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Archive for the ‘Movie Of The Month’ Category

A varied month with debut features, sequels, a soft reboot of a franchise, a TV spinoff and a concert movie.  Here are the contenders for movie of the month: 

Roger Waters, Us + Them – Essentially a concert firm made up mainly of Pink Floyd material.  A sensational audiovisual show with a political edge.  The juxtaposition of proactive images with the timeless lyrics makes a strong statement about the UK and US governments, the refugee crisis, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Worth seeing for the music alone, but it has so much more to say. Roger Waters, Us + Them

Joker –  The clown prince of crime as you have never seen him before.  Joaquin Phoenix is excellent, the film is better than the backlash would have you believe, but not as flawless as early reviews suggested.  I really liked it but didn’t love it. joker

It: Chapter II – The first movie was excellent, part two had excellent early reviews but poor word of mouth.  I liked it, it is creepy without being scary.  The adult cast are excellent in the own right, and at following on from the kids in the first film.  It could have benefited from a tighter edit.  It Chapter II

Downton Abbey – I have seen a few episodes of the TV show but didn’t watch it religiously, as such I kind of knew what to expect, and that is exactly what you get.  Well shot, and well acted, not massively cinematic, but passed the time harmlessly.  Fans of the show will probably love it.  Downton Abbey

The Day Shall Come – Nearly ten years after his first film, Four Lions, satirist/agent provocateur Chris Morris returns with his second film.  A naive, impoverished, and deluded preacher is manipulated into an arms deal by the FBI so they can arrest him as a terrorist to improve their conviction rates.  An absurdist satirical comedy that while fictional in itself, the tagline and the opening caption says: Based On a Hundred True Stories. Lacking both the levels of heart and humour of Four Lions, it is still a compelling if frightening watch.  Marchánt Davis is funny, compelling and confident in what is amazingly his movie debut, I expect to see a lot more from him in the future.The Day Shall Come

Zombieland: Double Tap – Ten years after the first movie, the original quartet are back. Very much the same again: the plot is thin, and only there to link a series of set-pieces together.  However there are plenty of funny moments from the always watchable returning cast with Rosario Dawson and Zoey Deutch making excellent additions. Zombieland Double Tap

Official Secrets – True story of Katharine Gun, the whistleblower who leaked information to the press in the build-up to the  2003 invasion of Iraq.  A little on the nose, with a little too much of characters explaining the plot, but an enjoyable film with an import story to tell.  Keira Knightley is excellent, as are the supporting cast including Matthew Goode, Ralph Fiennes, and Matt Smith.  Rhys Ifans appears to be in a different film playing an over the top character, I am led to believe it is an acurate portrayal. Official Secrets

Terminator: Dark Fate – Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in yet another Terminator, but this time Linda Hamilton returns to the franchise for the first time since Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).  Thanks to the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, the plot kind of works with the other films.  The story returns to the plot of the first two movies of Terminators chasing someone, and a protector also sent from future trying to save them.  It is notable that there are essentially three female leads, Hamilton, along with Mackenzie Davis, and Natalia Reyes.  All three are really good, but the script can’t decide who the lead is and sometimes suffers.  Schwarzenegger is used well, but Gabriel Luna lacks the menace of Robert Patrick from T2, or Schwarzenegger in the original film. Terminator Dark Fate

The Peanut Butter Falcon – A young man with Down syndrome is forced to live in an old people’s home, as the state doesn’t know where else to put him.  He escapes and begins an adventure akin to a modern day Mark Twain character.  Zack Gottsagen who like his character has Down syndrome is a compelling leading man, and is supported by an ever reliable Dakota Johnson, and Shia LaBeouf who again reminds us that he is a really good actor and his dalliance with Michael Bay movies was just a blip. The Peanut Butter Falcon

Luce – Saved from a warzone in Eritrea and adopted by a middleclass couple, Luce is an all-star student.  A dedicated teacher suspects there is more going on with Luce than his parents and the faculty see.  The brilliance of the film is in its subtly, it doesn’t answer many of the questions it asks.Luce

