January 2016 ~ Films

January 2016

This was supposed to be a post that came at the end of January, or the beginning of February, at the very least. But here we are, much closer to the end of the month than the start. This very much sums up how my blogging has been going lately!

I watched thirteen new to me films in January; only two of them were at the cinema, which is a fairly low number for me, but various events conspired against me. The majority were watched through online streaming – either Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or BFI Player+ (I subscribe to them all!), and the vast majority were also Woody Allen films!

A Night to Remember
Despite my brother being a huge fan, I have never watched A Night to Remember. It’s a long film, about the sinking of the Titanic, and while it’s not entirely factually correct anymore (it was made before they found the wreckage, and so depicts the ship sinking in one piece), it’s a great film. Wonderful characterisation, and a lovely performance by Kenneth Moore at its heart.

Clouds of Sils Maria
This is a film I’ve wanted to see since Kristen Stewart won critical acclaim and a Cesar award for her performance in it. It’s a very interesting film, with a distinct blurring of the lines between fiction and reality, and I think it’s one that will become even more impressive on repeat viewings. Stewart really is very good, and her chemistry with Binoche is tangible.

Midnight in Paris/Deconstructing Harry/Celebrity/Mighty Aphrodite
Prior to this year, my only experience of Woody Allen was Annie Hall (a film I need to watch again, because I don’t think I really got it the first time around). Now I’ve watched a further six (two in February), and I’m hooked! I can’t say that I’ve necessarily loved them all; Celebrity and Mighty Aphrodite weren’t really to my taste, but I loved Midnight in Paris, and found Deconstructing Harry interesting. My only complaints are thus: a) when Woody Allen stars, he casts himself as seemingly irresistible to beautiful young women, and b) when he casts someone else in the ‘Woody Allen’ role, they just do an impression of him. Kenneth Branagh in Celebrity, and Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris are the offenders from this bunch; ether these actors are sycophantically impersonating their director, or Allen himself is narcissistic enough to direct them to do so. Either way, it’s very off-putting.

The Talented Mr Ripley
I can’t believe it took me so long to watch this film. It’s a great thriller, filmed in stunning locations, and ultimately it was a lot more violent than I expected it to be. I’ve never read any Patricia Highsmith, on whose novel the film was based, but between this, The Two Faces of January, and Carol, maybe it’s time to take a look.

Room
There’s very little to say about Room other than that I simply loved it. If you, like me, haven’t read the book, you may be fooled into thinking that a film about an abducted woman will be full of misery. It’s not. It sounds strange to say it, but it’s a truly uplifting film, with two of the most outstanding performances I have seen in a long time. Brie Larson deserves all of the accolades she has and will be awarded, and Jacob Tremblay deserves more than he has got.

The Danish Girl
For some reason I felt reluctant to watch The Danish Girl, until I heard Eddie Redmayne speaking about it. It was a tough but enjoyable watch, and I thought both Eddie Redmayne, and in particular, Alicia Vikander were excellent.

The Day the Earth Caught Fire
A BFI Player+ gem; this is an apocalyptic film about the dangers of nuclear testing. It’s a beautifully shot film, with Edward Judd providing the charisma, and Janet Munro providing the sultry sex appeal. After Room, this was probably my favourite watch of the month.

Teacher’s Pet
It’s never a chore to watch Doris Day, though I think Gig Young has better chemistry with leading man Clark Gable in this particular film. It was good fun, and Doris looks incredible in the pencil skirts she wears.

Song of the Sea
Song of the Sea is a beautiful animation about Irish folk tales that has stayed with me, weeks after having first seen it. It’s an enchanting tale, of two children who embark on a journey home, with beautiful animation and wonderful music. It really is a joy.

Mad Max: Fury Road
I can’t pretend to have loved Mad Max. While I’m objectively aware of its inherent excellence, the actual enjoyment factor for me was on the low side. I watched it on DVD, which I’m glad about, as I think I would have found it far too intense in the cinema. The orange hues of the landscape gave me a headache, as did the incessant noise and non-stop action. I thought Furiosa was incredible, of course, and Tom Hardy is excellent as ever as Max himself. But it’s not one I’ll be rushing to rewatch.

 

This type of post is flawed; I watch a lot of films, meaning writing just a paragraph about a film makes for a long post. I’m toying with the idea of one-sentence reviews, but brevity has never been my strong point. I’ll have a think, and hopefully be back with a better system for February!

140 Films in 2015

For the last few years, I have set myself a goal to watch 52 films each year. Obviously, this works out at one film a week, which, when I started doing this, felt realistic, and something that would help me watch more new-to-me films, instead of endless rewatches.

In 2014 I surpassed that total, ending up on 73, but I kept the goal of 52 the same, because I didn’t want to set an unrealistic target and then fail to meet it. As you can tell from the title of this post, I ended up watching nearly three times as many as I wanted to, finishing the year on 140! Even to me, that’s a fairly astonishing total, especially given that when I first started logging my films, in 2011, I finished on 30!

With so many films to consider, it was hard to make a collage that showed them all properly without it overtaking the whole post, so here’s what my 2015 in films looks like.

Final

  • In terms of how I watched the 140, it’s a pretty even split between the cinema (52) and online streaming (57). My cinema total has gone up massively due to having an Cineworld Unlimited card for the first time, and it actually works out at one a week, which is good going. The remaining films were either DVD (12), television (15), or iPlayer (3).
  • I have actually taken the time to work out which actors are my most watched this year! This has taken a fair amount of work, but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed doing. My most watched male actors were Vin Diesel and Oscar Isaac, both coming in at seven a piece. The runaway winner for the females looked like being Jordana Brewster for a while (darn that Fast and Furious marathon), but ended up being Allison Janney, with six.
  • I also worked out my most watched director (Steven Spielberg), and my most watched screenwriter (Chris Morgan – he of Fast and Furious fame).
  • I wanted to do a separate post for my favourite new releases of 2015, but it didn’t happen, so here they are, in no particular order: Inside Out, Ex Machina, The Martian, Carol and Brooklyn.
  • In terms of older releases, my favourites that I watched in 2015 were: The Way, Way Back, Spellbound, Begin Again, Chef and School of Rock (which I can’t believe it took me so long to watch in full!).
  • As always, there are very few on the list that I didn’t enjoy, as I’m pretty good by now at knowing what I will like. But the humour of Wet Hot American Summer went right over my head – I didn’t get it at all. And the worst film I watched at the cinema was The Last Witch Hunter. If I hadn’t bothered with it, Oscar Isaac would have won most-watched actor outright.

That may seem like a little bit too much work in terms of analysing my film watching. But I honestly enjoy all of this almost as much as I enjoy the films themselves!

I tried to keep up with writing a small amount on each film for the blog this year, but it didn’t work, and it won’t work any better next year, as I intend to watch more films. But I am starting to use Letterboxd more, and I’m hoping to log each film for 2016 there, along with a couple of sentences giving my thoughts on each one. If you’d like to, you can follow me here.

Do you set yourself film goals? What are you aiming for in 2016?

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.