July 2017 In Review

July is long past us, and I managed to make my way through numerous pieces of cinema, at home and at the multiplex. So, here's what I viewed this past July.

Wonder Woman (2017) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Everyone: Diana, don't do it.
Diana: I'm going to do it anyway.

Patty Jenkins had to fight for the inclusion of the "No Mans Land" sequence. Thank goodness she did, otherwise we'd be without one of the years best cinematic moments.

Thelma & Louise - 4.5/5 - I do believe Ridley Scott is only as good as his scripts, and he's working with something darn good here. Even though their actions are morally questionable, you really feel for these wonderfully developed characters and what they're going through (although the perfect portrayals from Sarandon and Davis certainly help things). There is a bit of relevant commentary, as the duo believe going to the police would result in horrendous accusations and unnecessary victim blaming. A great reminder of how good Scott could be, while he's currently tied up in more Alien films than necessary.

Spider-Man [rewatch] - 4/5 - What Raimi has done is perfectly captured the origin story, especially in regards to the moments about power and responsibility. The method used is a story about fathers and sons, which works effectively, as the Green Goblin saga makes for one of the most engaging and well done villain tales seen in the genre. Willem Dafoe is nothing short of exemplary, selling both the businessman that is Stormin' Norman, and the sadistic antagonist that's more than a match for our webslinging hero. Tobey Maguire is the perfect Peter Parker, selling his troubles with such emotion. Although, I find him to be less than convincing as Spider-Man. Kirsten Dunst plays her role well also, but it's unfortunately put into a dull character, who's really little more than a shrieking damsel. Special mention is deserved for J.K. Simmons, who's the utter embodiment of J Jonah Jameson, and the films absolute scene stealer. In spite of its flaws, including some rather dated moments, this feels like a rather underrated entry into the superhero genre.

Spider-Man: Homecoming - 3.5/5 - The review is not reflective of this showing, where I enjoyed it, but felt the super-heroics were lacking, and the laughs could have been stronger.

Spider-Man 2 [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - For his second go at the character, Sam Raimi has taken what worked so well the first time around, and built upon it so well. The pathos, tragedy and triumphs are delivered in such a compelling manner, for the majority of the characters involved. Peter Parker's struggle with having it all is one of the genres most compelling stories, brought alive by Tobey Maguire's wonderful performance. He's settled more into the eponymous role, but he still isn't entirely convincing. Harry Osborn's continued hatred for webhead is a strong counterpoint, as it's an extension of him trying to live up to the memory of his father, which makes for the most compelling of family dramas. Alfred Molina puts in a touching performance as Otto Octavius, before a tragic accident transforms him into an engaging and believable antagonist. The scene where his arms come alive feels like a natural fit for the creator of The Evil Dead series. And let's not forget the wittiness of this line: "Guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs. What are the odds?"

The train sequence is such a hallmark for the genre, as Raimi combines pulse-racing action that's fantastically done, with genuine emotion evident, as Spidey sees the effect his actions have on innocent civilians. But there's one part which prevents me from giving this a perfect rating, and that's Mary Jane Watson. Kirsten Dunst performs the role really well, and she serves greatly as a great part of Peter's troubles. But that's as far as she goes, as M.J remains pretty detrimental to the overall film. I'm not asking her to help battle the villain, but be something more than just a shrieking, helpless damsel in distress.

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Best film of the month & Best film rewatched:
2001: A Space Odyssey

Rise of the Planet of the Apes [rewatch] - 4/5 - One thing perfectly emphasises how right director Rupert Wyatt got this film. He takes a cute little reference from the original film, and transitions it into one of the films most powerful moments. A reboot full of heart and soul, packed with intelligent writing and some tremendous ape characters to get onboard with. A shame the human characters are less successful, but it's a small problem when compared to how much this film got right.

2001: A Space Odyssey [rewatch] - 5/5 - A rewatch confirms it, this remains a visual masterpiece, phenomenally crafted from the true auteur that is Stanley Kubrick. An experience that's all the more compelling for its mysterious nature, beginning with the dawn of man, and ending with the evolution of man into an entirely new species. Hal 9000 is a simple design, yet the character is anything but. His vicious actions are born out of a necessity to protect his own life, as well as protect the mysterious mission given unto him. Hal is more than a thinly sketched antagonist, but a complex figure worth investing within. Truly one of the great masterpieces of cinema. 

Spider-Man: Homecoming  [rewatch] - 4/5 - I don't know what it was about this viewing, but SO much of the film worked better for me.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame [rewatch] - 4/5 - A Disney feature I hadn't seen since my childhood days, and it's a shock how much of the darker elements remain in the product. Themes of bigotry are prevalent, told in a compelling manner. The four lead characters, Quasimodo, Esmeralda, Phoebus and Frollo are all compelling in their own right, with understandable motivations and their characters being well defined. The gorgeous animation and good songs help make this another great entry into the era of Disney animated classics.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes [rewatch] - 4/5 - The human characters may let down the overall film, but its the apes who make things so compelling. The conflict between Caesar and Koba is well defined and brought alive in a stunning manner, making for a wonderful experience.

