September 2018 In Review

Another month gone where I saw the years releases, and also kicked off my first Hooptober. So let's quit dilly dallying, and have a look at the films I watched over this past September.

King of Thieves - 1/5 - Bringing to screen the real life tale of The Hatton Garden Robbery, James Marsh manages to bring together an impressive cast. This makes it all the more a shame, when they're wasted on such lacklustre material. What's been delivered is an odd mixture, with Marsh seemingly unsure of how to approach the material. The initial idea seems to be setting the tone begins set as an all-out comedy, but it becomes dependant on eldery men swearing, or making gags relating to their age, which comes off as lazy. Then there's a great amount of lines being immediately repeated, a bizarre tactic which fails to land. Once the heist has been completed, jealousy sets in, and the proceedings change gears to take a darker tone. Considering what's come beforehand, this makes the film feel mismatched, as though Marsh combined two separate ideas for how he kind of film he wanted to make. Unless you wish to see Michael Gambon urinating in a sink, this isn't a film I'd recommend.

Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation - 3/5 - For all the faults the series clearly has, I consider myself an apologist of the Hotel Transylvania series. Yes, there's often too many plots to juggle, and it loads up on popular tunes in the most distracting of ways, but I consider myself an apologist. That said, though, I do hope they don't continue the series on. The impression is given that the filmmakers have run out of ideas, so they've resorted to two of the basic plots which signify this when a series lacks ideas: a holiday abroad, and getting single characters a girlfriend each. There are some funny gags (Gremlins Airline is a hoot), and it's enjoyable to spend time with these characters, but the lacklustre antagonist, and overuse of dance music, makes this the weakest instalment in the franchise. 

Searching - 5/5 - A found footage thriller for the social media age, phenomenally delivered.

The Nun - 2/5 - When the material labelled this "The Darkest Chapter in The Conjuring Universe", I didn't know they were being literal about it. The proceedings are so dimly lit, not for atmosphere, but as though the budget only allowed them 70p per day to spend on the lighting. Outside of that, it must be commended that this is a well acted piece, with Taissa Farmiga and Demián Bichir doing well in their roles, and Bonnie Aarons remaining as intimidating in the eponymous role. Sadly, it feels all for nought, as atmosphere and scares are vacant from this picture, replaced with tedium, monotony, and forced attempts at humour. But, considering how Annabelle went, this can be redeemed by a better prequel to The Nun, presumably depicting the Transformers: The Last Knight-esque inclusion of knights and Jesus' blood, in the initial birth of Valak, before the film bends over backwards to connect to the next film in the timeline.

Journeyman - 4/5 - I saw Paddy Considine's harrowing debut film, Tyrannosaur, years ago and find it too difficult to revisit. Watching his long awaited follow-up is also a difficult watch I don't think I'll be able to revisit, but I'm glad I saw it. Not a boxing film, but a film about the devastating aftermath, achieving what Rocky V failed to deliver. Powerfully performed by both Considine and Jodie Whittaker, they phenomenally convey the difficulties both of them face as they struggle to adjust to how their lives have changed.

Now here's hoping we don't have to wait nearly 10 years for Paddy's third film.

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Best film of the month & Best film watched for the first time: Martin

Predator (1987) [rewatch] - 4/5 - With the franchise finally getting a new instalment, I took it upon myself to get reacquainted with whatever entries in the franchise I could. What's interesting is how vastly different the opening of the film is the ending. Initially, it looks interchangeable from various other 80s action films, purely gung-ho through the gunplay, bad ass lines, and explosions. Then, once the eponymous creature comes into play, the film comes alive in the best possible ways. A great mixture of action and horror, managing to be purely thrilling and utterly horrifying when it needs to be, with phenomenal effects for all to view on the screen. What a great way to introduce an iconic horror movie icon.

Crazy Rich Asians - 4.5/5 -In adapting Kevin Kwan's 2013 novel, Jon M. Chu may seem like a left-field choice to helm this romantic comedy (the first to have a majority Asian cast in a modern setting, some 15 years after The Joy Luck Club). But the decision becomes all the more apparent, as his prior work on the Justin Beiber concert films lends a vibrancy to the proceedings. A gorgeously visual flair is brought, evidenced especially in the cinematography, and the costume design.

