Following on from my previous movie summaries, this is my September review. Overall, I only watched 19 new movies this month, taking the total for the year to 254! I reduced the number of movies I watched and instead focused on those I have been excited to see, instead of just mindlessly fitting in a movie every night. This has rejuvenated my enthusiasm for interesting movies and not just making up the numbers.
Everything Everywhere All At Once has been high on my list since its release to outstanding reviews and praise. I tried to quell my expectations – especially considering its subject dealing with the multiverse – as not to spoil my experience. Luckily it didn't impact my enjoyment of the movie which was outstanding – my first 10/10 in a while.
Centred around a Chinese-American family and their struggles with their business, marriage and child relationships, it could be a rather dry movie. However, these are dealt with by asking “what if?” around all life's decisions; especially what if she had never emigrated.
There are so many layers and sensitive topics swirling around and they're all at the forefront in the concluding scenes, yet none of them are forced. I think everyone has “what if?” moments in their life and this movie beautifully deals with them. The relationship with her daughter was the strongest story, but her marriage and business regrets also way heavy in the story.
The concept of the multiverse was also tackled this year, with Marvel's 2022 Doctor Strange instalment. With a comparatively tiny budget, the production design was inventive and produced very warm and engaging visuals. A lot of things were filmed practically and reminded me of Michel Gondry's whimsical approach.
There is a large cameo from a much-loved American actress which I found surprising and loved. It was also the first movie back for actor Ke Huy Quan, who is best known for his child roles as Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Data in The Goonies, and he was superb.
The movie is fun and silly and fast and absurd and poignant and heartfelt. It is a high-concept science-fiction story wrapped around a family-focused centre (some might say bagel-shaped).
Following a series of unexplained crimes, a father is reunited with his son who has been missing for 10 years.
A young woman goes on a solo vacation to the English countryside following the death of her ex-husband.
In a near future, a family reckons with questions of love, connection, and loss after their A.I. helper breaks down.
A young man who works as a Bar Mitzvah party host strikes up a friendship with a mother and her autistic daughter.
These four movies are such an eclectic mix, from body-horror to relationship troubles, they are all unique in their way. They are understated yet force personal retrospectives. There is something for everyone in at least one of these movies.
First off was the French movie Titane by director Julia Ducournau. It starts with a sexualised dancer who goes around committing crimes against horrible people. After she is exposed and wanted by the police, she takes on an alternative persona; pretending to be a boy who has been missing for 10 years. As she is trying to integrate with the besotted father, she has to hide her true identity and the fact she's pregnant. It's a bizarre story in its own right, but it throws some Cronenberg-style body-horror into the mix. The stylish photography and crazy story with the oily ending make this such a unique movie that's worth a watch.
Alex Garland's latest movie, Men, has produced some strong negative reactions. Following the death of her husband, a woman retreats to a small English village where strange things start to happen. Being alone in a large unfamiliar house in the remote countryside can be daunting itself, but throw in the trauma of what she has witnessed and it can be unbearable. This manifests itself with the village members who all have the same face. From the friendly homeowner, to the pub landlord, to the vicar and more. The movie starts off a little bland, but once halfway through I was absolutely glued to the weirdness and the terror. There is more grotesque body-horror – which reminded me of John Carpenter's “The Thing” – in an absolutely forgettable scene towards the end – a scene that kept getting worse and worse but I was unable to turn away. There are a lot of themes and details which I'm sure I missed, but from a pure spectacle, I was in awe.
After Yang starts with a great dance sequence that is a perfect introduction to the sci-fi world the characters inhabit. This diverse family have a humanoid robot whose role is to help their adopted daughter understand her heritage. When it malfunctions they're forced to examine what it means to live a life. There are so many beautiful scenes, but it's the philosophical discussions and feelings that make this movie special. Some concepts and themes left me thinking about for days after, especially this Lao Tzu quote;
What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.
