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Archive for the ‘Movie Of The Month’ Category

2018 is over, in the final month I saw twelve movies at the cinema bringing my total for the year to 126.  For the final time of the year we crown the movie of the month, here are the contenders:

Disobedience – Following the dead of her farther, a highly regarded rabbi, Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns home to London from New York.  While some of the Orthodox Jewish community welcome her return, others are less welcoming.  When she reconnects with childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams) it becomes clear why she left.  Based on Naomi Alderman’s début novel of the same name, Disobedience is a beautiful exercise in subtlety and understatement.  Set within a community I little to nothing about, it comes across as the most honest, and realistic film I have seen all year, it helps that the performances were sensational.Disobedience

Green Book – Based on a true story; a mildly racist working-class Italian-American doorman (Viggo Mortensen) takes a job as the driver of an African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour of venues American South in the 1960’s. No cliché is left underused, there are no surprises in the plot, the characters are caricature, and not a great deal happens.  None of this matters, as the film is warm and funny, the performances are Oscar worthy, what should be cringingly sentimental turns out to be nothing short of delightful.GreenBook

Creed II – Or Rocky 4.5.  Now heavyweight champion of the world, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), takes on the s Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Apollo Creed in the fight depicted in Rocky IV.  Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), Bianca (Tessa Thompson) are both back, the latter being poorly served by the script.  Although it fails to reach the heights of the best in the franchise, the way Creed did, it is an enjoyable and uplifting story.Creed II

Tulip Fever –  A romantic drama of misadventure and misunderstanding told against the backdrop of the Tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam.  The film has sat on the shelf for several years, a look at the producers behind the film may explain why.  Or it could just be because the movie is average at best. Alicia Vikander, Holliday Grainger, and Christoph Waltz are all good.  Tom Hollander, Dane DeHaan, and Jack O’Connell are all guilty of overacting.Tulip Fever

The Old Man and the Gun – A “mostly true” story (so a caption tells us), Aging bank robber Forrest (Robert Redford) is in the middle of crime spree, some committed alone, others with Waller and Teddy (Tom Waits, Danny Glover), al committed without violence or even a raised voice.  Along the way he meets the delightful Jewel (Sissy Spacek).  All the time Detective Hunt (Casey Affleck) is on his trail.  A charming film told with a deliberate pace that director David Lowery seems to have mastered more so than any other filmmaker.  Reported to be Robert Redford’s last movie before he retires from acting, if this is true, it’s a worthy end to a great career.The Old Man and the Gun

Beautiful Boy – Timothée Chalamet plays Nic Sheff, Steve Carell               plays his farhter David in a film adapted from books written by both men describing Nic’s fight with addiction.  Both actors are fantastic with Carell slightly edging it for me.  The story is well told with a great use of time-shift that is never confusing.  The English language début of director Felix van Groeningen isn’t as heartbreaking as his earlier film The Broken Circle Breakdown, but it is just as compelling.Beautiful Boy

Mortal Engines – Yet another high concept dystopian sci-fi based on a popular YA series of books.  This time, we have mobile cities roaming across the wastelands of the globe capturing and consuming the recourses of other smaller towns and cities in what they refer to as Municipal Darwinism.  I won’t spoil the plot that unfolds within this story, least to say it involves a young couple who start on opposing sides.  Newcomer Hera Hilmar is a compelling lead Hester Shaw, Robert Sheehan is less convincing as the co-lead.  Jihae, Hugo Weaving, and Stephen Lang all provide good support.  The world building is good, if not believable.  The look of the film is good, and the story zips along nicely.  The characters are relatively well realised, although a couple of supporting players look like most of their story is on the cutting room floor.  One of the reasons the story works, as is often the case with stories of the type; the heroes are filled with self doubt, and the villains think they are heroes.  The allergy for the destructive, and self-destructive nature of capitalism isn’t subtle, but it is surprisingly effective.  An enjoyable if disposable blockbuster with an ending so clearly influenced by another film, it should be called Mortal Engines episode IV A New Hope!Mortal Engines

Aquaman – After the events of The Justice League, we learn the origin  Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa).  He (and the audience) soon discover that he is heir to the underwater kingdom of Atlantis, but there is the small matter of his evil half brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson).  Aquaman should have been the Justice League’s equivalent to Thor, the preposterous but fun member of the team, the character played totally straight the more silly things get.  In a way it achieves this in justice league to a certain extent, but it lacked the fun and charisma of Thor.  But given his own movie he fares better.  The visuals are spectacular, Jason Momoa has fun with the part, and is well supported by Amber Heard, Nicole Kidman, and Willem Dafoe.  Very silly and not as good as Wonder Woman (or even a middle ranking MCU movie), but the most fun the DCU has been to date.Aquaman

