June 2023 In Review

Goodness, this was a month busy with film-watching. On top of my regular Nerdly reviews, I managed to check out both films named The Wicker Man, take 3 cinema trips to see the new Spider-Man film, and did an all-nighter of excellent horror films at Birmingham's Mockingbird cinema. So, let's see what films I managed to watch this past June.

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023) - 4.5/5 - I'll be surprised if 2023 delivers a more visually gorgeous film than this. I feel that a rewatch may solidify my love and potentially raise this films rating, but for now, this is a web-swinging success that's full of pathos, laughs, emotional resonance, and exceptional thrills. Daniel Kaluuya is an absolute treasure as Spider-Punk amidst this absolute cinematic marvel. It may be a Part One, but what a Part One!

Carmen (2023) - 3/5 - A timely romance which best expresses itself through visual flourishes.

The Boogeyman (2023) - 2.5/5 - After Host left me scared shitless, I've been interested in where Rob Savage's career would go and if he could recapture that sense of terror. When it comes to his big studio feature, I cannot say that was achieved as the final product felt too studio friendly. It has the makings of a scary film, yet the end result feels too toothless to be effective. The lacking script lets things down, which is especially unfortunate with this talented cast on-hand.

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023) [rewatch] - 5/5 - An absolutely gorgeous work which shows why this series and Everything Everywhere All At Once are the best depictions of the multiverse, as the fantastical concept is grounded with character work and utilised to highlight truths about the characters instead of establishing stakes or nostalgia-baiting references. A gorgeous blend of visual styles which phenomenally captures the very essence of Spider-Man while also questioning it.

Find Her (2022) - 1/5 - A mystery which combines standard tropes in dull ways.

Brooklyn 45 (2023) - 4/5 - A tense tale within an inescapable room, where five people are haunted by the ghosts of war.

Beau Is Afraid (2023) - 4/5 - For his third feature film, Ari Aster has delivered an epic that's his most ambitious and messy feature thus far. Beau (Joaquin Phoenix) takes an odyssey to return to his mother's home, and what unfolds is a fascinating look at the titular character's hellish journey as he grapples through guilt, anxiety,  and fear through an oedipal lens. The film can be split into different segments and, while I found much to love in each of the segments, the strongest for me was the first one where everything which could go wrong for Beau went wrong in the most nightmarish and hilarious ways. Aster has crafted a unique vision which kept me engaged and laughing throughout, particularly with a stunning use of a Mariah Carey song.

Best film of the month, Best film seen in cinemas,
& Best film rewatched: The Thing (1982)

The Navigator (1924) - 3.5/5 - After a failed proposal, a man and his neighbour end up on a navigator ship alone at sea. A terrific example of visual storytelling with strong gags and a winning lead pair, although I didn't feel the film sustained itself across the slim runtime. Plus, that racist turn the story takes in the last act? Woof

Fast X (2023) - 2/5 - Based on the four films I've seen of his, I cannot call myself a fan of Louis Leterrier and this 10th instalment into the Fast & Furious franchise does little to change that. I enjoy this gleefully over-the-top blockbuster soap opera that Vin Diesel approaches with a deadly seriousness, yet this one felt the most by-the-numbers as though it was lazily created by an A.I. It's bizarre to put that label onto a film which has Jason Momoa's gleefully flamboyant villain and a sequence where a massive explosive rolls towards The Vatican, yet the majority of decisions made feel perfunctory, particularly in the last act. With how many characters escape death in this serious, I struggle to believe in any supposed loss this film depicts. An overstuffed picture stretched across a massive cast, particularly with how many are underserved (Hollywood has failed Brie Larson).

The Resurrection of Charles Manson (2023) - Review to come

Night of the Tommyknockers (2022) - 0.5/5 - A hollow and forgettable horror western.

Old Man (2022) - 3.5/5 - An effective chamber piece which holds one’s attention from interesting opening to surprising revelations.

