Iro's One Movie a Day Thread

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#770 - Beasts of No Nation
Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2015



A young West African boy is separated from his family and forcibly recruited into an army of Nigerian soldiers.

Beasts of No Nation tells the story of a young boy named Agu (Abraham Attah), who starts the film as an inhabitant of a village in an unspecified West African country. He lives a simple but pleasant life even as distant wars threaten to encroach upon his small hometown. However, the peace is shattered when the war reaches the village and, after being separated from his mother and younger siblings, he is made to escape when Nigerian soldiers start rounding up and shooting all the able-bodied men in the village. It's not long after he escapes that he is found by a unit of the Nigerian Defence Force, led by an intimidating figure known only as "the Commandant" (Idris Elba). Agu is then forced to join their cause and is brainwashed into becoming a child soldier who will help the NDF take what is rightfully theirs. So begins a staggering film that covers an especially brutal conflict through the eyes of a child who has his own war raging inside his head as he struggles to make sense of the world around him.

Having a film be so dependent on a child's performance is always a gamble, but newcomer Attah proves as good a centre to build the film around as any as he sells Agu's reluctant progression from happy-go-lucky child to traumatised soldier, maintaining his inner humanity even without the pointed narration reflecting his innermost thoughts. In a film as full of senseless atrocity as this one is, he proves a good constant and we are definitely invested in seeing just how he gets through each situation (if not necessarily expecting him to get out of it). Elba is definitely the most famous performer in the film and thus liable to be the one that most audiences will take notice of, but even if he was a complete unknown it'd still be hard to disregard his turn as the Commandant - if anything, the fact that I find it hard to believe that I'm watching Elba arguably speaks to the strength of the performance. His natural charisma makes him an ideal choice for the role of the fiercely mesmerising Commandant, whose callous tendency towards cruel and unusual execution (whether carried out by himself or by goading his young charges into doing it for him) is matched only by his hidden soft side still having an uncomfortably predatory air to it at best.

In the hands of Fukunaga (who I mainly know for directing the first season of HBO's incredibly grim procedural drama True Detective), Beasts of No Nation becomes quite the powerful piece of work. There is a plethora of techniques involved in portraying the conflict that also reflect Agu's inner state in the process, whether it's through jagged editing reflecting the confusion of being torn from his family or a long take that bobs and glides as he goes through a variety of incompatible emotions after discovering a woman who he initially thinks is his mother (resulting in one scene that is especially unsettling even by the harsh standards of the rest of the film). The amount of work that goes into staging and filming various skirmishes can be noted quite well as a result, especially those that involve complicated weaponry or explosions. Fukunaga captures it all with a visual flair that manages to provide captivating compositions of light and colour without even remotely glamourising anything that's actually taking place; such is the inherently contradictory nature of this fundamentally disturbing but well-crafted film.

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#771 - Regular Show: The Movie
J.G. Quintel, 2015



Two twenty-something best friends must go on a time-traveling adventure in order to save the future from a megalomaniac high-school teacher.

I'm a fan of Regular Show, the long-running Cartoon Network series about twp lifelong friends, Mordecai the bluejay and Rigby the raccoon, as they get into all sorts of surreal adventures during their day-to-day lives slacking off at their groundskeeping jobs. However, after seven whole seasons of the show it's easy to get a little tired of their shenanigans and start thinking that Regular Show: The Movie might be better off as a bombastic final chapter rather than an ordinary episode stretched out to feature length. Unfortunately, the movie goes down the feature-length episode path and suffers as a result. Considering how the average Regular Show episode tends to be about ten minutes in length, seeing that kind of plot extended over the course of an hour definitely shows some cracks. It starts off promisingly with a cold open that involves Mordecai and Rigby fighting on opposite sides of a futuristc space battle and ends with future-Rigby traveling back in time to the present day. From there, Mordecai, Rigby, and their odd assortment of co-workers/friends team up in order to travel even further into the past to revisit Mordecai and Rigby's high-school serves so they can prevent the bad future from coming to pass.