The Last Black Man in San Francisco – Jimmie, a young black man spends his spare time returning to his grandfathers old house to maintain it, against the wishes of the current owners.  When they are forced to move out, Jimmie sees his opportunity to reclaim what he believes is his birthright.  Low on plot and deliberately paced, it is a slow and mournful lament.  There is a lot more going on under the surface than a movie about gentrification.  Amazingly it is the feature debut from director Joe Talbot.The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Many people will expect my movie of the month to be Joker, its good, but not quite good enough.  The Peanut Butter Falcon, Luce, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco are all contenders, but the film that has stayed with me is the first one I saw this month:  Roger Waters, Us + Them:Roger Waters, Us + Them Poster

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Moving house has taken up a lot of time and curtailed my cinema-going this month.  A lack of internet access has also resulted in my leanest month of blogging, this is my first post since last months Movie of the Month.  Fortunately, I am back online, and all but one of the movies this month were really good:   

Fleabag: NT Live – Not actually a movie, but my first NT Live experience.  Phoebe Waller-Bridge returns to the origin of the hit TV Show, a one woman stage show.  Waller-Bridge is sensational, and it lends a great prospective to the TV show. NT LIVE_ FLEABAG

Hustlers – Based on a New York magazine article, writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s movie has come out of nowhere to be one of the most significant films of the year.     If there is a reverse version of Bechdel Test, this film would not pass it, and is all the better for it.  Constance Wu gets top billing, and is great, but this is Jennifer Lopez’s film reminding us of the promise shown in Out of Sight (1998).Hustlers

Rambo: Last Blood – With Rocky Balboa (2006), and Creed (2015), Sylvester Stallone has proved that there is life in his old franchises.  Sadly, Last Blood drops the ball.  Around a decade after the events of Rambo (2008), John Rambo seems to be living a happy life, living with a makeshift family, and running his late father’s ranch.  Given Stallone’s age, 73 this would be a great opportunity to make something akin to Gran Torino (2008) (made when Clint Eastwood was 78).  As it happens, we get a nasty rehash of the things we have seen a million times before.  The action isn’t bad, but the story is terrible. rambo-last-blood

Ad Astra – Brad Pitt plays an emotionally detached Astronaut living in the shadow of his father, Tommy Lee Jones who disappeared while looking for intelligent life.  What is essentially Heart of Darkness in space, looks amazing, but is ultimately is a little dull, with a few scenes that feel like they belong in a different film.  What should be a subtle subtext, comes across as a sledgehammer that we are hit with throughout the film.Ad Astra

Ready or Not – A new bride must play a game before being accepted by her husband’s family.  Comedy horror is the narrowest of tightropes, but when it works, it really works.  Ready or Not really works, thanks to an unflinching script, plenty of gore, and some great performances; but most importantly plenty of funny moments. Andie MacDowell and Adam Brody have fun in supporting roles, Samara Weaving has a bright future.ready or not

I sometimes give movie of the month to the best film of the month, other times I go for the one that is the most pleasantly surprising, Hustlers wins on both counts.Hustlers Movie Poster 

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A little late with my movie of the month following a busy weekend, here are the contenders, just five new movies and two classic reissues:

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw – The Fast and the Furious long since stopped being The Fast and the Furious and became Mission Impossible, if you accept that you will probably enjoy their latest outing.  It isn’t exactly good, but it is really great fun.  Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are likeable stars, Idris Elba is having great fun as the villain, and Vanessa Kirby is sensational.Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw

Oldboy – Back in cinemas for one day only, one of my all time favourite movies is as great as ever.Oldboy

Blinded by the Light – Based on the memoir of Bruce Springsteen supperfan Sarfraz Manzoor: Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll.  The tone of the film doesn’t always work, not knowing if it wants to commit to being a musical fantasy or not.  The young leads are great and its use of music of The Boss is great.Blinded by the Light

