The Matrix: Resurrections (2021). This film is so “meta”, that the writers took their own brainstorm meetings at Warner Bros and said: “you know what, let’s just make a film about these meetings. Let’s make a film about people trying to make Matrix 4.” You know what I say to that? No. Try to make a real movie. And making a joke about how Warner Bros is so demanding inside your own movie doesn’t let you off the hook. Yes, there is a joke about Warner Bros inside the movie. You remember when TV shows had these clip show episodes where they just reused fragments of the season? That is this movie. Is this the final evolution of the Hollywood reboot: showing actual clips from the previous movies? And where the hell is Hugo Weaving?
Last Night in Soho (2021). When young Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) travels to London to chase her dream of fashion design, she finds out that reality is a lot harsher than expected. Those dreams stay literally dreams, for at night she dreams she is a star (Anya Taylor-Joy playing her alter ego), popular and adored. The problems for Ellie start when those dreams start flowing over into reality. It’s a creative psychological horror-light. The transitions between one world flowing over into the other kept me engrossed. The way actors fill in the shoes of the same characters, slipping in and out of them, was well shot, edited and well acted, and no surprise that this was directed by Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Baby Driver). In the second half the film starts misstepping in its stylish dance. Some of the story elements could have been scrapped, the 1960s theme is dropped, some twists don’t really make an impact and so the quality of the first hour is never recaptured. It’s still worth a watch.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021). This film is too unusual to simply dismiss as a run-of-the-mill superhero film. All the focus is on the connection between Eddie Brock and the symbiotic Venom, and the dialogue flirts with hints of homosexuality between them but the film is also too ridiculous to take any of that seriously, but sometimes uses it as a source of comedy. And in some scenes this works and in other scenes it is dumb. I applaud it for being different, I guess, but what this movie is, I am not sure about.
Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021). A run-of-the-mill animated film about a new robot toy for children and one awkward kid who makes a friend out of a faulty robot. It takes elements from Big Hero 6, it takes elements from The Mitchell’s vs The Machines, it has the typical bumbling young guy character from films like Onwards and Luca. It works, but only in the way that every fast-food chain can produce a good caramel sundae with the right ingredients.
The Last Duel (2021). Who is ready to be spirited away to the Middle Ages, and follow Matt Damon, Jodie Comer, Ben Affleck and Adam Driver in this star-studded historical epic by Ridley Scott? Apparently no one, because the film’s promotion failed. But this is a film well worth seeing. An amazing production, colder and less dreamy than The Green Knight, but dealing with darker themes. What makes this different from Scott’s Robin Hood is a three-act Rashomon structure where we see the same situation from three perspectives. And so we don’t focus on some grand battle but on a mystery, and through that on medieval culture and sense of honour. It is at times unflinching and realistic, brutal, but also very compelling to watch. Great acting, great script and final 20 minutes are powerful. One of the best films of the year, no doubt.
Don’t Look Up (2021). Fantastic satire about scientists trying to warn the world about a disaster, but the world is too stupid and greedy to listen. Awkward scientists vs politics and sensationalist news. At times hilarious, painful and infuriating. It has a thousand little jokes, some running gags and many great quotable lines. A stellar cast and fantastic guest performances. I loved it.
Encanto (2021). In Disney’s tour around the world, their newest animated film is set in Colombia, featuring a family with magical powers in a magical house. It didn’t enchant me. I thought the story was a bit bland. The story needed a lot of songs to explain, and none of them were catchy. The climax, the emotional catharsis of the story, felt empty.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021). The nostalgia is strong with this one, but it is quite an entertaining and watchable movie. It borrows and references everything that the original movies did with ghosts (did they really have to reuse everything?) instead of coming up with any new ideas, but this new cast does a good job and the story is kept simple and sweet.
Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts (2022). This is 1.5 hours of people telling Daniel Radcliffe that he can act, while he still can’t. Anyway, the documentary is good vibes. It makes an effort to separate art from the artist, to contextualise the films as something produced by an entire team of creators and separate from the controversial writer. So many great actors/tresses were part of this series that it is wonderful to see them all appear here.
The Platform (2019). A Spanish film, El Hoyo. Intriguing, high concept thriller/horror that is a mix of High-Rise, Snow Piercer and Cube. People are trapped inside a hole with a platform that moves down every day. On the upper level the platform is loaded with food. Each person on a level eats their fill and if you’re out of luck at the end of the month you might be transported to a lower lever where there will be little food left. And what is left is half-eaten leftovers. It might be the best metaphor I’ve ever seen for the struggle for resources. Disturbing, disgusting, but highly watchable. It’s full of impossible, tense situations that at the same time work wonderfully for its double meanings. Fascinating all the way through. Highly recommended.
One Cut of the Dead (2017). This Japanese film starts with a director trying to make a zombie film. And that is all that I’m going to say about it. Others advised me not to do any research about this film at all and to watch it all the way to the final minutes and seconds, and I completely agree with this. This ended up a fantastic, funny, heartfelt film. Even if there are parts that may not impress you, keep going. Keep watching.
Cowboy Bebop – Season 1. I have never seen the original anime series, and maybe that is what saves me here because everyone who was a fan of the anime seems to consider this adaptation a radioactive turd, but I am loving it! Yes! I love the world-building, the interplanetary road trips full of cheap diners, sleazy drink holes, strip clubs, all floating along on a jazzy soundtrack. I love the infusion of casual science fiction candy into all those recognisable film noir elements, like chocolate with coffee. Scenes are all well-structured, visually well-composed, dialogue is snappy, storytelling is comedic and fast-paced. The bounty hunters and their ship reminded me of Firefly, as did the comedy. I really don’t understand the low ratings, unless this adaption butchered some of the anime storylines, but I wouldn’t know about that. I am sad it got discontinued.
The Witcher – Season 2. This suddenly became a totally different show. It’s still a good one – and for many reasons a better one than the first season – but different. With the dropping of the short-story format and the plunge into that of a lengthier epic, we’re asked to take this world and its lore a lot more seriously. And that is something I find hard to do with this series. Basically, any time Henry Cavill and Freya Allan are not on screen, it is terribly boring. The Witcher and Ciri are great, but the rest of them…. meh.