August 2017 In Review

August is behind us. The kids are back to school, the sunny weather has disappeared, and there's a plethora of new films to watch. So, let's see what I watched over this past August.

The Big Sick [rewatch] - 5/5 - A second viewing, and this remains as hilarious, heartfelt and engaging as it was the first time around. Michael Showalter does a terrific job, directing one of the better romantic comedies from recent years.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - A picture about overcoming past relationship woes, and not allowing them to define your future. This is brought to the screen through a kinetic style, an adoration for anime and video games, and a killer soundtrack. Kudos to Edgar Wright. It may feel like a cliffnotes version of a larger tale at times, but it's delivered fantastically, and does what I once thought impossible: turning Michael Cera into a credible action hero.

Puppy! - 2/5 - Are Sony trying to follow the model of Disney and Pixar, by setting up shorts before their feature films? If that's the case, here's hoping their future attempts will be of better quality. There's some cute moments, especially anything involving the titular adorable Puppy. Ultimately though, it's all material which has been done better elsewhere.

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Best film of the month and Best film rewatched: The Iron Giant

The Emoji Movie - 0/5 - >:(

The Birdcage - 3.5/5 - Front and centre on this Mike Nichols comedy are two magnificent performances. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane are nothing short of terrific, and are responsible for some of the films best laughs. Although the film drags its heels until getting to the actual meeting between families, those two performers ensured it wasn't a total loss. Although, I find myself feeling unsympathetic towards the son, who makes pretty self-serving actions, and kicking the whole thing off by asking his father to hide who he really is, after finally reaching a place where he can be open, honest and proud of it all. The biggest problem is how unsure the film is about ending things. There's no resolution, it skips all that inbetween a fun sequence and the expected end-point for this film.  

In a Heartbeat - 4.5/5 - While Disney Pixar spend their time making shorts including a volcano falling in love, Beth David and Esteban Bravo blow them out of the water with such a beautiful short. Gorgeously animated, heartbreaking and heartwarming throughout it's silent four minutes, this is such a lovely gem.

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Best film seen in cinemas: The Big Sick

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance - 4.5/5 - There's no black or white in this tale, and especially not in the actions of our protagonists. The economic backdrop and the strong character development allows us an insight into who they are, and why they take such actions, but it does not excuse either party. There's no wrong answer about who to sympathise with, that's completely up to the viewer. A twisted thriller which initially confuses, due to important story aspects being left out. An intentional tactic to keep viewers awake, but it feels like a double edged sword. Nethertheless, it's a stunning film that grips viewers by the throat, and never gives the hint of letting go.

Detroit (2017) - 3.5/5 - Making a name for herself with socially relevant stories, Kathryn Bigelow's latest depicts what occurred at the Algiers motel, during the 1967 Detroit riot. It must be said that, when it comes to depicting these scenes of horror, this is where the film's at its best. Bigelow does an exemplary job capturing the abject horror of the situation, showcasing the fearful nature of the unfortunate victims, as well as how the antagonistic cops revel in the power of the situation, horrifying and brutalising the victims within.

It's outside of this film where the faults lie. The beginning seems to rush through the set up, while the aftermath of the Motel scenes feels longer than necessary, and dragged out at times. At the centre of it, it doesn't feel as though much actually lies beneath. It depicts these horrifying events, but what's the message? It seems to be about the awful nature of racist officers, but that's hardly anything new or revolutionary.

Performance wise, it's Will Poulter who towers above the rest of his cast. An absolute force of nature, his performance delivers where the writing simply portrays him as the racist officer stereotype. This will leave one lamenting for his take on Pennywise in the latest adaptation of It. John Boyega does a good job in his role, portraying the private security officer who's unfortunately caught in the middle of this nightmare. It's unfortunate there's little to his character, written as little more than an entry point for viewers. This aspects feels all the more unnecessary, considering how much better Algee Smith's character embodies that role. A heartbreaking character who's left suffering from trauma, powerfully portrayed by a capable actor. Here's hoping it leads to great things for him.

