Tenet (2020) - 5/10
So before I get into the main topic of this review I'm going to actually talk about the movie:
Nolan must be inverted himself because he only seems to get worse at writing scripts as time goes on, this film only has four or five actual action scenes, which would be fine if the plot wasn't the most basic sci-fi action plot in the world. You could see this story in any summer action blockbuster but for some reason this film feels the need to have what must be two hours of it's 2:30 running time taken up with exposition and posturing that only serves to create and substantiate plot and logic holes on both a world and character level, all whilst brushing over all of the important details of the plot; oh look, they even forgot to name the main character.
The performances are all great, particularly John David Washington, who adds an element of charm and charisma to this hollow and lifeless script. Hell, even Elizabeth Debicki almost saves her character from just being another borderline-offensive female character in a Nolan movie, almost.
But this film isn't all bad, not by a long shot. I've heard people complain about some of the audio mixing, whereas I had no issues whatsoever. It was well edited, and the production design was just fine, even if it wasn't creative in any way (in fact it seemed to hold itself back in every way from being interesting). But most of all this films big pull, the inversion concept. And visually it leads to some really amazing moments, especially when combined with the massive spectacle Nolan is known for. But considering its introduced in the second scene of the movie, it sure is in barely any of it. I get that it's hard to choreograph these scenes, but if that's the case then just make a shorter movie.

But now onto the main point, the main thing I want to talk about:
This film finally pushed me into what will, I'm sure, become my primary controversial opinion on film. Less dialogue in a film is ALWAYS BETTER. Seems obvious, right? Show don't tell and all that. And if you'd asked me three years ago if I agree I would tell you, of course. But then look at my film opinions three years ago, praising dialogue heavy, 'thought provoking' movies that would be the exact same experience if you remade it as an audio book. Three years ago, I shared what seem to be the consensus in film fan circles; animation is for children, action is for the simple-minded and, as much as no-one will admit it, dialogue is the only way to add intellectual depth to a film.
Slowly, but surely, I've seen the light, and this film has pushed me over the edge. This film is so desperate to be taken seriously as art that for its first hour it holds back so much from doing anything fun for more than one minute, and even into its second hour it sets up interesting action set-pieces only to have them disappointingly fizzle out into boring climaxes like an orange box going through one car window and into another.
Action is the purest form of filmmaking, film action is something that can only be achieved in this medium, yet here we see Nolan so afraid that his film will be seen as pandering to the 'simple-minded' blockbuster-going audience that he won't allow a single moment of fun until the last half hour of the movie, and even then it is to devoid of colour and life that it feels about as exciting as watching milk get poured into coffee.
And, once again, this is all wrapped up in a bloated plot that is pretending to be even a little more complex than your average Fast and Furious, Transformers or Mission Impossible story.
In case you haven't picked it up yet; this film finally convinced me that not everything needs to be a movie, if you can't think of a more interesting way to tell your story than through dialogue, just write a book.
I'm Thinking Of Ending Things (2020) - 4/10

