Like myself, you’re probably frustrated and tired of being stuck at home so much. Having said that, the social distancing measures applied here in Australia have given me the opportunity to catch up on many previously unseen films. Though I’ve enjoyed seeing so many movies, I certainly do miss going out to the cinema and long for the day they safely re-open again. I, for one, will certainly never take for granted the simple pleasure of experiencing a movie on the big screen again! Until then, here’s a summary of the films I’ve watched since COVID-19 has kept us indoors so much, along with my rating of each.
I shall keep adding to this post on a weekly basis until cinemas re-open again. Enjoy 🙂
Let’s start with….
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – 4 ½ stars
This is how you do horror! Mystery that’s almost too much to bear and a riveting finish. A genuine classic.
Gone With The Wind (1939) – 3 stars
Am I the only person on this planet that was so underwhelmed from watching what I expected to be a timeless and sweeping FOUR HOUR epic?
The Sound of Music (1965) – 5 stars
I am terribly ashamed to admit I hadn’t watched The Sound of Music in its entirety, until recently! Well, I’m glad that’s changed (thank you to my co-writer, Jell)! Here’s a movie that definitely did not let down! An instant classic that (I think) is now officially my favourite musical feature film of all time!
The Maltese Falcon (1941) – 3 stars
Good, but rather odd. I’m glad I ate pastizzis (no, not paparazzi’s, auto-correct) while watching it 🙂
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – 3 ½ stars
So, so different to what I expected. Not much plot driving the film, but it somehow really grounded me in the present and I liked it for what it was.
Now that I have that shocking confession regarding The Sound of Music out in the open, let’s check out what I’ve recently seen that’s…
For the Families
Missing Link – A very strong 3 ½ stars
This underrated Golden Globe Winner for Best Animated Picture was up against Toy Story 4 for the Oscar in the same category, and lost. In my opinion, Missing Link deserved to win the major award for its originality and story that is rich in humor and hugely entertaining.
Aladdin – 3 ½ stars
Much like The Lion King (2019), Aladdin was the recipient of undue harsh critique from the critics. I thoroughly enjoyed this live-action rendition of the much-loved tale. It was what it needed to be and very unlike a typical Guy Ritchie film, which is a good thing in this case!
Toy Story 4 – 3 ½ stars
Easily holds its own and was a pleasure to reunite with several cherished characters, but doesn’t have ‘that magic’ the very first Toy Story film did or of some of Pixar’s finest works (Wall-e, Up etc).
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil – 3 stars
Ok, maybe this sequel isn’t so family-friendly, given its M classification. For most part, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and especially the performances from its stellar female cast. Although, a few rushed and untidy developments in its latter half can’t go unnoticed.
Frozen II – 3 stars
I’m probably the last person left on Earth to see this by now! Credit goes to Frozen II for inventing a new and worthwhile story to that of the first part, but like Frozen, I find my ability to be engaged by these movies always very limited. Easy to do, but limited.
Wreck-It Ralph – 4 stars
Ingenious ideas intelligently conceived and crafted that offer an abundance of fun for the whole family. Can’t wait to check out its sequel, Ralph Wrecks the Internet.
Ralph Breaks the Internet – 4 stars
And just like that, the very next evening, I watched the sequel! Very pleased to say that this sequel is equally as intelligent, creative and funny as its predecessor. There is so much to admire and be amused by in the ‘Ralph’ films, but arguably nothing more so than certain very special appearances and the voice cast behind them in this sequel! If you haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph and Ralph Breaks the Internet, then I strongly suggest you change that now!
Onward – 3 ½ stars
On paper and visually, Onward’s appeal started on a downward trajectory for me. However, once its protagonist’s journey becomes the heart of the film, its sentimentality resonates and produces some truly beautiful moments.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon – 3 stars
There are plenty of cleverly thought-out sci-fi references laden throughout, but overall the humour is less broadly appealing than Shaun the Sheep’s first excellent movie outing. This is a likeable sequel, though it’s noticeably targeted far less for adults compared to the predecessor.
Now for some…
After the Wedding – 3 ½ stars
This underrated drama harbours several big secrets in its plot that have a big impact. Not much can go wrong either with the marvelous Julianne Moore leading the way.
Ford v Ferrari – 4 stars
An excellent all-round film that will more than satisfy motor enthusiasts and anyone else not so into cars, equally. There is plenty of appealing story and characterisation that fuel Ford v Ferrari to make it last the distance. Highly recommended!
