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Sundance Film Festival 2021 Round-Up

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Sundance Film Festival 2021 is over and despite being virtual, there were a lot of good films! I tried to watch as many new films as I could across the course of the festival, and I managed to see a total of 16 films. I’m going to be going over below what I thought of some of them and some films I’d recommend you keep an eye out for later in the year.

The best film that I saw at Sundance was Mass. You can read my full review of it here but in short, Mass was an absolutely stunning directorial debut from Fran Kranz. It follows two sets of parents meeting up to talk years after a tragic event involving their children. The script is so well written and the performances from the four leads are all phenomenal. This is a film that you should definitely look out for and seek out once it gets released, it could even be a big hit at the Oscars and other awards ceremonies next year.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Ryan Jackson-Healy.

Another film that I absolutely loved was CODA. And it wasn’t just me that loved the film as it won awards from the Grand Jury for best US dramatic film as well as the Audience award for best US dramatic film. CODA isn’t your traditional coming-of-age film and that’s what made it all the more powerful as the film follows a Child Of Deaf Adults- a CODA. Despite the fact that it hits all the beats you expect a film like this to hit and it can be seen a somewhat generic coming-of-age film that doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the genre, it is still an incredible and emotional film. It was one of the best films of the festival and you can read more about what I thought of CODA here.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Judas and the Black Messiah is going to be a big hit this awards season, with predictions touting it as a potential Best Picture winner amongst other categories. Daniel Kaluuya is superb as Black Panther Chairman Fred Hampton and Lakeith Stanfield is just as electrifying as William O’Neil, the FBI informant inside the Black Panther Party. It’s a really timely film that will hopefully be seen by a wide audience as it releases on February 12th in cinemas in the US as well as on HBO MAX.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Glen Wilson.

The British horror film Censor was a really shocking and exciting film and it’s definitely not for everyone but if you’re a fan of violent and extreme horror films like this, you’ll love it as it’s a love letter to the video nasties of the 80s. Censor is a really impressive directorial debut from Prano Bailey-Bond and it has a great lead performance from Niamh Algar. Check out my full review of it here.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Prisoners of the Ghostland is quite a crazy film. It stars Nicolas Cage and Sofia Boutella and is directed by Sion Sono so already it’s clear that it’s going to be an entertaining ride with a mismatch of lots of different tones and styles. The film mixes the east and the west really well and it has some really amazing and ridiculous moments but it’s a film that’s really engaging and exciting and it’s one that’s definitely worth a watch.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This list features quite a few heavy films but Together Together is a really nice, light comedy film about platonic love starring Ed Helms and Patti Harrison. The film is about Matt (Helms) who hires Anna (Harrison) as the surrogate for his child but after spending more and more time together their relationship grows and develops and they begin to challenge their perceptions of love and relationships and connections between people.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Ben Wheatley is a filmmaker that a lot of people really love having made films including Kill List, Free Fire and High Rise although he’s a director that I’ve never really been mad-keen on. Saying that I really liked his latest film In the Earth. Or at least I liked certain aspects of it. It has some absolutely crazy, loud and flashy scenes that I thought were great although certain aspects such as story and character weren’t quite as good but overall I thought In the Earth was a good attempt at making a film during the pandemic that’s centred around a virus that’s ravaged the earth. You can find my full review of In the Earth here.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

On the Count of Three is a really good comedy/drama starring Jerrod Carmichael and Christopher Abbott. Carmichael also directs here with his feature debut and it’s a really impressive first film. It’s about two friends that decide they’re going to kill themselves at the end of the day and they’re going to make the most of their final day. It obviously deals with the heavy issue of suicide and it does so in a really careful and appropriate manner, but it also manages to keep the film funny at the same time. It’s a really good film, in particular the final 25 minutes or so which really take it up another level.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The best documentary that I saw at Sundance was Misha and the Wolves. I don’t want to divulge into too many details about it as it’s a remarkable story that you almost struggle to believe is real. It’s such a shocking story following the events after the publication of a woman’s Holocaust memoirs and it’s really a story that you have to watch for yourself to find out all the twists and turns in this staggering story.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Tomek Kaczor.

