More than half the year is gone and I have completely smashed my goal for movies this year (in fact, I’ve seen more than twice as many films in half the time!). I’ve not watched quite as many this month, and it’s been rather a mixed bag, ranging from the very very good, to the very very bad. Anyway, here is a list of those I’ve viewed in the months of June and July, along with a brief review of each.
The Money Pit (1986)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Shelley Long, Alexander Godunov
A young couple (Hanks and Long) buy a huge house at an outrageously low price, without realising just how much money it will cost them to make it livable. But could their labour of love cost them their relationship? Lighthearted comedy that falls short of the mark, not realising the potential of either of the charismatic leads, both of whom seem to sleepwalk their way through the film despite their obviousl onscreen chemistry.
Year One (2009)
Starring: Jack Black, Michael Cera, Olivia Wilde
When one comes across a movie written and directed by Harold Ramis, one expects it to be funny and clever. This is neither. Maybe old Harold was having a low period in his career during the late naughties, because this satirical look at a couple of prehistoric guys finding themselves in a load of biblical situations truly sucks. It shows nothing of Ramis’ usual style or intelligence, and not even the three leads, all stars in their own right, can save it.
Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Kim Cattrall, Estelle Getty, James Spader
Nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar (for Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now), a young struggling artist creates the perfect mannequin, and when he lands a job at the store in which she’s displayed, finds she has come to life. Of course, they fall in love, and it’s all very twee, but it’s also very likeable. Even though Cattrall could easily be voted Woman Least Likely To Be A Convincing Egyptian Princess, she and McCarthy are great together, and Spader is at his slimy best playing a sleazeball executive determined to sell out the company.
Night at the Museum (2006)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Carla Gugino, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan
I’m a big fan of this family film – it has pretty much everything and everyone you could want in a comedy, and it delivers in spades. The whole idea of the museum exhibits coming to life at night harks back to the childhood belief that toys have a life of their own after-hours (in truth, I still kinda believe toys come alive when we go to sleep!), and when you have a T-Rex skeleton doing that, it will delight any child.
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonion
Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest
This star-packed sequel is every bit as good as the first film, and introduces a few extra characters which are very welcome additions to the cast. I hear a third film is due out in December (nicely in time for Christmas!), and if it’s even a fraction as good as the first two, it’ll be a big hit. I know we’ll certainly be seeing it!
Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemmon, Ernie Kovacs, Hermione Gingold, Elsa Lanchester
This is one of my all-time favourite films, starring some of my all-time favourite actors (Stewart and Novak are as great together in this as they are in Vertigo, which was released the same year). There’s something so sweet and wonderful about this romantic, funny, slightly mysterious movie that blends love and magic, all via a beautiful Siamese cat named Pyewacket, which remains my favourite cat name. If I were ever to get a cat (which I never will, as I’m highly allergic), it will be called Pyewacket.
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery
When the action is confined entirely to one small space, a film can feel incredibly claustrophobic, and setting this film on an aeroplane in flight works that claustrophobia to the max. Neeson is an incredibly commanding presence in every movie he makes, and he has great chemistry with both More and Dockery (lovely to see Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary in something else!). The tension is ramped up high as Neeson’s off-duty air marshal tries to work out who is killing the passengers, how they’re doing it, and why they want him involved.
Shirley Valentine (1989)
Starring: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Julia McKenzie, Joanna Lumley, Bernard Hill
A middle-aged wife and mother has a bit of a mid-life crisis, goes on holiday, and just doesn’t come home again. Sad and sweet by turn, with poignant performances from the whole cast. You’re never sure who to feel more sorry for – the downtrodden, bored housewife, or her clueless husband left at home.
X-Men: Days of Futures Past (2014)
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender
The old guard meet the next generation in this cross-over super-hero film, where Wolverine is sent back in time, into his own past body, to change the past and avert an imminent disaster that could wipe out all mutants and humans alike. Definitely one of the best X-Men films to date, with the youthful reboot cast proving they can square up to their elder counterparts from the previous films. An interesting and well executed plot with snappy writing and slick performances. Highly enjoyable.
Holy Flying Circus (2011)
Starring: Ben Crispin, Steve Punt, Charles Edwards, Rufus Jones, Tom Fisher, Darren Boyd, Phil Nichol
Made-for-television film telling the story of what happened in the run up to the release of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, arguably one of the most controversial films ever given a general release and one that still divides opinions to this day. Personally, I fall firmly in the “love it!” camp, having been introduced to it by my own Mum when I was a teenager. The cast are superb in “being” the Pythons, and one of my old college buddies is an extra in it, so it was fun spotting her in a couple of scenes.
Out of the Furnace (2013)
Starring: Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Zoe Saldana
An older brother goes on the rampage seeking justice for his younger brother. Despite the high calibre cast, it’s pretty much a paint-by-numbers affair and is incredibly predictable. Could have done with a bit more mystery and edge-of-the-seat tension, but it ultimately wastes the talent of the stars. It’s decent enough to keep you watching till the end, but nothing special.
17 Again (2009)
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Michelle Trachtenberg
In the vein of Vice Versa and Big, a man who wishes he’d done things differently finds himself transported into his teenaged body, but without going back in time, meaning he’s now in high school with his own children, and far too young for his estranged wife, who he desperately wants back. It’s a bit schmaltzy and nothing new, but Efron is passable as a young Perry and is charming enough to carry off the role without making it a cringeworthy watch.
Starring: Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen
Everyone I know (with kids) seems to rave about this animated feature where animals escape from a New York zoo and find themselves in the wilds of Madagascar, but personally, I thought it was one of the worst animated films I’ve ever witnessed. Despite the wealth of voice talent, it is entirely populated with the most annoying characters ever committed to the screen. I will most definitely NOT be watching the rest of the films in the series, and as (thankfully) Tadpole wasn’t impressed either, neither will he.
Two Mules For Sister Sara (1970)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Shirley MacLaine, Manolo Fábregas
A lone cowboy helps a young woman being attacked in Mexico, only to find she is a nun and is in need of further assistance to capture a French fort. Little does he know, she has a secret… One of my favourite westerns – MacLaine shines as Sara and Eastwood is his usual reticent self to great effect, as the cowboy who wishes he’d left well enough alone.