The Secret Life of Pets 1&2

Imaginatively-titled sequel The Secret Life of Pets 2 is available on Netflix in the UK from today, so what better time for me to finally get round to reviewing both that film and its predecessor? (Unfortunately, the first one isn’t currently available on any subscription streaming service.)

The Secret Life of Pets
(2016)

2019 #73
Chris Renaud | 86 mins | digital (HD+3D) | 1.85:1 | USA, France & Japan / English | U / PG

The Secret Life of Pets

In a Manhattan apartment, terrier Max’s quiet life as favourite pet is upended when his owner brings home stray Duke. But they must put their quarrels aside when they get lost in the city and discover that abandoned magician’s bunny Snowball is building an army of lost pets, determined to wreak their revenge. — adapted from IMDb

Make your main character a cute little terrier-like dog and you’ve basically halfway sold me on your movie already (see: Hotel for Dogs; Benji). It works best with a real cute little dog, of course, but The Secret Life of Pets is proof the effect can carry over to animation, at least somewhat. It helps that the behaviour of the various animals in the film is all quite well observed — heightened, obviously, but there are many reasonable riffs on pet behaviour… that is until the revolutionary group led by a bunny, who’s followed by a tattooed pig and a lizard, hijack an animal control van. That’s a bit silly.

From the trailers, I thought the animation style looked a bit flat — presumably a deliberate choice, almost like it was going for a Peanuts Movie kinda style — but watching it in 3D adds some pleasing depth and shapeliness, especially as I don’t think flatness actually was the intended effect for the whole movie.

The Secret Life of Pets mostly reheats, remixes, and recombines stuff you’ve seen done in other movies (although as it came out around the same time as Finding Dory, it’s really a toss up as to who can claim that “animals in control of a human vehicle” climax), but it manages just enough charm to tick over as entertaining rather than irritatingly derivative.

3 out of 5

The Secret Life of Pets 2
(2019)

2020 #81
Chris Renaud | 86 mins | digital (HD+3D) | 1.85:1 | USA, France & Japan / English | U / PG

The Secret Life of Pets 2

Max faces some major changes after his owner gets married and has a child. On a family trip to the countryside, Max meets farm dog Rooster and attempts to overcome his fears. Meanwhile, Gidget tries to rescue Max’s favourite toy from a cat-packed apartment; and Snowball sets off on a mission to free a white tiger from a circus. — adapted from IMDb

As the above plot description goes some way to indicating, The Secret Life of Pets 2 feels like watching three episodes of a Secret Life of Pets TV series strung together: for most of its running time, it cuts back and forth between three completely unrelated storylines, seemingly just so that every major character from the last movie has something to do. Things do tie together in the final quarter-hour for an all-action climax, but that doesn’t stop them being entirely disconnected until that point.

The only thing that really elevates it above TV-level is the visuals, which show off suitably expensive and slick animation, especially in 3D. At this point it almost goes without saying that computer-animated movies look fantastic in 3D, but it’s still pleasing.

None of which is to say The Secret Life of Pets 2 is an outright bad movie. It’s a step down from the first (as things have panned out, I’ve given them both the same score, but the first one is kind of a 3+), but it has its moments — like the opening five minutes, where Max bonds with his owner’s new kid, which are sweet and cute; or the casting of Harrison Ford as a take-no-bullshit farm-dog, which is perfect. If you liked the first movie, this one passes some time amiably.

3 out of 5

The Secret Life of Pets 2 is available on Netflix in the UK from today.

Palm Springs (2020)

2020 #163
Max Barbakow | 90 mins | digital (HD) | 2.39:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

Palm Springs

For a couple of decades, Groundhog Day stood alone in a genre of one. But no good idea is allowed to rest in the Hollywood machine, and so the last few years have seen a veritable explosion in time loop stories, like sci-fi-actioner Edge of Tomorrow; or a slasher variant in Happy Death Day; or darkly comic Netflix mystery Russian Doll; or, most recently, teen romance The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. But just as you begin to think that maybe time loop comedies are becoming repetitiously overdone (irony), along comes one of the most acclaimed entries in this newly-abundant subgenre: Palm Springs, which debuted on Hulu in the US in the middle of last year and is now finally coming to the UK via Amazon Prime Video.

In this instance, the scene is set at a wedding, where two disconnected guests — Nyles (Andy Samberg), the boyfriend of the maid of honour, and Sarah (Cristin Milioti), the sister of the bride — end up stuck in a loop together, reliving the day of the wedding over and over. And I’ll say no more on that, because even giving away that it’s time loop comedy spoils what would otherwise be a first-act twist. (I don’t know if they ever thought they’d get away with keeping that a secret, what with it being a foundational conceit of the entire film, but some official blurbs do try to keep it hush-hush. Not many reviews, or even news articles, have been similarly circumspect, so I feel at this point trying to pretend you, dear reader, don’t already know (or wouldn’t accidentally find out some other way) is a fool’s errand.)

While the premise may be more-or-less familiar, one thing Palm Springs has in its favour is it upends numerous tropes that the subgenre has already acquired, even in its short lifespan. Some of these variations have already been explored in other examples listed in my opening paragraph, but Springs has one or two more up its sleeve, and its own way of tackling them. It can also boast its own tone and style of humour, which will be broadly familiar if you’ve seen any other Samberg vehicle (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, say, or Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping). For the uninitiated, it’s kinda silly without going to Pythonesque extremes, and kinda earthy without being vulgar (that the BBFC classification says the film contains “strong sex” is ridiculous).

Let's do the time loop again

Notably, when Palm Springs was sold at Sundance it went for the highest price ever paid for an acquisition at the festival: $17.5 million… and 69 cents, those few cents adds in order to beat the previous record. That they chose that additional figure gives you some insight into the film’s level of humour. But it also says something about how positively the film was received, which led to a degree of buzz that, personally, I found crippled the final film somewhat. To be clear, I still really enjoyed it, but, from reading reviews and watching the trailer, I was half expecting to be blown away by a new comedy masterpiece. Such is the danger of letting yourself get hyped up — if I’d seen it with no prior knowledge, I might’ve enjoyed it even more. The one benefit from the ludicrous delay in it crossing the pond is that hype has cooled to an appropriate background level; from a “OMG watch this new innovative groundbreaking amazing best comedy ever!” to more of a “that’s good, you should see it”.

All of which said, you should see it. I don’t want to accidentally undersell the movie by citing my own misapprehensions, because it’s definitely a funny, likeable, surprisingly romantic (but not twee) film. Indeed, even without the time loop USP, Palm Springs would be welcomed because it hits a really good tone on the romance angle. It doesn’t dive into full romcom cheesiness, but it’s also not that kind of “tacked on love story that the filmmakers clearly wish they didn’t have to bother with” that you normally find in these sorts of (for want of a better word) edgier comedies. Rather than rolling your eyes as the inevitable plays out, you might actually be rooting for these crazy kids.

4 out of 5

Palm Springs will be available on Amazon Prime Video in the UK from tomorrow.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

2020 #38
Michael Dougherty | 132 mins | Blu-ray (3D) | 2.40:1 | USA, Japan, Canada & Mexico / English | 12 / PG-13

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Five years on from the events of Godzilla, the world is very much aware of the existence of Titans, gigantic prehistoric creatures — or, if you prefer, monsters. These creatures are studied and, where possible, contained by the secretive organisation known as Monarch, and one of their scientists, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), has developed a device capable of attracting Titans and altering their behaviour. When Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by a group of terrorists, Madison’s father and former Monarch employee Mark (Kyle Chandler) is re-recruited by Monarch to help track them, before the terrorists can unleash the Titans to wreak havoc on mankind.

As well as a direct followup to the 2014 reboot of the Godzilla franchise, King of the Monsters is the third film in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse”. The in-between entry was 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, whose 1970s setting kinda leaves it adrift and standalone from the rest of the present-day-set films in this shared universe (although, following the Marvel template, Kong did have a post-credit scene designed to vaguely tee-up King of the Monsters). That said, it does have a role to play tonally. Whereas Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was a fairly strait-laced, serious take on the concept of a giant lizard attacking mankind, Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Skull Island took a more pulpy approach to the movie, playing like a monster B-movie with a modern spectacular effects budget.

Here, Michael Dougherty’s offering feels like a combination of those two previous MonsterVerse films. As a direct sequel to Godzilla, it brings in plot threads and a couple of supporting characters from that movie (namely Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins as a pair of Monarch scientists, given more prominent roles here). It also adopts the dark visual style of Edwards’ movie, eschewing the colourfulness that was part of Vogt-Roberts’ contribution. But what Dougherty does retain is that pulpiness in the storyline. I mean, Godzilla showed us a world where the real-life (more or less) military had to scramble to find a way to respond to a giant lizard suddenly appearing.

Puny humans

Conversely, in King of the Monsters we find a government organisation that maintains multiple huge facilities around the world to research and contain a variety of giant beasties (one of whom is an alien, by-the-way), and a terrorist organisation that’s well organised and financed enough to break into several of those facilities and set about freeing the Titans. And that’s without mentioning a side quest into a vast sunken kingdom. If you wanted more of the real world Edwards gave us in the first film, sorry, you’re shit out of luck; but if you’re into some of the craziness that other kaiju movies have doled out down the decades, here we go!

And, in some respects, that makes this the first MonsterVerse movie that truly feels like it’s in a shared universe of monsters. Sure, the previous films had monster antagonists — MUTOs in Godzilla, Scullcrawlers in Kong — but, frankly, they were kinda generic nasties to give our hero-monsters something to fight. In King of the Monsters, we finally get to see some of the big-name stars from Godzilla’s rogue gallery; namely: inventively-named giant moth Mothra, pterodactyl-like Rodan, and the baddest of them all, three-headed dragon Ghidorah. Okay, we haven’t been introduced to these creatures in previous movies, so it’s not technically a team-up / versus movie in that sense, but you can still feel these are headline-bout-worthy characters in a way the franchise’s previous villains just weren’t. Obviously there’s still no doubt about who the ultimate victor of these monster punch-ups is going to be (clue’s in the title), but the brawls are meatier and more impactful.

I imagine that’s even more true for long-time kaiju fans, who’ll have a much greater familiarity with the ‘supporting’ monsters. Indeed, there’s a sense in which King of the Monsters has been made expressly for those fans, because it’s absolutely loaded with nods and references to the older films. I’ve not seen many classic Godzilla movies, so my knowledge of what was being referenced was second-hand at best — though one I’ll make room to highlight is composer Bear McCreary’s new realisation of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla theme. It’s epic and awesome; a real hair-raiser when it kicks in.

