Letterboxd Reviews: March 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 March I have watched 75 films:

Here’s what I thought of them:

Gladiator

“Before seeing Les Misérables, I forgot that I actually liked Russell Crowe. He gives a very powerful performance here and his story is actually quite moving. I really enjoy a good Greek/Roman action film as the sets and locations look fantastic and it’s quite refreshing to see an action film without the use of gun violence. The end of the film also made me cry, which was the moment when I realised I actually really liked it. I wasn’t expecting to have an emotional reaction to it so that gets it an extra half-star from me.”

The Grudge

“Mixing American and Japanese horror, The Grudge scares the living hell out of me every time, and for that it is one of my favourite horrors. Sarah Michelle Gellar gives a decent lead creating a believable tension, and the whole atmosphere of this film keeps you constantly on edge. I slept with the lights on for weeks after first seeing this, and I’m still terrified of attics.”

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

“Thank God Logan Lerman found The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, he would have been a waste to reduce himself to roles such as this for the rest of his career. This film seems to mock the fascinating Greek myths it has based itself around, which is its biggest flaw of all. Mixing myth with child fantasy could work really well, but this didn’t.”

The Imposter

“I thought this was incredible, and then I realised it was a real documentary and not a film based on true events and my mind was blown. As a debut feature from director Bart Layton, The Imposter is a brilliant piece of film-making. The camera work and re-enactment scenes are extremely appealing, but looking like a beautifully shot film is both a quality and a flaw, occasionally taking away some of the seriousness of the situation as it’s easy to forget that this all actually happened as it is told. The story is intriguing and captivating throughout, and if this was a film I would say it was held up incredibly well by Frédéric Bourdin. Sadly he’s not an actor, and is instead just one creepy, creepy man. I’m not a huge documentary watcher but The Imposter really is genius, and I will definitely make a point of watching more this year. Also, Frédéric Bourdin is one creepy man.”

Due Date

“So Robert Downey Jr and Zach Galifianakis weren’t funny together, who’d have thought? The only potential this had was the odd coupling, but it just really didn’t work.”

Knight And Day

“It was a lot better than Killers, which followed pretty much the same story line, but it was still pretty awful. Still, if you don’t take it seriously (at all!) then it’s watchable. Sometimes I really enjoy Tom Cruise, mainly in his 80s films, but a lot of the time he just really annoys me. This time it was the latter; I think it was that awful smirk on his face. Cameron Diaz wasn’t much better either. I’d say she wasn’t made for action films, but if she was more like her character in Charlie’s Angels and less like Carrie Bradshaw mid gun fight, then it might have been tolerable. Women who do not know how to use a gun in the lead of an action film never makes for a good movie! Deal with it, Hollywood.”

The Da Vinci Code

“I’ve not read the book but I really enjoy this film. I’m not sure why it’s a guilty pleasure for most? I think it’s fairly decent and even prefer its sequel. Tom Hanks gives a good lead and it’s an interesting role for him to take on, and Audrey Tautou is just flawlessly beautiful. Ian McKellen, too, is a great addition to the cast, and overall I just find the film very interesting, with the strongest quality being how the stories are told in each film, making The Da Vinci Code an entertaining thriller that is easy to go along with.”

Incendiary

“Without Michelle Williams in the lead role this wouldn’t of been half as good, but no film with her in it can really be that bad. This is why she’s one of my favourite actresses. Her British accent, as well, is fairly decent and it made a nice change to her style of acting. Her role also meant that her character was engaging which provoked a lot of emotion towards the end of the film. Everything else, however, was fairly average. Still, it was an interesting story and, if it wasn’t for the poor script, there would have been a deep and heart-wrenching story about a mother losing her son. Whilst the story did provoke a reaction, it wasn’t very impactful.”

Down To You

“So the story is that Freddie Prinze Jr. has sex with a girl, falls madly in love with her, and when she leaves him he tries to commit suicide by drinking shampoo. That was pretty much it. Whilst it is as ridiculous as it sounds, I did laugh on occasions and there were a few seconds where I almost felt sorry for the characters. It’s still complete rubbish, though, even as merely a light-hearted, easy viewing. The narrative style is annoying and the dialogue is overly cheesy. I was hoping Julia Stiles would have improved it somewhat but even she failed to do that. Shame.”

The Tree Of Life

“Whilst The Tree Of Life is an absolutely stunning piece of film-making, it is not my cup of tea. My comment about not wanting to only half enjoy a film is where my opinion still lies, as there were parts of the story (some of the family plot line) where I felt I could get into it, but I was always quickly deterred, once again. The scenes of outer space are beautiful, and the story is quite heart-wrenching, but I found it all rather tedious, and extremely difficult to find any enjoyment in. I have never said this a bad film, and I would understand the criticisms of my reviewing skills and even my humanity if I had, but it’s just not for me, nor is it for many, many others; that’s just the way opinions go. I did love the score, though.”

Love And Death

“I was pleasantly surprised at how hilarious this was, something I was not expecting at all. Its slapstick style was complimented incredibly by the over-use of sarcasm, an attack of clichés, and Woody Allen’s typical deconstruction of love (and I guess of death, too). A clever parody of Russian literature, its references are easy to pick up, and the dialogue, one of Allen’s most genius qualities, is exceptionally brilliant. The third collaboration between Allen and Diane Keaton, and their pairing before Allen’s breakthrough Annie Hall, their chemistry is spot on, and it is through their leads that this film is so easily yet thoroughly enjoyable.”

