Letterboxd Reviews: July 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 July I have watched 47 films:

Here’s what I thought of them:

Clerks

“I’m a big fan of the Kevin Smith films I’ve seen so far, but Clerks was very much in the middle for me. I think it’s because I hate hipsters/slackers. Whilst I enjoyed the characters and their situations, I still had a hidden dislike for them which mean that by the end I was left very uninterested. That being said, it’s a great comedy, a brilliant directorial debut, and I loved how it was shot.”

Office Space

“Office Space is so much funnier than I thought it would be; I wish I didn’t put it off for as long as I had. I don’t work in an office but I sure get the tediousness of mundane work, so that made for some even bigger laughs. Mainly, there are some great characters and a brilliant cast; Jennifer Aniston even has a great little role in the film, which makes a nice change. It’s just a great comedy really.”

Broken Flowers

“I’m loving a bit of Bill Murray at the minute, and this is certainly a great role for him and one of my favourite performances. The main reason I loved this film was the story, even though it had a slight non-end. The reason it worked, however, is because we know Don’s character has already given up on life, so it was amazing just to see the way his character’s mind was ticking, even if it didn’t build to anything in the end. Because hey, sometimes that’s life. The pacing is quite slow and there are minutes at a time that go by without anything really happening. Whilst this is usually a massive pet hate of mine and it did put me off ever so slightly, it also complimented the tone of the film really well. The female leads, who play a central part in the story, are also impressive, including roles from Julie Delpy, Sharon Stone, and Tilda Swinton.”

SherryBaby

“Following a story based on the director’s childhood friend, SherryBaby is a moving story about an ex-addict eager to re-establish a relationship with her young daughter. The story isn’t anything particularly new but it is believable and concise. Unfortunately it does leave quite a few loose ends, though, not delving into some of the more complex matters it hints at. This film is all about Maggie Gyllenhaal’s performance, however. Following on from her breakout role in Secretary, these are two films where she has performed incredibly, and here, especially, she really brings the character to life. Without this incredible performance it would have been hard to engage with, but Gyllenhaal does well to make you feel for her self-destructive character.”

Ira & Abby

“A somewhat original rom-com led brilliantly by Chris Messina and Jennifer Westfeldt, who have the perfect chemistry to make you both laugh and cry. Following quite an odd and ‘kooky’ storyline, the film’s main strength is that it is full of realistic insights into relationships, as it deals with a variety relationship problems. Engaging and entertaining, Ira & Abby is sweet but also subtly intelligent and self-aware. There’s also a funny cameo from Jon Hamm, Westfeldt’s real-life husband, though it’s weird to see him look so unattractive.”

3:10 to Yuma

“Wow, this was long. Great performances but I’m going to have to watch it again to say more.”

A Field in England

“Ben Wheatley’s latest film, A Field in England, premièred on Film4, so I joined in with the rest of Twitter and gave it a watch.

Deliberately lacking any explanation and coming across as experimental, I find it hard to fully engage with a film that doesn’t explain why anything is happening, or what is really happening at all. Whilst this is a reason most have appraised Wheatley for, I was left feeling very mixed about it. The cinematography is amazing. There are some great shots, albeit mainly of long grass (it is about a field after all), but the atmosphere is captured brilliantly. Unfortunately that’s the only thing I can say I really loved. Though the performances were all very good too. It’s not as fucked up as I hoped, but it’s certainly still… mad. All I know for certain is that it gave me some dodgy dreams after falling asleep shortly after.”

Equilibrium

“Full of good action and a great lead from Christian Bale, Equilibrium sets up a great idea; a world where people have the inability to feel any emotions. A big fan of dystopias, I don’t think it was dealt with overly well here. Now, I don’t think this is a problem with the film, I just think that it is a concept that is hard to fully capture. Why? Because every action is the response of an emotion. Yes, these people are only doing what the government tell them too, but when they are caught off guard they must act off their own accord, proving there still to be anger, resentment, as well as the need to do good/right. Basically, I think the eradication of emotions is impossible, so therefore it had its flaws.”

