It seems I’ve seen quite a few movies this month! With the gamut of films on TV over the festive period and the awards season hotting up, there has been plenty to entertain. There have been good films, bad films, and average fare, memorable movies and forgettable films, and a veritable galaxy of stars on show. I’ve watched horror, romance, comedy and drama, films aimed at kids and young adults, and movies meant strictly for the grown ups.
Here’s a brief run down of the movies I’ve watched during January this year with marks out of five:
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Starring John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Udo Kier, Eddie Izzard
Creepy tongue-in-cheek biopic of the making of the film Nosferatu, where the horrifying star may be more than just an actor… Dafoe is suitably menacing as the very creepy Schreck, and Izzard pitches it perfectly as a silent movie star. Atmospheric and fun.
Flash Gordon (1980)
Starring Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Brian Blessed
Camp comic book caper where an American football player saves Earth from alien attack. With the rockin’est soundtrack ever written and performed by Queen. Incredibly kitch and very dated, but worth it for the reminiscence and Blessed practically whispering the iconic line, “Gordon’s alive!”
The King’s Speech (2010)
Starring Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter
Award winning true-life drama which chronicles the reluctant King George VI and his triumph over a crippling speech impediment. Touching and true-to-life performances from a stellar cast of world-class talent. Deeservedly won four Oscars at the 83rd Academy Awards.
Saving Mr Banks (2013)
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Colin Farrell
The story of how P L Travers’ wonderful Mary Poppins finally made it to the big screen after twenty years of begging by Walt Disney to let him bring her character to life. Poignant and funny by turns. Nominated for Best Original Score at the Academy Awards, but snubbed for all the major categories!
The Ruby in the Smoke (2006)
Starring Billie Piper, Matt Smith, JJ Feild
TV movie adaptation of the novel by Philip Pullman, where Sally Lockhart uncovers a mystery while searching for a priceless ruby in Victorian London. Atmospheric and fairly faithful to the source material with decent performances from the cast.
Get Him to the Greek (2010)
Starring Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, Elisabeth Moss
Over-hyped so-called comedy sequel to Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which was way better). Not many laughs on show here- a total waste of talent (because, yes, I do believe that both Jonah Hill and Russell Brand have talent!).
Starring (vocal) Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd
Slightly disappointing riches-to-rags-to-riches again Disney-esque animated feature where Anastasia, the last surviving member of the Romanov Russian Royal family, is found to be alive and well. Great animation, but a bit boring. Bombed at the box office.
Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde
Updated remake of Stephen King’s classic horror debut novel. Strong cast with decent performances, but misses the cue with many of the telekenetic outbursts. Not as bad as many remakes, but falls short of the original movie that starred Cissy Spacekn the iconic outcast schoolgirl role.
Runner Runner (2013)
Starring Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton
Affleck is quietly menacing as a gambling website kingpin who employs the naive, yet knowing, Princeton student who proves he’s been cheated by his site. Timberlake shows more aptitude for acting than he ever did for singing and is enjoyably entertaining to watch.
The 40-Year Old Virgin (2005)
Starring Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Paul Rudd
Rom-com romp where a 40-year old man who has never had sex finds love. Not quite as funny as I’d hoped it would be (and certainly not as funny as the hype would have me believe), but certainly heartwarming and with enough giggles scattered throughout to keep me watching to the end. I rather like Carell and I’ve loved Rudd ever since I saw him in Clueless.
Major League (1989)
Starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes
A heartless bitch is owner of a failing major league baseball team and plans to move the team to another town, but can only do so if attendance falls to extremely low levels. Classic underdog comedy where the team pull together and try to prove to her, and the fans, that they are more than a bunch of losers, has-beens and wannabes.
Major League II (1994)
Starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Rene Russo
Disappointing sequel where the little team that could try to repeat the success of the previous season, despite one of their star layers letting success go to his head and the rest of the team seemingly falling apart. Snipes didn’t return for this one, which was probably a very wise move for him. Lacks pretty much everything that was good about the first film.
Major League: Back to the Minors (1998)
Starring: Scott Bakula, Corbin Bernsen, Dennis Haysbert
Third installment in the Major League series. Devoid of both Sheen and Snipes, but Bakula is a nice addition as an ex-player turned manager of a minor league team that takes on the major league players at their own game. There’s absolutely nothing new here at all; just another underdog story where the outcome is assured from the start.
The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box (2013)
Starring Michael Sheen, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, Aneurin Barnard
Adaptation of the first novel in G P Taylor’s Mariah Mundi series. Some changes from the source material, but not for the better. Not even a fabulous cast, with Sheen in particular turning in a solid performance, could save this from the doldrums. I wasn’t a fan of the book but the trailer made the film look far more exciting than it actually was, which is a shame.
I Love You, Beth Cooper (2009)
Starring Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Jack Carpenter
Lacklustre teen comedy where the school nerd declares his love for the head cheerleader during his valedictorian speech at their high school graduation ceremony and ends up having one wild night where he finds he didn’t actually know much about her at all. Panattiere is the only one I recognise in this and to be honest, she’s too good for this kind of trite nonsense. Calling this a comedy is pushing things a bit far as there aren’t really any laughs.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Sequel to the blockbuster The Hunger Games, and second in the trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins (although there will be four movies!). All the original players return to this, the most exciting installment in the series. Snubbed by the Oscars (costume design should have been theirs!), but nominations in other major awards for various categories.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort who made a packet defrauding investors on the stock market while living a drug-fuelled party lifestyle. Strong performances from the leads, and some genuinely funny moments scattered throughout. Nominated for five Oscars – best picture, actor, supporting actor, directing and adapted screenplay. A little on the long side, but enjoyable.
