March 2023 In Review

Another month has passed by, and with it has come quite the few films worth mentioning. This is probably the biggest month for my reviews in quite some time, between Glasgow Film Festival, Frightfest Glasgow, and contributions to other sites. Somehow, I managed to fit in trips to the cinema and personal watches in-between all that. So, let's see what films I watched this past March.

Here For Blood (2023) - 3/5 - A film that lives up to its name with a fun twist on the home-invasion formula.

Wire Room (2022) - 1.5/5 - Pedestrian material driven by bad luck and ham-fisted coincidences.

Creed 3 (2023) - 4/5 - In the tradition of Sylvester Stallone directing many of the Rocky sequels, Michael B. Jordan takes the directorial reins for this continuing tale of Adonis Creed. This time, the boxer has retired and intends to guide the next generation of fighters while acting as a family man. Throwing a wrench into his plans is the reappearance of Damien Anderson, a face from his past superbly played by Jonathan Majors. Undercurrents of guilt and hurt lie as these former friends reconnect, as the story approaches emotional male fragility in such touching ways. While there's attempts to show Donnie guiding his deaf daughter and honing her interest in boxing, I wish there was more for the women in this story to do. The focus is on the fractured Donnie/Damien relationship, which feels inspired by sh┼Źnen anime right down to the fights. The final fight is an all-timer for this franchise, particularly in one instance where the audience fades out to represent the personal hurt felt in the midst of this fight. Another fantastic entry into the Creed series.

Fill 'er Up With Super (1976) - 4/5 - A charming road trip down the highway of friendship.

Typist Artist Pirate King (2023) - 4.5/5 - A magnificent road trip through past memories about how art makes life worth living.

Best film of the month and Best film
watched for the first time: Ikiru (1952)

The Fearway (2023) - 1/5 - A lacking tale that's missing imagination and tension.

Cutter's Way (1981) - 4.5/5 - A fascinating search for the abandoned American Dream.

Cocaine Bear (2023) - 3/5 - From the synopsis to the exciting trailer, the more which came out about this fantastically titled film only caused the excitement to grow. Perhaps those expectations were too high, because the end result cannot live up to the build-up. The best moments involve either the titular character or Alden Ehrenreich being incredible, and one wishes more of the film was focused on them. Keri Russell as the mother trying to locate two children within the woods is positioned as the films beating heart, while her journey protecting young'uns mirrors the bear, but this is the films least interesting element. The laughs and gore are present throughout, but while I had fun with this film, I wish there was more to be had as it feels a bit too empty.

#ChadGetsTheAxe (2023) - 4/5 - An unsettling tale of influencers desiring social media fame reckoning with the price of their actions.

Scream VI (2023) - 4/5 - A film which effectively honours the past while carving a path towards the future with effective set-pieces.

Best film seen in cinemas: Creed III (2023)

Pensive (2023) - 4/5 - A taut slasher which never lets the awful lead off the hook.

I Like Movies (2023) - Review To Come

Trader (2023) - 4/5 - A compelling chamber-piece driven by the lead's desire to succeed in the stock market.

Craving (2023) - 1.5/5 - A terrific effects showcase bogged down by the film around it.

Best film rewatched: Martin (1977)

Plane (2023) - 2.5/5 - A nuts and bolts action film that's missing brains.

Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (2023) - 2/5 - After two decent entries into the MCU with smaller stakes, the Ant-Man series takes a different approach as it kicks off Phase 5 and introducing stakes that will have ramifications for the shared universe going forward. This entry sees the returning characters drawn into the Quantum Realm, a shrunken world that lays underneath Earth, as they attempt to get back home while grappling with an antagonist named Kang The Conqueror.

There's an interesting tale of familial relationships within here, as Scott tries reconnecting with the daughter who he missed so many years with due to The Blip, and Janet tries getting her mother to open up about the 30-years she was trapped away from her loved ones. It's unfortunate that these character beats feel secondary to the boring journey that unfolds around it, as the characters go through this dimly lit and drab looking world that feels inspired by Star Wars and Doctor Who, yet lacks a creative spark and interesting characters which makes those worlds come alive so vividly. Michael Douglas is having fun, although the cast can only do so much when the material they're left to work with is so lacking.

A lot of discourse came regarding MODOK, and I came away wishing the character was played to be goofier than the performance delivered. By the end, the story wraps up in ways that feel a bit too safe, and I was left uninterested in where the MCU is going. Maybe it's a feeling that I've had for a while, but this film has confirmed that for me. Oh well, at least Paul Rudd remains an entertaining presence.

Leprechaun (1993) - 2.5/5 - I decided to use this St. Patrick's Day to watch a film I'd never seen before, and opted for this horror oddity. Credit where it's due, Warwick Davis is clearly relishing this titular role as he has fun right down to a pogo stick kill. Outside of that, the film feels torn between being a more comedic or grisly entry into the horror genre, and isn't entirely effective as either. A film that has the antagonist given a sudden compulsion to shine any shoes he comes across should be more goofy fun than this.

