2018 Review: July

July was marked by me starting a number of lengthy posts analysing BR2049 that took up far too much time and nobody read. I got a third one nearly ready to go but never posted it. I figured I’d return to it sometime as I enjoyed doing them (any excuse to rewatch BR2049 is officially A Good Thing in my book), but it was taking too much time to justify, and besides, there’s sure to be actual books about it coming out soon or similar stuff up on the internet already.  Surprisingly, really, I didn’t do too bad with new reviews in anycase:

Mission– French sci-fi must be an acquired taste, it was pretty sour to me. Funnily enough another Mars adventure, The First (which I reviewed a few days ago) was coming up that was much classier/serious than this silly nonsense- maybe my high evaluation of The First owes much to how daft this was.

How It Ends – An ironic title, as it turned out.

Calibre- Scottish Deliverance.

The Frankenstein Chronicles Season One– This was a great period horror series, I was a bit late catching up with it but glad I did.

Wind River – One of the best films I’ve seen this year, I think.

The Foreigner – A pretty fun, low-demand thriller that was more entertaining than I expected.

Resolution – This was fantastic, alongside its sequel/part two which follows next. A low-budget Lovecraftian sci-fi/horror that is genuinely disturbing and fascinating.

The Endless – Follow-up to Resolution, which it accompanies on Arrows excellent double-bill Blu-ray.  Not quite as good as the first film, but really, both are better than most sci-fi films coming the mainstream route. Anybody who got a kick from Annihilation would enjoy these two.

Eight reviews then, two of which were tv shows that take longer to watch for obvious reasons. July also unfortunately marked the passing of author Harlan Ellison and artist Steve Ditko, both of which I wrote posts about. I also wrote my first 4K review, which was a rewatch of the first Deadpool movie. Busy month, all told.

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2018 Review: June

We’re fast approaching the midway-point of the year now: as far as that legendary 100 films tally, I’ve done a count and up to May it actually isn’t far off target, standing at 45. So you never know; the question I suppose is, does June give a helping nudge towards that finish line…?

All the Money in the World – More remarkable for the story behind it than anything in it.

The Limehouse Golem– Interesting period horror/mystery that perhaps tips it hats too soon.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – More fun than I expected it to be. I remember my musings about a War of the Worlds/Zombie spin-off with the tagline ‘They don’t want our planet, only our brains’. I still want to see that movie!  Doesn’t anybody in the industry read this blog?

Black Panther – Other than The Last Jedi, my biggest disappointment of the year so far. I really don’t get what everyone sees in this, other than a social-political agenda. The ending is a boring CGI-fest that depressed me.

Alice Through the Looking Glass – Surprisingly boring and ill-judged sequel.

So, only five new reviews then. Mind, I was still distracted by weekly write-ups about Westworld, at this point reaching its finale of season two, and June was the month I took the jump into 4K, buying a new television and disc player (all the overtime trekking up and down the motorway due to my temp job relocation finally bearing fruit).  So halfway through the year I’m at 51 new reviews of film/television, ignoring other commentary. Not too bad I guess.

2018 Review: May

May was a weird month. Most of my time seems to have been devoted to weekly examinations of Westworld,  but I did see some new stuff-

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – was as horrible as many have told me, but still held a certain charm having Reeve and Kidder in it. At this point in the year I had no idea I’d be watching the 4K UHD of the original Superman movie a few months later- the gap in quality between the two films is awful and feels so very unfair, so much went wrong with those films as they went on, it’s really quite sad. Worse, a few days after I posted my review of this, Margot Kidder passed away.

Gerald’s Game – Considering the number of hits this post had over the year since, this is one of my most successful, most-read reviews ever. Which does seem so very strange. Perhaps the idea of Carla Gugino tied to a bed does things for some people (ahem- I’ll get my coat).

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – So good (and I really did enjoy it) that I later bought the 4K UHD edition in a sale (although, naturally, I haven’t watched that disc yet).  I think sometimes when you don’t expect very much, films really surprise.

Miss Sloane– I’ll watch Jessica Chastain in anything. She’s just fascinating to watch. This film was doubly troubling because the week I watched it, there had been another mass shooting in a school in America, and it’s difficult when reality impinges on Hollywood fantasy like that.

Geostorm – Ha ha, I’d actually forgotten this until I just saw the review I’d posted. Yeah, it was that memorable.

Sarah’s Key – This was a pretty strong movie, but in a way it felt like a tv-movie. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Only six posts about ‘new’ films. Well, that 100 target dies early again then, it seems.

