Letterboxd Reviews: April 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 April I have watched 111 films (52 shorts / 59 features):

Here’s what I thought of them:

10 Years

“Inspired by the director’s own reunion, 10 Years is a realistic drama with genuine characters. Only using the script as a guideline, with actors incorporating their own experiences into the story, everything feels authentic and unforced because, well, it is. This realism is 10 Years biggest quality. Whilst some of what we see is familiar, it never feels like we have seen any of it before. What the story does best is avert itself from the clichés of living happily ever after; some people aren’t happy with their married lives, others with their perfect jobs, and the popular girl isn’t living the dream. Although there are a couple of happy endings intertwined, reconciling relationships with ex lovers and people some used to bully, there is a good balance of embarrassments, surprises, accomplishments and forgiveness to not leave you feeling depressed because it never works out or disappointed because you know that real life pans out very differently. Instead, 10 Years feels like that for 100 minutes we could be at an actual reunion with these people. There isn’t a huge amount of story, as 10 Years comes off as quite a low-key drama, but life is not always full of melodrama so it still works incredibly well. With a few poignant moments, everybody still has a story to tell. This observational approach means that if you can connect with the characters then you will enjoy the bitter-sweet story it follows, as most of the audience will find something to relate to with the characters all having something to achieve over the night. It may not be overly compelling or deep, but it will fill you with a warmth, and maybe even a little hopeful about your own future.”

Freaky Friday

“It’s no Mean Girls, because Lindsay Lohan is actually pretty awful in this one. She did make some great teenage girl dramas though. Fortunately, Jamie Lee Curtis is hilarious; that was the only thing I found slightly appealing about this film.”

Cashback

“After watching the short last month, I decided to watch the full length feature. Cashback 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, with the feature length filling the story around the short to give us more background of the lead character’s situation. With the short being just a segment of the feature itself, it’s impressive to see how well his story actually develops. With a set of comedic characters, Cashback is also very funny. Sean Biggerstaff (Oliver Wood from Harry Potter!) leads the short well enough, but it’s the supporting cast, Michael Dixon and Michael Lambourne, who bring in the laughs. Whilst having a somewhat odd story line and its occasional sexy moments, most of all Cashback is full of technically brilliant sequences and trick photography that is all layered under a well-written narration, which makes it quite quirky and intelligent at the same time.”

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story is an honest and refreshing, light-hearted teen dramedy about realistic characters dealing with mental illness. Whilst we’ve seen a lot of films deal with mental illness issues more recently, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story is still quite original. It may be called “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” but it never tries to be too funny. It’s a little misleading, setting itself up to be more of a comedy than it is, but I wouldn’t class that as a negative as many other reviews have, as there were a few times that I laughed out loud which felt enough. Instead, it was the genuine story with a youthful twist that I enjoyed the most. Keir Gilchrist leads the film well and Emma Roberts gives a decent supporting role, though their relationship isn’t developed as well as it could be, but it’s Zach Galifianakis who I loved in this film. This was a perfect role for him, as you could take him more seriously than you can with his other characters, yet still find everything he says quite amusing at the same time. His character brightened up each scene with his beardy charm that we know so well, and he certainly made this film more than the average teen drama it could have been. There are some really great scenes, the ‘Under Pressure’ sing-a-long being a personal favourite, and it’s a certainly a film that will make you smile at one point or another.”

Mulholland Drive

“Admittedly the first David Lynch I have seen, and I definitely want to see more. It was a bit of a roller-coaster of a ride this one. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I also looked forward to it ending about half way through. And then the ‘twists’ came into play and I started to piece it together a little, but then I became so confused by the end that I was made to doubt everything. It took me all over the place. Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are both equally strong female leads, having an erotic chemistry when needed, and also somehow alternating characteristics around the half way point. The film is incredibly mesmerising, and I have to agree with reviews that it all feels like a dream or nightmare. I admire what Lynch has done here, but I genuinely have no explanation for what happened. It half annoys me that it makes no sense, and makes no attempt to make sense, but I still kind of loved it.”

The Talented Mr. Ripley

“Quite a complex psychological drama, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a well structured and paced thriller that sets up its tone brilliantly. The story constantly keeps you captivated and guessing how it will progress, and Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law all give some of their best performances.”

Mad Max

“I’m pretty sure nothing happened in this movie, at all. If you asked me to tell you the plot I would say “Some people on motorbikes stole a man’s wife and baby and they all lived happily ever after.” I promise I was paying attention, but if anything more did happen then it completely blew over my head. I didn’t even realise it was a post-apocalyptic future until I read the poster. It was funny to see a young, Australian Mel Gibson though, but he wasn’t very mad…”

He’s Just Not That Into You

“Damnit, this is another film that I will reluctantly have to add to my guilty pleasure list. Starring a pretty decent cast ensemble, including Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, and Drew Barrymore, He’s Just Not That Into You is another one of those overly cliché rom-coms with so many characters and story lines that, despite how rubbish it may be, you’ll more than likely find something to relate to. Although the characters aren’t particularly likeable, they are all so entirely over-exaggerated that there will be some small part of their obsessive personalities that you will undoubtedly see in yourself. That’s this films one main quality – looking at a number of different relationships and situations, and at the different ways people behave in relationships, that you’re bound to find some part of the story close to home. It doesn’t completely stick to the dot-to-dots of its predictable archetypes as there are a few plot ‘twists’ that may surprise you, but it’s not enough to make it original. Still, as much as I hate myself for saying this, I kind of liked it, and even found a couple of scenes quite moving.”

