Films in 2016: Rated

New films I saw this year, in reverse order of how much I enjoyed them (basically, the last film in this list was amazeface) as kept track of throughout the year on Letterboxd.

  • Dad’s Army – This was terrible. The only good part was Mrs Mainwaring.
  • Anthropoid – I can barely remember this film. I imagine it must have much like any other film based on events from WW2. I think there…was a romance? I wasn’t very interested in it if there was.
  • The Girl on the Train – I’d not read the book before I saw this ( and I’ve still not seen it) but it was entertaining enough, if fairly predictable.
  • Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey – It was nice. I had a terrible cold during LFF so it was quite handy that I didn’t have to think too much when watching this.
  • Interchange – I didn’t entirely know what I expected when I decided that I would see a film that involved vampirism in Malaysia – certainly not anything to do with indigenous Malay tribal people. I did like that the characters switched between languages – which of course is common in Malaysia, but I don’t usually get to see it on-screen.
  • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  – I enjoyed it. Unsure about Lex Luthor, but I’m quite interested in seeing the next film.
  • Dancer – When this film was being made, no one involved in the film had any idea how it would turn out – as they were just following the life of Sergei Polunin. I’m glad I wasn’t making the film or, for that matter, pursued ballet beyond the age of five.
  • Jason Bourne – My Mum really loves Jason Bourne and Matt Damon to the extent that we joke that he is her new boyfriend.
  • Chi-raq  – I will watch nearly anything based on ancient Greek plays so of course I was going to see this.
  • White Colour Black – Interesting look at being part of two distinct cultures, although I’m not sure thaat I could relate much to the main character Leke even though I’m mixed-race too but that’s mostly because I’m not a hedonistic, sought-after photographer.
  • Ghostbusters – Fun and very much in the same spirit as the previous Ghostbuster films. lol.
  • The Secret Scripture – Mum and I went to see this and Dancer on the same day as this year she was interested in going to see some LFF films (although she still thinks going to see as many as I do is a bit out there) and this was the film she was most interested in. As we got towards the end of the film, you could kind of see what was coming but that was more a nice rounding off rather than being boringly predictable.
  • Star Trek Beyond – I love Star Trek with all my heart and this film was a relief after the film that we do not talk about. Fun, lots of exciting action and Karl Urban is the greatest of us.
  • Deadpool – I also love Deadpool, but not as much as I love Star Trek and this film was still slightly more enjoyable than Star Trek Beyond though probably because of the incredible amounts of violence.
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – I have too many feelings about this film. It’s a solid war movie.
  • Captain America: Civil War – Probably not as good as Winter Soldier, but still super enjoyable. I still don’t like spending time with Tony Stark but RDJ continues to play him well. I will never understand how Chris Evans fit in that tiny car. Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson are forever a delight together.
  • Arrival – This film was astounding when I saw it back in October, was still astounding when I saw it again in November and remains so as I think about it now. I think this year really needed this film. V satisfying.

2015 in films ‘n’ stuff

As for… probably the last 7 years, I remain largely not much of a blogger anymore. Every year that I’ve attended the London Film Festival, I mean to write about what I saw and…. never get round to it.

Well. Here goes – a few words about all the new films I saw last year. At least I got into the practice of keeping a list of all the new films I saw over on Letterboxd and every time I added to it, took a look to re-arrange everything in order of how much I liked the films.

In reverse order then, starting with the film I enjoyed the least.

