August 2018 In Review

A past month involving Ingmar Bergman, Channing Tatum, Adam Sandler, and Chainsaws. It was a varied month, to say the least. So, enough dragging it out, here are the films I saw this past August.

Hotel Transylvania [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - Considering much of Adam Sandler's 21st century output, it's always refreshing to find something genuinely good like this. An emotional tale about a father who can't let go of his daughter, who just happens to be Dracula. There's also inventive integrations of monster mythology, and great uses of humour. Even if we also get the pitfalls found in half-assed family films (fart jokes, overuse of popular music, gags aimed at something popular).

Ant-Man and The Wasp [rewatch] - 4/5 - As happens with every MCU release, I took my brothers to see this. We all enjoyed it, the film remains a joy to watch throughout the more personal stakes, and the great humour derived from the inventive ways of utilising these size changing abilities. 

Ant-Man [rewatch] - 4/5 - Corey Stoll remains wasted on a by the numbers antagonist, and it's especially all the more noticeable when the sequel did so well with their antagonist. Still, this Paul Rudd led vehicle is an underrated entry into the MCU, working great humour into the heist plot regularly, and contains one of the best locations for a third act showdown in modern cinema. Plus, that Falcon cameo is a wonderful way to use a previously established character without their own film, I'd love for the MCU to do more of that. 

The Seventh Seal - 5/5 - I've never seen an Ingmar Bergman film before, so I decided to rectify that with a double bill. The first entry is possibly his most famous film, full of extremely influential imagery. It carries weighty themes worth pondering over, delivering a well composed critique on religion, fronted by a great assortment of characters. It also balances these things out with more comedic and lighthearted moments, which help to liven things up, but doesn't detract from haunting moments, particularly near the end. It's understandable that this is considered such a masterpiece, and rightly so. 

The Virgin Spring - 4/5 - The second part of my Ingmar Bergman double bill, and it's certainly been a big influence of the horror genre, particularly in the rape-revenge subgenre. It doesn't glamourise either the rape or revenge aspects of the tale, treating them with the horrific quality both of them deserve, while previously characterising the family members necessary to the tale. The last moments aren't as strong, but it remains a phenomenal film that has me keen to seek out more Bergman. 

The Equalizer 2 - 2.5/5 - The first sequel taken on by both Denzel Washington and Antione Fuqua, and it's unfortunately a film at odds with itself. There's a lack of certainty what film to be, whether we should be watching McCall help those around him, or go to war against a black ops team with a larger agenda. It's a shame, because the former is easily more interesting, as we witness the numerous people our lead helps through the crossing of paths, but the latter feels crammed in to feel more "cinematic", but ultimately feels Bourne lite. A shame, as the friendship McCall shares with a young artist, played by Ashton Sanders, is the most interesting aspect of it all. When it comes to the final act, things begin interestingly as Robert McCall is framed as a horror movie villain. He toys with the antagonists, before brutally dispatching them in certainly memorable ways, but this is swiftly dispatched for generic bouts of action.

Best film of the month, Best film seen in the cinemas &
Best film watched for the first time: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Straw Dogs - 2/5 - Having heard both sides of the conversation about this film, I went into it with an open mind, curious as to where my feelings would fall in regards to Sam Peckinpah's controversial slice of folk horror. I've mulled it over, given it a bit of thought, and I cannot deny that I did not like this film. The final act is tense and graphic in well handled ways, but it doesn't wash the bad taste out of my mouth. A bad taste left by Dustin Hoffman's awful lead character, more likely to harbour a murderer than to help his wife who's clearly suffering from trauma. A wife he constantly condescends to and belittles, who comes off as the more interesting character of the two. A wife who suffers a horrific rape, which comes off pretty badly to me, as though it's implied Amy actually wants it (despite clearly not consenting to it beforehand). It's clear many films are indebted to Straw Dogs, but I cannot deny this film did not work for me. 

Magic Mike - 4.5/5 - It's easy for people to simply dismiss this as "the stripper film", but what Steven Soderbergh delivers is a compelling character study. The dual focus works well, following Channing Tatum's aged entertainer who wants to follow his dreams, and Alex Pettyfer's newbie who's embracing the lifestyle after an uncertainty about what route to go. The strong cast go a long way to help ground the story, but what really helps is how this tale is wrapped in such an energetic and fun package. I really enjoyed this one. 

Magic Mike XXL - 4.5/5 - While the Steven Soderbergh directed effort prioritised characters development over the fun, the Gregory Jacobs directed sequel takes the opposite approach, but both films manage to knock it out of the park with both aspects. The story unfolds as a farewell tour, as the returning characters get more screentime and development than they did in the previous film, while new additions stick long in the memory. There's also some wonderfully feminist messages strewn into the script, and it's pretty damn fun. The dual aspects of the superb choreography, and Gregory Jacobs' electric direction, makes for a phenomenal pairing. 

