October 2017 In Review

Another month where I get this out later than intended, and another October, which means John Carpenter's Halloween was the best film of the month. Nevertheless, here's what I viewed this past October.

Goodbye Christopher Robin- 4/5 - Who would have thought a silly bear who loves honey would have such a dark story behind its creation? Simon Curtis takes the story of A.A. Milne, and delivers something heartfelt and touching, while never allowing this to undermine the darker aspects of the tale. Milne's post-war PTSD is depicted rather well, as it moves on from his want to publish an anti-war piece to a heartwarming series of stories about a boy and his bear. The resulting price of fame is handled with appropriately, as well as the effects it has upon the family. Domhnall Gleeson handles the role exceptionally, while his performance is met by the stupendous two-hander of Will Tilston and Alex Lawther, who both show themselves as great talents while portraying the eponymous Christopher Robin (at different stages of his life). The biggest downside unfortunately falls to Margot Robbie, who's underserved by the material. There's great potential for her character as she struggles to cope with Milne post-war and fails to connect with her child, but the material fails to shine enough of a light on these aspects, leaving Robbie to portray an unlikeable and seemingly selfish person. Other than that, the result is a wonderful piece of cinema.

Blade Runner [rewatch] - 5/5 - With the long awaited sequel being released this week, I felt it was about time to reacquaint myself with Ridley Scott's original, which I've only seen once before. (NOTE: I've only ever witnessed The Final Cut. Maybe I'll eventually try the other cuts, but for now, I'm sticking with what's been named the definitive cut of the film).

A picture about what it means to be human. Are we measured by our emotional responses? Our desire to live a longer life? Ridley Scott tells such a tale, wrapped in a neo-noir package that's set not far from now. A gripping and enticing tale that's never painted as a simple "good vs evil" conflict, adding understandable motivations and phenomenally characterizing our replicants, which a lesser film would frame as merely the bad guys. Told with stunning cinematography and a masterful score, this is an utter sci-fi classic. 

2036: Nexus Dawn - 4/5 - An impressive short which helps to flesh out the world post 2019, before one sees the new film. Jared Leto takes centre stage and proves intimidating in his role. One to whet your appetite for the sequel.

2048: Nowhere to Run - 4/5 - The second of Luke Scott's shorts leading up to Blade Runner 2049, and I preferred this one. It's essentially about Snapper, the character portrayed by Dave Bautista, and he owns the role. Delivering the humanity as easily as the brutality, it's a great 6 minutes to showcase the talents of this former WWE wrestler. 

Blade Runner 2049 - 5/5 - A sequel which lives up to the original, handled with respect and absolute care.

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Best film of the month & Best film rewatched: Halloween

The LEGO Ninjago Movie - 2.5/5 - Less than the sum of it's bricky parts.

Blade Runner 2049 [rewatch] - 5/5 - A film made for repeat viewings, where each additional watch is an absolute treat. Denis Villeneuve is responsible for one of the best films of recent times.

The Death of Stalin - 4.5/5 - Not the laugh a minute comedy which the trailer seems to suggest, but that doesn't detract from this fantastic picture. Over 106 minutes, Armando Iannucci manages to deliver a comedic farce, a dark history lesson, and a compelling power play, all rolled into one phenomenal film. A stranger than fiction tale about dictatorship and how it affects those under its thumb, which has unfortunately proven all the more relevant in these troubled times. This is exemplified best when a character is told how they were on Stalin's death list, and their initial response is to place the blame upon their own selves.
Centring it all is a stellar cast, putting masterful performances into numerously incompetent figures. Simon Russell Beale is the standout, proving nothing short of utterly chilling. Steve Buscemi is more than a match for him, as the two race to outsmart one another, with Jeffrey Tambor wonderfully embodying his patsy of a character. Jason Isaacs proves himself as the outright scene stealer, commanding the screen whenever he appears on the screen.If you can catch this picture, I'd recommend it. A real gem from 2017.

Rear Window - 5/5 - If you need a film to justify Alfred Hitchcock's title as The Master of Suspense, then this is a damn strong example. The limited settings and fantastic performances are utilised to perfection, crafting a compelling narrative and engaging characters which more than hold ones attention. 

Mulan [rewatch] - 4/5 - I'll Make a Man Out Of You has to be one of the best songs ever put to film. Such an inspirational piece of music, which came from one of the more underrated Disney animated films.

