The Name’s Monthly Review… September Monthly Review

Daniel Craig’s final turn as Bond, James Bond, parachuted into cinemas just in time to make the cut for this monthly overview. But there was a whole month before that, so let’s look back at it.


#159 Three Identical Strangers (2018)
#160 Boss Level (2021)
#161 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
#162 Daughters of Darkness (1971), aka Les lèvres rouges
#163 Futureworld (1976)
#164 Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019)
#165 La Dolce Vita (1960)
#166 Terje Vigen (1917), aka A Man There Was
#167 David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)
#168 The Current War (2017)
#168a Scenes with Beans (1976), aka Babfilm
#169 The Green Knight (2021)
#170 No Time to Die (2021)
The Green Knight

No Time to Die

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  • I watched 12 feature films I’d never seen before in September.
  • Not a terrible showing (it’s not the worst month of 2021), but far from spectacular (it’s joint second worst).
  • It fell just short of the September average (previously 12.54, now 12.50), and well below the average for 2021 to date (previously 19.75, now 18.89) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 18.7, now 18.0).
  • One notable success, however, came in my Blindspot viewing: after missing one in August, I caught up by watching two this month — and two of this year’s longest, at that. They were the 193 minutes of D.W. Griffith’s silent racist epic The Birth of a Nation, and the 175 minutes of Federico Fellini’s depiction of the high life in 1950s Rome, La Dolce Vita. I was no fan of the first Fellini I watched, , but I quite liked this one. The Griffith, however, should be consigned to the bin of history.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Boss Level and Memory: The Origins of Alien.



The 76th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Lots of enjoyable flicks this month, some unexpectedly so, but perhaps the greatest was David Lowery’s divisive adaptation of The Green Knight. I can see why it turned some people off, but it hit just the right tone for me.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is an easy one, because I liked all of the film I watched this month, with one glaring exception: The Birth of a Nation. As I wrote above, D.W. Griffith’s once-acclaimed silent epic is so horrendously racist that it deserves to be forgotten. Actually, there’s a more nuanced discussion to be had there about remembering the misdeeds of the past — it merits viewing on such an academic level — but the old “yeah, it’s racist, but if you ignore that it’s really good” arguments can get in the bin. It does have some decent stuff, but the racism is so awful that it completely overshadows any other merits.

First Film I’ve Seen in the Cinema for 19 Months
After a very long wait, it was finally time to not die of COVID from watching No Time to Die.

Most Surprising Sequel of the Month
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Westworld (it’s fine), and the sequel has a rep for being much, much worse. So it was a delightful surprise to me that I really enjoyed Futureworld. Whereas the first film basically hangs out in the park until there’s a bit of robot-on-human violence, Futureworld takes the time to have more of a plot, latching itself to the ’70s vogue for conspiracy thrillers. I reckon it might be worth a reappraisal.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I’m not sure how much point there is keeping this particular award going until I get back on my reviewing horse. Highlighting the most viewed overall post of the month worked at first, but (based on history) it’s going to be my 15th TV column most of the time (as it was this month, and last month), with only the occasional other old TV column pipping it to the post.


My Rewatchathon continues to tick along, although another month just off pace means I’m falling ever-further behind where I should be to reach my goal of 50 this year. Who knows how things will pan out, but at this rate I’ll be pleased to make 40.

#27 Bill (2015)
#28 Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
#29 Spectre (2015)

Bill was 2021’s #1 back in (obviously) January. I liked it first time, but I enjoyed it even more on a rewatch. Quite the other end of the rewatch timeline was Pan’s Labyrinth, long-overdue a revisit because I last watched it 14 years ago. My review (linked above) is a brief 2007-style one… though that’s better than what I post currently, eh? Anyway, some fresh thoughts on Letterboxd.

Spectre was also rather overdue a revisit: it was the only Daniel Craig Bond I’d only seen once, and that was six years ago at the cinema. I was fairly positive about it on Letterboxd, but, I must say, it gets worse the more I reflect on it. Blofeld is horrendously mishandled — underwritten and underused — meaning Waltz is wasted, and I think he knows it, just giving another slight variation of his usual Tarantino performance. It really undermines the entire third act of the film, which is kinda crucial. Still, the film as a whole definitely has some high points.


This month’s big release at the cinema… doesn’t get a mention in this section, because I saw it. Wonders will never cease. Although, as things edge towards normal, there were a couple of other noteworthy titles too, like Disney’s “theatrical only” ‘experiment’ release of Marvel’s latest, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark. I’ve never seen all of the The Sopranos, though I mean to, so it may be a while before I get round to that one…

Perhaps the most-discussed direct-to-streaming release of the month was not a Netflix title, for once, but Amazon’s new version of Cinderella. Unfortunately for them, that was because it looks terrible. And apparently it is terrible. It’s not on my watchlist. They also generated a few column inches with erotic thriller The Voyeurs, but I didn’t see many people talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, though I did pick up that it’s quite good. Meanwhile, on Netflix, the only new title I’ve noted is actioner Kate. I don’t actually know what the reviews have been like — “Mary Elizabeth Winstead leads an action movie” was enough to get it on my list. And talking of female-driven action, Sky Cinema grabbed the UK release of Gunpowder Milkshake.

Among the never-ending parade of old(er) titles coming and going and jumping from one streamer to another, standouts to me included Minari on Sky Cinema, as well as the Russian remake of The Raid, cannily titled Russian Raid. Leaving Sky to popup on Netflix was the new Charlie’s Angels; and, having left Amazon a while back, The Farewell is now on Netflix too. As for Amazon, they now have Chaos Walking (in 4K, too), and also Selma, which I think has been available on every streamer at one time or another (even iPlayer) and I really should get round to. And talking of iPlayer, they had a seemingly-rare chance to watch The Graduate this month, so I should do that too. They also had Whiplash, which I ought to rewatch — I liked it a lot, but don’t really understand why it seems to have become an Instant Classic in the past few years.

Finally… I say “finally”: this is going to take more than half the section. Yes, my bank balance is sobbing once again — as is my shelf space — as new purchases flowed through my letterbox like water. Where to begin? Indicator’s Columbia Noir series reached its fourth iteration, adding six new films to my unwatched noir pile. Similarly, Master of Cinema’s Early Universal range is just getting underway (I hope), with Volume 1 bringing me three silent titles I’d never heard of before. Fun times. Other new releases included an MoC edition of Johnny Guitar; Eureka’s release of Duel to the Death, billed as “one of the greatest swordplay movies of all time”; an Aussie Imprint import for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven; and Anime Ltd’s release of the first CG Lupin III film, Lupin III: The First.

My 4K collection also got a considerable boost this month, between brand-new releases like Black Widow (the first Marvel film in yonks I’ve not been able to buy in 3D — boo!); archive releases in fancy box sets, like The Thing and The Servant; semi-random sale pick-ups, like Shadow and Full Metal Jacket; and the kind of titles you might once have never believed you’d see on Blu-ray, never mind 4K, but nowadays all bets are off as indie labels go for the new tech but studios remain wary — by which I specifically mean a bundle I imported from Vinegar Syndrome including The Beastmaster, Daughters of Darkness, and SexWorld — which, if you’ve not heard of it, is a porno riff on Westworld and Futureworld. It sounds surprisingly good. I also bought Eleven Days, Eleven Nights and Robotrix this month, which as a set make my glad Blu-rays don’t come through the post in transparent boxes…

But I’m still not done! I caved to a bunch of gialli and other international semi-oddities in a recent 88 Films sale on HMV, snaffling the likes of The Bloodstained Shadow, Eyeball, Harlequin, Ironmaster, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, and Watch Me When I Kill. Throw in The Blood Spattered Bride with that VS order, and there’s clearly a lot of the red stuff waiting to spray from my Blu-ray player. Finally, helping round out my classic 3D collection was Dynasty (nothing to do with the TV series), and I completed Richard Lester’s Musketeers trilogy with The Return of the Musketeers.

And that’s not even mentioning the TV Blu-rays I bought.


We’re off to Arrakis. Hopefully it’ll be a return ticket.

The Self-Reflective Monthly Review of August 2021

For the second month in a row, this monthly review is the only new post I’ve published. (I had intended to review Evangelion 3.0+1.01 in a timely fashion, but I couldn’t marshal my thoughts in time.) My viewing continues apace, however, with August seeing a return to the form of my January-to-May viewing.

Related to both those points, I’m continuing to mull over the specifics of the future of this blog — that’s both in terms of finding time to write reviews, and the relevance of its eponymous challenge. In respect to the latter, I crossed the 150-film mark this month, which got me looking at history again. It’s now almost a decade since I last failed to reach 100 new films, and it’s seven years since I watched fewer than 150. Heck, in the entire 15-year history of the blog, I’ve passed #260 as many times as I’ve failed to make #100; and the 260s were much more recently. Something for me to think about.

Before we return to August, a quick mention of another way I’ve been spending my free time: helping out with the Women Over 50 Film Festival, which is taking place online for the second year running (because, y’know, pandemic). And soon I’ll be lending my talents to FilmBath for a third year (though in a reduced capacity, what with having a day job now). Doesn’t bode so well for the ol’ blogging, eh? At least I can promise (as much as anyone can make promises about the future) that these monthly columns aren’t going anywhere.

On which cheery note…


#139 The Father (2020)
#140 Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
#141 Turks & Caicos (2014)
#142 A Damsel in Distress (1937)
#143 The Danish Girl (2015)
#144 Tea with Mussolini (1999)
#145 The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
#146 Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (2021), aka Shin Evangelion Gekijôban
#147 The Kid Detective (2020)
#148 Six Minutes to Midnight (2020)
#149 Love Affair (1939)
#150 Salting the Battlefield (2014)
#151 Thirteen at Dinner (1985)
#152 The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
#153 My Man Godfrey (1936)
#154 Dead Man’s Folly (1986)
#155 Wuthering Heights (1939)
#156 Murder in Three Acts (1986)
#157 The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (2012)
#158 Appointment with Murder (1948)
The Father

The Kid Detective

My Man Godfrey

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  • I watched 20 films in August.
  • As noted in my intro, that’s an improvement on the last couple of months, and ties with March as my, er, joint 5th best month of the year. Okay, so it’s hardly an all-timer, but it’s an improvement.
  • It’s not a bad one for averages, though, passing all the ones I usually mention: the August average (previously 12.6, now 13.1), the average for 2021 to date (previously 19.71, now 19.75), and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 18.2, now 18.7).
  • It’s also only the second time August has reached 20 films, with the first being right back in 2007. (My monthly stats for back then are only estimates, but I definitely passed 20 in August, probably landing somewhere around 25.)
  • But there was no Blindspot film this month. Various reasons for that, but it doesn’t help that I’ve accidentally wound up with a pretty heavy-going lot left to choose from. A three-hour silent epic famed for its racism? A gruelling Russian depiction of World War 2? A black-and-white drama about poor immigrants in ’90s Paris called Hate? Eesh. Still, I intend to make my September extra miserable by squeezing in two next month.
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”, either. Oh well.



The 75th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I watched several very good films this month (2021’s tally of five-star ratings leapt up), but my personal favourite was The Kid Detective. I liked the sound of the premise, and I thought the film nailed it. I doubt everyone will love it as much as I did (I’ve got its Letterboxd scores as evidence of that), but it’s a definite recommendation nonetheless.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
A different detective mystery sits at the other end of the spectrum. One of the three belated entries to the Falcon series, Appointment with Murder is a damp squib even by the relatively-low standards of ’40s mystery programmers. Those final three Falcons can be tricky to track down, and they’re not really worth it (unless you’re a completist, like me, of course).

Franchise of the Month
I worked through or touched upon multiple long-running film series this month: the Ripley films; Peter Ustinov’s Poirot; the Falcon; the Worricker trilogy… but, really, the dominant one is Neon Genesis Evangelion — not just because of the new, final-final (really final this time) movie, but also because I rewatched the three preceding movies (see below) and also dropped a huge wodge of cash on the ‘Ultimate Edition’ Blu-ray release of the original TV series. My bank balance and ever-receding shelf space hate me.

Most Deserved Best Actor Win of the Month
There’s a chance I’m missing something, but really I just want to take the time to say that Anthony Hopkins is excellent in The Father and I’m sure he deserved those (somewhat controversial) wins last awards season.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
As with last month, there’s no point awarding this (what with there only being one new post), but I’ll once again mention which archive post topped the chart. Last month, it was April 2017’s TV review #16, with March 2017’s TV review #15 in second place. This month, at the top is TV review #15, with TV review #16 in second. Why do they endure in popularity? Your guess is good as mine.


