Upcoming 2017 Movies (You May Have Missed)

Hello, tomodachi. A belated welcome to two-thousand-and-seventeen. I’ve been devouring movies to escape reality, so my first Watched This Month of the year is probably going to look like a hot mess. Let’s worry about that later, though. For now, I want to share with you five upcoming films that I am eagerly awaiting. I’ve gone with some more obscure and less talked about features to hopefully add a little variety to the babble. Last time I wrote a post like this, only three of the five mentioned actually found a release date. Let’s hope I’m more accurate this time!


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First and foremost, we have Bong Joon-ho’s Okja, which is due for release on Netflix in the Summer. It tells the story of a young girl named Mija, who risks all to prevent a powerful, multi-national corporation from kidnapping her best friend, who happens to be a giant animal.

From what I’ve read thus far, the film will provide a commentary on capitalism, which brings it in line with Mr. Bong’s 2013 feature Snowpiercer, which was somewhat of an action-packed political allegory.

Okja is said to be set 60% in South Korea and 40% in New York, with a Korean lead and an English-speaking supporting cast, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins and Giancarlo Esposito — certainly a cast to get excited for.


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Next up we have the French coming-of-age, cannibalistic drama Raw, which is currently making the rounds at Sundance. The film is directed by Julia Ducournau and stars Garance Marillier in the lead role. It follows a vegetarian veterinarian who is forced to undergo a carnivorous hazing ritual at school, after which she develops a lust for meat.

I’m not a fan of body horror, but I hear that Raw is more a ‘gross concept’ than an out-right gore fest. After hearing about it last year, it had my hesitant attention, but the trailer — which released last week — has me keenly interested. It’s due for release in the US in March and in the UK in April.


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I’m cheating slightly with Over the Fence, which released in Japan last September, but there’s a good chance it will materialise outside its home nation at some point in the coming months. For now, we have to make do with the trailer.

The film is directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita, who had a massive hit in 2005 with the endearing high-school drama Linda Linda Linda. The much loved Joe Odagiri and Yu Aoi star as broken individuals who meet by chance and begin a seemingly tumultuous relationship.

This film has my attention mostly due to the talent involved, but Japanese movies often portray dejection and the more lonesome, subdued aspects of relationships and everyday life with keen precision. They let the camera do the talking, which is something I hope to see in Over the Fence.


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Moving on to Breathe, which is Andy Serkis’ directorial debut. This is a film I expected to have a lot more buzz, but then again, not a lot of information has been revealed. It tells the true story of Robin Cavendish, a handsome, brilliant and adventurous man whose life takes a dramatic turn when polio leaves him paralyzed.

Man of the moment Andrew Garfield plays Robin, with Claire Foy playing his long-time wife Diana. The only ‘footage’ thus far is this sole set picture, which is unusual given the film is rumoured to appear in Switzerland next month. Hopefully a trailer will emerge soon.


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Finally, we have The Discovery, which had its world premiere at Sundance two days ago and is due for release on March 31st via Netflix. It’s a love story set in a reality where the existence of the afterlife has been scientifically verified. Inevitably, people begin killing themselves to reach to supposed paradise.

It stars Rooney Mara and Jesse Plemons in the leading roles and is the second feature from American director Charlie McDowell. The plot sounds very enticing and the trailer is intriguingly haphazard and very fascinating in tone, though anything with Rooney Mara is generally worth watching. I also loved Jesse Plemons in Fargo, so I’m excited to view more of his work.


That’s but a snapshot of what looks to be an interesting year for film. Initially, I was also going to write about Colossal, which is a movie I heard about so long ago that I thought it had come and gone already, but the teaser made its way online two days ago and has generated a lot of attention.

Anyway, thank you for visiting. For a sort of too long, didn’t read rundown…

The Discovery is due on 31st March via Netflix, which will also release Okja in the Summer. Raw is due on 10th March in the USA and on 7th April in the UK, the latter of which is the same date as Colossal‘s US release. Over the Fence has already been released in Japan and will hopefully make its way overseas at some point this year and currently Breathe doesn’t have a solid release date, but I expect a trailer will appear in the coming months, which will likely bring it more widespread attention.

Best Movies of 2016

Good day, everybody. I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to a special New Year, but for now – it’s list time! This post will be all about my favourite movies of 2016, compiling my most loved this year using the convenient and well-tested top ten formula (though I couldn’t resist including a special mention, too).

Swing by my letterboxd or previous blog post to see a rundown of every film I watched this year, but let’s save the rest of my waffling for the end and get down to business.


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Special Mention goes to Tunnel (Dir. Kim Seong-hun)

Tunnel is a multifaceted disaster movie in which a man becomes trapped after a road tunnel collapses around him. I wanted to give it a mention, because – while it doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the genre – it’s but one of many worthwhile movies from South Korea this year and features some very powerful and evocative moments. It’s a well-paced and skillfully shot film that successfully maintains suspense despite some predictability, which also excels in its exploration of sensationalist, personal and political viewpoints — depicting what feel like very human and true-to-life scenarios.


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#10. Kubo and the Two Strings (Dir. Travis Knight)

Kicking the list off at number ten is Kubo and the Two Strings, which follows the titular character on a journey across ancient Japan to locate a suit of magical armor in order to defeat the vengeful Moon King. It suffers from some contrived exposition, but ultimately comes together as a moving and exquisitely animated piece. It’s gorgeously visualised – with a number of attentively choreographed and well designed action scenes – and while the characters are rather conventional, they manage to be memorable and enjoyable iterations, humanly developed and brought to life with some engaging voice work.


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#9. Swiss Army Man (Dir. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)

Swiss Army Man really is as strange as it sounds, but it’s also wonderfully enjoyable, terrifically imaginative and at times even beautiful. It opens with a man about to hang himself beside a desolate beach, but when he’s interrupted by a farting corpse that washes up on the coast, he mounts the dead body and it begins propelling them across the shoreline. Thereafter, the two develop a peculiar bond. Alongside its alluring eccentricity, the film features an ending and reveal nothing less than magnificent, with a remarkable a cappella score and solid performances from Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe.


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#8. Captain Fantastic (Dir. Matt Ross)

Matt Ross’ touching drama follows an unorthodox family who live in a Washington state forest. The children learn about survival, philosophy and coexistence with nature from their father, who has become disillusioned with capitalism and society, but due to their mother being hospitalised, the children gradually begin to lose focus. Captain Fantastic is a lovingly crafted piece that brings into question topics of society, education and upbringing, that feels well balanced in its conversation, avoiding biased commentary despite basking in nonconformity and allowing audiences to ponder the finer details.


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#7. Nocturnal Animals (Dir. Tom Ford)

Tom Ford’s second feature follows a disillusioned art gallery owner named Susan, whose life has become rather joyless and undesirable, but a glimmer of hope beckons when her ex-husband sends her a manuscript out of the blue, with which Susan becomes entranced. Nocturnal Animals is one of the years most compelling features, with a steady and meticulous divulgence of details that builds a layered, ever-suspenseful and stunningly haunting tale of redemption and revenge. The sinuous narrative is expertly employed, with Gyllenhaal and Taylor-Johnson giving fiercely evocative performances.


