Robin Robin: Whilst You Sleep At Night Mice Steal Your Food

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young robin called Robin, voiced by Bronte Carmichael, is taken in by a family of mice, but must then find out who she is after she realises she doesn’t make for a very good mouse.

My track record with Aardman Animation is mixed, I liked Wallace and Gromit and thought Early Man was okay, but I really didn’t like Chicken Run. So when it came to watching this I was mixed, however I have to say this is easily the best Aardman feature to date and if this is any indication for what they are going to produce through their collaboration with Netflix then I am very on board for what is to come.

I thought the film was sweet and really sold its message of being yourself and being proud of who you are well. I enjoyed all the characters and thought each had their moments to shine over the features run time. I thought the pace was well decided as well, as by keeping it short it allowed the film to have a real momentum that lead to it be constantly engaging and never boring.

Finally, there is a musical element to this film which could be hit or miss for people, for me I thought it worked and I enjoyed almost all of the songs, bar the final proper one during the third act, but for the most part I thought the songs added to the film’s charm.

Overall, a lovely little animated Christmas film.

Pros.

It is sweet

It is well paced

It has fun characters

The songs work well

Cons.

The third act could use work as it is a little played out  

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Repeat: Don’t Talk To The Dead

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Ryan Moore,  played by Tom England, devotes his life to creating a machine that can supposedly allow a person to contact the dead. However, during his obsession his daughter goes missing and he then tries to use his machine to find her on the other side and either save her from dying or bring her back.

I think this film has a strong hook. The premise feels fresh and I can’t remember seeing other films like it, moreover, the narrative doesn’t end up where you are expecting it to, there are some twists and turns and for the most part they are quite shocking and unexpected.

The marketing I had seen for this film made me think it was a horror film, however this is untrue. I would say this film is more of a bleak, Black Mirror esque, science fiction film. With that I found it to be at times quite bleak and upsetting, though I suppose that was the point. With the notion of be careful what you wish for being central to the narrative of the film.

I thought the performances across the board were fairly strong with both England and Charlotte Ritchie doing a lot with what they were given, and turning their characters into real people that you can empathise with.

Overall, a strong science fiction film that was a little too bleak for my taste.

Pros.

The acting

The plot

The twist

Cons.

Manically bleak

A few pacing issues

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The Souvenir: The World’s Most Depressing Film

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young woman, played by Honor Swinton Byrne, falls in love with an older man, played by Tom Burke, however there romance is a bad one and things quickly descend.

My, my if you are looking to become depressed then look no further than this film. It is one of the bleakest, grimmest films I have ever seen. Honestly by the time the credits began to role I felt depressed. I understand the film might be reflective of the real life horrors that inspired it, but that doesn’t mean audiences want to see it. I can not imagine anyone choosing to watch this film and then finishing it, if it weren’t for the purposes of this review I would not have.

I only put this film on because I enjoy Richard Ayoade, but he was barely in it. Truly he was the white whale of this film, I kept at it and kept at it hoping for more time with him but sadly we only got a brief hello.

The emotions of the film rung true and I suppose that is the only thing I can really compliment the film on. Everything felt very genuine and I didn’t doubt the sincerity of the script or those delivering it.

Overall, manically depressing.

Pros.

The emotional feels genuine

Richard Ayoade for the brief moments we get with him

Cons.

It is bleak

You will leave it feel depressed

Pacing issues

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Last Night In Soho: Students Are The Worst

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Fashion student Ellie, played by Thomasin McKenzie, becomes wrapped up in a sinister world of sixties intrigue and murder after she begins boarding at a London bedsit. Each time Ellie goes to sleep she gets visions of a time before her own as she sees through someone else’s eyes, however as it progresses it no longer stays confined to the world of sleep.

This film is honestly masterful, Edgar Wright manages to go from lighter and more silly fare to dark and twisted horror with the ease that many of us find when opening the door in the morning. Though there have been many stories about a young starlet’s, played by Anya Taylor- Joy, downwards decline after the industry, nay the world, chews her up and leaves her for dead, none have been told as well as this. Whether it is the surprising misdirects, or the ultimate reveal the writing feels incredibly fresh and well-reasoned, for once I was not able to guess the twist.

