The 100th Monthly Update for August 2018

It’s been over eight years now since I started charting my progress via monthly updates — the first was in May 2010. And that, as you may’ve guessed, makes this the 100th such monthly update. (Although this was the 140th month I’ve been doing 100 Films, so, er, it’s kind of meaningless and arbitrary, really…)

Anyway, to mark this special occasion I’ve… named this blog post after it. And… that’s it.

So, on to this month’s viewing!


#174 Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
#175 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
#176 Strangers on a Train (1951)
#177 A Quiet Place (2018)
#178 The Quiet Earth (1985)
#179 Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
#180 Christopher Robin (2018)
#181 Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965), aka Zatōichi jigoku-tabi
#182 Darkest Hour (2017)
#183 Ready Player One 3D (2018)
#184 Seoul Station (2016), aka Seoulyeok
#185 The Most Unknown (2018)
#186 Zorro (1975)
#187 The Elephant Man (1980)
Christopher Robin

Zorro

.


  • With 14 new films watched, August is the lowest month of 2018 so far.
  • Nonetheless, it beats the August average (previously 11.7, now 11.9). And though it falls short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (20.0), last August was even lower, so it still increases it (slightly) to 20.3. No such luck with my average for 2018 to date, though, which was previously 24.7 and is now 23.4.
  • But it’s only by recent standards that a total of 14 looks in any way poor. There’s no other year in which it would be the smallest month, and three years where it would’ve been the biggest. Plus, it would be an above-average tally for any month of the year except May, where it’d be bang on average. So, on an all-time scale, 14 is still good going.
  • In other good news, this month I passed 2017’s total to make 2018 my third best year ever. It will almost certainly reach second place next month. And I’d have to average just three films a month for the rest of the year for it not to become my best year ever. Well, let’s not jinx it…
  • It wasn’t a deliberate choice to watch A Quiet Place and The Quiet Earth back to back (though possibly a subconscious one, I guess). They’re the first (and second) films beginning with Q in this year’s viewing, and only the fifth and sixth in this blog’s lifetime.
  • And then I immediately followed those with a film beginning with “Z”, which would normally be quite rare (it was only my 13th ever “Z” film), but this year it really isn’t: it was my 7th this year alone, and by the end of the month I was up to my 9th.
  • While we’re on the topic, The Elephant Man is my first “E” film this year. It may be the most commonly used letter in the English language, but it’s a surprisingly rare one at the start of film titles.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Alfred Hitchcock’s murderous thriller Strangers on a Train.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film: the aforementioned The Elephant Man. Disappointed to discover it wasn’t David Lynch’s attempt at superheroes. (Not really.)



The 39th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
There are some well-regarded films in the list above, including a couple of Best Picture nominees, but nothing leaps out at me as a huge favourite — my short list for this award encompassed nine of the fourteen titles. On balance, I’m going to pick Christopher Robin. It’s definitely not the “best” film up there, but I love Pooh, and he’s on particularly good form in this film.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There were no films I outright disliked this month, but two flicks battle it out for the title of least whelming — both starring zombies. I expected very little of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I was surprised to find parts of it rather enjoyable. I still don’t think it was all it could’ve been, though. On the other end of the spectrum, there was a weight of expectation on a prequel to the magnificent Train to Busan, one which Seoul Station couldn’t live up to. It’s by no means a “bad film” though, and is certainly the best least-favourite film this year.

Podcast of the Month
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to listen to journalist Chris Hewitt chat with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie about Mission: Impossible – Fallout for 5 hours and 52 minutes on the two-part Empire Film Podcast Mission: Impossible – Fallout Spoiler Special. No, that’s not a typo: the interview (actually two interviews) lasts almost 6 hours. If that sounds like an OTT amount of time to discuss one film… well, I guess it would be for some. But McQuarrie is an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, and honest interviewee, and the insights he shares about the process of making Fallout, a big-budget entertainment-focused summer blockbuster, are fascinating for die hard Mission fans, or, indeed, anyone interested in behind-the-scenes details of filmmaking. He gets pretty candid at times too. I guess Paramount okayed it, but it feels more revealing than you normally hear during a film’s press cycle — including what really went on during the saga of Henry Cavill’s moustache and the Justice League reshoots. (If you just want to hear that, it’s in the final 15 minutes of part one.)

Best Swashing of Buckles of the Month
Really, this is just an excuse to highlight the 1975 version of Zorro starring Alain Delon. It’s a Spaghetti Western cum swashbuckler, an actioner cum comedy, with very much the same kind of tone as Richard Lester’s Three Musketeers. It’s a lot of fun, and I think rather underrated. If you’re interested, it’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK (but not in the US, I’m afraid. Don’t know about elsewhere, or other providers).

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Despite only appearing on Thursday, my 37th TV column stormed up the charts, taking under 36 hours to pass presumed victor Christopher Robin (which had two whole weeks to amass its hit count) to bag this month’s crown. I thought this would be due to referrals from IMDb seeking my Disenchantment review, but the stats show it’s more thanks to referrals seeking Magic for Humans. Well, there you go.



Sadly, I fell slightly behind target with my Rewatchathon viewing this month. I only missed one, though, so that should be easily caught up.

This month, by coincidence, they’re all spy thrillers in long-running series…

#30 Skyfall (2012)
#31 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
#32 The Hunt for Red October (1990)

The big news here is Mission: Impossible – Fallout, because it’s the first film I’ve seen twice at the cinema since Watchmen back in 2009. It’s a superb film that I would’ve considered seeing twice anyway, but it was sealed by getting the chance to see it in IMAX, where it did look incredible. (For the record, and for anyone who cares, it was only “LieMAX”, but still, looked great.) I would have quite liked the chance to see it in 3D too, especially as there doesn’t seem to be a Blu-ray release scheduled for that, but hey-ho.

Much like Never Say Never Again last month, I only watched Skyfall because I happened to see it was on ITV2. This time I was flicking and came upon it a little way in. Normally I wouldn’t watch a film under those circumstances, but I had nothing better to do and it’s so good that I became engrossed, eventually watching it through to the end. So, technically, this isn’t a full viewing, but I did watch the vast majority of it. According to my records, I’ve only seen it twice before, the last time being five-and-a-half years ago in February 2013. Even though I’m counting this, I feel like I should do it again properly sometime soon.

Finally, The Hunt for Red October is a film I remembered liking but, well, that’s about all I remembered. I’ve been meaning to re-watch it for many years, and I recently bought the Blu-ray so I could do just that — and, having checked my records, it turns out “recently” here means “three-and-a-half years ago”. I’m a lost cause, people… And I didn’t decide to finally get round to it because the latest reboot of the character came out yesterday. Well, not consciously, but I do keep seeing posters for the series around, and I have been quite looking forward to it, so that may have exerted a subconscious pull.


So, August was quite a slow month, both in viewing and review-posting, because I was away from home for a fair chunk of time in the middle. I’d hoped to catch up some on my ludicrous review backlog during that time, but that didn’t happen. Not even a little bit. And the reason I’m mentioning this now, in the “next month” section, is that the rest of my year is shaping up to be pretty busy with non-film stuff too, which is likely to mean a continued reduction in viewing and blog-writing. Only time will tell just how that pans out.

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The Past Month on TV #37

Another later-than-usual TV review, because my TV viewing was affected by the same stuff that’s seen my post count plummet this month, as well as kept this month’s film numbers down (more on that on Saturday). Consequently, I waited until I’d actually watched enough TV to make this post somewhat worthwhile…

Although, despite what I said in last month’s “next month”, I still haven’t watched Lost in Space. Maybe next month (but don’t count on it).

Disenchantment  Season 1
DisenchantmentThe first new series from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening in almost 20 years, Disenchantment is a riff on the fantasy genre. It follows the misadventures of Princess Bean of Dreamland, a rebellious sort who prefers to sneak out of the castle and get drunk in the pub than… well, do anything else. In the first episode, she and we are introduced to her personal demon, Luci, and Elfo, an elf who has left his happy-clappy kingdom to explore the misery of the wider world. This trio form the heart of the show, though naturally there’s a wider ensemble to help fuel storylines.

You may’ve heard the series has come in for a bit of a drubbing from critics, which I’m not sure is wholly fair. It’s not the most consistently funny show, with background gags sometimes providing bigger laughs than the main stories or situations, but it raises chuckles with decent regularity. It’s also not the most original concoction on TV, with some familiar characters and relationships, just grafted onto a fantasy setting. Although at least it has the good sense to create its own fantasy world, rather than being a direct spoof of, say, a certain other show that has brought the genre widespread attention. Whether it’s set in a fully-realised world or one the writers are creating on the fly, I’m not sure, but there’s a lot of room left to explore.