 

 

2018 Review: March

And here we go with the sequel to February..

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger– One of the biggest surprises/discoveries of the year, a classic Hammer thriller that was new to me. Thank goodness for boxsets/catalogue releases.

Thor: Ragnarok– Possibly the best Marvel film to date, and one I’d waited for the disc release to eventually watch (an increasing trend, to be honest). Great fun. Remember when comic-book movies were fun?

The Snorkel– A strange one, this. Doubt I’ll return to it often, but interesting.

The Full Treatment– I remember there was something hypnotically fascinating about this. I also recall being interested in its star, Ronald Lewis, whose career never measured up to its possibilities and writing a seperate post about him. He was good in this, and it proves a bewitching moment in time when a different destiny lay ahead of both him and his co-star Diane Cilento. Wasn’t to be, and it’s an example of the curious thing about watching old films and later seeing what happened to cast and crew afterwards…

Salyut 7– An enjoyable production in the mode of Gravity and the later-released First Man.  Possibly deserved wider distribution; it’d be a great film to be scheduled over Christmas on the BBC, for instance. I’m sure it’d surprise many viewers giving it a shot.

Atomic Blonde– A girl-power John Wick, and none the worst for that. I really enjoyed this and I’m sure I’ll get the 4K UHD when it’s in a sale sometime. Haven’t heard anything of a sequel, unfortunately.

Annihilation– Start of an era, my first Netflix film. Clearly one of my Films of the Year and a film that deserved a cinema release- if that even means anything these days. Watching this, knowing it was a big new cinema film, on demand on my television was akin to watching my first VHS rental back in 1983. Times they are a changin’.

Altered Carbon Season One– Oh, oh, more Netflix. You’ll see a trend starting here. This proved to be very good once it stopped trying to be too Blade Runner, and it amazed me, the scale and scope of the thing. This series was proof a Blade Runner-universe series could be done, albeit having this series probably nixed any interest Netflix might have had in actually producing it (seems we’re getting an anime prequel instead).

Requiem – A very odd tv series, part thriller, part horror, and Welsh, and much too stylish and flashy for its own good- one of those shows where everyone looks great and don’t seem to get their clothes dirty in a muddy forest.

Experiment in Terror– One of the year’s duds, and a surprising/disappointing one considering the talent involved and the films reputation. Proof not everything works for everyone, I’ll give it another shot sometime (I bought the Blu-ray) as I suspected at the time it was one of those wrong films at the wrong time moments.

Outlander Season Three– I always seem to find it tricky starting a season of this show, only to thoroughly enjoy it by the end. Point in case, season four has started showing on Prime and I haven’t started it yet, even though I was enthralled by how this third season ended. Spoilt by binge-watching entire shows in multi-season box sets no doubt.

Collateral– Another BBC series, and this one in hindsight clearly hinted at what was coming later in the year with both The Bodyguard and the new Doctor Who, a show that I can’t possibly write about at it frustrates me so much.

So, that’s twelve reviews, and four of them were television series, which entails all the more time/effort. Not a bad month at all really.

 

2018 Review: February

Okay, here’s the inevitable sequel to January…

Saving Mr Banks– This languished on my tivo for over a year until I watched it. I wish this was a worst-case scenario but there’s stuff on there that has been waiting much longer than that (I blame Netflix. Its steady drip-feed of content is practically horrific, something I discovered when I started my subscription in March).

Elle– Didn’t care for this, unfortunately.

Hounds of Love– Nothing to do with Kate Bush (be a great title for a biopic someday), but rather a low-budget Australian horror film that proved quite disturbing.

The League of Gentlemen– This decidedly British film from 1960 was surprisingly modern in execution and begging for a starry-cast sequel if it could remain as British.

Detroit– A flawed thriller, I think it was a little too sophisticated in its execution but was nonetheless riveting stuff. Don’t like bad cops.

The Mummy– Proof that not even Tom Cruise can polish a turd. So much for star power and trying to build a franchise before you even build a movie.

Cash on Demand– Unlikely as it might seem, one of my Films of the Year contenders. This was a sheer delight from start to end and I can’t believe I haven’t rewatched it yet. Peter Cushing is some kind of national treasure.

Sadly, February marked the sudden passing of composer Johann Johannsson, an event I’m still coming to terms with, doubly difficult with the release of subsequent albums and films containing his last few scores (Mandy being the most recent one I’ve seen). This month also gave us the Oscars and BR2049 deservedly winning two, albeit on the technical side (a shame we don’t live in a world it could have been seriously considered for a Best Picture nod).

