2020 has been one of the most difficult years in most of our lives, on a personal note, this year has been very hard for me, but when it comes to Movie Reviews 101, this has been the best year I have ever had running the site.
Movie Reviews 101 has seen the highest numbers in the ten year history of the site, which has seen figure skyrocket, we have had quotes used in trailers and on a DVD cover, these were things, I never imagined happening when I first started writing about movies.
The number of opportunities to see new movies has been amazing and I can only thank the amazing publicists and filmmakers that have continued to give me chances. This year I even got to remotely cover London Film Festival, which again, is something I never in my wildest dreams imagined could have happened.
Overall 2020 has been a success for Movie Reviews 101, I am looking to continue to grow in 2021.
I have set myself a couple of goals to get through 2021
Make Movies Reviews 101 self-sufficient, I am getting close to this, but in 2021, I want it to happen.
I would like to join a Films Critic Society.
I would like to get accepted on Rotten Tomatoes.
I would like to earn a certain amount of money from the writing I enjoy doing, I am not sure how much, just more than nothing.
I hope to achieve this goals in 2021 and even having hopes of achieving these are thanks to everyone of you that has read, visited or liked one of the posts over the years.
Starring: Craig Fairbrass, Robert Glenister, George Russo, Mark Monero, Izuka Hoyle, Taz Skylar
Plot: Eddie Franks is a former criminal who attempts to help his family by reconnecting with his daughter and clearing his brother’s debt. Despite his efforts, he is drawn back into a criminal way of life, with devastating consequences.
Tagline – Crime runs in the blood
Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Story: Villain starts when Eddie Franks (Fairbrass) is released from prison, where he finds his younger brother Sean (Russo) has ran up a massive debt to mobsters Roy (Glenister) and Johnny (May) who want their money.
Eddie whose reputation is no longer what it once was, needs to find the money to solve the problem, only it is more than they could manage, forcing Eddie back into a more dangerous way of life, one which will risk him returning to prison again, but save his brother and his own life.
Thoughts on Villain
Characters – Eddie Franks is from the hard hitting side of London, which has seen him locked up in prison for his crimes, he has always handled himself well in prison, having a good reputation with the inmates and the guards. Once on the outside, he learns that things have changed, his brother has created a debt he can’t pay off and the man he owes will not treat him with the respect he would expect. Roy Garrett is the head mobster in the city, he will expect to get paid, use his brother to strike fear into everyone, he doesn’t give Eddie the respect he might well have once done, but does prefer to keep things in the talking levels, rather than the violence. Sean is the younger brother of Eddie who has found himself hooked on coke and creating a massive debt he can’t pay off, which was out of his own control. He hasn’t helped the family business, showing he always needed his big brother around. Johnny is the aggressive brother of Roy, that will turn to violence to get what the family believe they are owed.
Performances – Craig Fairbrass as the tough guy of London always looks the part in these roles, Robert Glenister and Tomi May work well together as two opposites that will demand money. George Russo as the reckless brother works well too, with the cast all making us feel like we are in a generation change war in London.
Story – The story here follows a man released from prison who must look to clean up his brothers debts and try and make amends for the errors in his own life, while facing a new threat in a changing vision of London. The story does take us through the gangster world of the East end of London, which will show us the well dressed gentlemen that want and believe they control the area, the people stuck under their thumbs and the upstart criminals all trapped in one area. This does show one man trying to do everything right through the criminal side of everything, showing us just how someone could turn their lives around and need to fix the errors of their way.
Action – The action is held back for the few violent scenes which will show just how disturbing this world can be for everyone.
Settings – The film is set in East London, showing us how it has become a criminal hot spot, waiting to explode on the world.
Scene of the Movie – Here is the final deal.
That Moment That Annoyed Me – Poster is very misleading.
Final Thoughts – Villain is a hard hitting East London gangster movie that has a relentless pace about everything.
Writer: Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Screenplay) August Wilson (Play)
Starring: Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Jonny Coyne
Plot: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable “Mother of the Blues”. Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play.
Tagline – Everything Comes Out in the Blues.
Runtime: 1 Hour 34 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Story: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starts as blues singer Ma Rainey (Davis) and her band, Levee (Boseman), Cutler (Domingo), Toledo (Turman) and Slow Drag (Potts) are looking to record her most famous song, Black Bottom.
We see how Levee is looking to break away and have his own band, showing how difficult he can be to work with, while Ma expects things done a certain way, or the producers will not get her music, we get to follow the afternoon, as they look to overcome the problems to record the legendary musicians’ songs.
Thoughts on Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Characters & Performances – Ma Rainey is the blues singer that was breaking boundaries in the 1920s, her music was loved by many, with her songs looking to be put onto records, she proves to be determined to make sure that her music is performed the way she wants it, they are her songs, she wants certain people in and out of her band, she knows who she can trust and is using her position of power to make her music, not the music want to hear. Viola Davis is wonderful in this leading role that makes her steal every scene she is in through the film. Levee is the youngest member of the band, he wants to play his own music, with his own style and believes he can have his own band, he proves to be difficult to work with, even if his back story of his childhood, will give him the most emotionally powerful scene in the movie. Chadwick Boseman is brilliant in this role, showing all the confidence in the world that his character has when he thinks things are going his way. We do see the rest of the band, Cutler, Toledo and Slow Drag who enjoy the music and know their roles in the band.