Serenity

“I was recommended to watch this by many, and then told to switch it off half way through because I hadn’t seen the Firefly series. I decided to carry on watching it seen as though it had already started, and for the fact I already have around 8 other series I need to catch up on before starting a new one! I probably shouldn’t have bothered though. As a stand alone film, Serenity didn’t really work, for me at least. I spent the best part of the film not really knowing what was going. It didn’t take itself seriously which I liked, and there were a few lines of dialogue that made me laugh, but overall I thought it was very over-dramatic for an action film. I would recommend watching the series first, and I’ll come back to this once I have.”

Morning Glory

“I think this could quite possibly be the perfect rom-com for males, because there was just enough com but not enough rom for my liking. I thought the story would be more about Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton’s bickering on set which I was really looking forward to, but instead it was about the ambitions of Rachel McAdams, which just didn’t entertain me enough.”

There Will Be Blood

“I thought this would have been another one of those films that was incredibly well made and that everybody loves, but that I didn’t enjoy. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I loved it. Now, I’m not saying that I enjoyed every 158 minute of this or that you wouldn’t have been able to tear me from my seat, but it has such a rare and powerful quality to it that I was left thinking “Wow”. Especially with that ending! Incredible. Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal in the lead role and gives a terrifying performance, transforming so realistically from a hard working man to one full of greed, so much so that you are fearful for everyone around him. Paul Dano, as well, is exceptional, giving a very difference performance to what we are used to. Their contrasting characters are what gives this film so much of its power, and the effect it gives really is captivating.”

Blind Date

“Bruce Willis in a rom-com? Well it’s not as bad as it sounds. There’s not a lot of chemistry between him and Basinger, but there are some very funny moments. It was okay for what it is, but there’s not a lot to love about it.”

Weekend

“A refreshing and realistic story about two strangers meeting, and one of the most honest portrayals of a relationship of the past few years. This independent film is stunning to watch, and the two lead performances are incredibly natural and that’s what holds the film up so well. Both leads have a beautiful chemistry and their intimate and passionate relationship is both moving and easily relatable, even if it does deal with the subject of homosexuality. It was all just rather enchanting, and a few scenes certainly took my breath away. Also, it’s filmed in Nottingham which is near my hometown so I enjoyed recognising some of the locations.”

Oldboy

“Traumatising in so many ways (worse for me with a fish phobia and having to watch that octopus wriggle in his mouth!), Oldboy is a violent and unsettling revenge story with an incredible story that will carry on haunting you for days after viewing. From the brilliantly choreographed fight scenes to the striking cinematography, there really isn’t anything of the same quality these days, though I do think The Raid comes close, so I look forward to seeing how the remake works out (Looks promising, no?).”

The Paperboy

“I have to start off by saying that there was so much in this film that I didn’t want to see from any of these actors, that I’m struggling to think of how to even begin reviewing this one… Let’s start by saying that if there’s one thing for certain, it’s that The Paperboy is trashy. Unfortunately, because of how badly it is handled it isn’t trashy in a good way. With a very thin plot line, albeit one that appears competent enough to make a sexually charged film noir at first glance, there is an obvious lack of depth that means your focus isn’t allowed to go any further than the thin, poor quality top layer of what this film actually is. To make it worse, the editing is so poorly done that it’s enough to make you feel dizzy and, whilst I really liked the use of colour, the cinematography is horrendously off-putting. As these qualities come together, The Paperboy, from the outskirts alone, looks less than mediocre. The promising cast was the biggest waste, though, not giving Zac Efron the transitional role I thought it would, making Matthew McConaughey somehow really dull, and giving John Cusack a character with so little threat, despite his creepy qualities, that I was more scared of him in Being John Malkovich than I was of him as a murdering rapist. None of these characters had any motivation for what they were pursuing, and for that reason it was impossible to engage with any of them. The only actor worth mentioning for their performance is Nicole Kidman, but even then I felt embarrassed for her for the best part of the film. Still, it’s takes a lot of nerve to agree to a script like that! The real problem with The Paperboy is that everything seems to lack any real effort. The cast try their best with what they’re given, but there was obviously no push from those behind the camera. For a premise with such huge potential, it all falls to an amateur level. I don’t even know what genre to put this under? It was so much of everything that it wasn’t really anything, know what I mean?”

Shaun Of The Dead

“Another great film by the brilliant trio that is Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. Their hilarious comedy mixes really well with their unique take on the zombie genre, making it an instant classic. I really can’t decide if I prefer this or Hot Fuzz. Both are equally fun and each can be watched over and over again, but you can’t beat a good zombie horror!”

No County For Old Men

“The Coen Brothers’ films are very hit and miss for me. This was a bit of a miss. After recently watching Skyfall, I was yet again in awe of Roger Deakins’ cinematography, which is one of this films best qualities. Complimented by a number of undeniably brilliant performances, the thing that yet again lost my interest was the slow pacing. It’s just something that I really can’t work through. There is a tension and in between many insignificant (to me, at least) scenes, there are some very powerful ones. However, I felt like I didn’t need to be watching half of it, and by the end I felt like I there were only a few minutes of that really made any impact on me.”