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Best film seen in cinemas & Best film
watched for the first time: Blade Runner 2049

Son of Rambow - 4.5/5 - An extremely charming comedy, brought alive by the fantastic performances of Bill Milner, and a wonderful early performance from Will Poulter. Balancing its hilarious and heartfelt moments with ease, this picture about two friends making their own movie, while dealing with their own personal troubles, is an absolute triumph. Clearly made with real love and care, from beginning to the tear-inducing end. 

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming - 0.5/5 - At this point, I shouldn't really be surprised by the low quality on display here. This franchise remains consistently crappy in its fifth film, and I'm left bewildered at the fact this has become a franchise. Once again, it's directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, and once again, it's bafflingly hilarious in the utter ineptitude on display throughout this film. There remains little attempt at making something even subpar out of the script, as this franchise about tornados with sharks now includes teleportation, and a mythology including a Shark God. But don't worry, there's plenty of forced references and cameos as ever, as well as subplots and side characters which are quickly forgotten about. It ends on an obvious set-up for a sixth entry, and if there's a god, this franchise will be left hanging on this lame cliffhanger. 

Otto; Or, Up With Dead People - 1.5/5 - Distractingly shot like a student film that somehow got a theatrical release, Bruce LaBruce has an intriguing premise at the centre of this picture. It's used to deliver obvious allegories, dragged out for the 94 minute runtime, all of which makes up a trudge of a film to get through.

The Clock (1945) - 3/5 - A film centred around the characters of Judy Garland and Robert Walker, as their initial encounter results in a whirlwind romance between the two. The duo do wonderfully in portraying their characters, sharing the chemistry, the spark and the concerns throughout the films two-day time period. It all feels rather flimsy, though, and is an excuse for conflicts a bit too ridiculous for this picture. I do wish I liked this one more. 

Cloud Atlas - 4.5/5 - A sprawling tale whose sheer ambition and scope are matched by the directing trio. It's clear that Tom Tykwer, Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski understood what an undertaking this film would be, and they all manage to rise to the occasion, intertwining the sextet of tales in the most engaging of ways. Each tale is set in a different time period and differs from one another in many ways, from the comedic moments of 2012, to the environmental thriller of 1973, and the bittersweet romance of 1936. It can lead to tonal whiplash at times, but it works more often than not. As with anthology tales, some stories are more enticing than others (funnily enough, my favourite three tales all had Tom Tykwer doing principal photography on them).

The actors all do well, portraying their multiple roles throughout, with some largely unrecognisable under phenomenal make-up (even if some of the elderly make-up in 2012 looked rather dodgy). Be they leading their own segment, or a one-time character in another, they each embody their role to the best of their ability, which is stupendously well. At the centre of it all are shooting star birthmarks, which signify the reincarnation of these souls, as no matter how different the time period or where they're at in life, many of the same mistakes are made, and many of the same questions are asked. This is a picture I more than look forward to rewatching, it's phenomenal stuff.

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Biggest Disappointment: The LEGO Ninjago Movie

Okja - 4.5/5 - What a wonderful film. Bong Joon-Ho does such a fantastic job balancing it all, as the humour, the satire, and the heart works especially well with one another here. All these elements work in tandem with one another, never allowing the darker realities to be diluted, while at the centre of it all, lies this story of a young girl trying to save her best friend, who happens to be a genetically engineered super pig. The cast are more than deserving of praise, with Ahn Seo-Hyun doing exceptionally well in taking the lead role. Tilda Swinton does phenomenal work, with credit deserved to Paul Dano and Steven Yeun. Jake Gyllenhaal is an odd duck though, veering between wackily entertaining, and downright irritating. Still, that doesn't detract from this wonderful picture that I was lucky to have seen.

Ghost World - 3.5/5 - A film that appears to try and set itself apart from the crowd, to proudly gain an outsider status in the same way as our protagonist, Enid. Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' graphic novel is initially frustrating, as the story wanders about aimlessly, and it's a trudge following Enid and Rebecca throughout the summer. But as Seymour, the character of Steve Buscemi, grows closer with Thora Birch's Enid, I found the picture to grow on me and draw me in evermore. The wit became more evident, the characters struggles grew more engaging. Not one I would view again, but one I'm glad to have ticked off my watchlist. 

