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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.

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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!

33 Before 33 ~ Books into films

It’s been fairly slow progress on my aim to read ten books based on films; the ones I have read seem to have been accidental rather than by design! But I’m up to four already, with another one in progress, so I’m going to make a concentrated effort in the next few months.

First up, back in March, I read Under the Skin by Michel Faber. I’m not sure what put the idea in my head; I obviously knew about the film from last year, and though I haven’t seen it, I know that it is held in very high esteem. I loved the book; at first I found it impossible to put down, and then I really slowed up with it for some reason. I think that’s probably because ultimately it did make me feel uncomfortable, but not in a way that makes me think negatively towards it. More in a way that made me question certain things! In case you aren’t aware of the story, Isserley is a young woman who spends her days driving up and down the motorways of the Scottish Highlands, looking for male hitchhikers to pick up. To say more would ultimately ruin the story (though, if like me, you have listened to a review of the film, you probably already know the crux of the story), but it’s definitely a book I recommend. I haven’t seen the film, but I know it’s very different to the book.

Jurassic Park is almost certainly in my top ten favourite films. I have loved it from the first moment I saw it, and it’s one of my earliest cinematic memories (despite being ten at the time I saw it, and I know I saw many films at the cinema before this). So it’s somewhat surprising that it took me this long to get around to reading the book. I really don’t know why it took me so long, but after I had seen Jurassic World, and having watched Jurassic Park for the seventieth time, I ordered the book on a whim. (It’s rare that I actually buy books.) I raced through it, and I absolutely loved it. It has increased my love for the film, as I’m able to watch it through a slightly different prism now, and taken on its own, the book is just amazing. Slightly darker than the film, with similarly heart-stopping set pieces, it goes further in establishing some really well-written characters.

Four down, six to go on number four of 33 Before 33 – read ten novels on which films are based