June 2017 In Review

The year's half over, that went quickly. I began and ended this month with the same film, and in-between, experienced quite a number of treats, from this and many other years. So, let's quit dilly-dallying, and see what films I watched this past June.

Wonder Woman (2017) - 5/5 - Truly a film worthy of the eponymous hero.

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond - 2.5/5 - After Ron Howard's terrific The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years, i was looking forward to seeing another Beatles documentary on the big screen, especially when covering another time in the bands years. Unfortunately, the result felt more suited for TV screens than the big screen. The sound mixing on some of the early footage was incomprehensible, and subtitles would've helped quite a bit. But the main problem with It Was Fifty Years Ago Today! The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper & Beyond was down to the rights issues. With such talm about the eponymous album, its songs, their members, the cover, its odd how nobody with more of an inside knowledge could have delivered some insight, or that the mentioned songs couldn't be played, and the mentioned images couldn't be shown. We had to rely on the spotty insight of loosely connected people, though some moments were quite informative. 

Catfight  (2017) - 2/5 - To his credit, Onur Tukel has more on his mind than just the fight scenes (of which, there's more than enough). There are intriguing ideas in play, with how the war constantly affects the lives of our leads, how it affects their status quo, and the ultimate futility of fighting. Anne Heche and Sandra Oh do terrific work, as they find it difficult to let go of the past. But any hopes for something decent are let down by the weak satire and drawn out fight scenes, the latter of which feels inspired by the Peter vs Giant Chicken fights from Family Guy.

[REC] [rewatch] - 5/5 - One of the most effective and genuinely chilling entries the horror genre has had in recent years. A masterful 75 minutes which effectively builds the tension, utilises found footage to an effective and realistic degree, perfectly feeling claustrophobic, with a genuinely frightening finale, and one of the most effective scares I've seen from a horror film. 

The Mummy (1932) - 3.5/5 - My biggest takeaway from this film is how utterly hypnotising Boris Karloff is as Imhotep, the eponymous Mummy. What helps is how interesting a character he is, ultimately a romantic at heart, motivated by his undying love for his deceased beloved. Unfortunately, when the films not focused on Imhotep, things aren't as engaging, and this is especially in relation to the dull protagonists. It has moments which are creaky and a tad dated, but overall, I dug it.

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Best film of the month & Best
film rewatched: Children of Men

The Mummy (1999) - 3.5/5 - It must be said, Brendan Fraser carries bundles of charisma and likeability in the lead role of Rick O'Connell. His lovable lead works well with Rachel Weisz's charming performance, and the entertainment value of John Hannah. It's unfortunate that Arnold Vosloo lets down the side, carrying an imposing figure, but lacking with a bland performance.

What Stephen Sommers has delivered is a fun B movie romp, with a great eye for adventure, comedy, and effective moments of horror. Granted, the effects are rather dated, with flaws evident all throughout, but this doesn't diminish how fun the overall picture is. 

The Mummy (2017) - 1/5 - The best thing about this film is how, in the lead up to it, I watched two superior films which carry the exact same name.

My Cousin Rachel (2017) - 4.5/5 - A gripping thriller with a stunning gorgeous style, powerfully portrayed by its two leads.

Up (2009) [rewatch] - 4/5 - While the visuals of dogs flying fighter planes and serving food are visually hilarious, the stuff which works better are the smaller moments. The scenes of the crotchety old man, Carl, bonding with the young wilderness explorer, Russell, work exceptionally well for me. The scenes of this old man coming to terms with the loss of his wife, realising she had a pretty fulfilling life, while his young companion sees a father figure within him. These moments work much better for me than the extravagant stuff, the forced inclusion of an antagonist with the talking dogs, on the hunt for an exotic bird. Still a great picture from Pixar though.

Children of Men [rewatch] - 5/5 - I love this film, It's one of the best films I've ever had the pleasure of viewing. But what I really want to talk about are two particular moments. The first one, in the car, is an impressive long take. A lovely moment of bonding between Theo and Julian, their relationship potentially being rekindled, and then it quickly turns to horror, for us and the characters, from the moment that burning car is seen.

The second has to be one of the most beautiful scenes I've seen in all of cinema. When Theo and Kee are walking through with the baby, And all the fighting around them stops. Everyone just wants to see what they haven't seen in nearly 20 years, a real life baby. Granted, the fighting soon begins once again, but that moment of peace and renewed hope in humanity always gets me emotional.

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Best film seen in cinemas: Baby Driver

Weekend (2011) - 4.5/5 - What a wonderful film from writer/director/editor Andrew Haigh. A heartfelt and emotional story about two men who meet in a club, and spend the weekend engaging with one another, be it through interesting conversations about queer life, emotionally revealing heart to hearts, and sex. Tom Cullen and Chris New have wonderful chemistry as Russell and Glen, with the latter ready to raise his voice and be argumentative, while the former feels self-conscious about being gay.

