April 2021 In Review

Believe it or not, that's four months completed in 2021. How time flies. This month had me watch a few last minute Oscar contenders, some very different iterations of Batman, and even some classic shorts about Superman, outside of the usual horror films and new releases. So, without further ado, let's see what I watched this past April.

Climax (2018) - 4.5/5 - Gaspar Noé crafts Step Up from hell, as a dance group find their evening of choreography and celebration rocked by Sangria spiked with LSD. The result showcases stunning choreography, an astounding soundtrack, a gorgeous colour palette, and a rising intensity which left me on edge throughout. What an exemplary film.

48 Hrs. (1982) - 3.5/5 - The best part of this film involves the electric dynamic between our leads. Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy form a pitch-perfect example of a buddy cop duo, as them playing off each other elevates an otherwise standard story. Walter Hill can damn well shoot an action sequence, especially among the gorgeously lit Chinatown sequences, as these elements hold up better than some much more dated elements.

The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (2019) - 4/5 - A cop and a gangster team-up to take down a serial killer, in this compelling thriller. The focus is more on the adrenaline than the cerebral, as the action scenes are thrilling to watch, and the scenes of the gangster and cop playing off each-other are great to watch. In spite of this, the ensuing mystery doesn't hold up, especially in later attempts to expand it. The cast are great, but the standout is easily Ma Dong-seok, who is an absolute force of nature as the titular gangster.

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Through the wonderful animation, witty script, and adoration for the comic-book icon's history, this is one of my favourite takes on Batman. Will Arnett does exemplary work in the lead role, as the character buries his fears and pain under bravado, while pushing everybody away. It's a film which plays off what people know about the characters history, building upon it for a touching and hilarious story, complete with one of the best spins on the Batman/Joker relationship. The standout is easily Michael Cera's take on Robin, an adorable little guy full of hope, who just wants to hug his new father without him mistaking it for an attack, and instinctively defending himself.

Clapboard Jungle (2021) - 4/5 - A love-letter to filmmaking, told by the veterans who've lived through the difficult process.

Best film of the Month & Best film watched
for the first time: Promising Young Woman

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies (2018) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - One of the most fun takes on superheroes I've seen in a while. Told in meta ways full of adoration, wit, and humour, this depicts a world where a superhero has only made it when they have their own feature film. Throughout the film we have absolutely catchy songs, heartfelt friendships between the main team, and some astoundingly dark jokes I absolutely adore. Go, Teen Titans, Go!

Double Dragon (1994) - 1/5 - It's astounding how much this film tries to coast on by, despite how clear it is Scott Wolf doesn't know karate. There isn't much else to this limp film, but a sense of bafflement at the poor choices we've seen be made. Be it the tumour monster whose usefulness extends to relaying information a post-it note could've contained, the irritating characters we must be in the company of, or Robert Patrick's distractingly bleached hair. An action film which doesn't get you excited, with thinly-sketched characters, and makes a 95-minute runtime a chore to get through.

Brainscan (1994) - 2.5/5 - With a plot hinging on the use of CD-ROMs, and a very outdated look at technology, there's a certain charm to this 1994 film. T. Ryder Smith is having a blast as Trickster, another attempt to make a serial killer in the vein of Freddy Krueger, and he's better than the material. The basic premise feels born out of a tired idea we see repeated too much, linking playing video games, listening to rock music, and watching horror movies, to committing murders. There's entertainment to be had in the premise, but also frustration, as the characters feel too thin, and the film REALLY glosses over our lead being a creep.

Palm Springs (2020) - 4.5/5 - What an utter blast this was. A film which takes a premise that should feel old hat, and utilises it in such an engaging manner. This is thanks to the sheer hilarity on-hand, and the sublime performances by Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, pouring so much into these wonderfully characterised leads. It took a year for this to reach the UK, and it damn well lived up to the hype.

Silent Action (1975) - 4/5 - Sergio Martino delivers action-packed set-pieces, wrapped in a compelling mystery.