'I guess I watch too many movies.'
I think, for me, the most important part of this film, as with Synecdoche, is that one of the studio idents at the beginning is from 'the projective testing service'; complete with footage from Kuleshov.
Before I get into what every review will be talking about with this film (what it's about), I'll talk technicals. Generally this film is pretty solid, standouts being make-up and effects, but it also is very poorly paced and has distractingly poorly edited dialogue throughout. The bad dialogue editing is hard to notice because of the intentional stiltedness of the script, but especially distracting in such a dialogue heavy movie. As well as this, the pacing could have been a lot better; did you really have to make the scene where your protagonist quotes Pauline Kael’s review of Woman Under The Influence be ten minutes long?
This is easily Kaufman's least accessible film, which has its own pros and cons, whilst I'm glad he was given the freedom to create something like this, I'm against films like this, Mother! And various other movies which reach a certain point where they drop all pretence of having a narrative and, from then on, only exist to propagate their meaning, I would even go as far as calling it lazy. I do prefer this film to Mother!, Though, and the first half of this film sets up a nice, clean story about meeting the parents, which props up its meaning, which I'll get to in a moment. The second half of this film, on the other hand, would have simply been better if it's metaphorical meandering had been supported by an engaging narrative. Which is a shame as there are some great moments in the second half which are far too easy to brush away, as they don't immediately link to each other in the head of the viewer. In this way, the film is BEGGING to be watched multiple times, not because there is too much to see in one viewing, but because it hides and blocks the viewer from absorbing it all in one viewing, yet in that same way does not give the viewer adequate reason to want to go back.
This film also propagates some of Kaufman's weaknesses as a thinker, his constant asking 'is love something we can really find', at least this time the answer is slightly different to normal. As well as that it contains the classic and immature 'we're all dying, every day brings us closer to the grave' idea which is always tedious, it's like watching a half-finished conversation with the concept of death that so much media doesn't bother to finish having, but that's very much a personal issue.
But I'm being too negative, this film does have fantastic performances, and it's 'projective testing' aspect is perfect for audiences who normally wouldn't watch a movie like this. There's some absolutely stunning imagery that will remain my favourite part of the movie, there's a real sense in a lot of scenes that subtlety and understatedness is king when it comes to imagery and production design details. One interesting thing about the script is that I get the constant, unerring feeling that I'm watching one of those films, books or shows written by an AI, the incongruities and inconsistencies feel more like problems with an AI than intentional moments of depth, which largely feeds into helping the audience feel the upset and taken-abackedness that the protagonist feels as the film goes on. There are also some great, subtle (and not so subtle) jokes in this film (as well as moments of, perhaps, unintentional comedy, but I couldn't tell if it was intentional or not, so I won't dock points), and I'm glad it leans into some levity, though it could have leant into it further and been more entertaining whilst still having the same depth. This feeling of levity and just playing with its ideas and characters, which Kaufman does a lot, is something that similar films could learn a lot from, as it helps the audience feel more affable toward what they're watching. A large handful of scenes and images in this film remind me of my favourite short film, Unedited Footage Of A Bear, particularly the phone calls.
Now for the part that's most interesting, what does it all mean? Well that's just the thing. You know how I've been going on about 'projective testing'? Well I think that's largely what this film is, a big experiment in the Kuleshov effect. Whilst I'm sure part of this film does have inherent meaning intended by Kaufman and Reid, I think it's very possible that this film is about how the audience impresses whatever meaning they want to impress upon art, as explicitly stated in the dinner scene. The film could be a horror, a drama, a romance, it could be about the nature of reality, individuality, feminism, relationships, or labels, originality of opinion, or family, or ageing, or time, or even climate change; all dependant on what you project onto it, it plants little seeds of all sorts of themes. It could be about any, or all, or none of those things. This is definitely my reading of the first half of the film anyway, and I'd even support this (or that the film was written by an AI) all the way up until the characters go to the high school. After that things get a little (or a lot) more fuzzy, and the last 40 minutes have a lot of the unintentional comedy I alluded to before, and these last 30-40 minutes are the only part I'd consider re-watching.
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire (2005) - 6/10

Firstly; technical details, the effects are only good in the last half hour, maybe it's something to do with this movie taking a year longer to release than the other movies. Other than that this is pretty standard harry potter fare on the technical side, good all'round.
So, on the plot, this isn't one of the worst movies in this series but it's not one of the best. It's videogameplot structure could be it's saving grace, but falls into some gooey little holes. The villain's plot is so unnecessarily complex it could give a Scooby-Doo villain a run for their money, seriously there ARE easier ways to get three drops of blood from Harry. There's also that the entire egg subplot feels pointless because it's meant to be a clue for where the second task is but then there's a huge audience so I guess the school told everyone where it's gonna be anyway? So what's the point of the clue? Also where did the gigantic maze is Hogwarts ground go in later movies?
But those are nitpicks, most of this film is fine and fun, the only parts I have legitimate issue with, that borderline ruin the experience of the movie, are something that starts in this movie and only get more prevalent as the series goes on.
The teen drama and romance drama is so jarring here, there's a scene where everyone loves harry now because of the dragon stunt, then in the next scene everyone looks disgusted at them because, in this scene, Ron and Harry are meant to be the awkward relatable nerds.
It gets to a point where it almost throws the entire plot off the rails, by the end of the film I began dreading when Ron and Hermione came on screen because I knew some unbearable cheesy dialogue was about to be lazily thrown out. Ron becomes such a bitch in this movie from the moment they get to the school, and the small subplot of him being embarrassed and ridiculed for being given a piece of clothing that looks like a dress only serves to remind me of Rowling's adamant transphobia.
But, the most egregious thing about the teen romance parts of the plot are how it really doesn't fit the tone or plot of the rest of the film, a film where people are killed, possessed and tortured. I don't care about them finding a date for the Yule ball when there is a literal terrorist organisation forcing Harry to be in this death tournament, this is anime-level incongruity.
P.S.
This is the most British start to any one of these films, the intro is like a student short film about an old man going to complain because of a small amount of noise, then they all go to a thinly veiled football match which gets burned to the ground by thinly veiled white supremacists.
eXistenZ (1999) - 7/10

