March 2018 In Review

March is long gone, and it's about time I got to posting this. Here are the films I saw this past March.

Thor [rewatch] - 4/5 - Okay, I see what everyone means about the dutch angles. So many times where it felt like the camera was mounted on a wonky tripod, and nobody noticed. Still, it remains a great entry point into this corner of the MCU, and a fantastic origin story for a character audiences were then unfamiliar with.

Bad Milo! - 3.5/5 - Now this, I dug the hell out of. A fun piece of horror, where a well crafted & adorable puppet brings to life a murderous creature, which resides up our leads ass. It's pretty wellcacted, even if some actors are wasted on roles that exist just to be reactionary or deliver exposition, while key developments are rushed or overlooked. Still, I appreciate the ambition of this film.

Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone [rewatch] - 4/5 - An amusing and fun entry point into the series, where the child actors do the best with their lacking experience, the wizarding world is brought alive quite well, and the characters are defined as well as possible. Yes, it's a bit of a butchering on the book (a tradition which will continue), but as a film in its own right, this is a decent start.

Confessions ('10) - 5/5 - Oh. My. Goodness. What an unexpected treat this was. Tetsuya Nakashima opens the film with a gripping and emotionally engaging set-up, as our lead character speaks to her class. Her daughter was murdered by two of her students. It's a talkative opener, and Takako Matsu absolutely commands the screen with her performance, of a grieving mother full of determination. It reaches a point viewers may be expecting, at the films 20 minute mark. After that, it lends way to an enthralling piece of psychological warfare that will keep viewers gripped. The narrative unfolds layers throughout, to both the story and its characters, building up to a finale that will stay with you. This is one hell of a gem, I'm glad to have seen it. 

Red Sparrow - 2.5/5 - It's clear Francis Lawrence is attempting something different from the usual spy fare, where the operatives weapon of choice is seduction, as opposed to gunplay. Unfortunately, this interesting and engaging story gets lost with themes which are surface only, and disproportionate violence between the genders. Why is it, when males get tortured, it's handled off-screen or hidden away from the cameras, while we have to witness every lingering shot of Jennifer Lawrence getting tortured? It even seems to linger on a female corpse in a bath tub. It just feels so needless. Lawrence and Edgerton do great jobs in their roles, but can't save their underwritten and manufactured romance. It's a shame, this could've been quite an interesting tale in the right hands.

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Best film of the month and Best film rewatched:
The Handmaiden

Speed (1994) - 4/5 - Looking back, it's not that hard to believe the immense popularity which was found in Jan De Bont's directorial debut. Speed is such an effective piece of work, pulling off the intriguing concept in such a thrilling and faultless manner, it almost looks effortless. Well, as long as the action is located to the set piece on the bus. The scenes bookending it are less effective, but it doesn't threaten to derail things, thanks to how tremendously brought alive the main focus of the feature is. Front and centre is Keanu Reeves, proving servicable in the lead role, but he's overshadowed by two talented performers. Sandra Bullock breathes life into her role, infusing it with such charm and life that it's more than the thankless love interest role that's typicaly seen in these films. Then there's Dennis Hopper, who has more of a showy role as the maniacal bomber, whose thankless shuffling from his job leaves him wanting vengeance through his own twisted means. This is a quintessentially 90s film, but damn, does it hold up.

The Conspiracy (2013) - 3/5 - What we have here is a faux documentary, taking the idea of conspiracy theories which have been prevalent in modern society, and basing a thriller around it. What begins intriguing enough gives enough ambiguity, to make it unknown whether there actually is a conspiracy in question, or if it's all in the characters minds, and then takes a left field turn into The Wicker Man territory. It's a film that's better in theory, as opposed to execution.

Blazing Saddles [rewatch] - 5/5 - I could revisit this one in rapid succession, and find myself laughing out loud as easily each and every time. What Mel Brooks has delivered is a hilarious masterpiece which pokes fun at racist attitudes, a perfectly crafted concoction of masterful performances, pitch perfect timing, and a refusal to adhere to any limitations. What other Western has a third act where the characters burst through the walls, and go onto a completely different movie set?

Iron Man 2 [rewatch] - 2.5/5 - It's been five years since I last saw this film. Being a big fan of Marvel films, especially the MCU, I wanted to see something which I missed before, some layer I overlooked which would reveal to me this films status as a hidden gem of this long crafted universe. Sadly, I did not find it, as my feelins remain the same, and Jon Favreau fails to capture lightning in a bottle twice. An overlong advert for The Avengers, with Tony's brushes with death leaving him to regress to being a carefree and self-centred jerk. RDJ does play it well though, while Don Cheadle is wonderful as Rhodey, and there's some decent action pieces for them to be a part of. But then there's the villains, as Sam Rockwell is wasted on the lacklustre Justin Hammer, and Mickey Rourke wants his boird, before being relegated to a CG suit. It's a film noticeable for the first appearance of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, but she's one-note and sexualized in a needlessly perverse manner. Maybe I'll leave it longer than 5 years to try this one again.

