This Year in Film (2019) – Film List

Personally, I feel this year in film has been a bit of a mixed-bag, as while I do feel we’ve had our fair share of great films this year, I also feel we’ve had plenty of disappointing entries as well. Obviously I haven’t seen every film this year, and I will most likely update this list as time goes on. But for now, in no particular order, here’s my thoughts on a variety of films I saw this year.

Joker

Without a doubt one of my favourite films of the year: ‘Joker’ directed by Todd Philips (The Hangover, Old School, War Dogs) is an interesting take on the comic book genre. Focusing more on being an engaging character piece with themes of untreated metal illness rather than your usual barrage of CGI action and explosions, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an eerie original score.

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Knifes Out

Director Rian Johnson proves himself a brilliant filmmaker once again after his smash-hit: ‘Looper’, as although I personally wasn’t a enormous fan of: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’. I knew this director had talent elsewhere, and this was proven to me by ‘Knifes Out’. A hilarious and clever twist on the classic murder mystery, with some great performances from the huge cast, plenty of plot twists and a well-written narrative. I feel you’d struggle not to enjoy ‘Knifes Out’.

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Marriage Story

Standing out mostly for the fantastic performances from the all-star cast of Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, director Noah Baumbach takes on this wonderful story of a couple broken apart by relationship troubles and long distances. Which despite the filmmaking not be anything outstanding, still manages to be engaging, emotional and very enjoyable from start-to-finish.

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The Silence

Easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year, ‘The Silence’ directed by John R. Leonetti, mostly known for the awful: ‘Annabelle’ and ‘Wish Upon’. Is another generic horror with weak performances, dreadful CGI effects and a plot which feels as if it’s been ripped straight from: ‘A Quiet Place’ released back in 2018.

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Le Mans ’66 (Ford v Ferrari)

After directing one of my favourite films of 2017: ‘Logan’, director James Mangold now takes on the real-life story of the creation of one of the fastest race cars ever built in order to win the iconic: ‘Le Mans ’66’. Featuring some excellent performances from main cast in addition to some great cinematography and high-fueled racing scenes, ‘Le Mans ’66’ is a true thrill-ride of a film.

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Toy Story 4

‘Toy Story 4’ is definitely one of the most disappointing films of the year for me, as the original ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is (in my opinion) near perfect, and this film seems to do nothing but continue the story for the sake of it. As although the animation is incredible throughout the film, and the performances and original score are also pretty great, the narrative and character-arcs simply let the film down, and make it the weakest of the ‘Toy Story’ series for me.

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I Am Mother

This slick science fiction thriller had me excited for quite sometime leading up to it’s release. However, when I eventually watched: ‘I Am Mother’ I found myself a little disappointed. As the beautiful visuals and solid sci-fi soundtrack are sadly let down by a drawn-out and sometimes bland story. As while not boring by any means, I felt the film was a bit of wasted potential overall.

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It: Chapter 2

Director Andy Muschietti returns to once again bring the demonic clown: ‘Pennywise’ to life in this sequel to the ‘It’ remake from 2017. This time around however, I personally found the film to be a bit of a let down. As although there were plenty of entertaining scenes and great character moments throughout the film’s extremely long run-time, there were also plenty of ridiculous moments alongside the barrage of enormous CGI monsters.

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Crawl

Going off the initial reviews, I originally had high hopes for: ‘Crawl’, hoping it would be an extremely tense, edge of your seat kind of experience. But unfortunately, the film felt like a mostly standard thriller by the end of it’s run-time. Having nothing more than a few tense scenes and a couple of effective jump-scares to make up for it’s weak CGI effects and mostly dull characters.

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Yesterday

While definitely not on the same level as many other of director Danny Boyle’s films, ‘Yesterday’ was still a pretty entertaining feel good comedy which I felt had an enjoyable up-beat tone, and enough likable characters to carry it through many of it’s cheesy moments and sometimes overly predictable story.

