September 2020 In Review

After such a hectic month of films, I had a quiet month of film-watching by comparison. I managed to revisit some franchises I adored as a child, seek out interesting new films for 2020, and finally try the Bill and Ted films I should've seen years ago. So, let's see what films I watched this past September.

The Bold, The Corrupt, and The Beautiful (2020) - 4/5 - A compelling character study amidst a gripping crime thriller.

Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against The Universe (2020) - 3/5 - Going into this film, I can't call myself a massive fan of the original series. Not for reasons of dislike, my viewing habits are just limited to a few episodes and a couple of the movies. What I found from this Disney+ film was a heartfelt story of Candace, just wanting to personally have a win, and feel as though somebody is on her side. It came alongside great appearances from characters, who could deliver excellent gags which made me genuinely laugh. Then there were appearances which felt crowbarred in, gags which went on for too long or just as easily missed, and an antagonist I didn't care much for. Still, I had an enjoyable enough time in the moment.

The People Under The Stairs (1991) - 4/5 - Goodness me, I was unprepared for how good this would be. An underrated gem from Wes Craven's filmography, this premise carries great social commentary amidst its laugh out loud humour and tense moments. Brandon Quintin Adams is the films MVP, which is saying something when Everett McGill and Wendy Robie are so gleefully villainous in their roles.

Days of the Bagnold Summer (2020) - 4/5 - Simon Bird's directorial debut couldn't be further away from The Inbetweeners, his best known work. Adapting the graphic novel by Joff Winterheart, this film depicts a librarian mother who tries to bond with her metal-head son. The push and pull between their relationship feels achingly real, right down to the arguments, and it helps that Monica Dolan and Earl Cave give such wonderful portrayals. This is a lovely tale with so much heart and humour, where much is said in the smallest of ways.

Best film of the month & Best film
watched for the first time: Fish Story

The Dare (2020) - 3/5 - A gruesome and nasty flick, that'll make you question where your loyalties lie.

Apartment 1BR (2020) - 3/5 - Consider me surprised. For his feature debut, David Mamour tells the story of a woman who moves into a Los Angeles apartment. That's only the beginning, as this tale goes down chilling avenues which I didn't expect, turning what's on-screen into something surprising. I do wish there was more tension to the film, but this is a decent flick which is worth going into blind. Also would make a good pairing with Karyn Kusama's The Invitation.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) - 4/5 - It was long overdue for me to watch this, but I completely see why it's considered a classic. In order to pass a history test, the eponymous Bill and Ted use a time machine to gather various historical figures to help with their project. I never knew how much I wanted to see Napoleon fall in love with waterslides, Beethoven jamming on electric keyboards, or Billy the Kid pair up with Socrates to try and impress ladies at the mall. This mash-up of time periods is an absolute joy, making for a rollicking good time with a sweet heart at the centre. Sadly, that is tainted by our leads casually using a homophobic slur at one point, it feels mean-spirited and out of place. A shame, as Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves have most excellent chemistry in this bodacious film. They're better than that moment, as is this joyous film.

Biggest Disappointment: Hostel

Cuties (2020) - 3.5/5 - A criticism of the sexualization which social media offers, this is a debut with something important to say.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) - 3/5 - What a curious follow-up to the classic original. You can tell there's been an increase in budget, as the story goes for broke from the opening moments. So many different ideas are incorporated, feeling like a bizarre mash-up, and not all of it works or fits well together. I must admit, the stuff with William Sadler's Death is absolutely priceless, and gives me the laughs I sorely missed from the film before that. The filmmakers have swapped the simplicity of the original to raise the stakes, and I really miss that this time around. At least the heart and soul remains intact, with our sweet-hearted protagonists leading the way.

Crystal Eyes (2019) - 3.5/5 - A fun love-letter to Giallo.