People Like Us

“As the directorial debut by Alex Kurtzman, People Like Us tells a moving and somewhat engaging story. It won’t break your heart, but it might make you shed a tear.

Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks make decent leads in this family drama, both giving very heart-felt performances. Banks’ character, at first, comes across as quite unbelievable as it’s a role that we’re not used to from her, but her character is well-developed so it works much better as the film comes to an end. Pine doesn’t give a break-out performance either, but it’s always nice to see him in a lead role, though his character did need more of an emotional impact. It was Michelle Pfeiffer who stood out for me, though, as it was when her character was on-screen when the tears started to flow. This wasn’t something I expected from her performance so her role certainly makes a large improvement. I also feel that it’s worth mentioning a small supporting role by Mark Duplass, but there really isn’t a lot else to say about it! The only real flaw with People Like Us its confusion of genres. Everything about this film calls out ‘romance’, but it would be terribly wrong for it to be so. Unfortunately it was something that the film couldn’t have avoided considering its premise, and it was also something that made the story line predictable in places. At the same time, however, it could have been dealt with a lot better. Instead, the film deals with the story line as many others have done before, so it doesn’t go beyond anything we’ve already seen. Without any specific breathtaking moments, there is still something quite beautiful about People Like Us, and I certainly look forward to more dramas from Kurtzman in the future.”

Dennis the Mennace

“It’s not quite the Dennis the Menace we know but it’s a nice live-action version of the same characters. It was a very fun film to watch when I was younger, a bit like Home Alone in the way that the constant mayhem by a little boy is where the entertainment comes from, and will always be a good film to stick on when sat around with the family on a Sunday afternoon. Christopher Lloyd scared the hell out of me, as well.”

Elizabethtown

“I liked this, but I didn’t love it. I did, however, relate to it, but not to the characters; I related to the dialogue. By that I mean I related to the characters’ discussions, but not to them or their situations. There are a number of brilliant quotes which is what kept drawing me in, but whilst it certainly has its moments, it wasn’t anything particularly impressive overall. I’m really starting to enjoy Kirsten Dunst’s roles though, and Susan Sarandon was a nice addition to the cast, too.”

Love And Other Drugs

“Anne Hathaway’s boobs… Oh, the film? I had high hopes for this because of the leading duo. Anne Hathaway has had some incredible roles lately, and Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in his thriller/serious drama roles, so I really wanted to like them in this romance. Unfortunately, their characters weren’t well fitting for either of them, and I really didn’t feel the chemistry. There are a few moments that may move you, but overall it has very little impact.”

Space Jam

“There was a few months in my life where I watched this EVERY single day. At that point Space Jam became one of the most annoying films going. Watching it four years later, however, I remember what I originally loved about it. Bringing the Looney Toon characters into the real world was a brilliant idea by Disney. Sure, it’s not done to the highest of standards but it’s such a fun family film. None of the human actors are any good, apart from Bill Murray of course, but it’s not about them anyway!”

The Wizard Of Oz

“They really don’t make them like this anymore. This is probably the best musical, ever. What an adventure!”

Dorian Gray

“I’m struggling to write about this film. All I can think to say is that it is a decent, and overall quite dark, fantasy drama. It wasn’t particularly good but it definitely had an effect on me. Colin Firth’s character needed more of an impact, I felt, but Ben Barnes did well to uphold a darkness to the film through his manipulating character. Some scenes captured the power his character had quite intensely but it still felt very uncaptivating at the same time.”

Lucky Number Slevin

“After spending a good half hour trying to explain the plot of Lucky Number Slevin to a friend recently, I realised how complex but utterly brilliant this film is. Josh Hartnett is the biggest surprise as he give his best performance yet, leading this film superbly and keeping us entertained from one minute to the next. Ben Kingsley, Morgan Freeman, Stanley Tucci, and Bruce Willis also have brilliant and well-suited characters, as the cast comes together really well to create an incredibly engaging crime thriller. The narrative approach is its biggest quality, however, jumping back and forth to piece the story together in a way that keeps you both guessing but also completely invested. It’s definitely one of my favourites in its genre.”

Super Size Me

“An incredibly interesting idea which provides a great insight into something still totally relevant today. I still want a burger though.”

Man On Wire

“I don’t think it was particularly James Marsh’s style of documentary making that I really enjoyed about this, but more about Philippe Petit himself. Petit makes a brilliant subject matter, keeping the interviews entertaining but also providing a lot of the suspense. He’s a real showman, and that’s what gives this documentary its charismatic, yet almost surreal, edge.”

I Am Legend

“This is a bit of guilty pleasure of mine, as I love a good dystopian future and I Am Legend creates its post-apocalyptic world very believably. Will Smith is its finest asset, though, as he keeps you engaged brilliantly for being on screen with only a dog for the most part. Seeing his character trying to survive this world on his own is quite emotional in places, making it quite a relatable story line and therefore very easy to engage with. Let somewhat down by its ending, it’s still a film I can enjoy watching over again.”

