My Month in Film: May 2015

Not as many new-or-recent-release reviews this month–although, in my defense, I contributed not one but two pieces to Cinema Axis this month–but wow, Iots of other type of stuff, including three retro reviews. I think I may put the brakes on for June; there isn’t as much stuff coming out that I’m interested in and I’m feeling a bit of burnout. The last things I wrote for May–the full review of Manhunter and the capsules of Muppet Movie and Song of the Sea–were very difficult.

As far as other features go, Doctor Who reviews will continue to happen when they happen. Hannibal season three starts this week, and I plan to wait until the season’s halfway point before I start publishing the reviews.

Other news: I’m moving my Forced Viewing content to this site. This is four years’ worth of writing–about 400 movie reviews, 75 TV reviews, and 15 events…not to mention about 75 installments of what this site calls Quick Cuts but which Forced Viewing calls Blood on the Net–that I’ve got to adapt to a different post format, find featured images (which is going to be goddamn difficult for some of these!), convert to a different ratings system, and lightly “remaster.” The process has already started, but I don’t know how long it’s going to take and I can’t yet tell how I’m going to need to change the general structure of the site to accommodate it.

I’m considering bumping the “retro review” cutoff date back a couple of years, from 2010 to 2008, on the grounds that, when I started writing these pieces back in 2010, ’08 still seemed “contemporary”; for comparison, note how many of the films I’ve reviewed for the Gallery were released in 2012. Similarly, some movies released just before time are starting to feel, for lack of a better term, “old”: I was a bit surprised to discover that The Strangers was released in 2007, because it to me it feels a few years older than that.

So don’t be surprised if stuff changes inexplicably from time to time and then suddenly changes back. Eventually, I’ll figure out how to organize this stuff.

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Top 5 movies of 2015 so far

We’ve made it far enough into 2015 that I feel comfortable compiling a top-five list of my favorite movies of the year so far. To wit:

  1. The Nightmare
  2. Ex Machina
  3. It Follows
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road
  5. The Duke of Burgundy

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This month’s content

Reviews of current or recent releases

Retro movie reviews

Doctor Who reviews

Events

For Cinema Axis

Podcast appearances

*     *     *

Other movies I watched this month include…

A scene from THE SISTERHOOD OF NIGHT.

The Sisterhood of Night (Caryn Waechter, 2014)

An engrossing and poignant coming-of-age drama. Some high school girls form a mysterious clique, and since the first rule of the Sisterhood is you do not talk about the Sisterhood, everyone decides that the rumor that they’re a cult of lesbian witches must be true. It fumbles the ball in the third act by delivering a false feel-good ending, but I understand why the filmmakers went that way. The film sends a positive message and its heart is in the right place.

However, Sisterhood does turn out to be one of the most abysmally mis-marketed films I’ve encountered in a long time. Every synopsis I’ve read of it implies it’s a horror film (admittedly, without outright stating it), putting a lot of focus on the “teenage witch cult” angle. So I went in expecting it to be kind of like The Craft for millennials, and was more than a little shocked to find that it has more in common with The Crucible, only less dark and fatalistic. Which isn’t to say that it’s not dark in places, but it’s ultimately not the sort of thing I established the Gallery to review.

On the other hand, if it weren’t for the mis-marketing I probably never would have watched it, so that’s a plus.

A scene from SONG OF THE SEA.

Song of the Sea (Tomm Moore, 2014)

This is Tomm Moore’s follow-up to his enchanting Secret of Kells from a few years back. Like its predecessor, it’s steeped in Irish folklore and mythology and culture, this time updated to a contemporary setting. I don’t find the animation style as singular and striking as that of Kells, but it’s still a lovely movie. This should keep my animation jones happy until The Little Prince comes out, whenever that is (I’m a bit iffy on Minions and probably should be looking forward to Inside Out more than I am).

Did I mention how Irish it is? It’s Irish.

A scene from FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.

Fifty Shades of Grey (Sam Taylor-Johnson, 2015)

One hundred and twenty minutes of watching two hot people with no personalities who can’t act pretend to desire each other.

Every so often, they have a parody of kinky sex to break the monotony.

A scene from THE MUPPET MOVIE.

The Muppet Movie (James Frawley, 1979)

I’m pretty sure I’d put this on my list of all-time favorite family movies. It’s the perfect storm of emotion, technical achievement, spectacle and wit. The sight of Kermit riding his bike still warms my heart after all these years, even though the novelty isn’t what it used to be (imagine how breath-taking this must have been in ’79!), and I know how they did it now.

There’s probably no point in deconstructing the genius of the Muppets and the Creature Shop so I’m not going to bother, other than to say that when Jim Henson and his gang were “on”–and they were “on” for a lot of the ’70s, with the Land of Gorch material being the only stuff to fall flat that I know of–this is the closest to actual, genuine magic I’ve ever seen. Even today, I can almost convince myself that the Muppets are real.A scene from MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.

Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

This one is as goddamn awesome as everyone says it is. It has car chases, insane action, social commentary, a strong female lead (it’s more about Furiosa than Max, who stumbles into the plot by accident, which I can get behind because the Doctor does the very same thing in my favorite Doctor Who stories), great villains, memorable dialog, an El Camino body grafted onto a light tank chassis, and of course, the ever-popular guy playing an electric guitar with a flamethrower installed in the neck.

Truly, this movie offers something for everyone.

I HAD A BABY BROTHER AND HE WAS PERFECT IN EVERY WAY!

A scene from THE GREAT MUPPET CAPER.

The Great Muppet Caper (Jim Henson, 1981)

It’s probably not surprising that The Great Muppet Caper isn’t as good as its predecessor. The songs, in particular, are much weaker, lacking anything in the same league as “The Rainbow Connection.” The big technical set-piece–the mass of Muppets riding bicycles–doesn’t have quite the same novelty it did in ’81; removed from that context, it tends to drag a bit. And the screenplay stretches some of the running jokes so thin they’re practically transparent.

On the other hand, it does feature a brilliant comic performance from Charles Grodin as the villain. Diana Rigg and John Cleese ain’t nothing to sneeze at, either. Gonzo gets some great lines (“I wonder how far how far you could plummet before you black out?” and when Kermit advises him not to try, “Sure is tempting!”). Sam gets the best line (“You are all weirdos.”).

Best of all, early in the picture, my all-time favorite Muppet sight gag: the picture of Kermit and Fozzie’s father (the conceit being that the two are identical twin brothers). Basically, he’s Fozzie dyed green, with Kermit’s eyes and collar. I’m not kidding you when I say this barely-a-character is almost my favorite Muppet of all time, second only to Rowlf and the Yip Yips.

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