Letterboxd Reviews: January 2013

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 January I have watched 39 films:

Here’s what I thought of them:

Up

“A family animation that will have all ages laughing and crying from start to end. The animation is absolutely beautiful, and the story is one of the most heart felt that Pixar have created. It is brilliantly told and the characters are all fantastic, with the beginning and end opening and closing the film in one of the best ways an animated film ever has, but I always feel like it goes off on a bit of a tangent in the middle.”

The Iron Lady

“It’s not a story that interests me at all really, and definitely not one I had a lot of previous knowledge about, but I found it quite fascinating and above all else quite moving. It’s problem is that it is pretty unfocused and it spends too much time looking at the less important aspects of her life, as it seems the film’s purpose is to make you feel sorry for her character rather than portray the side of her she was remembered for. Streep’s performance is incredible though, there’s no denying that.”

Coriolanus

“I’m going to find it hard to write about this film because I found myself not caring about it at all. I literally might as well have been staring at a blank wall for two hours. I found the characters empty, which only worsened with the use of Shakesperian language (though I thought that would have been its strongest characteristic), and therefore it was all difficult to invest in. The modernised setting did work and the performances were all fairly strong, but this film on a whole has quickly left my memory.”

Tangled

“So glad to see Disney return on top form. This is a classic fairytale with everything that I loved about the original Disney films that I grew up watching. Above all, Tangled is absolutely hilarious. It has the type of humour that you don’t catch on to until a much older age, and as a young adult viewer I can’t believe it got away with some of the things it said/implied. The music isn’t as good as Disney’s other soundtracks and the lantern song probably won’t be as memorable as, say, A Whole New World, but the animation is stunning and some of the scenes were just as incredibly beautiful. The characters are also fantastic, with the animals, especially, injecting a lot of comedy even though they don’t speak a word (which I also appreciated!). Whilst Tangled is extremely sentimental and full of rainbows (though it does get a little dark at times), and it may not be for all viewers, you can’t beat a gold ol’ Disney romantic fairytale.”

W.E.

“Whilst the filmmaking side of this is absolutely terrible, at times feeling like a feature length Madonna music video, I couldn’t help but enjoy the rest. The actors look great in their roles, the styling is beautiful, and the story is quite heartbreaking. The camera work is horrible, the story telling is dodgy, and many situations come across as completely ridiculous, but there were a number of scenes that I enjoyed and and I did find it moving. I only wish this was made by a better director because, whilst the potential is there, this is exactly the type of film that I would love. Andrea Riseborough is amazing, though.”

Damsels In Distress

“This film was good. But this film was also bad. I don’t really know what I just watched, so I’m very in the middle about this. The cast was great but I didn’t find any of them overly likeable. I found some of it entertaining but then other parts not so much. By the end I just felt like nothing had actually happened. And then they started singing and dancing…”

Watership Down

“For some strange reason, this was one of my favourite films as a child. I knew it was slightly violent, and I knew it was emotional, but I don’t think I ever fully grasped the seriousness of it all. I just really liked rabbits. Now that I’m older I wonder how I even sat through it, but I still adore it. I love the animation and the soundtrack, and even the characters though they all seem slightly deluded. It is horribly violent and I probably won’t let my own – future – children watch this, but I will always have a soft spot for it.”

Panic Room

“A pretty decent thriller, Panic Room is tense and brilliantly paced, but it’s not Fincher’s best. Jodie Foster is great and a young Kristen Stewart even gives a decent performance. The camera work is fantastic but it still feels a little flat to me.”

Twenty Four Seven

“Brilliantly shot and with a great performance from Bob Hoskins – with an ever surprising supporting cast, I must add – the rest of this film was far too mismatched for me to really get invested. I lost interest very really but was occasionally drawn back in to the odd funny moment.”