Pain & Glory – Many of Pedro Almodóvar’s movies have elements of autobiography, particularly about his relationship with his mother.  This may be his most autobiography and is certainly about his mother. Penélope Cruz is as great as ever in a small part.  Always underrated as an actor, Antonio Banderas gives the performance of a lifetime; it’s a shame Oscar is blinkered to subtitles! The film features something in the final act that I would call a revelation rather than a twist, it is truly sublime. Pain & Glory

Apocalypse Now, Final Cut – I first saw Apocalypse Now in my early teens, and loved it.  A few years later I saw a scratchy old 35mm print on the big screen, it was even better. The Final Cut offers a longer version of the film (but around 20 minutes shorter than the Redux version), with a runtime around three hours.  More significant than the cut, is the print, a 4K transfer from the original negative; I saw it on IMAX, it looked amazing! Apocalypse Now

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – Quentin Tarantino’s return to form.  Rather than try and distil my thoughts into a paragraph, take a look at THISonce upon a time in hollywood dicaprio and pitt

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Teen horror, that lacks any real horror or scares.  It is generally fun with likeable characters, and a couple of good performances.  The film looks fantastic with excellent production design and photography. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

As always I excluded re-releases for movie of the month, this leaves two contenders.  In most moths Pain & Glory would be a clear winner, but looses out to my Movie of the Month:movie of the month once upon a time in hollywood (1)

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After three slightly lean months July is back to normal with eleven trips to the cinema.  Which will be movie of the month?

Apollo 11 – Documentary made up of NASA footage shot at the time of the moon landings.  Much of it shot on 65mm.  With no voiceover and no talking heads, it’s a wonder the film can hold the attention for its 93minute runtime.  The key word here is wonder, because the film is filled with wonder, it is nothing short of stunning. Apollo 11

Yesterday – What happens when Danny Boyle walks away from directing the new Bond movie?  He makes a rom-com with Richard Curtis, the results aren’t as bad as you would expect, or as some reports will have you believe.  The high concept of a world where only one man remembers The Beatles is a fun one, but the plot is full of holes.  The film is enjoyable fun, and Himesh Patel and Lily James make likeable leads but the film is too lightweight to be truly good. Film Title:  Yesterday

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Following the events of Endgame Peter Parker just wants to go on holiday with his class and hook-up with MJ, but the world needs Spider-Man more than ever.  A better Avengers film than a Spider-Man film keeps its head above water largely thanks to the allways excellent Tom Holland. Spider-Man Far From Home

Anna – The story of a reluctant female assassin is nothing new to Luc Besson.  While Anna has the odd breathtaking set piece it is shot with Besson’s usual flair, it can’t hold a candle to Nikita (1990). Anna

Midsommar – If you hated Hereditary, you will really hate Midsommar!  I was mixed on Hereditary but loved Midsommar.  The film looks amazing and is disturbing rather than scary, the near two and a half hour runtime flew by.  Once again Florence Pugh proves she is the most exciting and talented young actor working today. Midsommar

The Dead Don’t Die – Jim Jarmusch’s all star zombie film that doesn’t make much sense and nothing much happens.  Far from Jarmusch’s best work but good quirky fun. The Dead Don't Die

Animals – After ten years of hard living a inseparable friendship, two young woman find their relationship stretched as one when one of them meets a new man.  A powerful story about real people with real flaws, and lots of them.  Holliday Grainger is sensational. Animals

The Matrix – Both the 20th anniversary of a classic movie, and my first experience of 4DX.  The film was as great as ever, the 4DX was fun, but distracting at best. The Matrix

Toy Story 4 – Following a perfect trilogy with a forth movie was very risky.  This new film id very different to the earlier films, and sits comfortably aside from the trilogy, it’s also the best and cleverest existential movie of the year.  null

The Intruder – A young couple buy a Napa Valley home but soon find the former owner is having trouble letting go.  Dennis Quaid is effective but extremely hammy as the unhinged vendor, ultimately the film is both dull and derivative. The Intruder

Crawl – Show as a Secret Screening three weeks before general release.   A young woman goes to check on her farther during a hurricane, the pair soon find themselves trapped with incongruously large alligators. Director Alexandre Aja delivers the action ad tension we have come to expect from him.  Kaya Scodelario does well bringing some life to a two-dimensional character.  Ultimately it is dumb, but good fun.  Crawl

There are only two contenders, they are too good, and too different to choose between, therefore, we have joint movies of the month: Apollo 11 and Midsommar.