But even if it’s not hilarious or groundbreaking, the first season builds up a nice little rhythm as it goes along. The weakest episodes are undoubtedly the first few, which are somewhat swamped under setup. After a few standalone stories in the middle — which vary in quality from some of the season’s best instalments to, well, not — things begin to come together for a highly serialised run at the end, which finds a use for many disparate bits from those standalone episodes, and all culminates in a cliffhanger. Fortunately, Netflix’s original commission was for twice as many episodes as are in this first run, so we’re guaranteed a second batch. This serialisation works better for a streaming show than completely standalone episodes, although Disenchantment thankfully doesn’t lose sight of being consumable in episode-sized bites.

So, while it may take most of the season to truly warm to the characters and for the series to find its groove, it does get there, and suggests brighter things in the future. Whether it will ever attain the cult following enjoyed by Groening’s other series is arguably a long-shot (can lightning strike thrice?), but it has potential.

Hang Ups  Series 1 Episodes 1-3
Hang UpsLoosely based on the US series Web Therapy, this new sitcom stars Stephen Mangan as Richard Pitt, a therapist offering his services over the internet. The filming style (each client only appears for a few minutes per episode, popping up now and again throughout the series, always via webcam) allowed them to attract a rather phenomenal supporting cast, including the likes of David Bradley, Charles Dance, Celia Imrie, Richard E. Grant, and David Tennant. The way each episode pingpongs around the various clients and Richard’s many, many personal problems (his marriage, his kids, his parents, his siblings, his bank balance) makes for a whip-crack pace that has pros and cons — each episode seems to disappear in a flash, having at once both dashed through some plot and also gone nowhere. Partly this is the result of an abundance of characters — some of the clients are basically one-off sketches, which is fine, but the regulars’ stories can only advance in small increments. I’m left wondering if it might’ve actually worked better with less going on. Still, the quality cast means characters do get rounded out speedily, and when it works it can be pretty funny.

Also watched…
  • The Comedy Lineup Season 1 Episodes 2,5,8 — Netflix’s series of 15-minute standup sets from up-and-coming comics. Naturally, that means the quality is varied. I only watched a semi-random sampling, and some were very good and some were pretty weak. A new batch of episodes is released tomorrow.
  • Magic for Humans Season 1 Episodes 1-3 — I love a good magic show, and this Netflix series is definitely a contender. Magician Justin Willman’s cheeky-chappy persona may grate with some viewers, but his tricks — a mix of hip variations on old standards and wonder-inducing new stunts — are dazzlingly effective.
  • Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema Episodes 3-5 — So good (see my review from last month) that they’ve decided to keep it on iPlayer for a whole year. No word on a second series, as far as I’m aware, but fingers crossed.

    Things to Catch Up On
    BodyguardThis month, I have mostly been missing Bodyguard, the new BBC One thriller from Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio that premiered with a two-day double-bill last weekend. It seemed to go down well, based on the ratings and what I saw on Twitter (while avoiding spoilers!) As usual, I intend to wait until the whole series has aired (or most of it, at least) and then whisk through the lot.

    Next month… everyone’s least favourite Marvel Netflix show returns. But there’s a new showrunner and a lower episode count, so fingers crossed Iron Fist feels worth the 10-hour investment this time.

  • The Mission: Obviously Possible Monthly Update for July 2018

    Dun dun dun-dun-dundun, dun-dun-dundun, dun-dun-dundun, dun-dun… duh-duh-duuun… duh-duh-duuun… duh-duh-duuun… duhdun!

    It just makes you want to go jump out of a plane or something, doesn’t it? Sadly, I think I’d be less Tom Cruise, more James Corden.


    #146 Batman Ninja (2018)
    #147 Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
    #148 Blade of the Immortal (2017), aka Mugen no jûnin
    #149 Red Sparrow (2018)
    #150 True Romance (1993)
    #151 RoboCop (2014)
    #152 Rocky IV (1985)
    #152a Rocky VI (1986), aka Rock’y
    #153 What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
    #154 Cash on Demand (1961)
    #155 Despicable Me 2 3D (2013)
    #156 Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018), aka Gojira: Kessen Kidō Zōshoku Toshi
    #157 Zatoichi and the Doomed Man (1965), aka Zatôichi sakate-giri
    #158 Free Enterprise (1998)
    #158a Friends, Romans and Leo (1917)
    #158b Little Red Riding Hood (1917)
    #158c Quaint Provincetown (1917)
    #158d Microscopic Pond Life (1915)
    #159 Kidnapped (1917)
    #160 Iron Monkey (1993), aka Siu nin Wong Fei Hung chi: Tit ma lau
    #161 Superman III (1983)
    #162 The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1988)
    #163 The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
    #164 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
    #165 Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    #166 Wind River (2017)
    #167 The LEGO Ninjago Movie 3D (2017)
    #168 Body of Lies (2008)
    #169 I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death (1969), aka Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino
    #170 The Garden of Words (2013), aka Koto no ha no niwa
    #171 The Secret in Their Eyes (2009), aka El secreto de sus ojos
    #172 Paul (Extended Edition) (2011)
    #173 The Way of the Gun (2000)
    Muppet Treasure Island

    Free Enterprise

    The Navigator

    Mission: Impossible - Fallout

    Full Metal Jacket

    .


    Firstly, as usual, stats and numbers…

    • With 28 new feature films watched, July kept up 2018’s run of supersize months — in fact, it’s not only the third best month of the year, but also the fourth best of all time.
    • It’s my 50th consecutive month with 10+ films. It’s also my 6th consecutive month with 20+ films, extending that record-breaking run. It leaves just November and December as the only months that have never reached 20+ films.
    • It’s by far my highest July ever, the previous best being last year’s 17, and is so far beyond the monthly average of 8.1 that it’s dragged it up almost two whole films to 9.9.
    • Continuing with averages, it also surpasses the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 19.1, now exactly 20) and the average for 2018 to date (previously 24.2, now 24.7).
    • On the 17th I reached the landmark of being 100 films ahead of target. That’s the first time I’ve been 100 ahead since the end of 2015, when I was there for all of three days (29th-31st December) — and that was the only other time I’ve been 100 ahead. As it stands, I end the month a whopping 115 films ahead of where I ‘should’ be by this point.
    • Less auspiciously, this month my backlog of unreviewed films also surpassed 100 titles for the first time. Eesh.
    • Back to brighter news: as I continue to keep track of dates on which I’ve never seen a film (see the last bullet point in Viewing Notes here for background on that), this month I watched films on both the 16th and 19th to reduce the remaining list by a third. Still to come this year: September 2nd and December 22nd.

    Now for something actually about the films themselves…

    • This month’s Blindspot film: plugging a gap in my viewing of both Quentin Tarantino’s and Tony Scott’s filmographies, the Tarantino-written Scott-directed True Romance, which plays exactly like a movie written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: plugging a gap in my viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s filmography, as I tend to do about once a year, Full Metal Jacket, which was one of my favourite Kubricks.
    • Somewhat relatedly: Argentinian Oscar-winning thriller The Secret in Their Eyes was a strong contender for one of those must-watch lists this year, but didn’t make it for reasons I forget. I sort of figured it’d be on a list next year. Not anymore, obviously.
    • Finally, earlier this week I posted my Train to Busan review semi-randomly (it was the last review left from 2017 and I wanted those done), only to later discover its UK TV premiere is this Friday. The “likes to make reviews tie into things” part of my brain was not impressed.



    The 38th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Tom Cruise learnt to fly a helicopter, performed 106 skydives, and broke his ankle just to entertain us. And by golly, it worked. Some favourites are not a choice — this just is Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    There were a few mediocre options to choose between here, though. While there were definite flaws in certain unnecessary remakes and sequels among this month’s viewing (have a scan through the list above and I’m sure you can pick out the films I mean), the closest any film came to the cardinal sin of boring me was Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle.

    Most Played Soundtrack of the Month
    As much as I love the Mission: Impossible music (and, having now listened to the soundtrack in full, Lorne Balfe’s score for Fallout is better than I gave it credit for in my review), the soundtrack I’ve most often had on loop this month is Muppet Treasure Island, which has an array of superbly piratical songs (including a scene-stealing turn from Tim Curry), as well as a proto-Pirates of the Caribbean score from Hans Zimmer.

    Most Impressive Spy of the Month
    Oh sure, Ethan Hunt can do all those amazing physical feats, but can he be a pasty white guy wandering around Iraq looking for terrorists and somehow not stand out like a sore thumb to the locals, hm? No, that’s apparently Leo’s special skill as Roger Ferris in Body of Lies.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    I reviewed two new releases this month: direct-to-Netflix anime sequel Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle, and highly anticipated cinematic blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Guess which review got the most hits. Yes, as you’ve probably correctly predicted from the way I’m making this point, it was Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle. Well, I can tell you exactly why that happened: my most-viewed posts are always ones that get a lot of referrals from IMDb, and, despite submitting my Fallout review as soon as I published it on Thursday morning, for some reason they didn’t add it until Monday afternoon, after the pre-release and opening weekend interest had passed. It ended up coming third, behind a very different spy movie, Red Sparrow.


