The Self-Reflective Monthly Review of August 2021

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For the second month in a row, this monthly review is the only new post I’ve published. (I had intended to review Evangelion 3.0+1.01 in a timely fashion, but I couldn’t marshal my thoughts in time.) My viewing continues apace, however, with August seeing a return to the form of my January-to-May viewing.

Related to both those points, I’m continuing to mull over the specifics of the future of this blog — that’s both in terms of finding time to write reviews, and the relevance of its eponymous challenge. In respect to the latter, I crossed the 150-film mark this month, which got me looking at history again. It’s now almost a decade since I last failed to reach 100 new films, and it’s seven years since I watched fewer than 150. Heck, in the entire 15-year history of the blog, I’ve passed #260 as many times as I’ve failed to make #100; and the 260s were much more recently. Something for me to think about.

Before we return to August, a quick mention of another way I’ve been spending my free time: helping out with the Women Over 50 Film Festival, which is taking place online for the second year running (because, y’know, pandemic). And soon I’ll be lending my talents to FilmBath for a third year (though in a reduced capacity, what with having a day job now). Doesn’t bode so well for the ol’ blogging, eh? At least I can promise (as much as anyone can make promises about the future) that these monthly columns aren’t going anywhere.

On which cheery note…


#139 The Father (2020)
#140 Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
#141 Turks & Caicos (2014)
#142 A Damsel in Distress (1937)
#143 The Danish Girl (2015)
#144 Tea with Mussolini (1999)
#145 The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
#146 Evangelion: 3.0+1.01 Thrice Upon a Time (2021), aka Shin Evangelion Gekijôban
#147 The Kid Detective (2020)
#148 Six Minutes to Midnight (2020)
#149 Love Affair (1939)
#150 Salting the Battlefield (2014)
#151 Thirteen at Dinner (1985)
#152 The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
#153 My Man Godfrey (1936)
#154 Dead Man’s Folly (1986)
#155 Wuthering Heights (1939)
#156 Murder in Three Acts (1986)
#157 The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (2012)
#158 Appointment with Murder (1948)
The Father

The Kid Detective

My Man Godfrey

.


  • I watched 20 films in August.
  • As noted in my intro, that’s an improvement on the last couple of months, and ties with March as my, er, joint 5th best month of the year. Okay, so it’s hardly an all-timer, but it’s an improvement.
  • It’s not a bad one for averages, though, passing all the ones I usually mention: the August average (previously 12.6, now 13.1), the average for 2021 to date (previously 19.71, now 19.75), and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 18.2, now 18.7).
  • It’s also only the second time August has reached 20 films, with the first being right back in 2007. (My monthly stats for back then are only estimates, but I definitely passed 20 in August, probably landing somewhere around 25.)
  • But there was no Blindspot film this month. Various reasons for that, but it doesn’t help that I’ve accidentally wound up with a pretty heavy-going lot left to choose from. A three-hour silent epic famed for its racism? A gruelling Russian depiction of World War 2? A black-and-white drama about poor immigrants in ’90s Paris called Hate? Eesh. Still, I intend to make my September extra miserable by squeezing in two next month.
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”, either. Oh well.



The 75th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
I watched several very good films this month (2021’s tally of five-star ratings leapt up), but my personal favourite was The Kid Detective. I liked the sound of the premise, and I thought the film nailed it. I doubt everyone will love it as much as I did (I’ve got its Letterboxd scores as evidence of that), but it’s a definite recommendation nonetheless.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
A different detective mystery sits at the other end of the spectrum. One of the three belated entries to the Falcon series, Appointment with Murder is a damp squib even by the relatively-low standards of ’40s mystery programmers. Those final three Falcons can be tricky to track down, and they’re not really worth it (unless you’re a completist, like me, of course).

Franchise of the Month
I worked through or touched upon multiple long-running film series this month: the Ripley films; Peter Ustinov’s Poirot; the Falcon; the Worricker trilogy… but, really, the dominant one is Neon Genesis Evangelion — not just because of the new, final-final (really final this time) movie, but also because I rewatched the three preceding movies (see below) and also dropped a huge wodge of cash on the ‘Ultimate Edition’ Blu-ray release of the original TV series. My bank balance and ever-receding shelf space hate me.

Most Deserved Best Actor Win of the Month
There’s a chance I’m missing something, but really I just want to take the time to say that Anthony Hopkins is excellent in The Father and I’m sure he deserved those (somewhat controversial) wins last awards season.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
As with last month, there’s no point awarding this (what with there only being one new post), but I’ll once again mention which archive post topped the chart. Last month, it was April 2017’s TV review #16, with March 2017’s TV review #15 in second place. This month, at the top is TV review #15, with TV review #16 in second. Why do they endure in popularity? Your guess is good as mine.


