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.

31 Before 31 ~ Go to the cinema alone

When I put ‘Go to the cinema alone’ on my 31 Before 31 list, it was simply because I had never done it before. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything particularly adventurous about it, it’s just that living where I do, the opportunity doesn’t really arise that often. If I lived in the same town as a cinema, I’d probably do it all the time.

Anyway, so I thought this was going to be one of those things that I just never got around to doing, but last week I went to see The Wolverine all on my own! I went to my local cinema, which is a little independent one, and it cost me £3. I love independent cinemas.

I have a My Thoughts On… post coming up at some point for The Wolverine, so I won’t go into too much detail on what I thought of the film, but I will say that going alone had no real effect on my enjoyment of it, either positively or negatively! I enjoyed going on my own because it meant that I simply went when I wanted, rather than considering other people’s plans. I’m sure I’ll go on my own again in the future, and in the meantime, I’ve crossed off another 31 Before 31 item!

15. Go to the cinema alone

31 Before 31

My Thoughts On… Monsters University

Just a quick reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, it may be best to move on!

Synopsis

A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends. (via IMDb)

  • Monsters, Inc is one of my favourite Pixar films (though picking just one feels a bit like it must if someone asked a parent to pick a favourite child). When I first saw it, I fell obsessively in love with Boo, and obviously she doesn’t appear here (it being a prequel). But the relationship between Mike and Sulley is great in Monsters, Inc, and it’s really fun to watch how it developed.
  • As I mentioned in my post on The Smurfs 2, children’s films are allowed to be funny for adults as well as children. Pixar manage this over and over again, and Monsters University is no exception. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve probably already seen the snail-like monster trying to hurry to class.
  • After Boo, Mike is my favourite character in the monster universe. Billy Crystal plays him to perfection; he’s hilarious and intelligent, and here, in Monsters University, you get to see the more vulnerable side to him. I also loved little Mike. He was so cute!
  • I loved that the film didn’t end in the way that so many other sporting/college movies end. It felt like it was going to for a brief minute, and then everything changed and I liked it.
  • I enjoy a prequel because I love watching a film where you know where you are going to end up. I like the little nods to the future that you get; here, we meet Roz briefly, and discover the root of the animosity between Mike and Randall. What I liked best though, was that Sulley doesn’t end the film as a qualified scarer, even though we know that’s what he ends up as. We get to learn about his and Mike’s rise to the top at Monsters Incorporated through a series of photos.
  • I feel like I’ve missed out on Pixar’s shorts a lot in recent years, not least because I don’t always get to see the films at the cinema. I saw this one though, a short film called The Blue Umbrella, and I adored it. It was beautiful and sad and wonderful. Try and see it if you can!

What I Didn’t Like

  • It’s not as good as Monsters, Inc. It’s just not. Nor is it as good as Toy Story (any of them), or Finding Nemo. But it’s better than Cars and Cars 2. And Brave for that matter. Pixar not at its best is still, in my opinion, better than almost any other animation studio at its best. (I’m a Pixar fanatic.)
  • It bothers me slightly that there are no substantial female characters here. There’s just Helen Mirren’s Dean Hardscrabble, and there’s a group of sorority sisters who barely have any lines. Apart from Roz and Celia in Monsters, Inc, there’s not really any there either. I need a bit more time to really organise my thoughts on this matter, but it seems as though there is a particular type of female character in the Monsters, Inc universe, and I don’t like it. I think I spotted a female scarer this time around, which would (I think) make one more than in the first film.
  • Whenever I type Monsters University, I want to include an apostrophe. I know it doesn’t need one, but if it had one, it wouldn’t be grammatically incorrect. And it would make me feel better.

I really enjoyed Monsters University, and I expect I will want to buy it when it comes out on DVD. I’ll always prefer MonstersInc, but that’s not to say that this isn’t perfectly enjoyable. I know it has a number of detractors, and there are those who are suggesting that the golden years of Pixar are over, but I would probably dispute that, at least for now. As I said, Pixar on a bad day are still pretty much the best animation studio (just forget Cars happened, yeah?).

My Thoughts On… The Smurfs 2

Just a quick reminder that My Thoughts On… posts may contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film in question, it may be best to move on!

Synopsis

The Smurfs team up with their human friends to rescue Smurfette, who has been kidnapped by Gargamel since she knows a secret spell that can turn the evil sorcerer’s newest creation – creatures called the Naughties – into real Smurfs. (via IMDb)

What I Liked

  • Having not see the first film, nor more than half a minute of the animated series, I didn’t really know what to expect from The Smurfs 2. All I really knew was that there were little blue creatures, and that Neil Patrick Harris and Katy Perry were involved somehow. The first positive came in the form of a surprise at there being some live action in the film. I assumed it was entirely animated, so I was very happy when people arrived.
  • Neil Patrick Harris is a delight. I mean, he’s just so handsome and charming, and it doesn’t really matter what he’s doing, he just does it in such a lovely way that I want to watch him forever. I’d have preferred him to be his usual blonde, but I’ll take him anyway he appears. (Does anyone else really want to see Neil Patrick Harris play a serial killer in something? Just to see how well he could do it?)
  • I liked Vexy, one of the Naughties who was tricking Smurfette into giving up the secrets of how she turned blue. I don’t know why, I just thought she was cute and I felt sorry for her. And I liked her black hair with the blue streak. She was also voiced by Christina Ricci, which I didn’t realise until I watched the credits at the end.

What I Didn’t Like

  • It’s the Smurfs. I don’t like the Smurfs. I didn’t watch it as a child and so I think I’ve missed my window for thinking they are cool in a retro kind of way.
  • I know it’s a kids’ film, and therefore the humour is not necessarily aimed at me. But I can watch other children’s films (notably every single Pixar film ever made) and laugh like a lunatic. So using that as an excuse as to why this just wasn’t funny isn’t a good one. The potential for hilarity with Passive Aggressive Smurf is massive, and not exploited one little bit.
  • The lesson that Patrick (NPH) learns is one that you can see coming approximately eight miles off.
  • Gargamel is gross. I didn’t enjoy watching him one bit (and I love Hank Azaria, though I didn’t actually realise it was him until afterwards, weirdly).

I would never have gone to see this film had I not effectively been forced to; I was nannying and it was kind of a playdate situation. I have lived this long without being exposed to the Smurfs, and I could happily have gone for the rest of my life without them too. But I did see it, and my rules state I have to write a post on every new film I see. It actually wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, it wasn’t offensively bad, and frankly if Neil Patrick Harris hadn’t been in it I probably would have hated it a whole lot more. But I didn’t love it, and I can’t see myself ever sitting through it again, unless one of my nieces take a fancy to it and I’m forced to again.