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Best film seen in cinemas: Baby Driver

It Comes At Night - 4/5 - What Trey Edward Schultz has crafted is rather unsettling, and completely atmospheric. A picture that doesn't divulge the particulars of what caused this world to turn upside down, but effectively showcases how dangerous and disastrous paranoia can ultimately be. Joel Edgerton does powerful work as Paul, the cautious father who wants to protect his family first and foremost. The real star here is Christopher Abbott, who ultimately has to grow up into this world, accumulating to the horrible reality of what the world has become. This isn't a picture for everyone, but it worked especially well for me.

Baby Driver [rewatch] - 5/5 - It's unbelievable that Edgar Wright managed to craft such a glorious musical as this, and yet, viewing it the second time around, it remains such a perfectly constructed piece of cinema.

War for the Planet of the Apes - 5/5 - A strong way to end a strong trilogy.

The Lunchbox - 4/5 - A heartfelt tale about two lonely souls, who form a connection thanks to an initial misunderstanding, swapping messages and brightening each others days, without ever meeting. It's a tale which could have easily became convoluted, or grated on ones nerves, but director Ritesh Batra delivers the film with a genuine charm and likeability. At the front are Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur, who do great work showcasing the troubles their characters are facing, and how these simple notes are elevating their days. A lovely little gem.

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Best film watched for the first time: Dunkirk

I Am Not Your Negro - 4.5/5 - Working from the notes of James Baldwin's unfinished final novel, director Raoul Peck uses them as the jumping off point for a hard hitting, cinematic essay on America's treatment of black people. Samuel L. Jackson reads Baldwin's words in an appropriately sombre manner, as Peck utilises said words in an evocative manner, without any of it feeling heavy handed. Not an easy watch, but a rather necessary one.

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) - 3.5/5 - An early work of the late, great Wes Craven, and it's an effectively tense exploitation flick, with a suitably nasty streak. It isn't perfect though, as characters come off as rather infuriating, and make moronic decisions (Why not tell your family of the horrendous thing you've seen?), and it all ends rather abruptly. This is one film that sticks in the memory long enough, though.

Pretty Woman [rewatch] - 3/5 - The wonderful presences that are Richard Gere and Julia Roberts give fantastic performances, but there's little else to this 90's relic. The cliches are abundant, to the point they're outright smothering the film. You don't have to be psychic to know where this film is going, Garry Marshall's lacklustre direction and J.F Lawton's toned down script fail to step out of the expected pathway.

The Big Sick - 5/5 - Based upon the real life story of writer and star Kumail Nanjiani, and his wife Emily V. Gordon, what Michael Showalter has delivered is a heartfelt and hilarious tale. At the centre of it is an utterly engaging romance one can't help but root for, thanks to the terrific writing, and the engaging lead characters. What really helps things are the phenomenal performances that are going into these terrific characters. It's easy to praise Nanjiani and Kazan for getting across their characters trials and tribulations, dealing with a multitude of problems, but that's because they do such a wonderful job. The remainder of the cast are equally as deserving of praise, and I can't emphasise enough how hilarious this film is. A real gem from this year.

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Biggest Disappointment: The Hills Have Eyes

Despicable Me 3 - 3.5/5 - After two films and a subsequent spin-off, one would think it'd be time for this franchise to coast along on the popularity of its yellow, gibberish speaking characters. While one could argue that's already occurred for the previously mentioned spin-off, it's certainly not the case here. In-between a vengeful former child star, in the form of Benjamin Bratt (deliciously played by Trey Parker), and the sudden inclusion of a newly unearthed twin brother (also voiced by Steve Carrell), you'd think this would signal the death knell for this 7 year long franchise. Thankfully, there's bundles of charm and good natured humour located within this sweet, and often humorous, picture. The biggest problem is the Minions though, whose entire subplot feels divorced from the film, and an unneeded way to capitalise on their popularity. Still, far from a disaster.

Tiptoes - 0.5/5 - If you want to know what kind of film this is, it opens with our 3 male leads having their penises out, and introduces Patricia Arquette through a perverted, upskirt shot. Worst of all, it has our little person of a lead portrayed by Gary Oldman, walking around on his knees. If they really wanted his kind of star power in this film, why not cast him in McConnaughey's role, and have an actual little person in Oldman's role? It's an insulting piece of casting, like if Gary Oldman portrayed Marvel's Black Panther.

Peter Dinklage comes with a bizarre French accent, while his relationship with Arquette begins out of nowhere, and goes in that very same direction. Kate Beckinsale acts as an audience surrogate into the lives of little people, reacting to discovering the truth behind her partner's family, and asked to earnestly deliver lines like "You had a circle jerk with a bunch of little people? I'd have loved to have seen that".

It isn't as though that's all the film has so wrong. You can feel there's some good intentions lying within, but this cut is an unbelievably disjointed mess. It tries to handle the subject matter in such a serious manner, but is more than willing to treat them as some sort of punchline, or visual gag. Matthew Bright was fired before the film was edited, so maybe there was initially some merit to this picture. But regardless, there's none within the final cut.

