Happy New Year Buffs! 2024 Promises to be quite the year for movies, but as always, we'll just wait and see. Not quite squeezing in the Top 20 movies of 2023 into January with one thing or another, but you'll see it at the end of February, just in time for the Oscars on March 10th. Hope you're not freezing your extremeties off in the god-awful January chill and everyone is tucked up nice and cosy in front whatever streaming services you employ. Top of the Pops this month comes from Jeff Russo and Lisa Hannigan with their haunting cover of Britney Spears' 'Toxic', featured as you can see just below in Season Five of Fargo, which was the blast it always was. See you at the end of February, may your Valentines be plentiful and not from your Mum. Love, Steve xxx
Eileen (2023) ***
Interesting if not quite exotic sixties drama of the relationship of a girl's sexual awakening and her slowburn dalliance with the new female Doctor at her workplace. Strong performances and an authentic feel with sometimes sublime cinematography make this certainly a visual treat, featuring confused, initially prim waif Eileen, played by Thomasin McKenzie and head-turner Anne Hathaway as Rebecca, the focus of Eileen's clumsy obsession. Drags at times, but is worth it overall.
You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment (2024) **.5
A quite un-Netflixy approach to the vagaries of careless dieting. Full of useful bits of foodie info and easy to follow science to back it up but Netflix avoids going for the throat to any noticeable extent as has been their habit int he past. Just more 'don't eat this, even if you thought it was good for you' rather than tearing mega corporations to shreds. I'm still not convinced about the laboratory made boiled eggs.
Captains of the World (2023) **
Not really what it says on the tin. Just a documentary of the World Cup Finals in 2022, with occasional talking heads from some of the events major players. Nice, if you're Argentinian or Portuguese. If not, then you've already seen everything here already. Nice to see Tyler Adams getting a telling off, if we're honest. Looks very glam, as it really should.
Never have I heard it be said that we see too much of Olga Kurylenko. She's got a fairly magnetic on screen presence, though maybe her artistic choices might need a fine tune. This is 'mad woman goes bonkers with a special sword' and not really the intelligent historial biopic that we would have wanted. I think she was aiming more for Milla Jovovich's Joan of Ark, but missed the target by a country mile.
Mostly harmless delve into bored housewives doing it for themselves, and doing good, thankyou very much. Starring Kristen Bell, Kirby, Vince Vaughn and the scene stealing delight that is Paul Walter Hauser, this is funny sometimes, but not often enough, really. Not sure if this is based on a true story, but nothing would surprise me these days. Absent-minded fun, just about.
Judas & The Black Messiah (2021)
Good Grief (2023)****
Is Dan Levy nothing more than this generation's fabulously good looking Richard Curtis? Whilst I am absolutely sure most of us would like more Schitt's Creek, should he have a mind to (fingers still crossed), he is happy to flex his inarguable talents as storyteller and actor in new and perhaps more challenging areas. This is so delightfully lovely to look at and all of the performances reek of nearly tamed acting prowess, supported more than ably by Ruth Negga, Himesh Patel and, god love her, Celia Imrie. Heartfelt and poignant, this is designed to tug on your heartstrings and it does it very well, even if naysayers could accuse it of looking better than it actually is. Personally, I loved every minute.
I Am A Stalker (2022)
Ghislaine Maxwell: Filthy Rich (2022)
Night Swim (2023)*.5
Rightly or wrongly, and feel free to chastise me if you want, but this is what I lovingly refer to as 'time-and-a-half'. This initially sounds quite impressive, but it really isn't, as it refers to the process of watching a movie at 1.5x the normal speed. I rarely do this, but sometimes it's either a necessity or in this case, just recommended. And this is warranted here purely for the unimaginative story, undemanding performances and frankly ropey plot. Yes, you have seen this all before, probably at normal speed. Have fun, if this is your thing, but really, life is too short.
Role Play (2024)**
Kaley Cuoco has more than her fair share of sway. Normally I would breathe an ambivalent sigh at the mere necessity of sitting down for this, already knowing the well-used unimaginative plot employed in many other similar projects. There is a reason that so many of these are made, however - the number of eyeballs they reach and given the talent concerned, it is at least worth proving to yourself that this is little more than what it hints at on the poster - not much, essentially. And you would be right, of course, so give yourself a pat on the back. Cuoco is magnetic as usual, even if she is a couple of steps behind Ana De Armas in career trajectory, judging by her choices. Fun, largely inoffensive and unashamedly predictable. You get what you pay for, Amazon Prime members, everywhere.
The Bricklayer (2023)**
Not the turkey that many have made this out to be, but it's no John Wick. 'Aaron Eckhart - Action Hero' doesn't roll off the tongue too easily and nor should it, because while he is clearly trying his best, he is a little too much on the wrong side of cheesy, especially in silouhette, almost entirely engulfed in flames. Almost a parody of itself, this is morbidly predictable in its plotting and derivative in its paint by number script. There are some nice action scenes, if you like that type of thing, and Eckhart goes through the painfully deliberate motions as Nina Dobrev watches on, all 'sister doin' it' to begin with, before regressing back to tight dress and high heels. Entertaining at times, but not often enough. Twenty minutes too long, really, if we are trying to satisfy the demographic this is aimed squarely and unambitiously at.
Well, I think we can all give Disney a star for intent. They are trying really hard, that much is obvious, but you do get the undeniable sense that the magic is if not missing, then certainly diluted. The voice acting is on point by the main players and the songs are often quite cuddly, if not inspiring, and there is an element of joy to be had, but don't aim too high, as this is quite unchallengingly generic.
Bit of a tiresome grind, all told, that doesn't really know where to sit when give the choice. Pettyfer purports to be potential retribution personified but maybe lacks the thespian wallop to pull it off, and main draw Guy Pearce is wastefully underused. It lurches to and fro haphazardly, while the audience searches for an ethereal narrative with their best intentions, but left mostly with impatient frustration.
Snooker Man (2024)
Where to begin? Firstly I was wondering as I was marking this on Letterboxd if it would even show up on the search. When it did, thumb up, but kind of predictably, no other soul has even set eyes on it. Thumb down. This mockumentary of the 17th Best Ronnie O'Sullivan lookalike and his attempt to become world mini-snooker champion has more going for it than you would initially imagine. It takes quite the talent to make something look this bad, with one tongue firmly in cheek. The specifically English irony has been lost on some, criticising the projects authenticity, snooker-wise, which is almost as funny as the film itself, which also has its moments.