March 2024 In Review

Time certainly flies, because we're already a quarter of the way into 2024. This month allowed me the chance to catch-up on child-friendly horrors (many of which traumatized previous generations), while also catching up on the years releases. So, let's see what films I watched this past March.

Dune: Part Two (2024) - 5/5 - An absolute triumph that’s ready to envelope viewers like a ravenous sandworm

Monsters 103 Mercies Dragon Damnation (2024) - 3/5 - An imperfect yet entertaining short.

Mom (2024) - 3/5 - A film which works best as a cyclical tale about the misery newborn parents face with little reprieve.

The Funeral (2024) - 3.5/5 - An effective tale of lost souls helping each other through tough times.

Best film of the month and
Best film rewatched: The Handmaiden (2016)

The G (2024) - Review to come

Last Straw (2024) - 2.5/5 - A sadly unremarkable invasion flick.

Jericho Ridge (2024) - 4.5/5 - A stunning siege thriller that uses each minute of its taut runtime to great effect.

Maestro (2023) - 2.5/5 - The last of the Best Picture nominees that I had to watch and, amongst the strongest line-up that I have seen in quite some time, it appears that I saved the weakest for last. Bradley Cooper brings alive a biopic about composer Leonard Bernstein, and he does a tremendous work in the director's chair by imbuing a distinctive style into the proceedings. What I found less effective was Cooper's lead performance, as he was distractingly ineffective with a showy performance that resembles a hyperactive child hiding behind a nose prosthetic. What is more effective is Carey Mulligan's portrayal as Felicia Montealegre, the wife who is trying to keep Leonard's life together while attempting to avoid how his infidelities are fracturing them. Between the dialogue that feels born from taking a thesaurus to a finished script, and the lacking tale which seems to paint its subject as an angel who happened to be a serial cheater, this just felt like an impressive looking skin grafted onto a lacking story.

Tummy Monster (2024) - 4/5 - Tension mounts with great effectiveness from low-stakes elements.

Best film watched in cinemas: Dune: Part Two (2024)

All You Need Is Death (2024) - 3/5 - A cautionary folk-horror with an all-consuming depiction of love.

Wicked Little Letters (2024) - 3/5 - Based on a real-life story that's apparently more true than you'd realize, director Thea Sharrock tells a story about a 1920s scandal involving received letters each full of profanity. What unfolds is a fun little slice of comedy that also taps into an unsettling subplot about coercive control, where a terrific cast do good work with the material. The unfortunate thing is that this film does not feel cinematic, it instead feels like a slight ITV drama. A decent time spent, although I struggle to think that it will linger in the memory.

The Invisible Raptor (2024) - 3.5/5 - An entertaining time which embraces the silliness of its premise.

Molly's Game (2017) - 2.5/5 - An overlong work that feels like a lesser version of an Aaron Sorkin work.

Best film watched for the first time: Spirited Away (2001)

White Blood (2024) - 1.5/5 - A slog of a work that is difficult to recommend.

Doctor Jekyll (2024) - 3.5/5 - A playful work with a beating gothic heart.

Monster House (2006) - 3.5/5 - I have fond memories of this tale, but they are actually because of the novelization that my mum bought for me. This was the first time that I watched this film, and it was a fun slice of family-friendly horror. The animated style is pretty jarring whenever it has to bring alive the people, although it is wonderful in capturing the monstrous nature of the titular structure, and especially with bringing alive the subterranean terrors. Character-wise, I was left irritated by Chowder, but I was drawn into DJ's journey of impending adulthood while trying to hold onto parts of his childhood that he did not want to let go of. There were fun lines and saddening scenes which worked well, making up an effective bit of kid-friendly horror.

Drive-Away Dolls (2024) - 2.5/5 - Partnering up with his wife Tricia Cooke, Ethan Coen directs a horny road-trip caper which sees a pair of lesbians inadvertently pursued by criminals for what's been hidden in their rental car. Amongst the winning cast who bring charm throughout this tale, Margaret Qualley and Bill Camp being particularly excellent in their roles. While there are fun moments and terrific gags throughout, the laughs are sporadic due to how hit-and-miss the whole thing is. If anything, the crime elements felt lesser compared to the horndog road-trip where friends try to bring the best out of each-other. There are also strange editing choices which took me out of the film, while Beanie Feldstein's scenes largely felt tacked onto the film (despite how great a talent she is), and the picture unfortunately feels reserved compared to past zany heights from the Coen's, such as Raising Arizona. There is fun to be had within, although it's unavoidable how it all struggles to come together.

Biggest Disappointment: Drive-Away Dolls (2024)

Immaculate (2024) - 4/5 - Effective religious horror with an utterly ballsy ending.

Hundreds of Beavers (2024) - 4.5/5 - Oozing charm and creativity across the 108-minute runtime, this is utterly one-of-a-kind.