Bumblebee – Set in 1987, about twenty years prior to the events of Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie: Bumblebee arrives San Francisco, a little worse for wear, he finds himself mute and in a scrapyard in the shape of a VW Beatle trying to evade the Decepticons. This is where awkward teenager Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) finds him.  The sequels, to Bay’s first Transformers film were so bad, we forget that the original wasn’t bad.  Bumblebee, is somewhat better than not bad, it’s actually really good.  Steinfeld is charming and funny, but so is her animated co-lead.  The filmmakers aren’t shy in talking about the influence of Steven Spielberg movies, notably ET.  Bay’s pornographic sensibility is nowhere to be seen.  Superficial characters who would have been on the end of Bay’s “male gaze” are relegated to supporting roles and ridiculed.  The final act is far better than you would expect, and the 80’s soundtrack is excellent.Bumblebee

Sorry to Bother You – Set in a dystopian present-day, Cassius’ (Lakeith Stanfield) lives in his uncles garage with girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson).  In need on money he takes a job in telesales, and sucks at it until colleague Langston (Danny Glover) teaches him to use his “white voice”.  Musician, activist, and first time director Boots Riley’s movie is full of fantastic ideas and brilliant gags, and observations, unfortunately the execution is a total mess.  The cast are all excellent, and I enjoyed parts of the movie, but I fail to see the masterpiece I was led to expect.Sorry to Bother You

Stan and Ollie:  Towards the end of their career, world famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy toured UK music halls.  Most of the film concentrates on this one brief spell of their careers, but it gives an insight into their relationship and personalities of camera.  Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are both excellent as the duo, Reilly looking the part, more than Coogan but both giving believable performances, for me Coogan is the better of the two.  Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson are also excellent as their wives.  The balance of the film is a little off, with the first half spending too much time recreating the performances.  the behind the sconces relationship is far more interesting.Stan and Ollie

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – Like Peter Parker before him, Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes a new Spider-Man. At the same time Kingpin opens a portal to other alternate realities, bringing multiple Spider people into Miles’ world. Not an MCU movie, but part of Sony’s own ever more confusing cinematic universe.  Using an ever changing array of animation styles to create a bizarre and bonkers movie that is also amazing fun, and very funny, as well as being full of heart.   The freshest and funniest comic book movie for a very long time.  The voice cast is amazing, Shameik Moore is joined by: Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoë Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, and Chris Pine.Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Die Hard: 30th Anniversary Screening – Towards the end of the 1980’s Die Hard rewrote the book on action movies, how has it aged? The simple answer is very well! It is made with typical 80’s film stock that is a little grainy and muddy looking (not as bad as 70’s, but not as bright or crisp what came before or after), other than that it is very modern. If you saw it for the first time many of the story beats may seem a little clichéd, it isn’t, this is the archetype that everything else copied. A treat to see on the big screen. (not included in competition for movie of the month).Die Hard

First, a special mention for the best new film of the month Roma.  Seen on TV via Netflix, not at the cinema so not eligible.Roma

Disobedience, Green Book, The Old Man and the Gun, and Beautiful Boy, would all make worthy winners.  I considered Bumblebee as it is the movie that surprised me so much.  But the movie of the month is: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse:Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse poster.jpg

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Another interested and varied month month, the contenders for movie of the month are: 

Juliet, Naked – Chris O’Dowd plays a music bore, obsessed with reclusive singer songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke).  The release of a “Naked” version (acoustic demo) of his supposed masterpiece Juliet results in an unexpected chain of events featuring O’Dowd’s long suffering girlfriend (Rose Byrne).  After the disappointment of A Long Way Down (excellent book, poorly served on film) I went into Juliet, Naked with a little trepidation, but also a certain optimism, largely because of Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke.  Fortunately the film is excellent as are the aforementioned stars.  The comedy is sharp and telling, but often subtle, never overpowering the drama.  Chris O’Dowd’s character is truly annoying, but even he has his moment in one excellent scene.  Not the commercial hit that Fever Pitch or About a Boy were, but just as worthwhile seeing. Juliet Naked

Some Like it Hot – Screened in a stunning 4K restoration as part of the BFI comedy genius season – Two down on their luck musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) witness the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre.  They escape town disguised as women with an all female band bound for the Florida sun, where they intend to skip out on the band.  There is however a complication, Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).  If there is any such thing as a perfect movie, this is it.  Sixty years later the comedy is still relevant and hilarious.  The performances (including Marilyn Monroe’s) are outstanding, but its Billy Wilder’s sharp script and direction that shine through.  What has long been my favourite film plays even better on the big screen with an audience. Some Like it Hot

Overlord – A small group of American soldiers are on a mission to parachute behind enemy lines in the hours leading up to D-Day to destroy a MacGuffin.  As you would expect things don’t go entirely to play, there wouldn’t be much of a movie if they did!  Unfortunately, I saw the trailer for this film before seeing it so knew what was coming.  It would probably have been even better without prior knowledge of where the story goes.  The cast of relatively unknown and vaguely recognisable actors (Wyatt (son of Kurt) Russell, Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones), Jovan Adepo (Fences), and Mathilde Ollivier) are all really good.  Wearing its 18 certificate as a badge of honour the action scenes are well shot on a relatively modest budget and there are some real scenes of gore.  The story gets very silly, but it’s always entertaining and never boring, I really enjoyed it. Overlord