I think the most powerful thing about this film is how it vocalises and raises awareness to the horrors women face on a daily basis. There is something of an anger within this film towards men, rightfully so I might add. This film shows just how perverse, cruel and ultimately maddening the world can be to a young woman, how toxic men can try and control them or coerce them, and truly that is the scariest thing about it. The real frightening thing about this notion is that the world as we see it in the sixties flashbacks is not so different from the modern world of Ellie, and us the audience.

From a filmmaking point of view everything about this film is sublime even down to the performances.

Overall, Edgar Wright magnificently manages to tackle a whole new genre with ease and create one of the strongest horrors of the year.

Pros.

The subversions

The ending

Anya Taylor-Joy’s sinister performance

The comments on society

Strong scares throughout

Cons.

One or two ideas needed development

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Borley Rectory: Animation Makes Everything Creepier

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An animated documentary telling the history of ‘the most haunted house in Britain’.

I found this to be quite the frightening watch, the fact it was animated rather than the standard live action documentary really helped to give it a leg up over the competition. In that vein the film offers a number of striking visuals through this medium that stick with you after watching, my favourite and the one I found to be the creepiest would be the ghost man sitting on the little girls bed and turning to look into the camera.

Moreover, I found this to be a good documentary both in the sense that it was entertaining, the learning was fun, but also because it helped me to better understand the haunted geography and landscape of my own country a bit better. Before this I had a base understanding of why Borley Rectory was supposed to be haunted, now I know enough to confidently converse on the subject- as I am doing now.

My one issue with this film would be that it jumped around in time a lot. Now quite a lot of documentaries jump around with time but normally they do it in a linear way as in this happened then this then this, however this film doesn’t abide by that rule and jumps backwards as well as forwards which quickly becomes confusing. This is certainly not the sort of film you can ‘half’ watch as you will soon be lost with it.

Overall, a good creepy documentary.

Pros.

It is scary

The animation gives it an edge

A few good scares

It is interesting

Cons.

It can be confusing

It ends rather abruptly   

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No Time To Die: The Ending Bond Deserves

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

-There are spoilers within so don’t read this until after the film.

Summary

James Bond has to come out of retirement to fight a new threat that is far closer to those he loves than he realises.

-HUGE SPOILERS

I can’t believe they did it. They actually did it. For months I have been reporting that this film would kill off Bond and for months people said I didn’t know what I was talking about. Looks like I was right. Yes, Bond is blown up whilst poisoned and severely wounded, there is no way he is shaking that off. I am impressed by the creatives for doing this, as it does bring the Bond franchise to a close but in a very meaningful and poignant way. I really do hope going forward the universe focuses on the other OOs rather than bringing back Bond from the dead; if they do that this becomes a much worse film.

I have never been a huge Bond fan, this and Skyfall were the only two of Craig’s tenure that I thought were good. I thought the emotional maturity of this film was a refreshing touch, Bond is flawed, he makes mistakes, he looks to others for approval, rather than just walking into the room and having everyone thinking he is great and then throwing themselves at him. In that regard I thought the humour in this film really landed for me, there were a number of good jokes that made me chuckle over the course of the film’s runtime and I appreciated that.

My criticism of the film would be that it is very long, and as a result has pacing issues. There is a lot to get through with this film and a lot of it is very dark and that creates a heaviness which makes the film hard to get through. I would say more comedy might have helped in this regard, or obviously shortening the length.

Overall, a good swan song for an aging franchise, please don’t bring Bond back.

Pros.

The humour

The ending

The emotional maturity

Craig

Cons.

Pacing issues galore

Rami Malek’s villain needed more development  

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Howl: Somehow British Public Transport Is Made Even Worse

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A train breaks down in the middle of nowhere and to make matters worse werewolves begin to terrorise those on board.

