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Second Half Of 2014 Film Round-Up

I did pretty well these last six months and I think I’ve broken my pattern or not watching as many films in the last months as I do in the first. I did make a conscious effort to view more, as I’d planned, and being able to use catch up services and borrow DVDs is a great help.

So here we go, a short summary followed by summed up opinion. Here are the films I watched in the second half of 2014 for which it was my first time watching them.

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The Accidental Husband (USA, 2008) – Not very realistic but fun all the same. Loved the use of Indian film soundtracks.

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American Hustle (USA, 2013) – Great film. Admittedly I couldn’t hear all the dialogue; the film is very quiet even when you’ve the speakers on maximum, but I loved the length of it. Liking Jennifer Lawrence a great deal, too.

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The Avengers (USA, 2012) – Might as well say it now; we’ve been going through the Marvel films so there are a fair few here. I liked this more than some of the solo outings; my favourite part was the very end, after the credits. The simplicity and contrast was just too much fun.

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Brave (USA, 2012) – Not what I expected as ‘Brave’ made me think it’d be a bit like Mulan, but I enjoyed it all the same. Lots of laughs.

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Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie (Ireland, 2014) – With fewer out-takes and the lack of a studio audience, it doesn’t hit the spot. A joke in which a person thinks an Asian man is Jamaican works once and shows silly ignorance, after six or seven repetitions it comes across as racist, intentional or not. And a scene which could be considered a mocking of the tendency to use white people instead of a person of the ethnicity presented (that was my reaction – I thought it’d be awesome if they’d done that and then reverted to a Asian actor from then on) again came across badly when it turned into more scenes. I later discovered it was because the Asian actor was ill so they had to change things quickly, but if so this information needed to be included in the film, breaking the fourth wall being common, after all.

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Captain America: The First Avenger (USA, 2011) – One of the better ones, definitely. I loved spotting all the British actors, especially the sudden appearance by Richard Armitage.

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The Decendents (USA, 2011) – Another recent George Clooney film that meandered and didn’t know what it wanted to be. A film about a family coping with death, or a film about land ownership?

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Erin Brockovich (USA, 2000) – Yep, last person and all that. Loved it.

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The Hunger Games (USA, 2012) – I liked that they obviously wanted to make the most of the war, but I did find it lacked the pace and information the books have.

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The Incredible Hulk (USA, 2008) – How to get drunk: take a drink every time Betty says ‘Bruce’.

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Nativity! (UK, 2009) – Silly, unrealistic, but a lot of fun.

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Nativity! 2 (UK, 2012) – Even more silly and pointedly unrealistic but fun enough.

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Puss In Boots (USA, 2011) – Works, but this is definitely a spin-off.

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Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (USA, 2002) – I loved The Phantom Menace when I first saw it but never got around to seeing this one. The boy who played Anakin in 1 was excellent, this young man, not so.

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Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (USA, 2005) – Better than the last one, and the guy got better at acting.

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StreetDance (UK, 2010) – A fun enough dance film in which street dance mixes with ballet.

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StreetDance 2 (UK, 2012) – The Salsa/street dance is interesting, but ironically there are too many dance scenes and it’s not got the same chemistry or feel-good factor of the first.

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Sydney White (USA, 2007) – I wasn’t expecting much, it looked like any other school Mean Girls movie, and it is. But it is fun, uses stereotypes unapologetically to good effect, and the way it played with the tale of Snow White was pretty different.

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Tangled (USA, 2010) – Loved this. Funny, pretty adult, and the changes made worked well enough. I’m just confused as to how her hair managed to be in such good condition when she was constantly dragging it across the floor…

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Thor (USA, 2011) – Wasn’t keen on the main character but overall it’s not too bad.

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Tron: Legacy (USA, 2010) – I never saw the first but it turned out not to matter too much. This film is excellent.

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Wedding Daze (USA, 2006) – An average film but then it never promises it’ll be more.

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Winter’s Bone (USA, 2010) – I watched this for Jennifer Lawrence. Alright film, good acting.

It’s still missing variety but I plan to remedy that this year.

What films have you enjoyed recently?

 
First Half Of 2014 Film Round-Up

My film plans never go to plan. Last year I said that this first 2014 round-up would likely feature Bollywood. It doesn’t. Truth is, going to the cinema is expensive, Bollywood is still a rarity on the big screen here, and the films recorded from the television (last year…) I just haven’t found time to watch. But I have managed to fit in a fair number of films in general these past six months. It definitely helped that I was always thinking about how many I wanted to see and that my boyfriend and I had a few film nights.

Here are the films I have watched so far this year for which it was my first time watching them.

