Letterboxd Reviews: December 2012

My Letterboxd account documents what films I am watching, usually films for the first time but occasionally a film I haven’t logged before.

Here’s a summary of the films I have watched this month, including a rating and short review for each.

This December I have watched 41 films:

Here’s what I thought of them:

Life Just Is

“A brilliant exploration of characters and a highly relateable film about four university graduates struggling to make the move into adult life. Unfortunately it just doesn’t really work as a film.”

Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone

“You can’t not like this film when it’s started such a fantastic franchise. Of course the acting is average, though all of the actors really fit into their roles brilliant and each are introduced really well, and the effects are a little dated, but that’s to be expected. The film is a very decent adaptation of the book and has some of the best moments out of all of the films altogether (‘You’re a wizard ‘arry / ‘TROLLL, in the dungeon!’ / It’s Wingadium Leviosahh / etc.). It is both funny and scary, appealing to all of the audience, and I wouldn’t want anything more from it.”

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

“Whilst this instalment is much darker than its predecessor, I also found it more of a family film. This isn’t exactly a negative, but I still prefer the first. Nevertheless, the leading trio really grow into their characters and Jason Isaacs and Kenneth Branagh make excellent additions to the cast.”

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

“Definitely one of the best in the franchise, and this is where it started to get a little scary for me (moreso when I was younger, obviously), but it is undoubtedly more of an adult fantasy adventure here. There is a lot missed out from the book but it still works as a solid film on its own. Gary Oldman and David Thewlis’ characters are two of my favourites from the series so it’s brilliant to have their little bromance as a key part of the story here – the British talent in the Harry Potter franchise is just superb.”

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

“I think this is one of my favourite films from the first four adaptations because it brilliantly shows how the cast have grown into the roles, and how much we, as an audience, have come to love them, as they all skip their yearly hair cut, go to prom, and get angsty with each other. This instalment also puts a lot better focus on the use of magic, really brining to life the world of Harry Potter as everything starts to get serious for all its characters. It’s a definite change in tonal direction and a huge step up from the rest of the series, but it is also the film where I start to realise that I really don’t like Daniel Radcliffe in the lead. However, the cast, yet again, has a number of talented additions too, including great roles for David Tennant and Brendan Gleeson, and a fantastic introduction to Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, who couldn’t be played by anyone better.”

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

“Whilst there is so much to love about this film, I can’t help but find in one of my least favourites in the series because not enough happens in terms of plot in context of the franchise as a whole. Sure the whole focus on Dumbledore’s Army is exciting, but I find it a very easy film to skip over. That’s not to say that it isn’t still brilliant, however, especially in the final half an hour. As for additional talent, this instalment sees the introduction to the brilliant Helena Bonham Carter, Imelda Staunton really irritate you as the well portrayed Dolores Umbridge, but also the loss of my favourite character in the franchise.”

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

“As a novel, this was the one that stuck out most for me, and I think Yates does a brilliant job of directing it as the film adaptation remains one of favourites in the franchise too. As with the final two films, there is too much left out from the novels to grant it a decent adaptation, but it still works really well as a stand alone film. I found that this instalment had some of the most powerful and emotional scenes yet, with the cave scene being one of my favourites in the whole franchise, and that the performances really step up a gear. Alan Rickman, especially, does well to build up our opinion about his character ready for the revelations in the next two films.”

The Adjustment Bureau

“A very light-hearted sci-fi/thriller but fun nonetheless. The premise is really enjoyable (men with hats running through doors, what’s not to be intrigued by?) but it lacks intensity in most places. Damon and Blunt make great leads though both have given much stronger performances so it’s difficult to find yourself fully invested.”

Wanted

“This is one of my favourite thrillers and one that I can watch over and over again, purely because of some of the brilliantly shot scenes (partcularly one involving a keyboard) and decent action sequences. McAvoy and Jolie are both fantastic, and it’s especially a great lead for McAvoy who really started making a name for himself here. It’s funny and very well cast, but there are quite a few moments that are a little ridiculous (that whole train sequence angers me). Despite this, it’s a very enjoyable film.”