Widows – After a heist goes wrong the surviving partners, the widows of the title, are forced to take on their own criminal enterprise.  I have a strange relationship with Steve McQueen movies (12 Years a Slave, Shame, and Hunger), I admire them, but I didn’t necessarily like or enjoy them.  I have never had the urge to re-watch a McQueen movie.  When it was announced the Oscar winner was making a movie based on the 1980’s Lynda La Plante TV mini-series, it was suggested he was slumming it, making a genre picture.  More a drama than a thriller, the film is outstanding, and for my money his best film.  The script (by McQueen and Gillian Flynn) is taught and the story rolls along at a perfect pace.  The twists in the plot, never surprise, I’m not sure they are intended to, but they always please.  The cast are all outstanding: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo (only a matter of time before she gets an Oscar to complete her EGOT), as the main characters and Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Daniel Kaluuya in major supporting roles.  The true sign of how good the film is, there are plot strands (Davis’ grief, Farrell and Duvall’s bickering, how the fallout affects Rodriguez and Debicki’s, Erivo’s strugle to make ends meet, and Kaluuya, doing what he does) that are all essential for the overriding story, but could have made a film in their own right.  All this is topped off by a less then subtle subtext about the state of politics and society. A hugely impressive film.  Widows

Wildlife – Montana, 1960, Joe Brinson (Ed Oxenbould) is trying to fit in at a new school when his father, Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) loses his job.  Seemingly not for the first time.  Jerry decides rather than finding a new job, he will go to fight wildfires much to the annoyance of wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan). Paul Dano debut as director is a sublimely confident one.  The script adapted from Richard Ford’s novel of the same name by Dano and partner Zoe Kazan is excellent.  Gyllenhaal is on top form but pales in comparison to Carey Mulligan who is sensational.  Despite the teenage viewpoint, this is Jeanette’s story, pinpointing a small window in history, where a woman had more choices than a generation before, but not the same as a generation later.  The film ends with a stunning image, the meaning of which is open to interpretation, its meaning probably says more about the viewer than the filmmaker. Wildlife

Assassination Nation – What begins as brash, and crude teen high-school movie descends into chaos following a computer hack that exposes the secrets the people of Salem.  A witch-hunt for those suspect of being responsible ensues.  Sold as a modern take on the Salem witch trials, it is both more, and less than that depending on your point of view.  The film is a mess, with a long slow build-up.  It is always intended to be satirical, but it does quickly decent into parody and farce; however, it is during this decent the film finds its place, and its voice.  An interesting note on the casting, one of the main characters is a trans woman played by a trans woman (Hari Nef), this is notable it that its unlikely to have happened in a movie of the type a few years ago; on the other hand, it probably won’t be a thing worth mentioning in a few years as the industry becomes more inclusive.  On the whole I enjoyed it but not without reservations although I expect a lot of people to hate it.Assassination Nation

Suspiria – Taking the place of a girl who has recently gone missing, an American dancer joins a German company led by a legendry choreographer.  I came at this film with mixed feelings.  While I remember loving Dario Argento’s 1977 Suspiria on each of the three occasions I have seen it, the most recent of those was around ten years ago.  It is also a film that lacks enough plot to hang any memories on, it is a film that exists as a feeling, or a splash of colour (often red) in the back of your mind.  By extending the runtime by an hour would Luca Guadagnino bring more plot to the party? The main reason for seeing the film is the reteaming of Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson, whom I loved in Guadagnino’s earlier A Bigger Splash.  Strangely, very little happens, again there is little plot, beyond a little investigating from two of the characters. Despite this the 152 minute runtime never feels long. The film is far from subtle; it may not have messages deep within subtext, but the director is certainly making a lot of statements. Is it far better than people are giving it credit, or am I giving it a pass as it ends well leaving a good impression? SUSPIRIA

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald –  There seems little point in reviewing a film like The Crimes of Grindelwald, those invested in the world of Harry Potter will see it, those who aren’t are unlikely to see it, unless like me you just watch a lot of movies.  As someone who has seen the harry potter movies but isn’t necessarily invested in them, I can look at this with a certain prospective.  The story is wafer thin, the special effects set pieces are of varying quality.  The big issue is the characters; Grindelwald is neither a moustache twirling hissable villain, nor a complex sometimes sympathetic one (even Star Wars gets this right with Hux and Kylo Ren).  Newt Scamander and Tina Goldstein are terribly dull, and most of the supporting cast are window dressing with little to do. Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) was one of the more interesting characters in the first film, while the plot didn’t serve her well this time around, it does look like she may have more substantial part in future.  Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz) looked like she was going to be interesting, but was then wasted.  Not a disaster, but needs to get back on track, or the next film may me.  I would start with hiring a writer, J.K. Rowling may be a good novelist, but screenwriting is a different discipline, and she needs some help.  And possibly a director with a bit of flair, I seem to remember the third Harry Potter got that one right!Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – Lisbeth Salander is hired by a computer programmer to steel his own program from the American government as he fears the power it gives.  This sets in motion a chain of events that are uncomfortably close to home for Salander.  Claire Foy is nothing short of fantastic.  Not exactly the character of the original trilogy, even a little more human and dare I say it warm than the previous incarnations, she is still recognisable as Salander in both look and temperament.  The plot is total nonsense, but does its job in that it gives an environment for the characters to shine.  A little like The Fast and Furious franchise has morphed into Mission: Impossible, Lisbeth Salander has become equal parts Robert McCall, Simon Templar, James Bond and Jack Reacher, except, she’s a girl! Once you accept this, you can enjoy it for what it is, or should I say what it has become, a dumb, but fun thriller.  The story diverges a lot from the plot of the book on which it is based, this isn’t a bad thing as the book was flawed and served Blomkvist better than Salander. Not a classic, but it’s never boring,I hope it does well enough to get a sequel for two reasons; the second book, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is a better story, and more importantly, I want to see more of Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander!The Girl in the Spider's Web