Changeling

“Angelina Jolie is sublime in this very dramatic real life story. With brilliant performances throughout, the story is constantly moving and engaging, though it does drag out a little towards the end. I’ve – surprisingly – not seen any of Clint Eastwood’s films all the way through as of yet, but I was highly impressed and will definitely go on to watch more after this. It was quality from start to end, as Eastwood was really able to express the torment that the lead character was put through.”

Safety Not Guaranteed

“A lovely indie comedy about real people faced with the opportunity of going back time, whether they would do it and what they would change. Aubrey Plaza is absolutely fantastic, Mark Duplass is great, and Jake Johnson and Karan Soni make very funny supporting leads too. The cast is definitely one of my favourite things about this film, but what I enjoyed the most is that you never knew how it was going to end. Fortunately, it ended in the best way that it could. Everything about this film was just lovely and very well crafted; an overall brilliant feature debut for director Colin Trevorrow.”

Brighton Rock

“A very hit and miss film. Whilst the cinematography was stunning and the performances all superb, the story line came across very unconvincingly. It took me a while to get into it, but eventually I almost started to care for its characters. However, the acting is brilliant throughout. I’ve only seen Sam Riley in On The Road before so I have to say that I was highly impressed by his performance, showing a real diversity in his acting as a great choice for the role here despite how different it is to his portrayal of Jack Kerouac. Andrea Riseborough also often impresses me and the two give a very strong lead. Also starring Helen Mirren, John Hurt, Andy Serkis, the film definitely has some talented names to its cast list, but not all of their parts seem worthwhile, with only Mirren really having the chance to give a memorable performance. Nevertheless, a great feature debut for Rowan Joffe, if only for the aesthetics.”

Amour

“Maybe I’m heartless but I just didn’t care. It was heartbreakingly painful to watch which, whilst I can agree that its power is captivating and in that sense it is brilliant, I wouldn’t want to sit through it again. The performances, which the film heavily relies on, are absolutely fantastic, but the film grows tiresome as purely two hours in the company of its characters in their somewhat haunting apartment. It’s not that it’s a bad film, far from it, it was just completely depressing, and not in a way that effected me emotionally. I would describe it all as rather gloomy.”

Silver Linings Playbook

“A completely lovely romantic dramedy and definitely THE best romance that 2012 had to offer. It’s both funny and emotionally honest, giving a very heart-warming look at mental illnesses without throwing anything too serious in your face. The cast is a massive quality of this film, with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro, especially, giving excellent performances, each playing their characters perfectly. For me, it was Lawrence who stood out the most, however, as it’s been a while since we’ve seen her in such a genuine role; she’s definitely done better (Winter’s Bone), but it was such a great contrast to her more adolescent Hunger Games role, as both her and Cooper portray their slightly crazy characters flawlessly. I found myself relating to Tiffany in many aspects of her life (mainly her slightly delusional feelings involving males!) so I was really able to engage with the film on a personal level, making me love it just that little bit more. Everything about this was just so much more impressive than I thought it would be (excluding one shouty football rant scene which lost my interest only ever so slightly), and I’m definitely going to buy the book now as the screenplay is filled with some fantastic quotes.”

The Departed

“I found the first hour, at least, rather pointless and dragged out but the second half certainly made up for it. The somewhat simple plot is dealt with brilliantly, coming across as a lot more complex than it actually is. This really helps to build up a constant tension, keeping the storyline ever evolving and always interesting. The brilliant leads of Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson are fantastic, but the supporting cast is also just as impressive, with Vera Farmiga giving a very sexy role, too, which really helped to balance the film out, I think.”

Where The Wild Things Are

“Absolutely lovely; the visuals, the cinematography, the locations, the CGI, the soundtrack, and the whole sentiment of this film is charmingly beautiful. It’s not much of a children’s story though, as it’s raw performances and themes of loneliness and anger (whilst also excitement and friendship) are sure to evoke a deep emotion from most of its viewers. It’s a powerful tale that is extremely original and heart-warming in every sense.”

