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Posts Tagged ‘Movie of the Month’

This will be my last Movie of the Month for the foreseeable future.  I have been blogging for over eleven years, although I post far less than when I started, the one constant is Movie of the Month, I have posted every month without fail and usually on the first of the month.  However, world events have overtaken me, and I, like the rest of the nation will not be visiting the cinema due to the lockdown associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  The movies I saw this month are:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire – I went into this movie not knowing anything about it, other than how good it was.  To give anybody reading this the same opportunity, I am not going to give a synopsis.  The film is beautiful to look at, and tells a beautiful that unfolds to devastating effect. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The Invisible Man –  Following the abject failure of The Mummy (2107) Universal’s overly ambitious  so-called Dark Universe didn’t happen.  This left the door open for the Blumhouse treatment.  The story is as grounded and real as The Invisible Man could be, and also benefits from the always brilliant Elisabeth Moss.  Not only better than expected, but genuinely good. The Invisible Man

The True History of the Kelly Gang – A grubby and grimy Western that subverts the myth of the legend of Ned Kelly.  A Dark and unsettling  movie that  filled with outstanding performances. The True History of the Kelly Gang

The Hunt – Far blander than the its controversial reputation would suggest.  A 21st century take on an often told story.  A final act revelation even softens the any chance of controversy.  In no way revolutionary or outstanding, but well made, fun with couple of really good actions scenes.    The Hunt

I have averaged 111 films per year at the cinema for the last ten years.  Its unlikely I will see that many this year, regardless of how many films I see this year, I am confident that this month’s movie of the month will make my year end top ten: Portrait of a Lady on FirePortrait of a Lady on Fire poster

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I normally post my Movie of the Month on the first of each month, this was pushed back as I decided to look at my top ten of the year, and spoiler, one of this month’s movies crept into my top ten.  Here are the nine films I saw at the cinema in December bringing my screening total for the year to 104:

Knives Out – Rian Johnson’s homage to whodunit movies in the vein of Agatha Christie works both on the surface as a frothy thriller but more importantly as an hilarious parody.  The all star cast is fantastic especially Daniel Craig as the detective Benoit Blanc. Knives out

Motherless Brooklyn – Writer, director and star Edward Norton has been working on this passion project for about two decades.  Based on contemporary novel from the 1990’s by Jonathan Lethem, Norton has transported the story back to the 1950’s.  The period setting gives it a strangely more relevant story both tonally and thematically certainly more so than a 90’s or contemporary setting would have given.  The setting also helps the film to look fantastic, and sound even better thanks to a jazz soundtrack. Motherless Brooklyn

Jumanji: The Next Level – More of the same from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.  As you would expect from a sequel, it lacks the originality, and therefore the surprise of the previous film, but is still tremendous fun largely thanks to the fantastic cast particularly Karen Gillan, and Dwayne Johnson.Jumanji The Next Level

A Beautiful Day In the Neighbourhood – I had never even heard of Fred Rogers until this film was made, but understand he was a big deal in America.  The brilliance of Marielle Heller’s movie is all the exposition is neatly handles by the character of Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a journalist writing about Fred Rogers.  Tom Hanks is outstanding as Rogers.Tom Hanks (Finalized)

JoJo Rabbit – A satirical comedy about a ten year old member of Hitler Youth, whose imaginary friend is an incarnation of Hitler, sounds like a bad idea.  But when the Writer, Director, Hitler is Taika Waititi it all strangely works.  The film is light and very funny, that makes it even more hard hitting in the serious moments.  An absolute masterpiece. JoJo Rabbit

The Nightingale – I have been waiting five years Jennifer Kent’s follow up to The Babadook, it was worth the wait.  What has been tagged as a revenge thriller, but it is so much more than that, a damning indictment of colonialism it is brutal but never gratuitous.The-Nightingale

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – The end of the Skywalker saga, again!  Not as good as The Last Jedi, but has some great moments and a fitting end to the trilogy. Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker - Copy

Judy & Punch – Punch &  Judy dates back around 500 years, and is certainly not what you would call politically correct, it therefore sounds like a strange thing for director Mirrah Foulkes feature début about domestic abuse.  It bizarrely works, and is a hugely satisfying feminist fable about empowerment.  Mia Wasikowska is amazing as ever!Judy & punch

Little Women – Many of the best films set in the past tell us about both how things are not just how things were, films like Motherless Brooklyn! But some films go beyond that, they also gives us a glimpse of how they could be, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s often told story is one such film.  Saiorse Ronan is getting a lot of praise for her performance, but Florence Pugh absolutely steels the movie.  An early career masterpiece from Gerwig makes me wonder what she will do next!Little Women

A fantastic month of movies; Knives Out, and A Beautiful Day In the Neighbourhood, Motherless Brooklyn  are good enough to have won in many other months.  JoJo Rabbit, Judy & punch, and Little Women are even better, but also miss out to the outstanding movie of the month, that also made my top ten of the year: The NightingaleThe Nightingale Poster

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Nine trips to the cinema this month, including one I didn’t think I would get to see on the big screen, the Netflix release, The Irishman.  I enjoyed all but one of them, but there is a clear winner for Movie of the Month. 

