January 2016 in Review

Already a month gone by, how quickly time flies. For my first month of the year, I went over films I'd overlooked from last year, powered through the Rocky franchise and rewatched a good number of films I'd loved (and *sigh* otherwise). So, enough dragging things out, let's see what my viewing in January was like.

Daddy Day Care [rewatch] - 1/5 - *sigh* What a film to begin the year on.

Top Five - 4/5 - Chris Rock proves himself to be a triple threat, utilising sharp writing, well handled direction & skilful acting to deliver a terrific picture. The picture felt very biographical, detailing experiences and pains which he's been on the receiving end of.

Joy (2015) - 2/5 - Despite Jennifer Lawrence's great performances, this is a disappointing venture from David O. Russell.

Prisoners (2013) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - A second viewing makes me appreciate Denis Villeneuve's English speaking debut even more.

The labyrinthine plot is engaging, which is complemented by the tense direction and phenomenal acting. But while we get plenty of Jackman and Gyllenhaal showcasing their talents put into their engaging characters, many of the other characters fall by the wayside, left underdeveloped and unmemorable by the time the film ends. This is still a fantastic film though.

The Revenant - 5/5 - Alejandro González Iñárritu delivers a stunning tale of revenge. Breathtaking in both the beautiful visuals brought to screen, and the brutality. The cinematography, direction & score are all masterfully done. Leonardo DiCaprio does powerful work, leading a stunning cast who each give a brilliant performance.

Boyhood: Best film of the month
and Best film rewatched

Nightcrawler [rewatch] - 5/5 - Still one of the best films of 2014. Fantastic social commentary, beautiful visuals, a performance from Jake Gyllenhaal that deserved Best Actor nominations all over the place.And the scene of a car chasing a car chase, just fantastic.

Accidental Love - 0/5 - Seems I've been on a bit of a Jake Gyllenhaal kick lately. Just a shame it resulted in me watching this pathetic excuse for a film.

Amy (2015) - 4.5/5 - Asif Kapadia tackles the life of Amy Winehouse, cutting together both private and public footage to capture a compelling look at the late singer, warts and all. The documentary is one that's illuminating and saddening, revealing her struggles with depression and bulimia, while shining a light on how she never wanted to be famous in the first place. This'll leave you to elicit frustration at the ever-present paparazzi, as well as the media's harsh treatment of Amy. It'll also give a new appreciation for her songs, as they're sung whilst the lyrics are shown on-screen, with previous footage and voice-overs grant a deeper look at how personal the lyrics are for Amy.

2015 was a strong year for documentaries, and this was among the years best.

The Hateful Eight - 5/5 - Another fantastic film from Quentin Tarantino, going from setting up characters to the most bloody game of Cluedo you'll witness. Fantastically acted.

The Hateful Eight: Best film seen in cinemas
and Best film watched for the first time
Rocky IV - 3/5 - The stakes are raised, as Sylvester Stallone faces Ivan Drago, Dolph Lundgren's physically intimidating character who's more than a worthy foe for the character. The problem lies with the rest of the film, as things become too cartoonish to take seriously. Need I even mention Paulie's robotic girlfriend? How about the final USA vs USSR fight?

Slow West - 4.5/5 - John MacLean's take on the Western is far from interested in romanticising that time period, as many films in the genre are guilty of. It showcases the terrors front as centre, as Native Americans are hunted like animals, and trying on a suit can lead to finding a bullet hole over where the heart's located. As summed up, there aren't many people outside of the law left, only those most dangerous. Gorgeous cinematography paired with exceptional performances and dialogue that wastes no words on needless filler.

Rocky V - 1/5 - In an attempt to close off the franchise by returning to its roots, we're "treated" to needless melodrama, an uninteresting plot which begins thanks to a contrived plot point, and dull direction. It all ends with a poorly shot, tacked on attempt at a final fight. In a franchise where heart and soul were constants, we're instead given Stallone flooring a Don King wannabe while an elderly priest (among others) cheers him on.

