April 2017 In Review

Yep, another month where Moonlight was watched by me and absolutely loved. I can't help it, I just absolutely love it. I did see other films though, so let us delve into what I watched this past April.

What Richard Did - 4.5/5 - A quietly stunning picture, proving equal parts compelling and affecting in its tackling of the subject matter. At the centre of it all is Jack Reynor, who stunningly delivers in the lead performance, perfectly portraying the loved by all rugby star, whose life unravels after one night. It feels necessary to be vague about the unfolding events, as it adds to the drama and deserves to be viewed for ones self.

Tell No One - 4.5/5 - Here, director Guillame Canet manages to superbly capture what many directors have missed the mark on: the ordinary man who's thrust into a mystery that's greater than him, all because of his love for his wife. A film that's confident in its narrative, as the gripping and twisting thriller powers through the 2 hour running time, with engaging characters and their well realised relationships lie at the heart of it all. Truly heart pounding stuff, with a great use of a U2 song.

Ghost in the Shell (2017) - 2/5 - Rather hollow and soulless.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) - 3.5/5 - A well crafted, terrifically acted piece of work that brings the characters to life well and sells their relationships with ease and charm. Unfortunately, Emma Watson's autotuned vocals grate, while a number of scenes (especially the two big musical numbers) feel like an inferior product to the animated counterpart.

Moonlight [rewatch] - 5/5 - Of any films which I could've viewed four times in cinemas, I'm so glad it was this picture. A supremely masterful tale about one person's struggle to be true to their self and accept who they are. A story superbly brought alive, with thanks to Barry Jenkins' confident direction, the beautiful visuals, the superb cast who are perfect in their roles, and the wonderful songs which fit the film so well. 

Serena (2014) - 1.5/5 - What Susanne Bier has crafted here is a poorly edited, rushed mess of a picture. At the centre of it is an underdeveloped romance between two bland characters, as the talented duo of Cooper and Lawrence clearly go through the motions. Not helping things are the jarring tonal shifts, a laughable script, four pointless sex scenes, and the result being a complete and utter bore.

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Best film of the month, Best film seen in
cinemas & Best film rewatched: Moonlight

Life (2017) - 2.5/5 - Largely familiar and unmemorable.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie [rewatch] - 1/5 - Viewing this for the first time in what must be 15 years, it's unbelievable that I was once so enamoured with this picture. What unfolds is a tepid adventure, overly reliant on poor CG, while prioritising the characters performing flips & delivering weak quips. Nostalgia certainly is a powerful thing, but it can only go so far, especially when it's for something so cheesy, unfunny, and painfully dated.

Knocked Up [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - Judd Apatow delivers a somewhat funny, more so moving take on parenthood. Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl navigate through the ups and downs of their relationship, and their impending transition to becoming parents, rather well. It's unfortunate we have to deal with Ben's roommates so much, since the lions share of their scenes aren't funny, and comes off as unneeded filler. It's time that could've been cut, reducing what's unnecessarily longer than it needs to be. 

Power Rangers (2017) - 3/5 - Not as bad as it could have been...is the best thing I can say about it.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - A second viewing, and it remains an enjoyable take on the well known tale. Bill Condon has clear adoration for the Disney Animated Classic, but much of it still feels like an inferior version of the 90's cartoon. 

Resident Evil: Afterlife - 1/5 - Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the franchise he brought to screen, and is there really a need for it to run this long?

The opening squanders any promise left at the end of Resident Evil: Extinction, as the film attempts to move the overall story forward, while delivering a repetitive feeling picture. The overused slow motion rears its ugly head once more, bringing with it gimmicks that were obviously included for the money grabbing 3d experience. Once more, it doesn't matter how many characters are introduced into this franchise, it remains a herculean task to deliver any of them with decent characterization, or even something resembling personality. The latest mindless inclusion into a brain dead franchise.

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Best film watched for the first time: Some Like It Hot

Battle Royale [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - 12 years before The Hunger Games brought the concept to a mainstream audience, Kinji Fukasaku released this. It's understandably shocking, as, from the first kill, the scenario is executed with the appropriate amount of shock and horror.

It defines its rules well from the start, while doing a great job in defining the different scenarios these characters enact, as well as characterising many of their mindsets. Granted, a number of character moments and skills feel a bit convenient, but that's not a deal breaker here.

From the unnerving Mitsuko, to the sadistic Kiriyama, the characters are well defined, along with their backstories and relationships, as well as how who they are affects the scenario. At some points, it;s an intriguing look at how panic can rapidly push rational thought out of ones mind. At others, it's an engaging ride with fun moments.

Oh, how I love this film.

A Hologram for the King - 2/5 - It's clear that both director, Tom Tykwer, and star, Tom Hanks, are trying to deliver something likeable with charm. While Mister Hanks excels, mainly due to his usual likeable self, Tykwer isn't as lucky. A dull picture that feels too familiar, barely making use of its setting, with subplots that stall as much as the onscreen company's hologram presentation.