Hunger (2008) - 4.5/5 - The directorial debut of Steve McQueen, and it remains as much a tough watch as his other films. He tackles the subject matter in a seemingly objective manner, focusing on the lead up and resulting enactment of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike. It's a film of three acts, beginning with a failed no wash protest. Following that up is a phenomenally shot 17 minute scene of dialogue, which allows more of an understanding into this dramatisation of the character, as opposed to trying to get audiences to sympathise with him. The third act is where things get the most gruelling, as Bobby Sands uses his human body as the last weapon of his, and it showcases the toll such a horrific act can take on ones body. What Steve McQueen has delivered is something unflinching and unforgettable, making for a gruelling watch, yet in a gripping manner. At the centre of it lies a phenomenal performance from Michael Fassbender, who seems to truly deliver his best work under McQueen's direction.

CHiPS - 0.5/5 - A disastrous attempt at comedy.

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Biggest Surprise: The Big Sick

Dunkirk (2017) - 5/5 - A perfectly crafted look at the horrors of war, powerfully delivered by Christopher Nolan. There's no room for expository dialogue about who the characters are, the focus on the eponymous event is crystal clear. What's delivered is nothing short of nerve-shreddingly tense, exacerbated by the phenomenal score. The three stories and their differing timelines work well next to one another, depicting the horrific events from the land, the sea and the sky. This is a phenomenal piece of cinema, more than worth the price of admission.

Skyfall [rewatch] - 5/5 - For the 50th anniversary, Sam Mendes was hired to have the 23rd film build up, and become the best Home Alone film. Genius.

Hello, My Name Is Doris - 4/5 - For his directorial debut, Michael Showalter has gifted us with an utterly charming, regularly sweet, and often humorous tale about learning to move on. At the front of it is Sally Field, delivering a wonderful performance that allows us to empathise and sympathise with Doris, as she gradually copes with her mothers death, and how she moves on afterwards. Yes, it may veer into indie cliche from time to time, but it's a sweet film worth ones time. 

Minions [rewatch] - 3/5 - The spin-off film where the yellow creatures upstage Gru, it proves more humorous and fun than I initially remembered. Well, until all the England stuff leaves the film to spin its wheels. 

Girls Trip - 4/5 - Much like last year's Bad Moms, we get another genuine comedic surprise, powered by a group of lovable and hilarious ladies who work best off one another. Jada Pinkett Smith gets much more to work with here, proving endearing as the mother who hasn't been with anybody for quite sometime. Regina Hall and Queen Latifah each prove likeable, as their characters deal with their personal troubles, while working through their shared history. But the real surprise is Tiffany Haddish, proving herself as the breakout star and the most hilarious of the group. She deserves to see her career reach the heights of Melissa McCarthy (sidenote: I would have loved to have seen Haddish as one of the new Ghostbusters). It may run on for a bit long, and some of the moments may descend into unrealistic vulgarity a bit too easily, but it's never a chore spending time with these charming characters. A gem about finding ones inner strength, especially with the support of those you love.

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Worst film of the month: Tiptoes

Manchester By The Sea [rewatch] - 5/5 - It took 4 attempts, But my girlfriend managed to finish this film. She liked it. I remain in the mindset that it's a heartbreaking masterpiece about grief, and the long road to recovery it can lead to. 

Night of the Living Dead (1968) [rewatch] - 5/5 - Few people can claim to kick-start a genre, but George A. Romero really was responsible for breathing life into the zombie genre. It's a film not really about zombies, more about the ensuing paranoia humanity can cause, and how it can tear apart even the best laid of plans. Almost 50 years after its release, this has lost none of its power or ability to terrify. R.I.P George A. Romero.

Keeping Up With The Joneses - 2/5 - An action comedy that does nothing original or exciting with the former, and remains completely devoid of the latter. Greg Mottola seems to misunderstand that shouting isn't a good substitute for actual laughs, and seems intent on wasting the talents of the talented cast. Not one worth keeping up with.

Inside Llewyn Davis [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - No matter how many times I watch this, I find myself entranced by the soundtrack, the smoky cinematography, and the wonderful central performance by Oscar Isaac. One of my favourites of 2013.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie - 4/5 - Having grown up with Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants books, I was cautious about seeing a cinematic adaptation. Would the passage of years colour my opinion of what I once held dear? Apparently not, as David Soren and Rob Letterman's adaptation is one of the years most joyous surprises. Toilet humour is used in ways rarely seen in cinema, which is full of effort and genuine hilarity. The picture has bundles of charm and likeability. While Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch aren't exactly convincing as 10 year olds, they're but the beginning of a fantastic assortment of cast members. Here's hoping the subtitle is an indicator of sequels to come.

Best film of the month: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Best film seen in cinemas: Baby Driver
Best film watched for the first time: Dunkirk
Best film rewatched: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Biggest Disappointment: The Hills Have Eyes
Biggest Surprise: The Big Sick
Worst film of the month: Tiptoes

Number of films watched: 32