Iain and Olly's choices for Film of the Month and their opinions on a selection of the movies out there right now diverge massively... have a read!
Iain's Choice: It Comes at Night
It’s all bloody date-based technicalities this time round. I’ve mainly seen movies from June in July because I’m late to the party (and so is this article, Richter). The only movie released in June that I actually saw in June in the cinema was Alone in Berlin. Which was originally released in 2016… but who’s counting?
I also saw Okja on Netflix, but besides those two… I didn’t manage much time for new movies at all.
Well, luckily (painfully) I managed to fall ill with shingles in early July and my calendar has duly freed up. However, the main thing I’ve been able to do for the past week is stay in one position and remain conscious (and even the second of those is a significant effort). So amongst 12-hour sleeping sessions, occasional food and drink pit-stops, pill-popping (medicinal) and Netflix, Amazon and DVD marathons… the schedule has also allowed for a small number of cinema-going soirees. Stiffly walking the near 3 minute ordeal of a journey to get to my local cinema, avoiding at all costs the chafe of clothing on my painful rash (sorry, should have had the BBFC rate this for that explicit imagery), I’ve made the effort for you. You, the viewer.
So, June movies I’ve checked out include The Mummy (was that technically May? Yeah, probably. Either way, it’s crap and you can listen to me talk about how crap in the Michael Bay (BAE) episode), the Blomkamp shorts Rakka and Firebase, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver and It Comes at Night.
So just before people (Olly) start saying I’m a heartless spoil-sport - I’ve also seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and I had a great time watching that - it’s fun, action-packed and made decent sense [Spidey sense? - Olly] - if it was a bit shapeless until about half way. But that’s for July - back to June. But for the record, I can enjoy fun things.
Listen, Baby Driver just wasn’t enjoyable for me at all. The main character was a spiritless dud, the dialogue had the expected level of gung-ho posturing and self-indulgence but none of the snappiness or humour you come to expect - either from a Wright movie, or to be honest any old summer blockbuster - and the choreographed moments of dance or movement through some of the scenes were clunky and horrible. The one-shot through the street to collect coffee or the balletic preparation of toast in the apartment served no purpose. I’d have isolated those moments if the actor on screen had great dancing skills, or if there were great visual gags and choreography, but there weren’t. This is without doubt my least favourite Edgar Wright movie, by a long way, and loses all the heart of his earlier Brit-centric work. The only saving grace was the quality of the car choreography and chases, which were definitely great - and the go-to smart editing and timing comes through at times. Overall I felt it was sadly lacking.
Rakka and Firebase I'll argue with Olly about at length on the podcast. I've been blown away by the quality of stuff OATS are putting out and have enjoyed watching them, but I'm of the mind that they're promotional tools which are leaving out crucial parts to stir up interest - and feel structurally all over the place as a result. More on this... in a podcast coming to your ears... SOON.
So, my movie of the month is: It Comes at Night
Set in the aftermath of an unexplained outbreak, bearded Joel Edgerton, his wife and son live in a fortified house with boarded windows and doors besides the one, single entrance in and out: a bolted red door with another porch area outside.
From the off, the film is dark and unsettling, as the family are forced to kill and dispose of an infected family member. Everything from that point is seen through the traumatised eyes of the seventeen year-old son Travis, played by Kelvin Harrison Jr. And it’s this idea that much of the rest of the story is told through his eyes that lends the film it's tone and mood. What goes on happens in the recesses between reality and sleepwalking, truth and fantasy or just feverish night-terrors.
Another family come to stay with them and though they get on amiably, an atmosphere of paranoia reigns, because anything which could go wrong could spell the end, and as Edgerton’s character keeps reminding us; “family comes first”.
I thought this was really brilliant. It isn’t a jumpscare or rapid-fire frightfest, but if you enjoyed The VVitch or are a fan of the likes of Susperia, I think the visuals paired with the sustained dread and unease here are top notch, and worth a look. In particular, the shots of the angled-ceilinged corridors or the red door to the house all lit by the paraffin night-lamp are super creepy. The sound-design and score are great, and one of the few ways you’re able to make assumptions about what is real and what is nightmare is the way the foley and situational sound is or isn’t present. Check it out for yourself at the cinema whilst you still can!