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#6. The Little Prince (Dir. Mark Osborne)

The Little Prince was released in most parts of the world last year, but didn’t make its way to Britain and the United States until 2016. It follows a young girl in a grown-up world whose outlook on life is changed when her eccentric neighbour tells her extraordinary tales of a small boy who lives on an asteroid. It’s beautifully illustrated, with wonderful contrast between the two narratives. I’m sad the film didn’t reach a wider audience, because it is incredibly profound and evocative in its exploration of innocence, inner peace and companionship, with some intensely poignant and memorable dialogue.


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#5. Sing Street (Dir. John Carney)

John Carney’s musical drama Sing Street makes its way into my top five. The film follows a ragtag bunch of youths in 1980s Ireland who form a band with the goal of impressing a girl. It’s an utterly charming but brilliantly grounded feature, portraying not only gleeful musical numbers but also some rousing, hard-hitting family drama, with Jack Reynor giving an unexpectedly impassioned and memorable performance. It’s a completely absorbing film – from the music to the characters – with a tremendous ending that leaves a lasting impression, evoking brilliant uncertainty despite an overt sense of exuberance.


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#4. Your Name (Dir. Makoto Shinkai)

Just missing out on my top three is one of Japan’s most successful films of all time. Your Name is a visually arresting and incredibly moving body-swap drama with a couple of very inventive and unconventional features. The director masterfully weaves between humour and sorrow as the plot proceeds in directions unforeseen, all the while employing his wonderful knack for imbuing typically ordinary settings with a delicate touch of fantasy and science fiction. Shinkai has been highly regarded within the anime community for some time; it’s nice to see someone other than Miyazaki garnering broader recognition.


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#3. The Handmaiden (Dir. Park Chan-wook)

Park Chan-wook’s beguiling adaptation of the Fingersmith commences the top three. It’s a slinky, seductive and beautifully provocative period piece that tells of a plot to defraud a mysterious heiress by a conman who hires a thief to act as her maid, but complications abound when the two women begin to fall for one another. It’s a tantalising exploration of sexuality, with a mesmeric quality and stunning proficiency — attentively crafted and brilliantly layered in so many respects. Certainly, one of the years most alluring films, with gorgeous set design, bewitching performances and some masterful cinematography from Chung Chung-hoon, who maneuvers the camera with extreme finesse.


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#2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Dir. Taika Waititi)

Taika Waititi’s extraordinary New Zealand based adventure was my firm favourite for many months, before being pipped to the post in December. Hunt for the Wilderpeople follows a delinquent teenager and his new eccentric foster family who end up on the wrong side of a national manhunt. It’s enormous amounts of fun, with a near faultless script loaded with impeccable witticism. Julian Dennison and Sam Neill meld into their roles with seeming effortlessness; their bond developing organically on a journey through the bush as we venture between hilarity and despair. The gorgeous geography of New Zealand is of course on display, too. It’s a thoroughly enticing and joyous affair.


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#1. A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Dir. Shunji Iwai)

My favourite film of the year is Shunji Iwai’s three-hour masterpiece about an unassertive girl named Nanami, who struggles to find fulfillment and true companionship in an all too connected world that can – ironically – sometimes leave people feeling isolated.

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle has the ethereal and poignant quality of All About Lily Chou-Chou, with the director molding forlorn into fascinating through his stark imagery and exquisite characterisation. The handheld camera work creates an alluring sense of intimacy and delicate observation, quietly dissolving viewers into Nanami’s world, making the three-hour runtime seem like no time at all.

In many ways, A Bride for Rip Van Winkle is a character study, following the formation of Nanami’s very essence through a number of encounters and experiences; some distressing, some jubilant and some intensely passionate. Iwai develops the character very attentively, with actress Haru Kuroki giving a first-rate performance, communicating soft, unspoken emotions with absolute precision.

It’s a gorgeously bittersweet and entirely bewitching film, with Nanami a terrific representation of the younger generation, whose voices are aflutter online, all too often contradicted by their passive realities. It has an other-worldly, dreamy aesthetic, but is in many was, incredibly grounded, intimate and relatable.

Shunji Iwai isn’t as active as he once was in the 90s and early 21st century, but he hasn’t lost an ounce of the understated, extraordinary quality that makes his work so distinctive, evocative and beautifully haunting.


There we have it, folks. I think 2016 has been a terrific year for film (much better than last year), but I’m a little disappointed there’s such a disparity between the release dates of some of the latter films this year. I see Hacksaw Ridge popping up on many year-end lists, with its release come and gone in most territories, but the UK is one of the last places in the world to receive it (late January), so it’s a little annoying not being able to form a complete rundown of the years best. Manchester by the Sea and La La Land are another two features for which I am playing the waiting game. Such is life, though.

I have a couple of films on my radar for next year, with Bong Joon-ho’s Okja my most anticipated, which is released on Netflix in the Summer. Andy Serkis’ directorial debut Breathe also has my attention, along with Logan – Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine – and of course Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which I will be going to see in just a few days. I’m also intrigued to see the outcome of the Ghost in the Shell and Death Note adaptations, but I’m not counting on anything particularly impressive.

Good or bad, I’m sure I’ll be writing about all them and more next year, so please swing by on occasion. I hope everybody has an enjoyable New Year celebration, or just a relaxed, peaceful time if preferred. And if you have the time, let me know your top ten! I’m always eager to share opinions and discover new movies. See you in 2017, my friends.

Watched This Year: 2016

Greetings! Welcome to the second ever Watched This Year. In this post, I’ll be listing every film I viewed in 2016, regardless of initial release. It’s helpful to keep track of everything I saw and an easy way to compile all of my ratings and thoughts in one place. Every link will take you to a relevant post that contains my critiques and appraisals and – as always – please drop by my letterboxd for more precise ratings, as I am a little restricted due to the inability to award half-stars on here.

I stated in my previous Watched This Year that I wanted to double the amount of films I saw and I’m pleased to reveal — I did just that! Last year, I only managed to get through 43 movies, compared to 88 this year. I also stuck solely to English-language films last year, whereas this year over a quarter of my viewings were in a language other than English. I have always been keenly interested in foreign cinema and am particularly fond of East Asian movies, so I am very happy to have redeemed myself somewhat, though still tremendously disappointed to have neglected them in 2015.

Next year, I would like to push for over 100 movies and continue to dedicate a lot of time to foreign cinema. Come back in twelve months for the results.