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Belle (UK, 2013) – A white man brings his mixed-race daughter home but his family can’t stop her discovering the horrors those less fortunate than her face. I’m glad I was able to see this; I wasn’t sure it would be out in UK cinemas. It started a bit shaky and didn’t seem to be going anywhere in particular, but then yes, it did, and it was very successful. I thought as the father (figure) did that John Davinier was too emotional but other than that it was fantastic. And, whilst based on fact and thus limited in what it could present in terms of slavery and abolition themes, it worked with what it had to go on. The light moments were well done and the key difference chosen for the suitors was perfect. Not subtle in itself, only subtle in delivery, and it was the presentation of it that really helped the romantic aspect shine.

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Definitely, Maybe (USA, 2008) – On the eve of his divorce, a man whose daughter has just been taught about sex agrees to tell her his romantic history, but she has to guess which woman her mother is. I’d been wanting to see this film for quite a while and I loved it. It’s nowhere near a suspense, but the idea of having the mystery for the daughter (which of course makes it a mystery for the viewer) is compelling and it’s just an all-round good film. This is also the first time I’ve seen Ryan Reynolds and Rachel Weisz.

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To Catch A Thief (USA, 1955) – A former criminal is hired to, well, catch a thief, and finds himself working for a mother and daughter who may or may not be truthful themselves. Not bad, though rather confusing without subtitles for the French dialogue, and Grace Kelly’s character should’ve ensured the ‘hero’ didn’t get with her.

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The Emperor’s New Groove (USA, 2000) – An uncaring monarch gets a shock when he’s turned into a llama and unable to rule. Very much an adult-age Disney film, and pretty great, however there is a bit too much humour on occasion.

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Frozen (USA, 2013) – A princess who hasn’t seen her sister or anyone else for years finds herself searching for said sister when the young woman becomes queen and her curse is revealed. I liked it, but the hype had my expectations sky-high. This said, the humour was top-notch.

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Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past (USA, 2009) – A guy who disdains the idea of love and is always having one-night-stands gets visited by ghost and ‘ghost’ women on the eve of his brother’s wedding. There are some great concepts here, and I liked the way the story spun away from Dickens’s tale, but I found Connor’s sudden change unbelievable.

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My Wedding And Other Secrets (NZ, 2011) – An ethnically Chinese Kiwi and an ethnically white Kiwi meet at school and fall in love, but the girl’s traditional parents are not happy with the idea. Cringe-worthy at times, though funny and sweet; more drama series-like than a film. It is okay overall and that it’s based on a true story makes it easier to watch.

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My Week With Marilyn (UK/USA, 2011) – Based on a non-fictional account (truth contested), this is the story of Colin Clark’s time as Marilyn’s friend during the shooting of The Prince And The Showgirl. A documentary-like air, and rather slow and lacking a plot, but the actors are pretty good and the story revealing and kind of needed (James Joyce’s Ulysses is shown at least twice).

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Passport To Pimlico (UK, 1949) – After a group of boys accidentally blow up what was supposed to be a controlled explosion of a WWII bomb, a shop keeper discovers treasure beneath his London street and this in turn leads to the discovery that in the days of Charlemagne, Pimlico belonged to Burgundy. This information having been forgotten it is resurrected by the residents to both funny and grounding results. Pretty great, really, and particularly British.

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The Sapphires (Australia, 2010) – In the 1960s, a group of Aborigine girls defy racist opinions to become soul singers and entertain troops in Vietnam. Very good film; shame about the European/American DVD cover.

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Tea Fight (Dou Cha) (Japan/Taiwan, 2008) – A young woman seeks to reverse her family’s fortunes in business and to find out about the curses of the enemy’s tea. I had been wanting to see this film since pre-production but unfortunately it’s disappointing. It doesn’t know what it wants to be – it flicks between fantasy, slap-stick comedy, angst, and family drama, and whilst the acting is good enough the story is confusing and just that little bit silly.

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The Great Gatsby (USA, 2013) – Nick recounts his experience meeting the rich Gatsby who is in love with his, Nick’s, cousin, and had built up that wealth in order to get her back. I liked the use of music and some of the acting was superb, especially Di Caprio’s. But I thought the focus on the visuals and style detracted from the story and themes. I originally choose to watch this because of Amitabh Bachchan, so it was a pity his role was so short.

I think the best way to continue, at least for this year, is to have no plan. To just keep the idea that I want to watch films in mind. Whether that’ll help with my wish for continued and better diversity I don’t know, but I hope so.

What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?

 
Second Half Of 2013 Film Round-Up

I haven’t done as well, these last six months, as I did in the first months of the year. I did manage a variety of films, in age and country, and have thus just about managed to keep up my wish to watch more foreign films, but I think I am seeing a pattern. I reckon it may be the case that for as long as I’m keeping a count of how much I’m watching, there will always be more films in the first six months of a year when I’m most positive about doing so.