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Aladdin

This year’s first entry from the usual barrage of pointless live-action Disney remakes: ‘Aladdin’ is exactly what I expected it to be. The classic story most know and love but incredibly dulled-down, trying to capture the adventure of the original film through an enormous amount of CGI visuals, nostalgia and a new cast lead by Will Smith which are all rather bland.

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Despite ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ not quite being the hilarious, gory and extremely weird horror/comedy I was initially hoping for, in addition to going off the back of director Dan Gilroy’s other film: ‘Nightcrawler’ (which is one of my all-time favourites). I still found the film interesting enough throughout it’s story to keep me watching, despite it not being overly memorable in it’s entirety.

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Avengers: Endgame

Marvel finally bring their enormous franchise of superhero flicks to an end (for now that is) with ‘Avengers: Endgame’, a blockbuster spectacular which gives many viewers the conclusion they’ve been desiring for many years, and although it isn’t one of my personal favourite Marvel films, I enjoyed: ‘Avengers Endgame’ for what it was. As the film provides some endings for characters alongside plenty of comedic moments, fan service and thrilling action set pieces.

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Dolemite Is My Name

Based on the real-life story of Rudy Ray Moore, Eddie Murphy makes his awaited return to film after a long break. As this brilliant comedy/drama makes all the right moves to keep it’s audience engaged within it’s story through plenty of humour, style and emotion throughout it’s run-time.

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Jumanji: The Next Level

A sequel to ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ from 2017, as well as the original ‘Jumanji’ from 1995. ‘Jumanji: The Next Level’ is very similar to the previous instalment in regards to it’s tone and story (with some elements mixed-up of course), and despite some humour and story moments going a little too over-the-top for my taste. The film is still enjoyable enough for those seeking another fun family adventure from this franchise.

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Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Unable to actually decide what I thought of the film initially, ‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ is a true mixed-bag of a blockbuster, having some fantastic monster action with flawless CGI effects and a surprisingly ranged colour palette be completely bogged down by weak characters, cheesy moments and at points, a very messy story.

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Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood

Director Quentin Tarantino returns to the sliver screen once again with ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. Bringing us a slight subversion of some of his usual film tropes, to focus more on a story of a man seeking his return to fame in Hollywood, all shown through some beautiful cinematography and an excellent 1960s soundtrack.

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John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

In another one of this year’s biggest disappointments, ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ is the third entry in the ‘John Wick’ series. Which sadly, leaves a lot to be desired, as many of the trilling and well-executed action scenes are dragged down by a messy and uninteresting story, as well as a variety of out-of-place comedic moments.

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Star Wars – Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Arguably the most disappointing film of the year for many, ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ attempted to close the enormous legacy of the ‘Star Wars’ saga, which unfortunately failed quite miserably. As overly fast pacing and a messy narrative didn’t save the film despite it’s fun moments and exciting action scenes, further proving that this franchise needs a short rest before it’s inevitable return.

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Spider-Man: Far From Home

Most likely my favourite Marvel film of this year, ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ hardly breaks new ground when it comes to superhero flicks. But the main cast’s great performances mixed with plenty of exciting action and a surprisingly interesting antagonist, leave ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ an enjoyable and mostly faithful comic book adventure for the iconic web-head.

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The Lion King

The second of this year’s live-action Disney remakes: ‘The Lion King’ directed by Jon Favreau, is definitely one of the worst in my opinion, as although the film’s CGI visuals are nearly flawless, the film simply lacks any of the charm, heart and overall personality of the original film. Resulting in the remake being nothing more than an overall boring experience.

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Little Monsters

Although the film is help-up by some strong performances and some interesting ideas, ‘Little Monsters’ never manages to break the structure of your usual zombie film. Coming off as an occasionally fun yet mostly bland horror/comedy, which is just as predicable as it is dull, despite many of it’s decent comedic moments.

