February 2024 In Review

February has left us behind, and the UK has received some amazing films this year (courtesy of later scheduled release dates). At least they are a nice counterbalance to some more regrettable releases of 2024. So, let's see what films I watched this past February.

Blue Giant (2023) - 4.5/5 - A gorgeously realized tale of musical passion, and the community united with a love for the performers.

The Vance Institute (2023) - 3/5 - An interesting gaze upon manipulative groups that promising healing through penance.

The Vanishing (1988) - 5/5 - An unforgettable masterwork that burrows itself into your soul and threatening to never leave.

The Iron Claw (2023) - 4.5/5 - A heart-shattering tale of a family living under a domineering father.

Best film of the month and Best film
watched for the first time: The Vanishing (1988)

Yuki's Sun (1972) - 3/5 - The first directorial work from Hayao Miyazaki, this 5-minute TV pilot establishes itself as following Yuki, a girl abandoned as a child seeking for her mother. There is much personality packed into here, particularly with Yuki'a habit of hitting people when she's happy, although what is shown feels like a highlight reel of a TV series without the investment built up in-between such key moments. An interesting start for such a renowned filmmaker.

Batman (1966) - 3.5/5 - A feature-film based on ABC's Batman TV series, this sees Batman & Robin trying to stop the dastardly plans of four escaped villains; The Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and The Riddler. What unfolds is a riotous romp which marvelously reflects a curious time in comic-book heroics, where the plot involves a dehydration machine which turns its targets into piles of dust, numerous aquatic animals exploding, and the longest countdown I've seen for a bomb. It's also pretty tongue-in-cheek about the heroes, be it highlighting how they're brilliant detectives by having them solve ridiculous riddles courtesy of Olympic-level leaps of logic, and them being overly moralistic about people drinking alcohol. It does feel overlong, there is no reason this had to be over 90-minutes, yet this is an entertaining time which I prefer to a good amount of live-action Batman films.

The Deep Dark (2024) - Review to come

Best film seen in cinemas: The Iron Claw (2023)

Mean Girls (2024) - 2/5 - 2004's Mean Girls is a favourite film of mine, so I was interested in seeing this adaptation of the Broadway musical. What unfolded follows a cliffnotes version of the same basic plot, while stretching out the runtime to almost two-hours and padding it out with forgettable songs. The cast do well bringing alive these roles, with ReneĆ© Rapp being the standout as this iteration of Regina George, although they can only do so much with a script that prioritizes half-hearted references to the original film. Also, as much as I think Angourie Rice is a talented actress, it did not help that she had the weakest singing voice of the cast. It is apparently a film that intended to modernize the original, but outside of integrating TikTok into the film, it feels like this iteration has little of its own identity. The marketing may as well have had the tagline "Get in, loser, we're going to constantly reference a much better film."

The Zone of Interest (2023) - 4.5/5 - At a first glance, the story of a constantly working dad trying to build a dream life for his family while grappling with structural changes at work sounds like the plot of a light film that ends with the father realizing what is truly important in life. "Light" is absolutely not a word to describe Jonathan Glazer's latest feature, as he adapts Martin Amis' novel to depict a Nazi family living next door to Auschwitz. This unsettling work follows a family that have distanced themselves from the evil acts unfolding next door, numb to the horrors that can be heard within earshot, while Mica Levi's score gets under your skin as it plays throughout. Glazer has crafted a chilling look at humanity through this single family, and it is an unforgettable work.

The After (2023) - 1.5/5 - A half-hearted short that feels more suited to Facebook reels.

Biggest Surprise: Dune (2021)

Murdaritaville (2024) - 0.5/5 - A lackluster way of honouring Jimmy Buffett.

The Promised Land (2024) - 4/5 - An engrossing tale of all-consuming determination.

Kill Your Lover (2024) - Review to come

Biggest Disappointment: Mean Girls (2024)

Wake Up (2024) - Review to come

Camp Pleasant Lake (2024) - 1/5 - A feature-length way of dragging out a single joke.