Inglorious Basterds

“Undoubtedly by favourite Tarantino film, although on first viewing I was a little disappointed with its ending. The beginning, however, I could watch on repeat. What a brilliant opening half an hour that is! Not that the brilliance stops, of course; it is great scene after great scene throughout, filled to the brim with excellent performances from the incredible Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, and Eli Roth. The whole feel of the film is very authentic, but again it is Tarantino’s script that is the film’s most outstanding quality, as the long scenes of interaction are just fantastic.”

Fantastic Mr. Fox

“I didn’t think Wes Anderson’s style of film-making would work as well with this stop motion animation, but how wrong I was; this is now my favourite of his films. With a brilliant voice cast, including many of Anderson’s regulars, this really is a fantastic film. The dialogue is comical, the characters are individually brilliant, the soundtrack really compliments the film, and the animation itself is stunning, too. Most of all, Anderson pays such close attention to detail that he has created a film with very little flaws, if any at all.”

Superman Returns

“Admittedly, this is the first Superman movie I have ever seen (though I am a fan of a couple of the TV series), but what an awful place to start. My problem is that that whole of the casting seemed completely wrong, leaving me disappointed from the very start. Yes the visuals were pretty good for its 2006 release, but very little else was good. Everything else was just dull and predictable, and it went on for far too long! Seeing this only makes me look forward to seeing the first two Christopher Reeve films and next year’s reboot, Man Of Steel.”

Elf

“This is what I look forward to every year – the one film that will really put me in the Christmas mood. This is definitely Will Ferrell at his best (on par with Anchorman, of course) but it’s also a great role for Zooey Deschanel, as one of the first films I saw her in. The script is absolutely fantastic as I find myself quoting most of it throughout, and I can’t help but sing-a-long either. I could watch this every day throughout December.”

Fish Tank

“A strong premise and great performances, but it was overall very empty and I have come away with no feelings towards the film at all, really. I only watched this for Fassbender anyway, but even he didn’t help to give this a better rating.”

High Fidelity

“John Cusack plays a very real character, as the film gives an honest look at relationships from a male’s perspective. This unique take on romance is what makes this film so interesting. I think you need to be male to really relate to this film (which is why I probably won’t bother with the book it is based on!), but as a female it’s still very easy to engage with the main character and his situation(s). The film feels very natural and, along with a great script, uses a great narrative approach that really makes you feel a part of what’s going on.”

Chasing Amy

“An interesting look at relationships by director Kevin Smith, whose comedy really compliments the film’s romantic premise. With fantastic performances from Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee, the leading trio play strongly developed characters who have brilliantly evolving relationships.”

Sleepy Hollow

“This is Tim Burton’s work at its best (Although Edward Scissorhands is the better film). The film isn’t particularly strong but the whole feel to it is incredible – the clash of horror and subtle comedy, the gloomy settings, and Christopher Walken as a headless horseman. The combination of Johnny Depp, a frequent lead in Burton’s films, is a highlight of the film too, and is much better than their recent work together.”

Comes A Bright Day

“For a film with a premise of being “always captivating and never what you expect”, it wasn’t brilliant. Whilst it was often unpredictable, it wasn’t always as engrossing as it promised. It is led by an incredible cast though, with great performances from Craig Roberts, Timothy Spall, and Imogen Poots. Whilst I wasn’t overly impressed throughout, the last ten minutes were truly lovely and its conclusion really boosts its overall rating. In the end, I would say that it is a decent British heist film that is worth the watch for its cast alone.”

Back To The Future

“Back to the Future is THE greatest trilogy to come from the 80s, and one of the best science fiction adventures to date. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd make a brilliant leading duo in this completely entertaining exploration of time travel and they really make the franchise their own. It’s a sci-fi for the everybody to enjoy, not using any complicated theories or over-use of special effects to distract from the constant fun that it is all about. It looks great, even today, and the script is hilarious from start to end. It is a film that will remain a classic for a long time yet, and a must see for all.”