Storks (2016) - 2.5/5 - The next film by Warner Animation Group, and it could be better. Despite some genuine bright sparks (the silent fight with Penguins, anyting involving the wolves, the glass maze), these moments are too sparse, and fail to overcome the present problems. There's a lack in genuine laughs, and too many irritating characters populating the film. Overall, it's quite a mess.

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Best film watched for the first time: Lawrence of Arabia

Atomic Blonde - 4/5 - What could have merely be a gender-bent take on John Wick is instead much more than that. A stylishly shot thriller drenched in neon colouring, set to a terrific assortment of 80's music which plays out extremely well. Granted, there's no real mystery to the double agent plot, while the plot falls apart the more you think about it. Then when the story seems to have taken an interesting direction, it fails to stick to its guns.

However, where the films strengths lies are in the action sequences. Charlize Theron more than proves Imperator Furiosa was no fluke, as she embodies Lorraine Broughton exceptionally, be it during her spy scenes, or her action scenes. Speaking of which, one does expect great action from David Leitch, but the apartment fight is something else entirely. An extended sequence where our ferocious lead battles her way through a building, it commands ones attention, and leaves viewers as breathless as the battle weary lead.

The Iron Giant [rewatch] - 5/5 - His first feature film after leaving The Simpsons, Brad Bird magnificently crafts a story about a boy and his pet 50 foot metallic giant. A visually stunning and gorgeously crafted film,managing to be gripping, hilarious, and utterly heartfelt. The finale is heartbreaking, and left me reduced to a blubbering wreck. This is the best example of how Vin Diesel is a much better voice artist than he is an actor.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets - 2.5/5 - In adapting his dream project, based on the French graphic novel Valerian and Laureline, Luc Besson brings to the project a clear sense of ambition and vision, matched by a tremendous visual style. He breathes life into this wider world exceptionally well, evidently clear from the early desert scene, where googles are worn for characters to visit a marketplace in another dimension. It's just a shame much else of the film falls down. Bright, young talent Dane DeHaan feels miscast as the eponymous character, while Cara DeLevingne appears unable to convey emotion. These two make a mismatched pairing, who fail to make their romance anything but forced and unconvincing. More preferable are any scenes including Rihanna, portraying shapeshifting dancer Bubble, a more interesting character who seems to allow the film to truly spark and be bundles of fun.

Outside of Rihanna and the visual ambition, there's not really much reason to view this film. The two leads hamper bog down and hamper the film, but the poor writing for them doesn't help. But if you've ever wanted to hear John Goodman recite part of Liam Neeson's famous line from Taken, here's your chance.

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Biggest Disappointment: Death Note

Tomboy (2011) - 3.5/5 - Directed by Céline Sciamma, what we have here is a tender and heartfelt coming of age story, about a young girl who feels more comfortable dressed as a boy. At the forefront is Zoé Héran, a stunning young actress who more than delivers in the lead role. It moves a little slow at times, but this is a wonderful 82 minutes worth a watch.

The Hitman's Bodyguard - 2/5 - "Hey, what if we team up Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson?"
"That's a great idea, what's the plot?"
"Who cares?"

Lawrence of Arabia - 5/5 - A true epic in every sense of the word. From the gorgeous cinematography, to the sweeping story, and especially the masterful score, this is a stunner of a film. Peter O'Toole absolutely kills it as T.S Lawrence, a British Army Lieutenant who finds his loyalties swaying when he gets swept up in the adventures. Granted, the brownface does not sit well and makes this film feel rather dated, but there remains so much else to admire here. I feel as though whatever words I type, they will not justify this adventure which I haven't seen the like of before, so I shall end things by saying that I cannot believe it's taken me this long to view this masterpiece.

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Biggest Surprise: Sympathy for Mr Vengeance

Wind River - 3.5/5 - It seems leaving his supporting role in Sons of Anarchy was the best thing Taylor Sheridan could have done, as his writing career has so far delivered two wonderful pictures in Sicario and Hell or High Water. Bringing to an end his American Frontier trilogy, Sheridan takes on directorial duties for a solid closing chapter. It's a gripping and well paced story which never outstays its welcome, and manages to deliver on the tense moments with ease.

