May 2018 in Review

Moving houses has caused me to slow down on writing (even more than I had already slowed down to). So now that I've settled in, let's finally get to seeing what I saw this past May.

Chasing Amy [rewatch] - 5/5 - As much as I want to call myself a Kevin Smith fan, I can't when I absolutely detest a considerable portion of his output. Of the few I do like, this is my absolute favourite of his films. A mature work about relationships, love, and sexuality, with a distinct flair for dialogue and characterisation, wonderfully brought to screen by Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, and Jason Lee. Yes, much of the drama seems to occur unaware that bisexuality and pansexuality are in existence, and it's sad that much of media today remains unaware of that same thing.

Ju-On: The Grudge- 3.5/5 - Takashi Shimizu delivers an episodic piece of horror, which flits through numerous protagonists whom are linked, all who cross paths with a vengeful spirit. What's been brought to screen is rather interesting and quite atmospheric, but it lacks genuine scares and engrossing characters.

I Feel Pretty - 3/5 - The directorial debut of Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, what they've brought to screen is a likeable tale centred by a wonderful message, about finding your inner confidence. At the front of it is a sweet romance, as the chemistry is evident between Rory Scovel's unconventional love interest, and Amy Schumer's relateable lead. This makes it all the more disappointing how it veers into conventional territory with such ease, while limply delivering on the humour. A special mention is reserved for Michelle Williams' lovable performance, accentuated by her high pitched voice, and a dress adorned with dogs.

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Best film of the month & Best film
rewatched: L.A. Confidential

White House Down - 4/5 - Of the two "White House under siege" films released in 2013, why couldn't this one have gotten a sequel? Roland Emmerich brings to screen an entertaining actioner that's completely aware of its goofy nature, and is keen to deliver each instance with a knowing smile. There's genuine fun to be had here, but it helps how there's genuine heart nestled within, and terrific performances worth witnessing. Channing Tatum conversing with a squirrel is worth your time alone. 

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - The film in which Rocket, the hostile genetic experiment who takes pleasure in causing pain to others, is the emotional centre, in an arc that proves rather resonant. James Gunn, you magnificent bastard.

Duel - 4.5/5 - Where it all began for Steven Spielberg, one of the best known directors worldwide. For his directorial debut, he delivers a simple thriller depicting a mans never-ending conflict with a Truck, as the frustration and fear is evident across our well characterised protagonist, played by Dennis Weaver. A short tale full of tension, which is a clear precursor for what Spielberg would later deliver with Jaws, and what a debut it was.

Sherlock Gnomes - 1/5 - The existence of this film is honestly baffling. After Gnomeo and Juliet, the story continues on in an unexpected way. Not with another gnome take on Shakespeare, but for Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation. It's an odd choice, one which never feels justified, as the films existence appears to lie solely in puns (perhaps a dare was involved somewhere).

Within are a cavalcade of characters, whose personalities veer between bland and irritating. The we have the eponymous character, as Johnny Depp phones it in for an assembly of the most irritating aspects of the Detective. Then, midway through the film, comes an unsightly Chinatown sequence. It exists for an assembly of cheap jokes and stereotypes, which are borderline racist. The best thing I can say is how well animated this is, but overall, it's phenomenally dull

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Best film seen in cinemas: Deadpool 2

The Edge of Seventeen - 4.5/5 - An assured and confident directorial debut by Kelly Fremont Craig, as much humour and heart are evident within this coming of age tale. It helps that such great performances and strong characterization is evident, as we understand each characters struggles, how they cope with their own problems, and sympathise with them. I look forward to seeing what Craig does next. 

The Sixth Sense [rewatch] - 5/5 - 1999, a wonderful time when M Night Shyamalan was a name full of promise, and Bruce Willis seemed to give enough of a shit to act. Things may have changed in those instances, but The Sixth Sense has lost none of its power since its debut. Even when a certain aspect is extremely well known, it remains an engrossing film with moments of horror, and emotion, that hit the mark incredibly well. Haley Joel Osment and Bruce Willis do fantastic work in their roles, but Toni Collette and Olivia Williams are just as deserving of recognition due to their powerful performances. 