Resident Evil: Retribution - 2/5 - At this point, it's absolutely clear what's the main goal of this franchise. To reuse as many previous characters as possible and their actors, no matter how much you must mess with the plot to do so. It must be said that the opening moments, where the destructive aftermath of a battle is reversing itself to the beginning, is rather well done. Sadly, not much else reaches those heights, as the remainder of the film is the same brainless fare, delivering poorly enacted action, awful effects which have barely improved 10 years after the first film, and a struggle to give reasons why to care for these thinly sketched characters.

Pinocchio (1940) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Another of the Disney classics I always watched as a kid, but haven't seen for at least 15 years. It really is a heartfelt story, with Geppetto's want for a son brought to reality by the Blue Fairy, while Pinocchio faces temptations on the straight and narrow path. It's all gorgeously animated, and unbelievably dark, with haunting visuals. Packed with utterly memorable characters, this truly is a Disney classic.

Fast & Furious 8 - 3/5 - Plenty of problems within, but largely fun.

Blood for Dracula - 3.5/5 - Entertaining when revelling in its bloody nature, Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol's picture is an engaging piece of work. Udo Kier's take on the titular character is utterly compelling, and the film suffers when he isn't onscreen. But the films sexual politics, and the casual use of rape, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

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Biggest Disappointment: The Belko Experiment

Tonight It's You - 4/5 - Gay horror is a sub-genre I would like to see more of, and Dominic Haxton's terrific example is pretty much why. His short effectively delivers an underlying tension, with some terrific chills utilised. While it doesn't hold well together during the finale, it doesn't detract from all that worked beforehand.

The Birds - 5/5 - A tense picture that grabs your attention and never lets go, it's an understatement to call Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds nail-biting stuff. Hitchcock's taut direction begins with a great amount of character building and set-up, while ominously teasing the idea that something is coming. A lot of birds in one location, a renegade one swooping in too closely, but it's terrifically done. The terror and uncertainty of something horrendous coming these characters way, with no discernible answer in sight, is phenomenally captured, both by the tremendous cast, and the confident director. It's nothing short of terrifying, and undoubtedly a masterpiece.

Red Nose Day Actually - 2/5 - There's no doubt this was made with the best of intentions, for a charity where the proceeds go to children who desperately need it. But seriously, did it have to be so devoid of effort? What the ensuing 10 minutes amounts to are an unfunny nostalgia trip, with too many moments feeling like a retread of clips from the original Love Actually. Liam Neeson may be full of charm in his scenes, but that can only go so far.

We Need To Talk About Kevin - 5/5 - What Lynne Ramsay has masterfully delivered is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I have ever witnessed, perfectly encapsulating the skin crawling tone of this very human horror film. The powerful acting between Jasper Newell and Ezra Miller perfectly showcase the troubled growth of the titular Kevin, with both actors putting across their characters tense relationship their mother. On the flip side, Tilda Swinton delivers an absolutely stunning performance, as Kevin's mother who struggles to form a relationship with him.

The Passion of the Christ - 2.5/5 - I still can't believe that Lethal Weapon star Mel Gibson directed an independent religious film, spoken in Latin and Aramaic. I can appreciate the decision to have the film brought to life in those languages, while the political manner the characters treat the events is rather interesting. Gibson's intent is understandable here, to showcase the harsh reality of what Jesus would've had to face, but my problem lies in the way it was delivered. Granted, the make up work fantastically brings the beaten and battered body of Jesus to the screen with a gut-wrenching realism, but it felt like Gibson revelled in the blood and gore. It felt like that was pushed to the forefront because it was the most important aspect for Gibson, above any message about forgiveness, and it's no wonder why some have labelled it as torture porn, or a 2 hour and 6 minute snuff film.

The Void (2017) - 2.5/5 - The practical effects are simply wonderful, but I would've liked a reason to care about the characters.

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Biggest Surprise: Before Sunrise

The Belko Experiment - 1.5/5 - Based on an original James Gunn script, but should've been left in the bin.

Mississippi Grind - 4/5 - It shouldn't have taken me this long to watch this film, especially just after the announcement that duo Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck will direct Captain Marvel. But i'm more than glad I've finally seen this underrated gem from 2015. What's on show here is a strong character driven drama, about gambling addiction and how it affects our leads. Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn deliver astounding work, which easily ranks among their best performances. Granted, I wish there was more clarity on some aspects, especially in regards to Reynolds' character, but this is a treat worth viewing. 

Incendies - 5/5 - Denis Villeneuve is one of the greatest directors working to this day, and that is never more evident than in this. Adapted from a play, what's been brought to the screen is a masterfully crafted Greek tragedy. Powerful and spellbinding, viewers are taken on a stunning journey that will leave you staggering. Magnificent acting helps bring it all to life, this is one tale that will stay with you for quite some time.

Some Like It Hot - 5/5 - *ashamed* It took me over 24 years to bear witness to this masterful piece of cinema, that's utterly engrossing in its conceit, perfectly acted by the glorious trio, utterly lovable, and easily hilarious.