Best film rewatched: The LEGO Batman Movie

Space Jam (1996) [rewatch] - 2/5 - I have a lot of nostalgia for this film which combined the iconic Looney Tunes characters with Basketball superstar Michael Jordan, and in all honesty, I probably should've left it at that. To the films credit, there is much fun to be had with the Looney Tunes gang, especially when located in their 2D animated home, but it all feels in service of an uneven story which utilises some dodgy CG effects. The performances feel awkward, especially in regards to the supporting cast assembled of Basketball players, and then there's Lola Bunny. This was the first appearance of the character, her introduction to a wide-audience, and it feels gross that she can't appear on-screen without being over-sexualized in really gross ways. Sometimes, you're best holding onto those nostalgic memories, and leaving it at that.

LEGO DC Comics Superheroes - Batman: Be-Leaguered (2014) - 2.5/5 - For a 22-minute short lurking on Netflix, this is harmless enough stuff. It treads familiar ground, as we see Batman learning the importance of teamwork, and you can feel the plot zigzagging all over the place, dependant on what LEGO sets were available to buy at the time. I've seen worse iterations of the Dark Knight.

Sound of Metal (2020) - 5/5 - Finally out in the UK, this tale of a heavy metal drummer losing his hearing is one of the most exceptional films I've seen all year. It could've been a "disease of the week" style tale, but co-writer and director Darius Marder does an exceptional job in capturing this engrossing tale, it never feels less than authentic to the characters within. Riz Ahmed has been building a tremendous filmography, and his portrayal of Ruben may be the best he's been yet. Playing the drummer who just wants things to go back to how they were, he's resistant to adapting to the challenges this new life will bring. Olivia Cooke and Paul Raci does tremendous work in their supporting roles, aiding Ruben's story in whatever way they can. What's most astonishing about the film is the exceptional sound design, wonderfully capturing what Ruben is going through in a way which feels tremendously representative. An utterly exceptional film.

A Little More Flesh II (2021) - 4/5 - An unflinching and confrontational piece about the repellent abuse of power.

The Green Inferno (2015) - 0.5/5 - It's been over a decade since he burst onto the screen with Cabin Fever, but it feels like Eli Roth hasn't changed as a filmmaker. Watching this film, it still feels like he's trying to make a frat boy comedy, but has gotten trapped into making gory exploitation horror. The worst offender comes after a pretty grisly death, which is soon followed by a diarrhoea scene which is played for laughs, although an instance of the "munchies" comes in at a pretty close second. Between this and the retrograde language utilised, wake me when Eli Roth grows up a bit.

What about the characters? I can only exclaim "Who cares?", as I certainly did not. They're some of the most insufferable beings I've had the displeasure of watching, and this is including the likes of Aquaslash. I'm sure Roth would like the claim they're a criticism of some culture, but they just feel more like a symptom of how he can't write actual people, and especially not women. Not helping matters are the lacklustre performances, but when this is the material they're given, I can't blame anybody for not being fully invested. There's at least some grisly kills, but it feels like a slog to wade through the film to reach them.

Biggest Disappointment: Space Jam

Portal (2021) - 2/5 - An alien invasion anthology with many ideas, but all it leads to is disappointment.

I Blame Society (2021) - 4/5 - A satirical look at filmmaking, this is a fiery film born from very real frustrations.

Promising Young Woman (2020) - 5/5 - Now that it's finally available in the UK, I'm absolutely blown away by this film. Crafting a bubble-gum aesthetic amidst such dark subject matter, Emerald Fennell brings to screen an engrossing and pitch-black tale of revenge. From beginning to unforgettable end, this film takes no prisoners in it's critique of rape culture. Come for Carey Mulligan's excellent performance, stay for the fantastic soundtrack.

Superman (1941) - 3/5 - Released in 1941, this is a fascinating short based on Superman, developed by Fleischer Studios. It's a standard tale, as a generic Mad Scientist threatens to wreak destruction, and Lois gets held hostage, so Superman must save the day by punching the beams of the scientists evil ray. It's a gorgeously animated piece with a stunning score, doing a good job within an 11-minute runtime.

The Mechanical Monsters (1941) - 4/5 - The next Fleischer Studios short has Superman facing Mechanical Monsters, which makes for a great battle depicted on-screen. It's terrific to see the animation style depict these antagonists, with the scene of them rising one by one to face Superman being a highlight. My issues are more of the same, as a one-dimensional inventor kidnaps Lois this time, yet this is a more effective short than it's predecessor.