'I found this in my soup, and I'm very upset.'
Watching this again for the first time in many years, I think I know where I got my fear of penetration from...
This film has a perfect balance of surreality and sensicality, the most recent film to achieve the same would be The Lighthouse, and it helps to add to the mystery and intrigue of this plot.
The thing that stands out about this film most is the portrayal of Video Games, watching this film in a present that seems constantly on the precipice of becoming overtly digital, with the advent of VR and AR happening all around us. Through this lens, the film feels EXTREMELY ahead of its time.
The effects in this film are some of the most chill and less impressive of Cronenberg's films, especially compared to the Videodrome. Why Videodrome? Because thematically these are the same films, just for different generations, and like Videodrome this film can't have fully been appreciated in the time it was made. 
The main negatives of the film are the sound, bad ADR, bad mixing, it genuinely holds the film back quite a lot. Other than that the seemingly intentionally janky dialogue can make it hard to tell when the film is trying to be funny or serious.
As well as that I feel like all the actors were so grossed out that they kept messing up their lines, there are way too many points in the film where actors slip in and out of their accents.
The final thing is that the film is a bit lore heavy, you don't need to know about the world to follow what's going on, but constant mention of various companies, militaristic uprisings, fungoid infections. 
I'd recommend this movie to anyone who isn't too squeamish (so not me), but I'd remind you to keep an open mind. Other comparisons I can immediately make are Total Recall and MGS2.
After Midnight (2019) - 5/10

My first thoughts after watching this film are 'wow I wish this was a stage production', the production design, writing, blocking and ESPECIALLY the lighting (which I'll talk about later) feel like they were made for the stage, and I don't think it's intentional. This would legitimately make a really good (read: better) play. 
First the good: I like films that skirt around genre, you can't really call this film any one thing and that's good. The long drawn out shots and scenes work really well, and are exceptional. The the characters are very defined and I really wanted to see what happened and find out how the film ends, and there was a point where I was worried for the ending, but it saves it overall. The set design is generally also nice, and the lack of locations works well in the end.
Problems: in any of the scenes in the bar the lighting is just not good, it very much took me out of the scene any time we were in that building. I had trouble discerning if it was the actors or the script (though some of the actors are just not good) but a lot of the dialogue did this thing where it goes really well and then suddenly grinds into a weird unnatural pacing. Sometimes the editing made transitions between scenes feel a bit painful. The film suffers from 'here's my Spotify playlist', which a lot of indie films do now, and only harms pacing. I also feel like the film tries to paint Abby as a redeemable victim but everything she says during 'the long shot' just makes it clear that she is very self absorbed and doesn't care about the feelings of those around her, yet the film expects us to feel bad for her. 
Overall: the few locations, the lighting, set design, script and even the number of characters lend themselves so well to the stage, please let me adapt this for the stage. If you like romance/breakup films or films with a sprinkling of horror ideas that never want to be scary, give this a try. (This is @Tom)
Cats (2019) - N/A

