April’s Failures

I guess I could begin this months’ failures with the same film as last time: The Batman. It was still in cinemas for most of the month, but I still didn’t work out my schedule to see it. It’s now on “home premiere”, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay £16 to watch it once when I’ve already preordered the 4K Blu-ray for £30-odd. So, that’s one that’ll be getting watched in June, then.

As for new releases at the cinema, there have been plenty worth a mention, but none that have actually dragged me out. Well, the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and The Bad Guys were never going to tempt me to spend cinema-level time and money, but I’m sure they’ll go on my watchlist once they hit a streamer I already pay for. Similar story with what looks like it’ll be the last of the Fantastic Beasts films (due to low box office), The Secrets of Dumbledore, although I’ll likely buy that one on disc to complete my collection. The nearest I’ve come to actually venturing out is Robert Eggers’ new one, The Northman, but obviously that didn’t happen either. There have also been strong notices for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which I was surprised to see screening at my local Odeon (I assumed it was an indie release that’d never make it near me). Other major releases that will go on the ‘some day’ watchlist included The Lost City (looks fun), Operation Mincemeat (should I watch The Man Who Never Was first?), and Downton Abbey: A New Era, I guess (I did watch the first movie, but haven’t seen the vast majority of the TV series, so how much do I care?)

Original movies premiering on Netflix included Judd Apatow’s COVID/making of Jurassic World 3 spoof The Bubble, which looked fun but didn’t review well so I’d forgotten about until now, and Richard Linklater’s autobiographical animation Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood. But it’s Amazon who have the one that’s most likely to actually find its way to the top of my viewing pile: All the Old Knives, a weirdly meaningless title that hides a grownup spy thriller starring Thandiwe Newton and Chris Pine, amongst others. On Disney+, kid-friendly musical Better Nate Than Ever caught my eye with some solid reviews, but the trailer looks like, well, a live-action Disney movie for kids. I think it might be a Bit Much for my taste.

MUBI again have the most noteworthy post-cinema streaming premiere, with Japanese Oscar winner Drive My Car. They had quite a bit to add to my watchlist this month, in fact, including The Souvenir: Part II (I’ve not seen Part I, but it’s coming back to MUBI tomorrow), Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, The Second Mother (a film that, frankly, I know nothing about, but is a staple of the middle of Letterboxd’s Top 250), The Turin Horse, and Showgirls. Yes, that Showgirls; though, based on its listed running time, I have concerns it might be cut. They’ve also got the documentary that delves into the film’s critical rehabilitation, You Don’t Nomi.

Comfortably in second for such things was Sky Cinema, whose headliners included Dune (which I’ve seen, of course, but still not reviewed) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (which I already own on disc). More pertinently for me, then, was Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark. I’ve not seen all of The Sopranos — not even close — so do I leave the movie until the theoretical future date when I’ve finally watched the TV series, or, as it’s a prequel, do I just go ahead and watch it anyway? (I don’t have an answer. Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to either, dear reader.) Also, The Boss Baby 2. I enjoyed the first more than I expected, so maybe I’ll watch the second.

I don’t think there was anything so new on iPlayer or All 4— I guess they’re hampered in such things by still essentially being TV catchup services — but that does make them more reliable for older stuff worth watching, some of which I’ve never otherwise heard of, like When Eight Bells Toll, a 1970s spy-fi action-thriller with Anthony Hopkins, which obviously sounds up my street. Also the documentary The Truffle Hunters, although reportedly the BBC version is cut for time. Shame.

I don’t think Netflix or Amazon had any catalogue titles in the same league as any of those. I noted down a bunch of stuff for each, but it’s mostly watchlist filler I won’t get round to, or stuff I already own on disc and really should’ve watched. The one exception is Snake Eyes — not the Brian De Palma / Nic Cage thriller, but the G.I. Joe prequel starring possible-next-Bond Henry Golding. It’s the kind of weightless action movie I’ll bung on of a lazy evening someday. Speaking of which, Amazon also (re)added White House Down, which I’d like to rewatch sometime purely because it was quite fun. Whenever I see it pop up on streaming, I add it to my list for a rewatch; yet I’ve never felt any compulsion whatsoever to buy it on disc, despite my huge disc collection being full of total blind buys. Weird.

