I Watched That 015

Ludicrously, I’m still harbouring hopes of eventually catching up with my film round-ups. I know that it doesn’t matter if I don’t write them, but there’s a part of me that desperately wants to. These are films I saw in April, so that should give you some idea of just how behind I am. We’ll see how it goes between now and the end of the year!

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Watching a film like this is always accompanied by a fear that it can’t possibly live up to expectations. Ultimately, though I don’t think it’s as good as its predecessor, it met and exceeded my expectations. All the usual interplay between the characters is there to see and enjoy, with some genuine laugh out loud moments. With such a large cast, there’s always the worry that someone will get sidelined, but somehow Joss Whedon juggles this with aplomb. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is given room to shine especially, and the introduction of Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch is a great addition to an already amazing character roster.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

This was a film that I found on iPlayer, somewhere I always forget to check for film options. It was my second Keanu Reeves film in quick succession; for someone that I profess not to be a huge fan of, I certainly enjoyed him in both John Wick and this. It’s a film about a mid-life crisis; Pippa Lee is married to an older man, and together they move to a retirement community. Pippa is played excellently by Robin Wright in the present day, and possibly even more excellently by Blake Lively in flashback, both part of an excellent cast that includes Julianne Moore, Monica Bellucci, Maria Bello, and Alan Arkin, amongst others.

The DUFF

I loved The Duff. I’m a sucker for a high school comedy, and this had everything a good film like this needs; an ugly duckling main character, a villainous bitch, a good looking love interest, and a hook. In the case of The DUFF, the hook is that in every group of friends there is a ‘DUFF’, a Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Totally awful, of course, but Mae Whitman’s character fulfils the role of the DUFF, and once she realises it, it hits her confidence, and the only way back is under the tutelage of the good looking boy next door. The outcome is exactly what you expect it to be, but it’s a fun journey to get there; and it made me laugh out loud on several occasions.

 

Say Anything

Say Anything is a film that I have always felt I should have watched; as a romantic comedy fan, there are some films that you need in your back catalogue, and the iconic Say Anything is one of them. It totally lived up to its reputation; John Cusack is perfect as perpetual underachiever Lloyd Dobler; surely he has to be one of the best romantic leads in a film ever?

Empire Records

True story – I started watching Empire Records in 2000, and it only took fifteen years to finish watching it! I watched it in a class at school, and we only saw about an hour of it, but I never got around to watching it in full until I was having one of those weekends where I was watching just about everything Netflix has to offer. It’s a load of rubbish, of course; a fairly decent cast is given nothing to do except portray fairly hateful characters.

 

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

I watched this in the middle of a weekend long Netflix binge, and though it was a perfectly enjoyable film, it wasn’t all that memorable, seven months later now I’m coming to write about it. Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are engaging in the lead roles, though Dennings is always a little too ironic for my liking. I’m a fan of an off-beat teen drama, and that’s exactly what this is; I’m just not sure that I’d rush to watch it again.

 

Stuck in Love

As far as romantic comedies go, this is one that I enjoyed a lot, so much so that I’ve actually watched it again since. It’s basically the story of a family, and how they are, indeed, stuck in love in one way or another. The divorce of Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly’s characters happens prior to the story’s beginning, and we see how it has affected both them and their teenage children, played by Lily Collins and Nat Wolff. I think I could watch Greg Kinnear do just about everything, and he’s delightful here; not a straight-forwardly likeable chap, by any means, but it’s Greg Kinnear, so what does it matter?

I Watched That 014

Welcome to the Punch

This was a film that I’d had on my Netflix list for ages, and then randomly decided to put on late one night. It stars a couple of my favourites, Mark Strong and James McAvoy, and though British crime dramas aren’t my favourite genre, they convinced me to take a look. I thought it was fine; it’s not a film that I would necessarily watch again, but it made a change for a film like this to be as glossy and good looking as it was. It’s worth a watch for the fine British acting talent on display.

Begin Again

I absolutely loved Begin Again. I have heard nothing but good things about Once, the debut of director John Carney, and while I still haven’t got around to watching that film, I knew that Begin Again would be right up my street. Though I’m a fan of Keira Knightley for the most part, I do find that she can be a bit hit or miss, and she has a tendency to come across as slightly irritating. She’s on fine form here though, and Mark Ruffalo is a delight. The supporting actors round out a strong and likable cast, and all in all, it’s just a lovely film.