Just Go With It

“After an awful opening first twenty minutes or so, Just Go With It is your typical Adam Sandler rom-com, with slightly less heart and giggles but a few improvements, somewhere… To put things in perspective, let’s just say that Jennifer Aniston may not get away from her stereotyped role much but she can do A LOT better than this. And also, why is Nicole Kidman even attached to this film? I don’t mind a bit of Sandler comedy from time to time and there are a few laughs to be had, but it doesn’t live up to some of his fairly decent films such as 50 First Dates and Happy Gilmore, which I don’t mind admitting to liking. It’s not completely awful, but in the end it’s pretty much the same old, predictable crap that we are used to from him.”

Red Dawn

“With quite a rushed beginning half it doesn’t make for a very believable story, but it’s still one that’s quite enjoyable. With a series of good action scenes and a set of characters that are enjoyable to follow, Red Dawn looks good from the surface. However, there are many, many flaws to the plot. For a start, they’re all incredibly clean and well-shaven for a group of teenagers living in the woods without a spare change of clothes or running water. This lack of focus on the smaller details is noticeable throughout, showing a consistent lack of effort that, when delving deeper, never allows the film to rise above adequate. The characters themselves are well developed though, as they deal with the situation in a believable way, at least in a way that you would expect from predominantly inexperienced youngsters wanting to make a difference, each having a realistic back story to give them something to fight for. Led well by the handsome but tough Chris Hemsworth, he takes charge of a less than decent Josh Peck, a surprisingly respectable Josh Hutcherson, an almost in-existent Isabel Lucas, and a sexy fresh face that is Adrianne Palicki. Together they make quite a strong cast to follow, but none of them give a performance that’s worth giving much attention to. Red Dawn is a good popcorn movie, but I wouldn’t expect anything more.”

Safe Haven

“Usually quite a sucker for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, I didn’t look forward to this one, nor did I enjoy it. Where Safe Haven goes wrong straight away is that the adaptation completely lacks any engagement, either emotional or not. With Sparks’ other adaptations there’s usually something to draw you in, whether it be a tiny perk like Dear John‘s decent leading duo, or one that lives up to the high qualities of The Notebook. Safe Haven, however, lacks anything to make it distinctive, and in the end there is nothing there to make it worth the watch. Julianne Hough isn’t an awful lead but she doesn’t have a likeable enough character to follow. Whilst her performance does have the hard edge that is required for her character, I’m yet to take any of her roles seriously, though admittedly she does step up here from what I’ve seen of her before. Nevertheless, her on-screen relationship with Josh Duhamel‘s character lacks any chemistry or real story of undying love to win you over. The chemistry between the leading couple and the over-melodramatic churning of having a ‘one true love’ pours out of the many other Sparks’ adaptations, and with so many other films to compare Safe Haven to it just doesn’t live up. Hough’s relationship with Cobie Smulders‘ character, as well, is incredibly miss-matched for such a romantic drama. The female friendship is constantly awkward and, whilst making sense in the end, seems only an irritable distraction before it is given any real purpose. Even the mixture of mystery/slight thriller comes off as confused, which I presume was a better quality of the book and something that should have set this film aside from Sparks’ other work. In the end, everything’s just far too familiar – the boat trip, the kissing in the rain – and if we’ve seen it before then we’ve certainly seen it done better. Instead of breaking the mould, Safe Haven is predictable, forgettable, and completely one-dimensional. Because of this, the twist at the end comes off as down-right ridiculous, and the emotion just isn’t there to forgive it for its flaws. I’m still happy to be single anyway, which says a lot on its own.”

Electrick Children

“A stunning debut by Rebecca Thomas, and a lovely performance from the lead Julia Garner, who I truly hope to see more of after this. It’s an odd little film but there’s something quite alluring about it at the same time. The big lights and the constant re-play of a cover of Blondie’s Hanging On The Telephone make for a beautifully made film, but I only wish we got to see more of Rachel experiencing the real world.”

The Mighty Ducks

“A classic Disney family film, but I just can’t take Emilio Estevez seriously! Still, it’s fun for all despite it’s cheesy, predictable story line.”

Side Effects

“Side Effects is a brilliantly paced and cleverly constructed thriller with constant twists that you won’t see coming. Having written about the film beforehand and seeing the numerous trailers, I would have never predicted how the story was going to progress, and certainly wouldn’t have imagined its outcome. The films disturbing revelations come surprise after surprise, and to mention any more in terms of plot would be a discredit to the brilliantly written script. A great thing about Soderbergh’s films is that he always handles the genre and its themes perfectly. Mental health has been explored quite a lot in recent cinema, with The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and Silver Linings Playbook being the best of the bunch, but whilst Side Effects deals primarily with similar issues, it instead puts its focus on the drugs used to help keep such an illness under control. Much like with Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion, writer Scott Z. Burns is a master of fact-based scenarios; as easy as it was to believe the information given about an international killer virus, it’s just as easy to be taken in by the serious facts discussed here, especially when you’re made aware that more US citizens die from prescription drug abuse than they do from car accidents. Another strong quality of Side Effects is the cast, each of whom give outstanding and engaging performances throughout. Channing Tatum doesn’t have a great amount of screen time, and I would have happily seen more of Catherine Zeta-Jones who gives one of her best performances in years. Jude Law, especially, is brilliantly cast as he goes from empathetic to ruthless detective superbly. It is Rooney Mara that excels though, creating a brilliant atmospheric darkness with her character that shadows the whole film. As they are all quite unsympathetic characters, Soderbergh is able to be daring in where he takes the film, as he puts his characters through the worst of it without the audience being effected by their motives. But whilst these twists play tricks on your mind, Side Effects also tampers with the way you view the film, as it is filmed in a hazy, soft focus. It really does look great and this filming method suits the film perfectly. As a fitting sign-off for the director, it’s worth being reminded of his directorial debut Sex, Lies, And Videotapes, as all three of these elements are brought together at the end of this film as well. Done purposefully or not, Side Effects is definitely my favourite Soderbergh film so far, and it will be a huge shame if it is his last. Either way, he couldn’t have left on a better high.”

Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls

“Ace Ventura is Jim Carrey at his best, and this sequel is undoubtedly as funny as the first. You’ll be quoting and laughing along throughout.”

Legally Blonde

“Urgh I thought I hated this, but having watched it again today after many, many years, I actually kind of liked it. A great role for Reese Witherspoon, and definitely another for the guilty pleasure list.”

Oz: The Great and Powerful

“Having read the majority of average reviews for Oz: The Great and Powerful beforehand, I wasn’t expecting a lot as I took my seat in the cinema. Consequently, I loved it. Sam Raimi brings Oz back to life in all its magnificence as the films biggest highlights is its visuals. Sharing some of the same characteristics as the classic Oz film we all know, Oz: The Great and Powerful begins in black and white and, as Oz enters into the wonderful land of Oz, the scenery bursts into colour. With some brilliant 3D moments, these first few minutes in Oz are beautiful and show just how far cinema has come. Of course it wasn’t ever going to live up to the original, but it sure makes a fun and magical follow-up. It was enjoyable in itself to see how Oz came into power. Having not read the book myself, the story was competent enough to keep you engaged, even though it wasn’t excessively clever. Also using the some of the same characters in both worlds to keep the connection between Kansas and Oz vivid, we are constantly reminded of the original film, a characteristic that I really enjoyed. Some, however, felt that Raimi was trying to live up to a film that he could never better, but I found the small similarities a friendly nod to the classic rather than something that the director should be criticised for. It would be beyond ridiculous to expect anything even close to the 1939 film, so making the comparisons at all wouldn’t make for a fair review. What were people expecting, really? The cast alone sets the film up as a strong but also campy and modern re-imagination of L. Frank Baum‘s novel. Whilst at times I felt that some of the casting was a little muddled, at the same time I enjoyed how this gave the film a theatrical quality, which in the end is what I liked most about it. James Franco didn’t suit the role perfectly and his character wasn’t particularly likeable for most of the film, but he gave a decent performance nonetheless and his role held up pretty well by the end. Yet again, though, it was Michelle Williams who stood out for me, showing that she can play a glamorous, good witch just as much as she can a broken-down wife. I absolutely adore her and I think she was a huge asset to the film overall. Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis are also quite fun to watch, both giving entertaining performances as the bad witches of Oz, although they do have more similarities to the Wicked stage show than they do to the truly terrifying witches of the original. It’s Zach Braff who will have you laughing though, and I certainly laughed a lot! It may not be ground-breaking, but I found Oz: The Great and Powerful thoroughly entertaining. If you go in expecting a bit of fun with the classic story, then that is what you’ll get; we have to remember what we’re promised in the first place, and that was never the masterpiece people were hoping to be surprised by.”

Sex, Lies, and Videotape

“Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a subtly erotic drama which deals brilliantly with themes of identity, sexuality, and infedility. Its biggest qualiry is its rawness, from the appearance of the film to the performances, which gives it an almost haunting feel, albeit quite a minimal approach for Soderbergh as his directorial debut. I’m usually quite creeped out by James Spader, but his role here (just like in Secretary) suits him perfectly; I guess fetishes like these do well to not be over-glamorised, so Spader is really well-fitting in the lead, especially alongside a somewhat naive Andie MacDowell. Their performances are natural and therefore engaging, so the film does well to slowly draw you in.”

Brave

“For a Disney film, I think it’s brilliant that they’ve created a Scottish princess who stands up for what she believes in and avoids any kind of romantic sub-plot. That being said, it lacks much of what the classic Disney films capture because of this. There may be no knight in shining armour to save the day, but instead the film focuses on family. This family is particularly fun to follow; they’re funny, they’re adventurous, and all they need is a push in the right direction to reinforce that loyal bond that is so easily lost. For a change there’s something to relate to, and a happily ever after that is realistically achievable (putting the fantasy/magical premise aside, of course). Brave might not have been the five-star animation I was expecting, although it is beautifully animated, but it certainly has a lot of heart. Looking at it a little more deeply, I feel that Merida is much like The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen, giving younger girls something to be influenced by rather than a Bella Swan type character who only wants to find her Edward Cullen. It’s refreshing, to say the least.”

Ginger & Rosa

“Ginger and Rosa is a delightful coming-of-age tale that doesn’t quite capture the power behind its promising premise, but it still provokes an emotional response. Elle Fanning and Alice Englert both give excellent leading performances. Fanning, especially, is one of the brightest young stars around and despite her young age, filming G&R at only 13 years old, she conveys her emotions exceptionally. It’s Fanning who holds this film up so well, making you worry about where the story will go next as she questions it herself, and watching in disbelief as she finally breaks down. Whilst the supporting cast was also decent, I mostly enjoyed Christina Hendricks’ role as the mother. Her acting wasn’t particularly good but it was a role that suited her at the same time. Unfortunately it didn’t provoke much emotional engagement, and it needed to have been a lot stronger. With a more compelling mother/daughter relationship this could well have been a four star film. Nevertheless, the story is quite haunting and it stayed with my through the night. It just could have been so much more.”