Les Misérables

“Firstly, I’ve not read the book, seen the theatre production or any of the other adaptations, so I went into this with a very open mind. Secondly, I do like musicals. However, to say you should only watch this if you like musicals would be wrong, as the genre of musicals is extremely varied. Lately, they are often mixed so much with comedy that they become laughable. Les Misérables is something very much different.

Leaving the cinema in tears, this is another incredible piece of work by director Tom Hooper, and is genuinely one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. Much like his previous film A King’s Speech, the sets and costumes of this period drama bring such colour to the already popular story and the whole choreography of the cast and their settings is done perfectly.

With only a few words spoken throughout the whole film, the entire story is told through song. The film therefore relies heavily on its performances, which are – unsurprisingly – superb all around. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway are absolutely incredible and the both undoubtedly deserve the awards they have received for their performances, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are hilarious and their scenes really help to lighten the mood, and Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks and Amanda Seyfried bring in the romantic side of the film, which is what will really break your heart. The whole cast is fantastic though; the fact that they all sang their songs live on set means that we get to hear every choke in their voice, and therefore feel every emotion their characters are feeling. The larger performances where whole groups of the cast come together, as well, work incredibly well to make the audience feel a part of the revolution itself, completely drawing you in to every character and situation, as you are made to feel both uplifted by their actions but also drawn to tears because of the consequences. The nearing on three-hour length was almost a drag, but whilst it felt like you had seen the whole lives of these characters during these – albeit compacted – three hours, the length works as more of a positive as you are able to engage with the characters entirely. Even Russell Crowe didn’t sound that bad.”

Coco Before Chanel

“Audrey Tautou is perfect in the role of the French fashion designer Coco Chanel. Her performance is sublime and the film gives a lot of insight into Coco’s life. Unfortunately there’s not a lot to it apart from the beautiful styling, and there wasn’t enough impact to make me feel sorry for her character in the end.”

Being John Malkovich

“Well that was completely absurd and more than anything, incredibly creepy. The premise of this film is brilliant and so original. For that it is masterful. Still, I’m not sure what to think. John Cusack and Cameron Diaz (which took me a while to realise!) are brilliant, and I guess we should also give praise to John Malkovich himself at this point, too. It is ingenious, but I found myself saying “What the hell?” too many times to really love it, although that will be the reason that most people do.”

A Serious Man

“My first Coen brothers’ film (Yes, I don’t know how that’s possible either, but it is!), and probably not the best choice of films to start off with. I didn’t really get it. I didn’t find anything overly funny and instead thought it was just painfully slow which made me lose interest pretty quickly. I might have to re-watch this after seeing more of the Coen brothers’ films.”

Jeepers Creepers

“The first half of this film is full of suspense and creepiness, but it dies down pretty quickly. The two leads, however, make a nice change to this horror, as their brother/sister relationship and their decent acting skills mean that the film doesn’t fall to horrible clichés or over the top performances. For these reason, this film would really be able to scare if it kept all of this up. It’s a shame it doesn’t live up to what it could have been.”

Jeepers Creepers II

“Worse than the first half of its predecessor, but so much more scarier. Centring on a group of high school students, this falls to the flaws of every other American teen horror. If it stuck with decent actors as with the first instalment this could have been something quite outstanding. Instead, it’s just good for a a real scare. I hope I never get stranded in a cornfield at night after seeing this.”

The Game

“Constantly full of tension, this leaves you guessing right until the very end, and even then it adds a couple more twists into the plot. Michael Douglas gives a solid performance, and even though I’m not a fan of the actor there’s no denying that he always makes for a good thriller! The camera work is brilliant and I really enjoyed the dark settings throughout. This has David Fincher written all over it, and that’s why it’s so brilliant.”

Black Snake Moan

“From the poster I had no idea what to expect from this, but whilst I got the bizzare story line it promises, I didn’t expect such excellent performances from leads Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson. The story is quite intense and is not something I thought I would enjoy at all, but there’s certainly a lot of power behind it all.”