Olly's Choice: Rakka
To choose my winner I’ve had to really consider the craft of filmmaking this month, after a few heated discussions on the podcast. This is all because I enjoyed The Mummy more than anyone should have done. Look I know it’s garbage-nonsense but if my brain told me I enjoyed it then who am I to argue with myself? [An idiot - Iain] The actual film craft on display throughout; the attention to detail, story and character were all severely lacking and in retrospect... it’s always going to be a dumb B-movie with a huge budget. But I think that’s fine.
The closest contender for the GOFPFOTM prize that I saw at the cinema this month was Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. Unlike some of his previous films, I felt the back and forth between humour and drama was smooth and that it’s his least knowing, ‘clever’, clever film to date. That said, it still sees him crafting the hell out of every inch of this film. The snazzy edits, the sight gags, misdirection, framing, sound design; all “A game” sorta stuff.
Had it not been for the central character just being a bit...dull and the music being a bit AWESOME MIXTAPE 3 (I get that it’s a cool soundtrack, I’m just not buying a teenager driving a Japanese performance car isn’t listening to at least some music that Edgar Wright wasn’t into at Uni), and had it not been for a silly last 20 minutes I’d be alright with Baby driving off with the award.
The craft in Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios short films is exceptional, considering they are made with a fraction of the budget that most studio releases receive, you won’t see more vivid mental imagery™ [mental vivid imagery™ - Iain] or more daringly nihilistic stories. There are four shorts available at the time of writing, all of them are uniquely brilliant.
It’s Rakka, the first release from the studio that gets my choice for Film of the Month. Set in a dystopian future (and boy, oh boy is it dystopian af) where a mysterious alien group have started to harvest earth and conduct hideous experiments on humans - leaving millions dead. The aliens are able to manipulate people with a sort of mind control, though a small resistance group begin to fight back and figure out a way to get closer to the enemy.
The film is full of startling imagery that I quite honestly wasn't prepared for. It’s dark and it’s bleak, yet by the end there’s a feeling of momentum and a feeling of there being a chance, no matter how slim, of turning the tables on these alien bastards. In 20 minutes, Blomkamp and his highly talented team have conjured scenes that burn into the mind. They’ve set-up a world that feels worn down and beyond all hope, and then just as the fightback gears up… it’s over: and it’s agonizing. I demand to see more, I must know what happens. PLZ Neill!!!
You could argue “it’s not a film” but i’d just say “well it’s my site so I can say what I want and a short film still has film in it’s description”, so you’d be wrong. That something made by a small team, on a small budget, and managed to catch my attention more than anything else this month feels new, pretty groundbreaking, and something really exciting for the craft of filmmaking. It’s best summed up in a comment from the Rakka YouTube post:
“SIGOURNEY WEAVER, ALIENS, SCI-FI...TAKE MY FUCKING MONEY!!!”
From the quadruple-bill of Hollywood freight-trains; Baywatch, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien: Covenant and Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge... to the smaller-budget offerings like Miss Sloane, War Machine and late arrival Berlin Syndrome, it’s been busy, and there’s certainly been a spread (amirite?) of movies. But what’s the best from May, 2017?
Olly's Choice: Wonder Woman
I’d practically decided that Mindhorn was going to be my choice for May’s GOFPFOTM at the end of April, when I had the good fortune to catch a preview of it in Coventry: the 11th most something city in the UK, Iain could probably make some stat up here. [Iain - “11th most unexceptional city in the UK”]
This was before May had even commenced, before I had seen the very highly anticipated Alien:Covenant. As previously mentioned on the June Lookahead episode of the podcast, I did get a lot of enjoyment out of Alien:Covenant, however Mindhorn was still clear of the competition.
This was before Baywatch which by all accounts would be a criminal offence to talk about in such a positive light, and even before Max 2: White House Hero, a tale about an ex Marine dog that gets promoted to chief of security at the White House, or something. Look I don’t know, I’ve seen the front cover and that’s what it looks like.
Mindhorn at this point was pretty much clearing a space on the shelf for this almost prestigious award.
Nice one Wonder Woman, you gone and messed it RIGHT up by being all really good.
Just so I don’t have to do any explaining of the plot at all, here’s THE OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny. Sounds alright doesn’t it.
For the first 40 minutes I didn’t think Wonder Woman was going to trump Mindhorn and it was pretty much just being...alright. The CG was problematic, the accents were a bit iffy, and the “jokes” were falling flat, case in point; Chris Pine’s downed fighter pilot lays in a milky spa pool, having a good old relax, enter Diana Princess of the Amazons, given that the pair had only just met and this is the 1930’s, well before unsolicited dick pics - it seemed odd that he would instantly stand up, revealing his genital area. It’s almost like he did that just so Diana Princess of the Amazons could say “Wow, what’s that?” as she looks wide-eyed towards his presumably dripping length. Ahhhh she meant his watch that he’d left on the side of the spa and NOT his penis. We aren’t getting big laughs here, Ant-Man this is not.