Escape From New York -Another remastered John Carpenter classic.  Made in 1981 and set in the future, 1997 where Manhattan has been turned into a giant maximum-security prison.  Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is sent into the prison to rescue the president after Air Force One is hijacked.  What could have been a forgettable Sci-Fi B-movie is elevated to stone cold classic by the inclusion of the iconic Snake Plissken, and more importantly Kurt Russell’s portrayal of him.  Made in a cynical post-Vietnam war/Watergate American it is strangely and frighteningly relevant today. Escape From New York

Robin Hood – Hitting all the beats and containing all the characters you would expect from a Robin Hood movie, but looking like a cross between Call of Duty, Peaky Blinders and last year’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.  parts of the movie are fun, the cast isn’t bad, and it isn’t as bad as bad some of the reviews suggest, but it is totally pointless and derivative.Robin HoodBy far the best film of the month was Some Like it Hot, but I don’t include re-releases for movie of the month, this leaves a clear winner: Widows.  widows movie poster

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With fourteen screenings, October is my busiest month of the year to date.  Four of the fourteen were reissues of older horror movies (not eligible for my movie of the month). 

Black ’47 – 1847, returning home from fighting for the British Imperial Army a soldier finds Ireland in the grip of the Great Famine.  A series of events set him on revenge mission.  Taking all the tropes of a revenge western and transposing them to Ireland is surprisingly effective.  As you would expect the film doesn’t shy away from song violence’s, what is more surprising is the snippets of uncomfortable history that it manages to incorporate.  Not the widest of releases, but worth searching out.Black '47

A Star is Born – I think we can skip the synopsis, I think everyone knows the story by now.  Lady Gaga is getting all the plaudits for her performance, but it is also a career defining performance from Bradley Cooper.  Coopers direction is also confident and well measured.  Helping the film over so many movies about singers, the songs are good, and the live performances (shot at real festivals) really work.  It’s not without problems: Beyond Gaga, there are almost no female characters, and the final act is a little rushed and as such doesn’t quiet earn its ending.  Not the five star masterpiece some people are claiming, but a really good film.  I look forward to seeing more of Gaga in front of the camera, and Cooper behind it. A Star is Born

The Wife – An author (Jonathan Pryce) and his wife (Glenn Close) travel to Stockholm where the former has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  As the cracks in their relationship become clear, we learn via flashback how they dot to this point.  While there are (unsurprising)plot revelations along the way, this is more about character than plot.  The smallest of gestures tell a story, and it is an enthralling one largely thanks fantastic performances from Pryce, and particular Close.  How has she not won an Oscar yet?The Wife

The Hate U Give – A black teenage girl lives a double life, she goes to school in an affluent area, but lives in the deprived mainly black neighbourhood.  Her life is turned upside down when she is witness to the fatal shooting of a friend at a traffic stop.  The important story is poorly served by a disjointed plot and a heavy-handed narrative.  On a positive note the acting is pretty good, particularly from Amandla Stenberg in the lead. The Hate U Give

Halloween (1978) – Never one to turn down an opportunity to see a classic on the big screen, I visited my local multiplex for a 40th Anniversary Screening of Halloween.  Blumhouse Productions have an MO, making moderate budget genre movies, some of which breakout and make a shed load of money.  This isn’t a new thing, Blumhouse didn’t invent the concept, 40 years ago one of the best examples was made by a then up and coming director, John Carpenter.  I probably don’t need to give a plot synopsis, but will for those who are new to this classic: As a child, Michael Myers kills his teenage sister on Halloween night, fifteen years later he escapes and returns to his hometown.  Halloween didn’t invent the slasher movie, but it certainly revolutionised and popularised the genre making it a mainstay of horror throughout the 1980’s.  Costing around $300,000, and grossing $70 million (when you adjust for inflation, that’s around, $1.2million and $300million respectably), it is actually more fugal and more profitable than most Blumhouse movies.  It has spawned multiple sequels (with another due later this month), a remake, and countless imitators, does it deserve all this?  Hell yes, it is a true horror masterpiece.  Modern audiences may find the deliberate pacing slow, they are wrong, not a second of the 91minute runtime is wasted.  Michael Myers is a blank cipher with little back-story and no discernible motive.  He is a classic movie monster, but one all the more frightening because unlike Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, or the Wolf-Man, he is just a man, he is a real world boogeyman.  The films emotion comes from Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence, but the Steadicam mounted camera is as much a character as any of these people.  If you haven’t seen it, look it out now before seeing the latest sequel. Halloween 1978