My Rewatchathon technically continues at average pace (i.e. about four films a month), although as I came into August about seven films behind target, I’m still about seven behind. Well, at least it’s not any worse.

#23 Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994)
#24 Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone. (2007/2009)
#25 Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance. (2009/2010)
#26 Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo. (2012/2013)

Having rewatched the first two Naked Guns over the past couple of months, it was only right to round out the trilogy. Its humour gets a bit too smutty at times, but the opening and closing set pieces are great, and there’s a pretty consistent gag rate throughout. On balance, I’d probably say it’s the second best in the series (after the first, of course).

But the main feature of this month’s re-viewing was Evangelion, revisiting the first three rebuild films before the release of the fourth. My original reviews are linked above, while here you can find my latest thoughts on Letterboxd about 1.11, 2.22, and 3.33.


Normally this section is dominated by all the new Blu-rays I’ve bought and not watched, but this month there was only one. Yes, one. That was Arrow’s new 4K disc of David Lynch’s Dune, a release I’m not even sure I want — not because the film’s a bit meh, but because the German edition out in a couple of months includes a feature-length documentary that Arrow couldn’t be bothered to wait for. But Amazon’s shipping policies nowadays mean I can’t preorder that, and I forgot to cancel my preorder for Arrow’s version, so now I have a dilemma: sell it and wait for the German one, or just live without that new doc. Elsewise, I’m not really sure why it’s been such a quiet month — other than that the labels have all been announcing their big expensive box sets for November and December, so I’ve been spending my money preordering those rather than on stuff in sales or what have you. I’ll tell you this: when we get towards the end of the year, my list of failures is gonna be looong…

Outside of my physical media library, new releases continue as if there wasn’t still a pandemic on. I expect Bond will tempt me back to the big screen in a few weeks, but until then I’m waiting on home releases for the likes of Free Guy, Snake Eyes, The Courier, Pig, Censor, and (probably my most anticipated from this lot) Candyman. Speaking of at home, the streamers inevitably had new stuff to offer too. The most critically acclaimed was probably Coda on Apple TV+, but I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Boss Level, which is on Amazon Prime here in the UK, as is The Vault, which is billed as a heist action-thriller and so sounds right up my street. Netflix’s best effort was probably wrong-man thriller Beckett, which seemed to get a middling reception, and animated musical Vivo, which I saw very little chatter about considering it’s got something to do with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Swinging away from new titles, there were plenty of archive additions bulking out my watch list. Sky Cinema headlines include Wonder Woman 1984 and the new Tom & Jerry, but there was also The Very Excellent Mr Dundee, a new-ish sort-of-spin-off from the Crocodile Dundee franchise. It’s meant to be terrible, and yet I still intend to watch it. The main things catching my eye on Netflix were titles that previously made my end-of-year ’50 unseen’ lists, like Black Mass, The Iron Lady, and Suffragette; while MUBI brought up obscure films of interest, like Amer, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, and Welcome II the Terrordome; and my Amazon Prime picks were hardly in a mainstream mood either, with the likes of comedy-horror Lake Michigan Monster, anime Mirai, Indian “neo-noir action thriller” (and brief IMDb Top 250 member, hence my interest) Vikram Vedha, and sci-fi drama Prospect (which has been popping on and off All 4 for a while now. Hopefully it’ll be a bit more stable on Amazon… so I can not get round to it for even longer).

Talking of All 4, this month I’ve managed to miss my chance to watch the likes of Mommy, Wings of Desire, The Old Man and the Gun, and Ida. But they’ve still got behind-the-scenes documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien, which I’ll intend to make time for. BBC iPlayer also has a film documentary that sounded interesting, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, plus the film that’s referring to, 1971’s Le Mans.

Oh, and everyone had stuff I either have owned on disc for ages but not watched (the full(er) cut of Metropolis on MUBI; The Dead Zone and The Last Samurai on Amazon; the live-action Beauty and the Beast on iPlayer; Only God Forgives on MUBI), or own on disc and should rewatch (Munich on Netflix; The Limey on Amazon), or have seen and should have reviewed by now (The Lego Movie 2 on Netflix; The Peanut Butter Falcon on iPlayer). Oh well.


Daniel Craig’s name is Bond, James Bond, for the last time.

The “Am I Just a Letterboxder Now?” Monthly Review of July 2021

As regular readers (or should that be “regular non-readers” now?) may have noticed, I didn’t post a single review throughout July. Nor anything else, really: my previous post was my monthly review of June. Which somewhat drives me to consider the titular question, because while I’ve become increasingly poor at posting stuff here, I do still log (and write a little about) all my film viewing on Letterboxd. The little snippets I post there aren’t comparable to the full reviews I aim to write here; but, equally, I do actually post there consistently, so which is the more meaningful, really?

I’m not giving up on this blog just yet, but my strategy for finding time to write it (and, perhaps, what precisely I write about) needs some thought once again. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been watching:


#128 Jerry Maguire (1996)
#129 From Here to Eternity (1953)
#130 Strictly Ballroom (1992)
#131 Hotel Reserve (1944)
#132 Sneakers (1992)
#133 The Broadway Melody (1929)
#134 Murder by Decree (1979)
#135 Time After Time (1979)
#136 Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)
#137 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
#138 The King (2019)
Strictly Ballroom

Sneakers

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  • I watched 11 films in July.
  • That may be my poorest performance of 2021 so far, but it’s bang on the July average (which was, obviously, 11.0 and is now, obviously, 11.0).
  • This is self-evident, but it’s not my best July ever (that was last year, with 29), but nor is it the worst (because that would be my worst month ever: July 2009, my only zero-film month).
  • It fares less well compared to other averages, falling short of both my rolling average for the last 12 months (previously 19.7, now 18.2) and the average for 2021 to date (previously 21.2, now 19.7).
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Powell and Pressburger’s satire of the upper-class attitude to World War 2, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched a pair of films from 1979 that each saw a famous Victorian tackle Jack the Ripper (was there something in the water that year?), Murder by Decree (which sees Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper) and Time After Time (which is H.G. Wells vs Jack the Ripper).



The 74th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Quite a few films I liked a lot this month, but I think I might just give the edge to Strictly Ballroom. I don’t feel it gets talked about as much as Baz Luhrmann’s later works because they refined the stylistic concepts he was aiming at, but it’s a more-than-fair first go at them. It’s inventively made, kookily funny, and, ultimately, shamelessly romantic. If you liked his Romeo + Juliet or Moulin Rouge! but have never gone back to the trilogy’s first part (like me, until now), I strongly recommend it.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Sometimes, you come across a film that you’ve never heard of but sounds good and it is good and you feel like you’ve discovered an overlooked minor classic. Other times, you discover why you’ve never heard of it. Sadly, pre-WW2 ‘wrong man’ spy thriller Hotel Reserve falls into the latter bracket. So much potential, almost entirely unrealised.

Most Inaccurate Title of the Month
There’s no character called Colonel Blimp in The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, so we certainly don’t follow his life nor see him die. And as for the character who is presumably ‘Colonel Blimp’, well, spoilers, he doesn’t die either.

Title That Did Its Film the Greatest Disservice of the Month
I’ve seen Sneakers around on streaming platforms and whatnot for years, but always kinda ignored it. That poster is so bland, it tells you nothing; and the title… it’s an American movie called Sneakers: I think I assumed it must be about shoes. So thank goodness for the Film Stories Blu-ray release, which switched me on to the fact that it’s actually a fun all-star heist thriller — immensely watchable and entertaining, just my sort of thing, and nothing at all to do with trainers.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
With only one new post all of last month, I thought I’d throw this open and see what was most-viewed overall. And it was, incredibly randomly, from back in April 2017. Then I reviewed the first episode of Doctor Who series 10, the first seasons of Iron Fist and The Crown, the second series of Line of Duty, the musical episode of The Flash, and the first nine episodes of Twin Peaks season two, plus a few other bits and bobs. I’ve no idea what amongst that might’ve provoked particular interest in the last month.


Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not a sausage.


I continue to be behind pace on my Rewatchathon, which isn’t surprising when my main viewing is behind normal standards too. Still, at least I’ve been watching some stuff…

#20 The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991)
#21 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
#22 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Wrath of Khan being down here feels like a bit of a technicality. You see, for years I could remember seeing a film as a kid in which two guys in spacesuits in a desert had nasty worm-things inserted into their ears. Eventually I learned that scene was from Wrath of Khan, ergo I must’ve seen it as a kid. So it’s taken me decades to finally get round to watching all the Star Trek movies, and it turned out that one scene was more or less all I remembered from Khan (of course I knew other bits thanks to picking them up down the years as a sci-fi fan, but that was the only part I remembered). Anyway, this means I won’t give it a ‘proper’ review (though how much stuff am I properly reviewing nowadays anyway?), but it goes on the list for the Guide To treatment.

And I finished my Indiana Jones HD rewatch… just in time for HMV to have a massive 20% off sale that included the new 4K set, so of course I caved and bought it. Hopefully it won’t take me another decade or more before I watch that… As for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I stand by my assessment from its theatrical release (linked above) that it’s not at all a bad movie. There are some iffy bits, for sure, but overall it’s a plenty worthy return outing for Dr Jones. Maybe one day more people will stop being grumpy about a fucking fridge and allow themselves to have a good time.


With cinemas reopened, the new releases just keep coming. I haven’t yet talked myself into going back to the big screen (in part because I just don’t think I could comfortably wear a mask for a whole movie, though that requirement is now more flexible, I guess), but releases on my radar to almost tempt me include Black Widow, M. Night Shyamalan’s Old, The Suicide Squad, and Jungle Cruise. Ones I’d wait for rental anyway include The Forever Purge and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions… and, even though I’m fairly sure I’m going to hate it, I’ll probably wind up watching Space Jam: A New Legacy someday.

Over on the streamers, Netflix added Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning to go with the series’ other four films that I mentioned last month. Their only original I noticed was the Fear Street trilogy, which I put on my watchlist but don’t feel any burning desire to make time for, to be honest. MUBI brought arthouse hit First Cow to the UK, while, at probably the other end of the artistic spectrum, Amazon offered sci-fi-actioner The Tomorrow War, which I’ve heard mixed things about. They also had belated UK debuts for Guns Akimbo and Shadow in the Cloud (which I, er, acquired back around its US release because it sounded fun, but I’ve not got round to watching), plus Kate Beckinsale actioner Jolt, which sounds dumb and, based on the critics and viewers scores, I think probably is. Other than that, it felt like Netflix and Amazon were both trying to remind me of stuff in my Blu-ray collection that I’ve either never seen or been meaning to rewatch — I could list what, but there’s at least 20 titles in that category.

And talking of my Blu-ray collection, of course there were a load of new purchases. I imported a couple of titles from France (something I haven’t done for a while), so I could get my hands on Godzilla vs. Kong in 3D (bundled with the 4K disc, which is good because I suspect it looks fab on both formats) and The Limey in 4K with special features (as far as I know, France is the only country to have released its 4K restoration on a 4K disc; and the audio commentary is legendary, so I want to finally listen to that). All my other 4K purchases this month were, similarly, things I’ve already seen: fancy editions of The Babadook from Second Sight and True Romance from Arrow, plus regular editions (thanks to the HMV sale I mentioned earlier) of Big Fish, Gattaca, Last Action Hero, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — plus the Indiana Jones films, of course.

In terms of blind buys, I couldn’t resist Indicator issuing The Day of the Dolphin — that’s the film famous for its poster tagline: “unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States.” How can you resist a pitch like that? There were more box sets from Arrow in the form of the Daimajin trilogy and Vengeance Trails, in which they bundled together four obscure Spaghetti Westerns, I guess because they have a better chance of selling as a set than individually. (In fairness, it works on me: things like that and the films in their Years of Lead set, if they were released individually I’d probably wait for them to be cheap in a sale and then maybe buy some of them. In swish limited edition box sets, well, I’m preordering! (Now I feel like a sucker…)) Amongst a few other random purchases were Son of the White Mare, an acclaimed Hungarian animation for which I don’t see a UK release on the horizon so I paid a reasonable price to import the US edition; and, thanks to a Network sale, the fourth series of Quatermass, which includes its movie-length re-edit, The Quatermass Conclusion; and the Up series of documentaries, which are considered a TV series here in the UK but received festival/theatrical releases elsewhere so are often regarded as films. I’ll have to decide whether I count them as films or not… but I’ll have to get round to watching them first.