Killing Them Softly

“Beautifully shot and full of visually striking scenes, Killing Them Softly is a violent and well paced thriller that includes excellent performances from Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, and Richard Jenkins. Occasionally funny, Killing Them Softly is majorly let down by the fact that it tries to throw political statements down your throat. If you somehow manage to ignore these, some of which are admittedly relevant, then it’s pretty good. Long scenes of dialogue show that there is a quality behind the making of it, so whilst it’s not amazing it is obvious that it’s well directed. The look of the film, also, more than makes up for its small, albeit many, flaws, but at the same time it’s not a film I would choose to watch again if I wanted a good crime drama.”

Animal Kingdom

“Directed by David Michôd, writer of the impressive shorts Bear and Spider, I had high hopes for this crime thriller. Whilst they were not entirely let down, Animal Kingdom just didn’t have the impact I thought it would. With explicit but also very subtle violence, Animal Kingdom is beautifully shot and has a great soundtrack, which all combine to make an incredibly tense atmosphere. All of the performances are brilliant, too, but it’s Jacki Weaver who I feel is most deserving of a mention. However, whilst it may be a great film in its genre, it lacked something to have any real effect on me.”

Sarah’s Key

“Sarah’s Key is an interesting story that, whilst it isn’t always emotionally captivating, has a small number of powerful scenes that will tear you up. Kristen Scott Thomas suits the lead role incredibly well and there are many other decent performances, too, especially from the younger actors who are the ones that make the story so compelling. It doesn’t always hold your attention, but it open and ends beautifully.”

The Kids Are All Right

“It may be a fresh idea, telling a realistic story of an unconventional but modern family, and led by a strong leading trio – Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo – but it seems that doesn’t always make for a good film. The issues are all dealt with well, but it never goes far enough to move you, as the audience, in any way. With a lack of a powerful enough drama and any comedy, it only makes for a nice little story. At least I found it hard to engage with, anyway. Starring a young Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, as well, it’s easy to see why they’re both going far more recently, because the performances are probably the only thing I enjoyed about this film.”

Hit and Run

“Hit and Run is a fun and funny action comedy. Full of, admittedly low key, car chases and guns, it’s not the most exciting of actions but it’s fast paced and full of laughs. Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell have a great chemistry – presumably because they’re engaged – and their dialogue is constantly humorous. This is the only role where I have been able to tolerate Bell at all, actually, and I’ve read that most feel the same about Shepard, though I haven’t seen much of him. There’s even quite a comical role from Bradley Cooper, though it’s by far his best. Hit and Run is certainly worth a watch for the great screenplay, written by Shepard himself, as it does make for an entertaining film, even if it lacks any greatness.”

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

“Voiced by an impressive cast, The Pirates! is a great family adventure and a beautiful creation from the wonderful Aardman Animations. With a brilliant set of characters, this film will have all ages laughing, but the older audience more impressed with its quality. This was a film I read a lot about before its release and as an Aardman film in general I know how much detail went into every scene. That and the constant British wit make for one great animation. Saying that, I can only give it three stars; it just didn’t ‘wow’ me, and I prefer Aardman’s other work.”

Bee Movie

“I hate bees. But then again I’m not particularly fond of ants and I really like A Bugs Life and Antz is okay. This, however, was pretty awful. Bee/honey puns are not funny and even if they were, they grow tiresome pretty quickly. I even found the animation itself quite dull. Some of the voice cast was pretty good, though, but that’s about as much as I enjoyed.”

Sightseers

“Ben Wheatley creates another brilliant British film with Sightseers, but this time his fucked up world is combined with a lot of comedy. As a dark comedy, it’s one of the best I have seen, and written by the film’s leads Alice Lowe and Steve Oram the film-making team come together brilliantly. The story line is completely strange but that’s its biggest quality; but the madness isn’t one that will make you question the film itself, as it could very much happen in the real world. Instead, it’s surrealy realistic, or realistically surreal…? Whether or not either of those phrases exist, they sum up this film perfectly.”

Help! I’m A Fish

“A bad animation, a creepy soundtrack (apart from that one song) and a horribly terrifying animation for children! My younger siblings found the deaths and blood funny but I was shocked. At least Disney scared us subtly with the films I watched when I was growing up. Even the morals were lame – don’t pick on your fat cousin because he might just turn you back from being a fish one day. There were a few sweet and funny moments but for a family animation it was incredibly poor.”

How to Train Your Dragon

“Vikings AND dragons. What more could you want? Maybe a little more depth and personality for Toothless, but other than that it was lovely. The animation is beautiful, the voice cast is brilliant (especially Jay Baruchel), and the story is well crafted. Most of all, I want a dragon.”

Cars 2

“I don’t remember the first film overly well, but this sequel makes me question whether I even liked it at all. It was all rather bland.”

Compliance

“A shocking and disturbing thriller that will leave you disgusted in the human race. It’s crazy because I don’t think I would cooperate with something like this, from any angle, but then again it’s such a fucked up situation that you couldn’t possibly know how you would react. It’s scary, but that’s why the film works so well, because you couldn’t ever predict how it will progress. I think it goes a little too far after about an hour in but, again, who am I to say otherwise? It is based on true events and it has happened more than once after all, and that’s why it’s so powerful; as much as you doubt it, you have to believe it.”

Something Borrowed

“I wish John Krasinski was in more rom-coms so I had a bigger selection of films to watch after midnight. I agree with all the half star reviews of this film – it is wrong and predictable and full of pitiful and detestable characters, but there’s a reason we watch this type of film and it does the trick. I need romance; It has romance. I don’t think the story line is completely immoral but then I guess that shows my own flaws, not particularly the films. I’m easily manipulated by such fantasy romances, so I kind of liked it.”

