innocent Tessa. The book was a huge hit on Wattpad, netting half a billion reads for the 99 chapters of romance between a member of One Direction and some girl who could be you, dear reader. Now, there was a time when this would be the end of the story. The Fan Fiction would stay online, net the writer some credibility in the internet space and we’d never have to talk about it on this blog because it would be unfair to be incredibly critical towards fan fiction which is normally written by bored people with a few hours to kill and a little fantasy they want to imagine… but then After just had to go get turned into a book, change the name Harry Styles to Hardin Scott (for obvious legal reasons) and become enough of a hit that someone had to make a movie out of this book because if Fifty Shades could turn into a hit franchise, surely this one will be a major hit too.

*sigh*

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Aladdin (2019) – Friend Like Meh

Released: 23rd May
Seen:23rd May

When we think of the Disney Renaissance we think of this brief period between 1989 and 1999 when Disney was putting out hit after hit, some of the best films that appear in their catalogue. Right in the front end of that list, dropping in 1992 is the film Aladdin. Based on the Arabic folktale, Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved films. It’s a simple love story, enchanting tunes and, of course, its legendary performance by the late Robin Williams has cemented it into cinema history. Even today the original film holds up with great comedy and award-winning songs that everyone knows. A Whole New World, Friend Like Me, Prince Ali, these are some of the best songs ever put on film. The movie was such a hit it led to two direct-to-video sequels (one of them is actually good) and a TV series that everyone who was a child in the 90s watched. There’s even an adaptation of the show on Broadway but one thing that there will never be is a live-action film remake… at least, that’s what I thought until we inexplicably let Disney think that it would be acceptable to plunder their vaults and turn their classic animated films into subpar live action drivel, but apparently we’re allowing that now so guess what I have to do right now? That’s right, weep and cry because I had to watch this bland lifeless thing that alleges to be a movie.

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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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Someone Great (2019) – Something Very Above Average

Released: 19th April
Seen: 13th May

Someone Great Info.png

Is it just me or does Netflix have a weird habit of hiring actors from the CW network and giving them a cheesy romcom to play around with? We had that very recently with The Last Summer and The Perfect Date, two movies that were certainly watchable but nothing really worth writing home about (but totally worth writing a thousand words on the internet about because that is apparently my life now) and both of them have already been basically forgotten. There’s even another one coming out later on this month called Always Be My Maybe and heck, maybe that one’ll end up being the one that is just a little bit better than “Ah, it’s pretty good” because we’re still at “Ah, it’s pretty good” levels right now with another film in this genre.

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