Previous: Watched This Year: 2015

Film Rating
10 Cloverfield Lane (Dir. Dan Trachtenberg) ★★★★☆
3-Iron (Dir. Kim Ki-duk) ★★★★☆
A Bittersweet Life (Dir. Kim Jee-woon) ★★★☆☆
A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Dir. Shunji Iwai) ★★★★★
A Hard Day (Dir. Kim Seong-hoon) ★★★★☆
Anomalisa (Dir. Charlie Kaufman) ★★☆☆☆
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Dir. Zack Snyder) ★★☆☆☆
Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance) ★★★★☆
Bottle Rocket (Dir. Wes Anderson) ★★★★☆
Captain America: Civil War (Dir. Joe Russo and Anthony Russo) ★★★☆☆
Captain Fantastic (Dir. Matt Ross) ★★★★☆
Children of Men (Dir. Alfonso Cuarón) ★★★☆☆
Christmas in August (Dir. Hur Jin-Ho) ★★★★★
Confession of Murder (Dir. Jeong Byeong-Gil) ★★★☆☆
Deadpool (Dir. Tim Miller) ★★★☆☆
Death Billiards (Dir. Yuzuru Tachikawa) ★★★☆☆
Doctor Strange (Dir. Scott Derrickson) ★★☆☆☆
Don Jon (Dir. Joseph Gordon-Levitt) ★★☆☆☆
Eye in the Sky (Dir. Gavin Hood) ★★★★☆
Faults (Dir. Riley Stearns) ★★☆☆☆
Green Room (Dir. Jeremy Saulnier) ★★★☆☆
Hail, Caesar! (Dir. Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) ★★★☆☆
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Dir. Taika Waititi) ★★★★☆
I Am Not a Serial Killer (Dir. Billy O’Brien) ★★☆☆☆
I Saw the Devil (Dir. Kim Jee-woon) ★★★★☆
Imperium (Dir. Daniel Ragussis) ★★★☆☆
In the Heart of the Sea (Dir. Ron Howard) ★★★☆☆
Kubo and the Two Strings (Dir. Travis Knight) ★★★★☆
Kung Fu Panda 3 (Dir. Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh) ★★★★☆
Little Witch Academia (Dir. Yoh Yoshinari) ★★★☆☆
Me Before You (Dir. Thea Sharrock) ★★★☆☆
Memories of Murder (Dir. Bong Joon-ho) ★★★★☆
Mother (Dir. Bong Joon-ho) ★★★★☆
New York, I Love You (Dir. Natalie Portman, Shunji Iwai, et al) ★★☆☆☆
Nocturnal Animals (Dir. Tom Ford) ★★★★☆
Now You See Me (Dir. Louis Leterrier) ★☆☆☆☆
Pawn Sacrifice (Dir. Edward Zwick) ★★★☆☆
Picnic (Dir. Shunji Iwai) ★★★★☆
Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 (Dir. Julian Jarrold) ★★★★☆
Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 (Dir. James Marsh) ★★★☆☆
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dir. Gareth Edwards) ★★★☆☆
Side Effects (Dir. Steven Soderbergh) ★★★☆☆
Silenced (Dir. Hwang Dong Hyuk) ★★★★☆
Sing Street (Dir. John Carney) ★★★★☆
Smashed (Dir. James Ponsoldt) ★★★★☆
Snowpiercer (Dir. Na Hong-Jin) ★★★★☆
Starry Eyes (Dir. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer) ★☆☆☆☆
Straw Dogs (Dir. Sam Peckinpah) ★★★☆☆
Suicide Squad (Dir. David Ayer) ★☆☆☆☆
Sully (Dir. Clint Eastwood) ★★★☆☆
Swiss Army Man (Dir. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) ★★★★☆
Symbol (Dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto) ★★★☆☆
The Chaser (Dir. Na Hong-Jin) ★★★★★
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Dir. Wes Anderson) ★★★★☆
The Handmaiden (Dir. Chan-wook Park) ★★★★☆
The Host (Dir. Bong Joon-ho) ★★★★☆
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Dir. Terry Gilliam) ★★☆☆☆
The Jungle Book (Dir. Jon Favreau) ★★★☆☆
The Little Prince (Dir. Mark Osborne) ★★★★☆
The Man from Nowhere (Dir. Lee Jeong-Beom) ★★★★☆
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Dir. Guy Ritchie) ★★★★☆
The Neon Demon (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) ★★☆☆☆
The Peanuts Movie (Dir. Steve Martino) ★★★☆☆
The Place Beyond the Pines (Dir. Derek Cianfrance) ★★★☆☆
The Prestige (Dir. Christopher Nolan) ★★★☆☆
The Royal Tenenbaums (Dir. Wes Anderson) ★★★★☆
The Shallows (Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra) ★★★★☆
The Spectacular Now (Dir. James Ponsoldt) ★★★★☆
The Station Agent (Dir. Tom McCarthy) ★★★★☆
The Terror Live (Dir. Kim Byung-woo) ★★☆☆☆
The Wailing (Dir. Na Hong-Jin) ★★★☆☆
The Witch (Dir. Robert Eggers) ★★★★☆
The Wolverine (Dir. James Mangold) ★★☆☆☆
The Woodsman (Dir. Nicole Kassell) ★★★★☆
Tokyo Fist (Dir. Shinya Tsukamoto) ★★☆☆☆
Train to Busan (Dir. Yeon Sang-Ho) ★★★☆☆
Triple 9 (Dir. John Hillcoat) ★★☆☆☆
Tunnel (Dir. Kim Seong-hoon) ★★★★☆
Undo (Dir. Shunji Iwai) ★★☆☆☆
Warcraft (Dir. Duncan Jones) ★★★☆☆
Warsaw ’44 (Dir. Jan Komasa) ★★★★☆
While We’re Young (Dir. Noah Baumbach) ★★☆☆☆
X-Men: Apocalypse (Dir. Bryan Singer) ★★☆☆☆
Your Name (Dir. Makoto Shinkai) ★★★★☆
Youth in Revolt (Dir. Miguel Arteta) ★★★☆☆
Z for Zachariah (Dir. Craig Zobel) ★★★☆☆
Zootopia (Dir. Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush) ★★★☆☆

As I wrote about every film throughout the year in my Watched This Month posts, there aren’t any brief comments like last time. Looking at the ratings, my most loved films this year are A Bride for Rip Van Winkle, Christmas in August and The Chaser. My most viewed director is Bong Joon-ho, with me having watched four of his features in 2016 — Snowpiercer, Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother — and Ha Jung-woo is my most viewed actor, after watching The Chaser, Tunnel, The Terror Live and The Handmaiden. Much love for South Korea. I wonder what films are waiting to be discovered in 2017. Please feel free to leave any recommendations! I hope my writing has been satisfactory this year and as always — thank you dearly for stopping by.

Watched This Month: December 2016

Hello, hello. Welcome to Watched This Month. Finally on time again! It’s December, so that means this monthly post has now been going for an entire year, with me having written about almost one hundred different movies along the way. Hooray! Thank you to all those who have stopped by. I have no plans to end Watched This Month, so do please continue to visit. As the year is coming to a close, following this post will be my second ever Watched This Year, which compiles every film I managed to watch in 2016 into one convenient list. Gotta love a good rundown. Anyway, down to business…

Previous: October – November

Film Rating
A Bride for Rip Van Winkle (Dir. Shunji Iwai)

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle is bewitching, beautifully subtle three-hour drama and slight companion piece to All About Lily Chou-Chou, exploring disconnect in an ever-connected world. Unassertive lead Nanami – played by Haru Kuroki – finds her supposed beau online, but never truly connects with him. After marriage, she seems destined for a quiet life of discontent, shackled by societal traditions and forced into the role of housewife. She lacks the gumption to break her dreary routine, but after some meddling by an enigmatic online acquaintance, Nanami finds herself on a path of uncertainty, in which she may just find fulfillment.

It’s a wholly mesmerizing picture, with a lengthy runtime that seems to go by in an instant. Iwai’s visuals are dreamy and evocative, with his handheld camera work creating a sense of intimacy and delicate observation. Somehow, he hits the emotional beats almost infallibly, with actress Haru Kuroki communicating soft, unspoken emotions with absolute precision. Throughout, the two build a quiet sense of melancholy, slowly but assuredly dissolving viewers into Nanami’s world.

Though the story is often sorrowful and even tragic, it’s never ostentatious or even straightforwardly distressing. Iwai’s ethereal imagery and exquisite characterisation tug away at the heartstrings in the most unobtrusive and delicate of manners.

The character of Nanami is attentively written, with Haru Kuroki giving a beautifully understated performance. Right from the get-go, she’s a terrific representation of the younger generation, whose voices are aflutter online, all too often contradicted by their passive realities.

