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My Letterboxd reviews for November 2017

Frank Grillo in Wheelman

Another few weeks of genre-hopping, thanks to a free month of Shudder that I ended up letting lapse as I couldn’t find much of anything I wanted to watch. So it goes.

But it was also a month that included one of my favourite films of the year. Shame it bypassed cinemas and went straight to Netflix. The new straight to video? I sure hope not.

Obviously Netflix is better than that, but there is a clear sense that it serves serialised ‘prestige’ TV much better than first-run feature films. And I get the feeling even Netflix’s honchos recognise this, going by all the promos I’m seeing for Bright (which isn’t out till the end of this month).

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If you haven’t yet seen Year of the Dragon or To Live and Die in LA, get that sorted before watching this great discussion of two of the 1980s’ finest crime films. (Be forewarned, the video is NSFW.) #video 

My Letterboxd reviews for July & August 2017

The Boy and the Beast

I may not have been blogging much here, but I did ramp up my movie-watching over the summer — mostly thanks to my dive into ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series (not all of which I’ve reviewed, mind).

Among the films I watched in July and August is one of the best of the year thus far in War for the Planet of the Apes. And on average the quality has been pretty good, with only a handful of duds to speak of.

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My Letterboxd reviews for June 2017

A still from Glow: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

Despite promising to myself that I would more carefully audit the quality of the films I watch for pleasure/personal edification, I still managed to watch one of the worst things I’ve seen in many a year. Must do better in July.

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This animated short did the rounds a month ago so you’ve probably seen it already, but I like it so it’s here. [c/o io9] #video 

My Letterboxd reviews of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3-6, A Walk in the Woods, and Akira

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors:

The third entry in the Freddy franchise trades the inventive gore and straight-up weirdness of the original, and the sexuality allegory of the unfairly maligned second effort, for a more fantastic scenario that nevertheless has its queasy moments (the ‘string puppet’ scene near the start, especially). It’s not as well paced as you might remember it (Freddy’s barely in it; I doubt Robert Englund had to wear the makeup for more than a week) and pretty much runs out of steam in the final act, where it’s more a showcase for the technical skills of the special effects artists than a story worth following. Indeed, I forgot about the Harryhausen tribute at the end; I burst out laughing, but not in a bad way.

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My Letterboxd reviews of The Void, Wake in Fright, and Sorcerer

The Void:

The first ‘straight’ genre pastiche from the Astron-6 collective, The Void is a film very much in thrall of its influences in lieu of its own worldbuilding: it’s basically Carpenter’s The Thing, Prince of Darkness and a few others crossed with Fulci’s The Beyond, by way of Hellraiser and Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft flicks. What’s more, the awful lighting makes it largely impossible to appreciate the practical effects, which are Empire Pictures weird-veering-on-hokey rather than other-worldly terrifying, so I don’t know why they bothered. I didn’t hate watching it, though.

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My Letterboxd reviews of A Silent Voice, Life, The Discovery, The Believers, and A Decade Under the Influence

A Silent Voice:

Yoshitoki Ōima’s slice-of-life manga perhaps naturally loses some of its plot clarity and character development in the translation to the big screen, compressing an 18-month-long story into a two-hour movie and all that. But the spirit is intact, as a disconnected group of teenagers – one of them deaf – try to mend the wounds they inflicted on one another when they were younger and knew no better. Emotionally genuine, and beautifully animated. Very much recommended if you liked Toradora!

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My Letterboxd review of Kong: Skull Island

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

I really wanted to like this. I really did. I was even willing to forgive the handful of creaky moments in its first half hour — paper-thin characters, hackneyed set-ups and more — because the pace is so exciting. When the titular giant ape makes his first appearance, it’s at a genuinely unexpected moment, and the chaos is handled beautifully by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). I was ready for a thrill ride.

But it’s all downhill from there. You see, it’s one thing to reference other movies, to pay visual or thematic homage; that’s something the otherwise narratively impoverished A Cure for Wellness does to its credit. It’s another, however, to simply mash-up the plots of a few different movies and hope that nostalgia will fill the cracks.

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My Letterboxd reviews of Logan, A Hologram for the King, This Is Spinal Tap, and Mascots

Logan:

So James Mangold finally got to make his R-rated Wolverine. And? Strip away the air of ‘serious film’-ness surrounding this super-anti-hero flick and it’s a fairly ordinary road movie, gussied up by a gritty pomo western style, relatively extreme violence, and uncharacteristic potty-mouth dialogue. All very cute, like when Jackman says ‘fuck off’ in that Avengers cameo. Fanboys can shove it.

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This video gets a bit too cute in its definition of passable (focusing on certain film tropes ‘passing’ for genuine human interactions, but ignoring that such tropes have an important role to play in the medium). Still, the bigger point stands; I’ve seen far too many passable movies lately — and been permissive about it, too. My film diet needs greater nutritional value. #video 

My Letterboxd review of I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

Reblogged from my Letterboxd list:

Macon Blair’s directorial debut, a blackly comic revenge film, suffers from first-film-itis for much of its running time. Its obvious influences (mostly his old filmmaking pal Jeremy Saulnier, with a smattering of Edgar Wright) get in the way of a story that’s unevenly focused as it is, one minute a me-against-the-world drama, the next a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style cringe comedy. Things improve markedly in the final act, however, with an explosion of violence that brings a film with quirky, flighty tendencies back down to earth hard. David Yow (he of noise rock legends The Jesus Lizard) is a revelation as the primary heel of the piece, and Elijah Wood brings his usual charm as the oddball sidekick, but it’s Melanie Lynskey in the lead who holds it all together, just about, as the woman who decides she can no longer bear to let the bastards get her down.

My Letterboxd reviews of Sadako vs Kayako, This Was the XFL, High-Rise, History of the Eagles, and Any Given Sunday

Sadako vs Kayako:

Unexpectedly decent, this. The postmodern Wes Craven approach is writ large in its first half, and the obvious references pay off in grisly amusement rather than belly-laughs, as they should. It’s also effectively atmospheric, as the tropes start to die off and our main characters succumb to the creeping realisation that there are no rules to this horror movie. If there’s anything really wrong it it, it’s that it suffers from the same problem as that other colossal horror tussle: it’s far too long before the titular characters go one on one.

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