Rocky Balboa - 4.5/5 - Say what you will about Sylvester Stallone, but he's always cared for the Rocky franchise like it's his baby. It's understandable, since it's what turned him into the well known icon that everybody's heard of. So 16 years after the disappointing ending to the once great franchise, he returns to right a wrong. The franchise is rounded off by paying tribute to what came before it, while delivering compelling character work for Rocky, and for his relationship with a now adult Robert. Let's not forget that thrilling final fight.

Rocky IV: Biggest Disappointment
Night Moves (2014) - 3.5/5 - Kelly Reichardt delivers a thriller, about three environmentalists whose efforts to help protect the environment leads to an act of eco terrorism. The film gets a lot of mileage out of this in the first half, as the build up to the act is suspenseful and pretty solid. The consequences of said act power the second half, delivering an interesting and well meaning idea which is notably weaker and oft meandering. Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning are terrific in their roles, as two young environmentalists who know they're in over their heads, and coping with events in their own ways. Peter Sarsgaard delivers the type of role only he can, with a hint of crazy simmering beneath a well put together front.

Wayne's World - 5/5 - Mike Myers and Dana Carvey put their all into a likeable duo who are well rounded, easy to root for, and impossible to dislike. Penelope Spheeris handles the film with a comfortable take on the silly moments, leaving for an onslaught of hilarity, and one of the best cameos in film.

The Big Short - 4/5 - In adapting the true story of the housing crisis from 2008, Adam McKay appears to be proving his worth as more than the "Will Ferrell comedy" guy. In that case, consider it more than proven.

The Danish Girl - 2/5 - A well intentioned piece of work that's poorly done.

The Loved Ones: Biggest Surprise

Beasts of No Nation - 4/5 - An unflinching portrayal on the horrors of war, powered by fantastic portrayals from Idris Elba and the young Abraham Attah. The first half is much stronger than the second half, but this is still a strong opening salvo for Netflix's original film content.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban [rewatch] - 5/5 - A darker tale in the franchise, which takes a break from Voldemort to expand on the characters and their history. A high point for the franchise, with the young leads obviously more confident in their roles.

Breathe (2015) - 5/5 - A confident film that's affecting, powered by phenomenal acting going into fascinating characters worth following.

Entourage - 0.5/5 - I just had to watch this one, didn't I?

Accidental Love: Worst film of the month

Boyhood [rewatch] - 5/5 - I didn't think this would hold up after initial viewing, but it did. It remains a moving snapshot of life, how a young boy can grow into a man before our very eyes, how so many changes can occur before you wonder where the time has gone. And the performances still work SO well.

Richard Linklater, the 12 years you put into this were worth it.

Sicario - 4/5 - A dark thriller with a lingering sense of unease, that's got stunning cinematography and wonderful performances at the centre of it.

'71 - 4/5 - Through his directorial debut, Yann Demange commands attention with a gripping & gritty non-stop thrill ride. Shaky cam is utilised to the films advantage, giving an almost documentary feel that's effective. But the film wouldn't work without a capable lead to anchor things, and Jack O'Connell delivers in spades with a strong performance. There are some niggles, like how a notable moment of convenience, but it doesn't detract from how good the overall picture is.

The Loved Ones - 4.5/5 - A stunning piece of horror that doesn't revel in the moments of gore, but allows viewers to connect with the characters.

World of Tomorrow - 4.5/5 - Over the course of 17 minutes, Don Hertzfeldt delivers an ambitious sci-fi tale seen through young Emily's eyes, animated rather simply and getting the story across ever so nicely. An emotional story that's brimming with ideas, and gets across important messages in beautiful dialogue which never comes off as preachy.

Best film of the month: Boyhood
Best film seen in cinemas: The Hateful Eight
Best film watched for the first time: The Hateful Eight
Best film rewatched: Boyhood
Biggest Disappointment: Rocky IV
Biggest Surprise: The Loved Ones
Worst film of the month: Accidental Love

Number of films watched: 26