I can accept Regular Show: The Movie skimping on the plot but unfortunately they don't provide a lot to compensate for it in return. It does tend to recycle a lot of the usual jokes involving the quirky members of the lead ensemble, ultimately not resulting in a lot of laughs (with the only real exception being chubby green-skinned prankster Muscle Man getting into a fight with his past self). The show's tendency to take mundane everyday activities and spin them into ludicrously nightmarish scenarios that set up the heroes to pull off some awesome moves is pretty much absent here as they run through a fairly underwhelming collection of set-pieces involving time travel, vehicular chases, laser shoot-outs, and so on. Even the central thematic conflict involving Regular Show's most constant theme - that of its two leads' relative immaturity - covers all-too-familiar ground as it shows how Rigby's reluctance to be separated from Mordecai will ironically drive him to screw over Mordecai. This is a plot that's already been done in earlier episodes and to better effect thanks to the tight TV framework - in the context of a feature-length film, it just feels extremely thin despite the odd decent moment. The flashy animation may be the best that the show ever had but it's not put to especially creative use. Despite the fact that the movie is clearly meant for fans of the show, it's just as likely that fans might find it lacking as the series' goofball charm only goes so far in redeeming one overlong, repetitive, and sadly dull excuse for a big adventure.




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#772 - World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt, 2015



A little girl is contacted by a woman who claims to be her clone.

Well, here we are, the end of the thread and what a film I've picked to go out on. Don Hertzfeldt's World of Tomorrow begins when a little girl named Emily answers a video-call from a woman who not only claims to be a clone of Emily but is also making the call from centuries in the future. Emily Clone then proceeds to coldly and efficiently describe the future to the perpetually cheerful and oblivious Emily Prime before eventually making the choice to bring Emily Prime to the future. Just like Hertzfeldt's other films, it makes the most of its brief running time by concocting one very loose plot that allows him to expand upon all sorts of preconceptions - at least here he is afforded a refreshing new angle by framing everything within a sci-fi context. Unsurprisingly, this particular vision of the future definitely plays to its creators' extremely dark and maudlin sense of humour as he invokes a number of familiar set-ups. The concept of human clones as second-class citizens already exists, of course, but here concepts such as clones without any consciousness whatsoever being made to serve as museum exhibits for their entire lives are on a discomforting level of absurdity. The same goes for the incredibly complicated logistics involving time travel, which are only explained insofar as they can result in twisted jokes or effectively-deployed set-ups. Throughout it all, Emily Clone narrates with an eerily monotonous air reminiscent of the narrator from It's Such a Beautiful Day, which becomes more effective when she stays monotonous even as she recounts her most emotionally charged memories amidst all the techno-babble.

World of Tomorrow also marks Hertzfeldt's first digitally-animated film and he does not waste his new-found visual tools. The film naturally involves his particular brand of stick-figures but here they are put against all sorts of colourful yet minimalist settings that range in tone and vibrancy from the ever-changing colours of the Outernet through to the monochromatic lunar surface where Emily Clone works for a time. The sci-fi setting allows for a greater exploration of the same themes of existentialism that had characterised previous Hertzfeldt works even within a running time of about sixteen minutes. Humans program robots with a strong fear of death in order to make them work more efficiently, people can live forever by uploading their consciousness into small black cubes but still find the experience dissatisfying, and clones naturally experience their own existential crises despite retaining the memories of their "ancestors". World of Tomorrow conveys all these familiar sci-fi tropes and themes with enough creative vigour on both visual and textual levels to make them seem refreshed and, thanks to the brief running time, never outstays its welcome. It may not quite be on the same level as It's Such a Beautiful Day, but it proves such a natural evolution of that film's occupations with notions of self and reality that it doesn't matter. Highly recommended.




"You're assuming I don't already know this expression."

Actually I wasn't. Well, I'm not going to push the envelope any further.



