October Round-up | Movies

As we were away for a chunk of October we didn’t watch many movies. In fact, I saw the two London Film Festival screenings by myself…..

In the Shadow of the Moon [Streaming – 5 October]

A Philadelphia police officer struggles with a lifelong obsession to track down a mysterious serial killer whose crimes defy explanation.

I enjoy a good time-travel-paradox-what-just-happened movie like the next man and this was that thing. It is a strong portrayal of the toll an obsession can take on a person and the impact it has on the people around them. It wasn’t earth-shattering but had a good cast, a story that wasn’t too WTF and was nicely done. A good choice for staying in on a Saturday night. Though let’s face it, at my age I always stay in on a Saturday night 😀

Dazzling details: directed by Jim Mickle, ITSOTM is 1h 55 long and rated 15 for strong language, gory images and drug misuse

The Lighthouse [LFF screening – 6 October]

The hypnotic and hallucinatory tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote and mysterious New England island in the 1890s.

So basically Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe are on this remote island at the end of the nineteenth century carrying out their duties as lighthouse keepers. The weather is dreadful, there are whispers of the supernatural (mermaids!) and as time passes the two men veer between comradeship and hatred with a single destination – madness. It isn’t clear whether what they are experiencing is real or not but that doesn’t really matter, because the film is extraordinary – beautifully shot in black & white, it is ominous, claustrophobic and full of dread. It is also surprisingly very funny in places; I did laugh out loud, mostly at the language used which is colourful, to say the least. The two lead performances are astonishing, and I had never really noticed before how unmodern Pattinson can look.

I was thrilled at the screening to hear both the director Robert Eggers and Willem Dafoe (in the flesh!) talk about their intentions and experiences. It’s not going to be for everyone, but I loved it. It reminded me a little of The Servant and will stay with me for some time.

Dazzling details: directed as I said by Mr Eggers, The Lighthouse is 1h 49 long and rated 15 for strong sex, nudity, violence, gore and disturbing images.

Marriage Story [LFF screening – 7 October]

Noah Baumbach’s incisive and compassionate look at a marriage breaking up and a family staying together.

Straight from the poster and telling you nothing about what turned out to be my favourite of the three films covered in this post.

Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are married; he’s a well-regarded indie theatre director in NY and she is an actress who has been given a TV series in LA. Unable to resolve the tensions between them they head for divorce and the film follows them through the horrible experience.

What I really liked about this film (as someone who has been divorced) is how realistic it was (setting aside the business that is show background) and in particular how both lead characters are just people, not goodies or baddies.

There are some fabulous supporting performances but the success of the film rests on the shoulders of the two leads who are just fabulous. It’s absorbing and emotionally complex and my love for Adam Driver remains intact.

Dazzling details: Mr Baumbach’s masterpiece is 2h 16 long and rated 15 for strong language

Two last things:

  • how can three such different films get rated the same – and what do you have to do to get rated 18 these days?
  • I’ve just noticed that the posters are basically dudes looking moody

Midsommar

A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled midsummer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.


But everyone’s so nice…..

So we have Dani, a young woman (played by the excellent Florence Pugh) whose wobbly relationship with her boyfriend Christian continues only because of an appalling tragedy which leaves her completely alone. She tags along on the trip Christian has planned with his mates to their friend Pelle’s home village in Sweden for the reasons mention in the blurb.

It’s beautiful and sunny and everyone in the village is welcoming. It’s clear that many of the returning younger folk have brought friends with them, and as time goes on we realise that this is no accident; these guests are here for A Purpose. The community is maintaining itself through the sacrifice of its older members and those outsiders brought along to take part in something that I think is supposed to have been vaguely explained to them but for which they are just not prepared.

I mean, who would be?

It’s not a frightening film, and anyone who has dabbled in this sort of story before will have no trouble in working out what the endgame is, though it’s how we get there that provides the interest. It’s very disturbing and I experienced a strong feeling of dread while watching it in the cinema – on my own as no-one wanted to come with me. I am very brave 😀

It has to be said that Florence Pugh is amazing. I really didn’t know her until I watched the BBC adaptation of John le Carre’s Little Drummer Girl where she played the lead, but I will be looking out for more of her work. I understand she is brilliant in Lady Macbeth which is now in my streaming queue.

I left the screening with lots of questions but they were of the “I want to know more” rather than the “WTF was that?” variety.

Such an unsettling film with obvious references The Wicker Man (an old favourite of mine; to be clear, the 1973 version not the Nicolas Cage monstrosity) but very much its own thing. I loved it. Well worth watching if you don’t mind the gore. And the creepiness of smiley folk with flower crowns.

Dazzling details: Midsommar is directed by Ari Aster (see my thoughts on Hereditary here), is 2h 27 long and rated (unsurprisingly) 18 for strong, gory images.