My Rewatchathon technically continues at average pace (i.e. about four films a month), although as I came into August about seven films behind target, I’m still about seven behind. Well, at least it’s not any worse.

#23 Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994)
#24 Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone. (2007/2009)
#25 Evangelion: 2.22 You Can (Not) Advance. (2009/2010)
#26 Evangelion: 3.33 You Can (Not) Redo. (2012/2013)

Having rewatched the first two Naked Guns over the past couple of months, it was only right to round out the trilogy. Its humour gets a bit too smutty at times, but the opening and closing set pieces are great, and there’s a pretty consistent gag rate throughout. On balance, I’d probably say it’s the second best in the series (after the first, of course).

But the main feature of this month’s re-viewing was Evangelion, revisiting the first three rebuild films before the release of the fourth. My original reviews are linked above, while here you can find my latest thoughts on Letterboxd about 1.11, 2.22, and 3.33.


Normally this section is dominated by all the new Blu-rays I’ve bought and not watched, but this month there was only one. Yes, one. That was Arrow’s new 4K disc of David Lynch’s Dune, a release I’m not even sure I want — not because the film’s a bit meh, but because the German edition out in a couple of months includes a feature-length documentary that Arrow couldn’t be bothered to wait for. But Amazon’s shipping policies nowadays mean I can’t preorder that, and I forgot to cancel my preorder for Arrow’s version, so now I have a dilemma: sell it and wait for the German one, or just live without that new doc. Elsewise, I’m not really sure why it’s been such a quiet month — other than that the labels have all been announcing their big expensive box sets for November and December, so I’ve been spending my money preordering those rather than on stuff in sales or what have you. I’ll tell you this: when we get towards the end of the year, my list of failures is gonna be looong…

Outside of my physical media library, new releases continue as if there wasn’t still a pandemic on. I expect Bond will tempt me back to the big screen in a few weeks, but until then I’m waiting on home releases for the likes of Free Guy, Snake Eyes, The Courier, Pig, Censor, and (probably my most anticipated from this lot) Candyman. Speaking of at home, the streamers inevitably had new stuff to offer too. The most critically acclaimed was probably Coda on Apple TV+, but I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Boss Level, which is on Amazon Prime here in the UK, as is The Vault, which is billed as a heist action-thriller and so sounds right up my street. Netflix’s best effort was probably wrong-man thriller Beckett, which seemed to get a middling reception, and animated musical Vivo, which I saw very little chatter about considering it’s got something to do with Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Swinging away from new titles, there were plenty of archive additions bulking out my watch list. Sky Cinema headlines include Wonder Woman 1984 and the new Tom & Jerry, but there was also The Very Excellent Mr Dundee, a new-ish sort-of-spin-off from the Crocodile Dundee franchise. It’s meant to be terrible, and yet I still intend to watch it. The main things catching my eye on Netflix were titles that previously made my end-of-year ’50 unseen’ lists, like Black Mass, The Iron Lady, and Suffragette; while MUBI brought up obscure films of interest, like Amer, The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, and Welcome II the Terrordome; and my Amazon Prime picks were hardly in a mainstream mood either, with the likes of comedy-horror Lake Michigan Monster, anime Mirai, Indian “neo-noir action thriller” (and brief IMDb Top 250 member, hence my interest) Vikram Vedha, and sci-fi drama Prospect (which has been popping on and off All 4 for a while now. Hopefully it’ll be a bit more stable on Amazon… so I can not get round to it for even longer).

Talking of All 4, this month I’ve managed to miss my chance to watch the likes of Mommy, Wings of Desire, The Old Man and the Gun, and Ida. But they’ve still got behind-the-scenes documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien, which I’ll intend to make time for. BBC iPlayer also has a film documentary that sounded interesting, Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans, plus the film that’s referring to, 1971’s Le Mans.

Oh, and everyone had stuff I either have owned on disc for ages but not watched (the full(er) cut of Metropolis on MUBI; The Dead Zone and The Last Samurai on Amazon; the live-action Beauty and the Beast on iPlayer; Only God Forgives on MUBI), or own on disc and should rewatch (Munich on Netflix; The Limey on Amazon), or have seen and should have reviewed by now (The Lego Movie 2 on Netflix; The Peanut Butter Falcon on iPlayer). Oh well.


Daniel Craig’s name is Bond, James Bond, for the last time.

Devil’s Cargo (1948)

2019 #93
John F. Link | 62 mins | digital (SD) | 4:3 | USA / English

Devil's Cargo

The history of the fictional detective known as ‘the Falcon’ is a bit complicated (if you want a full summary, try this Wikipedia article), but the short version is that, between 1941 and 1946, RKO produced a series of 13 films featuring the character, starring first George Sanders and then his brother, Tom Conway. You can find my reviews of the series collated across these four posts. (The series is also noteworthy for containing the first screen adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel: the third film, The Falcon Takes Over, was based on Farewell, My Lovely, two years before it was more famously filmed as Murder, My Sweet.)

