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!!!”