The Value-for-Money Monthly Update for February 2016

It’s only words, and words are all I have to introduce this post.

So let’s get on with it.


The Martian#21 Predestination (2014)
#22 Prisoners (2013)
#23 Macbeth (2015)
#24 Daybreakers (2009)
#25 The Martian (2015)
#26 Ex Machina (2015)
#27 Quigley Down Under (1990)
#28 Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014)Ex Machina
#29 SuperBob (2015)
#30 The East (2013)
#31 Pillow Talk (1959)
#32 Home on the Range (2004)
#33 Crimson Peak (2015)
#34 Grand Piano (2013)
#35 Home (2015)
Crimson Peak#36 Noah (2014)
#37 The Equalizer (2014)
#38 The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)
#39 Big Eyes (2014)
#40 The Hangover (2009)
#41 Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
#42 Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo. (2012/2013)
#43 Cinderella (2015)
#44 Lucy (2014)


  • Value For Money Assessment, Part 1: before I cancelled Netflix last month, I watched 10 films on there. That’s £0.79 per film.
  • Value For Money Assessment, Part 2: after joining Now TV this month, I snuffled out 230+ films that interested me. Of those, I watched 10, plus the Oscars. That’s £0.91 per film/awards ceremony. (That subscription’s not over, so I’ll get more value out of it next month.)
  • Value For Money Assessment, Part 3: I bought and instantly watched four new-release Blu-rays this month. That was £11.87 per film. Picture quality and special features were lovely, though.
  • No WDYMYHS film this month, for reasons I’ll come to in a minute. I did watch two last month, though, so it’s OK.


This month, I watched 24 new films. Yeah, that whole “watch fewer films so I can do other stuff” thing isn’t going so well. (“Moan when you’re not watching enough films, moan when you are watching plenty of films — what’s wrong with you?!” Yes, I do feel a bit Shinji-ish.)

The reason? The Oscars. Not watching the nominated films, but paying £9.99 for a month of Now TV so I can watch them. Are the Oscars worth £9.99? No, of course they’re not — hence catching up on lots of other films while I have it. That’ll continue until the middle of next month… when I’ll get Netflix so I can watch Daredevil season two, and also attempt to extract maximum value for money by watching a load more films. So in the middle of April I may finally stop watching so many movies…

Of course, watching so many films brings with it a number of personal ‘achievements’: it easily surpasses the February average (9.63) and crushes the February record (13, jointly held by four previous Februarys); it’s the 21st month in a row where I’ve watched over 10 films; it’s only the fifth month ever with over 20 films; oh, and it’s a new third best month ever. (“Best” in this sense just meaning “most prolific”, of course. Volume does not equal quality. Unless you’re Mad Max: Fury Road, in which case winning the most Oscars means you are the Academy’s best film of the year. Yes it does. Yes it does.)

Quick inaccurate future predictions: following the relatively-huge January and February, and as I intend to maintain my ten-per-month minimum, this year’s looking at a final tally of at least 144 films. That would make it easily my second most prolific year ever. Which is nice. If by some failure of purpose I continued to achieve my current 2016 average of 22 films per month, I’d be looking at ending around #264. Sounds utterly ridiculous, but in January 2015 I laughed at the statistics suggesting I might make it to #192, and I ended up reaching #200.


This month, I’ve all but finished posting my 2015 reviews. Just The Story of Film remains, joining Veronica Mars in the eternally-unreviewed club. Maybe I’ll fix them both next month. Plus, the debut of my monthly TV review.


Superheroes, Disney, history, and noir — both classic and futuristic. Alphabetisation leaves the structure of this series to the whims of fate, but I think it’s a nicely varied month.



The 9th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Any month with 24 films is likely to have more than its fair share of highs and lows, and so it was with February. Shortlisting contenders for both this and the next award showed more of the former than the latter (nine vs. three), thankfully, but I think this one boils down to a three-way five-star sci-fi stand-off. Of those, I think the best marriage of idea and execution may have come from Predestination.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Two animations with “home” in the title are the frontrunners (rear-runners?) here. However, I expected Home on the Range to be terrible (and only watched it in aid of seeing all the Disney Animated Classics), whereas I only watched Home because I thought the trailer looked entertaining, so was thoroughly disappointed.

