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Archive for the ‘Movie Of The Month’ Category

Please do not adjust your set, normal service will resume shortly.  For the first time since starting this feature in June 2009, I have failed to post my movie of the month list.  Hit by cold, chest infections and chronic man flue not only have I not being writing about movies, I have not being going to see them.  I had plans to see the last two Best Picture Oscar Nominations Fences  and Moonlight; as well as the one off screening of Foreign Language contender Toni Erdmann.  Sadly none of this happened, I still have a couple of days to catch Moonlight and Fences but have missed my chance to see Toni Erdmann until it crops up on Netflix or similar.  So what did I see?

Hacksaw Ridge: A film of two halves, the war film is brilliant, the build up was to sentimental and preaching. andrew-garfield

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter: The final Resident Evil movie until the inevitable reboot.  It is as dumb and convoluted as the previous five films, but it is also good fun and never boring.resident-evil-the-final

Hidden Figures: The true story of Africa American woman working at the heart of NASA at the height of the space race.  A feel good movie without the baggage of sentiment. Octavia Spencer received an Oscar nomination, the other two leads: Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe are just as good as is Kevin Costner in a supporting role. hidden-figures

 Loving: The true story of Richard and Mildred Loving a mixed race couple whose marriage was deemed illegal in 1958 Virginia.  Cleverly concentrating on the couple and  not the legal case, Ruth Negga and  Joel Edgerton are both outstanding. loving

Fifty Shades Darker: It’s easy to poke fun at this film, I would rather look for the positive, sadly there is little positive to say beyond the charisma and comic timing of star Dakota Johnson, she and co star Jamie Dornan deserves so much more. fifty-shades-darker

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: An interesting little film told mainly in flashback.  Surprisingly good largely thanks a great performance from unknown Joe Alwyn.  There are also some great supporting performances especially from Kristen Stewart. 1289347 - BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK

20th Century Women: Back in 2010 writer / director Mike Mills gave us Beginners.  A film about his late father.  Now he is back with one about his mother.  Set in the late 70’s it is a very modern movie with some quirky storytelling.  Annette Bening is sensational, Elle Fanning and Greta Gerwig are also great in supporting roles. 20th-century-women

John Wick: Chapter 2: Three years ago John Wick gave us a bonkers over stylised ultraviolent revenge thriller. This sequel is basically the same again.  It doesn’t offer anything new but is just as much fun as the original.  john-wick-chapter-2

Lion: True story of a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta before being adopted by an Australian couple.  25 years later he attempts to track down where he is from with the help of google earth.  Both Sunny Pawar and Dev Patel are excellend as the older and younger versions of Saroo. lion

What a choice, we have the worthy of Loving and Hidden Figures or the fun of John Wick: Chapter 2, which is movie of the month? I could make a case for all three as well as 20th Century Woman.  Close call but movie of the month goes to:hidden-figures-movie-poster

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A busy start to the year with twelve films in three weeks (I was on holiday for the first week).  None of the films I have seen ahave been bad, a couple have stood out as being excellent:

Silence: Possibly Martin Scorsese’s most personal movie for a long time, certainly his most weighty.  While it is brilliantly made and impeccably acted I struggled to connect with it making it a really good film but not a great one.silence

Assassins Creed: The buzz was that this would be the best video game adaptation, it isn’t bad but there are some serious flaws.  The biggest problem, is a total lack of fun.  The 15th century Spain action scenes are brilliant, the present day are terrible and the plot is incoherent at best. assassins-creed

Live By Night: What starts out looking like it is going to be a prohibition era outlaw movie becomes a gangster epic. Ben Affleck’s weakest film as a director but not without merit.   live-by-night

Manchester by the Sea: What is essentially a small family drama is elevated to greatness by great acting and a perfectly structured script.  Casey Affleck is brilliant in the lead, Michelle Williams totally steals the movie in a couple of tiny scenes.MBTS_3869.CR2

Donnie Darko: Back in cinema’s for its 15th anniversary and as good as ever.donnie-darko

Underworld Blood Wars: The fifth installment of the vampires v werewolves franchise.  The plot is paper and silly thin at best but it looks great Kate Beckinsale is excellent as ever. underworld-blood-wars

A Monster Calls: Juan Antonio Bayona tells a story that looks like it’s going to be a family drama, it then develops into what appears to be a monster movie but ends up being so much more. a-monster-calls

La La Land: The musical Oscar favourite is neither the masterpiece that some are claiming or The Emperor’s New Clothes that others suggest. la-la-land

