200 Films in 2020

For only the third time in this blog’s 14-year history, I’ve reached 200 Films in a Year.

The film I chose for #200 was Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, perhaps the most acclaimed film of the 2000s that I was yet to see, and part of this year’s Blindspot list (I missed a Blindspot film in August, so this is catchup). I’ll write more about the film itself another day; for now, we’re concerned with the history and stats of reaching 200.

As I said, this is the third time I’ve got there. The two previous occasions were 2015, when a last-minute scramble saw me get there on December 30th (December 2015 is still my second-highest December ever, behind only 2008, which was a similar scramble to reach #100); and 2018, when I got there on September 22nd. This year, I got there today, September 3rd, thereby setting a new record.

It also means that I’ve reached #200 more times than I’ve failed to even reach #100 (the failures were 2009, which ended at #94, and 2012, which got to #97).

And, of course, there’s still almost four whole months of the year left. Let’s run some numbers and see what we can predict about them…

For starters, it’s a sort-of-logical deduction to conclude that, if it took (just over) two-thirds of the year to reach #200, surely the final third should get me to #300 more or less exactly. Is that possible? Well, yes. I’d have to achieve an average of 25 films per month (in fact, 25.5, because #199 and #200 count as part of September), but already this year I’ve had five months that passed 25 films, and the average for the whole year so far is 24.75, which is almost there. But is that likely? Well, I’ve only made it past 20 films in September and November once each (when I did, I got to 23 and 25, respectively), and I’ve never even got to 20 in December. So, the signs aren’t great.

What does history forecast as a more likely outcome, then? My all-time average viewing for September to December is 45.6 films, which this year would see me reach #244. If we narrow that to just the last five years (because a lot has changed in my viewing habits over the past decade-and-a-half), the average becomes 58.8, which would get me to #257 this year.

Switching from averages to specific examples, my worst September-to-December total came in 2011, when in that time I watched 23 films. At the other end of the scale, the best was in 2015, when I watched 82 films in those four months. If those extremes happened this year, I’d make it to either #221 or #280, respectively. If I managed to equal my best-ever totals for each individual month, I’d end on #296; but if I repeated my worst-ever individual month results, I’d only get to #215.

You’ll note that every one of these predictions falls short of #300.

Things don’t look good for reaching the big three-oh-oh, then. In fact, it’s questionable whether I can even beat my previous best (261 in 2018) — of the six history-based predictions I’ve run through, only two get me above that.

But the idea that I could reach #200 within one year used to seem totally impossible, so never say never…

0202 tsuguA fo weiveR ylhtnoM ehT

It’s been quite a year, but now things are returning to normal… or some people are pretending they are, anyway. I mean, schools are going back, cinemas have reopened, and my film viewing has dropped back down towards 2019 levels.

Worse, my reviews are lagging. It’s been a whole year since I hit 2,000 listed reviews, but I’m still over 50 away from actually being able to say I’ve published 2,000 film reviews. Hopefully I’ll get there before the end of 2020. In particular, I’ve fallen behind with my 100-week roundups already; and there was no new TV column this month, which was also a mistake. I’m aiming to get both back on track in September.

For now, though, let’s reflect on what I did watch and post in August…


#185 Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
#186 The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador (1912), aka Le mystère des roches de Kador
#186a The Stunt Double (2020)
#187 RoboCop 3 (1993)
#188 Color Out of Space (2019)
#188a Frankenstein (1910)
#189 The Man Who Laughs (1928)
#189a The Dancing Pig (1907), aka Le cochon danseur
#190 Pearl Harbor (2001)
#191 Yes, God, Yes (2019)
#192 The Assistant (2019)
#193 Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020)
#194 Bad Boys for Life (2020)
#195 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
#196 Tolkien (2019)
#197 The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story (2019)
#198 Entrapment (1999)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Bad Boys for Life

Entrapment

.


  • I watched 14 new feature films in August.
  • That beats January’s 12, so it’s not the lowest month of 2020, but it’s also the first month since February with a total below 28.
  • It’s my eighth month in a row with 10 or more features, which is my second-longest streak of months with 10+ films. (The longest is 60 months, from June 2014 to May 2019, so there’s literally years to go before I rival that again.)
  • It tops the August average (previously 12.5, now 12.6), but falls short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 19.3, now 18.9) and the average for 2020 to date (previously 26.3, now 24.75).
  • I may not have quite got to #200 this month, but #198 is still the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of August. It also means 2020 overtakes 2016 to become my third highest year ever, with four months still to go.
  • Further to what I wrote last month about years from which I’d never seen a feature film, The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador is my first from 1912. That just leaves 1915 as the only year since the US and UK started producing features (in 1912) from which I haven’t seen a film.
  • Watching Pearl Harbor means I’ve now seen all of Michael Bay’s films. That and 6 Underground are still scheduled for review, leaving only The Island unreviewed on this blog. I last saw it at the cinema back in 2005. I quite liked it and always meant to revisit it (I even own the DVD, but obviously never watched it (typical)). At some point I’ll get round to that rewatch and cover it then.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched The Assistant, Bad Boys for Life, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Color Out of Space, and Never Rarely Sometimes Always.
  • Talking of failures, I didn’t watch a Blindspot film this month. That’s the first time I’ve slipped in 2020, so hopefully I’ll just catch it up next month.



The 63rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
The notion of whether “favourite” means “best” or “most enjoyable” is on my mind with this month’s selection. Probably the best film I saw this month was abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always, but, understandably, it wasn’t “enjoyable” per se. On the other side, then, the film I’m most likely to end up purchasing and rewatching is, a bit to my surprise, Bad Boys for Life — as a belated threequel it should by all rights be mediocre, but I think it might actually be the best instalment of the trilogy.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Nothing truly terrible this month (at least not among the features — some of the shorts I was less enamoured of), but something must be chosen. I enjoyed Pearl Harbor more than most, so it would seem unfair to pick that. Instead, I’ll say The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador, which I was sold on by Movies Silently’s review but unfortunately didn’t enjoy that much. Never mind.

Film I Haven’t Actually Seen But Nonetheless Used as a Title Theme of the Month
It’s Tenet, ylsuoivbo.

Decade I Most Miss of the Month
Entrapment reminded me how much fun a solid studio programmer could be. Two stars, a few reasonably-scaled action scenes, and a mid-range budget add up to a couple of hours of fun. Not a great movie, but one I enjoyed enough to not regret the time spent watching it. It’s the kind of thing the major Hollywood studios are backing away from in favour of just making mega-budget super-blockbuster tentpoles, but that smaller indie studios aren’t up to providing. I feel like the ’90s did that kind of thing particularly well, too.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
No one post really caught on this month — this month’s highest charting new post was down at 55th overall (behind mostly TV columns, but also a dozen older film reviews). Even my review of a new release (Yes, God, Yes) didn’t generate a huge number of clicks (I guess it is a pretty niche title), although the victor only beat it by one hit. Said victor was Ready or Not.



My Rewatchathon continues at pace, which means I’m still about a month ahead of schedule. Although this month I finished a series that’s been a major part of it this year…

#34 Pursuit to Algiers (1945)
#35 The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
#36 Terror by Night (1946)
#37 Dressed to Kill (1946)

The first time I watched the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series, it took me eight years. Now, I’ve rewatched them all in eight months. A much more reasonable pace, let’s be honest (the first time I was spacing them out so as not to rush them, but took it a bit far…) My original reviews are linked above, and I put some new thoughts on Letterboxd about Pursuit to Algiers, Terror by Night, and Dressed to Kill in these links.

My fourth film this month was also Sherlock Holmes themed, albeit turned into a mouse courtesy of, appropriately enough, the Mouse House. Disney’s 26th animated film used to be known as Basil the Great Mouse Detective here in the UK, but it’s been brought in line with the US for the Disney+ era. I’m only surprised it took them so long. (Now, if they could just sort out the UK list of the Animated Canon…) I’ve been on a bit of a Sherlock Holmes kick this year, so it was only natural I’d revisit Disney’s version. It manages to be both a very good Disney movie and a very good Sherlock Holmes one at the same time, mixing the comedy and charm of Disney animation with a healthy dash of the investigation and adventure of a Holmes story. It comes just before what fans call the Disney Renaissance, but it’s also directly responsible for it: after the failure of The Black Cauldron, Disney’s animation studio was under threat, but the success of The Great Mouse Detective allowed them to continue. The rest, as they say, is history.


After four months of no cinema releases to comment on, they’re back! It’s a gradual re-opening, of course, with Tenet the only truly major title on wide UK release so far (The New Mutants had previews, but isn’t technically out until this Friday). At least some people I follow on Twitter seem to have dived back in headfirst, but I remain a little wary — as I said earlier, I’ve not seen Tenet yet; whether that’ll change in the coming week or two, I’m undecided.

Netflix attempted to fill the blockbuster void with originals like Project Power, a super-powered action-thriller starring Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but the mediocre reviews put me off actually watching it (so far). This month they also bolstered their catalogue with the fourth and final Ip Man movie, and the only Tim Burton film Iv’e not seen, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Over on Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, new-ish additions included Justin Kurzel’s True History of the Kelly Gang and true-story whistleblower thriller Official Secrets. Other newcomers of note include Mississippi Grind, which I heard recommended a couple of years ago and have been waiting for a chance to see since, and Roger Corman / Vincent Price horror The Masque of the Red Death, which is supposedly due on disc in a new 4K restoration later this year, but I don’t know if Amazon are streaming that.

As for the other streamers, Sky Cinema / Now TV had Terry Gilliam’s much-delayed The Man Who Killed Don Quixote; Disney+ had diverted-from-cinemas The One and Only Ivan (which I think I’ll give a miss anyway) and a doc about lyricist Howard Ashman, Howard (which does interest me); BBC iPlayer has a pair of films I’d like to rewatch, The Lost Boys and Love & Friendship, not to mention the original Poltergeist, which I’ve never seen; and on All 4 I missed the chance to see Wild Tales (the 183rd greatest film ever according to IMDb voters).

Finally, my new purchases on disc, of which there were a lot — some 54 films I could list (egads!) The bulk of those come from Arrow’s Gamera box set (with 12 films plus four alternate cuts), although Criterion’s Bruce Lee set was no slouch (with seven films plus one extended cut). The latter came as part of a belated order placed during Barnes & Noble’s Criterion sale back in July, which also included 1984, Come and See, and the four-part 1966-7 War and Peace; plus their editions of films I’ve already seen like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious. There were also a bunch of silents (I got good deals on eBay for US DVDs of the French serials Judex and The House of Mystery; plus an import of a French DVD set of French films from French director Raymond Bernard; and Masters of Cinema’s latest Buster Keaton three-feature box set) and a bunch of noirs (more from Masters of Cinema in the shape of No Way Out and Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window; and Blu-ray upgrades for the BFI’s releases of three Otto Preminger noirs and Jules Dassin’s Night and the City). Meanwhile, on 4K, I got Arrow’s UK format debut, Pitch Black, and their US format debut, but in its UK edition from StudioCanal, Flash Gordon (in a tat-filled box set. I love tat. It’s always kinda disappointing when you actually get it, but I can’t resist).

And that isn’t even everything, but it’s more than enough to be going on about.


Mulan comes to Disney+ for an additional fee (which varies by region). I’ll tell you this for nothing: I won’t be paying it.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Monthly Review of July 2020

Man, 2020 is non-stop!

