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Top Ten Movies (and more) 2020

Work in progress – subject to change.

Top Ten (UK theatrical + online movie releases 2020)

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/20 and 31/01/20. I’ve never previously included online releases (well, maybe the odd on or two as a special case) but this year the film distribution business has been turned upside down by COVID-19. How 2021 and beyond will look is anyone’s guess.

Please click on titles to see reviews. (Some links yet to be added.)

1. Parasite (S.Korea) reviews one and two

2. Coup 53 (UK)

3. A Hidden Life (US/Austria/Germany)

4. Akira (1988, IMAX reissue) (Japan)

5. The Eight Hundred (China)

6. Possessor (Canada) reviews one and introductory link to two

7. Misbehaviour (UK)

8. Dick Johnson Is Dead (US)

9. Away (Latvia, no dialogue!)

10. Snowpiercer
(2013, Eng lang, S.Korea, UK theatrical release in 2020 – finally!)

11. Run (UK)

12. Sócrates (Brazil)

13. County Lines (UK)

14. First Love (Japan)

15. Parasite (Black & White) (S.Korea)

16. The Vast Of Night (US)

17. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (US)

18. Over The Moon (US/China)

19. WolfWalkers (Ireland) reviews one and two

20. Sheep Without A Shepherd (China)

21.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Adoration

Director – Fabrice du Welz – 2019 – Belgium – 107m

*****

Boy meets girl. Alas, girl is in a psychiatric hospital convinced that the world is out to get her… in this filthy genius Belgian movie – from the BFI London Film Festival and available on BFI Player from Friday, December 11th

Twelve-year-old Paul (Thomas Gioria, familiar here as the child in Custody (Xavier Legrand, 2017) likes caring for animals. Such as, for example, the fallen chaffinch he discovers at the bottom of the tree in which he’s building a treehouse. He’s used to foraging outside for food. He spends much time in the woods surrounding the mental institution where his single parent mum works and has their accommodation. One of her conditions of employment, stressed by her female boss Dr. Loisel (Gwendolyn Gourvenec), is that Paul not have any contact with any of the institution’s patients.

One day, his playing is interrupted by the arrival of a girl about his own age in a red dress. The staff are looking for Gloria (Fantine Harduin). Before they find her and take her back into their care, she and Paul have made friends. Aware of the rules, he has admonished her that the institution must not even so much as see them together.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Brand New Testament (Le Tout Nouveau Testament)

Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

Review originally published in Reform, read the full review here.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

At the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981), the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson) bumbles around in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.” A similar sense of whimsy pervades the latest film from Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) who reworks God The Father as a slobbish despot. Many people in contemporary Western culture struggle with the idea of a loving, patriarchal God so if you’re going to have a crack at exploring Christian theology for the unchurched, this is not a bad place to start… [Read the rest]

Review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.

See also alternative review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Brand New Testament (Le Tout Nouveau Testament)

Director – Jaco Van Dormael – 2015 – Belgium – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

Original UK release date 25/03/2016, cert.15, 113 mins

Review originally published in Third Way, read the full review here.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

The idea of God being an utter bastard sounds theologically none too edifying, yet in the hands of Flemish director Jaco Van Dormael (Toto The Hero/1991, The Eighth Day/1996) that’s not the case. It’s whimsical in the same way as Ralph Richardson playing the Supreme Being bumbling around at the end of Time Bandits (Terry Gilliam, 1981) in a lounge lizard suit mumbling, “I think it has to do with free will, or something.” [Read the rest]

Review originally published in (the final issue of) Third Way, May 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.

See also alternative review originally published in Reform, September 2016, to coincide with the film’s UK DVD release.

Showing on MUBI UK from Saturday, August 22nd, 2020.

Trailer:

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Papicha

Director – Mounia Meddour – 2019 – France, Algeria, Belgium, Qatar – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

In selected cinemas (Curzons Bloomsbury and Mayfair). Also on Barbican cinema on demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and Peccadillo Pictures On Demand from Friday, August 7th.