THIRD IMPACT! Evangelion ends for the third time as the fourth part of the story’s second telling premieres worldwide on Amazon Prime Video.

The Terribly Tardy Monthly Review of June 2021

That title is a slight misnomer, because this monthly review is bang on time (more or less), but everything else about my blog right now, oh, that could use a kick up the arse. I mean, I only posted one review this month. My 100 Week Roundups must be so far behind that I dread to even look. And when did I last post a TV column…?

And my actual film viewing was in similar doldrums: on the 22nd, I had the horrifying realisation that I had only watched three new films this month. My goal of at least 10 new films a month, which I’ve aimed for since c.2015, was again in jeopardy (I failed it multiple times in 2019 — and back then it was also June that broke my five-year-long streak). And that’s to say nothing of the 20+ new films per month I’d maintained throughout 2021 so far. Now, with 17 films to go for me to reach 20 in June, and just eight days left to watch them, it seemed virtually impossible. Sure, in theory that’s only two films a day (plus one), but, since I started my new job in May, my weeknight post-work film viewing had averaged 0.08 a day. No way was this happening.

Unless… there was one crazy idea that might just work…

“So,” I figured, “if I could manage one film per workday,” (which, despite the stats, seemed not unfeasible — recently of an evening I’d been catching up on TV), “then that would get me to six films. And if I could manage that, surely I could manage two on a Friday — so that’d be seven. Then on Saturday and Sunday I’d just need to watch…” (*gulp*) “…five films a day.”

I know some people marathon their way through films like nobody’s business — to them, five in a single day is virtually just “a day ending in Y” — but to me? Yikes. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched five films in one day. And to do it on two days, back to back? Well, I did say this was a crazy idea. But it was the only vaguely-plausible way I could still get to 20 films in June. “Vaguely plausible” is not “literally impossible” and, well, you don’t know if you don’t try, right?

Did I manage it? There’s only one way to find out…


#116 Pillow of Death (1945)
#117 The Money Pit (1986)
#118 My Fair Lady (1964)
#119 Dumb and Dumber (1994)
#120 Seven Chances (1925)
#120a What! No Spinach? (1926)
#121 Rodan (1956), aka Sora no daikaijû Radon
#122 The Mummy (1932)
#123 A Brief History of Time Travel (2018)
#124 Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
#125 The Invisible Man (1933)
#126 Space Station 3D (2002)
#127 Rain Man (1988)
My Fair Lady

The Invisible Man

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  • To answer my previous question: no, I did not.
  • I watched 12 films in June, which may not be close to 20 but, in the grand scheme of my blog, is far from the worst. To be precise, there have been 79 lower-totalling months in the blog’s history, which is 45% of all months. So, June 2021 is somewhere in the middle. That’s alright.
  • I did, at least, slightly pass the June average, which is 11.4 (previously just under at 11.38, now just over at 11.43).
  • Other averages… not so much. The rolling average for the last 12 months was 21.0, now it’s 19.7; and the average for 2021 to date was 23.0, now it’s 21.2.
  • One thing that’s been somewhat overshadowed by all this: I reached #120, which is officially my main-list goal nowadays. Though that I’ve done that with half the year still to go does make me think I still need to rethink this whole “viewing goal” thing.
  • On the other hand, What! No Spinach? is only the second short film I’ve watched in 2021. But I don’t have a short film viewing goal, so that’s okay.
  • Also, I finished the Inner Sanctum Mysteries film series this month. Actually wrapping up a series rather than constantly adding new ones? Makes a nice change.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: an Oscar winner in its day (over 30 years ago), but somewhat controversial now for its depiction of autism, I thought Rain Man still did enough right. Relatedly, I found this short Letterboxd review to be insightful.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched nothing, again.



The 73rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
A few great-but-imperfect films compete for this month’s crown, but just edging it is the 1933 version of The Invisible Man. Director James Whale may be best remembered for his pair of Universal Frankenstein flicks, but I preferred this, which has a great mix of thrills, humour, and still-impressive special effects.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is an easy one for me: it’s a film that I felt lived up (or down) to its title, Dumb and Dumber. I only watched it because it’s on iCheckMovies’ Most Checked list and I’ve nearly completed that. It did have some moments that amused me, but overall, nah, I’d not really been missing anything by not watching it for the past 27 years.

Most Ropey-Yet-Still-Scary Special Effect of the Month
The “man in a suit” antics of Japanese monster movies are a bit of a “take it or leave it” style, but I think part of what makes them palatable is that the men in suits are stomping on miniatures — the whole thing is an affectation. But in Rodan, before the titular pterodactyl turns up, there are giant dragonfly nymphs that are played by men in suits opposite normal humans. Their blocky shape and waddly movement is kinda silly… and yet, at the same time, they’re man-sized baby insects, which I find inherently repulsive and terrifying.

Film Most Like a Twilight Zone Episode of the Month
I confess, I didn’t expect much of Superman and the Mole-Men, a film made primarily to instigate interest in producing a Superman television series (I guess the term “pilot” hadn’t yet been coined in 1951). And it’s far from the greatest screen realisation of the superhero ever, but what it does have is a neat little twist in who the villains are — at the risk of spoiling the surprise, it’s not the eponymous Mole-Men, but the small-townsfolk who get scared and turn into an angry mob. The social commentary isn’t exactly at Rod Serling level, but it’s surprisingly close.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It was very much a two horse race this month, considering I only managed two posts throughout June. The end result wasn’t close, though, with my guide to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom romping away to victory.


This section seems a bit pointless, considering I only posted one review and I’ve already linked to it, but the format is the format…


I came into June five films behind target, and I end it six films behind. Dammit. Well, with my main list having passed its 120-film goal, and my 20-per-month streak ending, maybe that’ll allow me to feel I can spend more time on rewatches in the second half of the year.

#17 Pride & Prejudice (2005)
#18 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
#19 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

Rather than repeat myself across the interweb, I’ll point you towards Letterboxd for some of my latest thoughts on Pride & Prejudice and Last Crusade. As for The Naked Gun, once I realised my crazy “get to 20” project had failed, I bunged it on one evening after work as something nice and easy. Most of it holds up very well, but I do feel it’s beginning to slip a little with age — it doesn’t feel quite as nonstop as it once did, and there’s the occasional topical gag that’s long past its sell-by (the film is almost 35 years old, after all). It also reminded me that about a year ago I bought Police Squad on Blu-ray and haven’t watched it (of course I haven’t).


Cinemas are back, and the idea of a joint theatrical/streaming release already seems a distant memory — which is funny, because in the US they’re still doing it all the time on HBO Max, and I think Disney still intend it for Black Widow, and I’m sure the kind of smaller films that were doing it even before Covid are still doing it now. But, here in the UK at least, the likes of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, The Quiet Place Part II, In the Heights, Nobody, and Fast & Furious 9 have all landed in cinemas without (as far as I’m aware) matching availability at home. Also finally gaining big-screen outings were the likes of The Father, Supernova, and, um, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds. None of these have tempted me out of the house yet, but something will at some point…

Whether by coincidence or design, big and/or interesting new offerings from the streamers seem to have dried up. I think it was MUBI who had the closest to anything ‘high profile’ with the UK release of Shiva Baby. All I have in my notes for Netflix is America: The Motion Picture, which came out earlier this week, and the global release of the fourth film in the Rurouni Kenshin live-action series (I really enjoyed the first three when I watched them a few years ago, so that’s definitely on my radar). Meanwhile, Amazon had another Liam Neeson actioner, The Ice Road, which I initially thought was just the one he’d done a year or two ago (that was Cold Pursuit). Ho hum. As for new-to-streaming titles, Amazon pretty much win the day with the acclaimed horror Saint Maud, because I’ve got nothing in my notes for Netflix except a couple of things I’d already seen but not reviewed. Meanwhile, new highlights on Sky Cinema / NOW included Kajillionaire, the very belated UK debut of Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and the final Fox X-Men film, The New Mutants, which I own on disc anyway (but keep not getting round to).

Talking of discs, naturally I’ve continued to blow my disposable income on those shiny, shiny circles. Nowadays it feels like most of what I buy is stuff so obscure I hadn’t even heard of it until someone announced the disc release, and that certainly continued this month with Arrow’s Years of Lead box set, a collection of five Italian crime thrillers from the ’70s. Similarly, I bought the Masters of Cinema releases of PTU (a Hong Kong thriller) and The Hands of Orlac (an Austrian silent chiller); 88 Films’ new edition of giallo So Sweet… So Perverse; and Indicator’s release of Eye of the Cat.

In terms of more known quantities (in that I’d actually heard of them, even if I’ve not seen them), there were new editions for Waterloo and Sammo Hung’s Encounter of the Spooky Kind, and Indicator’s sixth Hammer box set. I’ve got four of those now, from volume three onwards, which makes me regret never getting the first two; but I bet they cost an absolute bomb on the secondhand market, so I’ll have to live with it. From StudioCanal came a 4K release of Basic Instinct (judging from the screencaps, it looks like the quality of the new transfer absolutely blows the Blu-ray away), and a similarly restored (but only on regular Blu-ray) Murder by Decree, with Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes taking on Jack the Ripper. The same villain is taken on by H.G. Wells in ‘present day’ (i.e. 1970s) New York in Time After Time, which I picked up in HMV’s latest Premium Collection sale, alongside a literal pile of other stuff: Clash of the Titans and Mighty Joe Young (edging my Ray Harryhausen collection towards completion), plus Grand Prix, Murder, My Sweet, and A Scanner Darkly. Finally, another literal pile, this time of six Spaghetti Westerns: I wanted to import Arrow’s US-only 4K release of Sergio Corbucci’s Django (which comes bundled with Texas, Adios), and so to spread the postage I also threw in Kino’s 4K edition of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and another highly-acclaimed one by Corbucci that I’ve wanted to see for yonks, The Great Silence; then, in an 88 Films sale, I also added another Django film, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (love that title), and a third Corbucci, The Mercenary. Now I just need to make time to actually watch all (or any) that…


What will the second half of the year bring? All bets are off nowadays…

The Reopened Monthly Review of May 2021

Cinemas are back! And in the two weeks (and a bit) since they reopened here in the UK, I’ve been… not at all. Well, I have something of an excuse: I started a new full-time job halfway through this month — on the same day cinemas were allowed to reopen, in fact — which means I can no longer go slipping off there on a quiet weekday afternoon. I shall miss that. Anyway, there’s still evenings and weekends, once I’ve finally settled into my new routine and can motivate myself to get out. Indeed, it’s also affected my viewing at home: the record-setting pace I established earlier in the year, which had slipped slightly by the end of April, has not been regained. All is not lost, however, as May 2021 still managed a couple of firsts. More on those in a minute. First, my viewing list…


#95 The Awful Truth (1937)
#96 Page Eight (2011)
#97 Carefree (1938)
#98 Baby Done (2020)
#99 An American Pickle (2020)
#100 Cinema Paradiso (1988), aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
#101 I Care a Lot (2020)
#102 Strange Confession (1945)
#103 Twister (1996)
#104 Spontaneous (2020)
#105 Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)
#106 Stuart Little (1999)
#107 Drop Zone (1994)
#108 The Aeronauts (2019)
#109 Good Boys (2019)
#110 Crank (2006)
#111 Official Secrets (2019)
#112 Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
#113 Defending Your Life (1991)
#114 Testament of Youth (2014)
#115 Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Cinema Paradiso

Spontaneous

Official Secrets

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  • I watched 21 new feature films in May.
  • Those included reaching eponymous goal, with #100 being this month’s Blindspot film (more on that in a mo). I got to it on the 5th, which ties with last year for the earliest ever… except 2020 was a leap year, meaning May 5th was the 126th day of the year then, whereas in 2021 it’s the 125th — so, in that respect, this is a new record. Hurrah!
  • I didn’t make it to my new goal of 120 films, though, so May 2020 clings on to that record for the time being.
  • May 2021 has some other achievements to its name, however. For instance, it makes 2021 the first year where I’ve watched over 20 films in each of the first five months of the year. Coincidentally, it’s also my 30th month ever with 20+ films.
  • In terms of averages, that figure surpasses the May average (previously 16.1, now 16.4), but falls just short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 21.8, now 21.0 — so, er, it’s actually bang on it now), and of the average for 2021 to date (previously 23.5, now 23.0).
  • But back to achievements, because, as regular readers may remember, since July 2017 I’ve been tracking the days of the year on which I’d never watched a new film as part of this blog. When I began, I had eight still to check off. It’s taken almost four whole years, but the quest is finally complete: I watched a film on the last outstanding date, May 23rd. What did I choose to mark the auspicious occasion? Plan 9 from Outer Space. A silly film for what is, frankly, a fairly silly achievement. But it’s done now, so I can move on… to making sure I’ve seen at least two films on every date! (Not really.) (But now that I’ve mentioned it… Oh dear.)
  • This month’s Blindspot film: an appropriate choice for this year’s #100, because Cinema Paradiso is all about the love of cinema. Doubly appropriate this month, then, with them reopening.
  • Unfortunately, I watched nothing from last month’s “failures”. A double failure!