The Mega Movie Round Up

I have decided that rather than ignore some of the things I’ve read or seen this year, I would do a couple of major catch-ups to get me back on track. Hence this movie round-up – ten films desribed in a slightly greater number of paragraphs. Let us begin!

Ocean’s Eight

An all-women gang of eight (duh) comes together to carry out an almost impossible robbery at the prestigious Met Gala in New York. Hijinks ensue. I loved this, not just because I follow all of the shenanigans around the real met Gala, or because the women involved include some of my favourite actresses, but because of the clothes and the jewellery and the lack of snarkiness between the gang members and the general all-round awesomeness. It’s not high art but it’s a lot of fun!

Hell or High Water

A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.

Which translates into a very enjoyable modern western heist movie. All three main leads were excellent, and I always like an inconclusive ending. Hollywood Chris #3 does a great job in the lead role. I am happy to explain my Hollywood Chris ranking system on another occasion or in the comments if required.

The Meg

There was absolutely no way I was going to miss out on watching this film, in which The Stath is in exile following an encounter with Something in the Deep that no-one believes in until someone needs rescuing and our boy is the Only Man for the Job, whereupon said Something reappears.

Cue acts of derring-do, an unfeasibly enormous prehistoric sea creature and trademark grumpy Londoner faces as our hero punches the shark. Not a euphemism.

I LOVED THIS!

Vita & Virginia

I saw this biopic about the romance between Virginia Woolf (one of my literary heroines, please note) and Vita Sackfield West at the BFI Flare festival among a group of folks entirely pre-disposed to admiring the work. Elsewhere some have described it as dull but I really liked it and am of the view that the stateliness perfectly captures the whole buttoned-up but Bohemian vibe of the Bloomsbury Group, about which I have read far too much since first picking up Mrs Dalloway at Uni in (gulp) 1979.

Three Identical Strangers

This is an awful and tragic story about three young men who spent their whole childhoods not realising that they were not only adopted but part of a set of triplets who had been split up as part of what seems to have been a terribly misguided social experiment. I really felt for them as they talk about finding out what had happened to them and the impact it has had. A very strong and worthwhile documentary, definitely worth watching.

Mandy

So I was at home by myself one day as the Book God was out gallivanting with his friends, and being at a loose end I decided (as you do) that what I needed was some psychedelic horror. Hence Mandy, in which Nicolas Cage goes spectacularly off the rails after personal tragedy meted out at the hands of a cult leader (the UK’s very own Linus Roache) and his deformed biker-gang sidekicks. You will believe that a man can overact. There is blood, there is gore, there is extreme trippiness and the best chainsaw fight ever. Bonkers.

Skyscraper

It should be noted that one of my favourite films of all time is The Towering Inferno, one of the greatest disaster movies ever made and seen by me countless times. “Built to code” has become a catch-phrase chez Bride, and I eye any astonishingly high building based action movies with some suspicion.

Having said that, Skyscaroper was great fun. The Rock is engaging, Neve Campbell as his wife gets more to do than just hanging about waiting to get rescued and the effects were cool. It could have done with more cowardly Richard Chamberlain types plunging to their deaths in true 1974 style, but that’s just a personal preference 😀

Hellboy

Oh dear. I really wanted to like this. I knew it was going to be a very different take than the beloved Guillermo del Toro movies but I thought David Harbour was really good casting, and the ubiquitous Ian McShane is always worth watching but this was disappointing. It was trying far too hard and though I’m not normally one to complain about noise, it was just too loud. Felt a bit let down, to be honest.

The Transporter

Many many moons ago I was challenged to watch a number of movies before I turned 50. One of these was The Transport and it reflects my commitment to this challenge that I only got around to watching this now that I am 57. It was enjoyably silly with a very young Stath in the early stages of perfecting his pissed off at the inconvenience expression alongside his admittedly impressive fighting skills.

Sorcerer

William Friedkin’s remake of The Wages of Fear is a very interesting and very 1970s film and proves once again that I’m right to consider Roy Scheider a great actor, sadly missed. It’s long but engrossing and worth checking out.

Hereditary

After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.

Hereditary has been on my radar for some time as part of a long list of horror films that I have had on my wishlist. I decided to watch it at home before taking myself off to the cinema to see Midsommar by the same director, Ari Aster, mainly to get a sense of what I was getting myself into.

Oh my.

So we have Annie, an artist whose abusive mother after struggling with Alzheimer’s, and because Annie did not get on with her mother at all she is finding it difficult to grieve and is a mixture of angry and fragile. This has an unhealthy impact on her family; husband Steve is a decent man trying to hold everything together, and the teenagers Charlie and Peter. All sorts of little odd things happen, then An Event takes place which changes the dynamic of the film and we move into finding out all of the dark secrets in the family, and some outside malign influences.

Then it all goes batshit crazy.

