September 2017 In Review

Another month where I finish writing this about half a month later than intended. Regardless, I still enjoy putting these out there, and documenting what I view each month. So, enough dragging this out, let's take a gander at what I saw this past September.

The Wrestler (2008) - 5/5 - My first thoughts upon finishing this film were "How did Mickey Rourke not win the Best Actor Oscar?". He was perfect in embodying Ram, the eponymous wrestler who lives for his exploits in the ring, as it's the one place where he doesn't encounter the failures and disappointments which life often throws our ways. An emotionally moving tale, and one of Darren Aronofsky's best pieces of work.

Shaun the Sheep Movie - 4.5/5 - Aardman have done it again. Transferring Shaun The Sheep from his CBBC series could have resulted in a less than stellar outing for the studio, but the result is nothing short of genius. A heartwarming and hilarious delight, invoking silent cinema in its simplicity, and proving one of the best told stories of recent years. 

Annabelle (2014) - 1.5/5 - Of course the breakout star from 2013's The Conjuring would get her own spin-off. Director John R. Leonetti doesn't seem to believe that atmosphere is a necessity, instead believing cheap jump scares are an acceptable substitute. It's worth admitting that a few genuine frights do pop up, but they're ones which seem to have been included in the trailer (good job, marketing team). It doesn't help how tedious, unoriginal, and lacking in effort the final product seems to be. Annabelle Wallis carries a lot of this film, but is hampered by the weak material, while Alfre Woodard is poorly treated, only existing onscreen for one purpose. A poor entry into the horror genre, seemingly existing just as a cash grab.

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Best film of the month and Best film rewatched: Let the Right One In

Annabelle: Creation - 3/5 - This was quite the contradictory film. David F. Sandberg does a great job in crafting the atmosphere (a scene with unscrewing lightbulbs is a standout), but it feels as though he's unsure this will sustain the picture. Instead, things fall back on jump scares and genre conventions a bit too often. Also, in spite of some visually effective kills, little peril is felt for these characters. No matter how much Annabelle appears, or how many spooky occurrences happen, you never feel the characters are in any sort of danger. Still, it is pretty well acted, especially by child stars Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson. Although, the attempts to connect this film to what is now titled the Conjuring Universe feels really forced (especially one involving the eponymous star of the next film, The Nun).

It (2017) - 4.5/5 - Bring on Chapter Two.

The Limehouse Golem - 4.5/5 - A Victorian murder mystery, the feature focuses on the hunt for a murderer prowling the streets, which is seemingly connected to a young woman accused of poisoning her husband. The Limehouse Golem is the name of the murderer, and while there's little mystery as to their identity, Jane Goldman still manages to weave an engaging and gripping narrative that will draw one into the film. Director Juan Carlos Medina manages to do an impressive job, crafting an atmospheric mood which suits the tale. He takes an inventive approach to the mystery, as when our lead focuses on each murder suspect, they're imagined committing a horrific murder.

Bill Nighy proves reliable as ever, deftly handling the lead performance, as the Inspector who's been set up to cover the case, due to not being "the marrying kind". Daniel Mays sparks off him rather well, while Douglas Booth does terrific work in his role. But the real star is Olivia Cooke, who delivers a phenomenal performance in her role. All of these elements make for a real treat, and a fantastic addition to the genre.

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Best film seen in cinemas: It

Let The Right One In [rewatch] - 5/5 - Tomas Alfredson's film is not a traditional vampire horror film. The vampiric elements are utilised more often as an allegory for coming of age, to help detail Oskar's story. This doesn't take away from how phenomenally crafted the moments of horror are, which remain in the mind long after they've been witnessed. At the centre of it is a sweet story of love between our leads, the bullied Oskar, and the aforementioned vampire that is Eli, both phenomenally portrayed by Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. Although, Per Ragnar's character of Håkan shows the horrific reality of what such a pairing can lead to. Stockholm is brought alive by the flawless cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema, which makes for a haunting and beautiful tale when coupled with Tomas Alfredson's atmospheric direction. A masterpiece.

Rosemary's Baby - 5/5 - What Roman Polanski has crafted here is an atmospheric piece of psychological horror, that's powerful, downright effective, and completely unforgettable. Mia Farrow does phenomenal work as the eponymous lead, believably portraying the lead as she goes through such an unexpected time. John Cassavetes deserves a mention also, putting in a performance full of subtleties that sells his actor who can't believe what he's agreed to. A stunning piece of work that I should've viewed long before today. But damn, am I glad I finally saw this.

mother! - 4.5/5 - A picture which, the further away I got from it, the more I ultimately liked it. Granted, the themes are far from subtle, but I found them compellingly delivered, focusing on religion, the price of fame, the way female voices are ultimately dismissed, and the horrible way humanity is treating mother Earth. Jennifer Lawrence phenomenally delivers, as she stunningly puts across the non-stop, dizzying ride she's taken on. It's delivered in the most claustrophobic and intense of manners, allowing viewers to experience the same that Lawrence's character is. It's understandable how divisive the reaction is to this, but I ultimately dug it.

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Best film watched for the first time: Mulholland Drive

It (2017) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Upon a second viewing, Andy Muschietti's take on Stephen King's tome is as phenomenal to watch as the first time. An adventure about children dealing with their own personal problems, but not helped by the resurgence of a murderous clown, stunningly portrayed by Bill Skarsgård. This will be a horror picture that holds up long after its release, and the wait for its follow up is long awaited. 