Loving Vincent - 3/5 - The feature film debut of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, what's most notable is its visually unique style. Initially filmed with actors over green screen, it was then the task of over 100 artists to hand paint each and every frame in a style reminiscent of the eponymous figure, Vincent Van Gogh. It's a style which isn't always appealing, but is admirable enough to stand out, and pretty wonderful to see. Such a shame about the story then, which had the same problems as Hollywoodland. The view into this deceased figure is moving and gripping, as we look at the possibilities surrounding the mysterious end of this person. Such a shame that we're left to follow such a dull protagonist, as their story drags down the proceedings. 

Resolution - 4.5/5 - Oh damn, this was NOT what I was expecting. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's feature film debut focuses on a very human tale, as a man imprisons his best friend in a cabin, forcing him into withdrawal from his drug addiction. The intent is to stay there for 7 days, a last chance for the addicted friend to get sober, but things don't go smoothly. Strange and unusual things keep occurring around them, as the film leans into unnerving sci-fi horror aspects, ready to leave viewers unsettled. By the end of this smartly written film, you'll be ready to give it another viewing immediately after.

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Best film watched for the first time: The Seventh Seal

The Endless - 4.5/5 - Thanks to the Arrow Video release of this film, I managed to double bill this with a showing of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson's first feature film, Resolution. This allowed me to view an engaging film which partially followed-up on the intriguing elements left by the former, but also a very engrossing picture in its own right. The story follows two brothers who escaped from, what they've called, a UFO Death Cult to live in the open world. Ten years later, they receive a tape from their old colony, which compels the brothers to venture back and see their old family one last time. What's on display here is a fascinating piece of hard sci-fi, anchored by an engaging central relationship portrayed by the directors. But at the heart of it lies a tale of forgiveness, and moving on from the nostalgia of the past. However Benson and Moorhead continue this universe in the future, consider it highly anticipated. 

The Darkest Minds - 1.5/5 - Outdated, derivative, boring.

#TheLateBatsby - 2.5/5 - A short put in-front of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, which feels like an advert for the upcoming DC Super Hero Girls TV Series. It's enjoyable enough for the 4 minutes it's on the screen, but doesn't linger long in the mind. 

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies - 4.5/5 - A wonderfully meta surprise.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre [rewatch] - 5/5 - For the 45th anniversary of the Massacre, I travelled to London and finally visited The Prince Charles Cinema, to see a 35mm version of this masterpiece on the big screen. No matter how big a screen I view this on, it remains gripping, tense, and grimy to the point I feel like a shower is necessary.

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Biggest Disappointment: Loving Vincent

The Borderlands - 3.5/5 - A picture that works thanks to the interactions of its leads, as Robin Hill and Gordon Kennedy sell the friendship and revealing humanity between the two of them. It may meander a bit, and Hill's character can come off as pretty irritating, but it's honestly worth it for a final act that stays with you, and proves pretty haunting. 

8 Mile [rewatch] - 4/5 - Curtis Hanson takes the narrative structure of a sports film, depicting a rapper's rise onto becoming something bigger, through the gradual gaining of confidence. It helps that Eminem's lead role is more than stunt casting, delivering a terrific understated performance which works especially well for the character, while the rap battles are downright sharp and as engaging as any traditional action scene we often see. Some characters get more to do than others (Brittany Murphy is unfortunately wasted here), but it's a "win" for musicians trying their hand at acting. 

Hotel Transylvania 2 - 3.5/5 - It's a sequel that's desperately trying to make its various plot points work, and isn't able to bring them all together in such a cohesive manner (the grandpa sub-plot doesn't even pop up until near the end). But to the films benefit, it delivers what it can in ways which are often funny and touching, with Blobby proving to be a standout character in his own right. 

Ant-Man and The Wasp [rewatch] - 4/5 - Sometimes, you just need to relax, enjoy the ways the sizing technology is utilised, and watch an Ant play the drums. This was one of those days. 

Christopher Robin - 4/5 - Marc Forster delivers Winnie The Pooh by way of Hook, as Christopher Robin is all grown up, and has left behind his beloved friends from Hundred Acre Wood, until Pooh Bear finds him, in the hopes of locating his missing friends. Yes, it's rooted in a pretty generic storyline, and initially succumbs to a tonal clash between the depressing realities of Robin's adult life with the joyful times had with these friends. Frankly though, it's worth it for the wonderful interactions had between these lovely characters, as they impart well told messages, and deliver an abundance of humour and warm feelings. Brad Garrett's Eeyore is a highlight, while Jim Cummings' vocal work put into Pooh is a close second, but the cast are all frankly tremendous. Just a shame we couldn't see more of some of the others.

