Well, it has been a long, and let’s call it, interesting year, but today brings to a close our last reviewed of a film from 2020. To round out the year, it is time to look at Pixar’s next entry, and given we already had a strong movie in Onward this year. I came into Soul with some reasonably high expectations.
So to set the scene, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a high school music teacher, but his real passion is performing jazz. This puts him in conflict with his mother Libba (Phylicia Rashad) who wants him to have a stable job. Well, those two worlds are about to collide when he is offered a full-time position teaching while also getting the chance to perform with the famous Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). This would be a big decision for Joe if he didn’t then fall through an open manhole and wake up on the escalator to the other side.
TL;DR – A film with a premise that does not hold up and then undermines the rest of the narrative
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit sequence
The Midnight Sky Review –
I think it is safe to say that I am a fan of the Science Fiction genre. Indeed I try to watch as much as I can get. However, sometimes you come across a concept that just does not work. Unfortunately for all the star power, good acting, and exciting design, today we look at a film that just does not work.
So to set the scene, we open in on the Barbeau Observatory in the Arctic Circle in February 2049 where we are told it has been three weeks since ‘The Event’. The Observatory is being evacuated chaotically, but Augustine (George Clooney) stays behind as menacing red circles appear over cities on maps on the computer monitors behind. Augustine is trying to contact the last mission away from the planet Æther to warn them when he finds that not everyone evacuated with a little girl Iris (Caoilinn Springall) being left behind.
Well, there are many aspects of Australian life I just don’t get, and one of those is the veneration of Ned Kelly. But then it does have the distinction of being the subject of the first feature film ever made. Today we look at a movie that explores the life of Ned Kelly, the true story of the bushranger … well maybe not the whole truth …or even a little bit of it.
So to set the scene, in 1867 Australia, and a young Ned Kelly (Orlando Schwerdt) is trying to find his place in a rural world with no education and a mother Ellen (Essie Davis) with an ‘interesting’ view of raising children. She sells the boy to Harry Power (Russell Crowe) a bushranger who introduces the boy to the violent world, including shooting Sergeant O’Neill (Charlie Hunnam) a member of the constabulary. After spending time in jail and away from his family Ned (George MacKay) returns home and gets brought back into the world he once escaped.
When you have worked a long time in retail, it is difficult to ‘get into the Christmas Spirit’. Which does sort of extend into those classic Christmas films. But enough time has passed to dive back in maybe, and well where best to start is the new Christmas film on Stan.
So to set the scene, we open in a hospital as a man is brought in for surgery. We find out that he is a prisoner and that he is considered dangerous. A little time later, Daryl (Daniel Henshall) tricks the local hospital Santa (Alirio Zavarce) and escapes just before the illusive Dingo (Sullivan Stapleton) arrived to kill him. Running in the Santa’s truck, he crashes into the farm of Hazel (Tatiana Goode), Tom (Eadan McGuinness), and Daisy (Lena Nankivell). He pretends to be Santa to Tom and Daisy, in the attempt to find his ‘sack’ (full of stolen money) that is buried on the farm somewhere.
TL;DR – A film about broken people reliving their broken lives, day after day after day after …
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid-credit scene
Palm Springs Review –
There have been many media properties that have attempted to recapture the joy that was the time loop in Groundhog Day. I mean even Stargate SG1 gave it a shot. However, no one has quite gotten there. Well, today we might have a contender with Palm Springs.
So to set the scene, we open in on the day of a wedding between Tala (Camila Mendes) and Abe (Tyler Hoechlin), but our focus is not with them. Instead, it is with Nyles (Andy Samberg) the boyfriend of Misty (Meredith Hagner) one of the bridesmaids. Nyles is the type of guy that will wear a Hawaiian shirt and swim pants to distinctly not beachside wedding. But still, he saves the day when Sarah (Cristin Milioti) the Maid of Honour has to make a surprise wedding speech, and she has had too much wine. It is all going swimmingly, with Nyles and Sarah about to hook up when an arrow comes out of nowhere and a masked man Joe (J.K. Simmons) starts hunting Nyles for sport. Wounded Nyles crawls into a glowing cave, and even though he asks Sarah not to follow she does, and then they both wake up at the start yesterday again.