"Well, nobody's perfect"

Guardians of the Galaxy [rewatch] - 5/5 - Truly a shining example, for many reasons. Of how to do a standalone film that works in the context of a larger universe. How to get audiences to care for obscure characters, involving a talking tree and a gun toting Raccoon. How to slip a semen joke into a Disney film all the family will see. How to make a deadpan wrestler the MVP of a stellar cast. And how to take a number of songs from a specific time period, and compose them into one of the best soundtracks assembled for a motion picture in recent years.

Mindhorn - 4/5 - A charming, humorous picture about a TV detective whose glory days are behind them, and must accept the fact while helping the police stop a fanatic of his series. Julian Barrett captures the inflated ego and self-obsessed arrogance of Richard Thorntree rather well. He's a pleasure to watch, delivering his lines in a terrific manner. It must be said, no matter how many times Thorntree is taken to task for something terrible he said, it's hilarious. Director Sean Foley delivers a strong look at a once star whose life didn't go the way he envisioned, even if it comes off as derivative. These moments are stronger than the crime element, which takes priority during the latter parts of the film. It remains entertaining, but this doesn't stop the film from reaching taking the predictable and safe route a tad too often.

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Worst film of the month: Resident Evil: Afterlife

Before Sunrise - 5/5 - In a way, Jesse's idea for a TV series is the perfect descriptor for this film. Time spent viewing the beautiful moments in life that pass us by, that make our finite time on this plane feel all the more special. From the intimate and engaging conversations, to the encounters with poets and fortune tellers, and especially a lovely dance outside a building where a harpsichord is being played. The characters are easy to get behind in their endeavours, especially thanks to wonderful chemistry that Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy share. This is a stunningly written masterpiece. I'm so glad the trio of Linklater, Hawke and Delpy reunited for two more films. I have those first viewings to look forward to now.

Prometheus [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - To celebrate Alien Day, I managed to catch this in theatres as part of a double bill. I hadn't seen this since the cinema release, so was curious as to whether my thoughts would change, and the result wasn't too massive a difference. For a start, the camaraderie between the thinly sketched crew was lacking, which contributed to a lack of emotional connection to the characters. Then there's the character decisions made, which can often be frustrating (RUN TO THE SIDE MORE!). The most glaring issue was how its connection to the franchise, as though Ridley Scott is unsure whether he wants this to be a direct prequel to Alien, or something merely set within the same universe. Granted, there's much to admire, such as the fantastic make up and set design. The acting is rather well done, with Michael Fassbender proving the absolute standout. Frankly, it's admirable that Scott attempted something different for this franchise. An science-fiction exploration film about finding ones creators is an intriguing angle, and brought to life in an intriguing, yet flawed manner.

Alien [rewatch] - 5/5 - Part two of my cinema double bill for Alien Day, and it was a wonderful experience. Granted, they screened the Directors Cut, which doesn't hold the pace as well as the Theatrical Version, but I loved being able to view this classic on the big screen. Seeing this directly after Prometheus just further highlights how they dropped the ball with the characters, by having the crew of the Nostromo each well developed, work fantastically well off one another, and allowing us to get invested in them easily. Ridley Scott delivers the tension, atmosphere and scenes of horror with aplomb, having tremendous effect to this day.

Paris is Burning - 4/5 - A notable documentary for many reasons, what Jennie Livingston has delivered is an honest and well crafted look at LGBTQ life. It manages to be a joyous celebration of life, as the queer community find a community spirit, partaking in balls where they can unashamedly be who they are. Yet it's also a heartbreaking view at the saddening reality, of what some people have to deal with in a bigoted society. A well accomplished piece of work that sticks with you. 

Melancholia (2011) - 3.5/5 - It can certainly be said that Lars Von Trier delivers films in a unique manner. The opening certainly backs this up, as flashes as present throughout, while the world comes to an end, set to a stunning score. Kristen Dunst delivers a phenomenal performance, with a well crafted depiction of depression leading the way. What occurs is initially compelling, as her character struggles to go through with what everyone else wanted for her, none asking what she actually wants. One is left to wonder if she even wants this marriage in the first place. It feels like the picture loses its way halfway through, as characters are dismissed completely, and the tone drags too much, with some moments made to feel dull and ponderous. It's a shame, as the idea is an intriguing one. 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - 4.5/5 - A fantastic follow-up to a wonderful Marvel film.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Yes, I saw this the day after initially viewing it, and something dawned on me. Marvel delivered a powerful moment of emotional resonance with David Hasslehoff involved. Stunning stuff, James Gunn. Stunning stuff.

Best film of the month: Moonlight
Best film seen in cinemas: Moonlight
Best film watched for the first time: Some Like It Hot
Best film rewatched: Moonlight
Biggest Disappointment: The Belko Experiment 
Biggest Surprise: Before Sunrise
Worst film of the month: Resident Evil: Afterlife

Number of films watched: 35