Jeremy Renner gives a terrific, understated performance as the tracker lead, although his character feels rather misjudged. The one white character in a Native American Reservation, his character could have felt justified had the film built upon his outsider status which is fleetingly mentioned only once. Instead, he gives a speech later on about how the Native American people have suffered. His role would've felt better for a Native American actor, and wouldn't have come off as another entry into the white saviour trope. Elizabeth Olsen does well in her role also, but it's a shame how her role feels underwritten.

Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie - 2.5/5 - Directed and co-written by Jeff Garlin, this is a strange little film. It appears to be invoking the spirit of the crime TV shows which regularly aired in the daytime, which makes it a shame it didn't stick to their traditional episode runtime. It feels overly televisual, with the runtime only elongated to get it to a more cinematic length. It does contain some great performances, along with a few decent laughs, but the end result is overall bereft of wit or laugh out loud humour.

Death Note (2017) - 1/5 - Humans are interesting. This film is not.

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Worst film of the month: The Emoji Movie

Everything, Everything - 3.5/5 - A romance tale which is held together on the strength of its central couple, as Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson make for an engaging pairing who hold a believable amount of chemistry. These are best exemplified during their communication scenes, as their text conversations envision them meeting in a diner. It's a shame the film leads to a contrived cop out, and a twist that feels especially misjudged. How unfortunate, as it was all going so well before then. 

The Dark Tower - 1.5/5 - It's quite the year for Stephen King adaptations. While It has the benefit of spreading the story over two films, Nikolaj Arcel reportedly attempted to include elements of the entire novel series into here, while it also serves as a canonical sequel to the series. A weighty task, and whether it works well on those terms, I cannot comment due to never reading the series. Though I can say, as a film in its own right, this is a rather poor showing.

Casting two phenomenal talenets like Idris Elba and Matthew McConnaughey in the lead roles is a smart choice. The duo settle well into their roles, but it's all lost within the ensuing mess that is the picture. The time spent on Mid-World is intriguing, as is Roland's story. So the need to spend so much time on Earth feels like a wasted opportunity, while the young character of Jake feels little more than a needless entry point into the story. It doesn't help how choppily edited the whole thing is, but that's just faecal frosting on the dung heap that is this film. 

Poltergeist (1982) - 4/5 - In memory of Tobe Hooper, it's about time I watched this horror classic. One can feel the collaborative efforts of both Hooper and Steven Spielberg, as the former's deft handling of horror mixes well with the latter's familial elements, while a great deal of effective comedy is peppered within. The end result is an engaging story of a big corporation putting their needs above respecting a burial site, told from the perspective of a family beset by horrific spirits. A well told story with decent practical effects (and understandably ropey CGI), even if I wish it could've been a bit more scary.

Logan Lucky - 4/5 - I can't say I've ever been a die-hard fan of Steven Soderbergh, but I've enjoyed the few films I've seen of his, with Behind the Candelabra being my current favourite of his. This one, I found to be a rip-roaring and very enjoyable heist caper, pulled off with aplomb. Broadly humorous, even if it's not as much a comedy as the trailer suggested, but the films real strength is its cast (for the most part).

Channing Tatum is endearing as Jimmy Logan, the father who wants to do right by his daughter, among others, while Adam Driver is lovable as Jimmy's one-armed, bartender brother. Riley Keough is bundles of fun, but then there's Daniel Craig. With his bleach blonde hair, southern drawl and penchant for boiled eggs, he stands out as the films scene stealer. Then there's Seth Macfarlane, who feels as unnecessary as his own scenes, and brings to screen a completely awful British accent. Hillary Swank also feels like a character from an entirely different film, playing things at a more serious pace than her broader counterparts. 

Best film of the month: The Iron Giant
Best film seen in cinemas: The Big Sick
Best film watched for the first time: Lawrence of Arabia
Best film rewatched: The Iron Giant
Biggest Disappointment: Death Note
Biggest Surprise: Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
Worst film of the month: The Emoji Movie

Number of films watched: 22