A Bride for Rip Van Winkle has a quietly pensive and very distinct quality, with the director imbuing typically sombre scenes with tinges of warmth and reassurance; molding forlorn into fascinating. It’s a gorgeously bittersweet and entirely spellbinding experience, with an usually alluring sense of abjection. Certainly, one of Iwai’s best.

★★★★★
A Hard Day (Dir. Kim Seong-hoon)

By masterfully combining typical – but well refined – thriller elements with touches of black comedy, director Kim Seong-hoon has created an action movie with a lot of personality.

A Hard Day follows detective Ko Gun-su, who finds his day goes from bad to worse after hitting and killing a passerby in his car on the way to his mothers funeral. Rather than own up to manslaughter, Ko concocts a plan to dispose of the body inside his mothers casket, but as soon as he believes he’s in the clear, he receives an anonymous call from a man who claims to have witnessed the ordeal.

It’s a solid action-thriller, with an engaging lead and a polished, well-paced plot that is not only gratifying in its tension and excitement, but also very effective in its humour and absurdity.

★★★★☆
Christmas in August (Dir. Hur Jin-Ho)

Despite the title, Christmas in August isn’t a terribly suitable seasonal film. It’s the tale of a portrait photographer who strives to live a peaceful and pleasant existence despite a terminal illness. He owns and operates a studio by himself and lives out his days with barely an utterance of dismay, but when a young parking officer enters his life, he’s faced with a romance that may be all too bittersweet.

It sounds very melodramatic, but in actuality Christmas in August is so incredibly subtle and understated. It tackles profound emotion and devastation with exquisite delicacy and finesse, deftly avoiding any heavy-handedness and instead taking a more poignant and passive look at mortality and the tender, fleeting moments of our lives.

It’s one of the most touching films I have ever seen and is at the same time, both terrifically evocative and yet remarkably tranquil. Han Suk-kyu and Shim Eun-ha are absolutely masterful in their roles, with director Hur Jin-ho so graceful and gentle in his approach; never spoon-feeding the viewer and exquisitely weaving symbolism and meaning into the films wonderful imagery.

I watched this on Christmas Eve, not knowing what I was really in for, but I feel it will remain very vivid and important to me — tugging at my tender emotions for years to come. This is one of those special films that will stay with me.

★★★★★
Confession of Murder (Dir. Jeong Byeong-Gil)

Tonally, Confession of Murder was a little unbalanced. The first sequence sets it up a vicious thriller, but the dark tone is then quickly subsided by the subsequent action scenes, which are very overblown and almost comical. It’s still a lot of fun, though.

The story follows detective Choi, who has been haunted by a long unsolved serial murder case with which he was deeply involved. Years go by and the culprit is never found; that is until the statue of limitations expire and a man claiming responsibility publishes a book detailing his crimes, which becomes an overnight sensation.

I thought the pace was a little too fast at times, but the story was very engaging from start to finish and had a number of extremely well-executed twists. The opening chase displayed some interesting camerawork, which was sadly abandoned as the film progressed, but the further action scenes were well directed and – though rather farcical – enormously entertaining.

★★★☆☆
Kubo and the Two Strings (Dir. Travis Knight)

A fantastical stop-motion fable set in ancient Japan, in which a young boy named Kubo – who can manipulate origami with a magical shamisen – must track down a suit of armor in order to defeat the vengeful Moon King. The plot has its conveniences and some of the exposition came across a little stilted, but the film is nonetheless an astounding achievement.

The animation and attention to detail is exquisite; the film is full with gorgeously visualised action and many remarkable set pieces. Furthermore, the characters – while rather conventional – manage to be memorable and enjoyable iterations, humanly developed and brought to life with some engaging voice work.

★★★★☆
Mother (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)

Another gem from Bong Joon-ho, about a mother who takes it upon herself to prove her son’s innocence after he’s arrested for murder. It’s an exquisitely woven mystery, utilising the directors trademark blend of heavy drama and dark comedy, with undercurrents of tragedy.

It’s beautifully shot and the script is so tightly-knit; each scene adds another layer of intrigue and astonishment; everything piling up to a terrifically executed twist. It’s altogether immersive and entirely unpredictable, with a superbly convincing and absolutely heartbreaking performance from Kim Hye-ja.

★★★★☆
Nocturnal Animals (Dir. Tom Ford)

Nocturnal Animals follows a disillusioned art gallery owner named Susan, whose life has become rather joyless and undesirable. Her second marriage didn’t unfold as she envisioned, with her husband distant and frequently absent. One morning she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward, whom she hasn’t seen in nineteen years. During their marriage, Edward aspired to be a novelist, but Susan never placed much faith in him. As she begins to read the manuscript, she becomes entranced with the fictional life of Tony, a family man whose vacation develops into a tragic tale of revenge.

I went into Nocturnal Animals barely knowing a detail and came away awed. It’s superbly presented, with the non-linear narrative expertly employed. The plot unravels with staggering finesse and great suspense; its steady divulgence of details meticulously constructing an exceptional tale of revenge and redemption. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a mesmerising performance and I was also deeply engrossed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who I have often found rather lackluster until now. Nocturnal Animals is – without a doubt – one of the most tense and tremendously captivating movies I have seen this year.

★★★★☆
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Dir. Gareth Edwards)

For the most part, Rogue One was pleasing – with an incredible final act – but it lacked the heart and soul of the more popular Star Wars movies, with the characters letting it down immeasurably. The performances were good, but none of the cast left much of an impression. The character arcs were either so rudimentary or missing altogether — Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang just seemed to tag along for the ride, with Riz Ahmed very one-note and pretty much a mere plot device. I wish more time was spent giving the characters a genuine voice and better framework.

However, the film succeeds tremendously in its more visual aspects. The action was compelling and the special effects were largely convincing, though I did find Tarkin somewhat jarring (Leia less so due to the amount of screen time). The culmination is where the film shines, with the final battle on Scarif possessing a wonderful sense of scale. It’s just a shame the characters didn’t have more emotional weight, which would have made the ending all the more bittersweet.

★★★☆☆
Sully (Dir. Clint Eastwood)

A biographical picture from Clint Eastwood that recounts the Miracle on the Hudson and the following investigation. Tom Hanks is very captivating and the film itself is incredibly compassionate and fluently paced, paving the way for a concise and honorable tribute to those present on US Airways Flight 1549, along with the service men and women who came to their aid.

However, I felt some members of the National Transport Safety Board were slightly vilified – though I guess a story of heroism does need some antagonism, particularly in cinema – and that, though the structure was very interesting and rather unconventional, some of the dialogue was fairly routine.

★★★☆☆
Symbol (Dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto)

A man awakens to find himself sealed inside an empty, all-white room and is promptly greeted by an array of animated Cupid sculptures. The sculptures meld into the walls, leaving behind their protruding members, which – if pressed – shoot out random objects from inside the walls. Meanwhile – in a concurrent narrative in Mexico – a wrestler prepares for an important bout.

Symbol is an utterly bizarre film, but very creative and original. It’s mostly a comedy, with a lot of physical humour – akin to something like Mr. Bean – but the final act introduces some contemplative aspects. Despite its short runtime, some scenes were a little stretched and became slightly aggravating, but it’s a tremendously imaginative and surreal movie. The two narratives also connect in one of the strangest and most unexpected ways imaginable.