    After a concerted effort, this month I finally finished publishing reviews of my 2017 viewing. Now I’ve just got all those 2018 ones to catch up…


    This month I am mainly rewatching Films That Precede Sequels That Are In Cinemas Now.

    Well, I say “mainly” — from a UK perspective, technically it only applies to two of these…

    #25 Galaxy Quest (1999)
    #26 Never Say Never Again (1983)
    #27 The Incredibles (2004)
    #28 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)
    #29 Ant-Man 3D (2015)

    I’ve been meaning to watch Never Say Never Again, er, again for yonks — I last saw it as a kid and, really, didn’t remember it very well. I happened to catch it starting one night on ITV4 HD and thought, well, why not now? Turns out, it’s not all that bad. I mean, it’s not great, but it was a passably entertaining off-brand Bond film. There are probably some Roger Moore films I’d rank below it — if it counted for such rankings, which it doesn’t. I’ll give it the “Guide To” treatment at some point.

    I bought (and last watched) the special edition DVD of The Incredibles when it first came out in 2005, but I’ve never upgraded it because Disney have given it short shrift over here: first an extras-starved Blu-ray, now no UHD release even scheduled. It was long overdue that I revisit the film (as I said, it’s been 13 years), especially with the sequel coming out (in July here, hence why I wasn’t wittering about this last month), but I didn’t want to watch it in SD. I ended up stumbling across a UHD copy by… “other means”. So, yeah: screw you, Disney — I can’t say I feel too guilty about freely acquiring a film I’ve already bought and they’ve not bothered to treat right on this side of the pond since DVD.

    Anyway, it’s a truly exceptional film — I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to rewatch it, and I wish I had more often. It’s certainly in my top four Pixar movies, alongside the Toy Story trilogy. Plus, I definitely made the right call skipping SD: it looks fantastic in higher definition; almost too good, the crispness showing up the age of the CG animation. Whether there’s an appreciable difference between its HD and UHD versions, I couldn’t say. Based on the comparisons at Caps-a-holic, there’s a slight difference in colour and sometimes in very, very fine detail, but the regular Blu-ray seems to hold its own.

    Finally, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. It’s clearly the best of the first five Missions. Obviously, you’re allowed to have a different opinion. But you’d be incorrect. It’s basically a perfect spy/action movie, and anyone who tries to say otherwise is just wrong.


    I suppose summer, with all its picnics and barbecues and whatnot, is the most appropriate time to release a movie about an ant and a wasp…

    The Past Month on TV #36

    There are schizophrenic superheroes, deconstructed movie genres, Italian thefts, and even some ball-kicking competitions in this month’s TV review…

    Legion  Season 1
    Legion season 1The first live-action X-Men TV series is only tangentially connected to either the movies (there are a couple of vague nods) or even the original comic books (apparently the title character is the only thing taken from them), but instead creator Noah Hawley (the man behind the Fargo TV series) has been allowed free rein to do as he pleases. Turns out that’s a massive mindfuck; a series that’s focused on atmosphere over narrative coherence, full of crazy visuals and abstruse plotting. If you’re thinking, “that sounds a bit Lynchian,” then yes, this is probably the nearest thing we’ll ever get to a David Lynch version of the X-Men.

    That’s not just a pithy comment, for two reasons. Firstly, although the series is based around the character of David Haller (Dan Stevens), an exceptionally powerful mutant, by the end of the first episode he’s joined up with a team who are based at an educational facility that teaches mutants how to use their powers, in part so they can fight for their rights against humans who want to oppress them. For those not in the know, that’s more or less the overarching plot of the main X-Men series. Secondly, it’s not just that “this looks a bit weird, let’s reference David Lynch” — the series has a Lynchian attentiveness to dream-like sequences and visuals to convey meaning, and an awareness of the importance of sound design to create an effect or atmosphere. Unlike Lynch, there are some answers to be found; and while they’re often still very weird, at least there’s definite satisfaction in them.

    I watched the eight episodes of the first season over eight days, which I have mixed feelings about. As ever, it makes it easier to connect up the dots of the plot; on the other hand, the show’s style comes so out of leftfield, maybe it would work better spread out at a traditional pace, offering a little hour-long oasis of weirdness in your week. The second season has already concluded, so I’ll have to decide before I approach that one.

    When that will be, I’m not sure. I bought this first season on Blu-ray, so I’d like to do the same for the second, but there’s no sign of a release being scheduled yet. Hopefully this won’t be one of those series that never gets a complete disc release — that happens every so often (and I believe Legion’s network, FX, are regular culprits) but it never pleases anyone.

    Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema  Episodes 1-2
    Mark Kermode's Secrets of CinemaMark Kermode is our guide for this BBC Four documentary series that seeks to expose the inner workings of movie genres and what makes them so effective. Co-written by Kermode and encyclopaedically knowledgeable movie guru Kim Newman, the series certainly has the chops to take on such a task. Focusing on one genre per episode, it makes an interesting choice to start with romcoms — a massively and enduringly popular type of movie, unquestionably, but one that’s often ignored by serious film analysis. That makes it the perfect choice for a series such as this, because, as the episode makes clear, the whole point of the genre is to do something very, very hard (produce a funny movie with loveable characters) and make it look easy (and when they succeed, that’s why it gets ignored!) As insightful as the first edition was, I preferred the second one, focusing on heist movies, though that’s purely because it’s a genre I’m more disposed toward.

    Kermode’s teachings are illustrated with superb graphics (the 3D realisation of each film’s timeline is fantastic), examples drawn from the entire history of cinema (the heist episode takes in everything from 1903’s The Great Train Robbery to last month’s Ocean’s Eight), and throws in a few pleasantly unexpected curveballs too (John Carpenter’s The Fly is a romcom? Half-forgotten black-Vietnam-vet drama Dead Presidents is an archetypal heist movie?)

    Future editions will focus on science fiction, horror, and coming of age films. Of course, there are considerably more than five movie genres — maybe if we’re really lucky there’ll be more series in the future…

    Lupin the 3rd: Part IV  Episodes 1-5
    Lupin the 3rd: Part IVAs I mentioned when I reviewed The Secret of Mamo, this is the first main Lupin III series to receive a release in the UK (spin-off The Woman Called Fujiko Mine was released back in 2013. I’ve still not watched it). Part IV, also known as The Italian Adventure, sees Lupin and co in, you guessed it, Italy, where the master thief and lothario is, much to everyone’s surprise, getting married. Naturally, he’s got another plan up his sleeve. It’s the first of many, as these early episodes are mostly standalone adventures; but with Lupin’s thievery attracting the attention of shadowy MI6 agent Nix, there are hints of a bigger story to come. So far it feels somewhat lacking compared to the two Lupin III movies I’ve seen, but it’s still quite fun.

    Also watched…
  • 2018 World Cup — I’m not much of a sports fan, and even when I am it’s not the ball-kicking tournament that floats my boat, but even I got a little swept up in the England hype… for all of two-and-a-half games, anyway. We won the first (hooray!), lost the second (boo!), and the third-place play-off was so mind-numbingly dull that I spent most of the first half updating my database with that week’s Blu-ray purchases, then wandered off entirely before the second. So that’s that.
  • Doctor Who Series 11 Trailers — You wait ages for a Doctor Who trailer to come along, and then you get two in a week. Well, maybe it’s something to do with time travel. Neither the World Cup-themed teaser nor fast-cut clip-fest proper trailer gave us too many details on what to expect from the forthcoming series, but it’s enticing nonetheless.

    Things to Catch Up On
    Picnic at Hanging RockThis month, I have mostly been missing Picnic at Hanging Rock, the new adaptation of Joan Lindsay’s novel (perhaps better known from Peter Weir’s 1975 film adaptation), which is currently halfway through airing here in the UK. It looks up my street, so I intend to binge it at some point. Also, Keeping Faith, the BBC Wales drama that was such a hit on iPlayer they’re finally giving it a run on BBC One proper. Oh, and the third series of Unforgotten is also partway through, and they’ve gone and revived The Bletchley Circle too. Who says summer is a quiet time for TV?

    Next month… I’m intending to finally get lost in Netflix’s space.

  • The Header-Image-Forthcoming Monthly Update for June 2018

    I’ve been an unexpectedly busy bee today, so I’ve only just finished putting together June’s monthly progress report this evening, without yet embarking on the header image — which take a surprisingly long time to create, so I’ll do that tomorrow.

    [Edit: That lasted for five hours (during which the front page looked like this, fact fans) before I finished the usual style of header image. Much prettier.]

