November 2021 In Review

The year is almost over, and the best-of lists are making themselves known. For now, let's have a look at what films I saw this past November. 

Blade (1998) [rewatch] - 4/5 - I managed to catch a cinema screening of this, and Stephen Norrington's film is as electric as I remember. From the blood-drenched nightclub opener to the chilly Moscow stinger, this is an excellent time well spent, even if the CG looks dated. Be it the powerhouse performance of Wesley Snipes, a captivating Stephen Dorff, or an engaging N'Bushe Wright, the tremendous cast bring wonderful layers to their well-rounded characters with excellent arcs. A brilliant film.

Wild Wild West (1999) - 1/5 - How is it Barry Sonnenfeld can assemble such talent, and then have their gifts wasted on this dull film? Reuniting with Will Smith should be a slam-dunk in the wake of Men In Black, but instead we get an overlong feature where Smith and Kevin Kline act creepy towards an underused Salma Hayek, while throwing in a set-piece centred around lynching. It all feels like an embarrassing way for Jon Peters to finally get a giant mechanical spider on-screen, but at least the title song slaps.

Men In Black (1997) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Considering I rewatched my video of this back in the day, I'm glad this film holds up so well. An excellent journey into this hidden alien world which feels mightily expansive and engrossing, as the opposites attract relationship from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones grounds the feature. Add in Vincent D'Onofrio at his best and a very fun Rip Torn, and you have a mighty sci-fi comedy.

Last Night In Soho (2021) - 2.5/5 - Edgar Wright once more delivers a magnificently stylish feature, as the gorgeous visuals and excellent soundtrack make for a wonderful pairing. It's a terrific showcase for the talented cast, although the narrative is messy and frustrating, particularly in the third act. The screenplay takes a familiar narrative centred around the evil men do, throws in some bog-standard tries at scares, and delivers a finale which could've been avoided had the lead asked some simple questions, which would've left out some head-scratching choices. A rather so-so film.

Best film of the month and Best
film rewatched: Men In Black

Eternals (2021) - 3/5 - There's much in the way of ambition for the MCU, yet this feels like a muted part of Chloé Zhao's filmography.

King Richard (2021) - 4/5 - I'm somebody who never cared for tennis, and that's likely down to the sport coverage constantly overrunning and preventing young me from watching The Simpsons on BBC Two. Despite that, I found this biopic of Richard Williams to be a heartfelt and engrossing feature. By focusing on him rather than his daughters Venus and Serena, it delivers the familiar beats of a sports biopic while also granting a strong focus on his determination to give his children a better life, and Smith extraordinarily conveys that. This isn't a one-man show though, as Saniyya Sidney gives a powerhouse performance as the up-and-coming Venus Williams, while Demi Singleton fantastically captures Serena feeling overshadowed by her sister. A strong contender for this year's awards circuit, and a terrific film to boot.

Bull (2021) - 4/5 - A bleak and brutal tale of revenge which will linger in the mind.

The Simpsons in Plusaversary (2021) - 0.5/5 - After their previous two shorts released this year, it seemed Disney were only interested in using The Simpsons as a tool to advertise the other franchises they own. This short proves that's absolutely not true, because they're also using them to sell their own Disney+ service. What's left is a 5-minute short which feels like an advertisement for the Mouse's streaming service, only available on that very same streaming service. At least the prior two shorts had some inkling of an idea to them, even if they weren't utilised well, as this one's just a corporate wanking session.

Best film seen in cinemas: Dune

Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021) - 3/5 - A much-needed step-up from its predecessor, as writer Kelly Marcel and director Andy Serkis focus on the elements which worked for their previous film. As such, this film's at its best when centering on the odd-ball relationship between Venom and Eddie, playing as a romantic comedy while allowing Tom Hardy to have an absolute blast in the role. Outside of that, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Harris are having in their sub-Natural Born Killers romance even though it grows tiresome, while the CG battles become a chore to sit through. Despite that, this remains a fun instalment with genuine laughs to be had.

Storks (2016) [rewatch] - 3/5 - Upon a rewatch, I had a better time with this film. The most enjoyable moments remain the silent fight with villainous Penguins, the glass maze, and anything with the wolves, but I was more on-board with the family subplot and Andy Samberg was an absolute blast. It's still really clunky, but it's a more enjoyable watch than I gave it credit for.

What Happens Next Will Scare You (2021) - 2.5/5 - A feature listicle at it's best when utilising a simpler approach to scares.

Best first time watch: Spencer

Child's Play 3 (1991) - 2/5 - The red-headed stepchild of the Chucky series, and it's clear to see why. What occurs gives me flashbacks to the direct-to-DVD sequels of Hellraiser as Chucky feels forcibly inserted into this cheap-looking film set at a military school. The final confrontation occurring at a carnival makes it clear there's life in this, but it's too little too late for this frustrating film.

Bride of Chucky (1998) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - After a 7-year gap, Chucky made his grand return in spectacularly late-90s fashion with a rock soundtrack and a delicious dose of self-aware humour. The franchise has smartly stepped away from the possessed doll stalking Andy Barclay, to teaming him up with old girlfriend Tiffany as marvelously played by Jennifer Tilly. Their interactions really energize the film and breathe new life into the franchise, as they commit such fun kills such as the waterbed one. It's a shame when the film has to return to teen lovers Jesse and Jade, as their scenes unfortunately drag things down, but this is the shot in the arm this franchise really needed.

