I watched a total of 24 films in September, which was well down on previous months, but I made up for that with TV viewing. I watched 45 episodes of TV. I found viewing in small-bites more relaxing this month, often finding myself unable to commit to a film. But, in finding shows I liked, there was motivation to binge. September was also a bit of a dead month – both theatrically and on home entertainment. Missing Sully was unfortunate, but there wasn’t too much else I was sorry to miss, and most of the home entertainment releases I had already seen. October offers some exciting releases in The Neon Demon, Elle and Hell or High Water and hopefully the chances to see Arrival and American Honey.
I spent the first three weeks of September working through the epic 2013 Man Booker Prize winner, The Luminaries, which is right up there with A Little Life as the book of the year for me.
On the music front, it was also a weak month. I did enjoy Angel Olsen’s My Woman and Young Thug’s Jeffery, but I struggled to get into Frank Ocean’s highly-anticipated Blonde.
TV was the hero of September. I seemed to enjoy watching other people struggling with life – most specifically in regards to relationships, parenthood and professions. Joe Swanberg’s Easy featured brilliant writing, Catastrophe followed up its hilarious first season with some very unexpected dark turns in its second, while Love was pure addiction. I haven’t yet discovered the pinnacle of Bojack Horseman, but I look forward to working through seasons two & three during October.
Brief thoughts on some of my viewing in September after the jump:
Pete’s Dragon – I seriously had to resist tears for the last half an hour of this. Possessing a now all-to-rare sincerity this lovely, character-driven and emotionally-transparent adventure felt like a long-lost folklore from a bygone era that has just been discovered, dusted off and released as a timely humanist saviour to this year’s blockbuster season. (4/5)
Don’t Breathe – With nothing to lose, the desperate youth of lower-middle America choose to take. For someone who has lost everything, he’s left willing to take at any cost. This clash resulted in a relentlessly stressful experience, with mostly great execution of suspense, and terrific use of location. Also features a great performance from Jane Levy. But, how I wish it didn’t get quite so nasty in the final act. (3.5/5)
The Magnificent Seven – Reviewed. (3.5/5)
De Palma – Holy mackerel, a fascinating first-hand film-by-film insight/autobiographical study. Gives a checkered, but fascinating career and some contentious decision-making clarity and context. He’s also right about one thing: he’d never make a film better than Carlito’s Way. (3.5/5)
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children – An odd duck, but I liked it. So Tim Burton. Sets aside a deathly dull lead performance from Asa Butterfield and a sloppy set-up before barreling into a dark, weird and often giddily goofy ‘chosen-one’ adventure. (3/5)
I also watched The Girl on the Train and La La Land, but as of writing I remain under embargo and unable to share my comments.
Black Book – What an epic. With a stunning performance from Carice van Houten this just sizzles with tension, desire and malice. Tarantino definitely saw this before making Inglourious Basterds, right? (4/5)
In the Mouth of Madness – What just happened? I don’t know, but I was seriously freaked out throughout this. Another brilliant ending. Carpenter is the best. (4/5)
The Family Fang – Still processing, but I was weirdly enamoured with this. Great things: Nicole Kidman and Jason Bateman together, and Carter Burwell’s score. (4/5)
Flesh + Blood – The Verhoeven trademarks – so much gore and raunch – are on overdrive in this playfully dark Middle Ages adventure that results in you being frequently disgusted with everyone’s behaviour but ultimately hating nobody. Somehow. Rich I think is the word. Narratively it is wild, but the world-building is never less than convincing. (4/5)
Our Kind of Traitor – In which I continue to be envious of Ewan McGregor’s hair. While it doesn’t have the narrative complexity of other Le Carre adaptations, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or A Most Wanted Man, this is still a slick, gripping, emotionally satisfying and well-acted thriller and there is nay a dull shot to be witnessed. One of the more under-appreciated releases of the year. Came and went without much fuss, but people should be talking about this more. (3.5/5)
Passion – The [fantastic] score does a lot of the heavy lifting in this demented little mind-bender. I enjoyed it, against expectations, and a lingering obsession has latched on. (3.5/5)
A Hologram for the King – A very odd film. No wonder Disney had no idea what to do with it. But, its strangeness – and an unusual, but expectedly compelling performance from Tom Hanks – keeps this on track as it somewhat inelegantly switches from a fish-out-of-water story about a business transaction into an existential awakening-come-romantic drama. Been iffy on Tykwer over the years, but his work with the Wachowski’s on Cloud Atlas was breathtaking and this is worth seeking out. (3/5)
X-Men: Apocalypse – Compared to the last two dull (and somehow critically worshipped) X-Men entries, and this year’s dire blockbuster season, this somehow comes out looking okay. Apocalypse is a far more interesting and formidable opponent to set a film around than Xavier and Magneto going at it again. There are still some awful dialogue, horrific editing decisions and terribly awkward sub-characters (what was Olivia Munn doing?), but I found myself getting behind the latest crop of newbs. And Singer, bless him, uses Metallica’s The Four Horsemen as Apocalypse is recruiting his…horsemen. There’s a sense of self-aware campiness to this one that I intermittently appreciated. So, yeah…not terrible? (2.5/5)
This is Where I Leave You – There are some very funny moments that level out the numerous clunkers, and a cast this awesome is bound to make even the most-dire material work on some level. But this familiar kitchen-sink family drama is leaden with cliches, contrived developments and horrific music choices. Bateman is, again, the great everyman and Adam Driver seems to have a lot of fun. (2.5/5)
Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates – I laughed occasionally, but it is entirely forgettable and commits the sin of leaving Zac Efron clutching with the least interesting character in the film. Also, suffering from severe Anna Kendrick fatigue. (2.5/5)
Frank & Lola – I like Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots a lot (in fact, they have given two of my favourite performances in 2016), but this kaleidoscopic approach leaves too much in the editing room, but becomes more stagnant as it adds narrative. A bleak and increasingly ugly portrait of a Las Vegas-set dysfunctional relationship, as past sins and suppressed impulses become exposed. Bold, but too many things just don’t work. (2.5/5)
Incarnate – Never particularly interesting, but the idea – entering a dream-like shared-consciousness to cleanse a possessed body of the malevolent invader – sort of becomes something for a while. Sort of. (2/5)
Demolition – Another garbage film from Jean-Marc Vallee (light years removed from C.R.A.Z.Y. or Cafe De Flore) who continues to take a sledgehammer to his once-impressive resume. Gyllenhaal does his best, but you’d be hard pressed to find sometime who’d admit they actually cared about his character and his white-privileged ‘metaphor-anxiety’. The guy is going through a traumatic time, sure, but there is no way someone grieves like this. (2/5)
Independence Day: Resurgence – Yikes, I heard it was a lacklustre effort but I didn’t expect it to be this awful. They even wasted the Goldblum. (1.5/5)
Be Kind Rewind (4/5)
Basic Instinct (3.5/5)
21 Jump Street (3/5)
Easy Season 1 (4.5/5)
Catastrophe Season 1 (4.5/5)
Love Season 1 (4/5)
Catastrophe Season 2 (4/5)
Bojack Horseman Season 1 (3.5/5)
Bojack Horseman S2 E1-3
Undercover S1 E1
The People v. O.J. Simpson – American Crime Story S1 E1-2