December 2017 In Review

2017 is long gone, and alongside some viewings of films from the year, it's unsurprising the final month resulted in a few festive films being watched. So, let's have a look at the films I watched this past December.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter - 0.5/5 - So it's come to this, a conclusion to this franchise which began 15 years ago. How is it that Paul W.S. Anderson, whose kickstarting of this film series practically made him a big name, closes it out with little to no effort?

The first problem lies with the script, where the ending of the last film is completely skipped over, glossing over many deaths in favour of cutting costs. Then, for the finale, the decision made was to end things with the promise of a deus ex machina, and then follow it up with revelations each more convoluted than the last. Not helping is how we're left not caring about the characters. Characterization has never been a high point, but the way it cycles through these boring faces without giving audiences a reason to give a shit before they're offed is insulting.

Then, the CG is so undeniably poor. I badmouthed Steppenwolf from Justice League so much, but he practically looks Oscar worthy compared to what lazily rendered creations are on show here. They're presumably intended to be glossed over with the choppy editing, but this just highlights how poorly done the scenes of action are. For an action-horror film, it's not a good sign when the finale to this film series fails at both aspects. But then, that's keeping in tradition with the rest of this pitiful series.

So long, Resident Evil series. It was painful to know of your existence.

Enders Game [rewatch] - 3/5 - On rewatch, it remains a film best when detailing the nature of war, and how the way war is won is just as important as actually winning it. But these elements feel lost amongst the kids playing space set Quidditch, and having beef with one another. Then you have Ender's siblings, who feel as though they're being set up for something, but truly amount to nothing. As much as the filmmakers want to play up that big twist, it feels pretty anticlimactic.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping - 4.5/5 - What a truly phenomenal surprise. Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer have delivered a witty and hilarious satire on the music industry, told in a mockumentary format. It's full of songs both hilarious and terrific, with a heartearming friendship and glorious characterization at the centre of it all, helped by how exceptionally it's played by the cast. Easily one of the best first time watches in recent memory. 

The Villainess - 4.5/5 - From the opening moments, Jung Byung-gil shows the creators of Hardcore Henry how to do first person action. As we bear witness to our protagonist slaughtering her way throughout a building, the film grabs its audiences attention, and holds it throughout th ensuing feature. Compelling in the story it weaves (if not a tad confusing at times), breathless in its action sequences (if not incomprehensible at moments), saddening in its engaging character arcs, and phenomenal in its performances (especially in regards to the stunning Kim Ok-vin). One of the best surprises i've encountered from this years films.

The Party (2017) [rewatch] - 4/5 - Upon rewatch, Sally Potter's drama still works pretty well, breezing past with its 71 minute runtime and talented assembled cast. The final moments feel a bit tacked on, but it's a film that never outstays its welcome. 

Olaf's Frozen Adventure- 1/5 - Infamously shown before Coco, this is a needless franchise extension that fails across the board. It's made with the effort of a straight to video Christmas special, contains the songs of a forgettable TV special, and has the irritatant factor of chlamydia. It's 22 minutes of hell, and marks the second time Disney have failed to deliver a decent extension of their smash hit from 2013. Maybe stop until Frozen 2?

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Best film of the month and
Best film rewatched: Do The Right Thing

Justice League [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - Upon rewatch, this remains a flawed mess that's pulling in two different directions, thanks to the change in directors. Despite this, it remains a fun watch, and makes me smile when it finally gets Superman right.

Hellraiser - 4.5/5 - It's understandable for a novelist to get fed up with failed adaptations of their works, but considering the clear differences between the two mediums, it's understandable only a handful actually take matters into their own hands, and direct their own cinematic adaptations. Clive Barker proves to be a unique horror vision, as he phenomenally brings to life this one of a kind tale. This is done through grisly practical effects ("Jesus wept" will stick in ones minds), a compelling story (The Hellbound Heart title works especially well to describe both Julia and Frank), and terrific performances. While the ending may not live up to all which preceded it, and there's some notable dubbing issues, this is a horror story that will stay in ones mind.

Leatherface - 2.5/5 - Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury attempt something different, as we're unsure which of our leads will take the steps to become the eponymous character. Five violent teens that escaped from a mental hospital, with a captive nurse in tow, on a road trip from hell. Granted, between the Mickey and Mallory Knox stand-ins, the hulking silent type, and the attempting to be charming lead, it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to deduce which one it will be, but it's a decent idea, and one that's not badly done. If anything, it's a shame this is a prequel to Tobe Hooper's classic, as this makes things less interesting. As the film reaches its final act, and arbitrarily ties itself to the horror classic, it's where the cracks show. Leaps are made to tie into specific aspects of the original, taking the rushed and contrived route. It's a shame, because the cast are terrific performers, with Stephen Dorff and Lili Taylor especially shining in their roles. One just wishes it wasn't so beholden to the original film.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - My favourite of the three Taika Waititi films i've seen, doing the best job of balancing the hilarious moments with the emotional ones. A fellow reviewer likened this more to a visual novel, as opposed to a traditional three act film, and it's a structure which uniquely works for this picture, but what's absolutely wonderful is how, above all else, the character development comes first. The emotional struggles of Ricky Baker are engrossing, using haiku's to verbalise his feelings, while Uncle Hec struggles to open up to this lost child, who'd rather escape into the bush than face the flawed system of child services.