Late Night with the Devil (2024) - 4.5/5 - An excellent chiller which draws in viewers before shattering their senses.

Return to Oz (1985) - 4/5 - No wonder this film traumatized so many kids, as this is the stuff pre-teen nightmares are made of. It's fascinating that this is the only film Walter Murch directed, as this compelling gothic fairytale only gets more downbeat after beginning with electroshock therapy, showing the declining state of Oz after Dorothy left. An array of terrific effects bring alive the various characters, with the stop-motion use for Nome King and the suit for Tik-Tok being particularly phenomenal. A curious work that should not work, especially with how vastly different it is from the 1939 classic, yet it somehow does.

Biggest Surprise: Hundreds of Beavers (2024)

Watership Down (1978) - 4.5/5 - I truly feel sorry for any unsuspecting children who watched this film on the basis of it being about bunnies, because I have been traumatised from it as an adult in his 30s. This 1978 feature is a shockingly graphic work that packs animal brutality throughout, as a group of rabbits search for a new home where they will be safe. What they find is nature being ruined by the destructive work of humanity, and a warren ruled by the vicious General Woundwart. An unforgettable and heartbreaking work.

The Secret of NIMH (1982) - 4/5 - My only exposure to Don Bluth has been Dragon's Lair, so this feature has left me puzzled as to how I missed out on his gorgeously animated features for so long.

The story sees field mouse Mrs. Brisby asking a colony of rats for help saving her ill son, only to find they have a link to her. The unfolding tale may be thinly plotted, yet the way it blends science and fantasy makes for an engrossing work. Mrs. Brisby is a fantastic lead character, risking life and limb as she does whatever possible to save her children. It is a shame that we have to put up with Jeremy, the annoying crow whose impact upon the plot is very minimal, yet it doesn't deter from this fantastic work.

Addams Family Values (1993) - 4/5 - What a dark gem this is. Director Barry Sonnenfeld delivers a riotous time spent with the titular family as they experience love, summer camp, and a newborn baby in beautifully macabre ways. The way these everyday things are offset by this gothic family work tremendously well, with the standout being a Thanksgiving play which goes awry. Joan Cusack is easily the MVP, deftly delivering as an unhinged serial killer, although the stunning performance by Raúl Juliá leaves me lamenting what has been lost through his passing.

Spirited Away (2001) - 5/5 - In the midst of her family moving to a new home, young Chihiro finds herself trapped in a fantastical world where spirits roam and her parents are transformed into pigs. What writer/Director Hayao Miyazaki has crafted is an exceptional work of art, with each gorgeous frame and each note of Joe Hisaishi's stunning score whisking audiences away into this gorgeous wonderland bursting with imagination. It remains rooted in an emotional throughline, whether it is No-Face's wrongfooted attempts at love, Yubaba's care for the big baby, or Chihiro discovering she has more strength than she realizes. This spellbinding work is an engrossing watch, a fascinating work, and a goddamn masterpiece.

Worst film of the month: White Blood (2024)

Hocus Pocus (1993) - 2.5/5 - This may be blasphemous coming from a '90s kid, but this just left me cold. There is a mildly entertaining tale within this about a trio of villainous witch sisters, each trying to adapt to contemporary times through their own understanding of the world. Despite this, it is offset by uninteresting teenage characters and their subsequent angst, making for an experience which I just did not care for.

Dune: Part Two (2024) [rewatch] - 5/5 - There was no way that I was letting this stunning epic leave cinemas without a rewatch. From the monochrome battle of Feyd-Rautha in Space Gladiator, to the climactic knife-fight of West Spice Story, and especially the Fremen showing their stuff by doing the worm, this is a powerhouse blockbuster.

Thirst (2009) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - While I liked this film, I did consider it a lesser work in director Park's filmography, but a rewatch confirms that I was underestimating this fantastic take on Émile Zola's 1868 novel, Thérèse Raquin. This is an excellent work which takes a grounded approach to vampires, using it as an excuse for two people to shed what they found unsatisfying about life and indulge in their worse desires. Song Kang-Ho and Kim Ok-bin are exceptional in their lead roles, from introductions to the hilarious set-piece which builds towards the finale.

The Handmaiden (2016) [rewatch] - 5/5 - My favourite work from director Park's filmography, where the puzzle-box nature that was rewarding on the first viewing proves to be even more rewarding upon multiple viewings. An absolute masterpiece.

Best film of the month: The Handmaiden (2016)
Best film seen in cinemas: Dune: Part Two (2024)
Best film watched for the first time: Spirited Away (2001)
Best film rewatched: The Handmaiden (2016)
Biggest Disappointment: Drive-Away Dolls (2024)
Biggest Surprise: Hundreds of Beavers (2024)
Worst film of the month: White Blood (2024)

Number of films watched: 28