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

“This isn’t your average Disney animation, but that’s what’s so great about it; Atlantis: The Lost Empire feels like a real adventure rather than a fairy tale story. It’s not filled with any of the fantastical elements of your typical Disney film – there are no talking animals, not even a little sidekick companion, or even an ever lasting friendship, but the undiscovered world itself is still rather magical. Michael J. Fox voices the lead character brilliantly. I didn’t think he would work as a voice actor but he suits his character perfectly. The rest of the actors aren’t as well known which is a shame, but all of their characters are likeable so it’s a fun adventure to follow.”

New Year’s Eve

“I’ve been watching far too many of these films lately, but hey, sometimes you need a bad rom-com to cheer you up a little. It’s not the worst I’ve seen by far, but you definitely know what you’re in for with these types of films. I think the premise is quite good for a rom-com because everybody always has such big expectations for NYE, and for a single twenty something it does usually evolve around finding somebody to kiss at midnight. Unfortunately, nobody’s night is ever this good! NYE has to one of the most disappointing nights of the year, so everything felt too over dramatised for it to be engaging at all. But then I guess anything remotely close to my own NYE experiences would make for an even worse film. Whilst it is all ‘happily ever afters’, what I enjoyed the most was that not all of the relationships were romantic. It was only these platonic relationships that had any real effect on me, which made a nice change between the clichés. Moreso, the relationship involving Halle Berry’s character was quite refreshing to see, and that made for quite an emotional impact as well. The cast is pretty good, with an extremely random combination of actors coming together, but, again, it was something else that made it a little different. Still, it was never going to be anything amazing and it doesn’t even try to be, so you know from the premise alone whether you’re going to like it or not.”

The Incredibles

“On first watch I didn’t enjoy this film, but on a second watch many years later, I think it’s very clever. For a superhero film, it is brilliant (wait, should I be saying incredible?) and smart. Being a Pixar animation, as well, there’s a lot of humour for the older audience but the brilliant action and bright colours will mesmerise the younger audiences just as much. I do have to agree that it’s probably the best action animation around, but it’s not one of the better Pixar films for me.”

La Luna

“One of my favourite shorts from Pixar. Without any dialogue, the short is beautifully animated, but most of all La Luna is charming and sweet, and tells a heartfelt story of three characters from three different generations. It really is rather wonderful.”

Bully

“The animation is pretty ugly and the story rather uninteresting. Not a short worth the 5 minutes.”

Day & Night

“This is one of few Pixar films that I’ve seen on the big screen, and I think it also has to be my favourite. The idea itself is genius; it’s simple but brilliant and looks absolutely fantastic. I don’t really know what the message is but it feels very heartfelt and I enjoy just as much with every viewing.”

Presto

“Pixar’s funniest short by a long mile. Presto is hilarious.”

Partly Cloudy

“A lovely idea, making this especially fun to watch with younger siblings as the short explores where storks get the babies that they deliver from. It’s funny and sweet, and a perfect additional feature to Up.”

For The Birds

“Another funny short from Pixar. I laughed a lot. The animation is incredibly detailed too.”

Mike’s New Car

“Gotta love Mike and Sulley – they’rehilarious! There wasn’t quite enough conversation between them but it’s still funny over and over.”

Lifted

“A funny concept as a young alien takes his first lesson in UFO driving and human abducting. Could have been better but I love the idea.”

Geri’s Game

“I love this old man. Another charming story and great Pixar short.”

Jack-Jack Attack

“It’s great to see what was happening in this background story, especially when we hear a short clip of the phone calls made in the feature film. You do need to have seen the film to really enjoy it, though.”

Luxo Jr.

“It’s hard to comment on this one, but I think a quote from Anchorman could work: I love lamp.”

Mater And The Ghostlight

“I’m not a big Cars fan, the worst Pixar films in my opinion, but this short is short enough to be funny.”

Knick Knack

“I didn’t like the animation and thought the characters all looked quite evil which was off-putting, but if they were more toy-like and the animation was sharper then it would have been really good.”

Red’s Dream

“A beautiful animation but the story’s not quite as strong as Pixar’s more recent shorts. Also, clowns are terrifying.”

One Man Band

“This would have been amazing if each one man band had their own song, and then each of these songs clashed throughout their attempts to impress. Instead, the use of one song really annoyed me so I couldn’t enjoy it, despite how good it looked.”

Tin Toy

“Horribly dated, poor animation, and one hell of a creepy baby.”

Boundin’

“I didn’t really understand this one? It did nothing for me.”

The Adventures of André and Wally B.

“As Pixar’s first short, I’ll have to forgive it for being bad. It wasn’t very adventurous…”

Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation

“The Toy Story characters are some of Pixar’s best. This is a very funny little short that you will love if you like Toy Story. And everybody does.”

Toy Story Toons: Small Fry

“We will never have enough of Toy Story. This short reminds me of the more recent Wreck-It Ralph and one of the funnier scenes in Toy Story 3 so it was very funny to watch. Lots of fun characters.”

Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex

“I enjoyed the new bath tub characters, and there’s quite a few adult innuendoes so it made me giggle, but I imagine younger audiences would love it even more so.”

BURN·E

“Poor little Burn-e. A funny little back story to Wall-e.”

George & A.J.

“I didn’t know where this was going to go but what a good idea! It was a bit too short but the quick flashes of these different ideas were comical even if only briefly.”

Dug’s Special Mission

“Oh Dug. You are my favourite animated dog. Not much of a short though, but I like how it linked into the film. SQUIRREL!”

Your Friend the Rat

“Entertaining and very informative (I hope all of them facts were true anyway?) A good little animation and quite funny too. Should I like rats now?”