Guy Ritchie's The Covenant (2023) - 4/5 - A tense and thoughtful feature that gives Guy Ritchie the chance to spread his wings.

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023) [rewatch] - 5/5 - A film which questions what makes a hero across phenomenal character work and gorgeous visuals.

Best film watched for the first time:
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023)

Reality (2023) - 4.5/5 - Returning with groceries to her home on June 3rd 2017, Air Force veteran and NSA translator Reality Leigh Winner found two FBI agents waiting outside her home. What then unfolded for nearly two hours was Reality being questioned about her work as an intelligence contractor, particularly in regards to classified intel. After turning the interrogation transcript into a stage play, director Tina Satter adapts that into this feature which utilizes the minimalist direction for a taut and tense feature centered around Sydney Sweeney's exceptional lead performance. A true story that's phenomenally crafted, and leaves you angry by the end.

Sisu (2023) - 4/5 - Having retreated from the war into Lapland's remote wilderness, a prospector's search for gold results in a triumphant haul. As he starts the journey back to civilization, the man crosses paths with Nazis retreating from Finland. Upon discovering the gold, the soldiers plan to take it for themselves through force, unaware at the prospector's violent past which reveals itself in grisly fashion. What unfolds is a simple, yet enjoyable tale which finds phenomenally gruesome ways to kill Nazis. When one of the best kills involves a landmine thrown like a frisbee, it's appropriate that this film is an absolute blast.

Confess, Fletch (2022) - 4/5 - Upon arriving at the rented townhouse he's momentarily staying at, ex-journalist Fletch discovers a dead body in the house. After being considered the prime suspect in the cast, Fletch sets about to clear his name and discover who framed him. What unfolds is a breezy delight centered around a magnificently charming Jon Hamm as the titular character. Come for the laughs, stay for Marcia Gay Harden's scene-stealing performance (complete with a magnificent accent).

The Flash (2023) - 2/5 - A to-do list to transition audiences from one iteration of a cinematic universe to another.

Tour de Pharmacy (2017) - 4/5 - This was such a fun feature, with a game cast playing their drugged-up cyclists to fantastically absurdist degrees. J.J. Abrams playing up his persona, the whole sequence with the whistleblower, and Andy Samberg on fine form makes for an exceptional time spent.

Hellraiser (1987) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - The first film as part of the 12 hour marathon I undertook for Ghouls Magazine presents Slumberthon, and the only one of the films to air on the Saturday. A fantastic way to kick things off, as the blurring lines between pleasure and pain are captured through a tale of an unsatisfied marriage, conveyed in grisly and ice-cold ways. The clearly dubbed American accents on the British locations can be distracting once you know about it, though.

Ringu (1998) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - The second film is quite the slow-burner, resembling more of an investigative mystery into a supernatural curse. Even during lulls courtesy of my tired brain, this was an excellent and compelling take with a phenomenal ending.

Biggest Disappointment: The Boogeyman (2023)

The Thing (1982) [rewatch] - 5/5 - I had worries that the underlying paranoia this film deals in would make it a struggle for me to watch at 3am, yet I worried for nothing. Even in the quieter moments, John Carpenter crafts an engrossing masterpiece where everyone's on edge and suspecting all others. An exceptional blend of jaw-dropping practical effects, razor sharp tension, and welcome levity, along with some of the best lines I've ever heard uttered in cinema.

[REC] (2007) [rewatch] - 5/5 - To see this claustrophobic tale of confined terrors on the big screen was exceptional to behold, amplifying the tension in unnerving ways and never letting up. Once the shot down the stairwell is seen, this becomes so terrifying and doesn't let up until the credits roll. A masterful nightmare.

