Knives Out (2019) – Non Spoiler Review

A Lionsgate Picture, Written and Directed by Rian Johnson.

This film is simply one of the years best so far. Early in the film, Rian Johnson completely flips what you expect, and for the next 30 mins or so I was wondering how he’d made such a bad decision. However, as the third act kicked in, it became very clear he had out thought us all and instead delivered something completely original and surprising.

The screenplay is so clever that it really should attract awards attention, and the way it acts as both as murder mystery and a political/social commentary is a great compliment to Johnson’s writing. Due to this being a non spoiler review, I won’t go into much detail, but immigration and class play a big part in this story.

The score, production design and costume design are all perfect for this type of film and really add to the overall feel. The acting is so brilliantly over the top that it’s just a joy to see so many talented stars have such a good time.

Chris Evans gets to play completely against his “Captain America/good guy” image and he does it so brilliantly, as the pre MCU Evans re-emerges. Daniel Craig is also an absolute stand out as Blanc and his accent and over the top performance is such a great throwback to the classic gentlemen sleuths, and also makes you remember what a great character actor the man is.

However, this film completely belongs to one person, and that is Ana De Armas, who is definitely the films lead and the key reason the movie works is due to her performance. This again proves how much of a star De Armas is, and I can’t wait to see her carter continue to grow next year when she stars as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, starts opposite Ben Affleck in erotic thriller Deep Water, and re-teams with Daniel Craig in No Time to Die.

Knives Out is such a fun time at the movies and could very easily be an awards dark horse. It is a murder mystery for the modern generation that pays respect to the past.

Rating = 4.5/5

Frozen II (2019) – Non Spoiler Review

A Walt Disney Picture, Written by Jennifer Lee, Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.

This is a movie that is already breaking records at the box office, and I am glad to report that while it isn’t a perfect film, it certainly warrants its existence and is a very emotional and hilarious animated adventure.

The story itself is a bit all over the place, but this is less about plot, and more about character and emotion. Jennifer Lee and her team use the world they have already created to craft a character study of its leads and focus on how understanding the past is key to a proper future.

I won’t spoil the actual story, but it focuses on our leads having to dig into their own pasts and what makes them who they are, in order to discover who they should be.

There isn’t a song as instantly iconic as Let It Go, but overall the songs as well served in the story and decent. Lost in the Woods particularly allows for Jonathan Groff to show his talents, and the song itself really tackles toxic masculinity and shows how brilliantly progressive this particular Prince is.

Elsa goes on a very emotional journey, and by the end of the film she is in a much different place than she started, but it feels very right for her. There is little in the way of LGBT representation, but her interactions with Honeymaren offer hope that could be explored in a potential Frozen 3.

Anna continues to be a very compelling character as well, and very much has her own journey, and it is crucial that she is not just her sister’s keeper. Kristen Bell is an absolute treasure.

The whole cast is great, and Josh Gad is truly hilarious here. It’s not a perfect film, but it’s a very good one, and I still think there is much more to explore in this world.

Rating = 3.5/5

Ranking American Horror Story

American Horror Story has now aired 9 seasons, each one focusing on an entirely new subject, while often using the same cast members. It has been a revolutionary show for TV, ushering in the era of the anthology/limited series that is now dominating the landscape. It brought the acting talents of Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and Lady Gaga to our attention, and gave new opportunities to legends like Kathy Bates and Jessica Lange. I am not going to dig too deep into it’s legacy, and more of a focus on the specific seasons, and where I personally would rank them. I have taken great care at thinking about this and I’m sure some will disagree, but I would love to hear your own rankings too.

9. AHS: Apocalypse

This season promised to be the biggest and best that AHS could offer, bringing back some iconic Coven characters and the promised anti-Christ from Murder House for a crossover event to end the world. However, the result ended up being a muddled mess of a season that didn’t really seem to know what to do with its talented cast. Cody Fern is a great actor but was hugely miscast as Michael. The stand out episode was the Sarah Paulson directed “Return to Murder House” and it was great to see Jessica Lange and Evan Peters return as some of my favourite characters they have played.

8. AHS: Roanoke

AHS really played with the format here and took a lot of risks, but most didn’t pay off. Evan Peters barely featured which was an issue, but it did have occasionally compelling moments and featured a really strong performance from both Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe.

7. AHS: Freak Show

This has plenty of stylised elements to enjoy and compelling performances from Paulson, Peters, Lange and co. However, the story itself just never quite connected for me and although it was interesting, it just didn’t fully work for me.

