Here are the films I watched in November:
The Harder They Fall (2021)
Whilst I enjoyed this partially revionist western, it didn’t quite live up to the phenomenal trailer that came before it. I still had a great time, all the cast are super cool and doing incredible work, the action is awesome and the music is just wonderful, but not a lot has really stayed with me.
Choose Film 7/10
12 Rounds (2009)
Watched for Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast because it’s directed by Renny Harlin. Just as Cliffhanger was Die Hard on a mountain, 12 Rounds is very much Die Hard with a Vengeance in New Orleans, with the middle act of Speed thrown in for good measure. John Cena makes a decent action hero lead (even if I do prefer him in more comedic roles) who is tasked by a vengeful Aidan Gillen to accomplish a dozen tasks if he wants to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. The structure of the plot gets a little murky when you’re taking notes and analysing exactly what each of the rounds are (the first one occurs without Cena’s character knowing, and at least two others are tossed out the window just like Gillen does with countless burner phones and SIM cards throughout the story) but the action set pieces are good and I stayed interested throughout. Listen to the podcast here.
Choose Film 6/10
Jungle Cruise (2021)
Oof. On paper, and following the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise (at least the first few) this should be great, especially given it essentially has the same plot as Stephen Sommers’ The Mummy, a film I adore, but this just doesn’t work, and I blame Dwayne Johnson. I really enjoy him in ludicrous action hero mode, where he’s playing a hulking behemoth, a demi-God or a literal video game avatar, but when he’s supposed to be a normal, regular human, and a romantic love interest at that, it just doesn’t work. The guy has charisma for days and can usually be relied upon to successfully land a comedic line, but he’s not someone I can feasibly believe to be in a relationship with another human of actual human-sized proportions. Emily Blunt on the other hand is her usual effervescent, captivating, highly entertaining presence, and I didn’t mind Jack Whitehall, who I thought would be the main reason I’d hate this film. As it stands he was actually rather good. Paul Giamatti was underused and the weird jungle-infused zombie guys (basically Davy Jones’ crew from the Pirates sequels, but made of bees, snakes and vines instead of sharks and coral) were in this way too much. Somehow this made more than its budget (although I highly doubt it made back the marketing costs, given they were promoting this non-stop for well over a year), but I hope that means there won’t be a sequel. If there is one, I won’t be watching it.
Choose Life 4/10
Star Trek (2009)
Here we go, this is the real Star Trek, this is what I’ve been itching to get back to. Am I biased because I’m more familiar with this cast, there’s more action, it plays to a more modern sensibility that I’m far more used to, and everyone is having a terrific time for the whole movie? 100%, absolutely, nail on the head, so what? I love this film, this cast, the time travel aspect, how they get around the different timelines, the way the characters are brought together, it’s all terrific. Can’t wait to re-watch the other two.
Choose Film 9/10
47 Meters Down (2017)
Watched for Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast because, well, sharks. If you’ve never listened to my Deep Blue Sea-centric podcast then firstly, I’d recommend it, and secondly you’ll have no idea that on every show (at least, since we finished the first movie chapter by chapter) I determine roughly how deep and blue each film we’re covering is. As in, at what depth do they take place, and on average how blue is the screen at any given point. This is often a tricky task and estimates have to be made, but not with 47 Meters Down. Oh no, the depth is right there in the title, baby! And every time characters change their depth, we’re told exactly how deep they are! Couple that with an extremely blue film for much of the run-time and you’ve got something that made me very happy. Aside from those podcast-specific plus points, I really enjoyed 47 Meters Down. The setup is very simple – two sisters (Mandy Moore and Claire Holt) embark upon a dodgy-looking shark cage trip (run by Cutthroat Island‘s Matthew Modine!), only for the mechanism to break and the cage to plummet to the bottom of the sea, trapping them down there with a bunch of sharks and a rapidly depleting amount of oxygen. A lot is done with the premise, although pretty much everything is signposted by a script that’s perhaps too concerned with answering audience questions before they’ve been asked. Regardless, it’s great, and if you like shark movies or tense thrillers, give it a go. Listen to the podcast here.