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron – Ugggh. This film was mostly just disappointing. What was going on with the Natasha Romanov/Bruce Banner thing? It came from nowhere and the relationship seemed out of character for both Romanov and Banner. Probably more because there was no lead up for us to see how it could have developed. Maybe…Nick Fury and Maria Hill were consistent with the rest of what we’ve seen in MCU? Everyone else? Not so much. 🙁
  • I Am Belfast – A kind of wandering essay film about Belfast. It was nice to look at and the people in it were great to hear from. That’s all I’ve got.
  • Blood Of My Blood – Half the film is set in 17th Italy and the other half in the same village in the modern-day. Amusing but felt kind of like there were 2 different films that didn’t have quiet enough story on their own kind of smushed half and half together.
  • Exotica, Erotica, Etc. – So I saw this film and then a few days later I saw Jay Malinowski at the Lexington (ditching one of the films I had planned to see at LFF because live music will probably always trump a thing I can see on DVD later) AND it felt like both things kind of mixed together – Jay Malinowski’s set was largely stuff from Martel, an album with a sort of nautical journey theme woven through.
  • Elstree 1976 – A documentary about some of the actors who appeared in the original Star Wars trilogy and how the films has affected their lives. I
  • Office – I can’t say that I ever thought I would see a Chinese musical in 3D entirely set in the corporate world but there it was. I only wish I understood the language to better enjoy it because I am CERTAIN there was clever wordplay that could not be contained in the translation.
  • Truth – Even though I was about 20 in 2004 I had no idea that the events in this film were even happening so it was fascinating to watch.
  • Youth – All I remember is that while I enjoyed this film, it felt like nothing really happened for a really long time which may have been the point. Also, Rachel Weisz was awesome in it.
  • Suffragette – Enjoyable enough but the main character Maud was a bit empty and obviously it was implausible for a newly minted suffragette to be at all the big moments of the suffragette movement at the time BUT I guess they had to somehow have a self-insert character for the audience to move through the story with? Maybe. Perhaps a film that followed the story of a real woman who was fighting for the vote would have been better.
  • Twinsters – SO I heard about these two sisters who had been adopted as babies by parents in different countries and who had found each other on Facebook a while back BUT THEN I guess they made a film and people I follow on twitter mentioned watching it and THERE IT WAS on Mum’s Netflix so I watched it and it was delightful and moving and heart-warming and all the things.
  • Magic Mike XXL – A DELIGHT from start to finish. I don’t think I have ever watched a film where every single person in the cinema with me had such a good time.
  • A Perfect Day – I don’t think I expected to watch anything so funny when I bought the ticket for this film, thinking “Oh yes, a film about aid workers in a war zone will be interesting,” but it was and I recommend it to everyone.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – All I knew about the series that this film was based on was that it had Robert Vaughan and Ducky from NCIS. Lots of fun to watch and obviously features Henry Cavill eating a sandwich as a key point in the film.
  • High-Rise – The thing about the London Film Festival is that I buy all my tickets in one go based on what the BFI website says the film is about and then I forget ENTIRELY what I have signed myself up to see. And it’s not like I know much about JG Ballard or Ben Wheatley anyway. I knew that this was about a futuristic apparently utopian 70s tower block with its social hierarchy arranged on the various levels and everything then degenerating into a dystopic horror show and at some point Tom Hiddleston got his kit off. It turned out to be GREAT and a DELIGHT and HILARIOUS.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – I feel like I have only just seen this film (and kind of yeah, that’s true) and that I want to see it again in the cinema really soon BUT it is still my sixth favourite film of the year. Finn and Rey are ENCHANTING and I wouldn’t mind just watching a film where they go on an space-road-trip and discover the galaxy and everything they’ve never imagined.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – While it feels like I only saw The Force Awakens five minutes ago, it feels like I watched Fury Road at least a year ago – even though this was my birthday film and that was only in May. I liked that this was basically the story of Furiosa and the Wives rather than Max.
  • John Wick – The violence and killing and everything was great and my Mum and I both enjoy violent action films but the REAL HIGHLIGHT was Keanu Reeves hanging out with a puppy.
  • Spy – So I guess a lot of my top ten includes film that were pretty funny but Spy is probably the funniest film I saw all year.
  • The Martian – I don’t like watching bad things happening to astronauts SO the idea of an astronaut being stranded on Mars was a bit daunting but this film is great and heart-warming and well-paced.
  • Jupiter Ascending – OF COURSE Jupiter Ascending was going to be my favourite films this year. It was ridiculous and awesome and Jupiter is a great heroine. It totally filled 2015’s Pacific Rim shaped space in last years cinema-going.

And that’s it. Who would have thought that Jupiter Ascending would have been so much better than Avengers: Age of Ultron at the beginning of the year?

London Film Festival 2014 – Part 1

It seems like every year I’ve gone to LFF I don’t actually really talk about it until weeks and weeks later. Such is life. Luckily I keep my Letterboxd account updated and that helps me to remember. I think the only thing I’m hazy on are a few of the shorts that I saw. Onwards. There’s going to be spoilers (probably). There’s… going to be more than one part to this report on LFF.

Continue reading “London Film Festival 2014 – Part 1”

London Film Festival 2013

Earlier this month was the 57th London Film Festival. Last year I managed to see about 12 films across 7 different days, with 2 random empty days in the beginning and 3 gigs and a meeting with my university tutor in the middle. I also had a tax rebate to spend on all of that. This year… no tax rebate. So only 8 films and no gigs. I did manage to meet up with a few friends though, which was cool.