The first thing to say about this is I didn’t find it frightening. I did, however, find it disturbing and really unsettling, making me feel uneasy and frightened on behalf of several of the characters, especially Peter.

There are several gross-out moments which I found effective with a certain amount of “how is that even possible” floating around the back of my mind.

Several reviewers have references the influence of Rosemary’s Baby (a film which freaked me out when I saw it as a teenager and which I still find difficult to watch) and I think that’s a very valid comparison. I liked the feeling of dread, that sense that something is about to happen and you know it’s going to be awful but it can’t be stopped.

The last 20 minutes or so is deeply strange and veers a little close to silliness but gets away with it, entirely due to the performances of the main cast. Toni Collette as Annie is amazing; I hated and felt sorry for her all at once.

Would watch again.

Dazzling details: Hereditary was directed by Ari Aster, is 2h 7m long and rated 15 for strong threat, gory images, language and drug use.

The Dead Don’t Die

The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.

I am a latecomer to the world of Jim Jarmusch. My friend Silvery Dude strongly recommended Night on Earth as something I would enjoy, and I did, and then two of my favourite actors, Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton, were cast in Only Lovers Left Alive which I absolutely adored. So when I found out that Jarmusch was making a zombie movie and that I could get to a preview screening then I jumped at the chance to see it.

I’ll get onto my thoughts in a moment, but the response to this movie has been very interesting to me, veering from “appalling (bafflingly so)” via “the idea of the movie is better than the movie itself” to “awkwardly charming” and “very enjoyable and self-referential”

One comment I do agree with is that if you aren’t already an admirer of Jarmusch then this isn’t the film that’s going to change that.

As for me, I thought The Dead Don’t Die was great fun. It works because the humour is so deadpan and the situation so silly and the fourth wall is broken in such an enjoyable way that it makes even the really odd bits near the end acceptable. The ensemble cast is really good, with the standouts for me being two of my current crushes, Adam Driver (who gets most of the best bits) and Tilda Swinton, whose accent was excellent as far as my Scottish ears were concerned.

It really isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but I loved it and will happily watch it again.

Dazzling details: The Dead Don’t Die was directed by Jim Jarmusch, is 1h 44m long and rated 15 for gory images, strong violence, language. I saw it at a packed preview screening in NFT1

Bone Tomahawk

I’m not sure how Bone Tomahawk came to my attention, but once it was flagged I was really keen to see it. I missed it at the cinema so was very grateful to the Book God for getting it for me as a gift.

In the dying days of the old west, an elderly sheriff and his posse set out to rescue their town’s doctor from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

Not an entirely accurate synopsis but it will do to kick us off.

We start with a couple of outlaws who have robbed and killed some settlers and are therefore on the run. Unfortunately while running they stumble upon a sacred site which they desecrate by their mere presence; one is brutally killed and the other makes his way to Bright Hope. An altercation with the sheriff leads to him being shot, which results in the wife of a local rancher tending to his wounds because the town’s actual doctor is dead drunk, further leading them both to be kidnapped along with the deputy who is keeping an eye on things. None of this becomes clear until the next morning when the body of the young stable boy is found and the bad guys have already made their escape.

We then have the classic posse heading out to rescue the hostages. Sadly there are only four men in said posse, one of whom is injured but determined to take part in his wife’s rescue. They are made aware that what they are dealing with is a group of cannibals shunned by the various Native American tribes, but despite all of that they feel they have to make the attempt. And off we go.

I was interested to see that at the beginning the horror was fairly low key – yes there is a gruesome murder and we see the graphic results of that, but generally we don’t get a feel for what the troglodytes are capable of until our heroes get nearer to their base. That means that the film is for a large part a fairly traditional western with some very recognisable characters; the grizzled sheriff (Kurt Russell), his ageing deputy (Richard Jenkins), the decent rancher (Patrick Wilson) and the flashy gunslinger (Matthew Fox). The performances are restrained and the horror builds up slowly until we get to a scene of graphic violence and ritual killing which was quite astonishing, and had a major impact on the characters who witnessed it and the audience i.e. me.

I liked the fact that the kidnapped woman, played by Lili Simmons, was intelligent, capable and fully aware of her predicament, able to assess the strength of her captors and not faint away. This is always a good thing.

Other good things:

  • grizzled Kurt Russell is the very best Kurt Russell, especially when being stoic and brave;
  • Richard Jenkins is a fine actor and I have loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, and he is fabulous here;
  • although the violence is extreme and graphic it didn’t feel to me to be gratuitous, but YMMV.

I enjoyed this slice of Western horror, and because I had to watch it alone as the Book God does not like This Sort of Thing it has spawned a new hashtag – #HorrorByMyself 🙂 – you will be seeing that a lot in the next wee while as I seem to be on a horror kick.

Dazzling details: Bone Tomahawk was directed by S Craig Zahler, is 2 hours 12 minutes long and not at all surprisingly is rated 18 for strong violence.