6. AHS: Coven

I know this will be a very controversial position as many view this as one of the best seasons of the show, and I do really enjoy parts of it, but as a full season it just never fully hit the mark for me. Roberts, Farmiga, Paulson, Rabe, Conroy, and Lange all give great performances and have great fun though, and I fully understand why some people enjoy it so much.

5. AHS: Cult

This was a very stripped back and political response to the start of Trump era America, and it had mixed results. However, Paulson is great as always and Peters delivers what I view to be the best AHS performance of all time as Kai and he deserved much more attention for it. The season also introduced us to Billie Lourd in the world of AHS.

4. AHS: Hotel

This was the most stylised and sexual season of the show, and those elements were done brilliantly and added a real edge. However, the story itself was not particularly strong despite the great premise. Lady Gaga is totally compelling in the lead role here and Evan Peters has great fun in his supporting role.

3. AHS: 1984

The most recent season of the show took AHS backed to its stripped down roots with great success. It was a brilliant spin on the classic 70/80s slasher films and produced some really memorable characters. It was the first season not to feature Peters or Paulson, which is a big blow, but their absence wasn’t felt as much due to Billie Lourd’s absolutely iconic performance as Montana. The 80s never die.

2. AHS: Murder House

The season that started it all, and still one of the best ever. Jessica Lange as Constance, Evan Peters as Tate, the rubber man, and much more. This season did a lot to change how TV today is seen and even without that, it is just a really compelling season filled with great performances and twisted scares.

1. AHS: Asylum

In my opinion, this is easily the winner. The story is so compelling that it is hard to compete, and it has everything. Aliens, serial killers, nazis, and musical numbers. Paulson as Lana Winters is instantly iconic and her best performance on the show. It is a truly fantastic season all round, and it really allowed the show to become the phenomenon it is today.

Most Exciting Actresses in Hollywood

This is a personal list and is not by any means a list of ‘best actresses’ because there are so many talented women working in Hollywood right now and it would be very tough and unfair to put them into a list of just five.

However, the list I have chosen to make is of the five actresses who I am personally most excited by right now and who I most actively look out for the work they are doing and am usually continually impressed. I’m sure people will have very different lists and I would love to hear from people who would be on their lists too. My list is in no particular order…

Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie is in my opinion arguably the most exciting actress in Hollywood right now. She has a production company that is making great progress, she stars as Harley Quinn in one of the DCEU’s biggest franchises, and could potentially become an Oscar winner for either Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or (more likely) Bombshell. She continues to take on risky and diverse roles unlike many others in Hollywood, and I still believe her break through role in The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the most memorable, sexy, and genuinely great supporting performances in recent years.

Jodie Comer

Jodie Comer has only starred in a handful of films at this point, and this is unlikely to change in the next year or two due to her commitments to Killing Eve. However, following her Emmy win and upcoming role in the Ryan Reynolds film Free Guy, she is sure to be in very high demand. She’s made a career on British TV but her real break out was the role of Villanelle in Killing Eve. In my opinion, this is the best character and performance on TV right now. Her stylish, bisexual assassin is not only terrifying, she is hilarious, beautiful, and bizarrely lovable. She is definitely one of my favourite actresses right now and her future is incredibly bright.

Ana De Armas

She has many exciting films coming up including Blonde (where she plays Marlyn Monroe, Knives Out, Deep Water, Ana new Bond film No Time To Die, among others. She broke out in the erotic thriller Knock Knock and has gone from strength to strength since, with Blade Runner 2049 being another stand out. She brings great sensuality, emotion, and raw talents to her parts, and I personally believe she should have been the new Catwoman. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Tessa Thompson

She is a blockbuster star on both film and tv with her MCU role as Valkyrie and her tv role on Westworld. However, I personally find her indie film work the most exciting, with some incredibly daring and strong performances. A stand out to me is Sorry to Bother You, an incredibly unique and visually bold performance that caused great conversation. I hope she continues to make these sorts of films and she can achieve a lot in this industry.

Brie Larson

The only current actress of this list with an Academy Award (although that may change for Margot Robbie very soon) and with her performance in Room, which won her Oscar, Larson delivered arguably my favourite female performance on film of the decade. She built a career in indie films on the way to Room, with Short Term 12 being a stand out, and after her Oscar has gone on to be a director and blockbuster star, leading the way for more diversity in film (and getting an unnecessary backlash for that) and starring in a billion dollar film and co-starring in the highest grossing film in history (all in 2019). I am excited for her MCU future but even more excited by what dramatic and indie films are in her future, and the performances she could deliver.