And talking of blind buys, that’s what makes up the majority of my disc acquisitions this month. Well, I think it always does. Just one thing I bought this month is something I’ve watched before: the BFI’s 4K edition of The Proposition, a film I haven’t seen since the cinema but liked very much back then. That said, I did pick up Network’s bundle marking 50 years of The Persuaders, which included all eight of the films in HD — except the films were edited together from TV episodes, all of which I’ve seen, so… Also in the TV/film grey area (in that it was definitely a TV programme, but it was a one-off feature-length production, so do we count it as a TV movie nowadays or something?) is the BBC’s 1950s production of Nineteen Eighty-Four, which finally made it to disc from the BFI, years after they first tried to release it (I can’t remember when that was, but it was only scheduled for DVD back then).

In the realm of things that are 100% definitely movies, the new Scream (that’d be the fifth Scream movie, sadly missing the opportunity to be called 5cream) is the only brand-new film entering my collection this month. Other new releases were catalogue titles, like Kino’s 4K release of In the Heat of the Night, which comes bundled with its two sequels on regular Blu-ray (did you know it had two sequels? I didn’t); or classic martial arts action from Eureka in the form of Yuen Woo-ping’s Dreadnaught and Sammo Hung’s Knockabout; or the grab-bag release Three Monster Tales of Sci-Fi Terror, featuring a trio of lesser-known entries from Universal’s cycle of horror movies in the ’40s and ’50s. And speaking of horror, that may be what Arrow is best known for releasing, but the only titles I bought from them this month were Rogue Cops and Racketeers, a small box set featuring a duo of poliziotteschi (crime/action films made in Italy in the ’70s), and 1990 neo-noir crime thriller King of New York, on sale in 4K.

Finally for this month, Indicator had one of their rare sales, which I used to pick up a mixed bag of titles that were on offer and also recent releases I hadn’t yet bought. In the latter camp were early Mexican horror The Phantom of the Monastery and P.D. James adaptation An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, while the former included The Gorgon (originally from the first volume of their Hammer box set series), neo-noir erotic thriller Jagged Edge, and their lavish edition of a Peter Cushing flick I’d never heard of, Corruption. Based on the fact the limited edition hasn’t sold out, even after being subjected to massive price cuts (I paid just £10.99), I guess a lot of other people hadn’t heard of it either. What inspired Indicator to give it the box set treatment, I don’t know.

March’s Failures

A quieter month in theory means more failures… but, who am I kidding, there are always tonnes of these. I’d probably have to watch ten times as many films to leave this column blank.

The most noteworthy oversight this month is undoubtedly The Batman. I’m a fan of the character anyway, and now they’ve made a version that sounds even more up my street — it’s regularly been compared to films like Se7en, my favourite movie ever. But life has conspired against me, and so I’ve not yet found a time to see it on the big screen. I still might, though I’ve already got the 4K Blu-ray on preorder anyway. That wasn’t the only new film at the cinema this month, although the likes of The Nan Movie and Morbius haven’t received the strongest notices. The new Michael Bay effort, Ambulance, sounds somewhat promising, though definitely something I’ll leave ’til streaming.

Even before that, the list of movies I’ve left to streaming that have now turned up on streaming is beginning to grow. It was a relatively strong month for Sky Cinema (which has ailed a bit over the last couple of years, between a dearth of new theatrical releases and distributors wanting to snaffle exclusivity for their own streamers), adding the likes of Fast & Furious 9, Reminiscence, Malignant, and Don’t Breathe 2; plus M. Night Shyamalan’s latest, Old, although I already own that on an (unwatched, natch) 4K disc. Sky are also the UK-exclusive home for Liam Neeson’s latest action trash, Blacklight, upending my previously-expressed notion that he had some kind of Amazon Prime exclusivity deal going on.