★★★☆☆
The Handmaiden (Dir. Park Chan-wook)

Another first-class feature from Park Chan-wook. Set in 1930s Korea, The Handmaiden tells of a plot to defraud a mysterious heiress by a conman who hires a thief to act as her maid, but complications abound when the two women begin to fall for one another.

It’s an entirely hypnotising feature. Beautiful, provocative, slinky and seductive — a feast for the senses and a whirlwind of emotions. The set design is gorgeous and the cinematography masterful; the camera lingers and maneuvers with extreme finesse. Apparently Chung Chung-hoon can do no wrong.

The plot develops, twists and turns with great unpredictability and intrigue, with some of the dialogue remarkably vivid and many scenes so transfixing — I found myself continually impressed with the films stunning proficiency. It has a mesmeric quality and everything just seems so attentively crafted and layered. It comes together successfully on so many levels.

★★★★☆
The Host (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)

An unconventional monster movie in which moments of terror are mixed with political satire and dark comedy. The Host has some genuinely tragic and rousing scenes, but the central family is portrayed almost as if part of a sitcom. Tonally, it was completely unexpected, but absolutely refreshing and terrifically enjoyable.

It’s becoming quickly apparent to me that Bong Joon-ho is a master of subverting expectations and weaving dashes of humour into typically sombre scenarios. Some may find it a bit too offbeat or absurd, but it’s never predictable, with the comedy very organic and the family drama compelling in its eccentricity and intriguing dynamic.

★★★★☆
The Man from Nowhere (Dir. Lee Jeong-Beom)

A gritty action thriller in which conflict and emotion are in excellent melody. It succeeds where A Bittersweet Life faltered, by building an authentic emotional resonance before laying on the intensity and anguish. The action – particularly during the climax – is raw and unfiltered, performed with great vehemence and brilliant choreography, and while the plot does suffer from some tropes, its emotional backbone and memorable characters ensure it stays enthralling.

Bin Won plays a tender, melancholic soul with a challenging past, with Sae-ron Kim’s endearing but neglected young character helping him to love again. There’s also a fascinating villain in the form of Taiwanese actor Thanayong Wongtrakul, whose climatic confrontation with the protagonist is incredible and particularly indelible.

★★★★☆
Your Name (Dir. Makoto Shinkai)

An utmost emotive and visually arresting animated film from Japan, that follows two unrelated high-school students – a boy and a girl – who begin to randomly swap bodies with one another. As they grow accustomed to sharing lives, they get to know each other by leaving notes, slowly growing closer despite never having actually met.

Shinkai treads familiar ground, employing his wonderful knack for imbuing typically ordinary settings with a delicate touch of fantasy and science fiction, but manages to avoid much of the tedious melodrama and overt melancholy that I felt impeded some of his other work. The director maintains a fine balance, creating an often funny and very memorable human drama, that is nonetheless achingly beautiful and absolutely heartrending.

★★★★☆

That’s it for December. I’m still traversing a lot of missed South Korean cinema, but I want to catch up on some Japanese gems soon, too. Please stick around for Watched This Year: 2016 — coming up shortly! Adios for now.

Watched This Month: October – November 2016

Hello! Welcome to Watched This Month. It feels good to be on time and caught up again. I managed to average a couple of movies a week over October and November, which isn’t too bad considering I’ve had my face glued to Pokemon Sun since it came out. The majority of my viewings this time are South Korean, which I have neglected for far too long. About half a decade ago, most of what I watched was Japanese or Korean, but last year I barely saw anything foreign. Get that shame bell out. Anyway, I’m very happy to return to the fold, as South Korea is home to a wonderfully assorted and absorbing filmography.

Previous: June – September

Film Rating
3-Iron (Dir. Kim Ki-duk)

Kim Ki-duk swaps the alluring Cheongsong County for a miscellany of apartments in 3-Iron, but with seeming effortlessness, he molds the commonplace into imagery that is both mesmerizing and wholly memorable. 3-Iron is an enchanting think piece in which the main character (who doesn’t have a single piece of dialogue) breaks into the homes of strangers to quietly live their lives whilst they’re away. It’s stacked with beautiful aesthetics and the spiritual third act gratifyingly concludes one of the most spellbinding and unique pieces of cinema I have ever seen.

★★★★☆
A Bittersweet Life (Dir. Kim Jee-woon)

South Korea has an exceptional catalogue of revenge thrillers, with A Bittersweet Life a fine example of the genre. The action is incredibly tense and well choreographed – with an inventive use of POV shots – and I enjoyed the tinges of tragedy and melancholy in the main character. However, I thought it lacked a genuine emotional pull, which prevented it from becoming truly remarkable.

★★★☆☆
Captain Fantastic (Dir. Matt Ross)

A touching comedy-drama about a zany family man who lives an unorthodox life with his children in a North American forest, withdrawn from society. It’s a lovingly crafted piece that brings into question topics of society, education and upbringing, with Viggo Mortensen giving a stunningly evocative performance as the tough loving patriarch. It suffers from some expected tropes, but comes together beautifully and felt very balanced in its conversation, avoiding biased commentary despite basking in nonconformity, allowing audiences to ponder the finer details.

★★★★☆
Doctor Strange (Dir. Scott Derrickson)

More of the same from Marvel. A fine popcorn flick that doesn’t deviate from the formula – you know what you’re in for. The effects were great, though the action was more martial arts than magical sorcery. The climax and confrontation with Dormammu was interesting, but slightly anti-climatic and I thought the comedy was pretty woeful. The characters were very hit-or-miss for me, but the cast did a good job with the material they were given.

★★☆☆☆
Memories of Murder (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)

An engrossing police procedural in the same vein as Zodiac. Memories of Murder is based on the real-life story of South Korea’s first modern serial killings, which took place between 1986 and 1991. The case was never solved, but the film does well to command the viewers attention, displaying many facets of the investigation and presenting what feels like an authentic insight into the culture and handling of the case by local detectives. It’s a meticulously constructed picture, with the dialogue smart and convincing, but also surprisingly witty. Amongst the tension and drama, there are ingenious moments of respite, delivered with ease by the cast. It’s slow at times, but entirely worth it come the end, which is extremely poignant and haunting.

★★★★☆
Silenced (Dir. Hwang Dong Hyuk)

A distressing and intensely dramatic film based on a true story, in which children at a hearing impaired school in South Korea were found to have been repeatedly sexually assaulted by members of the staff. I have such admiration for the child cast, who are absolutely vivid and powerful in their roles. It’s an unsettling subject tackled bluntly by the director, but for all the evil in the world there is also compassion and beauty, with Gong Yoo delivering a very tender and determined performance. The real-life case was swiftly reopened following the films release, which led to the permanent closure of the school, a number of convictions and the abolition of the statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors and the disabled.

★★★★☆
Snowpiercer (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)

An outstanding post-apocalyptic fable that doubles up as a political allegory. Snowpiercer is not to be taken too seriously, it’s more a think piece, heavy on metaphors and symbolism, striving to open a dialogue on society and capitalism. Wonderfully, though, it never gets bogged down by political ramblings or intellectual jargon. On the surface, it’s a fierce and flashy action piece that hardly relents, but underneath it’s rich in analysis and interpretation, with many having wrote in depth about its deeper meanings. A great film for an attentive viewer, with some exquisite cinematography, intense action and gripping scenarios.