The 72nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
There’s a few different options this month: films I admired a lot, but would come up short of saying I loved; films I enjoyed a lot, but can certainly recognise their flaws. In the end, I’m coming down in favour of Official Secrets, if nothing else because I think more people should see it. It arguably comes up a little short to be a ‘great movie’, but it’s an important story, well told.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Sometimes you watch a “bad movie” cult classic and, even though it is technically a terrible movie, you have a great time — I’m thinking of The Room or Love on a Leash here. Theoretically, Plan 9 from Outer Space should fall into that camp. For some people, it does. But not for me — I just thought it was rubbish.

Best Recycling of a Musical Theme of the Month
Okay, the recycling wasn’t actually done by this film — this is the original. But Drop Zone features a throwaway music cue by Hans Zimmer (it plays over a minor bit of action business) that would later be repurposed to much great acclaim: it’s the main theme to Pirates of the Caribbean. That’s become a very popular bit of film music, which is in part thanks to the film being so popular, thereby widening it’s audience, but it’s a great cue in and of itself. It’s far and away the best bit of score in Drop Zone — the rest is wholly forgettable; indeed, it’d be better if they just played “the Pirates theme” over everything… which is kinda what they eventually did in Curse of the Black Pearl, so I guess Zimmer and co learnt their lesson.

Special Award for Achievement in Director’s Cut-ing
Normally when I view a variant cut of a movie — be it a Director’s Cut, an Extended Edition, or whatever — it’s not really that different to the original version; and when that’s the case, it doesn’t get a new number in my viewing (because I’m counting how many new films I’ve seen, obv). But, now and then, one of these cuts does manage to be different enough that I feel it warrants being counted as a new film. I suppose some people would always argue with that, but I feel that if you’ve added or changed enough material that the viewing experience feels different (for good or ill), then that makes the viewing more than just a rewatch. Now, some filmmakers are more prone to revised cuts than others — Ridley Scott, famously, or Peter Jackson — and I notice this when I work out which directors I’ve reviewed the most films by on this blog, because I count those different-but-not-that-different cuts as “bits”. So, for example, Ridley Scott tallies “14 and 3 bit” films; or Peter Jackson has “8 and 3 bits”. But one director has avoided “bits” with impressive regularity, and that person is Zack Snyder. Although I’ve covered extended cuts of three of his movies now (Watchmen, Batman v Superman, and Justice League), his tally has “0 bits”. When Snyder does a variant cut, he really makes it matter.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It’s a true rarity this month: the victor was April’s monthly review! I’ve been published one of these every month for many years now, but I’m not sure one has ever topped the chart before (but I can’t be bothered to dig through 71 previous Arbies to find out right now).



My Rewatchathon continues to slip behind target, from four short at the end of April to five now. I had intended to finish the Indiana Jones series this month, and also to see Godzilla vs. Kong on the big screen when cinemas reopened, which combined would’ve left me considerably less far off target… but neither of those things happened, so here we are. Maybe next month.

#14 Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
#15 Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
#16 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

A selection of things I’ve been meaning to rewatch for a very long time, here. First up, Singin’ in the Rain, a musical classic that often sits surprisingly high in polls like Sight & Sound’s — not that it’s not a great movie, but it doesn’t seem to fit with the sorts of things around it at the top end of those kinds of polls. For me, as great and lovely as the film certainly is overall, it still has the occasional minor longueur; and, sure, there are three or four or maybe even five great songs, but also a handful of minor, very forgettable ones; and I’m never a big fan of an extended ballet interlude, although this is definitely one of the better ones. But, as I said, overall it is really good — I’m focusing on the drawbacks because it was a film that I’d wondered if it should’ve been in my 100 Favourites, but I think it was right to just miss out.

As for films that did make my 100 Faves, I’ve been meaning to rewatch the Indiana Jones movies for years. I’m not entirely sure when I last saw them, but it’s been over 13 years, minimum (did I re-watch the trilogy in the run-up to Crystal Skull’s May 2008 release? Maybe (that sounds like the kind of thing I might’ve done), but I can’t remember). I even bought the Blu-ray set when it first came out, which was 8½ years ago, but I’ve never got round to playing it. Now, the series is out in 4K next week, so I thought I ought to watch my darn 1080p discs before I inevitably upgrade (I’m a hopeless case). I grew up loving the Indy films, which is perhaps why I haven’t rewatched them a lot in recent years — they’re so familiar, it’s not ‘necessary’ — but, actually watching them again after so long, it’s reminded my why I should watch them more often: they’re really great.

Also, that long gap means this is the first time I’ve seen Temple of Doom uncut: on its original release in the UK, they cut out over a minute to secure a PG certificate from the BBFC, and that shortened version persisted even until the DVD release, with the uncut version (now rated 12) only debuting on Blu-ray. Temple is the only Indy film not already covered on this site (I reviewed Crystal Skull (twice) while it was still in cinemas, and Raiders and Last Crusade were part of my 100 Favourites series in 2016), so I’ll give it the Guide To treatment sometime. In the meantime, my Letterboxd post is likely a preview of my summary and score.


For the first time in a fair old while, we begin with new releases on the big screen — though, of course, none of these were interesting enough to tempt me out. But, c’mon, Peter Rabbit 2? No thanks. As for the rest of the newest releases, things like Mortal Kombat, Spiral: From the Book of Saw, and Cruella are all movies I’ll happily watch in a few months — or maybe a few years — at home. There was also The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, which is apparently the seventh film in the Conjuring universe, something which has apparently sprung into existence without me even noticing. I don’t intend to play catchup.

Netflix continued to offer some at-home alternatives, of course, include Zack Snyder’s zombie/heist mashup Army of the Dead and Amy Adams thriller The Woman in the Window. The latter slipped down my viewing pecking order thanks to all the negative reviews, while the former, I kinda want to make time to see Snyder’s first zombie flick first. Maybe soon. Also on Netflix, Oxygen sounds up my street as a single-location sci-fi thriller, and, from the back catalogue, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell made what I feel is a rare streaming appearance — I’ve been meaning to try to see that for years. Amazon Prime didn’t have quite the same calibre of additions, it must be said. I mean, another Liam Neeson actioner, Honest Thief — at this point I don’t even know if that’s a genuine premiere or just one I hadn’t heard of finally landing on streaming. They did add Upstream Color, though; which, like Drag Me to Hell, I’ve been waiting a long time to appear on a streamer. And now that they have, I haven’t watched them. Typical.

I’ve still got a MUBI subscription ticking over, even though I don’t really watch it — there’s a pile of stuff on there I want to see, and I keep telling myself if I don’t cancel then I might watch it eventually, but it’s all, y’know, MUBI-type stuff, so I’m not often in the mood. But additions of particular interest during May included Park Chan-wook’s Thirst and a trio of Francis Ford Coppola movies in The Outsiders, Youth Without Youth, and Tetro. And talking of things I should cancel, I still have Sky Cinema lingering from the Oscars. Like MUBI, they have a bunch of stuff I kinda want to see, although, frankly, it’s mostly lower brow — Angel Has Fallen, Scoob!, the new versions of Charlie’s Angels and The Witches, and so on. Their most recent additions haven’t been up to much, either — Riverdance: The Animated Adventure, anyone?

Over on the free streamers, something else that I’ve wanted to see for a very long time but is never available to stream: a perennial feature on the mid- to lower-end of “greatest film of all time” lists, Paris, Texas, which is currently on All 4, alongside Capernaum (which is on the IMDb Top 250) and One Cut of the Dead (which I’ve seen but really should’ve reviewed). As for iPlayer, the most interesting stuff has been films they’ve had on before that I’ve never quite got round to — Margin Call, Guys and Dolls, the 1958 version of Dunkirk, and so on.

Finally, purchases. A smaller haul than has sometimes been the case, but that’s only by relative standards: I could still name 16 films I’ve bought on disc this month but not watched yet. They include the six titles in Indicator’s third Columbia Noir set; their release of Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me; a bunch of classic French films that were randomly cheap on Amazon: Le Corbeau, Quai des Orfevres, and Le Trou, the latter of which is on the Letterboxd Top 250; as is The Ascent, a Criterion title that I also picked up randomly cheap on Amazon. Also randomly cheap on Amazon: the highest grossing film of 2020, Chinese war flick The Eight Hundred; and cheaper than elsewhere, Arrow’s Tales from the Urban Jungle, a two-film set that I was glad to get for a bargain because I already own one of them (The Naked City, although it’s a better transfer here) and didn’t especially like the other (Brute Force, which I do owe a rewatch). Rounding out the aforementioned 16 were two new Eureka releases of Eastern actioners, from very different eras: 1972’s One-Armed Boxer (a riff on The One-Armed Swordsman, a film I loved, with the same star, Jimmy Wang Yu, also serving as writer and director); and, from 2000, Tsui Hark’s Time and Tide. (And, though technically not relevant to this section, I’d like to point out that I actually watched a couple of things I bought this month, too; namely, Defending Your Life and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.)


We’ll be halfway through the year already!

The Nomadic Monthly Review of April 2021

We’re on a road to nowhere… Or, maybe, the road to recovery. Hopefully. Certainly, I’m still on the road to 100 films this year, at least.


#74 Sátántangó (1994)
#75 The Son of Kong (1933)
#76 Godzilla Raids Again (1955), aka Gojira no gyakushû
#77 King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), aka Kingu Kongu tai Gojira
#78 King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)
#79 Captain Phillips (2013)
#80 The Frozen Ghost (1945)
#81 The Fly (1986)
#82 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#83 Nomadland (2020)
#84 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1978)
#85 Detective Conan: The Phantom of Baker Street (2002), aka Meitantei Conan: Bekâ Sutorîto no bôrei
#86 Taken 2 (2012)
#87 Warning from Space (1956)
#88 Spielberg (2017)
#89 Primary Colors (1998)
#90 Stowaway (2021)
#91 Beginners (2010)
#92 The Coldest Game (2019)
#93 Going My Way (1944)
#94 A Single Man (2009)
Captain Phillips

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Nomadland

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  • I watched 21 new feature films in March.
  • That makes 2021 the first year since 2016 that the first four months have all passed the 20-film threshold. If I continue that into May, it’ll be the first year ever.
  • On the other hand, this is the first month in 2021 not to set a new record for the furthest I’ve reached by this point — I’d got to #96 by the end of April last year. Close, but no cigar.
  • I had hoped this might be the first year I got to #100 in April, but no dice. Last year I did it on May 5th, which is another record I don’t think I’ll be beating after all. Ah well — not everything can be a record-breaker.
  • Nonetheless, this was the earliest I’d ever reached the three-quarters mark, in terms of both my eponymous challenge (getting to #75 on the 3rd, beating the 8th from 2016) and my new 120-film challenge (getting to #90 on the 22nd, beating the 26th last year).
  • In terms of averages, it beats the April average (previously 14.8, now 15.2), but falls a little short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 23.3, now 21.8) and the average for 2021 to date (previously 24.3, now 23.5).
  • Oops, I started another film series! I’d loosely intended to dive into the classic Godzilla films once I finally finished Zatoichi, but enjoying Godzilla vs Kong last month prompted me to want to see the ‘original’, 1962’s King Kong vs Godzilla. To do that ‘properly’, I had to watch the movies preceding it too — you can find the original Godzilla and original King Kong down in the Rewatchathon section, plus Son of Kong and Godzilla Raids Again at #75 and #76 (I watched them in and around spending four days trudging through Sátántangó). So, technically, I’m now three films deep into Big G’s 15-film Showa era.
  • Relatedly: no, that’s not a mistake at #77 and #78 — one’s the original Japanese version, the other is the US rejig (with much footage deleted, new stuff added, and all dubbed into English).
  • This month’s Blindspot film: as mentioned in brackets a moment ago, this was the insanely long (seven hours!) Sátántangó. It’s based on a novel and apparently adapts every single incident from the book, so this is what happens when you don’t bother to abridge an adaptation.
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”. Hey-ho.