The Aeronauts – Reteaming of Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.  Loosely and vaguely inspired by an almost true story of a meteorologist’s attempt to make break the world record for the highest balloon flight in order to record data, and prove a theory.  Jones is on great form and the film looks spectacular.  There are some real moments of excitement and tension, but ultimate let down by a plot as thin as the air at 37,000 feet.The Aeronauts

Le Mans ’66 –  Based on the true story of Ford’s attempt to beat Ferrari at Le Mans with the help of Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and Ken Miles (Christian Bale) Director  James Mangold is on top form making the two and a half hours fly by. Damon and Bale are both excellent as are the entire supporting cast. Le Mans 66

Sorry We Missed You – Exploration of the perils of the “gig economy” and the vicious circle of financial.  Whatever Ken Loach next would be compared to his previous film the excellent I, Daniel Blake.  His latest offering is very good, and hard hitting as you would expect, but not amongst the best of the directors work. Sorry We Missed You

Doctor Sleep – Sequel to The Shining with Ewan McGregor as an now adult Danny Torrance.  Taken on its own merit, it is a really good movie, but the recreations of Stanley Kubrick’s movie seen in flashback is jarring.  The highlight of the movie is Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat, the movies villain, I would have happily seen a movie about her, and her group.   Doctor Sleep

The Irshman – Martin Scorsese’s epic tale of mob hitman Frank Sheeran based on the novel I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt.  This is not Goodfellas par 2, it is more thoughtful and sombre film than Scorsese’s previous entries into the gangster genre.  A masterpiece by a true master of cinema, the three and a half hour runtime is justified!The Irshman

Blue Story – Story of divided loyalties between two school friends against the backdrop of warring London gangs.  Strong performances are let down by a terrible script that is unoriginal and poorly plotted.  Musical/rap interludes are an interesting idea, but don’t work.  To its credit it condemns gang violence and never glorifies it. Blue Story

Charlie’s Angels – Soft reboot of the franchise that pitches itself as a sequel to all other incarnations of the Angels.  The plot is paper thin, with twists that are well telegraphed, but that doesn’t matter, as the film is so much fun.  The standout performance comes from Kristen Stewart, but the real star is the script and direction from Elizabeth Banks that provides the right balance of action and comedy.  It’s a shame it appears to have bombed at the US box-office, as I would have liked to see more of them. Charlies Angels

21 Bridges – After a heist goes wrong, two NYPD detectives (Chadwick Boseman and Sienna Miller) have a short period of time to catch a pair of cop killers.  The kind of old fashioned thriller that we don’t often see made these days.  Not an all time classic, but a well made and compelling thriller that is elevated above its predicable plot and ripe dialogue by stylish direction and excellent performances. 21 Bridges

Harriet – The true, and extraordinary story of Harriet Tubman, a woman whose escaped slavery was only the beginning of her amazing story.  The direction and narrative is vey by the numbers and doesn’t offer anything new or original, but Cynthia Erivo is sensational as ever. Harriet

Le Mans ’66 was excellent, and could have been Movie of the Month had it come out earlier in the year, but in November, it misses out to the clear winner:The Irshman poster

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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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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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After averaging about seven movies a month through the summer I have been making up for lost time with sixteen trips to the cinema in September. 

Million Dollar Arm: The true story of a down on his luck sports agent stage sets up a talent show to find Indian crickets that he can turn into Major League Baseball pitchers.  A little lightweight but fun.Million Dollar Arm

As Above, So Below: Found footage horror movie set in the Paris catacombs.  Unoriginal but surprisingly enjoyable despite the ludicrous found footage.  Perdita Weeks makes a likeable star I expect to see more of.As Above So Below

The Guest: Homage to 80’s thrillers and slasher movies.   It really shouldn’t work but it strangely does.  Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens makes a seamless transition from TV to movies.The Guest

The Guvnors: British crime/gangster drama.  Turning football hooligans into sympathetic, even heroic  characters leaves a bad taste, but the film is actually very good.The Guvnors

Before I Go to Sleep: Amnesia thriller.  Nicole Kidman is good, Colin Firth has fun playing against type but Mark Strong steals the show as always.  Comparisons to the far superior Memento are inevitable.Before I Go to Sleep