★★★★☆
Suicide Squad (Dir. David Ayer)

I found Suicide Squad fine as a brainless piece of light entertainment, but ultimately very bland and by the numbers. There are a couple of vaguely interesting characters, but nothing remotely thrilling or inventive ever happens. There’s an obnoxious music cue for what seems like everything and the action was so free of tension that it became tedious, but there’s a drinking game in there somewhere.

★★☆☆☆
The Chaser (Dir. Na Hong-Jin)

The Chaser is a brutal thriller in which a shady ex-detective turned pimp tries to track down several missing prostitutes who had all visited the same client. It’s one of the most riveting films I have watched in recent memory and an incredible accomplishment for a directorial debut. Shot almost entirely under the cover of night, the Seoul streets are beautiful but bleak, with the bitter conflict between the two vicious leads absolutely relentless. Toying with your tender emotions, rarely allowing you a moment of respite or even a fleeting sense of ease, The Chaser is a tiring, but wholly memorable and truly remarkable film. An absolute must see if you’re at all interested in Korean cinema or crime thrillers.

★★★★★
The Terror Live (Dir. Kim Byung-woo)

The Terror Live has a great premise, with a radio host attempting to make some personal gains after landing an exclusive with a terrorist. The first half an hour was very absorbing, but somewhere along the way it seemed to get lost in its own tempo, skipping essential details and leaving plot holes. Overall, it’s a slightly ostentatious movie that needs a little refining, but if you can overlook certain elements there’s an interesting story in there and Ha Jung-woo gives a fine performance.

★★☆☆☆
The Wailing (Dir. Na Hong-Jin)

Having loved The Chaser, I was eager to explore more of Na Hong-Jin’s work. The Wailing was a pleasant, but completely unexpected surprise. It had all the twists, turns and thrill of the directors debut, but was seeped in symbolism and had some very dramatic tonal shifts, starting as a sort of mystery thriller, but ending as a supernatural horror. It’s absolutely gripping – with a number of bewitching scenes that stick with me to this day – but also slightly mystifying and thus a film that feels like it would grow on the observer more with time and repeat viewings.

★★★☆☆
The Wolverine (Dir. James Mangold)

The Wolverine is a mixed bag, but is saved from becoming wearisome by its lead actor an interesting setting. While the story becomes more generic as it progresses, the premise and first act were very intriguing and the action scenes throughout were a lot of fun. However, the romance felt rather stilted and underdeveloped and the villains weren’t very memorable. It also skimps on details as superhero movies tend to do, but Hugh Jackman is always very watchable and gives it his all.

★★☆☆☆
Train to Busan (Dir. Yeon Sang-Ho)

I’m not the biggest fan of horror cinema, let alone zombie apocalypse stories, but found myself completely enamored with Train to Busan. It’s extremely well paced and manages to maintain a solid emotional connection throughout. The characters are quite typical, but at the same time so endearing, that even the most over-done and seen before zombie tropes appear effortlessly riveting.

★★★☆☆
Tunnel (Dir. Kim Seong-hoon)

A superb, multifaceted disaster movie from South Korea in which a man becomes trapped inside a road tunnel after it collapses around him. Certain parts were a little predictable, but the film has some very powerful moments and really shines in its portrayal of events following the catastrophe, balancing sensationalist, personal and political viewpoints and ultimately depicting what feels like a very human and true-to-life story.

★★★★☆
Z for Zachariah (Dir. Craig Zobel)

A beautifully shot drama, with a low-key love triangle and post-apocalyptic setting. Craig Zobel succeeds in creating a very intimate picture, exploring human relationships with a delicate touch, but the film lacked a real impact and was surprisingly void of tension. It’s an intriguing piece that feels like it could have been so much more, but Chiwetel Ejiofor was terrific.

★★★☆☆

That’s it for October and November. Just one month left before two-thousand-and-seventeen. Anybody else still pronouncing the years like that? Twenty-seventeen just doesn’t sound as nice. I remember reading how Stanley Kubrick wanted people to pronounce 2001: A Space Odyssey as two-thousand-and-one (A Space Odyssey) in hopes that – should it become popular – it would influence the pronunciation of the year. That man had plans. Anyway, thank for dearly for stopping by and I do hope you’ll visit again.

Watched This Month: June – September 2016

Well, well. What do we have here… Watched This Month? It’s that ancient monthly post I said I would keep up with. So much for that! I lasted five months from January until May until I got sidetracked and the posts stopped. Apologies! Forgiveness, please! Here’s the long overdue list that covers every film I watched from the beginning of June to the end of September. Also, I just realised I’ve already watched more this year than I did in 2015. Hooray! Still on track to double last years amount. Anyway, if anybody is still here… Hello again! It’s lovely to see you.

Previous: January, February, March, April and May

Film Rating
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Dir. Zack Snyder)

As somebody who isn’t massively into Batman or Superman (and has long since departed the superhero hype train), I was ready to give this film a miss. However, the entice of Ben Affleck eventually got me on board and I made room for it one lazy day. Though bloated and overly long (I watched the three-hour extended cut), Batman v Superman is a largely innocuous action movie, at least perhaps to the common folk. It’s rather by-the-numbers and pretty unremarkable all things considered, but it saw me comfortably into the evening and was fulfilling as a decent piece of light entertainment, despite being relatively dark and unfunny throughout.

★★☆☆☆
Blue Valentine (Dir. Derek Cianfrance)

An incredibly moving film; alluring and sweet, yet heartbreaking and tender. One of the most affecting and remarkable I have seen in recent memory. I can’t recall another quite like it that portrays romance in such a beautiful, yet forlorn and bittersweet manner. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams go from elation to pain and then to utter heartbreak so fluently; the entire film has such an authentic feel to it that a number of scenes are soul-destroying to watch. One of those rare films that stays with you.

★★★★☆
Bottle Rocket (Dir. Wes Anderson)

It’s brilliant to see how Wes Anderson’s quirks, style and talent as a director was so discernible and seemingly honed right from his first feature. The story behind the inception of Bottle Rocket is as charming as the film itself and the picture is such a strong start for not only Anderson, but also Luke and Owen Wilson. The characters are as eccentric and endearing as you would expect and the ending is just lovely. Easily one of my top three favourites from Wes Anderson.

★★★★☆
Death Billiards (Dir. Yuzuru Tachikawa)

In Japan, there exists an annual project funded by the government that supports young animators. Dubbed the Young Animator Training Project, it produces a number of animated short films every year. Death Billiards is one of four produced in 2013 and follows two recently deceased men who are allegedly trapped in a mysterious bar which acts as a sort of purgatory. The bartender has the men compete in a game of billiards with the fate of their souls on the line. It’s a very interesting, high-octane concept that does well to avoid the crippling melodrama found all too often in anime. It’s fluently paced, with an intriguing atmosphere and some interesting dialogue. It was adapted into a full series in 2015, but sadly never quite reached the allure of the original short.

★★★☆☆
Eye in the Sky (Dir. Gavin Hood)

A superb modern thriller with a sublime cast that focuses heavily on topics of morality and the politics of war. Helen Mirren is stunning and Alan Rickaman bows out with a memorable performance and chilling last lines.

★★★★☆
Green Room (Dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

A dark, enticing thriller that is unfortunately a little predictable in areas and ultimately let down by a number of archetypal characters. Nevertheless, Saulnier builds an imposing sense of dread and is able to execute some masterful suspense.