There can be only one

Unfortunately, the parade of callbacks seems to have been a major problem for some viewers. Fans who got the references regard them as either hollow fan service or a pointless remix of past glories, while normal folk found it all a bit confusing and weird — because God forbid any blockbuster try to do stuff from outside your normal well-worn expectations. Clearly, these monster flicks aren’t for everyone. Even among those who like them, you don’t have to read many viewer’s rankings before you’ll have seen every possible iteration of which film is better than which, often accompanied by bafflement that anyone could hold an opposing view. It’s like an inadvertent case study for the fact that different people want different things. So it seems none of these movies please everyone, although personally I like the idea that each film is its own thing to some degree; that you might not love every film in the MonsterVerse, but hopefully one of them will hit the sweet spot for you. The MCU cookie-cutter format may be reassuring, but there’s delight in variety too.

There’s certainly plenty of variety here. The MonsterVerse could’ve gone down the route of wheeling out these storied foes one by one, eking the franchise out across Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla vs. Rodan, Godzilla vs. Ghidorah… Instead, we get them in one Titan-sized hit. If you’re in the mood for gigantic creatures thwacking each other, there’s something wholly satisfying about that.

4 out of 5

The Man Who Reviewed Some Films

There are a lot of films about a man who did something — already on this blog I’ve written about men who invented Christmas, sued God, and, um, laughed. But I noticed I have many other reviews pending about such apparently-noteworthy fellas, so I’ve rounded most of them up into this one handy location.

Some of these men knew stuff; some shot somebody; one just had a nap… but they’re all men who had a movie named after them. They are:

  • The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
  • The Man Who Sleeps (1974)


    The Man Who Knew Infinity
    (2015)

    2019 #65
    Matthew Brown | 109 mins | digital (HD) | 2.39:1 | UK & USA / English | 12 / PG-13

    The Man Who Knew Infinity

    Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel) is a man of boundless intelligence that even the poverty of his home in India cannot crush. His skill for mathematics attracts the attention of noted British professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons), who invites him to develop his computations at Trinity College, Cambridge. Ramanujan finds that his largely-intuitive mathematical theories clash with stringent academic requirements, just as his cultural values are challenged by the prejudices of 1910s Britain. With Ramanujan’s health in decline, the two men join in a mutual struggle that would define him as one of India’s greatest scholars. — adapted from IMDb

    Writer-director Matthew Brown takes this interesting true story and turns it into an ironically by-the-numbers biopic. Even with reliable actors like Patel and Irons headlining, there are some surprisingly stuff performances, and the film struggles to truly convey the genius or importance of the maths involved. Instead, it’s just lots of characters saying “OMG look at this stuff he thought up” and other characters saying “nah mate, it’s wrong” (except in the vernacular of 1910s Cambridge, of course). Alongside that, it doesn’t have many places to go with the story or characters, so it comes to feel repetitive as it goes round and round over the same points. Even the start of World War I has no genuine impact on events, factoring into the film only because that’s when these events actually happened, so Brown seems to feel it must be mentioned. Indeed, a lot of the film feels beholden to fact in this way, though I’m sure it must be doing the usual biopic thing of bending the truth.

    3 out of 5

    The Man Who Knew Too Much
    (1956)

    2019 #84
    Alfred Hitchcock | 120 mins | Blu-ray | 1.85:1 | USA / English | PG / PG

    The Man Who Knew Too Much

    Dr. Ben McKenna (James Stewart), his wife Jo (Doris Day), and their eight-year-old son Hank are on vacation in Morocco when they witness the public murder of a mysterious man who, before he dies, manages to reveal to Ben details of an assassination about to take place in London. The plotters kidnap Hank to keep the McKennas silent, so Ben and Jo return to London to take matters into their own hands. — adapted from IMDb

    Famously, this is the time Hitchcock remade himself: he’d previously filmed The Man Who Knew Too Much in 1934 while he was still working in Britain. Later, he’d compare the two by calling the original “the work of a talented amateur” while the remake “was made by a professional”, although he reportedly preferred the earlier version precisely because it wasn’t so polished.

    Undoubtedly, the 1956 Man Who Knew Too Much is not top-tier Hitchcock, but that doesn’t mean it’s without joys. Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day are perfectly cast as an ‘everyman’ American couple who accidentally get embroiled in international espionage, and Hitch could make such thrills work with his eyes closed. He’s also on top form during a sequence in the Albert Hall, a stunning set piece that lasts 12 minutes without a single word of dialogue, in which Hitch has the balls to just keep going through an entire piece of music, allowing the tension to almost build itself as he cuts around the room; even when Stewart finally turns up, we still don’t need exposition — we know exactly what’s happening.

    Although a key part of the film’s conclusion, it’s not the actual finale, which is a shame because the following plan to rescue Hank is a bit daft. And, when you think about it, the villains’ plot doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. It’s stuff like that which gets in the way of The Man Who Knew Too Much being among Hitch’s very best work, but it remains a fine suspense thriller.

    4 out of 5

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
    (1962)

    2020 #66
    John Ford | 118 mins | digital (HD) | 16:9 | USA / English | U

    The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

    When US Senator Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart) returns to the town of Shinbone to attend the funeral of his friend Tom Doniphon (John Wayne), a young reporter persuades him to tell the story of why he’s there. Flashback to a quarter-century-or-so earlier, when Ransom, a newly-qualified lawyer (still played, unconvincingly, by 53-year-old Stewart), arrived in Shinbone with a plan to bring law to the West. After Ransom receives a beating from local heavy Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), he recuperates at the Ericsons’ restaurant, where he takes a job in their kitchen to repay their kindness. He develops an affection for their daughter, Hallie (Vera Miles), who’s also being wooed by young rancher Doniphon (still Wayne, also in his early 50s — it seems there was a good deal of movie star vanity in this casting). With local law enforcement refusing to do anything about Valance’s violent oppressive tactics, Ransom eventually takes it upon himself to face the villain down…

    Despite the violent promise of the title, Liberty Valance is very much a dramatic western rather than an action-packed one. Just shooting Valance isn’t the characters’ first recourse; indeed, the film on the whole is interested in the clash between the moral values of the old West and incoming modernity, and how the old ways can persist even as new ones come into force. That older Ransom is a senator is not incidental: a major part of the plot concerns Shinbone (or, rather, wherever it is) applying for statehood, and Ransom and Valance both standing to be a representative.

    All of which is fine, but unfortunately the dramatic focus seems to have resulted in the film being rather slow-going at times. The main plot is fine, but the telling could’ve been tighter — there’s a lot of stuff about Ransom washing dishes and teaching everyone to read and write. It establishes his place in town, sure, but it takes forever getting there. At the other end, Valance is actually shot a full 25 minutes before the end. There’s story to wrap up and twists to reveal, but it takes its sweet time doing it. None of which is distracting as the age-related issue I already referred to. I was genuinely puzzled why everyone kept talking about how young Ransom was, when Stewart patently isn’t, until I realised it was an example of good ol’ Hollywood vanity, where someone thought a star in his 50s could get away with playing a guy in his 20s.

    Despite that, however, Stewart and Wayne remain powerful screen presences, and the commentary on the changing face of the West — indeed, of the country as a whole — is indicative of a direction the genre continues to explore to this day (it’s what the whole of Deadwood is about, at its core).

    4 out of 5

    The Man Who Sleeps
    (1974)

    aka Un homme qui dort

    2020 #203
    Bernard Queysanne | 78 mins | digital (SD) | 4:3 | France & Tunisia / French

    The Man Who Sleeps

    When I watched this, it was ranked as one of the greatest films of all time by Letterboxd users. I did not feel the same — rather than Un homme qui dort, I found it more like Un homme qui t’endort. (That’s a joke I’m so pleased with, I’ve now used it four times.)

    At first it plays like a stereotype of French art house cinema: shot in black & white, it’s about a disaffected student, told with introspective voiceover narration, which philosophises at the level of a pretentious undergraduate, and nothing actually happens. But then I began to feel that, actually, it does a pretty good job of capturing how I’ve felt often in my life; especially back when I too was a pretentious undergraduate. But that feeling didn’t last much more than quarter-of-an-hour — and as the film is an hour and a quarter, that became a problem. As I slogged on through it, the interminable narration became repetitive; the musings less relatable. Just because warped minds exist doesn’t mean it’s worth our while to spend 78 minutes in their thoughts.

    The Man Who Sleeps is the kind of film that thinks it’s profound, but is actually pretentious. That may gel with the worldview of its undergrad subject, but, just as you wouldn’t want to listen to a real-life undergrad’s philosophising for over an hour, I don’t want to endure the same from a fictional one either. I guess it’s apt that a film titled “the man who sleeps” would be a good cure for insomnia.

    2 out of 5

    The Man Who Sleeps featured on my list of The Worst Films I Saw in 2020.

  • Zatoichi in Desperation (1972)

    aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Oreta tsue

    2020 #95
    Shintarô Katsu | 93 mins | Blu-ray | 2.35:1 | Japan / Japanese | 15

    Zatoichi in Desperation

    The 24th and penultimate film in the original Zatoichi series is also the first to be directed by star Shintarô Katsu. (He previously wrote the 21st film, Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival, and would later direct 22 episodes of the TV series and write & direct the 1989 revival movie.) Despite such fundamental creative control by the man who arguably knew the character best, Zatoichi in Desperation is widely regarded as one of the series’ worst instalments, and yet you’ll find some people full of praise for it. It’s one of the series’ darkest entries, and I suspect it’s unpopular overall because it’s so grim; but for those who do like it, they love it.

    The plot starts with Ichi accidentally causing a polite old woman to fall from a bridge and die — as I said, cheery. The woman was on her way to visit her daughter, Nishikigi (Kiwako Taichi), so Ichi seeks her out. She’s a prostitute, so, as recompense, Ichi sets about raising the funds to free her from prostitution. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Kaede (Kyoko Yoshizawa) is also employed at Nishikigi’s brothel, to earn money to care for her younger brother Shinkichi (Yasuhiro Koume); so when some out-of-town bigwig starts letching over her, well, you can guess what route she’s set to head down. Said bigwig is funding a move by gangsters to crush the local fishermen and set up some kind of modern fishing empire. Just the kind of ordinary folk vs yakuza fight that Ichi would normally find himself embroiled in…

    Except he’s busy with Nishikigi, and that doesn’t really change. This is the cornerstone of the film’s moral thesis, which seems to be that the world is a brutal and unjust place. While kind-hearted Ichi is busy helping Nikigiki out of a perhaps-misplaced sense of duty (she doesn’t seem fussed about her mum’s demise, nor with escaping the brothel), he’s missing the people who could really use his help, i.e. Kaede and Shinkichi, or the village’s oppressed fishermen.

