October 2016 Recap

In terms of new releases seen at home or in the cinema, October was a pretty diverse month: a quick look back tells me I watched a superhero blockbuster, four wildly different documentaries, an Iranian horror film, a western, an American crime drama, a road movie and a Palme d’Or-winning slice of British social realism from Ken Loach.

The superhero blockbuster was Doctor Strange, which I quite enjoyed even though it doesn’t exactly re-invent the wheel (though I’ll freely admit it seems churlish now to expect any of the Marvel movies to offer something that’s truly unique and groundbreaking). The Iranian horror was Under The Shadow, an excellent, low-key, Tehran-set chiller that seems to have been largely ignored, sadly (at least in the UK; perhaps it will fare better internationally). The western was the remake of The Magnificent Seven, a kind of par-for-the-course effort that’s enjoyable enough but ultimately does very little to enhance the credibility of any of the main players involved. The crime drama was The Infiltrator, which again won’t really blow anyone away who is familiar with the genre, but it’s not a bad film, and it contains a pair of entertaining performances by Bryan Cranston and John Leguizamo. The road movie was Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, which I loved very much, and will almost certainly be high-up in my list of favourite films of 2016, though I do accept it’s a meandering piece and I’m not surprised that it has tested the patience of some vocal detractors. And the Ken Loach film was, of course, I, Daniel Blake, which I think has elements within the story that are questionable, at the very least, but given that my political opinions are largely in line with Loach’s I’m willing to look the other way and am happy to celebrate the film as a force for good.

It’s no surprise to me that Adam Curtis’s HyperNormalisation has been picked apart by some critics, but I think it is a fascinating work that packs an incredible amount of ideas and information into its near-three hour running time. Just as impressive is Zhao Liang’s Behemoth, a beautifully-shot study of the effects of heavy industry in China (I’ll have a review up for that one shortly), and I also enjoyed Werner Herzog’s latest film Lo And Behold: Reveries Of The Connected World (again, short review up in the next day or two). I was a little disappointed by Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next, though, but it’s certainly not a bad film by any means (another short review forthcoming).

I’ve also been catching up on a number of 2016 releases during the month, most of which you can read about in these two posts. I won’t go into any detail here but the ones I think are worth highlighting (and watching) are I Am Belfast, The End Of The Tour, When Marnie Was There and Queen Of Earth. My ‘blind spot’ for this month was City Lights, which was excellent, but I also sat down and watched the likes of Spellbound, Battleship Potemkin, Touch Of Evil, Mirror and We Need To Talk About Kevin for the first time, most of which you can read a paragraph or two about in the two posts linked to above. So that just leaves me with a film of the month to pick, and quite predictably given what I’ve said above it’s American Honey (though hey, I’d urge people to check out Behemoth, Under The Shadow and I, Daniel Blake, too).