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Posts Tagged ‘Movie of the Month’

A busy start to the year with twelve films in three weeks (I was on holiday for the first week).  None of the films I have seen ahave been bad, a couple have stood out as being excellent:

Silence: Possibly Martin Scorsese’s most personal movie for a long time, certainly his most weighty.  While it is brilliantly made and impeccably acted I struggled to connect with it making it a really good film but not a great one.silence

Assassins Creed: The buzz was that this would be the best video game adaptation, it isn’t bad but there are some serious flaws.  The biggest problem, is a total lack of fun.  The 15th century Spain action scenes are brilliant, the present day are terrible and the plot is incoherent at best. assassins-creed

Live By Night: What starts out looking like it is going to be a prohibition era outlaw movie becomes a gangster epic. Ben Affleck’s weakest film as a director but not without merit.   live-by-night

Manchester by the Sea: What is essentially a small family drama is elevated to greatness by great acting and a perfectly structured script.  Casey Affleck is brilliant in the lead, Michelle Williams totally steals the movie in a couple of tiny scenes.MBTS_3869.CR2

Donnie Darko: Back in cinema’s for its 15th anniversary and as good as ever.donnie-darko

Underworld Blood Wars: The fifth installment of the vampires v werewolves franchise.  The plot is paper and silly thin at best but it looks great Kate Beckinsale is excellent as ever. underworld-blood-wars

A Monster Calls: Juan Antonio Bayona tells a story that looks like it’s going to be a family drama, it then develops into what appears to be a monster movie but ends up being so much more. a-monster-calls

La La Land: The musical Oscar favourite is neither the masterpiece that some are claiming or The Emperor’s New Clothes that others suggest. la-la-land

Trainspotting: Re-released in time for the sequel, the cult classic from my student days is, great to see it, it hasn’t lost anything in the 20 years since I first saw it.trainspotting

XXX: Return of Xander Cage: Vin Diesel returns to the franchise.  Poorly made with terrible dialogue but fun and filled with great action. xxx-return-of-xander-cage

Split: M. Night Shyamalan’s career as a director has been hit and miss at best.  This horror/thriller/exploitation movie is something of a return to form.  James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are both excellent. split

Jackie: Technically not a biopic of first Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, more precisely a glimpse at a small but significant moment in her life, a significant moment in the 20th century.  A well structured story with an amazing performance from Natalie Portman at its centre. jackie

T2 Trainspotting: The world is a very different place twenty years on, I worried that there wasn’t a place for this sequel, there was no need to worry.  Both more nostalgic and melancholic than I expected but no less enjoyable. t2-trainspotting

Denial: The true story of the court case that followed Holocaust denier David Irving’s attempt to sue historian Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books. The script is a little by the numbers but the acting is brilliant from Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall.DENIAL

I have excluded the two reissue movies and only considered the ten new releases, the movie of the month is: a-monster-calls-poster

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After averaging about seven movies a month through the summer I have been making up for lost time with sixteen trips to the cinema in September. 

Million Dollar Arm: The true story of a down on his luck sports agent stage sets up a talent show to find Indian crickets that he can turn into Major League Baseball pitchers.  A little lightweight but fun.Million Dollar Arm

As Above, So Below: Found footage horror movie set in the Paris catacombs.  Unoriginal but surprisingly enjoyable despite the ludicrous found footage.  Perdita Weeks makes a likeable star I expect to see more of.As Above So Below

The Guest: Homage to 80’s thrillers and slasher movies.   It really shouldn’t work but it strangely does.  Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens makes a seamless transition from TV to movies.The Guest

The Guvnors: British crime/gangster drama.  Turning football hooligans into sympathetic, even heroic  characters leaves a bad taste, but the film is actually very good.The Guvnors

Before I Go to Sleep: Amnesia thriller.  Nicole Kidman is good, Colin Firth has fun playing against type but Mark Strong steals the show as always.  Comparisons to the far superior Memento are inevitable.Before I Go to Sleep

The Hundred-Foot Journey: An Indian family move to France and set up a restaurant opposite  Michelin-starred restaurant.  Om Puri steals the show as the patriarch of the family. The second film this year that you shouldn’t watch on  an empty stomach.THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY

A Most Wanted Man: A German intelligence officer is on the trail of Chechen illegally immigrates who may be in Hamburg to help fund terrorists.  A well paced and believable thriller.  Philip Seymour Hoffman reminds us just how good he is in this adaptation of a modern John le Carré novel.A Most Wanted Man

20,000 Days on Earth: Fictionalised account of musician and writer Nick Cave’s 20,000th day on the planet Earth.  Existing in a nether-region between documentary and narrative cinema, a real treat for Nick Cave fans and a great film for the uninitiated.20,000 Days on Earth

Pride: A group of lesbian and gay activists raise money to help miners during the 1984 strike.  A true story appears to be one of the best kept secrets of the era.    As funny and uplifting as it is poignant.Pride

