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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.