December 2023 In Review

And that's another year over, time to bid adieu to 2023. The festivities made it a busy month for me, although it may be laughable to say that it was a quiet month when I managed to watch 20 features. So, let's see what I managed to watch this past December.

Typhoon Club (1985) - 4/5 - A humanist coming-of-age tale full of raging emotions.

Alice in Terrorland (2023) - 1.5/5 - Fantastical source material done in boring ways.

The Marvels (2023) - 3/5 - Following on from 2019's Captain Marvel, and the Disney+ shows Wandavision and Ms. Marvel, this feature serves as a team-up for Carol Danvers, Kamala Khan, and Monica Rambeau. The trio are united by an otherworldly force which forces them to swap places whenever they use their powers, an idea which has heaps of potential for fun and intrigue. This offers much entertainment when it leans into this team swapping places, although this feels too underutilized within a work that feels at the mercy of an unfortunate editing job that leaves tonal whiplash and underdeveloped relationships. Outside of a momentary jaunt to a planet that communicates through singing, this feels devoid of an identity as Nia DaCosta feels at the mercy of Kevin Feige's house style. Thank goodness for Iman Vellani, injecting life into this tale with such a joyous performance that makes me want to go back and watch Ms. Marvel.

I must admit, though, I am very surprised that people having been calling this the worst of the MCU entries. It isn't even the worst MCU film released this year, or the worst MCU film released with Tessa Thompson (no shade to her, but every bit of shade is intended for Thor: Love & Thunder.)

Best film of the month, Best film seen in cinemas, and
Best film watched for the first time: Godzilla Minus One (2023)

Next Goal Wins (2023) - 2/5 - Taika Waititi turns a gripping tale into a formulaic disappointment which struggles to last in the memory.

From Beijing With Love (1994) - 4/5 - An affectionate parody of Bond that is tremendously brought alive.

Saint Drogo (2023) - 3.5/5 - An eerie tale of a distant couple facing dissatisfaction with life.

Epic Tails (2023) - 1/5 - Animated fare which may engage toddlers, even though they deserve better than this bottom-of-the-barrel work.

Best film rewatched: The Wrong Trousers (1993)

Satranic Panic (2023) - 3.5/5 - A demon-slaying mediation on grief.

Monica (2023) - 3.5/5 - An intimate drama about healing and acceptance drawn from facing up to the past.

Godzilla Minus One (2023) - 5/5 - One of the franchise's best works, delivered in stunning form that puts Hollywood blockbusters to shame.

Biggest Disappointment: Next Goal Wins (2023)

RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop (2023) - 4.5/5 - A definitive and exhaustive documentary which never feels exhausting to watch

The Descent (2005) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - You know what adds to the atmosphere of watching this unsettling horror flick? Watching it in Redcliffe Caves. Hearing an audience react to the gruesome and heart-sinking moments were also a glorious addition.

Take This Waltz (2012) - Review to come

The Holiday (2006) [rewatch] - 3/5 - I seem to have softened upon this festive work from Nancy Meyers. While it still feels contrived, overlong, and does not sell me as hard on the Jack Black/Kate Winslet romance, I was still charmed with this harmless cornball romantic-comedy.

Biggest Surprise: From Beijing With Love (1994)

May December (2023) - Review to come

Klaus (2019) - 4/5 - Considered the worst student at the Postal Academy, Jesper is stationed to a small village called Smeerensburg which is beset by feuding families. As he befriends a reclusive toymaker, the pair set out to bring joy into the lives of the island's children by gifting them presents. Through a tale that could be called a Santa origin story, co-writer/director Sergio Pablos crafts a gorgeously animated tale with a heartfelt centre. Despite some jarring inclusions of needle-drops, this is a charming flick to put onto your Christmas rotation.

The Wrong Trousers (1993) [rewatch] - 5/5 - "I met him, 30 years ago; I met this... penguin with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and... the blackest eyes - the Devil's eyes. I spent 30 minutes with him as my lodger, and then countless more trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that penguin's eyes was purely and simply... evil."

Worst film of the month:
Atop the Fourth Wall: The Movie (2015)

Atop The Fourth Wall: The Movie (2015) - 0.5/5 - A group of internet reviewers get together to fight a villainous presence in space. That's the basic plot for this film which draws on lore for its needlessly complicated work that will lose anyone not already invested, all for this distractingly low budget fare that is too self-indulgent to admire for coming together. Between the dreadful performances, the lackluster character arcs, and the pacing which makes this feel never-ending, this is dreadful.

The Quick and The Dead (1995) - 3.5/5 - The film which Sam Raimi followed up Army of Darkness with, he brings his traditional style into this homage of spaghetti westerns which boasts an impressive cast. The story follows a mysterious gunslinger who enters a quick draw tournament run by a ruthless outlaw, and builds from there in thrilling ways that Raimi magnificently delivers. I do wish there was a bit more to the tale, particularly with some of the characters, but I cannot complain too much when Gene Hackman's ruthless Herod and Sharon Stone's vengeful Ellen do terrific work leading this film.

The French Connection (1971) - 4.5/5 - I closed out my 2023 with fulfilling a major blindspot of mine from the late William Friedkin. This tale of NYPD detectives on the trail of a drug smuggler is an engrossing one, as audiences follow the down and dirty investigation of Popeye Doyle as magnificently played by Gene Hackman. What unfolds is compelling to watch, as simple ideas like getting on/off the subway and stripping a car are brought alive in such tense ways. It goes without saying that the standout moment is the iconic chase, delivering a pulse-pounding sequence that is an all-timer not just in Friedkin's filmography, but also in cinema. What a fantastic film that I'm glad to have finally seen.

Best film of the month: Godzilla Minus One (2023)
Best film seen in cinemas: Godzilla Minus One (2023)
Best film watched for the first time: Godzilla Minus One (2023)
Best film rewatched: The Wrong Trousers (1993)
Biggest Disappointment: Next Goal Wins (2023)
Biggest Surprise: From Beijing With Love (1994)
Worst film of the month: Atop the Fourth Wall: The Movie (2015)

Number of films watched: 20