The Melting Monthly Review of July 2022

Hello, dear readers! No, this month’s heatwave didn’t melt me away to nothing (though it tried its damnedest), but this is a rare sighting of a post on this blog nowadays. I hadn’t intended to be so quiet this month (well, I never do), but, you know, life. Nothing serious, just a mixture of work and personal commitments.

It’s been the same story with my film viewing, which once again fell short of my ongoing aim of watching at least ten new films a month. And as for my 100 Films Challenge, well, that’s way behind where it should be. To reach #100 in December at a steady pace, I should be at #58 by the end of July. As you’ll soon see, I’m not even close.

What I did spend a fair amount of time on this month was catching up with TV — things like Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi, which I seemed to enjoy more than most, and Apple TV+ spy thriller Slow Horses, which is as good as the reviews say — so I intend to refocus on films in August. We’ll see how that pans out.

This month’s viewing towards my yearly challenge

#44 Ambulance (2022) — New Film #7
#45 Johnny Gunman (1957) — Genre #3
#46 A Better Tomorrow (1986) — WDYMYHS #6
#47 Mifune: The Last Samurai (2015) — DVD #4
#48 Calamity Jane (1953) — Rewatch #7

  • I watched eight feature films I’d never seen before in July.
  • Four of them counted towards my 100 Films in a Year Challenge, along with one rewatch.
  • Those are the kinds of numbers there’s not much to say about: they’re nothing special, but they’re not spectacularly bad, either.
  • That said, I’ve slipped further behind in my 100 Films Challenge — as I noted at the start, I should be at #58 by now. I now need to watch, on average, more than 10 qualifying films each month for the rest of the year to complete the challenge.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film was John Woo’s classic action-thriller that defined the ‘heroic bloodshed’ subgenre, A Better Tomorrow.
  • I remain a film behind in my WDYMYHS challenge, and now the same is true of Blindspot too, as I didn’t watch one of those this month. At least there’s still five months left for me to catch up.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Ambulance.

The 86th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
When Michael Bay is on form, there’s no action director quite like him — and, for my money, Ambulance is Michael Bay very much on form.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Nothing absolutely terrible this month, which leads me to name Johnny Gunman for this category. It suffers for being a low-budget independent film in an era when low-budget independent films weren’t really yet a thing — it’s solid enough for the forgiving viewer, but does suffer from some weak acting and novice-like filmmaking choices. I didn’t dislike it, but, in the context of the rest of this month’s viewing, it doesn’t quite measure up.

Bickering Old People of the Month
45 Years depicts a couple’s sudden relationship difficulties after four-and-a-half decades of marriage with such scathing realism that I have to give this to The Bucket List for being fun bickering. But I think we all know which is the better film, really. Only one of them is in the Criterion Collection, after all.

Best Weather of the Month
A scathingly realistic drama about a couple having sudden relationship difficulties after four-and-a-half decades of marriage, in part because their emotional communication is inadequate, set in grey, misty, wintry countryside? 45 Years is British through and through, not least that weather. Oh, it looked so beautiful, especially watching it on a hot summer day — personally, I long for our winter to come again.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
After a couple of months where this category has been dominated by my ‘failures’ posts, they dipped to second place in July. Instead, the victor was something of a surprise, but a pleasant one: my review of undeservedly forgotten 1930s melodrama Bank Holiday.

Every review posted this month, including new titles and the Archive 5

More films, hopefully.

June’s Failures

The ‘big news’ this month that’s relevant here is I’ve finally decided to cancel most of my streaming subscriptions — namely: Sky Cinema, MUBI, Apple TV+, and Disney+. Yes, it’s crazy but it’s true: I’ve had all of them on the go at once, along with Netflix (though I share someone else’s account, so at least that’s free to me) and Amazon Prime (which has its own extra benefits, of course). My existing payments don’t run out on most of them until various dates in July, so they’ll still be a part of failures both this month and next. And that’s part of why the streamlining was necessary: there’s stuff I want to watch on all of these services, but I’m not getting around to enough of it to justify the cost. I might start bringing them back in, one at a time; but when there’s all of Netflix, Amazon, and my ever-growing Blu-ray collection to choose from, I hardly need them. And, frankly, for some of those services, I’ve paid for month after month without watching anything at all. Morally, I feel I’ve more than earnt the right to acquire anything already on my watchlist from (*ahem*) somewhere else, if or when I really want to see it.

