Here’s all the films I watched last month simply in the order I watched them, starting on New Year’s Day when I was still full of the flu.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) on Netflix is Rian Johnson’s sequel to Knives Out in which Daniel Craig reprises his (rather forgettable, let’s be honest) role as ace detective Benoit Blanc investigating another murder in true who-dunnit style on a billionaire’s (Edward Norton) island escape.
If you pay attention (and for some reason I was precisely tuned in – perhaps all the paracetamol elevated my eagle gaze) you’ll spot who did it halfway through the film, but there’s actually more to the plot than just that and Johnson does a good job of elevating the story above what it seems at face value. It’s a fun film and actually the star of the show, among a pretty stellar cast including the required cameo (albeit as a ‘bong’) from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is Janelle Monáe.
BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (2022) Netflix is a PROPER film from Oscar-winning writer director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and what I mean by that is that it is truly captivating both visually and narratively. It tells the rather self-centred story of an acclaimed Mexican journalist-turned-documentarian trying to reconcile his life with his ambitions as a younger man and his cultural identity.
I don’t want to spoil anything about the film for prospective viewers, but suffice to say that it is very quickly apparent that all is not what it seems. The first clue I think is when he starts talking but his mouth doesn’t move as if he is telepathically communicating with the other character. Anyway, I think that, along with Mank below, this is a must-see film from this list. But be prepared for a long-haul – it is is worth it in the end, trust me!
Ibiza (2018) is a Netflix film I could’ve survived without seeing. I watched the trailer a few years ago and could’ve easily left it at that. It’s not that it’s a bad film, but definitely one for Siggy. She wanted to watch ‘a nice film’ so we watched this.
If I was forced to say something nice about it, I enjoyed the music in the clubs and the three main female actors are great, especially SNL’s Vanessa Bayer.
The Starling (2021) Netflix stars Melissa McCarthy and Chris O’Dowd in serious mode and explores how different people deal with grief. The starling is somewhat of a metaphor for the process they are going through and it’s an okay film. I didn’t learn any profound lessons from it but equally I wasn’t annoyed by it and it didn’t come across as an overly schmaltzy portrayal of what is a story a lot of people have to go through.
I felt the handling of Chris O’Dowd’s character’s depression and hospitalisation was actually very well done and didn’t fall into the usual tropes of how to show it on screen.
The Menu (2022) is on Disney Plus and tells the story of a young couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult who both plays their parts excellently despite the script stretching incredulity to new lengths) who travel to an exclusive restaurant on a remote island where a psychopathic chef (Ralph Fiennes very much in Schindler’s List mode) and his cult-like team have prepared a multi-course menu for a select bunch of diners.
Chef has a grudge against all of the guests except Anya Taylor-Joy’s character Margot who is a last-minute replacement date and shouldn’t really be there. A lot of the movie is trying to figure out if Margot is going to be the lone-survivor of an increasingly horrific escalation of violence. On paper the script looks ridiculous, but there is enough talent in the cast to carry it off very well. I enjoyed it a lot.
MANK (2020) is a Netflix movie shot in black and white from David Fincher. It tells the story of alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) who wrote Citizen Kane in the 1930s for Orson Welles. Hollywood is in the spotlight and there are a cast of characters for Mank the social critic to despise.
The only one he doesn’t despise is starlet Marion Davies played by Amanda Seyfried, but even then he takes things to far by writing about her mentor William Randolph Hirst (Charles Dance) in his screenplay. Being a fan of both Citizen Kane and David Fincher and Gary Oldman this movie was a triple threat, but I watched it on my own as I know Siggy would’ve fallen asleep within about twenty minutes of watching it. It is an expertly made film and as you’d expect from Fincher has some very good SFX to help recreate the 1930s and an old movie feel.
The Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker (2023) is a Netflix documentary about Kai Lawrence who is currently serving a long sentence in jail for murder. Sorry spoiler, but the title kind of infers something nasty happened. Actually the hatchet was used to stop a man attacking a women after that same man (who had given Kai a lift in his car) rammed into someone with his car in an attempt to kill them. And if that’s confusing then you need to hold onto your socks because it just gets stranger.
It’s a good watch. Part story of homelessness and mental health issues part story of people wanting to ride along on the coat tales of someone else’s relative success (on social media at least). I was disappointed that there was not more investigatory journalism done by the filmmakers toward Kai’s victim, but I’m sure a bunch of lawyers were involved and the story is told in a particular way to gloss over some of the unsavoury elements best left to the viewers imagination. That said, it’s still very graphic and not for the easily upset among us.
Pinocchio (2022) not the good one, the Disney one, is a bit of a mess. Some of the effects are truly amazing – a photo-real talking fox for instance – and some are just awful – a boat that travels at great speed thanks to the titular doll flapping his feet like some kind of wind-up bath toy but leaves no discernible wake in the water for example. Tom Hanks is okay as Geppetto and so to is Joseph Gordon-Levitt providing more than a ‘bong’ noise in the form of the voice for Jiminy Cricket. But seriously, if you’re trying to choose between which version to watch I implore you to watch Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.
An America Pickle (2020) available in the UK on Amazon Video is a melancholy ‘stranger in a strange land’ comedy film where an Eastern European man (Seth Rogen) falls into a pickle vat in the early 1900s and then wakes up in modern day Brooklyn and meets his descendant (also played by Seth Rogen).
It’s a story of cultural clashes throwing an outsider’s light on modern mores and an emphatic exploration of family and heritage viewed through a rather melancholic lens despite often veering into Borat territory.
The special effects allowing Seth Rogan to play two characters are deftly done to the point that you just forget about it. It’s a wholesome comedy with a good soul and one of Rogen’s best films.