The Virgin Suicides (1999) - 4.5/5 - An effective debut about haunting, silenced cries for help.

Biggest Disappointment:
Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023) - 2.5/5 - Amongst the many superhero films which have come in the recent boom, 2019's Shazam! was one of my favourite surprises in how it blended darker themes with joyous humour and touching empathy. It was a wonderfully self-contained tale, and that sentiment seems to have carried on into the sequel because there's an apparent confusion as to what this follow-up should do. There's great fun to be had, particularly with a wood dragon, Djimon Hounsou having a ball, and the horror references which begin with a pediatrician named Dr. Dario Mava. Despite all this, the beating heart which the predecessor delivered so wonderfully is notably missing. Early hints at the superhero team causing more damage to Philadelphia than they intend, or Billy's abandonment issues as the family goes in their own directions, are quickly forgotten to focus on the mythical plot which takes things in a more by-the-numbers direction. There's also astoundingly bad elements, such as Zachary Levi taking his superhero role from being played with childlike innocence to an outright idiot, one of the most egregious moments of product placement I have seen in a while, and a shared universe deus-ex-machina which was eye-rollingly dreadful. A shame that this is such a step-down from such the wonderful first film.

Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995) - 4.5/5 - A pitch-black comedy that's the perfect antidote for anybody nostalgic for school.

Ash and Bone (2022) - 1/5 - For a film of warring families involving cannibalistic serial killers, it's disappointing how dull this is.

Cram (2023) - 4/5 - An assuredly directed tale capturing a students fears.

Biggest Surprise:
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

Ikiru (1952) - 5/5 - Having not missed a day of work for almost 30-years, Kanji Watanabe is used to the monotony of his daily life. After discovering he has stomach cancer, Watanabe's outlook on life changes and he worries about how he's spent his life. My experience with Akira Kurosawa's works has been samurai films, so this was a change of pace while also feeling familiar in how the writer/director effectively does characterization in such engrossing ways. Takashi Shimura delivers masterclass work as the man who discovers the briefness of life as he nears the end of his life, grapping with the struggle to find meaning in a life that's been lived. It's a powerful core to this story which also touches on the suffocating nature of bureaucracy, and the haunting regret which lingers, amidst a humanistic tale which implores people to change while there's still time. An emotional masterwork, and one of the best films I've seen.

Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023) - 0.5/5 - It was telling how, not long after A.A. Milne's original novel went into the public domain, a Winnie The Pooh horror film was announced and filmed. Writer/director Rhys Frake-Waterfield bases an entire 84-minute film around the idea of that honey-loving bear being a serial killer, expecting that premise to carry this po-faced feature when it evidently doesn't. It's played too seriously to be any fun, with the film feeling like a bog-standard slasher that's been hastily rewritten to include references to Milne's works. Why else do Pooh and Piglet stalk young girls and know how to drive a car? As far the victimised characters go, they're hampered by lacklustre characterisation and weak performances, while the kill scenes are hampered by CG blood. A film which porn parodies look down upon.

Sleepaway Camp (1983) [rewatch] - 3/5 - There's much enjoyment to be had in this bizarre 80's slasher flick, even if some performances are lacking, characters feel too over-the-top, and the mystery feels reverse-engineered around the twist ending. The kills are rather gnarly, though.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) - 4.5/5 - What an exemplary work, taking a nihilistic look at the futility of war. You get to feel in the trenches with the 2nd company, as they struggle to pass the time and quieten their hunger in-between the resounding horrors unfolding during their experience of war. A tale where the youth are inspired to sacrifice their lives and futures for the perceived honour of protecting their country, only for them to be readily replaced by further generations of younger soldiers, all ready to be added to the rising body count. A story where the horrors faced on the battlefield are dismissed by those back home, because the realities don't match up with  their imagined ideals of the glory of war. A gripping and haunting tale which feels like a vital blueprint for films of the same genre which would follow.

Breakout (2023) - 1/5 - A prison-set Die Hard which is too by the numbers to elicit a "Yippee-Ki-Yay"

Worst film of the month:
Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)

Ripper's Revenge (2023) - 3.5/5 - A compelling tale about journalistic ethics amidst a rising body count.

Living (2022) - 3.5/5 - A well-acted tale about the need to communicate and live life to the fullest.

Kill Boksoon (2023) - 4/5 - In-between the astounding action scenes lies a well-crafted tale of a legendary assassin struggling with motherhood. 

Martin (1977) [rewatch] - 5/5 - A haunting tale of loneliness through a young man's belief that he is a vampire.

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way (2023) - 4/5 - A charming documentary about one woman's journey to return to stand-up, and how comedy can lead to healing.

Best film of the month: Ikiru (1952)
Best film seen in cinemas: Creed III (2023)
Best film watched for the first time: Ikiru (1952)
Best film rewatched: Martin (1977)
Biggest Disappointment: Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania (2023)
Biggest Surprise: Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995)
Worst film of the month: Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey (2023)

Number of films watched: 32