Rampage (2018) - 3.5/5 - Brad Peyton has delivered a fun and enjoyable way to pass the time, as Dwayne Johnson lays on the charm for the latest of his family friendly films. Providing support are an effortlessly likeable Naomi Harris, Jeffrey Dean Morgan with a rakish, southern swagger, and the entertaining duo of Jake Lacy & Malin Åkerman resembling the younger Trumps. But when the film boils down to a trio of giant animals fighting it out, it's a shame how the action could be incomprehensible, while struggling to find a way to include the human element into it all. A fun ride, if not flawed. 

Chevalier - 4/5 - Athina Rachel Tsangari delivers an interesting butchering of the male ego, where every single aspect is to be broken down and criticised. The cast are game also, doing well to partake in the proceedings.

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Best film watched for the first time: Sorcerer

Dirty Computer - 4/5 - Described as an emotion picture, the music videos for Janelle Monáe's songs (taken from the phenomenal album of the same name) are stitched together. The result weaves an engaging sci-fi tale about Jane 57821, who is taken to become forcibly reprogrammed for not conforming, for celebrating who she is and who she loves. In spite of the sci-fi elements, it feels rather timely, and is delivered fantastically. I do wish they had time to include all of the album (especially "So Afraid"), but this was great viewing. Available on Youtube. 

Near Dark [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Kathryn Bigelow may now be best known for her socially relevant dramas, but it's worth remembering her entry into the vampire genre, with her solo debut in directing a feature length film. A western set tale which doesn't dwell on the vampiric aspect, instead focusing on the horrendous nature of Jesse's family, as well as the push and pull for Caleb. He wants to fit in with the family, to be a part of this life with the woman he loves, but he also wants to retain his humanity, and not have to indulge in some of the more horrific aspects, as showcased in the standout bar scene. Special mention is deserved for Bill Paxton, who steals the film as the sadistic Severin, and Joshua John Miller's phenomenal turn as Homer, a bitter vampire whose age far exceeds the child body he's trapped in. I'm not keen on the resolution and solution to Caleb's story, but I do love this film.

The Greatest Showman [rewatch] - 4/5 - Michael Gracey's directorial debut remains a fun musical with many a great performance, and many an ear-worm musical tunes.

Deadpool 2 - 4/5 - After the uphill battle which occurred to get Deadpool to his own film in the first place, it feels odd how quickly we've gotten a sequel. The result lives up to its predecessor, managing to carry a great deal of emotional weight alongside the wonderful subversions, as the film goes to directions unexpected. It's just a shame the emotional weight comes due to some unwelcome and outdated tropes, especially when Ryan Reynolds does great to sell the material.

Of the new cast, Zazie Beetz proves to be a standout, bringing so much energy and charm to the role of Domino. Her Luck powers are brought to screen with a wonderful style, often playing out akin to scenes from Final Destination. One hopes this is far from the last we see of her. Be it in an antagonistic role, or acting as the gruff straight man to Deadpool's jokester, Josh Brolin delivers in the role of Cable. There's also Julian Dennison, who adapts to the franchise well while invoking memories of his star-making turn in Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

David Leitch brings a great deal of visual flair to the action scenes, ensuring they stick in the mind. Couple that with a great deal of humour that hits more than it misses, the Atomic Blonde adapts wonderfully to the Merc with the Mouth. He even brings a wonderful assortment of songs to the soundtrack, be it Ashes, the original song recorded by Céline Dion, humorous uses of Cher and Dolly Parton, or stuff originally made for the soundtrack. Don't be surprised if at least one of these songs worms its way into your head.

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Biggest Disappointment: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Annihilation - 5/5 - I wish I could've seen this confident and assured visual marvel on the big screen, it absolutely blew me away. Alex Garland has an terrific cast power the gripping narrative, as they portray such well defined and three dimensional characters. Filled to the brim with phenomenal ideas, as the narrative unfolds to allow individual scenes to showcase the directorial power of Garland. One hostage sequence especially had me on edge. 

Crank [rewatch] - 4/5 - A knowing B movie that fully embraces its ridiculous premise for pitch black fun, as Neveldine/Taylor have a great deal of fun directing, equal to the amount of fun Statham as as Chev Chelios. A great deal of fun, which makes it all the more a shame when the dated moments pop up (the rapey scene especially). 