Memoirs of a Geisha

“At its heart, Memoirs of a Geisha is about love, but the romantic themes never over shadow the real story here. Only falling sentimental towards the end, Memoirs of a Geisha is, instead, a powerful and authentic drama about a girl torn from her family and forced to work as a maid in a geisha house. Lead Ziyi Zhang, although she is actually Chinese and not Japenese, is outstanding and her role is incredibly engaging. You feel every emotion her character is going through and, being based on an acclaimed novel, her performance makes the story feel very real. The cinematography, sets and costume design are equally beautiful. It’s just as impressive to see the customs of a Geisha alone.”

The Soloist

“The final film in my watching of Joe Wright’s entire filmography, The Soloist is a moving true-life story about a musician who develops schizophrenia and becomes homeless. Robert Downey Jr. plays a journalist covering the story and suits his role well, and it’s great to see more of his earlier stereotyped role of being a hard-working man before the days of becoming Iron Man. But it’s Jamie Foxx who excels. I have a new found respect for the actor after seeing this film, as I never imagined that he could be so diverse. And what a transformation he makes! Both performances are excellent though, and each hold the film up incredibly. It really is all about the story though. I didn’t see many of Joe Wright’s directorial qualities in this film, probably because there’s no Mr Darcy wannabe or Kiera Knightley in sight, but I thought he handled the story brilliantly, which he always does.”

Dirty Pretty Things

“A very misleading poster and title, as Dirty Pretty Things was pretty much the opposite of what I was expecting. As a serious crime thriller, Dirty Pretty Things tells an interested story full of suspense and intrigue. I guess my disappointment comes from it being not what I had hoped at the time. The performances are fantastic, however. As always, Audrey Tautou is exceptional, especially as she plays a Turkish woman. Chiwetel Ejiofer is brilliant, too.”

Reign of Fire

“Didn’t think a film about dragons would ever interest me, but the cast sure tempted me. Christian Bale is great in the lead, but I enjoyed this more because of Matthew McConaughey who has a brilliant role; it’s good to see something so different from him and he certainly added a lot of humour. Sure the film has its plot holes but it was a fairly decent fantasy action.”

Seven Years in Tibet

“I just really didn’t care about this, and Brad Pitt’s accent was awful.”

Beautiful Creatures

“When I first heard about this film I was really excited about it, but as soon as the trailers started being released I lost all interest, thinking it was another supernatural/poltergeist piece of rubbish. I ended up liking the film a lot more than I thought I would, however, and fortunately it wasn’t anything like the trailers made it out to be. I loved Alice Englert in Rosa and Ginger and it was great to see her grown up in the lead here. She’s a lovely and promising young actress, and I look forward to seeing more of both her and her on-screen love-interest Alden Ehrenreich, who was fantastic alongside her. Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson are brilliant and equally in hilarious in their supporting roles, as well.”

Despicable Me 2

“Despicable Me 2 has been highly anticipated since the release of the first film back in 2010. I was absolutely blown away by Despicable Me‘s original comedy and fun characters, so I was really excited for the release of this sequel, especially as it was to be directed by the same directors. But this sequel didn’t nearly live up to my expectations, and instead it felt forced and lacking in story. Maybe I’m being heartless, but who cares about Gru finding love? Obviously adopting three sweet little girls has softened his heart a little bit, because he wasn’t nearly as evil as he started off like. It wouldn’t have been that bad if he wasn’t constantly distracted by love, but too much got in the way of the spy action and minion madness that made the first film so fantastic. Despicable Me 2 ended up being far too child-friendly for me to fall off my chair laughing this time around; sure it had its funny moments – the end scene, especially, had me laughing until the credits finished rolling, but this animated sequel just wasn’t nearly as funny, cute, or manic as the original. The animation is really impressive, but the story doesn’t really come to life until the last 20 minutes, which was a little too late for me. Family audiences will love it, and I can’t wait to re-watch it with my younger siblings, but it will never make its place on my DVD shelf unlike the first.”

