The Terribly Tardy Monthly Review of June 2021

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That title is a slight misnomer, because this monthly review is bang on time (more or less), but everything else about my blog right now, oh, that could use a kick up the arse. I mean, I only posted one review this month. My 100 Week Roundups must be so far behind that I dread to even look. And when did I last post a TV column…?

And my actual film viewing was in similar doldrums: on the 22nd, I had the horrifying realisation that I had only watched three new films this month. My goal of at least 10 new films a month, which I’ve aimed for since c.2015, was again in jeopardy (I failed it multiple times in 2019 — and back then it was also June that broke my five-year-long streak). And that’s to say nothing of the 20+ new films per month I’d maintained throughout 2021 so far. Now, with 17 films to go for me to reach 20 in June, and just eight days left to watch them, it seemed virtually impossible. Sure, in theory that’s only two films a day (plus one), but, since I started my new job in May, my weeknight post-work film viewing had averaged 0.08 a day. No way was this happening.

Unless… there was one crazy idea that might just work…

“So,” I figured, “if I could manage one film per workday,” (which, despite the stats, seemed not unfeasible — recently of an evening I’d been catching up on TV), “then that would get me to six films. And if I could manage that, surely I could manage two on a Friday — so that’d be seven. Then on Saturday and Sunday I’d just need to watch…” (*gulp*) “…five films a day.”

I know some people marathon their way through films like nobody’s business — to them, five in a single day is virtually just “a day ending in Y” — but to me? Yikes. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched five films in one day. And to do it on two days, back to back? Well, I did say this was a crazy idea. But it was the only vaguely-plausible way I could still get to 20 films in June. “Vaguely plausible” is not “literally impossible” and, well, you don’t know if you don’t try, right?

Did I manage it? There’s only one way to find out…


#116 Pillow of Death (1945)
#117 The Money Pit (1986)
#118 My Fair Lady (1964)
#119 Dumb and Dumber (1994)
#120 Seven Chances (1925)
#120a What! No Spinach? (1926)
#121 Rodan (1956), aka Sora no daikaijû Radon
#122 The Mummy (1932)
#123 A Brief History of Time Travel (2018)
#124 Superman and the Mole-Men (1951)
#125 The Invisible Man (1933)
#126 Space Station 3D (2002)
#127 Rain Man (1988)
My Fair Lady

The Invisible Man

.


  • To answer my previous question: no, I did not.
  • I watched 12 films in June, which may not be close to 20 but, in the grand scheme of my blog, is far from the worst. To be precise, there have been 79 lower-totalling months in the blog’s history, which is 45% of all months. So, June 2021 is somewhere in the middle. That’s alright.
  • I did, at least, slightly pass the June average, which is 11.4 (previously just under at 11.38, now just over at 11.43).
  • Other averages… not so much. The rolling average for the last 12 months was 21.0, now it’s 19.7; and the average for 2021 to date was 23.0, now it’s 21.2.
  • One thing that’s been somewhat overshadowed by all this: I reached #120, which is officially my main-list goal nowadays. Though that I’ve done that with half the year still to go does make me think I still need to rethink this whole “viewing goal” thing.
  • On the other hand, What! No Spinach? is only the second short film I’ve watched in 2021. But I don’t have a short film viewing goal, so that’s okay.
  • Also, I finished the Inner Sanctum Mysteries film series this month. Actually wrapping up a series rather than constantly adding new ones? Makes a nice change.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: an Oscar winner in its day (over 30 years ago), but somewhat controversial now for its depiction of autism, I thought Rain Man still did enough right. Relatedly, I found this short Letterboxd review to be insightful.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched nothing, again.



The 73rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
A few great-but-imperfect films compete for this month’s crown, but just edging it is the 1933 version of The Invisible Man. Director James Whale may be best remembered for his pair of Universal Frankenstein flicks, but I preferred this, which has a great mix of thrills, humour, and still-impressive special effects.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is an easy one for me: it’s a film that I felt lived up (or down) to its title, Dumb and Dumber. I only watched it because it’s on iCheckMovies’ Most Checked list and I’ve nearly completed that. It did have some moments that amused me, but overall, nah, I’d not really been missing anything by not watching it for the past 27 years.

Most Ropey-Yet-Still-Scary Special Effect of the Month
The “man in a suit” antics of Japanese monster movies are a bit of a “take it or leave it” style, but I think part of what makes them palatable is that the men in suits are stomping on miniatures — the whole thing is an affectation. But in Rodan, before the titular pterodactyl turns up, there are giant dragonfly nymphs that are played by men in suits opposite normal humans. Their blocky shape and waddly movement is kinda silly… and yet, at the same time, they’re man-sized baby insects, which I find inherently repulsive and terrifying.

Film Most Like a Twilight Zone Episode of the Month
I confess, I didn’t expect much of Superman and the Mole-Men, a film made primarily to instigate interest in producing a Superman television series (I guess the term “pilot” hadn’t yet been coined in 1951). And it’s far from the greatest screen realisation of the superhero ever, but what it does have is a neat little twist in who the villains are — at the risk of spoiling the surprise, it’s not the eponymous Mole-Men, but the small-townsfolk who get scared and turn into an angry mob. The social commentary isn’t exactly at Rod Serling level, but it’s surprisingly close.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It was very much a two horse race this month, considering I only managed two posts throughout June. The end result wasn’t close, though, with my guide to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom romping away to victory.


