I Watched That 010

Last week I hit my target to watch 52 films in 2015. Yeah, in May. Not great forward planning by me there – I knew I would end up exceeding it; between a Netflix account and an Cineworld Unlimited card, I knew I’d be watching a lot of films in 2015. But I hadn’t really accounted for how quickly I’d do it, and if I had thought about it a little more, I’d have aimed for 100. I’m not going to change it now, I’m just going to see how far I get.

Anyway, in reaching my goal, I realised that I hadn’t done an I Watched That roundup in ages. And ages and ages and ages. In fact, the last time I wrote about films was in February. So I’m remedying it, and I’m going to try and get up to date!

Pretty in Pink

I haven’t seen enough of John Hughes’ classic films; in fact, The Breakfast Club is the only one, as far as I’m aware. When I realised Pretty in Pink was available on Netflix, I thought it was time to remedy that. There’s something about an American High School film that I just love, particularly when they are well written, with engaging characters, as is the case here. I finally believe in Andrew McCarthy as the ultimate 80s leading man, and James Spader, who is always excellent in everything, is, as expected, excellent.

Albatross

I watched Albatross because it popped up on iPlayer, and I won’t lie, mainly because it involved a young woman having an affair with an older man. I really like Jessica Findlay-Brown, and she brings a wonderful insouciance to this role, along with enough vulnerability to ensure that you don’t think she’s a callous young thing for sleeping with her friend’s dad. Felicity Jones is also great, as ever, and I enjoyed Julia Ormond’s funny turn as the betrayed wife!

The Visitor

I think this was another one that I found on iPlayer, and a film that I knew nothing about until I watched it. It stars Richard Jenkins as a college professor who travels to New York to stay in his apartment there, only to find a pair of illegal immigrants living there. I enjoyed it a lot; Richard Jenkins is a fairly quiet actor, but his performances are always strong.

Ex Machina

i went to the cinema to see Ex Machina; ever since I read about Alex Garland’s directorial debut, I was intrigued. With a cast consisting largely of just Dohmnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander, it tells the story of a young man who wins a prize to go and stay with his reclusive genius boss, only to discover that he making huge advances in the world of artificial intelligence. Oscar Isaac shines as the aforementioned boss, and Alicia Vikander’s performance as the robot is sad and compelling. I’m eagerly awaiting this film’s release on DVD, as I’d like to see it again.


Guardians of the Galaxy

I wish that I had loved Guardians of the Galaxy slightly more than I did. I mean, I didn’t hate it; it was fun, and funny, and just about everything you want a Marvel film to be. And I really enjoyed all the character interaction; the coming together of the troupe of heroes, and their interplay. But for me, there was slightly too much in the way of action – things crashing into each other in space. Maybe it would have been better if I’d seen it at the cinema. Great soundtrack, however.


Belle

Another film that I had been wanting to watch for a while, after it got all of the love from Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo on Wittertainment. It was worth the wait, as it’s a beautifully made film, telling the amazing true story of Dido Belle, a young mixed race woman who was raised in society by her uncle alongside her white cousin. Gugu Mbatha Raw is wonderful as the titular Belle.

I Watched That 009

If I carry on seeing films at this rate, I’ll have reached my goal of 52 by April! Which is slightly ridiculous, but I knew that 2015 was going to be a much better year for films than 2014!

Birdman

Birdman is a film that I would never have seen if I didn’t have an Unlimited card. I’ve been hearing about it since before Christmas, and heard wonderful things, but if I had been paying for a single ticket, I wouldn’t have gone (which is why I love my Unlimited card!). Michael Keaton is on top form as Riggan Thomson, a man who is dealing with mental deterioration on a fairly major scale; regularly hearing the voice of, and seeing Birdman, the character he played earlier in his career. As wonderful as Keaton is (and I think he might just win the Oscar), the star turn, for me, belongs to Edward Norton. He’s really, really funny, and I think he’d be in with a shout for the Oscar if he wasn’t going up against J.K. Simmons. Emma Stone’s nomination is a bit more suspect to me; I can’t see what she does that is particularly award-worthy (though what do I know?). All in all, a month after I saw this, I’m still not sure how much I liked it. Maybe I need to see it again to make up my mind.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

When I spotted Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs on Netflix, I thought I’d give it a go; the directors went on to make The LEGO movie, which I loved, and I’ve heard pretty good things about it. I’m really glad I did watch it, because it’s really good fun. Flint Lockwood (a great movie name) is an inventor who doesn’t garner an awful lot of respect, but when he manages to make a machine that creates food-bearing clouds, his hometown (previously forced to eat nothing but sardines) suddenly love him. It’s a colourful and funny film, and I’m looking forward to seeing its sequel now!