The Blue Umbrella

“A lovely and incredibly cute short film with exceptional animation. The music, as well, is beautiful; I could listen and watch this on repeat for days! So uplifting.”

Monsters University

“Mike and Sulley (voiced excellently by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) return on top form for this prequel; a hilarious, original, creative, well-written, and beautifully animated family film.”

The Legend of Mor’Du

“Some great insight and back story into the film itself, Brave.”

Mater’s Tall Tales: Air Mater

“I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: I don’t care for Cars. This short seemed pointless, more so than Mater’s other two.”

The Last Boy Scout

“Shane Black’s script stands out from the start, with constantly good dialogue and witty references between the leading bromance of Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans. Both stars are excellent and make for a brilliant ‘buddy cop’ action, with an additional hint of dark comedy. This is the prime example of an excellent 90’s action film, bringing together some of the best writers, directors, and producers of that very genre. It will rarely be mentioned amongst big films such as Die Hard or Lethal Weapon, but it’s very decent amalgamation of their stand-out qualities.”

Ondine

“There’s something very beautiful about this Irish drama, but there’s also something that feels very out of place about it. I think that’s the fairytale aspect of its premise, which is what prevented me from fully engaging in its story and characters. Colin Farrell gives one of his better performances, as an almost compelling father and fisherman, and Alicja Bachleda is stunning. Together, the cast, dreamy cinematography and beautiful locations are a visual treat, but the rest lacked enough power.”

Bernie

“Filmed in a documentary style, Bernie tells the true story an assistant funeral director who is charged with the murder of his millionaire companion. It’s rare that a murder story can be dealt with in such a light-hearted, comical way, but once you know the story you can see how it works so well. It really is fascinating. At first I was a little cynical about being urged to like Bernie’s character, but in the end it’s hard not to; I guess that’s how it happened in real life, as well, though. Jack Black is an actor I find hard to enjoy. Whilst he didn’t particularly impress me here, I also felt that he suited the role of Bernie well, and that he helped to make the film a successful dark comedy. It’s certainly his best performance yet anyway, and I doubt we’ll see anything better from him.”

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

“I thought I’d start watching more Steven Spielberg films, so what a great place to start. Close Encounters is a classic sci-fi. Mesmerising in both story and cinematography, this is how an alien film should make you feel; drawn in, slightly scared, but always wanting more. Even today, the visuals are fantastic, really adding to the whole alluring yet slightly creepy atmosphere.”

World War Z

“World War Z was a film I think everybody was hoping to be blown away by this year. Fortunately I never really had much anticipation for it, and thank God. I’ve said it before, but we all like our zombie films differently – some full of horror and gore, others with a pinch of comedy. Personally, I like mine to make me think about what I would do if I was faced with a zombie invasion myself; just the sense of fear is enough to persuade me. Unfortunately, World War Z lacked almost all of that fear.”

This Is the End

“Inspired by the directors’ unreleased short film Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse, This Is the End brings together some of the best comedy actors and writers over the past couple of years, as they mock themselves and each other.”

Trance

“Danny Boyle’s latest, Trance is an intelligent and stylish thriller that messes with your head for 100 minutes straight. I don’t always like a thriller that gets me lost, and I did have to think about what I’d seen quite a bit after watching it, but I enjoyed getting lost in the mystery here (or losing myself in the trance, should I say), never knowing what to expect with twists and turns that keep you guessing until the very last minute.”

Brazil

“If somebody told me this was a comedy (albeit quite a dark comedy) I would have watched it a long time ago. An eccentric dystopia with some great references to Orwell’s 1984, Brazil is well crafted and full of great visual work from director Terry Gilliam. Lead actor Jonathan Pryce is hilarious, and there’s also a funny supporting role from Robert De Niro, too.”