Choose Film 7/10
47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)
Watched for Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast because, once again, sharks. Sadly this is a sequel in name only, and the active depth of the film is never explicitly specified at any point in the film. I get it, that shouldn’t be a knock against it, but for me it is. Regardless, this isn’t as good as the first. The previously concise premise is a lot murkier here, requiring far more explanation to establish how our central characters get stuck where they are – in a blocked off sunken temple maze with giant blind sharks. It’s still good enough, the sharks are legitimately terrifying and there are a decent number of scares, but the plot gets way too silly at the end and the characters are mostly quite irritating. Listen to the podcast here.
Choose Life 5/10
The Italian Job (1969)
Watched for my recent guest appearance on the Rambling Ramblers Movie Podcast, in which guests pick a classic film to discuss that one of the podcast’s hosts, Justin Gott, hasn’t seen before. There’s a lot of films on that list, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to introduce him to this British crime classic, especially given his love of the sequel and his lack of knowledge about how this film ends. Anyway, all being well I’ll be writing a full review of this soon so I’ll move on for now. Listen to the podcast here.
Choose Film 9/10
The Italian Job (2003)
Well of course I’m going to re-watch the sequel. It’s been maybe a decade since I saw it last, but I was surprised by how much I remembered, especially pretty much everything involving Seth Green’s character (the highlight of the film, although I’d never realised that it was Kelly Brook with him at the end). There’s very little connective tissue between this and the first, which is good because I don’t think a straight remake would have worked as well. I like most of the cast, the action and direction are decent, and I had fun watching it. It’s far better than a 2000s reboot of The Italian Job has any right to be, to be honest.
Choose Film 7/10
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Watched for Deep Blue Sea: The Podcast to round out the Jaws franchise. Before watching neither my guest nor I knew this was a Christmas film, so making this our first December episode tied in quite nicely and entirely accidentally, especially given it was originally scheduled for November. Anyway, Jaws: The Revenge is a pretty terrible, utterly ludicrous film that sets up some aspects that could have been genuinely interesting had they been fully committed to. A shark following someone from New England to the Bahamas, seeking revenge on the surviving family members of the now-deceased patriarch who killed two presumably unrelated sharks in the past? That same shark setting a trap to kill one of said dead patriarch’s adult sons? Michael Caine getting a perm? Alas all of these things are merely hinted at without any real thought being put behind them on screen. Compare it to Deep Blue Sea, in which the genetically enhanced super smart sharks are shown enacting elements of their plan, whereas here it’s just a regular shark with these nonsense abilities doing things off screen. Also, there’s only two frickin’ deaths in the whole damn film, with a couple of awful dream sequence kills thrown in which outright do not count. The banana boat sequence is fun, but that’s about it. Listen to the podcast here.
Choose Life 4/10
The Father (2020)
One of the most powerful films – and performances – I’ve seen in recent years. This knocked me back, and I think I’ve thought about it every day since. Hopkins is superb – how the Academy thought he wouldn’t win the Oscar I’ll never know. The performance requires so much and he nails every aspect of it, every mood swing, every moment of confusion and doubt, every sharp-eyed anecdote and muddled understanding, it’s all there, all the time. Utter perfection. I wasn’t overly looking forward to what I’d understood to be a film about an elderly man struggling to cope with losing his grip on his own mental wellbeing, but staging it as a mystery, where we’re in his head as opposed to that of his struggling daughter (Olivia Colman) or anyone else is a master stroke. I know it was nominated, but how this wasn’t a bigger part of the Best Picture discussion I’ll never know.
Choose Film 9/10
Robin Robin (2021)
A new Aardman short, yay! This follows a robin, named Robin, who is raised by a family of mice whose primary objective is to sneak into houses and pilfer little bits of food. It’s adorable – Robin styles his head feathers to be little mouse ear-like mounds – and should pass the time well with children. Supporting voice work from Gillian Anderson and Richard E. Grant is always welcome too.
Choose Film 7/10
OK gang, it’s New Year’s Eve and I written four of these posts in the past 24 hours, so I’m going to call it a year before finishing December’s post. All being well I’ll do my December wrap up, 2021 new releases ranking and 2021 overall wrap-up with my plans for 2022 in the next few days, but that’s probably it from me for this year. Also bear in mind that I’m recording three podcasts in the next two days, and three more next weekend, and I’m currently not prepared for any of them, so they will probably take precedent over the posts I just mentioned. Hope you’re all having a good time whatever you’re doing, and I’ll see you next year.