October 2020 In Review

October has passed us by, the spookiest season of the year. It was also a busy season for me, as I partook in both the London Film Festival and Halloween Frightfest, which really inflated the amount of films I saw this month. It's also a great sight for how varied my month has been, none more so than the films which tied for my biggest surprise of the month. So, let's go forth and see what films I watched this past October.

Pokémon: The Mastermind of the Mirage Pokémon (2006) [rewatch] - 1/5 - Even as a devoted Pokémon fan, I thought this was pretty bad. A mash-up of stuff already done in the franchise, but worse, for a 45 min runtime which drags on. It was made for the franchises 10th anniversary, and feels like the most basic way to celebrate. You can feel how slapdash it all is, right down to the tiresome villain whose last moments are undermined by how nobody gave a damn about the character.

Billy & Mandy's Big Boogie Adventure (2007) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - The film is a mixture of plot elements, and not all of them work well together. Most glaring among them is the time travel stuff, which could've been excised from the film and change very little. In spite of this, I loved spending time with these characters, in this darkly humorous corner of Cartoon Network's past.

The Painter and The Thief (2020) - 4/5 - An interesting documentary which approaches both the painter and the thief with full understanding, never limiting them to just those titles. It captures both sides very well, and delivers the emotions with great effectiveness. Although the story didn't wane, my attention did, and I felt this could've been shorter.

Hamilton (2020) - 5/5 - I finally managed to watch this, and oh my goodness, I adored it. The 160 minute runtime flew on by, with a glorious symphony of wonderful songs. This epic sprawl over this fictionalised take on Alexander Hamilton's life was powerfully delivered, with the humorous moments hitting their mark, and emotional beats packing a punch. By the end of it, I felt I had been on a journey, and was immediately ready to view it all over again. I'd gladly return for the exceptional performances and tremendous musical voices, especially of Leslie Odom Jr, Daveed Diggs, Phillipa Soo, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Jacob's Ladder (1990) - 4.5/5 - Goodness me, what an unnerving feature this was. Adrian Lyne details PTSD in such a disturbing way, through this powerful psychological horror, vivid in it's horrifying imagery. Tim Robbins does exceptionally as the eponymous Jacob, who's terrifying experiences are captured in unforgettable ways.

Stray (2020) - 4/5 - A tender piece of work told through dogs eyes, as they wander through the streets of Istanbul.

Herself (2020) - 3.5/5 - A compelling drama which breaks your heart, as Claire Dunne powerfully depicts a mother trying to overcome abuse, and build a better life for her children. Ultimately, a hopeful film.

Siberia (2020) - 2/5 - Abel Ferrara captures a life full of regrets, in experimental and surreal ways. Didn't work for me.

Best film of the month and
Best film rewatched: Halloween (1978)

Mangrove (2020) - 4.5/5 - Another powerful piece of work from Steve McQueen. A necessary piece of British history is given life, and it's all the more saddening to see how timely it is. Can't wait to see what the rest of Small Axe is like.

The Devil To Pay (2020) - 3/5 - A quiet tale of legacy which proves engaging, even if we've seen it done better before.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020) - 4.5/5 - A touching farewell to a bar, and it's community.

Shirley (2020) - 3.5/5 - The conventions of a biopic are thrown aside, delivering an enthralling tale of a long-lasting marriage steeped in toxicity, as it infests a new-found marriage. I didn't fully gel with it, but I found it to be great.

Alien Addiction (2020) - 0.5/5 - Like the main character, this film is aimless, and irritatingly juvenile.

Digimon Adventure (1999) - 3.5/5 - After devouring the bastardised versions of 3 Digimon movies in my childhood, packaged into one American version, it's interesting to go back and see how much they were changed. Seeing Champion level Digimon as more monstrous and primal than the show depicts them is interesting, especially with it occurring through young children's eyes. This is a much better take on the story than what English speaking audiences got, although they didn't need to keep playing Bolero. It worked at first, but continuously repeating it just got tiresome.

Wolfwalkers (2020) - 5/5 - Cartoon Saloon have done it again, turning to Ireland for a fable about what parents will do to protect their children. A visually arresting piece of work, as heartfelt characterisation sits alongside a thrilling tale about the evils of colonialism. Easily one of the festivals best.

Wildfire (2020) - 3/5 - The resurgence of a missing sister brings past traumas to the surface, in Cathy Brady's Ireland set drama. It can feel a bit "been there, done that", especially when it veers towards melodrama, but that doesn't detract from how engaging the lead pair are.