A couple of years after RKO’s Falcon series ended, Film Classics picked up the mantle, casting magician John Calvert as a different version of the character. Their series only lasted three films, of which this first is the most readily available, because it’s public domain. (Consequently, I’ve yet to see the next two. Writing this has reminded me that I was meant to be tracking them down…)

The plot has nothing to do with cargo, belonging to Satan or otherwise. Rather, it’s the usual murder mystery setup: a playboy has been shot to death, a crook confesses his guilt to the Falcon, certain he’ll be acquitted due to his motives being (kinda) pure, but then he’s murdered too. It all unfolds as a surprisingly decent little mystery — no great head-scratcher, but it offers enough twists and turns to keep it lively. The conclusion may stretch credibility, and our hero more chances upon the identity of the killer than actually deduces it, but it suffices for a short B-movie.

“Magic your way outta this!”

Calvert is decent as the Falcon. He’s no Sanders or Conway, and he has the slight stiffness of a non-professional having a crack at acting, but he’s just about charming enough to carry it off. I’ve definitely seen worse performances in similar roles. I have no idea how famous or acclaimed he was as a magician, so I don’t know if the film’s references to magic and inclusion of tricks is meant as an amusing nod to his original vocation, or it was required to placate the leading man’s ego. I can imagine the production meeting, though… “We want to integrate your magic tricks into the plot.” “How?” “Well, a criminal asks you to show him some tricks, so you do.” I’m not kidding, that’s literally what happens. On the bright side, he has a sidekick dog, Brain Trust, who is cute and occasionally useful.

As these ’40s detective B-series go, Devil’s Cargo is far from top-tier; but I’ve also seen worse — it’s better than it really ought to be.

3 out of 5

The Surprisingly Thorough Considering How Quickly I Dashed It Off Monthly Review of May 2019

Hello, fine readers! I’m going to have to make this quick, because I’m actually right in the middle of a house move. The palaver around that has led to regular tail-offs in posting over the past few months, and during May in particular, though it hasn’t had too much effect on my actual viewing, as you’ll soon see (June may be another story, but that’s next month’s discussion).

That’s also why there isn’t my usual header image for this post — they take a disproportionality long time to put together (whereas the post itself is still fairly lengthy because, as the famous adage alludes, it’s easier to write something long than something short). Hopefully I’ll have time to retroactively create the header next week. (In case you were wondering, the chap in the current image isn’t me — it’s some fella off YouTube. I just found it on Google Images.)


#71 Godzilla (1954), aka Gojira
#72 Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
#73 The Secret Life of Pets 3D (2016)
#74 The Eyes of Orson Welles (2018)
#75 Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
#76 Jaws 2 (1978)
#77 The Meg 3D (2018)
#78 Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
#79 Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)
#80 Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival (1970), aka Zatôichi abare himatsuri
#81 Zombieland (2009)
#82 Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)
#83 Bumblebee (2018)
#84 The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
#85 Cleopatra (1970), aka Kureopatora
#86 BlacKkKlansman (2018)
#87 Dracula (1931)
#88 Widows (2018)
#89 Cosmopolis (2012)
#90 The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)
#91 The Kennel Murder Case (1933)
#92 The Saint (2017)
#93 Devil’s Cargo (1948)
#94 Hairspray (1988)


  • So, I watched 24 new feature films in May.
  • That makes it the best month of 2019 so far, passing the average for the year to date (previously 17.5, now 18.8).
  • It’s a good all-timer too, in the top 5% of all months. It’s still not the best May ever — that was last year’s, which is also my best month ever. Therefore it brings the rolling average of the last 12 months down (from 20.1 to 19.25), even though it beats it.
  • It’s my 60th consecutive month with a tally of 10+. With all that’s going on right now, June may yet be the month to break that streak.
  • I can’t remember when I last discussed this (so apologies for the lack of link to the full background), but I’ve been tracking the days of the year on which I’ve ‘never’ seen a film, and I only have three left to tick off. One of those was May 23rd… and still is, because I missed it again. Darn.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film is also this year’s Stanley Kubrick film (I’ve been working my way through his oeuvre at the rate of one per year, initially by coincidence but now semi-deliberately), Eyes Wide Shut.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: classic Universal horror Dracula.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Bad Times at the El Royale, Everybody Wants Some!!, and Widows.



The 48th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Plenty of worthy films to pick this month, whether they be critically-acclaimed awards-winners or critically-acclaimed films that were snubbed for awards, and most of those are more likely to make my year-end favourites list than what I’m going to pick now. It’s certainly not the ‘best’ film here, so maybe it’s just my current stresses making me wish for simpler entertainment, but I did have a lot of fun watching The Meg.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
When the rumour broke that Robert Pattinson was going to be the next Batman, some people on social media joked that he’d already done a great Bruce Wayne movie. Or maybe they weren’t joking, I don’t know. Anyway, the movie in question was Cosmopolis, which I’d been meaning to get round to, so I did, and I hated it. My Letterboxd comments are here.