Time Travel Mater

“I still don’t like Cars. I half enjoyed the other Cars short but this one was pretty rubbish.”

Shrek In The Swamp Karaoke Dance Party

“I’m not a huge Shrek fan but I absolutely love this additional scene. I must have watched it thousands of times now and remember singing it word for word in the school ground when it was first released.”

The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper

“I love the characters of Madagascar. The penguins are the best! They’re so much fun, just like this short/extra scene!”

Megamind: The Button of Doom

“Will Ferrell’s voice suits the character of Megamind brilliantly. His humour pours out of the character making this little short incredibly witty.”

Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon

“If you’re a fan of the film then this is a fun little bonus short. A lack of Toothless makes it less interesting but the voice cast is brilliant for this film, which is what I enjoyed most about these few minutes.”

Far Far Away Idol

“It’s no Swamp Karaoke but there were some great song choices for the characters which made it quite funny.”

Mermaids

“Mermaids is a surprisingly delightful story about a dysfunctional family and their bonds. I’ve never liked Cher’s acting but I quite enjoy her character as an ‘unconventional single mother’, especially alongside Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci (who is adorable in this!) as her daughters. The three make a brilliant little family and their story is interesting to follow. It certainly packs a bit of an emotional punch as I expected it to take quite a few darker twists, but thankfully it all comes together quite sweetly in the end.”

Horrible Bosses

“Horrible Bosses isn’t quite the predictable, only slightly funny comedy that you are probably thinking it is. Instead, it’s surprisingly well written, and takes a number of twists that will keep you on your toes. The leading trio – Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day – are hilarious, and the bosses are really well cast too – we don’t see enough of Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston is her funniest yet and Kevin Spacey is brilliant. Avoiding the stereotypes I thought we would be stuck with, the cast really is pretty decent, with an excellent supporting role from Jamie Foxx too! Horrible Bosses certainly exceeded my expectations, and I’ll definitely watch it again for the big laughs it gives.”

Rango

“It’s amazing how well this animation works as a western at the same time; I don’t think I’ve seen it done quite so well with another genre before. Rango is a refreshing family animation that provides a lot of laughs from its brilliantly written script. Voiced impressively by Johnny Depp, with an excellent reference to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the beginning, there’s a lot of depth to this story even though the plot is quite predictable. The animation itself is stunning, and there’s a great message behind it all as Rango sets out to find out who he really is. He’s an outcast, but then so are the other characters he meets. The constantly inappropriate jokes between them are hilarious though, so they all become likeable in their own way. It’s certainly different, but I like that.”

Ratatouille

“It isn’t high in my Pixar rankings because it doesn’t have the same appeal as the others do, for me, not being as adventurous or having the many stunningly animated scenery sets as the other films did. Although it is as well animated as the others it just wasn’t as fun as it could have been, and with most of the characters being human, as well, the animated cast weren’t as likeable. The story line is great, though, but having to compare it to Pixar’s other films it just isn’t up there with the rest of them.”

Rise of the Guardians

“I actually liked this a lot more than I thought I would. I never really saw any of the advertising for it nor did I read much about it beforehand, only knowing that it was a bit of a flop for DreamWorks, but I thought I would give it a watch and I’m glad I did. There are many, small, flaws to this film, most notably a lack of enough humour to keep a younger audience engaged, and the plot and its characters are a little underdeveloped. But in the end, the film is well written with enough jokes to make it fun, and a set of fantastical characters that will make it a magical experience nonetheless. The voice cast was one of the better things about this film. Chris Pine suited his character brilliantly, Jude Law made for a good villain, and Hugh Jackman was pretty funny as the Easter Bunny. There were a few things I didn’t agree with – why was the tooth fairy a buttterfly/bird thing? And as much as I liked this badass, tattooed, Russian Santa, it made my younger sister doubt his existence. Also, what does Jack Frost even have in common with any of these other characters? It was a little confusing for me, but maybe I shouldn’t think so much into a kids film… I just think that you have to stick to the basics when it comes to such fairytale characters; not completely, but enough for the younger audience not to question what the real tooth fairy looks like, although the director did set up equally great worlds for them all.”

Shark Tale

“Having to compare this to the likes of Finding Nemo, the animation itself isn’t amazing but some of the characters are as good. The Jamaican jellyfish, especially, are brilliant. What makes these characters even better, though, is the voice cast – Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renée Zellweger, Jack Black, and Angelina Jolie are all fantastic, but they are only one of few qualities that make this film worthwhile. Whilst the film does make me laugh a lot, the humour is incredibly childish and I always feel bad after laughing at lines such as “I’m a weiner.” My younger siblings laugh their head off at this and I liked it a lot more when I was younger, which says a lot, but as an adult it doesn’t quite have the same effect. There are a few jokes aimed at the older audience, but overall it is very much a film for children, or anyone who can see past its many inadequacies.”

Little Children

“Little Children is a brilliant character study of a set of people in suburban America. Almost like an episode of Desperate Housewives, but set in the real world of dull colours and terrible consequences, it is a complex tale of adultery, mid-life crises’s, sexual offences, and the tedious struggles of married life. The film does have its moments of dark comedy and satire but for the most part I found it disturbing. The ending, especially, stuck with me for a while and there were a few scenes that I found quite hard-hitting. Whilst I found the narration a little off-putting, at the same time it did help to take the edge off its bleakness a little, though it did also feel slightly out of place. The same goes for the two stories, the first of the leads affair and the second of the paedophile. Whilst they do have small, intertwined connections throughout, it’s hard to get to grips with why you put them together. I guess it shows the different troubles that a single suburban area can have, but it’s hard to get into the affair when you’re constantly reminded of the creepy man next door watching their children. On that note, maybe we’re not supposed to accept any of it, so maybe the combination does work well after all. What I can say for certain is that Little Children is full of exceptional performances. Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson lead the film incredibly and they have a brilliant chemistry together, Jackie Earl Haley is scarily creepy, and Jennifer Connelly manages to provoke some sympathy as the beautiful but neglected wife. I think you can feel sorry for all of the characters at one point or another, making them feel very real and the story easy to engage with. For that reason, Little Children is a deep and well developed story that, despite the sometimes slow pacing, can be quite moving.”