Prime Time was a really interesting Polish film that had a thoroughly captivating plot and gets right into it from the get-go. It’s about a 20-year-old man with a gun that locks himself into a TV studio on the last day of 1999 along with 2 hostages. He has a message that he wants to share with the world and Prime Time is engrossing and engaging throughout. It’s a really good film with a great premise.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Charles Murphy.

R#J is a really innovative and fresh take on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The reason why this film felt so original and inventive is because the whole film takes place on phone screens. Think similar to 2018’s Searching or the two Unfriended films that take place on computer screens. Whilst not everything works in this modern day retelling of Romeo and Juliet, it’s just such a creative and new way of telling such a well-known story and even if the final film wasn’t amazing and it had some big flaws, it’s worth seeing R#J just for the impressive visuals and the impressive way that the story is told entirely through mobile phones.

Were you able to watch any films at Sundance this year? If you did, let us know in the comments what your favourite films were and what you thought of the films mentioned above.

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HORROR

Halloween Kills | A Fun Popcorn Flick With The Right Amount Of Slasher, Horror And Humour

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Michael Myers terrifies the townsfolk of Haddenfield once again. halloween Kills uses elements from the 1978 original and fuses them with tense, gruesome and gore, it’s BLOODY BRUTAL!!!

In 2018 David Gordon Green’s Halloween, starring icon Jamie Lee Curtis, killed at the box office, earning more than $250 million worldwide, becoming the highest grossing chapter in the four-decade franchise and setting a new record for the biggest opening weekend in history for a horror film starring a woman. 

However that Halloween night when Michael Myers returns isn’t over yet as the movie picks up right where we left off from the last one. Laurie Strode (Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (And Matichak)  have left the masked monster caged and burning in Laurie’s basement, Laurie however is rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries and believes that she’s finally killed her lifelong tormentor. 

Photo: Blumhouse/Universal

But when Michael manages to free himself from Laurie’s trap, his ritual bloodbath resumes. As Laurie fights her pain and prepares to defend herself against him, she inspires all of Haddenfield to rise up against their unstoppable monster. 

The Strode women join a group of other survivors of Michael’s first rampage who decide to take matters into their own hands, forming a vigilante mob that sets out to hunt Michael down, once and for all.

Evil Dies Tonight. 

And speaking of evil, everything about this depiction of Michael is phenomenal. From his onscreen chilling presence, to his mask and the way he commits these brutal murders. Michael’s rampage through Haddenfield is pure carnage, he absolutely demolishes everyone and everything is his path. He’s let loose and becomes an even bigger dangerous threat, which is to be expected from masked killers. 

His kills are inventive and vicious and he’s gone one step ahead with the performance of killing someone as I felt that Michael has some theatricality aspects and truly admires his work by the way he displays their bodies. However I felt that some kills were forgettable due to the fact that we don’t get to care for some characters as by the time they’re in Michael’s line of sight, you know they’re a gonna. 

Photo: Blumhouse/Universal

For fans of horror and violence in movies, there are many spine-chilling moments such as Skull crushing, eye-gouging, gunshots and plenty of bodily horror. 

And if you’re a fan of the original 1978 Halloween film, you’ll be pleased to see many of the actors who were once children, teenagers in the original reprise the same roles in Halloween Kills as adults. It feels so believable and genuine to see the likes of Kyle Richards (Lindsey Wallace ), Nancy Stephens (Marion Chambers) and Charles Cyphers (Sheriff Leigh Brackett) . The film truly pays homage to the original that started it all. many other characters return from the 2018 film and another classic character returning is Tommy Doyle, though recast and now played by Anthony Michael Hall. 