Paddington

If I had seen Paddington when it was released, at the end of last year, it almost definitely would have been in my top three films of 2014. As it is, I managed to see it a couple of weeks ago when I did a double cinema visit on a slightly hungover Sunday, and I just loved it. Truly great family films are hard to get right, I think, but Paddington manages it. It has everything – great characters, funny jokes, actual peril, emotional family scenes, and a really great ‘performance’ by a small bear right at the centre. I can’t recommend it enough; whether you are a fan from years gone by or not, Paddington is a joy to watch.

Whiplash

I saw Whiplash on 18th January, and I can’t imagine seeing a film I’ll like better in 2015. From the minute I saw the trailer, I had an idea that I would love it, but it completely and utterly blew me away. Miles Teller plays a young drummer who is in his first year at a prestigious New York music school. He thinks his luck is in when he is selected for the jazz band that J.K. Simmons’ Terrence Fletcher conducts, but soon realises that the abusive Fletcher stops at nothing (literally) to get the success he believes he deserves. It’s a powerhouse of a performance from Simmons, and Teller holds his own as well. It’s wonderfully directed, written and acted, and I had a ball watching it.

Wild

Reese Witherspoon is one of my favourite actresses, but it’s probably safe to say that since Walk the Line, she hasn’t made the world’s best films. She always so darn watchable though, and I do think she’s probably a pretty awesome person. With Wild, she’s exhibiting a return to form (though frankly she’s never bad in films, she’s just sometimes in bad films), portraying the real life story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman who decided to trek the Pacific Crest Trail. This is a trail that stretches for over 2600 miles along the west coast of the US, and it’s no mean feat. Strayed used the journey as a way to heal after various personal struggles, including divorce and addiction. I loved Wild; not only is Witherspoon’s central performance just entirely wonderful, the narrative structure of the film was perfect. It packs a very powerful punch by choosing a structure that weaves between the past and present, and it doesn’t restrict itself to a conventional use of flashback, preferring a stream of consciousness approach. It’s really wonderful, and it has left me wanting (and yet knowing I never could) to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

The Duplass brothers have long intrigued me, and this is the first film of theirs (as writers and directors) that I have actually watched. There’s something about the way that they work and the choices that they make that I really admire, and I was impressed with Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Jason Segal is the Jeff of the title, who continues to live at home with his mum (played by Susan Sarandon) into his thirties, choosing to get high and think about the deeper meaning of the film Signs rather than do anything substantial with his life. Ed Helms is his brother, who in contrast, seems to have his life in order, but is actually having marital problems that are heightened when he brings home a Porsche that his wife (the ever-wonderful Judy Greer) sees as the final nail in the coffin. It’s an odd film really, with some slightly strange story choices, but it’s very enjoyable all the same.

I Watched That 008

January has been a great month for films, not least because of all the cinema visits. All this means that I have to be on top of my film posts, otherwise I’ll get way behind!

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The Rock

I’m not entirely sure why I watched The Rock. I’m not a huge fan of Michael Bay films (though I try not to be a Kermode-acolyte and just dismiss them out of hand), but I had heard that this particular film was one of the better ones. I didn’t hate it, but it was far too long. It got to a certain point, where I was sure that it would be ending, and then it just carried on for about another hour. Not one for me, I’m afraid; I love a nineties action flick, but this one didn’t do anything for me.

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The Titfield Thunderbolt

I watched The TItfield Thunderbolt because it was on iPlayer, and it’s one that I have been meaning to watch all the way through for years, as it’s a firm family favourite. It tells the story of a group of people who fight to save their branch line from closure. In true Ealing style, it’s ridiculous and absurd, but it’s such good fun, and full of some great character actors.

