Another month of 2021 falls short. Oh dear. But I’m getting ahead of myself — you’ll read all about that in the viewing and viewing notes in just a moment.
But to get really ahead of myself — at the risk of overshadowing everything else in this update — there’s a bit of, uh, news at the end…
#181 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
#182 Nobody (2021)
#183 Jungle Cruise (2021)
#184 La Haine (1995)
#185 Red Notice (2021)
#186 The Last of Sheila (1973)
#187 The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)
- I watched 8 feature films I’d never seen before in November.
- That makes it the weakest month of 2021 so far, and the second in a row where I’ve fallen short of my ten-film minimum target. Oh dear.
- Though, if I counted rewatches too, I did make it past ten in both October and November. So that’s something… kinda…
- Unsurprisingly, that means it also falls short of every average going: the November all-time average (previously 11.0, now 10.8), the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 17.25, now 16.42), and the average for 2021 to date (previously 17.9, now 17.0).
- On the bright side (sorta), it means I passed the milestone of 2,500 films listed on my reviews page. Let’s not talk about how many are still locked away in my backlog though, eh…
- This month’s Blindspot film was French urban drama La Haine, which reminded me a lot of Do the Right Thing, although I didn’t like it quite as much. (I was supposed to watch two Blindspot films this month, to make up for October, but didn’t manage it. Hopefully I’ll succeed in December.)
- I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”, though I did watch a couple of things that would’ve been on this month’s failures if I hadn’t watched them… which isn’t really the point, is it?
The 78th Monthly Arbitrary Awards
Favourite Film of the Month
Fewer films watched means fewer films to choose from, and nothing this month was an out-and-out “loved it” experience — which is not to say there weren’t a couple of films that I thoroughly enjoyed. Foremost among these is probably Nobody, which suffers from riffing a bit too much on the John Wick formula, but still entertains with its blend of comedy and impressively-choreographed action.
Least Favourite Film of the Month
Quite a few middling films this month, but the one sticking out the bottom was clear to me. Although a childhood favourite for many, I didn’t care for Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. As a kid, we loved Roald Dahl’s books in our house, and my parents put us off watching this film adaptation — and now I can see why. It’s Americanised; the songs are awful; and, as the now-title character (it’s Charlie in the book), Gene Wilder… is really good — but it takes him almost half the movie to show up. Shame.
The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
With only one new review published this month, this one’s a bit of a no brainer. Although, of course, my monthly review could’ve beaten it — though that’s a rare, perhaps even unheard of, occurrence. And, indeed, The Fear of God won out — but only by a solitary hit.
Another underwhelming month for my Rewatchathon. Y’know, I don’t think I’m going to make it to 50 this year…
#31 Face/Off (1997)
#32 Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
I didn’t set out to rewatch Face/Off — I happened to flick onto ITV just as it was about to start, didn’t have anything better to do so watched through the big opening action sequence, by the end of which I thought, “ah, fuck it, may as well watch the rest.” Yeah, I did the “watch it on TV with ad breaks even though I own it on Blu-ray” thing. But I feel like that’s somehow the perfect way to watch this movie.
As for Seven Brides, I mostly watched the “alternate widescreen version” on the Blu-ray’s second disc. I say “mostly” because we got about half-an-hour into the regular version on disc 1 before it froze up and wouldn’t play past a certain point. I’ve seen no one else complain about that, so hopefully it’s one bad disc and a replacement copy will be fine. Anyway, although I believe this alternate version is comprised of different takes (rather than just being the regular version cropped), it didn’t seem strikingly ‘wrong’ — not that I’m particularly familiar with the film, having only seen it once about 15 years ago; but any differences didn’t trouble my partner, who grew up watching it.
Every month, in preparation for this section I keep a running list of films to mention — all the new cinema releases; everything interesting that gets added to various streaming services; everything I buy on disc — and, whew, this month’s list was long. Maybe I should just publish that list, or a version of it, rather than trying to write it up. But, for now, I’ll do it the way I’ve been doing it. So, let’s see how brief I can keep this while still also mentioning everything of note…
At the cinema, the blockbuster releases this month were obviously the latest MCU entry, Eternals, and the latest attempt to revive a popular old IP, Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Both seemed to meet with mixed reviews. On surer critical footing were the more awards-y films, like Spencer, King Richard, and Petite Maman. I’m not sure if any of those actually played at my local. Also of note this month: a new Disney, Encanto; Ridley Scott’s second release this year, House of Gucci; and Sly Stallone’s belated “ultimate director’s cut” of Rocky IV, now subtitled Rocky vs. Drago and (as was widely reported) shorn entirely of its comedic robot subplot. Looking forward to catching that via streaming at some point.
