Review Roundup

As foretold in my most recent progress report, June is off to a slow start here at 100 Films. Or a non-start, really, as I’ve yet to watch any films this month and this is my first post since the 1st. Hopefully it won’t stay that way all month (I’ve got my Blindspot and WDYMYHS tasks to get on with, if nothing else).

For the time being, here a handful of reviews of things I watched over a year ago but have only just written up:

  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
  • Allied (2016)
  • American Made (2017)


    O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    (2000)

    2018 #106
    Joel Coen | 103 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.39:1 | UK, France & USA / English | 12 / PG-13

    O Brother, Where Art Thou?

    The eighth movie from the Coen brothers (eighth, and yet they still weren’t being allowed a shared directing credit! No wonder that stupid DGA rule pisses people off) is one of their movies that I found less objectionable. Oh, sure, most of their stuff that I’ve reviewed I’ve given four stars (as well as a couple of threes), but that’s more out of admiration than affection — for whatever reason, their style, so popular with many cineastes, just doesn’t quite work for me; even when I like one of their films there’s often still something about it I find faintly irritating.

    Anyway, for this one they decided to adapt Homer’s Odyssey, but set in the American Deep South during the Great Depression. Apparently neither of the brothers had ever actually read The Odyssey, instead knowing it through cultural osmosis and film adaptations, which is perhaps why the film bears strikingly minimal resemblance to its supposed source text. Rather, this is a story about songs, hitchhiking, and casual animal cruelty, in which the KKK is defeated by the power of old-timey music. Hurrah!

    It’s mostly fairly amusing. If it was all meant to signify something, I don’t know what — it just seemed a pretty fun romp. I thought some of the music was okay. (Other people liked the latter more. Considerably more: the “soundtrack became an unlikely blockbuster, even surpassing the success of the film. By early 2001, it had sold five million copies, spawned a documentary film, three follow-up albums (O Sister and O Sister 2), two concert tours, and won Country Music Awards for Album of the Year and Single of the Year. It also won five Grammys, including Album of the Year, and hit #1 on the Billboard album charts the week of March 15 2002, 63 weeks after its release and over a year after the release of the film.” Jesus…)

    Anyway, that’s why it gets 4 stars. I liked it. Didn’t love it. Laughed a bit. Not a lot. Some of the music was alright. Not all of it. Naturally it’s well made (Roger Deakins!) without being exceptionally anything. Harsher critics might say that amounts to a 3, but I’m a nice guy.

    4 out of 5

    Allied
    (2016)

    2018 #116
    Robert Zemeckis | 119 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.39:1 | USA, UK & China / English & French | 15 / R

    Allied

    Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star as a pair of intelligence agents who fall in love in Mr. & Mrs. Smith: WW2 Edition. Settling down together in England, all is lovely for them… until one comes under suspicion of working for the enemy…

    Overall Allied is a very decent spy thriller, let down somewhat by a middle section that’s lacking in the requisite tension and a twee monologue coda. But the first 40 minutes, set in Morocco and depicting the mission where the lovers first meet, are pretty great; there’s plenty of neat little tradecraft touches scattered throughout; and there are some pretty visuals too. There are also some moments that are marred by more CGI than should be necessary for a WW2 drama, but hey-ho, it’s a Robert Zemeckis film.

    That said, Brad Pitt’s performance is a bit… off. He never really seems connected with the material. Perhaps he was trying to play old-fashioned stoic, but too often it comes across as bored. It also constantly looked like he’d been digitally de-aged, but maybe that’s because I was watching a 720p stream; or maybe he had been, though goodness knows why they’d bother.

    Anyway, these are niggles, so how much they bother you will affect your personal enjoyment. I still liked the film a lot nonetheless.

    4 out of 5

    American Made
    (2017)

    2018 #124
    Doug Liman | 109 mins | streaming (HD) | 1.85:1 | USA & Japan / English & Spanish | 15 / R

    American Made

    Described by director Doug Liman as “a fun lie based on a true story,” American Made is the obviously-not-that-truthful-then ‘true story’ of Barry Seal, a pilot who was recruited by the CIA to do some spying and ended up becoming a major cocaine smuggler in the ’80s.

    Starring ever-charismatic Tom Cruise as Seal, the film turns a potentially serious bit of history (as I understand it, the events underpinning this tale fed into the infamous Iran-Contra affair) into an entertaining romp. Indeed, the seriousness of the ending is a bit of a tonal jerk after all the lightness that came before, which I guess is the downside of having to stick to the facts.

    Still, it’s such a fun watch on the whole — a sliver long, perhaps, even though it’s comfortably under two hours, but it does have a lot of story to get through. Parts of that come via some spectacular montages, which convey chunks of story succinctly and are enjoyable in their own right. Liman doesn’t get a whole lot of attention nowadays, I think, but it seems he’s still got it where it counts.

    4 out of 5

  • 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?