The 71st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I originally had a different winner down for this category, until a last-minute change of mind. You see, I expected to like Captain Phillips, because I’d heard good things and I generally like the work of director Paul Greengrass and star Tom Hanks, but it rather blew me away how good it was — a tense, dramatic, unpredictable thriller, with a final scene that by itself should’ve earnt Hanks an Oscar nomination, if not even a win. He was robbed!

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I know it’s acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made, but, sorry, I found Sátántangó to be an unrelenting bore. It may not be the truly worst film I saw this month — it has some great filmmaking, and I do think there’s a very good movie buried inside it, if it were edited down considerably — but this is “least favourite”, not “worst”, and nothing else this month entertained me less for such a long period of time.

Best Hound of the Baskervilles of the Month — Possibly Ever
I’ll forgive you if you’re not up on your release years for every adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles — there are quite a few, for one thing. So, the two I watched this month were the Hammer version starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (that’s the 1959 one), and the comedy version starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (that’s the 1978 one). The latter is famously awful, and… yeah, it is. But the former is a stunner. Not the most strictly-faithful adaptation, but bursting with atmosphere, whip-crack paced (it doesn’t even hit the 90-minute mark), and with a top-flight cast (Cushing deserves to come up more often in discussions of the best screen Sherlocks).

Most Pleasant Surprise of the Month
We’re so used to berating Oscar voters for their terrible Best Picture choices, it’s weird that recently they seem to have hit a good streak (Green Book excepted). And it continues this year, because I thought Nomadland was a legitimately fantastic movie. (Admittedly, it’s the only Best Picture contender I’ve yet seen, but still.)

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
I’m terribly behind on my TV reviews, which at least means they can’t dominate this category. And so a film wins again — not the all-awards-winning Nomadland, though, but the belated UK release of Palm Springs carries it to victory here.



Although I rewatched four films this month, coming into April I had gradually slipped far enough behind that I’m still four films off target. But I’m always intending to rewatch some whole series (high on the list: to finally watch my Indiana Jones Blu-rays before the 4K set comes out), so if I pull my finger out and do something like that, the number could easily jump up.

#10 Wonder Woman 3D (2017)
#11 King Kong (1933)
#12 Godzilla (1954)
#13 Palm Springs (2020)

I found Palm Springs more easily enjoyable on a second watch, freed of all the hype and expectation it came burdened with first time round. Seems only appropriate… Wonder Woman was also a second watch, and my original review still mostly stands (despite the comments section implying I might’ve missed something). As for the quality of its 3D, it’s the kind of post-conversion job that isn’t bad, but also mostly makes you wonder why they bothered.

King Kong was the subject of a ‘Guide To’, so find that linked above for my latest thoughts on the monster movie classic. I last saw it many, many years ago, and my increased film literacy and appreciation for classic movies led me to enjoy it a lot more this time round. Similar could be said for Godzilla: knowing what to expect pace- and content-wise, I enjoyed it a bit more; certainly enough to shore up the 4-star rating on my review (linked above, natch).


The reopening of cinemas may be imminent(ish) in the UK, but that hasn’t stopped distributors sending releases straight to overpriced “home premieres” — in April, those included young adult adaptation Chaos Walking and Oscar Best Picture nominee Minari, while fellow Best Picture nominee Promising Young Woman was relegated to being a Sky Original. And if you thought we had to wait quite a while for those, or Palm Springs and Nomadland (which were also both this month), check out Chloé Zhao’s debut feature, Songs My Brothers Taught Me: MUBI was responsible for its UK wide release this month, a full six years after its initial release elsewhere.

There were Oscar contenders to be found among the streamers’ new releases too, with Amazon offering Sound of Metal to subscribers, alongside premieres of Guantanamo Bay drama The Mauritanian and Tom Clancy adaptation Without Remorse. Netflix’s awards flicks already came out last year, although they had the international premiere of Love and Monsters this month, which was at least up for effects nods. Less well received was Melissa McCarthy superhero comedy Thunder Force, though I have heard positive things about some of their other original titles, like Run (the new film from Aneesh Chaganty, director of Searching) and animation The Mitchells vs. the Machines. In terms of catalogue titles, Netflix brought back sometime-IMDb-Top-250-ers In the Name of the Father, Lagaan, and Taare Zameen Par (aka Like Stars on Earth); the subscription streaming debut of Shirley; plus a few things I haven’t seen for years and would like to rewatch, like Cast Away, The Quick and the Dead, and perhaps Jarhead (I saw it at the cinema 16 years ago and didn’t particularly like it, but maybe it’s worth another look, considering the talent involved).

Once again, my new disc purchases know no bounds. I passed 100 titles on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray this month, thanks to new releases of Batman v Superman (remastered with IMAX scenes), the 2014 Godzilla (in a spiffy limited edition from HMV), and Arrow’s Battle Royale (even though I haven’t watched their Blu-ray release that I bought over a decade ago). I also finally got Léon in 4K. I imported the US edition (because it looks so much better than the European one) from Amazon.com last year, but they kept sending me what looked like bootleg copies that I kept returning until they said they’d look into the matter. This time, I picked it up somewhere else, and it’s clearly a genuine copy — so I was right about Amazon flogging bootlegs.

While I was importing that, I also snaffled up a bunch of classic 3D titles (The Maze, September Storm, and Wings of the Hawk) and finally managed to find a copy of the Olive Signature Edition of Orson Welles’s Macbeth for a reasonable price. Talking of sales, I picked up Black Rainbow, Black Test Car, and The Black Report from Arrow’s recent offering (their related titles being coincidence rather than design). On the full price side of things, I couldn’t resist a bunch of new and recent Indicator releases: The Beast Must Die, Crimewave, Irreversible, and Twentieth Century.

And talking of failures to resist, I really, really tried not to buy Curzon Artificial Eye’s Bong Joon-ho box set. They used very pretty art design (the box art went down a storm with a certain kind of collector on Twitter) to bundle together almost-special-feature-less versions of a bunch of Bong’s films — and not even a complete collection, because Netflix have a stranglehold on Okja, and I guess Curzon couldn’t be arsed to license his short films (unlike a similar set recently released in Australia). I already own regular extras-filled editions of The Host and Snowpiercer, and I’ve caved to two copies of Parasite (both the 4K and Criterion’s extras-packed release), plus I have my eye on Criterion’s extras-loaded edition of Memories of Murder. All that left in the AE set’s favour was Barking Dogs Never Bite and Mother, the latter of which used to be available in a decent standalone edition (it’s out of print, but used copies aren’t hard to come by). So why the hell did I buy it in the end? Well, that’s still three films I don’t own — I could’ve got Mother by itself, but Barking Dogs Never Bite doesn’t have a standalone edition; and the Criterion release of Memories of Murder has rather controversial, ugly colour grading, while the UK edition is considerably less egregious in that department. The deal was sweetened by Parasite having some special features not present on my other copies (primarily, deleted scenes) and, yes, the attractive box design — it will look nice on my shelf. It’s definitely not the most sound purchasing decision I’ve ever made, but sometimes it’s just nice to have nice things.


There’s only one date left on my “never seen a film on” list: May 23rd. Will I finally complete the year, or will I forget and miss it? (You’d think it’d be an easy achievement to guarantee, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve simply forgotten to do it.)

The Titanic Monthly Review of March 2021

Nothing to do with the ship, everything to do with the two titans (aka kaiju) duking it out on disappointingly small screens right now.


#54 Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (2019)
#55 David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020)
#56 Dead Man’s Eyes (1944)
#57 Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)
#58 Con Air (1997)
#59 Wild Target (2010)
#60 Bright Young Things (2003)
#61 Carol (2015)
#62 Gambit (2012)
#63 We Bought a Zoo (2011)
#64 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
#65 Holiday Affair (1949)
#66 The Catcher Was a Spy (2018)
#67 Truly Madly Deeply (1990)
#68 Vivacious Lady (1938)
#69 The Prom (2020)
#70 Bachelor Knight (1947), aka The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
#71 Midnight in Paris (2011)
#72 Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), aka Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes
#73 Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
David Byrne's American Utopia

Carol

Godzilla vs. Kong

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  • I watched 20 new feature films in March.
  • That’s the first time since 2016 that my first three months of a year have all topped 20. Then, it lasted until April — we’ll see if that feat is duplicated next month.
  • Nonetheless, it’s March’s lowest tally since 2017, although it still surpasses the March average (previously 15.5, now 15.8).
  • It’s also the lowest tally of 2021 so far, falling short of the year’s average to date (previously 26.5, now 24.3) and of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 23.9, now 23.3).
  • Still, I passed the halfway point of my modified goal (120 films in a year) on 13th March, the earliest ever (beating 2016).
  • And this is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of March, beating a previous best of #67 (which was also in 2016).
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Werner Herzog’s first significant feature film, Aguirre, Wrath of God. Also the first Herzog film I’ve ever seen, believe it or not (well, I did watch the start of Fitzcarraldo once, but it literally sent me to sleep).
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched The Catcher Was a Spy, David Byrne’s American Utopia, and Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway.



The 70th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I always find concert films a little weird. Just sitting watching people play music — what? (Can you tell I don’t go to gigs? I have done, and I find them weird too.) So, I’m never quite sure what to expect — I guess, at best, some music I like that I am paying weirdly too much attention to. But there’s somehow more than that to David Byrne’s American Utopia — even though it is, fundamentally, people playing music. But it felt almost like a profound experience, and I’m (clearly) still processing that.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
As it started, I thought Netflix musical The Prom might defy all the negatives I’d heard and turn out to be perfectly decent. But its earlier scenes and numbers are the best bit — it goes on too long, the quality drops, and by the end, well, I didn’t hate it, but there was plenty of room for improvement.

Best Callback of the Month
Look, I don’t want to spoil Godzilla vs. Kong for anyone (especially as it’s only out in the UK today, and it costs £16 so I presume hardly anyone will be paying for it), but it contains a fun reference to an (in)famous moment from 1962’s King Kong vs. Godzilla (so famous that I’m very aware of it even though I’ve never seen the ’62 film) that left a big grin on my face. Here’s the original moment in gif form, just as a primer for whenever you watch GvK

“Eat your greens!”

Post Opportunity I’m Most Annoyed to Have Missed of the Month
Other than when I’m dumping old unreviewed films in roundup posts, I always feel like it’s nice to be able to tie a review in to something. It feels less like it’s just being tossed out into the ether if it’s at least somehow connected to something current. The past couple of years, I’ve got very good at missing these opportunities, and it always irks me. Most recently, a new documentary about Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, titled He Dreams of Giants, was released in the UK last Monday — but I got the chance to see it last September, and watched Don Quixote and the previous (un)making-of doc about Gilliam’s film, Lost in La Mancha, also. I intended to post them together as a triple review to mark the occasion, but didn’t find time to write them up. So now they’ll languish in my backlog, probably to also be dumped in a 100-Week Roundup in mid-2022. Bother.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
None of this month’s new posts seem to have particularly piqued the interest of my readership and/or the general public who stumble across this blog. The most seen was 100-Week Roundup XXVI, with its reviews of Paperman and Waltz with Bashir, but it was in a lowly 82nd place overall. Roundup XXVII was right behind it, too.



This month, I continued to rewatch films, while also continuing to slowly slip behind on my target. There’s always time to catch up, though — if I ever get round to watching a trilogy or something, I’ll shoot along. And with the Indiana Jones films just announced for 4K, it’s long overdue that I actually watch my Blu-ray set…

#7 The Sound of Music (1965)
#8 Casablanca (1942)
#9 Runaway Jury (2003)

The Sound of Music and Casablanca were both films I haven’t watched in about 15 years, which I feel like is a pretty standard kind of revisit time for me — long enough that I begin to think “I should really rewatch that”, plus half-a-decade-or-so of not quite getting round to said rewatch (for example: I’ve owned Casablanca on Blu-ray since 2014). Brief thoughts on both (here and here, respectively) on Letterboxd.