If you’ve come here from a tweet or email link, we’re three sentences in and had three Hamilton references already. Well, I did draft about half-a-dozen Hamilton-related titles for this review, so a few more may sneak in yet. While I devote my energies to thinking of some, let’s get on with the usual business…


#156 The Ipcress File (1965)
#157 Hamilton (2020)
#158 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
#159 A Dog’s Will (2000), aka O Auto da Compadecida
#159a David Lynch Cooks Quinoa (2007)
#160 Make Mine Music (1946)
#161 Chariots of Fire (1981)
#162 The Old Guard (2020)
#163 Palm Springs (2020)
#164 Greyhound (2020)
#165 The Scorpion King (2002)
#166 Dangal (2016)
#167 The Lighthouse (2019)
#168 Melody Time (1948)
#169 Fun & Fancy Free (1947)
#170 Uncut Gems (2019)
#171 Lady Bird (2017)
#172 Safety Last! (1923)
#173 Love on a Leash (2011)
#174 The Wolf’s Call (2019), aka Le chant du loup
#175 Hunter Killer (2018)
#176 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
#177 Le Mans ’66 (2019), aka Ford v Ferrari
#178 Bloodshot (2020)
#179 Der Hund von Baskerville (1914), aka The Hound of the Baskervilles
#180 The French Connection (1971)
#181 Venom (2018)
#182 Spaceship Earth (2020)
#183 Clueless (1995)
#184 Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
Hamilton

Palm Springs

Safety Last!

Spaceship Earth

.


  • I watched 29 new feature films in July.
  • That makes it my third best month of 2020; but, more impressively, it’s also my sixth best month ever — out of 163 months, that puts it in the top 4%.
  • It’s also my fifth month in a row with over 20 films, which is my second-longest run of 20+ months, right behind the six months from February to July 2018.
  • It also finally pulls July’s all-time average up above 10.0. I’ve been looking to get all the months’ averages up that high for years, and July has been the real hold-out (it didn’t help that in 2009 its total was 0). In fact, it’s now 11.0, meaning all months are at 11+ except for November — but having them all above 10 is fine; I’m not going to actively try to pull them up anymore.
  • In terms of other averages, it bests both the average for 2020 to date (previously 25.8, now 26.3) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 17.3, now 19.3).
  • #184 is the furthest I’ve reached by the end of July, beating the next best by 11 films. In fact, compared to my worst-ever year (2009), I’m 146 ahead.
  • It also means I’ve already passed 2017’s final total, guaranteeing 2020 an all-time rank of at least third. With five months of the year left, I only need to watch 18 more films for second — that seems all but guaranteed, though never say never. For first place it’s 79 more, an average of 16 a month — at my current rate, eminently plausible; but last year I watched 48 films in that timespan, so (again) never say never.
  • Back in April, I identified the handful of years from which I’d never seen a feature film. I crossed off two more of those this month, thanks to Safety Last! for 1923 and Der Hund von Baskerville for 1914. That just leaves 1912 and 1915
  • And talking of completing years, Lady Bird and Le Mans ’66 mean I’ve completed the Oscar Best Picture nominees from 2018 and 2020, respectively. I just need one more (Vice from 2019) to complete the last five years. I was obviously less circumspect earlier in the decade, though, because to complete back to 2011 I need a further ten films
  • This month’s Blindspot film: an archetypal ’70s crime thriller with a noir vibe, The French Connection — and it’s as good as that sounds. Plus one from my overflow list, ’60s anti-Bond spy thriller The Ipcress File — which, sadly, I was a little underwhelmed by (primarily because I expect to adore it, though; it is very good).
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched The Lighthouse.



The 62nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Debate may have raged in some places about whether it should count as a film or not, but clearly I’m going with “does count”, and therefore I get to declare Hamilton may favourite of the month. It’s also currently the 26th best film of all time on IMDb’s top list, so I’m clearly not alone.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I watched three submarine-related movies this month: Greyhound because it was new, but that gave me an itch to watch a ‘proper’ submarine movie, and French thriller The Wolf’s Call was already on my watchlist, and that was so enjoyable that I still fancied more after that, so I turned to Hunter Killer — which I shouldn’t have, because it’s awful.

Worst Understanding of Geography of the Month
We turn again to Hunter Killer for an entertaining bit of “American filmmakers not understanding foreign geography”. Gerard Butler’s submarine captain is picked up by helicopter while on a hunting holiday in the Scottish highlands, to take him to his sub at the naval docks in Faslane — about 80 miles away. We next see him at Faslane, where his XO asks how was his trip in from Portsmouth, another major naval port in the UK. So, if that’s right, he went from the highlands to Portsmouth and then to Faslane — a 1,000-mile round trip. I guess no one on that film bothered to look at a map…

Best Song Not in Hamilton of the Month
Apologies to the four Disney musicals that I watched, plus any original songs cropping up in any of the other films I watched, but not much can beat the little ditties sung by the canine hero of Love on a Leash. “King of the castle! / King of the castle that’s also a dog / And lives in a house that is green. / What is that about?” Lin-Manuel Miranda must be quaking in his boots.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
One of the most widely-popular cultural phenomena of our time, finally made available to a wide audience of both die-hard fans and the curious, and my review has had almost the whole month to accumulate hits. Yes, entirely predictably (to the extent that I wrote this blurb on the 5th and haven’t touched a word of it), July’s most-viewed new post was Hamilton.

That said, The Old Guard ended up coming pretty close; and they were both beaten by last month’s #1, my review of Netflix’s Eurovision movie, which is on track to be my most popular film review of 2020 (though who knows what the rest of the year will bring…)



My Rewatchathon continues to be a month ahead of pace, with #33 being where I should’ve reached by the end of August.

#31 The Princess Bride (1987)
#32 Hamilton (2020)
#33 The Woman in Green (1945)

Regular readers will know I’m not a huge re-watcher (hence the Rewatchathon) — if I watch a film again within about five years I consider it “soon” — and yet here I am watching Hamilton twice in a month. Well, you put it on just to watch a bit and then you can’t stop. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns up in 2020’s Rewatchathon again yet…

I’ve rewatched The Princess Bride twice now without adding it to my “Guide To” series. It’s not like I haven’t got a big enough backlog anyway, right? I expect I’ll cover it someday. For now, I naturally posted some thoughts on Letterboxd after my most recent viewing.

The Woman in Green continues my rewatch of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as I’d remembered — it has some great ideas and good sequences, but it somehow doesn’t gel as well as it should on this viewing. Nonetheless, there’s enough to admire that I still rate it pretty highly, including Henry Daniell as the series’ best Moriarty.


Cinemas may still be mostly closed, and consequently there’s a shortage of new releases, but that certainly hasn’t stopped the streamers pumping out content, both new exclusives and archive titles (indeed, that’s probably why they are). Top of the pops for brand-new stuff this month was a Bollywood film, Dil Bechara, which catapulted to the top of the IMDb Top 250 chart thanks to eager fans rating it highly. The algorithm kicked in and it plummeted right back off it again, but in terms of raw numbers it’s still right up there. It’s streaming free on Hotstar if you want to see if it lives up to the fuss.

As I said, the regular streamers piled on the content this month, more so Amazon than Netflix, with originals like How to Build a Girl and Honey Boy, the subscription debuts of theatrical films like Midway and Knives Out, and archive titles like 1947 Best Picture winner The Best Years of Our Lives and 1985 contender The Killing Fields They also briefly had the new Charlie’s Angels, for about 24 hours before someone realised the mistake — it was due on Sky Cinema / Now TV about a week later. Perhaps that means it’ll be coming to Amazon eventually; perhaps someone just pressed the wrong button. Also catching my eye was The Mask of Zorro in 4K. That came out on disc in the US back in May, but we haven’t been so lucky. I hope that changes, because it’s a great film and the new transfer looks far superior to the old Blu-ray, but until then I might just watch it on Amazon. They also have the sequel, The Legend of Zorro, also in 4K, which hasn’t been treated to a disc release anywhere, probably because of it’s poor reputation. I don’t think I’ve seen it since the cinema in 2005 (even though I own it on DVD), so it’s due a revisit.

Amazon have also had a load more of their discounted-for-Prime-members rentals recently, so I’ve stocked up on the likes of The Assistant, Bad Boys for Life, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Color Out of Space, and Never Rarely Sometimes Always. All of those should feature in August’s viewing. I’ve also been tempted to splash the cash on plenty of Blu-rays, thanks to endless sales and offers. Barnes & Noble aren’t currently shipping to the UK, so I’ve missed out on their biannual Criterion sale, but I was so set for it that I forked out a bit more to get the titles from Amazon US (who don’t price match the sale, but get pretty close). Stock issues mean that order hasn’t even dispatched yet, so hopefully next month. Sales that have tempted me and have arrived include from Arrow (The Andromeda Strain, Aniara, Crime and Punishment, Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn, and Zardoz), HMV’s Premium Collection (two more Hitchcocks, I Confess and The Wrong Man, plus Key Largo, The Thing from Another World, To Have and Have Not, and Wait Until Dark), and Zoom (4K upgrades for Arrival, The Revenant, and Split). And talking of things to 4K, films to rewatch, and imports, I snagged the US 4K release of Parasite. I doubt we’re going to get treated to that in the UK, and the recently-announced Criterion release won’t be 4K. I might still get it for the special features, though.

And if that wasn’t enough, I also picked up some new releases, including Master of Cinema’s set of three Edgar Allen Poe adaptations starring Bela Lugosi, those being The Raven, Murders in the Rue Morgue, and The Black Cat, which is noteworthy for being the fifth adaptation of that short story that I own (and I haven’t watched any of them!)


Tenet.

Or maybe not. Who knows what state we’ll be in by the time that’s due at the end of the month?

The Jaja Ding Dong (Ding Dong!) Monthly Review of June 2020

My love for you is wide and long, dear readers, and so (one of) the breakout hit(s) from Netflix’s Eurovision movie seemed the only appropriate title for this month’s review.

Also, I didn’t have any better ideas. I mean, I could’ve called it “halfway”, because we are halfway through the year and I’m going to talk about that… but it’s not as fun, is it?


#128 The Children Act (2017)
#129 Paris When It Sizzles (1964)
#130 Shadowlands (1993)
#131 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
#132 The Gay Divorcee (1934)
#133 The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
#134 The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)
#135 Split Second (1992)
#136 Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)
#137 The Old Dark House (1932)
#138 The Rhythm Section (2020)
#139 The Vast of Night (2019)
#140 The Armour of God (1986), aka Lung hing foo dai
#141 Gemini Man (2019)
#142 Cairo Station (1958), aka Bab el hadid
#143 Tomb Raider 3D (2018)
#144 7500 (2019)
#145 Do the Right Thing (1989)
#146 Shazam! 3D (2019)
#147 Crawl (2019)
#148 Chicken Run (2000)
#149 Man on Wire (2008)
#150 Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
#151 3:10 to Yuma (2007)
#152 Polytechnique (2009)
#153 Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
#154 The Invisible Man (2020)
#155 Without a Clue (1988)
Paris When It Sizzles

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

The Old Dark House

The Invisible Man

.


  • I watched 28 new feature films in June.
  • It’s my joint-3rd best month of 2020 (tied with March), which is right in the middle when you remember there have only been six months… but 2020 is clearly an exceptional year, because it’s also in the top 5% of months all-time.
  • It’s also my best June ever, beating the 21 of June 2018.
  • Naturally, that means it stomps all over the June average (previously 10.0, now 11.4).
  • It also sails past the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 15.3, now 17.3), and also pips the average for 2020 so far (previously 25.4, now 25.8).
  • Reaching #155 means I’ve already passed my final total from last year, making 2020 already my fifth highest totalling year ever.

