10 Movies in a Month

by Drew Smith/Staff Writer

  1. Citizen Kane (1941) – The notorious feature directed by and starring Orson Welles continues to be one of the most well-made films of all time, with its immensely striking cinematography, its larger than life set design that encapsulates the colossal scale of the story, its incredibly dense performances from all the primary actors as well as the side characters, as well as its masterfully done writing and directing that help paint the tale of a lonely man desperate for love from the people. This film floored me in how grand and magnificent it was and to this day still stands to be. It really is one of the best films ever produced and its impact on the industry is incalculable. Not to mention the editing, which pieces together these larger-than-life tales and running plotlines and is able to conjure together a very quickly paced and cohesive narrative. Believe the hype built-up around this film, because in my opinion, it still stands as the giant in film that it’s been said to be. Certainly a 5/5.
  2. The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021) – A recent film produced by Sony Animation (the same production company behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse) and directed by Michael Rianda is a wonderfully animated and edited picture that falls flat on its face with obnoxious and predictable writing as well as lackluster comedic bits that only serve to halt the already begrudgingly uninteresting plot. The film has plenty of positives; it features a excellently organized cast who all give engaging performances, as well as its underlying narrative about growing up and how to manage a ever-faltering relationship between a parent and their child, but I feel the film suffocates from an annoying and grating need to intermingle outdated internet comedy ironically into a story about being out of touch with your kid. The film also uses the quite often recycled jokes about how “older people don’t know how to use technology” in an uninteresting and an uncreative way that just comes off as lazy and slogs down the film. Overall, a very disappointing feature with immaculate animation and a solid cast that could have easily been elevated with better writing and directing. 3/5.
  3. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) – The Madagascar Trilogy is quite bizarre and it often feels like a series of films made for nobody and made by people who don’t know why they’re making it. I suppose the trilogy was made in an attempt to ride the coattails of Pixar’s successes but slowly turned into a Frankenstein’s monster of a film series. A lot of the enjoyment I derived from this film was a mix of unintentionally and intentionally hilarious bits that I couldn’t accurately decipher which was which. To accurately showcase the absurdity of this film would require me to break down one of the many mind-boggling scenes in this film, so that is what I will do. In one of the scenes at the latter half of the film, the primary characters go to save the main character Alex the Lion, (who is outside of the reserve they’re staying at) and they attempt to go rescue him via a makeshift plane that the notorious spy-like penguins built with the assistance of a bunch of chimps, but before they can leave using the plane, the penguins are held up by the chimps in a union meeting (as the chimps have organized into a union) and the chimps argue for maternity leave. I’m not sure how this bit got into a film made for children, but nevertheless, I am certainly happy it’s here. This film is very difficult to break down or even be treated as a film, but I can tell you I equally think of this as one of the worst animated films of all time and I love it dearly. 3/5. 
  4. THX 1138 (1971) – The final film made by George Lucas before his now massively successful series of films known as Star Wars, this feature is quite a unique viewing experience and is neat to reflect on knowing where Lucas’ career went following this. The film focuses on a dystopian future in which the idea of gender and identity is stripped down and most people are known by their prefix of three letters and then a series of four numbers, the main character’s being THX 1138. The feature explores these overarching ideas of consumerism and unleashed capitalism in full force and this idea of mass sedation via pills and drugs to essentially morph people into these workforce bots. The cinematography and editing are extremely striking and help formulate this stream of consciousness that paints the image of this soul-sucking and dystopian world. The sets are daringly large and complex, with these streams of extras all in costume, and maintain the world beautifully. The film is only held back by its at times lackluster script and also by the several retrospective changes made by George Lucas and his insistence in editing and tweaking his old films which he should really just leave alone. For example, the opening credits in the film in the original theatrical cut were white, but for some odd reason George Lucas in his new director’s cut of the feature made them green. He also sprinkled in odd cases of CGI. These changes do not enhance the film; they just alter it slightly and at times worsen it. A solid 4/5.
  5. Dancer in the Dark (2000) – Dancer in the Dark is a quite bizarre venture into musicals by the ever-dark and edgy Lars von Trier, starring Björk as a Czechslovakian woman who is slowly turning blind and who is in love with musicals. The film is in some ways an anti-musical, with its extremely dark narrative (which I won’t go into for the sake of spoilers) as well as its quite unique soundscape it explores for the musical numbers. It has this brilliantly grimey and natural cinematography with it all being filmed handheld, except for the musical numbers, and uses this different aesthetic to enhance the depressing nature of the film. It also features very jumpy and jungled editing, often cutting off dialogue and cutting between pieces of conversations that I think geniusly gives an anxiety to the movie. The performances and musical numbers are genuinely flawless and are just incredibly directed. The film is quite the depressing and equally wondrous adventure. 4.5/5.