Talking of streaming premieres and Amazon Prime, the best they could offer this month was Deep Water, the Ben Affleck / Ana de Armas erotic thriller that’s had some kind of behind-the-scenes woes I haven’t bothered to follow. On the other hand, they’re also the streaming home for acclaimed Princess Diana biopic Spencer. You win some, you lose some. Netflix’s brand-new offerings were somewhat short on widely-discussed titles (no Oscar noms or headline-grabbing production issues here), but looked like a stronger slate overall. I’ve heard good things about Ryan Reynolds-starring sci-fi The Adam Project; post-apocalyptic Swedish thriller Black Crab seemed to shoot up their viewing chart; Nightride is billed as a “real-time crime thriller”, which sounds up my street; and I also spotted The Pirates: The Last Royal Treasure, which looks like a Korean Pirates of the Caribbean. If it lives up to that vibe, which I got from its trailer, then it could be fun. Also not to be overlooked is Boiling Point, another real-time thriller — set in, er, a restaurant kitchen at Christmas — that I’ve heard is very good.

But for all that, the biggest streaming premiere of the month was surely the new Pixar on Disney+, Turning Red. If we ignore the empty-headed ‘controversy’ it generated (essentially, some middle-aged white men struggling with a story that wasn’t about a middle-aged white man), it’s meant to be very good — but I’m way behind on my Disney / Pixar viewing, so it just has to go on the list with Luca, Raya, Encanto, and probably a few others. In a very different mode, they were also the UK home for Fresh, a film which everyone has been talking about while trying to avoid the ‘surprise reveal’. If it’s not about cannibalism, the marketing has done a good job misdirecting my expectations. If it is about cannibalism, I’m not sure why everyone’s pretending it’s such a big secret. Maybe they’re just overly optimistic about what can be kept a surprise these days (the poster’s a dismembered hand packaged like a supermarket steak, c’mon!) Sticking with the big D, they also belatedly (it came out in the US back in January) debuted a belated (the last one was six years ago) continuation for the Ice Age franchise with The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild; plus, streaming debuts for Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley; Jessica Chastain’s Oscar winner, The Eyes of Tammy Faye; and the second pandemic-delayed Kenneth Branagh Poirot mystery, Death on the Nile — it slipped in there on the 30th, just in time to make this the second month in a row I’ve mentioned it (after its theatrical debut just last month). I’m inclined to jump straight to buying it on disc, to go with its predecessor (which I enjoyed), and that’s out in April — so it may end up mentioned in my failures three months on the trot. Or maybe I’ll actually watch it — stranger things have happened.

Once the home to deep cuts from the arthouse archive, MUBI increasingly have dibs on new arthouse (read: foreign) hits, at least in the UK. This month that boiled down to the streaming premiere of Cannes winner Titane, but they’ve got a big couple of months ahead, with Oscar nominees Drive My Car and The Worst Person in the World likely to feature in future editions of this column. All 4 do the same kind of thing later and freer, albeit with ads, recently including Bacurau, Rita, Sue and Bob Too (both their viewing windows now expired, unfortunately), Her Smell, and Ninjababy. There wasn’t so much noteworthy on the BBC iPlayer this month, although they’ve got back a couple of films I’ve been meaning to get round to for years, like If Beale Street Could Talk and Molly’s Game. I’m also going to mention La Belle Époque, which appeared on there just days after I posted my 5-star review, and is still available.