Best film seen in cinemas: Saint Maud

Digimon Adventure: Our War Game (2000) - 4/5 - Without an irritating voice-over killing the mood, an admittedly great soundtrack playing, and forced inclusions to Willis, this is a pretty great film. Digimon Adventure: Our War Game is set after the original series, where the Digidestined are divided. Because poor timing must be a thing, this is when a Digimon is born in the internet, and threatens the world with a nuclear warhead.

This'll be great for those familiar with the lore, as I would expect newbies to get tired of the Digimon constantly one-upping each other by pulling out a new form. Limiting the returning characters, adding a ticking clock and real-world issues ramps up the tension, with the villain made MUCH more creepy by being silent (apart from the laughing.) It does end rather suddenly, and OF COURSE the two lead characters were the only hopes. I'm looking forward to seeing Summer Wars, where Mamoru Hosada can use this plot with more free reign.

One Night In Miami... (2020) - 4/5 - Regina King moves behind the camera for this excellent tale, about Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Cassius Clay uniting to celebrate the latter's victory to become Heavyweight Champion of the World. It's a charming story which delivers heart and power, about four friends enjoying this single night together, while each grappling with their own troubles in the midst of personal successes. You can see how this originated on the stage, but that doesn't detract from the intimate reflections offered about larger than life figures.

Every Time I Die (2020) - 3/5 - A high-concept tale about regret, with potential to boot.

Emma. (2020) - 3.5/5 - My efforts to catch up on 2020 cinema have led me to this adaptation of Jane Austin's novel. My only experience with this work prior is Clueless, so I can't speak on how well adapted this is. What I can say is that Autumn de Wilde has a talented eye, lavishly bringing this story alive with gorgeous production design and costumes. This is a charming feature I found myself enjoying the company of, even if I wish it made me laugh more. Although, you can't fault that cast, from Anya Taylor-Joy being impeccable, to Josh O'Connor threatening to steal the film with such a giddy portrayal.

Also, I'm not the biggest Miranda Hart fan, so I found it funny whenever she appeared, Emma got exasperated. With that in mind, a very well done to Autumn de Wilde, for making my heart go out to Hart later on.

Another Round (2020) - 4.5/5 - Thomas Vinterberg delivers a compelling tale about men, struggling with how their lives have turned out. In an effort to do something, they conduct a hypothesis by constantly staying drunk. What occurs is humorous at times, and devastating at others. Worth watching just for Mads Mikkelsen's dance moves.

David Byrne's American Utopia (2020) - 4/5 - I'm not familiar with the work of David Byrne, outside of two Talking Heads songs, but I was completely won over by this. Spike Lee transfers this Broadway show to film in the most visually dynamic ways, complete with excellent tunes. The standout has to be a Janelle Monáe cover, which is powerful and sadly relevant.

Rose - A Love Story (2020) - 2/5 - A mixture of genre ideas with a romantic drama, which doesn't work as well as it should.

Lost Highway (1997) - 4.5/5 - The further I get into David Lynch's filmography, the more hypnotic I find it. I'm still trying to grasp what I saw here, and how the story fits together, but I was never anything less than enthralled, and this hasn't left my mind. Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, and Balthazar Getty do wonderful work leading this excellent tale of male jealousy, depicted in creepy ways which left me unnerved.

Best film watched for the first time: Wolfwalkers

The Human Voice (2020) - 3.5/5 - Pedro Almodóvar adapts Jean Cocteau's play to contemporary times, leaving us with a half-hour of Tilda Swinton grieving for the end of her relationship. It's strongest when we see her coping with this change, delivering a captivating monologue, although she gets upstaged by a very good dog.

Digimon Adventure 02 - Hurricane Touchdown! The Golden Digimentals (2000) - 3/5 - I went into this one expecting the most difference, as this is notably the film which was the most mangled in translation. What I saw is an oddity, as whole elements were excised, with the original Digidestined having their role snipped out (although, this film did end up forgetting about them.) Where it's strongest is in Chocomon, the antagonist who's lost in their nostalgia to the point of madness, wishing to return to happier times. What led to such a change is left unexplained, like much about this film, especially in the rushed finale. It's difficult to get invested with this group, whose depiction here paints them as less interesting Digidestined, in a tale with little weight to it.

Saint Maud (2020) - 4.5/5 - Rose Glass crafts an engrossing tale of psychological unease, where the real horror lies in the unravelling of ones mind, leaving me with a constant sense of dread. Morfydd Clark is exceptional in the lead role, from beginning to that exceptional final shot.

