The 100th Monthly Update for August 2018

It’s been over eight years now since I started charting my progress via monthly updates — the first was in May 2010. And that, as you may’ve guessed, makes this the 100th such monthly update. (Although this was the 140th month I’ve been doing 100 Films, so, er, it’s kind of meaningless and arbitrary, really…)

Anyway, to mark this special occasion I’ve… named this blog post after it. And… that’s it.

So, on to this month’s viewing!


#174 Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)
#175 Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
#176 Strangers on a Train (1951)
#177 A Quiet Place (2018)
#178 The Quiet Earth (1985)
#179 Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
#180 Christopher Robin (2018)
#181 Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (1965), aka Zatōichi jigoku-tabi
#182 Darkest Hour (2017)
#183 Ready Player One 3D (2018)
#184 Seoul Station (2016), aka Seoulyeok
#185 The Most Unknown (2018)
#186 Zorro (1975)
#187 The Elephant Man (1980)
Christopher Robin

Zorro

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  • With 14 new films watched, August is the lowest month of 2018 so far.
  • Nonetheless, it beats the August average (previously 11.7, now 11.9). And though it falls short of the rolling average of the last 12 months (20.0), last August was even lower, so it still increases it (slightly) to 20.3. No such luck with my average for 2018 to date, though, which was previously 24.7 and is now 23.4.
  • But it’s only by recent standards that a total of 14 looks in any way poor. There’s no other year in which it would be the smallest month, and three years where it would’ve been the biggest. Plus, it would be an above-average tally for any month of the year except May, where it’d be bang on average. So, on an all-time scale, 14 is still good going.
  • In other good news, this month I passed 2017’s total to make 2018 my third best year ever. It will almost certainly reach second place next month. And I’d have to average just three films a month for the rest of the year for it not to become my best year ever. Well, let’s not jinx it…
  • It wasn’t a deliberate choice to watch A Quiet Place and The Quiet Earth back to back (though possibly a subconscious one, I guess). They’re the first (and second) films beginning with Q in this year’s viewing, and only the fifth and sixth in this blog’s lifetime.
  • And then I immediately followed those with a film beginning with “Z”, which would normally be quite rare (it was only my 13th ever “Z” film), but this year it really isn’t: it was my 7th this year alone, and by the end of the month I was up to my 9th.
  • While we’re on the topic, The Elephant Man is my first “E” film this year. It may be the most commonly used letter in the English language, but it’s a surprisingly rare one at the start of film titles.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: Alfred Hitchcock’s murderous thriller Strangers on a Train.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film: the aforementioned The Elephant Man. Disappointed to discover it wasn’t David Lynch’s attempt at superheroes. (Not really.)



The 39th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
There are some well-regarded films in the list above, including a couple of Best Picture nominees, but nothing leaps out at me as a huge favourite — my short list for this award encompassed nine of the fourteen titles. On balance, I’m going to pick Christopher Robin. It’s definitely not the “best” film up there, but I love Pooh, and he’s on particularly good form in this film.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
There were no films I outright disliked this month, but two flicks battle it out for the title of least whelming — both starring zombies. I expected very little of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I was surprised to find parts of it rather enjoyable. I still don’t think it was all it could’ve been, though. On the other end of the spectrum, there was a weight of expectation on a prequel to the magnificent Train to Busan, one which Seoul Station couldn’t live up to. It’s by no means a “bad film” though, and is certainly the best least-favourite film this year.

Podcast of the Month
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to listen to journalist Chris Hewitt chat with writer-director Christopher McQuarrie about Mission: Impossible – Fallout for 5 hours and 52 minutes on the two-part Empire Film Podcast Mission: Impossible – Fallout Spoiler Special. No, that’s not a typo: the interview (actually two interviews) lasts almost 6 hours. If that sounds like an OTT amount of time to discuss one film… well, I guess it would be for some. But McQuarrie is an intelligent, articulate, thoughtful, and honest interviewee, and the insights he shares about the process of making Fallout, a big-budget entertainment-focused summer blockbuster, are fascinating for die hard Mission fans, or, indeed, anyone interested in behind-the-scenes details of filmmaking. He gets pretty candid at times too. I guess Paramount okayed it, but it feels more revealing than you normally hear during a film’s press cycle — including what really went on during the saga of Henry Cavill’s moustache and the Justice League reshoots. (If you just want to hear that, it’s in the final 15 minutes of part one.)

Best Swashing of Buckles of the Month
Really, this is just an excuse to highlight the 1975 version of Zorro starring Alain Delon. It’s a Spaghetti Western cum swashbuckler, an actioner cum comedy, with very much the same kind of tone as Richard Lester’s Three Musketeers. It’s a lot of fun, and I think rather underrated. If you’re interested, it’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime in the UK (but not in the US, I’m afraid. Don’t know about elsewhere, or other providers).

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Despite only appearing on Thursday, my 37th TV column stormed up the charts, taking under 36 hours to pass presumed victor Christopher Robin (which had two whole weeks to amass its hit count) to bag this month’s crown. I thought this would be due to referrals from IMDb seeking my Disenchantment review, but the stats show it’s more thanks to referrals seeking Magic for Humans. Well, there you go.



Sadly, I fell slightly behind target with my Rewatchathon viewing this month. I only missed one, though, so that should be easily caught up.