As always, we end with the place my disposable income goes to die: Blu-ray purchases… although the list doesn’t look so long this month. Indeed, day-one purchases were relatively thin on the ground: I picked up The Matrix Resurrections, because I loved it (and, er, didn’t pay for it first time round…), plus I imported Nightmare Alley on 4K (no UK release seems forthcoming, not even a retailer-exclusive Steelbook), and at the same time nabbed the new 4K release of The Sword and the Sorcerer — never seen it, no idea if I’ll like it, but I do sometimes enjoy a bit of ’80s-style Fantasy, so it’s the kind of thing that’s worth a punt to me. Rounding out my US order was a film I didn’t even know existed until Warner Archive put it out recently, the 1948 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, with a starry cast that includes Gene Kelly, Lana Turner, Angela Lansbury, and Vincent Price. Other new releases of older titles that I’ve never included Hong Kong take on Nikita, Black Cat, and Eureka’s latest classic martial arts title, Odd Couple. And then, of course, there were sales and offers: my 4K collection continues to bulge out with Halloween Kills and Venom: Let There Be Carnage from a chart 2-for-whatever; and a bunny-themed double (sort of) in a Disney 2-for-whatever, with Jojo Rabbit and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. A UK Criterion 2-for-whatever brought me Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and Topsy-Turvy (I used to love Gilbert and Sullivan’s work as a kid, but I haven’t listened to or seen any of it for ages). Finally-finally, a couple of limited editions I bought belatedly at near-as-damn-it full price before they disappeared forever: the HMV-exclusive edition of Almost Famous (it has both cuts in 4K, which the cheaper regular UK release does not) and Arrow’s Yokai Monsters set — the standard edition of which is already out, at a higher price point than the limited edition. What is the world coming to…

February’s Failures

Once upon a time, I never thought I’d be mentioning a Jackass film on this blog, but the release of revival movie Jackass Forever caused me to seek out the first two in the series, and I do intend to watch the rest eventually. Not going to the cinema for it, though. Or, indeed, anything else this month. Fare like Moonfall and Uncharted is very much in the “wait for streaming” camp for me — I’ll surely watch them both eventually, and it may even turn out I enjoy them, but they’ll wait. I did enjoy Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, so I was tempted by Death on the Nile, but, honestly, I’m still not sold on the whole “living with Covid” thing, so it’s going to take more than that to persuade me out to the cinema. Other things — like animations Belle and Flee — had more limited releases and I don’t even know if they came near me.

The return of the big screen doesn’t mean the streamers have let up on originals, although their quality continues to be variable. I’ve heard good things about Steven Soderbergh’s latest, Kimi, which went straight to Sky Cinema here in the UK, emulating it’s “direct to HBO Max” release Stateside. But their other originals — school shooting thriller The Desperate Hours and language-barrier romcom Book of Love — have received lesser notices. Netflix, on the other hand, could boast Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s first film in almost a decade, Bigbug, and yet I’ve seen precisely one tweet mentioning it. Their latest reincarnation of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, on the other hand, did seem to generate chatter, but little of it positive. And the less said about Madea and Mrs Brown teaming up for A Madea Homecoming, the better.

In that middle ground of “cinema releases coming quickly to streaming”, MUBI continue to rule with the likes of Céline Sciamma’s Petite Maman and Icelandic folk horror Lamb, although Disney+ come close with Kingsman prequel The King’s Man and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch. On a slightly slower track, Sky Cinema also had a pretty strong showing of stuff this month, mainly in the horror realm. We’re talking Freaky, The Forever Purge (I’ve got a couple of others left before I get to that, personally), Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth, and Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (I quite enjoyed the first, so I’ll give it a chance). Also, not a horror but it looks horrific: Space Jam: A New Legacy. And quirky British true story comedy Dream Horse, which looks worth it just for the international cast’s attempts at the Welsh accent.

As usual, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and All 4 produced plenty of stuff from deeper in the archive that I’m happy to fill out my watchlist with while clearly being in no rush to get round to. Normally I’d include Netflix in that list, but I’ve not jotted down much on my shortlist this month; though MUBI had an uncommonly good showing, the standout being Jiro Dreams of Sushi right at the end of the month. Others of particular interest included The Passion of the Christ (I feel I really should’ve seen that by now), the 1950s version of Around the World in 80 Days, Ripley adaptation The American Friend, and Memento, which I haven’t revisited in many a year. I own it on DVD, but, naturally, it’s in HD on iPlayer.