Now, some observations on the actual films I watched…

  • They included my 2,000th film for this blog. I wrote about that here.
  • I was also particularly glad to get a chance to see Cairo Station, one of the five films I flagged from The Story of Film: An Odyssey (my 1,000th film) back in August 2015. In the almost-five-years since that post, I’ve seen two of those films. Of the other three, I’ve owned one on Blu-ray for several years; another was released on Blu-ray in the UK last November; and the fifth recently came out on Blu-ray in the US. So, I could/should be completing them by now…
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, which is exceptionally pertinent right now — which, considering it’s now over 30 years old, is rather depressing. A great film, though.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Crawl, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Peanut Butter Falcon, The Rhythm Section, and The Vast of Night.

Finally, returning to statistics: the end of June marks the halfway point of the year, of course, and at #155 it’s the furthest I’ve ever reached by this point (beating #145 in 2018). So, to mark the occasion, I’ve gone back over previous years to see what I can learn about the first half of the year as a predictor for the second.

  • Logic might suggest the second half would be double the first, but that’s never been the case.
  • Of the previous 13 years, five saw the second half more than double the first, with the other eight showing a decrease (obviously).
  • The biggest discrepancy came last year, 2019, when I did 64.9% of my film viewing in the first half of the year, leaving just 35.1% in the second.
  • The biggest swing the other way was in 2009, when I watched 40.4% in the first half of the year and 59.6% in the second.
  • On average, the second half of the year accounts for 48.3% of my viewing; though if we look at just the last five years, that drops to 44.8%.
  • So, as a predictor for 2020, if I follow the all-time average I should end the year on #305 — holy moly! A feat that never seemed possible, considering I’ve only passed #200 twice.
  • If I take the average of just the last five years, I only reach #283 — which would still be my highest year ever by over 20 films.
  • And, compared to the two extremes detailed above, anything below #239 would be a new second-half low (in percentage terms), while a new high would see me watch over 383 films! The latter would mean a monthly average of 38.1 for the rest of the year — higher than I’ve ever reached in a single month. I really don’t see that happening.
  • Leaving percentages behind, the average number of films I’ve watched in July-to-December is 69, which this year would put my final total at 224.
  • Lest all this sound like plain sailing to a number definitively above 200, my weakest-ever July-to-December was 33 in 2011, which, if repeated, would see 2020 end on 188. Never say never…



The 61st Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Lots of stuff I liked a great deal this month, and as usual it’s hard to compare such wildly different films. For surprise value, I’m drawn towards Paris When It Sizzles — it doesn’t seem to be well-rated on the whole, but it’s a lot of fun as a kind of “insider’s view” Hollywood spoof that feels ahead of its time.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
No outright bad movies this month, in my estimation, but there were more than a couple that didn’t live up to my expectations. Perhaps the worst of these was Crawl, purely because it was doing so much better early on than it was by the end.

Song That Most Stands a Chance at the Oscars of the Month
God only knows what’s going to be going on at the Oscars next year, but they should be more amenable to streaming movies than ever, and that might open the door for a song from The Story of Fire Saga to get in — if there’s one thing most people who’ve watched it can agree on, it’s that the original songs are rather catchy (in a Eurovision-y way). Heck, why just one? In the past, multiple songs from the same film have made it, so never rule that out (I have no idea how the rules for the song category work). But if only one song makes it then… no, it won’t be Jaja Ding Dong (well, you never know). It might be Volcano Man, just because that had several weeks of advance play due to being released as a kind of teaser trailer. But judged as an actual song, the big emotive climactic number Husavik surely deserves a shot.

Most Desirable House of the Month
I can see why Jimmie Fails obsesses over restoring, maintaining, and (re)acquiring that house in The Last Black Man in San Francisco — it’s gorgeous. Until it gets that makeover at the end, anyway (um, spoilers? I dunno).

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Maybe it’s because there’s nothing new in cinemas. Maybe it’s because Eurovision remains popular in many places, as does Will Ferrell. Whatever the cause, Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga has generated a lot of chatter since its release last Friday, and so it’s of little surprise that my release-day review has attracted a fair few visitors. It easily tops this month’s chart (both new and all-time posts), and has overtaken another Netflix original, Extraction, to be my most-viewed film review of 2020 so far.



This month, my Rewatchathon movies forward at give-or-take its intended pace — which, after last month’s bumper crop, means I’m still over a month ahead of schedule.

#27 The Scarlet Claw (1944)
#28 Gambit (1966)
#29 The Pearl of Death (1944)
#30 The House of Fear (1945)

Three of those continue my rewatch of the Sherlock Holmes series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. My original reviews are linked above; the following links are to new thoughts on Letterboxd. In summary, I think The Scarlet Claw remains my overall favourite from the series, but I enjoyed both The Pearl of Death and, in particular, The House of Fear a lot more this time — together, the trio are definitely among the series’ best.

As for Gambit, it made my yearly top ten back in 2011, but if anything I enjoyed it even more on this second watch. I’d remembered the famous first-act trick, of course, but forgotten the substance of all the twists at the end, which kept it exciting. It’s so much fun in between too, and moves like a rocket without ever feeling rushed.


Cinemas remain closed, but that hasn’t put a stop to new releases, with the likes of Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day in New York and Simon Bird’s Days of the Bagnold Summer heading direct to rental. Plus, there was an even more high-profile new release in Spike Lee’s acclaimed movie for Netflix, Da 5 Bloods.

Other titles new to the preeminent streamer that caught my eye include action movie VFW; last year’s animated revival of The Addams Family; documentary The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story; and almost a dozen movies directed by Youssef Chahine — I watched the most noteworthy one, Cairo Station, but I’ve seen several others recommended. I also noticed Line of Duty pop up, but only because it was released theatrically here as In the Line of Duty, presumably to avoid conflict with the popular TV series, but Netflix have reverted to its original title. I don’t remember it being well reviewed, so I won’t be rushing to catch up with it.

Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video offered the new Shaun the Sheep movie, Farmageddon, which I’ve been looking forward to getting round to. Also a couple of documentaries, one titled Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show, which kind of sums up its topic, and the other about a pioneering early female filmmaker, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (which still hasn’t been picked up by the site I use to track additions to Amazon, so it may’ve been there a while for all I know). Also standing out from the pack was the brilliantly titled Django and Sartana Are Coming, It’s the End (the titles seem to be the best thing about any of the movies starring Sartana) and a steampunk adaptation of The Secret Garden. Um, what? Colour me curious.

Once again, Sky Movies / Now TV suffered by comparison. Mr. Jones sounds interesting, but has the kind of grim subject matter that’s going to make me keep putting it off; I didn’t mind the first one, which hardly pushes Maleficent: Mistress of Evil to the top of my must-see list (I didn’t even bother to put it on last year’s ’50 unseen’ list); and I’m not sure I’ve seen enough Kevin Smith films to really ‘get’ Jay & Silent Bob Reboot… but, hey, I guess it is a reboot, right?

Oh, and lest you think I’d curbed my spending this month, oh dear me, no. Recent films finally hitting disc here included The Lighthouse and Pixar’s Onward (in 3D, natch), while new releases of catalogue titles included 88 Films’ latest Jackie Chan release, Armour of God II: Operation Condor (hence why I watched the first one this month); Eureka adding film noir Criss Cross to their Masters of Cinema line; and BFI issuing a restored Tokyo Story, a film I’ve been meaning to rewatch for a very long time. And offer pricing was once again the siren to my wallet’s sailor: from the BFI, The Crying Game, doco Mifune: The Last Samurai, and their Early Women Filmmakers box set (with seven features and 15 shorts, including several by the aforementioned Alice Guy-Blaché); from a Masters of Cinema twofer, Faust and Witness for the Prosecution; and from the recent UK Criterion offer, Fail Safe, Holiday, Kiss Me Deadly, and Solaris. I think I would’ve caved to more in the latter, but I’m trying to hold some money back for the Barnes & Noble Criterion offer that should be starting in a couple of weeks. I can never have enough set aside for that…


UK cinemas are set to reopen… but how long will that last? Will anyone go? The major films scheduled for July have already been pushed (again) to August, leaving only re-releases and some small-scale new releases with nothing to lose by testing the waters. Hardly an enticing slate, especially when the safety measures on offer are dubious (personally, I’m almost entirely put off by the lack of reserved seating at Odeon). Some people would like to pretend this is all over, but anything could still change any day…

Well, at least we’ll definitely have Hamilton on Disney+.

Holy Monthly Review of May 2020, Batman!

Altogether, I watched 39 feature films this month… but that includes my Rewatchathon tally, so it’s no record breaker. Further down you can find out how that total divides up between new viewing and rewatches, but it’s pertinent here because four of those films were Batman-related. That might not sound like many, but it’s 10.3% of my viewing this month. Couple it with some unwatched Bat-purchases (see the “failures” section), and recent headlines about Justice League (the Snyder cut) and Batwoman (resigning), and it feels like the Caped Crusader has been around a lot of late — hence the post title. Makes a change from something coronavirus related, eh?


#96a DC Showcase: Jonah Hex (2010)
#97 Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
#98 Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)
#99 August 32nd on Earth (1998), aka Un 32 août sur terre
#100 Joker (2019)
#101 The Head Hunter (2018)
#102 Black Angel (1946)
#103 Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
#104 Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)
#105 Scooby-Doo! & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)
#106 Top Secret! (1984)
#107 American Animals (2018)
#108 Belladonna of Sadness (1973), aka Kanashimi no Belladonna
#109 Zero Charisma (2013)
#110 Marriage Story (2019)
#111 Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)
#112 Stuber (2019)
#113 Misbehaviour (2020)
#114 Phase IV (1974)
#115 A Bug’s Life (1998)
#116 127 Hours (2010)
#117 Hotel Artemis (2018)
#118 The Goonies (1985)
#119 Maelström (2000)
#120 Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
#121 The Sky’s the Limit (1943)
#122 Philomena (2013)
#123 Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (2020)
#124 Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (2017)
#125 My Favourite Wife (1940)
#126 The Looking Glass War (1970)
#127 Fisherman’s Friends (2019)
Joker

Marriage Story

Philomena

The Looking Glass War

.


  • I watched 31 new feature films in May.
  • That makes it just my fifth ever month with over 30 films. It ties with October 2015 as my fourth highest month.
  • It flies past the May average (previously 14.8, now 16.1) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 14.75, now 15.3), as well as the average for 2020 to date (previously 24.0, now 25.4).
  • This month’s other milestones include passing my eponymous goal of 100 films, which feels less of an achievement since the last time I failed it was eight years ago. However, it’s the earliest I’ve ever achieved it: I got there on 5th May, beating 2018’s 10th May.
  • I also passed my updated goal of 120 new films. Again, that’s the earliest I’ve got so far: I was there on 22nd May, beating 2018’s 29th May.
  • So it should come as no surprise that #127 is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of May. Next closest is, again, 2018, when I’d got to #124.
  • One thing I failed to do this month was watch a new film on the 23rd, one of the three remaining dates on which I’ve never watched a film in this blog’s lifetime (a thing I’ve been specifically working to iron out since July 2017). The other two are 5th January and 22nd December, which makes this May date feel like a real oddity. I mean, in early January I’m often so caught up in my review-of-the-year posts that I don’t watch many films; and December 22nd is a date I’m often doing Christmas stuff (family get-togethers, etc). 13 years is a long time for them both to go empty, considering 99.2% of the rest of the year has filled up over that time, but at least there are clear reasons that reoccur every year. Why May 23rd, though… I’ve not got the foggiest.
  • Attentive readers may’ve spotted two early Denis Villeneuve films amongst this month’s viewing. I’ve had copies of all of his early (i.e. pre-Prisoners) work for a number of years now, and I thought I’d finally get round to them in the run-up to Dune. Expect some more next month.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Kenji Mizoguchi’s acclaimed fantasy drama Ugetsu Monogatari.
  • In a total about-turn from my last record-setting “failures” tally, I watched none of the ones I listed last month.