Weekend feels like the British cousin to Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, and that's a complete and utter compliment. I would happily return to these characters 9 years later, ready to see where Russell and Glen are in their lives. The romantic in me hopes they're back together.

Transformers (2007) [rewatch] - 1/5 - I consider my film-watching life to be divided into two separate categories: pre-The Dark Knight, and post-The Dark Knight. Before viewing Christopher Nolan's middle entry into his Batman trilogy, I considered this to be my all time favourite film. What a poor, deluded fool I was. Bay's first entry into the Transformers franchise fails to offer thrills throughout the overstuffed nonsense and the overlong runtime, the latter of which is plagued with awkward moments of "comedy". A hollow and empty mess.

Baywatch - 3/5 - It's not a promising sign when, in terms of laughs, the most a comedy film can offer is mild chuckles. In all honesty, the funniest thing all throughout isn't even intended to be humorous, and that's the awful looking effects work and glaring use of green screen. The shoddy nature of this delivers far more laughs than any number of penis related humour the film tries to muster up. To the casts credit, they deliver bundles of charm and likeability. The scenes of them all together, just having an enjoyable time in each others company, is far more compelling than the half-baked drug plot. It's a shame the film wastes the female protagonists, who are at best utilised as romantic interests.

My Life As A Courgette - 5/5 - It may run for only 66 minutes, but My Life as a Courgette accomplishes so much more in a much better manner than films which run for double its length. The screenplay by Céline Sciamma tackles very adult topics, but does so in such a solemn and heartfelt manner, which is more than appropriate for a child friendly audience. Director Claude Barras brings this to the screen with some gorgeous stop-motion work, which allows the film its own unique style. A heartfelt tale, inhabited by well rounded and wonderfully developed characters. It's also more than willing to make one laugh, with a highlight being the childrens discussion as to what they believe sex is. A beautiful piece of work that deserves to be seen by the masses, this is a brand new animated classic. 

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen [rewatch] - 0/5 - While I used to hold (undeserved) love for 2007's Transformers, even on my first viewing I did not like this film. As it turns out, I wasn't bestowing upon this film the sheer amounts of venomous hatred it more than deserves. Easily one of the worst blockbusters to disgrace our screens. A lazy, bloated, irritating and disastrous mess. It's ugly, both visually and ethically, and deserves to never be witnessed by another human being from now on.

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Best film watched for the first time: The Fly

Transformers: Dark of the Moon  [rewatch] - 0.5/5 - A perverse toy commercial, powered by writing and a handling that's equally moronic.

Pan's Labyrinth [rewatch] - 5/5 - I needed something to reaffirm my love for cinema. Thank goodness for the magnificent work by Guillermo Del Toro. A dark fairytale that works masterfully alongside a compelling tale, detailing Ofelia's life with her tyrannical stepfather, and her mother's who's given up on hope and the bright side of life. The Faun is a magnificent creation, but the Pale Man is this films masterwork. The entire sequence in his lair is nailbiting stuff, and utterly frightening. One of the best films I've ever had the pleasure to witness. 

[REC]² - 3/5 - Initially, this follow up appears to be trying an Aliens style approach, keeping its feet firmly within the horror genre, while allowing for more action to take place, and expanding upon the mythology. The momentum and tension are built up pretty well, but this aspect is killed half way through, when the film switches protagonists. One can understand the reasoning behind this, to allow a wider look at others who are affected by what's occurring in the apartment block, but it all feels like needless filler before the more important stuff comes into play. Despite some intriguing revelations, the damage has been done, and the film is unable to regain what it had before. Ultimately, this leaves a disappointing follow-up. 

The Devil's Backbone - 4.5/5 - Set during the final year of the Spanish Civil War, Guillermo Del Toro delivers a compelling and vigorous ghost story that's equal parts haunting and atmospheric. All the drama which occurs at the orphanage is completely engaging and utterly gripping, even more so than the ghostly elements. Eduardo Noriega is utterly chilling as Jacinto, a perfect example of how humans can be the most monstrous of all. Another stunner from Del Toro, a master director. 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul - 1.5/5 - I can't say I was ever a fan of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid films, or even that I liked them, but they were harmless and good natured films that many could enjoy, so their existence was far from an irritant to me. The same cannot be said about the fourth entry, which is little more than a belated attempt to cash in on the franchise name, lacking any kind of soul and devoid of anything resembling laughs, or effort. The original cast are sorely missed and evermore appreciated, now that we've witnessed these poor replacements.

