I genuinely started writing this in August, and now it’s near the end of December and I’m five months behind! As such this post will just be short reviews of the films I saw in August, with my original post opening left in because I’ve already written it. The next few months – which I’m hoping to write before the end of the year but let’s not get our collective hopes up – will also just be film reviews, and I’ll tidy everything else up in an end-of-year wrap up post like usual. Apologies for the lack of activity here recently, it’s been a busy few months!
August is my birthday month, and saw me turn a frankly unbelievable 34. How I’ve made it this far is truly astonishing. For my birthday my wife and I went to London for the weekend under the ruse of going out for dinner, visiting some markets and having a general weekend away, but really so that we could buy a new sofa. I won’t go into it. Anyway, we had a mostly nice time (it’s easy to forget just how uncomfortably busy and crowded London can be, especially after over a year of mostly not going anywhere with anyone), and whilst in the queue for the Lego shop, in which my wife treated me to an R2D2 that’s currently presiding over the lounge, I spotted British comedian James Acaster a few spots ahead of me in the queue. If you don’t know James Acaster, get thee to Youtube and enjoy the next few days of content you’ll find, I can particularly recommend his cabbage-related escapades, check out his food-related podcast Off Menu and also cast your mind back to my Taskmaster contestant rankings, in which he achieved the silver medal just below Sally Phillips. Needless to say, I’m a fan, but he was clearly with family and so I didn’t bother him. Also I couldn’t foresee that conversation going very well, given that I was standing in the queue for the Lego store on my own 34th birthday, about to have my wife buy me what many believe to be a child’s toy of a robot from a child’s film. He also left the queue before going into the shop, so there was no chance of accidentally brushing past him and a faux “Oh, hey, you’re James Acaster! I love your podcast! Be my best friend etc.” Anyway, now I’ve been in or by the same shop as two contestants from season 7 of Taskmaster, after I spotted Rhod Gilbert in a second hand book shop in Hay-on-Wye. Kerri Godliman, Jessica Knappett and Phil Wang, I’m coming for you to complete the set!
As I’m monumentally behind on these posts there’ll be no updates on anything other than films this month, other than to say I still haven’t finished the Bill Bryson book, I very foolishly decided to fit a half marathon in at the end of July with Bournemouth Parkrun in the middle of it, which brought my shin splints back and put me out of running action once again, from which I’m still in recovery. I’ve been less grumpy this time, tried to eat more fruit, but also discovered (invented?) flights of cheese sandwiches. We had an abundance of cheese in our fridge (don’t ask) and I’ve been having four or five small cheese sandwiches, all different cheeses, some with chutneys, for lunch most days. Turns out I don’t hate all blue cheeses like I used to, and Sainsbury’s do a particularly creamy gorgonzola. You can all guess what that means health-wise, so let’s get into the films, shall we?
Here’s what I watched in August:
The Suicide Squad (2021)
Easily my favourite film in the DCEU, by some margin. In no particular order, Zach Snyder’s Justice League, Shazam! and Birds of Prey would be the next three, and I don’t much care for any of the others. I just watched this again over Christmas with my wife and in-laws, none of whom enjoyed it quite as much as I did (apparently it was too violent and gory, but that’s exactly what I wanted). I loved pretty much everything about this film, it’s easily one of my favourites of the year. All the characters work really well and are exceptionally cast, the humour is an eclectic mix but always funny and it’s a true ensemble, with pretty much everyone getting plenty to do. Even the characters who aren’t on screen for very long still manage to make an impression, which is impressive given there’s around 30 characters here! My standouts are David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher II (with Sebastian the Rat, of course) and King Shark, voiced by Sylvester Stallone, but really I enjoyed all the characters, even the ones I didn’t much care for in the previous Suicide Squad film. Also this might be the most I’ve engaged with Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. In the past I’ve felt distanced from her, like I can always see Robbie acting in the role rather than fully inhabiting it, but here, to me, there was no Robbie, only Quinn. The soundtrack is great, I enjoyed the non-linear narrative more than I usually do, I’m looking forward to the Peacemaker TV series, basically, this film is great. And, as always, Viola Davis is crushing it.
Choose Film 9/10
The Invisible Man (2020)
Watched in the hotel on my birthday because London was just too much for us at that point. My second viewing, Aisha’s first. Still just as effective and tense a viewing experience on a small hotel TV as in the cinema. Strong recommendation.
Choose Film 8/10
Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
I generally like Disney movies, but this one hasn’t really stuck with me. It looked great, and I appreciated the general let’s-work-together message, but other than that this has drifted from memory.