The 60th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
The more films you watch, the higher the chance more of them will be great, and so I have a few strong contenders to choose from this month. On balance, I give the gong to Belladonna of Sadness for being quite unlike anything else I can remember seeing. But any of the films whose poster I’ve pictured above (except Joker, which I have mixed feelings about) were in the running and are certainly on the long-list to make my year-end top ten.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
My most disappointing viewing experience this month was definitely My Favourite Wife, a screwball comedy starring Cary Grant that has its moments but overall made me appreciate how much skill was involved in the truly great screwball comedies — it has none of their pace or spark.

Best Joker of the Month
Look, I know Joaquin Phoenix won the Oscar ‘n’ all, but rewatching Batman ’89 reminded me just how good Jack Nicholson was in the role. I’m not saying he’s the greatest Joker ever (there’s strong competition), but I think people forget that he gave as effective and iconic an interpretation of the part as anyone else has.

Best Double-Bill of the Month
I realise this is kinda just praising my own film-choosing skills, but c’mon, Phase IV and A Bug’s Life is an amusing “talking ants” double-bill by anyone’s standards (right?)

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For the second month in a row, and the third time this year, a film review has topped the table of new posts (that might sound like a silly observation on a film blog, but my TV columns usually do very well for hits. Indeed, taking all posts into account, 19 of May’s top 20 most-viewed posts were TV ones). The victor this month was, somewhat surprisingly, The Head Hunter — hardly a major film, nor a new release (though it was fairly new to the UK, so maybe that’s what helped). Meanwhile, the headline of this month’s TV column was Quiz, which only began airing in the US last night, so maybe that will make like Bodyguard and be a big draw next month.



It’s been about a year, so today I’ve given the directors page header image its annual(ish) update. For those who don’t know, it displays the 20 directors with the most number of films I’ve reviewed. For the past few years there’s been a tie for the last few spots, but this year it happened to work out to exactly 20, thanks in part to this month’s viewing. (Honestly, that’s a coincidence — I didn’t choose the films I watched to break the tie.)

So, what changes? Well, Stanley Kubrick, Richard Linklater, and M. Night Shyamalan all exit. David Lynch secured a place thanks to Dune (which I (re)watched last month) and the short film What Did Jack Do? (which I watched in January), while Danny Boyle did so via 127 Hours and Frankenstein (I reviewed the latter as TV rather than a film, but I’ve put it under his name on the directors page nonetheless, as I have done with some miniseries by other directors). Finally, nudging his way into the 20th spot via Intolerable Cruelty is Joel Coen, representing the Coen Brothers just as he did in credit form before they were allowed to both be named.


My Rewatchathon goal is 50 films a year, which averages out at just over four films a month — so this month I watched a double quotient’s worth, in the process passing the halfway mark a month early.

#19 The Green Hornet 3D (2011)
#20 Flash Gordon (1980)
#21 Mission: Impossible (1996)
#22 Batman (1989)
#23 Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)
#24 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
#25 The Saint (1997)
#26 The Spider Woman (1944)

As usual, the above links are to my original review (where available). Rewatch thoughts follow…

I happened to see an interview with the creative team behind a new Green Hornet comic book, and that was enough to make me decide to rewatch the film that evening. What can I say, I’m fickle and easily swayed sometimes — though, in fairness to myself, I bought it in 3D a little while back, so a rewatch has been on my mind. It looked pretty good. More thoughts on Letterboxd.

Flash Gordon was similarly provoked: I was so excited for that gorgeous 4K box set StudioCanal announced, I had to watch my current copy. It’s such deliciously campy, gaudy fun — I love it.

I last rewatched all the Mission: Impossible films in the first half of 2018, in the run up to the theatrical release of Fallout. That’s two years ago — a long time for some people, but by my timescales it feels like I’ve just watched them. But they’re fab films, and I’ve had the 4K box set waiting for a little while now (which features massive improvements to the PQ of the first two films), so… and, indeed, this one looks fantastic in 4K. The stuff in Prague, in particular, is gorgeously shot. And so many split diopter shots, some for absolutely no good reason! De Palma and/or DP Stephen H. Burum were just having fun here.

I posted a long-ish comment about Batman on Letterboxd, but I’m also intending to give it the ‘Guide To’ treatment, so more then.

I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes Faces Death slightly less than I remembered. I think that’s because, on a first viewing, it’s easily one of the series’ best to that point, whereas with hindsight there are better to come. Still, I don’t wish to damn it with faint criticism: if it’s not among the series’ very finest, it’s still a solid Holmes adventure. More on Letterboxd. And speaking of the series’ very finest, a contender for that crown is The Spider Woman. Again, more new thoughts on Letterboxd.

As for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I still think the miniseries has the edge, but the film is a really fantastic adaptation too. Shame we never got the mooted sequels. (Incidentally, the new adaptation of Rebecca I mentioned in the intro to my original review is finally due out this year, just seven years later.)

Finally, the Val Kilmer-starring reboot of The Saint. I watched this Back In The Day and remember more or less enjoying it, but I also couldn’t recall anything specific about it. That’s probably because it’s actually rubbish. It clearly wants to be GoldenEye or Mission: Impossible, but doesn’t have the skills or ingenuity to get there. It has a kind of charm if you’re nostalgic for ’90s post-Cold War action-thrillers, but that’s all. When your cool leader character’s car is provided by Volvo, you know you’re onto a loser.


For the second month in a row, cinemas remain completely closed. Perhaps the most-discussed “home premiere” title was Scoob!… but that didn’t get a UK release, so I definitely didn’t see it. In fact, I can’t think of a single other home premiere title this month — either they’ve dried up already, or what came out wasn’t significant enough to catch my attention. I did plump for a few discount rentals thanks to Amazon Prime, though, including The Last Black Man in San Francisco, The Peanut Butter Falcon, and The Rhythm Section. They should all pop up in next month’s viewing.

My disc purchasing continues unabated, of course. As mentioned in the intro, I picked up a couple of Batman titles on offer: last year’s animations Hush and Batman vs Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the set of Burton/Schumacher movies in 4K — I already rewatched Batman, and have Returns, Forever, and & Robin to come in the near future. Other sale pickups included more films to rewatch in 4K: A Few Good Men, Gladiator, Hellboy, and It’s a Wonderful Life; plus one I’ve never seen, American Gangster; and a couple in good ol’ 1080p, Fritz Lang’s Man Hunt, and The Seven-Ups, which was recommended to me a good while ago.

But most of this month’s buying was new releases, albeit many of them catalogue titles: Second Sight’s limited editions of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and Revenge; 101 Films’ Black Label edition of Screamers; Masters of Cinema’s release of Johnnie To’s Throw Down; Arrow’s new Krzysztof Kieślowski box set, Cinema of Conflict; and 88 Films’ new edition of Mystery Men, one of my favourite films. In terms of new-new titles, there was Mark Cousins’ new 14-hour documentary, Women Make Film, and 1917 in 4K.

The streamers were as busy with new additions as ever in May. Among Netflix’s was The Soloist, which I guess wouldn’t attract too many people’s attention, but it grabs mine because it’s on one of my ‘50 Unseen’ lists but has never seemed to be available anywhere. I’ll have to make an effort to see it before it disappears again. Also of particular note was Monos, which I remember attracting a lot of attention on Letterboxd at one point; original movie The Lovebirds, which sounds like it might make for a diverting-enough 90 minutes; and The First Purge, primarily because it means Netflix now have all The Purge movies except for the one I need to see next, The Purge: Election Year. Grr. They also gained a few titles that I’ve owned on Blu-ray for years without getting round to rewatching, like Miami Vice, Vertigo, and Waterworld, for shame.

Over on Amazon, their most recent original is The Vast of Night, which I feel like I would’ve skimmed past if I hadn’t happened to see the review on Vodzilla that piqued my interest by describing it as an “affectionate and mischievous homage to 1950s sci-fi” and “Twilight Zone-esque”. (That said, in the past couple of days it’s also popped up repeatedly on Letterboxd and other blogs, so I guess I would’ve spotted it one way or another.) In the UK we also got My Spy — I believe Amazon have the worldwide rights, but here it snuck into cinemas before lockdown so they’ve already put it up to stream, whereas I don’t think it’s been released everywhere else yet (not in the US, at least).

Catalogue additions included In the Name of the Father, which I don’t recall seeing available to stream before, but it’s on the IMDb Top 250 (at time of writing it’s 188th) so I should make the effort while I can; and even more things I own on DVD or Blu-ray but have never got round to watching, including 30 Days of Night, Cloud Atlas, Green Zone, Midnight in Paris, Monster’s Ball, and Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. Also The Limey, which finally got a Blu-ray release recently but, sadly, Lionsgate fudged it up by not including the DVD’s special features (the commentary is legendarily great). It’s available in 4K, but sadly not on Prime (which is 1080p only) or disc. Regular readers may recall I ranked it in my top ten in 2016, so I’m miffed about all this mishandling. Similarly, they added The Hateful Eight this month, which is presumably why we’ve never received Netflix’s extended miniseries cut here in the UK — they just don’t have the rights. Frustrating.

Netflix and Amazon may spoil us for choice (the ones I’ve listed are only a small selection of things I noted throughout the month), but it’s a different picture at Sky Cinema / Now TV. They may add at least one premiere every day, but few of their offerings caught my eye this month — just French submarine thriller The Wolf’s Call; ‘gator horror Crawl, which I’ve heard good things about; and Dora and the Lost City of Gold, which someone said is surprisingly good. I still doubt I’ll make time for it next month, but you never know.


Parasite finally makes it to UK disc today — I saw it back in February while it was still in cinemas (remember those?), so maybe I’ll finally review it soon.

As for likely new viewing… oh, who knows? It might be another record-challenging month, or it might not, or maybe we’ll all die because they lifted lockdown too early. Onward’s out on Monday, and The Lighthouse the week after (more belated UK disc releases), so hopefully I’ll at least get to watch those first.

Oh, and there’s the small matter of 100 Films #2000…

The Locked Down Monthly Review of April 2020

In 2002, Blue got the city on lockdown.
In 2020, Boris Johnson got the country on lockdown.
Your move, noughties boy bands.

One thing this stressful time has been good for is my film viewing. After a 2019 that saw some of my lowest months in years — indeed, ever — I’m pleased to say that April 2020 is a record breaker:

100 Films has a new Best. Month. Ever!


#59 Rang De Basanti (2006)
#60 The Kid (1921/1971)
#61 The Three Caballeros (1944)
#62 Stop Making Sense (1984)
#63 Burning (2018), aka Beoning
#64 The Karate Kid Part III (1989)
#65 Aniara (2018)
#66 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
#67 The Diamond Arm (1969), aka Brilliantovaya ruka
#68 I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
#68a The Devil’s Harmony (2019)
#69 The Next Karate Kid (1994)
#70 Never Too Young to Die (1986)
#71 It Chapter Two (2019)
#72 Andrei Rublev (1966)
#73 Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux (1984/2012)
#74 Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
#75 K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)
#76 Near Dark (1987)
#77 The Thin Red Line (1998)
#78 Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)
#79 Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
#80 6 Underground (2019)
#81 The Secret Life of Pets 2 3D (2019)
#82 Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman (2006)
#83 Long Day’s Journey into Night 3D (2018), aka Di Qiu Zui Hou De Ye Wan
#84 End of the Century (2019), aka Fin de siglo
#85 Men in Black: International (2019)
#86 The Sheik (1921)
#87 The Son of the Sheik (1926)
#88 Extraction (2020)
#89 The Wedding Guest (2018)
#89a The Escape (2016)
#90 Ready or Not (2019)
#91 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
#92 The Two Popes (2019)
#93 Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D (2012)
#94 The Lunchbox (2013)
#95 Zatoichi in Desperation (1972), aka Shin Zatôichi monogatari: Oreta tsue
#96 Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
Aniara

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux

Jumanji: The Next Level

Ready or Not

The Lunchbox

.