The Films:

  1. Jodorowsky’s Dune
    This one was deliiiiightful. Apart from the bit where Jodorowsky says something along the lines of “I was raping Dune. With love.” The rest though, yeah, delightful. I had no idea that the team behind Alien kind of all met each other due to this and that was pretty cool. Also the circumstances under which Jodorowsky gathered together all the people he was going to work with was entirely amazing.
  2. Under the Skin
    This was kind of weird. Entirely enjoyable, but weird. Also, I couldn’t quite believe that so many men would just get into a strange woman’s van…but then I guess, I always come at that scenario with the genders reversed and I would never get into a strange man’s van. I don’t think many women would.
  3. Pioneer
    I really know nothing about the whole drilling for oil in the North Sea thing or how that came about orrrr any of that. I didn’t really need to though. This was really exciting. The  underwater scenes were awesome and the conspiracy thing remained interesting throughout.
  4. Trap Street
    I think that maybe this film could have been more exciting or gone in a slightly more sci-fi dystopic direction, but that would have meant that it wouldn’t have really kept the sort of mundane realism that goes with it talking about a real world phenomenon.
  5. Love Will Conquer All
    This was a short film selection, where all the films had the theme of love in some way.

    1. Orbit Ever After – Set in space. I did start wondering about how the rest of society operated in this universe.
    2. Full Time – This was pretty sad.
    3. The Phone Call – I think this was pretty much the best of all the shorts.
    4. Kick-Heart – Interesting, but probably the one I least enjoyed.
    5. Pieces – You can kind of figure out what went on to the characters pretty early on, but that doesn’t make it less watchable.
    6. Auschwitz on My Mind – Actually, this was the one I least enjoyed. I just…didn’t care what the kids did.
    7. Out of Darkness – I really liked this. Seeing/hearing the same words but from different viewpoints really made me think.
    8. Night of the Foxes – Spent most of this waiting for a tragic turn that didn’t happen.
  6. The Zero Theorem
    This was really good although it ended kind of abruptly – or at least, it felt that it did for me and there wasn’t really a conclusion. Maybe that was the point though.
  7. Locke
    I will admit to watching this entirely because I am a fan of Tom Hardy’s work and figured that even though this is a film where there’s just the one guy in a car for the entire film, it was worth a look. Or at least, it’d be something to try at least once. Locke turned out to be really good and while Hardy’s performance is excellent, I think that the co-stars (who we never see and only hear) really made the film compelling.
  8. Only Lovers Left Alive
    I…really had no idea what this film was about other than Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston being vampires. It was really funny!  Like. REALLY FUNNY. Which I had no idea that it would be because I was pretty much sold on “vampires” (although that really let me down on last years Kiss of the Damned). I liked that this film took the approach of considering that vampires can essentially be immortal and how the lack of time constraints can affect relationships and how that might play out. We sort of come in to seeing Swinton and Hiddleston’s characters as in a long-established relationship – and there’s none of the beginning of relationship or end of relationship drama that many films that address love and relationships might go for, which was refreshing.

Blood

Blood posterAnother film I saw at last year’s London Film Festival. Which was in October. And I last wrote about a film I saw then in… January. SO IT GOES. I made no promises. Once again, something of a list and bear in mind this is a film that I saw once nearly 6 months ago (saying that though, I saw it 6 months ago and it made enough of an impression that I’m writing about it now).

  • When I sat down in the cinema to see this film, I admit, I couldn’t remember what the hell I was seeing. It was a film called “Blood” – that much I knew from the ticket. Other than that? Not a clue. Blood is the kind of title that could mean anything, though in this case I think it refers to the familial relationships within the film. In the Q&A with the director Nick Murphy after the film, he described it as like a Greek tragedy and I’d agree that it has that kind of scale and timelessness. The fact that this is a drama involving policemen is pretty much secondary to the relationships between the characters and their reactions to events.
  • The character development and the relationship development is well-paced. As it should be.
  • To digress a bit, you know how in Romeo and Juliet, there’s that moment in Act 3, Scene 1 where it’s all a bit “HOLY COW” and everything changes? The impact of that varies from production to production and depends, I suspect, a bit on how familiar you are with the play. I’m guessing that if you know a bit about this film, but not necessarily all the detail and maybe not this point (even though it’s probably the pivotal moment in the film)…uh. Lost track there. MY POINT, now that I’ve got here, is that Blood has a moment where I could hear the entire audience kind of think “Holy S***” – it’s got that kind of impact. Which I really liked.
  • MARK STRONG. Ok. This film has a lot of really good actors in it. A lot of them and all really good, who have done other work that I’ve really enjoyed. Paul Bettany gives the best performance that I’ve seen him give in like….anything I’ve seen him in (in fact, this pretty much confirms that I would want him to play John Constantine in a Hellblazer film). MARK STRONG THOUGH. I LOVE MARK STRONG. Well. Maybe not love him per se, but his work. My favourite thing is when he plays a normal person rather than an out-and-out villainous character (like in…Sherlock Holmes and…stuff…he’s good at it, but y’know). I think that sometimes it’s easy to forget that Strong can absolutely kill as a not-villain. Well, not literally ;).If this was a romantic comedy, I might have swooned. As it isn’t, I only swooned a bit at his character’s competence. That and that one scene where he’s wearing a shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Sorry. I have a pulse and he’s Mark Strong.
  • What else? Well, last year I saw a heck of a lot of films, but out of the films that came out in 2012, that I saw, Blood was the most awesome. You can see my list hereBlood beat Red TailsAvengers AssembleThe HobbitDreddArgo and…lots of other really good films (also, obvs, the not so good ones but whatevs). I gave it 4.5 stars out of 5 (I don’t really rate many things 5 out of 5) and my end of year thoughts were as follows:

