As a huge film buff I watch many films a year, and I’ve always intended to make a list of films I’ve seen so I can count how many I saw at the end of a year. I’ve decided to do this one month at a time, starting from January obviously, with the films being in the order I saw them. I won’t go too in depth with them, just summarise them and give my brief thoughts but hopefully I will have a wide range of titles by the end of each moth. Every film I watch counts, including films I’ve already seen. Cinema, Netflix, Sky, DVD… anything I see goes on the list. So without further ado, let’s go, forgetting the fact it’s already February 1st-
- Bird Box
Netflix really wanted me to watch this film with the countless memes and promotion so I caved in and checked it out. The film is a psychological horror that focuses on a woman called Malorie as she and a group of survivors try to hide from creatures that have caused the Earth’s population to commit mass suicide. The film’s two halves are both really good as the narrative with Malorie and two children travelling on a river is filled with tension. With a great ensemble cast and brilliant escalation in the first act I found myself very invested in this film and whilst I understand the criticism towards the ending I still really enjoyed it overall. The monsters are ingenious and I loved the sense of foreboding and dread throughout. When Stephen King himself recommends it, you know there’s quality to be found. And yes, the memes are wonderful.
One of the big films out now (big by January standards) is M Night Shyamalan’s Glass, which combines two of his previous films. He’s been a bit of a directing joke for about a decade now but seems to be going through a mini-renaissance (although the reviews for Glass… not great. I’m now in no real rush to watch it and will probably wait until my library has it). I decided to watch both films in the franchise to catch up and I really liked one and absolutely loved another. The one I liked was Split, which has an amazing James McAvoy performance (somehow he wasn’t nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars… somehow) as he goes through multiple personalities whilst keeping three girls prisoner. The film is a twisted version of a slasher film and presents itself as a gripping and entertaining thriller… until the very end, when Bruce Willis appears and the film becomes a sequel to one of Shyamalan’s earlier films, Unbreakable.
As you can guess, this is the one I loved. As in, really loved. Really, really, really, really really loved to an almost obsessive level. After becoming the sole survivor in a train crash David Dunne is contacted by the mysterious Elijah Price (in a non shouty Samuel L Jackson performance) and a slow paced yet utterly brilliant character piece emerges. Made in 2000, about a decade before the superhero movie boom, Unbreakable is a wonderfully self referential and a deconstructive look at superheroes in the real world. It’s utterly unique and beautifully shot and scored. Yeah, I’m coming back to this one later for a more in depth analysis. And that twist… chills, utter chills. The film is Shyamalan’s love letter to the idea of comic books being a modern day mythology (a belief backed up by the late great Stan Lee) and it’s arguably only Logan that really deals with the genre in as much realism and introspection. I need to stop gushing and give this a rewatch as the 20th anniversary is next year so naturally I’m doing a much longer think-piece on it. In short, watch Unbreakable.
- Pacific Rim
I have seen Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 creature feature multiple times and it gets better every time. Focusing on a war between giant kaiju and the giant robot Jaegers, the film is one of the most entertaining and original films of the decade. Del Toro fills every single frame with colour and detail and it’s arguably both the most del Toro film ever made and the least del Toro del Toro film made. His passion and love for the Japanese franchises that inspired the film are clear and unlike many blockbusters he spends time establishing the characters and the worldbuilding. Idris Elba and Ron Perlman steal the show and the battle royale in Hong Kong is one of the greatest action scenes ever. EVER. I’ve talked about this film before so I’m mainly repeating points but nonetheless I absolutely adore this film and I wish del Toro made the sequel because from what I’ve heard… yikes. At least we have the first film.