Biggest Surprise: Resolution

Southbound - 3.5/5 - A mixed assortment of stories, all taking place in close proximity to one another down horrific stretches of desert highway. As with many anthologies, the tales vary in quality, as we see intriguing concepts which are lacking in execution, and then come across ones which are downright tense and utterly unsettling. It's outright enjoyable, and refreshing to not have the incessant need to have everything spelt out to viewers.

The Proposal [rewatch] - 3/5 - More enjoyable than I ever thought it'd be, and this is largely thanks to the duo that is Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. They share clear chemistry and carry oodles of charm, elevating a rote tale that goes to quite a few cringe-worthy places, even if some of the quieter moments work pretty well. 

Texas Chainsaw - 1/5 - My goodness.

John Luessenhop directs what intends to be the true successor to Tobe Hooper's classic, but this proves to be all the more embarrassing upon the realisation of what a diabolical mess this picture truly is. Underlying dread and tension are replaced with copious amounts of gore, while intensity is utterly thrown out of the window to favour poor CG and blindingly obvious moments which are included for the 3D gimmick. Character wasn't the original film's strong suit, but it looks pretty Shakespearian compared to the pathetic inclusions given to us here, who only serve to raise the body count. What's downright insulting, though, is how logic is pushed aside in order to turn Leatherface into a heroic figure, even after the horrendous actions he's committed in this film. 

Assault on Precinct 13 - 4.5/5 - As I make my way through John Carpenter's filmography, it's utterly worthwhile to finally experience brilliant examples of cinema like this one. What we have here is a great assortment of characters fighting off an invading gang, as Carpenter crafts a taut and tense thriller that feels inspired by home invasion films from the horror genre. Helping things are a kinetic direction, a clear sense of who the characters are, and an energetic score. 

The Secret Life of Pets - 3.5/5 - I must admit to have a soft spot for the output of Illumination Studios, even if I can't say I've loved any of their films. It's not an original tale and, among the bloated cast, it doesn't give enough time to the more interesting characters (a film focused on Jenny Slate's Gigi, and Albert Brooks' Hawk, would have been more interesting). Yet, I can't deny that I had an enjoyable time watching such humorous moments, and basking in the great voice cast assembled here.

Worst film of the month: Slender Man

The Howling - 4/5 - Viewing this makes me long for more Werewolf films, as it's a horror sub-genre which is deserving of much more attention. Joe Dante brings such an engrossing tale to life thanks to some phenomenal practical effects, a tense direction which isn't afraid to bare its fangs, and a great cavalcade of characters. 

All The President's Men - 4.5/5 - "Nothing's riding on this except the, uh, first amendment to the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country."

Funny how this film released over 40 years ago feels pretty relevant to America today. A film where the screens may be dominated by the horrific reality of a corrupt president coming further into power, but the journalists never stop working tirelessly to expose the truths and do their best to bring it all down. A phenomenal film that makes bouts of dialogue and uncovering of information as gripping as any action sequence, if not more. A wonderfully acted procedural, I'm glad i finally got to see this. 

BlacKkKlansman - 5/5 - A powerful piece of relevant cinema.

American Animals - 4.5/5 - Bart Layton utilises the same filmmaking style he made his name with on The Imposter, coupling documentary style footage, where the real life subjects recount their perspective of the unfolding events, with dramatizations of said events, as the subjects portrayed by a terrific real life cast. It's an interesting experiment, playing with the differing perspectives of these people, as key details are shown to have been remembered differently. It's a stylish and compelling way of showing this point, but may have been a point hammered home quite a bit in the closing moments. Nevertheless, it's a compelling tale that's slickly told, and will leave you white-knuckled for a long portion. Wherever Layton goes next, it'll be even more anticipated. 

Slender Man - 0.5/5 - As featureless as the titular creature.

The Meg - 2/5 - The idea of Jason Statham finding a giant prehistoric shark is an enticing one, which makes it a shame the filmmakers missed the boat on this one. While it was a bit much to expect this to be on par with Jaws, what could've been at least entertainingly trashy is instead extremely banal and uninspired, lacking in any kind of excitement or tension. Instead, we have to settle for poor effects giving us a squid humping an aquatic vehicle, and pretty toothless visuals of shark carnage. Characterwise, Jason Statham does well solidifying character relationships, but can't decide between a British and an American accent, and it's downright distracting.  

Best film of the month: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Best film seen in cinemas: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Best film watched for the first time: The Seventh Seal
Best film rewatched: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Biggest Disappointment: Loving Vincent
Biggest Surprise: Resolution
Worst film of the month: Slender Man

Number of films watched: 31