Story – The story here follows the recording of Ma Rainey’s songs including the Black Bottom song, where we see how the band needs to learn to work together and the producer must learn how to deal with her demands. This story does have plenty going on, with Ma Rainey’s demands, which shows who has the power, Levee wanting the power and being centre of attention, while never being in the position of power. You can tell this is based on a play by how each scene is set up for the characters to unfold and the witty, engaging dialogue will pull you in to see if the songs will be performed.
Themes – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom brings us the recording of blues music, showing the positive nature of the tune that will hold everything together, with the music being catchy enough to make us want to dance.
Plot: The lone survivor of an enigmatic spaceship incident hasn’t returned back home alone-hiding inside his body is a dangerous creature.
Tagline – The only survivor did not come back alone. Runtime: 1 Hour 53 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Story: Sputnik starts when a two man space mission in the Soviet Union returns to Earth, with only one survivor Konstantin Veshnyakov (Fyodorov), Colonel Semiradov (Bondarchuk) turns to neurologist Tatyana Klimova (Akinshina) for answers to what is happening to Konstantin, who at night has a massive secret that nobody can explain happen to him.
As Tatyana looks to investigate, she brings a fresh approach to trying to help, while dealing with the military ideas for what they could do with the secret bought back.
Thoughts on Sputnik
Characters & Performances – Tatyana Klimova is a disgraced neurologist that is facing a board committee for her action which crossed a line, despite saving a life, facing a bleak future in her field, she gets recruited by Colonel Semiradov, who needs her skills to solve the mystery behind a returning astronaut with a huge secret, which seems like an easy assignment, until we learn the problem, one that she is willing to dive deeper into, to try and solve, risking her own life to save the man. Oksana Akinshina is wonderful in this leading role, showing the strength to standout in a male dominated world, never letting her character back down, always looking like the strongest person in the room. Colonel Semiradov is running the operation which is trying to figure out what might have happened, as well as putting the military agenda front and centre for what has happened, for their own gain, a strict by the books military character. Fedor Bondarchuk makes this character the cold figure you would expect running a military operation. Konstantin Veshnyakov is the lone survivor of the space mission, he seems fine on the outside, but he has bought something back that only appears at night, he does want to know the truth about his partner but isn’t always telling the truth about what he knows about the connection. Pyotr Fyodorov brings this character to life showing the heroic nature behind who he believes he needs to be.
Story – The story here follows a neurologist that is recruited to help discover the truth about a space mission gone wrong as one of the surviving astronauts has returned with a new life form, with a hunger for blood, she must figure out the truth before it gets turned into the latest military weapon. This is a story that will dive into the mystery about the military secrets in Russia, showing how they would look to cover up and turn things into weapons. Away from the military side, we do have the good in people through Tatyana who is looking to make sure everybody is cured from their pain, no matter what it takes, which will show the two different sides of everything going on. We will be kept guessing along the way as to what is behind the creatures appearance.
Themes – Sputnik is a movie that needs excellent special effects to work, the effects in this film are flawless, with the unique creature creation, which could fill nightmares, from the very first time we see it appears. It works to elevate the horror, with the root of the situation adding a more horror to everything, which also plays into the sci-fi elements in the film. The military base show how much isolation is required to first contain the situation and secondary to show how Russia would look to keep secrets.
Final Thoughts – Sputnik is the best alien feature of the year, with stunning special effects we elevate the film to even higher levels.
Writer: Stanislav Kapralov, Omri Rose (Screenplay)
Starring: Ivanna Sakhno, Alex Hafner, Tinatin Dalakishvili, Gia Japharidze, Tamri Bziava
Plot: Separated from her fiance after sneaking onto a restricted slope, Mia, a free riding snowboarder, must survive not only against nature, but the masked snowmobile rider in black who’s out for her blood.
Tagline – They were warned.
Runtime: 1 Hour 26 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Story: Let it Snow starts when Mia (Sakhno) and Max (Hafner) head to Georgia for a snowboarding weekend on one of the most ridges in Europe, within the community. They learn it is closed for safety and end up finding their own way to get to the top.
Getting involved in their snowboarding, the pair find themselves separated and a masked snowmobile driver starts chasing them down, with Mia needing to fight the elements to allude the killer on the mountain top.
Thoughts on Let it Show
Characters & Performances – Mia is an expert snowboarder taking a break with her partner, she finds herself separated from his on the slopes, and in her search she finds herself needing to battle through the storms and getting past a killer hunting on the slopes. Ivanna Sakhno does everything right through the film, she shows the desperation needed to stay alive. Max is the partner that goes missing, we see him more in flashbacks to the life she had before the incident. The performances don’t get too much time to shine away from our lead.
Story – The story here follows a couple that get separated on a snowboarding holiday, where one Mia finds herself being hunted down by a killer while searching for safety in a deadly cat-n-mouse chase on the top of the mountain. This is a story that does bring in a deeper connection to everything that is happening, though, with that comes an element of confusing going on, where we are just left to watch the allow moving battle for survival, while mostly stalking happening, where nothing becomes as intense as it could be. The deeper backstory is the most interesting part of everything going on and ends up being the biggest and best draw throughout the film.
Themes – Let it Snow does have beautiful shots of the mountain range, showing us the vast emptiness that Mia finds herself in, the horror elements involved do come into play here, with the isolation from safety, though it never feels like intense enough to get make everything happening feel like a life and death situation.
Final Thoughts – Let it Snow is a lacklustre thriller that’s highlight comes from the jaw-dropping scenery.
Signature Entertainment presents Let it Snow on Digital Platforms 4th January 2021