Choose Life 6/10
The Kid Detective (2020)
A fun and interesting mystery with the twist that the detective at the heart of it, Adam Brody’s Abe Applebaum, started out as a gimmicky child detective, and has continued detecting into an adult career, long after he probably should have grown up and done something else. I enjoyed Brody’s performance and the mystery kept me guessing to an extent, plus it’s just over 90 minutes long, so doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Choose Film 7/10
Groundhog Day (1993)
Since watching this and appearing on my friend Bubbawheat’s podcast It’s Time To Rewind, in which he analyses time loop movies one loop per episode (I was on the final loop, and easily the longest episode, I apologise for nothing) I only went and wrote a bloody review of this! Read it here.
Choose Film 10/10
A background watch (my wife was watching it whilst I was doing something else in the same room). It’s pleasant enough, predictable as anything but with a good lead performance from Gemma Arterton. Nice scenery and locations, proper Sunday afternoon viewing.
Choose Life 6/10
Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
Well what have we here, a good Star Trek film with the second batch of crew? Surely not! Yep, I actually liked this one quite a bit, as everyone seems to be having a good time! Seeing the crew behave and interact on a rejuvenating planet was fun, particularly Worf, and whilst I don’t normally care for tacked-on romantic subplots in otherwise genre films, the Picard/Anji relationship made sense and was enjoyable. F. Murray Abraham always makes for a great villain, and here is aided by a truly disgusting appearance to go with it.
Choose Film 7/10
Great White (2021)
Over on Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast we’ve begun covering Deep Blue Sea-adjacent films (films directed by Renny Harlin, featuring sharks, subterranean monsters or taking place largely underwater) and I’m glad I watched this before undergoing that project because I’d hate to dedicate an entire podcast episode to this terrible shark movie. Katrina Bowden does her best to make it watchable, but there’s nothing here to recommend. It’s dull, looks bad and has no characters you want to root for. Avoid.
Choose Life 3/10
Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
I don’t really do the concept of guilty pleasure movies, but if I did this would definitely be on there. I love it, but I’m pretty sure it’s just because I’ve seen it so many times and can quote far too much of the script, despite hating cars, driving and everything associated with either. The cast is phenomenal and I have fun with it, but I completely understand why the general opinion is negative.
Choose Film 7/10
The Abyss (1989)
Watched for Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast. It’s amongst my least favourite James Cameron films, but it’s still ground-breaking and visually impressive, especially given it’s 32 years old and sounds like a true nightmare to have worked on. For some reason it just didn’t gel with me. Great underwater fight/chase sequence though. Listen to our full podcast episode on it here.
Choose Film 6/10
I enjoyed Cruella despite my best interests. I didn’t want it to be any good, as I really don’t want origin stories for classic movie villains, humanising them and making them sympathetic. Now when I watch 101 Dalmatians am I supposed to feel sorry for this cackling, dog-murdering mad woman because of how her upbringing is documented here? Well I shan’t, fear not. Emma Stone is pretty great in the lead role, Emma Thompson is having fun as the villainous Baroness, and everyone else is well cast and enjoying themselves too, although some don’t get that much to occupy them.
Choose Film 6/10
Cutthroat Island (1995)
Another Renny Harlin film for the Deep Blue Sea podcast, I went in with ground-floor expectations given the abysmal, studio-ending reputation this film has, but ultimately it’s a lot of fun. Geena Davis and Matthew Modine are fun as the piratical, traditionally gender-swapped leads, but it’s Frank Langella as Dawg who really lights up the screen whenever he’s around. Ignore the reputation and give it a shot, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Listen to the podcast episode here.
Choose Film 7/10
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Before watching Wonder Woman 1984 I’d heard some of the worst film critiques for any film in the history of film criticism directed squarely at it, yet I was intrigued enough to plough ahead anyway. It felt as though Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot had personally gone around and kicked every reviewer in the shins immediately before they sat down to write their reviews. It turns out that whilst this isn’t the nadir of all cinema and the final harbinger before the apocalypse, it is quite bad. There’s very little to pick out that’s good, other than some of the performances (and the lead one is not amongst that list). The double villain team up of Cheetah and Max Lord (Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal, both doing good work with what they have) meant neither of them got enough screen time, but they also both made horrendous story decisions that made little sense. The back-bending to bring Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor back shackled the film to uncomfortable and downright nauseating plot strands that would make our hero the villain in most other films, and the central conceit of the film revolving around wishing was way too childish, even for a superhero film. It’s not the worst DC movie (hello, Suicide Squad), but it’s some stiff competition.
Choose Life 6/10
That was August, now onto September! Check back soon!