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The Round Up #22 - December 2023

Just like last year, that flew by. Happy New Year to you, gentle reader. I hope that 2024 brings you everything you could possibly hope for. You've caught me just updating the last of my December views and adding the Top 20s for Music Video and TV. As is usual the top twenty movies rundown will come out in a month or so, when I've finished seeing everything I need to before passing judgement, so keep checking back for updates toward the end of January. The Golden Globes are next week (7th) so despite moving updates to once a month, there may be an extra one towards the middle of January too. I've dropped off a little this year, coming in at 391 movies this year, as opposed to 407 in 2022, but have ended up watching much more streaming this year instead. As I say, watch this space for a review of the year and the anticipated 'best ofs'.

Most played this month is from Jenna Raine below. It doesn't feature in the top twenty of the year simply because it didn't have the playtime to hit the figures. Lovely though, nonethless. Lastly, thanks for coming to read Cinebuffs, hopefully we'll catch up with one another at some point in 2024. Best wishes and much love, Steve xxx





Reptile (2023)

Much more engaging than expected. Netflix crafted gritty thrillers always seem quite saccharine and over-developed with a look and feel like something similar that someone high up at HQ saw previously and thought there was a buck or two in it for them. Has a tendency to get a little helter-skelter in its delivery and plotting but the performances are great. Better than the story we are being asked to swallow, in fact.



When Evil Lurks (2023)

An Argentinian possession thriller. Not something I personally come across every day. Just aswell, as I'm not sure I could cope with the stress of it all. This is miles better than it really should be, with some excellent performances making up for an often confusing plot. The shock value is alarmingly effective, taking my breath away more than once. As a hardened horror viewer, this doesn't happen too often so credit where it's due. The direction was highly accomplished thoughout, featuring the most unsavoury ideas committed unashamedly to screen for some time.



Candy Cane Lane (2023)

Predictable enough to confidently put your money on, a Christmas comedy caper starring Eddie Murphy with Amazon Studios at its roots. You can smell the mulled plot coming from a mile away and this does nothing to rock the festive boat. Murphy is softening in his more mature years, maybe, or just knows this audience as well as we do, Calling it magical would be the intent, I imagine, but it never reaches those heights. Occasionally raises a smile if not an outright chortle.



The Conspiracy of Dark Falls (2020)

Oh by crikey, how did we end up here? I'll tell you how, Amazon Prime. I should have known, they have a habit of chucking these awful abortions dressed up as film every so often. The script is possibly the worst I have ever sat through and the acting and characterisation is just plain unforgivable. The direction is amateurish at best and the sound is jarringly dreadful. This literally has nothing going for it whatsoever. I understand microbudgets and the pitfalls this usually brings with it, but really, I am amazed this even got made in the first place. Without doubt, the worst film I've seen this year.



May December (2023)

Like buying weed on the internet, after giving this a few hours to settle, I'm still not feeling it. This comes across as more indulgent than lavished in the gravitas and character studies it really, really needed. The performances are excellent, but really, did we expect anything else from Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman, both of an age and smart enough by now to ask the Director what the slated release date is going to be before they sign it. Callous and cynical, maybe, but isn't that exactly what Haynes is trying to get away with here? Looks great and is well delivered, but like the next time I go to the internet for weed, I'm not buying it.


Cat Person (2023)

Starts off as a Gen Z Fleabag, funny at times but riddled with realistic and valid moments of uncomfortable reality, but gradually degenerates to something much more formulaic over the running time. The perils of dating and initiating romantic relationships is the point, of course, but this really needs to choose a side of the fence to sit on. Either this is made to make you point and laugh, or to openly worry that you don't find it funny and all too perilously close to home. Nice delivery and performances of a nifty script make this worth watching.



Your Christmas Or Mine 2 (2023)

As previously mentioned, I can watch Asa Butterfield in anything, but he's really beginning to test my patience. Skirting Richard Curtis once is criminal enough, but to do it twice seems a little too much like taking the piss, really. Festive japes aplenty befall our featured loved-up couple and their respective in-laws, but instead of going to the wrong house, they end up in the wrong hotels up a mountain in Austria. The script is bland and simple, aimed scattergun style at just about everyone and disappointing most. Twee just isn't in it. Looks like it was fun (and cold) to make. Not as toasty and comforting as it could have been.



Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (2023)

Sadly under-performing, Dawn of the Nugget is only really dreaming of what it could be; the outright magic of the original. My kids are all old enough now to get worked up at something that harks back to their childhood and they were all gleefully looking forward to it in a way that only fully grown men really shouldn't if they want their wives and girfriends to retain any semblance of respect for them. Punching significantly above its weight, this is not bad, really, but don't get caught up too much by the hype, as there really isn't much here to froth about.



Thanksgiving (2023)

Had more fun with this than I would like to admit. It isn't groundbreaking or genre-defining but it is hack and slash innovative and working hard to prove it. Eli Roth still has it. Who knew? Like the original Final Destination in its brutality which makes Mortal Kombat seem tame at times. None too complicated which is perfect for its target audience; Scream fans looking for a little something extra. Blood, slop and gristle, all in one sitting. Nom nom.



Bad Behaviour (2023)

I love Connelly and Whishaw, but cannot get on board with this as it feels like Englert is talking down to all ouf us, in explicit detail, the things we are not able to understand. I feel womansplained and patronised and inadequate all at once. It could be that I really am so emotionally barren, or this is all a huge, unfunny, feckless load of bollocks. Honestly, it would have hurt my head if I knew what was going on.



Office Christmas Party (2016)

The second time I've sat through this and for the same reasons. It's Christmas and Jennifer Aniston being feisty in high heels. Jason Bateman is just an added bonus, that makes it bearable in the moments that Aniston isn't on screen. It's sometimes crass, sometimes funny, but always fairly poor taste and even poignant. Never complicated, however, at any point, opting for thelowest common denominator at every opportunity. Mindless festive fun, I guess.



Dumb Money (2023)

I might have got more out of this if I had the vaguest notion of what was going on and what it all meant. Even as it was happening at the time, I was aware of the events, but still had no clue (or care, if I'm honest) for the shenanigans of it all. The Big Short is about as close as I can get to this, thematically, but this is alot less engaging, more unapologetically complicated (No Margot in the bubble bath, for example) and scripted with less charisma. Nice performances from all.


Maybe I Do (2023)

I was expecting a run-of-the-mill speed script, you know the type, all Hallmark predictability and soft lighting so as not to highlight the fading stars diminishing fortunes, but this wasn't quite the rom-com by numbers that the poster predicted, largely down to irreverent understanding of the cast who enjoy this much more than the punchy script suggests they should. Additionally, any movie that povs Emma Roberts in heels staring down at me disapprovingly gets my vote.



The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes (2023)

I know there is a lot of love for this in some quarters, but like the previous movies in the franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence, this just doesn't hit the spot for me. In the same way that I could never get my cinematic head around Harry Potter, I imagine the core audience is those that have read the stories before sitting down to see their imaginations fleshed out on screen. Zegler comes with her own set of baggage in my opinion, which can be tricky to overlook, but I'm too old for two plus hours of thirst traps. Not the demographic, clearly.



Freelance (2023)

Something of an unchallenging misadventure on the part of John Cena (trying but failing) and particularly Alison Brie (not trying), who can and should be doing much better, but Hollywood has a habit of throwing these things out without too much care and attention for the rounded storytelling bit with a lack of memorable moments only because of their narrative familiarity and lack of originality found in other similar projects. The predictable elevator music equivalent of filmmaking.



The Retirement Plan (2023)

Another one of those 'it's now or never' moments that I often find myself conjuring with at the end of every year. Interesting just about enough to keep hold of, but never so enticing as to beat something else to rent out my eyeballs for a couple of hours, so I'm left with what I can only politely describe as the 'dregs' of a year almost over. Of all the work Cage has been doing, which has been prolific, this is one of those that you really wish he hadn't bothered with. He, Ron Perlman and Jackie Earle Haley are all trading on past glories and it shows.



How To Have Sex (2023)

And it all started so well, like a female version of the Inbetweeners movie. I laughed a few times in the first half an hour, not least at the 'why do you never see pigs hiding in trees' joke. I couldn't get Caity Baser out of my head when watching Tara, all feisty, yet still naive, played by Mia McKenna-Bruce, but you just know this was going south from as soon as the thing began. Molly Manning Walker, whilst relatively new, is clearly a formidable talent and her cinematography skills really show here. A cautionary tale as old as Malia has been a cut-price haven for partygoers, told candidly and carefully by a skilled cast, as by the half hour mark, this just stops being funny. Recommended

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