Bad Times at the El Royale – Noir movies are full of down on their luck characters, the El Royale is a down on its luck location, a Hotel half in Nevada, half in California.  As four disparate, and somewhat desperate people find themselves at the titular establishment the story unfolds in carefully orchestrated chapters.  There is a point where you would be forgiven for thinking you are watching sub Tarantino, but then the pieces fall into place and you realise that it is better than anything Quentin Tarantino has made since 2009.  Then it suddenly gets even better.  Try and avoid the trailer. BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYAL

First Man – Spoiler alert, Neil Armstrong makes it to the moon.  Despite what the trailer or the poster tells you, this isn’t the story of how that happened.  Along the way, we do get a whistle-stop tour of the events starting around the time of the Gemini VII.  It is more the story of the man and his emotional journey.  The emotion of the story is kept in check partly by director Damien Chazelle, but mainly by the outstanding reserved performance from Ryan Gosling.  Claire Foy is also outstanding in the small part she is given.  A first rate film, but one I appreciated more than enjoyed, and respected more than loved. First Man

Mandy – Marmite! I’m not sure how well known the expression Marmite is known outside the UK, for those who don’t know, Marmite is a food spread made from yeast extract.  In the 1990’s it ran an advertising campaign based around how you either Love it, or Hate it.  The same is probably going to be true of Mandy.  I am not going to give a synopsis beyond saying it is a revenge thriller.  After seeing the film, the first thing I thought was that was the most Nicolas Cage film I have ever seen.  It therefore came as a surprise, that not only was the part not written for him, but that director Panos Cosmatos wanted him for a different character.  A totally bonkers film that is both a visual treat and a total mindfuck.  It does have some issues though.  For a start its 30 minutes too long.  The pacing is all over the place.  Expect to see this film on best and worst lists for the year. Mandy

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – 50 years ago was year zero for the modern zombie movie.  Just about every zombie movie in the past half century draws influence from George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  But how does it hold up as a film in its own right?  Shown in a 4K restoration, it was as good as ever, and looked better than ever.  Working as a visceral horror and a allegory of a nation tearing itself apart.  A perfect horror movie. Night of the Living Dead

Halloween – A sequel to the 1978 masterpiece that ignores all the previous sequels, even going as far as debunking some of the things that happened in the other sequels as rumours.  The idea is good, and Jamie Lee Curtis is outstanding.  The story is a little all over the place lacking the brilliant simplicity of the original.  An excellent final act is preceded by a slow fist act and a confused second.  It is however, never boring like many modern horrors.Halloween

Venom – Venom was poorly served in the terrible Spider-Man 3, in a post Deadpool world, this is the chance to make a funny and fun super(anti)hero movie, it fails.  The plot is a little plodding, the action isn’t a patch on anything Marvel has done in the past decade.  It does however have an ace up its sleeve, Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, and Riz Ahmed, all of whom are always worth watching.  A mid credit scene suggests a sequel, with the origin out of the way, hopefully a second film will live up to the promise. Venom

Bohemian Rhapsody – Biography of the band Queen, most notably its legendry front man Freddie Mercury.  It avoids any major controversy as you would expect for a biopic where two of the producers appear as characters in the story (Brian May and Roger Taylor), this doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable.  The acting is good, particularly Rami Malek as Mercury and the recreation of Live Aid is spectacular. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

The Fog (1980) – The second in a series of John Carpenter movies to receive a 4K restoration.  A small town celebrating its centenary is enveloped by a fog that brings with it a reckoning from the past.  A spooky almost old-fashioned horror that is relatively tame, but enjoyable none the less.  Notable of the first onscreen pairing of Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother Janet Leigh. The Fog

The Evil Dead (1981) – Five young friends unwittingly release and are possessed my daemons while on holiday in a cabin in the woods.  The effects show their budget, the acting isn’t always great and the editing is conspicuous.  None of this stops it being a stone cold classic.   The Evil Dead

While A Star is Born and First man are getting all the plaudits, the one I enjoyed most and my movie of the month is: Bad Times at the El RoyaleBad Times at the El Royale (1)

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An interesting month with some excellent films, and a movie of the month that may surprise you, it surprises me and I just chose it! 