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Serenity

While I personally didn’t dislike ‘Serenity’ as much as many others, the film still suffers from a variety of issues. As director Steven Knight attempted to achieve something very different with this film, which at some points works quite well, and at others doesn’t work at all. As many of the unusual performances and can really drag down the film’s great cinematography and editing.

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Captain Marvel

One of the most bland Marvel films I’ve seen for a while, ‘Captain Marvel’ focuses far too much on pushing on themes of strong female empowerment that it forgets to actually create a likable protagonist or an interesting origin story, making the film overall feel simply forgettable than anything else.

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Zombieland: Double Tap

Surprisingly, Zombieland: Double Tap’ was far more enjoybale than I was initially expecting. As while not as memorable as the original film for me, there were more than a few moments of humour between the excellent cast that had me laughing, despite the film’s tone going even more over-the-top than before.

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The Irishman

Iconic director Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street) returns to bring us another tale of crime and regret with: ‘The Irishman’, and while the over three hour run-time can definitely make the film drag at points, the brilliant performances and phenomenal filmmaking are sure to keep those paying attention engaged for the majority of the film’s run-time.

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Us

Director Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his 2017 smash-hit: ‘Get Out’, was a far cry from excellent for me. As despite the brilliant reviews, I personally found the film’s story to be bloated with rushed ideas and ridiculous scenes, all adding up to a horror flick that placed more focus it’s themes than it’s narrative. Resulting in a film which was just as inconisitant with it’s tone as it was with it’s story.

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Hellboy

The latest superhero to get his own remake is the iconic: ‘Hellboy’, with the remake this time falling far, far from the mark. As a ridiculously messy story mixed-with poor CGI effects and dreadful comedy, leave the film pleasing no-one, despite David Harbour’s decent performance as the horned hero.

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1917

Made to appear as if it was filmed entirely within one shot, ‘1917’ is a brutal, gripping and engaging story involving two soldiers who set-off in a race against time to save thousands of men from a doomed battle, and while not flawless, the film is definitely impressive for both it’s narrative and filmmaking.

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Jojo Rabbit

Heartfelt, emotional and brimming with comedic charm, ‘Jojo Rabbit’ is another one of my favourites from this year. Being a completely different take on the war genre by giving the audience a new view of the events of the second World War All under the excellent direction of Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok).

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Missing Link

From Lakia animation studio, the production company that brought to life many of my favorite stop-motion animated films, such as: ‘Coraline’ and ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ comes another fun family adventure. Shame this one couldn’t have done better at the box office, as the film is wonderfully put together, featuring plenty of humorous moments alongside the great voice acting and beautiful animation.

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Ready or Not

One of the most surprising films of the year for me, ‘Ready or Not’ may have your usual cliché plot for a modern-horror, but somehow the film manages to carry it through. Managing to be extremely funny, gory and fun throughout the majority of it’s run-time.

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Doctor Sleep

The long-awaited sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s classic: ‘The Shining’, ‘Doctor Sleep’ attempts to continue the story of the ‘Overlook Hotel’, and does so with mixed results. As although the film does pay plenty of the respect to the original film, I couldn’t help but feel the film doesn’t stand on it’s own very well, having a mostly average story with some pretty bland characters alongside.

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Uncut Gems

After many poor attempts at comedies in recent days, Adam Sandler gives one of his best performances in years with: ‘Uncut Gems’, portraying a shady jeweller who’s actions and consequences carry the film from start-to-finish, despite some shaky cinematography and an unusual original score.

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Midsommar

Although I quite enjoyed: ‘Hereditary’, director Ari Aster’s other film from 2017, ‘Midsommar’ was most certainly not for me. Feeling far too pretentious at points with a slow paced narrative and weak characters, the film’s unique ideas and decent visuals couldn’t save from becoming the boring mess it ended-up.

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The Kid Who Would Be King

A decent fantasy adventure for families, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) definitely has some areas in need of improvement. As the film is full of cheesy moments and a very unfitting original score, despite it’s pretty engaging story and overall fun tone.