Welcome to the human race...
"You're assuming I don't already know this expression."

Actually I wasn't. Well, I'm not going to push the envelope any further.
It's kind of hard to tell when you just drop it into its own line without a clear connection to the rest of your post's message, but I guess if the saying is true then we're just a couple of asses.



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2015 - The Year in Review



Strap in...


* marks films that are technically 2014 releases according to IMDb but did not see wide release until 2015, so I'm going to go ahead and count them anyway.


#1 - Mad Max: Fury Road:
George Miller's long-awaited return to the wasteland shows up every other major blockbuster of the year as it comes roaring out of development hell and provides one of the purest cinematic experiences in recent memory. "What a lovely day", indeed.

#2 - World of Tomorrow: Don Hertzfeldt delivers yet another twisted slice of stick-figure animation that blends black comedy, science-fiction, and emotional drama together to create a brief but dizzying blend of semi-comprehensible visuals and existential tragedy.

#3 - When Marnie Was There*: It may lack the sheer innovation one associates with Studio Ghibli's main man Hayao Miyazaki, but When Marnie Was There still provides the legendary animated company with one extremely touching and vividly-rendered tale of low fantasy that arguably provides the studio with a better swansong than Miyazaki's own final bow, The Wind Rises.

#4 - Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief: Scientology may be low-hanging fruit in 2015, but that doesn't stop Alex Gibney and a cavalcade of former Scientologists from providing an elaborate and disturbing (if obviously biased) insight into what life was like within the extremely controversial movement.

#5 - Ex Machina: Very much a screenwriter's film that eschews flashy visuals for a small handful of strong performances in order to make a familiar science-fiction premise about artificial intelligence work as a consistently tense chamber drama.

#6 - Sicario: Denis Villeneuve once again provides a rather uncomfortable and unpredictable viewing experience with a film about an upstanding police officer's participation in the morally grey War on Drugs.

#7 - The Lobster: A bizarre collection of individuals try to find love or at least fake it in what is quite possibly the darkest comedy of the year. Maintains a curious but effective balance between obtuse European arthouse drama and sadistic

#8 - Youth: Threatens to be yet another middle-brow dramedy about revered older actors pottering around some exotic locale for two hours but ultimately proves to be a surprisingly humourous and affecting meditation on age backed up by some impressive combinations of sound and vision.

#9 - Inside Out: Pixar takes their appetite for anthropomorphification to its logical conclusion in order to deliver yet another film about an odd couple trying to find their way home. Giving it a high ranking feels obligatory for better and for worse, so it may yet drop.

#10 - Star Wars: The Force Awakens: While it understandably spends too much of its time sticking to what works and setting up future installments to make it a truly great film in its own right, it's certainly worth at least some of the hype as it proves to be a reasonably fun cinematic event.

#11 - Beasts of No Nation: A captivating piece of wartime cinema that manages to provide visual flourish without invoking thrills or excitement and follows its young protagonist into the heart of darkness without falling into grim nihilism. Might just involve Idris Elba's best performance, too.

#12 - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation: Falls prey to a lot of the same flaws as Ghost Protocol (most notably by using up all its best ideas in the first two-thirds of the running time and just...ending) but also contributes to the franchise's reputation for being a reliable source of thrilling set-pieces.

#13 - Slow West: Certainly lives up to the first half of its title over the course of its extremely brief running time, but it's colourful and amusing without feeling too hollow.

#14 - Turbo Kid: Affectionate genre parodies are hard to pull off, but this film manages it just fine as it doesn't involve ironic detachment or being mean-spirited about its recreation of post-apocalyptic sci-fi from the '80s.

#15 - Maggie:
Probably the most left-field Schwarzenegger movie ever made, it features the big guy as a family man who is trying to take care of his zombie-infectee daughter. Shouldn't work, but does.

#16 - Bridge of Spies: A serious spy movie that appropriately counters the genre's tendency towards escapist fluff and provides a surprising degree of nuance underneath its unassuming Spielberg/Hanks surface.