Back To The Future II

“As we are now approaching the ‘future’ that this film explores, it doesn’t quite have the same effect as it once did when it was first released. Nonetheless, it’s still a very cool alternate look at a time ahead, and remains timeless in its own way. Whilst it’s not as good as the first, it is still thoroughly enjoyable and is probably the funniest in the trilogy yet.”

Hot Fuzz

“This gets better every time I watch it. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as always, are hilariously brilliant, and with director Edgar Wright at the helm there is very little room for criticism. My favourite thing about this film is its subtle similarities to the game Cluedo, which I notice more and more with every watch. It has a fantastic cast, some incredible one-liners, and my favourite supermarket action scene of all time (Zombieland comes in close second).”

Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2

“Oh, Quentin Tarantino – you creep me out but you make such masterpieces. I could watch these two films over and over again just for their brutal but incredible fight scenes, which is at its best here with the influence of Asian cinema, some amazing camera work, and a brilliant soundtrack. Uma Thurman is terrific, and I manage to pick up something new with every watch so I won’t be growing tired of these any time soon.”

The Raid: Redemption

“A brilliantly choreographed 100 minutes of pure chaos. I’m not a big action fan but when fight scenes are as good as this it’s hard not to enjoy a film full to the brim of them; it was pretty much just twenty different brutal ways to kill a man. Although the film was in subtitles, I felt that it didn’t even need much of the dialogue at all, and have since re-watched it on mute and enjoyed it just as much. It’s just visually incredible.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

“Whilst I have to agree with a large part of the criticisms for this film in that it does fall short on story line in places and that it is padded out by much walking and many, many chaotic chases, I don’t feel that the film ever felt slow or that it became tedious in its three hour length. In fact, some of these walking scenes were the most epic (the goblin chase, the rock giants). It had everything I loved about the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and, because of that, I find it hard to fault. It even improved with the addition of some much welcomed comedy (the trolls, Gollum’s riddle game) and a cast of brilliant new characters, with Martin Freeman, especially, standing out as a much better protagonist to follow than Elijah Wood. For many reasons I will always prefer the original trilogy, but this new trilogy definitely had, and is sure to bring more, brilliant moments.”

The Skin I Live In

“Well, I didn’t expect that! This film leaves you in complete shock, and for that it is incredible. Antonio Banderas gives his best performance yet, acting alongside a great supporting cast who each give strong performances in this messed up yet captivating story. The ending was a bit of a let down, I felt, but the rest of the film is brilliantly paced, constantly building up tension as it slowly reveals its sickening conclusion. Need I say more?”

Fred Claus

“Probably the worst Christmas film I watched this year, but if I had to say something good about it, it was that Vince Vaughn actually managed to act outside of his comfort zone a little bit and very nearly even made me feel emotional towards his character. As for the rest, there were a few good casting choices but I don’t think I actually laughed at all. I’d give this one a miss this year if I were you.”

Four Christmases

“Another Vince Vaughn Christmas comedy which, whilst it wasn’t overly that Christmassy, it wasn’t all bad. The premise was pretty decent which opened up an almost emotional ending. It was watchable to say the least.”

The Snowman

“This is what Christmas is all about. From the beautiful animation to the almost haunting soundtrack, it is just incredible. The story is told solely through these two aspects, yet it has such power for a film with no dialogue. Charming in every way.”

Pitch Perfect

“Full of great performances, brilliant mash-ups and excellent singing from its cast, this film is entertaining from start to finish. Nevertheless, I’m not quite sure what all the appraisal is for as it is still very much Glee. I was hoping it wouldn’t be as Americanly clichéd or as pathetically sentimental but it really was. Fortunately, there’s a lot of greatness around these small flaws which enable the film to get away with them. I’m really coming around to Anna Kendrick too, who really suits her role in this film alongside a very funny Rebel Wilson and a brilliant overall cast.”

Toy Story

“Toy Story will always be one of the best animations to come from my childhood. It’s incredibly witty and its collection of characters is one of the best to have ever been created, I think. Thoroughly enjoyable and completely timeless; an animated masterpiece even today.”