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The Christmas Chronicles (2018) – Film Review

From director Clay Kaytis (The Angry Birds Movie) and producer Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) comes another Christmas family adventure with ‘The Christmas Chronicles’, and while the film may be nowhere near as memorable as many other festive classics. I can still see the film being a mostly entertaining ride for families and younger viewers alike.

When brother and sister: ‘Teddy’ and ‘Kate Pierce’, are left alone on Christmas Eve, they devise a plan to catch ‘Santa Claus’ on camera, which soon turns into an unexpected journey that most children could only dream of. As they manage to hop aboard ‘Santa’s sleigh and join him on his task of delivering presents all over the world.

Although the two films do differ from each other in many ways, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this film and ‘The Santa Clause’ from 1994. As both Christmas flicks focus on characters going on a magical adventure with ‘Santa Clause’, with them usually having strong themes of family and belief throughout. However, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ also does seem to focus more on exciting action set pieces.

While Judah Lewis and Darby Camp portray the siblings decently well throughout the film (aside from the occasional line of dialogue) Kurt Russell is without a doubt the stand-out of the cast, as he brings his usual charisma and talent to create a fresh and memorable portrayal of Saint Nick himself. This is dragged down by the film’s characterisation however, as both of the siblings are pretty bland and dull from start-to-finish.

The cinematography by Don Burgess is also mostly generic throughout the film, usually serving it’s purpose without drawing the audience’s attention away from the action on-screen. Speaking of which, the action scenes throughout the film are handled surprisingly well. From the fast car chase through the streets of Chicago, to ‘Santa’s sleigh soaring through the night sky. The weak CGI throughout the film can detract from some these scenes however, with ‘Santa’s elves in particular having some very distracting visual effects at points.

The original score by Christophe Beck is decent overall, as while not incredibly memorable, and many could see it as slightly weaker when compared to many of his other soundtracks such as: ‘The Muppets’, ‘Frozen’ or ‘Ant-Man’, the score does have a festive and pretty up-beat tone throughout the film’s run-time.

My main issue with the film is the film’s overall cheesiness, as although the film does avoid the occasional Christmas film cliché. The film is still brimming with cheesy lines and scenes throughout the film’s narrative. However, I found this to be a problem mostly around ‘Santa’s elves, as not only did these characters have an awful new redesign, but they seemed to be purely used for the sake of being cute. I also couldn’t help but think the film could’ve been improved if directed by Chris Columbus, as although director Clay Kaytis doesn’t do an terrible job by any means, I feel the director of: ‘Home Alone’ (a true classic for many) could’ve definitely made the film better for what it was.

Overall, ‘The Christmas Chronicles’ is a mostly fun adventure for a film night on Christmas Eve, as while the story isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Kurt Russell’s memorable performance mixed with some entertaining action scenes and a very festive atmosphere all result in the film being a decent watch, as well as a low 7/10 all together.

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Bird Box (2018) – Film Review

‘Bird Box’ is based on the novel of the same name by Josh Malerman, which mostly aims to be a dark thriller with an original and twisted story as well as a few other interesting aspects in regards to the filmmaking. Unfortunately however, the film soon falls into a pit of disappointment which it really struggles to escape from.

Set both during the initial incident as well as five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a mother and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety as they head down a dangerous river aboard a boat.

With the film jumping back and forward between the two time-periods the film can quickly become very frustrating for many. As I personally found the initial chaotic event far more entertaining than the other time period within the narrative, however the film will continuously cut between the two at unusual points. The film also chooses to wrap the majority of it’s story in mystery, never really exploring what the monsters actually are, or how their abilities work. The film even chooses to never actually show the creatures on-screen at all throughout the run-time, and although I agree that not everything has to be explained within a story, the way ‘Bird Box’ presents it makes it noting but frustrating, as the film introduces questions without answers.