    Anyway, here’s all the exciting lists and facts and stuff:


    #125 The Post (2017)
    #126 Power Rangers (2017)
    #127 Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
    #128 Superman II (1980)
    #129 A Monster Calls (2016)
    #130 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), aka Kaze no tani no Naushika
    #131 Rocky II (1979)
    #132 Shrek Forever After (2010)
    #133 Doubt (2008)
    #134 Gaslight (1944)
    #135 Zatoichi’s Revenge (1965), aka Zatôichi nidan-giri
    #136 The Florida Project (2017)
    #137 A Thousand and One Nights (1969), aka Senya ichiya monogatari
    #138 Rocky III (1982)
    #139 Sanjuro (1962), aka Tsubaki Sanjûrô
    #140 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
    #141 Swingers (1996)
    #142 Amadeus: Director’s Cut (1984/2002)
    #143 If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death (1968), aka Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte
    #144 Becoming Bond (2017)
    #145 Dudes & Dragons (2015), aka Dragon Warriors
    Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

    A Monster Calls

    Sanjuro

    .


    • I watched 21 new films this month. A step down from the last couple, but by any other measure a very good month indeed — that puts it in the top 10% of all months in 100 Films history. Some of those other measures follow…
    • For starters, it’s the best June ever, easily passing 2015’s 16 to become the first June with 20+ films. Only July, November, and December now haven’t had a 20+ month.
    • That’s the fifth month in a row with 20+ films, a new record. The previous best was four (obviously) from January to April 2016.
    • It also more than doubles the June average of 9.5, pulling it up to 10.5. That leaves just July and August with all-time averages below 10.
    • It passes the rolling average of the last 12 months too (previously 18.5, now 19.1), but not the average for 2018 to date (previously 24.8, now 24.2).
    • Plus, as mentioned last month, I watched a film on June 29th, leaving just half-a-dozen dates on which I’ve ‘never’ watched a film.
    • This month’s Blindspot film: Hayao Miyazaki’s environmentalist sci-fi Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which I liked, but not as much as the thematically-similar Princess Mononoke.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: epic music biopic Amadeus, which, again, I liked, but not as much as everyone else seems to.
    • This month I finally achieved my first Platinum Award on iCheckMovies — that’s the level you get when you complete a list. The list in question was IMDb’s Sci-Fi one, which I finished off by watching Stalker last month and Nausicaa this month. That means I have now seen the 50 greatest sci-fi movies of all time… according to IMDb voters.
    • Because I don’t already have enough film series on the go, this month I added a couple more — namely, the Animerama trilogy and the Sartana series of spaghetti Westerns. Both came out on Blu-ray this month and I thought for once I ought to make an effort to actually watch stuff I was buying.



    The 37th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Plenty of strong films this month, including multiple Best Picture nominees and winners, but my personal favourite was a sequel. Kneel before… no, not Zod (I’m afraid to say I found Superman II a disappointment), but Sanjuro, Akira Kurosawa’s entertaining follow-up to Yojimbo. (And if you want my pick of all those Best Pics, Three Billboards is a close runner-up for this category.)

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    I’ve never been a fan of the Power Rangers franchise, but the reboot had some degree of promise with its Chronicle-esque setup. It doesn’t deliver, though: it takes too long for the superheroic-type stuff to turn up, and when it does it’s a cheesy cheap-CGI mess.

    Most Initially Irritating But Then Surprisingly Addictive Song of the Month
    This month’s comical earworms have included Rock Me Amadeus (sadly not included on Amadeus’s soundtrack) and Fanfare Ciocarlia’s version of the James Bond theme (which plays over Becoming Bond’s end credits). But the song I keep coming back to is Holiday Road by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac fame. It’s only two minutes long, which felt like forever when it played during Vacation’s opening credits, but now I can’t stop listening to it.

    Best Title of the Month
    I’ll come clean with you, dear reader: half the reason I bought Arrow’s Sartana box set was because the film’s titles are so good. If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death is, literally, just the start.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    I guess I haven’t been the most interesting blogger this month: the hit count for June was my lowest since November, and some 23% less than the average for the rest of 2018. Ah well. However, one post that wasn’t so afflicted was this month’s winner, whose view count within the month is second only to Avengers: Infinity War’s straight-into-my-all-time-top-ten tally from April. Said winner was my 34th TV review, which covered The Americans season 6, a few midseason episodes of Westworld, a bit of Archer, and the Car Share finale. (In a very, very, very distant second place was The Snowman.)



    This month: a superhero movie that’s a bit like James Bond, a spy actioner that wishes it was James Bond, and a James Bond that’s a bit like James Bond but many people wish was proper James Bond.

    #21 Black Panther 3D (2018)
    #22 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
    #23 What We Did on Our Holiday (2014)
    #24 On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

    I enjoyed Black Panther just as much on a rewatch. The 3D is quite mild, with only occasional moments or scenes that pop, but it was worth it for the scenes in the IMAX ratio, which often come with the appropriate grandeur. When they enter Wakanda for the first time and the image smoothly enlarges from 2.39:1 to 1.90:1… gorgeous.

    Ghost Protocol remains a great action blockbuster. Previously I’d always thought the “different directors bring a different style” ethos of the M:I movies went out the window from M:i:III onwards, but, rewatching them all, I’m getting a much better feel for the stylistic differences between Abrams, Bird, and McQuarrie’s contributions. And talking of IMAX ratios on Blu-ray, I’m still cross at Bird for not including them here. The forthcoming Fallout will also have scenes with an expanded aspect ratio for IMAX screenings, and McQuarrie recently stated on Twitter that he intends for those to be retained on the Blu-ray. Fingers crossed.

    Finally, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the first Bond film I’ve watched since seeing Spectre at the cinema, almost three years ago now! And the last one before that was a rewatch of Skyfall in February 2013, almost five-and-a-half years ago. Wow. Seems it’s long overdue that I reengage with a franchise that I love — and a Blu-ray boxset that’s 68% unwatched. In that respect, you could argue OHMSS resumes a chronological rewatch that I started in October 2012 and left off in January 2013, but I’m not sure five-and-a-half years counts as “a pause”, really.


    “Your mission, should you choose to accept it — I wonder, did you ever choose not to?”

    The Past Month on TV #35

    In this month’s TV review: wah gwaan in Luke Cage season two, and “what’s going on?!” in Westworld’s finale.

    Luke Cage  Season 2
    Luke Cage season 2The ninth season of the MCU on Netflix takes us back to Harlem for the continuing adventures of the eponymous bulletproof black man. It’s hard to imagine a more timely superhero for America (maybe if he was an immigrant too), not that the series’ is actually all that concerned with such issues, aside from passing nods and references. Instead, it’s more of a gangster crime drama: the still-standing season one villains, underworld power couple Mariah and Shades, intend to go legit by selling their illegal gun business, using the profits to invest in social projects for Mariah’s beloved Harlem. Standing in their way is Bushmaster, a superpowered patois-speaking Jamaican gang leader, who has a long-held grudge against Mariah’s family — and he’s come for retribution.

    This focus on the conflicts between the villains has led some critics to reckon that Luke Cage has been sidelined in his own show. That’s true to an extent: because we’re privy to Mariah, Shades, and Bushmaster cooking up and executing their separate schemes, Luke is left to kind of wander around, trying to figure out stuff we already know. At the very least, the series is as interested in its villains as in its heroes — I reckon if you totted it up, Luke and Marian’s screentime would be pretty comparable. On the bright side, this is a very character-driven season — it’s as concerned with who these people are and how they’re changed by events, rather than just the mechanics of the plot — and Luke is certainly no exception. For one, his estranged father is in town — a superbly nuanced turn from the late Reg E. Carney (who the season is dedicated to, appropriately), which lends a different perspective again.

    Plus, picking up and running with a theme from the first season, Luke is now famous as “Harlem’s hero”, but this is going to his head a bit, negatively affecting his relationship with Claire. The series does a good job of reflecting the celebrity status of superheroes, something the other Marvel films and series haven’t really touched on. If these events were even vaguely real, there’s no way Luke Cage could hang out in Harlem without being noticed. So now there’s an app to track his whereabouts, merchandise, sponsorship offers, his actions make headlines, and wealthy fans are willing to pay for him to make personal appearances. Luke espouses an ambivalent relationship to all this: he’d rather it wasn’t happening, but it does have its uses — and those prove seductive.

    Rulers of HarlemMike Colter remains a likeable lead, but, again, it’s a villain who steals the show: as Mariah, the brilliant Alfre Woodard is perhaps the best thing about the whole series. Her performance is consistently fantastic, selling every twist and turn of character the writers throw at her. The season is as much about what events do to her as it is about Luke. She isn’t entirely alone, though: there are plenty of great performances, and scenes to showcase them, throughout the season. Occasionally there are some really bloody terrible ones though, like the time detective Misty Knight and her captain argue loudly about a shared secret while they’re in a room full of other cops. Is that bad writing, bad acting, bad direction, or all of the above?

