Films and TV of the month: December


Happy New Year to those who read this blog! Christmas was hectic. Made a little easier with great food, light entertainment thanks to Peter Sellers, and a few presents. I was given new quilt covers, a movie quiz game, and the collected works by the celebrated Danish poet Michael Strunge (he’s not well known outside of Scandinavia)
I also received Five Go Gluten Free (from 2016) with text by Bruno Vincent. In the sleeve, says the book is ”Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups”. Other titles in the spoof series include Five on Brexit Island and Five Give Up the Booze. Blyton must be rolling in her grave! I presume has been endorsed by her estate.

I’m omitting a few new film releases in this post as those will feature in my upcoming top 10 films of 2018. To be published later this month. I’m waiting for The Favourite (2018) which is out January 24 in my country.



I Know Where I’m Going! (1945) (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger)
With the music score, Scottish dialect, and stormy weather, actually deciphering the dialogue is at times quite the challenge. See it with subtitles. The scenery is beautifully captured and you get to witness customs such as a highland song and dance party. There’s an affection for Scotland in how it’s depicted on screen though not shying away from the dangers of the violent sea (and there can be beauty in nature’s extremes). The journey to find your place feels timeless and a film that probably grows on you on repeat viewings.







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The Pink Panther (1963) (Blake Edwards)

Great music and the sequence when two men are hiding in the bedroom is a highlight. The animated intro and surprising ending are pretty iconic though the film feels a little long and the slapstick is only mildly amusing. Has charm in abundance thanks to actors like David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Claudia Cardinale as the Princess.









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The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) (Blake Edwards)

A farcical 1975 sequel and 4th film in the long running Pink Panther series. The story isn’t particularly believable and the plot occasionally feels like rehash of the original, yet funnier than the 1963 film with many scenes designed for Sellers to get into trouble. The comedy becomes a bit predictable and forced after a while though does have its moments with the monkey/musician scene a stand out. As with the superior sequel A Shot in the Dark (1964), Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) steals the show. Christopher Plummer lacks the charm of David Niven whom he replaced in the role of Sir Charles Litton (spelled differently for some reason)










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Harakiri (1962) (Masaki Kobayashi)

Set in the 1600s in Japan, I’m sure this classic has historical significance as a document of seppuku (harakiri) and the hypocrisy of honor. The critics admire it, but I found the characters hard to care about and the dialogue tended to repeat things. Told in a non-linear fashion, many scenes are dull and feature men facing each other, talking formally. The action in the opening hour consists of a man stabbing himself which displays the samurai honor aspect yet is painful to watch. An important, but tiresome film.











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The Apparition (2018) (Xavier Giannoli)

Great central idea about a journalist investigating a woman who claims to have seen the virgin Mary. The story is too slow and long albeit the actors are good. Visually, it’s pretty drab and not easily remembered. The film’s strength is in raising a number of questions about the church, faith, and worship. The subplot about Jacques’s hearing was neglected. The ending lessens the importance of what came before. Resulting in a frustrating watch, as the movie is over, just when it starts getting interesting.









Hal (2018) (Amy Scott)

A documentary about the life of beloved film director Hal Ashby who peaked in the 1970s with films such as Being There (1979).
There’s a bit of Hal within his films. I didn’t know his dad killed himself when Hal was only 12, and that could explain the fascination with suicide in Harold and Maude (1971).
Ashby has high praise for screenwriter Robert Towne who scripted The Last Detail (1973). Hal’s rebellous and anti-authority side comes across in those characters.
He lost control of 8 Million Ways to Die (1986) which was botched in the editing room. Very sad the way Ashby’s life and career ended. A bright light who became a bitter man, clashing with the film studio. But a wonderful run of films in the 70s.










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Leave No Trace (2018) (Debra Granik)

The most overrated film of 2018. All the critics on Rotten Tomatoes think it’s praiseworthy yet to me a mediocre, flavorless drama. A more realistic take on that Viggo Mortensen movie in the forest Captain Fantastic, but I had forgotten the movie soon after. So Leave No Trace is an appropriate title! Winter’s Bone (by the same writer/director) is a better film and more impactful.










the rider 2017
The Rider (2017) (Chloé Zhao)
I applaud a western that tries something different and delves into contemporary masculinity through the eyes of a female writer/director. I really wanted to like this film, but the narrative just didn’t hold my attention. Nothing much happens, a situation rather than a story. I found the lead actor dull to watch and this is accentuated by the slow pacing. I expected more based on the 97% Rotten Tomatoes score. A low-key work that I appreciate for its concept/idea yet found slightly underwhelming as a viewing experience. The last 10-15 minutes had some emotion.








What do you think? As always, comments are welcome


28 thoughts on “Films and TV of the month: December

  1. I’m too very much looking forward to “The Favourite”. It’s gonna be brilliant and sounds rather saucy too! 🙂
    “Hal” is something I can’t wait to see. “Harold and Maude” is a perfect film, same goes for “Being There” that I only got to see a few back.
    I’m trying to read anything about “Leave No Trace” but have heard it swings the reviews like a seesaw. I gotta feeling I’m gonna like it but time will tell. It’s all sci-fi this month so hopefully I’ll get to it next month.
    Good to see the “Pink Panther” getting a rerun. Classic fun. And Claudia Cardinale! Good god man, bites my fist and shivers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Wolfman: The Favourite looks pretty bonkers from the trailer!

      I love Being There and Harold and Maude is unlike anything else from the 70s. I was lucky to watch “Hal” on the free library streaming service we have over here. Hal Ashby led a full life based on the doc

      Great that more women are given chances to direct. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get the fuss over Leave No Trace. Ben Foster is a talented actor though I far prefer his turn in Hell or High Water. If you want to see a really good film by a female filmmaker there are better options. I’m planning a post on the best women’s films of the 2010s as the decade is soon over!

