Review in Brief: I Lost My Body (2019)

What an achingly beautiful, melancholy animation about memory and mistakes this is. I LOST MY BODY has more honesty and imagination and wit than most films of 2019, and it does it all in about 80 minutes. We get a very AMÉLIE-esque slightly creepy meet-cute paired with a far more surreal companion story of a severed hand making its way across a city in search of its owner. Few stories have the idea of memories in relation to touch as the primary sense, but this is essential when your secondary protagonist is a hand. How the stories ultimately converge and what connects them isn’t obtuse but you do have to be taking it all in, and the journey to get there is an enthralling joy. SSP

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Review in Brief: Dolemite is My Name (2019)

With DOLEMITE IS MY NAME, Eddie Murphy gets his mojo back. In this colourful biopic, we see that Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy) was born in the wrong era for his style of performance: “Vaudeville is dead. I don’t need an all-in-one”. So he listened to stories from local characters (“I ain’t no hobo – I’m a repository of Afro-American folklore!”) and used them to inspire a whole new personality. Moore was a roaring underground success among his limited passionate fanbase, but he was an African-American performer who wanted to break into movies but who unfortunately wasn’t young or good-looking enough for Blaxploitation. Why would you see a movie with “No titties, no funny and no Kung-fu”? Dolemite’s unexpected smash movie debut had all three. “You’re not supposed to make a movie for the five square blocks of people you know”. But he did, and he’s affectionately remembered for it. SSP

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Knives Out (2019) Review SSP

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Review in Brief: The Great Hack (2019)

Conceptually, theoretically, THE GREAT HACK is essential viewing for everyone who uses social media. The big question presented at the top is “How did the dream of a connected world tear us apart?”. I found it very irritating that they decided to subtitle a number of voices speaking perfectly clear English but without an American accent – it’s pretty obnoxious and doesn’t do wonders for the argument landing anywhere outside the US. The debate primarily focuses on Trump and Brexit so straight away you’re working to alienate half of your target audience. You also get some rather old-fashioned and overbearing graphics that end up detracting from the argument. Cambridge Analytica seen as a “full service propaganda machine” is simply terrifying, even more so because relatively few people realised it before the press coverage. “We invented the way social media is used to communicate with voters”. You won’t regret giving your time to The Great Hack; your eyes will be opened, but it could all have been delivered more elegantly.

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Review: Jojo Rabbit (2019)


Der Fuhrer’s Face: TSG Entertainment/Piki Films

There was no way I was expecting JOJO RABBIT to be this sweet. It’s a film with a massive heart, and a massive heart is what’s needed to fight Nazis. To borrow Spider-Man Noir’s self-descriptor, Taika Waititi likes fighting Nazis, a lot!

WWII is drawing to a close, though the Nazis don’t know it yet. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis) can’t wait to go on a Hitler Youth camp and prove himself worthy of the Fatherland, egged on all the way by his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi). Things do not go according to Jojo’s plan, and back home with his loving but run-ragged mother (Scarlett Johansson) things get a lot more complicated.

Jojo isn’t a bad kid, he’s just growing up in bad times. Ultimately, it’s the story of him becoming his own person, of realising that adults lie and deceive and manipulate to get ahead in the world, children especially. No one is born a Nazi, they are made. The idea that every German kid would be queuing to join the Hitler Youth, a cool club for the best children, the future of the country, is chillingly plausible. Jojo has to learn to listen to himself, his downtrodden innate humanity, rather than the pumped up, slick hate machine that surrounds him. “You’re not a Nazi Jojo. You’re a ten-year-old that likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club”.

The early stretch at the Hitler Youth camp, “the best weekend ever!” is bright and breezy, cheeky and gentle, almost CARRY ON, until a rabbit is threatened to prove a point and grenades are handed out to kids with only the most cursory of safety warnings. As the German seasons change, so too does the tone of the film, drastically. Winter draws in and there is trouble ahead for Jojo and Germany, the humour becoming more sparing and of the gallows variety.

Hitler is presented as a streetwise older brother, then an idolised rockstar, then a joke, then a sad and pathetic monster. Waititi isn’t on screen much in the grand scheme of things, but every one of Adolf’s appearances serves an important purpose of marking where Jojo’s heart and soul is at. When Jojo finally gets the courage to say no to his former best friend, his hero, to put aside childish things, he grows up and realises who he is.

Roman Griffin Davis is a revelation in the title role. He has the bluster and unshakable confidence in his understanding of the world typical of ten year-old boys, but also an ingrained and carefully disguised uncertainty in himself, a fragility, not to mention killer comic timing. Waititi relishes playing Hitler as a camp cartoon character, Stephen Merchant’s steals his scene as a banal, friendly-evil Gestapo officer and Scarlett Johansson and Tomasin McKenzie both convey resilience and pathos in abundance as Jojo’s mother and Jew in hiding Elsa, respectively.

As per usual with a Waititi project, the gag rate is so rapid-fire you’re in danger of missing a joke from still laughing at the previous one. Silly satire (how will they ever stop saying Heil Hitler if new people keep arriving?), childish insults (“that one-eyed pirate Stauffenburg”), good old-fashioned slapstick and some really quite surreal asides that I won’t spoil make sure you never quite find your footing, in a good way. But just when you think the fun will never stop, Waititi waits a beat and drags you back down to reality.

This is a really effective modern fable with a fine old moral. It’s been criticised in some circles for trivialising the War and Naziism but that’s where the genius of it lies. It exposes the ridiculousness of that terrible movement who were able to commit atrocities without limit as soon as they’d gathered enough fans. We fundamentally underestimate evil as a species and can only comfortably mock it after the threat has died down. What we need to do is take the rise of fascism seriously while it’s happening around us and fight it with all our might. SSP

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Every James Bond 007 Movie Ranked SSP

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10 Magnificent Moustaches at the Movies SSP

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Review in Brief: The King (2019)

There’s a fine balance between under-acting and over-acting and THE KING doesn’t always manage to strike it. They cram every hot English-speaking character actor in there somewhere, with Joel Edgerton as a tragicomic Falstaff, Ben Mendelsohn a mad king, Sean Harris essentially playing a royal vizier, surely the role he was born for, and Timothee Chalemet is the reliable rock the whole thing is built around. Then there’s Robert Pattinson, usually the best thing in whatever he’s in who for some reason decided to turn up as LeStat doing a Monty Python accent. This is rough and brutal and dirty as all medieval epics should be, with the Battle of Agincourt turning into horror movie-meets-lethal-mud-wrestling-contest. Early on it also feels strangely 1990s, struggling to pick a tone for the portion of the film before Hal is crowned, but once it hits its stride, it really hits its stride. SSP

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Review in Brief: Benjamin (2018/19)

You don’t really get gay romcoms. Why don’t you really get gay romcoms? You get gay characters in rom-coms, plenty of hard-hitting gay dramas and romances but not many films focussing on gay relationships in a comedic context. Simon Amstell gets self-reflective in this loosely autobiographical tale of a film director (Colin Morgan) stuck in a romantic and professional rut after a bad breakup and a struggle to create anything in the same league as his acclaimed feature debut. “I think people just think I made that film and then died” Benjamin proclaims. “I just wondered if you were still in the business of being interested in me?” is his way of asking a guy to give him another chance. It’s a little self indulgent, but Amstell’s willingness to make his self-insert character completely awful wins you back around. It’s sharp, it’s sweet and it’s worth checking out. SSP

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Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) Review SSP

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