And speaking of streaming, I think every service had a blockbuster-esque new release of some sort this month. I actually watched Netflix’s (Red Notice), although black Western The Harder They Fall, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut Tick, Tick… Boom!, and Aardman’s latest short Robin Robin were hardly small fry either. Over on Amazon, meanwhile, there was another generic-looking Liam Neeson actioner, The Marksman. It feels like all of Neeson’s films go direct to Amazon these days — I don’t know if they’ve got him on retainer or if his films just play really well for them so they’re sure to snap them up. They also had Tamil drama Jai Bhim. I think most Western viewers can be excused for not spotting that one, but it’s catapulted itself onto the IMDb Top 250, sitting at #126 at time of writing. Google it and you’ll see reports that it has IMDb’s highest rating ever. It currently says 9.5 on its own page, which their algorithm drags down to 8.2 for the Top 250. Read into that what you will…
As I said, everyone was in on the big releases this month: Disney+ attempted to review the Home Alone franchise with Home Sweet Home Alone (to very poor reviews); Sky Cinema nabbed starry Matt Haig adaptation A Boy Called Christmas; MUBI offered Leos Carax’s latest, Annette; and even Apple TV+ tried to get in on the game, with Tom Hanks post-apocalyptic adventure Finch. It’s about him building a robot to care for his dog after he’s gone, so of course it’s gone straight on my watch list, even if the dog appears to be mostly/entirely CGI.
I don’t normally mention Disney+ in this column because I’m not normally subscribed to it, but they offered a month for £1.99 recently and that was too good to resist. Before it runs out, I really need to catch up on their latest films that I’ve missed — in particular, Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, and Cruella. Also the Marvel TV series; less so the films, because I bought Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on disc; and discovered that Japan are still getting Marvel films on 3D disc, so I, um, acquired a 3D copy of Black Widow, and will now probably wait to do the same for Shang-Chi. Nonetheless, knowing me I’ll probably semi-accidentally let me Disney+ subscription keep rolling — that’s what I’ve done with MUBI, where the prospect of watching the likes of The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Céline Sciamma’s Tomboy stop me from cancelling; and also Sky Cinema (via NOW), whose (far less arty) additions this month include the new Mortal Kombat, lockdown heist thriller Locked Down (imaginative title), and, um, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds. Classy.
Just to underline how badly behind I am with reviews, several streamers also offered films I’ve already seen and really should’ve covered by now. Top of the pile has to be Parasite, which had its UK TV premiere on Channel 4 recently and so is now streaming on All 4. Close behind is Denis Villeneuve’s Maelström, which I watched via a fairly crummy DVD-rip but is now in full HD on MUBI. That’s in addition to all the stuff I have seen and have reviewed but want to rewatch, and usually have already bought on disc, that the streamers waggled in my face this month — the likes of L.A. Confidential, Love & Friendship, and The Piano on Netflix; Interview with the Vampire, Mean Girls, and Vanilla Sky on Amazon; and I think iPlayer were the ‘worst’, reminding me I’ve not yet watched my 4K disc of Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, plus that I’m long overdue revisits to Let the Right One In and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
So much for keeping this short: I could list dozens more films across the streamers, and I haven’t even started on my disc purchases, which in November totted up to 44 films — even more if you were to count a few alternate cuts, like Ridley Scott’s Legend (I imported Arrow’s US-only release, which comes with the theatrical and director’s cuts) or Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders (the new UK box set of which includes the original cut and extended The Complete Novel version, both in 4K). The number is bolstered by a couple of eight-film box sets: Eureka’s Cinematic Vengeance, containing eight classic kung fu films directed by Joseph Kuo, and Australian label Imprint’s Collaborations, which has eight films directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Gong Li, including the likes of Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, and Curse of the Golden Flower.
New films earning an instant purchase on their disc debuts included the confusingly-titled sequels/reboots Candyman and The Suicide Squad (“confusingly” because their titles are so similar / identical to the previous films they’re sequelising/rebooting). Older films with new releases coming straight into my collection include acclaimed Spaghetti Western The Great Silence (I only recently bought the US release, but Eureka’s UK version includes more special features and an improved transfer), Arrow’s Sailor Suit & Machine Gun (another one with two cuts to choose from), 88 Films’ The Chinese Boxer (starring and directed by Jimmy Wang Yu, whose other films I’ve enjoyed), Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes spinoff The Spider Woman Strikes Back (at only 59 minutes, it barely seems to warrant a standalone release, but here we are), and a long-awaited Blu-ray debut for Josie and the Pussycats (the best movie ever).
If you’re keeping count, you’ll know we’re nowhere near 44 yet. A lot of the rest can be bundled together as filling out import orders to make the P&P charge worthwhile — from Australia, Imprint editions of The Assassination Bureau and superb film noir Sorry, Wrong Number, plus Umbrella releases of Possession, Ozploitation classic Turkey Shoot, and director Alex Proyas’s debut, Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds; and from the US… oh, I’ve listed most of those already, or the order’s been split and more are to follow. But also, I picked up Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia on Blu-ray. I’ve not seen it since 2009, so (as with some titles I mentioned earlier) it’s long overdue another look. (I bet someone announces it in 4K soon now.) I also caved to sales (well, it was the month of Black Friday) from Indicator — picking up Cash on Demand, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, I, Monster, Light Sleeper, The Valachi Papers, and The Valdez Horses — and Eureka — with if…., Michael, and Tabu — and Criterion, too — just Deep Cover and La Vérité.
You may be thinking “how does he have the space to buy so much stuff?!”, and the answer is… I don’t, really. It’s getting silly now. And as for the time to actually watch them… don’t get me started on that…
The final month of 100 Films in a Year.
Yes, it’s the end — but the moment has been prepared for…