Most Destructive Giant Monster of the Month
My May was incidentally filled with monsters of all different types: sharks from the sea, giant prehistoric sharks from the sea, giant prehistoric radioactively-enhanced dinosaur-like creatures from the sea… Also vampires, zombies, and alien robots… But worst of all was definitely the KKK in BlacKkKlansman.

Most Vivid Reminder of Stuff I Watched Years Ago of the Month
A few years back I reviewed the RKO film series starring the crime-solving character The Saint, which I continued by reviewing RKO’s follow-on series about The Falcon, and later covered the similarly-toned Thin Man series. So #91 to #93 this month brought back memories: The Kennel Club Murders stars The Thin Man’s William Powell as another murder-solving layman accompanied by his trusty dog (though neither had as much character as in the better-known series); The Saint was an attempt to reboot the character for a 2010s TV audience, later expanded into a feature-length film (and it’s as ropey as a rejected-pilot-turned-movie sounds); and Devil’s Cargo was an attempt to continue the Falcon series after a few years off, with a brand-new leading man and no continuity… but while it has a pretty poor rep, I actually thought it was a solid addition to the series.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
In terms of site views, May 2019 is far and away my biggest month ever — it individually surpassed the totals for the entirety of 2012 (the first year for which I have these stats), 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. The driver of that was my reviews of Game of Thrones. What I said about the finale provoked lots of comments, and the number of hits it’s received in the past 10 days would normally mean it’d not just be the month’s top post, but already a lock for the most visited post of the year. But the TV post before that, which included my thoughts on Thrones episodes three and four, had an additional 13 days to rack up visitors during a time when it seemed like everyone was talking about the series. So it’s no real surprise that The Past Month on TV #46 is this month’s victor, as well as a likely candidate for the most-visited post of the year. In fact, it received enough hits in its first week to get into, not just my top posts of the week, or month, or even year, but my all-time top ten! (It’s wound up as 4th all-time for now.)


I finally gave the directors page header image its annual update this month (it was due in January but I kept just not getting round to it). For those who don’t know, it displays the 20 directors with the most number of films I’ve reviewed.

What were this year’s changes? Woody Allen is gone, for the first time since I started the page, and Tarantino’s out too. But I had seven directors tied for the last three slots. So, David Lynch went as well, because I often like an “all change” approach; John Carpenter and Tony Scott have been on the banner before, so I ruled them out for similar reasons; and also the Coen brothers, because I wasn’t entirely sure how to fit them both in. That meant the new additions were: Stanley Kubrick (those “one per year”s finally built up!), Richard Linklater, and M. Night Shyamalan. I also changed a couple of the other photos, just to give it a bit of a refresh (specifically: Ron Howard, Christopher Nolan, and Robert Zemeckis).



This has continued apace too…

#17 The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
#18 Ghostbusters II (1989)
#19 John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
#20 Hairspray (2007)

I rewatched each of the Matrix movies a month apart, which would be kinda neat if I’d actually planned to do that. More thoughts at the above link. I’ll save what I thought of Ghostbusters II for when I give it the same “guide to” treatment.

I rewatched John Wick 2 ready for the third, then haven’t had a chance to see it. For some reason I felt no desire to rewatch the original as well, which is weird because, while they’re pretty equal in quality, I’d say the first one is slightly better on balance.

Finally, that’s my fourth viewing of Hairspray, which probably makes it one of my most regularly rewatched films now — it’s been four years since I last saw it, and before that the gaps between viewings were three years each time, and that’s pretty often and repeatedly by my standards!


No time for trips to the cinema again this month, so I missed the likes of John Wick: Chapter 3, the live-action remake of Aladdin, and just-released Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Maybe next week.

I’m sure Netflix have added some stuff that ought to be on my watchlist but I also haven’t had time for. And naturally my Blu-ray collection has grown (when doesn’t it?), but right now I can’t actually remember what with (normally I’d have a pile somewhere nearby, but that’s all packed).

Also on the way out is my V+ box. For the past couple of months I’ve been listing some of what’s recorded on it that I haven’t got round to, and so here’s the final batch of that: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, Camelot, Chef, Colombiana, The Counsellor, Dead of Night, The Dressmaker, Elizabeth, The Ghoul, The Innocents, Joy, The Love Witch, Only Yesterday, Rare Exports, Ruby Sparks, The Servant, Straight Outta Compton, and Supercop. Whew!


With all that’s going on in my life right now, will June be the first month since May 2014 where I watch fewer than ten new films? I need at least six to make it to #100…