It’s been even longer since I saw Runaway Jury. It’s not the kind of film I necessarily thought I’d ever rewatch — it’s good, I liked it, but not really exceptional — but sometimes you just get an itch. It was worthwhile, because I do love this kind of stuff: just a solid, well-played thriller. I guess it’s the province of TV rather than movies now, but there’s something to be said for wrapping it all up in one 120-minute hit rather than dragging it out for eight-to-thirteen hours.


The big news this month was the long-awaited release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League — direct to Sky Cinema / Now on this side of the pond, limiting most (legal) viewers to a relatively low quality stream. But hey, at least it was available as part of a subscription package rather than having to fork out £16 to rent one single film. Other “would’ve been in cinemas under normal circumstances” flicks that went down that route included Ammonite, Judas and the Black Messiah, The Little Things, Locked Down, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Tom and Jerry, and that’s why I’ve not seen any of them. Justice League, on the other hand, I just haven’t made room for its four-hour running time yet.

Other big streaming debuts this month included Coming 2 America, once slated for a cinema release but now an Amazon Original. I presume they paid a pretty penny for the privilege, given how mercilessly they were pushing it on their homepage. I’ve heard it’s quite good, which can’t also be said for their other debuts, The War with Grandpa and Made in Italy. Elsewhere, Netflix had Jennifer Garner vehicle Yes Day, while Apple TV+ offered the Russo brothers’ attempt to prove they can do more than MCU flicks, Cherry. I won’t be racing to watch either.

Also out to buy or rent this month, but at a more normal price point, was the Russian remake of The Raid, cannily titled Russian Raid; another DC flick, Wonder Woman 1984 (no 3D release in the UK (but there is one overseas) means no purchase from me); and a belated release for Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Plus, straddling the two price points, documentary Stray, about street dogs in Istanbul. Sounds like the kind of thing that would be ripe for misery and depression for a dog lover like myself, but apparently it isn’t at all, so I’ll give that a shot when it’s a bit cheaper.

Dozens more films made my watchlist across all the streamers this month (between regular subscriptions, discounted ones, and free services, I’m currently keeping an eye on six different services), but not a huge amount that merit special mention here. Well, maybe Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, which I blind bought on Blu-ray, haven’t watched yet, and is now streaming on Amazon Prime. Oh well. And, talking of Korean thrillers, iPlayer magicked up one I hadn’t heard of — The Gangster, the Cop, the Devil — that sounds up my street. Or that I really should catch Wild Tales before it leaves All 4 again. Or the fact that between Amazon and iPlayer I could catch up on two different versions of A Star Is Born (1937 and 1954, respectively), which would just leave the 1976 one. Or that Disney+ adding Star to their lineup is causing a dilemma for my viewing of the Die Hard films I’ve never seen: they have all the sequels in 4K, so now I have to choose between watching the Blu-rays I own and paid for, or plump for streaming in lovely UHD. I find this choice easy when it’s DVD vs HD streaming (the latter almost always looks noticeably better), but I find that sometimes a poor/mediocre UHD version (especially if they’ve been over-aggressive with the HDR, for example) is actually worse than the Blu-ray. Frankly, I probably won’t get round to watching any of them before I cancel my D+ subscription, so it’s a bit of a moot point.

We end, as always, with my insatiable habit of buying things on disc — always the true failures here, because it’s all stuff I’ve actively spent money on. Once again, sales tempted me — it feels like some label or another is always running one these days, usually several at once. So, I picked up piles from Indicator (90° in the Shade, The Odessa File, The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, The System, and Town on Trial), Network (Deadlier Than the Male, Some Girls Do, the 1928 Moulin Rouge, and Things to Come), HMV’s Premium Collection (kinda-noir Possessed and the 1932 Scarface), and a couple from the Criterion twofer that’s currently on (The Awful Truth and the 1936 Show Boat). I definitely intend to get more from the latter before the offer ends, but my wishlist is long (I could easily spend a couple of hundred quid on that alone). Plus, Arrow currently have a sale going too. Eesh. I also dropped a couple of quid each on The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel in 3D — I’m not a massive fan of those films, but they were actually shot in 3D and I’d like to see them in that form. I also nabbed The Meg in 3D for dirt cheap, but that one I thought that was a lot of fun.

And there were brand-new releases, too, all of them blind buys: animes Children of the Sea and Children Who Chase Lost Voices (aka Journey to Agartha); Fanny Lye Deliver’d, with an extended cut in 4K; the Lucky Stars trilogy of Jackie Chan / Sammo Hung action-comedies; and Russian horror Viy. As ever, my taste is nothing if not eclectic.


Later than usual, the Oscars are here (at almost the end of the month). So far I’ve seen precisely none of this year’s Best Picture nominees — let’s see how much that changes in the next four-and-a-half weeks…

But what is February, if not 2021 persevering?

WandaVision’s penultimate episode, and one particular quote from it, has been the talk of the town lately (or: the argument of the weekend on Twitter), but here we can set aside such concerns (I mean, I’ve got a whole post with a WandaVision review in it if you did want to get into it) and just look back at all the films I watched in February 2021…


#27 Weird Woman (1944)
#28 Coming to America (1988)
#29 The Burning Buddha Man (2013), aka Moeru butsuzô ningen
#30 High Life (2018)
#31 When the Wind Blows (1986)
#32 Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
#33 The Dig (2021)
#34 Isn’t It Romantic (2019)
#35 The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
#36 Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
#37 Tangerines (2013), aka Mandariinid
#38 The White Tiger (2021)
#39 Shakespeare in Love (1998)
#40 The Last Warning (1928)
#41 Mortal Kombat (1995)
#42 The Guilty (2018), aka Den skyldige
#43 The Quatermass Xperiment (1955)
#44 The House of Fear (1939)
#45 Muse: Simulation Theory (2020)
#46 News of the World (2020)
#47 The ’Burbs (1989)
#48 Xchange (2001)
#49 Vampyr (1932)
#50 Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
#51 Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), aka Shu Shan – Xin Shu shan jian ke
#52 Radioactive (2019)
#53 Frankenstein (1931)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The Last Warning

The Quatermass Xperiment

Frankenstein

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  • I watched 27 new feature films in February.
  • That puts it in the top 10 months of all time, in 10th place — the exact same feat January only just managed (so January is now pushed out to 11th, obv).
  • It’s the best February ever, topping 2014’s 24, and is far past the February average (previously 13.2, now 14.2), as well as the rolling average for the last 12 months (previously 23.2, now 23.9), and sets the average for 2021 so far at 26.5.
  • In terms of yearly milestones, I passed both #30 (the quarter-way point of my current 120-film goal) at the earliest time ever (4th February, beating 13th February in 2016), and #50 (the halfway point of my eponymous goal), also at the earliest ever (beating 2016’s 6th March). And #53 is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of February, surpassing #44 from (when else) 2016. (2016 wasn’t my best year ever, just a fast starter, so if I keep this up then at some point it’s going to be different year(s) that I’m passing.)
  • Last March I commented on how many letters of the alphabet I’d ticked off — seven in January, eight in February, nine in March. Of the two remaining, I never did get to X. Well, this year I’ve finished all 26 before the end of February. In fairness, that’s because I noticed how well I’d done in January — 15! — and made a point of finishing it off. But it’s also a side effect of watching so many films so much earlier. If I looked at other years up to around the 50-film mark, whenever that was reached, perhaps I’d find those too had hit most/all letters.
  • It’s not something I mention often, but as February began I was in the middle of watching or rewatching 23 film series. That’s quite a few — I certainly wasn’t looking to add any more to the list. But sometimes you just fancy watching a ’70s big-screen spin-off of a ’60s sci-fi TV series, or a big-screen remake of a ’50s British serial, or a classic Universal horror movie. And now I’m up to 26 series underway. (I track which I’m watching via the one I need to watch next on Letterboxd here, if you’re interested.)
  • This month’s Blindspot film: the classic Universal adaptation of Frankenstein. It’s only 70 minutes long, and I always try to save such shorter films on my list for later in the year, just in case for some reason I really need ones I can easily squeeze in; but sometimes you just have to accept that, although you don’t need a 70-minuter you can easily squeeze in, that’s all you want. Also, it paired quite nicely with The Last Warning, which (as I learnt from the audio commentary on the Masters of Cinema Blu-ray) was one of the films that was essentially the forebear to Universal’s famed horror cycle.
  • Talking of The Last Warning, at #44 is The House of Fear — not the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes film (I reviewed that here), but a remake of The Last Warning that used the title of the original novel (that was then reused for the Holmes film — Universal were terrible for that in the ’30s and ’40s, apparently).
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched The Dig, The Guilty, High Life, Weird Woman, and The White Tiger.



The 69th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
This month, I boldly went where I’ve never gone before and started the Star Trek movie series from the beginning. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has never had a particularly good rep, but you’ve gotta start at the start, right? So it was a pleasant surprise when I really enjoyed it — to the point where I gave it five stars and a heart-thing on Letterboxd. I nearly didn’t go so high, because Wrath of Khan is “the best one” and now I’ve got nowhere to go if I do like it even more; but I don’t think you can go around rating films on that basis (you’d never give anything full marks just in case there was ever anything better), so…

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This month ended on a bit of a downer, with a run of films that didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations. Nonetheless, they weren’t as outright bad as some I watched earlier in the month — like Mortal Kombat, which was supposedly a mid-’90s blockbuster but actually looked like a mid-’90s syndicated TV series, with writing, acting, and fight choreography of a similar or lesser quality.

Most Recent Best Picture Winner I Hadn’t Seen of the Month
Shakespeare in Love is the only Oscar Best Picture winner from the last 30 years that I hadn’t seen. Hurrah! Now that I’ve ticked that one off, my oldest unseen is 1988’s Rain Man, which is helpfully on this year’s Blindspot list. After that, I’ll slip back just one year further, to 1987’s The Last Emperor. Indeed, my track record with ’80s winners isn’t great: I’ve seen more from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s (plus, obviously, the ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s). Well, I’ll tick ’em all off someday.

Film Just Barely on the IMDb Top 250 of the Month
When I watched it, Tangerines was the 249th film on the IMDb Top 250. It’s not there now, but it might be again tomorrow — those ones near the end are very volatile; a handful of films that switch places back and forth, jumping on and off the list, on a regular basis. So why focus any viewing efforts there? After all, eventually they’re certain to drop off when something darts in higher up (even in a movie-poor year like 2020, two films made it onto the Top 250; there are eight from 2019). Well, I feel like once these movies do definitively drop off the list, they’re liable to become a bit forgotten. Not all of them, obviously — films in the “danger zone” like Three Colours Red or It Happened One Night have enough cache to keep them talked about for other reasons — but smaller, often foreign films like Tangerines are liable to just slip away. And, in theory, they’re still great films. I mean, they may disappear from the top 250, but they’re still theoretically among the top 260, or 275, or 300 (etc), greatest films ever made. But then they won’t be on a list, so I won’t think to watch them — so better to do it now, right?

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Although it only went live early yesterday evening, my 67th TV column still managed to storm past all last month’s film reviews to by February’s most-viewed post. (A distant second, with almost exactly half as many hits, was my review of Muse: Simulation Theory — which had also been on TV. Really, TV’s the game to be in if you want those page views.)



My Rewatchathon was right on pace this month, although that means I still have to catch up for last month’s shortfall.

#3 Frozen 3D (2013)
#4 The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), aka Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed
#5 Crocodile Dundee II (1988)
#6 Apollo 13 (1995)

In a rare (I think probably unique) feat, The Adventuress of Prince Achmed is both 2021’s #35 and Rewatchathon 2021’s #4. This isn’t just because I enjoyed it so much (although it is very good), but because the BFI Blu-ray has a choice of soundtracks: the original 1926 musical score, or an English voiceover narration, recorded in 2013 but based on director Lotte Reiniger’s own English translation of her original German text. I watched them in that order, and felt the narration added nothing of value to the experience, especially as it sounds like it comes from a preschool storybook. Just stick to the original music.

As for the others, I rewatched Frozen in readiness to finally watch Frozen II sometime soon (though I didn’t get round to it this month, did I). I hadn’t seen it in 3D before; the effect was solid but surprisingly low-key, although it took off anytime it snowed, etc. If you want some idea of when that “sometime soon” for the sequel might be, look to Crocodile Dundee II, which I’ve been meaning to watch since I enjoyed a rewatch of the first one… in March 2019. I’m sure I watched it as a kid (hence why it’s a rewatch), but I didn’t remember a second of it — probably because it’s a rather perfunctory sequel; kinda slow and lacking most of the charm of the original.