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

“I’m not particularly a fan of magic but The Prestige is one of my favourite films and I’m really looking forward to Now You See Me, so there’s something about magic in films that certainly appeals to me. Of course, I wasn’t expecting much at all with this one. But it is what it is. The film has a great cast including Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey, and Alan Arkin. Whilst none of them live up to their potentials, they all provoke a lot of laughs. It would have been an awful film with a less well known cast, but having such big names playing these, albeit basic, characters meant that there was something quite likeable about them. Jim Carrey, especially, had a great character to work with, dabbling in the kind of magic that makes me dislike most real-life magicians. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is far from incredible itself, but it’s funny which is sometimes enough.”

Small Apartments

“I considered just writing “awful” over and over again until I felt that I had made my point, but where would that get me? Small Apartments is… odd. Urgh, I’m just cringing at the thought of it. It wasn’t exactly messy, it had a good structure and characters were well developed; Jonas Åkerlund obviously knows how to make a good film, or to adapt one at least, but the film itself was a bizzare catastrophe. I enjoyed some of the characters – Juno Temple, Johnny Knoxville and Billy Crystal all had their moments – but I couldn’t stand Matt Lucas’ character from the moment he appeared in his pants blowing a Swedish cowhorn, so it was all rather wasted in the end. Worst of all, it wasn’t funny in the slightest. Not one laugh. I kind of hate it.”

Somewhere

“From director Sofia Coppola, Somewhere is very similar to her previous work. Whilst not a lot happened in Lost In Translation, though it was still a film I enjoyed, even less happened here. The interactions between Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning good, and Fanning, especially, is lovely and gives a beautifully natural performance. Their relationship, however, only makes for mere seconds of enjoyment and engagement.”

Tropic Thunder

“There are parts of this I love – a black Robert Downey Jr., supporting roles from Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise and Steve Coogan, many of the quotes, all of the mock scenes – but there are also parts of this I hate – Ben Stiller and all of the retard comments. It’s a hard film for me to comment on; whenever it’s on TV I think “YES! I love this film”, but as soon as Ben Stiller is captured I have to turn it off. I wish he wasn’t in it.”

East is East

“This film always hits quite close to home – aside from the Indian culture – so I find it quite hard-hitting to watch. However, it also makes me laugh a lot, so the combination of comedy and drama works really well. It’s a very true-to-life family drama and a great British comedy at the same time.”

The Number 23

“Probably shouldn’t have, but I actually liked this. Whilst I guessed the plot twists quite early on, I quickly disregarded them so its plot turns still came as quite a shock. It wasn’t the mind-fuck it could have been and some of the numerology was quite nonsensical but if you don’t think about it too much and just believe what you are told then it works as a great mystery thriller. I love Jim Carrey’s serious performances so his role worked well for me, as well.”

Runaway Bride

“I always think this film was released before Pretty Woman, because Richard Gere and Julia Roberts are both so much better in their first collaboration. Starring the same leads its impossible not to compare the two, and Runaway Bride just doesn’t live up, in comedy, romance, or drama. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s a film that will do for a lazy afternoon when nothing else is on, but if I had to choose it would be Pretty Woman all the way.”

The Small One

“A very short sweet from that has a classic Disney feel to it. I think after Pinocchio, though, all animated donkeys scare me a little.”

Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury

“I think I might have preferred this short to the film, a little bit. Or at least I wish it was part of the actual film. As a Christmas release, Gift Of The Night Fury gives us a little background into the Vikings own Christmas rituals. Whilst not very Christmassy to the rest of us, it tells a lovely story that actually left me a little emotional. Now I want a dragon more than anything.”

Book of Dragons

“Another short for How To Train Your Dragon which gives a lot of more background into the dragons themselves. It’s very interesting for fans of the film, and whilst it isn’t telling much of a story, it’s animated really well.”

Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure

“A very funny short centred on the best character from Over The Hedge. I love that it focuses on a group of animals doing a very human activity, which is what makes this short so amusing.”

Mutant Pumpkins from Outer Space

“An entertaining short released as a Halloween special for Monsters vs. Aliens. It’s funny and a little scary, and is the perfect run time to tell a decent story in a short amount of time.”

Club Oscar

“Nothing special but it accompanies the film well. And it’s Will Smith so it’s hard not to like!”

The Pig Who Cried Werewolf

“A funny short centred on the Three Pigs from Shrek. I love their accents, and the fox is also a great character, so there was a lot to laugh at!”

Shrek the Halls

“Kind of getting bored of these Shrek shorts now. This one seemed a little unnecessary and overly long.”

Shrek’s Yule Log

“What a waste of time. Who would sit there for 25 minutes for about only ten seconds of dialogue in total? Why did I do it?!”

Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular

“We’ve seen these Shrek characters sing far too much for this one to be entertaining. Another unnecessary Shrek short, this time around it’s one we’ve already seen done better twice before!”

Thriller Night

“Will these Shrek shorts ever end? You can’t get away with making a bad parody of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It didn’t work.”