Best Apocalypse of the Month
Plenty of movies have shown us the end of the world now, but very few have done it in a story set millennia ago. For doing it so convincingly (if not plausibly), congratulations to Noah.

Most Disappointing Shakespeare Cut of the Month
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” Why did they excise one of the best lines from Macbeth?!

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Maybe it was the broad range of series covered, maybe it was just because it was something new and different, but my most-viewed new post in February was The Past Month on TV #1. (For the sake of keeping things on topic, I’ll add that the most-viewed film-related review was my Oscars-centric take on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.)


Halfway.

Predestination (2014)

2016 #21
The Spierig Brothers | 98 mins | Blu-ray | 2.40:1 | Australia / English | 15 / R

A man walks into a bar in ’70s New York. The bartender strikes up a conversation, which leads to a wager: if the man’s story is the most incredible the bartender has ever heard, he’ll give him a free bottle of whiskey. It had better be pretty good, because what we know that the man doesn’t is that the bartender, played by Ethan Hawke, is an agent for the Temporal Agency, travelling through time to stop crime before it happens; and he’s just had his face burnt off and completely rebuilt while failing to stop a notorious terrorist known as the Fizzle Bomber. Beat that.

That said, the man’s story is pretty incredible too — but as the telling of it makes up over half the movie, and it’s full of its own twists, I shan’t get into spoiler territory. Predestination is a film that rewards knowing as little as possible, especially as the seasoned sci-fi viewer/reader has a fair chance of guessing a good number of its twists (possibly all of them) long before they’re revealed by the film. Fortunately that doesn’t really matter, because the tale remains an engaging and thought-provoking one, with many thematic points to consider, and not just of a science-fictional nature — there are human and historical issues in play here too, which is undoubtedly a rarity in modern screen SF.

We’re guided through this by a laid-back performance from Hawke, which turns intense when needed, but even more so by an affecting, transformative, award-winning turn from Australian actress Sarah Snook. She really should be much in demand after this. Chunks of the film are just a two-hander between Hawke and Snook, yet it effortlessly captivates throughout these stretches. That’s in part thanks to the fascinating nature of the narrative, adapted faithfully from Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies (it has nothing to do with zombies — the story’s from the ’50s, before our modern conception of a zombie was formulated), as well as the direction of the Spierig brothers.

I don’t know how many people will remember, but the pair got a bit of attention back in the early ’00s with their debut feature Undead, because they not only wrote and directed it, but also edited it and created the CG effects at home on their laptops. That’s more commonplace nowadays (well, Gareth Edwards did it for Monsters, anyway), but was A Big Thing in certain circles back then. (I bought Undead on DVD at the time but have never got round to watching it. Plus ça change.) I thought they’d disappeared after that, but they were responsible for vampire thriller (and Channel 5 staple) Daybreakers in 2009. This is their third feature. Working from a low budget once again, they take us to alternate-history versions of the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, from bars to orphanages to universities to training for the space programme to the headquarters of a time travelling police organisation and more. To my eyes, it never looked cheap. Sure, it’s not overloaded with CGI, but it doesn’t need to be. I never got the sense anyone was having to hold back because of the low budget. Others may disagree, because I have seen people express the opposite opinion, but I think they’re wrong, so there.

Predestination is the latest reminder that “sci-fi” is not a byword for “action-adventure”. It certainly won’t satisfy the needs of the action-hungry fan (it’s not devoid of the odd punch-up or explosion, but they’re far from the point). For anyone interested in something a bit more intellectual, a bit more thought-provoking, particularly if you like the (potential) complications of time travel, or issues of gender and identity, then Predestination has a lot to offer, even if you guess the twists.

5 out of 5

Predestination placed 5th on my list of The 20 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2016, which can be read in full here.

It is available on Sky Movies on demand and Now TV from today. It debuts on Sky Movies Premiere next Friday, February 12th, at 11:30am and 10:20pm.

Purists be aware: existing British releases completely muffed up the aspect ratio (reportedly it’s both open matte and cropped), so there’s every chance Sky’s copy will be similarly afflicted.