Letterboxd Reviews: September 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 September I have watched 54 films:

Here’s what I thought of them:

We’re the Millers

“We’re The Millers is one of those comedies that gives you exactly what you expect and nothing more; it’s not original or new and exciting, and you’d never expect it to be the comedy of the year, but it does well as a one-off watch and makes you laugh enough to keep you entertained. I really didn’t enjoy Jennifer Aniston’s role, though. I thought I would with it being away from her stereotypical rom-com character, heading more towards her role in Horrible Bosses, but it just seemed misplaced. The rest of the cast were pretty good, however. Jason Sudeikis leads the film well and I’d like to see more of his comedies, and Emma Roberts’ character worked well, but it was Will Poulter who I enjoyed the most.”

Miller’s Crossing

“Sometimes I really don’t care about a film and it just ends up dragging and boring me more than it should. I have watched this and Blood Simple to complete my Coen Brothers’ filmography, but it ended up serving no more purpose than just for me to say I had watched it. I think my problem with these two films was that they lacked the two qualities I love most about the Coen’s brothers other films – the realistic but unbelievable universe that they are set in, and the dark humour. These two films, I felt, had to be taken seriously. Sure, they have excellent performances, complex and well-paced stories, but that wasn’t enough to keep my attention. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood.”

Go

“A smart crime comedy with a great structure and some sharp dialogue. A lot better than I thought it would be.”

Swingers

“I think, possibly, you have to be male to enjoy this? I just didn’t get it at all. I didn’t find it funny and/or entertaining, and I very quickly grew bored with the phrase, “You’re so money.””

The Bone Collector

“A decent crime mystery with good performances from Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, whom I barely recognised at first! Their combination worked and kept this thriller going, but there wasn’t much else to it.”

The Matrix

“I first watched this around the time it was originally released. I was young (around 10) and I didn’t care much for films in general, but I found this a good enough excuse to spend the years since then saying “Urgh, I hate The Matrix” whenever it was mentioned. But I thought I would give it another go, a real attempt at watching it, and now I have to take back the hundreds of times I slated it. Because I liked The Matrix, quite a lot actually. I’m a big fan of dystopias and this has quickly become one of my favourite dystopian settings in film. Everything is explained excellently and concisely and the whole idea of it is incredibly clever and scarily believable. On top of that, it is a brilliant action, and it’s easy to see why it is so acclaimed as “game-changer”.”

Kiki’s Delivery Service

“A much simpler Studio Ghibli story but just as magical. The animation, yet again, is sublime and the story of this young girl and her strong message of courage is another heart-warming tale to fall in love with. Whilst it is still an excellent film from the collection, its more simplistic and somewhat natural meant that it didn’t stick out as one of my favourites.”

Bad Boys

“Michael Bay’s feature directorial debut, Bad Boys is an hilarious action comedy. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith have some fantastic lines of dialogue and are a brilliant buddy cop duo to watch.”

Hook

“Not as good as I remember having loved it when I was younger, but a nostalgic story derived from a classic and a fantastic cast.”

Blood Simple

“Sometimes I really don’t care about a film and it just ends up dragging and boring me more than it should. I have watched this and Miller’s Crossing to complete my Coen Brothers’ filmography, but it ended up serving no more purpose than just for me to say I had watched it. I think my problem with these two films was that they lacked the two qualities I love most about the Coen’s brothers other films – the realistic but unbelievable universe that they are set in, and the dark humour. These two films, I felt, had to be taken seriously. Sure, they have excellent performances, complex and well-paced stories, but that wasn’t enough to keep my attention. I guess I just wasn’t in the mood.”

Airplane!

“Absolutely hilarious. That is all.”

Red Riding Hood

“These recent fairytale re-imaginings have been fairly hit and miss. I think it’s a great idea to put a darker twist on these classic stories, but the series of films so far have been no more than decent. Red Riding Hood is one of the worst of the bunch. I guess the story of Little Red Riding Hood is a hard one to adapt, with there not being a whole lot of story to expand into a feature-length film. With the inclusion of werewolves and a fantasy romance, as well, there was always going to be comparisons to Twilight (though I will comment that the romance between the girl and a werewolf really is the only similarity). I guess it’s the lack of story where the film goes wrong, putting the focus on a heartless romance that would only appeal to a teen-girl audience. This emotionless relationship/love triangle at the centre of the story really was all the film had going for it, and seen as though that was completely underdeveloped this film adaptation didn’t work at all. I was surprised to see Gary Oldman in this as well. He’s far too good for this crap.”

After Sex

“The poster sure is intriguing, but don’t go into this thinking it’s a film about a lesbian Mina Kunis, because you will be severely disappointed. Instead, After Sex is a series of eight short vignettes focusing on a number of different couples and the conversations they have after having sex. On a whole it’s pretty bad, but occasionally it is sweet, sexy, thought-provoking and insightful, but the film’s few qualities are only on a very small-scale.”