This section seems a bit pointless, considering I only posted one review and I’ve already linked to it, but the format is the format…


I came into June five films behind target, and I end it six films behind. Dammit. Well, with my main list having passed its 120-film goal, and my 20-per-month streak ending, maybe that’ll allow me to feel I can spend more time on rewatches in the second half of the year.

#17 Pride & Prejudice (2005)
#18 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
#19 The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)

Rather than repeat myself across the interweb, I’ll point you towards Letterboxd for some of my latest thoughts on Pride & Prejudice and Last Crusade. As for The Naked Gun, once I realised my crazy “get to 20” project had failed, I bunged it on one evening after work as something nice and easy. Most of it holds up very well, but I do feel it’s beginning to slip a little with age — it doesn’t feel quite as nonstop as it once did, and there’s the occasional topical gag that’s long past its sell-by (the film is almost 35 years old, after all). It also reminded me that about a year ago I bought Police Squad on Blu-ray and haven’t watched it (of course I haven’t).


Cinemas are back, and the idea of a joint theatrical/streaming release already seems a distant memory — which is funny, because in the US they’re still doing it all the time on HBO Max, and I think Disney still intend it for Black Widow, and I’m sure the kind of smaller films that were doing it even before Covid are still doing it now. But, here in the UK at least, the likes of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, The Quiet Place Part II, In the Heights, Nobody, and Fast & Furious 9 have all landed in cinemas without (as far as I’m aware) matching availability at home. Also finally gaining big-screen outings were the likes of The Father, Supernova, and, um, Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds. None of these have tempted me out of the house yet, but something will at some point…

Whether by coincidence or design, big and/or interesting new offerings from the streamers seem to have dried up. I think it was MUBI who had the closest to anything ‘high profile’ with the UK release of Shiva Baby. All I have in my notes for Netflix is America: The Motion Picture, which came out earlier this week, and the global release of the fourth film in the Rurouni Kenshin live-action series (I really enjoyed the first three when I watched them a few years ago, so that’s definitely on my radar). Meanwhile, Amazon had another Liam Neeson actioner, The Ice Road, which I initially thought was just the one he’d done a year or two ago (that was Cold Pursuit). Ho hum. As for new-to-streaming titles, Amazon pretty much win the day with the acclaimed horror Saint Maud, because I’ve got nothing in my notes for Netflix except a couple of things I’d already seen but not reviewed. Meanwhile, new highlights on Sky Cinema / NOW included Kajillionaire, the very belated UK debut of Richard Linklater’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and the final Fox X-Men film, The New Mutants, which I own on disc anyway (but keep not getting round to).

Talking of discs, naturally I’ve continued to blow my disposable income on those shiny, shiny circles. Nowadays it feels like most of what I buy is stuff so obscure I hadn’t even heard of it until someone announced the disc release, and that certainly continued this month with Arrow’s Years of Lead box set, a collection of five Italian crime thrillers from the ’70s. Similarly, I bought the Masters of Cinema releases of PTU (a Hong Kong thriller) and The Hands of Orlac (an Austrian silent chiller); 88 Films’ new edition of giallo So Sweet… So Perverse; and Indicator’s release of Eye of the Cat.

In terms of more known quantities (in that I’d actually heard of them, even if I’ve not seen them), there were new editions for Waterloo and Sammo Hung’s Encounter of the Spooky Kind, and Indicator’s sixth Hammer box set. I’ve got four of those now, from volume three onwards, which makes me regret never getting the first two; but I bet they cost an absolute bomb on the secondhand market, so I’ll have to live with it. From StudioCanal came a 4K release of Basic Instinct (judging from the screencaps, it looks like the quality of the new transfer absolutely blows the Blu-ray away), and a similarly restored (but only on regular Blu-ray) Murder by Decree, with Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes taking on Jack the Ripper. The same villain is taken on by H.G. Wells in ‘present day’ (i.e. 1970s) New York in Time After Time, which I picked up in HMV’s latest Premium Collection sale, alongside a literal pile of other stuff: Clash of the Titans and Mighty Joe Young (edging my Ray Harryhausen collection towards completion), plus Grand Prix, Murder, My Sweet, and A Scanner Darkly. Finally, another literal pile, this time of six Spaghetti Westerns: I wanted to import Arrow’s US-only 4K release of Sergio Corbucci’s Django (which comes bundled with Texas, Adios), and so to spread the postage I also threw in Kino’s 4K edition of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and another highly-acclaimed one by Corbucci that I’ve wanted to see for yonks, The Great Silence; then, in an 88 Films sale, I also added another Django film, Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (love that title), and a third Corbucci, The Mercenary. Now I just need to make time to actually watch all (or any) that…


What will the second half of the year bring? All bets are off nowadays…

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

2020 #38
Michael Dougherty | 132 mins | Blu-ray (3D) | 2.40:1 | USA, Japan, Canada & Mexico / English | 12 / PG-13

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Five years on from the events of Godzilla, the world is very much aware of the existence of Titans, gigantic prehistoric creatures — or, if you prefer, monsters. These creatures are studied and, where possible, contained by the secretive organisation known as Monarch, and one of their scientists, Dr. Emma Russell (Vera Farmiga), has developed a device capable of attracting Titans and altering their behaviour. When Emma and her daughter Madison (Millie Bobby Brown) are kidnapped by a group of terrorists, Madison’s father and former Monarch employee Mark (Kyle Chandler) is re-recruited by Monarch to help track them, before the terrorists can unleash the Titans to wreak havoc on mankind.