Shrek 4-D

“Probably something you actually have to see in 4D to be properly entertained by, but I’m not going to Universal Studios just for that.”

Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos

“Finally, a decent short including some of the characters from Shrek. It was funny and quite cute at the same time.”

First Flight

“The only REAL, original short to come from DreamWorks. It’s incredibly cute.”

Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters

“Never really cared much for Kung Fu Panda so I’m a little biased. It doesn’t really teach you anything new but tells a good story if you want a little more background on the characters.”

Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five

“Never really cared much for Kung Fu Panda so I’m a little biased. One of the better shorts for the film though, and tells a good story for children.”

Kung Fu Panda Holiday

“Never really cared much for Kung Fu Panda so I’m a little biased. This is my favourite of the extras for the film, though, as it tells a nice little Christmas story.”

The Cider House Rules

“The Cider House Rules is a lovely and easy-going drama. I watched this with very little knowledge of the film, and came away quite moved. What starts off as a very simple and heart-felt story of an orphanage turns into quite a serious drama about adultery, incest, and abortion. It’s not hard-hitting enough to have any real impact on the audience, as it’s easy to find yourself invested in the affair and not a lot else, but I like that the story had quite a depth to it. I’ve not read the book but I imagine it to be quite a decent adaptation, with one of the best qualities being its cast – I surprisingly enjoyed Tobey Maguire’s lead, though I still find his smile very off-putting, and Paul Rudd has an interesting supporting role, but this was very much about Charlize Theron for me. I loved seeing one of her earlier performances and found a lot to relate to in her character/relationship with Homer. Michael Caine was well deserving of the Oscar, too, as he gives one of his most diverse performances (or maybe it was just the accent?) yet.”

Backdraft

“I watched this after being recommended it by a friend. He claims to know a lot about film so I thought I’d give it a go. As much as I’d like to continue by slating his film choices, I’ll let him have this one. Full of great action sequences and some beautifully shot scenes of fire, despite the film’s age, Backdraft is quite a dated but it still has a very classic feel to it. It’s a great drama about a group of American fire-fighters doing their ordinary day-to-day job, the dangers they risk and the corruptions they can sometimes be faced with. There’s also some romance muddled in to the story which is never developed full enough, but anything that welcomes a sex scene on top of a fire engine can be easily forgiven. It isn’t brilliant but it does a lot of things right. I was worried that it was going to over-glamorise the dangerous profession at first, but whilst it does appeal to the female audience by highlighting its sex appeal (everybody loves a man in uniform, right?), it is also very serious. I cried a couple of times, too, so the fact that it manages to be emotional at the same time as being sexy, ambitious, and dramatic, was another bonus. Kurt Russell and William Baldwin lead the film as brothers really well, and there are a number of great supporting roles from the likes of Robert De Niro and Donald Sutherland, especially, as well.”

Mindless

“Mindless is an emotionally powerful short shot in a stunning high contrast black and white that suits its tone brilliantly. At only six minutes long, Mindless manages to capture a range of emotions in its short run time. With very little dialogue, the story is told beautifully through the lead male’s actions. As you can easily see the sadness of the character through his expressions, it’s quite a powerful short that you won’t be able to take your eyes off. An excellent debut for the director, well done James.”

The Squid and the Whale

“It may be based on the true story of the director and his own brother when their parents went through a divorce, but The Squid and the Whale doesn’t tell much of a story. It has the basics of a good indie comedy/drama but it never reaches anything. Jeff Daniels and Laura Linney undeniably give great performances, and they would have been great parents if they had something more to do but, instead, it was all rather lifeless. There were some very funny moments; the younger brother, especially, made me laugh quite a lot with his behaviour, but, again, that’s only because nothing else was happening. Centred on a failing marriage you thought it would have been quite moving, too, but nobody seemed to care enough about each other so it was hard to engage with any of the small outbursts of feelings.”

Boogie Nights

“This is now my favourite Paul Thomas Anderson film and is one that I plan on enjoying many times more, which says a lot in comparison to my opinions of the rest of his filmography (some I love, others I like, but I wouldn’t watch many of them again). What I like most about Boogie Nights is that it’s entertaining. Sure there’s a lot to enjoy about PTA’s other films but Boogie Nights has actual entertainment – the 70s setting, the music, the likable characters, the fun dialogue, Dirk Diggler’s… monologue. As his most exuberant film to date, it is still exudes his intelligent and excellent film-making abilities and is as much of an impressive character study as the rest, exploring its themes without being too hard-hitting or preachy. Mark Wahlberg is surprisingly brilliant in the lead role, and it’s amazing to see his character transition. With great supporting performances from Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, as well, my favourite role came from John C. Reilly who is hilarious; this has to be one of my favourite roles for him as I found his character fully tolerable, something PTA has a knack for doing with the somewhat irritable actors he tends to use as the focus of his films. Whilst the film does feel a little long at over two and half hours, it never lacks in story; you may wonder how it is still going on but you would never ask it to stop.”

Bride Wars

“What happened to Kate Hudson after Almost Famous? She could have been so much more, she was so much more! But instead she’s been moulded into this annoying, man-stealing, bitchy, pathetic excuse for a woman, leading every rom-com I seem to be watching lately. I’m tired of seeing this stereotypical character from her now, it wasn’t likable the first time and it certainly isn’t getting any more comforting. But then again, what happened to Anne Hathaway? She seemed to be very much downgrading herself here, too. But then I guess we only have Les Miserables to compare her to these days so anything is a bit of a flop when you look at it that way. I did like Chris Pratt, however, whose humour managed to save a couple of the scenes, but he’s done a lot better too. As for the film itself, Bride Wars tells a ridiculous story of two female characters who choose their own weddings over their life-long friendship. It really does make females look bad. Do you know anybody like this? Because I certainly don’t. Granted it has its funny moments and there is always something to enjoy about these predictable rom-coms, but it’s very much the bottom of the pile. It largely lacks any charm and/or emotional engagement and is, instead, merely 90 minutes of two girls pulling out each other’s hair.”

