Chris has written 66 reviews for films during 2020.

  • Mary Poppins Returns

    Mary Poppins Returns

    ★½

    Another belated 'sequel' cut from the same cloth as The Force Awakens which is ''let's just do an inferior beat for beat remake with modern updates and pray that the audience is so blinded by nostalgia that they simply accept it''.

    Outside of some pretty visuals this a slog to get through; full of contrived whimsical moments, forgettable songs and shoddy direction from Rob Marshall. Nothing really works on the character front either, from Emily Blunt's stifled central performance to…

  • Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins

    ★★★

    Although it has its fair share of charm and magical moments, I'm quite surprised by just how much dead air there is here. This is a great example of a film where the parts are better than the whole; it is way too long and only seems to come alive when we are following the titular nanny on another eccentric adventure (and even some of those drag on forever). The Banks family have the barest of personalities which makes it…

  • The Night of the Hunter

    The Night of the Hunter

    ★★★★★

    Echoing what everyone else has already said, it really is unfortunate that this was Charles Laughton's sole directorial effort. He was able to craft something truly exceptional with this lyrical merging of southern gothic, thriller and fairy tale. Invoking the style of German Expressionism, this is an incredible looking film packed with deep shadows, unorthodox sets and haunting imagery (from the eerie depiction of the body underwater to the entrancing journey down the river). The atmosphere has a nightmarish quality…

  • Thief

    Thief

    ★★★★½

    I still can't believe how much confidence emanates from this considering it was Mann's film debut. I'd argue he is in a tiny minority of directors who are able to successfully explore the same ideas throughout their careers, always managing to recontextualise them to perfectly fit the story at hand. James Caan's Frank is possibly his most unrestrained lead character, someone who absolutely refuses to compromise his belief system even if it means he has to burn down everything he…

  • Soul

    Soul

    ★★★

    Quite possibly Pixar's most purely existential work thus far, building upon a lot of the ideas present in Docter's previous efforts with the studio. I think this is a slight improvement on a lot of similar themes explored with Inside Out (a film I was lukewarm on) because that was almost nothing but concept, whereas Soul at least uses its premise to try to flesh out its thematic elements. It's nothing we haven't seen from Pixar before, but it is…

  • Happiest Season

    Happiest Season

    ★★½

    This is one of those movies that concentrates on the wrong storyline. Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza are both supremely charming, their characters are layered and I was actually invested in the relationship that was developing between them. Instead we spend most of the running time watching Stewart's character going through emotional turmoil caused by the gaslighting actions of her girlfriend, to the point where the eventual resolution didn't sit right with me. Mackenzie Davis has all the charisma of…

  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

    ★★

    Another play adaptation that suffers from the same problems that usually plague these transitions to the silver screen; lacklustre direction, thin characterisation, clunky editing and stilted dialogue. This does boast some good music as well as solid performances from Chadwick Boseman and Viola Davis who try their best with the limited material. Still, nothing here convinces me that this ever needed to leave the stage.

  • Catch Me If You Can

    Catch Me If You Can

    ★★★★★

    For me this is Steven Spielberg's best film. At once an exhilarating crime caper, a striking recreation of the 1960s and a deeply moving portrayal of people trying to escape the pain that comes with having a broken family. It's supremely entertaining and funny but with a genuine sense of pathos running throughout that makes the emotional moments hit so effectively. The performances are sublime with Leonardo DiCaprio's balance of boyish charm and inner turmoil perfect for the central role,…

  • A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol

    ★★½

    For a story all about emotional and ideological transformation, I'm confused by how stifled this adaptation is. It's as if Zemeckis wanted to stay loyal to the source material but also give it a bombastic update which results in a lot of tonal whiplash and a lack of resonance. Every genuinely atmospheric or creepy moment is undercut by something excessively ludicrous or goofy, to the point where you're left wondering who this is even aimed at. I don't know anyone…

  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

    Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

    ★★★½

    Although overly simplistic, this is an enjoyably spirited musical from Howard Hawks. He crafts the right playful tone for the material which is assisted by the catchy songs and beautiful technicolor photography. Marilyn Monroe is typically endearing and Jane Russell gives an amusingly sardonic performance; they make an effortlessly charming duo and keep things rolling along smoothly.

  • La La Land

    La La Land

    ★★★½

    There is plenty to admire here from the gorgeous cinematography to Chazelle's free-flowing direction to the well-integrated use of music, but I just can't find that emotional connection La La Land is so clearly striving for in order to take it to the next level. I do like this narrative as a bittersweet portrayal of two artists struggling to reach their potential playing out as a golden age musical homage with the dreamy tone, striking colours and appealing songs. Ryan…

  • Dog Day Afternoon

    Dog Day Afternoon

    ★★★★★

    There is an authenticity to Dog Day Afternoon that is usually very difficult to capture. Sidney Lumet's documentary style direction, the confined setting, the distinctive characters, the naturalistic dialogue and the stark absence of non-diegetic music all merge to convincingly convey such a mood. Like all truly great films it also feels as relevant as ever. It deftly touches on themes of economic inequality, police brutality, media frenzy and gender identity throughout the central conflict; a conflict which moves from…