Searching – Thriller about a frantic farther looking for his missing daughter.  The gimmick of showing a movie as if on a computer screen seems to have taken over from found footage, it’s going to get tied very soon.  The film is so gripping and John Cho so compelling in the lead that the gimmick is soon forgotten.  Some of the twists are obvious, others less so.  All in all, a solid thriller.Searching

Hearts Beat Loud – Inspired by a throw away comment and a burgeoning  romance, a young woman writes a song that leads to forming an unlikely band (of sorts) with her farther. What could have been a disposable and forgettable little indie film turns out to be a clever, funny and heart-warming.   Kiersey Clemons and Nick Offerman are great in the lead and are well supported by Toni Collette, Sasha Lane and Ted Danson.  Unlike many films of the type, the songs are good too.heartsbeatloud

Yardie – Idris Elba’s feature début as a director.  A young low level Jamaican criminal with unresolved issues from his past is sent to London in the early 80’s The look, vibe, and spirit of the scene are brilliantly realised.  The characters are believable and well played, the standout being Stephen Graham.  Elba directs with the same confidence and swagger that he acts making it a hugely enjoyable film even if it isn’t always best served by the story/plot that is a little thin.  Elba made the right decision to stay behind the camera so as not to distract from the leads, I look forward to seeing what he directs next.Yardie

American Animals – In 2012, Bart Layton gave us The Imposter, a documentary with a few dramatic reconstructions.  Now he has flipped the idea it on its head giving us a dramatic film cleverly interspersed with real life talking head testimonies.  En engrossing film about a group of students who embark on an attempt at a heist  so inept you won’t believe its a true story until you look it up. American Animals

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – In the early 90’s a teenage girl is sent to a gay conversion therapy centre by her religious  guardian.  The frightening thing about the narrative is the people running the camp feel that they are doing the right thing.  The most notable element of the film is the subtle and measured performance of Chloë Grace Moretz. The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Cold War – The passionate affair of a mismatched couple over about a decade and a half from post war from communist Poland to the 50’s Jazz scene in Parris and back again.  By now we know what to expect from Pawel Pawlikowski, this movie more than delivers, it is beautiful to look, and is uplifting, heartbreaking, and devastating at different times.  All this is elevated by fantastic performances from Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot. Cold War

King of Thieves – One of many dramatisations of the Hatton Garden heist from three years ago.  The all star cast (Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, Charlie Cox, Michael Gambon, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Paul Whitehouse) are all fantastic, but the film is a little plodding and by the numbers with a lack of flair or excitement.  Nothing wrong with it, but nothing outstanding or original to set it apart.  Worth watching for the great cast, but not worth rushing to see at the cinema.King of Thieves

The Rider – Only a couple of degrees away from being a documentary; a rodeo rider who can no longer ride following an serious accident plays, a rodeo rider who can no longer ride following an serious accident.  Full of contradictions, none actor Brady Jandreau is excellent in the lead, other none actors are a little wooden.  The film doesn’t go anywhere, and little is resolved, but there is so much bubbling under the surface.  Often beautiful and compelling, at others it makes the viewer feel like a voyeur.  Not a film that people will be rushing to see, but one that those who see it will not forget in a hurry. The Rider

The Predator – Following the events of Predator (1987) and Predator 2 (1990), a secret government organisation is on the lookout for visiting predators (although they are unaware of the off world antics of Predators (2010)). A special forces soldier who witnesses one such arrival gets dragged into the affair, as do his family, and anyone he meets during the movie. The first too movies asked as many questions about the Predators as it answered with little explanation of exposition. The biggest flaw of this film is the way it crowbars information in that we would be better off not knowing. While Boyd Holbrook isn’t a terrible leading man, he lacks the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the charisma of Danny Glover. Full of good ideas, but there is probably a better movie to be told with these characters using as the lead Olivia Munn and keeping Holbrook as a supporting player and link to the character of his son played by Jacob Tremblay (less annoying then you would expect of a film like this). The action is good, but the comedy doesn’t always land, and the story is all over the place. The sequel baiting ending is terrible.The Predator

A Simple Favour – Two very different woman played by Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively become unlikely best friends.  When one goes missing the other is determined to find out what has happened.  I am not a fan of Paul Feig’s previous films, but loved this one.  It looks amazing and is directed with a cheeky swagger reminiscent of lighter Hitchcock movies.  You won’t be surprissed by any of the twists, but this isn’t always a bad thing.  The two leads are both fantastic and appear to be relishing the parts.  A marvellously trashy tale, it has its flaws, but they are easy to forgive as it is so much fun.   A Simple Favour

Climax –  In a remote disused school building a French dance troop conclude their final rehearse for a tour of Europe and The USA.  As soon as they finish, they start to celebrate and party, things quickly go downhill when the sangria is spiked with LSD.  There is a school of thought that the opening few shots of a film should layout everything that is to come.  Climax starts with exactly this, not that you realise it at first.  What follows is quite bizarre in both structure and content, but no more than you would expect from provocateur Gaspar Noé. Strangely the sex is totally unsexy, and violence is clinical matter of fact, but put together the film is oppressive and disturbing.  I am not sure if I like it but I am very impressed by it. Climax

Mile 22 – Director and star pairing Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have made three other films together, the two I have seen aren’t bad, this fourth collaboration is just lazy.  The action scenes aren’t bad, but the rest of the film is terrible, topped off by Wahlberg’s character being a totally unlikable. The rest of the cast are wholly underserved; Ronda Rousey isn’t a great actor but can do action, but her character departs the story before the real action gets going.  Lauren Cohan has what could have been an interesting side story, that is totally mishandled.  John Malkovich telephones his performance in (at least they had the sense of humour to literally having him at the other end of a phone-line from the rest of the cast).  Star or The Raid Iko Uwais is totally underused.  A pointless mess of a film. MILE 22

