Can you believe we’re almost half way through the year? And can you believe that in less than half the year, I have watched twice as many films as I thought I would in the whole year? Yup – I have reached and breached the 100 mark already! I guess it’s easier to watch a movie whilst breastfeeding a baby than it is to read a book (I grab a few minutes here and there to do just that whenever I can!). So, here are the movies tat have graced (or sometime, disgraced) my screen over the past 31 days:
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy
First in the popular Underworld series of films which pits vampires against werewolves (or Lycans) in an ages-old battle that has no end in sight. Beckinsale looks great as Selene and Sheen is marvelous as Lucian (it’s one of the first things I saw him in and he has become a favourite British actor of mine). Nighy is, as usual, hammy, but we love him for that! Nice bit of dark comic book-ish fare that entertains in the wee small hours when you can’t sleep.
Bridesmaids (2011) (O)
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne
I cannot believe this piece of toilet-humour nonsense got nominated for two Oscars! (Supporting actress and original screenplay.) Thankfully it didn’t win in either category, because that would have been a travesty. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this run-of-the-mill rom-com that is short on both rom and com. I only sat through the whole thing because there was absolutely nothing else on and I couldn’t believe it could continue to be as bad as it started out, I was wrong. It got worse. Really, avoid like the plague, because that is 125 minutes of my life I will never get back!
Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland
It’s a bit like Titanic, really – you already know the volcano is going to erupt and completely engulf the city of Pompeii, killing everyone there, so they had to throw in a bit of romance and action to make it interesting till everything gets incinerated. It works, to a point. It’s completely predictable, but the characters are likeable (and dislikeable) enough to keep one engaged till the inevitable conclusion.
The Shadow in the North (2007)
Starring: Billie Piper, JJ Feild, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Matt Smith, Jared Harris, Hayley Atwell
Made-for-TV sequel to The Ruby In the Smoke,based upon the popular Phillip Pullman novel, with all the original stars returning. Piper and Feild have wonderful on-screen chemistry – Feild is one of my favourite British actors, and Piper has proven herself a real up-an-comer since she made the switch from music to acting. Plenty of intrigue and a smattering of romance keep things moving along at a decent pace and continue the stories of the characters introduced and established in the first adaptation.
Evan Almighty (2007)
Starring: Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, John Goodman
Follow-up to Bruce Almighty, which sees a newly-elected Congressman reluctantly persuaded by God to build an Ark, and becoming a modern-day Noah in the process. I actually like this better than the first film. It’s funnier (hell, his wife is called Joan – Joan of Ark, get it?) and I like Carell a hell of a lot more than I have ever liked Carey (who played Bruce). I’m also willing to concede that if it’s ever proven that God really does exist, he’ll turn out to be Morgan Freeman. Yup, I’m pretty certain I could bring myself to believe in Him and sing his praises on a semi-regular basis if that turned out to be true!
The Lego Movie (2014)
Starring: Will Arnett (voice), Elizabeth Banks (voice), Jonah Hill (voice), Morgan Freeman (voice) Will Ferrell
What. A. Waste. Of. Time. Honestly, everyone has been raving about this film and it is seriously over-hyped. Seriously, I mean, I love Lego as much as the next person, but this movie seriously SUCKS. Not only that, but it feels like it’s sucking out your soul while you watch, leaving you helpless, unable to move or stop watching. At least, it does if you ware watching it with a small child, who will probably enjoy it and pester you with questions and a running commentary, so your suffering is multiplied. If you can avoid taking a child to see this, please save yourself and stay away! You will thank me for this warning one day. I promise!
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton
Remaking some films is just sacrilege, but if you’re going to commit such a celluloid sin, you could do far worse than to cast these guys in a remake of the 1987 Verhoeven classic. It’s not half bad, actually. It very nicely plays homage to the original without being a straight copy, updating the technology and politics without losing the ethical dilemma. Not as good as the original, but as that particular film has dated quite badly in terms of special effects, this one is a nice alternative. Still, though, watch the original if you haven’t already. Watch it first, then watch the remake, that way you can enjoy them both.
3 Days to Kill (2014)
Starring: Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld, Connie Nielsen
A dying CIA agent trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. It’s a little trite and very predictable, but it sees Costner back on form. He should do more stuff like this, as he’s something of a joy to watch in this kind of character. Although not a particularly challenging role, it’s the kind of thing at which Costner not only excels, but shines! Some pretty good action sequences mean that even when you know what’s coming, you want to keep watching to see exactly how it unfolds.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Jason Flemyng
Although this is the first of the reboots in the series, this is actually my favourite X-Men movie so far (I’ve not yet seen Days of Futures Past, so that could change!). It’s like they took a handful of my favourite actors and plonked them right in the middle of one of the best comic-books ever, and not only that, as they were essentially recasting younger versions of the originals, they actually managed to get hold of people who are more than passable as them. Sometimes reboots work. This is a shining example of that!