The Hundred-Foot Journey: An Indian family move to France and set up a restaurant opposite  Michelin-starred restaurant.  Om Puri steals the show as the patriarch of the family. The second film this year that you shouldn’t watch on  an empty stomach.THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY

A Most Wanted Man: A German intelligence officer is on the trail of Chechen illegally immigrates who may be in Hamburg to help fund terrorists.  A well paced and believable thriller.  Philip Seymour Hoffman reminds us just how good he is in this adaptation of a modern John le Carré novel.A Most Wanted Man

20,000 Days on Earth: Fictionalised account of musician and writer Nick Cave’s 20,000th day on the planet Earth.  Existing in a nether-region between documentary and narrative cinema, a real treat for Nick Cave fans and a great film for the uninitiated.20,000 Days on Earth

Pride: A group of lesbian and gay activists raise money to help miners during the 1984 strike.  A true story appears to be one of the best kept secrets of the era.    As funny and uplifting as it is poignant.Pride

A Walk Amongst the Tombstones: Liam Neeson plays another man with  a very particular set of skills, but this is a very different film to Taken.  A more thoughtful movie than I was expecting, based on number ten of eighteen novels, it could be the start of a more interesting franchise for Neeson.A Walk Amongst the Tombstones

Magic in the Moonlight: A renowned stage magician is hired to debunk a spiritualist.  Colin Firth and Emma Stone are as good as you would expect.  Woody Allen’s direction is light and well paced but his script lacks and gravitas.Magic in the Moonlight

The Riot Club: Based on the acclaimed play Posh, that in turn is a thinly disguised take on real life institutions like the Bullingdon Club.  Entertaining but lacks any pathos,  it makes a couple of the characters a little too sympathetic and the rest are just caricatures.The Riot Club

The Giver: In a dull but supposedly perfect future there is no is no conflict but there is also no emotion.  Things begin to change when a young man who can see beyond the veneer of society gets a new job.  Effective and enjoyable low-fi, sci-fi. The Giver

Maps To The Stars: David Cronenberg’s satire on Hollywood  is as enthralling as it is cutting.  Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska are both excellent and would be early contenders for Oscar nominations  if the films gaze wasn’t so close to home.Maps To The Stars

I Origins: Mike Cahill reteams with Brit Marling.  A meditation on science, religion and the possibility of reincarnation told through the medium of a love story.  The film holds together even in its most arty moments largely thanks to Marling and co stars Michael Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey.i origins

What We Did on Our Holiday: A couple try to hide their separation from the family at a 75th birthday party but their children don’t find lying as easy.  Improvised scenes with the kids provide some very funny moments.'WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAYS'

There were five real contenders this month, but for its originality and the feeling I walked out with, the movie of the month has to be: 20,000 Days on Earth:20,000 Days on Earth poster

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I haven’t seen many movies this month but with just one exception I have liked them all, I have also seen my favourite movie of the year so far.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction – Michael Bay has replaced Shia LaBeouf with Mark Wahlberg, he has also changed most of the robot characters.  In the process he has failed to deliver anything we haven’t seen in the previous movies, and it is soooooo long.   Stanley Tucci’s comic relief is the only bright spot in the movie.Transformers Age Of Extinction

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Ten years after the events of the previous movie.  A well told story that is elevated by the stunning effects and use of motion capture.Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Boyhood –  Richard Linklater not only set his coming of age story over twelve years, he shot it over twelve years.  Nothing out the ordinary happens, it is all the better for this. It’s about the same length as Transformers but never feels long.Boyhood

Begin Again – Treads a similar path to writer/director John Carney’s earlier film Once.  It isn’t as engaging or endearing as Once but is well worth watching largely for likeable leads Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo.Begin Again with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley

The Purge: Anarchy – Sequel  to last years The Purge takes the story from the confines of a house and moves thinks onto the streets.  As much a satire as a horror thriller, they wear their B movie credentials with pride.  While the first film owes a debt to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) this sequel has more in common with Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979).The Purge Anarchy

Hercules: Starring the actor formally known as The Rock, this sword and sandals movie attempts to strip away the fantasy and mythology.  On the whole it works, the movie is dumb, but lots of fun and surprisingly entertaining.Hercules

Guardians of the Galaxy: If you have seen the previous Marvel/Avengers movies you will be familiar with the Infinity Stones, the items that are shaping up to be the central MacGuffin of the series.  A disparate group of outlaws, The Collector (as seen in Thor: The Dark World) and a new “big bad” are all after said macguffin.  Reminicent of 70’s and 80’s sci-fi, it’s the best space adventure since Serenity (2005).Guardians of the Galaxy

Not only Movie of the Month, but my favourite movie of the year so far:boyhood-poster

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