Small Soldiers

“From the director of Gremlins, Joe Dante, Small Soldiers is a great family film. Dante knows how to interact children with things/creatures beyond their imagination incredibly well, which is why this family friendly action about toys and war works so well.”

The Happening

“I don’t like it when people talk all the way through a film, but with The Happening that person was me. With a film like this, though, it’s hard not to question every constant minute of absurd stupidity in both story and acting, because The Happening is just purely ridiculous. It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that the reason for “The Happening” is because the trees are letting off some kind of toxin, because that’s revealed quite early on. What should be the spoiler and big climatic reveal is WHY the trees are angry. This was the only reason I watched this film until the end, but we don’t actually receive an answer for that. So what a pointless watch that was. Not only is the plot weak, even Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel give a poor effort, with their acting coming across as mocking. Then again, if you were told to act sad and scared because the trees hated you, I guess it would be hard to do your job seriously.”

Drag Me to Hell

“I’ve obviously completely missed something if all the reviews I’m reading for this film are 3 stars or more. You’re all crazy. I was so excited for “the goat scene” that everybody kept mentioning as well, but it definitely wasn’t worth it. Drag Me To Hell isn’t scary, it’s just disgusting. All it did was make me feel constantly sick. The acting is awful, and some of the dialogue is completely ridiculous. I’m just so overwhelmed by how truly rubbish this is right now.”

Insidious

“I was excited to see this after reading so many good reviews, but I was completely disappointed. To me, horrors are all the same. They usually consist of the same qualities, and I rarely expect one to amaze me. As most do, I only watch for the thrill of the scare, and in the end the only thing that really affects my rating is whether the film stops me from sleeping at night or not. Insidious started off well with promising performances from Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne and the tension was built up really well. But when the story finally got going around an hour later, I found it boring and quite frankly all rather silly. There was only a single two-second clip of the face at the dinner table that freaked me out, so I was able to sleep pretty well after watching it.”

The Way, Way Back

“The Way, Way Back may be about a divorced family, finding yourself, and meeting the girl of your dreams, but none of it feels predictable or as if we have seen it all before. Instead, it is a fresh focus on over-used themes, natural in its developments, and probably the sweetest film I have seen this year.”

The Fast and the Furious

“So it turns out that I had never actually watched the first Fast and Furious film, even though I was determined I had. Taking that into account, this first instalment didn’t feel like part of the franchise at all. Moving on to the other film it sets the characters up well, but it didn’t enough cars, girls, or racing for me to enjoy as much as I do the others. I think at this point I need to remind viewers that I am female.”

Unstoppable

“Wow. I don’t think I have ever been this excited before in my life – waiting for an unstoppable train to inevitably stop. I was waiting for John Travolta to stir things up a little bit but then I realised that that’s a different film by Tony Scott starring Denzel Washington and based on a train. Let’s just say that Pelham 123 is a MUCH better film.”

The Hudsucker Proxy

“Occasionally a little too bizarre but mostly an hilarious comedy with an excellent theatrical quality. What I liked most about this film, and I really don’t know how to describe it any better, was the use of ‘stereotypical voices’. Do you know what I mean? I hope so, because that’s the best I can do.”

Full Metal Jacket

“I think that somebody should make their own drill song up about how good this is… GO!”

Olympus Has Fallen

“Well I don’t think it was as pointless as the other reviews are saying, but it definitely was great. With a decent cast including Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman, I’d say it’s worth a watch at least.”

Apocalypto

“Interesting.”

Gambit

“Written by the Coen Brothers, Gambit is filled with witty dialogue making it a lot better than you imagine. It’s not fantastic, but there’s a decent cast including Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, and Stanley Tucci, each of whom have their comedic moments.”

Donnie Brasco

“Crime dramas are always at their best when they’re based on truth, with Donnie Brasco being one of the most underrated of the bunch. Johnny Depp has another great role, this time alongside the excellent Al Pacino. With great performances all around, Donnie Brasco is a brilliant character-driven gangster drama that is well-made and paced, and is just as engaging as the more ‘classic’ crime dramas it is so often compared to.”

Vanilla Sky

“This film really needs a better poster. I had been ignoring it for ages thinking it was another Tom Cruise action film, but it is so much more. Whilst Vanilla Sky has many flaws, the concept and story is impeccable and the film itself is a brilliant mix of genres. The story is full of heart, a quality director Cameron Crowe always brings, and by the end I was in tears. I’m not always a fan of Tom Cruise and I think that if a different actor were in the lead then I might have taken this a little more seriously, with his performance occasionally lacking depth, but it was decent enough. Supporting actresses Penélope Cruz and Cameron Diaz are both great, though. One of my main problems with the film was that Cruise’s disfigurement wasn’t severe enough. More often than not he looked like a normal guy so it didn’t have a shocking enough effect a lot of the time, but that was only a very small problem compared to the unpredictable and engaging thriller that takes precedence. I’m definitely going to watch the original now.”