    And sometimes the good stuff is spread a bit thin. There are points, especially midseason, where it feels so goddamn slow. Or maybe not slow, but long. Episodes seem to just keep going. One is called On and On, like some kind of joke at our expense. This is the case with so many of these streaming shows, though — most of them need more plot and/or tighter storytelling. I guess part of the problem is the 13-episode diktat, which presumably the showrunners have no say over. It’d be better if they could make the season the length it needed to be, rather than spin wheels to make it last as long as it has to. That said, most Luke Cage episodes use the full hour “time slot”, and a couple run over it, so if maybe they’ve kind of reclaimed the padding…

    Talking of other shows, the last time we saw Luke Cage in Luke Cage he was headed off to jail, but he starts this season free as a bird. Oh, and another major character is missing an arm. MCU fans will know that, since the last season, The Defenders happened, in which we saw these major changes to these characters’ status quo. There are vague nods at explaining some of that for anyone who skipped the team-up miniseries, but, really, it assumes you’ve watched it; and that ‘issue’ crops up again later in the season, with a couple of guest appearances by characters from Iron Fist. If you’re not interested in any of the other Marvel/Netflix series and don’t want to invest eight hours to find out a couple of linking story points (because The Defenders’ main plot has nothing to do with Luke Cage’s storylines), then maybe you need to read a plot summary on Wikipedia or something.

    Heroes for hireThe flip side to all that is that this interconnectedness will perhaps be comic book fans’ favourite thing about the show — the way it casually references other series, or suddenly brings their characters in for a guest spot, is just like how comic books operate. It’s pretty constant too: barely an episode goes by without a significant reference to or cameo appearance by someone from another Marvel/Netflix show; and these aren’t all mere Easter eggs, but sometimes quite important or vital pieces of plot or character development.

    For all its variability, Luke Cage finds its groove as the season goes on, and the final few episodes feel like an improvement (though I’d still contend they’re longer than they need to be). It all builds to a finale that feels almost low-key — I mean, there’s war on the streets and a lot of minor characters die, but that’s almost incidental, because it’s all about the characters, their relationships to each other, and how those find (or fail to find) closure. No spoilers, but it ends in a really intriguing place for season three. That’s not been officially commissioned yet, but surely it’s inevitable. It’ll be interesting to see where they take things next.

    Westworld  Season 2 Episodes 8-10
    Riding into the sunset (metaphorically)And so Westworld’s sophomore run rides into the sunset, and I think it’s left behind more questions than answers.

    When the show’s first season finally came to expose its secrets, there was a lot of oohing and ahhing — the twists and reveals, whether you’d guessed them or not, retroactively made a lot of sense, and suggested a good deal of cleverness on the part of the writers. Season two’s finale, on the other hand, seems to have been met with a collective “…huh?” Even plenty of people who enjoyed it confess to not understanding everything that was going on, while others have just given up at this point.

    Personally, I’m somewhere in between. There’s a lot to like and admire about the closing hours of season two, not least the production values: the show looks fantastic, and the acting is top notch. But I won’t dismiss the argument that the writers have disappeared up their collective arse, because there’s a lot of tricksiness and jiggery-pokery going on here that is sometimes hard to unravel — a stark contrast to the end of season one, I think, which managed to make the games it had been playing clear. Perhaps in their bid to outwit Reddit users, Westworld’s second season seems to have been jumping through hoops merely to be cleverer than its viewers, and I’m not sure that’s paid off.

    Dark DoloresExhibit A is the “Hale was Dolores all along” revelation. It’s a neat twist, almost up to season one levels, were it not undermined by the season’s own structure: Hale hasn’t been Dolores all along, and the muddled timelines make it hard to recall how many scenes we’ve had with “Halelores” (as the writers apparently dubbed her). In fact, one of the ways they hid her in plain sight was to limit her screen time: apparently she only popped up in episodes three and seven. Those scenes are littered with subtle clues to her identity, however, though I guess the Redditors missed them — probably because they couldn’t keep track of which timeline we were in either.

    There’s so much else going on here that I don’t even know which bits to pick out. I guess that’s part of the problem: with so many conclusions saved up until the finale and then all stuffed in at once, there’s just too much to digest and process in one almighty hit. One of my long-held suspicions has definitely been confirmed though: despite the plot of the series’ movie inspiration, co-creator Jonathan Nolan isn’t really interested in making a thriller about a robot rebellion at a technologically-advanced theme park, but instead has set out to make Person of Interest 2.0, for good or ill. That’s only going to become more apparent next season, I think, which is set to leave the titular park behind entirely. It’ll be interesting to see how many viewers it takes along with it…

    Things to Catch Up On
    Preacher season 3This month, I have mostly been missing Preacher’s third season, which started this week. Well, I only watched the first two episodes of season two in the end, so I’m very far behind. There’s also another Marvel TV series, Cloak & Dagger (which is passingly referenced in Luke Cage, apparently). That’s releasing new episodes weekly (on Amazon Prime this side of the pond). So many of these weekly shows I now wait to be complete before I binge them, but then I don’t get round to it (cf. Star Trek: Discovery, Black Lightning, etc). Finally, I happened to spot there had been a French sci-fi series called Missions on BBC Four, just before it disappeared from iPlayer, so now I’ve got all of that downloaded too.

    Next month… you know, I have no idea. I know it’s the summer, but there must be something coming up? Maybe I’ll finally take the chance to dig into my massive backlog.

    The Past Trisennight on TV #34

    With the series finale of The Americans on UK TV tonight (at 12:05am on ITV4), I thought I’d bring my monthly TV review forward a bit and share my thoughts on the final season of a series that, for those of us who found it, will be sorely missed.

    Plus! The latest episodes of Westworld — much more widely discussed than The Americans, but does it deserve the attention? And quick thoughts on the end of Archer Vice and another series finale, that of Peter Kay’s Car Share.

    The Americans  Season 6
    “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

    The Americans season 6That song was released in 1987, the same year as the final season of The Americans is set. The show has typically avoided featuring well-known music in favour of cult favourites and obscurities, but R.E.M.’s classic would’ve been an appropriate number to hear during one of the series’ trademark music montages in the finale. (That said, it did contain both Dire Straits and U2, so they weren’t above using big hits.) Maybe it would’ve been a bit on the nose, but it certainly was applicable: it was the end of the world as the characters knew it, and so too for fans, as six incredible seasons came to a final end. But do we feel fine? That depends how you define “fine”. The show will be missed terribly, but goddamn if it didn’t stick the landing to cement itself as one of the greatest TV series ever made.

    It all began with a good setup for a concluding season: finally, after years of disagreements about their jobs and their personal lives and how both should be handled, the world conspired to pit the Jennings directly — and secretly — against each other. The Americans isn’t usually so overt in its plotting, so it’s no surprise that the scenario doesn’t play out as a straightforward spy-vs-spy battle. But it certainly tests the lead characters both professionally and personally, and to an extent they haven’t been before, forcing them to question every one of their loyalties: to their employers, to their country, to their friends, to their family, and to each other. To say too much about how it unfolds would be a spoiler, obviously, but it has some clever ways of challenging even the characters’ most deeply-held beliefs.

    Most spy-based TV shows ratchet up the scale or stakes season after season — I’m thinking of Spooks, where in season two they spent a whole episode debating the ethics of performing an assassination, but a couple of years later that was just routine first-act stuff; or 24, where season one was just about someone trying to assassinate a presidential candidate, but by season four it was about multiple coordinated attacks including bombing trains, kidnappings, melting nuclear power stations, shooting down Air Force One, a nuclear missile strike… The Americans has, if anything, gone in the opposite direction: there’s still spy stuff there, of course, and it’s as grounded as ever, but it’s increasingly taken a backseat to the characters’ relationships. Maybe this is just a matter of perspective, but I felt that in earlier seasons the spy stuff was the focus, No ordinary marriageegiven texture or sometimes affected by the relationships, whereas by this point the relative importance and impact seems reversed. I guess you could still enjoy it as “just a spy show”, but I don’t think you’d want to — the stuff you’re invested in has shifted. That was always the programme’s genius, of course: it’s not about spies who happen to be married, it’s about marriage through the prism of people who are spies.

    For a while it almost doesn’t feel like the end (the season opener even begins with a montage set to Don’t Dream It’s Over), but then comes episode five, The Great Patriotic War, and suddenly years of stuff is brought to a head: the status quo and people’s values are flipped, then re-flipped; there are massive changes and developments — but all managed with The Americans’ usual understated believability. As the fallout begins in episode six, Rififi, you can’t tell where it’s going to go. It keeps the focus squarely on Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship, as if we could ever forget the show is, at heart, all about that, not the big spy stuff. The season isn’t just engrossing on a thriller-ish “will they get caught?” level, but also on an emotional “will they stay together?” one. A bit part of this is the performances by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys, both of whom are so, so good — the subtleties and nuances of their performances, and the way the series trusts them to convey what’s needed with just silence at times, is phenomenal. That they haven’t received more recognition for their work here is a crime against television.