This month, by coincidence, they’re all spy thrillers in long-running series…

#30 Skyfall (2012)
#31 Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
#32 The Hunt for Red October (1990)

The big news here is Mission: Impossible – Fallout, because it’s the first film I’ve seen twice at the cinema since Watchmen back in 2009. It’s a superb film that I would’ve considered seeing twice anyway, but it was sealed by getting the chance to see it in IMAX, where it did look incredible. (For the record, and for anyone who cares, it was only “LieMAX”, but still, looked great.) I would have quite liked the chance to see it in 3D too, especially as there doesn’t seem to be a Blu-ray release scheduled for that, but hey-ho.

Much like Never Say Never Again last month, I only watched Skyfall because I happened to see it was on ITV2. This time I was flicking and came upon it a little way in. Normally I wouldn’t watch a film under those circumstances, but I had nothing better to do and it’s so good that I became engrossed, eventually watching it through to the end. So, technically, this isn’t a full viewing, but I did watch the vast majority of it. According to my records, I’ve only seen it twice before, the last time being five-and-a-half years ago in February 2013. Even though I’m counting this, I feel like I should do it again properly sometime soon.

Finally, The Hunt for Red October is a film I remembered liking but, well, that’s about all I remembered. I’ve been meaning to re-watch it for many years, and I recently bought the Blu-ray so I could do just that — and, having checked my records, it turns out “recently” here means “three-and-a-half years ago”. I’m a lost cause, people… And I didn’t decide to finally get round to it because the latest reboot of the character came out yesterday. Well, not consciously, but I do keep seeing posters for the series around, and I have been quite looking forward to it, so that may have exerted a subconscious pull.


So, August was quite a slow month, both in viewing and review-posting, because I was away from home for a fair chunk of time in the middle. I’d hoped to catch up some on my ludicrous review backlog during that time, but that didn’t happen. Not even a little bit. And the reason I’m mentioning this now, in the “next month” section, is that the rest of my year is shaping up to be pretty busy with non-film stuff too, which is likely to mean a continued reduction in viewing and blog-writing. Only time will tell just how that pans out.

Seoul Station (2016)

aka Seoulyeok

2018 #184
Yeon Sang-ho | 92 mins | streaming (HD) | 1.85:1 | South Korea / Korean | 15

Seoul Station

Before he made zombie masterpiece Train to Busan, director Yeon Sang-ho was an animation director with several features to his name. So perhaps it’s not surprising that, to accompany his aforementioned live-action debut, he also helmed this animated prequel.

Apparently set one day before the events of Busan (there’s no obvious indication on screen of how the films’ timelines line up), Seoul Station depicts events as the zombie outbreak expands at the titular transportation hub. Through this we follow Hye-sun (Shim Eun-kyung), a young runaway struggling to make ends meet living with her good-for-nothing boyfriend, Ki-woong (Lee Joon). Hye-sun’s father, Suk-gyu (Ryu Seung-ryong), has finally tracked her down, but arrives just after his daughter and Ki-woong have an argument and she runs off — and then the zombie thing happens. As Hye-sun struggles to escape the undead hordes, Ki-woong and Suk-gyu team up to search for her.

Like Train to Busan, then, Seoul Station revolves around a struggling father-daughter relationship — though this one’s of a very different sort. That’s apparent from the off, but to say too much more would be a last-act spoiler. Suffice to say, it all comes to a very dark, grim ending, with none of the redemption or hopefulness of the main film. It also continues the live-actioner’s theme of other humans being the real villains, with the actions of selfish cowards being as much a threat to survival as the flesh-eating monsters. It feels like Yeon is being critical of Korean culture, taking potshots at the treatment of the homeless, the uselessness of the police, and more. Most of that stuff plays universally, mind, but the film hardly connects with it in a meaningful way. For example, we see one homeless guy struggle to get help for his injured and dying brother, as person after person either refuses help or begrudgingly does the least they can. “They should do more,” the film implies. But if they had, what would change? In this scenario, nothing — the guy’s been infected by zombie-disease; they’d all wind up undead too and it would spread faster.

Police brutality

Half-assed social commentary aside, there are some really neat, original ideas in here, like a scene where Hye-sun must hold her nerve as she precariously tightrope-walks across the empty shell of a building, while behind her the mindless zombies throw themselves off the building onto the structure, their lack of dexterity leading most of them to plummet straight through it… but not all of them. Plus, as alluded above, there’s at least one solid twist. On the down side, it’s a bit slow — it takes 20 minutes for the zombie outbreak to start, for no particularly good reason; and though it mostly picks up after that, it occasionally loses focus again. The animation is of variable quality, too: some of it is very good, but at other times it feels kind of floaty, and there’s a very bizarre motion-blur effect applied to character movement.

Unlike Train to Busan, Seoul Station can’t quite coalesce its good ideas into anything more meaningful than a zombie thriller. Plus, the ultimate grimness of the finale feels almost mean-spirited and cruel rather than pointed. It’s not a bad zombie flick by any means, but there’s an even better movie waiting to be refined out of its best ideas, and so it’s not as transcendentally great as its live-action forebear.

3 out of 5

The UK TV premiere of Seoul Station is on Film4 tonight at 11:15pm.