American Hustle (2013)
Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Bland, over-hyped tale that left me disappointed. The cast is worth notice, but they’re entirely wasted on this trite load of tripe. Feels much longer than it actually is – I lost interest early on and found myself twiddling my thumbs, just waiting for the end credits to role. If you want to be entertained by con artists, watch The Grifters (which is far better), or Hustle, which is an entirely brilliant series. Nominated for ten Oscars; best picture, actor, actress, supporting actor and actress, costume, directing, film editing, production design, and original screenplay. Unworthy of most of them.
Ender’s Game (2013)
Starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis
Sci-fi distopian future based on the young adult novel by Orson Scott Card. Some Hollywood heavy-hitters here in the form of Ford, Kingsley, and Davis, as well as relative newcomer, Butterfield, who is proving he can hold his own against more experienced thespians. Enjoyable but predictable fare where children are trained to be military leaders based on their gaming skills, bringing up lots of ethical dilemmas, such as how young is too young, and whether war to end war is ever the right answer?
About Time (2013)
Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy
Richard Curtis, the man who brought us such gems as Love Actually and Notting Hill, does it again with this deliciously light romantic comedy following a man who discovers, on his 21st birthday, that he can travel back in time (although, like Dr Sam Beckett, in Quantum Leap, only within his own lifetime). Gleeson (who is probably best known as Bill Weasely from the Harry Potter films) is endearingly sweet as the slightly gawky young man who tries to use his gift to land the girl of his dreams.
Starring Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge
An Austen-mad American woman heads to England for an immersive Austen experience holiday, hoping to find love, but can she believe the fantasy? A fun bit of frippery starring one of my favourite Austen men (JJ Feild played Henry Tilney in the 2007 adaptation of Northanger Abbey – my favourite Austen novel). It’s over the top and exactly what you’d expect from a romantic comedy, but it’s a nice break from modern reality for an hour and a half.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto
In 1985, Ron Woodruff is diagnosed with HIV and given 30 days to live.Obviously unhappy with his prognosis, he forms the Dallas Buyers Club to import drugs that are unavailable in the US to treat him and other HIV/AIDS patients, and in doing so exceeds all their expectations. This one is hotly tipped at the Oscars with nominations for best picture, actor (McConaughey) , supporting actor (Leto), film editing, make-up and hair styling, and original screenplay. Incredibly moving performances from all the stars, it’s sure to scoop a couple of awards at least. And I have to say, Leto looks incredibly pretty!
Starring Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer
A friend of mine insisted I watch this as it’s his all-time favourite film, and being a fan of other such gangster films as Goodfellas, Casino and The Godfather Trilogy, I figured it couldn’t hurt. Except it kinda did. That’s 170 minutes of my life I won’t ever get back. I found it highly over-rated and rather boring; Pacino turned in a good enough performance, but his character is thoroughly unlikeable and so I just couldn’t get on board with his story at all. By the time he was screaming, “Say hello to my leetle friend!” I was wishing it was over. Thankfully, it almost was. It had it’s moments, but not enough for me to rate it very highly.
Starring (vocal) Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Idina Menzel
Disney’s latest animated feature, loosely inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, has garnered a lot of praise, and it does deserve some of it. The animation is particularly fine and the story and vocal performances are solid, there’s also a distinct lack of talking animals (thankfully), and a humourous live snowman who ironically yearns for summer. However, despite the main theme, Let It Go, being Oscar nominated for best original song, there are no truly memorable numbers. Also nominated for the best animated feature category, which it will most likely win. I did, however, enjoy the riff on previous Disney offerings, when the lead female is ridiculed for getting engaged to someone she met only that day.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Paul Freeman
The first in the exciting adventure series featuring everyone’s favourite intrepid archeologist, Indiana Jones. Seriously, this is Ford at his very best, as the daring professor-turned-tomb-raider. Also featuring future superlative actor, Alfred Molina, in an early role as the assistant who betrays Indy early on in the film, this is a rip-roaring adventure of the highest order, and a brilliant introduction to one of the two best loved characters Ford has played to date (the other being Han Solo, of course!).
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan
The second Indiana Jones epic is actually set before the Raiders of the Lost Ark (predating the action by a year!), making this, technically, a much darker prequel. And it is dark – incredibly dark! There’s child slavery, a Thuggee cult that worships Kali, the Hindu Goddess of destruction (that she is also a Goddess of Creation is utterly overlooked here!), ad black magic is worked to brainwash people into committing terrible acts. I actually enjoy this one more than Raiders, despite it being the one that is less often shown on television.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Starring Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Alison Doody, River Phoenix
The third in the Indiana Jones series of action adventure films. This one is notable because it also stars Connery as Jones Snr, and Phoenix as the young Indiana. We see some of his history, finding out what motivates him as well as what sparked his hatred of snakes, and we also see him pitted, yet again, against the Nazis as they all try to track down the Cup of Christ, which will grant everlasting life to those who drink from it – but at a price! Probably the most epic of the Indiana films, with non-stop action that gets your blood racing.
The Addams Family (1991)
Starring Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Christina Ricci
The first of the wonderful Addams Family films. Actually, the Addams’ are my favourite ever family and, in my opinion, actually the perfect family (yuo can see why I think so HERE). This is a fun romp with all the characters we know and love. They might be creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky, but they’re fabulous too!