Photo: Blumhouse/Universal

With all these characters the film switches the narrative by focusing in on how the town itself responds and reacts to Michael as the Haddonfield townspeople are fed up and exhausted after 40 years of trauma which was brought on by Michael Myers. We follow groups of unlikely heroes throughout the town armed and ready to take out an unstoppable force of nature by any means necessary. Tommy rallies the whole community to band together. They don’t listen to the Police so this film shows what happens when a town is dissatisfied with a failed system and a useless authority. All hell breaks loose and a mob is formed, this becomes a story that isn’t about Laurie vs Michael, instead about Michael vs Haddonfield itself. 

Photo: Blumhouse/Universal

The movie’s central location takes place within a hospital, we see bodies being swarmed in as a result of Michael. Fear starts growing within the town which unfortunately morphs into panic and eventually utter complete chaos when misinformation and rumours star to spread. I felt that the residents of Haddenfield’s true enemy was their own idiotic decisions, society and rage has made them the monsters. 

Cinematography is certainly elevated this time with unique camera angels showcasing the murders. John Carpenter’s score is beautiful and certainly adds suspense to certain scenes. I also love the film’s nods and nostalgia throughout flashbacks to 1978. 

Overall Halloween Kills is a solid setup and middle chapter of this trilogy. It’s a fun popcorn flick with the right amount of slasher, horror and humour. It also sets into motion what will eventually become Halloween Ends. 

Photo: Blumhouse/Universal

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After We Fell- Review

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After We Fell is the third instalment of the “After” series, based on a series of fanfiction published on Wattpad in 2011 by Anna Todd. The film stars Hero Fiennes Tiffin as Hardin Scott and Josephine Langford as Tessa, the leading couple. This film follows the pair as they face troubles as Tessa makes a life-changing decision, her estranged father gets back in touch, and Hardin’s family secrets begin to unravel. Check out the trailer below.

The film is laden with issues. The script is awful, you can really tell it was fan fiction from Wattpad. The dialogue makes you cringe and it really doesn’t sell that these people and their relationships are real. The direction is just about competent, the acting is barely passable, and the story is predictable and vapid. I’m sure the cast has great acting chops, but they can’t flex them here in the slightest. Every ‘twist’ is set up so badly that when the jaw-dropping reveals happen, anyone who has been paying attention has seen it coming for the last hour. The story isn’t engaging. It sets things up that don’t really go anywhere. The characters outside of the central duo are completely interchangeable and they feel superfluous to the story. Anyone who isn’t Hardin or Tessa feels like they’re there just to fill the vacuum between awfully shot sex scenes until the credits mercifully roll.

I could go on for hours about how this fails on every level as a film, but honestly, I don’t think its intended audience cares about cinematography, screenwriting, or production design etc.- which is fine, most people don’t care about those things as long as the story is engaging and enjoyable- (if they did this wouldn’t have many fans). The film clearly knows its target audience is teenagers, the type of person who reads fan fiction on Wattpad about One Direction. The film has a few, shall we say, ‘intimate’ scenes, which are cleverly edited to ensure a 15 rating. During those cleverly edited moments, there is always a shot where the camera cuts away to show Harden getting a condom and opening it, so the audience knows that even ‘bad boys’ like Harden Scott use protection. And then during one scene where they don’t show Harden getting a condom, the next morning the two mention how they didn’t use protection the night before and have a brief discussion about contraception. Which is great, encouraging safe sex is always great, regardless of how you do it. However, people should not be having sex with someone as manipulative and toxic as Harden, even if he is wearing a condom. This is a nice segue into the real problem with After We Fell.



The biggest issue with this film and the whole After series, in general, is the relationship at the centre of it. Hardin is controlling, possessive, and aggressive. One evening in After We Fell, Tessa and Hardin are enjoying a romantic time in a hot tub. After being interrogated by her boyfriend, Tessa eventually confesses to briefly having feelings for someone else while they were broken up and Hardin storms off and ignores her for the rest of the night. He disrespects a waiter who is innocently talking to Tessa, he stalks her, harasses her. In some scenes, it feels like he is only a step away from hitting her. At best their relationship is toxic and at worst it’s abusive and manipulative. And despite all of this, their relationship is presented as romantic and merely “troubled”. Hardin is dominating and proprietorial, he refuses to listen to Tessa, he lashes out at her, invades her privacy, and then someone assures Tessa: he only acts this way because he loves her. He is the way he is; he does the things he does, out of love. The writers and the characters act as though Hardin being extremely toxic and pretty much abusive is sweet and caring. It’s difficult to write a review of the film when the overarching concept and theme is just too wrong to look past. This is not a well-made film, but I’ve seen many poorly made films that are an absolute blast. This being a bad film, though, doesn’t matter because its issues run so much deeper than just below-par technicalities.