  • I watched 38 new feature films in April.
  • As I said at the start, that’s my most ever in a single month, beating the previous record holder (May 2018) by four films. That’s noteworthy because May 2018 is only one film ahead of the month that’s now in 3rd, which is only two films ahead of the month now in 4th, which is only three films ahead of the months now in =5th. So, four is a pretty healthy margin.
  • Obviously, as my best month ever, April is going to smash any comparisons I care to make. So let’s start with the only thing it wasn’t guaranteed to do, but it has done nonetheless: #96 is the furthest I’ve reached by the end of April (next best is #90 in 2018).
  • Averages: it increases April’s average by two whole films, from 12.8 to 14.8; increases the rolling average of the last 12 months from 13.3 to 14.8; and increases the average for 2020 to date from 19.3 to 24.0. If I maintained that average until December, 2020 would become my biggest year ever (but things never work out like that).
  • It’s my 21st month with 20+ films, and my 4th month with 30+ films.

Alright, now some notes on the films within those 38…

  • Back in February, I noted that I’d somehow never seen a film from 1932. That’s now changed, thanks to I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. Now, since the year of the first feature films being produced in the UK and USA (1912), there are only four years from which I’ve not seen at least one feature-length film: 1912, 1914, 1915, and 1923. I have at least one title picked out from each of those years that I could use to settle this matter, so I ought to get on with them…
  • I’ve seen David Lynch’s Dune before, but it was over 20 years ago and it was the theatrical cut. The fan edit I watched adds material from a longer TV cut and deleted scenes, plus generally rearranges and rejigs stuff, so I figure it must be substantially different enough to count as new.
  • Having watched 92% of the alphabet in January, February, and March, only X and Z remained — with the latter now claimed by Zatoichi in Desperation. X will go whenever I get round to watching Dark Phoenix — I think that’s literally the only X film I have in my collection or on Netflix/Amazon/etc.
  • This month’s Blindspot films: Andrei Tarkovsky’s biopic of 15th century religious icon painter Andrei Rublev. I found it as dry as that sounds. Also, from my ‘overflow’ list, Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, which I was also underwhelmed by. I knew it would be more Malickian than your typical war movie, but still, something about it didn’t connect with me.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Aniara, End of the Century, It Chapter Two, Rambo: Last Blood, Ready or Not, and The Secret Life of Pets 2, plus The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (see Rewatchathon). That’s a record haul, besting the five failures I watched last April. It was driven by most of those being time-limited Amazon rentals.



The 59th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
How to define “favourite”? On the one hand you’ve got something like I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, which is a weighty and still-pertinent condemnation of the American justice system. On the other, something such as Jumanji: The Next Level, which is just a whole lot of fun. More tickling my fancy in the former camp is Aniara, about the psychological strain of being stranded in space with little hope of ever returning home, some of which feels very pertinent to our current world situation (I know we’re all at home rather than far from it, but the cooped up with no hope of escape… yeah). And in the latter camp, Ready or Not is a deliciously gonzo horror-comedy, which didn’t quite push as many buttons as I’d hoped but is still massively entertaining. On balance, bearing in mind its unexpected timeliness, Aniara takes it.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is a more straightforward category… although, personally, I included Andrei Rublev on my shortlist, which is a Highly Acclaimed Movie (just check out how many Greatest Ever lists it’s on), but it bored me senseless. Still, it did have some parts I admired — I’m not sure I can say the same about Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Actually, that’s not strictly true: Christopher Reeve was always perfect as Superman; but the film definitely lets him down.

Best Musical Discovery of the Month
I’d never consciously listened to Talking Heads before I watched Stop Making Sense. I recognised exactly two of the songs during that concert movie, and one of those I know best from a cover version. While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a convert to their music, I liked most of it well enough, with opening number Psycho Killer my favourite. In fact, I preferred the live version in the film to the original recording. Maybe it’s just because I heard that take first, I dunno.

Best Audition to Be James Bond of the Month
It never even crossed my mind that the skinny kid from Slumdog Millionaire could ever be considered for Bond, and I bet it didn’t yours either. It was David Ehrlich’s Letterboxd review of The Wedding Guest that first flagged up the idea for me, and, having seen the film, I can see what he means. Dev Patel as James Bond… it’d certainly be different.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
The second half of last month’s TV review sat pretty atop the chart for most of the month (the Doctor Who half, meanwhile, wasn’t even close), but then Extraction came barrelling through my stats like Tyler Rake through an overcrowded Indian apartment block. Five older TV posts topped it overall, but it was by far my most-viewed new post.



The name’s Connery, Sean Connery.

Yes, there’s a distinct theme to this month’s rewatches. It wasn’t deliberate… well, not at first. Once I noticed it, obviously I had to maintain it.

#15 Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
#16 The Avengers (1998)
#17 The Rock (1996)
#18 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

…and, if you want to take it further, you could argue they’re all movies where Connery returned to the role of James Bond. Sure, Diamonds Are Forever is the only one where that’s literally true, but there’s long been a fan theory that Connery’s character in The Rock is Bond under a pseudonym, and in The Avengers he plays an innuendo-spewing former British secret agent turned villain. As for LXG… yeah, okay, the idea runs out there.

When I included The Rock in my 100 Favourites, I only rated it 4 stars. Now I feel like a fool — it’s easily a 5. Some thoughts as to why on Letterboxd. Mind you, that kind of thing cuts both ways: when I finally got round to rewatching Face/Off 18 months ago, I discovered I didn’t enjoy it as much as I used to, and if I’d done that before publishing 100 Favourites then I might’ve dropped it from the list entirely. I intend to update my favourites list someday, but I think I need to do a good deal more rewatching before then.

My rewatch of LXG was prompted by this defence of the film. While I wouldn’t call the movie a masterpiece, I do generally agree with that article — the film has its moments (many of them thanks to Dorian Gray), and it’s certainly no worse than many other ’90s/’00s Hollywood blockbusters. Quite why it provokes such vitriol from anyone but fans of the book is beyond me. (Book fans have every right to be disappointed, because the film sanitises and Hollywoodises the concept. That said, as a fan of the books myself, I’m happy to take both forms as differing executions of the same idea.)


This may be the biggest month in 100 Films history, but there was still plenty of stuff I failed to watch. Nothing in cinemas, obviously (though Trolls World Tour did get released direct to premium streaming, and consequently looks like it might change the world), but the other avenues for film viewing offered more than enough alternatives.

For starters, Netflix completed their Studio Ghibli lineup with Howl’s Moving Castle (the only one I’d seen), From Up on Poppy Hill (which I own on Blu-ray), Ponyo (also on Blu-ray), When Marnie Was There (also on Blu-ray, jeez!), Pom Poko, Whisper of the Heart, and The Wind Rises. On the new films front there was CG animation The Willoughbys, which looks vaguely interesting, and for (relatively) recent releases they mustered the remake of Child’s Play. They also added the second Maze Runner film, The Scorch Trials. One day the whole trilogy will be available somewhere and I’ll give them a shot.

Amazon actually had more to offer in terms of recent acquisitions, though the quality level is dubious — I’m talking of films like Angel Has Fallen (the second sequel to the less-good “Die Hard in the White House” movie), Playmobil: The Movie (a rip-off of The LEGO Movie that wasn’t as well received), 21 Bridges (which received middling notices), and The Current War (presumably in its director’s cut form, for which the most positive comment Rotten Tomatoes can muster is “a significant improvement over previous versions”). Additions from the archive include a handful of Hong Kong actioners, led by the appropriately-titled Police Story: Lockdown (the sixth film, and second reboot, in the Jackie Chan action franchise), plus unofficial prequel The Legend is Born: Ip Man (I believe Ip Man 4 is also now available to rent over here), and Donnie Yen in Legend of the Fist (a version of the story from Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury and Jet Li’s Fist of Legend).

Also new to Amazon was medical disaster movie Outbreak, which was already on Netflix; and they both added Contagion, after everyone was talking about it last month. I noticed it still made it into Netflix’s UK top ten, though.

Over on Now TV, sequel-cum-reimagining Four Kids and It caught my eye because I remember enjoying the BBC’s 1991 adaptation of the original book when I was a kid, but this new one didn’t seem to go down terribly well (though the British critics collated by Rotten Tomatoes have got it to 61%, which counts as ‘fresh’). Other recent films now on Sky include Ma and Tolkien.

Finally, I went a bit potty in Blu-ray sales again, this time mostly at Arrow, picking up a couple of Vincent Price horrors, Tales of Terror and Tower of London; a couple of artier titles from Second Run, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders and Ikarie XB 1; Third Window’s double-bill of The Whispering Star and The Sion Sono; and some Westerns and noirs and noir-Westerns that include The Ox-Bow Incident, My Name is Julia Ross, and Terror in a Texas Town. The latter pair were directed by Joseph H. Lewis, whose So Dark the Night I enjoyed last month, so I also bought his Gun Crazy in its HMV-exclusive edition, paired with their edition of Out of the Past in their 2-for-£25 offer. Meanwhile, Eureka tempted me with new releases, namely Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain and Masters of Cinema titles Rio Grande, Kwaidan, and their second box set of Buster Keaton features, which includes The Navigator, Seven Chances, and Battling Butler. International travel may be closed to humans, but it isn’t to Blu-rays, as evidenced by my imports of 3-D Rarities Volume II (which includes Mexico’s only 3D film, swashbuckler El Corazón y la Espada) and A Boy and His Dog (which I look forward to rewatching in good quality, unlike the print I saw on Prime Video a few years ago). I tried to resist the UHD upgrade of The Elephant Man, but then I saw the PQ comparisons and the limited-edition pop-up packaging (damn my love of a cardboard gimmick!) and caved.

And, inevitably, I did purchase The Rise of Skywalker, in 3D. You know, I’ve never got round to rewatching The Last Jedi. The idea of pairing them up as a double bill should be the most natural thing in the world, but instead it feels like a bold experiment in combining chalk and cheese. Still, I might try it sometime.


Barring any unforeseen circumstances (though, at the minute, who can accurately foresee anything?), I should definitely pass #100 early next month. As for my new-goal-I-keep-half-forgetting of #120, well, that’s within reach too. And then…

In my final monthly review of 2019, I mentioned that “it’s entirely possible [2020 will] be the year I reach #2000”. Now, it’s all but certain that it will (unforeseen circumstances, remember). If May gets to 35 films (which, before this month, would’ve been a record for biggest month ever), that’ll be 100 Films’ #2000! Is it likely I’ll achieve two such huge months in a row? Funnily enough, the last couple of times I’ve set a new “best month ever” it’s been immediately beaten by the very next month: September then October in 2015; April then May in 2018.

No pressure, May 2020…

The Self-Isolated Monthly Review of March 2020

I hope you’ve got time for a long read (I know you do — you’re stuck at home too, right?) because there’s a tonne of stuff to witter about in this month’s update.

So, settle down with some of the stuff you’ve stockpiled (well, okay, you shouldn’t really need pasta or loo roll to get through this post… I hope…) and while away your isolation with my self-centred lists and stats.