Biggest Surprise: The People Under The Stairs

Hostel (2005) - 2.5/5 - My first venture into Eli Roth directed horror, and I had an interesting experience over the 90 minute runtime. Where I found it most interesting was a talkative scene near the end, where the satirical intent becomes most clear. Outside of that, I didn't find this as grisly as it's reputation built up, with many elements surprisingly left up to our imagination. Although it was effective in making me squirm at times, it's a shame this didn't live up to it's "torture porn" reputation. What really weighed this film down for me was the lead trio, each of whom came off as toxic, and I could not stand being in the company of. If they were meant to poke fun at teens from the 2000s, it did not come off that way for me. It just made the opening half an hour a struggle to sit through, and made me not care when the nasty stuff started happening.

Our Time Machine (2020) - 4.5/5 - A touching documentary about an artist coming to terms with his fathers deteriorating mind. Expect a review to come.

Underwater (2020) - 3/5 - Clearly drawing off Alien for inspiration, William Eubank has made a damn fine film in its own right. Granted, I preferred when the tension came from the characters trying to survive against a disaster, as the deep sea creatures did not work for me. After they became the main antagonistic force, I found the tension to be lacking. I was swept up by the cast, who did a lot with the characters and made me care about them. Well, with one irritating exception, but you don't need to be a detective to work out who I mean.

Digimon Adventure 3D: Digimon Grand Prix! (2000) - 1.5/5 - A 7 minute short which was shown at an amusement park, this is pure fluff depicting a race between various Digimon. Brought to life with awful CGI work, while forgetting to inject some personality into these characters fans have long loved. It's a tiresome short, notable for Agumon pooping on the competition.

Worst film of the month: Digimon Savers
3D - A Close Call For The Digital World

Digimon Savers 3D - A Close Call For The Digital World (2006) - 1/5 - For a 7 minute short, I'm not expecting the plot to be an intricate puzzle box. It's far from unreasonable to expect more than "Agumon and company mess about and stumble upon random Digimon, until one of them turns out to be doing harm." Poor CGI work does no favours to this irritating piece of work.

Fish Story (2009) - 4.5/5 - What Yoshihiro Nakamura has crafted is an utter cinematic marvel. Spanning decades, genres are blended so marvellously, as the films details a punk song that was misunderstood in its time, and how it impacts the world up to the impending arrival of a comet. You get invested in each of the stories, hoping it'll turn out okay for the characters. When the punk band play their last song together, it leaves you emotional, as they finally get to play their song their way and be themselves. An amusing part is how the punk song has a one minute moment of silence, which is speculated as a spooky myth, and later on debated as an intentional addition by music lovers.

What's truly astounding, though, is how it all comes together in a seemingly effortless manner that's so wonderful. This is one of the finest films I've seen dealing with the smallest acts having large ramifications, far beyond what you realise. This gem deserves to be seeked out by a wide array of people, and will leave you with one heck of an earworm.

The Stylist (2020) - 3.5/5 - A stylish feature, where loneliness is emphasised through scalpings.

Pokémon 3: The Movie – Spell of the Unown (2001) - 3.5/5 - As much as I'm a lifelong Pokémon fan, I didn't expect this sequel to be this good. Central to this is Molly, a young girl who doesn't want to face the heartbreaking reality of her parents being gone, so retreats into a fantasy world of her making. Aided by a guardian Entei, they're the basis for a tale which becomes genuinely emotional at points. It even has proactive roles for most involved, with Ash being emotionally invested for more than "being the very best", Brock and Misty acting as more than sidekicks, and Delia (Ash's mom) having a key part. I can forgive Team Rocket not contributing to the main plot, as they delivered some excellent lines which broke the fourth wall. I'm less forgiving of Pokémon being used as plot devices, with the Unown being largely forgotten outside of the initial set-up (even with their glaringly rendered CG). As for Ash's Charizard, his sudden inclusion feels so Ash had somebody that didn't lose to Entei in just about one hit. When it comes to the animated Pokémon films, this isn't my favourite, but it is the best made one I've seen so far. 

Best film of the month: Fish Story
Best film seen in cinemas: N/A
Best film watched for the first time: Fish Story
Best film rewatched: N/A
Biggest Disappointment: Hostel
Biggest Surprise: The People Under The Stairs
Worst film of the month: Digimon Savers 3D - A Close Call For The Digital World

Number of films watched: 18