So here we go, a short summary followed by summed up opinion. Here are the films I watched in the second half of 2013 for which it was my first time watching them.

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An Education (UK, 2009) – A really good film about not throwing your (good) grades away at the first sign of something more interesting.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (UK, 2011) – Not bad at all, especially as there isn’t as much rose-tinting as other films, though it is a bit optimistic and not completely without rose-tint.

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Freaky Friday (USA, 1976) – Not bad, and the mother’s (Barbara Harris) acting is top-notch. It’s difficult watching it as an adult, however, because you realise just how much the father needs to change and respect his family and of course as it’s a Disney film you’re not going to get that.

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Gone With The Wind (USA, 1939) – A brilliant film, though it seems very brief when you’ve read the book – for all that the film is 4 hours a lot of elements were missed out. That said, the film concentrates more on Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship which is something that I personally felt the book could have done with – the history may be important to Mitchell, but she created incredible characters.

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Letters To Juliet (USA, 2010) – Generally average, cute at times, but oh dear, that guy from Home & Away whose accent is so unbelievably fake and whose acting makes him seem far, far older. The one good thing is the cinematography, it’s gorgeous.

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Quartet (UK, 2012) – Painful. Pointless scenes, no conflict, bad dialogue, and a very obvious lack of any non-white actors in starring roles – the diversity was limited to the serving roles and one teenager and it was so glaringly obvious you would’ve thought someone would’ve realised. And you don’t sign Maggie Smith to your film only to waste her talent.

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A Royal Affair (En Kongelig Affære) (Denmark, 2012) – A similar story of ill-fated love and revolution to the more famous story of Marie Antoinette. Just as deserving a tale, just as gripping and disturbing; wonderfully acted. My viewing of this film is thanks to Leander’s review.

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The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (UK, 2010) – Not as good as the other adaptations but a good effort and the boy who plays Eustace is excellent.

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Wild Hearts (USA, 2006) – Your bog standard predictable and not particularly well-thought-out daytime movie. Cute, but forgettable.

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Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You Don’t Live Twice) (India, 2011) – Pretty good, though it’s the first Hindi film I’ve seen in a few years so everything felt very strange to me – so much kissing and sex!

My list is at least full of variety which is what I was aiming for, and I actually have a vast number of films still to watch as Channel 4 hosts its Bollywood season in the early hours of the morning so you inevitably end up with a list of recordings to find time for.

My first 2014 round up, which will be in June, may be very desi as I tend to ‘work’ in phases.

What films have you enjoyed recently?

 
First Half Of 2013 Film Round-Up

So last year, at the end of my second half of 2012 round-up, I said I planned to do a lot better next time. I have. When January began I had the silly (silly because it would be unworkable) idea to watch one film every day. It lasted four days, but four films in quick succession is very good for me. I also wanted to watch more foreign films since my foreign film count ended completely a few years ago. I’ve not managed that, unless you count Ireland as a foreign country, which I of course can’t. I suppose I could count American films as foreign, but again, that would be far-fetched as it’s not exactly difficult to find American films and they tend to be in English. We’ll forget that I have at least three bona fide foreign films on my shelves that I could have got to.

So here we go, a short summary followed by summed up opinion. Here are the films I have watched so far this year for which it was my first time watching them.

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Alice In Wonderland (USA, 2010) – A very different take on Carroll’s tale; gritty, dark, and far more grown-up. I didn’t mind the difference one bit, an awesome film.

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The Bride Came C.O.D. (USA, 1941) – A very funny, random, and enjoyable film with a strong heroine. C.O.D. stands for cash on delivery.

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Casablanca (USA, 1942) – It was incredibly brave of everyone involved, not least the actor who played the corrupt German officer, to release a film about the Second World War whilst it was still going on, and I can see why it would’ve been a hit in that context. Judging it solely as a method of entertainment, though, I have to be honest and say I wasn’t keen. Yes, I had high expectations, but only insofar as I expected a good film (I had no idea what it was about).

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Clueless (USA, 1995) – I finally made it to the party, only 18 years late. I liked it a lot, and know I would’ve loved it when younger.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (UK/USA, 2005) – I’ve heard this is nothing like the book, so I can only say that as someone who has only seen the film it’s brilliant.

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Midnight In Paris (USA/France, 2011) – I wasn’t keen on the ending, but other than that a fantastic film and great for lovers of literature. I wrote a ‘further thoughts’ post on it.

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Morning Glory (USA, 2010) – I’ve wanted to see this film since I saw the pre-release trailers, but it never arrived in the cinemas. I loved it. It wasn’t entirely what I’d expected but it was pretty close.

