Another month has flown by and I find I have now well and truly smashed my goal for film-watching this year. I aimed to watch 52 films – one for each week of the year, but last month I passed that number and I have seen quite a few more this month too. I can’t help but wonder how many I will have seen by the end of December. Last year I finished on 93, but I think I’ll be leaving that number in the dust this year!
Anyway, here is a brief rundown of the movies I watched in April. Maybe you’ve seen some of them yourself? Or perhaps I’ve persuaded you to watch a few after you’ve read this? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment below!
The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954)
Starring: Alastair Sim, Joyce Grenfell, George Cole
The first of the original St. Trinian’s films, Belles still holds up as a wonderful piece of comedy, starring the genius Sim in dual roles as the headmistress of the notorious all-girls school, and her own nefarious twin brother. Cole is perfect as the dodgy Flash Harry who works all kinds of scams with the girls, and Grenfell is marevellously “jolly-hockey-sticks” as the undercover police woman installed at the school as a teacher to uncover the illegal exploits of the pupils and teaching staff alike. The characters remain favourites for fancy dress parties everywhere to this day!
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jon Voight, Iain Glen, Daniel Craig, Chris Barrie
When they decided to make a movie based on the very popular Tomb Raider games, there was only one person they could possibly cast as the female Indiana Jones, and that was Joli. Really, she was the perfect choice in every way, shape and form. They also very cleverly cast Joli’s father, Voight, to play her father in the movie – a nice touch. The plot is standard fare, but well executed with balletic action scenes that are breathtaking to behold.
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Selleck
A contract killer abandons his career for love, but can their love weather the storms of a normal everyday marriage as well as his hidden secret past? Heigl and Kutcher have a nice bit of chemistry going on here. Neither are grade A actors, but both are pretty enough that they’re goofiness is sweet and endearing, rather than sickening. And Sellick sports a magnificent mustache, which, as far as I’m concerned, should be in the contract of every movie he ever makes.
Vampires Suck (2010)
Starring: Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Diedrich Bader
Spoof of the dreadful Twilight Saga movies which pretty much sucks as badly as they do. The one fun feature is that the people playing the parodies manage to look more like the original actors of the Twilight films than they do themselves. Really, it’s rather spooky! There are a few knowing nods to how twee the source material is and in all honesty, everyone involved in the film knows exactly how crap it is, but they seem to glory in it, which makes it a little more satisfying.
The Mummy (1999)
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez
An American Forgeign Legionaire, a librarian, and her hapless brother set off to find the fabled riches of Hamunaptra, lost Egyptian City of the Dead, and accidentally enact an ancient curse which awakens the mummified remains of the villified priest, Imhotep. Rip-roaring action-adventure with a little lighthearted comedy thrown in. It’s a crowd pleaser that appeals to children and parents alike. It’s rated PG-13, but we let Tadpole watch it (he’s nearly 6 years old) and he adored it! Nominated for Best Sound Oscar.
The Mummy Returns (2001)
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz, John Hannah, Arnold Vosloo, Oded Fehr, Patricia Velasquez, Freddie Boath, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Sequel to The Mummy, which sees Imhotep rise once again and attempt to take control of the Scorpion King’s army. The main stars all returned, with the addition of Boath as Evie and Rick’s son, and The Rock as the Scorpion King, and the plot is pretty decent too. The only thing that really let this film down was the incredibly shoddy special effects with the Scorpion King in the final showdown. Really, the works of the late, great Harryhausen looked a hundred times more realistic than this did. In a time when CGI technology was (and is) constantly improving, there is no excuse for such poor effects as this. I suspect they started running out of cash. It’s a shame, because it lets down what is a really fun film that could easily have gained an extra star in the rating.
The Legend of Hercules (2014)
Starring: Kellan Lutz, Gaia Weiss, Scott Adkins
With the slightly odd-looking Cullen from The Twilight Saga buffing up for the leaf role, I wasn’t really expecting much from this retelling of the famous Greek myth. I was right not to let my expectations rise too high. It’s pretty much standard fare with average performances, semi-decent effects and some nifty enough action sequences, but it’s not exactly the sort of thing that’s going to blow you away. I get the feeling this film wanted to be 300 (which is one of my favourite movies!) but it falls very far short of the mark. In fact, it fails to hit just about every target it sets. Not really worth bothering with, to be honest. I gave it a second star because it’s shot quite nicely, but that’s about all I can say for it.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Sally Field
Possibly the ultimate feel-good film, this won six Oscars (Best Picture; Actor – Hanks; Director – Zemekis; Adapted Screenplay; Film Editing; and Visual Effects), it was also nominated for a further seven. The clever use of actual historical footage into which the star is seemlessly spliced lent a realistic and endearing touch, as we see a simple man leaving his footprints throughout history, as he interacts with the great and good, spreading a little joy and innocuous advice that turns out to have wondrous knock-on effects for those who follow it. The message is clear – lead a good life, harm none, help where you can, and be true to yourself. It’s a heartwarming story, and although it’s often knocked as being the wrong choice for Best Picture (both Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption were nominated, along with Quiz Show and Four Weddings and a Funeral), it holds up as a very enjoyable film which will leave you with a smile on your face.