Ed Wood- 5/5 - It may be damning with faint praise, but Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have never been better. What's crafted is obviously a fictionalised account of the filmmakers life, but it comes off more as a tribute to this man. Ed Wood may be considered one of the worst directors of all time (Uwe Boll has since taken his title), but it's clear he had such adoration for the medium of cinema, and his unabashed passion and dedication to the craft are evidently captured. It's a picture that's regularly touching and humorous, especially when involving Martin Landau's tremendous performance as Bela Lugosi (him calling Boris Karloff a cocksucker is a definite highlight). A masterpiece. 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle - 2/5 - Lacking in fun and games.

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Best film watched for the first time &
Best film seen in cinemas: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Too Many Cooks [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - After seeing William Tokarsky pop up in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, I fancied seeing him in the short which brought him to everyone's attention. It remains as wonderfully bizarre, and one of the most glorious shorts to come out in a good long while. 

Darkman - 3.5/5 - A precursor to the superhero boom, Sam Raimi's original creation of Darkman is a fun ride that's clearly inspired by the comic book heroics. Led by Liam Neeson with a distracting accent, this is a picture which may fall apart towards the end, but clearly showcases Raimi's strengths as a director.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - 4.5/5 - A tale of grief that's explored through the characters anger, the latest from Martin McDonagh is told within a blackly humorous tone that works rather well. At the centre of it all, holding the picture together, is the performances. Frances McDormand perfectly breathes life into Mildred Hayes, the grieving mother whose coping methods are, perhaps, controversial with the people in the small town. Sam Rockwell fantastically sells the fantastic arc for his character, while Woody Harrelson acts as the sympathetic chief, who wants to help the former two however he can. It must be said though, the screenplay could've used touching up in places, while Peter Dinklage's character is essentially there to act as an alibi. Nevertheless, it's a fantastic picture that feels rather relevant to today. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens [rewatch] - 5/5 - It's 2 years since I last saw this, and also the day before the next instalment is released. It seemed like the perfect time to revisit this film, and it remains a fantastic return to a Galaxy Far, Far Away. The cast, new and returning, flesh out their roles so well, making me care for the new characters as much as I do Han, Chewie, and other familiar faces. This feels like a true follow on to Return of the Jedi, and sets up future endeavours with genuine promise. Plus, BB-8 is still just the cutest.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - 5/5 - Taking the franchise into brave directions, this is a phenomenal entry.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [rewatch] - 5/5 - Improves upon a repeat viewing.

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Biggest Disappointment: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Ravenous - 4.5/5 - Well, this was certainly an interesting mix. A horror comedy set in the frontier, compellingly handled by Antonia Bird. The various elements shouldn't work so well together, but they blend together in such a phenomenal manner. It's fantastically acted by the tremendous cast, especially by the mercurial Guy Pearce, and the gleefully formidable Robert Carlyle. The bloody set pieces are done well, set to a striking and memorable soundtrack by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman. This is one i'm glad to have taken a chance on. 

Do The Right Thing [rewatch] - 5/5 - It remains an absolute masterpiece, proving engaging in its depiction of the many different people, of different cultures, all inhabiting the same space and crossing each others paths. For me, this film comes back to Radio Raheem's story about love and hate, and the never ending battle between the two. This is best depicted in regards to Sal's business, as nobody would boycott the place throughout, and then it becomes a tainted place, ruined for the citizens. A striking scene is when the characters each speak racial slurs and insults about another culture, going at each other until Samuel L Jackson calls for a time out. It's a powerful way to grab ones attention, and show the immense hatred many of us have for another, with skin colour often being the deciding factor. Its a tragedy how this feels as relevant today as it did back in 1989. 

XX - 3/5 - A disjointed and thinly connected quartet of horror shorts, each containing the benefit of good acting, while singularly being tense and/or intriguing (even if the latter is at the expense of little payoff). It must be said that this film more than achieves its goal though, to grant visibility to women in the horror genre, both in front and behind the camera. It succeeds well in that aspect, one just wishes it could've succeeded in more places. 

Daddy's Home- 2/5 - There's no point in trying to find any semblance of real world logic, actual humour, or basic human reasoning in this film, as director Sean Anders replaces all that with an incessant pissing contest between our leads. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to have a pro-step dad film about how these father figures can work well together, but does it have to be as dragged out and ill handled as this?