Red Lights

“It saddens, and somewhat confuses, me to read all the negative reviews for this film, because I thought it was a brilliant psychological thriller. Even after reading the reviews I find it hard to fault. A lot of the criticisms for Red Lights come from its final twist. Watching the film with my housemate, it wasn’t something she enjoyed either, but it certainly wasn’t a twist that either of us was expecting. I guess in a sense it was a bit of a let down after the build up of the rest of the film, but the fact that it held my surprise was enough for me to conclude it is a fitting end. As for the film’s suspense, the intensity never lived up to the first few minutes but it did have its moments of mild horror and thrills. What I liked most was the situations it was exploring; it wasn’t anything particularly unique or complex but it was interesting nonetheless. I may not have been sitting on the edge of my seat but I was left, on numerous occasions, wondering where it was going to go next, and I consequently enjoyed where it took me. Mostly, I loved Cillian Murphy in the lead. I’ve always enjoyed his performances but it was great to see him carry a film on his own, for the most part at least. Robert De Niro isn’t overly impressive but I enjoyed the presence of Sigourney Weaver who helped to make the situations more powerful and believable, I felt. Elizabeth Olsen gives another lovely supporting role, too, and they even managed to make Craig Roberts less annoying (I thank the change of accent!). All in all, I’m not ashamed to like it.”

Mysterious Skin

“Don’t go into this expecting a happy story, because you will be left well and truly heartbroken. Especially when Sigur Ros begins to play at the end. Exploring a number of tough subjects, Mysterious Skin is a disturbing but deeply engaging story about the intertwining lives of two young boys. The sadness of the situations really do leave you feeling overwhelmed as the direction is handled brilliantly; although some scenes are pretty graphic, you come away thinking you have seen a lot more than you actually have. I think a large reason for this is because, despite the intensity of the subject matters, there’s a lot for the audience to relate to. Whether as serious as this or a minor experience, everybody has had something fucked up happen to them. With the film exploring how your past can still affect you, there’s something for everybody to hold on to in the story so it’s very easy to have a personal connection to it. It’s a theme I’ve always been interested in and it is explored excellently here, seeing two very contrasting reactions to the corruption of naive minds. Joseph Gordon-Levitt leads the film incredibly. His character is completely captivating, and even as one of his earlier performances, it’s far from his first feature film role. Believe it or not he was younger in 10 Things I Hate About You than he was here, but Mysterious Skin still feels like it was a great starting place for him, and it is undoubtedly one his greatest roles, especially for a less well known actor in these years. At first I wondered how he went from high school geek to Batman sidekick, but after seeing this film it’s obvious that the potential was there all along. He certainly made this film what it is.”

How to Be

“What a terribly annoying film. Who thought I could ever hate Robert Pattinson? I felt like a concerned mother and wanted to just cut his hair throughout. Not even his singing made it bearable. I’ve read reviews that say this is only a film for fans of Pattinson, but I wouldn’t even say that. Just because Twilight is a guilty pleasure of mine it doesn’t mean I should like absolute bollocks like this (even if you might think the same of Twilight, this is a lot worse).”

Robot & Frank

“From the premise alone it’s obvious that Robot & Frank is going to be a very sweet film. On actually viewing it, however, it is so much deeper. Frank Langella plays a lovable yet manipulative old man who is given a robot to help with his medical needs. The two form an unlikely friendship that is both endearing and humorous. As a directorial debut it is outstanding, almost faultless in its construction. The pacing and tone are both handled perfectly, and I also really enjoyed supporting roles from James Marsden, Liv Tyler, and Susan Sarandon.”

Crash

“I was recommended to watch Crash by many people. It turns out they meant the 2004 film, not this one… oops. I’m glad I got the chance to see this, though, because it’s not a film I would have chosen to watch at all. And for good reason to be honest. James Spader loves a good fetish drama, and he certainly leads them well as he emphasises the creepy and often dark sides they can have. It really is a bizarre film, going from one to extreme to another and ending in possibly the most ludacris of ways. Whilst at first I was really enjoying the film, despite its crazy premise, my rating lowered as it went on. The final forty minutes dropped my rating by a whole star because it was just that weird. My main problem was with Deborah Kara Unger’s acting, as it was impossible to know whether she was loving or hating the situation which left me with very mixed signals on how I should be reacting to it. It really is unlike anything you will ever see, and that’s all I can say.”

The Red Balloon

“I feel completely heartless for saying this but I just found this short creepy. I can’t even begin to explain why. The sad thing is, if it was a Pixar animation then I would have probably loved it; the story was sweet and I loved the final few scenes, but there was just something very sinister about it for me. God knows what was going on in my head when I was watching this!”

