June 2021 In Review

We're halfway through the year,  and there's been an excellent few films released. I managed to catch a good amount of those, while also revisiting a favourite show of mine, Community, and starting my journey into the acclaimed HBO series, The Sopranos. I also managed to catch a few gems and classics I had overlooked until now, which was rather satisfying. So, without further ado, let's see what films I saw this past June.

Cruella (2021) - 4/5 - Going into this film, I admittedly didn't have high hopes. For the large part, I've found Disney's live-action remakes of their animated classics to be uninspired ways to capitalise over nostalgia. With that said, I found this to be a really enjoyable time. What we have is a gripping reinvention of the iconic villain, less focused on skinning Dalmatians, and more on making a name for herself in the fashion industry. She grapples with the Baroness, a powerful icon she initially admires, and the cutthroat battle between the fashionistas is never less than compelling. It helps that Emmas Stone and Thompson shine brightest among the excellent cast, although Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, and John McCrea are absolutely wonderful. This film excels most when it's setting out to carve its own path, and this is highlighted by how the moments of fanservice. It feels trapped in an obligation to reference the original film, and those come off as forced inclusions in a film which could've been cut down. In spite of this, director Craig Gillespie has crafted something brimming with style, packed with excellent costumes and make-up.

Flashback (2021) - 3.5/5 - Blending past, present, and future, this delivers something original the way independent cinema excels at.

But I'm A Cheerleader (2000) - 4.5/5 - As relevant today as it was decades ago, Jamie Babbit has crafted an engaging tale of love and acceptance told in pastel-colours.

Return of the Goat II: New World Order (2021) - 1.5/5 - A 22-minute long advert for an expensive bike, as Goat-men threaten the world in this short, barely held together by the tenuous links between segments. The things I watch for Mads Mikkelsen, and he appears for barely 2-minutes.

Best film of the month & Best film watched
for the first time: Dinner In America

Dinner In America (2021) - 4.5/5 - Lurking underneath its fiery passion, this film has an endearing heart of gold, and a banger of a song to boot.

Café Hector (1996) - 3/5 - Uffe just wants to be part of the trendy crowd and drink in Café Hector, the hip new place, but is turned away by everybody. When he's allowed to use the bathroom, he plans to rally against the humiliation with his gun, but finds somebody else beats him to it. The ingredients are there for a good comedy with biting satire, yet it never comes together. It's an entertaining 16-minutes, though feels like a rant put into cinematic form.

Le Fantôme (2016) - 2/5 - Mads Mikkelsen is hunting after a mysterious couple, until he falls in love with their flash car, I guess? It's an 8-minute commercial for a Ford vehicle, and could be an interesting short film had it more of a focus. For now, the lush scenery will have to do.

Safe Inside (2021) - 1.5/5 - Director Renata Gabryjelska explores interesting ideas about the power of the mind, in what's ultimately a thriller which isn’t that thrilling.

Best film seen in cinemas & Best
film rewatched: Another Round

In The Heights (2021) - 4/5 - What a wonderful film to experience on the big screen. Jon M. Chu delivers such a vibrant and joyous musical, following the members of a neighbourhood community working towards the dreams. Granted, I most certainly felt the runtime, although I was swept up in the various stories containing such an excellent cast belting out tremendous songs. 96,000 and When The Sun Goes Down are my standouts amidst this fantastically fun feature.

The Karate Kid (1984) - 3.5/5 - One of my most glaring blindspots has finally been rectified, as I've finally watched this 1984 classic. It makes perfect sense this was directed by John G. Avildsen, as it's a feel good underdog story in the vein of Rocky. I had a great time watching Daniel-san learning karate from Mr Miyagi, wonderfully portrayed by Ralph Macchio and the excellent Pat Morita, as their bond strengthens with each teaching. I will say that Daniel grated on me, especially when he got angry with his love-interest because the plot required him to. Regardless, this was a charming film whose universe I'd happily return to.

The Rider (2018) - 4.5/5 - Before she became an Academy-Award winning director, Chloé Zhao wrote and directed this beautiful story. It follows Brady, a rodeo cowboy after an accident which left him with a metal plate in his head. He can no longer do what he loves, and Brady Jandreau superbly captures the heartache which comes with that in a naturalistic fashion. This stunning tale is brought alive through gorgeous shots, with the backgrounds resembling paintings, making for an outstanding tale.

Biggest Disappointment: Tyger Tyger

Nobody (2021) - 4/5 - I wasn't a fan of Ilya Naishuller's previous film, Hardcore Henry, so I'm pleased to say his follow-up feature was an absolute blast. The set-up seems pretty standard, as a father finds himself in a rut, and subsequently rattled after not acting to stop a home invasion. With everybody seemingly judging him for not taking a swing at the masked intruders, the worry is this would be a contemporary version of Falling Down, when it instead becomes a film in the vein of John Wick. As it turns out, the suburban dad is a one-man army, and Bob Odenkirk is utterly convincing headlining this action vehicle. But before the enemies can say Better Kill Saul, he's dispatching Russian goons in brutally efficient manners which make for thrilling set-pieces. It peaks with a vicious scrap on a bus, but what a peak!