★★★☆☆
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Dir. Taika Waititi)

My favourite of the year thus far. Sam Neill and Julian Dennison are so joyous together. It’s tender and touching, yet fun, energetic and a totally wild romp with some wonderfully witty dialogue. Also, who knew Sam Neill was a Kiwi? Until now, I thought he was Irish through and through!

★★★★☆
I Am Not a Serial Killer (Dir. Billy O’Brien)

I went into this blind and came away mildly satisfied. One of those movies with a promising start that slowly falls apart with every act. I didn’t get behind the ending and wish it had gone a different direction, but solid performances from both Max Records and Christopher Lloyd nonetheless. Couldn’t believe that was the kid from Where the Wild Things Are at first.

★★☆☆☆
Imperium (Dir. Daniel Ragussis)

Daniel Radcliffe is quite amazing. I enjoyed him in the Harry Potter franchise and adore his charisma, but hadn’t really rated him as an actor until now. Imperium itself is a rather by-the-books thriller, but is elevated and carried wonderfully by Radcliffe. He’s one to watch from now on, for sure.

★★★☆☆
In the Heart of the Sea (Dir. Ron Howard)

After the lukewarm critical response, I didn’t expect much from In the Heart of the Sea, but found it a rather grand, compelling and well-produced tale. It takes certain artistic liberties – some unfortunate – but I liked the inclusion of Herman Melville as a character and came away rather fulfilled and happy. An action-adventure with a lot heart and soul.

★★★☆☆
Little Witch Academia (Dir. Yoh Yoshinari)

Another animated short produced in 2013 as part of the Young Animator Training Project, alongside Death Billiards and two others. Little Witch Academia is a lively foray into the world of magic, with a straight-forward but nonetheless exciting plot, complimented wonderfully by a perky roster of characters, humorous dialogue and a number of enjoyable set pieces. At just twenty-six minutes long, it’s well paced and surprisingly comprehensive.

★★★☆☆
Me Before You (Dir. Thea Sharrock)

One of those quirky, impassioned romantic dramas that will have you either rolling your eyes or releasing your tears. I’m a sucker for them, though. Emilia Clarke was a delight, with the film itself very charming and fun, but with an utterly heartrending final act. It very much subscribes to its genre and is thus a tad predictable, but if you’re a fan of these sort of modern romantic tragedies, then it can do no wrong.

★★★☆☆
Now You See Me (Dir. Louis Leterrier)

Honestly, this film was a waste of time. The plot was absolutely absurd; full of amazing coincidences and a stupidly uninspired twist that is so far-fetched it’s actually mind-blowing. I can’t believe they made another.

★☆☆☆☆
Pawn Sacrifice (Dir. Edward Zwick)

I was in the mood for some tense Tobey Maguire à la Brothers and Pawn Sacrifice didn’t disappoint. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Maguire plays the late chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, who is pit against Russian grandmaster Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship. The film itself was compelling, but never quite exceptional. Still, it offered good insight into Bobby Fischer and is carried wonderfully by Maguire, who is brilliantly captivating. I can’t comment extensively on the films accuracy, but often the best biographical pictures are able to well-up a great sense of intrigue surrounding their subject – so much so, you want to know more – and in that regard, Pawn Sacrifice was a success and entirely worth watching. I spent a good hour or two reading up about Bobby Fischer afterwards. A fascinating and enigmatic man, to say the least.

★★★☆☆
Side Effects (Dir. Steven Soderbergh)

I find Rooney Mara captivating. She has the ability to be very eloquent and expressive in the most subtle of ways. She seemingly inhabits her characters and – I feel – frequently delivers memorable performances. Side Effects wasn’t as much of as Mara vehicle as I expected – much thanks to the ever dashing Guy Pearce – but remained a captivating thriller with a couple of interesting twists and turns.

★★★☆☆
Sing Street (Dir. John Carney)

An utterly charming and wondrous film, with an endearing atmosphere brought completely to life by a cast of lively, genuine characters. Sing Street is one of my favourites of the year and probably one of the most memorable of recent times. Even now, I find myself humming along to the Riddle of the Model. The ending, too, was near flawless. A good film can completely fall apart without a decent conclusion, but Sing Street’s final moments were wonderfully executed and I loved the tinges of ambiguity.

★★★★☆
Smashed (Dir. James Ponsoldt)

I really loved Smashed, in large part due to Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays an oblivious alcoholic who decides to finally tone down her drinking, opposite her on-screen husband Aaron Paul. Despite strong performances all-around, Winstead is the clear driving force, helped along by some sharp dialogue and a largely well-paced plot that does well to balance the drama with some more light-hearted and downright hilarious moments, preventing the subject matter from becoming overbearing or melodramatic.

★★★★☆
Straw Dogs (Dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Straw Dogs is a film I have wanted to see for years; to finally watch it feels like some sort of accomplishment. Filmed in the early 70s and set in rural England, it follows an American mathematician and his young English wife who become victims of ruthless local harassment. The build-up to the explosively violent climax was masterfully executed and it was interesting to see Dustin Hoffman in such a different role to what I’ve seen him in previously. Apparently, he only took it for the money, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. His character felt fully embraced and Susan George was equally compelling as his lively and glamorous wife.

★★★☆☆
Swiss Army Man (Dir. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)

This film really is something else, with an opening that – at first – seems utterly bizarre, but quickly develops into something quite magical that continually blurs the line between beautiful and peculiar. Paul Dano plays the most lovable stalker of the year and Daniel Radcliffe is perhaps the most convincing dead body ever. The soundtrack, too, is remarkable; largely a cappella and bursting with zest and emotion, it’s the perfect accompaniment of film and music, elevating the most stirring scenes to wondrous, enchanting degrees.

★★★★☆
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Dir. Terry Gilliam)

Still working my way through Andrew Garfield’s filmography, I have arrived at The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. This is only my second Gilliam film after Monty Python and the Holy Grail and it has me on the fence. On one hand, Doctor Parnassus is incredibly creative and bursting at the seams with imagination, but on the other – beyond the visuals – it wasn’t particularly engaging and felt a touch meandering and haphazard. Though much of that was likely due to Heath Ledger’s unfortunate passing and it is admirable how Gilliam and the writers were able to get back on track and mould the movie into something coherent given the circumstances. I’m slightly hesitant, but also somewhat intrigued to explore more of Gilliam’s work.

★★☆☆☆
The Neon Demon (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)

I really wanted to like The Neon Demon. The cinematography is certainly a feat and I loved the soundtrack and the whole neon vibe, but come the end it just felt soulless and vulgar. Refn took the supposed cutthroat nature of the fashion and modelling industries a bit too literally. It lacked substance and frequently came across as pretentious. Disappointingly, it had much more in common with Starry Eyes than I hoped.

★★☆☆☆
The Place Beyond the Pines (Dir. Derek Cianfrance)

I had to follow Blue Valentine with another by the same director. The Place Beyond the Pines – whilst not as arresting and memorable as Cianfrance’s previous film – was nevertheless a powerful and thought-provoking watch, with an enthralling ambience and persuasive characters. Like Blue Valentine, it felt largely authentic and fluently performed, with some stunning cinematography and a couple of particularly rousing sequences, tinged with melancholy.

★★★☆☆
The Shallows (Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)

You know what you’re in for with The Shallows, but – wonderfully – that barely detracts from the suspense and gripping terror of the film. Blake Lively gives a brilliant performance and the digital shark is largely convincing. The cinematography is enthralling, communicating with seeming effortlessness both the allure and dread of the ocean. Scenes of joyous surfing are brilliantly foreboding and the inevitable attack is suitably and very memorably savage; the ocean tainted blood red, followed by a spine-chilling, inaudible shriek from under the waters surface. The films climax is gritty and relentless and all-in-all – despite arguable predictability – The Shallows is a marvellous, anxiety-inducing experience.