Just Mercy – 4 ½ stars
Incites every bit of anger and heartbreak its harrowing true story ought to. This powerful film boasts a truly empathetic screenplay and outstanding performances from Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. A must watch.
All Is Lost – 4 ½ stars
All of what we witness in All Is Lost rests on the shoulders of a single actor – 77 year old Robert Redford. Arguably one of his finest and definitely most stoic performances in a film that is inescapably absorbing before it is terrifically gripping.
The Way Back – 3 ½ stars
Very solid sports drama that features a reliably very fine performance from Ben Affleck. The story and plot developments aren’t breaking any new ground, but it’s definitely worth watching.
Richard Jewell – 4 stars
In what is looking likely to be his final film as writer and director, Clint Eastwood’s biopic is his best movie in a decade and features a breakthrough performance from a most unlikely actor in Paul Walter Hauser. I’m impressed!
Sorry We Missed You – 4 ½ stars
The working collaboration between writer Paul Laverty and director Ken Loach started in 1996 and remains one of the most truest, earnest and powerful in cinema to this day. Sorry We Missed You is among the most pertinent and prominent yet, giving a voice to hard-working, yet vulnerable families subject to modern day labour exploitation in the United Kingdom. Has the exact immediate and lasting impact intended and it ought to have.
Beats – 3 ½ stars
There were two films with this title released in 2019, so as to not confuse the two, this Beats is the 2019 Scottish film about two young men who plan to attend a rave party just as the British government put a ban on them across the entire U.K. What emerges from a straightforward story is a deceptively beautiful friendship and an infectious attitude rebelling against social class and authority. Fans of dance/trance/tech music will be extra fond of Beats.
Red Joan – 3 stars
It’s flashback heavy, which results in the wonderful Judi Dench not being given much to do over shortened screen time. Although Red Joan is a rather dull film to watch consistently throughout, it never lasted long enough at once to completely erase my interest level in what is quite an incredible story.
1985 – 4 ½ stars
The trajectory of this story involving a closeted man returning to his religious parents home for Christmas after a three year absence begins to look like a foreseeable one. Right at that moment, writer and director Yen Tan adopts a much more subtle and tender approach to the secrets his central character is harbouring, resulting in a powerful and achingly beautiful film shot entirely in black and white. Reaches number 11 on my 2019 best film list!
The King – 3 ½ stars
If you can accept the questionable casting choices (especially Robert Pattinson, who plays the son of a French King!) and not be too distracted by his rendition of a French accent, director David Michõd’s (Animal Kingdom) historical drama is actually a really solid film. I felt intrigued by its story and enjoyed the very well written dialogue in particular. Available on Netflix.
Now add tension to that drama…
The Endless Trench – 4 stars
I have no right to ever complain about any self-isolation measures undertaken during COVID-19 after witnessing the forced hidden existence The Endless Trench’s lead character must endure to merely survive, beginning during the Spanish Civil War. This is one of the top, and certainly most tense, Netflix productions I’ve seen to date!
The Spy Gone North – 4 stars
An extraordinary story that is inspired by extraordinary real-life events. What starts out as a spy operation fascinatingly evolves into something far more complex, dangerous and compelling. It is a layered story full of depth and relies on this over any action it may contain. The Spy Gone North is an excellent and exciting dramatic thriller that notches up another high quality production from South Korea.
Some good ones above! But let’s see what’s on offer in the genre of…
Comedy/Horror with Zombies!!!
Little Monsters – 2 ½ stars
I was so excited to see Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o in an Australian film… with zombies!! At first, she is easily the best thing about this very hit-and-miss comedy. As it turns out by the end, she’s the only thing to like about Little Monsters. Hmm.
Zombieland: Double Tap – 3 stars
Starts off just as sharp and cleverly funny as 2009’s Zombieland, before it suddenly runs out of adventurous ideas! A strong cast who deliver some big laughs save it from becoming a waste of time.
Time for some…
The Keeper – 3 stars
A corny and predictable, but nonetheless likable biopic about German-born Manchester goal keeper Bert Trautmann.
Last Christmas – 3 stars
The chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding is immediate and palpable, however, I can’t help but feel cheated by the unexpected developments that await us in Last Christmas. Throw on an extra half star to that rating if watching at Christmas time.
Sense and Sensibility – 4 stars
Director Ang Lee’s first English-speaking film boasts a stellar cast who all give fine performances and an involving story that is wonderfully written by lead actress Emma Thompson. An utter pleasure to watch.