Sandra Bullock portrays a struggling mother alongside Danielle Macdonald, Trevante Rhodes and John Malkovich who all portray people attempting to survive in a brutal world, and they do their best considering the weak characters they had to work with. The majority of the supporting cast are also decent, with Sarah Paulson even having a short appearance within the film, however I found she was incredibly wasted in the small (and pretty pointless) role she had within the narrative.

The entire visual presentation of: ‘Bird Box’, is extremely dull, as the cinematography by Salvatore Totino and editing Ben Lester never really excel beyond ‘okay’. Usually having scenes consist of many boring shots which never really add much to the tension or atmosphere aside from the occasional moment, this of course also alongside the extremely bland grey colour palette. This is also the case when it comes to the original score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, coming off as nothing more than your standard horror/thriller soundtrack.

Although the novel obviously came out before last year’s ‘A Quiet Place’, I couldn’t help but notice many similarities between the two films. Such as: the lack of a certain sense, the apocalyptic setting, a theme of family and the eerie atmosphere/tone (despite the idea of the monsters making you kill yourself being very original). I also couldn’t help but feel the film never made enough use of it’s concept of simply witnessing the creatures drives characters to suicide, as this is a terrifying idea, and could’ve provided some very gory and truly shocking moments.

‘Bird Box’ is one of those few films that gets a large amount of attention for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, as personally I thought the film was nothing but bland and forgettable in many aspects. Aside from perhaps the main performance by Sandra Bullock and the original idea of it’s story. There wasn’t much I enjoyed about this adaption, ‘Bird Box’ gets a 3/10 from me. Give it a watch if your really interested, but personally I feel there are many similar films with much better execution.

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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) – Film Review

A weird, violent and very unpredictable film, Dan Gilroy director of one of my all-time favourite films: ‘Nightcrawler’, works all his charm and creativity into this horror/drama/mystery/dark comedy? It’s difficult to pin-point what exactly what the genre of this film is. Alongside this, similar to some other films I’ve reviewed, I’d say this is definitely not a film for everyone. But for those who it will appeal to, you will surely enjoy yourself.

After a series of paintings by an unknown artist are discovered, a supernatural force enacts revenge on those who have allowed their greed to get in the way of art. With an original and unusual narrative like this, you are sure to find many memorable scenes and characters, and this is what the film truly delivers on.

The film is mostly built around the shocking deaths throughout the film, as various characters get killed off in different ways. Leaving the rest of the characters in a state of confusion and panic, this allows the film to delve into bits and pieces of characterisation (granted not a lot) in addition to exploring various ideas of what ‘art’ actually is and we criticise and commercialise it, and despite the film not going incredibly in-depth with these ideas, I did still find many of them and the themes of greed and ego interesting.

Jake Gyllenhaal is essentially the main protagonist of the film: ‘Morf Vandewalt’ a very eccentric and strange character who seems to be a parody of over-the-top art critics. Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer and John Malkovich also all lend their talents to the film. Along with the decent writing, their great performances really help give each character a distinct personality. Unexpectedly however, Zawe Ashton is a true standout of the film for me, only really knowing her from TVs ‘Fresh Meat’, here she portrays a very different character than ones before.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit also gives the film a very clean look, utilizing many different shots throughout. I still do think the film could’ve done more with the camera work though, especially when compared to Dan Gilroy’s previous films. The does also combine cinematography well with the beautiful sets and locations, giving the film a great visual appeal overall. The original score by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders also lends it’s hand to the creepy atmosphere at multiple points throughout the film, yet can also change to more calming or light-hearted when it needs to. 

Although the tone can really vary throughout the film, it never comes off as unbalanced. Comedy is used at points during the story but never to the point of ruining the eerie atmosphere or character moments. When the film does shift into full horror however, we get easily my favourite moments of the film, as it’s these moments we get some very cool CGI effects and unique visuals. As well as a great build up of intrigue and tension, with the eventual death at the end of the scene usually being very creative, despite not always being very gory.