Finally, the inexorable growth of my Blu-ray collection continued unabated, with a mix of new releases and sale pickups. Although I watched Ghostbusters: Afterlife in February, I picked it up in the series’ Ultimate Collection box set, meaning I now have 4K copies of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II on my watchlist. And that’s not all from the rewatch back catalogue, because HMV’s rolling offer of half-price UHD discs also allowed me to nab La La Land, Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, the original Scream, and The Shawshank Redemption — a rare film that I love (or like a lot, at least) but never upgraded to Blu-ray, so jumping from DVD straight to 4K feels like some kind of victory.

There were new releases in 4K too, of course, most prominently Dune: Part One (how I wish it said that on the spine — it inevitably won’t match the sequel), which I imported from France so I also have it in 3D, and The King’s Man. Could’ve just watched that on Disney+, or at least given it a go there first, but as I own the first two it was inevitable I’d buy it, so I just got on with it. And, as we all know, discs are better than streaming anyway. I also took a punt on adult fantasy animation The Spine of Night in 4K, imported from the US alongside a new edition of Candyman III: Day of the Dead — it’s meant to be a rubbish film, but it completes my Candyman collection. Unfortunately, it’s also a somewhat rubbish disc, with noticeably weaker picture quality compared to a German release from a while back. Still, lots of special features. If I actually like it when I watch it, maybe I’ll treat myself to the German disc too. Based on everyone else’s opinion, that seems unlikely.

UK labels continue to rollout martial arts classics — I feel like something must have changed in the licensing of these, because we got hardly any a few years ago, while now there’s at least a couple every month from 8 Films or Eureka, and now Arrow getting in on the game too. Anyway, this month’s releases included The Flag of Iron and Legendary Weapons of China from 88 Films, and Skinny Tiger and Fatty Dragon from Eureka, who also released silent epic The Indian Tomb on their Masters of Cinema line. They’d previously released Fritz Lang’s 1950s remake on DVD, which went OOP just before their release of the silent one came out. I presume that’s just a funny coincidence. And last but very much not least on the new release pile, Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: A New Generation. Long-time readers will surely remember how much I loved his series The Story of Film: An Odyssey, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting this sequel. Now I’ve just got to make room for its near-three-hour running time.

I’ve ummed and ahhed for years about upgrading my Charlie Chaplin box set to the Blu-ray version, especially as there have been a couple now, and the extra features vary, and the picture quality isn’t always the best. But Amazon cut it to such a low price this month, I decided just to give in — so that’s 11 features, a mix of ones I’ve seen and ones I haven’t. They may not be the very best available, but they’re a lot better than my DVD copies (which I can hang onto for the missing extras, because I’ll never make much reselling them anyway), and a lot cheaper than buying the films individually — which I can always do if I particularly love any of them. Criterion have put most of them out in the US, and are about to start bringing them to the UK, so we’ll see as they go along. Talking of box sets I’d overlooked but was tempted into by sales (it might not sound like a common problem, but it is for me), Indicator tempted me to grab their four-film John Ford at Columbia set this month; and because that wasn’t expensive enough to qualify for free postage, I also delved into their 5-for-whatever offer, picking up Eyes of Laura Mars, Modern Romance, Night Tide, See No Evil, and Time Without Pity. Their releases are so well-done, and their picks often so obscure but intriguing, that it’s easy to just keep buying them. Now, I just need to make the effort to actually watch more of them, too.

Looking at that (not-so-)little lot, it’s easy to see why my bank account felt severely depleted by the end of the month. Maybe in March I’ll finally resist the lure of sales… but there’s always all those exciting new releases… Oh, I’m damned.

The All-New Monthly Review of January 2022

I’ve already lied to you, dear reader. I say that because much of this monthly review is going to seem familiar — “All-New” it is not. “Partially new”, that would be the truth: there are new graphics, and a revised focus in some sections, both to fit in with the blog’s new identity.