Possessor (2020) - 4.5/5 - What a film! Brandon Cronenberg delivers an engrossing mindbender which gets under your skin, while delivering the gruesome effects from the ever-impressive Dan Martin. Think Inception soaked in blood, and with more cocks on-screen.

Ammonite (2020) - 3/5 - I was a fan of God's Own Country, so was more than ready for Francis Lee's next feature. It's a phenomenal showcase for the cast, as Kate Winslet and Saorise Ronan find comfort in each other to help through depression and loneliness. It's a shame I was left disappointed, as the pace really dragged on for me, and the story felt lacking.

Lover's Rock (2020) - 4/5 - Two entries in, and Small Axe is shaping to be something very special indeed. This one takes place around a House party, centring on two characters who meet and have clear chemistry. Nobody at that party can escape from their troubles, be it familial or wider racism, but that one night provides a wonderful chance to temporarily let go of them. A moving film, and a great way to close off my LFF experience.

Honest Thief (2020) - 2.5/5 - This forgoes an interesting set-up, for a run of the mill Liam Neeson actioner.

Slaxx (2020) - 4/5 - An interesting indictment of corporations, mixed with the fun of watching Jeans commit murder.

Biggest Disappointment: Babysitter Must Die

Relic (2020) - 3.5/5 - An effective, if heavy-handed, metaphor for dementia wrapped in a genre skin.

Held (2020) - 3/5 - Directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing take marriage counselling to the extreme, in ways which firmly held my attention. There's no mistaking the influences, or what routes this film takes, but it addresses toxic and outdated ideals very well. Jill Awbrey does stellar work in the lead role, and on the screenplay.

The Sinners (2020) - 2/5 - Courtney Paige does stylish work directing, in this interesting tale about 7 girls each representing a deadly sin. This seems like a good match for the horrors of teenage life, but it just left me feeling cold, and rolling my eyes at what routes the story took. Somehow, it managed to make a short runtime drag on.

Sacrifice (2020) - 2.5/5 - A trip back to his original home sees Isaac seduced by the culture, to the horror of his pregnant wife. Andy Collier and Tor Mian craft an interesting tale, intending to deliver the terror due to the husbands fracturing mind. Unfortunately, I felt at a distance due to a lack of emotional investment, and frustration from the amount of fake-outs which occurred. The quiet sound mix didn't help, either.

The Banishing (2020) - 3.5/5 - Using the backdrop of World War II, and the rise of fascism, Christopher Smith paints a tale that's dripping with atmosphere. There does feel to be too many cooks in the kitchen, as the stories of personal shames, the Church being idle in these times, and occultist Harry Reed clash with one another, in spite of excellent performances (especially a magnetic Sean Harris.) I would say the first two acts are stronger than the third, reminding me of Insidious in what occurs.

Chop Chop (2020) - 1/5 - A decent idea for a 10 minute short unfortunately runs on for another 70 minutes.

The Returned (2020) - 4.5/5 - Laura Casabé tells an excellent story with this period piece, surrounding colonisers trying to keep out the indigenous tribe they live in proximity to. A tale that's captivating in its slow-burn nature, as it builds to a bloody finale, in ways which left me creeped out.

The Pale Door (2020) - 3.5/5 - Aaron B. Koontz blends the Western backdrop with a Witchy horror, for a genre mash-up that delivers an entertaining time. More effective with the latter rather than the former, especially when he Witches are crafted in such an interesting way, and there's great visual tricks, especially within a church. At the heart of it lies a bittersweet tale about the ways we cope with trauma, which was effectively delivered.

Biggest Surprise:
Digimon Adventure: Our War Game and Lost Highway

Babysitter Must Die (2020) - 2.5/5 - A horror comedy which didn't do enough to make me laugh, or leave me on edge. Riley Scott is earnest in the lead role, a contrast to the hammy performances from the antagonists. This unfortunately left me disappointed.

The Reckoning (2020) - 3.5/5 - Working on a lower budget, Neil Marshall seems to work with more creative freedom, in this period piece revenge film. The focus is less on the torture, but rather the suffering, an aspect which is fantastically conveyed by Charlotte Kirk. What's been crafted is a gripping tale which unfortunately runs a little long, which could've been helped by cutting back on the flashbacks (especially those from previous scenes in the film.) But when we get to the third act, where the eponymous reckoning takes place, it's satisfying to witness, aided by the tremendous use of gore.