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20 Feet From Stardom

I’m trying to watch more documentaries, because it’s a massive hole in my film-watching, and when I spotted 20 Feet From Stardom on a Netflix, I popped it on for a watch. It’s about the backing singers that make many famous songs sound as good as they are, and it’s a really fascinating look at people that, by their nature, tend to get overlooked. Famous faces pop up, including Bruce Springsteen and Mick Jagger, but the focus is largely on a group of women who have truly amazing voices, but are relegated, for the most part, to the back of the stage.

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The Theory of Everything 

The Theory of Everything was my first cinema visit of the year, and it already feels so long ago that I saw it! It’s been everywhere, not least because both Felcity Jones and Eddie Redmayne (Redmaybe) have received Oscar nominations for their performances. It’s the story of the marriage between Stephen Hawking and his first wife Jane, and it’s based on the memoirs of Jane herself. Many have lamented the lack of science, but I think there’s just enough, and given that it’s the couple’s story seen through the eyes of Jane, it was hardly going to be an analysis of A Brief History of Time. The performances are truly outstanding, with Eddie Redmayne transforming himself throughout the film, and Jones portraying Jane as a very sympathetic and engaging woman. The score is beautiful as well; be prepared to cry!

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Battle of the Year

I can’t believe that I have to include this film in my list, and this round-up. I watched it completely against my will, as I was babysitting, and I watched it in full, so it has to go on my list. (Can you hear me sighing?) It’s a terrible film, about a break dancing competition, starring Josh Holloway and Chris Brown. It took all my willpower not to tell the three small girls I was watching with just why Chris Brown is an odious human being while we were watching. Honestly, there is nothing to recommend it; it’s predictable, boring, and Chris Brown is in it.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

I’ve been wanting to watch this since it came out last year, even though I can’t honestly call myself a Wes Anderson fan, having never watched anything other than Rushmore in the past. I loved The Grand Budapest Hotel. It looks amazing, with a beautiful colour palette, and it’s really, really laugh out loud funny. Ralph Fiennes is a marvel; you would never guess he could put in such an accomplished comedic performance! The cast is great, with everyone from Tilda Swinton to Bill Murray putting in an appearance.

I Watched That 007

My plan, after writing about the films that I saw at the end of 2014, was to do a monthly roundup in 2015. This would be fine, but I have already watched six films, and today is the tenth of January. I kind of like limiting these posts to around six films, so I worry that leaving it until the end of the month will mean having to round up a huge number of films in one post. Ultimately, I think I’ll just leave things the way they are for now, and stick with a semi-regular round up post!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

I thought I had missed my chance to see the penultimate film in this particular franchise at the cinema, because everyone I knew had already been. When it transpired that it was still showing shortly before Christmas, off I went. I was actually pleasantly surprised, because for some reason I had expected something slightly less exciting than its predecessors. I have read the books, so I knew what to expect in terms of story, but I worried that splitting the final book in two would mean that the first instalment would suffer. As it turns out, it was a great addition to the series; taking on a totally different tone from the first two films, and became a film about propaganda and information during wartime. The thing about The Hunger Games films is that they contain a huge number of actors that I really, really like, so going to see them is never a chore. (Not enough Toby Jones, though.)

Guys and Dolls

I love musicals, but there are so many famous ones that I have yet to watch. Until just before Christmas, Guys and Dolls was one of them. I’m not sure why I’ve never watched it before, but I suspect it’s because it wasn’t one of my mum’s favourites. I am, of course, familiar with some of the music, especially Luck Be a Lady, which I love. I really like Frank Sinatra (the actor/singer, rather than the man), and young Marlon Brando is brilliant and beautiful. But Guys and Dolls didn’t quite tickle my fancy, and I’m inclined to think that it’s down to its length. 150 minutes is a long time, and I don’t think it needed to be that long at all. It was perfectly fine, but now one I’ll rush to watch again.

Capote

I watched Capote after having watched Infamous the month before. I loved Infamous, in no small part because of my devotion to the work of Toby Jones, who was incredible as Truman Capote. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of the same man won more accolades, indeed he won the Oscar for it, and while I do prefer Toby Jones’ performance, you can deny the talent that Hoffman brings to the role. It’s a very good film, and it’s interesting to compare it to Infamous, which I think I ultimately preferred.