    Yes, technically this film is released next year. I don’t care. In fact, this film is so good, I’ll probably go see again next year and put it high up on next year’s ratings too. The cast in this film is astounding. I love Mark Strong. I love Paul Bettany. They are both spot-on in this film (“spot-on” has pretty much become my go-to end of year saying). The relationships between the characters are rightly at the heart of this film and that’s what makes it so good. Forget that it’s a police drama. Forget the totally amazing HOLY COW moment. How the brothers related to each other and their father. How they related to their colleagues. Everything. Best film.

  • Mark Strong and Paul Bettany, man. JUST LOOK AT THEM. Continue reading “Blood”

Doomsday Book

Yes. The London Film Festival was last year.  I just didn’t get around to talking about any of the films. What can I say? First up is Doomsday Book in bullet points. All of this  will be  bullet points. I saw 12 films. I don’t know how I managed it. I make no promises about spoilers. I also make no promises about ever getting around to the other films.

  • Doomsday  BookDoomsday is a film in three parts.
  • The first part was  kind of a zombie love story, where a put-upon young man gets infected with zombie flu along with the girl he went on a date with. The meat they eat also infects a whole bunch of other people. Basically, it’s a total zombie apocalypse.
  • The second part is about a robot that attains enlightenment – the company that built him feel threatened by his evolution and seek to deactivate him.
  • The third part is about a girl, her family and a giant asteroid that is approaching the planet.
  • The first and third parts have the most funny moments – the second…doesn’t really have anything chuckle-worthy (which is fine).
  • Briefly, the first part was very doomy; the second was quite sad in places; and the third was very heartwarming.
  • I enjoyed all three parts – I think my favourite was the second with the robot because it raised a lot of the same questions that I’ve considered thanks to my interest in science fiction and that were brought up in the “Philosophy of Computer Science” (or whatever) module I did at university.
  • My least favourite was the first part, with the zombies. It wasn’t bad or anything, it just wasn’t as cute as the last part.
  • The third part – with the girl and her family – was a good story to end the film on. It had a good solid resolution and left me with the sort of happy satisfied sensation you might get after eating a delicious cheeseburger.
  • I am going to ramble about the second part in more detail though, since it raises interesting questions. Feel free to stop reading here.
  • I did wonder why it seemed impossible for humans and this robot to live together – why it was necessary that he be deactivated. I suppose the fear is that the robots could replace humans some how, forgetting that idea that we could peacefully coexist. The other thing that I though might get mentioned, but didn’t, was when the  CEO was talking about how the creation was a monster that would threaten its creator someday – no one made the suggestion that the created robot was in some ways no different to a human child. A baby can grow up into a monster and threaten its creators (its parents) but no one uses that as an argument for killing babies.
  • With the reveal that the technician was also a robot (or at least, had a robot arm), I wondered who had created him and how he was able to fit in, assuming that he would never age. What would the reaction be if it was him that was the perceived threat and not this enlightened robot? It’s something that I would have liked to have seen explored further.
  • So if he is a robot, how does that change the perception of what he seems to think of the enlightened robot? Does he act out of a kind of fear for his own discovery? What about the risk he takes in protecting the robot?
  • Then I suppose the disposable attitude towards robots that many of the humans share should be addressed. The girl with the dog demands that the technician  fix it right away (and for free too apparently), but when the repaired dog is not as good as before (and still needing a visit to the proper repair shop), she easily ditches the puppy in the rubbish, despite the hissy fit she pitched when the technician was initially reluctant to fix it. Does she know that he is a robot? Or do the other people who live nearby know? Is this why she has such an entitled and demanding attitude towards him or is she like this with everyone? We don’t know.