Anyway, on to actual titles. The big film at the cinema this month was… Top Gun: Maverick again, really, as its phenomenal popularity led it to become the first billion-dollar-grossing film released in 2022. When it comes to Cinema, Tom Cruise doesn’t mess around. Trying to face up to it, the likes of Jurassic World: Dominion and Lightyear seemed to find it something of a struggle, apparently hampered by poor reviews. Maybe critics do still matter after all. Also filling out the multiplexes have been Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic, horror The Black Phone, and whatever exactly Alex Garland’s Men is. Also worth a mention, I hear, is Good Luck to You, Leo Grande for a first-rate performance from Emma Thompson, which isn’t likely to get much awards season buzz because the film is going direct to streaming in the US, rendering it ineligible for the Oscars. That said, with BAFTA increasingly going its own way, she’ll still stand a reasonable (perhaps even higher, now it’ll be the only opportunity to reward here) chance this side of the pond.

Talking of Alex Garland, I heard someone describe Spiderhead (Netflix’s biggest original of the month) as “Ex Machina but you can go make tea and not miss anything”, which is amusing but also means it’s still on my watchlist (I would never go make tea during a film without pausing, personally, but nonetheless, I get the point that’s being made). They also had a new Adam Sandler thing, Hustle, which I shouldn’t really mention because it’s going nowhere near my watchlist. I think I heard some people say it’s not too bad, but I’m not a Sandler fan and the plot is something to do with one of those sports only America really plays seriously, which makes it triply uninteresting (because sport would make it doubly so, and American-only sport even more so again). Meanwhile, their surprise hit of the month was apparently Interceptor, an action thing which received poor notices (19% on Rotten Tomatoes) but nonetheless hit #1 in many territories, sparking sequel discussion. It’s on my watchlist, but it’s hardly a priority.

The other streamers’s offerings were even less impressive, believe it or not. I mean, Amazon’s main original offering this month seemed to be Force of Nature, a Mel Gibson-starring (already a bad sign) cop drama (hardly popular right now) that was released elsewhere back in 2020. Oh dear. It doesn’t look good. Alternatively, there’s time-travel rom-com Press Play, which mixes things up by making it the woman who’s time-travelling for a change. Innovative. Doesn’t mean it’s any good though, with 56% on Rotten Tomatoes and low viewer ratings on the likes of IMDb. As for Sky Cinema, they had Gerard Butler vehicle Last Seen Alive, which my boss — who’s the kind of guy who likes Gerard Butler films — watched and said was awful. (I should probably stop bothering to mention all these films I’m never intending to actually watch…) The only thing that looked halfway decent was also a ‘Sky Original’, Dual, which I gather is some sort of clone-on-clone action thing starring Karen Gillan… but my Sky Cinema subscription has already expired, so I won’t be watching that anytime soon.

Also new to Sky this month (and therefore not actually getting watched) were reboot Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, which I heard nothing good about, and Clifford the Big Red Dog, which I also heard nothing good about. Poor old Sky, they do seem to be struggling nowadays. Though they did have The Matrix Resurrections — which I’ve seen, and should have reviewed; and bought on disc, so should watch again — and Edgar Wright’s Last Night in Soho, which seemed to get divisive reviews, but is Edgar Wright, so I’ve blind bought it anyways. Noteworthy catalogue additions to the other streamers included, on Netflix, The Man with the Iron Fists 2 (I say “noteworthy” — I liked the first one enough that this sequel earns a spot on my watchlist, but it’s hardly a major title) and The Devil’s Men (a film made before the ’90s on Netflix? Why, wonders will never cease! Stops me forking out for the Indicator Blu-ray, too); and, on Amazon, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (a Best Picture nominee that I know isn’t meant to be very good, but, as well as being on my ‘to see’ list because of the Oscar nom, it was also on my 50 Unseen list for 2012, and I think this might be the first chance I’ve had to watch it for free in almost a decade).