#31 The Karate Kid Part II (1986)
#32 Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
#33 The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part 3D (2019)
#34 Harakiri (1962), aka Seppuku
#35 Showman: The Life of John Nathan-Turner (2019)
#36 Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
#37 The Invisible Guest (2016), aka Contratiempo
#38 Godzilla: King of the Monsters 3D (2019)
#39 Hustlers (2019)
#40 Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
#41 Last Chance Harvey (2008)
#42 Red Joan (2018)
#43 Late Night (2019)
#44 Quartet (2012)
#45 The Lady Vanishes (1938)
#46 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D (2009)
#47 The Platform (2019), aka El hoyo
#48 The Battle of Algiers (1966), aka La battaglia di Algeri
#49 Spider-Man: Far from Home 3D (2019)
#49a Peter’s To-Do List (2019)
#50 The Mad Magician 3D (1954)
#50a Spooks! 3D (1953)
#50b Pardon My Backfire 3D (1953)
#51 A Man for All Seasons (1966)
#52 The Viking Queen (1967)
#53 Aladdin 3D (2019)
#54 One Cut of the Dead, aka Kamera wo tomeruna! (2017)
#55 Knives Out (2019)
#56 The Breakfast Club (1985)
#57 So Dark the Night (1946)
#58 Missing Link (2019)
Harakiri

The Invisible Guest

The Lady Vanishes

Knives Out

.


  • I watched 28 new feature films in March. Boy, does that give me a lot to talk about…

So, let’s break it up a bit. First, some stats…

  • That’s my biggest month since July 2018, which also had 28 films. They’re now tied as my 4th best months ever.
  • Talking of all-time numbers, it’s my best March ever, with a total that’s double the month’s previous average of 14.4. In fact, it single-handedly pulls that average up by over one whole film, to 15.5.
  • Talking of averages, it also surpasses and increases both my rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 12.75, now 13.3) and my average for 2020 to date (previously 15.0, now 19.3).
  • Talking of numbers that are almost 20, it’s my 20th month ever to have 20+ films, and my first 20+ month since last May.
  • Talking of months with 20+ films, March is the month where I have the greatest consistency at reaching a total of 20+. I’ve done it every year since 2016 — that’s five years in a row now. It means March makes up fully 25% of all months with 20+ films. For comparison, there’s no other month where I’ve done it for more than two years in a row.
  • Another milestone: I reached (and passed) #50, i.e. halfway. Except I’m aiming for at least 120 nowadays, so halfway is another couple of films away yet.
  • Nonetheless, this is the second-furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of March, just ahead of #57 in 2018, but reasonably far behind 2016’s #67. What does this tell us about how the rest of the year might pan out? Bugger all. In 2018 I ended up reaching #261, whereas in 2016 I ‘only’ got to #195. And for another point of reference, March 2015 ended at #44, over 20 behind 2016, but ended the year five ahead, at #200. So, y’know, it’s all meaningless.
  • I also had a really good month for my Rewatchathon (see further down this post for more about that). I really should go back and produce a full set of numbers for every month so I can include that in comparisons too…

Talking of my Rewatchathon, what of my other viewing challenges…

  • This month’s Blindspot films: influential guerrilla war movie The Battle of Algiers; plus, I watched the first of what I’m calling my ‘overflow’ films (unseen leftovers from previous Blindspot challenges), seminal ’80s teen comedy The Breakfast Club. Also Harakiri, which merited a mention in my Blindspot post this year about why it wasn’t included (I’d forgotten about that when I randomly chose to watch it anyway!)
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, Hustlers, The Karate Kid Part II, and Late Night.

Finally, some observations about the other films…

  • It’s fundamentally meaningless, but this month I watched my first feature films of the years whose titles begin with nine letters of the alphabet: F, G, H, I, K, O, Q, V, and W. That’s 35% of the alphabet covered in one month — only slightly more than the seven / 27% in January and eight / 31% in February, but then this task gets harder as the year goes on (January has a massive advantage, for hopefully-obvious reasons, whereas the most any of the remaining nine months would now be able to manage is two / 8%).
  • Another first: The Viking Queen was the first film I’ve watched on DVD this year.
  • Talking of DVDs, I watched Judgment at Nuremberg on the BFI’s recent Blu-ray release, which I bought even though I’d only bought the DVD a little while ago. Well, when I fished out that DVD to put on my “to sell” pile, I found it still had the dispatch receipt inside, which showed I bought it in… 2010. A whole decade ago! Sometimes I worry about my sense of the passage of time…
  • As you can tell (as if you didn’t already know), picture quality is important to me. So I could probably write an entire post about the weirdness I’ve been experiencing with Netflix’s PQ of late. I started streaming The Platform, but after it maintained a speed of just 0.57 Mbps — and looked terrible because of it — I gave up and, er, sourced it elsewhere. I’ve tried it again several times since, at different times of the day and night, and it’s always 0.57 Mbps. The same thing happened with Missing Link, although that was 1.21 Mbps so was somewhat more watchable (I still went and got a better copy from somewhere else, though). That led me to try about a dozen more titles, all of which came through at completely different rates, some reasonable, some not. It doesn’t seem to be connected to them needing different amounts of data or needing some time to get up to speed, either — it appears to be totally random. And it doesn’t seem to waver. I had decided to just cancel my Netflix subscription until all this is over (because I presume it’s connected to the speed-limiting they’re reported to be doing in Europe) — after all, it’s not as if I don’t have enough else to watch… but there’s loads of stuff I really do want to see on Netflix, and some of it is still streaming at a reasonable quality. So, I’m undecided.
  • As you can tell from the lack of blue text in the listing above, I haven’t reviewed a single film from this month’s viewing. I thought this might be the first time that’s happened, so I trawled back through all 118 monthly updates to check, and I can confirm… it’s not. In fact, it last happened less than a year ago, in July 2019. You have to go back over five more years, to May 2014, to find the time it happened previous to that; but it happened once in 2013 and three times in 2012, too. So, yeah, not really news.
  • I feel like the only person in the world who hasn’t (re)watched Contagion this month. If you’re interested, my quickie review from when I did watch it is here.



The 58th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I saw quite a few great films this month, and usually that would make this choice very hard, but I fell head over heels for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. I don’t think it comes up too often as one of his very best, but it’s definitely one of my favourites from his whole filmography.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I know it’s an acclaimed classic, but the film I least enjoyed actually watching this month was The Battle of Algiers.

Best 3D of the Month
I watched six new feature films and two shorts in 3D this month (plus four more features in the Rewatchathon), which I expect is a personal best. Setting aside the quality of the film itself, the one with the very best 3D was The Mad Magician. It’s in black & white, which was a bit weird at first (not sure I’ve ever seen a black & white film in 3D before), but because it’s from the ’50s it was actually shot in 3D, not post-converted, and while post-conversions are often very good nowadays, there’s so much extra subtle detail you get when something’s been shot in stereo for real.

Best Twist of the Month
Who doesn’t enjoy a twist? Filmmakers certainly do, and so they abound this month — even The LEGO Movie 2 has one (kinda). Prime examples include Harakiri (which keeps you on your toes with constantly shifting information), Knives Out (which has more up its sleeve than simply whodunnit), and So Dark the Night (that is a whodunnit, but if you watch it, try to read as little as possible first). But the winner this month is The Invisible Guest, because it managed to get almost as far as the reveal before I guessed what was really going on, in part by peppering plenty of about-turns along the way. Nicely done.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It’s a long-standing observations that TV-related posts do well in this category, especially when they’re given plenty of time to amass hits. So, as I posted my 56th TV column way back on the 8th, it’s no surprise to see it win out easily. (The highest film post was The Lion King.)



As I mentioned in this month’s viewing notes, I didn’t rewatch Contagion; but that aside, my Rewatchathon is going rather well this year, racing ahead of target. Mainly, I’ve been revisiting in 3D films I’d previously only seen in 2D.

#9 The LEGO Movie 3D (2014)
#10 The Lion King 3D (2019)
#11 Godzilla 3D (2014)
#12 Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1942)
#13 Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)
#14 Mission: Impossible – Fallout 3D (2018)

Starting with the 3D, then, that Fallout link takes you to my full review of it in 3D, so no need to repeat myself. My Lion King review isn’t expressly about the 3D, but, as I do discuss in the review, I was impressed by it, and it led me to even enjoy the film a little more. As with most computer animated films, The LEGO Movie looks awesome in 3D. Indeed, the skilful way the filmmakers emulated the scale of LEGO is only emphasised by the use of depth here. Despite the fact I already owned the (2D-only) Special Special Edition, I bought another copy in 3D on the strength of the 3D presentations of the LEGO Batman and Ninjago movies, and I wasn’t disappointed. (Now I just ought to watch some of the SSE-exclusive bonus features to justify that purchase…)

Godzilla‘s 3D didn’t generate much comment from me, which is a shame because you’d think the scale would lend itself. It’s not bad, just not special. The film itself is not perfect either, but it’s a darn sight better than most people give it credit for. One thing that’s often criticised is how sparingly Godzilla is actually in it, but I think writer-director Gareth Edwards paced it just right — when the big guy finally turns up, it’s an electric moment.

I totally forgot that I’d randomly rewatched Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon in December 2017, but colourised. This time was the original black & white version, as part of my rewatch of the whole Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes series on Blu-ray. I more or less stand by my original review, which I also stood by in 2017 (though I’m back to being less keen on Lionel Atwill’s Moriarty again), so I guess my opinion on this one is fairly certain. However, I liked Sherlock Holmes in Washington more than I’d remembered; though my original review (linked above, obv) isn’t that damning, so clearly its poorness had self-inflated in my memory. That said, I do still think it’s one of the series’ weakest outings.


I normally begin this section by looking at the stuff I failed to see on the big screen last month, but, well, that’s dried up, hasn’t it? However, though it may feel like Coronavirus has been denying us social experiences for, like, ever, it’s actually only been a couple of weeks — before everything went completely self-isolating-tastic, cinemas were full of Onward, Military Wives, Misbehaviour, Bloodshot, Fantasy Island, and Dark Waters. Even My Spy actually came out over here (in the US it was pushed back into Bond’s vacated release slot. Presumably they’ll be abandoning that now too).

Now, of course, you have these “direct from the cinema” rentals popping up, including Emma (which I’ve seen), The Hunt, and The Invisible Man, plus Bloodshot and Military Wives from the previous list (no Onward this side of the pond). They mostly cost £15.99 for a 48-hour rental (though Bloodshot has gone straight to £13.99 to own, suggesting they don’t expect anyone will want to). At that price, it isn’t worth it to me. For comparison, a ticket at my local cinema is £5.75 — I’m interested in seeing most of those films, but not almost-three-times-what-it-would’ve-cost-me-at-the-cinema interested. I’ll wait ’til they drop to a sensible price and/or hit disc.

Some digital rentals have drawn me in, though — the cut-price ones Amazon offer as a perk of being a Prime member. For either 99p or £1.99 a pop I’ve got Aniara, End of the Century, It: Chapter Two, Rambo: Last Blood, and Ready or Not all ticking down to expiry dates throughout April.