Probably the most accessible movie in the bunch, Cha Cha Real Smooth is written, directed and stars Cooper Raiff. He plays a goofy yet loveable young man who embarks on an unexpected encounter with a mother (played by the delectable Dakota Johnson) and her daughter. He is unabashed and fighting against the realities of life. The story is filled with a certain energy; there is fun, there are heartfelt moments, and there is an unexpected conclusion.
An adorable one-inch-tall shell who ekes out a colourful existence with his grandmother.
Five assassins aboard a fast-moving bullet train find out their missions have something in common.
A group of 20-somethings' party game turns deadly in this fresh and funny look at backstabbing and fake friends.
A woman opts for a cloning procedure after she receives a terminal diagnosis but she then recovers.
What can I say about Marcel the Shell with Shoes On? You follow a talking one-inch-tall shell who is being interviewed by a documentary filmmaker. It is completely preposterous but adorable at the same time. We see the cute miniature world they inhabit, much like The Borrowers, making use of everyday objects in whole new ways. The story is full of optimism and spouts gems of wisdom. In the end, you are fully engaged and empathetic towards this shell and its world.
Bullet Train is the highly-marketed Brad Bitt movie, from the director of the original John Wick movie. It follows the same pattern, with some impressive “gun-fu” action sequences. However, this is a more comedic approach to the story, with the fish-out-of-water hitman who is just trying to pick up a case. The double-crossing and intertwined stories of the other assassins build up motive with a satisfying if a little over-the-top ending.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is an avant-garde murder-mystery gone-wrong with a group of rich twenty-somethings. If you can get passed the fakeness of the friendships (which is part of the point) then there are some interesting scenes, especially considering it's almost entirely set in the dark. The reveal at the end adds even more absurdity to the shenanigans.
Riley Stearns's latest has a similar style to his previous movies, with a blend of dark humour bubbling below an interesting and unique story. Dual starts with an adjudicated one-on-one battle to the death – we then learn the reasons behind such activity. We learn that if you are terminally ill, you can create a clone who will take over your life after you die. Karen Gillan plays the original and clone superbly, as one takes over her life, she must train to win her dual. It's a bleak world but is punctuated with humour. If you like dark thought-provoking high-level sci-fi, then you should enjoy this.
A woman's life is turned upside down when her criminal parents invite an outsider to join them on a major heist they're planning.
Best friends Becky and Hunter find themselves at the top of a 2,000-foot radio tower.
An exploration of Ted Kaczynski's life in Lincoln, Montana in the years leading up to his arrest as The Unabomber.
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.
Kajillionare is a wonderfully odd movie. It has Wes Anderson-inspired characters but is set in the modern world we are all familiar with. The misfortunate and penniless family we follow is full of character and is upbeat, contrasting with their gloomy situation. There is odd physical comedy, there is their bizarre dress sense, there are weird names and strange scenarios. There are so many small moments but they add up and reflect on each other throughout. Contrary to the characters and their situation, the overall tone of the movie is oddly optimistic.
Fall is a surprisingly decent enough entry into the “extreme-sports-gone-wrong survival” genre. Although fictional, the movie manages the same sweaty palm reaction as climbing documentaries such as Free Solo. The beginning is of questionable quality with both poor acting and CGI but if you can get passed that you'll end up with an entertaining movie.
Ted K is a biopic about the recluse who became known as the Unabomber. Sharlto Copley (District 9) gives an impressive performance that is subtle yet expresses quiet seething anger. The standout production dynamic was the great use of sound to convey the dramatic differences between the tranquil life coveted by the antagonist and the monstrous distractions of heavy machinery invading nature; planes, forestry vehicles, snowmobiles and motorbikes. It is rather leisurely-paced but overall an interesting movie.
Bone Tomahawk is a Western with a difference. It is a strange blend of old Western with horror-driven cannibals and is expertly crafted. Some absolutely brutal scenes are shown in graphic detail – it is definitely not for the squeamish. There are some interesting stylistic choices and it is a little slow in places (it is a Western), but the final thirty minutes are a non-stop thrill ride where everything comes to a violent conclusion.