July 2021 In Review

Another month bites the dust, as July has left us. Over this month I saw more films of the year including quite a few blockbusters, and started acclaimed TV shows Ted Lasso and The Sopranos. I also gave time to revisit some works of Jim Carrey, an actor I admired as a child, and my viewings for this years Fantasia Film Festival also begun. My reviews will be out later this month, as embargos drop. So, let's see what films I saw this past July.

Witch Hunt (2021) - 2/5 - An uninspired idea which fails to dig beneath the surface.

A Quiet Place Part II (2021) [rewatch] - 4/5 - My viewing of this was severely hampered by a couple who clearly hadn't seen the first film, as they couldn't stop talking and spent the first half hour trying to guess where the father had gone, even theorising he'd appear at the end.

Cinema is back, baby!

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) - 3/5 - Having never read the original R.L. Stine books, I went into this completely blind and had an absolute blast. The story occurs in Shadyside, a town dubbed the murder capital of the USA, as it regularly suffers from horrific serial killings. Many believe this is due to a witch placing a curse of the town before her execution in 1666, so it's no wonder the residents are desperate to escape. Co-writer and director Leigh Janiak delivers a fun throwback to the slasher era, which had me engaged and caring for the characters. I was especially invested in the troubled relationship between Deena and her closeted ex-girlfriend, Sam. For a horror film, I do wish there were more creepy parts, as the only effective moment is a particularly grisly kill in the last act. I also wish the film took a breather with needle drops, as there were SO MANY that it felt verging on obnoxious. Regardless, I will definitely be returning for the next two parts.

Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar (2021) - 4.5/5 - I cannot stress enough how much I love this film. After losing their dream job, the titular Barb and Star take a vacation to Vista Del Mar, intending to get out of their comfort zone. Wish most certainly granted, as they cross paths with Jamie Dornan's character, who's working for a supervillain that intends to kill the residents of Vista Del Mar with killer mosquitos. This film is working on an absurdist level, and you'll either be on its wavelength or not. For me, I adored how everybody working on this film was fully committed to the silliness for the 107-minute runtime, perfectly played in such vibrant ways. No matter what route the film takes, however out of the blue it may seem, it felt like a natural extension of what we saw before. Yet the secret weapon is the themes of friendship, as I was fully invested in this long relationship between the title characters, leaning on each other after their marriages have ended. It's a real tit-flapper of a film.

The Blob (1958) - 2.5/5 - A new season of The Evolution of Horror means more films for me to dive into for the first time. I checked out this 1958 classic, and had fun whenever the titular blob appeared onscreen. It's a shame this doesn't happen more often, as with such little blob, it becomes rather tiresome to see such dull teen drama occurring.

Pig (2021) - 4.5/5 - A sombre and affecting tale about grief, told through one man's determination to retrieve his pig.

Best film of the month, Best film watched
for the first time, & Best film rewatched: Pig

Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (2021) - 2/5 - An action-comedy which elicits neither thrills nor laughs.

Occupation: Rainfall (2021) - 1/5 - Writer/director Luke Sparke brings a sci-fi epic to Australia, with frustrating results.

Luca (2021) - 4/5 - The latest from Pixar is a low-stakes adventure, as sea monsters arrive in a little town in Italy. They're on a journey of self-discovery, while trying to win money for a Vespa so they can travel the world. It's a gorgeously animated feature with gentle bouts of humour and heart-warming friendships. While I didn't care for the stuck-up antagonist, this is a solid example of how less can be more and an enjoyable time spent with such lovely characters.

The Simpsons: The Good, The Bart, and The Loki (2021) - 1.5/5 - There's a kernel of an idea here, as Loki finds solace in what he deems to be a functional family which are laughably The Simpsons. Such a shame they do nothing with that, instead opting for a 6-minute short which is essentially a self-congratulatory pat on the back. Coming out the same day as a new episode of Loki, this is much like the Star Wars short from earlier this year, solely existing to promote the content of another IP owned by Disney which can all be found on the same streaming service. The Simpsons used to be masters of movie parodies, this is just a cynical marketing tool.

Tove (2021) - 3.5/5 - An impactful biopic which digs beneath the surface of the Moomins creator.

Black Widow (2021) - 4/5 - A thrilling send-off to the character, and a terrific return to the MCU's big-screen adventures.

Best film seen in cinemas: The Suicide Squad

Pig (2021) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Any fears Nicolas Cage would be hammy are dispelled, as he goes the whole hog and shows off his acting chops. When some swine kidnaps his pet, the idea of our disgruntled lead letting it go is utter hogwash, but while the film doesn't go the action route, you won't be boared by the proceedings.

Werewolves Within (2021) - 3.5/5 - A fun time spent in a town where fear and paranoia run rampant. Come for the lycanthrope, stay for the excellent cast.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1957) [rewatch] - 2/5 - Ed Wood was once known as the worst director of all time, and this was known as the worst film ever made. While I don't think either are good, neither deserves to be called the absolute worst. Plan 9 from Outer Space is a baffling feature, giving the impression it's a collage of stock footage, cheap sets, and random shots loosely held together by strange voiceover. It's a fascinating feature in an "I can't believe this exists" kind of way, though I can't honestly say it's well made.