 

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As we move into the summer months, I have only visited my local multiplex three times.  However, I did see four movies at local independent cinemas, it was at one of these in, the MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) in Birmingham where I saw my movie of the month.  Here are the contenders:

High Life –  You would be forgiven for thinking a sci-fi thriller starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche would be Claire Denis’ most accessible film to date.  In some ways it is, but it is still dark brooding, thoughtful and full of ambiguity.   Leaving you with more questions than answers, most viewers will love or hate it, I love it.  High Life

Styx – Susanne Wolff is a doctor sailing solo from Gibraltar to Ascension Island until she comes across a stricken boat of refugees. If All Is Lost is an existential crisis, Styx is a commentary on one of the biggest world issues today.  The title tells you all you need to know: In Greek mythology Styx is the river between the land of the living and the land of the dead.  Passengers must pay the ferryman, if they have no money they must remain on the river for 100 years.  Styx

X-Men Dark Phoenix –  The final film for the First Class cast before Marvel/Disney take back the franchise.  The iconic Dark Phoenix story was told in Last Stand, that was a disaster, this isn’t much better.  Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender are all good, but Jessica Chastain is wasted. X-Men Dark Phoenix

Brightburn – This film would be better if you went in blind, but as all the marketing gives away the premise, I will too; what is superman turned evil in his adolescence?  The premise is good and the execution starts out well but quickly runs out of steam.  It would have been better if the filmmakers had something to say, rather than just asking the question. BrightBurn

I Love My Mum – A bickering mother and son duo have to get home to London from Morocco with no money, no passports, and dressed only in nightclothes.  What could have been an interesting commentary on the migrant crisis quickly becomes a lowest common denominator comedy.   Funny but slight film.  Show as part of a tour of director Alberto Sciamma whose Q&A was very entertaining.I Love My Mum

Society – Cult 80’s horror show as 30th Anniversary screening.  The script, particularly the dialogue is poor, as is the acting.  It does however have a totally bonkers ending with fantastic physical effects.  It is also an effective satire on class, wealth, entitlement. Society

Diego Maradona – Concentrating mainly on his time at Napoli, Asif Kapadia’s documentary tells the story of Argentinean footballer Diego Maradona.  An interesting film that humanises Diego Maradona but is less compelling than his previous movies, mainly due to less sympathetic subjects; Ayrton Senna  and Amy Winehouse. Diego Maradona

High Life is excellent, Diego Maradona supremely well made, but there is a clear winner for the movie of the month: Styx Poster

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I have only visited the cinema six times this month, but I choose well, although very different, all the  films were excellent in their own way. Which will be movie of the month?

Booksmart – On the eve of graduation two friends played by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever come to the realisation they have worked too hard and not had enough teenage experiance in high school and vow to make up for it in one night.  Olivia Wilde’s feature debut as a director is a revelation.  What looks in the trailer to be something akin to American Pie or Superbad has more in common with Eighth Grade, while Lady Bird.Booksmart

Beats – During the dog days of the 90’s rave scene, two friends, Cristian Ortega and Lorn Macdonald set out to attend an event, now outlawed by the Criminal Justice Act.  The idea of ‘one final blow-out’ is a staple of movies, particularly teen movies, here it feels quite fresh, not lease because of the anti-establishment tone that is very relevant today. Beats

Vox Lux – 1999, after surviving a high school shooting, teenager Celeste sings at a memorial.  This becomes a springboard to superstardom.  We initially see her early steps to stardom played by Raffey Cassidy.  Then half way through we meet her again eighteen years played by Natalie Portman with Cassidy taking on the role of Celeste’s daughter Albertine. Scott Walker’s orchestral score is fantastic, Sia’s original songs didn’t work for me.  It doesn’t all work, but it is always interesting, and Portman and Cassidy are both excellent. Vox Lux