As well as a direct followup to the 2014 reboot of the Godzilla franchise, King of the Monsters is the third film in Legendary’s “MonsterVerse”. The in-between entry was 2017’s Kong: Skull Island, whose 1970s setting kinda leaves it adrift and standalone from the rest of the present-day-set films in this shared universe (although, following the Marvel template, Kong did have a post-credit scene designed to vaguely tee-up King of the Monsters). That said, it does have a role to play tonally. Whereas Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was a fairly strait-laced, serious take on the concept of a giant lizard attacking mankind, Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ Skull Island took a more pulpy approach to the movie, playing like a monster B-movie with a modern spectacular effects budget.

Here, Michael Dougherty’s offering feels like a combination of those two previous MonsterVerse films. As a direct sequel to Godzilla, it brings in plot threads and a couple of supporting characters from that movie (namely Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins as a pair of Monarch scientists, given more prominent roles here). It also adopts the dark visual style of Edwards’ movie, eschewing the colourfulness that was part of Vogt-Roberts’ contribution. But what Dougherty does retain is that pulpiness in the storyline. I mean, Godzilla showed us a world where the real-life (more or less) military had to scramble to find a way to respond to a giant lizard suddenly appearing.

Puny humans

Conversely, in King of the Monsters we find a government organisation that maintains multiple huge facilities around the world to research and contain a variety of giant beasties (one of whom is an alien, by-the-way), and a terrorist organisation that’s well organised and financed enough to break into several of those facilities and set about freeing the Titans. And that’s without mentioning a side quest into a vast sunken kingdom. If you wanted more of the real world Edwards gave us in the first film, sorry, you’re shit out of luck; but if you’re into some of the craziness that other kaiju movies have doled out down the decades, here we go!

And, in some respects, that makes this the first MonsterVerse movie that truly feels like it’s in a shared universe of monsters. Sure, the previous films had monster antagonists — MUTOs in Godzilla, Scullcrawlers in Kong — but, frankly, they were kinda generic nasties to give our hero-monsters something to fight. In King of the Monsters, we finally get to see some of the big-name stars from Godzilla’s rogue gallery; namely: inventively-named giant moth Mothra, pterodactyl-like Rodan, and the baddest of them all, three-headed dragon Ghidorah. Okay, we haven’t been introduced to these creatures in previous movies, so it’s not technically a team-up / versus movie in that sense, but you can still feel these are headline-bout-worthy characters in a way the franchise’s previous villains just weren’t. Obviously there’s still no doubt about who the ultimate victor of these monster punch-ups is going to be (clue’s in the title), but the brawls are meatier and more impactful.

I imagine that’s even more true for long-time kaiju fans, who’ll have a much greater familiarity with the ‘supporting’ monsters. Indeed, there’s a sense in which King of the Monsters has been made expressly for those fans, because it’s absolutely loaded with nods and references to the older films. I’ve not seen many classic Godzilla movies, so my knowledge of what was being referenced was second-hand at best — though one I’ll make room to highlight is composer Bear McCreary’s new realisation of Akira Ifukube’s classic Godzilla theme. It’s epic and awesome; a real hair-raiser when it kicks in.

There can be only one

Unfortunately, the parade of callbacks seems to have been a major problem for some viewers. Fans who got the references regard them as either hollow fan service or a pointless remix of past glories, while normal folk found it all a bit confusing and weird — because God forbid any blockbuster try to do stuff from outside your normal well-worn expectations. Clearly, these monster flicks aren’t for everyone. Even among those who like them, you don’t have to read many viewer’s rankings before you’ll have seen every possible iteration of which film is better than which, often accompanied by bafflement that anyone could hold an opposing view. It’s like an inadvertent case study for the fact that different people want different things. So it seems none of these movies please everyone, although personally I like the idea that each film is its own thing to some degree; that you might not love every film in the MonsterVerse, but hopefully one of them will hit the sweet spot for you. The MCU cookie-cutter format may be reassuring, but there’s delight in variety too.

There’s certainly plenty of variety here. The MonsterVerse could’ve gone down the route of wheeling out these storied foes one by one, eking the franchise out across Godzilla vs. Mothra, Godzilla vs. Rodan, Godzilla vs. Ghidorah… Instead, we get them in one Titan-sized hit. If you’re in the mood for gigantic creatures thwacking each other, there’s something wholly satisfying about that.

4 out of 5