After a gap in proceedings last month I finally caught up on Moonlight and Fences, the last two Oscar contenders I had missed. Making up for lost time I also saw another dozen movies:
Logan: Finally a Wolverine movie worthy of the character from the comic books. More violent than anything else we have seen from the franchise. Within the confines of a comic book movie it is also far more realistic and grounded than usual. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are both fantastic in parts they have grown into in the seventeen years since the first X-Men movie.
Trespass Against Us: Family crime drama set within a traveller community. Michael Fassbender again proves to be one of the best actors working today. Brendan Gleeson has fun with the more showy role.
Moonlight: Had I seen this before all the hype I would have probably declared it the best small independent film in years. As good as it is, and although I wouldn’t argue with its Oscar win, I have seen films in the past year that I prefer.
The Great Wall: As stunning to look at as you would expect from Yimou Zhang. The story is silly beyond belief but is entertaining and fun.
The LEGO Batman Movie: The follow up to The LEGO movie is essentially a Batman spoof and not a LEGO movie. Ultimately it is good fun with the jokes coming thick and fast.
Kong: Skull Island: Shortly after the end of the Vietnam War a group of scientists and soldiers go in search of the titular giant ape. Uneven and disjointed but always fun. Not a patch on the 1933 original but better than most other attempts to update the story.
Viceroy’s House: Essentially the Cliff Notes of Lord Mountbatten and Britain’s Withdrawal from India. Entertaining and informative but lacking any great depth.
Fences: Denzel Washington’s movie adapted from August Wilson’s play. Fantastic acting but the film fails to escapes its theatrical origin.
Free Fire: Ben Wheatley’s costume drama goes back to a more incoherent time, well not exactly; 1978, an arms deal goes wrong resulting in a violent but often amusing shootout. Clocking in at a brisk 90 minutes, it’s a movie a many filmmakers could learn a lot from.
Personal Shopper: After a fantastic supporting performance in director Olivier Assayas’ previouse film Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart returns to star. A haunting film the seeps into your psyche. Not as good as Clouds of Sils Maria but Stewart is sensational.
Get Out: A clever race satire dressed up as a horror/thriller. Far more intelligent and subversive than many have give it credit for. Best of all it is tremendous fun.
Life: Is there life on Mars? Scientists on the international space station examine samples from The Red Planet and find that there was Life on Mars. Engaging, largely thanks to a likeable cast but without the grit or originality of Alien.
Power Rangers: Surprisingly not terrible. Most of the film is a teen drama that is clichéd but not dull. The robots hitting each other ending is as bad as anything Transformers has to offer.
Ghost in the Shell: Like action remake of Mamoru Oshii’s seminal 1995 cyberpunk manga anime. It looks amazing and Scarlett Johansson is brilliant perfectly playing a charter who is literally uncomfortable in her own skin. Unable to transcend its manga and anime origins it is a little cold but texture is added by Clint Mansell and Lorne Balfe’s fantastic retro future score. If that hasn’t sold it to you, to top it all off, it also features Takeshi Kitano.
Not every film I saw this month where great, but I enjoyed them all in some way, even the weaker ones. When you strip away the also ran’s we are left with five contenders for movie of the month. You could argue that Moonlight is the best film this month but it isn’t the movie of the month. Did I truly love Personal Shopper or did I just love Kristen Stewart’s performance? Get Out is the cleverest and probably most relevant movie of the month and is so close, but not the movie of the month. Logan was my movie of the month right up until I started writing this last paragraph, I can’t get beyond the simple sublime brilliance of the movie of the month: Free Fire.