Sucker Punch

“I was told beforehand that this was a love it or hate it film. I happen to agree with none of the negative reviews and actually really liked it. Firstly, I don’t know what everybody is going on about the huge emphasis on rape for. There is a focus, yes, but nothing is ever shown, if it even happens at all, as it is all rather implied. From the sounds of it I thought I was going to be witnessing some horrifying scenes every few minutes, but instead the film focuses on Babydoll’s diverted fantasy world of well-choreographed action. Of course it has its dark moments which sets up the tone well and is what gives the film a lot of its impact, but it never goes any further than it needs to. Emily Browning is one sexy lady, despite her constantly annoying puppy dog eyes, and Abbie Cornish is beautiful. Both are fantastic and alongside Jena Malone and Jamie Chung, as well, the lead females are all brilliant. Apart from Vanessa Hudgens, that is, who slightly ruined it for me because I just can’t take her seriously (I have a feeling she may put me off Spring Breakers too!). The cast comes together well though, and even more so I loved Oscar Isaac in his role, although this would have definitely been a four star film for me if we got to see more of him performing/singing. Beautifully shot, it is a little far-fetched but it is also quite imaginative. The ending was a little confused and it didn’t come together amazingly, but I’d definitely watch it again.”

The Road

“I was told to watch this because I’m a fan of dystopias. This, however, is not a dystopia, it is an apocalyptic drama. The difference? There is no government influence. Now we don’t know why the world has come to end here so it’s hard to fully comment, but what I love about dystopias is that there is usually a plea for hope and/or rebellion towards the end, with something to fight for and strive towards. The Road, however, is much of what’s in the middle – the struggle to survive. Whilst this makes for a brilliant and emotional drama, it didn’t have a big enough impact at the end to tear me to pieces. Instead, it just made me contemplate at what point in an apocalypse would I commit suicide. It’s certainly not a film for a light evening, but it is almost definitely worth a watch for the incredible performances.”

Room 237

“If you like The Shining (who doesn’t?) this is a bit of a must watch. We all have our own interpretations of the film but these are some of the biggest theories out there, some of which are believable, others which are bordering on ridiculous. It’s the great thing about film, though; everybody sees film differently and who’s to say they’re wrong? Asserting that The Shining is evidential proof that Kubrick staged the moon landing does go a little too far, but the documentary brings Kubrick’s filmography together well to explore a number of things he may or may not be secretly doing. Despite what you think about any of the theories individually, they’re all interesting and well detailed. The documentary itself, however, is slightly poor, and as Russell comments, it was more like a Microsoft Powerpoint than an actual film. Not seeing any of the interviewees themselves it was hard to tell some of the voices apart, and it could have been edited a lot better to skip out their personal lives (who needs to hear a man go stop his kid from crying?). Seeing the interviewees would have also meant that the use of certain clips from the film wouldn’t have become as repetitive, although they were well-used for the best part of it. It is a bad looking documentary, but the research is obviously there so it’s still very watchable.”

Burn After Reading

“My favourite Coen Brothers film so far, and the first one that I would happily watch again for pure enjoyment. More of a modern comedy crime drama compared to their other work, Burn After Reading contains many of the likeable qualities of their other work, including an hilarious script and a great cast, but I found this film to be their funniest yet. George Clooney and Brad Pitt certainly help to make this better than the rest, and, as always, Frances McDormand is fantastic.”

Goodfellas

“For me, this is a perfect gangster drama. Based on a true story, Scorsese creates a world that’s easy to find yourself a part of. All of the characters are developed to their fullest and the narration is brilliant. It is overly long but it can be easily forgiven as the story continues at full swing from start to end, as we see the entire life of the lead character. It’s funny, it’s serious, and it’s even quite hard-hitting at times; it has a bit of everything, which is it’s biggest quality of all.”

Signs (Short)

“I was recommended this by Luke who described it as “the same story as Disney’s PAPERMAN short except SIGNS pre-dates that.” That’s enough to get anyone interested, right? And for all the right reasons. Signs is a lovely, live action short that sees two people working in opposite office buildings who fall for each other after communicating through a series of signs that they write for each other. Signs perfectly captures what short films are made for, as it tells a concise and thoroughly heart warming story that fills you with hope and optimism in a matter of minutes.”

Iron Man 3

“The first major release since Joss Whedon’s hugely successful crossover film Avengers Assemble, it was always going to be interesting to see how these individual stories would follow, and, in the end, whether we would miss the rest of The Avengers team or not. Personally, The Avengers didn’t even cross my mind, so much so that the constant references to an alien invasion in New York city last summer confused me. Iron Man 3 is a perfect follow-up to both of its predecessors, working as a confident solo return for Tony Stark but also as a step back to get us interested in the individual characters themselves again.”

L.A. Confidential

“Firstly, it’s amazing to see this cast come together at a time when many of them were largely unknown. For me, this was one of the strongest qualities, as Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and Kim Basinger, especially, give outstanding performances. Based on the novel of the same name, there is a lot of attention given to the smaller details which means that this character-driven story is strongly developed. Each character has a different reason for what they are doing and, ultimately, what it has made them become. The way their stories alongside the larger story as a whole plays out is brilliantly done and paced well. As a 1950s neo-noir crime drama, L.A. Confidential is also very stylish. The whole feel of the film is fantastic. After watching this year’s Gangster Squad, as well, it’s good to see how a police drama should be handled, without putting style over substance.”

A Running Jump

“I don’t care for cars or football so I didn’t care much for this. It works well as a short and Eddie Marsan is great, but I didn’t have enough interest in the dialogue for it to have any impact.”

The Place Beyond the Pines

“Split into three acts, The Place Beyond The Pines spans two generations with Act 1 focusing on Luke (Gosling), Act 2 focusing on Avery (Cooper), and Act 3, set 15 years later, focusing on Jason (Dane DeHaan). If there’s one thing for certain it’s that Derek Cianfrance knows how to tell a story. Just like his directorial predecessor Blue Valentine, one of my favourite films of all time which also starred Gosling in the lead role, The Place Beyond The Pines has a powerful, ruthlessly realistic and deeply detailed plot, this time focusing on the relationship between fathers and sons.”

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