Or perhaps, time for some…
Terminator: Dark Fate – 2 stars
Worth watching if appalling acting finds your funny bone. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton provide an abundance of it!
Angel Has Fallen – 3 stars
By now, you ought to know why and when to turn to the ‘Fallen’ films. Pick your need and timing for mindless action fluff just right, and Angel Has Fallen shall perfectly fulfill each and every one of them.
Birds of Prey: The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn – 3 ½ stars
So much cool and so much sass in this stylish and hugely entertaining action film that features outstanding action choreography and stunt work.
Bad Boys – 2 stars
I finally caught up with Bad Boys, largely before I watch the third installment released this year. I won’t even bother with the two and a half hour sequel after seeing this! Far too (vocally) noisy, boysy and to be frank… just plain sexist in its dialogue and depiction of women for me to be entertained by or appreciate.
The Gentlemen – 3 ½ stars
There’s plenty on offer to have fun with here; the vibe of the film, the characterisation of its very appealing ensemble cast, its playful and metaphorical manner of speech, and even its premise. I certainly enjoyed all of these aspects in The Gentlemen, but do understand its heavy use of strong coarse language and other offensive remarks made throughout has diminished or reduced that enjoyment.
A different form of escapism in…
The Edge of Democracy – 3 ½ stars
A very captivating and insightful Oscar-nominated Netflix production that is part personal memoir meets political documentary, which delves into the downfall of two Brazilian presidents.
The Biggest Little Farm – 4 ½ stars
The biggest little surprise so far in 2020. On paper, it might sound like something you don’t need to see or would easily give a miss. But take my word for it – you do not want to miss this utterly engaging, involving and beautiful experience. To further compliment the film, it also boasts stunning cinematographic work and imagery that is just visually stunning. A hidden gem.
Meeting Gorbachev – 3 stars
Offers just enough insight behind the upbringing and rise of former Soviet Union President, Mikhail Gorbachev, but surprisingly fell short of my expectations. Also, the filming and presentation of Werner Herzog’s interviews are of made-for-television quality.
I Am Not Your Negro – 3 stars
A subject and content that is and sadly remains of undoubtedly high importance is unfortunately largely and broadly inaccessible. An incredibly intellectual narrative that’s mostly impenetrable and chaotic directing are its key undoings. 3 stars is being generous.
Becoming – 3 stars
Becoming isn’t in depth in any way. Rather, former First Lady Michelle Obama shares several insightful perspectives during the release of her autobiography, with honesty and great clarity. Her down to earth nature truly shines through. By the end of Becoming, I was left to wonder how on Earth the U.S, a seemingly progressive nation at the time, has gone so steeply and rapidly backwards since.
In case zombies weren’t enough…
El Hoyo/The Platform – 3 stars
Another Netflix production. Has an intriguing concept that kept me guessing and interested throughout, but all seemed rather pointless once the finale had arrived.
Misery – 4 stars
I wouldn’t have minded an extra few layers of psychological depth added to the mercurial and menacing lead character, but its genuinely thrilling scenes and the uniqueness given to that lead character in an Oscar-winning performance from Kathy Bates still uphold Misery’s might as a bonafide thriller 30 years on.
Or, for something completely different…
Birds of Passage – 4 stars
The authenticity of Birds of Passage and the time committed to its setting, and lifestyle and practices of its characters is what sometimes makes it challenging to watch, but sets it apart from others before then elevating it above so many films that share an otherwise familiar story.
High Life – 2 stars
Maybe I misunderstood something and needed to be high to appreciate this? Unfortunately for French writer and director Claire Denis, her first English-language film is more memorable for the atrocities committed and its bizarre encounters throughout than it is for any themes or meaning meant to be derived from it all.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco – 3 ½ stars
A somewhat (and seemingly) meandering narrative that takes considerable time to establish a discernible plot does initially make this drama a difficult one to penetrate. However, the originality of this semi-true tale and the bold and impressive directing debut of Joe Talbot garner the film a greater level of appreciation once the story does eventually come together.
The Lighthouse – 2½ stars
Robert Pattinson and the arthouse film genre should just stay away from each other! If your film fetish gets a kick out of questions above and without answers, and being in a constant state of confusion by what transpires, all done intentionally, then The Lighthouse is a black and white masterpiece waiting for you. But it’s not without intriguing elements and a superb Willem Dafoe performance.
Compiled by Leigh for Moviedoc