Finally, Apollo 13 completed a mini Tom Hanks kick, as I watched it immediately after News of the World and The ’Burbs. It’s a great movie — indeed, I had a little word with Letterboxd about how it’s not getting the kind of ratings it deserves.


At one point this month Twitter was all over new comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, but as a premium VOD release it’s £14 and I’m not paying that to rent anything, thanks. Also going straight to rental was the latest Nic Cage craziness, Willy’s Wonderland, although at a normal rental price. Mixed reviews put me off so far, though. I did rent David Byrne’s American Utopia (on offer from Amazon), so that’ll be in next month’s viewing, and I was going to fork out for the interesting-looking documentary A Glitch in the Matrix until I saw a raft of negative reactions.

The streamers continued to throw out brand-new exclusives, with Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie probably the most talked-about this month. It sounds irritating, to be honest, whereas Korean sci-fi Space Sweepers is probably more in my lane. Over on Amazon, Gerard Butler disaster flick Greenland, Rosamund Pike’s Golden Globe-winning I Care a Lot, and Bliss, starring Owen Wilson/Salma Hayek in a sci-fi romance from the writer/director of Another Earth, all made my watchlist but didn’t actually grab my viewing time. The same is true of teen time loop romcom The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, which feels a bit like a placeholder before Palm Springs‘ belated UK release in April.

Talking of stuff finally making it to the UK, Netflix added Josh Trank’s Capone this week, so that can go on my watchlist out of curiosity but never actually get got to because it’s meant to be rubbish. More in my lane, perhaps, is Cold War thriller The Catcher Was a Spy, which apparently came out in 2018, but not here in the UK, where it’s just popped up as an Amazon Original. Going even older, Netflix added a mass load of Swedish films this month, including three silents — Terje Vigen, Ingeborg Holm, and Herr Arnes Pengar — that are all in IMDb’s Top 50 for the 1910s, so that’s interesting. Meanwhile, Amazon added 2013 Jason Statham actioner Homefront, which came onto Netflix US last month and shot to #1, despite being a flop on its theatrical release. I do like a bit of Statham action now and then, and this one comes recommended, so it’s probably worth a shout at some point. Another discovery was The Grand Heist — the kind of film I only hear of when it randomly pops up on a streamer or whatever, this Korean flick appears to be a period Ocean’s 11 about stealing ice… literally, blocks of ice. Sounds like it might be fun.

My cheap MUBI subscription is still going, but even with a new title everyday they managed to add little this month that caught my interest — just Cathy Yan’s feature debut, Dead Pigs, and Ridley Scott’s Legend, which is usually on Amazon Prime anyway; plus a few titles I own on disc anyway (The African Queen, Heat, and The King of Comedy, the latter two of which I’ve seen but are long overdue a rewatch). This month’s BBC TV premiere of Stan & Ollie means that’s now on iPlayer, although it’s also still on Prime, where it’ll be in higher quality; and on All 4 I managed to miss my chance to watch Love, Simon (its spin-off series is now on Disney+ but not, apparently, the original film) and Song Kang-ho in A Taxi Driver.

Finally, my disc purchases continued unabated. There was the release of Indicator’s second Columbia Noir set — I haven’t started the first yet, so that’s 12 minor-league noirs for me to catch up on now. Other new releases included a lavish edition of Jackie Chan classic The Young Master, restored with a choice of three different cuts, and Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, with a choice of two cuts, only one restored. But it was sales and random discounts where people really got me: from Arrow’s 30th anniversary sale, I picked up The Apartment, Horror Express, and Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway; from a BFI offer at HMV, I scooped up the original British Gaslight, Penda’s Fen, Ian McKellen’s Richard III, That Sinking Feeling, The Wages of Fear, and their four-film Hirokazu Koreeda box set; and I also got Ken Russell’s The Devils on offer on DVD from elsewhere.

Physical media fans will surely have noticed that Zoom changed hands this week. The new owners haven’t got their version fully up and running yet, so it remains to be seen if they’ll ruin one of the best Blu-ray retailers there was. Just before they shut down, I managed to get in one final Criterion gift card order — if you missed it’s existence, sorry to tell you now, but they sold a Criterion gift card for £50 that allowed you four titles (from a selected list). That works out at £12.50 each, which was a bargain, and because it’s been a while since I looked they had plenty in their selection that I wanted. So I snaffled up The Age of Innocence, Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman, The Cranes Are Flying, and Three Outlaw Samurai, but I could’ve chosen another four easily, maybe even eight — if I’d known for sure Zoom-as-we-knew-it was going away, I might’ve put up the extra £50, but hey-ho.


It’s gonna be a monstrous March with Godzilla vs. Kong. Whoever wins, we win, I reckon.

The Past Month on TV #67

This month: real-life grief in HIV/AIDS drama It’s a Sin; superhero grief in WandaVision; and “good grief, what have they done to The West Wing?” in a charity special. Plus, more classic Twilight Zone.

It’s a Sin
It's a SinThe latest series from writer Russell T Davies is a story he’s been mulling for a long time — I seem to remember it first being mentioned in his book The Writer’s Tale, which chronicles his final couple of years on Doctor Who, over a decade ago now. It’s had a bumpy ride to the screen, with the pitch being rejected by several networks, and eventually the planned eight episodes being negotiated down to just five. If this were a lesser writer then you’d assume the concept must have some fundamental flaw(s), but perhaps it was just the subject matter that scared so many commissioners: it’s about the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, told from the perspective of a gang of mostly-gay twentysomethings who’ll see the disease rip their world to shreds. Not exactly a cheery topic, and one still affected by taboos and ignorance all these decades later. But that’s why this is a story that needed to be told, and here it’s safe in the hands of a master screenwriter.

That matters, because the series is balanced perfectly. You expect this story to be tragic and sad, and it is, but it’s also not some kind of misery-porn. It doesn’t hide from the devastating effects of the virus, but nor is it dwell on them unnecessarily. Nor does it sanctify the victims — they didn’t deserve what happened, but they’re human beings. Some of them deny its existence, even as evidence mounts. Some don’t take the proper precautions. Some are nice and sweet. Some are selfish. They’re human, and that’s the really important thing. Yes, this is a sad drama about young lives cut tragically short, and a condemnation of the cruel way some people (family, friends, colleagues, politicians) chose to handle that. But, more than that, it’s a celebration of those people whose lives were lost. The reason it’s so good, and so worthwhile, is because it never forgets that they weren’t just “people who got sick and died”, but people who lived.

WandaVision  Episodes 5–8
WandaVisionWandaVision had seemed to settle itself into a nice little groove in its first few episodes, each edition spoofing a different era of sitcom with an occasional hint at what was really going on, before episode four came along to blow that up with a raft of revelations about what had been happening outside Wanda’s little fantasy all this time. I was worried how the ensuing episodes would deal with that, as we’d been promised more eras of sitcom spoofery, but now the cat was kinda out of the bag. Well, thankfully it didn’t do the ’90s thing of following an arc-plot-heavy episode with a series of non-arc episodes that act almost as if the big developments didn’t happen. Instead, we got what I thought was a pretty nice balance between continued era-specific sitcom emulation and the exploration of what was actually going on. The latter meant sacrificing the mystery and some of the strangeness that helped those first few episodes feel so unlike anything the MCU has attempted before, but in its place we got the comforting familiarity of mystery box-style plotting. It’s certainly not as special, but it is engaging in its own way, and led to some nice surprises (Pietro) and unsurprising inevitable reveals (it was Agatha all along!)

Now, the stage is set for the finale. Many people have expressed surprise that the show will be able to wrap everything up in a single episode. We’ll see, but I have three thoughts on that. One, don’t discount the MCU’s ability to focus hard on plot and therefore cram an awful lot into a relatively short space of time. Two, there might be less to wrap up than we think — a lot of the pervading mystery is thanks to multitudinous fan theories, and the show has already suggested it might not be being as complex as some think. And three, we know Wanda will be a major part of Doctor Strange 2, so don’t write off the idea that this series will actually leave a lot open-ended for that movie to pick up on. It would be a shame if it did that too much, because it would render the whole series as little more than a backstory-expanding prequel to the movie, but I don’t for a second believe the finale will tie everything up in a neat bow only for Wanda to return afresh in Doctor Strange — the two will surely be connected. Only a few days until we get our first idea of how…

A West Wing Special  to Benefit When We All Vote
A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All VoteIt’s been a very long time since I watched any of The West Wing, and I never saw it in full, but I always meant to go back and watch the whole thing properly. I thought watching this one-off charity reunion thingy might ignite my interest in finally doing that. And, indeed, this did make me want to go back and rectify that — by, ironically, clearly not being as good as the show used to be.

I don’t know if this actually aired in the UK in the end, because it’s very much focused on getting Americans to vote in last November’s election. To achieve that, the original cast of The West Wing reunited to reenact a season three episode of the show, Hartsfield’s Landing, which is all about voting and democracy and stuff. The fact it was made in 2020 means it had to deal with COVID protocols, although that doesn’t really factor in the final result (some behind-the-scenes clips are thrown in to reassure us that they observed all the stuff they should observe) — I presume that performing it in an empty theatre with sparse props and scenery is more to do with evoking that “this is a one-off for charity” thing than a pandemic necessity.

Anyway, as for what I was alluding to in my opening paragraph, the direction and staging of this production are nicely done, but I think you can feel that the cast are no longer on well-practised form to deliver the snappy dialogue as it’s meant to be done, and some of the original episode’s B-plots struggle in this setting by being parts of arcs that were never meant to stand alone like this. Of course, the entire thing is really just an excuse on which to hang voting PSAs, which are delivered by some celeb cameos that are kinda fun… even if the entire point is (a) limited to the US, and (b) now expired. Though it does make for a surprisingly condensed and sad reminder of how the US has, despite its unwavering national self-belief, consistently failed to actually be an exemplar of how free and fair democratic elections should work.

More of  The Twilight Zone
This week has brought news that the Jordan Peele revival of Twilight Zone (the launch of which first provoked my visits to the original series back in March 2019) has been cancelled after two seasons. I haven’t started that version yet (I’ve been watching these ones!), but it seems a shame — it’s such an iconic show, you feel it should do well in any era. But we’re spoilt for choice with TV nowadays, and I don’t recall any real chatter around the release of season two, so this cancellation is hardly surprising.

What You NeedThat news aside, let’s return our gaze to the 1959–64 iteration of the programme. Having already reviewed many of the best and worst episodes of that original run, I’m now covering episodes that happened to pique my interest. First up this month, What You Need, which jumps straight onto my list of the series’ best episodes. It’s the story of a peddler who can provide people with the one small item that will be of invaluable use to them shortly, and the punter who wants to exploit this power. The episode has a nice balance of sweet whimsy and darkness; the length is perfectly paced for the half-hour; and, although it’s not got one of Twilight Zone‘s famous massive twists, the end is fitting and in-keeping. It’s nicely directed too, particularly the scene where the punter confronts the salesman in his apartment. An excellent episode that deserves to be better regarded.

Next is an episode that some do hold in high esteem, The Night of the Meek, which is effectively a Twilight Zone Christmas special — it originally aired on 23rd December 1960, and it certainly plays up to its airdate. It’s about a drunken department store Santa, adorned in a grubby costume and matted beard, who can’t even show up for work on time, but who nonetheless has more Christmas spirit at heart than any of the sober, responsible people he encounters. It’s a little bit twee and cheesy, but also kinda charming in that “only at Christmas” way. It’s a shame it was one of the half-dozen episodes shot on videotape, because it looks absolutely terrible and that emphasises the tackiness. If it looked slicker, it might come across a bit classier, and then it might earn the “you’ll want to watch it every Christmas” accolade that I feel should be the ultimate goal of any Christmas special or movie.

Person or Persons Unknown has a good setup: a man awakens after a drunken night out to discover no one remembers him and there’s no evidence he ever existed. It’s the kind of existential psychological horror that’s the fuel for many a good TZ tale, and it does play well for a while, but writer Charles Beaumont doesn’t have a proper ending to offer us, resorting to that most clichéd of cop-outs, “it was all a dream”. It’s a shame, but not exactly a surprise: the episode offers no clues about where it might be going or why this might be happening, so you begin to think Beaumont either has something very clever hidden up his sleeve or the reveal is going to be a tacked-on disappointment. Sadly, it’s the latter.