Accidental Hero (1992)
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis, Andy Garcia
A petty crook (Hoffman) inadvertently becomes a hero when he rescues 54 passengers from an aeroplane crash then, in an effort to escape the notice of the authorities, disappears into the night, leaving the media wondering who this “angel” could be. When a homeless man (Garcia) claims recognition and a hefty reward, he decides he wants his cut, but finds it hard to get anyone to believe his story when even his ex-wife thinks he’s a waste of space. It’s a funny little film with some nice performances from all three of the leads (especially Hoffman, but would we ever expect anything less of him?).
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne
Cage is mostly known for his off-the-wall and hammy acting, but I have to admit, I rather like the guy. His movies can be a bit hit or miss, but this one falls into the category of not too bad. It has drama, mystery, disaster, and a little bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure. Cage is on good form as a professor and father who unravels a code that predicts disasters and only has a few left. What, if anything, can he do to prevent them occuring? And what will happen when the last disaster has been played out? One of a spate of movies that had foreshadowing and predictions as their main theme (Deja Vu starring Denzel Washington; Premonition starring Sandra Bullock; and Next also starring Nicolas Cage were all released almost immediately prior to this), it certainly doesn’t let the genre down.
There’s Something About Mary (1998)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon
Stiller and Diaz have great chemistry and Diaz really does perfectly embody everything that is chirpy and sweet about Mary. She really is the perfect woman – so perfect she should be downright annoying, but instead comes across as someone you could easily have as a friend and NOT want to kick in the teeth every five minutes, despite her being just about the prettiest creature ever to walk the planet. It’s gag-inducing humour, but it really works (really, can anyone possibly forget the jizz-gel joke?), and Dillon has never been sleezier, but it’s funny and it’s fun. There really is just something about Mary!
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Gerard Butler, Chris Barrie, Ciarán Hinds
Sequel to the popular, video game inspired Tomb Raider movie, which sees our intrepid adventurer heroine on a hunt to find the mythical Pandora’s Box before the bad guys can get their evil mitts on it and use it for their nefarious plans. The original cast members returned and it’s just as action-filled as the first film. It’s been eleven years since this movie was released, and it’s apparently getting a reboot…
Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)
Starring: Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard
Children’s space romp in the vein of Jumaji, where a couple of kids find a mysterious game in their Dad’s new house, and when they start playing it, are drawn into an inter-galactic adventure of epic proportions. Most notable for the appearance of Hutcherson (now well known for playing Peta in the Hunger Games films) as the obnoxious older brother.
Knocked Up (2007)
Starring: Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel
Bad taste farce in which a one night stand between an up-and-coming TV presenter and an unemployed, unambitious stoner results in a preganacy and, as a by-product, a reluctant relationship. With a cast of familiar faces playing together as they do in several movies (some of whom just keep their own names for their characters), it’s a buddy movie with a beaver shot. There are a few laughs, but mostly it’s just uncomfortable to watch and a waste of talent.
National Treasure (2004)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Plummer
Sometimes Nicolas Cage gets it right, and this is one of those occasions. It’s part Indiana Jones, part Tomb Raider, part Da Vinci Code with a good balance of action, adventure and puzzling, and just the right amount of hamminess from it’s lead. Let’s face it, Cage is usually about the hammiest guy in Hollywood, but we love him for it when he churns out little gems like this.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Jon Voight, Harvey Keitel, Ed Harris, Helen Mirren
This sequel to National Treasure sees it’s leading roles resumed by Cage, Kriger, Bartha, Voight and Keitel, and adds Hollywood heavy-hitters Harris and Mirren to the mix. The cast list almost reads like a role-call of Hollywood royalty and it’s worth it just to see them turning in class performances while Cage chews up the scenery. Most notable is the scene at Buckingham Palace – it’s hilarious! Worthy addition to the canon, and although it’s been seven years, rumour has it there’s a third film coming in the near future…
Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
Starring: Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz, Nathan Fillion, and just about everyone else who’se ever worked with Joss Whedon
Whedon takes Shakespeare’s classic play, keeps the original language, but sets it firmly in our times with modern costume and character (it’s worked with countless adaptations – Shakespeare is timeless!), and casts just about everyone he’s every worked with, then shoots the whole thing in his own home. It was a labour of love for all involved, with minimal rehearsal and most scenes completed in a single take. It’s a fun version and everyone in it brings their A-game. If you’re a fan of Whedon’s work, you’ll want to see it just to see all your favourite Whedon pals on screen together.