    Kaede and Shinkichi

    And they really could use a hand, because it’s against them that the film’s brutality is fully manifested. The gangsters burn all the villagers’ boats, then murder them for complaining about it; and while Kaede’s busy preparing to have to sell her body at 14, Shinkichi provokes the gangsters and consequently gets brutally beaten to death; and when Kaede finds his body, she commits suicide — and all of that occurs without Ichi even being aware Kaede and Shinkichi exist. Makes you wonder: were events like that playing out just offscreen in every other Ichi movie? Well, not consciously, obviously, but perhaps Katsu is provoking us to wonder about all the people Ichi has failed down the years while he was distracted elsewhere. Maybe our hero is blind in more ways than one.

    Aside from the violence, this is also an uncommonly filthy film for the series. First Ichi overhears a whore talking about how taking ten men makes her wet; then he’s hiding in a room while a couple have sex; then later a bunch of yakuza round up a mentally ill kid and start wanking him off until he ejaculates on one of them, for which they give him a beating. Yep, that all happens on screen. (Nearly every review I’ve come across comments on that last scene. Well, no surprise, really — it’s rather striking.)

    Hopefully you’re beginning to understand why this movie is so divisive. But if the content wasn’t enough, Katsu seems determined to show off with form, too. His bold directorial style evident from the off, when the old woman’s fall from the bridge is represented via an impressionistic barrage of flash-cut images. This is followed through the rest of the film by weirdly-framed close-ups and various odd angles. It doesn’t always pay off: the requisite gambling scene is a rehash of a trick from an earlier film, shot with a certain kind of dark tension (Ichi feels in genuine peril from those he swindled) that’s in-keeping with the film’s tone, but the trick itself is less entertainingly performed, the scene not as well paced and constructed. There’s also an atypical score by Kunihiko Murai, which some praise as being ’70s funk, but I thought sounded just like cheesy electronic nastiness. Sometimes, his unusual choices emphasise the film’s glum tone, as in the opening credits, which play out in silence over black — not the usual mode for a Zatoichi film, and so it somewhat suggests the goal is to prevent this as a Serious Movie.

    Blind in more ways than one

    Certainly, many describe this as a more realistic version of Zatoichi than we’ve seen before. It’s removed from the superheroics of the other movies, instead offering a brutal portrait of real violence and how it scars, with innocents suffering unnoticed and even our hero failing to emerge unscathed. Whether that’s realist or just depressive might depend on your view of the world; although, considering the time and place these films are set, I imagine its closer to reality than all of the “Ichi saves everyone” narratives. That either/or extends to the film’s reception: everyone agrees that it’s nastier, darker, and closer to reality than the other Zatoichi films, but whether that’s merited — an interesting diversion — or a case of taking things too far — a low point for the series — is a matter of personal taste.

    Personally, then, I appreciate what it was going for, but I wonder if Katsu left it too long to go there. Coming so late in the series means we’re very familiar with the tropes its subverting, which is necessary — it works best as a counterpoint to what we’ve already seen rather than as a standalone piece — but it almost feels too late to go about such subversion — it’s a departure from the groove these films have worn for themselves. Maybe Katsu should’ve entrusted such a departure to a more sure-handed director; maybe it’s the roughness of his directorial voice that makes the film what it is.

    3 out of 5

    The Best of 2020

    And so, we reach the end of 2020.

    I don’t know about you, but this feels like a, “what, already?!” moment to me. Putting my year-in-review posts together used to seem to take ages, but this year it feels like I’ve barely begun and now it’s over. But that’s enough about my subjective perception of time — let’s talk about movies in 2020, like Tenet, which is partly about… um, never mind.

    This final year-in-review post does what it says on the tin: it’s a list of my favourite films that I saw in 2020 (normally my least-favourites would be here too, but I did those already). A note for newcomers and/or reminder to the forgetful: rather than just 2020 releases, I select my list from all 264 movies I saw for the first time during 2020. That’s partly because there are tonnes of new releases that I never see in time — which is also why this post contains a list of 50 significant films I missed.

    Compiling this year’s lists has taken a lot of thinking, rearranging, cutting, reflecting, re-adding, re-rearranging, and a certain amount of “oh, that’ll do, what does it matter anyway” to actually get them out the door. Here’s what I ended up with…



    The 26 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2020

    Since 2016, I’ve replaced the usual “top ten” with a “top 10%”. As I watched 264 films in 2020, that means this year’s list has 26 films. (If you think that’s too many, feel free to scroll down and start from wherever you like.)

    Although all the movies I watched for the first time in 2020 are eligible, I did watch 57 films that had their UK release in 2020, so I’ve noted the ‘2020 rank’ of the eight that made it in. (I also saw a couple of 2020-UK-release films at FilmBath Festival in 2019. As they were already ranked as 2019, I’ve not factored them in here.)

    26 Klaus

    The animation is absolutely gorgeous in this Oscar-nominated BAFTA-winning Netflix original about a disaffected postman who helps originate the legend of Santa.

    25 The Looking Glass War
    The mundanity of real-life espionage; conflicted morals; the futility of the whole thing — this John le Carré adaptation is full of all the things that made his work so great.

    24 Dial M for Murder

    As intelligent and tense a thriller as you’d expect from Hitchcock; so good it even manages to make you overlook its obvious stage-bound roots. Superb in 3D, too.

    23 The Invisible Man
    2020 #8 This #MeToo-era reimagining of the HG Wells / Universal Horror classic could hardly be more timely. But even leaving that aside, it’s a chilling exercise in ratcheting tension.

    From its astounding opening to its hard-hitting final act, Last Black Man is an astonishing cinematic experience about the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. [Full review.]

    21 Aniara
    A space ship full of colonists is sent irretrievably off course in this Scandi sci-fi that’s driven by big ideas about human behaviour in extremis.

    20 Paris When It Sizzles

    William Holden and Audrey Hepburn are clearly having a whale of a time in this marvellously cine-literate ’60s romp about a struggling screenwriter.

    19 Philomena
    Judi Dench is extraordinary and Steve Coogan is a revelation in this intensely affecting drama about a wronged woman searching for her son who was taken decades earlier.

    18 Fanny and Alexander

    Ingmar Bergman described this as “the sum total of [his] life as a filmmaker”. Blending familial drama with a dash of magical realism and the supernatural, it’s a masterful work.

    17 Belladonna of Sadness
    Delicate watercolour artwork and medieval folklore smash against a storyline fuelled by rape and a penis-shaped devil in this astonishing animation full of psychedelic imagery and experimental music. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

    2020 #7 It’s “Agatha Christie meets the Coen brothers in a nudist camp” as the eponymous handyman searches for his missing hammer in a world full of wobbly bits, where anyone might’ve taken it. [Full review.]

    15 Tenet
    2020 #6 If you let go of the need to fully understand the mechanics of the film’s time-reversal conceit, Christopher Nolan’s latest is an audacious and exciting spy thriller. It’s a shame real-world arguments have come to overshadow what is actually a suitably thrilling spectacle.

    14 Soul

    2020 #5 Pixar have often been praised for making films for grown-ups. That’s not something I’d wholly agree with, until now. Not as cutesy as the rest of their output (largely), Soul asks big questions about what makes us who we are. All wrapped up in a buddy-quest storyline, of course.

    13 Knives Out
    Rian Johnson’s tribute to whodunnits a la Agatha Christie pulls off something that genre can’t always manage: rewatchability. It barely matters who actually dunnit when it’s this much fun spending time with the outrageous suspects and Daniel Craig’s implausibly-accented detective.

    12 The Old Dark House

    As amusing as a droll comedy and as atmospheric as a creepy old-school horror, James “director of Frankenstein” Whale’s genre classic is just a lot of fun.

    If this anime were live-action, it would be an action-adventure blockbuster. It’s got it all: thrills, humour, emotion, wonder… That makes it so accessible, it would be a perfect starting point for any Westerner new to anime. [Full review.]

    Taron Egerton stars as Elton John for this unusual biopic of the singer. Part traditional musician biopic, part jukebox musical, director Dexter Fletcher remixes John’s music into some imaginatively staged sequences, while Egerton and his supporting cast (in particular Jamie Bell) give thoughtful, nuanced performances. The cumulative effect is a movie that is highly enjoyable but not without depth. [Full review.]

    9
    The Lady Vanishes

    Alfred Hitchcock is probably most renowned for his Hollywood movies (Pyscho, Vertigo, Rear Window, etc), but we shouldn’t forget his British output — these are the films that got him Hollywood’s attention, after all. The director’s second appearance on this year’s list is one of the last films he made before that jump across the pond. It’s a mystery thriller about an old lady who somehow disappears from a moving train, and a couple of youngsters who try to find out how and why. It’s witty, it’s clever, and it’s exciting — all the things for which Hitch is best known.

    8
    Judgment at Nuremberg

    This fictionalised account of the military tribunals that took place following the Second World War sets its sights not on the trials of major Nazi leaders, but on the subsequent trials that assessed the guilt of people further down the chain — here, four judges and prosecutors who helped facilitate the Nazi’s crimes. For such weighty material, this is an appropriately weighty film — a long, complex, methodical, harrowing account. Boldly directed by Stanley Kramer, and with an incredible cast all giving first-rate performances, this remains a powerful, brilliant film.

    7
    Tim’s Vermeer

    Computer graphics pioneer and inventor Tim Jenison is an art enthusiast, fascinated by the work of Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, in whose work his engineer’s brain sees a near-impossible photographic accuracy. So, he sets out to prove and expound upon existing theories that Vermeer painted with the aid of some kind of optical device. What unfolds is an astonishing story of obsession, dedication, and art historiography, which challenges your idea of where the line lies between art and technology.

    2020 #4 Sam Mendes’s single-take(-kinda) World War One adventure ended up losing many of the big prizes to Parasite last awards season (FYI, they both count as 2020 films here due to UK release dates in January and February, respectively). But that doesn’t mean it’s any less of an extraordinary experience. I love a long single take (fake or not), and I love stories that unfold in real-time, and I feel World War One has been under-represented on screen — so when Mendes takes all of those things and executes them brilliantly (having Roger Deakins on cinematography helps), you get a film that’s right up my street. [Full review.]

    If 1917 uses all the skills of modern tech to craft an almost old-fashioned epic, Bait is practically the polar opposite: old-school techniques (a wind-up camera; hand-developed 16mm film; post-sync sound) to tell a very modern story (broadly, about the economic plight of Cornish fishermen). It could be pretentiously arthouse or an insufferable polemic, but it’s neither. Instead, the story is told with genuine heart, drama, and humour, and the handmade aesthetic adds an appreciable, beautiful texture. [Full review.]