I Sing the Body ElectricFamed sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury’s only formal contribution to the series, I Sing the Body Electric, is another case of a great premise writing cheques the rest of the episode can’t cash. Here, rather than running out of steam, the places it takes us to are morally questionable and raise more questions than they answer. The plot is almost like a sci-fi twist on Mary Poppins: a widowed father is struggling to bring up his three kids, so they get a robot grandma, but one of the daughters doesn’t like her. It’s eventually revealed that the daughter’s distrust stems from the belief that her dead mother “ran away” and she thinks robot-granny will do the same — but it’s okay, because granny’s a robot and can live forever. Hurrah! Maybe your mileage will differ, but the idea that mothers who die have run away from their kids, or that this grief is best handled by giving the kid a parental figure who will never die, all seems a bit distasteful. And that’s before we get to the ending, where we learn that RoboGran’s consciousness will gather with others of her kind so they can share what they’ve learned. It’s spun as if this is somehow a good thing, but to me it sounds like a prequel to The Matrix

That good ol’ Twilight Zone staple of a man confused by his predicament arises again in Judgment Night, set aboard a passenger ship crossing the Atlantic during World War II. Maybe it’s just a coincidence of the visual style of 1960s US TV, but the way it’s shot feels very in-keeping with all those ’40s movies set on passenger ships, which helps make its setting feel authentic — if this had been made as a film in the ’40s, it would look exactly the same. Everyone aboard is concerned they’ll be sunk by a U-boat, with our protagonist particularly het up about the idea. Of course, we eventually learn why. The twist isn’t hugely surprising — it’s the kind of thing you expect from TZ and so can predict — but, like I’m finding of many episodes in this middle-ground between the series’ best and worst episodes, it’s a solid piece of work.

Also watched…
  • Dial M for Middlesbrough — The third in Gold’s annual series of comedy murder mysteries (after 2017’s Murder on the Blackpool Express and 2018’s Death on the Tyne) aired at Christmas 2019, but I’ve only just dug it out from the depths of the DVR. I thought it was the best one yet. It’s a kind of magnificent silliness, from the first murder (which involves impalement by a swing ball pole punctuated by a perfectly-chosen pop song on the soundtrack) to outlandish plot twists (a hidden Chicago hitman) to Jason Donovan chewing up all the scenery as a former love interest for one of our heroes (complete with flashbacks to 1999 that look ever so ’80s. I guess it takes pop culture a long time to make it up north…) I presume they had to sit out 2020 because of the pandemic, but I’d welcome another outing this Christmas, please.
  • For All Mankind Season 1 Episode 1 — Finally made a start on this Apple TV+ series (which is currently releasing its second season). Season 1 review next month.

    Next month… I’m gonna review For All Mankind — didja not just read that bit? Also the WandaVision finale, plus more of “More of The Twilight Zone”.

  • The Tenacious Monthly Review of January 2021

    Some people have decided that January is actually the 13th month of 2020, given how most of the woes of last year didn’t magically evaporate when our arbitrarily-appointed start-time for a “new year” rolled around. Funny that. It’s a nice idea — to think that we can write off this month by association with last year — but, the way things are going, I think if you want to carry that idea through you’re going to end up with a 2020 that has 17 or 18 or 19 months… perhaps even a full 24, who knows.

    So, back in the real world, the inevitable “second year of shittiness” that is 2021 began with January. Here’s what I watched during it…


    #1 Bill (2015)
    #2 WolfWalkers (2020)
    #3 Ernest & Celestine (2012), aka Ernest et Célestine
    #4 Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
    #5 Festen (1998), aka The Celebration
    #6 You Only Live Once (1937)
    #7 The Frighteners: Director’s Cut (1996)
    #7a Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)
    #8 Hotel Transylvania 3D (2012)
    #9 Wolf Warrior (2015), aka Zhan lang
    #10 Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo (2017)
    #11 One Night in Miami… (2020)
    #12 Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
    #13 Joint Security Area (2000), aka Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA
    #14 Calling Dr. Death (1943)
    #15 Under Siege (1992)
    #16 Who? (1974)
    #17 The Pinchcliffe Grand Prix (1975), aka Flåklypa Grand Prix
    #18 Blithe Spirit (2020)
    #19 Tower Heist (2011)
    #20 The Social Dilemma (2020)
    #21 3 Idiots (2009)
    #22 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
    #23 The Secret Garden (2020)
    #24 Cats (2019)
    #25 Sansho Dayu (1954), aka Sansho the Bailiff
    #26 Psycho Goreman (2020)
    WolfWalkers

    Joint Security Area

    Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    Psycho Goreman

    .


    • As should be self-evident, I watched 26 new feature films in January.
    • I used that exact wording for my opening note last year too, which I only discovered after I wrote the above sentence and then went to look up how I’d worded it last year. I guess you could call it consistency, or style, or something like that. “Unimaginatively repetitious” would be a less kind label…
    • Anyway, that tally actually edges January 2021 into my top 10 months ever, in 10th place. With 169 months in 100 Films history, that means it’s in my top 6% of months ever.
    • There are no other Januarys in the top 10 — which is another way of saying, this is my best January ever, beating 2016’s 21.
    • Naturally, that also means it obliterated the January average (previously 11.46, now 12.50), as well as toppling the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 22.0, now 23.2).
    • As you may also have already extrapolated, being my best-ever January means this is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of January. It’s also the earliest I’ve passed the quarter-way point of #25, beating 6th February in 2016. (Though these days I’m ‘officially’ aiming for 120 Films in a Year, which makes the quarter-way point #30.)
    • As we know from past experience, trying to use any month to make a prediction about the whole year is futile. But, just for fun, if I kept up this rate for the entire year, I’d make it to #312. Well, never say never…
    • Another achievement: I watched a new film on January 5th for the first time in recorded history (i.e. since 2009, at least). Regular readers will know I’ve been tracking these ‘missing dates’ and ticking them off for a few years now (since July 2017, to be precise), and now there’s just May 23rd outstanding.
    • One thing I didn’t do this month was post any reviews of the films I watched. That comes after a 2020 where I performed similarly poorly in that regard, averaging 1.6 reviews a month of films I’d watched that month (it was zero or one review in eight months of last year, with better tallies in April, June, July, and August bolstering the average). At this rate, the 100-week roundups in 2022 are going to be chocka (heck, the 2021 ones are going to be pretty busy).
    • With Calling Dr. Death (#14), the Inner Sanctum Mysteries joins the list of film series I’m in the middle of watching, which currently numbers 23. I’ve got a list of them on Letterboxd, if you’re interested.
    • This month’s Blindspot film: Kenji Mizoguchi’s gut-punching folklore drama, Sansho Dayu (aka Sansho the Bailiff).
    • From last month’s “failures” I only watched WolfWalkers.



    The 68th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Cartoon Saloon have produced several excellent movies, but WolfWalkers may be their best yet — gorgeously animated, an exciting adventure, with plenty of heart too. Such a shame it’s buried away on Apple TV+ where most people will never see it.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    Wholly predictably, it’s Cats. I mean, really, did you expect anything else?

    Worst Dinner Party of the Month
    Sure, the antics of the couple at the heart of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? may be famously uncomfortable and wild and weird, but that’s nothing on standing up at your father’s birthday meal to announce to dozens of assembled friends and family that… well, that would be a spoiler. Suffice to say, Festen’s got this one.

    Most Jingoistic Action Movie of the Month
    Joint Security Area may deconstruct and expose the futility of war and nationalism, but that’s hardly stopped other action movies indulging in it aplenty. Under Siege comes with the prerequisite praising of America’s military might, but the villains are its own agents gone rogue, so at least there’s some acknowledgement of their own (potential) flaws. Wolf Warrior, on the other hand, sometimes borders on propaganda piece… although the fact they feel the need to send basically their entire army to track down a handful of insurgent mercenaries isn’t actually the great advertisement someone might’ve thought it was…

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    Now, normally I’m quite strict about this category — which means that if, say, I post something on the last day of the month it basically stands no chance of making it, because it doesn’t have as much time to build up the hits. However, I published my review of Death to 2020 at 11pm on December 31st — having only a single hour to qualify for last month’s count seems a particularly unfair fate. So that’s why I’ve declared it this month’s winner, especially as it got more than four times the views of the ‘genuine winner’, my Christmas TV post. (Talking of “posts on the last day not doing well”, the TV column I posted yesterday afternoon amassed enough views in that short time to come a close-ish second/third, which just goes to show, um, something.)


    In case you missed them, I began January with my usual extensive multi-post review of the previous year…

    Now, as for actual film reviews…


    A new year means a new Rewatchathon, too. My goal of 50 rewatches means I need to average four a month, so this year isn’t off to the best start…

    #1 Happy Death Day (2017)
    #2 Crimson Tide (1995)

    I rewatched Happy Death Day immediately before its sequel (see #4 on the main list). Their shared “reliving the same day” conceit means the second film has a lot of references back to the first, so they work quite nicely as a double-bill.

    I’ve fancied rewatching Crimson Tide for a while, but it never seems to be available anywhere, so I gave in and bought it from Apple — it was only 50p dearer than renting it. Then they went and announced the Disney+ Star slate and it’s going to be on there. Oh well.


    With cinemas still shuttered here due to lockdown, it once again falls to streamers to provide the brand-new releases. Netflix are promising at least one original movie premiere every week throughout 2021 (with some 70-odd films coming in total). Once upon a time you would’ve assumed that was based on a technicality — i.e. lots of cheap made-for-TV-style filler to bolster the numbers — but, so far at least, they’ve been keeping the standard at a level of noteworthiness. For example, January’s offerings included the hard-hitting drama Pieces of a Woman, which comes with plenty of awards buzz; blockbuster-ish sci-fi action with Anthony ‘the Falcon’ Mackie in Outside the Wire; adaptations of bestselling books like The White Tiger and Penguin Bloom; and they even wheeled out that good old Brit-flick formula of quality actors + period setting in The Dig, with Carey Mulligan, Ralph Fiennes, and Lily James starring in a true story from the 1930s. Meanwhile, Amazon had Dave Franco’s directorial debut, The Rental. Not quite as high-profile a slate, eh.

    In terms of catalogue stuff, it was really the TV catch-up services that were catching my eye in January, including Korean Cold War spy thriller The Spy Gone North on iPlayer, alongside acclaimed sports doc Hoop Dreams, Beatles classic A Hard Day’s Night, and recommended gambling drama Mississippi Grind. Over on All 4, I missed some classics I’ve been meaning to see for years, like Animal Farm and Withnail & I, but still available (for a few weeks yet) are the likes of A Taxi Driver starring Song Kang-ho, and Danish crime thriller The Guilty, which is currently being remade for Netflix by Antoine Fuqua and Jake Gyllenhaal.

    Because I don’t have enough to watch as it is, this month I subscribed to MUBI. Okay, I have plenty to watch, but the offer of £1 for three months was hard to pass up — I mean, at that price, watch just one film and it was worth it. I’ve already watched a couple, but films on my watchlist for the remaining time of my cheap subscription include Bacurau, High Life, Paterson, Rocco and His Brothers, Transit, and… Showgirls. Yes, Showgirls is on MUBI.

    None of which stopped me from buying more stuff on disc, of course. In terms of brand-new releases, I’ve got The New Mutants in 4K, Arrow’s new edition of Southland Tales (including the longer Cannes cut), and the bells-and-whistles-less 4K reissue of Total Recall (the 1990 one, obviously), plus Eureka’s release of the Inner Sanctum Mysteries, which I have at least started (see #14). Watching JSA (#13) inspired me to plug some of the gaps in my Park Chan-wook collection, so I picked up I’m a Cyborg and Thirst nice and cheap; and Kind Hearts and Coronets (#12) prompted me to buy StudioCanal’s bells-and-whistles-full 4K edition of The Ladykillers. Finally, thanks to an HMV sale I continued to fill out my Ray Harryhausen collection with The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The Valley of Gwangi. Between those and the various Indicator box sets, I’m only a couple away from owning all his feature film work. Just need to watch some more of them now…


    Slightly belated UK releases for Promising Young Woman with Carey Mulligan, and Tom Hanks in Paul Greengrass’s News of the World. Hopefully I’ll have reviews of both.