Mulholland Drive - 5/5 - Prior to this, my experience with David Lynch had been giving Erasherhead a try 3 years ago, and seeing The Elephant Man earlier this year. I adored the latter, but I was left utterly bewildered by the former, and it put me off from trying another David Lynch film for a while. So, as part of my weekly film club, I decided to give this picture a try, and upon reflection, this is an absolute masterpiece.

A film detailing multiple storylines, each proving engrossing in their own way. The botched hit job had me laughing, while the Winkies diner scene left an unsettling undercurrent to run throughout the remainder of the film. At the centre of it is Naomi Watts, whose aspiring actress crosses paths with Laura Harring, who's suffered from amnesia. At the centre of it all, I see a film about one person trying to escape from their horrific reality, trying to not face a choice they've ultimately made. In my mind, this is reinforced by the Silencio scene, which also contains a performance of Crying, which has to be one of the most phenomenal pieces of cinema I've ever witnessed.

Maybe it's time I gave Eraserhead another try.

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Biggest Disappointment: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Goosebumps - 4/5 - Well, colour me surprised. This was a fun tale presented in an inventive manner, delivering its family friendly horror scenario in a manner reminiscent of Joe Dante. While the jokes prove to be pretty hit and miss, the heart is more than evident, with Dylan Minnette proving an engaging lead, and Jack Black being delightfully engaging as R.L Stine, author of the eponymous books.

The Ritual (2017) - 2.5/5 - A subpar addition to the horror genre.

Kingsman: The Secret Service [rewatch] - 4/5 - Rewatched in time for the sequel, and the problems are more evident. Samuel L. Jackson's villain fails to make an impression, with Sofia Boutella's Gazelle carrying things on the antagonistic side of things. Also, I can fully understand what is meant by the gratuitous finale. Still, Taron Egerton does wonderful work in his first feature role, perfectly selling the London youth who goes on a My Fair Lady style transformation, with Colin Firth being his usual reliable self as Harry Hart. Plus, that church scene? Phenomenally done.

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Biggest Surprise: Goosebumps

Sleep Tight (2013) - 3.5/5 - The better of the duo who directed [REC], Jaume Balagueró steps away from the franchise to deliver a thriller that's often tense, but never truly scary. Often creepy, and with a nasty streak, even if it gets a bit too unbelievable at times. The best part of it all is our antagonistic lead, performed by a phenomenal Luis Tosar. Not a perfect film, but a pretty decent one.

Pacific Rim - 3.5/5 - When it comes to giant robots battling in cinema, we're living in an age where Michael Bay's Transformers abominations are the most publicised example. Thankfully, Guillermo Del Toro manages to show Bay how it should be done, by allowing said battles to be comprehensible to human sight, and ensuring that the characters aren't sexualised to a perverted degree.

The spectacle of Jaegers (giant robots) fighting Kaiju (giant monsters) makes for an utterly fun watch, with Del Toro managing to more than deliver on that front. Thankfully, he also manages to inject heart into the proceedings, as we're following these characters dealing with their own problems, and our leads overcome their own forms of survivors guilt. While I do wish a number of the characters weren't so thinly written, and the chemistry between Hunnam and Kikuchi wasn't so awkward, this is largely a fun time to be had.

Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt - 4.5/5 - Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, the focus on this documentary is about the lives unfortunately taken by AIDS, the heartbreaking affect had upon the families of the victims, and the frustrating inaction taken by the government. All of it culminates in the AIDS memorial quilt, stitched together by the grieving parties, to ensure that none of the victims are forgotten about. A heartbreaking and emotional documentary, and one I'm more than glad to have viewed.

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Worst film of the month: Annabelle

Kingsman: The Golden Circle - 2/5 - A sequel that's far from gold standard.

Badlands - 3.5/5 - My first Terrence Malick film, and it's certainly as gorgeously shot as I've heard Malick's films are. An engaging romance portrayed by two exceptional talents, with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek delivering in their roles. It's a shame the story ends up going in circles, which results in the story getting less interesting as it goes on. Still, I'm glad I gave it a go. 

Boys Don't Cry - 4/5 - Kimberley Pierce adapts the devastating story of Brandon Teena, delivering a powerful picture about the horrific true tale. It can be rather misguided though, especially when one portion involves the use of a fake penis. Hilary Swank and Chloë Sevigny are tremendous in the lead roles, but it doesn't overlook how the lead role really should have gone to a trans actor. 

Man on Fire (2004) - 2.5/5 - Unmistakably a Tony Scott film, in how uniquely directed it was, complete with flashy visuals and camera tricks all throughout. A number of it did feel unnecessary, resulting in a dizzying feeling felt. The film itself lives and dies on the duo that is Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. They shared some wonderful chemistry which perfectly sold their friendship, and delivered real heart to the proceedings. It's admirable how the film takes its time to focus on this aspect and make it feel real before getting into the revenge action, and get audiences on-board with his actions. Though it definitely didn't need 2 and a half hours to do this, especially when the vengeance is the less interesting part, often feeling rather trite. 

Best film of the month: Let The Right One In 
Best film seen in cinemas: It
Best film watched for the first time: Mulholland Drive
Best film rewatched: Let The Right One In 
Biggest Disappointment: Kingsman: The Golden Circle 
Biggest Surprise: Goosebumps
Worst film of the month: Annabelle

Number of films watched: 20