There are times when you have seen an actor nail every role that you have seen them in, but they have only been in supporting roles. So you can’t wait to see someone take a chance and cast them in the lead. One of those actors is Riz Ahmed, and I am glad that I get to see that happen today with Sound of Metal.
So to set the scene, Ruben Stone (Riz Ahmed) is a musician, specifically a drummer, who is on tour with his partner Lou (Olivia Cooke). One night when he is performing a ringing starts in his ears, but it goes away. However, it continues to relapse till he has only 20% hearing in both his ears. Ruben is told that he has to stop drumming or he could lose all his hearing. He ignores the doctor and goes back to drumming until it is all gone. In a moment of despair, he starts to backslide after being clean for four years. Lou calls his sponsor, and they are able to find a place that can help him with both his addiction and help him work through his loss of hearing. The head of the facility, Joe (Paul Raci) needs Ruben to cut himself off from the world for this to work, which is a difficult transition.
It has been said of me lately that I have been rather a bit dismissive of the old works of writers like Jane Austen. Well, in my attempt to catch up on some of the films I missed in 2020, I thought it would be the perfect time to remedy this, a little.
In England’s Regency-era, a local matchmaker has made her latest match in the rural countryside village of Highbury. Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) has set up her governess Miss Taylor (Gemma Whelan) and local widower Mr Weston (Rupert Graves). She loves the game, and her latest intrigue is Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) who brings her into a confrontation with George Knightley (Johnny Flynn), a friend and yet sometimes rival.
There has been a couple of attempts in recent times to do the ‘what if the fantasy realm that you know was set in modern times’ and well, on the whole, they have been bad. But as a concept, it is solid, so I have been wondering if anyone would be able to pull it off. Well if anyone can do it, it is Pixar, and boy did they.
So to set the scene, Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) is just an average teenage elf, winning math awards, learning how to drive, avoiding his brother Barley Lightfoot (Chris Pratt) and trying to find friends. He is trying to find his place in the world with his brother, who is a bit of a screw-up, and his mother Laurel Lightfoot (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who is trying her best with the chaos. On his 16th birthday, their mother surprises them with a gift from their late father Wilden Lightfoot (Kyle Bornheimer) which turns out to be a magic staff and a spell, one that can bring him back, but only for one day.
TL;DR – A film that is desperately trying to differentiate itself from the past while still hitting all the same story points.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Mulan Review –
When I was growing up, I was at the perfect age for the original animated Mulan. It was this joyous riot of humour with music that I can still repeat verbatim today. However, it is also one of those films that as you grow up and the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia start to fade you begin to see it is not a film without its issues. With that in mind, this was one of the only Disney remakes that I was interested to see remade in live-action, but I am not sure it got to where it wanted to go.
So to set the scene, along the Northern Silk Road, a witch Xianniang (Gong Li) is helping a Rouran warlord Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee) attack garrisons of the Imperial Chinese Empire. To respond to this threat, the Emperor (Jet Li) signs an edict that one man from each household must be conscripted into the army to fight the menace. This is a dilemma for one family because the only man is Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) who badly injured his leg in the last war and has only daughters. Being called up to the army would be a death sentence for him, something his wife Hua Li (Rosalind Chao) sees. Seeing the inevitable outcome, Zhou’s daughter Mulan (Yifei Liu) takes his place even though it would mean her death if she is found out.
Today I begin my power shot through the films that I missed this year, these will be shorter reviews than usual, as I have a lot to get through in preparation for my best-of list. We begin with an action film that is both very old fashioned but also refreshing in some way.
So to set the scene, In Delhi Ovi Mahajan (Rudhraksh Jaiswal) is being a usual teenager going out with friends and visiting clubs right up until police officer kills his friend and takes him hostage. Ovi’s father is Ovi Mahajan Sr (Pankaj Tripathi) a major drug lord in India and is currently incarcerated. The boy was kidnapped by Amir Asif (Priyanshu Painyuli) a competitor from Dhaka, Bangladesh. With time being short, the boy’s family hires extraction expert Tyler Rake (Chris Hemsworth) to save his life and well things don’t go to plan.