Oblivion

“Personally, I love a film that combines science fiction and a dystopian setting well, so I found myself anticipating Oblivion quite a bit when the first trailer arrived. However, dystopian science fictions are rarely done well because of one key thing – they lack of identity. This is Oblivion‘s biggest shortcoming, failing to stand out with any originality because it largely lacks any life; there’s no detail in its setting, no power in its story, just a recognisable face on the front page. Needless to say, I have been let down. Tom Cruise is an actor that I don’t often enjoy, but occassionally I find myself really loving some of his roles. Unfortunately I haven’t enjoyed many of his films since the 80′s, and the same goes again here, as I found that he, as an actor, added very little to his role and to the film as a whole. One thing I did love, of course, was M83‘s score. I could listen to ‘Oblivion’ all day, and that’s just what I’m going to do now.”

After Earth

“Films about ‘after Earth’ – revolving around the world as we know it ending, a new civilisation beginning, and technology developing far beyond the world we live in today – should be epic and full of imagination, but there’s far too many films trying and failing at the minute. After Earth is entertaining enough, and I would recommend taking your children to see it, but it’s just a shame that it wasn’t anything more than a decent family adventure, as the film severely lacked anything for an older audience to enjoy.”

The Words

“I’ve been looking forward to this film for ages, as the trailer for it is absolutely brilliant. I’m so glad I finally got around to seeing it, because it lived up to all of my expectations. Reminding me in some part of Cloud Atlas, linking a number of stories together, The Words, to put it simply, tells the story of one man’s story about another man’s story who steals the story of another man. Over the many years that these stories are set, they all start to come together through minor personal connections. It’s very much a film about words and how stories are written, so for the many film journalists on here, it should be a film we can all either relate to, or be inspired by. The whole cast work really well together, with Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Jeremy Irons, and Olivia Wilde, all giving excellent performances. Irons, especially, stands out as he gives a compelling and emotion provoking performance, but Cooper, as well, is fantastic. Ben Barnes and Nora Arnezeder also give good performances in a heart-achingly powerful sub-plot.”

Now You See Me

“Reading reviews before going to see this film for my self, it appeared that not many people enjoyed this. I happen to disagree, however. I love films about magic, and being combined with a thriller I found the heist story original and interesting. The film’s strongest feature, though, is its impressive cast, which also includes Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, who come together brilliantly. None of these actors give their best performances, but at the same time they all suited their characters incredibly well, and their presence together is what helped to give the film its theatrical and entertaining quality, setting the tone up brilliantly.”

In Bruges

“Martin McDonagh’s debut feature, In Bruges, is an hilarious, brilliantly scripted, dark comedy crime thriller. Horribly violent at times, McDonagh does a brilliant job of mixing genres, an amusing script, and impacting hit-man action. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson make excellent leads, and alongside Ralph Fiennes the cast make an incredibly fun trio to follow. Their dialogue and performances are equally fantastic, and it wouldn’t be the same without these actors in their parts.”

Identity Thief

“Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy co-star in this comedy crime from the director of Horrible Bosses. Not quite on the same level of comedy, Identity Thief has its share of small giggles and almost tear-jerking realisations, but it never hits the spot on either counts. It’s a shame when we know both actors can provide such great comedy when they’ve got something good to work with. I didn’t hate it completely though, it was watchable as a one-off.”

Before Midnight

“Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are back for another long conversation about life, love, and the struggles of a relationship, as the couple are finally together. But is everything as sugar-coated in love hearts as you would expect from such a romantic premise of the first two films? Of course not; Linklater deals with real-life, and he isn’t sugar-coating anything.”

Side by Side

“An interesting documentary for film fans, investigating the history, process and workflow of both digital and film creation. Exploring many points of view from some of the greatest film-makers around, there’s a lot to learn and think about with this doc.”

Troll Hunter

“Where was the excitement and/or scares? I felt nothing.”