Algerian university fashion student Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri) is often called ‘Papicha’, a typically Algerian word that refers to a funny, attractive, liberated young woman. Nedjma and her roommates love life and think nothing of going out to nightclubs to put on fashion parades.

However, this being the late 1990s an upsurge of Islamic conservatism manifests itself throughout the narrative. First, fly posters advocating the hijab for women appear on walls (Nedjma immediately tears down these posters on seeing them). Later, she confronts a young man putting these posters up, but after challenging him notices a handgun tucked in his waistband so quickly backs off.

Groups of hijab-clad women take the law into their own hands vigilante style. They surround and take away a lecturer addressing Nadjma’s class. They turn up in the middle of the night at her shared room and threaten the occupants. And worse is to come.

One of the difficulties about writing about this film is that some of its narrative incidents would be much more shocking if you don’t know exactly what’s coming.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Young Ahmed (Le Jeune Ahmed)

Directors – Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne – 2019 – Belgium, France – 85m

***1/2

Exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 7th

Belgian teenager Ahmed (Idir Ben Addi) is having problems with his teacher Miss Inès (Myriem Akheddiou). As he sees it, she disrespects his Muslim faith. His life timetable is governed by the time table of not, as you might expect, his school but his mosque. He must attend prayers at a specific time. Actually, his teacher and school are more than accommodating of these demands, but that’s not how Ahmed sees it.

He has long and deep discussions with his local Imam, Youssouf (Othmane Moumen), a radical jihadist and frankly a pretty creepy individual. Ahmed looks up to and trusts him. More than he does his teacher who he accuses on various occasions of betraying the faith, having a Jewish boyfriend and being an infidel. (Incidentally, this being a French language movie the word ‘infidel’ has a direct meaning of ‘unfaithful’ in that language, something I’ve never noticed before.) More than he does his mother (Claire Bodson) who he berates for having the occasional drink or two. It doesn’t help that he seems to regard women and girls as unclean and inferior.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

The Passer-by (De Passant)

Director – Pieter Coudyzer – 2020 – Belgium – 16m

*****

From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

This is a film about our interconnectedness or lack of it. And impossible to review without spoilers – be warned before you read on. Thomas is a typical teenager studying for exams. He needs to be woken up in the morning by his mum or he’d lie in bed all day. Confronted with a textbook of maths equations, he’d rather keep drawing that portrait he’s been working on for his friend Karen. His mobile rings. It’s Karen. He agrees to take the drawing round and meet at the bus stop. He tries to sneak out, but mum spots him. He’s forced to admit it’s Karen. Don’t be long, his mum admonishes him.

And out he goes on his bicycle, stopping en route to chat to a neighbour working in his garden. A little further on an irritating, yappy little dog runs after him. Thomas moves across the road narrowly missing an oncoming fellow cyclist. He apologises. He keeps going. A car pulls out. He hits it, goes flying across the bonnet, lands on the pavement beyond. His drawing flies up into the air, carried on its currents.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The Red Turtle (La Tortue Rouge)

Director – Michaël Dudok De Wit – 2016 – France / Belgium / Japan – Cert. PG – 82m

*****

From the get-go, this is not your usual 2D animated film. The Red Turtle is slow-paced, has no dialogue and is certainly not aimed at children. Yet there’s nothing here you wouldn’t want kids to see, as its PG certificate testifies. Whether young minds would be spellbound or bored I wouldn’t like to say. Nor is it Studio Ghibli’s usual home-grown, Japanese fare being a French-Belgian production by a Dutch director based in London. Nor does it start off where you might expect.

A man adrift in a powerful, stormy grey sea is separated by some distance from his overturned, small boat. There is no indication of how he got there, and no flashbacks explain later on. Rather, the character reaches dry land and must survive there alone.

The story functions as an effective fable about adulthood and life. Michaël Dudok De Wit and his team brilliantly develop the character of the man through the various challenges he must face… [Read the rest]

Review originally published in DMovies.org, May 2017, to coincide with the film’s UK theatrical release.