My main two issues with the film resolve mostly around the pacing of the film, as the film can come off as very slow and can really drag the story down at points. As well as the use of John Malkovich’s character: ‘Piers’, as this character appears in the very first scene of the film and then again later into the run-time. However, he doesn’t really have any impact on the overall narrative, and really felt to me like the film was just using his bland character to fill up screen-time.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I thought of: ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ on my initial viewing of the film, as the film does suffer from some problems and isn’t quite the incredibly entertaining piece of gory fun I wanted it to be. But I still enjoyed myself through it’s weird atmosphere and interesting ideas, and it is a film I could maybe see myself returning too at some point. A decent 6/10 overall.

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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) – Film Review

The western genre used to be extremely popular back in the golden age of Hollywood, but in recent years however, westerns have mostly died off, as aside from a few honorable mentions such as: ‘True Grit’, ‘The Sisters Brothers’ and ‘Django Unchained’. The western genre as a whole has run mostly dry… until now that is. As beloved directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men) return to the sliver screen for this brilliant western anthology.

Consisting of six different stories of life and violence in the Old West, the film follows tales of a singing gunslinger, a bank robber, a traveling impresario, an elderly prospector, a wagon train, and a perverse pair of bounty hunters.

This diverse set of stories and characters really keep the film engaging from start-to-finish, as the film constantly jumps between characters and locations all whilst insuring that it keeps it’s decent pacing and usual Coen Brother’s dark sense of humour in tact. Resulting in the film feeling extremely refreshing, as superhero blockbusters and jump-scare filled horrors have really taken over the film industry in recent years. So revisiting an old yet classic genre (especially with this modern spin) is truly a breath of fresh air. Especially with the Coen Brother’s brilliant direction.

The performances by the every member of the enormous cast are pretty excellent all around. As Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Thomas Waits, Zoe Kazan, Jonjo O’Neill and Brendan Gleeson (just to name a few) are all brilliant when portraying their varied and interesting characters, with Tim Blake Nelson definitely being the clear stand-out for me with his extremely funny and charming portrayal of the title character: ‘Buster Scruggs’.

Throughout the run-time, the cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel is almost flawless, as the film utilizes a variety of beautiful shots which perfectly capture the visual appeal of classic westerns. The original score by Carter Burwell is also pretty great, as the soundtrack uses slow guitar stings and an enormous list of classic country songs to build-up atmosphere, with the best of these definitely being: ‘When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings’.

One aspect of the film I absolutely adore is the Coen’s usual style of writing, as every character throughout the film is given plenty of comedic moments and memorable lines, which really helped make many of the characters with slightly-less development more likable. Another element that also really drew my attention during my first viewing was the incredible sets and costumes the film had on full-display, as considering the locations/costumes are some of the main factors of engaging the audience into the story and it’s time-period. It was clear they were pulling-out all the stops. As every location always felt very real and lived in, with the character’s clothes being no different.

My personal favourite narrative of the six would most likely be the opening story, sharing the same name as the title of the film: ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’. This opening was just such as joy to watch, balancing dark humour with a classic western set-up brilliantly, in addition to the fantastic performance from Tim Blake Nelson as already mentioned. However, this is also where my biggest criticism of the film comes in, as although they definitely aren’t awful, the last two stories are easily the weakest of the film. As although we do get some great character moments and fun scenes within these stories, I couldn’t help but feel they simply weren’t as memorable or as charming as the others leading-up to them. Perhaps if these two stories we’re placed earlier in the film it wouldn’t be such an issue, but it simply leaves the viewer with a bad taste in their mouth afterwards.

‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ proves once again that westerns are far from gone when it comes to film, as the Coen Brothers once again take the audience for a trip into the wild west with complete success. As this anthology is just as hilarious as it is visually impressive and well-acted, regardless of whether or not the stories are quite on the same level, the film is still an 8/10 overall from me.

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