But Chu's secret weapon lies in the terrific ensemble cast. Constance Wu is a natural lead, bringing the charisma which made her the break-out star in Fresh Off The Boat. She does a wonderful job conveying her characters love for Nick, as Rachel wants to be strong enough to stand by the one she loves, no matter how much she struggles to fit into the lifestyle his family are a part of. It helps that Henry Golding does such a tremendous job, allowing viewers to see what Rachel sees in him, and being an engaging character in his own right.

A hilarious picture which embraces the romantic comedy formula, Crazy Rich Asians is a magnificent addition to the genre. I could do with those sequels now tbh.

Predator 2 - 3/5 - It made sense for the sequel to not take place in the jungle yet again, why put all that effort into making what could've essentially been a remake? Instead, the action relocates to gang-ridden Los Angeles, as Danny Glover is a hard as nails cop at the centre of a war between two laughable gangs that are cartoonishly depicted. The relocation does allow for some great battles to be witnessed on the screen, but it's all rather laboured and drawn out.

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Best film seen in cinemas: A Star Is Born

Hot Rod - 4.5/5 - One of my favourite comedies from recent years is Popstar; Never Stop Never Stopping, so upon the recommendation of a work colleague, I decided to try the other Akiva Schaffer directed, Andy Samberg starring picture. What I found was a film surprisingly witty in satirising the ridiculousness of toxic masculinity, treating the idea of our lead's goal, to punch his step-father in the face to earn his respect, with as much ridiculousness as it ultimately deserves. Outside of it lies a supremely funny piece of comedy which embraces the bizarre nature, and the cast deliver entirely committed portrayals. But whenever it's taking the piss out of 80's montages, be it leading to Andy Samberg falling down a hill, or an inspirational one descending into riots, comedy gold comes out of it all.

The Predator - 1.5/5 - An unfortunate disappointment.

Local Hero - 4.5/5 - My first Bill Forsyth film, and I must admit, it wasn't grabbing me from early on. It wasn't until I reached a certain point and it all clicked together for me. What a charming little time had here, spent in the company of wonderful people in this lovely little place. It feels full of life and utterly real, as though it's a place you want to really visit, packed with people you want to speak with and spend time with. By the end of it all, I felt the same as our lead, sad at the reality of this time coming to an end. I absolutely loved it.

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Best film rewatched: Predator

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - 2.5/5 - As the TV series of the same name is one of my favourites, it was about time I saw the basis for it, and Hooptober allowed me to chance to do just that. What I got, to no surprise, felt essentially like a dry run for the series, executed in a less than stellar manner. While Fran Rubel Kuzui's direction is merely passable, giving us some uninspiring scenes of action, it does allow for some great moments (especially one phenomenal tracking shot). But the problem lies with Joss Whedon's script, which tacks on an unnecessary romance, makes the female characters outside of Buffy the most obnoxious, air-headed stereotypes, and feels the need to have a great amount of the males call Buffy derogatory terms (how was he a feminist icon, again?).

In the lead role, Kristy Swanson delivers the charm and the wit so easily, breathing life into the "cheerleader turned slayer" role so terrifically. Paul Reubens may be playing the henchman, but he chews the scenery oh so gleefully. Meanwhile, the veterans like Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer leave little impression. For a beginning to this franchise, it could be worse, but it's clearly an idea which needs refining. 

6 Balloons - 4/5 - In only 75 minutes, Marja-Lewis Ryan delivers a touching and heartbreaking tale of drug addiction, and how it affects those close to it. The tale may not do much new, but it's a tremendous showcase for both Abbi Jacobson and Dave Franco. As the latter plays a heroin addicted father, and the former his sister drowning under the struggle of helping her brother, the pair deliver some phenomenal performances.

A Simple Favour - 4/5 - The latest from Paul Feig is billed as showing a darker side to the director, as he tackles the trashy airport novel. What's on offer here may, at first glance, be lumped in with the likes of Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train, but is more of a self-aware cousin to the genre. Think of it closer to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang in tone, as Feig leans into the trappings and clichés of the genre, while delivering a comedic spin on the material.