Cashback (Short)

“The Cashback short, at only 15 minutes long, tells the interesting story of an art student working the night shift in a local supermarket, who finds himself with the power to freeze time whilst remaining on a normal time-frame. The story is pretty great, and with a set of comedic characters, each of whom are well developed considering their short time on screen, Cashback is also very funny. Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood from Harry Potter!) leads the short well enough, but most of all Cashback is full of technically brilliant sequences and trick photography, making it odd, quirky, and sexy all at the same time.”

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

“There’s so much about this film that scares me now that I’ve grown up, but I thought it was magnificently magical when I was younger. Gene Wilder is perfect in the lead role, and the musical numbers are fantastic. Full of imagination, pure entertainment, and eccentric characters, the film is set solidly around a compelling story that is fun for all the whole family and all generations. Tim Burton’s remake has nothing on this.”

Paul

“Whilst Paul isn’t Simon Pegg and Nick Frost a their best, by far, it’s still a pretty funny film. The loss of Edgar Wright is obvious throughout as the writing doesn’t quite live up to the standards of Hot Fuzz and Shaun Of The Dead though. It’s fun, and I really enjoyed the supporting cast, but it’s just not up to their normal standards.”

The Lost Boys

“Another great 80s film from Joel Schumacher, and a brilliant one in its genre. Combining horror and comedy, it’s just like The Goonies… but with vampires! Corey Feldman and Kiefer Sutherland always make for a good/cheesy 80s film and the fact that the lead looks like Rob Lowe is good enough. It’s definitely aged quite badly but there’s still so much to love about this. I only wish I saw this when I was younger so that I could say it was another childhood classic, because it certainly would have been.”

Tremors

“Well first of all, that poster is a little misleading as the aliens were a lot more phallic than scary (and I don’t mean in a terrifying H.R. Giger sense). Without the use of CGI, Tremors has a very classic horror feel to it, but that also meant that it lacked any atmospheric fear. Its combination with comedy worked well, but saying that I didn’t find it funny or scary so I don’t quite know what it was trying to achieve. That was my only problem, however, as Tremors is still a brilliantly made film. Its pacing is spot-on, the dialogue is quite remarkable, and I even enjoyed Kevin Bacon in the lead role.”

17 Again

“This seems to be a bit of guilty pleasure for most people, and I think a large part of this is down to the script, which allows the film to not be taken so seriously. It’s constantly funny, and because of that it is thoroughly entertaining, whether you wanted it to be or not, especially as it isn’t as predictable as you would first think. I’ve still got high hopes for Zac Efron and am determined that he will break the highschool mould sometime soon (I thought Paperboy would have been this character for him but it didn’t quite work out!) Still, this is probably my favourite role for him so far, and I can’t help but enjoy his chemistry with Leslie Mann, despite how wrong it is. I love Thomas Lennon’s supporting role in this as well; his character here and in I Love You, Man are my favourite for him, as he always adds something big, comically, despite his short time on-screen.”

Dan In Real Life

“Dan In Real Life is an incredibly heartfelt family drama; they may not be the most realistic of families, but they bring to light some relatable problems and relationships. The relationship between Dan and his daughters is especially moving, with Steve Carell doing what he does best when he is given a real character. He makes you laugh and he makes you cry, completely absorbing you in to his situation and engaging you with his wit, awkwardness, and personal realisations.”

Welcome To The Punch

“Welcome To The Punch is a confident and stylish British action thriller that, whilst it looks quite average from the outskirts, is a refreshing cinematic experience. With all too much of the same being released lately, it makes a nice change to see some of Britain’s talent coming together to give us something a little different. It may be all guns shooting and cars swerving, but this police thriller is a breath of fresh air to its genre. Full of energy, Welcome To The Punch is brilliantly paced. With an excellent opening sequence, the most noticeable quality straight away is its stunning visual style. Set in London and full of big lights and cityscapes, the setting and set pieces make the films dynamic action sequences even more riveting. Reminding me in part of some of Scorsese’s work, this look compliments its genre perfectly. From writer/director Creevy, who gave us the 2008 thriller Shifty, the one noticeable flaw of Welcome To The Punch is that the plot gets a little muddled when all of the twists come into play, although it does all get broken down for you near the end if you never quite got the hang of who was on who’s side. What Welcome To The Punch benefits most from, though, is its fantastic British cast. James McAvoy, Mark Strong, and Peter Mullan are all fantastic, and they come together brilliant with one scene, especially, that includes all three actors really standing out. Even Andrea Riseborough makes her place as a strong female lead in this action. Her relationship with McAvoy’s character isn’t well explored, but to have gone any further would have taken the film in a wrong turn. Welcome To The Punch may not make its way on to your Top 20 list at the end of the year, but it’s definitely a film that you should watch.”

Richie Rich

“So Macaulay Culkin can do bad family comedies. That was disappointing.”