Heathers (1988) [rewatch] - 4/5 - The Slumberthon closes with this regularly humorous, quick-witted, and often compelling take on the hells of high-school, and the ways others capitalise on tragedy for their own selfish means. It's a curious experience to watch this after seeing Heathers: The Musical, but both exist quite well in their own corners. Also, we do not deserve Winona Ryder.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) [rewatch] - 5/5 - One of my favourite comedies to come out in recent years, capturing a perfect mockumentary of the music industry through the oh so humble Connor4Real, perfectly played by Andy Samberg. The songs are exceptionally crafted in how they're legitimately good while being effective parodys, from the Equal Rights song being one long encapsulation of fragile masculinity, to Finest Girl finding a brand new way to emphasise sexual desite. A breezy way to pass the time where every part feels phenomenally thought out, from the tabloid-friendly relationship to the exceptional moment when the cameras turn off and it's up to the viewers imaginations.

97 Minutes (2023) - Review to come

Aged (2023) - 0.5/5 - A repetitive cycle dragged out across 99-minutes, leaving viewers feeling aged.

Carl's Date (2023) - 2/5 - I loved Up and I enjoy little slice of life tales for characters, yet this just felt so forgettable.

Biggest Surprise: The Collector (2009)

Elemental (2023) - 2.5/5 - In a city where elements reside, fire finds itself largely ostracised from the other elements. Amidst wondering about what path her life should take, a fire resident named Ember forms a connection with water resident Wade. There's attempts to utilise this fantastical concept to tell a real story about the immigrant experience, yet it felt like a half-cooked idea which never reached its full potential. Instead, the story appeared to hit the usual beats because they were expected with little weight and emotional resonance behind them. It felt so manufactured that I wouldn't be surprised if an A.I. got a screenwriting credit. There were moments I enjoyed, particularly in the romcom section, and Thomas Newman delivers a stunner of a score amidst the terrific animation, yet this feels like Pixar on autopilot.

The Wicker Man (1973) [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - It was great to see this on the big screen, particularly in the Final Cut with lost scenes included. Robin Hardy directs one of the horniest musical films I've seen, with tremendous performances amidst this police officer's quest to locate a missing girl on the increasingly odd Summerisle. There's fascinating stuff here about blind faith, although I must admit that the pacing left my attention waning early on. It wasn't until the daughter's attempted temptations that the film kicked into gear for me, right up to the harrowing and unforgettable ending. A fascinating film, even if I found it to be uneven.

The Wicker Man (2006) - 2/5 - For this American remake of Robin Hardy's 1973 British classic, Neil LaBute sheds the musical numbers, themes of blind faith, and subtext regarding sexual freedom for a tale which appears to be trying to take-down misogynistic ideals through this women-led island. There's interesting aspects to this, particularly Nicolas Cage's performances, although I cannot call this a good film. It's a messy film from the unnecessary tragic backstory which opens the film, rearing its head regularly with the truck flashbacks, before making way for dull stretches and awkwardly played scenes. It's a remake shed of the more interesting aspects, with all involved trying to make something from the pieces remaining. I don't think it's one of the worst films ever made, yet it leaves me feeling empty.

Samurai Reincarnation (1981) - 4/5 - A theatrically bombastic tale which carries relevant messages.

Canary (2023) - 4/5 - An effective tale about a boy surrounded by monsters inside and out.

Stephen King On Screen (2023) - 2.5/5 - A documentary on the influential author's works told through those who worked on the adaptations.

Greatest Days (2023) - 1.5/5 - Take That get the Mamma Mia! treatment, and the results are lackluster.

Bad Girl Boogey (2023) - 3.5/5 - A stylishly directed vision which heralds a promising future for Alice Maio Mackay.

Worst film of the month:
Night of the Tommyknockers (2022)

Tales From The Apocalypse (2023) - 3/5 - An uneven assortment of short films based around the apocalypse.

It's Complicated (2009) - 2/5 - It must be said, a Nancy Meyers film truly knocks it out of the park regarding the production design. The gorgeous kitchens are something to behold, while sitting alongside the massive garden in establishing a domestic fantasy that feels divorced from any kind of reality. The story about a divorced couple who begin an affair with each other is played more seriously than I expected, although perhaps that's for the best when only John Krasinski's comedic beats seem to hit. Central to it is Meryl Streep performing the lost divorcee role better than the comedic tries, while Alec Baldwin's creepy character appears to be let off easily by the end. Steve Martin is also there, feeling a bit more like an afterthought at times. There's nothing egregiously bad about this film, it just misses more than it hits.