I have less compunction about splurging money on disc purchases. Last month I mentioned that “I got a bit carried away with Blu-ray purchases”, with 16 films on disc among my failures. This month puts that in the shade, with a ridiculous 40 films added to my Blu-ray collection (and I actually watched some new stuff I bought, so the true total acquired this month is even higher). Specific splurges include an Arrow sale (mostly noirs, like The Big Clock, Nightfall, and Phantom Lady, plus the Sister Street Fighter collection); an Indicator sale (their seven-film Samuel Fuller box set, plus A Dandy in Aspic, Footsteps in the Fog, The Legacy, and No Orchids for Miss Blandish — none of which I’d even heard of before Indicator released them, but they do make things sound so good); and a bunch of 3D discs of films I’d already seen and enjoyed to some degree (Bolt, Tangled, Pan, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Noah, which is available from Germany in a well-reviewed 3D conversion). Talking of Germany, I also just discovered they’ve had Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris on Blu-ray for a couple of years, so I imported that too (for a very reasonable price, I must say, from Amazon UK). I also bought Criterion’s release of The Blob at an offer price from them, and Bong Joon Ho’s The Host at an offer price from HMV. While trying to fill out a different multi-buy offer I upgraded my old DVD of the X Files movie to Blu, which I knew would put me on track to upgrade the whole series eventually… and it did, just a week or two later, getting it for a good price secondhand on eBay… and then I upgraded I Want to Believe, just to complete the set. I also upgraded The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — yeah, I know, but I actually quite liked it back in the day, and I saw this article on Twitter that swayed me. And that’s not even everything, but dear God, it’ll do.

Back to streaming, then, and the big names have been trotting out plenty of content this month, only spurred on by everyone being stuck at home right now — and by the launch of a major new competitor in Disney+. I haven’t subscribed, nor taken the free trial (yet), so I don’t really know what’s on there besides what everyone’s been talking about, i.e. a months-late release of Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian (which they’re sticking to releasing weekly, even though it’s all been out in the US — and on piracy sites — for months), and the live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp.

Over at the usual suspects, Netflix had their second back of Studio Ghibli films, which for me means Arrietty (though I own it on Blu-ray), The Cat Returns, and My Neighbours the Yamadas. I also want to rewatch Spirited Away, and as I only own it on DVD, HD on Netflix is tempting. Most of their original additions this month seemed to be TV series, although there was Mark Wahlberg in Spenser Confidential, but it was so poorly reviewed that I don’t intend to bother. From the back catalogue, they just recently added The Death of Mr Lazarescu. I remember that getting recommended a lot back when it came out. I never really knew what it was about, but the Netflix blurb begins: “Amid a pandemic”, so I can see why they’ve acquired it now.

As for Amazon, they could offer up recent stuff like The Aeronauts (one of their own, so I think it even bypassed disc), Blinded by the Light, and Midsommar. Other additions catching my eye included sci-fi drama Marjorie Prime (I heard about this somewhere only recently, but I forget the context other than it was a recommendation); The Immigrant (Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner in a film from the director of Ad Astra); Antiviral (a sci-fi-horror-thriller written & directed by Brandon “son of David” Cronenberg); and Intacto (a film I’d completely forgotten all about, but the poster image struck a deep memory of something that had once been highly recommended and I really wanted to see, probably right back when it first came out, 18 years ago(!) Well, now it’s on my watchlist again).

Both of those added a lot more than I’m bothering to list here, so if you’re a subscriber to either, do be sure to keep an eye on sites like New on Netflix UK or this Amazon equivalent.

Finally, I went to cancel my Now TV Sky Cinema subscription at the start of the month, but they offered me a great deal: three monthscompletely free. You can’t turn that down, can you? Even if I only watched one film on there during those three months, the cost-benefit ratio would be fine. They add a new premiere every day, plus a handful of other titles now and then, but, despite that, only a couple of newcomers were worthy of note to me: The Goonies (yep, never seen that), Her Smell (people seem to keep recommending it), Robert the Bruce (the unofficial sort-of-sequel to Braveheart), and The Secret Life of Pets 2 (the first one was alright, so why not?)

(Whew, this section is getting damn long nowadays — and that’s without the further 50 films I had on my long-list but decided not to mention. Maybe I should start doing it as a standalone post — this month it’s over 1,000 words, which is about the same length as one of my longer film reviews!)


Right now who knows what next week will bring, never mind next month? Though if things carry on as they are (and it looks like the will for a good while yet), perhaps it’ll be a record-breaking month. Or perhaps not. Who knows!

The So Metaphorical Monthly Review of February 2020

A busy weekend means this post is later than normal. As for the title, yeah, I saw Parasite. (I highlight that just so you don’t go expecting any actual metaphors later in this post.)

Also, as I write this I’ve realised Parasite is the first Best Picture winner I’ve actually seen at the cinema since, of all things, Crash. And the only other one is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. What an elite club to be a member of…


#13 Booksmart (2019)
#14 The Nightingale (2018)
#15 Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)
#16 Tag (2018)
#17 Shoplifters (2018), aka Manbiki kazoku
#18 A Star Is Born (2018)
#19 Blockers (2018)
#20 Emma. (2020)
#21 Yesterday (2019)
#21a The Crimson Permanent Assurance (1983)
#22 Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
#23 Us (2019)
#24 Escape Room (2019)
#25 The Equalizer 2 (2018)
#26 All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
#27 Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
#28 Parasite (2019), aka Gisaengchung
#29 Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
#30 Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

All Quiet on the Western Front

Parasite

.


  • So, I watched 18 new feature films in February.
  • That makes it the best month of 2020 so far. Okay, it only had one to beat, so, looking further afield, it’s the best month since last August.
  • It also surpasses February’s average (previously 12.83, now 13.2) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 12.75, now… 12.75, because I also watched 18 films last February. Fancy that).
  • Passing #25 means I’ve passed the quarter-way point already. But the last time I didn’t get there in February was 2014 (when it took until April), so it’s not that noteworthy an achievement. Especially as, since last year, I’m meant to be aiming for 120+ films in year.
  • But, good news, I’ve reached the quarter-way mark for 120, too! Ending February at #30 means so far I’m behind 2016 and 2018, but marginally ahead of 2015, 2017, and 2019.
  • Lots of 2018 films this month — to be precise, nine of them, or 50% of my viewing. That’s because I’m making use of my annual month of Now TV / Sky Cinema to catch up on some misses, and as they get a lot of recent stuff first, currently that means it’s mainly 2018 misses with a smattering from 2019 (overall, 61% of this month’s viewing was via Now TV).
  • Monty Python aficionados may have observed that I’ve chosen to list The Crimson Permanent Assurance separately from The Meaning of Life. It’s commonly presented as part of the film these days, but even then it’s still separated from the main feature. It was independently nominated for a BAFTA back in the day, too, so it sort of is part of the film and sort of isn’t. And anyway, while we can argue whether it counts as a standalone work or not, the fact it’s a short means I don’t give it a full number, so even if you do disapprove of listing it separately, at least it doesn’t affect my count for the year.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: anti-war WW1 classic, and early Best Picture Oscar winner (so an apt choice for this month), All Quiet on the Western Front.
  • As best I can tell, All Quiet on the Western Front is the only film I’ve ever seen from 1930. That’s noteworthy because the only other year since talkies came along for which this is true is 1932. Quite how I’ve ‘missed’ those two years, who knows. (If we go back into the silent era, there’s still only a few more years I’ve missed; but, as we’re talking about years with feature films, it gets a little more complicated for that period.)
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Booksmart, The Nightingale, and Yesterday.



The 57th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
This month’s viewing includes the most recent winner of the Palme d’Or, the first-ever non-English-language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, and the movie Letterboxd users have rated the #1 of all time… all of which epithets describe the same film, of course: Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite. It’s an awful lot of pressure to put on a film the first time you watch it. I thought it was great, but how great I’m not sure. So a clearer pick here is All Quiet on the Western Front, another Best Picture winner that has stood the test of time — 90 years and counting.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
In contrast to such greatness, there was plenty of choice for the weakest movie this month. On balance, I think the dishonour belongs to Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again — even by the lowly standards set by the first movie, this follow-up is a mess.

Big Name Star Popping In Near the End of a Crummy Musical for a Couple of Minutes to Sing Part of a Song or Two …of the Month
By coincidence and the vagaries of fate, I saw Meryl Streep do this twice this month. Both were in films released in 2018, so this recognition only comes 14 months late.

Best Musical Number of the Month
They may’ve lavished A Star Is Born and Mary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia 2 with money and star power and all the tricks of modern moviemaking, but the best song-and-dance number I saw this month remains Monty Python’s Every Sperm is Sacred.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
No doubt bolstered by its BAFTA wins and predicted (but unmaterialising) Oscar glory, this month’s top new post was 1917.



With an end goal of 50 in mind, my Rewatchathon stays on course this month…

#6 Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
#7 Christopher Robin (2018)
#8 The Karate Kid (1984)

I still quite like Christopher Robin. Yeah, it’s just the plot of Mary Poppins remade with Winnie the Pooh, but I like Pooh bear a lot so that doesn’t bother me too much.

Some thoughts on The Karate Kid on Letterboxd, and I intend to do a ‘Guide To’ post for it some day — mainly because I enjoyed it enough that I’m intending to watch the sequels, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen, so I’ll number and review them as new films.


Normally I start this section with all the films I missed on the big screen, but the big news nowadays is surely Netflix’s rollout of Studio Ghibli’s back catalogue (seven last month, seven today, the final seven on April 1st). The ones I hadn’t already seen, and still haven’t, from their February lot are Kiki’s Delivery Service (which I own on Blu-ray anyway), Ocean Waves, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, and Tales from Earthsea. Also new to Netflix and on my radar last month were Lady Bird, Hostiles, Proud Mary, and Year One (which I only notice because it was on my ‘50 unseen’ in 2009). One of their originals caught my eye, too: The Coldest Game. Sounded like a genre that’s up my street, but that’s literally all I know about it. Considering the variable quality of Netflix originals, the fact no one seems to be talking about it probably doesn’t bode well.

Over on Amazon Prime, higher profile additions this month include Emma Thompson comedy Late Night and Luc Besson actioner Anna. Also drawing my attention was Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, returning to the streamer after five years away (that’s another from an old ‘50 unseen’ list); Super Size Me 2, the much-less-talked about sequel to the much-talked-about documentary; Anthony Hopkins / Ryan Gosling thriller Fracture (a film I was just about aware existed but had ignored; but, in the sea of mediocrity that’s added to Amazon, that recognition was enough to make me read the blurb and note the decent score it holds on IMDb); and Spy Game, which I’ve seen (it’s in my 100 Favourites, even), but only own on DVD, so here’s my chance to rewatch it in HD.

And, as I mentioned, I’ve currently got Now TV for a little bit yet, so some of the stuff I’d particularly like to catch on there includes Burning, The Kid Who Would Be King, The Wedding Guest, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Crazy Rich Asians, and Mary Queen of Scots. Plus, all the Karate Kid sequels. And, drawing my attention away from that limited-time offering to something else I’ve paid for, I’ve got rentals of Hustlers and Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw that expire in March (both of those were on my most recent ‘50 unseen’, incidentally).

Away from the internet, I got a bit carried away with Blu-ray purchases this month — there are 16 I could list here. Top of the pops is Joker. Also, Criterion’s release of Roma, which I got more for the special features than the film itself (because I can watch the latter on Netflix in UHD). Also on the rewatch list were Gods of Egypt in 3D (like I said would happen); one of my favourites from last year, Searching, which I got new for just a couple of quid; and Phantom Thread, which I also mentioned last month when it came to Netflix, but I finally got on UHD disc (in a two-for-one with Angel Heart). But the biggest single chunk belongs to 88 Films release of Jackie Chan titles, of which I picked up six this month, including four in a sale (Battle Creek Brawl, Dragon Fist, Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin, and To Kill with Intrigue) and two newer releases (Crime Story and The Protector).

Finally, ending where I normally begin, the stuff I missed on the big screen. I nearly went to see Birds of Prey, but I’ll surely buy it for my disc collection eventually so I decided to save the money and wait. I’ve already pre-ordered The Lighthouse, which didn’t come to my local at all. I was never likely to bother with Dolittle or Sonic the Hedgehog, though I’m sure I’ll catch them on streaming sometime. I’m less sure about The Call of the Wild, thanks to that terrible looking CG dog. I’m all for using effects for stunts and stuff, but when it’s also in regular scenes interacting with humans, it just looks fake. Finally, The Invisible Man just came out to strong reviews. I don’t normally bother with horror on the big screen (I prefer to get scared in the secrecy of my own home, thanks), but I’m tempted to make an exception.