#17 - Macbeth: A Shakespeare adaptation that is more concerned with slow yet striking visual set-pieces than it is with conjuring powerful performances out of its talented ensemble, but that's what makes it enjoyable.

#18 - It Follows*: May not have lived up to the immense hype, but I appreciated its simple but effective premise, anachronistic aesthetics, and impressively perpetual sense of unease that aptly compensated for the odd lapse into familiar territory.

#19 - Dope: An inventive enough hood film that takes the genre's usual tropes and adds enough idiosyncratic finesse to make them work, though not to the extent that the film becomes truly great as a result.

#20 - Ant-Man: I'm never going to think of this movie without wondering how it would've turned out under Edgar Wright, but as it stands the film does have plenty of moments both great and (more frequently) small to make it okay.

#21 - Cobain: Montage of Heck: I'm not really a Nirvana fan and this is a pretty straightforward biographical documentary full of home video and new interviews, but the soundtrack's good and I could watch a whole movie of the animated sequences.

#22 - The Final Girls: An inventive enough horror-comedy that does indulge some rather straightforward parody but compensates for it through having a decent enough cast, a pleasing visual aesthetic, and a surprising amount of emotional resonance.

#23 - Deathgasm: Splatter-happy horror-comedy in the style of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson that is better at thriving on its cartoonishly gory violence than it is on its metal-themed outcast humour.

#24 - Blackhat: I still hold out some hope that Michael Mann's cryptic cyber-thriller will grow on me, but as it stands I do find it rather middle-of-the-road despite its unorthodox ambitions.

#25 - The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Guy Ritchie recycles his Sherlock Holmes formula but swaps out Victorian detectives for Cold War spies, infusing the resulting film with just enough charm to keep it from being totally bland and forgettable.

#26 - The Martian: While it is nice to see a space movie that has a sense of humour for a change, not even that is enough make another technically solid but fundamentally weightless and overly long Ridley Scott film work.

#27 - Spy: Works better in theory than it does in practice (which is admittedly poor form for a comedy), but still succeeds in getting some laughs out of a potentially tiresome premise about an everywoman being forced into the plot of your typical spy movie.

#28 - Cop Car: A small-scale coming-of-age B-movie that is similar to Slow West in how it builds a short but incredibly slow-burning film that escalates into a gripping climax; unfortunately, there's not much more to it beyond its well-made suspense sequences.

#29 - Spectre: Should've been an ideal capper to a banner year for spy movies but the final product was extremely dry, bloated, and derivative even by the fundamentally low standards of the James Bond franchise.

#30 - Creed: Another franchise film that doesn't quite have enough substance to its story and developments to justify being as long as it is, but it gets a decent performance out of Sylvester Stallone and has the odd good moment (case in point - the single-take fight).

#31 - Amy: Not quite good enough to truly win over a non-fan like myself but its telling of a tragic rise-and-fall narrative through home video and faceless interviews proves at least somewhat effective.

#32 - Mr. Holmes: It starts as a potentially interesting take on iconic detective Sherlock Holmes as he comes to term with his advanced age and troubled past, but things soon become rather tedious even with the one and only Ian McKellen bringing mellifluous grace to the title role.

#33 - Kingsman: The Secret Service*: Not the worst movie of 2015, but easily the most frustrating. Sophomoric displays of violence and an obnoxiously glib sense of humour may have distinguished it from the more homogenous spy movies that came out this year but I'd hardly say that it was for the better.

#34 - Avengers: Age of Ultron: I liked this a lot at first but it's been shown up pretty severely since then and attempting to watch it a second time just felt numbing in a way that no action-packed thrill ride ever should.

#35 - Regular Show: The Movie: As much as I like Regular Show and its simple but effective blend of slacker comedy and surreal genre-bending, I can't help but be disappointed by this attempt to stretch out a pretty standard plot to just over an hour in length.