The Blob (1988) - 4/5 - Holy hell, this film was extremely my shit. Chuck Russell remakes the '50s drive-in classic 30 years later, for a film updated for the timeframe. Gone are the "aww shucks" feeling for characters more distrustful of authority, as humanity working together against an outside threat is replaced with humanity combating against the meddling of power-hungry governmental figures. Within the proceedings are well-formed characters and relationships worth caring about, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when the titular blob goes on a vicious rampage. The excellent practical effects gives way to absolutely horrifying kills, as this well-paced and tense feature holds nothing back. Granted, I wasn't a fan of the end tag and Kevin Dillon's mullet was dreadful, but this is a remake which easily eclipses the original.

Freaky (2020) - 3.5/5 - After such a long wait for it to reach UK cinemas, I am so glad that Christopher Landon's latest film was absolutely worth it. If The Hot Chick got more murderous, that would be this feature, as a high-school teen finds herself body-swapped with a hulking serial killer. Quite a few macguffins are in place to reach the premise, such as the magical dagger and the serial killer without a backstory, and the latter is especially disappointing when such icons as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers have backstories which set them apart from the pack. When the film goes full body-swap, it's a bloody hoot to see Vince Vaughn freaking out as a high-school girl trying to sort things out, and Kathryn Newton coldly dispatching of bullies, toxic dude-bros and abusive teachers. While some lines may miss the mark, the ones that hit are joyfully witty, and a sandpaper line is a clear standout.

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (2021) - 3/5 - One of my favourite surprises over the past few months was Adam Robitel's Escape Room, a film which was far better than it had any right to be. The sequel follows on closely after, as the survivors seek to bring down the corporation which put them all through such hell, only to be trapped in another series of escape rooms with other survivors. This film was more of the same, providing a fun ride amidst inventive rooms with some downright tense set-pieces, although things got derailed in the third-act. This time round, there was less to latch onto character-wise, as the new characters have inklings of interesting ideas which aren't ultimately realised. There's one character with nerve-damage whose prior experience was tailored to people who cannot feel pain, and it's a far more interesting idea that I wish the film acted upon. Regardless, this remains a fun ride in which I would return for a third installment.

Biggest Disappointment: Liar Liar

The Mask (1994) [rewatch] - 4/5 - Some of my favourite films during childhood starred Jim Carrey, and like many of them I revisited, I was shocked that I was allowed to watch this so young. Chuck Russell takes a more light-hearted adaptation of the Dark Horse Comics, resulting in a character which is the perfect fit for Carrey. The actor can feel like a real-life cartoon, and this character feels tailor made for him, while also being a solid precursor for Deadpool. It's a film that wears its cartoon influences on its yellow sleeves, making for an entertaining wish fulfillment story. This was also the role which introduced audiences to Cameron Diaz, and she is tremendous from the word go as Tina, a singer who weaponizes her sexuality and falls for the lead. Granted, she's also central to some elements which don't hold up, as men perform skeevy actions regarding her. No matter how good they are, the leads are outshone by Max, their doggo co-star who plays the best character of Milo. What's left is a tremendous star-vehicle, a terrific comic-book story and a fun ride.

Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021) - 0.5/5 - A feature-length orgy of cynical advertising, you'll want to come on and slam your head against the wall.

Plurality (2021) - 2/5 - Whatever interesting ideas this film has in mind are lost through needlessly escalating things.

Liar Liar (1997) [rewatch] - 2/5 - This is undoubtedly a product of the 90s, as it's about an awful lead getting whatever he wants despite not deserving it. Despite the scenes trying to tug at the heartstrings, I never believed Carrey's character wanted to spend time with his son, and he never seemed to put up a fight when matters got in the way of his paternal plans. It all leads to a hackneyed ending where everything feels glossed over in ways less believable than the concept. Jim Carrey is fully committed to his shtick at this point, and approaches it in very over the top ways which can become a bit much, yet also deliver the laughs. Not one which holds up.

Son of The Mask (2005) - 0.5/5 - 11 years and an increased budget of $60 million later, this film follows it's predecessor with effects that hold up even worse than the 90's Jim Carrey vehicle.

That's only the beginning of this seemingly never-ending disaster, unsure of what to do or how to justify its existence. So, we have an exasperated Jamie Kennedy and a scenery-chewing Alan Cumming shoved to the background, so a nightmare inducing baby contends with a jealous and spoilt dog in battles that wish they were in the spirit of old-school toons, when they can't even amount to Space Jam. A disaster from top to bottom.