The Snowman and The Snowdog

“Well, they did it. They actually pulled a sequel off! The story is very similar which is a bit of a weakness but the animation captures the same spirit that I loved so much about the original, although the music isn’t quite as fitting. Still, my younger siblings loved it so it’s safe to say that the film has successfully re-vamped the classic that we all loved to be more fitting for the younger generations.”

Happy Feet

“There’s just something really wrong about this film, and I’m not quite sure why children enjoy it so much? It depresses me every time. The characters are all slightly messed up and it just doesn’t work at all. Did I miss something with this film?”

Liberal Arts

“You know when you really relate to a character in a film and you find yourself nodding and smiling along to all of their references? That’s how I felt when watching this. Liberal Arts follows an original story line premised about youth and growing up, which, for a recent graduate myself, I found so much to take away, with its brilliant script full of conversations about books, college, and life itself. I especially love that the film takes an unexpected turn at the end, avoiding anything too obvious, which gives the film a real authentic edge. Much like Josh Radnor’s directorial debut Happythankyoumoreplease, this is a wonderful and down-to-earth film that is very easy to enjoy. He and Elizabeth Olsen have a great chemistry, as well, and both work really well together, with a decent supporting cast including Zac Efron and Richard Jenkins, too.”

The Holiday

“A lovely Christmas film that manages to warm your heart without being too over the top. With an excellent cast that give fairly decent performances yet with incredible chemistries, and a beautiful soundtrack consisting of Regina Spektor, this is one of the better Christmas films around, and definitely one I look forward to watching every year.”

up In The Air

“This wasn’t ever a film that I thought I needed to watch, but it is now one I plan too watch many times more. George Clooney is perfect in the lead role and his chemistry with Vera Farmiga is lovely to watch. It is Anna Kendrick that stands out, however, giving her best and most diverse performance yet. Their performances together are all very natural, drawing you in to the film in a way that I didn’t think it could. This is another brilliantly made and wonderfully told film by Reitman, and probably now my favourite of his; definitely worth the watch if you haven’t already.”

Flight Of The Navigator

“A brilliant 80s sci-fi that I used to love watching when growing up, and surprisingly still enjoyed watching even today. Sure it’s very dated, but it’s just as fun as we follow Joey Cramer on a adventure for all to enjoy.”

Flubber

“I enjoyed it as a child, but it’s not one that I would now watch with my younger siblings as I would with many of the classics I grew up watching. Still, Robin Williams makes for a lot of fun and there are many scenes that stick out in my memory. It’s not all bad, anyway.”

Casablanca

“I don’t usually like black and white films, but this was something much different. I know I shouldn’t put all black and white films under the same category, but more often than not I find them to be rushed and over-acted, which is where Casablanca was different; it’s brilliantly paced and the acting is incredibly strong, and it is for these two reasons that I found myself engaged throughout. The dialogue is incredibly strong, allowing the characters to develop well enough for you to emotional invest in each of them. I’m not a fan of old films (I know, I know!), so I won’t pretend that I loved it, but I can see why it is known as a masterpiece and I did enjoy it a lot more than I expected to.”

We Bought A Zoo

“I didn’t think this would shift my Top Films of 2012 list, but it’s quickly gone as close to the top as it can! Oh my. I thought everything about this film was absolutely beautiful, from the soundtrack (full of Sigur Ros) to all of the overly cute moments. Yes, the fact that it is overly ‘cute’ may be seen as a bad thing to most and it is usually a word that I despise but it’s left me feeling so happy but so sad at the same time. A film hasn’t done this to me, at this level, in a long time.”

Edward Scissorhands

“Tim Burton’s best by far, and Johnny Depp is fantastic as the almost monster that is Edward Scissorhands. Again with just enough horror to keep you on edge, but this time with the addition of romance, the pairing of Burton and Depp is at its pinnacle with this film. I love Burton’s suburban setting and Winona Ryder is brilliant, too. It’s just a film with everything you love about Tim Burton’s work and none of the bad characteristics of his more recent work.”

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