October 2020 Film Round-Up

Bless anyone who is sticking with these posts, which are basically a way for me to reminisce on the month that has just passed with retrospective eyes to consider the cinema that has been devoured in whatever free time I can muster between working full-time and trying to write a TV show. Alas, there is always time for cinema. And with October being the longest month of the year (not statistically, but didn’t it feel like that?), I feel like I’ll benefit from a look back at what I watched.

And for those of you who read my last post, I did complete a full rewatch of Schitt’s Creek this month…and started a third. I’m officially addicted to this show.

Anyway, back to movies, that’s why you’re all here isn’t it!

First Time Watches – October 2020

  1. The Hours (2002) dir. Stephen Daldry

The Hours is very much my speed. A group of celebrated actresses (Streep, Kidman, Moore, Collette, Janney, Martindale, Danes) in a period piece that explores sexuality, depression, and grief? Sorry but anyone who knows my tastes knows how much I was going to enjoy this. Has some great writing, great performances, and a handful of sequences that are just a gut-punch. We love to be gay and depressed!

2. North Country (2005) dir. Niki Caro

North Country surprised me honestly. The cast intrigued me, and the performances were definitely the best part of it, but the actual material itself was engaging. Charlize Theron is so great and she’s honestly still so underrated as an actress even with an Oscar and several further nominations under her belt. It’s worth a watch, it doesn’t reinvent the wheel on sexual harassment movies, but it does highlight some ever-present flaws in the system that are painfully relevant today.

3. Wolfwalkers (2020) dir. Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart

I caught this one as my first watch of the London Film Festival, and what a way to begin! Beautifully animated with a rich thematic story, Wolfwalkers will surprise, delight, and upset you in equal measure. The ending is fully earned and I commend the filmmakers on presenting new ways to tell a familiar story. Definitely catch this one, undoubtedly one of the best of the year!

4. One Night in Miami (2020) dir. Regina King

Another one from LFF! Definitely check out my fuller write-up on this one, because it’s absolutely worth knowing more about (and I’m fairly proud of my write-up) because Regina King has added herself to the list of actors-turned-directors who release a stunning debut that leaves me wanting more features from them. One Night in Miami manages to remain cinematic while keeping to its theatrical roots. The performances are astounding, the writing is phenomenal, and the full film experience is one that I will never forget.

5. Charlie’s Angels (2019) dir. Elizabeth Banks

Look, Kristen Stewart is an actress that I would die for, I will watch anything that she is involved it and this was honestly my sole reason for watching this. Actually sad I missed it in cinemas last year because this would’ve been a blast to see in a packed screening. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the word, but it’s a lot of fun and honestly I’ll watch it again. I’ll probably end up owning it on physical media and watch it before bed on a rainy Sunday evening (not unlike this one). Ella Balinska rules by the way.

6. The Rhythm Section (2020) dir. Reed Morano

Coming off the back of a great, fun female spy movie…onto a dreadful one. I feel bad talking badly about movies but this one just wasn’t it. The fact that Blake Lively was getting buzz ahead of this performance and it turned out like that. The script is underdeveloped, the performances are weak (aside from Sterling K. Brown who is incapable of giving a bad performance), and aside from one or two action shots, the direction is uncontrolled and uneven. Would not recommend.

7. Syriana (2005) dir. Stephen Gaghan

Solid, but not quite as remarkable as I was expecting. Clooney was the main draw for me here, giving a great performance, but also not an Oscar winning one. Jake Gyllenhaal would like a moment of your time, Academy. Honestly, it’s not too memorable for me, aside from that pool scene. Good lord that was good.

8. Like A Boss (2020) dir. Miguel Arteta

Came for Byrne and Haddish, stayed for Byrne, Haddish, and Hayek. The script isn’t good and the premise is nice but a little trite, but the performances are what keeps this afloat. Rose Byrne is an international icon and I will get her an Oscar one day!

9. Cinderella Man (2005) dir. Ron Howard

Sports movies continue to surprise me. I really liked this. Crowe and Giamatti are excellent, Howard’s direction is competent, and the story holds a lot of emotional weight by the ending. Gives me Warrior vibes but with a little more Les Mis to it.

10. The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) dir. Aaron Sorkin

It’s a Sorkin script. Do I really need to say anything else? Great performances from Rylance, Langella, and Keaton, a buzzing, frenetic script from Sorkin that manages to do the job, even if the ending is worthy of a major eye-roll. (Please stop casting Eddie Redmayne in things, it’s making me mad now).

11. Dancer in the Dark (2000) dir. Lars von Trier

My first von Trier movie. And I loved and hated it in equal measure. I kind of loathed the handheld camerawork, but Björk’s performance is so good that I don’t even mind it. Sure, it gets a little manipulative and melodramatic towards the end, but it’s a great movie with one of my favourite screen performances. Absolutely broke me in the final 30 minutes.

12. The Constant Gardener (2005) dir. Fernando Meirelles

I’ll keep this short and sweet. Any time that Rachel Weisz is on screen, the movie is excellent. Any time she’s off screen, the movie drags and her absence is felt very heavily. Still think Amy Adams deserved the Oscar, but I don’t begrudge Weisz winning for a stellar performance.

13. Rebecca (2020) dir. Ben Wheatley

As Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott immortally utters in Scream 4, “You forgot the first rule of remakes…don’t fuck with the original.”

Second rule of remakes? Don’t make it if it’s not necessary.