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Best film seen in cinemas: The Shape of Water

Lady Bird - 5/5 - Good god, that Greta Gerwig sure can direct. Her solo directorial debut is a heartfelt story that feels achingly relateable, and undeniably human. It brings on the moments of laughter as easily as the emotional resonance, and touches the heart without needing to try. I don't know if this would work so well without Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf in the central roles, as this stunning duo work undeniably well off one another, helping ground the personal, yet universal, relationship with their believable performances. It's a triumph that deserved the nominations. 

Black Panther [rewatch] - 5/5 - Third viewing, and it remains such a standout film from 2018. Ryan Coogler proves that, no matter how big a budget or scope he's working with, he can deliver a story that's as focused on character and performances. Just look at Michael B. Jordan's Erik Kilmonger for proof of this. 

I, Tonya [rewatch] - 4/5 - You can tell it was a stacked year for the Best Actress category when this Margot Robbie performances loses, and it's fair due to how she's up against Saoirse Ronan, Frances McDormand, Sally Hawkins and frigging Meryl Streep. 

Tomb Raider - 3.5/5 - Straight off the bat, let me say how I can't compare it to the Angelina Jolie films, since I never saw them. It's clear that video game films have gotten a bad rep (and rightly so), but I found this to be one of the more preferable ones. It helps that Alicia Vikander is so great as Lara Croft, doing wonders in selling the characters tough nature, determination, and resourcefulness incredibly well. But she's just as believable in showcasing the vulnerabilities, as she'd rather struggle for money than accept her missing father's inheritance, as it would feel like a confirmation that he's not coming back. The action scenes are well done, peaking with a chase through the jungle, resulting in a tense encounter with a rusted plane dangling above a waterfall. Although, an encounter with rough seas is difficult to comprehend. It's a film with no real surprises, and could've done with another draft in regards to side characters, but it's a fun time well had.

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Best film watched for the
first time: Confessions

Beetlejuice [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - A visually inventive, boundlessly imaginative and undeniably creative piece of gothic comedy, perfectly acted by its cast, ESPECIALLY Michael Keaton's phenomenal performance as the eponymous character whose name you dare not say three times. I do wish we'd get more of this Tim Burton.

Paddington 2 [rewatch] - 5/5 - Take one lovely bear who sees the good in everybody, and wants to help them however possible, but isn't adverse to giving a hard stare where necessary. Have him cross paths with a sumptuous performance from Hugh Grant, only to be thrown into prison, and meet the ever-fantastic Brendan Gleeson. Make the bears presence upon those around him be undeniably felt, and do well in fleshing out these very characters. Now, sit back, and watch a humorous and heartfelt piece of perfection unfold before your very eyes.

Peter Rabbit - 1/5 - Why couldn't this annoying rabbit have been cooked into a pie?

The Handmaiden [rewatch] - 5/5 - This time around, I opted to view the Extended Cut, and it adds in some great moments, including heart to hearts about Sook-hee's deceased mother. What Park Chan-wook has crafted remains a phenomenal piece of work, which works so well in the first act, but then is phenomenally given more layers through the second act. Previous lines are given new meaning, scenes we've already witnessed play out feel entirely changed through new revelations, and characters are looked at in an entirely different manner. At the heart of it, though, is a wonderful romance between two souls, who help each other escape this rotten scenario, with a great example being a cathartic scene taking place in the library. An example of a film that's nearly 3 hours fly by, and left me wanting to view it all over again.

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Biggest Disappointment: Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories - 3.5/5 - In directing their feature film debut, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have chosen to adapt their well received stage play. The collection of short stories each prove intriguing on their own, but when viewed as a whole, it doesn't really feel like they add much to the wraparound, or the protagonists personal story. It's a well acted piece, with Nyman especially proving compelling in his role, and Alex Lawther coming off as a scene stealer through his segment. In spite of some chilling and atmospheric portions, the frights veer into jump-scare territory a bit too often, feeling like an aspect that worked better on the stage. 

Mighty Joe Young [rewatch] - 3/5 - Rewatching my girlfriends favourite film, in an effort to cheer her up. She still loves it, so that's the main thing. 

Dreams of a Life - 4.5/5 - Through this documentary, director Carol Morley takes a look at the unique case of Joyce Vincent. What was so unique about her? She died in her apartment while wrapping Christmas presents, and her body wasn't found until 3 years later. The newspapers gave little information about Vincent, so Morley put out advertisements calling for people who knew her, to give insight to who she was, and shed light on the life lived by this woman whose body wasn't discovered for 3 years. It's such a heartbreaking documentary which looks back on the little things of life, how the memories we make are much more important than we initially realise, and taps into the very human fears about dying alone, and what we leave behind. The talking heads work better than the dramatizations, but it's an effective doc that will stay with you. If you come across this one, I implore you all to give it a view, and let those you're close to know how much they mean to you. 

The Shape of Water [rewatch] - 5/5 - I don't know what was more pleasing, rewatching this under the knowledge of its status as a Best Picture Oscar winner, or introducing my girlfriend to this work by Guillermo Del Toro. Either way, I was glad to see Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones enact their silent chemistry once more.