Trainspotting: Re-released in time for the sequel, the cult classic from my student days is, great to see it, it hasn’t lost anything in the 20 years since I first saw it.trainspotting

XXX: Return of Xander Cage: Vin Diesel returns to the franchise.  Poorly made with terrible dialogue but fun and filled with great action. xxx-return-of-xander-cage

Split: M. Night Shyamalan’s career as a director has been hit and miss at best.  This horror/thriller/exploitation movie is something of a return to form.  James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are both excellent. split

Jackie: Technically not a biopic of first Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, more precisely a glimpse at a small but significant moment in her life, a significant moment in the 20th century.  A well structured story with an amazing performance from Natalie Portman at its centre. jackie

T2 Trainspotting: The world is a very different place twenty years on, I worried that there wasn’t a place for this sequel, there was no need to worry.  Both more nostalgic and melancholic than I expected but no less enjoyable. t2-trainspotting

Denial: The true story of the court case that followed Holocaust denier David Irving’s attempt to sue historian Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books. The script is a little by the numbers but the acting is brilliant from Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall.DENIAL

I have excluded the two reissue movies and only considered the ten new releases, the movie of the month is: a-monster-calls-poster

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A notable month not just for the films I have seen that we will be hearing more about in awards season, but for the fact that I saw my hundredth film of the year.

Nocturnal Animals: Fashion designer Tom Ford decided to make a movie, A Single Man; it was amazingly brilliant if a little depressing.  Colin Firth was better than in The King’s Speech where he won an Oscar.  Seven years passed, Ford’s involvement in the film industry didn’t seem to go beyond dressing James Bond so it appeared he had scratched the directing itch and walked away, far from it.  His first film was good, Nocturnal Animals is outstanding.  The story within a story narrative is brilliantly handled but he brilliance lies not in this subtext, but the overriding subtext. As you would expect Amy Adams is the standout, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson all provide great support.nocturnal-animals

Arrival: Denis Villeneuve enters the world of Sci-Fi, but there is so much more going on than a simple alien first contact movie.   Amy Adams second Oscar worthy film of the month.  The cinematography is stunning without being showy with resorting to pretty pictures.  It is impossible to say any more without giving away key plot points.arrival

The Light Between Oceans: A childless couple find an seemingly orphaned baby, everything is great, until it gets complicated.  A beautifully shot film with amazing performances from Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander and Rachel Weisz fails to reach the heights it could have because of an overly contrived story and an overwrought score.the-light-between-oceans

The Beatles: Eight Days a  Week – The Touring Years: Brilliant documentary, I don’t need to give a synopsis as the somewhat awkward title says it all.  A mix of archive footage and talking heads that is both fun and informative.the-beatles-eight-days-a-week-the-touring-years

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Cards on the table I am not a big Harry Potter fan, I have seen the films and enjoyed them but was never a massive fan.  The Art Deco New York setting looks great but the direction lacks any flair or originality.  The best characters and performances all come from the supporting players: Alison Sudol, Colin Farrell, Dan Fogler and Samantha Morton.fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them

A United Kingdom: If like me, your only knowledge of director Amma Asante was from her part in Grange Hill in the 1980’s then Belle (2013) would have come a little out the blue.  But if like me you had seen Belle, you would have been eagerly anticipating her next firm.  A United Kingdom does not disappoint.  Set in the 1940’s, the true story of Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo), the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana) and his marriage to Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike) a white Englishwoman.  At a time when many British people are developing  a rose tinted picture of what the British Empire was, this film comes as a timely reminder of how poorly we behaved as a nation in the past.  The story of tolerance and understanding is very timely.a-united-kingdom

Paterson: Nothing much happens in this movie, but it all happens in a beautiful and poetic way as you would expect from director Jim Jarmusch.  This is somewhat appropriate as the film centres around an armature poet.  There isn’t enough going on for many viewers, but I loved it.  Adam Driver is always interesting and watchable, here he is also really good.paterson

Allied: Given the setting of the first half of the film, comparisons with Casablanca are understandable, the film actually has more in common with The English Patient.  It doesn’t live up to either of these two but is better than many critics will have you believe.  Brad Pitt is good, Marion Cotillard is sensational.allied

Arrival and A United Kingdom were contenders, but movie of the month is:nocturnal-animals-movie-poster

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Another busy month with thirteen movies, but which is the movie of the month? Here are the contenders: 