Lake Placid

“Is it a bear? Is it a beaver? No, of course it isn’t! Apart from some ridiculous conclusions these people come up with, Lake Placid is a good little comedy action, if you don’t take it seriously at least. It has, however, really made me want to watch Sharknado next.”

Battle Los Angeles

“WHY WOULDN’T IT END?! Battle LA isn’t a bad idea but it’s just so underdeveloped. With terrible dialogue, you hear the phrases “Yes Staff Sergeant” and “I can’t see shit” every ten seconds. The repetitiveness just makes you want it to end sooner. To be honest I wasn’t expecting aliens, but why did they have to be so rubbish? Aliens that you barely get to see, that have no sense of fear, and that all seem to die after one tiny explosion. Awful.”

Hercules

“It may not be the Hercules story we all want to see on the big screen, but this is a fantastic family animation. In many ways Hercules is unlike many of Disney’s classics – lacking some depth in comparison to most – but the laughs, the songs, the love, the magic, and the morals are all still there. The voice cast is fantastic and there’s plenty to have fun with. I Won’t Say (I’m in Love) is also one of my favourite Disney songs.”

Bad Boys II

“Not as good as its predecessor by a long shot. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are still pretty hilarious, on a much lower scale this time around, however, but the flaws come from the story, which becomes somewhat boring.”

For Ellen

“Paul Dano has some great roles at the minute, but this one didn’t work for me. He’s a very likeable actor and that comes across well, but his role just didn’t have the impact I was expecting. There are some moving and sweet moments but the pacing is off and there is too little going on in between them for you to really feel any emotional engagement. Scenes of Dano and his daughter are lovely but few, and I found very little else to care about so it all ended quite empty.”

Jumper

“A great concept but I wanted so much more from it. Instead, it was a very average action with okay performances and no character development or engagement.”

Titanic

“I’ve watched this many times of the years, as well as in 3D, and the goosebumps get me every time; this is definitely one of the best and timeless love stories there are. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are fantastic. Sure, they’ve both had some much better roles since this, but what a perfect place for their careers to kick off. They have such a powerful chemistry that their performances really do make this film what it is. To me, this is perfect. Cheesy at times, but perfect.”

The Ring

“In some ways I prefer the second film having re-watched this first film, but whilst The Ring is a little boring at times, it’s more about setting up the story and background which is what gives this film such a powerful after effect. This is one of few horrors that I have experienced that haunts me long after watching it. It is only what I experience that matters to me when watching a horror, so The Ring holds up well for me.”

Rush

“I hate Formula 1, the Grand Prix, and most things car/racing related, but Rush is incredible. Rush has a bit of everything – drama, action, comedy when needed, romance at times – but most of all, Rush is full of human emotion. Focusing on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, director Ron Howard really brings the story to life, making their relationship and feud a powerful one to find yourself in the middle of.”

Bubble Boy

“This is so silly you have to watch it! I can’t believe this was one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s first leading roles, released around the same time as Donnie Darko too! What a laugh.”

Lincoln

“There’s no denying that Daniel Day-Lewis can play any character to total perfection, or that Steven Spielberg knows how to bring history to life, but this part of history didn’t interest me. Brilliantly made and with excellent performances, Lincoln tells the story well and its style really suits its setting, but there was far too much political conversation and not enough drama or action for me to be engaged by it.”

The Way Back

“Inspired by real events, The Way Back is a brilliant story of struggle and motivation. With a talented cast including Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, and Saoirse Ronan, there’s a great set of characters to follow and come to know. Usually I would find a film about lots of walking eventless and boring, but I was somewhat captivated by their story so I never grew tired of their journey. It wasn’t quite heartbreaking, but it had its moments.”

Our Idiot Brother

“A light comedy full of a likeable cast and characters who work together well. Our Idiot Brother isn’t close to the standards of their talents, however, but it is funny and interesting enough.”

Antiviral

“Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg and serving as his feature film debut, Antiviral is a brilliantly set up dystopia about celebrity culture and obsession. Creepy but also somehow compelling, its premise is intriguing and, whilst slightly bizarre, is also stylish and gripping. Caleb Landry Jones is one of my favourite young male actors at the minute, and with his role here and in Byzantium this year I think there’s certainly a lot more to look forward to from him. It was his lead that had me so on edge, as his character really draws you into the story.”

Hard Candy

“Uncomfortable from the very beginning, Hard Candy is an arresting and mildly shocking thriller with a dark, dark premise. Patrick Wilson and Ellen Page are both fantastic, but it is Page’s performance that gives you chills. It’s hard to know who to sympathise with which shows you just how much this film messes with your mind, but that’s what’s so great about it.”

