July 2019 In Review

July has flown by, and we get ever closer to the years end. This month saw many excursions into the contrasts of Disney and horror, especially involving one Freddy Krueger. So, let's get into what films I viewed this past July.

Avengers: Endgame (2019) [rewatch] - 5/5 - The rerelease of this allowed me to finally see this for a fifth time on the big screen, and make it the film I've seen the most in cinemas. I just want to give Thor a massive hug. 

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) - 4.5/5 - A wonderful blending of humour, action, and emotional vulnerability, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a touching epilogue to the franchise so far, and the start of bold new avenues coming up. Stay for both credits scenes, they're utterly worth it. 

Midsommar (2019) - 4.5/5 - The more time which passes since I saw Ari Aster's sophomore feature, the more I find it has burrowed its way into my brain. I preferred Hereditary, but this is an accomplished piece of work which unsettled me & left me engaged throughout the entire 144 minute runtime.

This is Ari Aster going full on, without compromise and with complete and utter confidence. The cast are downright phenomenal, with Florence Pugh giving an astounding performance without being too showy. Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, and Will Poulter are also exceptional. There are images I'm still replaying over and over. Emotions I felt which I just cannot shake. Musical pieces which I cannot wait to hear again. Gorgeous locations which are unsettling to me now.

This is one of the years best films, & I damn well need to see it again.

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Best film of the month & Best film rewatched: The Lion King (1994)

Monsters, Inc (2001) [rewatch] - 5/5 - One of cinemas greatest duos, brought alive thanks to Billy Crystal and John Goodman being phenomenal, in this visually inventive and downright hilarious tale. 

Slumber Party Massacre II (1987) - 3.5/5 - Following on from The Slumber Party Massacre, this sequel focuses on the PTSD from one of the films survivors, now grown up and horrifically reliving the nightmarish experience. A part of me wishes it stayed with that, rather than manifesting it into an Elvis wannabe rocker killer, because that's the more interesting part of the film. But then I see the electric guitar/drill weapon, and a part of me wants to see more of that. Decisions, decisions.

The Queen's Corgi (2019) - 0/5 - The only way The Queen's Corgi could be anymore of a car crash is if the Duke of Edinburgh was the driver. This is a toxic waste of celluloid that doesn't deserve to be put in the same room as children, let alone the same plane of existence.

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Best film seen in cinemas: The Matrix

Strange Days (1995) - 4.5/5 - Set in the then-futuristic landscape of the approaching millennium, Kathryn Bigelow stylishly directs a neo-noir, as James Cameron and Jay Cocks script mixes elements from the past and the future in the most engrossing of ways. The main futuristic elements lie in the memory technology, which can provide pleasure for those seeking sexual pleasures, or allow a disabled person to one more feel what it's like to run again. These moments are appropriately captured, with the opening memory being a tense encounter, and the murderous ones to be downright horrific.

Dealing in this technology is Lenny, our engrossing lead who's trapped in the past, regularly taking solace in the memories of a past love, as his inability to move on draws him into an unfolding mystery, which Ralph Fiennes is more than ready to magnificently convey on-screen. His character is the perfect noir lead, as his love for a dame gets him mixed up in an old-school thriller, involving a killer on the loose, and the dangerous nature of a pair of cops. The latter plot strand feels horrifically timely, and allows the brilliant Angela Bassett more to do outside of her relationship with Lenny. Easily one of Bigelow's best works. 

The Ranger (2018) - 2/5 - There's promise with Jenn Wexler's directorial debut, as there seems to be lots of fun and promise held within the punk slasher premise. Apart from a short burst of fun gore, the film is unfortunately too lacklustre and lacking in tension to ever work. The main problem is how it's too full of unlikeable characters who you hope get slaughtered, especially for how much they're dicks to Chloë Levine's unfortunate lead. There's so many disparate elements which randomly pop up, and few actually work, with the last reveal and the ranger villain being a few drafts away from making sense. What a shame.