    4
    Parasite

    2020 #3 If you use Letterboxd, the latest film from acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon Ho comes with a heavy millstone round its neck: according to that site’s users, it’s the greatest film ever made. Like Citizen Kane before it, such a label can be a distraction, and makes some people want to push back against it (is that why I’ve only ranked it at #4? You decide). “Best film ever” or not, the first non-English-language film to win the Best Picture Oscar is a timely deconstruction of class systems — just who are the eponymous parasites, actually? Even aside from big societal questions, it’s a thrilling piece of filmmaking; tense, exciting, and surprising.

    2020 #2 Can a filmed stage production be the year’s best film? Um… Well, that’s a major reason why Hamilton is in 3rd place for my 2020 viewing and 2nd place for 2020 releases: it’s not really a film, right? Well, it’s definitely some kind of historical record — not of the life of Alexander Hamilton, but of a theatre production that took the world by storm. Here we get to witness the original Broadway cast in the show’s original staging, allowing us all the chance to witness a genuine cultural phenomenon first-hand. But this is not merely a couple of cameras plonked into the audience for the sake of posterity: director Thomas Kail users multiple cinematic techniques to make a film that truly feels like a film. Yes, it’s still theatrical, but it feels like this is how this story is meant to be (cf. something like Dogville: also very theatrical; also definitely a film). Theatres will reopen and we’ll be able to see Hamilton in the flesh again; and someday they’ll inevitably make a ‘real’ movie adaptation; and even still, this film will stand as a legitimate, magnificent experience in its own right. [Full review.]

    2020 #1 Writer-director Eliza Hittman’s story of a Pennsylvanian teenager forced to travel to New York for an abortion is told with documentary-like subtlety and understatement, but the result is incredibly moving and powerful. Without ever explicitly stating it, the film is an eloquent condemnation of US systems that force poor and struggling individuals to jump through hoops to access care that those of us in the rest of the developed world might consider basic rights. It’s a potent reminder that, for all its claims of being a highly-developed world-leader, for many of its citizens the US is as regressive, prejudiced, and unequal as the ‘Third World’ countries it so often seeks to demonise. [Full review.]

    1
    Do the Right Thing

    If there’s one feature that links many films on this year’s list, it’s timeliness: films that connect with some of the big sociopolitical issues of our day. Do the Right Thing was made over 30 years ago, but in its subject matter — a stiflingly hot day in a Brooklyn neighbourhood causes tensions to boil over into white-on-black violence — it could scarcely be more 2020. But this is not about “which film best encapsulates the year”, and so Spike Lee’s film tops my list because of all its other qualities, too. It’s a portrait of a place; a day-in-the-life hangout movie, where we follow myriad characters as they go about their business; 90-or-so minutes in which we get to understand the neighbourhood, to know its inhabitants… before the powder keg explodes and everything changes. Except, as we now know, nothing’s really changed at all.


    As usual, I’d just like to highlight a few other films.

    First, the cinematic masterpiece that is Love on a Leash. If you’re unfamiliar with this feat of cinematic excellence, may I recommend my review. It’s not exactly #27, because at various points while curating my list I had it in the top ten, the top twenty, in 26th place… but, eventually, not in the list at all. As I discussed in my review, it’s a film that’s hard to categorise: it’s simultaneously a one-star disaster and a five-star artistic experience. It’s an object lesson in why criticism of art can never be objective, because it’s unquestionable that it’s terribly made in every respect, and yet it’s nonstop entertaining, even thought-provoking, and certainly unique. (Of course, some people would say it’s objectively bad. Those people are wrong.)

    I’m someone who believes “best” and “favourite” can be different things: in 2020, I saw some movies I would acknowledge as great but that didn’t make the Top 26 because they didn’t really entertain me; equally, some films got in that are indeed great but I may never rewatch, whereas I left out simpler fare that I’m sure I’ll revisit. In a ranking of the “best” films I saw this year, no way does Love on a Leash get close; but in terms of my “favourite” films, it might’ve been pretty damn high. My final Top 26 falls somewhere between those two stools, but does carry the “best of” name, and so it felt insulting to any other film in the list (or, indeed, to those that tried but failed to squeeze in) to rank Love on a Leash above them. So here it is instead: first among my “honourable mentions”, with two solid paragraphs dedicated to it — more than any film in the actual list. So who’s the real winner, eh?

    Next, let’s recap the 12 films that won Favourite Film of the Month at the Arbies, some of which have already been mentioned and some of which haven’t. In chronological order, with links to the relevant awards, they were Laputa: Castle in the Sky, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Lady Vanishes, Aniara, Belladonna of Sadness, Paris When It Sizzles, Hamilton, Bad Boys for Life, Fanny and Alexander, Tim’s Vermeer, An American Werewolf in London, and Klaus.

    Finally, I always list every film that earned a 5-star rating this year. It’s especially pertinent this year, given how few reviews I’ve actually posted; although, as I noted in my stats post, it’s possible some of these ratings will be revised when I come to write a full review. But, for now, the 39 films with full marks are 1917, All About Eve, All Quiet on the Western Front, An American Werewolf in London, Anand, Aniara, Bait, Belladonna of Sadness, Dial M for Murder, Do the Right Thing, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Fanny and Alexander, The French Connection, Hamilton, Harakiri, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, In the Mood for Love, The Invisible Guest, Judgment at Nuremberg, Knives Out, Lady Bird, The Lady Vanishes, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Women, The Looking Glass War, Love on a Leash, The Lunchbox, A Man for All Seasons, Man on Wire, Marriage Story, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Parasite, Paris When It Sizzles, Philomena, Rocketman, Safety Last!, Soul, and Tim’s Vermeer. Plus, this year I also gave five stars to Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 3D, and (earmarked for the ‘Guide To’ treatment at some point) Tim Burton’s Batman and Monty Python’s Life of Brian. There were also several short films that merited the accolade, namely Flush Lou, The Last Video Store, The Monkeys on Our Backs, and The Starey Bampire.


    It may have felt like 2020 was a year bereft of movies, as blockbuster after blockbuster got kicked into 2021, but plenty of stuff still came out — both major releases that took the streaming plunge, and smaller titles that probably wouldn’t’ve seen huge theatrical box office anyway; not to mention stuff that’s going to count as 2020 due to festival screenings but won’t really be released anywhere until 2021; and, of course, all the streamers’ own original movies.

    Even though I did watch 57 movies that had a UK release in 2020, there were a considerable number I missed. So, as always, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films from 2020 that I’ve not yet seen. (I normally use IMDb’s dating to decide what’s eligible for inclusion, but I’ve allowed a handful that are listed as 2019 only because of festival screenings.) These have been chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety. There are many more I want to see that I could have included, but I always attempt to feature a spread of styles and genres, successes and failures.

    Another Round
    Da 5 Bloods
    The Hunt
    The New Mutants
    Promising Young Woman
    WolfWalkers
    Bill & Ted Face the Music
    The Eight Hundred
    I'm Thinking of Ending Things
    Nomadland
    Rebecca
    Wonder Woman 1984
    An American Pickle
    Ammonite
    Another Round
    Artemis Fowl
    Bill & Ted Face the Music
    The Call of the Wild
    Da 5 Bloods
    David Byrne’s American Utopia
    The Devil All the Time
    Dolittle
    The Eight Hundred
    The Father
    The Gentlemen
    The Half of It
    Happiest Season
    Hillbilly Elegy
    Host
    The Hunt
    I’m Thinking of Ending Things
    Kajillionaire
    The King of Staten Island
    Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
    Mank
    The Midnight Sky
    Military Wives
    Minari
    Miss Juneteenth
    Mulan
    My Spy
    The New Mutants
    News of the World
    Nomadland
    One Night in Miami…
    Onward
    Peninsula
    Possessor
    Promising Young Woman
    Rebecca
    Saint Maud
    Scoob!
    The Secret Garden
    Shirley
    The Social Dilemma
    Sonic the Hedgehog
    Supernova
    The Trial of the Chicago 7
    True History of the Kelly Gang
    The Witches
    WolfWalkers
    Wonder Woman 1984


    And that is 2020 over and done with — hurrah!

    Ignoring for a moment all the news that’s currently telling us how 2021 will be just as bad, if not worse, one thing to look forward to is that it’s my 15th year writing this blog. 15 years! I feel old… The actual date of the blog’s 15th birthday is at the end of February 2022, so I’ve got a little time yet to prepare some kind of celebration.

    In the meantime, let’s watch some more films…

    The Worst of 2020

    “All of it,” I hear you cry. Yes, ok, ha ha, very funny. Obviously I’m specifically talking about the worst films of 2020.

    Regular readers will know I normally include this list in my “best of” post — a sort of counterbalance to any chance of relentless positivity; a reminder that, for all the smooth, there’s always some rough. Maybe we don’t need that kind of thing for 2020, but tradition is tradition. Of course, putting this list in its own post is some kind of break with tradition anyway. But the reason is simple: I’m still working on my “best of” list — it’s a long’un, being 10% of my total viewing, and this being my biggest year ever. That also means the “best of” post will be a plenty long enough read without this little dose of misery in there. So here it is by itself instead.

    A quick reminder: I select my best and worst lists from all 264 films I saw for the first time in 2020, not just new releases.



    The 5 Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2020

    As revealed in my stats post, I only handed out two one-star ratings this year. In retrospect, perhaps I was too generous, because to get this “worst of” selection down to just five films I had to leave out several movies that I really, really disliked. Here’s what I pared it down to, in alphabetical order…

    Hunter Killer
    This throwback-ish techno-thriller really wants to be an exciting submarine adventure in the mould of The Hunt for Red October or Crimson Tide, but it can’t rise above the level of ‘wannabe’. It’s mired with an implausible plot and bizarre casting (Gary Oldman is prominent in the marketing, but he’s barely in the film itself). It just doesn’t have the smarts to successfully emulate the Tom Clancy style it so desperately aspires to.

    Lovers Rock
    Sight & Sound ranked this the best film of 2020. Its appeal clearly isn’t limited to the arthouse crowd, because Empire ranked it 7th in their list. But I didn’t get it at all. If you told me director Steve McQueen tricked the BBC into paying for an elaborate ’80s theme party by just filming it, sticking some credits on his raw footage, and handing it over with the claim “yeah, this is a real movie — it’s got a screenplay credit and everything”, I’d believe you.

