That’s the first quarter of the year gone, and I’ve been getting goggle-eyed watching films again. Seriously, what better way to spend an evening that watching a good movie? Unless you’re reading a good book. Of course, you could be watching the film adaptation of a good book. Anyway, here’s what I watched this month. If you’ve seen any of them, I’d love to hear what you thought of them.
Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Starring Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure
Classic WWII drama starring some of the biggest names of the 60s in a daring plot to raid a Nazi-held castle atop a mountain. I don’t know if it had been built u a bit much for me, but I found it very dull, and Hubby admitted afterwards that it wasn’t s good as he remembered. It could have been because I was tired ad bored, but I didn’t enjoy it very much at all.
My Cousin Vinny (1992)
Starring: Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio
Controversially scooped an Oscar for Tomei in the role of Mona Lisa Vito for Best Supporting Actress. This is a fun bit of nonsense where two young men are mistakenly taken into custody and accused of murder. One of them has a cousin who recently passed the Bar so they send for him to defend them. Unfortunately he is incredibly inept and has never tried a case, let alone one for murder. Worth a laugh if you’ve nothing better to watch.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Starring: Kristen Bell, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd , Mila Kunis, Russell Brand
Rom-Com fun in Hawaii when a broken-hearted musician goes on holiday to escape the memory of his girlfriend who cheated on and left him, but then finds she and her new lover are staying at the same resort. Segel is sweet, Kunis is lovely, Bell is bitchy, and Brand is brilliant. And the Dracula puppet comedy musical is a show I would most definitely pay to see – it must be made! It just must!
Billy Elliot (2000)
Starring Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Jean Heywood, Gary Lewis
In the mid-eighties, the miners were in the grip of a year-long strike that would break many families, leaving them struggling to survive on next to no money. In the midst of this, an eleven-year-old boy called Billy found ballet and would stop at nothing to become a professional dancer. I grew up in a mining village and my Dad worked in the local pit office, so I remember well this very strike. I also went to ballet classes, so I always felt a connection to young Billy Elliot. Nominated for three Oscars (Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay), it was the film that introduced the very talented Jamie Bell to the world. Wonderful feel-good film to warm the cockles of the coldest heart!
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Michael Fassbender
This is one of my favourite films of all time. Not only is it a flawless adaptation of a great graphic novel, it’s superbly cast, performed and directed, and the style and special effects are second to none. It is a travesty that this film was completely snubbed by the Oscars – that’s right, it wasn’t nominated for a single category. At the very least it should have romped home with a batch of statues from the technical categories, but nope, nada, zip, diddly-squat. Disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe how that left me feeling. It’s one of those movies that if it’s playing, on television, even if it’s in the wee small hours and I’ve just been flicking through the channels, I will stay up and watch it.
Shallow Grave (1994)
Starring: Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, Ewan McGregor
Before there was Trainspotting, there was Shallow Grave, and it launched a certain young Scottish actor by the name of McGregor straight into the big time. Also featuring a stunning performance from Eccleston as one of the three flatmates who discover their fourth (new, so they don’t know him at all) flatmate has died and left a mysterious suitcase-full of money under his bed. And so begins a dilemma – do they contact the police and hand over the cash to the police? Or do they dig a shallow grave, dispose of the body, and keep the windfall to themselves?
Blades of Glory (2007)
Starring: Will Ferrell, Jon Heder, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Jenna Fischer
Funny fare where two men’s singles figure skating champions are banned for life from competing individually, so they pair up to compete in the pairs skating category instead, despite hating each other’s guts. Ferrell and Heder actually have great chemistry and there’s some pretty good skating on show (although I’m 150% certain they used doubles for all but the very simplest of moves on the ice!), and quite a few laughs to be found along the way as the pair work towards making a partnership that will rock the world of professional figure skating.