Adam

“When a film opens with a description of The Little Prince (my favourite book) it’s almost impossible for me not to remain engaged. However, I don’t imagine this to be a very real portrayal of somebody with Aspergers (please let me know I’m wrong) as it’s all very romanticised, for the first half at least. A large part of this is because they use an attractive male lead and his actions therefore come across as ‘cute’ rather than out of the ordinary. But whilst I found myself moved by story and attracted to the main character myself, at the same time I felt like the film was trying to prove that anybody can fancy somebody with Aspergers (which obviously they can, but just that it was trying hard to prove that point). Nevertheless, I fell for it and found it all rather lovely, especially the ending as it avoiding a happily ever after. As for the performances, I really enjoyed the casting. This and X-Men: First Class are the only films where I have enjoyed Rose Byrne’s performances and she is extremely likeable here, but it’s a fantastic role for the lead Hugh Dancy. Their chemistry and romance is extremely sweet, and it is for that reason that I enjoyed the film so much, as well as the occasional pretty scene and well-fitting soundtrack.”

Road To Perdition

“Brilliant cinematography and some great roles that are all really well acted. A decent thriller and another great film by Sam Mendes. He never fails to impress.”

Elizabeth

“I thought the story was really interesting but that the film lacked any form of engagement. Cate Blanchett fit the role extremely well and her transformation was well done, but the film felt incredibly dated and it had nothing to keep you entertained or even really interested at all.”

The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3

“Not overly thrilling or, well, anything really, but it was a decent action thriller. Denzel Washington (especially!) and John Travolta make for good leads to follow and the film was well paced, though there aren’t really any surprises or twists to pick up any tension. The end was a bit of an anti-climax, too. Average all around.”

Alien

“The thing I love most about the Alien franchise is the atmosphere that Ridley Scott manages to create in this first film. From the sets to the iconic monsters themselves, H. R. Giger’s designs are incredible. Despite how dated some of the film looks (which works in the films favour here, only adding more to the fear), the visual effects are fantastic and the aliens scare me more than any other sci-fi film has ever managed to do. It’s the whole feel of these Alien films that I love about them the most, as the tension and fear keeps you on edge from start to finish. The characters and their actors are all superb, and they are each developed exceedingly well. It’s therefore very easy to follow the characters and feel part of the horror itself, another reason why I have to pluck up the courage to sit through these films on my own.”

Aliens

“A brilliant sequel and better in some ways, but I will always prefer its predecessor. The main reason for my preference is that this sequel is too action heavy compared to the first, but whilst there isn’t as much tension this around, this film is undoubtedly much more terrifying. The characters may not be as well developed either but Weaver certainly reclaims her strong lead and I also enjoyed the addition of a younger character as we were given something more to worry about.”

Gangster Squad

“A very glamorised re-telling of the true story that this film is based on, but it is the style and feel of this film that kicks it up a notch. Let’s not forget the brilliant cast and performances as well, of course – Josh Brolin is fearless, Ryan Gosling is charming, Emma Stone is stunning (and it’s great that we get to see the two together once again!), and Sean Penn is pretty bad ass. From the director of Zombieland (Ruben Fleischer) as well, there’s a lot of great gorey moments. These qualities combined set Gangster Squad aside from your average gangster film, but only slightly.”

Django Unchained

“Well, he’s done it again – this is now my second favourite Tarantino film and it certainly bettered my already high expectations. Firstly, I didn’t expect this to be funny at all but I was laughing throughout. I’m not usually a fan of westerns but as everybody has already said, Tarantino has definitely made the genre his own. It had everything great about his films – brutal gore (undeniably his bloodiest yet, although I still craved for more!), a brilliant script, a number of stand-out scenes, and an incredible set of characters. Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel L. Jackson are all fantastic in their roles, each given some of their best performances yet. I think Django has topped my list for the best shoot-out scene of all time, as well. My only flaw is that it dragged on a bit at the end, with me thinking it had finished three times before it actually did.”

