So there’s been a decent gap in these. This one was because I was sure that I had written the complete July wrap-up in the past, but I’ve managed to lose it. So I eventually relented and rewrote it all. The hyperlinked titles are the films that I recorded podcasts on. So click through for a full, though only 10-15 minute long, review. Enjoy!
- XX (2017), Jovanka Vuckovic, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Roxanne Benjamin – More consistent than the standard horror anthology. Some cool short film concepts. Nicely acted with a firm grip on building atmosphere. Though there is a weird dedication to non-endings, which is strange given twists and finality are often a feature of shorts. Kusama’s effort stands out. Takes horror tropes and examines them from a female perspective.
- Broad City season 3 (2016), Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson – Continues to be hilarious. The episodes just fly by when you get going. I blinked and was done. At times gutbustingly hilarious. Which in a way makes it more accessible than other seasons. There continues to be minimal character development. Which you would think might be starting to grate. But this is all exuberance and very smart hilarity.
- Pro-Life (2006), John Carpenter – Carpenter’s second Masters of Horror entry is sharp and solid. Takes a cool little thriller setup and goes somewhere wild with it. Ends up a genre mishmash with some action sequences thrown in. Plainly shot and bland settings, most likely as a function of the budget. The writing is really good and Ron Perlman is perfectly cast here. Cool effects as well, both practical and CGI.
- Nobody Speak (2017), Brian Knappenberger – A portrait of the chilling environment toward journalists driven by Trump. Establishes Gawker as this outsider, flouting traditional journalistic convention. A trashy centre to a serious story. Essentially turns into a story about how the ultra-rich love to bully. Though perhaps doesn’t expand enough on the real dangers this presents to society, when billionaires brazenly wield great power.
- Power Rangers (2017), Dean Israelite – This is pretty wild. Opens with a dying power ranger in prehistoric times. Pterodactyls, aliens, spaceships, blue Brian Cranston and a cow gets jacked off. This is just the first 5 minutes. Settles a little after that. Mainly really good, with some inexplicable filmmaking choices thrown in there. Fun as shit though. All of the teen performances are charismatic and create a sense of difference from one another. Unsurprisingly plays like a superhero flick, but focused on the camaraderie in discovery/testing their powers together. Also the score is super good. But there is a talking robot that is Jar Jar Binks level awful. The action isn’t incredible and they take too long to go full power ranger. But it captures the spirit of the show really nicely.
- Umbango (1986), Tonie van der Merwe – Extremely low budget South African western with a hacky vibe to it. Though mostly endearing. Something charming about the shooting and how it plays the western thing totally straight. Super talky, taking place on sets that are almost comically tiny. Probably a little too talky to be a classic B movie, though it holds enough interest for curiosity viewing.
- Nude on the Moon (1961), Doris Wishman & Raymond Phelan – What a strange film. It is pretty great until it arrives at the titular nude moon stuff, where it gets super boring. Looks decent enough and crafts some nice sci-fi charm through the first half. Building a rocket and flying to the moon has never been made to look as easy as it does here. Slight as all get out.
- The Beguiled (2017), Sofia Coppola – A quite interesting take on the war film, opening with visceral wounds and dehumanising of the enemy. An all-female house in the civil war south is an interesting perspective. There’s a great patter to the script, especially in the hands of such good performers. First 2/3 is a really well controlled war film. Then the film takes a turn. From there it becomes much shaggier, but full of tension and elements that require pondering. Especially in terms of character choices.
- Big Trouble in Little China (1986), John Carpenter – This is cool story of mateship not often seen onscreen. An awesomely fun mashup of genres. Hard hitting action and hilarious. Have to love peak cheeky Kurt Russell. Cracking, fun creature design. In short, movies don’t get any more fun than this.
- Outland (1981), Peter Hyams – I liked this. Connery plays a grizzly old space cop very well. Authority mixed with world weariness. Monitoring mining ops on Io. It looks great, an interesting aesthetic. The grittiness of mining tumbling into sci-fi glossiness. Simply plotted, definitely a cop story on a space outpost rather than heavy sci-fi.
- Day of the Dead (1985), George R. Romero – Hell of a creepy start. Romero really combines visuals and soundtrack to haunting effect. The score is quite incredible. This film really crafts something deep with the zombies – their plight and terror. Tom Savini is some kind of genius. Corpse effects in the lab. Interesting take on the military here. Masculinity, misogyny. Interesting plot focus with long sequences focused on the zombies’ psyche and physical capabilities. One seriously gruesome flick.
- Tower XYZ (2015), Ayo Akingbade – Short with a weathered, shot on film vibe to it. Poetic, spoken word style voiceover. A really unique portrait of a city neighbourhood and youth.
Not Worth Watching:
- Yoga Hosers (2016), Kevin Smith – Pretty rough. Though the two leads have a reasonable level of charm and chemistry. And it’s occasionally quite funny. The script is beyond awful. But Smith’s strength at getting good performances from actors remains. Bringing Johnny Depp’s unwatchable character back from his last film has the same result here.
- Music of the Heart (1999), Wes Craven – It can be easy to dismiss Meryl Streep due to her comical number of Oscar noms. But she is outstanding here, as is Angela Basset. Those two performances are the main reasons to watch this pretty flat affair that Craven doesn’t seem to be able to bring a whole lot too. He’s not helped at all by the half-hearted script. Overwhelmingly twee.
- I am Self-Sufficient (1976), Nanni Moretti – Early Moretti with parallel storylines of a dude whose wife leaves him, and attempts to get an experimental play off the ground. Kind of cerebral and also a little boring. Basically turns into the making of an abstract piece that is in itself abstract. Pretty drab stuff. Ribbing on the affectations of abstract art don’t really work well at all. Though there are occasional nice allusions to the overt self-awareness that can plague that sphere. In the end I didn’t really know what was going on and I certainly didn’t give a shit.
- War for the Planet of the Apes (2017), Matt Reeves – A disappointment. A lot of war film posturing – shooting, score, carnage. Plays super overwrought, leaning into that war film stuff. So much so that it loses its uniqueness. The story beats are lacking and the stakes are all wrong. They’re bound up in human characters we don’t give a shit about, not the apes. An overwhelmingly masculine feeling film. Effects are still incredible though.
- War of the Worlds (2005), Steven Spielberg – Close to Spielberg’s worst. Cruise as a regular joe is a tough sell. Think he works better as someone who is meant to be exceptional. It’s a bad character fit. There are occasionally reminders of Spielberg’s greatness. The first reveal of an alien with Williams’ score pulsing in the background is masterful. Get that it’s based on a book, but a lot of it plays very silly. The refugee allusions are well crafted, if a touch obvious.
- Dunkirk (2017), Christopher Nolan – Basically, not explicitly anti-war enough for my liking, though it gets to their horrifying plight well enough. I didn’t mind the split narrative. But the structural fuckery with the timeline pissed me off. An experimental war film. But that structural fuckery means only individual moments work, not the whole. Engages at a sensory level, but fails to tell a story and has minimal sense of scope.
If you only have time to watch one Day of the Dead
Avoid at all costs War of the Worlds