Despite that, I’ve stuck with the “all-new” moniker to reflect The All-New 100 Films in a Year Challenge, my progress with which is now the primary focus of these monthly updates… although you can still find links to all my reviews; and the Arbies survive, now in their 80th month, still drawing from everything I watched.

Well, we’ll see how it goes. On which note, on it goes…



This month’s viewing towards my yearly challenge

#1 Carry On Spying (1964) — Decades #1
#2 Gosford Park (2001) — Rewatches #1
#3 Penny Serenade (1941) — Decades #2
#4 The Navigator (1924) — Decades #3
#5 Flight of the Navigator (1986) — WDYMYHS #1
#6 In the Line of Fire (1993) — Decades #4
#7 Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper (2004) — Decades #5
#8 Free Guy (2021) — Decades #6
#9 Mass (2021) — New Films #1
#10 Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise (2007) — DVDs #1
#11 Voyage of Time: An IMAX Documentary (2016) — Decades #7
#12 L’avventura (1960) — Blindspot #1


  • I watched 11 feature films I’d never seen before in January.
  • All of them counted towards my 100 Films in a Year Challenge, along with one rewatch.
  • As you may or may have inferred from that, this means I effectively have two counts running now: my 100 Films Challenge, and how many new films I’ve seen. The former may be the official thing going on nowadays, but a decade-and-a-half habit is hard to break, so on my ‘new film’ count goes. As I said up top, it’s the Challenge that’s the focus of these posts now, but I’ll still be including titbits about my overall new film viewing. And come the end of the year, it’s the overall new viewing that will continue to fuel things like my Top 10 and the statistics post.
  • So, to the Challenge. As the year gets underway, most — in fact, everything — I watch counts. I don’t expect that to be the case as we go forward.
  • For example: I’m not surprised to see the Decades category filling up fastest, because it’s so easy to complete. Slots are filled by any film that (a) isn’t better off counted towards another category, and (b) isn’t from a decade already ticked off — and, as the year begins, none are ticked off (obv). With 7 out of 12, Decades is already 58% complete. As for the remainder, the 1910s might require a special effort (I don’t watch many films that old without explicitly setting out to), but I imagine the others will take care of themselves in short order.
  • Just in case it needs stating for anyone: yes, Mass is “a 2021 movie” thanks to its festival screenings (the US and Canadian releases were also last year), but it didn’t come out in the UK until 20th January, which makes it a 2022 (i.e. new) movie for me.
  • This month’s Blindspot film was L’avventura, which I’ve been putting off including on the list (or watching in any other way) for years. I haven’t particularly enjoyed other classics of mid-20th-century Italian cinema, like Bicycle Thieves or , so I feared this would be the same. And that’s part of the motivation for watching it first: ripping off the plaster. Well, it was a somewhat pleasant surprise. More when I review it soon.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film was Flight of the Navigator, which I watched on Prime Video. The danger of putting titles from streamers on a “movies I must watch this year” list is that at some point, possibly without warning, they could disappear from that streamer. But that also makes them an easy choice for where to start. This year there are only two across all 24 films from Blindspot and WDYMYHS, and they’re both on the latter list — I imagine the other will be next month’s pick.
  • I didn’t watch anything from last month’s “failures”. And as for this month’s failures: I’ve finally decided to spin the feature off into its own post. Look for that in the next day or two.



The 80th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Although my viewing numbers this month were more than solid (getting to 100 films in a year at a steady pace — something the new challenge is partially intended to enforce — requires an average of 8.3 films a month), the level of quality was more middling. One film did stand out, though: Mass, a chamber piece that puts you through the emotional wringer, powered by a quartet of awards-worthy performances.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Conversely, the month’s middling quality means it’s also hard to pick a worst film. By a nose, I’m going to say Voyage of Time, because I didn’t get as much out of it as I might’ve hoped. Plus, MUBI’s pathetic attempt at streaming in 4K (a feature they’d specifically pushed in the film’s advertising) got on my wick.