Searching For Sugar Man

“At first glance I thought Searching for Sugar Man would be a well made documentary that I could enjoy, but not necessarily invest in with the story. But what a sensational story to tell. Coming across as a bit of a mystery thriller at the beginning, the story of two South Africans’ search for the 1970s musician, Rodriguez, unfolds brilliantly. It’s an incredible tribute to a man who thought he only ever sold 6 albums, and it’s hard not to get swept up in his story because of his genuine likeability. To make it even better, Rodriguez’s music is actually fantastic.”

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

“I never expect much from a horror film, but when the brilliant Guillermo del Toro is invovled you can’t help but be a little enticed. The story, co-written by del Toro, is quite well developed and has some strong background footings, but without del Toro behind the camera it all comes off as fairly mediocre; the most disappointing thing being the creatures themselves, which is usually a strong factor of his films. If there were less of them and they were bigger in size then I think this would have terrified me, but alas, their rat-like features ruined it for me almost completely. What did impress me, however, was Bailee Madison, who is superb. Child actors are rarely any good in horror films but her acting was constantly believable and it’s her role that gives this film two stars from me. Also, trying not to give a way too much, I think a final glimpse at Katie Holmes in them last few seconds would have been brilliant. Still, I am now quite (emphasise ‘quite’) scared of the dark and can’t go upstairs without turning the landing light on, so it did the trick.”

Australia

“I’m finding it hard to believe that the same Baz Luhrmann directed this. With him behind the camera and Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in the romantic lead, I thought I would have been in for a right treat with this. I was severely disappointed. I will admit, though, I did enjoy the final ten minutes or so, as this was the only point where I felt any kind of emotional engagement with the characters. At nearly three hours long, however, there just wasn’t enough story there to keep you interested for even half that long.”

Dredd

“I was amazed by how much I enjoyed this film to be honest. I like a good action film, but they don’t often step above anything more than average for me. Dredd was pretty epic, however, and the brutal gore in a well-crafted dystopian future was an additional bonus. Karl Urban was surprisingly good in the lead, but it was Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey who I enjoyed the most. I’ve only seen Headey in the Game Of Thrones series before so this was a welcomed change in performance, and as for Thirlby, there’s just something really alluring I find about her acting. I think having these strong female characters is what made this action flick one of the best of 2012 for me, falling closely behind The Raid. The story line was intriguing and the slow motion sequences that it opened up were a visual treat, though I’m sure they were a lot better on the big screen and in 3D. It certainly lives up to its potential nonetheless.”

Movie 43

“All I really have to say is that if I went to the cinema to see this, I would have walked out in the first ten seconds. Why do films like this need to be made? I genuinely think that this is the biggest load of crap that will cinema will ever see.”

Hitchcock

“Telling a segment of Alfred Hitchcock’s life story, Hitchcock may not be as influential as the director himself, but it’s an interesting and informative story to be told and to see adapted onto the big screen itself. Anthony Hopkins plays Hitchcock perfectly and looks absolutely incredible in the role. Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson also give excellent performances, but whilst the characters are all superb, the film doesn’t quite live up to what a fantastic director Hitchcock was. Whilst I was only interested in seeing this film to gain some knowledge about Hitchcock’s life and, in particular, the making of Psycho, Hitchcock does surprisingly work as a love story as well. This is perhaps the most dominant part of the film, as the final scene (before his somewhat mismatched epilogue) where Hitchcock celebrates with his wife is quite heart-warming and closes the film brilliantly.”

Flight

“With an excellent central performance from Denzel Washington, Flight is a well constructed, gripping drama about addiction. The way Washington’s character comes to terms with his illness isn’t the most powerful portrayals of an addict that cinema has seen, but his gradual degradation builds up excellently and I even found it to conclude quite emotionally. The character development is slow and there was so much more that could have been done to engage the audience, but I found its subtlety quite charming by the end. With great supporting roles from John Goodman and Don Cheadle as well, its the performances that will keep you focused in Flight, even if it never quite lives up to its first twenty minutes.”

Monster

“Based on a true story, Monster is a horrible but fascinating story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Charlize Theron is truly amazing in the role, with a great help from the make-up team who make the once beautiful actress look really, really terrible. It honestly does better her performance though, as her character is mesmerising and by the end of the film you will almost undoubtedly find yourself feeling sorry for her, remembering that this did actually happen in real life. Admittedly there’s not a lot of excuses for Wuornos’ actions, but with Patty Jenkins’ brilliant directing behind the camera, we are able to understand the process that her mind would have been going through, which makes for a somewhat compelling film considering its premise.”

One Day… (Short)

“Odd. I don’t like such toilet humour, but David Cross is funny. Not quite sure how Gondry went from this to Eternal Sunshine, however.”

The Letter (Short)

“A sweet and funny little short about childhood romances. With a sense of surrealism that Gondry is brilliant for, the story at heart is one we can all probably connect with somehow.”

The Man Who Wasn’t There

“With cinematography yet again by Roger Deakins, The Man Who Wasn’t is a stunning, black and white film noir. The whole atmosphere of the film is brilliant, from the look of the sets and the characters to the monotonous dialogue. Billy Bob Thornton is great in the lead and he really suits the directors’ style of film-making. I found it very easy to zone out of the middle half, however, but the beginning and end are both very entertaining.”