    The Man Who Sleeps
    Never mind being one of the best films of the year — this was ranked as one of the 250 best films of all time by Letterboxd users. It’s dropped off that list now, but not before I bothered to watch it, unfortunately. Like Lovers Rock, it’s a crushing bore; 70-something minutes spent watching a man do virtually nothing. Un homme qui dort? More like Un homme qui t’endort. [Full review]

    Some Beasts
    A family’s trip to a remote island goes awry when interpersonal tensions overflow into arguments and abuse. It’s a bit slow and self-consciously arty, but that’s not its real sin. That comes in the final 20 minutes, when it throws in an extreme plot development with no time — nor, I think, inclination — to responsibly engage with its consequences. I’m loathe to call any film “offensive”, but this probably comes the closest of anything I’ve seen. [Full review]

    Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
    Superman: The Movie still stands up as one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. Its sequels show you how a franchise can die. 2 and 3 are bad enough, but The Quest for Peace is by far the worst — a joyless anti-nuclear polemic, with low production values and iffy storytelling. The only bright spots are the talented returning cast, but they’re better appreciated by just rewatching the first one again. [Full review]


    The 26 best films I saw for the first time in 2020.

    The Past Christmas on TV

    Christmas is properly over now: adults are back at work; kids are back at sch— wait, what? Another lockdown?

    Well, the festive season is over either way, isn’t it? So it’s time for my annual look back at some of the TV highlights. Or what was on, anyway.

    Doctor Who  Revolution of the Daleks
    Doctor Who: Revolution of the DaleksThis year’s Doctor Who special felt like a bid by showrunner Chris Chibnall to keep fans happy. Popular character Captain Jack Harkness is back, properly this time — after a cameo-ish appearance last season, this is his first major role in the show since 2008. And the proper Daleks are back, too — we got a sort-of-Dalek two years ago in the last special, but, after that’s used as the model for an army of “security drones”, the real Daleks turn up to exterminate them, with the 2005-style bronze Daleks making their first full appearance since 2015 (yes, it’s been that long).

    Of course, the one thing most fans would really like Chibnall to do is bugger off and let someone better write the show. He hasn’t given us that gift yet, sadly, but at least this is one of his better episodes. It’s suitably romp-ish for a seasonal special, with plenty of running down corridors, exploding enemies, and the odd gag or two. There’s even some political satire, albeit fairly familiar, heavy-handed, and underdeveloped. Well, that’s Chibnall’s whole style, isn’t it? He can’t seem to escape it, or doesn’t want to (there are surely other writers or script editors he could employ to help point him in the right direction).

    The other big news this episode is the departure of regulars Ryan (Tosin Cole) and Graham (Bradley Walsh). The latter has been one of the highlights of this era, but is given short shrift here. He barely has anything to do all episode — with a cast this big there’s no time for everyone to get emotional subplots (or what Chibnall thinks passes for them), and here they’re shared between the Doctor, Ryan, and Yaz… plus returning villain Robertson, of all people, who is arguably the episode’s main character. What a shitty way to write out two of your leads. And when it comes down to it, Graham only decides to leave the TARDIS because Ryan wants to go, and he wants to spend time with Ryan. Walsh is a fine actor when given the chance, and he deserved better. Ryan’s reasons for leaving aren’t <iquite as underwritten, but Cole does most of the heavy lifting, injecting a lot into unspoken moments to convey what Ryan’s feeling. A bit of screenwriting advice I once read asserted that, if you don’t bother to give your characters subtext, a good actor will invent their own regardless — it feels like that’s what’s happened here; or, at least, Cole has expanded well on the thin material Chibnall gave him.

    In any other recent era, Revolution of the Daleks (an inaccurate title — it should’ve been called something like Purity of the Daleks, or even Security of the Daleks) would be a middle-of-the-road episode, at best. At present, it’s probably going to be remembered as of the highlights of the era. There are now rumours that Jodie Whittaker is planning to leave the show after her next run, having completed the more-or-less standard three series. Well, the wrong person is going: she’s a fine Doctor let down by poor writing, and we’d all be better off if Chibnall would go and let someone else have a crack at giving Whittaker the material she deserves.

    Cinderella  A Comic Relief Pantomime for Christmas
    Cinderella: A Comic Relief Pantomime for ChristmasWith theatres mostly shut this November and December due to Covid restrictions, the UK’s traditional pantomime season was a write-off. But where there’s a will there’s a way, and so an all-star bunch of actors and entertainers (including the likes of Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Hollander, and Anya Taylor-Joy, plus multiple surprise cameos) came together over Zoom to record this hour-long panto in aid of Comic Relief. (FYI, there are two versions available: a 60-minute one that aired on BBC Two, and a slightly extended 63-minute cut available on iPlayer.)

    I imagine it would’ve been easier logistically to film everyone separately (and would we have been any the wiser?), but instead they seem to have wrangled all these stars together on the same Zoom call and performed it in more-or-less real-time. That ‘almost live’ aspect adds an element of unpredictability to proceedings — there’s the occasional tech issue, and a fair degree of corpsing and improvisation. Looking at other reviews, I guess this wasn’t to everyone’s taste (“a poor effort when better productions were hidden online”), but I thought it added to the do-it-yourself charm. It’s not a slick production by a bunch of pros, but has an air of fun similar to a bunch of mates doing their best and having a ball. The end result is very silly, of course, but all in the right spirit.

    Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse
    Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious MouseSky’s big special this year was this based-on-a-true-story tale of when a young, bereaved Roald Dahl went on a trip to meet an ageing Beatrix Potter. Two of the great British children’s authors meeting up at very different points in their lives? It’s a wonder no one’s thought to film this before. Although, based on the evidence here, the meeting was fairly short and inconsequential — that they met is an interesting bit of trivia, not a defining moment in either’s life. To get this anecdote up to barely-feature-length (it’s just over an hour without ads), there’s a lot of expanded backstory on both sides. The Roald side feels like it must be broadly true — it’s all about him (and his mother) struggling to cope with the deaths of both his sister and father — but the Beatrix side feels dreamt up to balance it out — it’s just about her arguing with an agent about the contents of her latest book. Eventually, these threads converge on the eponymous pair’s brief meeting… and that’s the end. It’s a slight and gentle film, but it made for moderately charming Christmas Eve fare.

    Comedy Specials
    The Goes Wrong Show: The NativityAs usual, the schedules were full of sitcoms and panel shows offering half-hour doses of festivals merriment. Highlights included a fourth Christmassy edition of The Goes Wrong Show, in which the accident-prone Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society turned their attention to The Nativity, with predictably disastrous — and hilarious — results. I get that Goes Wrong is too silly for some, but it hits just the right note for me. A more heartwarming tone was struck by the Ghosts special, in which Mike’s overbearing family coming to stay (clearly not set this Christmas, then). In keeping with the style of the recent second series, their presence prompted flashbacks to the life of horny MP Julian, which, via a series of kinky sex parties, delivered a message about appreciating your family while you can.

    Meanwhile, Shakespearean sitcom Upstart Crow very much engaged with the current situation in an episode entitled Lockdown Christmas 1603, which imagined Will and his landlady Kate stuck at home during a plague-induced lockdown. Naturally this was a vehicle for observations about present-day life. It would be too kind to call it satire, but it was moderately amusing. After several years of Christmas specials, Not Going Out instead turned its attention to that other major end-of-December event: New Year. A show already fond of gathering its whole cast in a single location for basically a one-act play was perfect fodder for lockdown-constrained filming, and that’s what we get here: everyone gather for New Year’s Eve. Cue their inevitable sniping at one another — but when that gets too much, the assignation of New Year’s resolutions turns into some kind of group therapy session. It’s quite bold of a sitcom to deconstruct its characters’ defining foibles so explicitly, especially when there are more series on the way. One suspects the life lessons learnt won’t last…

    Also watched…
  • Blankety Blank Christmas Special — Yet another revival for the popular gameshow. It was supposedly a one-off, but I suspect it was intended as a backdoor pilot; as it was a ratings hit, I’d wager we’ll see more. I could’ve included it in the comedy roundup, because its main appeal is less as a gameshow and more in the format’s potential for humour.
  • Death to 2020 — I brazenly counted this as a film for statistical reasons, but it’s a TV special really. My full review is here.
  • Have I Got 30 Years for You — An entertaining but also insightful look back at three decades of the predominant news quiz.

    Things to Catch Up On
    Black NarcissusThis Christmas, I have mostly been missing Black Narcissus, the BBC’s three-part re-adaptation of a novel most famous for being adapted into a film by Powell & Pressburger. It’s on iPlayer in UHD now, which is usually an incentive for me to catch it. Talking of three-part re-adaptations, I also didn’t watch Steven Knight’s version of A Christmas Carol — that was on last year, when I didn’t have time for it until after Christmas had passed. “Guess I’ll have to try to remember to watch it next year, then,” I said. Oops.

    Next month… Perhaps Cobra Kai. After loving season one, I deliberately didn’t rush on to season two so that I didn’t burn through it too fast before season three. Then Netflix announced season three for early January, and then moved it forward to January 1st, and now instead of nicely spacing it out I just feel very far behind. Must resist the urge to burn through two seasons now instead…

  • 2020 Statistics

    It’s the first Monday of the new year — glum, right? Well, here’s something to cheer you up: the best part of any and every year — the statistics! Woo! Yeah! Etc!

    For any newbies, or those in need of a refresher, this is where I take all the films I watched for the first time in 2020 (listed here) and analyse all sorts of stuff about them to see if anything interesting shakes out. As this was my biggest year ever, there’s bound to be a few “new highest” whatnots; but where things might get interesting is in categories with percentages and the like — does watching so many more films change the percentage that was directed by women, or the percentage I watched on Netflix, or… well, there are many things to discover.

    I’ll also mention that, as I’m a Pro member of Letterboxd, you can find additional stats there — or, rather, here. I also log shorts, some TV, and all rewatches on there, so any comparable stats (e.g. my most-watched directors) won’t match up; but I don’t think there’s actually much duplication, and they also include a bunch of stuff I don’t (actors, crew members, genres, etc), so it’s worth a look if you just can’t get enough of graphs and numbers.

    Speaking of which, here’s a beautiful load of exactly that…

    I watched 264 new feature films in 2020, my highest ever, pipping 2018 by just three films. After 14 years of doing this blog, my average final total is 152, so 2020 is a 74% increase on that. But it’s also worth noting that my viewing habits have changed a lot since 2015 (the first year I reached 200 films in a year): my average total for 2007–2014 was 111, while for 2015–2020 it’s 208. Of course, even compared to that, 2020 is up 27%.