It helps that such a game cast are on hand, evidently committed to the material. Whether it's Anna Kendrick's lovable and energetic portrayal into her mommy v-logger, or Henry Golding's smooth and grieving husband, the cast are a massive part as to why this works. Rupert Friend may have a small role, but between this and The Death of Stalin, he's making a great career out of playing comedically scummy characters. But the biggest praise is deserved for Blake Lively, whose turn that isn't so much attention grabbing, as it is attention commanding, and is one of the absolute strengths of this picture. The film certainly works better in its comedic moments, so when it leans into the mystery thriller elements (especially in the final act), things don't work as strongly. But when Paul Feig's latest works, it bloody well works.

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Biggest Disappointment: The Predator

Braindead - 5/5 - I've heard many tales of this low budget, gory splatter fest from the early days of Peter Jackson's career. But frankly, nothing could've prepared me for what lay within, or for how much I undoubtedly loved it all.

At the heart of this film lies a sweet natured love story, involving a young man learning to escape from under the thumb of his controlling mother. It just happens to be told through the lens of a zombie tale, brought alive thanks to a jet black sense of humour, and some of the most astounding gore I've ever witnessed on-screen. Make no mistake, Peter Jackson is outright gleeful in delivering the tone, as the visually fantastic gore is complimented by hideous sound effects, as the squishing and gurgling add to the gloriously visceral image Jackson grants us.

Whether it's a lecherous uncle clearly enjoying pulling a zombies teeth out, Lionel's sexual encounter intercut with his mother being violently ill, or a wonderfully bizarre trip to the park, there's an accomplished handle on the tones all throughout. I do wish we'd see more of this side of Peter Jackson, it's a shame we get dragged out Middle Earth encounters instead.

Batman and Robin [rewatch] - 0.5/5 - I was Batman mad throughout my childhood, and when my mum took little 5 year old me to see this in cinemas, I absolutely loved it. It was my favourite of the Batman films. I hadn't seen it for nearly 20 years, and by god, this viewing was a massive change in opinion for me. Since my last viewing, I've delved more into both Batman, and films in general. So, as a film fan and a Batman fan, I can assuredly label this a poor representation of such great characters, and a poor film overall. In fact, it feels more like a toy commercial, what with how many different vehicles, costumes, and gadgets we regularly see for inexplicable reasons. You can see the cast are struggling with the material, and the garish neon surroundings certainly don't help.

But it's undeniable, from the Bat Credit Card, to Arnie's puns, there's fun to be had revelling in the ridiculousness of it all. It certainly says something when Coolio appearing, surrounded by A Clockwork Orange, Mad Max and Blade Runner cosplayers, isn't even in the top 10 of weirdest moments in this film. 

Martin - 5/5 - I'm glad I finally got round to it, as this has shot up to become one of my absolute favourite Vampire films. Romero wastes no time, as the opening scene depicts our lead making a kill. We aren't given any explanation, we're just thrust into him stalking a woman travelling alone, and preying upon her for his own needs. It's a beginning which grabs your attention and leaves viewers on tenterhooks for the remainder of the film.

From there on, we're allowed more of an insight into Martin. It's up for interpretation whether our lead is actually a vampire. That reading feels too easy for me, and it's far more interesting to see him as a troubled youth, where vampirism is more depicted as a mental illness, and exacerbated by his uncle's fanatical beliefs. Whichever reading one prefers to believe, John Amplas casts a quiet presence, proving unnerving as he surveys the people, deciding who to select to feed upon.

But what's delivered isn't just this interestingly ambiguous factor. In the middle portion, viewers bear witness to an unbearable moment of tension. After watching a woman left alone in her house by her husband, Martin stages a home invasion, which doesn't go exactly to plan. It's a horrific white knuckle ride, and a reminder of how powerful Romero can deliver the horror (but then, is that something we'd really forget?). From the immediate opening to the desperate end, Martin depicts a gripping tale centred around a compelling figure, handled by a masterful director, and fronted by an understated, yet powerful, performance. I love it.