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Biggest Disappointment: [REC]²

The Elephant Man - 5/5 - A touching and heartbreaking portrayal of John Merrick, deftly handled with the utmost care by Lynch. At the centre of it, though, is a glorious and poignant performance by the immaculate John Hurt. He may be caked underneath stunning make-up, but it does nothing to hinder the powerful acting at the front and centre of this film. One scene particularly sticks in the mind, when Merrick weeps while meeting Dr Treves' wife, as he's not used to being treated well by a beautiful woman. A film that will stay with you.

Transformers: Age of Extinction  [rewatch] - 0/5 - A film where nothing happens, as effort makes a disappearing act, paving the way for moronic choices, an excessive runtime, and a scene about statutory rape.

Baby Driver - 5/5 - This is the closest we'll get to an Edgar Wright musical, and it's all kinds of glorious.

John Wick [rewatch] - 4/5 - Remains every bit as fantastic as when I first saw it.

Astro Boy vs The Junkyard Pirates - 2/5 - A throwaway short that, much like the film, fails to stick in the mind, but bears nice animation and decent voice work.

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Biggest Surprise: My Cousin Rachel

Transformers: The Last Knight - 0/5 - Enough, already. For the fifth film, you have to produce the cinematic version of a migraine?

The Mist [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - When it comes to Stephen King adaptations, the typical ones get namechecked oh so often. The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie, It. This one deserves to be mentioned as much as all the others. A tense and claustrophobic piece of nihilism that tackles themes of religion, while showing how humans can be more horrifying than whatever nightmares lurks within the mist. Marcia Gay Harden does phenomenal work portraying one of cinemas most hateable characters, and that ending, what a gut punch!

John Wick: Chapter 2 - 3.5/5 - A follow-up to the 2014 hit, Chad Stahelski flies solo in delivering another entry into John Wick's life. This one opens up the world of assassins, showing that it's a wider profession than one would assume after the first film. The plot does feel a bit more complicated than it needs to be, but proves massively engaging, especially when things kick into gear during the second half. While the first half is necessary to the film, it unfortunately moves at a pretty sluggish pace, but the action remains as bloody terrific as you'd expect. Handsomely crafted, favouring stunts over quick cuts, this is a fine example of action cinema. And now, i'm left to eagerly anticipate the third instalment.

Colossal (2017) - 4.5/5 - A lovely change from the typical monster movie, director Nacho Vigalondo chooses to shy away from the typical smackdowns and destruction porn. Instead, the kaiju is used as an effective allegory for many things. Alcoholism, abuse, self-loathing, toxic masculinity, all of these are tackled, in a manner which wonderfully blends genres for something all together different, and wonderfully weird. Anne Hathaway perfectly sells her characters situation, while Jason Sudeikis breaks away from his typical comedic performance, for what's easily his best performance yet. A real underrated gem.

The Book of Henry - 1/5 - Pray for Star Wars: Episode IX.

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Worst film of the Month: Transformers: Revenge of the Scrotum Fallen

The Fly (1986) - 5/5 - My first film into the body horror era of David Cronenberg's work, and it certainly lives up to the hype. What occurs is essentially the worst case scenario for Peter Parker, delivered in a completely gross manner. The practical effects are masterfully done, proving equally stunning to witness, shocking at how effective they are, and gross at how realistic they look. But at the heart of it all, we have a touching and tragic tale about Seth Brundle, his love for science, a shared romance with reporter Veronica Quaife, and how their lives are turned upside down when it all goes wrong. A horror masterpiece that I wish I'd seen sooner.

Young Frankenstein - 5/5 - Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder masterfully craft a well told and loving spoof of Mary Shelly's horror classic. Chock full of wonderful timing (the scenes where the monster has escaped into the world are an utter joy), with knowledge of what works for comedy, this is one that really holds up. It's worth mentioning the pitch perfect performances, from Peter Boyle's terrific work as the Monster, to Cloris Leachman as Frau Blücher. *horses whinny*

Wonder Woman (2017) [rewatch] - 5/5 - After my first viewing was at a midnight release, this viewing could have revealed uncomfortable flaws and low points which I overlooked the first time. But my reaction remains the same, as DC's long awaited feature film of Diana, Princess of Themyscira, is a worthy tale fit for the legendary character. Superman's symbol may stand for hope, but Patty Jenkins' film is a far better example of the word.

Best film of the month: Children of Men
Best film seen in cinemas: Baby Driver
Best film watched for the first time: The Fly
Best film rewatched: Children of Men
Biggest Disappointment: [REC]²
Biggest Surprise: My Cousin Rachel
Worst film of the month: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Number of films watched: 32