    Normally I’d now tally up how many extended or altered cuts I watched as a separate number, but with my Rewatchathon now in the game, it doesn’t quite work like that anymore. So, for example, I watched Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux and counted it towards my main list because it was a significantly different cut to whatever I’d watched before; but when I watched and reviewed Mission: Impossible – Fallout in 3D, it was only the 3D that was different, so I counted it towards my Rewatchathon.

    I probably ought to do full-blown stats for my Rewatchathon too — I’ve been running that side challenge for four years now, so it’s about time I gave it equitable standing in these stats — but I still haven’t started collecting the necessary data throughout the year, so… Maybe next year, eh. What I can tell you is that I rewatched 46 films, for a combined total of 310. That’s one behind 2018’s 310, my previous high. (I still haven’t worked out full rewatch numbers for 2007–2016, but from previous research (mentioned in 2017’s stats) I know none of them got higher than 223.)


    NB: I have no rewatch data for 2007 and only incomplete numbers for 2008.

    I also watched 65 short films in 2020, an extraordinary number by my standards: I’d only watched 85 in the preceding 13 years of this blog, so this year alone saw my all-time total increase by over 76%. Last year was my previous best individual year, when I watched 20 shorts; this year represents a more-than-threefold improvement on that. (Short films don’t count towards any of the following stats, except for where they’re explicitly mentioned in the running time one… which is up next…)

    The total running time of the 264 new features was 459 hours and 41 minutes. That’s actually down slightly on 2018, despite watching three more films — obviously I just watched shorter films on average. Besides, the drop is just 88 minutes, which is 0.3% — barely anything. And if we add in the 65 short films I watched in 2020, the total running time of all my new film viewing is an astonishing 469 hours and 19 minutes — that’s equivalent to 19½ solid days; almost three weeks of nonstop film viewing. It also means 2020 overleaps 2018 by some 391 minutes (6½ hours), aka 1.4%.

    Here’s how that viewing played out across the year, month by month. The dark blue line is new feature films, the pale blue line is my Rewatchathon, and the pale green line is shorts. As you can see, the shorts line goes literally off the chart in November — that’s because I set this graph to be based around the main list number of new films, but I watched a ridiculous 53 short films in November. (Obviously I could’ve adjusted the graph to go up higher, but that wasn’t as fun.) What’s also interesting is if you go back and compare this graph to the two times I’ve done it before, in 2018 and 2019: the shapes certainly aren’t identical, but I feel like they share an overall pattern, i.e. I hit a peak around April/May, and the back end of the year is generally lower.

    Now, the ways in which I watched those films. Attentive readers may have noticed that, earlier this year, I switched from differentiating “streaming” and “download” at the top of my reviews to just listing all such viewing as “digital”. I drafted a paragraph about the whys and wherefores of that change to include in a monthly review, but I’ve not got round to polishing it up enough to include. In short, when I first started using those terms there was a notable difference between them — streaming was low quality and unreliable, downloads were pretty good. Nowadays, it’s the other way round, if anything (for example, Apple TV+ will stream in 4K but only lets you download in 1080p), and sometimes there’s no difference at all (if I download something from iPlayer to watch later, it’s no different than streaming it from iPlayer, quality-wise). So, in that spirit, “digital” now becomes a single category in these stats; but, behind the scenes, I’ve still noted what came from where (much as I do for the different streaming services), so I’ll come to that in a mo.

    With streaming and downloading bundled, it’s no surprise that digital is my most prolific viewing format for the sixth year running, accounting for 195 films, or 73.9% of my viewing — almost three-quarters! A poor show for a physical media advocate, isn’t it? It’s a bit trickier to show you comparisons to previous years, for obvious reasons, but I’ve run the numbers and can tell you it’s their highest combined total ever, besting 61.9% in 2016. In the five-year period 2015–2019, my overall percentage for digital was 52.8%, so this is a definite increase on the norm.

    If we break it down into various formats and services, the winner was Amazon with 60 films (30.8% of digital). If I didn’t count digital as a block, Amazon alone would be my #1 format. It’s back on top after Netflix overtook it last year, but this year Netflix isn’t even second — that goes to downloads, with 47 films (24.1%). In fact, Netflix comes joint third, tied with Now TV on 32 films (16.4%) each. Does make me wonder if I’m wasting that £11.99 a month… In fifth is iPlayer with eight (4.1%), although three of my downloads came from there, so you could argue it’s 11 (5.6%). And this is exactly why I’ve bundled all of this stuff together. Next was AMPLIFY! with seven (3.6%) — also arguably responsible for more, because I got some screeners related to it. Bringing up the rear, on Disney+ I watched five films (2.6%), and I even watched three (1.5%) on YouTube. As a final note, I technically watched zero on Apple TV+ — it’s been a real waste of the free year I got for buying a new Mac, because I had no way to watch it on my TV until recently. I did watch their original movie starring Tom Hanks, Greyhound, though I downloaded it so I could watch on my TV, so again it’s counted under downloads rather. My free year runs until February, so maybe it’ll factor properly in next year’s stats… although most of their original content is series, so I doubt it’ll represent much.

    Alright, onwards! In second place as Blu-ray with 57 films (21.6%). That’s actually its second highest total (behind 82 in 2018), but its lowest percentage of my viewing since 2016 (though last year it was less than 1% higher on 22.5%). It’s a consistent runner-up when, considering how many I buy, it really ought to be a clear first.

    Between them, digital and Blu-ray accounted for an exceptional 95.5% of my viewing this year. The remainder was spread thinly between three more formats. In third place was good old DVD with just six films (2.3%). That’s its lowest total since 2012, back when six films was 5.6% of my viewing.

    Next up, in fourth place, believe it or not, is cinema. Well, I actually only managed four trips to the big screen before the year went haywire, so it still only accounts for 1.5% of my 2020 viewing. I’m not always the greatest cinema goer, but I’ve picked it up in recent years, meaning that’s the least I’ve been since 2015.

    Finally, the once-mighty television. From 2009 to 2012 it was my highest-ranking format. Now, it’s fallen to its lowest ever total, and by some margin: it represents just two films (0.8%) in my 2020 viewing, while its previous poorest performance was 10 films, all the way back in 2008.

    In amongst all that, I watched 13 films in 3D (almost double the measly seven I watched last year) and 40 in 4K — a new high, being a 167% increase on the 15 I watched last year. Together, the two formats made up 20.1% of my viewing — not bad, especially when you consider that a lot of discs on both my 3D and 4K ‘to watch’ piles are films I’ve seen before (but not in that format).

    Which brings me to the UHD vs. HD vs. SD chart. Contributing to the UHD numbers is mostly streams, some 4K Blu-ray discs, and a download or two. HD includes most of the majority of my streams and downloads, Blu-ray discs, cinema trips, and one TV screening. Contributing to SD were the handful of DVDs, plus a few streams and downloads, and the other TV screening. The final tally shows 201 films in HD (76.1%). Add in UHD and that’s a total of 91.3% in HD formats, the first time my viewing has been over 90% HD (2018 came 0.4% short). Of course, that also means it’s the lowest ever for SD — the actual number of films I’m watching in lower definition is surprisingly stable (it was 23 this year, bang-on the average of the last five years), but watching more films overall means the percentage drops.

    Moving on to the age of films, now. 2020 marks the start of a new decade (yeah, okay, it doesn’t really; but most of us will still count films from 2020 as part of the 2020–2029 decade, so tough luck, pedants). That might shake up these stats in the years to come: it’s normally the current decade that tops my chart, and it only took the 2010s until 2012 to take the #1 spot. It was close-ish with the 2000s for the next few years, but it was firmly in the lead by the middle of the decade. Will the 2020s chart a similar course?

    Well, they’re not there yet: for the 9th year running, the most popular decade was the 2010s, with 120 films — though at 45.5% of my viewing, that’s their lowest percentage since 2013. That’s partly because the 2020s have come in strong, bagging second place with 33 films (12.5%). That’s a much better percentage than the 2010s managed in their inaugural year: in 2010, the new decade accounted for just 5.65% of my viewing. Back to 2020 and, together, the past 11 years accounted for 57.95% of my viewing, which is more in line with the 2010s other recent performances.

    In third place we find the ’80s with 24 films (9.1%), a massive increase on their uncommonly poor 2019 (when they accounted for just three films, 1.99%). They’re closely followed by the 2000s on 22 (8.3%) — that’s twice as many as last year, which was also an uncommonly weak year for the decade.

    It’s a drop down to fifth place, where the ’90s are on 14 (5.3% — the exact same as last year). Not far behind is the ’60s on 12 (4.5%), and it’s the same drop to the ’40s on 10 (3.8%), and the same again to the ’70s on eight (3.0%).

    Rounding things out, the ’50s have seven (2.7%); there’s a tie between the 1920s and ’30s on six (2.3%); while the the 1910s bring up the rear with two (0.7%). (No features for the 1900s & earlier, but they were represented this year by one short.)

    From “when” to “where”: countries of production. As always, the USA absolutely dominated this category, having a role in producing 181 films. However, with that being equivalent to 68.6% of my total viewing, it’s actually the USA’s lowest percentage ever, almost four whole points below their next lowest, 72.4% in 2018. In related good news, there were 40 different countries involved in the production of at least one film — that’s my highest number ever, trouncing the 32 from 2015. Some of the more uncommon ones (for my viewing) included Algeria, Lithuania, Malaysia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Uganda.

    Back at the top end of the chart, the UK was second, as usual. Its 71 films was its most ever; that’s 26.8%, which has been bettered, but not since 2013. Also making double figures were Canada (21, 7.95%), France (18, 6.8%), China (16, 6.1%), Japan (15, 5.7%), and Germany (14, 5.3%). Next was Spain (7, 2.7%), after which there were four countries tied on four films each, another four on three films, 10 on two films, and the remaining 14 had one film each. Perhaps the most notable omission was New Zealand, leaving 2020 as the first year since 2013 where I didn’t see any films from there. And they’ve had such a good year, too!

    Such a wide variety of countries must lead to a wider variety of languages spoken, right? Well, this year’s films featured 30 spoken languages (plus ten silent films) — not the most ever, but close: the only year higher was 2017 with 32. Of course, the most dominant was still English, which was spoken in 223 films. At 84.5% of my viewing, that just slips under last year’s 84.8% to be the lowest ever. In distant second was French, spoken in just 18 films (6.8%). The others to make double figures were an uncommonly strong showing for Spanish (14 films, 5.3%) and a weaker than normal year for Japanese (11 films, 4.2%). Also, China was represented across multiple languages: not just Mandarin and Cantonese, but also Hokkien and Shanghainese, plus some films where it was only listed as “Chinese”, unfortunately. Other languages that I don’t think have come up in my viewing before included Aboriginal, Catalan, Samoan, and Swahili.