- Godzilla (2014)
In preparation for King of the Monsters I checked out the film I put on my anticipated list of 2014 but never saw. Godzilla needs no introduction- he’s a cinematic icon- and this film is a fantastic slow burner that uses everyone’s favourite radioactive dinosaur as a metaphor for terrorism and natural disasters. I agree that the characters aren’t the most complex and that the film should’ve shown more of the brawls but still, any film that has Godzilla destroying other giant monsters with his atomic breath is a plus for me. You sit and wait for that battle that makes the whole thing worth it and it happens in glorious style. Despite the film having a very grounded and serious tone (similar to the original 1954 film) it is still a whole lot of fun to watch and I loved the way the film treated the events as if they were actually happening in the real world. I still think Godzilla vs Kong is a silly idea (big ape vs radioactive skyscraper destroying lizard is so obviously going to end with a Godzilla victory- and I don’t think their mothers having the same name will help) but the Monsterverse is great. Bring on King Rodan.
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Steven Spielberg’s classic 1977 sci-fi film is one of the most iconic and influential films of all time. Obviously I’m a huge Spielberg fan (who isn’t?) and having now seen Close Encounters I have now seen all of his blockbuster films. The plot is simple, focusing on man’s first contact with extraterrestials and it serves as a strong commentary on the American nuclear family and the subtext of self-discovery is one that still holds up. I absolutely loved watching this. John William’s score is magnificent and Roy Neary is my favourite Spielberg character. There’s humour, scares (the scene where the aliens invade the house… sheer brilliance) and heart. The final twenty minutes are simply magnificent- pure filmmaking magic. Is this my new favourite Spielberg film? Jurassic Park is hard to beat but Close Encounters put up a good fight. Over forty years later and this wonderful film is timeless in its ambitions and legacy.
- Black Panther
To celebrate the first comic book movie to be nominated for Best Picture I rewatched Ryan Coogler’s outstanding piece of superhero cinema. Suffice to say I enjoyed and appreciated it even more the second time. This truly is the most disconnected film from the wider Marvel universe and it’s all the better for it- it’s about legacy and family, race and responsibility, isolationism and remembrance. The fact that it’s based on a comic book is irrelevant when discussing the wider themes at play. It’s one of the finest achievements to come out of Marvel Studios- whilst I personally prefer the likes of Winter Soldier, Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Black Panther is possibly the best film the studio has made. As I mentioned before, I hope this film serves to show Marvel what they can do when they let auteurs do their work and make wonderful stories based on wonderful characters. What a fantastic film that is truly worthy of the accolades.
Another Stephen King recommended horror film on Netflix, this absolutely intense film is a standard slasher film with a twist. The lead character is deaf, and when a masked killer breaks into her house, she cannot hear and when she finds out, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins. There are only four characters and the films spends most of the screen time on Maddie and the unnamed serial killer who tries to get in. The tension is unbearable as the film cuts between hearing what the audience hears and then complete silence for Maddie’s perspective. The whole film isn’t just silence though as we do get a great villain in the serial killer, who you somewhat enjoy watching and love to hate despite the horrible things he does. I highly highly recommend this film. Turn off the lights, shut the door and turn up the sound. Trust me, the experience is great.
- Halloween (1978)
I’ve been a John Carpenter fan for a while but it was only a few days ago I watched what many consider his finest film, Halloween. Released in 1978 and effectively spawning the modern slasher film, the original classic is one of the most imitated and revered horror films of all time. Michael Myers (not Mike Myers, although that is the basis behind one of the greatest jokes in Baby Driver) has escaped from a psychiatric hospital years after killing his sister and returns to his home town to finish the job of murdering teenagers on October 31st. Only Laurie Strode and Doctor Sam Loomis stand in his way. Simply put… this film is a masterpiece. The film’s first half expertly racks up the suspense and the characters before unleashing classic scene after classic scene after classic scene, leading up to a magnificent climax. Carpenter’s synth track is one of the most iconic film scores for a reason, the direction is top class and the whole film is Carpenter’s most iconic and technically brilliant films. If you like horror, watching Halloween is a must. Now I just need to watch the Carpenter approved sequel released last year.
What films will I be checking out over the next 28 days? Have I already seen one today? No, but I will be back next month with another list. Stay tuned.