  6. F for Fake (1973) – F for Fake is a documentary directed and starring the aforementioned Orson Welles in one of his final projects before he passed. It is quite the journey exploring the story of a notorious art forger Elmyr who lives in Ibiza, Spain, and also the coincidentally present Clifford Irving who faked a story about the once giant actor Howard Hughes, who also coincidentally Welles almost made the main character of Citizen Kane. The film messily explores the art of forgery and lies with this vigorous editing style, at times tripping itself with how complex it makes the story, but also features such a magnificent performance from Welles as the narrator, it’s hard to not watch while at the same time hard to watch. To watch this, one must keep their eyes peeled and their ears open to catch everything because the film will not wait for you to figure everything out. It has really neat cinematography with these very intimate interviews of Elmyr and Irving. It’s a fascinating study of the art market and challenging the supposed “experts” of the art world, but could really be helped by a more streamlined and easier to understand narrative throughline. 4/5.
  7. The Woman in the Window (2021) – The Woman in the Window, formerly a short film, is an absolutely obvious disaster of a film in its ridiculous and predictable script, the horrid performance from Amy Adams that drags the film down, the boring cinematography, etc etc. The film strangely seems to take some major inspiration from the 2020 Oscar-nominated short film The Neighbors’ Window. I could be looking too deeply into it but the two films seem to share some major similarities. Amy Adams’ performance in this is just so obnoxiously over-the-top. Even the way she laughs feels unnatural; nothing about her performance makes me believe in the character. Gary Oldman, who’s likely the best actor here, even shoes it in. This is of course could be the fault of the director, who I have no doubt did not help enhance these performances. The editing is also just ridiculous, so flashy and absurd, it just drags down the film. The main plotline is so messy and hard to follow as well as tries its hand at a Shyamalan-esque twist at every turn. This film just has such little about it that is worth watching other than an ironic enjoyment perhaps, but even there it’s such a boring mess that very little humor could be found in it. 1/5.
  8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) – The comedy feature parodying the ever-present musical biopic trend within the film industry is quite the spoof featuring an incredible performance from John C. Reilly as well as some quite clever writing, only being held down by some lackluster presentation and some unfunny bits. Not too much to say about this, it succeeds at what it’s attempting to do, even if that isn’t much. The cast is strong and well directed, the bits are mostly funny; at times it’s just overly obnoxious and boring. Its presentation is just so flat, falling into the common cinematography trope of comedies of a medium, reverse medium shot that is just so boring to look at. So much about it is just fine and fine only. A solid 3/5.
  9. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) – One of the most iconic comedy films of the late 90’s to early 2000’s, the Austin Powers series of films are certainly worth at least giving a watch. The film has so much personality and has a great humor about itself, but its writing is absolutely atrocious at times, especially the romance subplot present in this film. It’s also riddled with these strange transitions that kind of just interrupt the flow of the film. It seems as if it is just there as filler. The costume and set design is well done, Austin Powers’ outfits are so absurd and comical; those aspects are extremely well done. The comedy of the film is for the most part well done; some of it just has not aged well with time. Certainly worth a watch, but not too much there. 3/5.
  10. Bad Trip (2021) – Bad Trip is the filmmaking venture made by the notorious internet icon Eric Andre, known for his late-night talk show satire The Eric Andre Show. The film involves an intermingling of live pranks and narrative driven comedy scenes. It’s quite an interesting combination, often being mostly held back by its narrative scenes, the highlights always being the live pranks that Eric Andre is most well known for. The film is just genuinely bonkers and out there and does not hold itself back from just going absolutely absurd. The way the pranks are set-up and organized are so well done and creates these incredible scenarios ripe for comedy. The film’s only significant failure derives from the pranks involving the character played by Tiffany Haddish, which just take themselves a little too seriously and don’t have much humor to them other than the semi-interesting reactions from bystanders. Any time her character has a scene, the film comes to a halt and does not pick up again until her bit is over. A slightly disappointing comedy that could have been so much more with a more focused approach as well as certain aspects had been cut out and replaced with better bits. 3.5/5.