Swiss Army Man: Marketed as the farting corpse movie, it is actually a very intimate movie about mental illness.  It is a film that has really divided critical opinion receiving both one and five star reviews.  I can appreciate what the film makers were trying to do and through both Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe were excellent but I didn’t enjoy the film.swiss-army-man

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Eva Green was the only good thing about Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (2012), it is therefore good to see he has found a much better vehicle for her.  With a plot reminiscent of so many of his previous movies you would be forgiven for thinking this was a Burton original idea, it is actually based on the book of the same name by Ransom Riggs.  A fun and charming film with a nicely dark side, what Burton does best and hasn’t done often enough in the past decade and a half.miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children

Blood Farther:  I love trashy B movies and genre films and found this Mel Gibson vehicle a real treat.  Playing a character who has issues and past transgressions that mirror the actor, Gibson is perfect for the part.  Don’t expect anything original or new but take it for what it is and you may just like it, I loved it.blood-farther

The Girl on the Train: It was never going to be possible to do justice to an adaptation of a book that consisted of mainly in inner monologue of an unreliable witness, however The Girl on the Train is as good as it could be.  The change of setting from London to New York has no impact and Emily Blunt excellent.the-girl-on-the-train

War on Everyone:  John Michael McDonagh has set the bar very high for himself with The Gard and Calvary.  War on Everyone doesn’t reach those heights but is still an absolute hoot.  The ever reliable Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peña are on top form and their deadpan delivery is often devastatingly funny.war-on-everyone

American Honey: Andrea Arnold has been one of Britain’s most interesting directors in recent years.  For her first American movie she has taken on the most American of genres, the road movie.  A cast of mainly none actors work well alongside Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough who are both on career best form.  The real star of the film is Sasha Lane who is just as impressive as Katie Jarvis was in Arnold’s Fish Tank.  The 2h 43min runtime flies by.american-honey

Deepwater Horizon: The true story of the oil rig disaster in 2010, manages to work as a 70’s style disaster movie while still showing a certain respect and dignity to people who lost their lives just six years ago.deepwater-horizon

Inferno: Ron Howard and Tom Hanks are back bringing us a third instalment of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon.  As with the first two films, the plot consists of equal quantities of running and exposition and is as bad if not worse than the other two instalments.  Further hampered by a plot twist a blind man would see coming, the only novel thing about the film is that it kills the main villain in the prologue, sorry if that is a spoiler, but it is in the trailer.inferno

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back: Tom Cruise’s second outing as Lee Child’s phenomenally successful book series.  A bigger and more cinematic, but not as interesting story as the first film.  Cobie Smulders plays well opposite cruise having a much better character than Rosamund Pike did in the first film.  Like the books, fun and enjoyable without offering anything particularly original.jack-reacher-never-go-back

The Accountant: Ben Affleck plays an accountant with a difference.  An interesting and enjoyable thriller that is well structured with flashbacks drip-feeding the characters back story.  There are a few of nice twists and turns in the plot, some more obvious than others.  The always brilliant Anna Kendrick is largely wasted.The Accountant

Train to Busan: How do you do anything original with a zombie movie, it’s all been done, hasn’t it?  The setting on a train offers some really interesting scenarios, but there are a few new characteristics to the zombies that also work to great effect.  To top all this of it is a genuinely good story  with compelling characters.train-to-busan

I, Daniel Blake: Ken Loach explores the inequities and bureaucracy of the welfare system from the point of view of a single mother and working man who has recently suffered a heart attack.  A powerful story with all the gusto of Loach’s best work if not it subtlety.i-daniel-blake

Doctor Strange: Marvel have done it again, introducing a ridiculous character and scenario that takes the MCU even further away from reality, but it works.  Benedict Cumberbatch is perfectly cast as both the cocky surgeon at the start of the movie, and the hero he becomes.  Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton are all as good as you would expect but Rachel McAdams is totally wasted.null

I don’t award a Razzie of month, if I did, Inferno would be a clear winner.  But what is the movie of the month?  I loved Blood Farther as perfect example of the genre, and Train to Busan for its originality, but the movie of the month is: American Honeyamerican-honey-poster

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After a slow summer, September saw thirteen trips to the cinema, one of the reasons I am a day late posting my movie of the month.  the other is because I couldn’t decide on the winner, here are the contenders:  

Brotherhood: Noel Clarke’s third and possibly final part of his “Hood” trilogy.  Clarke writes, directs and stars and does a great job of all three.  The best made of the trilogy and his performance is immense.    Great to see it doing well at the UK boxoffice.brotherhood