I am become Sysyphos, and my punishment is horrific indeed. As time passes my skin itches and shifts.
Yet naught time have I to investigate, for my stone ever larger grows. In my punishment I notice not the hair on my body growing, the ears on my head distorting, and from my back, too awful to think, what could this malformed appendage be becoming? Of all things, can it be really, a tail?
Yet naught time have I to investigate, for my stone ever larger grows. Onward to the second, to thrice and more, nay, six times up the hill, and the highest I have ascended above the clouds, that I ought to touch the heaviside itself, I see the arbiter of my infernal punishment clearly for the first time.
Yet naught time have I to investigate, for my stone ever larger grows. For my shock and surprise at this new revelation forces me to a moment of weakness, and I fall once more under my boulder. I find myself taken aback by what I saw, for it was Munkustrap himself, and I knew it must be he who causes my pain. 
Unable to stop myself, I knew must investigate, in spite of my stone, ever larger it grows. On this, the seventh day of my punishment, I vowed to make the Sabbath of my time, and the inception of my vengeance. I pushed, I pushed and forced forces I was not to know I was capable of, I went higher and higher up the accursed hill, steeper and steeper it went. And when, above the clouds I found myself, I looked past my rock only to see, Munkustrap over there looking at me, the rage in his eyes matched only by my own, I made one last push upon the great stone. And what should happen to reward my plight? Heaviside itself smashed, revealing only night.
Yet naught time have I to investigate, for my stone ever larger grows. As the glass of the sky cascaded around me was not there, yet surrounding me, for he was indeed the cause of my pain, but he and I are very much the same, for this curse is something I have done to myself, and in doing it I have become something else. 
Munkus and I are now one and the same, and on each of us falls squarely the blame, and finally when I pass through the fog, and land on the ground at the start, in the bog, I know what it is I have learned from this trial, it seems obvious, almost infantile. If you do not know it, then your mind I must jog, for you must understand that a cat
Is not
A dog.
The Imagineering Story (2019) - 8/10

I'm close to being a Disney parks superfan but I have to say, this show kinda leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Two main issues:
There are so many blunders is Disney history that are brushed aside, interesting moments in parks history that could really add something to this story BUT that could possibly paint the slightest glimmer of a bad light on the company are completely ignored. Captain EO gets one shot in a montage, Alien Extra-terror-restrial isn't even mentioned in passing, disneyquest, a huge venture, is never mentioned.
The other issue is the treatment of the foreign parks. Every single time, especially with eastern countries, that they do a segment on the international parks, they consistently bring across a feeling that they believe they are bringing order to a seemingly Savage land. There's a huge feeling of 'well this whole country sucked and everyone was unhappy before we saved the day'. For every single new park, it's very slimy and really makes my skin crawl.
Generally, the huge flaw with this show is a full and total reliance on the inherent American indoctrination to corporate propeganda. This show REEKS of America, it's the televisual equivelant of the rows and rows of billboards for Disney on the roads to and from Orlando airport.
BUT ITS NOT ALL BAD;
This show has some great news information and never before seen footage and looks into so many of the attractions that millions love, including me, it's amazing hearing these inspiring people talk about their work (though I wish it didn't feel so scripted and heavily edited). On a technical level this show is flawless, fantastic sound track and editing, expertly weaves a cohesive story about the history of imagineering leading up to the opening of Galaxy's Edge 'with a glimpse into the future'
There's not a lot of new information presented but there is a fresh new look into things and, as I've said, interviews about attractions from the horse's mouth, as it were. Honestly I just wish it was longer so we could get even more about everything (especially in the final episode, surely there was some juicy stuff about Savi's Workshop or the Droid Depot we could have been given!) But overall I'd recommend this to anyone with even a passing interest in the Disney parks, just remember to watch the show with a critical eye to how Disney as a company is presenting itself.
Devs (2020) - 7/10

I want to rate this higher, but I also want to rate this lower, perhaps in another timeline I've done both.
One thing I'm sure of is that this isn't on the same level as Annihilation or Ex Machina, and may have even benefited from the greater time constraint of being in film form. To me, it definitely felt like this show outstayed it's welcome, and it could have fixed that by going a bit further with it's visuals and characters. There was a time getting toward the end where I thought the show would screw up it's exploration of it's primary themes but thankfully it mostly fixes it.
The main issue is that Alex Garland doesn't seem to know what was so great about Ex Machina, and that is the careful balance between it's themes and character. In Annihilation this begins to show but it's easily overlooked, and that film was still my favourite of that year, but here a lot of the time was clearly given to exploring ideas for characters and the greater themes and questions of the piece, which are explored very nicely, to the detriment of it's characters. Because of this; Lilly, the protagonist, ends up feeling hollow, with characters talking about her using phrases and terms that don't match with what we was the audience have seen from her.
On the filmmaking level, most issues can be attributed to TV budget, as with all TV. Simple issues like bad effects can be overlooked with this reason. Standouts are with general production design and sound design (Inc music). Performances are a mixed bag, but I don't see a point getting into that really.
It's been a good couple years for TV, and maybe this would stand out more if that wasn't the case, but maybe there's an alternate timeline where that's true. As it stands this is still good, but could easily have been great.

Back to Top