Honourable mentions: Amy Adams and Charlize Theron – These two performers have been around much longer that the others mentioned but still continue to do some of the best and most daring work in all of Hollywood.

The Best Comic Book Films of all time

This is a personal list of what I feel to be the best comic book adaptations that I have seen. Some are placed above films I would judge to be ‘better’ because I feel that the other films are better ‘comic book adaptations’. I have a great passion for the genre and I’m sure this list will be very different to what any readers of this list think, but that’s where all the fun is. I will could down the lost from 10-1…

10 – Deadpool 2

A controversial pick but I personally prefer this to the first film due to its expanded and more risk taking plot, whilst also featuring the same magic of the original. It is one of the funniest films I have ever watched, perfectly matching up to my sense of humour, and that is why it has made the list for me.

9. Thor: Ragnarok

The Thor franchise could’ve easily died with The Dark World but they decided to give it another shot, completely changing the characters trajectory forever. Taika Waititi brought an incredible irreverence and humour to the property and Chris Hemsworth finally came into the part fully and became one of the Marvel’s MVPs.

8. Avengers: Infinity War

This film brought together characters from 10 years of the MCU for an all out superhero spectacular that totally delivered on the hype and gave us one of films best villains and biggest cliff hanger endings. It also became only the fourth film in history in the time to reach $2 Billion worldwide.

7. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

This film sparked a huge change in future of the super hero because it successfully moved into a new genre. This was a superhero film told through the lens of a political thriller, and the result was one of the best comic book films ever made. It also was the first time the Russo Brothers directed a MCU film (they have directed 3 of the films that are on my list).

6. Spider-Man 2

This is widely regarded by many as one of the great superhero films and Sam Raimi crafted this emotion filled masterpiece long before the superhero genre was dominant in Hollywood. It is a film that is even more important to be as it was a key part of my childhood, and something I have continued to love to this day.

5. Logan

This is more of a western than a super hero film, but it is still very much a comic book adaptation. With the strong feeling of the end of an era, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart said goodbye to the characters they had been playing for 17 years in one of the most powerful and satisfying films in recent time. It was even nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, which is very rare for the genre.

4. Joker

This is now officially the most profitable comic book movie of all time, and is one of the best. Joaquin Phoenix delivers an absolute tour de force performance and the film itself became a cultural phenomenon unlike much we have seen before. It operates as a haunting character drama and critique of society, and also as a very effective origin story for cinema’s most iconic villain.

3. Avengers: Endgame

The highest grossing film in history and the iconic end to the MCUs 11 year Infinity Saga. It delivered an ending so satisfying that many could not believe and I personally experienced a thrill at the movies that I have rarely experienced when watching the midnight screening. It was an hilarious and emotional rollercoaster that worked brilliantly as the culmination to this carefully built saga. While not being the best, it is in my opinion the ‘Ultimate Super Hero Film’.

2. The Dark Knight

Christopher Nolan’s film is regarded by many as the best superhero film ever made, and I would definitely not argue against that, but for me it is a close second. However, it is undeniably a superb piece of filmmaking, with the crime genre mashed together with Batman mythos to create an incredibly sophisticated and satisfying film. It also features an iconic and Oscar winning performance from the late Heath Ledger that will live long in the memory, and the fact this film missed out on a best picture nomination led to the academy expanding the possible nominees from 5 up to potentially 10.

1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This is the only film on the list that isn’t live-action, and I don’t think it could have been even remotely as successful if it was. The film not only perfectly captures the character of Spider-Man and why it means so much to people of all races/sexualities/genders, they also created a thrilling and hilarious story. It also features some of the best and most unique animation ever put on screen, won the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and has a much anticipated sequel on the way in 2022.

The Affair – The Redemption of Noah Solloway

It has now been a week since I watched the final ever episode of The Affair, and despite following the show throughout all its seasons, I did not have too much invested in the finale due to the shows mixed results in the last few seasons. However, the couple of episodes that led into the season finale were some of the best the show had done in years, and the finale itself completely took me by surprise by almost perfectly wrapping up the show and providing some of the most emotional scenes I have seen on TV in a long time, one of TVs best finales ever, and it left a huge impression on me.

This post is not going to be a review of the whole show, or of season 5 specifically, and it is more just a comment on the surprise effect that the finale of this show had on me, and why that may be, focusing specifically on the character who has been central to the five seasons. The first and most obvious point to make is that when this show first launched, it immediately became one of the best and most unique things on tv due to the narrative decision to show the same events from two differing perspectives, and the incredibly strong performances from Ruth Wilson, Dominic West, Maura Tierney, and Joshua Jackson. Over the years the show has been a mixed bag in the different stories it has chosen to tell, but the characters themselves have always remained fascinating; flawed and likable at the same time. Following Wilson’s shock exit which led to her death storyline, the show was always going to be deeply affected by the loss of both Wilson and Jackson, and that was felt heavily in season five, until the story came into focus later in the season.

