Thursday, 6 October 2016

September 2016 in Review

As we enter into the month reserved for horror, let's cast back at the past month. Certainly a larger number of films viewed from this year, mixed in with numerous animated features and numerous shorts. So, let's see what I watched this past September.

I Killed My Mother - 5/5 - Xavier Dolan crafted this semi-biographical tale at the age of 19. It's an astounding achievement not only to deliver something so poignant and masterful, but to do so at such a young age. He accurately captures the complexities of a mother/son relationship, which is brought to life through magnificent and powerful acting, especially whenever Dolan and Anne Dorval are involved.

Thirst (2009) - 4/5 - Park Chan-Wook manages to blend violence, sex and vampirism for an intriguing dark tale about a priest turned vampire, and the woman who falls under his allure. It delivers patience testing stretches, but the blackly humorous moments and the perfect ending work well enough to make up for those points.

Sausage Party - 4.5/5 - After viewing this picture, my thoughts consisted of multiple iterations of the phrase "What the fuck?", but in the best possible way. There's a seamless integration of genres, as we bare witness to food horror, musings on religion, action/adventure intervals, and downright pure WTF-ery. It's also genuinely funny, and downright unbelievable.

The Purge: Election Year - 3.5/5 - An enjoyable film which improves upon prior instalments, but must they all venture over the same ground?

Source Code [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - Jake Gyllenhaal remains an engaging lead, perpetually revisiting the same eight minutes to uncover the mystery of a train bombing. The thriller elements work rather well, but there are a few moments letting things down. First there's the thinly sketched characters, leaving Michelle Monaghan not much to work with, while the directions Jeffrey Wright and Vera Farminga's characters will go in are painfully obvious. Then there's the ending, which could've worked better had the credits rolled a few minutes earlier.

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Best film of the month and Best
film rewatched: The Blair Witch Project

Team Thor [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - If you had a chair as fancy as Thanos', you wouldn't want to stand up either.

Batman: A Gotham Fairytale [rewatch] - 5/5 - How does this 6 minute short get across Batman better than Zack Snyder did in 2 and a half hours?

Batman: The Dream [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Wow. With only one minute and his pencils, Mauricio Abril manages to invoke great emotion from the origin of Bruce Wayne. DC, just give him a job already.

Jason Bourne - 2/5 - A needless extension of a franchise, with the action scenes utterly incomprehensible.

Trance (2013) [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Danny Boyle's psychological thriller has flaws, but remains a captivating, twisting mind fuck that's completely worth it. ESPECIALLY for that final act, but mostly for how it keeps unveiling new tidbits which changes our views on characters.

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Best film seen in cinemas: Kubo and the Two Strings

Florence Foster Jenkins - 3.5/5 - A biographical drama about New York heiress Florence Foster Jenkins, who held a passion for music, and especially singing, in spite of her lacking ability in the latter. When it comes to the reality of Florence's singing voice, Stephen Frears wisely holds it back until our character's first rehearsal. This is so the audience can share the reaction held by Simon Helberg's pianist, Cosme.

When the picture embraces the comedic aspect, working off people's reactions, the proceedings are genuinely funny. Compare that to the attempts at emotion, which often come off as heavy handed and rather cliche, and it's clear where the films strengths lie. The talented ensemble deliver a barrage of fantastic performances, with Meryl Streep easily shining the brightest. There is something sweet about Hugh Grant's devotion to his wife, but it can't cover up how we're meant to root for this cheating husband.

Sunset Boulevard - 5/5 - My first viewing of a Billy Wilder picture, and my goodness, it was marvellous. An engaging storyline packed with witty and wonderful dialogue, but it's clear where the films truest of strengths are located. Within the wonderful cast, as William Holden portrays his desperate writer perfectly, and Erich von Stroheim sells his devotion to his employer. But make no mistake, Gloria Swanson is this pictures trump card, stunningly selling herself as the movie star trapped in the past, while being perfectly expressive with only her facial expressions.

Cafe Society - 3.5/5 - The latest flick from Woody Allen is a charming tale, as we witness characters deal with the crossroads reached in their lives. The pitch perfect ending gets this across perfectly, while Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg sell the moment for all its worth. But while the moments of levity & love work well, it feels jarring as it moves over to Corey Stoll's gangster subplot. But the overall picture also does a magnificent job romanticising Hollywood, akin to what Hail, Caesar! did for the golden age of cinema. A longer runtime would have felt beneficial in many places, particularly when Stewart's character gets confronted in the cloak room, or when she's mulling over a decision with her roommate. Regardless of its faults, when Café Society works, it certainly does work.

The Party (2017) - 4.5/5 - Viewed a test screening of this, and was rather entertaining, proving more gripping as it went on and each further item got unravelled. The performances were especially terrific, with Kristen Scott Thomas and Patricia Clarkson proving the standouts.

The Blair Witch Project [rewatch] - 5/5 - 17 years on, and I'm doubtful found footage will get much better than this. Remains the best utilisation of the method, feeling as real as though the footage was actually found. Helping things are the main trio, who don't so much give performances as act like real life people, in a naturalistic manner.

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Best film watched for the first time: Sunset Boulevard

Kubo and the Two Strings - 4.5/5 - A visually breathtaking tale packed with pure imaginative storytelling, brought to life through magnificent stop motion and terrific voice work? Laika, you magnificent bastards! The eye popping battle sequences are astounding to behold, while the humour proves rather effective. Then we have the heartfelt moments, which sure as hell hit their mark, especially in regards to Kubo's emotional arc.