Trainspotting

“I enjoy a film that looks at the oppressive lives of drug addicts, as they always manage to provoke an emotional response. But I didn’t think Trainspotting was that bleak at the beginning. It made me laugh too much. But then the scene of the baby in the cot happened. That got to me. After that scene I was in a state of shock. Films like this are always make for a brilliant exploration of characters, and that’s what we have here. Never did I imagine Ewan McGregor would, or even could, be this good. “The truth is that I’m a bad person. But, that’s gonna change – I’m going to change. This is the last of that sort of thing. Now I’m cleaning up and I’m moving on, going straight and choosing life. I’m looking forward to it already. I’m gonna be just like you.” But unfortunately that’s just what Ewan did with his acting. Shame.”

There’s Something About Mary

“A classic 90s rom-com and one that I can watch over and over – even if just for the ‘hair gel’ scene. Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller work surprisingly well together and there’s a lot of laughs to be had. I also love that Lee Evans is in this movie!”

Eat Pray Love

“I gave in a decided to watch this as Netflix kept telling me to. It wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t exactly good either. Some of the scenes were quite pretty, but this neither made me want to go travelling, write, or any of the other bollocks like finding my true inner self. I think maybe my mum would take something away from this, but I wasn’t “inspired” to do anything but put on a better film. Julia Roberts suits the role perfectly and it’s nice to see her in a decent (ish) lead again. Richard Jenkins and James Franco have nice little supporting roles too, and I think it was this decent casting that kept me engaged for long enough. I also really enjoyed that Javier Bardem is actually in this film, and that it’s not his rom-com double (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) like I thought it was going to be.”

The Untouchables

“This year’s Gangster Squad should have looked at this film for some better inspiration. This is what such a stylish gangster drama (or more of a cop drama fighting the gangsters) should be like! The score is fantastic and was one of the first things I was impressed by. But everything is excellent – the cast, the performances, the tone. I really didn’t expect to like this because it has a much older feel to it, but I loved it.”

The Hunter
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“It didn’t quite have the suspense I was expecting from such a film, but it had a much better, and emotional, drama behind it. Still, it didn’t quite feel like an adventure or a man faced with anything whilst alone with nature, it just felt like a man going out to shoot a few things and then going home to a couple of cute children that need some fatherly love. Neverthless, it was good to see Willem Dafoe in the lead, as we don’t see enough of him lately.”

She’s the One

“Oh the 90s, the year of not wearing a bra. Edward Burns directs and stars in this typical rom-com alongside Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Amanda Peet, Maxine Bahns, and John Mahoney. It’s not the best of the 90s rom-com bunch, but I still enjoyed it.”

Be Kind Rewind

“From Michel Gondry, the director of my favourite film, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind is a funny, feel-good drama. The film follows a fantastic concept, which for us film lovers and aspiring film-makers alike is right up our street. Who wouldn’t want to be given the chance to re-tape all of the their favourite films? Jack Black is at his best here and alongside Mos Def the pair are really fun to watch.”

Big Fish

“There was something about this film that really made my stomach churn. I think it was because of how darkly surreal it was, as the concept messed with my head too much for me to take any enjoyment from it. For a Tim Burton film I thought it was a very poor effort, and as for its ‘warm’ and ‘compelling’ qualities that I have read about in other reviews, I felt none of it. To say that I commented only a few weeks ago that I love a film about stories, even the thought of this film is giving me a headache.”

Can’t Hardly Wait

“I put this on late at night because I needed something easy to watch, and from the poster alone I expected just another crappy American highschool comedy. What I got, however, was the best example of this genre. Can’t Hardly Wait is full of highschool clichés, but it knows how to handle them well. The cast, as well, is fantastic, as it is full of a number of recognisable face in some of their earliest work.”

Kinky Boots

“Intruige led me here, and I’m kind of glad. Kinky Boots is far from being a well-made film, but it is funny and sweet and has some great performances. Chiwetel Ejiofor is fantastic, but you should watch this just to see Joel Edgerton in knee-high red, leather boots.”

Extract

“You’d think Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, and even Ben Affleck, would make a good comedy, but I guess they have to star in a bad one once in a while. Office Space was hilarious, so why didn’t this workplace comedy work just as well? For me, it was a lack of depth in its story, and entertainment throughout.”

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