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Biggest Surprise: Dreams of a Life

Wreck-It Ralph [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Unbelievably, it's been 5 years since I last saw this wonderful Disney film. I remember the acclaim it received upon release, enough to justify a sequel, but I get the impression this is considered an underrated entry into the Disney animated films. Regardless, it's a wonderful entry which has a fleshed out world, characters you can get behind, laughs, and heart, brought alive thanks to the wonderful bond between the eponymous Ralph and Vanellope. Great for a film that was sold on video game nostalgia. 

Inside Llewyn Davis [rewatch] - 5/5 - The more times I view this work from the Coen brothers, the more I fall in love with it. The biggest problem for me was the hellish ride with John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund, but that to me feels like a worthy addition to the picture now. Another unfortunate occurrence heaped onto the miserable life of the bitter Llewyn Davis, whose struggles to cope with the suicide of his partner and friend are emotional, saddening, and perfectly performed by Oscar Isaac. The smoky cinematography remains one of my favourites I've seen in recent years, and while I'm not in love with folk music, I could listen to this films soundtrack on repeat until I lose my hearing. I love it so much. 

The Incredible Journey - 3.5/5 - I watched Homeward Bound a good while ago, but was left unimpressed with the need to cram unfunny jokes into the ropey and predictable narrative. The narrative in this original is the same, as far as I can remember, but it works better for me without the need to cram in human voices and forced humour. As far as narratives go where hijinks ensue, this is one of the better ones. It helps that the animal scenes are more engaging than the human ones, but the clear instances of animal abuse are honestly troubling.

Enough Said - 4/5 - What a lovely little film this was. Nicole Holofcener delivers something which is utterly charming, sincere, and a complete joy to be in the company of. At the centre are parents struggling with their children moving away for college, the manner ones perceptions can be altered through others words, and a pair of winning performances fronting the film. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini are warm presences, particularly in each others companies. If I had any problems, it's how the troubles of side characters are ultimately forgotten about, with no attempt to address some form of closure for them. Otherwise, a lovely little gem.

Game Night - 4/5 - What a wonderful surprise this was. John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein deliver a madcap ride for the wonderful array of characters, which ventures all over to places unexpected and joyously surprising. Yes, it may take a few more twists than necessary, but the result is hilarious, and nothing short of utterly fun. Anchoring it are engaging leads who portray likeable characters, with Rachel McAdams and Jesse Plemons proving to be the scene stealers. One of the most unexpectedly fun times I've had at the cinema lately.

Worst film of the month: Peter Rabbit

Unsane - 4/5 - A film of two parts, the first being a gripping thriller that leaves one on edge.

Ready Player One - 3.5/5 - While Steven Spielberg's film does get lost within an incessant array of pop culture references, it's a very fun ride through nostalgia. Opening with an understandably chaotic demolition derby, this is a feast for the eyes, later followed by a second mission venturing into a popular 80's film which is lovingly recreated. But it feels like the real world scenes are pushed aside in favour of those in the Oasis, resulting in a disassociated feel between the two. It's not until late in the film when they actually feel comfortable with each other. The cast do well to work with the clumsy script, but no matter Spielberg wants it, there's little emotional resonance within. Plus T.J Miller irritates in what's essentially a superfluous role.

The Dressmaker - 4/5 - A tale of facing the scars of ones past, righting prior wrongs and enacting revenge. What makes this film different from the typical revenge flick that one sees? How about it being fronted by a phenomenal Kate Winslet, playing a dressmaker in 1950s Australia, where some of the most scathing actions come from her sewing dresses? I'm well aware of the faults which lie with this film. It's an often compelling tale, even though the central mystery relies on convenience. It's a rather humorous tale, even though it often showcases how jarring the tonal shifts can be. Despite these clear faults, I was fully on-board with the tale Jocelyn Moorhouse had delivered, and a great time was had. 

Isle of Dogs - 4.5/5 - I've twice watched Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr Fox, and it did not work for me either time. This made me a tad cautious about his second stop-motion feature, but the intriguing premise and brilliant cast list piqued my interest, and i'm grateful, as I really loved it. Bryan Cranston is wonderfully showcased here, front and centre, while his compatriots are rather interchangeable. An assortment of wonderful characters are brought to life through a combination of tremendous voice acting, and stunning stop motion. Their scraps are humorously brought to screen as tufts of cotton wool, but this is a stop motion animation that's more advisory in showing to children. A dogs ear is bitten off, there's a surprising scene of surgery, and a rather graphic instance of sushi being prepared. There's a sense of relevance in the story, as the antagonistic Mayor Kobayashi manufactures xenophobia, distrust, and hatred, all aimed at dogs. But at the centre of it all is an emotional story about a boy who goes through thick and thin, just because he misses his beloved dog. It's this heart which serves as the films engaging through-line to keep viewers emotionally invested. 

Best film of the month: The Handmaiden
Best film seen in cinemas: The Shape of Water
Best film watched for the first time: Confessions
Best film rewatched: The Handmaiden
Biggest Disappointment: Ghost Stories
Biggest Surprise: Dreams of a Life
Worst film of the month: Peter Rabbit

Number of films watched: 30