The second half of the final season very much came to focus on Noah and the way he has behaved towards women throughout the show, and looks at what consequences he should face. Although it is initially handled clumsily as the women coming forward are dismissed as lying or seeking attention by getting in on the ‘me too movement’, and even though we know Noah has been incredibly thoughtless and rude towards women, we are still made to believe throughout the years he has never crossed a legal line. This makes for uncomfortable viewing as it is hard for us to not slightly side with Noah as he seems to be wronged, but we also don’t want to not believe these women, especially after the last few years have brought to life so much of the horrors women have had to deal with and how brave they are for speaking out. However, the season quickly corrects itself by having Noah realise that he was in the wrong and stopping trying to disprove these women, and instead trying to becoming a better person for everyone in his life, which is something he eventually achieves. As Helen says to Noah in the penultimate episode, she is “unsure how he can be so compassionate at some times and so cruel at others”. This is a question I have been asking myself for a long time as a viewer, as all the other characters have very distinguishable things that explain why they act like they do, but this isn’t the case for Noah, and this makes his actions and potential redemption all the more intriguing.

In the end, we are asked the question of if a man like Noah deserves redemption. The answer is maybe not, but that doesn’t stop it from being the right thing to happen in this situation. He doesn’t get his success back, but he gets the family he so nearly lost. This then flashes forward almost thirty years to the story of Joanie, who has just discovered that her mother Allison was murdered but is struggling to deal with the memory of her. This leads her back to the lobster roll (the restaurant Allison worked at and first met Noah) just before she leaves town and the place is deserted apart from its owner, non-other than an old Noah, who it is revealed moved back to Montauk soon after Whitney’s wedding. He has an emotional reunion with the woman who he raised for a few years as a child, and he finally sets the record straight for her about who Allison really was, and how resilient and kind Joanie’s mother was. Joanie finally realises how much her mother cares, and is now able to return back to her life, without the self-destructive tendencies she had been displaying. This is the final part in the decades long saga of the families effected by Noah and Allison’s initial affair, and it is the final step in Noah’s redemption story.

The final scene of old man Noah, who has been in Montauk for many years (the place where so much has happened over the decades due to his actions one fateful day) features him dancing on a clifftop to the song ‘The Whole Side of the Moon’, which is what he taught everyone to dance to for Whitney’s wedding, something he was unable to witness himself due to his past actions. The cover of the song is done by Fiona Apple, who sang the iconic opening number for the show, and it perfectly encapsulates how the finale played out, and how effectively they closed the story of The Affair and of these characters we have come to know and care about, and the ballad of Noah Solloway. “I saw the crescent, You saw the whole of the moon”…

The Updated Future of the DCEU

*Updated from my post a few months ago to stay in touch with the changing times*

2020

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) (Confirmed)

Wonder Woman 1984 (Confirmed)

2021

The Batman (Confirmed)

The Suicide Squad (Confirmed)

Black Adam

2022

The Trench

Gotham City Sirens

Aquaman 2 (Confirmed)

2023

The Flash

Wonder Woman 3

The New Gods

2024

Batgirl

The Batman 2

Black Adam vs Shazam

2025

Birds of Prey vs Gotham City Sirens

Superman

The Suicide Squad 3

2026

Supergirl

Justice League 2

Aquaman 3

2027

Batgirl 2

The Batman 3

The Flash 2

The Updated Future of the MCU – Movies

*Update from my post a few months ago to reflect the changing times*

Phase 4

2020

Black Widow (Confirmed)

Eternals (Confirmed)

2021

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Confirmed)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Confirmed)

Untitled ‘Spider-Man’ Sequel (Confirmed)

Thor: Love and Thunder (Confirmed)

Phase 5

2022

Deadpool 3

Black Panther 2 (Confirmed)

Untitled ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ Sequel

Blade

2023

Captain Marvel 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

Fantastic Four

Black Widow 2

2024

Shang-Chi 2

Avengers 5

X-Men

Phase 6

2025

Blade 2

Doctor Strange 3

Deadpool and the Wolverine

2026

Nova

Black Panther 3

Iron-Heart

2027

The New Guardians

Captain Marvel 3

Fantastic Four 2

Updated Oscar Predictions

This is my updated predictions for this year’s Oscars, nearly a month on from my last predictions. For the first time in these posts, I will order my predictions by what I believe to be the favourites. These are likely to continue to wildly change over the coming months, but this how I believe things may currently play out.