More ticking off misses from 2018/19 courtesy of Sky Cinema. Cinema trips seem unlikely (maybe for Mulan), with my attention on the month after and the return of Britain’s best-known secret agent.

The Random Mid-Monthly Review for Valentine’s Day 2020

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I’m a blogger not a poet,
Though I did do a Creative Writing degree with a poetry component, which I don’t think I was the greatest at, but, you know, not all poetry has to rhyme…
But it’s better when it do.

Hello, dear readers. It’s been a while since my last post, but I don’t have any reviews banked ready to go, so here’s a random mid-month update. (Normally the 14th would be right smack in the middle of February, but of course I would end up doing this on a leap year. Still, it’s near enough.)

How you doing? You good? Awesome.

Me? Well, after the back half of last year was sent into relative disarray by house moves and whatnot (just look at this graph from my 2019 statistics to see how up-and-down the year was from June onwards), 2020 is off to a similarly bumpy beginning as I spend my time hunting around for a new job. Also, more directly related to film viewing, much of my DVD/Blu-ray collection remains in boxes as we shelve out The Library. Oh yes, I’m going to have a DVD/Blu-ray library. (Photos when it’s done, I’m sure.) Not that there’s a shortage of stuff I could be watching, what with Netflix and Amazon Prime; plus I currently have Now TV (for the Oscars); and there’s always new releases, both at home and at the cinema (my local is finally screening Parasite from today (hurrah for its Oscar win!), so I really ought to make the effort to see that).

A normal monthly review would have a list of things I’d been watching, of course, but I’ll save that for the proper one. But, talking of Oscar-y recent films I still haven’t seen, the Joker Blu-ray has been sat right next to me all week, waiting (I’ve been focusing on trying to get value for money out of that month of Now TV. I don’t think I have, yet). But, as mooted in my last TV review, I have finally got round to Good Omens. Gotta be honest, I’m not enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I think that might be a case of too high expectations on my part, though. It’s still good, mind — I’d recommend it. Anyway, there’ll be more about that in the next TV column.

Overall, my film viewing tally currently places this February as my worst month since April 2010. That’s very nearly an entire decade ago, people! Fortunately, there’s still half (and a bit) of the month to go yet…

The Personal History of January 2020

We’re a whole month in — 2020 is properly underway!

The less said about yesterday’s biggest news the better, so I’m just gonna plow on into some films…


#1 Crooked House (2017)
#2 Evil Under the Sun (1982)
#3 Rocketman (2019)
#4 Little Women (2019)
#5 Dial M for Murder 3D (1954)
#6 1917 (2019)
#7 The Dead Don’t Die (2019)
#8 Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
#8a What Did Jack Do? (2017)
#9 Bait (2019)
#10 Ad Astra (2019)
#11 (1963)
#12 Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), aka Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta
Rocketman

Laputa: Castle in the Sky

.


  • As should be self-evident, I watched 12 new feature films in January.
  • I watched my first film on New Year’s Day — the first time that’s happened since 2016.
  • I watched my second film on January 2nd — the first time that’s happened since 2012.
  • I watched my third film on January 3rd — the first time that’s ever happened.
  • I watched my fourth film on January 8th — which doesn’t sound as remarkable, but it’s earlier than I watched last year’s #1.
  • By #8, I was ahead of every previous year. By #12, I was ahead of just 54% of them.
  • In terms of averages, 12 slightly beats the January average (previously 11.42, now 11.46), but is slightly behind the average for 2019 (12.6).
  • Dial M for Murder is the first 3D film I’ve watched since last May, eight months ago.
  • This month’s Blindspot film was Federico Fellini’s semi-autobiographical search engine / hashtag nightmare of a title, .
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched just Little Women.



The 56th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I’m always wary of picking the last film I watched as my favourite of the month — I worry it’s just recency bias giving it a boost. And there are certainly other films I liked a lot this month — when I’ve settled on my final ratings, up to 50% of them will be getting full marks. But, eh, it’s just an opinion. So, for now, this month’s victor is a Miyazaki classic (of which there are so many!), Laputa: Castle in the Sky.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is a very straightforward choice, though. I’d heard only terrible things about The Dead Don’t Die, but the trailer had looked such fun that I went ahead and rented it anyway. Sadly, it was the word of mouth that was accurate — it’s a dud.

Most Quotable Film of the Month
You might not expect a black-and-white hand-developed art-house-y drama about the plight of locals in a Cornish fishing village to be full of zingers, but there are loads of such memorable bits in Bait. My favourite? A barmaid watching a local bloke chat up a bit of posh totty from out of town: “He’s wasting his time with her… ‘ow’s she gonna suck his dick with that plum in ‘er mouth?

Least Hashtag-Friendly Film of the Month
Continuing the theme of “recycling stuff I already put on Instagram”, you try and come up with a workable hashtag for .

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
This month’s winner slayed all before it to become, not just my most-read new post, but my most read post overall for last month (that happens quite rarely — just thrice last year, or 25% of the time). The post in question was my Christmas TV review. It received more than double the number of views as the post in second place (which was the previous TV review), a lot of that powered by referrals from IMDb for people wanting to read about Dracula. I hope I switched them on to The Goes Wrong Show while they were here… (The highest new film-related post was my review of The Personal History of David Copperfield.)



Last year’s Rewatchathon limped to an ignominious end (only just over half of my 50-film goal), but 2020’s is off to a solid start…

#1 Zatoichi at Large (1972)
#2 The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
#3 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
#4 Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)
#5 Twin Peaks (1990), aka Twin Peaks: Pilot

Starting at the end, Twin Peaks — the original pilot, which I watched in UHD courtesy of the From Z to A box set. I was counting it as a film as part of a long-term setup for eventually including it on a list of my favourite films (oops, given the game away!)… but I feel less sure after watching it again. Not of its greatness — I still reckon it’s one of the very best episodes of TV ever made, with at least one sequence that’s among my favourites in the entire history of visual storytelling — but it’s so obviously a pilot; so made to set wheels in motion for a series to run with them over many more hours. Yeah, there’s the close-ended International Version, but that’s a bit of a mess. This is something I’ll continue to ponder on.

As for the picture quality of this UHD version, it’s unfortunately a mixed bag. Lynch chose not to use HDR here, apparently… though I don’t know if that’s been confirmed or if it’s accepted wisdom from the disc not playing with HDR. I say that because when I turned Dolby Vision on, it kicked in. So is the disc encoded for Dolby Vision but not normal HDR? Is that possible? Or was my player ‘faking it’? I don’t know enough about how HDR/DV works to answer that. Normally I have Dolby Vision switched off because I don’t like it (I don’t know if I just consider it inaccurate or if it’s my TV’s fault, not displaying it properly for some reason), and Twin Peaks did nothing to convince me I should change that. Mainly it just seemed to make things too dark, erasing detail in the shadows (I tried fiddling with my settings in case I’d set it up poorly, but that didn’t help). With or without DV, the pilot doesn’t look right. The resolution is good, with improved fine detail compared to the Blu-ray, so that’s nice; but the colours look far too pale. Considering classic Twin Peaks is renowned for its warm look, this is especially jarring. Some scenes — outdoor ones, mainly, where the colours are cooler anyway — look just fine, but others look thoroughly wrong. What’s really baffling is that Lynch supposedly supervised this new version, so it should be bang on; but I’m pretty sure he supervised the previous one too, so what’s gone awry? Whenever I next watch the pilot, I’m going to have a difficult choice on my hands: 4K for the base-level image quality, or 1080p for (what I think is) the correct colour balance. Argh!

As anyone au fait with the news has likely guessed, I watched Life of Brian in honour of Terry Jones. Plus, I’d been meaning to rewatch it ever since I watched Holy Grail last September. Like that film, it’s now down to get the “Guide To” treatment at some point.

Rather than regurgitate comments about my other rewatches, I’ll point you towards Letterboxd for my thoughts on The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and why I rewatched Zatoichi at Large when there are still several original Zatoichi films I’ve not seen.


2020 got off to a solid start, but there were still plenty of things I failed to see. On the big screen, I saw most of the stuff I really intended to — I’m happy to leave both Guy Ritchie’s latest, The Gentlemen, and belated trilogy-maker Bad Boys for Life until they reach rental. Speaking of which, I’ve got both Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale and Danny Boyle’s Yesterday sitting on my Amazon Prime Video account with the days ticking down — definites for next month, those.

In terms of new disc acquisitions, I watched a few as soon as they landed on my mat, but I went on a bit of a spending spree this month — a mix of new releases, random bargains, and having some vouchers to use up. In the former camp, the BFI’s new Blu-ray of Judgment at Nuremberg rubs shoulders with Arrow’s release of Black Angel, a film noir directed by Roy William “director of 11 Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films” Neill (which was recommended to me almost eight years ago by an esteemed fellow blogger, so it’s about time I got round to it).

The random bargains pile, meanwhile, is mostly made up of horror: the 101 Films Black Label edition of David Cronenberg’s Rabid; 88 Films’ box set of Hollow Man and Hollow Man II; and an import of Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D, which is meant to be absolutely terrible but, eh, I’m curious (it’s also only available in the UK on DVD or digital, neither of which are 3D, so I got the German one. The extras aren’t English-friendly, but I don’t reckon I’m ever likely to watch an hour-long making-of on this particular film). And in the “I had a voucher” camp, Don’t Look Now in its 4K limited edition form. Frankly, I’d’ve snaffled that up even without the voucher — it’s sold out online and so the price is beginning to rise on eBay and the like, but I happened across a single copy in a branch of HMV, where they were still charging the original price. The voucher comes into play because I wouldn’t even have been looking were it not for having an HMV voucher that expired the next day. So, that was nice.

And finally, the ever-burgeoning ranks of what’s available on streaming. Headliners this past month include In the Mood for Love cropping up on Prime Video — it’s one of the most acclaimed films of this century, but it never seems to be available in the UK, apart from an old DVD. It’s on my Blindspot list this year too, but I’d already got hold of it by, er, other means for that purpose. Other additions that drew my attention on Prime included Booksmart (particularly as I previously rented it but accidentally let the clock run out), Samuel Fuller’s The Naked Kiss, The Boondock Saints (one of those films I’ve heard of but don’t know much more about), and Jason Statham vehicle Wild Card — it’s been a while since I watched a run-of-the-mill Stath flick, so I feel overdue. Also overdue is a rewatch for Brokeback Mountain, which is also now on Prime here. Back in 2006 I was one of that rare breed who thought Crash was better. I didn’t hate Brokeback, but I didn’t like it much either. So, it’s long overdue that I revisit it and form a new opinion, now that I’m older and wiser.

Over on Netflix, the biggest hitter is probably Uncut Gems, which is one of this year’s many “should’ve had Oscar noms” films. But that only came out yesterday, so it’s not much of a “failure”… yet. Also catching my eye were Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (not to be confused with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which is only just reaching UK cinemas) and Zhang Yimou’s Shadow. Plus they now have Phantom Thread, which I personally don’t intend to rewatch in anything less than 4K, but I mention its presence nonetheless because I highly recommend it.


Ghibli comes to Netflix! Well, not if you’re in North America, but for the rest of us: hooray!

…although I own Blu-rays of most of the ones I’m interested in seeing, I’ve just not got round to watching them yet, so their presence on Netflix isn’t likely to affect my viewing much at all. Hey-ho.