Reservoir Dogs

“Another incredible Tarantino film that is strongly held up by its amazing cast, each of whom have excellently suited characters that they play perfectly. Just like Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs is brilliantly structured; from the dialogue to the non-linear storytelling, Tarantino really does know how to write a good, no, classic film. This may be one of his lightest pieces of work, but the infamous torture scene is one of his best. As Tarantino’s debut, as well, wow.”

The Cat Came Back (Short)

“An animated illustration of the folksong “The Cat Came Back,” this short is funny but all too familiar. I also find something a little creepy about it…?”

Bottle Rocket (Short)

“As Wes Anderson’s first ever film, and a short version of his feature debut of the same name, Bottle Rocket is a rough cut of the work we know Anderson for today, but it’s great to see where he started off. That’s not to discredit its brilliance on its own either, as this short is great. In some sense its better than the full length feature, but they both feature the same brilliant style of dialogue and a similar but comical plot. Luke and Owen Wilson are fantastic, as well, and as a stand alone film it tells a great and very funny little story. It will definitely make you want to see the full length feature at least.”

Spider (Short)

“Wow! Nash Edgerton manages to be hard-hitting but funny and warm-hearted all at once with this short. It’s great. I also watched Bear straight after, which I would recommend doing.”

Bear (Short)

“The second Nash Edgerton short I watched today, right after seeing Spider. Bear is very similar in terms of plot but it will surprise you just as much. Much in the same way, it begins by making you laugh and ends by making you jump out of your skin. It’s brilliant. Nice appearance from Teresa Palmer as well.”

The Host

“Having read and finished The Host novel only days before seeing the film, I was eagerly anticipating the release of this adaptation. Despite enjoying the novel, however, The Host was the biggest disappointment of 2013 so far, and it is the worst novel adaptation I have seen yet.”

The Master

“You have to agree that Paul Thomas Anderson knows how to make a phenomenal film. There’s definitely something about them that, whilst always very different, have a similarity running through them. Set in the 1950s, PTA yet again captures the setting perfectly. Just like he did with There Will Be Blood, this is one of the biggest qualities of his film making as his dedication to detail is what draws you in, making the characters and their situations in this well-constructed setting believable. For me, that’s where a lot of the power in his story telling comes from. There are times when the pacing gets a little tedious, but it wasn’t something that completely effected my viewing this time. The few empty moments that would usually avert my attention elsewhere instead complimented the stories rhythm, and only further pulled me in to the story. Phoenix is absolutely brilliant in the lead, and alongside Hoffman the two give outstanding performances, both playing their roles perfectly. Further strengthening their roles, PTA develops their characters equally well, as it’s easy to see why Dodd is able to gain a following in the first place but also to feel the frustrations of Freddie. I even enjoyed Amy Adams’ performance, which is a first for me. I was a little let down by the ending, but The Master is still a film that will resonate with you despite many believing that it was an aimless film.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

“The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is undeniably one of the greatest trilogies of all time. Almost flawless, it is brilliant from start to finish. As the first instalment, The Fellowship of The Ring sets up the story brilliantly, seeing the characters for the first time in their naturalness and introducing us to the fantasy world of Middle-earth in the best way it could. The characters themselves are all fantastic, with each actor owning their part to the fullest. This will ultimately be the pinnacle role in most of their careers, something I’m sure they are all beholden to, and it is these actors who make this film such an phenomenal and epic adventure to follow. With a brilliant pacing, despite some overly long walking scenes that the trilogy is well known for, the stunning location shots against the remarkable score make for one masterpiece of a film. Even when nothing is happening, you find yourself so engrossed in the scenery and the world itself that it will hold your attention for three whole hours, and its long run-time won’t even bother you.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

“As the second instalment in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Two Towers is just as good as the first. But this film has Gollum! It’s amazing how so much can happen in what seems to be such a short amount of time; although it is three hours long, its run-time doesn’t become exhausting in the slightest. Even as the middle story, no matter how many times you watch this instalment you will always forget how far it goes. It really is full to the brim of brilliance.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

“The third instalment to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King perfectly ends an incredible series, despite how many times it makes you think it’s going to end before it actually does. With much of the same as the first two films, from the beautiful cinematography to the brilliant characters, we were drawn in to this story from the first moment we met Frodo back in The Shire. Now that the story comes to an end, it’s hard not to be attached to everybody involved. What a film. What a trilogy. What a cinematic triumph. We couldn’t have asked for more!”

King Ralph

“I had to watch this for the crazy premise, especially with having John Goodman in the lead. It is pretty ridiculous, but I laughed quite a lot.”

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

“I’m yet to read any of The Chronicles of Narnia novels that these films are based on, but from the adaptations alone it’s obvious that C. S. Lewis’s series of books tell a brilliant story for children. The third instalment in the series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is an epic fantasy adventure. Epic for the younger audience, that is, because whilst I didn’t enjoy this film as much as I did the others, I knew that I would have loved it if I were younger. As with the rest of the series, the characters are all fantastic with the child actors, especially, really coming together. The animations are great, too, as Michael Apted really brings to life a fantastical world of magic and dragons, with an additional push of morals and life lessons to give the younger audience something more to take away from it. With occasional comedy moments and a story strong enough to follow for what seems a lot longer than its two hour run-time, this may not be a film to enjoy on a night to yourself, but it’s great fun for the family.”

One thought on “Letterboxd Reviews: March 2013

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