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Starring: Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, Tung Thanh Tran
Based on the true story of Adrian Cronauer, the US Armed Services Radio DJ who shook things up during the Vietnam War, this was nominated for a single Oscar (Best Actor for Robin Williams), which is did not win (it went to Michael Douglas for Wall Street). It’s a high energy film that showcases the manic personality of Williams who really does shine in the role – he ad-libbed all the radio broadcasts, which are pretty much the highlights of the movie. It’s not exactly true to life – the real Cronauer didn’t use comedy in his broadcasts and left the war because his tour of duty was up – but it’s a stark reminder of the brutality or war and how friendship can transcend the limitations put forth by the barricades.
My Week With Marilyn (2011)
Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh
Based on the autobiographical books The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark. This is my second viewing of this movie and you can see my full review at my old blog HERE, but it’s still a full-marks movie that checks all the boxes, giving us great casting and performances, wonderful cinematography and superb direction. It’s a poignant reminder of how stardom can affect sensitive performers, and how the love and adoration they crave can actually lead to heir undoing.
Bad Teacher (2011)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake
I have to put up my hand and admit it – I’m a closet Timberlake fan. No, not of his music – it’s just not my style at all – but of him as an actor. I just enjoy watching him on-screen. I’ve never seen him take on a really meaty role yet, but the roles he has taken show he has a great sense of humour and doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he’s pretty decent in a comedy role, as we see him here. I keep hope burning in my heart that he will give up the music industry for good and concentrate on his acting career, because he has the makings of a good, solid actor who is developing nicely already. As it is, he’s a nice addition to the cast of this fun little comedy, where Diaz is a bit of a bitch teaching in a school where she doesn’t give a damn, and Segel is the gym teacher who would just love to get her for himself.
Reasonable Doubt (2014)
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson, Gloria Reuben
Cooper is one of the Brit-squad of actors who are currently cutting up a storm in Hollywood, and who many don’t realise are British, as they’re grabbing all the American roles (the superhero movies are currently cast from a crop of Brits who are on top form!). He’s not particularly challenged here as a young DA who finds himself personally embroiled in a murder case, but he puts in a good performance which holds up alongside that of Jackson, so is similarly unchallenged, but as good as he always is. It’s a little predictable, but still a good enough plot and well enough executed to hold ones attention and keep one entertained for an hour and a half.
PS I Love You (2007)
Starring: Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jr., James Marsters, Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
The cast list reads like a who’s-who of stars that have been in films and shows I love. Based on the novel of the same name by Cecelia Ahern, Swank and Butler are likable as the lead couple whose love stretches beyond the grave, so that the one left behind has a shot at happiness second time round with the blessing of the one who has passed. Quirky characters abound, the best of which is played by Harry Connick Jr (a favourite of mine – he’s so adorable, and what a voice!) and Lisa Kudrow (who, despite playing the opposite of her Friends character, can’t quite shake Phoebe off!). Sweet, unassuming comedy about love and loss that hits you right in the feels.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly
Remake of the 1947 film which starred Danny Kaye in the lead. A man who has worked steadily for 16 years in a job that is made obsolete when the magazine that employs him is taken over, escapes into his own mind, daydreaming a daredevil lifestyle that will win him the woman of his dreams. Then, quite by chance, he finds himself actually living the dream, going on an adventure to track down a photographer whose picture is destined to grace the cover of the final issue but which as mysteriously vanished without a trace. In following the clues, he follows his heart and his dreams. This is exactly the kind of stuff Stiller should be doing all the time. It’s lighthearted enough for there to be a few laughs, and heartwarming enough to grab the viewers and take them with him wherever he goes. He’s turning into a very engaging performer who no longer has to rely on belly laughs to propel him forward.
Easy A (2010)
Starring: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Penn Badgley, Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell
Teen update of The Scarlet Letter, where a highschool girl fabricates a racy reputation for herself by letting rumours spread about her promiscuity, mirroring the puritanical Hester Prynne from the novel. It’s easy enough to watch and although it’s nothing special, it’s a nice enough addition to the list of teen updates (worthy mentions are Cruel Intentions, 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s All That, which update Dangerous Liaisons, The Taming of the Shrew and Pygmalian respectively). Nice way to kill 92 minutes if there’s nothing better on. Although if any of the other three I mentioned are on another channel, watch those instead.