Sorcerer - 5/5 - It's thanks to Mark Kermode that I decided to give this one a shot, and I'm eternally glad that I did. What William Friedkin has delivered is a gripping thriller which leaves viewers on edge, especially during a nail-biting sequence set across a rickety bridge. I wouldn't think twice to call it one of the most tense moments ever put to film. 

La Haine - 4.5/5 - Mathieu Kassovitz delivers a powerful tale centred on a trio of protagonists, each with a short fuse of their own. Living in impoverished suburbs, as their lives oven descend into pointless posturing and violence, it's a hard hitting tale that's phenomenally acted by those on-board.

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Biggest Surprise: The Edge of Seventeen

L.A. Confidential [rewatch] - 5/5 - A magnificently layered tale which grippingly unfolds before your very eyes, lending fantastic characterisation to the ensemble as they each go on their own journey. One of my all time favourites. 

Perfect Blue - 4.5/5 - My goodness. This psychological thriller from Satoshi Kon is nothing short of exemplary, as the lines between fantasy and reality get regularly blurred. What we're left with is a gripping story about the way we treat celebrities, which never lets go throughout the runtime. 

Idle Hands [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - A flawed, yet immensely enjoyable, piece of horror comedy, brought alive thanks to a terrific cast, and later moments which embrace the goofier aspects.

Four Lions [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - A pitch black comedy full of hilarious moments, and delivering fantastic characterisation to our protagonists. It also never shies away from the grim realities of its subject matter, while delivering scathing critiques upon the treatment of the Muslim community. It's a shame Chris Morris hasn't directed another feature film.

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Worst film of the month: R.I.P.D.

Solo: A Star Wars Story - 3/5 - With the behind the scenes drama being so prominently featured, it's understandable if one half-expected this to be a clash of visions similar to Justice League. Thankfully, the final product feels more singular, and untouched by too many cooks, but is something rather uninspiring.

Fresh off his scene-stealing role in Hail, Caesar!, Alden Ehrenreich proves to be a great bit of casting. Effortless in the eponymous role, carrying the swagger and a great deal of charm, he's a great choice to fill the boots left by Harrison Ford. Wisely, it's just as much Chewbacca's film as it is Han's. From their first meeting, the chemistry between Ehrenreich and Joonas Suotamo is palpable, as the pair sell the characters long-standing friendship. But the leads best watch out, as Donald Glover manages to be quite the scene stealer throughout. Be it the allure and confidence Glover exudes throughout, or the wonderful chemistry he shares with Phoebe Waller-Bridge's L3-37, he's one of the best casting decisions since the franchise returned. In contrast, Emilia Clarke and Paul Bettany do fine in their roles, but feel rather underutilised and underdeveloped.

In spite of Jonathan & Lawrence Kasdan's efforts, key revelations don't land with as much weight as they wish. Be they uncovering moments of character, plot, or Han's backstory, it comes off as the screenwriters checking boxes, and feels rather clunky in their handling. It's a shame, as Ron Howard manages to frame a number of fun set pieces, with a droid revolution proving worth the ticket price alone. 

R.I.P.D. - 0.5/5 - Question: I'm describing an element of this film as "cheap, tacky, and lacking in anything resembling effort". Which one am I talking about?

The story which is a watered down version of Men In Black, hit in the head with a claw hammer? The visual effects which feel ripped from a 90s cookie cutter Playstation game? The comedy that's less funny than slamming your finger in a car door? Action scenes so unexciting and pulse flattening, you may be pronounced dead?

The answer is "All of the Above". How did this happen? Directed by Robert Schwentke is how it happened. At best, this is Men In Black for the Poundland crowd. 

The Others - 4/5 - Alejandro Amenábar delivers a slow-burner of a ghostly chiller, as we bear witness to a tale that understands about restraint. I think the middle drags a bit, but the story remains phenomenally done, anchored by a tremendous performance by Nicole Kidman, from intriguing beginning, to unforgettable end.

Best film of the month: L.A. Confidential
Best film seen in cinemas: Deadpool 2
Best film watched for the first time: Sorcerer
Best film rewatched: L.A. Confidential
Biggest Disappointment: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Biggest Surprise: The Edge of Seventeen
Worst film of the month: R.I.P.D

Number of films watched: 26