As I hoped, September proved to be the start of what could be a massive improvement from a very disappointing summer. While choosing the best three movies of the month was an easy decision they were all consistently terrific and ranking them was in actuality a difficult process. Not only did we see a slew of good movies but they all shared some common theme of identity and entrapment which made them even more difficult to separate based on how they resonated with me.
The month was not however, without its disappointments with the likes of ‘Blair Witch’ and ‘The Light Between Oceans’ proving to be underwhelming at best and while Clint Eastwood’s latest offering was a solid entry to his filmography it was still a flawed movie. That being said the fact that it doesn’t make the cut for this month’s top three is a pretty good indication that the overall quality is improving. In fact that’s only further proven by just how ridiculously easy it was to pick this month’s worst film. But before that, here are the three best.
3: Kubo and the Two Strings
The latest offering from Laika may have been another stop motion that uses miniature figures, but it as epic and grand in scale as any sweeping adventure film of recent memory. The animation on display here is stunning to behold with beautiful craftsmanship that carries over onto every aspect of the design, from the characters to the landscapes, the set pieces and the tiniest of details, it all looks exquisite. Despite a fairly basic plotline and a rushed ending the film carries such immense thematic weight that deals with issues such as morality and legacy that one can forgive it for its other small shortcomings, as well as a terrific all-star voice cast that helps make ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ absolutely fantastic.
2: The Handmaiden
Despite being a patient and methodical film Park Chan-wook has not lost his ability to craft psychologically twisted tales of power and imprisonment, as seen with his latest offering ‘The Handmaiden’. Despite the seemingly docile nature of upper class societies and financial cons Chan-wook is able to evoke a sense of visceral horror out of the scenario and characters that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled. His meticulous direction is on top form here, soaking in the vast and expansive details of this elegantly crafted world, and this approach only gives the viewer more time to contemplate the thought provoking and involving emotions on display throughout.
1: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
I will concede that on the craftsmanship front, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is less deserving of being placed here than the other superb offerings this month. But when it comes to emotional involvement, intriguing and interesting characters that drive a wondrous plot of bonding and adventure then Taika Watiti’s latest film lands at the top. His coming of age parable is as heartfelt as it is hilarious and rather than reduce its main characters to cheap caricatures, it revels in its own unique identity and uses it as a way to evoke unmistakable empathy for everyone involved. The on screen paring of Sam Neil and Julian Dennison is not to be missed as well as some hysterical supporting characters that serve to further flesh out this bizarre and inventive world Watiti has created.
And the worst……
The Sea of Trees
Despite going into the 2015 Cannes Film Festival as a hot favourite, Gus Van Sant’s latest film was met with such a harsh critical reaction that it sat in purgatory for almost a year. During that time I almost became more intrigued to see it, questioning whether it really could be as bad as the early reactions indicated. As it turned out it may have been even worse. It is intellectually insulting, emotionally manipulative and such a waste of the great talents that are Matthew McConaughey, Ken Wantanabe and Naomi Watts that it doesn’t even feel like it’s worth the effort to stand up and boo it.