As the film soldiers on and leaves for a WW1 battered London things pick up in a big way, especially once you get past the California Man/fish out of water scenarios, and onto the frontline of the “war to end all wars”. The action achieves levels of jump out your cinema chair intensity, even if it does suffer a couple of cases of the burly brawls with a very unrealistic CG Wonder Woman in one or two chaotic scenes.
The stakes are quickly raised both on a global and personal level without feeling like it’s forcing you to care, and the eventual emotional payoff was masterfully delivered and fully earned. I’ve read otherwise but personally, I loved the villains, they were your classic Indiana Jones military baddies with a mythical/fantasy twist and it gave Wonder Woman motivation to get MEGA pissed off in the films most rousing firestorm of a sequence.
It could have messed it all up at the last minute, but it holds firm until the credits and provides something I did not expect; a timely and well handled message on the causes and effects of war. Diana’s earlier naivety in believing a single being could cause the all the ills of the world giving way to understanding a “war to end all wars” isn’t so easily resolved, it takes more than just facing off against the big bad.
I left the cinema happy to bestow the most Wondrous of hero’s my second ever Film of the Month award, sorry Mindhorn, the whip of truth just pipped the eyepatch of truth this time.
Iain's Choice: Alien: Covenant
Well, whilst I have actually managed to see a few releases this month (we’re upping the quality since The Belko Experiment last month) truth be told, I’ve still not seen loads of movies. But, hey! This isn’t intended to be an encyclopedic movie-watching be-all, end-all. Here’s what can simply be described as a single person’s opinion based on a highly incomplete data sample.
This month I saw:
I missed out on the bulk of the big-hitters, but feel that Baywatch was going to be vacuous nonsense with some unwarranted, unmerited sexist and racist jokes, King Arthur was going to be male-fantasy [Olly - Certainly your male fantasy], fighty garbage and that Pirates was going to be… Pirates. If I’m unfairly tarring any of these with a brush, let me know and I’ll take the time to go see them and untar them.
I mention both The Other Side of Hope and The Red Turtle in the Tom Hardy episode. So I won’t detail here. Both highly enjoyable, but not GOFPFOTM material.
So, hey… it’s Alien: Covenant.
I will attempt not to re-tread too much of what you can hear in the full review on the June lookahead episode. So here goes -
Don’t let the fact I saw it twice suggest I fell in love with this. It wasn’t because I thought it was earth-shatteringly amazing or an Oscars-contender. I love the Alien movie universe enough that I’ve even watched Alien: Resurrection a good twenty or so times, so this is expected behaviour. I mean… I’ve even seen Prometheus twice and watched about 6 hours of special features for it, so I’m in a particular demographic here.
I have a detailed gripes list, which I go into in some, but not full detail in our podcast. So I’m no fanboy here either [Olly - Sure].
But I liked it.
Listen, it has a story that moves and develops the overall franchise forwards. That’s what I was most cynical about before seeing it - a rehash of Alien wouldn’t have cut it. In many ways it’s a rehash and amalgam of all of the previous films, but the scenes with David and Walter move the story forwards significantly enough.
An additional note on that: “I’ll do the fingering” aside, Fassbender absolutely smashed it here, and is the reliable backbone of this whole movie.
So, despite a by-the-numbers story structure, some shoddy dialogue and from a cast of many, an extremely low number of characters I remember or care about, Alien: Covenant is exciting, at times tense and shocking and for the most part looks visually stunning. It’s worth your time! So it get’s the gong.
Lastly, I haven’t seen my most anticipated film this month, which was Berlin Syndrome. It hasn’t been on at any nearby cinemas at the time of writing, so let’s discount it until next month shall we?
That's right, you are witness to the beginning of a new thing. The thing? The Guys on Film Podcast Film of the Month.
Designed in part for the snappy "say it in the schoolyard" acronym, part because we had a really clear set of criteria in mind (hint: reading on will make the contrary abundantly clear) - the GOFPFOTM is here, and for the time-being at least it's here to stay.
Read on GOF listeners... welcome to our mutual journey into accolade-based 'journalism' - and tell us what we didn't get right in the comments.