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) - 3/5 - Following the revelation which ended the original Sleepaway Camp, the second film follows an older Angela who's a counsellor at a brand new camp. This film reveals her true nature from early on, subverting the slasher premise as viewers follow the killer while she gets irritated by the adolescent antics of her fellow campers. Director Michael A. Simpson takes a comedy focused approach which riffs on the moralistic approach that slashers can guiltily fall into, while delivering some decent kills. Despite this, it is certainly a less fun feature than the fascinating original hampered by a low budget and subpar performances, while the third act is easily the weakest portion. Regardless, this is an entertaining follow-up to the original.

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On (2022) - 4.5/5 - A heartwarming tale about embracing life and all of its beauty, told through the journey of an adorable googly-eyed shell.

One Piece: Stampede (2019) - 4/5 - To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the One Piece anime, created by Eiichiro Oda, this fourteenth feature-film was released as a celebration containing masses of fan-service appearances across this large gathering for the Pirate festival. Throwing a spanner in the works is a strong villain with ties to Gol D. Roger, who seeks to become the strongest pirate by transforming into a CGI mess. I cannot imagine how tough this will be to watch for those unfamiliar with this world of pirates, devil fruit, and Haki, yet it's an utter joy for me after I reacquainted myself with this series. It gets the characters and their relationships so right, and is a thrilling watch with great bouts of fun within.

Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland (1989) - 2/5 - Filmed just 3 days after production was completed on the last film, this Sleepaway Camp sequel returns to the same camp just a year after the last massacre. The camp counsellors hope for a constructive experience where teens from different backgrounds are paired up and learn to get along, in spite of their socio-economic backgrounds. What unfolds instead just gets a bunch of one-note caricatures together so Angela can kill them off, with many of the kills unfortunately feeling lacking. There are some interesting moments, like a unique use of a flagpole and how there's more to the supposedly pure final girl than Angela realises, yet it feels minimal so the series could resort to old tactics of showcasing topless women and having a perverted camp counsellor get intimate with a MUCH younger camper. This franchise is unfortunately struggling to stay interesting.

The Collector (2009) - 3.5/5 - Adapting a screenplay which was originally intended to be a Saw prequel, co-writer/director Marcus Dunstan centers on an ex-con desperate to get money for his wife so her debts to loan sharks will be settled. He decides to rob his employer's home while they're away on a family holiday, although he soon discovers that a sadistic serial killer has taken over the house and rigged it with many deadly traps. What unfolds feels like Home Alone through a 2000s lens, making for a green-tinted feature with rapid editing that is ready to get nasty and brutal. A compelling and evocative feature that left me rather impressed.

The Collection (2012) - 4/5 - After The Collector impressed me, I had to immediately watch the sequel and it absolutely ruled. Following on from the first film, Marcus Dunstan makes his intentions known from early on that this was going to be a different beast by kicking things up a notch. A nightclub set sequence goes big in impressive ways, before the story follow Aliens/Rec² formula of journeying down the action-orientated route. As mercenaries journey into The Collector's hideout to rescue his latest captive, it soon becomes clear how the gun-toting group are going to have a difficult time. A fun-house ride which takes viewers on a fantastic trip, before reaching one of the most satisfying endings I have seen in a while. It's unfortunate that the third film fell apart, but I am more than happy to end it here.

Best film of the month: The Thing (1982)
Best film seen in cinemas: The Thing (1982)
Best film watched for the first time: Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023)
Best film rewatched: The Thing (1982)
Biggest Disappointment: The Boogeyman (2023)
Biggest Surprise: The Collector (2009)
Worst film of the month: Night of the Tommyknockers (2022)

Number of films watched: 42