Hmm. Only seven new reviews this month. Eighteen for the year so far, and slipping shy of target already… think I may stop keeping count.

2018 Review: January

January seems such a long way away from now. Which is a good thing, yes? Well, I’m going to use a few entries this month as we approach the end of the year to look back on the year, and inevitably we begin with January. So what did I watch?

The Last Jedi– Oh wow. What a start to the year. I’m still digesting it. Really didn’t sit well in my stomach. Maybe the next Star Wars film can retcon something positive about it. The most divisive Star Wars film yet, which was the (misguided, in my opinion) point of it. Shame it torpedoed the Solo flick a few months later.

The Love Witch– this was fun. Gaudy fun that predated Mandy. Yeah, this was one of my guilty faves of the year.

Into The Woods

Crooked House

The Detectorists Season Three– In which I fall in love with a magnificent tv show. I didn’t review any of them here, but I did watch the first two seasons a little later. Beautiful. I’ll live in hope of a series four whilst no doubt rewatching all these sometime soon.

Eric, Ernie and Me– this was really interesting and typical of Christmas (I was late catching up with it). I wonder if we’ll see anything of its like in this year’s offerings from Auntie Beeb?

Cinderella– another late catch-up from last years Christmas scheduling, this was ok, would have better without some of its distracting scenic/CGI splendour. Its as if film-makers don’t have enough confidence in just keeping things low-key.

Hard Sun: Series One– Surprisingly one of my most popular/visited posts of the year. Films are so Old School; tv series is where it’s at, apparently. I wonder if bingeing of tv content is responsible for this.

Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets – I called it an astonishing mess, and I haven’t rewatched it yet (I bought the 4K/Blu-ray pack as my first attempt at future-proofing, so there’s a curiosity re: seeing the 4K UHD version). Possibly the nearest thing to seeing a Heavy Metal strip onscreen.

Baby Driver– A glimpse of the guy who should’ve played Han in that Solo movie (which was still on the horizon at that point). Possibly a near-final glimpse of a certain Kevin Spacey, who I quite liked in it.

Jackie– I remember feeling this as much as watching it. A very interesting film with a great central performance from Natalie Portman.

Hmm, eleven reviews. At that rate I’d be hitting 100 for the year, something I didn’t manage last year (I think it was 78) and barely managed in 2016 (bang-on 100). Some people make it look so easy…

Mandy (2018)

mandypicI came here by way of Johann Johannsson’s strange, dark and intense score (the last one that he recorded, I believe, prior to his passing). Otherwise, I would have likely given it a wide berth, if only because of Nic Cage’s involvement. I used to like Cage’s work but his increasingly manic OTT-style wore increasingly thin over the years. I think his Crusader Elvis in Season of the Witch was the final straw.

Anyhow, spoilers ahead- I don’t usually like to raise any with films still fairly ‘new’ but I can’t help it with this one. So anyway, here we are. I suppose an easy shot would be one of style over content, but that’s clearly the intention here- the story is a paper-thin b-movie plot and its the colour-saturated, gaudy 1980s-era VHS sensibility that raises this into something that is either, well, genius or trash. Johannsson always had a gift for knowing what suited the film project he was working on, and he nails it here – so much so that I’ll give the film the benefit of doubt and declare it brilliant. His music score drips grim darkness and dread and colours the film as intensely as the cinematographer and all the work likely done in post to make the image such gorgeous madness.

Madness is the key word here, and I’d suggest that this films director should go and make a Lovecraft film next. Watching Nic Cage’s lumberjack woodsman descend into madness during this film was an experience indeed- more so because Cage somehow stayed fairly restrained throughout. He didn’t play it overboard and slip into farce- instead we can sense the pain torturing him and by the end he’s slipped into some other universe entirely. I almost expected the film to cut to a shot of him dead and his car wrapped around a tree, revealing the true insanity of the final shots as he drives under blood-red skies with his wife alongside him on the seat.

In some ways, particularly in its style over content (or style is content), the film reminded me a great deal of The Neon Demon, but this film is far, far superior. For what it is, its almost perfect.  There. I really enjoyed a new Nic Cage movie. The world really is going to hell in a handbasket.

And we really lost something so special with Johannsson’s passing. This film sounds so remarkable and strange, what bizarre wonders did he have yet ahead of him? Alas, we will never know, and that just adds another level of pain and darkness to this strange insane film.