February 2017 In Review

Another month of film, full of 2017 releases, Oscar nominated films, and a want to keep up to date with writing & film watching challenges. So, let's see what I viewed over the past February.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage - 2/5 - More like Return of extremely dumb writing.

Hacksaw Ridge - 4/5 - Having not viewed a Mel Gibson directed picture before, I wasn't sure what to expect here. I'm sure I wouldn't have expected such a film of two halves, though. The first half was, shall we say, mixed. It formed Desmond T. Doss pretty well, held together by a wonderful portrayal by Andrew Garfield. He wonderfully brings to life this man, who only wishes to help his fellow servicemen, without resorting to killing. Unfortunately, there's a great deal of melodrama which threatens the picture, reminiscent of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. The second half delivers some unflinching brutalities about war, while never losing sight of who Doss is. There's imagery on hand that won't easily be forgotten, refusing to glamorise war in a manner many Hollywood pictures are guilty of, and is well directed by Gibson.

XXY - 4/5 - Lucía Puenzo delivers a completely touching and intimate tale about identity, which is portrayed well, holding a great deal of sensitivity. The cast are terrific, with Ricardo Darín and Martín Piroyansky proving their acting prowess throughout their characters journeys. But Inés Efron is the true star, perfectly encapsulating the struggles her character of Alex faces.

Best film of the month and Best film
watched for the first time: Bride of Frankenstein

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) - 4/5 - In this era of "Alternative facts" and "The Bowling Green Massacre", it's shocking how even more relevant this feels to this day. Michael Radford's adaptation of George Orwell's novel dives right into the dark political commentary, in a chilling manner, while the overall picture won't easily be forgotten. That said, having read the novel last year, I wondered if there were moments I only understood because it was fresh in my mind, while there were certainly parts I felt held more power which were unfortunately left out. Still, one can't help but praise the fantastic acting in play, with John Hurt perfect in his role of Winston Smith.

The Master: A Lego Ninjago Short - 3/5 - Clearly included with The Lego Batman Movie to build up the hype for the Ninjas film arriving later this year. A fun short with mild chuckles, but ultimately rather flimsy, and not too memorable.

The LEGO Batman Movie - 4.5/5 - A bricking good time

Best film seen in cinemas: The LEGO Batman Movie

Resident Evil [rewatch] - 2/5 - Paul W.S. Anderson takes the reins for the first film based on the hit Resident Evil games, and when it comes to differentiating from the perception of video game films, he does little to stand apart from the crowd.

Granted, there's some genuine intrigue as the proceedings begin. Unfortunately, it descends into dull action scenes, laughable effects work, and an overall lack of tension. Not helping things are the cardboard cut-outs we're meant to believe are actual characters. It's rather baffling this began a 15 year, six film franchise.

The Descendants [rewatch] - 4/5 - Showed this to my girlfriend. It remains a heartfelt take on grief, managing bouts of humour in-between the touching moments, with a lush setting, while the greatest strength is still the engaging performances on show. However, the property subplot is generally uninteresting, while wrapping up in a "let's just end it" sort of manner. 

Bride of Frankenstein - 5/5 - Following on from one of the most famous tales of all time, James Whale manages to deliver a sequel that deserves its title of "One of the best sequels ever made". He manages to fit in complete empathy for the monster, scenes that are either heartfelt, tense or humorous, along with powerful acting, and a fantastic extension of the source material. And all within a lean 75 Minute runtime. An outright masterpiece that stands the test of time. But then, you'd merely have to witness The Bride to know that. 4 minutes she appears in, and Elsa Lanchester owns every scene she appears in. No wonder she remains a staple of pop culture.

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Best film rewatched: Mean Girls

Rings - 0.5/5 - A strong reason why some franchises should remain dead.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse [rewatch] - 0.5/5 - A film as brain dead as the shambling corpses which inhabit the screen, where the colour palette is completely blue, and the slow motion is overused to the point of irritation. Where a character is stupid enough to crash his car, due to hitting on zombie hookers, and the action is yawn-inducing. A complete piece of trash. 

Not Since You - 1/5 - I never heard of this film before my girlfriend selected it to watch on Amazon Prime, and I can frankly see why that's the case. A picture where the manipulative music takes precedence over crafting likeable characters. The result is a dull character drama, plodding along, while proving itself as equal parts unengaging and inert, and forcing in some 9/11 drama.

Biggest Disappointment: A Cure For Wellness

The LEGO Batman Movie [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - For the second time this year, I saw a film I loved on a Sunday, and then proceeded to view that very same film with my girlfriend on the following Sunday. Dick Grayson remains the most adorable thing he possibly can be.

Pocahontas (1995) [rewatch] - 3/5 - A stellar voice cast do terrific work bringing their characters to life, even if only the leads seem to be engaging characters. The animation is done well, and "Colours In The Wind" is a strong Disney song. But the picture rushes through so many significant moments, especially the ending, while the villainous Ratcliffe is rather forgettable (as are most of the songs). And then there's how much the original story has been changed *sigh*.

The Lobster (2015) - 4.5/5 - Yorgos Lanthimos approaches relationships and single life in a blackly humorous manner, with the satire on both proving rather engaging and ultimately entertaining. The world it's all set within is rather fascinating, while the acting is faultless. A tale about how far we go for the idea of love, and one I won't forget in a hurry.

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Biggest Surprise: The Skin I Live In

Out in the Dark - 4/5 - Michael Mayer crafts a well developed romance, as Michael Aloni and Nicholas Jacob deliver a glorious chemistry, selling their romance in a believable way. The saddening reality of Nimr's situation is the cause of the main conflict, where is love is considered a dishonour on his family. The film is a weaker one when the political thriller elements take precedence over the central romance, but luckily, this doesn't occur for too much of the runtime.

The Skin I Live In - 5/5 - Seriously, if you haven't seen this film before, go in knowing as little as absolutely possible. All I'll say is how it's a fantastically plotted thriller, which grips you throughout, and deliver tense work with utter ease. Not to mention the phenomenal performances on show here, with Elena Anaya proving to be the real standout.

A Cure For Wellness - 3/5 - All throughout, one feels Gore Verbinski weaving a dark and compelling tale of his own concoction. Yes, it's most likely been done better by many other films, but that didn't impact the picture much for me. With such phenomenal acting on display, stunning cinematography, and the complete sense of intrigue, it all makes for a gripping and unique showcase of pure, unfiltered, artistic vision.

And then, it all falls apart.

The final act feels like a total change, as though Verbinski lost confidence in his own story. The picture delivers a terrific end to this tale, but then sabotages itself by continuing on. The result spoon feeds answers to the audience, making what weren't exactly subtle hints into the most blindingly obvious of answers. Not helping matters is the tonal change, as things become absolutely cartoonish, completely laughable, and rather ridiculous. If this unfortunate end was completely cut, then that would have also helped to solve the overly long runtime.

Worst film of the month: Rings

Mean Girls [rewatch] - 5/5 - Went round a mates house for a party, and they had this wonderful piece of cinema on. Naturally, I watched it and quoted whatever I could. 

The Lives Of Others - 5/5 - From the masterfully crafted opening scene, I knew I was in for something special. A strong display of filmmaking skills and craftsmanship, from engaging opening to touching end. What Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has delivered is a quietly powerful film.

Best film of the month: Bride of Frankenstein
Best film seen in cinemas:  The LEGO Batman Movie
Best film watched for the first time: Bride of Frankenstein
Best film rewatched: Mean Girls
Biggest Disappointment: A Cure For Wellness
Biggest Surprise: The Skin I Live In
Worst film of the month: Rings

Number of films watched: 19