Walk the Line

“I didn’t know much about the life of Johnny Cash before watching this film, but I might start listening to his music more often from now on. His story is honest, compelling, and heartbreaking at times, making this a fantastic biopic that is interesting and engaging for even non-fans of this musical legend. Whilst I expected Joaquin Phoenix to be great, as he is, I didn’t expect his musical performances to be so good. Nor did I expect Reese Witherspoon to be so excellent alongside him. The two have some great moments on and off stage together and, whilst not knowing anything about the true story, they feel perfectly cast as the film is a fantastic study of their relationship.”

Dangerous Minds

“I prefer Freedom Writers but Dangerous Minds is another great class-room story based on truth. Michelle Pfeiffer is brilliant, but there wasn’t enough heart or emotional impact.”

Veronica Guerin

“The poster for this makes it look like an intense thriller starring a determined Cate Blanchett; Veronica Guerin is, instead, a mild dramatic thriller based on truth, starring a suitable Cate Blanchett who plays her character well. It’s a deep and heartfelt story to tell and it is quite impacting in parts but, unfortunately, it all very much lacks any real tension.”

Sweet Home Alabama

“It is what it is: a predictable rom-com unable to break the mould, but an enjoyable one at that. Reese Witherspoon and Josh Lucas don’t have a fantastic chemistry, but I liked their characters individually. It’s the supporting cast who have all the fun though.”

Salt

“A decent mystery thriller that compromises of a few decent twists and turns. It’s not overly gripping but Angelina Jolie always makes for a good action film. It’s interesting to think that this film was originally set to star Tom Cruise in the lead. I think I would have much preferred this version with Jolie, though, so I’m glad of that re-write at least.”

Casanova

“When a film about sex and seduction is rated 12, you know there’s not going to be a lot to look forward to. Apart from Heath Ledger’s face, of course. Casanova is a decent period drama but it lacks any charm or… sexiness. I don’t think I will review a film with that phrase ever again, but this needed to be sexy! It wasn’t. Based on such an interesting man, this film captured none of that. Instead, everything came across quite weak and mediocre.”

The Woodsman

“Whilst having a hard-hitting subject matter, The Woodsman isn’t a tough film to watch because it takes a different approach to its story than many have before. The Woodsman tries to introduce you to the character of Walter as a normal but troubled human with a secret. But what we soon come to realise, however, is that we shouldn’t have so easily trusted him. It’s a good and unique approach to the subject matter, and one handled well, but it is also one, I feel, that tries to desensitize a serious subject at the same time. Adapted from a play, I think it would be more impacting to watch this story performed on-screen. Whilst Kevin Bacon gives a good performance, probably his finest with his role showing that he can be a serious actor when he wants to be, I found his character very unsympathetic so I found it hard to engage with.”

The Lookout

“Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels are both fantastic in this; The Lookout is a great character study and decent crime thriller that thrives from its excellent cast. It’s great to see more of JGL’s younger performances, as with Mysterious Skin and Brick, and to see how far he has come. What a talented guy he is.”

School Ties

“An interesting story with great performances from Brendan Fraser and Matt Damon. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would as it is has a strong, dramatic story to set its characters in. I never realised how bad the prejudices against Jews were so recently, so it was an intriguing but also entertaining and sometimes comical film to see unfold.”

The Duchess

“From the look of the first ten minutes of The Duchess I was worried that this was going to be another Keira Knightley period drama. Whilst I love such films, The Duchess was going to have to distinguish itself pretty quickly to keep me interested. Fortunately, it did. The way The Duchess stood out so successfully from being the same old 18th century romance was because of its story, based on the real life of the Duchess of Devonshire. And what a hard life this woman led. I’m no feminist, but The Duchess highlights how difficult life could often be for women, and Georgiana Cavendish certainly lived some of the worst of it. Her story had me in tears for ages. I’m a big fan of Knightley even if her roles are all pretty similar, but she provokes a lot of emotion here and she’s always an actress I can take seriously and find myself engaging with from start to end. Ralph Fiennes also gives a strong performance, with their characters working well to distinguish the difficult relationship they had.”

Bounce

“The intrigue of a rom-com starring Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t quite worth it, but the story behind Bounce is pretty decent and there’s certainly a lot of emotion behind their characters and acting. Still, it didn’t really achieve anything in the end.”

The Other Woman

“Having watched and reviews this film before, I didn’t enjoy it so much on a second viewing. I think on first watch the emotional premise took me back quite a bit, but on second viewing I found it really hard to like any of the characters. Natalie Portman does give a great performance, however, and if the story had a better focus on why she’s so cold-hearted in the end then I would have found it more engaging a second time around.”

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