DC Showcase: Blue Beetle (2021) - 3.5/5 - A fun DC short which feels in the vein of a Saturday morning cartoon, using a simplistic animation style akin to a Hanna-Barbera cartoon for an entertaining team-up between Blue Beetle and The Question. A decent time which reminds me how fantastic these DC Showcase shorts can be.

Biggest Surprise: February (2016)

Argylle (2024) - 1.5/5 - When the plots of her fictional spy novels mirror real-life events, writer Elly Conway finds herself hunted by a covert spy organization, with her only allies being her cat, Alfie, and cat-allergic spy, Aiden. There is interesting material built out of this initial hook, as a spy novelist is thrown into a world that she has built a career, and it allows for a charming dynamic to form between the on-screen roles of Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell.

And then came the much publicized turn in the story. The idea is initially interesting, yet it just leads to the film settling into a more standard spy flick where lacking execution undoes the decent ideas. I especially found this happening during the action scenes, with a colourful gas shootout and the skating fight being set-pieces that should have grabbed my interest. Yet, the ideas are bogged down by a stale realization and hindered by a distracting use of CGI.

As the plot made itself unnecessarily complicated across an overlong runtime, what truly let down the work was a sense of self-satisfied smugness regarding how clever the filmmakers think this film is. It all just came off as exhausting, and left me uninterested in the franchise set-up that was left behind in the post-credits scene.

The Call (2015) - 2/5 - What initially unfolds appears to be a short film about Mads Mikkelsen and Malin Buska falling for each-other while running lines for their roles. The duo ooze charm as they interact off one-another, although it becomes clear that this is actually a furniture commercial intent on wasting everyone's time.

Lift (2024) - 1/5 - A Netflix film which does not manage to take off.

Worst film of the month: Murdaritaville (2024)

February (2016) - 4/5 - At a boarding school during winter break, two girls are left behind while waiting for their parents to pick them up. What unfolds is a slow-burn tale that is equally enthralling and unsettling, getting under ones skin with the aid of Elvis Perkins' excellent music. The cast do magnificent work in their roles, especially the terrific Kiernan Shipka. While turns in the story may be far from surprising, this does not dull the mood tremendously established by writer/director Osgood Perkins. A marvellous little gem.

Madame Web (2024) - 1/5 - After an accident leaves her with the ability to see the future, paramedic Cassandra Webb uses her powers to help save the lives of three young women who are being hunted by a wall-crawling murderer. Credit where it is deserved, there are interesting elements involving threads of destiny, the practical use of precognition, and repeated symbolism involving the web of fate.

It is a shame those elements are suffocated within this butchered final cut. The script wishes to deliver arcs to establish characters growing and their troubled relationships, yet it repeatedly skips to the end without allowing for development beforehand. When Cassandra says that she forgives somebody, there is not anything beforehand which even hints that the lead had bad feelings towards the character. It is also pretty laughable that Cassandra can be wanted for kidnapping, only to make it back to her apartment with no issue and later fly to Peru without a single problem.

Accentuating the issue is the dreadful editing, undermining S.J. Clarkson's direction by rendering whole scenes as incomprehensible while leaving the cast struggling to shine with their scenes hacked away. Suffering the worst is Tahar Rahim, as his ADR lines largely unfold with his face off-screen and even fail to match up with his lip movements. There is little to this character, from what he does to be so rich and powerful, what he hopes to achieve that he fears being taken from him, and even who the unnamed helper is operating his computers.

If only somebody at Sony had a mother in the Amazon that was researching how to edit a film.

Cold Meat (2024) - 3.5/5 - An effective thriller set within the confines of a car.

Dune (2021) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - A magnificent work where no shot feels wasted, with each feame carefully crafted to transport viewers into this universe where all that matters is controlling the spice. This remains an engrossing tale of political wranglings within a fantastical place, with the majority of characters effectively brought alive in phenomenal ways, and I cannot wait to return very soon for Part Two.

Best film of the month: The Vanishing (1988)
Best film seen in cinemas: The Iron Claw (2023)
Best film watched for the first time: The Vanishing (1988)
Best film rewatched: Dune (2021)
Biggest Disappointment: Mean Girls (2024)
Biggest Surprise: February (2016)
Worst film of the month: Murdaritaville (2024)

Number of films watched: 23