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Now, Voyager (USA, 1942) – An alright premise but cringe-worthy at times.

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Once (Ireland, 2007) – Realistically shot, and excluding filter effects. Simple plot, lots of music, beautiful in a special kind of way.

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Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time (USA/UK, 2010) – Far from intelligent, and the game’s story isn’t used fully, but the logic is faithful (I’ve told you I’m a gamer, right?), and it has some very funny moments. Though the casting choices were a bit off in terms of the main characters. A spray tan does not an easterner make.

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Rebecca (UK, 1940) – Hitchcock demonstrates how to create a film that is faithful to the book whilst conforming to feature lengths – cut or exchange the less important aspects.

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Red Riding Hood (USA, 2011) – Not bad, and there is a good attempt at red herrings throughout, but the reveal is sudden and anticlimactic.

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The Santa Claus 3 (USA, 2006) – A fun film that adults must suspend belief, besides the obvious, in order to enjoy.

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Tamara Drewe (UK, 2010) – I can see why this was so popular.

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Up In The Air (USA, 2009) – My guess is people went to see this because George Clooney was in it, and the cinemas just showed off the numbers. 2 hours feels like 4, no music makes it worse, the little music there is doesn’t fit the premise, and the premise doesn’t have a premise.

Yes, I’m still in my old-film phase. It wasn’t ‘helped’ by my asking my mother about Bette Davis (I spurned black and white films as a child so I’m still learning). I asked, she came back with a few DVDs in hand, and we started to work our way through them. That said we’ve paused at two for a while because I had the bright idea to watch The Virgin Queen and two thirds of the way through I was bored and mum was asleep.

The plan is to keep watching films and have a longer list next time.

Considering my prior focus on Asia, I’d now like to concentrate on Europe. Any recommendations?

 
Thoughts On Midnight In Paris

A screen shot from Midnight In Paris, of F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald

Screen shot from Midnight In Paris, copyright © 2011 Warner Brothers.

This won’t be a review because I’m not good at reviewing films, but I wanted to discuss Midnight In Paris because it got me thinking. Due to the style of this post there will be spoilers.

Woody Allen’s film has a premise to appeal to readers – the wannabe novelist, fond of what he knows of 1920s Paris, finds himself time travelling at night. Allen never goes overboard with the references, he includes a couple of very famous artists from different mediums but also lesser-known ones, too. Yes, it’s exciting to wonder who Gil will meet next, but it’s evident Allen’s focus is on Gil’s discovery of who he wants to be.

I must be honest and say that if the opening sequence had been just that bit longer I would’ve stopped watching. The sentiment was obvious, showing both the glory and averageness of Paris, an intimation of what will later present itself to be Gil’s preference (Paris in the rain) but the length was unnecessary. It didn’t represent the time Gil had spent in Paris, and it just didn’t strike me as an inviting way to begin a film.

I loved the way time-travel was used, as well as Gil’s reaction to it. In a way, it was more magical realism than fantasy because although it was far-fetched, it was never glamorised. (This links in with the focus being on Gil.) Gil’s fanboy excitement worked because there wasn’t too much of it – it was in ‘spits and spots’ – and it gelled with Owen Wilson’s general acting style. It never tried to be too much. I also love that a person went to their preferred period and that the periods weren’t far in the past (excepting the detective who I’ll talk about at the end).

I think it was a miss to have Adriana’s diary and her interest in Gil, and then have her choose to remain in 1800s Paris, assuming that, like Gil, she could go back again. It was just so sudden and suggested she didn’t care much about him. The conversation about golden ages was poignant, however, and I like that after all the spotlight on his romance, Gil chose his own passion over Adriana’s.

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I do wonder if Gil would’ve pondered publishing his book alongside his heroes. Maybe he went back again, though surely the suggestion is that he didn’t and didn’t ‘need’ to. It’s not that I think he had to go back, but I think he would have wondered. And I loved that it can be assumed Gil’s manuscript was written in such a way that one needn’t worry that his heroes couldn’t understand it. In another film that could have been a big flaw, but here it was obvious what sort of books he liked and wrote.

My last point, then, and this is something I’ve thought about since reading a discussion on IMDB (no longer available): what about the detective? He’s not a villain, so one can’t say the guards chasing him was justice. It’s more that the scene was a good intimation of what might have happened during the French Revolution. Obviously the Revolution was the detective’s favourite period. We don’t know why, but assuming time-travel works the same for everyone, that would be the case. We can assume the man got back to the 2000s, and I couldn’t help but think that this scene was purely for entertainment.

I really liked this film, it was a literary and time-travel treat. And the lack of plot detail, evidently part of the idea, made me think.

Have you seen Midnight In Paris? What did you think of it?

 

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