Best Picture

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony)

Marriage Story (Netflix)

The Irishman (Netflix)

Joker (Warner Bros)

Parasite (Neon)

Jojo Rabbit (Fox)

1917 (Universal)

Little Women (Sony)

The Two Popes (Netflix)

The Farewell (A24)

Wildcard = Ford v. Ferrari (Fox)

Best Director

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Bong Joon Ho – Parasite

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Wildcard = Todd Phillips – Joker

Best Actor

Adam Driver – Marriage Story

Joaquin Phoenix – Joker

Leonardo DiCaprio – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Robert De Niro – The Irishman

Eddie Murphy – Dolemite is my Name

Wildcard = Taron Egerton – Rocketman

Best Actress

Charlize Theron – Bombshell

Renee Zellwegger – Judy

Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story

Saoirse Ronan – Little Women

Awkwafina – The Farewell

Wildcard = Lupita Nyong’o – Us

Best Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes

Joe Pesci – The Irishman

Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood

Wildcard = Shia LaBeouf – Honey Boy

Best Supporting Actress

Margot Robbie – Bombshell

Florence Pugh – Little Women

Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

Laura Dern – Marriage Story

Thomasin McKenzie – Jojo Rabbit

Wildcard = Nicole Kidman – Bombshell

Best Adapted Screenplay

Anthony McCarten – The Two Popes

Todd Phillips and Scott Silver – Joker

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Steven Zailian – The Irishman  

Wildcard = Billy Ray – Richard Jewell

Best Original Screenplay

Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Charles Randolph – Bombshell

Bong Joon-Ho – Parasite

Lulu Wang – The Farewell

Wildcard = Shia LaBeouf – Honey Boy

The Ballad of Bojack Horseman

After ‘Part 1’ of the final season dropped on Netflix on 25th October, we now only have 8 new episodes left of Bojack Horseman, and they will be released on 31st January 2020. With this in mind, I decided to write this brief post focusing on the show, and specifically its title character. This is truly one of the most thought provoking, hilarious, and brilliantly written shows of the 21st century and it has gone underappreciated by the awards communities and the majority of the general public.

Starting in 2014, the show was initially seen as an amusing new series that had Hollywood specific humour and some exuberant characters. However, it became quickly clear that it was much more than that, it was an exploration of morality, depression, substance abuse, abuse of power, and the complicated relationships we develop throughout our life. It has taken on very hot button topics like gun control, sexual harassment, sexuality, and much more during its run, and it should be commended for how realistically and bravely they have done so. The supporting cast all have fascinating arcs of their own; Diane, Princess Carolyn, Mr Peanut Butter, Todd, and many others all change drastically throughout the show in complicated ways, but the one consistent for all of them is their relationships with Bojack.

He is a middle aged horse who was a big star of the 90s sitcom ‘Horsin Around’ and ever since has struggled with being a washed up actor in LA. He battles serious self-loathing and self-destructive behaviour, alcohol and drug mis-use, and a constant need to push people away from him. Throughout the seasons, we have slowly realised how this was all caused by his own childhood and loveless upbringing in an unconventional household and the way he has been failing to process this throughout his life, and repeating the same mistakes. I believe the most telling relationship to show this is between Bojack and his former child star co-star Sarah Lynn, someone who Bojack first met as an innocent young girl but we meet as a drug addicted pop star, still desperate for someone to love her. The story reaches a shocking crescendo when she and Bojack go on a binge and Sarah Lynn ends up dying. This is a huge turning point for Bojack as he is finally able to see the horrors his toxic behaviour can cause and how much he failed the girl who looked up to him so much, as well as many other people. This finally leads him to asking Diane to take him to rehab at the end of season 5, and that’s where we left off.

The first set of episodes of season 6 focus for the first time on a Bojack that is sober and truly determined to stay that way, and he now has to discover who he is without the substances, and how his relationships will be effected by this. In the eight episodes, very little happens of much drama to Bojack but mainly to the people around him as he tries to work out his place in the world. I think much has been set up for the final eight episodes to bring about the shows endgame and finally reveal where Bojack Horseman will end up, and if he deserves the happy ending many want for a man who has been so toxic for much of his life. The finale cliff-hanger that promises repercussions for his actions in previous seasons is a compelling lead in to what is sure to be an emotional, hilarious, and very likely, incredibly powerful final set of episodes.

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