Biggest Surprise: The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil

Billion Dollar Limited (1942) - 4.5/5 - My favourite of the Fleischer Studios shorts so far. An armed gang attack a train carrying a billion dollars worth of gold, and it's up to Superman to save the day. Thankfully, Lois isn't kidnapped this time, acting to save the day as soon as she notices something's amiss, by wielding a gun and trying to stop the runaway train. It's great to see her as a badass, all occurring in this gorgeous art style.

The Arctic Giant (1942) - 4/5 - A frozen dinosaur that resembles Godzilla thaws out of it's icy prison, resulting in a story that can be summed up as Superman vs Godzilla. It's a simple story which fills out it's runtime very well, and delivers great spectacle thanks to the stunning animation.

American Gangster (2007) - 4/5 - As it's leaving Netflix soon, I decided to give this a go, and would comfortably rank it in the among the better Ridley Scott films. Partially based on a true story, the film follows the criminal career of Frank Lucas, a gangster who smuggled heroin into America, while being hounded by law enforcement efforts to bring him down, including that of Detective Richie Roberts. What most enraptured me were how the dual stories mirrored each other, with Lucas being characterised as somebody who gives back to the community, in spite of his business being that of murder and importing heroin. Whereas Roberts is painted as the do-gooder from early on, as he's ostracised from fellow officers by refusing to pocket unmarked bills for himself, yet he's in the midst of a bitter divorce due to his infidelity. It's an excellent tale, although I must say the Lucas plotlines were more engaging than the Roberts ones. It helps that the characters are fantastically portrayed, with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe putting in excellent performances. Don't let the 157 minute runtime fool you, it's a story that absolutely flies by.

The Oak Room (2021) [rewatch] - 4/5 - An ice-cold thriller, where a person's most cutting item are their words.

The Mitchells vs The Machines (2021) - 5/5 - A heart-warming tale of family unity, hilariously told in the face of a robot uprising.

Worst film of the month: The Green Inferno

Vampires Suck (2010) - 0.5/5 - I'm sure this is an outdated thing to say, but this film absolutely sucks. Then again, it's pretty fitting when this 82-minute film feels so outdated to it's core. A limp spoof of the Twilight saga, where the gags are pop-culture references and franchise criticisms which felt outdated back in 2010? 11 years later, they're just embarrassing, and we're left with Ike Barinholtz playing a Native American in a wheelchair for some reason.

The Deep Ones (2021) - 2/5 - It wants to be Rosemary's Baby by way of Lovecraft, yet unfortunately doesn't reach those heights.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) [rewatch] - 2/5 - I want the first live-action meeting of DC's Trinity to be good, so I decided to revisit this film for the first time since it was in cinemas. This time, I opted for the Ultimate Edition, as that additional half-hour is meant to aid the film. You can make a good story which tackles Superman being distrusted by the public & the government, as well as Batman grappling with his morals, all which is manipulated by Lex Luthor. Sadly, this is not that film.

Bringing the run-time to three hours hasn't quelled my issues. I'll give it that the story is more coherent, yet the ideas remain a mess in execution. The tackling of collateral damage feels half-hearted, while Luthor's manipulations come at the expense of Batman's intelligence, the guy known as the world's greatest detective. The ideas for these characters come off as ill-fitting, be it Batfleck as a garishly dressed version of The Punisher, or Lex Luthor Jr feeling like a riff on Jim Carrey's The Riddler. Most saddening is Superman, as his journey and relationship with Lois Lane should have me invested, but I don't buy it. At least Wonder Woman was great, though.

Fear of Rain (2021) - 1.5/5 - A thriller which utilises a real-life condition, for a story which is more frustrating than thrilling.

Here Are The Young Men (2021) - 3/5 - A film which serves as a warning for toxic masculinity, with mixed results.

Best film of the month: Promising Young Woman
Best film seen in cinemas: N/A
Best film watched for the first time: Promising Young Woman
Best film rewatched: The LEGO Batman Movie
Biggest Disappointment: Space Jam
Biggest Surprise: The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil
Worst film of the month: The Green Inferno

Number of films watched: 30