21 Jump Street (2012)
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube
I never watched the TV show in the 80s, so I have no frame of reference, but I think they added an element of humour that wasn’t present in the original. I could be wrong, but that’s what I believe. It’s not like it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious or anything, but there are a few laughs involved when a couple of inept cops get sent undercover as high school students. Yes, it’s as unbelieveable as that sounds, but there’s a neat little cameo from Johnny Depp (who, of course, was in the TV show back in the day) and a nice, knowing nod at the whole idea of rehashing old ideas instead of coming up with something new.
The Machine (2013)
Starring: Caity Lotz, Denis Lawson, Toby Stephens
Part Blade Runner, part I, Robot, part AI, The Machine asks us what happens when we play God and create a machine who can think for itself. When does a machine stop being just a machine and become a living being? And what are our responsibilities towards the “life” we create? Some genuinely touching moments, cracking special effects, and a convincing turn by Lotz as the eponymous “machine” Ava make this worth a look.
American Beauty (1999)
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Wes Bentley
This deservedly won five Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Cinematography), this is a moving look at a man having a mid-life crisis. Spacey is convincing and surprisingly sympathetic as a man becoming infatuated with his teenaged daughter’s best friend, while losing touch with his own daughter and wife. Stunningly poetical visuals make this beautiful to watch, even in the scenes with cringe-worthy awkwardness. Depressing, yet uplifting.
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
The CIA versus potential Russian sleeper agents in this paint-by-numbers action movie, which is lifted out of the doldrums by its leading actors. Honestly, if it weren’t for the stars involved giving their all, this would lose a star, but they make up for whatever is lacking in terms of plot. That’s not to say the plot is bad – it’s not – it’s just very, very predictable. Or maybe I’ve just seen way too many of this type of film, leaving precious little in the way of surprises when movies stick to a tried and tested formula. Even the twist isn’t really a twist, unless you count that as a twist in itself, but I refuse to get all complicated about these things… Rumour has it there’s a sequel in the works, but no release date yet, as far as I’m aware.
Friends With Benefits (2011)
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins
I know Kunis is now officially with her old on-screen love, Kutcher, but if their onscreen chemistry is anything remotely close to reality, Kunis and Timberlake should get married immediately, And they should have kids right away, because, I mean, please? How gorgeous would those children be?! The plot is nothing – boy and girl are friends; boy and girl are both attractive; boy and girl agree to have regular no-strings sex; boy and girl screw things up royally. You can guess the rest of it, I’m sure, but it’s nice watching the pair of them onscreen together, because, well, look how pretty! I’ve never been a fan of Timberlake’s music, but I do like him as an actor and hope he will focus on that career because he’s really shaping up, and with a few more challenging roles, could find himself surprising everyone, because the man has talent. And Kunis, well, she’s fabulous anyway, so she has nothing to worry about, even when starring in bog-standard fare like this.
Starring: Charlie Cox, Claire Danes, Sienna Miller
This nice bit of fantasy from the pen of Neil Gaiman has just about every star you’d care to name. You want Peter O’Toole? How about Robert De Niro? Does Henry Cavill do anything for you? How about the talents of Mark Strong, Jason Flemyng, Mark Heap, Rupert Everett, and David Walliams? Oh, and why don’t we add Michelle Pfieffer to the mix? And Dexter Fletcher? And Ricky Gervais? Watching this is like playing a mad game of star spotting. And it’s a lovely story too – a sweeping, epic, swash-buckling adventure with some true love thrown in to boot. This is a fabulous one to watch with the kids, as it has something for everyone.
The Witches (1990)
Starring: Anjelica Huston, Mai Zetterling, Jasen Fisher, Jane Horrocks, Rowan Atkinson
Based on the children’s novel of the same name by Roald Dahl. A small boy and his grandmother go up against The Grand High Witch and all the nasty witches in England when they plot to turn all the nation’s children into mice. Tadpole absolutely loves this film, not least because we’re currently reading the book together, a chapter each night. Of course, now I have to persuade him that it’s safe to rtake regular baths and that witches will not sniff him out if he is clean!