Lorenzo's Oil (1993) - 4/5 - For his second non-Mad Max feature, George Miller adapts the real-life story of Augusto and Michaela Odone as they try to find a cure for their son, the titular Lorenzo. It may seem like a departure for the director, but Miller adapts this moving story in a way that's far from typical Oscar bait, weaving in his own directorial flourishes. Despite a runtime which feels too long, this is an emotional story which casts a light on ALD. While Nick Nolte gives a particularly an out of place accent, this is a tremendous showcase for the cast.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002) - 3/5 - Considering how bad this franchises direct-to-DVD sequels have been, this wasn't bad. While they could have splurged for some decent lighting, this was a pretty engaging tale about somebody's sins coming home to roost. Dean Winters does decently in the lead role, as his character struggles to discern reality from fiction, even if it just makes me want to stick on Jacob's Ladder instead. The biggest struggle comes from this film trying to connect to the Hellraiser franchise, with the return of Kirsty Cotton feeling tacked on and even a bit out of character. Though if that's my biggest issue with a sequel in this franchise, that isn't too bad.

Biggest Surprise: Moonstruck

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) - 4/5 - 2018's A Quiet Place was a fantastic premise utilised so well, following a family trying to survive in silence to not attract sound-sensitive alien monsters. It made for a unique cinema experience, and worries about recapturing what worked are quelled early on. The sequel begins by taking you off-guard, charting back to Day 1 of the aliens arriving complete with sound, before continuing immediately after the first film. This time serving as sole screenwriter alongside directorial duties, John Krasinski does solid work expanding upon the initial premise to chart a new course for this family. While some characters and instances felt like plot contrivances, it doesn't undermine how tense and nerve-shredding the proceedings can get. Millicent Simmonds remains the MVP among a terrific cast, as the story occurs from her characters perspective, but Cillian Murphy is a close second. With the franchise continuing thanks to a spin-off, I can see story threads here where that film could branch off from, but I'd be happy to leave the Abbott family for a while. For now, two films following them is good enough.

Hellraiser: Deader (2005) - 1.5/5 - The Hellraiser franchise is pretty notorious for having original scripts rewritten to forcibly include Pinhead and the cenobites, resulting in the most tenuous connections being made. Of all the direct-to-DVD sequels which pulled this trick, this feels the most blatant about it so far. Clive Barker's creations make only 3 appearances, and while they liven up the proceedings, it's notable how out of place they feel within this film. What's left is a ham-fisted and cheap-looking horror film, as an American reporter in London travels to Romania, all in the sake of investigating a cult being resurrected by their over-the-top leader. On its own, this would've been something forgettable teenage me would've watched late at night because nothing else was on. Connected to this franchise, it's somehow one of the worse entries.

Tyger Tyger (2021) - 1/5 - An aimless road-trip through a sweltering landscape, the best this film can offer is dime-store philosophy.

Worst film of the month: Fateful Findings

Unearth (2021) - 3.5/5 - An effective eco-horror born from corporate greed, as the bottom-line comes before peoples lives.

Fateful Findings (2014) [rewatch] - 0/5 - A second viewing to enjoy my brothers first experience of this, and I still have no fucking clue what I've watched. It feels like Neil Breen wanted to make porn, but chickened out so cobbled any old shit together.

Moonstruck (1987) - 4.5/5 - Consider me absolutely over the moon for this film. Writer John Patrick Shanley and director Norman Jewison bring alive this sweet love story, as saddened characters just try to make their lives a little less gloomy. Core to the tale are the magnetic performances of Cher and Nicolas Cage, as their characters of Loretta and Ronny are still reeling from their former relationships ending. The pair find comfort in each other, despite Loretta being engaged to Ronny's doltish brother, resulting in a tale which had me laughing and emotional throughout, hoping all would turn out okay for these unlucky romantics.

Another Round (2020) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - What an absolute pleasure it was to see this on the big screen. It remains a humorous, touching, and even-handed depiction of alcohol, as utilised by 40-something teachers facing a mid-life crisis. From beginning to unforgettable end, this is an exceptional film, and just another reason to spread the good word of Mads Mikkelsen.

Best film of the month: Dinner In America
Best film seen in cinemas: Another Round
Best film watched for the first time: Dinner In America
Best film rewatched: Another Round
Biggest Disappointment: Tyger Tyger
Biggest Surprise: Moonstruck
Worst film of the month: Fateful Findings

Number of films watched: 21