The Muppet Christmas Carol [rewatch] - 5/5 - Sharing in one of the greatest festive films ever made, where Michael Caine acts against Muppets, but playing the whole thing straight faced, as though it's a prestige drama? Now it feels like Christmas.

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Biggest Surprise: Popstar; Never Stop Never Stopping

Penguins of Madagascar - 3.5/5 - With the Madagascar trilogy come to a close, it makes sense that Dreamworks would aim to spin-off their scene stealing Penguins into their own feature film. Beginning with a humorous voice over from Werner Herzog (really!), we're taken on a fun ride that's often full of hilarity. It's not one that'll long stick in the memory, but it's worth spending time in the company of. 

Creep 2 - 3.5/5 - For the second instalment in Patrick Brice's now confirmed Creep trilogy, an interesting dynamic is established between our leads. Josef is experiencing a mid-life crisis, not getting the same love for killing he had before, and comes clean about this very early to Sara, our new lead portrayed by the phenomenal Desiree Akhavan. She proves a tough nut to crack, not being scared by his attempts, and even rising to the occasion when he doesn't expect it. While this new dynamic proves engaging, it's a shame how it's done at the expense of any tension. That aspect, wonderfully captured in the first film, seems to have vanished from here, and it's a real shame. 

Black Christmas (1974) - 4.5/5 - 4 years before John Carpenter's Halloween, this precursor to the slasher genre was released, and 44 years later, remains one of the best entries. This is because Bob Clark puts importance on two aspects. The first is developing the lead characters, making them more than the expected archetypes which would later litter the genre. The second is ratcheting up the tension, as we don't see the killer named Billy, but hear his grotesque messages to the sorority girls, and later kills them. One standout kill involves a glass Unicorn, set to carollers. It's lost none of its power, as this remains a phenomenal slasher film. 

Krampus [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - I'm glad I managed to get this viewed over Christmas. A wonderful creature feature, blending horror and comedy seamlessly, woven into a tale about not taking your loved ones for granted. No matter how much you annoy one another, especially over the festive period. 

El Camino Christmas - 1.5/5 - If there's one thing we should learn from 2017, it's this: If a film stars Dax Shephard and Vincent D.Onofrio as officers of the law, run! It's not worth watching. A woefully inept film that seems uninterested with character development or laughs, powered by the larger than necessary assortment of thinly sketched characters acting like hotheaded morons. For example, one scene has our lead characters discover theres cameras all around, which could prove his innocence in the whole scenario. So, what does he do? Destroy the recording system. Good going. 

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit [rewatch] - 5/5 - It's safe to say that Aardman deliver films outside of the norm, considering this film can be described as a stop motion, vegetarian horror film. Utterly witty, full of hilarious gags, and a complete joy to witness as it breezes along. It's safe to say that Aardman had hit gold so early on.

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Worst film of the month: Bright

Naked (2017) - 2/5 - Imagine Groundhog Day minus the laughs, inventiveness, great performances, well written characters, and general feel of trying. Marlon Wayans and Regina Hall can at least sell their relationship where necessary, but Wayans as a teacher who connects with students just doesn't work. It's a film unconcerned with obeying its own rules (our lead seems able to do more and more things, over large distances, while only being given an hour to do them in), and it's somehow the least awful of Michael Tiddes' films. Says a lot about his output. 

Get Out [rewatch] - 5/5 - Geez, this works even better upon a second viewing. Jordan Peele's masterful debut is a phenomenal debut, with layers that reveal themselves once you know where the story will go. Betty Gabriel's performance remains utterly unnerving, even just when she's talking about "no funny business", but Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams remains the absolute stars, giving stunning performances. I look forward to seeing what's next for everyone, especially Peele.

Gerald's Game - 4/5 - From director Mike Flanagan, this is a powerfully acted showcase for Carla Gugino. Her phenomenal performance holds together this tense scenario, perfectly putting across how it's affecting her mental state, while the practical effects stunningly put across how its affecting her physical state. It's just a shame the film loses it during the last 10 minutes, when a spectre of death is needlessly over-explained.

The Greatest Showman - 4.5/5 - A wonderful time well spent, with a fantastic soundtrack to boot.

Bright (2017) - 0.5/5 - I can't believe it happened, but David Ayer made a film worse than Suicide Squad.

Zootropolis [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - To close out a year where a racist was sworn in as leader of the free world, and freaking Nazis marched multiple times, it feels apt to watch a film for all ages which emphasises the problem of racism so very well. Plus, Judy Hopps is one of the best characters to come out in years, Disney or otherwise.

Best film of the month: Do The Right Thing
Best film seen in cinemas: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Best film watched for the first time: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Best film rewatched: Do The Right Thing
Biggest Disappointment: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Biggest Surprise: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Worst film of the month: Bright

Number of films watched: 34