The Titanic Monthly Review of March 2021

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


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

Carol

Godzilla vs. Kong

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



The 70th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

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

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

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

“Eat your greens!”

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

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Man Who Killed the Monthly Review of September 2020

This month started off strong: reaching #200 (for only the third time ever); watching plenty of films; posting a lot of reviews… but then it tapered off on all fronts. Partly this is because I’ve found myself back in the employ of FilmBath Festival — yes, even in this crazy COVID world, we’re putting on a film festival. Plus an online offering that will be accessible nationwide… but shh, that’s not been officially announced yet! More details in the coming weeks.

For now, back to the last month on this blog…


#199 All Is True (2018)
#200 In the Mood for Love (2000), aka Fa yeung nin wah
#201 Anand (1971)
#202 Ikiru (1952)
#203 The Man Who Sleeps (1974), aka Un homme qui dort
#204 All About Eve (1950)
#205 A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019)
#206 Vice (2018)
#207 The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
#208 For the Love of Spock (2016)
#209 Guinevere (1994)
#210 Blind Fury (1989)
#211 Waking Ned (1998)
#212 Out of Africa (1985)
#213 The Hippopotamus (2017)
#214 Enola Holmes (2020)
#215 Fanny and Alexander (1982), aka Fanny och Alexander
#216 The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
#217 Lost in La Mancha (2002)
#218 He Dreams of Giants (2019)
Anand

Farmageddon

Fanny and Alexander

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  • I watched 20 new feature films in September.
  • That makes it my 25th month with 20+ films, and my first 20+ September in five years.
  • It surpasses my September average (previously 11.9, now 12.5) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 18.9, now 19.9), but falls short of 2020’s average to date (previously 24.75, now 24.2).
  • Early in the month I reached my 200th film for this year. I wrote about the history and stats of that achievement here.
  • Moving beyond #200 means 2020 is already my second biggest year ever, with three months still to go
  • #218 is the furthest I’ve reached by the end of September (my previous best was #206 in 2018), meaning a new all-time record is not impossible — but there are still 44 films to go to get there, more than double the number I watched in October-to-December last year.

As for the films themselves…

  • Back in July, I identified that Vice was the only film I needed to see to complete the last five years of Oscar Best Picture nominees (that’s 43 films). So, now I’ve done that, it’s on to the last decade of the same (which is 88 films), for which I still need to watch another ten. Let’s see how long that takes…
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (see the Arbies for more about this).
  • This month I watched four Blindspot films. That makes it sound like I’m doing it very, very wrong, but allow me to explain.
  • Firstly, I needed to catch up for missing one last month — that was In the Mood for Love.
  • Then I needed to watch one for this month, of course — that was Ingmar Bergman’s magnum opus, Fanny and Alexander.
  • Then you may remember I had a list of eight ‘overflow’ films to also consider watching — this month, I watched two, Ikiru and All About Eve.
  • So, I’m now back on track for the main list and over halfway through the overflow. But I’ll still need to watch exactly one overflow film a month (in addition to a main list film) for the rest of the year if I want to finish all 20.



The 64th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Rather spoilt for choice this month, what with four Blindspot films that mostly lived up to expectations, plus several other great and/or very enjoyable movies too. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was Fanny and Alexander — I’ve not always got on with Ingmar Bergman’s films before, so his over-three-hour magnum opus could’ve been horrific for me, but I actually thought it was fantastic.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Un homme qui dort? More like Un homme qui t’endort.

Best Blind Swordsman of the Month
I had intended to save Blind Fury until after I’d finished the Zatoichi series (which I really should have done by now, but I’ve let various things get in the way). For those who don’t know, it’s a modern-day US-set remake of Zatoichi Challenged — a thoroughly bizarre idea, so it seemed best to leave it until I was done with the series proper. But then I noticed it was leaving Amazon Prime imminently, so I decided I’d better get on it. Such are the ways of the streaming era. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it was more fun than I expected.

Most Debatable Viewing Order of the Month
I’ve owned acclaimed (un)making-of documentary Lost in La Mancha on DVD but never got round to watching it — so long, in fact, that Terry Gilliam was finally able to actually make the film it’s about, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, and it’s now streaming on Sky. The makers of La Mancha also documented that successful effort, in a new film called He Dreams of Giants, which I recently had access to a screener for. So the question became: which order to watch them in? I’m not sure the one I plumped for (see #216–218) was the right way to go about it, but then neither of the alternatives (La ManchaDon QuixoteGiants; or La ManchaGiantsDon Quixote) seemed perfect either, so this was as good as any. In fact, with hindsight, I think it might have been the best way — watching the docs before the resultant feature would’ve set too many unnecessary expectations.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For only the third time this year (there have been other years where it happened most months), my most-viewed new post was my latest TV column. (The most-viewed film post was, as befits its status as a modern masterpiece, my review of Love on a Leash.)



The Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies have made up over a third of my Rewatchathon so far this year. With them finished, there’s now a hole where they used to be as a go-to choice, meaning my pace has slipped slightly… but I’m still currently on target for 50 by the end of the year, so that’s okay (for now).

#38 Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013)
#39 Mission: Impossible II (2000)

I wrote my review of Jodorowsky’s Dune after that rewatch, so my Letterboxd log adds little more than that I enjoyed it more second time round.

M:I-2 is a different kettle of fish: you can find my latest opinion of the film itself on Letterboxd (short version: I still really like it). As for its place in the Rewatchathon, it continues my rewatch of the Mission: Impossible movies in 4K that I started back in May. Then I mentioned that it’s the first two films that feature the biggest upgrades in PQ with their 4K transfers. M:I-1 is the more strikingly good-looking film, but this one looks great most of the time too. The downsides are that the overall improvement reveals how much softness there is in some of the original photography, and skin tones look too hot in a couple of scenes (though I couldn’t quite be sure if I needed to fiddle with my TV settings, or if it was the transfer’s fault, or just the way the film was shot). Still, a resounding improvement over the old Blu-ray.


The reopening of cinemas continues with Bill & Ted Face the Music making its UK debut on the big screen only, and… that’s probably it: Tenet’s underperformance at the US box office has the studios running scared again. Bond is still on schedule for November, but will that hold? Only time will tell.

Another film that got a cinema release in some territories was Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan. Of course, it went direct to streaming everywhere that Disney+ is available, and that includes the UK, even though our cinemas are open. £20 vs a £6 cinema ticket? Hmm… Anyway, I guess that didn’t do well either, given that Disney have moved the rest of their big titles into 2021 rather than send them to Disney+ too.

Also on streaming, Netflix had a couple of big originals in the shape of Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things and The Devil All the Time. Both set Film Twitter and Letterboxd abuzzing, but I haven’t been in the mindset for their heaviness yet. There was also the hugely controversial Cuties, which is a debate I’m not interested in reigniting, and they ended the month with a new adaptation of gay play The Boys in the Band. Also catching my eye on Netflix were a string of titles I’ve bought on Blu-ray but not got round to watching: First Man, The Handmaiden, the new Halloween… Shame on me. (They’ve also added various things I have seen and reviewed, of course, but that’s not the point of this section.)

Over on Amazon, no brand-new films that I could see, but they did have the streaming premieres of Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen and acclaimed crime drama Queen & Slim. They’ve also now got Crazy Rich Asians, after it ended its time on Now TV / Sky Cinema. Talking of which, after having a subscription to that for most of the year — first for the Oscars, then via a series of free and heavily discounted months — I cancelled it at the start of this month because it was going to be full price, only for them to now offer me a free month. Additions there this month include The Good Liar, Motherless Brooklyn, and Judy.

BBC iPlayer’s also had a pretty strong slate of movies recently, including recent-ish titles moving in from other streamers (Molly’s Game, I, Tonya) and HD versions of classics (Doctor Zhivago, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, etc). Also, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, which I’ve not seen for a very long time indeed and ought to take the chance to rewatch in HD (that feels like the kind of film that’s due a 4K release from someone like Arrow, but who holds the rights I don’t know).

Finally, my disc purchases were a lot calmer than last month’s 54 films. It’s taken five years, but I finally completed my collection of the “Top 5 Films I Hadn’t Heard of Before Watching The Story of Film But Now Really Want to See” by importing the US release of Hyenas. I managed to find a copy of Doctor Sleep with the director’s cut included (if I’d realised they really meant it when they said it was “limited edition”, I’d’ve bought it sooner! After being out of stock on HMV’s website for months, they seem to have found some additional copies, so fortunately I only paid normal price for it). Rewatching Jodorowsky’s Dune inspired me to purchase Arrow’s new Jodorowsky box set, which I fear I may regret (his films aren’t half odd looking), but there we go (knowing me, I’ll not get round to them for years / ever anyway).

I also picked up… Bullitt (primarily for one of its special features, feature documentary The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing) … the US 4K release of anime Ghost in the Shell (though I accidentally ended up with two copies, so I need to get that on eBay) … and re-bought all three Ghostbusters films (the original pair in a new-to-the-UK 4K box set, which duplicates the discs from last year’s limited and expensive US 35th anniversary set; and the 2016 reboot in 3D, which I got brand-new for £1.50. The fact most people have given up on 3D is a boon for those of us who haven’t).


October means one thing for some people: Halloween. I doubt I’ll be so singularly focused (I never have been before — why start now?), and I’m not even sure what I’ll do for the day itself (because it is just a day, not a season, or even a month — sorry, people). Between 2015 and 2019 I spent it covering the Twilight saga, but I finished that last year (thank God) so need a new notion. Although there’s always that Twilight spoof — which, according to IMDb voters, is the 46th worst film of all time, ranking lower than any real Twilight film. Dare I brave the horror?