August and September round-up

I had a really crazy September with a lot going on, some good, some not so good, unfortunately. I did not get the chance to write up my August films, nor did I get to watch that many films; September will be brief, to say the least.

August:

102. Lucha Mexico (2016): In which famous luchador, Shocker, guides us through the world of Mexican professional wrestling, its history, its cultural significance, and life as a luchador, with interviews and archive footage of other well-known wrestlers with and without their masks. If you’re into wrestling you’ll love it; I am into wrestling. It’s a surprisingly intimate portrait of Shocker and other interviewees as well as a fascinating guide to Lucha Wrestling, the importance of the masks, and how the sport has changed with time; a bit of a rollercoaster, but I recommend going along for the ride.

103. The White Helmets [Short] (2016): In which a band of volunteers risk their lives to rescue civilians from air-struck sites in Syria. These men are heroes, and I don’t have much more to say about that. It’s upsetting and uplifting and less than an hour long so go and watch it.

104. In the Heat of the Night (1967): In which an African American police detective is dragged into a criminal investigation in small-town Mississippi. Tense and frustrating and still somehow relevant in 2017, the performances are unsurprisingly excellent from Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger (who won an Oscar for his turn).  

105. The Lesser Blessed (2012): In which a First Nation teenager deals with life in a poverty-stricken town in the Northwest Territories, Canada. Based on a novel by Richard Van Camp, The Lesser Blessed provides a welcome, albeit bleak, insight into the difficulties faced by working-class kids in small-town Canada, but it is ultimately too vague and too indie-film-conventional to be particularly memorable.

106. The Fall (2006): In which an injured and distraught stuntman befriends a little girl with a vivid imagination in an LA hospital circa 1920-something. A visually stunning an emotionally satisfying fantasy from Tarsem Singh. I love every inch of this gorgeous film: the story within the story is a fantastic, colourful mask behind which an honest and bittersweet tale unfolds.

107. Pit and the Pendulum (1961): In which a young man visits a castle in sixteenth-century Spain in search of answers about his sister’s untimely death. Classic Edgar Allen Poe adaptation, really entertaining, even though you probably know the story, it’s still very much worth its runtime.

108. John Q (2002): In which a father takes a hospital room hostage in order to secure a replacement heart for his dying son. I love Denzel Washington, and I love crime movies, what I don’t love is feeling emotionally manipulated. It’s not that it’s completely terrible, just a clumsy and heavy-handed take on a really important subject that is still a discussion point today.

109. Without Gorky (2011): In which two sisters discuss their memories of family life with and without their father, Armenian Abstract Expressionist, Arshile Gorky. This is a highly personal family story, film-maker Cosima Spender documents her mother, aunt, and grandmother as they discuss Gorky and their relationships before and after his suicide in 1948. It’s a raw and involving film, despite its minimalism, although it feels a touch voyeuristic at times.

110. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993): In which Batman is implicated in the deaths of a series of mob-bosses and must find the true culprit. This is super cool, really lovely characterisation and animation. The joker is ace.

111. Kong: Skull Island (2017): In which a group of scientists and soldiers explore an uncharted island shortly after the end of the Vietnam War. It’s pretty excellent. This film knows exactly what it is and make no claims to be anything more. Kong is the star and it shouldn’t be any different. Revel in the well-pitched ridiculousness and enjoy some destruction.

112. Coraline (2009): In which a little girl, ignored by her parents, finds a doorway to a parallel world, where her ‘other’ family are attentive and everything is too good to be true. Suitably creepy and magical tale about respecting and appreciating what you’ve got. I like Laika films in general and this is no exception.

113. The Captive (2014): In which an estranged couple and a team of detective refocus the search for a kidnapped girl, eight years after her initial disappearance. Beautiful landscapes, an outstanding performance by Ryan Reynolds, and (director) Atom Egoyan’s signature non-linear style, are not enough to prevent this film from veering way into the realms of ridiculousness. It’s a probably well-meaning, but over the top take on a difficult subject.

114. Le Balon Rouge or The Red Balloon [short] (1956): In which little boy befriends a red balloon, which follows him around town. Wonderful.

115. The Tell-Tale Heart [short] (1953): In which man murders his landlord and descends deeper into madness. A hypnotic take on the Edgar Allen Poe classic short story, stylish animation with fantastic use of light and shadow.

116. What Happened to Monday (2017): In which septuplet sisters live as one woman in a world with a stringent one child per household policy. Entertaining science fiction starring the endlessly watchable Noomi Rapace as all seven sisters. I bought into it and enjoyed myself.

117. Mumbai Cha Raja or Mumbai’s King (2012): In which a teenager roams the streets of Mumbai with his young friend, a balloon seller. The kids are charming, particularly Arbaaz (Arbaaz Khan), and you can’t help but feel for their plight. While not a huge amount happens, it’s still compelling.

118. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012): In which a meteor is about to destroy Earth and a reserved man takes a road trip to meet his high-school sweetheart, accompanied by his flighty, young neighbour. I love my quirky indie films; I also like Steve Carell, so we were always on for a winner. Throw in some apocalypse (which I am also partial to) and it’s a wonder I hadn’t seen this film ages ago. It’s pretty good.

119. Clue (1985): In which six dinner guests in a strange mansion must work with the staff to solve a murder. Cluedo is a great game, and it makes for a really fun madcap mystery movie.

120. The Collection (2012): In which a man, not long after escaping the grip of a brutal serial killer, is forced to return to help rescue a young woman from a house of horrors. I knew nothing about this film going in except that I like horror films and had some time kill on a Thursday afternoon. Turns out this is a sequel to a film (The Collector, 2009) that I didn’t see. Now, I’m not sure if seeing The Collector first would make it better, but I just can’t picture it making a difference. I don’t recall feeling so angry and cheated after watching a film, especially one I assumed would be formulaic and kinda schlocky. It has actors that I’ve seen give good performances in other roles; it has an acceptable starting premise; it has pretty decent set design, yet it’s still so inexplicably shit. Just don’t.

121. Logan Lucky (2017): In which two brothers attempt a heist during a NASCAR race. Brilliantly pitched Steven Soderbergh crime caper, it’s clever, surprising, and so funny (but not at the expense of its characters). An unexpected treasure.

122. The Change-Up (2011): In which two friends, with wildly different lifestyles, switch bodies after… pissing in a fountain. Yeah, it’s rubbish. If you’re into crass humour you might like it, but it’s just not for me. It’s not original and everyone involved can do much better.

123. The Birdcage (1996): In which a gay cabaret owner and his flamboyant, drag queen partner agree to pretend to be straight for dinner with their son’s fiancee’s right-wing parents. On the one hand a hilarious farce, and on the other a tender family tale, both played out perfectly by the fantastic Nathan Lane and the late great Robin Williams.

124. Kung Fury [short] (2015): In which the eponymous martial artist cop travels back in time to kill Hitler. A loving homage to ’80s science fiction, action and kung fu movies all wrapped up in a crazy 31-minute package. Fully excellent.

 

Film of the Month: The Fall


September:

125. Detroit (2017): In which a group of corrupt (white) police officers terrorize the predominantly black residents of the Algiers Motel during the Detroit Riots of 1967. That this is based on a true story is shocking by itself. Detroit is a timely indictment of police racism that is slow to start, and brushes over some intricacies, but ultimately makes for some tense and uncomfortable viewing, especially when held against the current political climate United States.

126. It (2017): In which a band of misfit kids battle a shapeshifting demon clown to save the town’s children. While not always scary-scary, even with Bill Skarsgård’s striking turn as Pennywise, the film is consistently gripping and effectively conveys the individual concerns of each young protagonist. The kids are really great and bring a warmth, honesty and genuine sense of camaraderie to an otherwise disturbing film. I just loved it.  

127. Best F(r)iends (2017): In which a down on his luck man meets and befriends a quirky mortician and an unlikely business partnership is born. Playing to the strengths of it’s leading men (Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero), this film manages to be both new and interesting as well as knowing and referential (to Wiseau’s magnificent disaster The Room). It pays fan service enough to feel welcoming but invites us to see that there’s something more.

128. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge/Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017): In which Captain Jack Sparrow teams up with Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner’s son to find the ‘Trident of Poseidon’ and evade the vengeful pirate Captain Salazar. A solid action adventure movie, Salazar is a good villain, and the visual effects are top-notch.

129. Man In Van [short] (2009): In which a man explains how and why he’s been living in a van in New York’s west village for 8 years. Director Sean Dunne provides an intimate little glimpse into Jimmy Tarangelo’s life and shows that you can’t judge a man by his circumstances.

130. Stray Dawg  [short] (2011): In which a musician prepares to run a marathon. A well-crafted portrait of Jonny, a mild-mannered, eccentric country singer-come-marathon-hopeful.

131. The Archive [short] (2009): In which a man discusses his archive-the largest vinyl collection in the world and the state of the record industry in the United States. My third Sean Dunne short documentary in a row. A fascinating insight into a niche subject, The Archive is as sad as it is interesting, as its subject Paul Mawhinney laments the decline of the record industry and his own worsening health.

132. Prometheus (2012): In which a team of scientists explore a distant moon in search of the progenitors of humanity. A predictable plot and obvious ‘twists’. But, while it’s disappointing from a story standpoint, it looks stunning and has some really good effects and some stand-out performances from its talented cast.

 

Film of the Month: It

 

(*) Indicates a film I rewatched this month. These films, however good they may be, will never be considered for my ‘Film of the Month’.

*I tend to watch films that I think I will like so rarely will there be a negative review. It’s all subjective. Enjoy whatever you want to enjoy.*

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