Near Dark (1987) [rewatch] - 5/5 - The more times I watch this horror-western from Kathryn Bigelow, the more I fall in love with it. The third act no longer feels rushed to me, but Bigelow making her stamp on the genre through her own terms, while the tragedy of this family breaking apart piece by bloody piece is a bittersweet experience. One of my favourite ever films.

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Best film watched for the first time: Strange Days

Living In Darkness (2002) - 4/5 - An extra on my Near Dark dvd, this documentary has a large amount of those involved in making the film return to recount their experiences. This leads to fascinating insights into their relationships and the preparation which went into crafting these characters. Lance Henriksen recounting his backstory for Jesse, his character, is easily the high point. I do wish more focused was given towards the process during filming, but this is fascinating stuff for any lovers of this underrated film.

Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family In America (2007) - 4.5/5 - Goodness me, Louis Theroux has the patience of a saint.

He approaches the Westboro Baptist Church in an attempt to understand their way of thinking, poking and prodding at the members to see how deep their faith runs, while trying to understand how being members of such a church affects their lives outside, be it at school, in personal relationships, or with family members who left the church.

It doesn't make me think of them as being any less of hateful arseholes, especially when they revel in the deaths of innocents, and willingly indoctrinate young children into such a hateful mindset, resulting in them being the targets of attacks. Theroux's approach is utterly fascinating, and I look forward to seeing his further returns to this family.

Louis Theroux: America's Most Hated Family In Crisis (2011) - 4.5/5 - Four years after his visit to the Phelps family and the Westboro Baptist Church, Louis Theroux returns to the group in a crisis. They've taken their vindictive message further, to places other than dead soldiers funerals, while a considerable number of members have fled the church.

Things have far from mellowed in the church, in fact managing to step things up in terms of being distasteful and venomous. This time around, we get to see what happens when people leave the church, be it their choice or not. The way a person can be dropped from the group, and immediately not considered family, is outright chilling. Even more unbelievable is a specific set of parents, who clearly want their child back, but are too beholden to their churchs beliefs to even try and open comminication with them.

Theroux remains patient as a saint, and prods at the members and their beliefs so fascinatingly, intent on seeing how far their blind faith takes them and their feelings. He puts it best at the end, that these are pitiful and regressive people who are blind to change, and more than willing to bury their heads in the sand.

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Biggest Disappointment: The Lion King (2019)

Liam Gallagher: As It Was (2019) - 3.5/5 - Charlie Lightening and Gavin FitzGerald utilise this documentary to follow Liam Gallagher, as he tries to find himself after the splitting of Oasis, the band Liam has been a part of all his life. It's an entertaining tale thanks to candid conversations throughout, while managing to be serious as we see Liam deal with his own issues, and try to find himself in the aftermath of it all. I do wish it gave a bit more focus to some areas, such as Beady Eye, Liam's band immediately after Oasis, and his own troubles which seem to be covered as far as showing tabloid headlines. As a result, it comes off more like a fluff piece to boost Liam's profile, which feels like a barrier from making it something more objective.

The Matrix (1999) [rewatch] - 5/5 - I've seen this film many times before, largely when I was far too young to actually watch it. I don't think I ever truly appreciated how magnificent this film is, and especially how revolutionary it was 20 years ago.

What Lana and Lilly Wachowski have crafted is a sci-fi flick with phenomenal choreography leading the heart-pounding scenes of action, as a brilliant ensemble breathe life into their great characters. Yes, some get more to do or say than others, but each gets their own something to make them feel like actual people, and not two-dimensional bodies there to fill up the space.

What makes it work so well, though, is how fleshed out it all feels. The reality of The Matrix is given to us, the stakes are set oh so well, even the antagonistic figure of Agent Smith is made to feel real, what with his conversation with Morpheus late in the film. It's wonderfully shot, just look at the iconic image of Morpheus offering Neo the pills which determine his future.

But most of all, it carries a degree of feeling personal, especially with the directors coming out as transgender. Agent Smith constantly refers to our lead by the name society deems to be right for him, and the moment of catharsis is Neo taking control of his identity, and rallying against his enemy by declaring what his name is. Now, if only the credits could've shown a similar respect, and have been rectified in honour of Lilly and Lana Wachowski.