The Little Stranger – Sometime after the second world war a doctor from working class origins returns to practice in the backwater where he grew up.  Over time he becomes more and more involved with the local big house, long past its Victorian grandeur.  Will Poulter and Charlotte Rampling provide excellent support, Domhnall Gleeson is perfectly cold and reserved for the part, but as is often the case, it is Ruth Wilson that shines through with a fantastic performance.  A study of class and its evolution wrapped up in a beautifully ambiguous ghost story.  Don’t confuse director Lenny Abrahamson’s deliberately languid pace as being slow, there is too much of interest going on. The Little Stranger

A tough choice; at the start of the month, I thought it would be a choice between two of the first films I have seen: Hearts Beat Loud and The Miseducation of Cameron Post.  As I sat down to write this, it was a clear choice between Cold War ans The Rider.  But if anyone asked me to recommend a film from this month, I would have to say A Simple Favour.  The most accessible, and the most fun, and the one I am most keen to see again.movie of the month contendersBizarrely, the only movie that I can hand on heart claim to be the movie of the month is one that has haunted my thoughts in the week since I saw it, but will probably never watch again, The Movie of the Month is: ClimaxClimax

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I have been a little selective with my movie going this month, I could have seen a lot more.  On the whole I chose well with three fantastic films that will be in contention for my year end top ten.  A couple of really solid and enjoyable films.  One disappointing but still not bad sequel.  The weakest film was the one I expected least from, the latest YA dystopian yarn, that provides further proof that the genre ran out of ideas a long time ago.  Here are the contenders:

Ant-Man and the Wasp – Lighter and more comedic than the rest of the MCU, Ant man is never going to be the best of the franchise but it is always fun.  Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are both excellent in their own right, but have little to no chemistry together.  Walton Goggins is as great as ever, but seems to be in a different movie to everyone else.  Michelle Pfeiffer is underused.  Michael Peña offers his usual comic relief.  Rising star, Hannah John-Kamen provides an interesting and compelling antagonist. Ant-Man and the Wasp

Pandora’s Box – Seminal Louise Brooks movie, the masterpiece of director G W Pabst.  Screened thanks to the BFI in what they call a “New 2K DCP of the 2009 restoration of Munich Film Museum’s definitive cut, with score by Peer Raben”.  Telling of the rise and fall of desirable and seductive but naive young dancer Lulu (Brooks).  It still stands up as a mesmerising film nearly 90 years on with simple modern storytelling, you soon forget you are watching a silent film and just appreciate it as a film. Pandora's Box

The Equalizer 2 – Denzel Washington’s first ever sequel see’s him returning as Robert McCall, the character inspired by the 1980’s Edward Woodward TV show.  The set pieces are all excellent, but the story that links them is disjointed and inconsistent.  Not as good as the first film, but not without enjoyable moments. The Equalizer 2

In The Fade – If you exclude Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, this is Diane Kruger’s first German-language film.  I went into it having read a synopsis and heard a brief review; this is too much information, as it gave me an impression of what to expect, a false impression. A stunning film largely thanks to Diane Kruger amazing performance.In The Fade

A Prayer Before Dawn – The true story of Billy Moore based on his book A Prayer Before Dawn: A Nightmare in Thailand; a British boxer who finds himself in a brutal prison in Thailand. Much of the dialogue is in Thai without subtitles leaving the audience only understanding as much as Billy, a disconcerting but effective choice.  Often hard to watch, it is an unforgettable film that will haunt your mind for days after seeing it, Joe Cole, best known for Peaky Blinders is exceptional.  A Prayer Before Dawn

Unfriended: Dark Web – A sequel to Unfriended (2014) dips its toe into the burky world of the dark web.  As before, all the action takes place on a computer screen.  Effective but unoriginal horror. An interesting idea, I understand there are two different endings. Unfriended Dark Web

The Darkest Minds – The latest in endless stream of YA dystopian future set movies.  Totally derivative of everything that has gone before particularly Divergent and the Maze Runner.  Amandla Stenberg (who was in the first Hunger Games movie when she was 13) makes a likeable lead. The Darkest Minds

BlacKkKlansman – Spike Lee is back on form with the true story of a African-American policeman who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970’s.  John David Washington has all the charisma of his famous farther and is well supported by the always excellent Adam Driver.  Lee’s attempt to juxtapose the narrative with recent events isn’t subtle, but it is extremely effective. BlacKkKlansman

The Children Act – This is the second film the year with a screenplay from Ian McEwan based on on his own book.  Despite excellent performances the inner monologue of On Chesil Beach failed to translate to the screen.  The Children Act centres around Emma Thompson as a family court judge forced to make life changing decisions for other people while seemingly oblivious to the crumbing state of her own marriage.  Thompson is outstanding in the lead elevating the film way above what it could have been, she works best when playing against Stanley Tucci as her husband, who is also brilliant in a smaller supporting role. The Children Act

I don’t include re-releases in contention for movie of the month, that rules out Pandora’s Box leaving a straight fight between: In The Fade, A Prayer Before Dawn, and BlacKkKlansman.  As well as being the best films of the month, they are also the hardest hitting and most memorable, films that you will still be thinking about days or weeks later.  The movie of the month is:In The Fade poster

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After a rather lean June, normal service is resumed in July with ten movies, none of which disappointed.  Only one can be movie of the month, here are the contenders.