    The penultimate episode, Jennings, Elizabeth, is where things really begin to come to a head, and Jesus, the tension! It’s hair-raising. It’s intense. It leaves your nerves shattered, not just during the programme but after it too. I’m glad I saved the season up to watch on consecutive days, because I don’t know how I’d’ve spent a week with that hanging over me. And as for the finale, somewhat ironically titled START… I’ve been worried about how they’d end the show basically since it started. I spent that last hour covered in goosebumps and with my heart in my throat, and it was kinda perfect. It didn’t give me everything I wanted, but perhaps it gave me all that I needed. The garage sceneAs a commenter on the A.V. Club’s review put it, “I have to say it is of greatest compliment that the show both wrapped up the story and left me wanting more. It felt equal measure satisfying and gut wrenching.” That’s exactly how I felt. Also, it contained what I have no qualms about calling one of the greatest scenes in TV history: just a handful of characters talking in a garage, and it was absolutely stunning, the true culmination of the entirety of the show.

    If you haven’t been watching The Americans (and viewing figures suggest you probably weren’t) then do yourself a favour and rectify that at some point — a 75-episode masterpiece awaits. Without doubt, one of the greatest TV series ever made.

    Westworld  Season 2 Episodes 5-7
    Shogun WorldI wrote last time about how Westworld season one took a few episodes to warm up but eventually got me completely hooked. Season two is so far failing to pull the same trick — over half the season has felt like it’s still just getting underway to me. And then, in the blink of an eye, episode seven, Les Écorchés, catapults us from “just getting started” to “endgame” over the course of an hour. I’m not sure how I feel about all that. There’s some exciting and interesting ideas in the mix here, but what also feels like a bit of flailing around. Maybe it’s all in aid of a Big Surprise? Season one certainly had a few of those in its final episodes — they were the most talked-about part of the show in the end, I’d wager — so I assume they’re going to end up shooting for the same.

    One thing they’ve definitely copied from that freshman run is the multiple timelines. Back then it was a secret, and it ultimately paid off, but now it’s out in the open, and I’m not sure what it’s for. I mean, there are some very basic uses in play — “how does Character X get from that situation in the past to this situation in the present?”, “where have half the cast gone between the past and now?” — but that seems a bit… facile. As I say, I hope they’ve got some surprise to pull out of their sleeve — something to do with how the hosts struggle to differentiate between memories and current events, perhaps — but it’s a long time coming…

    Also watched…
  • Archer Season 5 Episodes 6-13 — While the change-of-setup idea seemed interesting at first, I’m not sure how much I actually liked Archer Vice overall. There were some good episodes, plus sundry character bits and lines, etc, but the cumulative level of enjoyment was less than I remember from previous seasons. Equally, it’s been four years since I last watched the show — maybe I’d just moved on? Well, I’ll continue on to season six anyway, especially as I believe that returns to the original spy-agency setting.
  • Car Share The Finale — A much-needed conclusion after series two’s cliffhanger (did they really think that was ever going to wash as a final ending?) It gave us the happy ending most people wanted (I saw a handful of dissenting voices on Twitter), and, even more impressively, managed to do so without sacrificing the series’ two-people-chatting-in-a-car format. It was pretty darn hilarious, too. If they ever want to do more I won’t complain, but it’s fine to leave it there this time, thanks.

    Things to Catch Up On
    A Very English ScandalThis month, I have mostly been missing A Very English Scandal, the Russell T Davies-penned drama about the real-life case of a ’60s politician and his secret homosexual lover. It seems to have gone down exceptionally well, and anything by RTD is always worth watching. Other than that, it feels like there’s a bunch of stuff on streaming I’ve been meaning to get round to and still haven’t. That list would keep us here all day, though.

    Next month… the MCU’s other black superhero returns to Netflix.

  • The Doozy of a Monthly Update for May 2018

    There’s a lot to say about this rather special May, so let’s just crack on with it.


    #91 Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)
    #92 Phantasm (1979)
    #93 Laura (1944)
    #94 ManHunt (2017)
    #95 Anon (2018)
    #96 Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)
    #97 Trekkies (1997)
    #98 Trekkies 2 (2004)
    #99 FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992)
    #100 Stalker (1979)
    #101 Shrek the Third (2007)
    #102 The Hangover Part III (2013)
    #103 Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D (1991/2017)
    #104 Jigsaw (2017)
    #105 Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)
    #106 O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
    #107 Inferno 3D (1953)
    #108 Adventures of Zatoichi (1964), aka Zatôichi sekisho-yaburi
    #109 Coco 3D (2017)
    #110 The Pixar Story (2007)
    #111 Game Night (2018)
    #112 Lupin the Third: The Secret of Mamo (1978), aka Rupan Sansei: Rupan tai Kurōn
    #113 Live by Night (2016)
    #114 Christine (2016)
    #115 The Wild Bunch (1969)
    #115a The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage (1996)
    #116 Allied (2016)
    #117 Colossal (2016)
    #118 It (2017)
    #119 Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
    #120 Deadpool 2 (2018)
    #121 All the Money in the World (2017)
    #122 Finding Dory 3D (2016)
    #123 The Warriors (1979)
    #124 American Made (2017)
    Laura

    Game Night

    Lupin the Third: The Secret of Mamo

    Deadpool 2

    The Warriors

    .


    • S’funny: it happened three weeks ago, so this is old news to me now, but this is officially an “I reached #100!” update.
    • Speaking of it being “old news”… the previous record for the earliest I’d made it to #100 was 28th May in 2016. At the end of March I very much doubted I’d even be close to that this year. But, come the end of April, I would’ve been disappointed if I didn’t smash that record. And I did, reaching #100 on 10th May.
    • This is the 10th year I’ve made it to my eponymous goal, out of 12 attempts. All the viewing I did beyond #100 means 2018 is already my 6th best year.

    That’s enough about #100 — how about the usual monthly perspective?

    • Well, May 2018’s total was 34 films. That surpasses the record set just last month to become my New. Best. Month. Ever!
    • Obviously that means it’s the best May ever, but it’s also the first time May has featured 20+ films (the previous best was 16).
    • Never mind 20+ — what about 30+? This is only the third month ever to cross that milestone, and the first time there have been two back to back.
    • Oh, and it maintains my ten-per-month minimum for the 48th month — four solid years. My longest run before this was seven months.
    • Naturally, this kind of behaviour smashes averages. May’s increases from exactly 12 to exactly 14. The rolling average of the last 12 months also shoots up by nearly two whole films, from 16.8 to 18.6. And the average for 2018 so far goes up even more than that, from an already-high 22.5 to a whopping 24.8. If that average were to continue, it would be remarkable: only four months in the history of 100 Films — i.e. 2.9% of months — would meet or surpass that figure.
    • Despite watching more films than there were days in the month, I managed to miss seeing one on May 23rd, which is one of the seven remaining dates on which I’ve ‘never’ watched a film (as first mentioned in July 2017’s update). The ball is now in June’s court to get that figure down to a nice round half-dozen.

    Whew, enough numbers! Here’s some stuff about the actual films…

    • I rewatched The Terminator back in December because T2 3D was hitting Blu-ray that same month and I hadn’t seen either film for years. Well, five months later, I finally (re)watched said sequel.
    • Even worse, I rewatched Finding Nemo back in July 2017 to remind myself what happened in it before I watched Finding Dory. Ten months later, I’ve finally watched that sequel.
    • This month’s Blindspot film: Sam Peckinpah’s bloody, quick-cut Western The Wild Bunch. Controversial for both those reasons on its release back in the ’60s, by golly if it isn’t still striking for them today!
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: Andrei Tarkovsky’s acclaimed sci-fi mystery Stalker. It’s slower than his Solaris and I didn’t like it as much, but it did make me want to watch that again. Maybe I’ll pick it up in the current Criterion UK sale…



    The 36th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Well, this is tricky — so many films, so much choice. At the risk of sounding like I’m picking a runner-up, I really, really enjoyed Game Night and will give it a glowing review sometime near the UK home ent release, but I’ll probably give it four stars. Nonetheless, I guess it would’ve been the winner here if I hadn’t watched The Warriors last night, which I loved and will give the full five.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    Fortunately, this was a bit easier. While there were some underwhelming films this month, the only one I outright disliked was Phantasm. On the bright side, I watched it because the series’ Blu-ray box set was on offer and I was considering a purchase (I had the first film recorded off TV), so it saved me something like £36.

    Best Animated Film of the Month
    I watched seven animated films this month, which seems enough to warrant its own category. Two of them were Pixar films, both of which I enjoyed. Two more were American computer animations, which provoked a more mixed reaction. Another two were traditionally animated movies, both of which I enjoyed more than I expected to. But the victor is the last one: the barmy and kind of brilliant anime Lupin the Third: The Secret of Mamo.