Alien 3

“Despite this being a Fincher film, the Alien franchise lost its way a little bit here. My main dislike towards the film is the setting, making it less science fiction and more… well, shit. It just doesn’t have the same effect as the first two films. Whilst there are some key Fincher traits, there are no other characters apart from Ripley worth caring about,and even the Aliens lose their impact.”

Life Of Pi

“If you ever find yourself in need of being convinced that 3D technology does benefit cinema, then look no further then Ang Lee’s stunning Life Of Pi. The story could have been about anything and I would have still given it the same rating, as I found myself completely captivated by the beautiful use of CGI. Fortunately there is a decent story to be told at the same time (and the book is already waiting on my shelf to be read!). Simply following a boy stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger (I said simply, not that it was an every day occurrence), the story was a lot more complex then I ever imagined it would be, which meant that the film didn’t rely completely on its visual appeal. Some have found a great spiritual connection to the film but as very non-religious person I instead took comfort in a couple of great life lessons – one being to make sure you say goodbye whilst you have the chance to. The ending is one that audiences will all come away feeling differently about; myself, I was filled with optimism. I wasn’t completely blown away, but it was certainly pretty engrossing. Suraj Sharma, as well, was fantastic.”

Alien: Resurrection

“Well, it was better than Alien 3 but it’s still nowhere near the quality of the first two films. Struggling to even continue caring about the character of Ripley towards the end of the Quadrilogy, the premise of this film doesn’t do the franchise many favours. Fortunately it resorts back to a spaceship setting which is where the franchise works at its best, I think, but with a complete lack of engagement from the beginning of the last film, there wasn’t enough sense of hope to keep me interested for too long. There was, however, the addition of some great actors which helped to boost performances, but I’m far from scared of these Aliens any more. Where did the fear go?!”

Burlesque

“Talk about throwing every god awful cliché imaginable in your face. This was a mix between Moulin Rouge, Chicago, Coyote Ugly, and in some places even Show Girls. Not even Stanley Tucci made it worthwhile, though he was pretty funny in places. I do have to admit that I was almost drawn in a couple of time and I didn’t get bored at any point. I did, however, spend most of the film predicting the next line and getting it perfectly spot on. Christina Aguilera isn’t too bad and there are a couple of decent dance performances, at least. But generally, what utter trash this is.”

The Big Lebowski

“After reading all the reviews about how funny this film was, I expected that I would be unimpressed. Luckily you were all right. The script is brilliant and I laughed throughout. Jeff Bridges and John Goodman are excellent, though I wish we saw more of Steve Buscemi as well. It was overall just very enjoyable.”

Anna Karenina

“Joe Wright has created another stunning film with his version of Anna Karenina, and his risk pays off as he sets the entire film on a theatre stage. At times it did feel a little mismatched and I think he should have kept everything on the stage rather than only most of it, but the way that scenes changed around the characters was done beautifully. Starring Keira Knightley (a Wright regular) in the lead role, her performance was yet again spot on. Alongside Matthew Macfadyen, whose character was the funniest I’ve seen him play so far, there were many similarities to Wright’s other work, however, which did put me off in some places. Jude Law and Domhnall Gleeson also gave excellent performances, and even Aaron Johnson wasn’t awful, though I’ve never been much of a fan of his and he did seem too young for the role. I’ve not read the novels myself so I cannot make any comparisons to the original story, but from what I’ve read so far I thought it did a good job of showing Anna’s boredom, but that it did need more of an emotional push. I enjoyed all of the character’s relationships though, and felt that they all had excellent chemistries which complimented the story really well.”

Fargo

“My favourite Coen Brothers film so far. Despite the fact that William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi usually creep me out a little, I loved both of their roles here, especially alongside Frances McDormand. The combination of comedy and crime was brilliantly done, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as good without the accents.”

One thought on “Letterboxd Reviews: January 2013

Add yours

  1. You watched some great films in January. The Road to Perdition is one of my favorite gangster films. So well shot and Thomas Newman’s score is brilliant.

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