Leave No Trace – Debra Granik’s long awaited follow-up to Winter’s Bone.  A quieter and more subtle movie than her previous film, but like Winters Bone its strength lies in a combination of taught direction, and fantastic performances, here from Thomasin McKenzie and the always reliable Ben Foster.Leave No Trace

Sicario 2: Soldado – Sicario is one of my favourite movies of recent years.  I was sceptical as of a sequel especially without director Denis Villeneuve and star Emily Blunt.  On a positive note, writer Taylor Sheridan is back.  Looking back at the original film, while Emily Blunt is the audiences way into the story and gives the strongest performance, Josh Brolin and particularly  Benicio Del Toro are the most interesting characters.  While not as good as the original, it is still an excellent movie with Del Toro excelling in what has morphed into the leading role.Benicio Del Toro

Hereditary – Superior horror that relies on tension and suspense rather than jump scares.  The centre of the movie is Toni Collette’s sensational performance.  I’m not sure the greatest or defining horror of the era tags are earned but it certainly has more to offer than most movies of the genre. Hereditary

Ocean’s 8 – The latest instalment in the Oceans franchise swaps the original cast for an all female one.   As a con/heist movie it offers nothing new to the genre, but that really doesn’t matter when the stars are as charismatic and watchable as Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett.  I would certainly be happy to see oceans nine and ten. Ocean's 8

Whitney – I wouldn’t call myself a Whitney Houston fan, I liked her earlier pop records from the late 80’s but never go got the whole diva, greatest singer in the world  claims of her mid career.  The second film about her in as many years, I didn’t see the Nick Broomfield film so learnt a lot here.  A solid film with some startling revelations but not as compelling as  Amy (2015), Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015) or even Kevin Macdonald’s Marley (2012). Whitney-UK-poster

Mary Shelley – The story of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin from just before she met Percy Shelley  upto and including the publication of Frankenstein.  An atmospheric and involving story that takes a few liberties with the facts as you would expect, and to quote Mark Kermode, ” there are plenty of “chubby, herm!” moments”.  Elle Fanning is always interesting to watch. Mary Shelley

The First Purge – The original Purge film was an interesting concept that did really well.  As you would expect for a Blumhouse Production, the first sequel expanded on both the idea and the scope of the film.  The third film was had run out of ideas so largely repeated the second film.  This latest film is a prequel going back to the origin of The Purge.  There is an interesting plot point that is very contemporary and prescient, but other than that, like part three, they have run out of ideas.  Unless someone has an interesting way direction to take the story, The First Purge should be the Last Purge. The First Purge

Hotel Artemis – Drew Pearce’s feature debut is a high concept sci-fi built on great characters, played by a fantastic cast.  A little more than the action film the trailer promises, it has more than a hint of High Noon. It is also often very funny usually because of Dave Bautista.  I could have done without Charlie Day. Hotel Artemis

First Reformed – Paul Schrader is back on form with a film in the transcendental style that he has spoken about so much in the past.  Ethan Hawke is on career high form at the heart of the film.  Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a religious Father Toller’s (Hawke) crisis is an existential one, not religious.   Not widely released, but worth searching for.   First Reformed

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Back for the sixth instalment of the franchise, and breaking with tradition it has a returning director, frequent Tom Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie.  Despite the near two and half hour runtime you don’t get a moment to breath.  The plot that initially seems complicated is actually very simple, and also totally superfluous, this is all about the spectacle.   Possibly the best of the series, if not it comes a close second. Mission Impossible Fallout

Of the ten, four make the shortlist: Sicario 2: Soldado is better than many previous winners.  Mission: Impossible – Fallout comes close as proof that a big budget franchise movie can still be a great film.  Ultimately, Leave No Trace comes a close second to the haunting First Reformed. First Reformed poster

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A combination of a Holiday and The Football World cup has resulted in me only seeing three movies this month, they are:

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Following the events of the previous film, but taking the narrative in a new direction.  The story starts and ends well but has noticeable lull in the middle.   Director J.A. Bayona, working with a blockbuster budget for the first time does a good job bringing so atmosphere and a few scares and a political subtext.  Enjoyable nonsense. Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Bobby Robson More Than a Manager – Portrait of the late Sir Bobby Robson, One of the best and most underrated managers in English and European football.  The film is very partisan, this doesn’t distract from the film that is both informative or enjoyable.  A must for football fans. Bobby Robson More Than a Manager

Animal World – A Chinese film based on a Japanese Manga about a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors on a cruise ship with Michael Douglas and a killer clown!  Sounds bonkers, it is. Of all the video games and board games made into terrible movies, who would have thought Rock, Paper, Scissors would be so compelling and so much fun.  It also how a bit of depth by way of social commentary. Animal World

Not much to chose from, my movie of the moth is a film I hadn’t heard of until a couple of hours before seeing it. Animal World

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