    Bonkers Sex Scene of the Month
    Much to everyone’s relief, they chose to delete the infamous preteen orgy from It, which for all kinds of reasons is perhaps the all-time champion of this category. Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard getting it on in the middle of a sandstorm seemed to provoke a lot of comment too, but that doesn’t quite beat the accidental weightlessness of having sex with a pilot midflight in American Made. Supposedly the scene was inspired by director Doug Liman bumping into star Tom Cruise while they were flying together. Well, what happens in the air stays in… the movie, apparently.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    Maybe if I’d seen Deadpool 2 or Solo sooner, and reviewed them similarly fast, this might be a different story, but, for the second time this year, the view count is topped by my monthly TV column. (In second place was underrated Netflix/Sky Cinema original Anon.)



    My Rewatchathon continues at pace:

    #17 Superman (Expanded Edition) (1978/2000)
    #18 Deadpool (2016)
    #19 Mission: Impossible III (2006)
    #20 Dick Tracy (1990)

    I know this is already a pretty long update, but I have thoughts on almost all of these…

    This was the first time I’ve watched Superman for… decades, probably. It’s definitely the first time I’ve seen the “expanded” cut, but as it’s only eight minutes longer and mostly small extensions I didn’t give it a new number. Two of its longer scenes are very good additions, though, so it’s a worthwhile cut of the film. The even-longer TV version (over three hours!), a full print of which was discovered in Warners’ vault and released on US Blu-ray last year, is reportedly too long, slowing the pace to a crawl with unnecessary asides. I’ve sometimes thought about importing it for completism’s sake, but I doubt I’ll bother.

    When I reviewed Deadpool two years ago, I gave it a full 5 stars. That was rounded up from a 4.5 because of how much fun I had. Even then, I predicted it might not hold up so well to rewatches. Well, I was right. Not that I now think it’s bad, but without the refreshing novelty you get on a first viewing, I thought it was more of a solid 4.

    M:i:III will be the subject of a “Guide To” post nearer the release of Fallout. I considered giving Dick Tracy the same treatment, but I’m not sure I can be bothered. I watched it when I was very young and I think I liked it — I remember having some kind of tie-in book that I enjoyed a lot. The film used to have a bad rep, but apparently has undergone some kind of reevaluation recently. I’m not sure it’s merited. Some things are great — the production design and cinematography are incredible, hyper-stylised in a way that almost looks a couple of decades ahead of its time — but others aren’t, like the disjointed story, or the Danny Elfman score that seems to have been recycled from Batman off-cuts.


    Life, uh, finds a way (again) on the big screen… and not much else, as UK release dates start getting bumped for the sodding World Cup.

    On the small screen, catching up with last year’s Oscar nominees: The Post and Three Billboards finally came out on UK DVD & Blu-ray last week, and Darkest Hour (not The Darkest Hour) is out on Monday, though we still have to wait until the 25th for The Shape of Water, three-and-a-half months after the US. What is this, the ’90s?

    The Past Month on TV #33

    There’s much to see in this month’s packed overview, including a pair of BBC miniseries (as promised last month), a couple of comedies, the camp joy of Eurovision, and the return of Westworld. Plus, a word about the bloodbath that was the recent US renewal/cancellation season.

    The City and the City
    The City and the CityThe first screen adaptation of a novel by acclaimed British sci-fi/fantasy author China Miéville, The City & the City is a police procedural set in the unique location of twin cities Besźel and Ul Qoma, which occupy the same geographical space but inhabitants (and visitors) are forbidden from seeing the city they’re not in. When I first heard the pitch I assumed it was a Doctor Who-y sci-fi thing — that the cities were slightly out of step in time or something, and literally existed in the exact same space. Instead, they’re side by side, sometimes overlapping — there are places where the left-hand side of a road is in Besźel, the right-hand side in Ul Qoma. Residents are trained from birth not to see the other city. Apparently it’s partly an analogy for how we mentally block out unsavoury things in our own cities, but that doesn’t really come across in the screen adaptation, which is more focused on the murder mystery and its implications — it’s connected to a mythical third city, Orciny. In this respect it reminded me of Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49: our hero ends up investigating a very-secret, potentially dangerous organisation that may or may not exist, and whether or not they find it… well…

    This production makes for a dense, demanding drama, throwing you in at the deep end with all sorts of terms and jargon that treats the world as real, challenging you to keep up and work it all out as it goes. There’s no hand-holding here. I guess that explains its low ratings on IMDb and the raft of “people were, like, totes confused by David Morrissey’s new drama!” articles that accompanied its airing. In terms of what it is “about”, the visual style very much evokes ’80s Soviet countries in Besźel, with secret police and dated, rundown cars and gloomy yellow-brown palette; while Ul Qoma is characterised by blues, glass and steel, LCD screens — a modern metropolis, but with different kinds of oppression. It’s very timely in its depiction of far-right nationalist groups being ascendent vs those seeking unification and tolerance being crushed — I wonder if that’s why it got made now, or if it’s just a fortunate coincidence.

    Not everyone’s going to get on with The City and the City’s challenges, but there’s something here for those prepared to attempt the trip. Put it this way: after it finished, I popped on Amazon and ordered the book.

    Ordeal by Innocence
    Ordeal by InnocenceThe BBC’s latest Agatha Christie adaptation finally reached our screens after a delay for extensive reshoots (to remove a cast member accused of sexual misconduct, not on this production). It’s a grim tale of abuse and, of course, murder, but classy work by director Sandra Goldbacher kept it more in the tone of the Beeb’s excellent And Then There Were None and away from the dirge of their Witness for the Prosecution. It’s buoyed further by strong work from a star-studded ensemble cast — there are many names here who could (and, indeed, do) headline their own series or movie. (Nothing against Luke Treadaway, who’s very good, but why he’s in the key art (pictured right) when they could’ve included, say, Alice Eve, Eleanor Tomlinson, or Matthew Goode, I don’t know.)

    I’m only really familiar with Christie from screen adaptations, but it seems to me her rep for writing fundamentally-lightweight game-like murder mysteries comes from her ‘series’ — the books starring Poirot, Miss Marple, and Tommy and Tuppence — because her other work seems to be serious and quite dark. Maybe that’s just the route these recent adaptations have gone down, I don’t know, but it certainly differentiates them from the jolly tone of the next-most-recent Christie adaptations (2015’s Partners in Crime and ITV’s Marple, which ended in 2013). Though they also adapted Ordeal by Innocence as an episode of Marple back in 2007, so what do I know?

    Westworld  Season 2 Episodes 1-4
    Westworld season 2Last month I wrote a mostly praise-filled review of Westworld’s first season, but if I’d been reviewing it in smaller chunks then my comments on the first four episodes would’ve been very, very different — I know, because after episode four I happened to draft a paragraph about how, while it wasn’t bad, it was kind of a slog (most of that paragraph survived into my published review, actually). I’ve been trying to bear that in mind as season two gets underway, because once again it exhibits flashes of greatness amid a feeling that it’s really going nowhere fast. But in season one this was the setup phase, introducing characters and places and concepts and threads that would begin to come together and pay dividends as their purpose was revealed in the season’s second half. Hopefully they’re playing a similar game here. Equally, I hope they haven’t overcooked it — Westworld became notorious for the it-was-under-your-nose-the-whole-time reveals it pulled in the final few episodes, and if they’re trying to do that again but without as good a set of ideas, well, we’re all just going to be disappointed.

    Episodes  Season 5
    Episodes season 5A whole seven months after its US airing (and nearly three years since we saw the last series), the final run of this UK-made UK/US-coproduced sitcom finally reached British screens (a far cry from the days when that took less than 24 hours). Originally about a pair of UK sitcom writers struggling to remake their successful British series for the US market, Episodes is fairly removed from that format at this point — it’s just about the characters now, and mainly their trials and tribulations with each other rather than the whims of the US network TV system.

    I’m not sure that this was the funniest season, but at this point it seemed mainly concerned with wrapping up the lives of its characters, at least as far as we’re concerned (I mean, it didn’t kill them all off or something). So, unsurprisingly, the final season isn’t a great jumping-on point, as it mainly continues and resolves storylines and relationships hanging over from previous seasons. The final instalment even indulges in a series of time jumps to get us to an endpoint that is so predictable (but not unpleasant) that I reckon writers David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik probably had it planned from the outset. Whether all that time-hopping was economical storytelling or because they didn’t leave themselves enough episodes to let it play out in full, you be the judge. Anyway, Episodes at its best was almost sneakily great, and remains very good to the end.

    Eurovision Song Contest  Lisbon 2018
    Eurovision 2018There was drama to spare at this year’s Eurovision. Firstly, China were banned from showing it due to messing around with the semi-final broadcast (they censored tattoos, homosexual dancing, and Pride flags); then, on the big night itself, the jury voting was neck-and-neck right to the final country… before being completely upended when the public votes were added.