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Biggest Surprise: Searching

The Serpent and the Rainbow - 3.5/5 - Now, here's a film I found worked better during the more restrained moments, when Wes Craven decided to focus more on the horror of humanity, while the undead aspect were used sparingly, but effectively tense. This is abundantly clear during an especially tense burial scene, while Bill Pullman absolutely sells being put at the centre of such terror. Unfortunately, I found things lost their way in the final act, when things became rather cartoonish, and outright ridiculous at times. A shame, as I was really enjoying it up until then. 

Mile 22 - 1/5 - What's the point in an action film, when you can't see the freaking action?

From Beyond - 3.5/5 - Stuart Gordon confines the horror to exactly the kind of house you'd see in a horror film, to compensate for the low budget horror, and to deliver on the fantastical premise of it all. There's a vast imagination going on here, brought alive through the impressive practical effects, which still look impressive to this day (although, some of the inclusions look very dated now). The seductive allure of the resonators power is apparent, as Barbara Crampton fantastically leading a committed cast, even if the material is lacklustre in places (did we need a scene of her putting on the dominatrix outfit?).

Gattaca - 4/5 - Andrew Niccol delivers an engaging & immersive look at a plausible future, as humans are genetically engineered prior to birth, leading to discrimination to those considered inferior. At the centre of it are a tremendous cast, with Ethan Hawke delivering a knockout performance,and Uma Thurman matching him with an equally compelling role. A shame it meanders to the end, going through the motions to reach conclusions you expect are coming, but it must be commended, you never feel any less connected to the journey of our lead, in his attempts to realise his dream. When it comes to our leads relationship to his family, especially to his brother, this aspect could've done with more time devoted to it. We see very little of how he and his genetically perfect brother are differently treated by their parents, nor do we see if that at all affected their sibling bond. We're just asked to buy into it, and honestly, his time spent with Jude Law's character came off as more well rounded, as though they were brothers instead.

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Worst film of the month: Gotti

Nightbreed - 2.5/5 - I wanted to like this one, I really did. Clive Barker's attempts to depict this monster society is an intriguing idea, full of imagination, impressive effects, and very fun to watch unfold. What a shame the end result feels like such a mess.

Early on, there's a rushed feeling to many key aspects, such as Boone's relationship with Lori, and his time with the psychiatrist. I would have liked a bit more time early on, as these scenes feel cut, or unfinished, leaving me less than invested in the main relationship, and our lead. Perhaps this would've helped Boone seem more than someone the plot requires to do stupid things, getting caught up in situations due to an incompetence. The main part lies in the monster society, located in Midian, which feels like a thriving place that these beings can call home, and feel safe from the horrific outside world. Equally as interesting is the chilling antagonist, played by David Cronenberg, who ends up feeling like an afterthought by the finale. Clive Barker's follow-up to Hellraiser is a film that has interesting ideas, but feels lacking in execution. 

The Last Sharknado: It's About Time - 1/5 - Having stuck through this series ever since 2013, it's bizarre to have reached the final entry (well, until SyFy revive it years down the line). Little has changed for the sixth film, as the filmmakers throw whatever they can against the wall, hoping to see what sticks, and refuse to let things like logic, or actors inability to show range, hamper their attempts (and I use that word damn lightly). But while the previous instalments have felt like the same joke being stretched out, this one feels like it's heading towards an actual conclusion that's been ingrained into the story (a story which is more of "throw whatever we can in there, and see what sticks", though). And yet, there was fun to be had in watching where the franchise would go. This one feels more like it's going through the motions, and certainly feels like one of the more forgettable entries. When a film has so much obvious greenscreen, fire breathing Sharks, brings to mind King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and has a future robot society, yet is pretty forgettable, that's damn unfortunate.
So long, awful Syfy franchise, and no thanks for all the fish.

Gotti - 0/5 - What a mess.

A Star Is Born (2018) - 5/5 - Gaga, collect your Oscar.

Best film of the month: Martin
Best film seen in cinemas: A Star Is Born
Best film watched for the first time: Martin
Best film rewatched: Predator
Biggest Disappointment: The Predator
Biggest Surprise: Searching
Worst film of the month: Gotti

Number of films watched: 25