Spencer (2021) - 4.5/5 - Described as "a fable from a true tragedy", screenwriter Steven Knight and director Pablo Larraín craft a fictionalized account of Diana's ending marriage to Charles in the guise of a psychological horror. Kristen Stewart gives a phenomenal portrayal of the People's Princess, overwhelmed with having her agency and privacy stripped away just to be used as currency for the tabloids, while suffering from bulimia, suffocating in the grasp of the royal family, and experiencing visions which capture her fragile mental health. The only thing which rises above her exceptional portrayal is Johnny Greenwood's stunning score, although the quietly menacing performance by Timothy Spall does give it a darn good try. A gripping 117-minutes which will surely be an awards favourite, particularly for Stewart.

Biggest Disappointment: Last Night In Soho

Seed of Chucky (2004) [rewatched] - 2.5/5 - It feels like there's two films duking it out here. One satirizing Hollywood and what women feel they must do to remain relevant, and one about a murderous doll family grappling with who they ultimately are. The latter is the stronger one, particularly because Glen/Glenda's journey to find their identity is more interesting than anything with Jennifer Tilly's supporting cast. It remains a fun romp that succeeds with each grisly kill, and it feels like Don Mancini's swinging for the fences in ways other franchises haven't attempted. I'd gladly take that over whatever guff the Hellraiser franchise tried to pass off as a sequel.

Dog Eat Dog (2016) - 2/5  -For a film involving Willem Dafoe as a coked-up wild-card, Nicolas Cage delivering a strange Humphrey Bogart impression, and a mustard fight, this was far more boring than it should have been. The pieces are there for a comedy of errors about ex-cons who feel trapped in a world that's moved on, leaving them to see their only option of earning by committing more crimes, only to screw up even further. It's unfortunately too aimless to work, feeling as though there's 40-minutes of story within a 90-minute film, ending up feeling too aimless and senseless to work. A case of style over substance, and I didn't get on with the style in the first place.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (2000) - 4/5 - A fascinating documentary candidly talking about the tough times shooting the horror classic.

Slapface (2021) - 3.5/5 - A gut-punch of a film about bullying and the fears of voicing ones feelings.

Biggest Surprise: Curse of Chucky

Dune (2021) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - I had to see this on the big-screen a second time, and found none of the power was lost from my first viewing. It remains a sweeping epic which transported me to Arrakis in ways I long for more films to do, as I was enthralled to see the political wrangling in this fantastical realm brought alive by Greig Fraser's stunning cinematography. It's a magnificent cast, although my stand-outs are Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr Liet Kynes and Jason Momoa in his best performance yet which gives Duncan Idaho the screen-time previous adaptations were sorely lacking. I cannot wait to return to this world with the sequel, especially if Hans Zimmer delivers such a glorious score once more.

Curse of Chucky (2013) - 4/5 - Don Mancini strips the franchise down to a back-to-basics approach, as the passing of a paraplegic woman's mother coincides with the random arrival of a Chucky doll. What's left is a mightily effective slice of horror, offering such fun and creeping tension that's terrifically realized by Mancini's direction. Just look at the moment involving rat-poison in a dinner bowl, it's a nail-biting set-piece which shows Mancini's growth since making his directorial debut with Seed of Chucky. Adding onto matters are the good performances gone into terrific characterization, leaving viewers with a terrific inclusion which promises exciting avenues for this franchises future.

Cult of Chucky (2017) - 3/5 - Don Mancini deserves credit for constantly reinventing this franchise, taking it in fascinating directions rather than coasting on by. As a result, this is far better than the seventh film in a franchise deserves to be. There are grand ideas which expand this world in intriguing ways and results in fun new twists, although one could've been integrated in a more seamless manner. The new inclusions in the mental institute setting are mostly endearing, while Andy Barclay feels like an afterthought despite getting some bad-ass moments. An interesting place to leave the franchise, and I really can't wait for the TV series to reach UK shores.

Shepherd (2021) - 1.5/5 - The most effective element of this film is replicating counting sheep.

Worst film of the month: The Simpsons in Plusaversary

Sam and Mattie Make A Zombie Movie (2021) - 4/5 - A love-letter to community and realising ones dreams through making a violent zombie movie.

Halloween H20 (1998) - 3.5/5 - 20 years after John Carpenter's classic, the series marks the occasion by reigniting the fierce battle between Laurie Strode and Michael Myers. Perhaps this is why the film works best as a Jamie Lee-Curtis showcase, as Laurie faces the trauma she long tried to escape from which comes to a head in the fun last 20-minutes and the mic-drop of an ending. Outside of that, it's a mismatched film which leans too heavily into the reference-heavy elements which Scream had popularised by then, especially with the egregious references. The Josh Harnett elements drag things down, while LL Cool J's aspiring erotica novelist is a strange inclusion that's nearly as distracting as Michael Myers' off-putting masks. A decent entry into this franchise, and the lean runtime is certainly welcome.

King Car (2021) - 2/5 - A bundle of fascinating ideas which falls short of their potential.

The Medium (2021) - 3/5 - A fascinating tale ready to unsettle viewers across the lengthy runtime. 

Best film of the month: Men In Black
Best film seen in cinemas: Dune
Best first time watch: Spencer
Best film rewatched: Men In Black
Biggest Disappointment: Last Night In Soho
Biggest Surprise: Curse of Chucky
Worst film of the month: The Simpsons in Plusaversary

Number of films watched: 26