Walking with Dinosaurs 3D (2013)
Starring: Charlie Rowe, Karl Urban, Angourie Rice, Justin Long (voice)
Dinosaurs walk the earth in all their glory as a young pachyrhinosaurus, who is an underdog due to an injury received when a baby, has to step up and save the day. The plot is predictably old hat, but the CGI dinosaurs ar4e great and dino-crazy kids will go nuts for them. The story is book-ended with modern-day family (Urban) with his niece and nephew (Rice and Rowe) unearthing fossils which relate directly to the adventure sandwiched between. It’s a child-pleaser which at least doesn’t leave the accompanying adults feeling like they want to vomit into their popcorn!
The Last Action Hero (1993)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Art Carney, Charles Dance
Fun, self-aware meta-film movie. Young Danny is magically transported into his favourite movie via a mysterious golden cinema ticket, and finds that movies aren’t quite like real-life. It’s a great, feel-good buddy-movie with a twist that let’s you laugh as you spot the movie in-jokes. Arnie is on top form both as himself and as the stereotypical kind of character he usually plays, and Dance is absolutely fantastic as the bed guy (isn’t he always?!). Great rainy-afternoon fare to watch with the kids, especially as there is no swearing allowed. Tadpole loved it.
Starring: Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt
A mysterious board game holds terrible consequences for the players that will continue till they can finish the game. Williams films are never truly terrible – they’re always either brilliant or middle of the road, which means you can pretty much bank on his movies being at least decent. This is one of the lower end of the range ones for adults, but high end for kids, who will love the CGI animals and Williams’ madcap antics. Solid family fare that will entertain the kids and therefore keep Mum and Dad happy too.
Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Sacha Baron Cohen
Silly, childish comedy that is strictly for the grown-ups, where two best friends become NASCAR drivers, and shortly become rivals, both on the track and off it. Sacha Baron Cohen is the absolute star of the show as a gay French driver who throws a spanner in the works. It’s one of those films where you disengage your brain and just let the laughs roll over you, as it really is very silly, but it is, in my opinion, far funnier than the oft lauded Anchorman (which is, as far as I’m concerned, wildly over-rated). Worth a watch if it’s late at night and you can’t be bothered to change the channel.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Kelly Adams, Luing Andrews
Biopic of the man labelled Britain’s most violent prisoner, which is, by turns, touching, harrowing and surreal. Hardy buffed up for the role of the eponymous anti-hero and puts in a resoundingly good turn in as the violent criminal who carved his name in British history after he was originally sentenced to seven years, and has, to date, served almost 40 years, most of them in solitary confinement. It’s difficult to watch, and not one I intended to view, but it was on late one night while i was up feeding Button, and found it compelling enough to keep watching to the end.
Mamma Mia (2008)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Amanda Seyfried, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, Dominic Cooper
Disappointing musical utilising the music of one of Sweden’s most beloved musical exports, ABBA, to dreadful effect, as none of the actors (apart from Seyfried) can actually sing. However, everyone seems to rave about this big-screen version of the popular stage version (which I daresay is better, as they’d actually cast people who can sing, I’m sure!), and I seem to be in a minority with my antipathy towards this film. It doesn’t really show any of the performers in a positive light, yet it was inexplicably nominated for two Golden Globes.
Starring: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing
Possibly one of the most popular musicals of all time, and a firm favourite of high school drama departments the world over, Grease is instantly recognisable, both visually and musically. There is no mistaking it for anything else. Catchy tunes abound as the goody-two-shoes Sandy falls for bad-boy Danny and has to change to suit him. Bit of a crap message for girls everywhere, really, but at least it’s all in good fun, eh? I’m actually one of those weird people who marginally prefers the sequel. I know. I’m an oddball, OK? Still, it’s one of those films that if it’s on the telly, it’s almost impossible to make yourself change the channel, and you find yourself singing along with the characters. Especially Rizzo I love Rizzo. I didn’t get to play her in the school play. I was Jan. Enough said. It probably plays a large part in why I prefer the sequel, to be honest.