    A total of 225 directors and 23 directing partnerships appear on 2020’s main list, the most ever for both tallies. No surprise, given I watched my most films ever; but bear in mind that I only watched three fewer films in 2017, but there were 23 fewer directors credited that year. I ought to work this out as a percentage sometime… Also worth noting is that the number of partnerships is slightly complicated by some Disney films that mixed and matched directors. For example, the likes of Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, and Hamilton Luske have multiple credits each, but with a different lineup of co-directors each time. If we lump all the different combos together as “Disney guys”, the number of partnerships drops to 20… but that’s still the most ever.

    The most prolific director this year was Jack Kinney, who worked on all four of those “Disney guy” films (Clyde Geronimi and Hamilton Luske have three credits each). Outside of those, I watched three films directed by Denis Villeneuve — it would’ve been four, as I was intending to catch up on all his early work before Dune came out, but then Dune got delayed. I’ll finish that project in 2021, then. Directors with two films apiece were John G. Avildsen, Michael Bay, Kathryn Bigelow, Danny Boyle, Ruben Fleischer, Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe, Sidney J. Furie, Greta Gerwig, Marielle Heller, Alfred Hitchcock, Paul Leni, James Mangold, Steve McQueen, and Rob Reiner. Plus, if we factor in short films, there was David Lynch (one feature and two shorts), Terry Gilliam (one feature and one short, which is often counted as part of a feature, so…), Jon Watts (one feature and one short), and Jules White (two shorts).

    Since 2015, I’ve specifically charted the number of female directors whose work I’ve watched. After a dip in 2016, it’s been steadily increasing in percentage terms, but last year female directors were still only credited on eleven films — seven as sole director, three as part of a directing partnership with a man. Counting each shared credit as half a film, that represented just 5.63% of my viewing. 2020 sees a significant improvement: this year, there were 33 films with a female director (28 solo, five paired with a man), which equates to 11.44% of my viewing. That’s a big improvement, but still not really good enough. It’s debatable whether the onus should be on me to seek out more films directed by women or on the industry to give more directing gigs to women (ultimately, it’s a bit of both, though I’d argue with more weight on the latter) — either way, hopefully this number will continue to increase in the future, and this graph can begin to look a lot more equitable.

    At the end of my annual “top ten” post, I always include a list of 50 notable films I missed from that year’s releases, and over the years I continue to track my progress at watching those ‘misses’. For the second year in a row, I failed to see at least one film from every previous list; but I did better than last year! In 2019, I only watched a total of 37 films from across 7 of the 12 lists. In 2020, I watched 54 films from 11 of the now-13 lists. That’s no record, but it’s a big improvement. To summarise, I watched one each from 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2015; two each from 2010, 2013, and 2017; and eight from 2018. (For completism’s sake: the two years I missed were 2011 and 2016.)

    That just leaves my first year of catching up on 2019’s 50. Of those, I watched 34 — a new record for the best ‘first year’ ever, just beating the previous high of 33 from 2017’s list that I watched in 2018.

    In total, I’ve now seen 476 out of 650 of those ‘missed’ movies. That’s 73.2%, a healthy increase from last year’s 70.3%. That percentage has increased every year for the past decade, from a lowly 25% after 2009 to where it is today. Hopefully it will continue on up in 2021. (As always, my list of 50 for 2020 will be included in my “best & worst” post later this week… month… however long it takes me…)

    At the time of writing, 20 films from my 2020 viewing appear on the IMDb Top 250. 20 from 2020? Neat. However, because that list is ever-changing, the number I have left to see has only gone down by 15, to 30. On the bright side, at this rate I might finally complete the darn thing in 2022 (getting there has only taken, um, all my life so far). Anyway, the current rankings of ones I saw this year range from 30th (Parasite) to 248th (The Battle of Algiers).

    And now, all of a sudden, we’re at the end… almost. To conclude 2020’s statistics, it’s the climax of every review: the scores.

    As always, this includes every new feature film I watched, even those without a review (which, this year, is most of them). That means there are some where I’m still flexible on my exact score — films I’d happily award, say, 3.5 or 4.5 on Letterboxd, but which I insist on rounding up or down to a whole star on here. (I occasionally consider beginning to use half-stars here too, but there’s something kinda fun about having to force every film into one of just five broad groups.) For the sake of completing this stat, I’ve assigned whole-star ratings to every film, but it’s possible I’ll change my mind on some when I finally post their review. That might render this section slightly inaccurate, though, honestly, who’d even notice?

    This year I awarded 39 five-star ratings. That’s exactly the same number as in 2018, which suggests some level of consistency. It also makes this year joint second, with 2015’s 40 still the standout for volume of five-star films. In percentage terms, I gave full marks to 14.8% of films I watched, which is comfortably inside my historical range (which spans from 11.9% to 21.2%).

    The most prolific rating was four stars, given to 111 films. That’s also a second-place finish, though, with the most four-star ratings having been the 122 I awarded in 2018. Nonetheless, four-stars has been the biggest group in 13 out of 14 years of this blog’s history, and this year it encompassed 42.1% of films, which is again somewhere in the middle of a range that spans from 31.5% to 53.3%.

    More noteworthy were the 91 three-star films — the highest number ever (sailing past 2018’s 76) and, at 34.5%, the highest percentage since 2013’s 35.8% and third highest overall (the top spot goes to the only year three-stars outnumbered four-stars, 2012). I have tried to be a bit firmer with my marking in recent years (by reducing the number of times I think “oh, go on, just nudge it up to a 4, then”), so I guess this bears that out.

    At the “bad” of the scale, there were 21 two-star films, which ties with 2018 for the most ever, but at 7.95% is actually one of the lowest results ever (only 2011 and 2016 can boast a lower percentage). Finally, I handed out just two one-star ratings, which equates to 0.8%. These really are my rarest of the rare: I’ve awarded two or fewer in 9 out of 14 years, with the highest total being five (in 2012 — a bad year, clearly).

    Finally, the average score for the year — a single figure with which to judge 2020’s quality against other years, for good or ill. The short version is 3.6 out of 5, which is the same as four previous years (including last year), below eight years, and above just one year. If we expand that out a few more decimal places, at 3.621 it’s actually my third-lowest year ever, only besting last year’s 3.604 and 2012’s bizarrely poor 3.352 (I said it was a bad year). That said, we’re talking very small margins here — I’ve had to go to three decimal places to separate the years out; and, at one decimal place, my average score has never gone above 3.8 or below 3.4. So, 2020 was perfectly fine, as this graph shows.

    And that’s that for another year. FYI, this has been my most verbose stats post ever — its word count is even higher than some of my older ones that also included the entire list of films I’d watched that year. So congratulations if you made it to the end! Fun, wasn’t it? (If you’re itching for more, don’t forget my Letterboxd stats for 2020.)


    With all that analysis done, my review of 2020 is nearly at an end. All that remains is my best and worst of the year, coming just as soon as I can work it out and write it up (my long list is pretty darn long this year!)

    2020: The Full List

    As I already revealed in my December monthly review, 2020 is the biggest year of 100 Films ever. That’s thanks to me watching 264 films I’d never seen before, a figure that just pips 2018’s 261. I didn’t quite reach my Rewatchathon goal of revisiting 50 films I’d seen before, but I finished up on a not-unrespectable 46. Combined, their total of 310 is slightly behind 2018’s equivalent 311; but I also watched a frankly extraordinary (by my standards) number of shorts this year — 65, enough to increase my shorts review list by over 76%.

    More on all that in my annual statistics post, which is coming soon. For now, it’s time to look back over the year as a whole with these lovely long lists of all I watched. As well as films of all lengths, there are links to my monthly reviews (which contain all sorts of other goodies, donchaknow) and, further down, a list of my TV reviewing from the past year. To help you find what you’re looking for amongst all that, here’s a nice little set of contents links…


    • As It Happened — 2020’s monthly updates, with a chronological list of my viewing.
    • The List — an alphabetical list of every new film I watched in 2020; plus other stuff.
    • Television — an alphabetical list of every TV programme I reviewed in 2020.
    • Next Time — still to come: actual analysis of last year.

    Below is a graphical representation of my 2020 viewing, month by month. Each of the images links to the relevant monthly review, which contain a chronological list of everything I watched this year. There’s also other exciting stuff in there, like my monthly Arbie awards and what I watched in my Rewatchathon.

    I’ve often felt this section looks a bit unwieldy, so this year I’ve made it half the size. Any opinions on the change (or, indeed, anything else) are always welcome in the comment section.

    And now, the main event…


    An alphabetical list of all the new-to-me films I watched in 2020 (though some series are in chronological order within their alphabetisation). That’s followed by lists of other things I watched this year: alternate versions of films I’d already seen; rewatches I’ve marked out for ‘Guide To’ posts; and short films. Where a title is a link, it goes to my review; when there’s no link, it’s because I haven’t reviewed it yet (that’s probably self-evident…)