The World We Knew (2020) - 2.5/5 - A tale of simmering tensions between gangsters, which gets exacerbated by ghosts. A slow-burn which doesn't captivate, feeling more like a Guy Ritchie film that throws in ghosts to appeal to the genre crowd. Didn't work for me.

Alien On Stage (2020) - 5/5 - Charting an amateur-theatre production of Ridley Scott's Alien, this is a feel-good documentary and a wonderful highlight of Halloween Frightfest, Seeing the adoration and effort gone into this recreation is inspiring, delivered in hilarious ways. Joyously infectious stuff.

Benny Loves You (2020) - 4/5 - If Toy Story 3 was mixed with a slasher film, this would be the batshit end result. A tale about growing up and letting go of childish things, delivered with bundles of charm, grisly violence, and an adorable serial killer to boot. Seek this one out.

The Hunt (2020) - 3/5 - Due to my Frightfest screening of Embryo missing subtitles, and me failing 2 years of my secondary school Spanish class, I gave this a try instead. A film muddled on it's ideas, especially where politics is concerned, coming off as a weaker South Park episode. It's much better as a thriller, entertaining, grisly, and doing very well by the titular hunt. Betty Gilpin is a treasure, and deserves to star in many more leading roles.

Let's Scare Julie (2020) - 2/5 - Jud Cremata has decent ideas for the plot lingering, crafting a tale about regret and bullying. Unfortunately, they're squeezed together at the last minute, after so much time is spent on the teens being irritating. A shame, as there was potential within, but it feels at the expense of the one-take gimmick.

The Funeral Home (2020) - 2.5/5 - From the opening, Mauro Iván Ojeda does atmospheric work in directing this tale. A family are haunted by the ghosts of their familial issues, on a setting which plays out like a suffocating stage play. Unfortunately, the scattershot script lets it down, as the third act makes it clear certain elements amount to little by the end.

Worst film of the month: Alien Addiction

Origin Unknown (2020) - 2.5/5 - A siege flick which sees a gang-member holed up, protecting his family, to end up fighting against vampire hunters, with a blood-thirsty young girl in the mix. A flick that's entertaining at times, but I wanted more from it, as it's largely a lifeless affair.

Lucky (2020) - 4.5/5 - An exemplary feature by Natasha Kermani, written and directed by Brea Grant. The premise follows a never-ending cycle of fighting of a murderer, which resembles a Road Runner cartoon, but if we saw how visibly affected Road Runner was by Wil E Coyote's attempts. These are utilised to mirror the societal issues woman face, and the large-scale acceptance of how awful things are. Seek this one out.

Skylin3s (2020) - 3/5 - Liam O'Donnell takes the action to the aliens home-world, and it's a decent expansion that takes the route Independence Day wishes it could've. It's more interesting when watching the space set stuff, as opposed to the Earth set scenes, which feel like a time filler. There's entertaining action, at it's best when people enacting out choreography, rather than gunfire and CGI reliance. There's good interactions between believable characters, even if some take the routes you'd expect from their first appearance. Overall, maybe the best of the franchise.

The Photograph (2020) - 2.5/5 - Stella Meghie does good work directing this tale of romance, as the burgeoning romance of a new couple is intercut with a relationship from 30 years prior, and a mother's past regrets inform her daughters present. Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield are excellent in the lead roles, but can only do so much with the forced dialogue. I can't say I felt wholly swept up in either story.

Rogue (2020) - 2.5/5 - A passable straight-to-DVD actioner, with a message that's worth conveying.

Criminal Audition (2020) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - A plausible premise utilised in entertaining ways.

Baskin (2015) - 3.5/5 - Can Evrenol directs this interesting feature, which is packed with atmosphere. What begins as an interesting slow-burn becomes a nightmarish descent into hell, depicted with surreal imagery that won't be easily forgotten. It's a lot for a first watch, but it's a grisly and unnerving feature, with an excellent score to boot.

Halloween (1978) - 5/5 - It doesn't feel like October 31st unless I've watched this horror classic. Lynda and Annie feel like friends I was close to back in secondary school, Michael Myers remains a terrifying force of nature, and Laurie is still the compelling lead I worry for when the final act rolls around.

Best film of the month: Halloween (1978)
Best film seen in cinemas: Saint Maud
Best film watched for the first time: Wolfwalkers
Best film rewatched: Halloween (1978)
Biggest Disappointment: Babysitter Must Die
Biggest Surprise: Digimon Adventure: Our War Game/Lost Highway
Worst film of the month: Alien Addiction

Number of films watched: 56