Best Navigator of the Month
The navigator in The Navigator is actually the name of the boat; and even if it weren’t, Buster Keaton is pretty poor at navigating it. The navigator in Flight of the Navigator is the kid who bonds with the spaceship, and while he’s ostensibly in charge, I think the spacecraft actually does most of the work. But in Barbie as The Princess and the Pauper, Barbie manages to ride into the forest and go straight to the exact hidden cabin where her doppelgänger is being held captive. Impressive navigation, Barbie.

Biggest Mystery of the Month
Whodunnit in Gosford Park? What happened to Anna in L’avventura? How did David lose eight years in Flight of the Navigator? Can they catch the assassin in In the Line of Fire? What are the villains up to in Carry On Spying? Can Meat Loaf put on a gig that makes him happy in In Search of Paradise? No, the biggest mystery of the month is: what the feck is Brad Pitt on about in the Voyage of Time narration?!

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
No break-out successes this month — the victor is down in 30th place overall, behind a slew of archive TV columns — but it was a close-run thing nonetheless, with two posts tied for second place, just two hits behind the winner. Said winner was, somewhat appropriately, The Best of 2021. And now it’s the best of (January) 2022, too. Hurrah.



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


It’s 100 Films’ 15th birthday (just two months after launching! Is this what being a time traveller feels like?)

I had been thinking I’d mark the occasion with a revised version of 100 Favourites, as that’s five years old, but those things take literally years to put together (well, the first one did), and while I had been considering it for years, it’s been overtaken by the relaunch. Maybe in 2023.

Other than that, erm, things continue much the same…

Parabellum (2015)

2015 #150
Lukas Valenta Rinner | 75 mins | streaming | 2.35:1 | Argentina, Austria & Uruguay / Spanish

Screened at the London Film Festival earlier this month, then made available on MUBI in the UK (where you can, if you want, watch it until midnight on 11th November), the latter lured me in by describing it as “a meticulous and immersive portrait of the end of the world, where the apocalypse is out of frame. Who said sci-fi required big budgets? Clever, and chilling.” Intrigued? Don’t be.

Parabellum (which apparently translates as “Congratulation”, though that doesn’t seem to mean anything here) is the kind of movie where nothing much happens. Well, things do happen, but co-writer/director Lukas Valenta Rinner has chosen to tell the story in such a way that it feels like nothing happens. A bunch of people gather at a remote survivalist training camp in Argentina, where they’re taught things like camouflage, hand-to-hand combat, and shooting. We don’t see them talk to each other; we only see snippets of their lessons; no one explains why they’re there, what’s going on in the wider world to have inspired them to come, or anything else.

After over half an hour of this, we see what appears to be a comet, but may be a missile or something, fall in the background of a shot. Is this the end of the world, then? Suddenly, the instructors don’t seem to be around anymore, and half-a-dozen of the trainees set off by boat to… well, I’m not sure what their goal is, but they break into someone’s house and kill him, and later they migrate to a bigger boat and continue travelling; and then one of them commits suicide, and eventually the guy we’ve ‘followed’ from the start sets off in a small boat towards a distant city, where numerous comet-missiles are raining down non-stop.

That’s the whole movie, more or less. I haven’t spoiled it for you because you’re not going to watch it because why would you? There is no discernible story or meaning; there is no characterisation; there is nothing but imagery and snippets of moments that signify nothing. It is a movie that has deliberately left out any explanations. Apparently the director has said it’s all a criticism of global capitalism, or something. Even with that extra-filmic information, it’s still difficult to ascertain much meaning. This isn’t realism — this isn’t avoiding “hello, person who is my brother” dialogue — this is obtuseness for obtuseness’ sake.

Alfred Hitchcock once said that “movies are real life with the boring parts cut out.” Valenta Rinner’s movie is the opposite of this in every respect: it isn’t real life, which is fine, but he only left the boring parts in, which isn’t.

1 out of 5

Parabellum is, as noted, part of MUBI’s UK selection until midnight on 11th November.

It featured on my list of The Five Worst Films I Saw in 2015, which can be read in full here.