The Lion King (1994) [rewatch] - 5/5 - This is a film which means a lot to me, as it's a massive part of my childhood, shared between me and my dad. The story told is about what legacy one leaves behind, and the weight it can have upon those who survive them.

What occurs is visually vibrant, bursting with imaginative creativity, as the well rounded characters do wonderful work in service of the story. The emotional moments hit as hard as the comedic, and the songs are utterly wonderful. My personal favourite is "I Just Can't Wait To Be King", which captures the childish sense of wonder at the future, before reality comes crashing down upon Simba's head.

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Biggest Surprise: Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family In America

A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) [rewatch] - 5/5 - What a wonderful idea, watching a slasher about a razor fingered serial killer who murders people in their dreams, just before I go to sleep.

Wes Craven crafted an intense masterpiece which delivers on the tension and horrific elements so darn well. It helps that the practical effects still hold up so well, and Robert Englund is a magnificent presence as the iconic Freddy Krueger.

The Lion King (2019) - 2/5 - The Lion King boasts great effects, but there's little else to this uninspired retelling without its own identity. Hakuna Matata means no worries, but judging by the end result, it also means no creativity, fun, or originality (well, as much as you can get in a remake).

A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) - 2.5/5 - The first of many sequels to Wes Craven's horror classic, and it's an utterly bizarre beast. A change in gears is felt, as Jack Sholder can craft a memorable set piece, but lacks the ability to ratchet up the intensity where needed.

There's also how much the in-universe rules of Freddy's powers are stretched, so he's able to control our leads body, and even crossover into the waking world. This is a big change which should feel like a game changing moment, but instead lessens the impact by getting rid of the central conceit which made the original so engrossing.

It's worth mentioning that, throughout it all, Robert Englund is magnificent as ever in his most iconic role. He sells the menace of Krueger so well, it's practically second nature to him even two films into this franchise. The rest of the cast do alright with what they're given, but don't exactly stay in the mind for too long.

The biggest legacy left by this film is the homoerotic subtext, as many have read our leads journey as his struggles with his sexual identity. It's a mixed message, as if Freddy epitomizes repressed sexuality, than him bursting forth and committing murder against probable objects of said repressed sexuality leaves a bad taste.

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Worst film of the month: The Queen's Corgi

Home Base (2002) - 0.5/5 - 13 years before the release of his $1.6 billion grossing entry into the Jurassic Park franchise, Colin Trevorrow made this no budget short. Everybody has to start somewhere, and when you see this is where he started, the progression of Trevorrow's career is baffling.

We open on a couple at a table, where their relationship is coming to an end. The girlfriend is interested in dating her partner's boss, and his response is to declare his intentions of seducing her mother. It's a bitter break-up which has comedic potential, but the end result is too smug and grating for any of it to be realised. The focus is more on bending the plot to the whim of the insufferable lead, as his ex's mother goes along with the plan.

Our lead is singularly focused on getting his ex back, coming off like an oversized man-child who'd sooner twist things to pin the blame on his ex, rather than understand what's wrong with his actions. The main problem with it is how he's treated as the hero, and his shitty taunting is played for laughs. It's a horrific peek behind the curtain at Trevorrow, and shows that The Book of Henry wasn't a one-off.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Brilliantly mixing creativity and frights, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors takes what made the original work so well, and expands upon it for a worthy follow-up. 

Annabelle Comes Home (2019) - 3.5/5 - It may work better with the emotional moments than the scary ones, but Annabelle Comes Home is an effectively focused chiller. It breathes new life into this horror universe, through a variety of ghosts and spirits.

Best film of the month: The Lion King (1994)
Best film seen in cinemas:  The Matrix
Best film watched for the first time: Strange Days
Best film rewatched: The Lion King (1994)
Biggest Disappointment: The Lion King (2019)
Biggest Surprise: Louis Theroux: The Most Hated Family In America
Worst film of the month: The Queen's Corgi

Number of films watched: 21