Following on from my previous movie summaries, this is my June 2023 review. Overall, I watched 24 new movies this month, taking the total for the year to 147!
I went to see the spectacular animated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at the cinema. It was a visceral experience (aside from the fly which often cast a large shadow on the screen and the kid who rustled through vast amounts of sweets during at least half the two-hour-twenty runtime). The sequel is even more visually stunning than the first movie, which rewrote the style playbook for modern animated movies. The story dives deeper into the multiverse concept, with Miles Morales – the Spider-Man we follow in this universe – visiting the diversely strange other worlds. The headquarters scene is full-on fun and the conclusion sets up the next movie in the series.
This documentary examines unidentified aerial phenomenon. With testimony from high-ranking government officials, and NASA Astronauts, Senator Harry Reid says it "makes the incredible credible."
Is an exploration of extraterrestrial encounters centred on a series of events in 1996 when citizens of Varginha, Brazil, reported seeing a UFO crash and one or more strange creatures.
A sweeping portrait of conservationists Kris and Doug Tompkins chronicling their fight to preserve one of the last truly wild places on earth.
I was introduced to James Fox by a friend who was talking about UFOs and aliens, so I decided to check out his documentaries.
First up was The Phenomenon which was an overarching documentary about the subject of UFOs (or unidentified aerial phenomenon as they're now called). The movie talks with many government officials adding somewhat credibility to the claims. There are some alarming stories regarding nuclear warheads and military installations during the Cold War, with testimonies describing how they were seemingly deactivated by unknown flying vehicles. Stories presented from across the globe tend to follow the same descriptions of crafts and even beings. It was an interesting movie which skims the surface of the controversial subject, but definitely leaves you wanting more answers.
Next was his latest documentary Moment of Contact. This investigates a specific event – a reported UFO crash and strange creatures – in Brazil in 1996. It features testimonies and interviews with people involved while being led by James Fox as he tried to uncover the truth. This is a really eye-opening documentary – especially considering the recent news that the US urged to reveal UFO evidence after claim that it has intact alien vehicles. They build a compelling picture of the event through witnesses, from the crash site to the young girls' encounter with an unknown creature, capture, transportation to a hospital and finally an unusually large military presence.
Wild Life is the latest documentary from filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi; the team behind the spectacular Free Solo and The Rescue. This movie doesn't have the same adrenaline rush as their previous movies which showcased incredible athletic and brave feats. This is a very subdued story, focused more on philanthropy and nature, but it is filled with some breathtaking scenery of Chile and Patagonia.
I also watched Asperger's Are Us which follows a comedy troupe comprised of four friends on the Autism spectrum. It was interesting to see different personalities and their distinct neurodevelopment disorders. There is friendship, conflicts and comedy; a light-hearted look at friends on the fringes of society gaining confidence.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a #@%! has the author of the same-titled book give the advice from the book in a form of a lecture. It's about finding happiness by understanding harsh truths and letting go. It's not a great documentary, but worth a watch if you don't have the inclination to read the self-help book.
Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead + Jeremy Gardner
A young man in a personal tailspin flees from the US to Italy, where he sparks up a romance with a woman harbouring a dark, primordial secret.
As kids, they escaped a UFO death cult. Now they seek answers after an old videotape surfaces and brings them back to where they began.
When his girlfriend suddenly disappears, leaving a cryptic note as her only explanation, Hank's comfortable life and his sanity begin to crack.
The personalities of two former baseball players clash as they traverse the rural back roads of a post-plague New England teeming with the undead.
I started to follow directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead after watching Synchronic, so I decided to follow up on some of their other movies.
First was Spring, which I didn't know anything about. It turns out it is a strange love story with a monster, set against the backdrop of Italy. It follows a backpacker escaping his life in America and falling for a mysterious woman in a small seaside village. I found this a little mixed, never fully leans one way or another. It has some provocative mythical lore and gets rather gruesome towards the end. It is beautifully shot and is an interesting piece of unconventional independent cinema.
The Endless follows two brothers, who once escaped a cult and find themselves revisiting it with a new perspective. We follow them as they interact with old friends, but things take a science-fiction turn. There are strange unseen forces and different time loops. Although these add tension and intrigue the overall story is a bit too confusing with no direction.
I came across After Midnight, a low-budget love story and monster mashup directed by, written by and starring filmmaker Jeremy Gardner. Set in the backwater of Florida, a man whose partner leaves him is terrorised by an unseen monster. There is a decent amount of intrigue; the best was a conversation about a werewolf. The flashbacks portray a romance that adds to the drama. I loved the karaoke scene at the end, but the style and budget might put some people off.
The Battery is another ultra-low-budget movie from Jeremy Gardner. It follows two friends who make a simple life in the woods after zombies take over. It's a very minimal screenplay with lots of lovely long takes. I found it quite meandering and could be considered a little slow, but the finalé with them surround in a car is impressive in holding your attention.
Best of the Month
Follows a dominatrix and Hal, her wealthy client, and the disaster that ensues when Hal tries to end their relationship.
A crew of environmental activists plot a daring plan to disrupt an oil pipeline.
The story of the meteoric rise and catastrophic demise of the world's first smartphone.
Sanctuary stars Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley and takes place in a single location. It is non-stop and anxiety-inducing as the dynamic relationship descends from role-play, to power-play to resentment. From control and psychological attacks and physical altercations. This thriller is beautifully shot and with stellar performances
How to Blow Up a Pipeline is also non-stop from start to finish. The primary storyline is sporadically interjected with flashbacks to learn more about the characters. As we learn more about the different people, we discover their diverse motives. Both the primary plot and backstories are action-packed and the two combine to provide a thrilling movie from start to finish.
BlackBerry is another story based on the corporate rise (and fall) of a popular product – this time the beloved mobile device from the 2000s. This type of story has been covered a few times recently, for example Tetris and Air. There are some very different personalities on show here; from the reclusive visionary to the aggressively confident businessperson. These are probably portrayed as caricatures to make the most of the story, but their stark differences are what makes the movie so interesting. There are lows and highs, friendships and double-crossing – you probably know how the overall story ends, but it is the nuance and storytelling that makes the movie successful.