And, if you’ve not seen Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, you can now stream it on Netflix… or Disney+… all All 4. For all the flack that film gets on Twitter, plus the facts that it’s been shown on TV and is currently on multiple services, I noticed that it had rocketed to #1 on Netflix the day after it was added. For all that certain cinephile hate it, I get the impression normies love it, or at least like it. So did I, so I ought to watch it again (I do own it on 4K disc, though).

Disney+’s biggest add this month was Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, racing there so quickly from the cinema that it’s gained a rare two-months-in-a-row mention in my failures. Technically there are several Marvel things I should watch before I get to it, but as I’ve already jumbled up my viewing order, I might skip to it sooner rather than later. I’d quite like to see it in 3D, but as Marvel’s home-3D releases only happen in Japan nowadays, I think that would mean waiting until something like September. Maybe I should just hang back — it’s not as if people are still quiet about spoilers from it.

As ever, all of the streamers added tonnes of other stuff that I’ve bulked out my watchlists with, but if I started listing it all we’d really be here forever. I haven’t even discussed anything from iPlayer, MUBI, or Apple TV+, but little of it seems worthy of mention. MUBI’s sole brand-new addition, straight from a limited theatrical release, was Pleasure, which has been discussed in some circles for its unflinchingly graphic portrayal of the porn industry. Frankly, I’m not sure I care. And Apple TV+ had a different kind of festival darling, Cha Cha Real Smooth. I have no idea what it’s even about. I saw people logging it on Letterboxd when it played festivals, but I’ve heard it’s one of those kinds of films that people who go to film festivals enjoy while they’re there, but doesn’t merit much consideration outside of that context. Hardly praise to rush it up my list, that.

Last — but most certainly not least — all the discs I’ve been spending too much of my money on in the last month. The headliner this month has to be The Batman, one of those films I would say I’m really keen to see but have consistently failed to watch both at the cinema and on disc since it arrived a few weeks ago. It comes with two problems: it’s three hours long, so I’ve got to find the time (at the moment, I seem to be able to just about squeeze in a 70-minute noir of an evening, if I make a concerted effort); and my anticipation for it is so high, I can’t simply bung it on and hope for the best — I’ve got to be Prepared. So, goodness knows when I’ll get to it, but it’s right at the top of my “soon” list.

The only other brand-spanking-new release I picked up this month was Michael Bay’s Ambulance, which I feel like I’m more likely to get round to because, well, it’s Michael Bay — no need to engage brain there, right? But I’ve heard it’s one of his best films, hence why I’ve blind bought it immediately. For all the criticism he’s received down the years, when he’s on his game, Bay is one of the best pure action directors ever.

So, everything else I bought was either a new release of a catalogue title, or a slightly older release on offer. To stick with 4K, in the “new release” camp were The Untouchables and Wild Things, both blind buys but films that seem possibly up my alley. More of a known quantity was Drive, in a very lavish edition from Second Sight. I’m looking forward to revisiting it, because I put too much pressure on it to be an instant favourite first time I saw it. I didn’t dislike it, but I’m hoping I’ll like it even more on a rewatch. And, thanks to box set sales, I finally got round to picking up both the first Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection (the one with The Birds, Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo, the latter being the one I most need to revisit) and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I shall refrain from ranting about the shitshow Warner Bros made of that release. Suffice to say, I’m not actually happy to have ‘had’ to buy the barebones films-only edition, but here we are.

Everything else cuts even deeper into moviedom’s back catalogue. Indeed, it’s mostly films I’ve never even heard of, frankly, but which are part of series or from labels that I trust. We’re talking stuff like Columbia Noir #5 and The Pemini Organisation from Indicator; Execution in Autumn and Outside the Law from Masters of Cinema; ’70s martial arts titles like The Killer Meteors (starring Jackie Chan and Jimmy Wang Yu), Monkey Kung Fu, Shaolin Mantis, and The Shaolin Plot; and both volumes of the BFI’s British horror short film anthology, Short Sharp Shocks. Finally, from a new StudioCanal line of cult movies, two Italian films directed by Enzo G. Castellari: High Crime (the original title translates as The Police Prosecute, The Law Acquits, which, as long Italian genre titles go, is a bit nothingy) and Spaghetti Western Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a superb title).

I’ll tell you something: for all being a physical media addict costs my bank account, you certainly don’t stumble across any of this kind of stuff on the streamers.