Geostorm - 0.5/5 - A long time collaborator of Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin appears to have taken inspiration from him for his directorial debut. While one wishes the end result led to something as fun as Independence Day, it instead comes off as the most bog standard of disaster movies, instead leading to something as outright lazy as Independence Day: Resurgence.
Devlin clearly is disinterested in crafting his own style, and is rather content aping many others. The end result mixes the exaggerated environmental danger of The Day After Tomorrow, lesser attempts at scenes which were perfected in Gravity, and the Gerard Butler punch 'em up idiocy of London Has Fallen. Also thrown into the mix are a ridiculous amount of melodrama, such as the family squabbles which occurs on-screen, and the outright stupidity which is cranked to unbelievable proportions. It's the type of film where characters will speak to someone else in their own language, and then suddenly switch to English in the very next sentence.
For Dean Devlin's directorial debut, stupidity and lunacy go hand in hand. Sadly though, fun fails to factor into it. 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves [rewatch] - 4/5 - This was merely the beginning of an animation juggernaut, as it kicked off Disney's animated features, which would enchant the world still 80 years later. It's gorgeously animated, as ever, with many a toe-tapping tune found within a heartwarming picture, one that's lovely and funny, if not a tad outdated at times. Still, it remains the fairest of them all. 

The Emperor's New Groove - 4/5 - How have I never seen this before? Sure, there's a lack of ambition in regards to the film, but it's more than made up for with the lovely characters, and the outright hilarious nature of it all. Kronk is an absolute scene stealer, portrayed to perfection by Patrick Warburton, who works off Eartha Kitt exceptionally well.

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Biggest Surprise: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.

Angus, Thongs & Perfect Snogging - 3/5 - A film i'm certain will work wonders for its intended audience, of which I am clearly not a part of. Director Gurinder Chadha tries to make it feel all too real, and rather likeable, with help thanks to the talented cast. Unfortunately, it also veers into being dated and rather cringe-worthy all too easily, especially during the final act.

Headshot (2017) - 4/5 - Directors Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel make this picture a fantastic showcase for the actors choreography, as the fantastically realised, tense action sequences power the film. Thankfully, this isn't done at the expense of character, or an engaging plot. One especially for fans of The Raid films.

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar - 4.5/5 - What Beebam Kidron has crafted is a feelgood romp about acceptance and loving yourself, delivered with genuine emotion, and laugh out loud comedy. Fronted by a phenomenal trio, Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo embody their roles in such wonderful ways, making fully rounded characters that are easy to get behind. Only the subplot involving Chris Penn's homophobic cop feels rather dated, but it leads to a wonderful display of acceptance, which rounds off this fantastic tale. A real gem worth watching.

The Florida Project - 5/5 - A full review is coming, but for now, I'll say this is a gorgeously shot, and beautifully acted piece of work. Sean Baker balances the childlike innocence of our lead, with the darker realities of the world around them.

Thor: Ragnarok - 4.5/5 - Easily the best of the Thor films, and one of the better MCU entries.

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Worst film of the month: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming

Jigsaw - 2/5 - Better than an 7 year return to an 8 film franchise should be, but still uninspired and problematic.

Thor: Ragnarok [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Rewatched with my younger brothers. Taika Waititi truly is the star of this film, both through directing and his voice work. This is easily one of the best Marvel films in recent years.

Thor: Ragnarok [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Taika Waititi goes all Winter Soldier on this franchise, delivering easily the best entry yet of the Asgardian Prince.

Train to Busan - 5/5 - Well, this was quite the surprise. Yeon Sang-Ho manages to effectively wring tension and emotion out of the confined settings, as we bear witness to engaging and well written characters suffering through the horrific scenario brought to the screen. The end result is likely to make your knuckles white from the ensuing tension, and just as easily make you weep due to the emotional resonance, which is well earned throughout the picture.

Halloween (1978) [rewatch] - 5/5 - It's October 31st, which means only one thing for me: rewatching this absolute classic. 7 years going, and John Carpenter's picture holds the same power it did upon first viewing.

Best film of the month: Halloween
Best film seen in cinemas: Blade Runner 2049
Best film watched for the first time: Blade Runner 2049
Best film rewatched: Halloween
Biggest Disappointment: The LEGO Ninjago Movie
Biggest Surprise: To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar
Worst film of the month: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming

Number of films watched: 27