The idea of young people watching this and imagining that this kind of relationship is not only normal but romantic and passionate is genuinely concerning. If this is the standard filmmakers set for romantic relationships for young people, it is extremely worrying. This film is rated as appropriate for 15-year-olds. However, the subject matter and the type of relationship this is romanticising warrants an 18 rating. No 15-year-old girl should be watching this and thinking that it is a good relationship, that Hardin is a troubled but sweet person, which is how the film presents it. This is really one of the most irresponsible film series being made right now; it’s borderline dangerous.

After We Fell hits Amazon Prime on 22 October.

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Comic Book Movies

Venom: Let There Be Carnage A Dark Comedy Infused With Fast-paced Action

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‘Venom: Let There Be Carnage’ was absolutely Full of CARNAGE. It’s a dark comedy infused with fast-paced action and the relationship between Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and Venom was like watching an old married couple. And Woody Harrelson’s performance was CHAOTIC in a good way. 

After so many potential release dates due to the film being delayed, Venom: Let There Be Carnage was officially released in Cinemas here in the UK on Friday the 15th of October. It is the sequel to Sony’s 2018 film Venom in where the Symbiote links himself with a host and used their bodies to service. Venom now lives amongst us but Eddie Brock struggles to adjust to his new life as the host of the alien symbiote. Venom grants him super-human abilities in order to be a lethal vigilante. Brock attempts to reignite his Journalism career by interviewing serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), who becomes the host of the symbiotic Carnage and escapes prison after a failed execution. 

The film wastes no time and dives straight into the storyline which dives deeper into the origin of Serial Killer Cletus Kasady. Harrelson’s performance as said earlier was Chaotic in the best way possible as his character encapsulates the rage and insanity. His performance was brilliantly matched by Tom Hardy who reprises his role as Eddie Brock, his chemistry with Venom is once again the true highlight of the film. The duo of Harrelson and Hardy work great as frenemies.

Speaking of venom this is truly where the film shines. Since this is a continuation from the first movie, Venom fells more settled inside his host and is more comfortable as Eddie’s conscience. However their rocky relationship has caused a lot of problems for Brock as both want to do different things for example, Eddie just wants to get on with his life and get his career back up and running, Venom does comply however he lusts for brains and chocolate. he feels stuck and wants to be free, but unfortunately cannot control his impulses. 

They argue, fight and trash Eddie’s apartment. This is a very venomous love affair between them both but in an interesting scene, Venom attends a rave and opens up and i’m not kidding about his love for Eddie. Director Andy Serkis opens up about this particular scene saying that it was Tom’s idea to have Venom sort of Come out and go to a party that was a ideally an LGBTQIA festival. Venom speaks for freedom of others by asking to stop this cruel treatment of aliens. 

At it’s heart this film is a love story about the extraordinary relationship between symbiote and host. 

Reprising their roles from the first film are Michelle Williams (Anne Weying) , Reid Scott (Dan Lewis) and Peggy Lu as Mrs. Chen. I felt all have less screen time during the film but these characters are vital to help Eddie’s journey and Venom’s. 

However I felt Naomi Harris was criminally underused. Her character Shriek acts more as a walking plot device than an actual character, though she does brilliantly on what the writers have given her to do. Another Character i felt that had potential but little to do was Stephen Graham, his character felt more like another plot device to tease the sequel. 

With a new director to the franchise, Andy series brings a new quality to the story and action due to his knowledge of motion capture, the VFX on the symbiote’s are outstanding and realistic.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is a step up from the first film. It’s a fun 90 minutes and OMG do not miss the credits!!!!!

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