    • 127 Hours (2010)
    • 1917 (2019)
    • 3:10 to Yuma Hours (2007)
    • The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
    • 6 Underground (2019)
    • 7500 (2019)
    • 8½ (1963)
    • Ad Astra (2019)
    • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
    • Agatha and the Midnight Murders (2020)
    • Aladdin [3D] (2019)
    • All About Eve (1950)
    • All Is True (2018)
    • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
    • American Animals (2018)
    • The American President (1995)
    • An American Werewolf in London (1981)
    • Anand (1971)
    • Andrei Rublev (1966)
    • Aniara (2018)
    • The Armour of God (1986), aka Lung hing foo dai
    • The Assistant (2019)
    • August 32nd on Earth (1998), aka Un 32 août sur terre
    • Bad Boys for Life (2020)
    • Bait (2019)
    • Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
    • The Battle of Algiers (1966), aka La battaglia di Algeri
    • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
    • Belladonna of Sadness (1973), aka Kanashimi no Belladonna
    • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
    • Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
    • Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
    • Black Angel (1946)
    • Blind Fury (1989)
    • Blockers (2018)
    • Bloodshot (2020)
    • Booksmart (2019)
    • Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
    • Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
    • The Breakfast Club (1985)
    • Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
    • A Bug’s Life (1998)
    • Burning (2018), aka Beoning
    • Cairo Station (1958), aka Bab el hadid
    • Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
    • Chariots of Fire (1981)
    • Chicken Run (2000)
    • The Children Act (2017)
    • The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two (2020)
    • Clueless (1995)
    • Coded Bias (2020)
    • Color Out of Space (2019)
    • Crawl (2019)
    • Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
    • Crooked House (2017)
    • Dangal (2016)
    • The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
    • Death to 2020 (2020)
    • Dial M for Murder [3D] (1954)
    • The Diamond Arm (1969), aka Brilliantovaya ruka
    • Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)
    • Do the Right Thing (1989)
    • A Dog’s Will (2000), aka O Auto da Compadecida
    • Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
    • Down with Love (2003)
    • Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
    • Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux (1984/2012)
    • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
    • Emma. (2020)
    • End of the Century (2019), aka Fin de siglo
    • Enola Holmes (2020)
    • Entrapment (1999)
    • The Equalizer 2 (2018)
    • Escape Room (2019)
    • Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
    • Evil Under the Sun (1982)
    • Extraction (2020)
    • The Face of Fu Manchu (1965)
    • Falling (2020)
    • Fanny and Alexander (1982), aka Fanny och Alexander
    • Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
    • Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017)
    • Fisherman’s Friends (2019)
    • For the Love of Spock (2016)
    • The French Connection (1971)
    • Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
    • The Gay Divorcee (1934)
    • Gemini Man (2019)
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters [3D] (2019)
    • The Good Liar (2019)
    • The Goonies (1985)
    • Greyhound (2020)
    • Guinevere (1994)
    • Hamilton (2020)
    • Harakiri (1962), aka Seppuku
    • He Dreams of Giants (2019)
    • The Head Hunter (2018)
    • Hotel Artemis (2018)
    • Der Hund von Baskerville (1914), aka The Hound of the Baskervilles
    • Hunter Killer (2018)
    • Hustlers (2019)
    • I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
    • Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs [3D] (2009)
    • Ice Age: Continental Drift [3D] (2012)
    • Ikiru (1952), aka Living
    • An Impossible Project (2020)
    • In the Mood for Love (2000)
    • Influence (2020)
    • Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
    • The Invisible Guest (2016), aka Contratiempo
    • The Invisible Man (2020)
    • The Ipcress File (1965)
    • It Chapter Two (2019)
    • Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
    • Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
    • Joker (2019)
    • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
    • Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
    • K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
    • The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
    • The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
    • The Kid (1921/1971)
    • Klaus (2019)
    • Knives Out (2019)
    • Lady Bird (2017)
    • The Lady Vanishes (1938)
    • Lancelot du Lac (1974), aka Lancelot of the Lake
    • Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), aka Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta
    • The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
    • Last Chance Harvey (2008)
    • Late Night (2018)
    • Le Mans ’66 (2019), aka Ford v Ferrari
    • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part [3D] (2019)
    • The Lie (2018)
    • The Lighthouse (2019)
    • Little Women (2019)
    • Long Day’s Journey Into Night [3D] (2018), aka Di Qiu Zui Hou De Ye Wan
    • Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (2006)
    • The Looking Glass War (1970)
    • Lost in La Mancha (2002)
    • Love on a Leash (2011)
    • Lovers Rock (2020), aka Small Axe: Lovers Rock
    • The Lunchbox (2013)
    • Luxor (2020)
    • The Mad Magician [3D] (1954)
    • Maelström (2000)
    • Make Mine Music (1946)
    • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
    • A Man for All Seasons (1966)
    • Man on Wire (2008)
    • The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
    • The Man Who Laughs (1928)
    • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
    • The Man Who Sleeps (1974), aka Un homme qui dort
    • Mangrove (2020), aka Small Axe: Mangrove
    • Marriage Story (2019)
    • Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
    • The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
    • Melody Time (1948)
    • Men in Black: International (2019)
    • Millennium Actress (2001), aka Sennen joyû
    • Minions [3D] (2015)
    • Misbehaviour (2020)
    • Misery (1990)
    • Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)
    • Missing Link (2019)
    • The Mole Agent (2020)
    • Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
    • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
    • Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
    • My Favourite Wife (1940)
    • My Mexican Bretzel (2019)
    • The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador (1912), aka Le mystère des roches de Kador
    • Near Dark (1987)
    • Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
    • Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)
    • Never Too Young to Die (1986)
    • The Next Karate Kid (1994)
    • The Nightingale (2018)
    • The Old Dark House (1932)
    • The Old Guard (2020)
    • One Cut of the Dead (2017), aka Kamera wo tomeruna!
    • Ordet (1955), aka The Word
    • Out of Africa (1985)
    • Palm Springs (2020)
    • Parasite (2019), aka Gisaengchung
    • Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
    • Patrick (2019), aka De Patrick
    • The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
    • Pearl Harbor (2001)
    • Phase IV (1974)
    • Philomena (2013)
    • The Platform (2019), aka El hoyo
    • Polytechnique (2009)
    • Power of Grayskull: The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017)
    • Puzzle (2018)
    • Quartet (2012)
    • Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
    • Rang De Basanti (2006)
    • Ready or Not (2019)
    • Red Joan (2018)
    • The Rhythm Section (2020)
    • RoboCop 3 (1993)
    • Robolove (2019)
    • Rocketman (2019)
    • Rose Plays Julie (2019)
    • Safety Last! (1923)
    • Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
    • Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
    • The Scorpion King (2002)
    • The Secret Life of Pets 2 [3D] (2019)
    • Shadowlands (1993)
    • A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)
    • Shazam! [3D] (2019)
    • The Sheik (1921)
    • Shoplifters (2018), aka Manbiki kazoku
    • The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story (2019)
    • Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner (2019)
    • Showrunners (2014), aka Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show
    • The Sky’s the Limit (1943)
    • So Dark the Night (1946)
    • Some Beasts (2019), aka Algunas Bestias
    • The Son of the Sheik (1926)
    • Soul (2020)
    • Spaceship Earth (2020)
    • Spider-Man: Far from Home [3D] (2019)
    • Split Second (1992)
    • A Star Is Born (2018)
    • Stop Making Sense (1984)
    • Stuber (2019)
    • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
    • Tag (2018)
    • Tenet (2020)
    • Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
    • The Thin Red Line (1998)
    • The Three Caballeros (1944)
    • Tim’s Vermeer (2013)
    • Tolkien (2019)
    • Tomb Raider [3D] (2018)
    • Top Secret! (1984)
    • The Two Popes (2019)
    • Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)
    • Uncut Gems (2019)
    • Under the Skin (2013)
    • Us (2019)
    • Vampires Suck (2010)
    • The Vast of Night (2019)
    • Venom (2018)
    • Vice (2018)
    • The Viking Queen (1967)
    • Waking Ned (1998)
    • Waxworks (1924), aka Das Wachsfigurenkabinett
    • The Wedding Guest (2018)
    • Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
    • Without a Clue (1988)
    • The Wolf’s Call (2019), aka Le chant du loup
    • Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
    • Yes, God, Yes (2019)
    • Yesterday (2019)
    • You Will Die at Twenty (2019)
    • Zatoichi in Desperation (1972), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Oreta tsue
    • Zero Charisma (2013)
    • Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
    Alternate Versions
    The 100 Films Guide To…
    Shorts
    • Adnan (2020)
    • Alan, the Infinite (2020)
    • Anoraks (2020)
    • Appreciation (2019)
    • Befriend to Defend (2019)
    • Blue Passport (2020)
    • Booklovers (2020)
    • Chumbak (2019)
    • Clean (2020)
    • Closed Until Further Notice (2020)
    • The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983)
    • The Dancing Pig (1907), aka Le cochon danseur
    • David Lynch Cooks Quinoa (2007)
    • The Day of the Coyote (2020)
    • DC Showcase: Jonah Hex (2010)
    • Destructors (2020)
    • The Devil’s Harmony (2019)
    • Embedded (2020)
    • The Escape (2016)
    • Flush Lou (2020)
    • Frankenstein (1910)
    • Frayed Edges (2020)
    • The Fruit Fix (2020)
    • Fuel (2020)
    • Guardians of Ua Huka (2020)
    • Hold (2020)
    • Home (2020)
    • Interstice (2019), aka Mellanrum
    • Keratin (2020)
    • The Last Video Store (2020)
    • Life in Brighton: An Artist’s Perspective (2020)
    • Man-Spider (2019)
    • A Map of the World (2020)
    • The Monkeys on Our Backs (2020)
    • My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was an Alchoholic Poet. (2019)
    • My Life, My Voice (2020)
    • Nelly (2020)
    • Nut Pops (2019)
    • One Piece of the Puzzle (2020)
    • Our Song (2020)
    • Pardon My Backfire [3D] (1953)
    • Peter’s To-Do List (2019)
    • Players (2020)
    • Quiescent (2018), aka Anvew
    • Quiet on Set (2020)
    • Reconnected (2020)
    • Shuttlecock (2019)
    • Siren (2020)
    • Slow Burn (2020)
    • So Far (2020)
    • Spooks! [3D] (1953)
    • A Spring in Endless Bloom (2020)
    • The Starey Bampire (2019)
    • Sticker (2019)
    • Stitch (2020)
    • The Stunt Double (2020)
    • Swivel (2020)
    • Talia (2020)
    • Time and Tide (2020)
    • Under the Full Moon (2020)
    • Water Baby (2019)
    • We Farmed a Lot of Acres (2020)
    • What Did Jack Do? (2017)
    • The Wick (2020)
    • Window (2019)
    1917

    The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

    Anand

    Bait

    Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

    Borat Subsequent Moviefilm

    Chicken Run

    Crazy Rich Asians

    Do the Right Thing

    Enola Holmes

    The Face of Fu Manchu

    Fanny and Alexander

    Greyhound

    Harakiri

    Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

    The Invisible Man

    The Karate Kid Part II

    The Lady Vanishes

    The Lighthouse

    Lost in La Mancha

    The Lunchbox

    Small Axe: Mangrove

    Millennium Actress

    Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

    Never Rarely Sometimes Always

    Ordet

    Patrick

    Rambo: Last Blood

    RoboCop 3

    Shadowlands

    Showrunners

    The Son of the Sheik

    Split Second

    Tomb Raider

    Under the Skin

    The Wedding Guest

    Zatoichi in Desperation

    Zero Charisma

    The Avengers

    Alan the Infinite

    The Crimson Permanent Assurance

    The Escape

    Interstice, aka Mellanrum

    My Life, My Voice

    Pardon My Backfire

    Shuttlecock

    The Stunt Double

    What Did Jack Do?

    .

    As well as all those films, I also covered many TV programmes in my monthly(-ish) review columns. Just listing those individual posts would be meaningless, so instead here’s an alphabetical breakdown of what I covered, each with appropriate link(s).


    Get ready for the best bit of the entire year: it’s the statistics!