 

 

iLL Manors (2012)

Two words: unremittingly grim. Wow. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the greatest of ideas to go to see Ill Manors AND Red Tails on the same day. It was pretty heavy-going.

The music plays a huge part of many films, and I don’t think more so than in this film – the words of Plan B (and John Cooper Clarke, who was an unexpected bonus when he appeared) tell a lot of the story that isn’t necessarily laid out explicitly on-screen. Incredibly effectively too. The lyrics provided an extra narrative that wasn’t intrusive and fit well with the feel of the film.

Then there’s the use of mobile phone-style camera footage at times and old home video style footage at others. Both very of the time of the subject being filmed.

No one really comes out as completely flawed or completely flawless, but that’s how life is, isn’t it? Many will call this film “harrowing”, but some shade of it will probably exist in the streets near you.

Red Tails (2012)

I have so many feels, you guys. I can’t.

This may well top Avengers Assemble as my film of the year, and  Avengers Assemble was incredible. And I saw that twice and would happily see it again.

The tension throughout was  incredible – most notably during the aerial engagement scenes. I don’t think I’ve been more on edge during a film since I saw Jurassic Park for the first time and I was…what? 9 years old at the time? Admittedly a large part of the  tension stems from the fact that at every moment I was expecting one of the main cast to die – it’s a war film, that happens.

I admit, yes, I do love watching war films – it’s something I grew up with, thanks to my Dad. A lot of the films  we watched were about just this era – World War Two. More than that though, he used to read books written by ex-servicemen from that time and I suppose that’s where Red Tails really comes through. The books that my Dad and I read really brought through the experiences of the airmen (all the books tended towards the RAF rather than any other service, since my Dad had been in the RAF when he was younger) and not just of the time they spent fighting in the air, but the relationships  on the ground.

Red Tails really captures the loss and heartbreak suffered by those at war – both in the armed forces and to an extend, for the  civilians too. It’s easy to forget, often, that the men doing all these heroic deeds had families back home waiting for them and though the focus of this film is obviously on the pilots, you don’t forget that they all belong to someone – whether as a husband, father or son.

I only have a limited knowledge of the segregation and racism faced by black people at the time (and for that matter, now – I’m a mixed-ethnicity girl in the UK) but seeing this film has made me want to really find out more about the situation then. I think every single film or book that I’ve seen/read about the Second World War has been from an entirely white perspective. The only alternative view I really know well is that of my mum’s father’s experience in Malaysia at the hands of the Japanese and my lack of Hokkien and his lack of English, combined with the generation gap and that he didn’t like to talk about it…well, that doesn’t really give that full a picture (although there is still quite a story there about my Chinese grandparents).

This is a great film.

Rating: 8/10

IMDB Link 

Charlie Casanova

So. Someone I follow on twitter has been pimping this film like a mad thing and since I was already in London, I figured I might as well go and see it (it is only on at the Empire Leicester Square in the UK atm).

I don’t know whether I liked it or  not. There were bits that got a bit slow, I didn’t really sympathise with any of the characters and many of the horrific actions of Charlie, the main character,…didn’t really horrify me at all. It probably says something about my expectations of a sociopathic character, the way my imagination works and the kind of media that I consume on a regular basis (and have done since I was very young). Admittedly, I used to hear about these kind of actions on a regular basis from my Dad, who was a psychiatric nurse on a locked ward for violent, mentally ill people – so as soon as I realised that Charlie was a serious nutjob (not a technical term), then none of his actions were that much of a surprise or a shock.

Charlie is both fascinating and hateful all at once – the kind of creature that’s interesting to watch like a science experiment, but someone you wouldn’t want to know in real life. I didn’t understand why his wife or friends stuck with him, from his normal dinner-table kind of behaviour or exactly how he came into their lives and remained there for so long ( I suppose, I only really get it in the case of his best friend from childhood). Is it a case of being too close to someone to see how awful they are or being able to excuse their behaviour because you’re already close and it reflects badly on your judgement if you admit it? More interesting than Charlie on his own, was the way he was able to egg on his seemingly regular, normal-ish friends to do things they would never do under “normal” circumstances. There’s something in there about abdication of responsibility and the sort of general trend there seems to be in stuff I read about in the news (banks, corporations, various people etc) of not being responsible for something that’s gone wrong.

However, I’m too fuzzy-brained to really talk about that now.

I’m not too fuzzy-brained, on the other hand, to boggle at the woman sitting to my right in the cinema that was BROWSING FACEBOOK ON HER PHONE during the film. Seriously. We’re in the smallest cinema screen ever – how is that not going to be noticeable?