Blair Witch - 3/5 - As a massive fan of the original, this left me sorely disappointed.

Evil Dead (2013) - 4/5 - A modern take on a horror classic that's actually rather good? Please sweet talk me even more. The story and characters may not be the films strongest suit, but the wonderfully gory moments, unnerving tensions and downright magnificent performance from Jane Levy? Oh yeah, they deliver. And I try not to use this when it comes to delivering descriptions about films, but that final act? Utter badass!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 2/5 - The stirring score & beautiful visuals are a wondrous feast for the eyes and ears. Unfortunately, they cannot compensate for the ponderous nature and dull tone of the overall picture, which is in desperate need of some trimming.

Men & Chicken - 4/5 - Now this is a picture which needs to be seen to believed. Anders Thomas Jensen has crafted a bizarre drama which chillingly spirals into insanity, carrying dashes of black humour. Moments are crafted which leaves one unsure whether they're supposed to laugh, or merely bear witness to the unfolding horror, but the overall picture can be likened to a Danish attempt at The Island of Dr Moreau. Helping things are the terrific acting, from Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, and everybody else portraying the brothers.

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Biggest Disappointment: Blair Witch

The Guard [rewatch] - 5/5 - One of my favourite comedies from recent years, with every line escaping Brendan Gleeson's mouth being perfectly conveyed. The picture's at its best whenever he and Don Cheadle share the screen, but that shouldn't put down the remainder of this terrific film. 

The Second Death - 3/5 - John Michael McDonagh directed this short back in 2000, which contains an early prototype for his character from The Guard, Sgt Gerry Boyle. Atmospheric, but even at 11 minutes, it's a bit of a slog. 

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years - 4.5/5 - A documentary crafted with love and care, ideal for Beatles fans and newbies alike.

Rams (2016) - 4/5 - An Icelandic drama, where the central brothers give one another a shoulder colder than their surroundings. It reaches moments of black humour & poignancy, as we witness these brothers deal with a terrible infestation, as well as the loss of their livelihood.

What We Do In The Shadows [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - "If you eat a sandwich, I'd enjoy it more knowing nobody had fucked it." A wonderful mockumentary that's packed with wondrous moments, witty dialogue and spectacular bursts of humour.

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Biggest Surprise: Sausage Party

Hunt for the Wilderpeople - 4.5/5 - A heartfelt tale of adventure, bringing moments of wonderful humour as easily as the touching familial moments. Julian Dennison and Sam Neill make one of 2016's best double acts.

War on Everyone - 3.5/5 - Flawed, but plenty of fun.

John Henry - 3/5 - A well animated but unengaging short. Hummable songs within, though.

Batman: Under the Red Hood [rewatch] - 4/5 - One of the best efforts brought from the DC Animated range, Batman: Under the Red Hood manages to deliver an engaging storyline, sombre character beats (brought alive thanks to the tremendous voice work), and some darn good action scenes.
Granted, Nightwing is an inessential component to the story, while Black Mask could've been interchanged with any thinly drawn mob boss and delivered the same results. But they're not the focus here, Batman and the mysterious Red Hood are, and their central focus makes the story one worth catching.

Bridget Jones' Baby - 3/5 - A middle of the road affair, improved by a game cast and a wonderful final act.

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Worst film of the month: Jason Bourne

Batman: Year One [rewatch] - 4/5 - This animated adaptation delivers a terrific take on Frank Miller's classic origin tale. Jim Gordon may get more of a central focus, but this is just as much Batman's origin story. Bryan Cranston's dulcet tones are perfect for Gordon, but while rather decent as Batman, Ben McKenzie seems oddly ill-fitting as Bruce Wayne. Despite a few story contrivances, it's ultimately a well told tale that holds your attention for its over an hour runtime.

DC Showcase: Catwoman [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - Well, this one improved upon rewatch. A taut solo tale for Catwoman, on a personal quest that puts her in the paths of a diamond smuggling boss. Well animated, moving at a fluid pace.

Batman vs. The Terminator (2014) - 3/5 - A short which has the title in mind more than the storytelling. It's got wonderful visuals, perfectly showcasing the horrific world when mixed with terrific sound design. It's in need of more of a runtime though, as the tale works well without Batman, and builds up to a title fight which disappointingly never comes.

Batman vs. Terminator (2016) - 3/5 - Strange how this is the second Batman vs Terminator short I've seen tonight, and its positives and negatives are the complete opposite of its predecessor. The focus lies in the well acted fight between our two title characters, while the scope of the world feels rather limited. Granted, it holds a short runtime, but it feels like the type of thing we'd see from Batman fighting a typical gang located in a building, as opposed to a world ending cybernetic organism like Skynet. It's pure fanwank, but it's well made fanwank. The stop motion is rather decently done also.

Chase Me (2003) - 3.5/5 - A fun little silent short, detailing where Bruce Wayne would prefer to be than in a suit, at a social gathering. It moves along at a nice, breezy pace thanks to a jaunty saxophone tune, and the wonderful animated style of The New Adventures of Batman.


Best film of the month: The Blair Witch Project
Best film seen in cinemas: Kubo and the Two Strings
Best film watched for the first time: Sunset Boulevard
Best film rewatched: The Blair Witch Project
Biggest Disappointment: Blair Witch
Biggest Surprise: Sausage Party
Worst film of the month: Jason Bourne

Number of films watched: 35

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