Hell or High Water: British director David Mackenzie takes on the modern western with a top script by Taylor Sheridan.  Set in small town West Texas it is very modern post fanatical crisis story.  Comparisons to No Country for Old Men (2007) are inevitable, while it isn’t as good as the Coen’s movie, it is a worthy entry into the genre.hell-or-high-water

Morgan: An exploration into humanity rolled up into a slick Sci-Fi thriller.  It is a surprising choice for director Luke (son of Ridley) Scott’s feature debut as it has many echoes of Blade Runner.  Surprisingly not that well received, I really enjoyed it.  Directed with confidence that belies a debut director; the film is lean 92 minutes, it looks fantastic and is well cast with standout performances from Kate Mara and Anya Taylor-Joy.morgan

Cafe Society: Woody Allen’s 47th feature is set against a backdrop of golden age Hollywood.    It their third film together Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart have great chemistry.  The story ambles along without any great conclusion or revelation.  Not as good as Allen’s recent best Midnight In Paris and Blue Jasmine but still worth seeing especially for a fantastic Kristen Stewart.cafe-society

One More Time With Feeling: Documentary exploring the recording and creative process of the album Skeleton Tree by Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds.  Made at a time of great personal tragedy for Cave it is a more sombre than 20,000 Days on Earth but still has funny moments and is totally engrossing.  Shown in 3D that is occasionally effective but largely pointless, like 3D in most movies. And the album is fantastic too by the way!one-more-time-with-feeling

Don’t Breathe: Director Fede Alvarez follows up his pointless Evil Dead remake with home invasion movie with a twist.  Quite nasty at times, it is a great little film for fans of horror/thrillers.  Unlike Hell or High Water, it only plays lip service to the economy subtext.dont-breathe

Anthropoid: True story of Operation Anthropoid, the plan to assassinate SS General Reinhard Heydrich in Czechoslovakia.  The first half of the film is a dark and tense thriller, the second a bolt and brash war movie, both work supremely well in an enthralling movie.anthropoid

The Girl with All the Gifts: British zombie is probably the best and most original of the genre since 28 Days Later.  It works on a surface level as an exciting and enthralling film but also explores themes of humanity, ecology and morality.the-girl-with-all-the-gifts

Blair Witch: Part remake/reboot and part sequel to 1999’s phenomenally successful and influential The Blair Witch Project.  Taken on its own merits it isn’t a bad film, it just lacks the impact and originality of the original.blair-witch

Hunt for the Wilderpeople: Taika Waititi follows up the brilliant What We Do in the Shadows with a more conventional movie.  A dysfunctional relationship between an outsider kid and a cantankerous adult,  we have seen it all before but rarely done this well and with a minimum of sentiment and cliché.hunt-for-the-wilderpeople

The Infiltrator: The true story of Robert Mazur who goes undercover in America’s war on drugs in the 1980’s.  A gripping if a little old fashioned story.  Bryan Cranston is fantastic in the lead as are Diane Kruger, John Leguizamo and Joseph Gilgun in supporting roles.the-infiltrator

Kubo and the Two Strings: Stunning Stop-motion animation from Laika.  Moments of comedy, horror and action keep the viewer enthralled as do the great voice cast, the real star is the stop motion animation.kubo-and-the-two-strings

The Magnificent Seven: Unnecessary but largely enjoyable retelling of the story.  The villain is updated to give a vague hint at a modern subtext.  Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt do a good job playing Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt leaving Ethan Hawke to be the most interesting and only nuanced character.the-magnificent-seven

There have been some fantastic films in September and half a dozen of them could have been movie of the month in other months, but three stand out from the rest: Hell or High Water, The Girl with All the Gifts and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.  The three are interchangeable, If you ask me again tomorrow I may change my mind, but for now the movie of the month is:hunt-for-the-wilderpeople

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Eight films seen this month, there are a few more out I would like to catch up with if I find the time.  Although I enjoyed all the films this month, the movie of the month shone out by a mile, I think you may spot it when you read my comments:

Suicide Squad – On the plus side, Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Viola Davis are all excellent and perfectly cast.  On the negative side; DC has all the best villains, if you are going to turn them into heroes you are left with a rubbish villain.  When you add to this a disjointed story you are left with a decent film that should have been a great film. You can’t help thinking how much better Marvel would have handled it.Sucide Squad

Nerve – Emma Roberts is 25, it’s about time she stopped playing 17 year olds and developed a career.  The film is largely disposable fun, best not to think too much about the plot and it massive holes.Nerve