While We’re Young

Sometimes, when deciding on a film, the running length can be a big factor. Anything that comes in at around 90 minutes instantly has my vote, so the fact that While We’re Young clocked in at 97 minutes, coupled with an amusing trailer, meant that I was quite keen to see it. I’ve only ever watched one Noah Baumbach film previously (Frances Ha), and I loved it, so I had high hopes for this one. Ultimately I was disappointed. It was a long hour and half, and I didn’t really enjoy the time that I spent in the company of the two main characters. I found them fairly irritating, and aside from a couple of very funny lines from an incidental character, I didn’t really laugh either.

Iron Man 3

As much as I love Marvel films, the Iron Man series has never been my favourite. This might be an opinion coloured by the fact that Iron Man 2 is so godawful, but it definitely meant that I was never to keen to complete the trilogy by seeing Iron Man 3, even though I had heard that it was so much better. I’m glad that I did, because a) I’m a completist, and I didn’t like having a Marvel film outstanding, and b) it’s well worth a watch. It’s fun to watch a slightly different Tony Stark, dealing with the fallout from The Avengers, and witness the vulnerability that comes when he doesn’t have his suit to hide behind.

Pitch Black

This came at a time when I was experiencing a minor Vin Diesel obsession, having watched so many Fast and Furious films in such a short time. It really didn’t last long, but it made me buy Pitch Black! I didn’t really expect to enjoy it quite as much as I did; Riddick is an interesting character, as an anti-hero he’s never anything other than completely likeable, with strong morals. I’m not sure I’m completely taken with the colour filters that are applied throughout, but ultimately I enjoyed it a lot.

John Wick

John Wick was an odd film in that I didn’t really want to see it based on the trailer, though my friend Hannah did, and then when we did see it, I liked it a lot more than Hannah did. I can’t honestly say that Keanu Reeves is my favourite actor, but I really enjoyed him here. It’s clear that the people behind the film are stunt men, because this is a film that is all about the fight sequences; they are choreographed like ballet sequences, and the camera lingers where other directors would have cut away. John Wick is definitely a film that I’d watch again, though I think I’d have a little trouble convincing Hannah!

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

I watched this on a whim while I was babysitting one night; I’m a big fan of Kenneth Branagh, not such a big fan of Chris Pine, but I do enjoy a good spy-action film, and that’s exactly what this is. Keira Knightley pops up again, and gives good wife, but it’s really all about Chris Pine trying to establish himself as Jack Ryan. This is an entertaining action thriller that doesn’t try too hard, and as such, doesn’t hit the very heights that it might be reaching for. Perfectly entertaining while you’re watching it, without worrying you for a minute once you’ve finished.

I Watched That 013

Divergent

I read Divergent so long ago, and I loved it. I knew it wasn’t that different to The Hunger Games, but it was enjoyable, and I really liked the characters, and I was eager to see where the story went next. Fast forward at least a year, and when I came to read the next book in the series, I’d lost all enthusiasm for it. This antipathy extended to the film adaptation, which I didn’t bother seeing at the cinema, and wouldn’t have watched at all, had it not been for my friend Lucy, who loved it. I didn’t hate it, and I think Shailene Woodley is a fine actress, but I can’t say I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately it does feel a little Hunger Games-lite, and I’d honestly rather just watch those films again than bother with this one!

Insurgent

Again, this was Lucy’s influence; she had already seen it at the cinema but wanted to see it again, so I tagged along. Insurgent is a lot more enjoyable than Divergent, with the characters proving a lot more interesting. Unfortunately, when I got home, I was scrolling through a related Instagram hashtag for reasons unknown, and I treated myself to a massive spoiler for the final films (because of course, Allegiant will be split in two). Like, a huge massive no-going-back spoiler. I understand now why everyone is so angry at Veronica Roth for the way the story went.