#36 - Black Mass: Johnny Depp may have straightened up his act in order to play a fairly menacing and uncanny villain but he still can't make up for the rest of the film's sheer lack of personality.

#37 - Southpaw: Just like Black Mass in that it gives its lead actor a physically demanding role to disappear into but struggles to provide a good enough movie to reflect its star's dedication.

#38 - Jupiter Ascending: I'm not about to deny that it was one extremely goofy and nonsensical eyesore of a movie but compared to the sterility of your average franchise blockbuster it was practically a breath of fresh air.

#39 - The Gift: The ultimate proof that hype is a killer, actor-writer Joel Edgerton's directorial debut fails to distinguish itself favourably as it starts off as a subtle psychological drama before going off the rails towards the end.

#40 - Terminator: Genisys: I was prepared to give this the benefit of the doubt but its blatant disregard for the franchise's already-convoluted continuity is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this film's issues. At this rate, they might as well have the sixth movie be set in space.

#41 - Jurassic World: The fact that I wrote a review about this film and it got no rep should speak volumes as to how this ended up being one of the straight-up blandest films of 2015 - and that's saying something.

#42 - Kung Fury: Should have been great even in its truncated form, but even though it's supposed to be a parody of '80s schlock it still felt awfully hollow and derivative in a way that no amount of laser-wielding dinosaurs or kung-fu Hitler could ever hope to balance out.

#43 - Joy: Even by the already-low standard set by David O. Russell's previous films, this is still an extremely dry film that wastes a talented ensemble on a film that admirably tries to evoke some pathos out of its superficially mundane premise but unfortunately ends up feeling too much like watching an actual home shopping network for two straight hours.

#44 - Chappie: In which Neill Blomkamp continues to prove his status as a one-trick pony with an obnoxious excuse for a film that has all the depth and weight of an exceedingly generic family film but also has an R rating, killer robots, and annoying rappers.

#45 - Lava*: Sure, it's just a Pixar short and thus doesn't really earn any severe criticism but it's mawkishly saccharine to a fault and the song that soundtracks proceedings is not the best song to get stuck in your head.

#46 - Taken 3*: Even by the already dire standards set by the other two Taken films, the third and hopefully final film about Liam Neeson's vengeful mercenary is painful to watch thanks to its badly-crafted action sequences, remarkably uninspired plotting, and all-encompassing lack of any entertainment value whatsoever.

#47 - Fantastic Four: 2015 has yielded its fair share of empty blockbusters and it doesn't get much emptier than the cinematic equivalent of a legal loophole. Needlessly expensive, poorly-constructed, and completely lacking in any sign of filmmaking passion.

#48 - Aloha: An aggressively uninteresting excuse for a romantic dramedy that is not only extremely short on laughs but fails to develop much of an interesting plot and can't help but feel patronising in its treatment of Hawaii even though it's trying not to be.

#49 - Entourage: The original series' love of cheap laughs and empty conflicts was pretty difficult to like for the most part, and the film is no different as it provides more of the same in order to provide a big-screen send-off for the characters that calls to mind the immortal words of Unforgiven's William Munny: "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."



Fifty Shades of what now?



Three films worse than Taken 3? Wow. I need to never watch those films and that's coming from someone who has no desire to watch Taken, let alone Taken 3.

I just watched Amy and I liked it. I've never been a fan either, but I remember her back in the early/mid noughties and I thought she was just a nice, sweet girl who, sometimes, sang songs I liked.

As you might've noticed, I've still got a few reviews to catch up on, but I'll get there. Congratulations on finishing this challenge. For the most part, I've enjoyed reading them.
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5-time MoFo Award winner.



#55 - Ghostbusters
Ivan Reitman, 1984





I'll always love this movie but I do see your points. I thought Bill Murray's best work was Groundhog Day. But come on, even Richard Peck didn't make you crack a smile? Even that name "RICHARD PECK" Dick=Richard. Peck=Penis. "DICK PENIS."?!



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It really is the funniest moment in the film.