      Claudia Cardinale in The Pink Panther is quite the catch 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    1. @Wendell: Pink Panther movies are harmless fun, nothing too serious. The sequels focus more on Peter Sellers. I would approach Leave No Trace with caution


  2. I still wanna see Leave no Trace despite what you thought of it. I liked the concept very much,but will be cautious when I do The Rider did very little to convince me from trailers I saw. Only seen the first 2 Pink Panther flicks. Loved Sellers and the animated intro but wasn’t impressed with the rest. Sorry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @The Vern: I can understand you want to see Leave no Trace. After all, 206 of 206 critics gave it a positive RT score so the film must be doing something right.
      The Rider has been getting award season attention.
      It’s okay if you didn’t like Pink Panther films as much as I did. The billiard scene in A Shot in the Dark (1964) never fails to make me laugh.


  3. Great stuff again, like you I like Ben Foster and I tend to watch anything he does, Hell or High Water is so so good…but I’ve heard a lot of opinions similar to yours on Leave No Trace. I Know Where I’m Going is great and Leap Year is kind of a play on it. Fond memories of watching Pink Panther movies as a kid. Eager to see which ones you didn’t include that made your ’18 list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Kristina: Thanks for stopping by. Agree Hell or High Water is really good and nice to see the western isn’t dead. I didn’t know Leap Year was influenced by I Know Where I’m Going. The Pink Panther movies were just the ticket during a hectic Christmas.
      I should have the top 10 ready at the end of January. Still a few more to see from 2018!


  4. I haven’t seen any of these ( Pink Panther flicks when I was younger, but to be honest, I was too young and they all roll into one whenever I look at them, so I need to revisit them). Not sure why I’ve never watched I Know Where I’m Going!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @J: Best Pink Panther films are with Peter Sellers from the 60s and 70s. Avoid the Steve Martin Pink Panther outings from 2006 & 2009 and I couldn’t finish Son of the Pink Panther (1993) w/ Roberto Benigni which has a bad reputation as well.
      Vaguely remember you said you’re from The North so I Know Where I’m Going! is kind of a must-see I guess. Actually on YouTube if you’re interested:

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t seen the Pink Panther series since I was a kid. I don’t remember anything. Perhaps it’s time I revisit.
    I tend to agree with your impression of Leave No Trace. Hard to care for a film with such an unlikeable father figure. There are no explorations of his psyche either, except for a continuing suggestion that he’s suffering from PTSD. A bore for long stretches.
    I’m looking forward to watch The Rider, as I’ve heard a great many things. I think you’re going against the grain on that one, especially as it refers to the lead performance given by a non-professional actor whose real life mimicked what takes place in the film.
    I recommend you watch The Favourite as you have planned. I really enjoyed. Lanthimos’ best yet. I think period pieces really fit his style of writing and filmmaking.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. @Blog of Big Ideas: I agree about Leave No Trace, it was not a drama deserving of the praise and as you say it didn’t really go very deep either.

      I hope you like The Rider. I heard that too regarding the lead performance was given by a non-professional actor . I struggled to become invested with so little story. Kudos for the realism but nowhere near as good as I hoped for.

      Seeing The Favourite soon. Will be hard to top Killing of a Sacred Deer (my #1 film of 2017) But thanks for the heads up!


  6. I’ve had the Ashby doc on the radar for a while. Will get to it one day. ‘Detail’ is one of my favorite films. I really like ‘Being There’ and will spring over the the PP movies. I’m a Sellers fan so I dig those flicks.
    Some interesting choices on the films. If I was going to grab one from your takes and I would go for (and will) ‘I Know Where I’m Going’. I hear you on ‘Trace’. We already had a little talk on that. The “Rider’ I would probably feel the same as you. I seen the trailer and it didn’t grab me but I should be a little more open, I know.
    Good stuff. Later

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @CBH: The Hal doc is a good watch. There are interviews with filmmakers who talk about his work. I didn’t know Alexander Payne is an Ashby fan.

      I Know Where I’m Going! stayed with me and the sort of film I would revisit.The cinematography is special.

      The trailer for The Rider is pretty accurate for what the film is like

      Liked by 1 person

    2. @CBH: The Last Detail is fun . I heard the 2017 film Last Flag Flying is an unofficial sequel. Ponicsan’s novel Last Flag Flying is a sequel to his 1970 novel The Last Detail.

      I’ll keep an eye out for your thoughts on I Know Where I’m Going and the Hal documentary

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think we’ve said it already but yes Happy New Year Chris. I like the sound of your Christmas presents (wonder which movie quiz game it was) – Will have to look out for those Famous Five spoof books. Enid would not be happy!

    Haven’t watched the Pink Panther movies for years but no doubt freely available on Netflix etc. Loved them as a youngster but wonder if they would still be as entertaining now – Sometimes best to leave old favourites in the past but glad you enjoyed them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Alyson: The book is called The Ultimate Movie Quote Quiz book by Jack Goldstein. From the 1970s to the 2000s.

      I also was given TV & Film quiz (from 2018) 100 questions on 50 cards. Made by professor puzzle. You can buy at Sainsburys for £3 which is where a family member bought it . Might be sold out now. Mainly recent film and Tv questions.

      Haven’t read the Famous Five spoof books. The titles alone are hilarious 🙂 Mine was found in a UK charity shop


  8. I’m glad you mentioned “Hal”. I’ve seen the name kicking about, but hadn’t bothered to investigate. It sounds really interesting! I liked “Being There” and “Harold and Maude”, so I’ll definitely check into it. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Silver Screenings: Hal is a pretty good documentary/tribute film, I hope you get to watch it soon. Some might mistakenly think it’s a film about the villain from 2001: A Space Odyssey 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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