Cinderella

I am in love with the fact that Disney are making live-action versions of their classic films. I don’t care that it’s another example of Hollywood being unable to come up with original stories, I just think it’s a great idea. Cinderella isn’t one of my personal favourites, but I just loved this film. Ella was a great heroine; it must be difficult to take a Disney princess into 2015 and make her relevant and modern without completely changing the story. I’ve heard Ella described as having ‘agency’ on more than one occasion, and I couldn’t agree more. Ultimately she’s the victim of abuse, and she comes out the other side. She’s great, and while her waist is on the small side, that dress is incredible. Richard Madden’s better when he’s a bit more rough and ready (Robb Stark > Prince Charming), but he made a fine hero. It wasn’t about him anyway.

Fast & Furious

Here now begins the start of my Fast and Furious franchise marathon. I watched the first six films in one day with my friends Hannah and Richard, and then went to the cinema to see the seventh two days later. It’s hard for me to separate the fourth film from the bunch; I can’t remember the story. Having read about it, I’m still not exactly sure, but I think this is the one about the drug dealers in the Dominican Republic, right? It wasn’t one of my favourites, but it’s better than the second and third, for sure.

Fast Five

Well of course, Fast Five is the best of the bunch. I’ve even watched it again since, voluntarily. Not only does Dwayne Johnson arrive (I’ve discovered a brand new love for him), the story is a lot of fun; I find it hard to resist a heist movie when they are well done. There are obviously still issues to overcome; Jordana Brewster still can’t really act, and it’s too long, but there’s not too much for me to complain about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PP7pH4pqC5A

Fast & Furious 6

This one never quite reaches the heights hit by the fifth film; although Dwayne Johnson is back, and hopefully, here to stay in this franchise, it’s not as much fun. There’s no heist, and things get even more ludicrous. But ultimately, the franchise is about ridiculous fun, and you always know that’s what you are going to get.

Fast & Furious 7

I’ve actually just watched this for a second time, as it came out on DVD last week! I enjoyed it less the second time around, not because there’s anything that wrong with it, as such; I just don’t think these films particularly stand up to repeat viewing for me. Introducing Jason Statham as a baddie was a genius move, because he’s just so great (though I don’t think he’s ever better than in Spy). Everything just sort of hangs on the fact that you can’t watch this film without being constantly reminded that it was Paul Walker’s last. And I can’t watch the final scene without shedding a little tear.

These are films 31-37 in my yearly count, and I’m now on 106! I’ve got a long way to go before I’ve rounded them all up, but I’m committed to getting it done now!

I Watched That 012

It Follows

I’m still not 100% comfortable watching horror films, but I think my enjoyment just about outweighs my discomfort. That was the case with It Follows, which I heard almost universally good things about before I saw it. I’m not horror cine-literate, so it didn’t appeal to me in the same way it did other people, with callbacks and references to beloved classic horror films. But I thought it was great nonetheless; a story of a young woman who, after having sex with a man, finds that he has passed a curse onto her that manifests itself in a series of creepy characters who follow her wherever she goes. Maika Monroe is wonderful in the lead role, and it’s a suitably macabre and atmospheric.

Chappie

I’ve not seen any of Neil Blomkamp’s previous work, though I know everyone is full of praise for District 9. Chappie is yet another AI story (between this, Ex Machina and Big Hero 6, there have been a few at the cinema this year), set in the near-future, where robots are part of everyday life, in this case part of law enforcement. Chappie is the main robot that we get to know and apparently love, though to me he veered into annoying more than adorable. Chappie isn’t the worst film I’ve seen all year, but it’s certainly not the best.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I managed to see two Dev Patel films in quick succession by accident, rather than design! I haven’t seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I heard all good things, and I figured I wouldn’t have missed so much that I wouldn’t know what was going on. This is obviously a film for a certain type of cinema-goer; the cinema was packed, and Hannah and I were probably the youngest people in there! I have to say, for all that people complain about children behaving badly in the cinema, it’s older people who seem to have more of a problem sticking to the code. I’ve never experienced more chatting, in voices at a normal indoor volume, as I did at this film. That being said, the film was fine, if overlong. Bill Nighy outshines everyone by being totally and utterly incredible, and looking very nice in a suit.