The Bishop’s Wife

I missed a lot of the films that were on over Christmas on the television, but I found The Bishop’s Wife on iPlayer shortly after Christmas and decided to watch it. I didn’t know an awful lot about it, and didn’t even realise that it is actually a Christmas film. It tells the story of a young bishop and his wife. played by David Niven and Loretta Young, who are visited by an angel, played by Cary Grant. The bishop prays for help in raising funds to build a cathedral, but when the angel, Dudley, arrives, it transpires that he is there to remind the bishop that he needs to pay his wife and child some attention. Things get complicated when he starts to develop feelings for the titular bishop’s wife, but as you can imagine from a film like this, things work out just fine. It actually put me in mind of Mary Poppins, for various reasons; the entrance of a visitor in a family, summoned to help out, and eventually shining a light on the true problem. And none other than Katie Nanna (actress Elsa Lanchester) makes an appearance in The Bishop’s Wife!

The Dam Busters

Every Christmas I circle The Dam Busters in the Radio Times, and every year I end up missing it! This year I made sure I settled down on the sofa and watched it, and truth be known, I very nearly fell asleep! Nothing to do with the entertainment value of the film, just that I was warm and comfy and it was getting dark! I really enjoyed it, as I knew I would as soon as I got around to watching it; there’s something very special about a British war film, especially one with such a celebrated history. The score is, of course wonderful, and the performance are all so very British. I loved it.

Whisky Galore

Whisky Galore is another film that I happened to watch on iPlayer, when I’d searched the entirety of Netflix and found it wanting. I am fond of an Ealing comedy, but I can’t say that this one particularly grabbed my attention. The presence of Gordon Jackson in a film is always something to be celebrated, and his relationship with his mother is funny. The scenery of the island is also beautifully shot, but other than that, i wasn’t totally enthralled.

Short Term 12

Short Term 12 tells the story of Grace, the supervisor of a home for children. She is in a relationship with her co-worker, and she is committed to making life a little easier for the children under her care. The focus of the film is on her relationship with a new addition to the home, Jayden. I really, really liked this film. I watched it because I was going through the Empire Best of 2013 list, and when it popped up, I realised that I hadn’t heard of it when it was released. Having read some reviews, it seems as though many people found it a little clichéd, but I liked it. I liked the story, and the performances, particularly that of Brie Larson, playing Grace. While it was fairly obvious which direction the story will take, it didn’t make it any less enjoyable for me.

73 Films in 2014

As well as setting myself a yearly reading challenge, I also set a goal of one new-to-me film a week, working out at 52 films in a year. Since I started setting this goal, I have always exceeded it, but this is the first year that I have exceeded it by quite so many films. I watched 73 films in 2014, having reached 52 back in October with Silent Running. I tried really hard to get it up to 75, so I could have a matching films and books total, but it didn’t happen in the end!

I know that 73 films isn’t that many in comparison with others, but for me, it’s rather a lot. I started setting the challenge because I didn’t feel as though I was watching enough different films, but now that I have Netflix, and a little more disposable money, that’s a thing of the past. I toyed with the idea of increasing the number from 52 to 100, or 104, but I decided, for this year, to stick with 52. If I end up on a similar number to 2014, I’ll probably go for 100 in 2016! Here’s what 2015 looked like for me in films.

  • Of the 73 films, I watched nine at the cinema, which was the same as 2013 (hopefully that will be more in 2015). I watched seven on television, eight on DVD, five on iPlayer, and 42 on Netflix. Of the remaining two, I watched one at a screening at the Cinema Museum, and one on Amazon Prime.
  • Most of the films were watched alone, but I watched eight with Jen, seven with Anna, six with Hannah and five with Rob.
  • As ever, it’s hard to work out this particular statistic, but I think my most watched actors were Robert Downey Jr (in Iron Man 2, Zodiac, and Soapdish), and Jennifer Lawrence (in House at the End of the Street, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I).
  • My favourite new releases of the year were Pride, Boyhood, The Imitation Game and The Babadook.
  • My favourites of the older films I watched were Broadcast News, Ginger and Rosa, Son of Rambow, Jaws, Frances Ha, Saving Mr Banks, Infamous and Pitch Perfect.
  • My least favourite was Airplane! I only watched it because it was on the AFI 100 Laughs… list, and I knew I wasn’t going to get the humour!