    But most talked about of all was a stage invasion halfway through the UK’s performance. In case you didn’t see it, a protestor ran on stage, grabbed the mic off the singer, tried to blurt out a message of some kind, before being hustled off stage, and then our act carried on with the rest of the song. Everyone was duly impressed by her fortitude, the UK’s odds of winning surged… and then we did crap in the voting anyway, because the rest of Europe still hates us. They also hate Russia, as evidenced by the crowd once again booing the nation for merely appearing during the voting. Apparently they’ve no such problems with Israel, though — their song may’ve had a popular feminist message, but it was also mired in accusations of cultural appropriation, and then there’s the whole Palestine thing too. We’ll see how much handwringing there is about that this time next year…

    Across it all was Graham Norton’s sassy commentary, which is the one benefit of being a UK Eurovision fan. Here are some of his best bits from this year — my favourite was #27.

    Also watched…
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3 Episodes 18-20 — First it was cancelled, and I thought, “well, at least being two seasons behind means I’ve got plenty of episodes left for now.” Then it was uncancelled, and I thought, “noice.”
  • Car Share Unscripted — A special all-improvised edition of the commuting-based sitcom, which proves that, if your characters are likeable enough, just hanging out with them for half-an-hour is all you need. Next month: the series finale.
  • Friday Night Dinner Series 5 Episode 1 — Another great sitcom! I’m a couple of episodes behind, though. I was reading the other day about someone who caught up by bingeing nine episodes in one go. I can believe that.
  • Lucifer Season 2 Episodes 11-18 — Well, at least being a season behind means I’ve got a fair few episodes left for now, but I’m still disappointed it’s been nixed.
  • Not Going Out Series 9 Episodes 5-7 — I still like Not Going Out, but I feel like it’s not as funny as it used to be, too often getting involved in over-complicated plots rather than just being the gag machine it once was. Maybe that’s rose-tinted glasses for earlier episodes; maybe Lee Mack’s struggling for ideas after nine whole series — who can say?

    Cancellation season
    Brooklyn Nine-Nine — the most important cop show. Ever.Cancellation season has been and, I think, gone in the US, and this year was a particularly bloody one. The big news as far as Twitter was concerned was Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which caused such a ruckus that multiple other networks were interested and it found a new home within 24 hours. Lucifer also caused a bit of a stir, though there’s no sign of hope for that yet. Similarly afflicted were Designated Survivor (which was decently addictive enough that I binged through season one in just ten days and have been holding back on season two to do the same; apparently Netflix, who have the rights outside of the US and Canada, are contemplating a continuation) and The Expanse (which I haven’t started yet but has been on my radar thanks to Ghost of 82’s review), as well as a couple of other moderately-high-profile shows that I don’t personally watch. I guess the networks must have some really good pilots in the offing for next season… or, more likely, not. Well, you never know.

    Next month… time to say do svidaniya to The Americans.

  • The Record-Breaking Monthly Update for April 2018

    While Infinity War sets about breaking box office records, I’m breaking some of my own…


    #58 Paddington 2 (2017)
    #59 The Director and the Jedi (2018)
    #60 The Hurricane Heist (2018)
    #61 The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)
    #62 Baywatch Extended Cut (2017)
    #63 Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
    #64 Knocked Up (2007)
    #65 Logan Lucky (2017)
    #66 American Psycho (2000)
    #67 Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)
    #68 Shockproof (1949)
    #69 Das Boot: The Director’s Cut (1981/1997)
    #70 Geostorm 3D (2017)
    #71 A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
    #72 The Karate Kid (2010)
    #73 Princess Mononoke (1997), aka Mononoke-hime
    #74 Witness (1985)
    #75 Muppets from Space (1999)
    #76 Fight, Zatoichi, Fight (1964), aka Zatôichi kesshô-tabi
    #77 When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
    #78 Identity (2003)
    #79 American Assassin (2017)
    #80 Call Me by Your Name (2017)
    #81 The Room (2003)
    #82 The Disaster Artist (2017)
    #83 Killing Gunther (2017)
    #84 The Snowman (2017)
    #85 The Death of Stalin (2017)
    #86 Yes Man (2008)
    #87 Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
    #88 New York, New York (1977)
    #89 Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 3D (2017)
    #90 Wild Strawberries (1957), aka Smultronstället
    Logan Lucky

    Princess Mononoke

    The Room

    Avengers: Infinity War

    .


    • I watched 33 new films this month — more than one a day, on average (and that’s not counting my rewatches).
    • More importantly, that means it passes October 2015 as my Best. Month. Ever!
    • Obviously that means it affects a bunch of stats: it boosts the April average by more than two films, from 10.0 to 12.1; increases the rolling average of the last 12 months by over a film-and-a-half, from 15.2 to 16.8; and makes the 2018 average-to-date surge by three-and-a-half films, from 19 to 22.5. If I maintained that average all year, my final tally would be 270!
    • Building on a decent-to-strong first three months, #90 is also the furthest I’ve reached by the end of April (the previous best being #88 in 2016). I should definitely cross the #100 mark next month, therefore, likely on the earliest date I’ve ever reached it.
    • One record this month didn’t achieve: the earliest I’ve reached the three-quarters point. I watched #75 on April 16th this year, but in 2016 I was there on April 8th.
    • Over a third of this month’s viewing was films from 2017 — 12, to be precise. (Once upon a time, 12 total would’ve been a really good month.) And that’s even with going through a 13-film stretch in the middle where I only watched two films from the whole of the 2010s. It was a really big month, basically.
    • Downside to all this: I now have a backlog of 90 films waiting to be reviewed. Ninety! When I started that “coming soon” page it was because I’d reached the terribly high backlog of ten.
    • This month’s Blindspot film: the shortest film on this year’s lists, Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries.
    • This month’s WDYMYHS film: the longest film on this year’s lists, Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot: The Director’s Cut.



    The 35th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

    Favourite Film of the Month
    Maybe I’m still a bit caught up in the hype, but I reckon the film I most enjoyed this month was Avengers: Infinity War. After reading glowing reviews before seeing it, I went in with tempered expectations — at this point I’ve seen plenty of Marvel movies that I felt had been overrated by early buzz, starting with the very first, Iron Man (I wrote about that in my review, even. I also said “what it most resembles is a great TV pilot” — oh, little did I know how relevant that view would become!) But Infinity War, while not perfect, did put a smile on my face.

    Least Favourite Film of the Month
    You may’ve noticed in the above list that I watched The Room this month, the cult favourite “worst movie of all time” that has been described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”. But, as the fact it has a fanbase will attest, that film actually has considerable entertainment value, and so it didn’t even come close to making my five-strong shortlist for this Arbie. No, I’m going to give this (dis)honour to Geostorm, which is certainly trash but can’t even manage to be entertaining trash.

    Longest Slog of the Month
    The director’s cut of Das Boot may be three-and-a-half hours long and have bits I’d’ve cut back, but overall it’s a quality work. I wouldn’t say the same about New York, New York. It’s not often one cites a Martin Scorsese film as the worst of something, but, out of all 33 films I watched this month, perhaps the least enjoyable overall experience was slogging through those two-and-a-half-hours-plus-six-minutes-and-thirty-seconds-beyond-that. Sometimes watching on DVD has its advantages: without PAL speed-up it would’ve lasted another six-and-a-half minutes.

    Best Storm of the Month
    Storms were everywhere this month, be they of the world-threatening “geo” variety, or a hurricane so bad you could carry off a massive heist during it, or merely one that strands a bunch of strangers at a motel with a serial killer (in Identity). There may well have been some smaller ones I’ve forgotten, too. Anyway, for the sheer volume of wind and water being chucked around — and because it was the best part of the movie — this month’s best storm was definitely the one that enabled The Hurricane Heist.

    The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
    Sometimes reviews posted right near the end of the month don’t have the time to pick up much attention, even when they’re of new releases. Not so with this month’s victor, Avengers: Infinity War — in its first day it gained almost six times as many hits as the second-place post (The Hurricane Heist) had in three weeks. As of midnight on the 30th, it’s already my 8th most-read film review of all time.



    Another slightly lighter month means I’ve now slipped back to being merely on-target with my Rewatchathon. Still, that’s not really anything to complain about.

    #14 Shrek 2 (2004)
    #15 Mission: Impossible II (2000)
    #16 Liar Liar (1997)

    Despite my predictions last month, I didn’t rewatch any Marvel films before Infinity War in the end. I did get back on both my Shrek and Mission: Impossible rewatches, though. Indeed, my rewatch of Shrek is now complete, because the first two were the only ones I’d previously seen.

    M:i-2 was part of my 100 Favourites series the year before last, but I hadn’t actually watched it for a decade or more. Consequently, after this rewatch I spotted a couple of errors in my 100 Favourites post… which I’ve now fixed. Anyhow, I stand by my assertion that its qualities are undervalued — I wrote a bit about them on Letterboxd.


    Don’t call it a comeback — I’ve been here for years. I’m rocking my peers, puttin’ suckers in fear, makin’ the tears rain down like a monsoon. Listen to the bass go boom!

    Deadpool 2, ft. badblokebob the duck