Still Alice

It felt as though we were waiting an awfully long time for Still Alice to hit UK screens, but it was totally worth the wait. Julianne Moore is, of course, always a sensation, but she was in utterly heartbreaking form here as Alice, a woman of fifty who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Really, truly great, and completely deserving of her Oscar. The supporting cast were in good form too, particularly Kristen Stewart and Alex Baldwin.

X+Y

Films like X+Y are why I’m so glad I have my Cineworld Unlimited card, because I’m not sure that I’d have ended up seeing it if not. Asa Butterfield plays a young teenager with on the autism spectrum who is a maths genius, and ends up in Taiwan trying to win a place on the GB team for the International Mathematic Olympiad. He’s a very watchable young man, with an awful lot of talent, and he does really, really well here. Eddie Marsan, Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins round out a wonderful supporting cast, and the result is a lovely film that I’ll most certainly be watching again.

Frank

Ah, Frank. Beloved by film critics, and making it on to just about every ‘Best of 2014’ list, but ultimately, I think it was just a little too weird for me. I don’t have the grounding of knowing anything about Frank Sidebottom, and this just kind of went over my head a little bit. I think maybe it didn’t have my full attention, which didn’t help, but looking back on it, I can’t honestly say that I have any real idea what was going on, and I can’t say that I would want to watch it again. Maybe if I come across it on Film4 in a couple of years, I’ll give it another go.

Because I’m totally rubbish, this is a roundup of films I saw in March. It’s 25-30 for 2015, and I watched my 82nd this week. So I’ve got a way to go before I’m up to date! But I’m committed to getting there, so expect to see quite a few I Watched That posts in the coming weeks!

I Watched That 011

The One I Love

I chanced upon this on an alternative Netflix earlier this year, so I’m really pleased that it has popped up on UK Netflix now. It’s an odd film, telling the story of a couple, Ethan and Sophie, who head off on a weekend away at a secluded beach house to try and save their marriage. What follows is odd, but entirely engaging. I’m a big fan of Mark Duplass anyway, and will watch just about anything with which he is involved, but I’d definitely recommend this.

Big Hero 6

Films like Big Hero 6 are a good reason why I love having an Cineworld Unlimited card. I might not have seen this had I not; I missed the likes of Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph at the cinema, so I’m really pleased that I got to see Big Hero 6. It was such a lot of fun, and was classic Disney in so many ways, while feeling completely modern and suitable for a 2015 audience. I want my very own Baymax now.

Selma

I’d been excited about Selma since I heard about it; American History and I have a long and loving history, and I’ve studied Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights moments of the 1960s. David Oyelowo plays King at a very specific point in his life; the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1964. The filmmakers didn’t have the rights to the actual speeches that King gave, but the alternatives are powerful and stirring, and Oyelowo’s performance is as good as you have heard it is. It made me cry, and this is a rare occasion when it was actual tears of sadness and fear, rather than tears of joy. The scenes on the Edmund Pettus Bridge are truly harrowing.

School of Rock

I had actually watched most of School of Rock years ago, but had never got to the end, so I thought it was finally time to watch it! I liked it a lot, of course; I can find Jack Black annoying at times, but it depends what he’s doing, and he’s on fine form here. There’s not an awful lot to say about it, given that pretty much everyone in the entire world has seen it, but it’s one I’d definitely watch again.

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride is a film that I know I should have watched before now; it had somehow passed me by for all these years, but I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing about it! I finally settled down to watch it on a Sunday afternoon, and I just loved it. I hadn’t realised that there was a framing device, and I really liked that aspect, and then I really liked the story – romantic, funny, action-packed – it has it all!

How to Train Your Dragon

Everyone I’ve ever spoken to about How to Train Your Dragon seems to have loved it more than me. I thought it was OK, but I just liked it. I think maybe it didn’t quite have my full attention, and that might be the reason for my lukewarm reaction to it, but I’m not sure. For anyone who doesn’t know, it’s an animated film about a young man who lives on an island where dragons terrorise the residents by stealing livestock. Hiccup, the young man in question, manages to train the dragon, and the film follows his attempts to do that, along with his attempts to convince his father, and the rest of the island, that dragons aren’t all bad. Perfectly fine, but not really something I feel the need to shout about!