Wheatley’s adaptation adds barely anything new to the story and just ends up being a pale imitation of Hitchcock’s Best Picture-winning classic. The cinematography, production design, hair, and makeup are very luscious and gorgeous, but the rest of it just doesn’t work. Hammer is dreadfully miscast, James tries her best, and Kristin Scott Thomas honestly should’ve been a lot better than she was.

14. The Aviator (2004) dir. Martin Scorsese

This one is fighting with Hugo for my least favourite Scorsese flick. DiCaprio is fine, Blanchett is peculiar, and the whole thing is just unnecessarily long. As a full-time stan of The Irishman, I believe that Scorsese can justify his runtimes sometimes (we love a rhyme!) but here it’s just painfully apparent that a lot of it could have been cut. Really just not fan of this one, but the technical elements were great!

15. Waitress (2007) dir. Adrienne Shelly

Being a fan of the musical, in particular Jessie Mueller’s heartrending rendition of She Used to be Mine, as well as being a Keri Russell warrior, I was beyond excited for this and it did not disappoint. It’s sweet, stylish, and wittier than it had any right to be. And it made me crave Nathan Fillion which no film has ever done before. So heartwarming.

16. Finding Neverland (2005) dir. Marc Forster

Honestly? I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened in this film. I was bored from start to finish and consider it one of the most painful film experiences I’ve ever had. Would not recommend.

17. The Turning (2020) dir. Floria Sigismondi

Soundtrack absolutely pops off, but nothing else in this film is good. Not even the usual reliable Mackenzie Davis. Finn Wolfhard is awful in this movie, and Brooklynn Prince does not get any good material to flex her acting muscle. I’m still on Episode 4 of The Haunting of Bly Manor (which is loosely based on the same story) and I’m just getting the sense that I’m not a fan of this particular horror tale. And that “ending”? HAHA.

18. Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell (2020) dir. Amy Segal

Nobody speak to me, I am so far up this show’s ass that it’s not even funny anymore. Literally obsessed with every single second and this was just really hard for me to watch, gave me all the feels. Dan Levy is a genius and Miss Annie Murphy WILL EGOT one day. Watch this space.

19. On The Rocks (2020) dir. Sofia Coppola

Trust me, I am all for Rashida Jones having lead roles and I love me some Sofia Coppola, but barely any of this worked for me. The plot was weak, the performances were good but not amazing, and the ending…am I the only one who thought it really undercut the entire message of the film and the vibe that I was taking away from it? Weird, and proof that 2020 is a simulation because a bad Coppola film was not what I had in mind for the new decade.

20. Halloween (1978) dir. John Carpenter

Leave it to me to get spooky the day before Halloween and have to watch as many classic horrors as I could. Very much enjoyed this one. Jamie Lee Curtis gives a star-making performance the direction…oh god I could talk about the direction of this film for hours. Carpenter is truly the man. And the fact that he composed it too? That timeless theme tune? Impossibly talented.

21. Halloween II (1981) dir. Richard Rosenthal

Carpenter’s absence in the director’s chair is felt, but not to the extent that I expected, given that Rosenthal adopts a lot of the signature techniques that Carpenter immortalised in the original instalment: the slow almost glacial glide of the camera, the POV shots etc. 

I can’t help but adore how contained this all is. The hospital provides an additional element of horror just out of association with being somewhere you would go to be healed. The script constantly comes up with new ways to off its cast without becoming overly gimmicky. There’s one particular shot where a character steps back into darkness, and the ghostly mask of Michael Myers slowly fades into view, but not totally clearly; as though he’s not there at all. It sorts of embodies the theme of Myers being almost ethereal throughout the narrative.

Obviously, the film has its problems. The soapy third-act revelation that is supposed to make the whole arc click into place, but instead raises more questions that the film isn’t prepared to answer. To take it further, the series protagonist and hero is borderline comatose for most of the movie and isn’t even lucid when we learn some important information about her character. The film also falls into a trap highlighted by Scream 4 regarding lack of character development in horror movies, making it so it’s just lots of killing without any real stakes. The film does this a lot, but the final sequences are just about enough to bring it home successfully.

22. Ouija (2014) dir. Stiles White

Flat out one of the worst horror films I’ve ever seen. Nothing about this worked. Nothing. not even Olivia Cooke, which is surprising.

23. Halloween (2018) dir. David Gordon Green

A weird sequel, particularly as it retconned a lot of what made the series stand out narratively, but Green is mostly successful in creating a Halloween movie for a new generation. Curtis is excellent here.

Favourite First-Time Watch: One Night in Miami

Films I Rewatched This Month:

  • 12 Angry Men (1957) dir. Sidney Lumet
  • Drive (2011) dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
  • Fight Club (1997) dir. David Fincher
  • Eighth Grade (2018) dir. Bo Burnham
  • A Monster Calls (2016) dir. J.A. Bayona
  • Paddington 2 (2017) dir. Paul King
  • Cold War (2018) dir. Pawel Pawlikowski
  • Scream (1996) dir. Wes Craven
  • Scream 2 (1997) dir. Wes Craven
  • Scream 3 (2000) dir. Wes Craven
  • Scream 4 (2011) dir. Wes Craven

So not a huge amount watched this month, but I’m hoping to watch more in November! With some highly anticipated new releases coming out, I’m very excited for what’s in store.

And yes, I’ll probably still be watching Schitt’s Creek.

Stay safe everyone!

Until next time, film fans!!

2 thoughts on “October 2020 Film Round-Up”

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