John Wick: Chapter 3 -Parabellum – If you have seen the first two movies, thats all you need to know about John Wick: Chapter 3, more of the same bonkers, silly mayhem and fun as Keanu Reeves returns to the role he was born to play.John Wick Chapter 3 Parabellum

Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll – Documentary about the Jersey Shore, boardwalk town that will always be associated with Bruce Springsteen.  Founded in the late 19th century and measuring just 1.6 square miles; thanks to a unique blend of blend of jazz, soul, R&B, rock and blues m music it became the beating heart of the Jersey Sound.  This is the story of how all that came to a tragic end, and what has come out of the ashes in recent years. Asbury Park Riot Redemption Rock & Roll

Rocketman – I don’t particularly like musicals, so went into this with more than a little trepidation.  Fortunately director Dexter Fletcher is far more than a safe pair of hands, he brings flair and originality to what could have been another by the number music bio.  This is a full-blown fantasy, but it has a few things going for it.  Firstly  Taron Egerton is excellent, and likeable, relatable and sympathetic in the lead, more so than Elton John comes across when interviewed.  It also has the advantage of some great Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs to tell the story.  As important as this is the framing device that Fletcher uses that justifies the format. Rocketman

For the first time ever, I am not going to pick a movie of the month, I recommend everyone reading this watches all six movies! Movie of the month May 2019.jpg

 

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A slow month after a busy March, but one with a couple of gems, here are the contenders:

The Sisters Brothers – Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly play a pair of squabbling brothers working as enforcers.  The film has every trope of a western including the setting, and the characters, but it somehow isn’t a western.   Not without problems but a strangely rewarding film. The Sisters Brothers

Eighth Grade – Comedian Bo Burnham’s feature directing debut.  Set over the final week of Kayla’s (Elsie Fisher)final week in eighth grade at school. Kayla is shy, quiet, and introverted at school but has an outlet in the form of the motivational YouTube videos she posts from her bedroom.  I would be surprised if anyone watching doesn’t see something of themselves in Kayla, I certainly did. Eighth Grade

A Clockwork Orange – Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece satire based on Anthony Burgess novel of the same name.  Everything about the film is dialled up to eleven and completely over the top, I can see why many people would hate it, I love it. A Clockwork Orange

Greta – Neil Jordan films aren’t always perfect, but they are never uninteresting.  This is very true of Greta; an old-fashioned thriller with more than a nod to Hitchcock.  The film is far from perfect, but is always fun not least because of great performances from Isabelle Huppert, Chloë Grace Moretz, with scene stealing support from Maika Monroe.Greta

Avengers: Endgame – I was somewhere between underwhelmed and disappointed with Infinity War.  Endgame ups the ante in every way, not least the three hour runtime.  I’m pleased to report it more than delivered. Avengers Endgame

Hellboy – After all the bad reviews, I waited two weeks to see this film.  It isn’t good, but surprisingly, it isn’t as bad as has been reported.  David Harbour is ok in the title role but lacks both the humour and the presence of Ron Perlman.  What is really lacking is the Heart and humanity of Guillermo del Toro’s films.  Neil Marshall is the expert at modern genre films, there are moments when this shines through. There is little wrong with any individual scene, they just doing hang together.  Marshall’s absence from any publicity rings of studio interference, this could explain the incoherent edit.Hellboy

Long Shot – Once again, Charlize Theron proves she is at home in any genre, her comic timing is impeccable. Theron and costar Seth Rogen also have real chemistry. The script is sharp and snappy giving us the closest thing modern cinema can offer to a 40’s screwball.  The supporting cast including O’Shea Jackson Jr. Alexander Skarsgård, Bob Odenkirk, and an unrecognisable Andy Serkis are also outstanding.  Long Shot - Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen

As a reissue A Clockwork Orange isn’t in contention for Movie of the Month, leaving two real contenders.  Most months, Avengers: Endgame would be good enough to win, but, it doesn’t.  The best film I saw in April by a long way, and my Movie of the Month is: Eighth Grade.eighth-grade-postereighth grade poster

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