Smokin’ Aces (2006)
Starring: Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck
A bevvy of star round out the ensemble cast of this hit-man caper. I say “caper” but I don’t think it’s supposed to be a comedy, not even of the dark variety, it is, however, laughable. It really isn’t much cop at all, hopping all over the place, from character to character, as a bunch of hired killers all aim for the jackpot of $1 million to deliver the heart of one Buddy “Aces” Israel to a crime lord who wants him dead. There’s a nice twist at the end, but that’s about all it has to recommend it. Unless all you require from a movie is bullets spraying across the screen at all times, in which case, you’ll love it.
A Knight’s Tale (2001)
Starring: Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Paul Bettany, Alan Tudyk, James Purefoy, Bérénice Bejo
A stirring, heartwarming tale of a squire from humble origins who steps up o the mark and poses as a knight in order to take part in jousting tournaments to earn a crust for himself and his compatriates after their master dies on the road. It’s most notable for using modern music (think Queen and David Bowie) rather than that which would be contemporary to the setting, but it works really, really well and it’s one of the things I love most about it. Strong performances from all the stars, and the list of talent includes Oscar future Oscar winners Ledger and Bejo!
The Sweetest Thing (2002)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Thomas Jane, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Jason Bateman
Diaz is her usual kooky self, Applegate and Blair are likeable as her pals, and Thomas Jane could be playing an Aaron Eckhart look-alike while Bateman plays his loudmouth brother. It’s a rom-com that’s a touch light on the comedy with a standard will-they-won’t-they plot that is predictable from start to finish, but is made bearable by the self-aware movie montage section half way through.
Source Code (2011)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
Action/thriller with a time travel angle – or is it? It’s an unusual take where the reason behind the Groundhog Day-esque repeat of an eight-minute segment of a man’s life is an integral part of the plot, so I won’t reveal it here in case anyone hasn’t seen it (as many probably haven’t!). I’m not usually a fan of Gyllenhaal, but I rather enjoyed watching him in this slick film and found I really wanted him to succeed.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)
Starring: Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, Warwick Davis, John Malkovich, Stephen Fry (voice), Alan Rickman (voice)
Reimagining of the clasic sci-fi comedy written by the genius Douglas Adams. It got a bit of a bad rep, possibly because the original radio play and television series were so well-beloved, but it’s not half bad! Rockwell was genius casting as Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Freeman and Def were likeable as Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect. I’m not keen on Deschanel as Trillian, but Fry was the perfect choice as the voice of The Book and Rockman was sublime as the voice of Marvin the permanently depressed robot. Not keen on the changes that were made to the original story, but that aside, it’s not bad. Giv eit a try.
Bugsy Malone (1976)
Starring: Jodie Foster, Scott Baio, Florrie Dugger
I can hardly believe this film was released the year I was born! It’s still as fresh and fun as it was when it first hit the big screens and remains a firm favourite with children and the adults who were kids when it came out. We recently showed this to Tadpole and he adored it. I think the fact that it’s an all-child cast who are driving real-looking pedal cars and firing splurge guns at each other, generally having a great time, that makes it so appealing, but it also has a classic plot and some really great performances. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, which is understandable, considering I hadn’t seen it in about twenty years and could still remember all the words to the songs when I sat and watched it again this month!
The Artist (2011)
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Malcolm McDowell
This is a must-see for fans of cinema and film history as well as for those who just enjoy seeing a really great film. It’s a joy to see and it will surely be seen as a timeless masterpiece and a classic over time. It is a pity that more production companies don’t take the risk and dare to be as different in their projects as this, because the results here are nothing short of stunning. Won five of the ten Oscars for which is was nominated (and rightly so!).
What Happens in Vegas (2008)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Ashton Kutcher, Rob Corddry
I suspect it might have been Cameron Diaz month on television this April, as Diaz seems to have been in loads of films that were shown – this is the third I watched, and I know Bad Teacher was playing too, because I flicked past the channel that was advertising it! Standard, phoned-in performances from Diaz and Kutcher who have very little on-screen chemistry, which is a shame because, although I’m not a huge Kutcher fan, I generally like Diaz.
Bride Wars (2009)
Starring: Kate Hudson, Anne Hathaway, Candice Bergen
Disappointing rom-com where best friends are at loggerheads over their weddings. Disappointing turn from stars who are so much better than this sloppy snooze-fest. Not one single iota of originality in the entire length of the film. Nobody cares if they get married. Nobody cares if they hate each other for the rest of their lives. All anyone cares is that their sanity remains intact when they are done watching. Starts poorly and doesn’t get any better.