★★★★☆
The Station Agent (Dir. Tom McCarthy)

An endearing, well-crafted, exquisitely written film bursting with understated beauty. Peter Dinklage absolutely shines as a lonesome yet innerly benign young man; both defeated and hopeless, yet longing and disposed. A very human film – heartfelt and soulful – and an all-around delightful watch.

★★★★☆
Triple 9 (Dir. John Hillcoat)

Triple 9 seemed to have all the components of a tremendous heist thriller, but never quite got there. It’s a satisfactory watch with two brilliant heist sequences, but ultimately I found the plot rather lackluster and – despite the large and morally diverse roster – I didn’t feel there were any particularly likable characters or people to root for, which made for a very apathetic, humdrum payoff.

★★☆☆☆
Warcraft (Dir. Duncan Jones)

Warcraft isn’t a perfect film, but it’s a wonderful start to a franchise that has magnificent potential. It was engaging from title to credits and ended on a great note. I adore the world and with a little polishing and some further melding, the characters will become deeper and all the more engaging. I really hope a sequel is possible and that it isn’t another ten years from announcement to release.

★★★☆☆
X-Men: Apocalypse (Dir. Bryan Singer)

I enjoyed First Class and Days of Future Past, but Apocalypse felt rather shallow in comparison. The new characters had absolute minimal development and impact and whereas First Class and Future Past featured two very solid, gratifying climaxes, the ending of Apocalypse felt like a major cop-out, with some quick resolutions and – essentially – a deus ex machina. It’s a fun watch if you’re up for a brainless blockbuster, but nonetheless disappointing after two stellar prequels.

★★☆☆☆
Youth in Revolt (Dir. Miguel Arteta)

Say what you will about Michael Cera, but he was terrific in this. His François alter-ego was superbly portrayed, with the dialogue masterfully delivered. The plot never relents and the comedy is continually on-point; all-in-all Youth in Revolt is such a fun watch. Nice seeing Portia Doubleday’s earlier work, too. Adore her in Mr. Robot.

★★★☆☆

Finito! Apologies again for not sticking to my proposed monthly schedule, but I’m slowly catching up. I’ll try and get October and November written up by the end of the month, then Watched This Month will be back on track! There’s still so much I’m dying to see this year. I managed to squeeze in some television, too, but I’ll probably leave those thoughts for an end of year write up. I just don’t watch enough television to comment on it on a monthly basis. Anyway… until next time, meine freunde.

Upcoming 2015 Movies (You May Have Missed)

2015 looks set to be a stunning year for film, but with many talking about Star Wars and the various other upcoming blockbusters, some features have begun to slip under the radar. Here are some upcoming films (released in the UK and US this year) you may have missed (and should definitely look out for). For all the movies I haven’t included, please swing by Hypersonic55, who has compiled a lovely, lengthy list of the features to look out for this year.


17

Silence ~ “Two Jesuit priests, Sebastiao Rodrigues and Francis Garrpe, travel to seventeenth century Japan which has, under the Tokugawa shogunate, banned Catholicism and almost all foreign contact. There they witness the persecution of Japanese Christians at the hands of their own government which wishes to purge Japan of all western influence. Eventually, the priests separate and Rodrigues travels the countryside, wondering why God remains silent while His children suffer.”

Originally planned to be Martin Scorsese‘s next project following Shutter Island, production for Silence was delayed numerous times, with many believing the director would turn tail and direct The Irishman instead. Silence is clearly close to Scorsese’s heart, however, with filming set to begin in Taiwan in February, with The Guardian reporting a late 2015 release and Movie Insider listing November 2015. Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver are among the main cast, with Tadanobu Asano also rumoured to appear. The screenplay is based on Shusaku Endo’s acclaimed novel of the same name, which was adapted to film (beautifully so) by Masahiro Shinoda in 1971.


15

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter ~ “A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried and lost in a fictional film, is in fact, real. With a crudely drawn treasure map and limited preparation, she escapes her structured life in Tokyo and embarks on a foolhardy quest across the frozen tundra of Minnesota in search of her mythical fortune.”

Based on an urban legend about a Japanese woman who purportedly died searching in vain for the money buried in the Coen brothers’ 1996 film Fargo, Kumiko looks absolutely stunning. The trailer displays some gorgeous cinematography and communicates an incredibly eerie tone. The film is directed by David Zellner and stars Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi (whom you may have seen more recently in Pacific Rim); who I believe will excel as the lonesome Kumiko. Her talent is a cut above the rest and if the trailer is anything to go by, we’re in for a treat. Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is out in the UK on February 20th and the US on March 18th.


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Ex Machina ~ “Caleb, a 24 year old coder at the world’s largest internet company, wins a competition to spend a week at a private mountain retreat belonging to Nathan, the reclusive CEO of the company. But when Caleb arrives at the remote location he finds that he will have to participate in a strange and fascinating experiment in which he must interact with the world’s first true artificial intelligence, housed in the body of a beautiful robot girl.”

This debut feature from Alex Garland—the writer of 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go—stars Domhnall Gleeson (of Harry Potter and About Time fame) and Oscar Isaac (who is set to appear as Apocalypse in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse), with Swedish actress Alicia Vikander as the android Ava. Released in the UK on January 21st and the US on April 10th, the film looks set to stun as the years first sci-fi thriller. Check out the trailer here.


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Southpaw ~ “As tragedy strikes him in his prime, famed boxer Billy Hope begins to fall into a great depression. Once the decision regarding the custody of his daughter is under question, Billy decides to get his life back on track by getting back into the ring. “

Jake Gyllenhaal has undergone a complete transformation for the lead in Southpaw, utterly different in build to his Lou Bloom character in 2014’s Nightcrawler. There’s little information on the film, but it’s directed by Antoine Fuqua and stars Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris and Forest Whitaker, alongside Gyllenhaal. The film’s title is a term used to describe a left-handed boxer and, interestingly, it was to feature Eminem in the lead role before the script went through numerous changes and Gyllenhaal was eventually cast. Unfortunately, there’s no release information yet, but with post-production underway, we’re likely to see the film sometime this year.


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Life in a Fishbowl ~ “Three tales of three people who have a lasting effect on one another. A young writer whose career is skyrocketing finds himself in a stormy marriage. He divorces his wife after the death of their daughter, shuts himself from the outside world and drinks himself to death over a twenty-year period. At the same time, a young single mom moonlights as a prostitute to make ends meet and a former soccer star is recruited into the snake pit of international banking and loses touch with his family.

Life in a Fishbowl was a huge hit in its native Iceland last year, even out performing Hollywood blockbusters. It was the country’s entrant to the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category, and while it didn’t make the cut, it’s definitely one to look out for this year. Described as “strongly acted and sensitively directed” by Variety and with a score by the ever wonderful Olafur Arnalds, Life in a Fishbowl is directed by Baldvin Zophoníasson and stars Thor Kristjansson, Thorsteinn Bachman and Hera Hilmar in the principle roles, the latter of whom Western audiences may have seen in Da Vinci’s Demons. Here’s the trailer and here’s hoping the distributors don’t take too long sharing this hidden gem with the rest of the world.