The Shallows – Entertaining but silly woman against shark movie elevated by a strong, largely solo performance from Blake Lively.  Shot with a lustful gave on its female lead that falls somewhere between shampoo commercial and the pornographic gaze of Michael Bay.  You could argue that it is gratuitous, or that it is the point of the movie, who am I to say.The Shallows

Julieta – Pedro Almodóvar returns to the family drama focusing on female characters.  While I love The Skin I Live In, this is what Almodóvar does best, and possibly better than any other Auteur. A treat for fans of Almodóvar or just fans of cinema.Julieta

Lights Out – Effective horror with a great concept, a perfect, short run time and some great performances particularly from Maria Bello.Lights Out

Swallows and Amazons – Enjoyable version of Arthur Ransome’s classic children’s book.  The introduction of the spy story subplot works surprisingly well.  The unknown child cast are good, Kelly Macdonald, Rafe Spall and Andrew Scott are all good in the adult roles.  Purists will bemoan both the lack of sailing and how poorly the sailing scenes are filmed.Swallows and Amazons

The Purge: Election Year – A direct sequel to the second Purge film ” Anarchy ” with Frank Grillo reprising his role.  The only criticism is that where the second film moved things on, this third film offers nothing new.

The Mechanic: Resurrection – Unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake.  There is some good action, Jason Statham is fun as you would expect.  Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones and Michelle Yeoh  are all wasted.  The makeup department should have given Sam Hazeldine an moustache to twirl.The Mechanic Resurrection

An easy choice, movie of the month is:Julieta poster

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I have been to see six movies in July, twice as many as June, half as many as May.  I have not been distracted from the cinema, there just hasn’t been much to see.  The contenders for movie of the month are:

Now You See Me 2: Now you see me came out of nowhere.  I saw it as a secret screening not knowing anything about it before going in.  It was fun thanks to a sharp script and a charismatic ensemble.  Now You See Me 2 is an unnecessary sequel that falls into every sequel trap trying to bigger and better, it is bloated and confused with is story that is overly contrived and unbelievable even within the films fictional setting.Now You See Me 2

The Neon Demon: Nicolas Winding Refn films always divide opinion, this one more than any other.  Existing in an almost dream like trance for most of its running time, it never feels real.  As a viewer you never feel like a voyeur looking in on the characters lives, it always feels one step removed, like a dream, or a nightmare.  The film oozes with influences of other directors, possibly: Lynch, Jordon, Mann, Schrader and Carpenter.  More a work of art than a movie, I can see why many people hate it, I loved it.The Neon Demon

Ghostbusters: There has been so much said about this film, mostly before it came out, that it has become nearly impossible to criticise it without being accused of misogyny.  In truth, the Ghostbusters being played by woman is irrelevant as they are largely good in their roles.  The problem is with the script, it just isn’t funny enough.  All the best moments involve nods to the original film (including cameos) or improvisation that stands out from the.  An okay but disappointing film that people who didn’t grow up with the original will probably enjoy more than those who did.  Worth seeing for Kate McKinnon who has dived opinion but stole the whole movie for me.ghostbusters

The Legend of Tarzan: Not well reviewed by critics but people I have spoken to who have seen it seem to have enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it, more than Ghostbusters.  Shot largely on green-screen, the setting looks stunning, but the animals aren’t as effective as in The Jungle Book.   Alexander Skarsgård makes a good hero but is totally overshadowed by the brilliant Margot Robbie.  Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson play Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson, this is never a bad thing, no one eats or has a pleasant conversation with menace like Waltz!  It doesn’t offer anything new to the well told story but is a fun way to spend a couple of hours, and that is significant, it resists the temptation to outstay its welcome with a two hour plus runtime.The Legend of Tarzan

Star Trek Beyond:  Star Trek Into Darkness was a solid film that everyone seemed to like when it came out but rapidly fell out of love with it.  The main problem was twofold, a lack of fun and interaction between the main characters.  Like the best of the original films The Wrath of Khan and The Undiscovered Country, Beyond brings back the fun and the banter.  The final act is a little Marvel in its execution but it does earn it with what goes before.Star Trek Beyond

Jason Bourne: Nine years after the trilogy seemed to be wrapped up nicely Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon decided it was time to bring him back. As with the earlier films the story is topical and reflects the time.  As you would expect from Greengrass the action and fight scenes are fantastically staged.  The only criticism, it doesn’t do anything we haven’t already seen in the earlier films.    Jason Bourne

Movie of the month is:neon-demon poster

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