Fast & Furious 9 (2021) - 3.5/5 - After moving onto directing Star Trek Beyond and episodes of True Detective, Justin Lin returns to the franchise he revitalised with a rip-roaring adventure. This entry takes an approach straight from The Godfather: Part II, focusing on both the past and present to mix Toretto family history with large-scale set-pieces that gives everybody a chance to shine. Between the brawling brothers, the return of Sung Kang, and the scrapes these characters seem to brush off so effortlessly, this is a gleefully over-the-top soap opera. Granted, it's also overlong and a bit too convoluted, while some of the antagonists feel superfluous. The biggest issue is the return of Cipher, who seems to be positioned as the big-bad for this final run of Fast & Furious films. It doesn't matter what awful hairstyle Charlize Theron is put in, or how much they try to use her like Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of The Lambs, she's still a boring antagonist whose CG-heavy antics feel out of place with the practical effects in this film. Regardless, it remains a pleasure to see this franchise once more.

Biggest Surprise: The Blob (1988)

Old (2021) - 2.5/5 - Throughout his career, M. Night Shyamalan has made himself known as somebody who'll make the most fascinating choices, regardless of the final product's quality. The same can be said of his latest feature, which follows vacationing families who find themselves trapped on a beach which is rapidly aging them.

It's a fascinating concept which leaves these characters feeling disorientated and wanting answers, something I was also made to feel. To see years pass by in the blink of an eye is utterly interesting, although I wish the film played with the themes of this more than it did and devoted more time to the characters. As it is, things disinterested me the more it went on, and while the third act has interesting things on its mind, the infodump method undercuts it unfortunately.

Regardless, Shyamalan is exactly the kind of filmmaker I will keep turning out for. Even if I don't find his films effective, I'd rather see him shoot for the stars and miss than somebody play it safe and deliver something boring.

The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) - 3/5 - Some more homework for The Evolution Of Horror podcast, and this is a fascinating piece of 50s science-fiction. It begins interestingly enough, as a returning spacecraft has only one astronaut survivor who goes through some strange changes. There's atmospheric moments in this compelling tale and interesting ideas, although my attention was vanishing as it went on. I'm fully onboard for the follow-ups though.

Night of the Living Doo (2001) - 3.5/5 - Casper Kelly delivers a satirical take on Scooby-Doo, as the gang crosses paths with Gary Coleman and David Cross, among others. A humorous spin on a well-known formula delivered in the style of a 1970s animation, with knowing bouts of humour that works rather well.

Scooby Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map (2013) - 2/5 - The gang are brought alive in puppet form, with their cute designs servibg as the most interesting thing here. Outside of that, it's two episodes tenuously stitched together for an uninteresting mystery where the clues comes out of nowhere. The image of Scoob in rocket form is endearing, but it's hard to wonder why this exists.

Dumb and Dumber (1994) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - My absolute favourite film by Jim Carrey as a kid, and in a recurring theme, it's one that I'm shocked my parents let me watch repeatedly. Another recurrent theme is how revisiting his works has made his more shticky moments grate on me, such as the dream sequence, although I still adore how committed to the material both he and Jeff Daniels are. They go above and beyond to bring Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne to life which makes them feel like endearing figures of such ineptitude, as these two well-intentioned goofballs get wrapped up in a plot involving hitmen and a mystery suitcase. It's a film that still makes me laugh, while making a dead parakeet, violent diarrhoea, and the most annoying sound in the world into hilarious gags.

All About Sex (2021) - 1/5 - One wishes this film would step away from the inaccurate name, and have more focus and reasons to stick in the mind.

Worst film of the month: Son Of The Mask

Too Many Cooks (2014) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - In 2014, Casper Kelly had an onslaught of ideas which he put into this short, resulting in a bizarre concoction which remains as unsettling and humorous as when I first saw it.

Luz: The Flower of Evil (2021) - 2.5/5 - A dark concoction of folk-horror and western genres about the lengths one can take religious fanaticism.

War of the Worlds (1953) - 3/5 - An influential classic which did a lot for science-fiction, although I wasn't as fussed with this feature as it comes off as a standard B-movie alien invasion film. The effects in realising the aliens are rather impressive, and I was rooting for the central pairing, though I was largely bored throughout the film.

Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes (2021) - Embargoed for now. Expect my review in the near future.

The Suicide Squad (2021) - 4/5 - This is what 2016's SUICIDE SQUAD should've been; a vicious blast which runs through it's excellent ensemble with pure glee. James Gunn is having a blast with the free reign, and ensures we really believed in the bond of this makeshift family, as these misfits come together for a brutal mission depicted in vibrant ways. In terms of the characters, King Shark was an utterly lovable man-eater, but Daniela Melchior was the beating heart as Ratcatcher 2. I also enjoyed David Dastmalchian as Polka Dot Man, though there was a recurring joke I wish they took it down a notch with. There's also a strange bit in the middle where the film tries justifying Harley Quinn's inclusion, though it doesn't take away from Margot Robbie once more showing why she's perfectly cast in the role.

The Sadness (2021) - Embargoed. Expect my review next month.

Best film of the month: Pig
Best film seen in cinemas: The Suicide Squad
Best film watched for the first time: Pig
Best film rewatched: Pig
Biggest Disappointment: Liar Liar
Biggest Surprise: The Blob (1988)
Worst film of the month: Son of the Mask

Number of films watched: 35