This is a fairly strong British werewolf film, is it Dog Soldiers good? No but few films can be. There is something so intimately familiar to the British experience within this film, the grubby train packed with angry people that breaks down; I have been there many times. Well maybe not recently in these Covid times.

Speaking of Dog Soldiers I enjoyed seeing Sean Pertwee appear in this film, he is always a very welcome presence as far as I am concerned. However, they kill him off almost immediately which is of course a huge missed opportunity. The cast we do get more time with are all serviceable though no one is particularly stand out.

The werewolf makeup effects and design were interesting, and we do get several good looks at them over the course of the film. I liked that this film felt like it was creating a fresh take on the creatures rather than trotting out standard genre cliches, the glowing eyes I thought were particularly effective.

Overall, a passable film that is fun to watch but one that won’t blow you away or stay in your mind long after watching.

Pros.

The werewolf design and makeup

The very British scenario

The ending

Cons.

Killing of Pertwee early

Pacing issues

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Anna And The Apocalypse: The Version Of High School Musical That The Disney Channel Rejected

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A Scottish highschool finds itself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse.

I had heard lots of positive things about this prior to watching, however I did not end up liking it. The people I spoke to about this film prior to watching it had left out one key aspect, namely that it is a musical. I really didn’t like that part of the film.

The songs in this film aren’t good. Yes, that is a personal taste thing on my part but every time someone started singing in this film I started to cringe. It felt like a knock off High School Musical clone without the talent, zombies aside. I understand what they were trying to do merging horror and musical elements is a novel idea, accept Sweeny Todd did it about ten years earlier and then there is Rocky Horror so maybe not so fresh an idea after all.

The horror elements are okay but again nothing game changing. For me the best part about this film was seeing Paul Kaye get to have some fun as the evil schoolmaster. Kaye is a tremendous actor, and he was the only reason I kept with the film.

Overall, Paul Kaye is always fun but everything else just doesn’t work.

Pros.

Kaye

It is unintentionally hilarious

Cons.

The songs are Disney Chanel reject quality

The elements don’t come together well

It is cringey  

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The Obscure Life Of The Grand Duke Of Corsica: Madness Made Manifest

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An off kilter architect, Timothy Spall, begins working for an eccentric rich man, Peter Stormare, who calls himself The Grand Duke of Corsica.

I enjoyed this film far more than I thought I was going to. Yes, there are moments of abstractness that are so seemingly random and out of place that they don’t fit into the sequence, which becomes jarring, but on the whole the strangeness of the film really works and helps it to become something truly unique.

Both Spall and Stormare bring their A game thought I would say Stormare slightly pips it. Both men bring a lot of depth and nuance to their characters and explore them in interesting ways that makes you question your preconceived notions.

The flashback subplot, or was it a film, didn’t really work for me. I understand the parallel they were trying to create but there was not enough connective tissue there to really bring it together into a meaningful whole.

Overall, an interesting strange film that for the most part gets it right, though it does cross the line a few times.

Pros.
Spall

Stormare

The strangeness

The ending

Cons.

The flashback subplot

Occasionally the film felt like it was being strange for the sake of it  

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Four Weddings And A Funeral: The Funeral Would Be More Fun Than This Charmless Affair

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film revolves around Charles, Hugh Grant, and his circle of friends as they navigate love and life during a number of social occasions.

This one might be an upset, however this film did nothing for me.

Though I like the other Grant films from this era there was just something about this that didn’t quite work for me. I found the central romance to be clunky and not make a whole lot of sense narratively: having Grant’s character end up with his friend, who clearly has a crush on him, played by Kristen Scott Thomas would have made much more sense and yet they didn’t go with it.

Moreover, unlike Notting Hill I did not find any of the characters particularly likeable or charming. As the film progressed if anything I found myself becoming more and more uninterested in the characters and I cared less about what was happening to them as a result. Likewise the humour here also missed the mark for me, maybe making me laugh once or twice throughout but for the most part it left me cold.

Overall, though for many this is a classic it did nothing for me.

Pros.

Grant

One or two funny jokes

It is watchable

Cons.

The characters aren’t likeable

It is boring

The central romance is flawed  

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