A Walk Amongst the Tombstones: Liam Neeson plays another man with  a very particular set of skills, but this is a very different film to Taken.  A more thoughtful movie than I was expecting, based on number ten of eighteen novels, it could be the start of a more interesting franchise for Neeson.A Walk Amongst the Tombstones

Magic in the Moonlight: A renowned stage magician is hired to debunk a spiritualist.  Colin Firth and Emma Stone are as good as you would expect.  Woody Allen’s direction is light and well paced but his script lacks and gravitas.Magic in the Moonlight

The Riot Club: Based on the acclaimed play Posh, that in turn is a thinly disguised take on real life institutions like the Bullingdon Club.  Entertaining but lacks any pathos,  it makes a couple of the characters a little too sympathetic and the rest are just caricatures.The Riot Club

The Giver: In a dull but supposedly perfect future there is no is no conflict but there is also no emotion.  Things begin to change when a young man who can see beyond the veneer of society gets a new job.  Effective and enjoyable low-fi, sci-fi. The Giver

Maps To The Stars: David Cronenberg’s satire on Hollywood  is as enthralling as it is cutting.  Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska are both excellent and would be early contenders for Oscar nominations  if the films gaze wasn’t so close to home.Maps To The Stars

I Origins: Mike Cahill reteams with Brit Marling.  A meditation on science, religion and the possibility of reincarnation told through the medium of a love story.  The film holds together even in its most arty moments largely thanks to Marling and co stars Michael Pitt and Astrid Bergès-Frisbey.i origins

What We Did on Our Holiday: A couple try to hide their separation from the family at a 75th birthday party but their children don’t find lying as easy.  Improvised scenes with the kids provide some very funny moments.'WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAYS'

There were five real contenders this month, but for its originality and the feeling I walked out with, the movie of the month has to be: 20,000 Days on Earth:20,000 Days on Earth poster

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I haven’t seen many movies this month but with just one exception I have liked them all, I have also seen my favourite movie of the year so far.

Transformers: Age Of Extinction – Michael Bay has replaced Shia LaBeouf with Mark Wahlberg, he has also changed most of the robot characters.  In the process he has failed to deliver anything we haven’t seen in the previous movies, and it is soooooo long.   Stanley Tucci’s comic relief is the only bright spot in the movie.Transformers Age Of Extinction

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Ten years after the events of the previous movie.  A well told story that is elevated by the stunning effects and use of motion capture.Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Boyhood –  Richard Linklater not only set his coming of age story over twelve years, he shot it over twelve years.  Nothing out the ordinary happens, it is all the better for this. It’s about the same length as Transformers but never feels long.Boyhood

Begin Again – Treads a similar path to writer/director John Carney’s earlier film Once.  It isn’t as engaging or endearing as Once but is well worth watching largely for likeable leads Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo.Begin Again with Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley

The Purge: Anarchy – Sequel  to last years The Purge takes the story from the confines of a house and moves thinks onto the streets.  As much a satire as a horror thriller, they wear their B movie credentials with pride.  While the first film owes a debt to John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) this sequel has more in common with Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979).The Purge Anarchy

Hercules: Starring the actor formally known as The Rock, this sword and sandals movie attempts to strip away the fantasy and mythology.  On the whole it works, the movie is dumb, but lots of fun and surprisingly entertaining.Hercules

Guardians of the Galaxy: If you have seen the previous Marvel/Avengers movies you will be familiar with the Infinity Stones, the items that are shaping up to be the central MacGuffin of the series.  A disparate group of outlaws, The Collector (as seen in Thor: The Dark World) and a new “big bad” are all after said macguffin.  Reminicent of 70’s and 80’s sci-fi, it’s the best space adventure since Serenity (2005).Guardians of the Galaxy

Not only Movie of the Month, but my favourite movie of the year so far:boyhood-poster

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January is a strange month for cinema. While American audiences are bemoaning the lack of decent new releases, here in the UK we are enjoying this years big Oscar contenders.

American Hustle: “some of this actually happened” the true-ish story of Abscam. The performances are phenomenal but the story is a little thin. (Nominated for 10 Oscars)American Hustle

12 Years a Slave: The true story of Solomon Northup, a free man who is sold into slavery. Suffers from a week sense of time and space but still an excellent film Chiwetel Ejiofor finally gets a part to live up to the promise he demonstrated in Dirty Pretty Things. (Nominated for 9 Oscars)12 Years a Slave

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: The CliffsNotes of Nelson Mandela’s life. Idris Elba is excellent but the film lacks is too sporadic. It would have worked better as a mini series or a two part movie like Steven Soderbergh’s Che. (Nominated for 1 Oscar)Mandela Long Walk to Freedom

The Wolf of Wall Street: My fourth movie of the year, and the fourth based on a true story. Martin Scorsese’s take on Jordan Belfort makes Boiler Room (2000) look tame. Scorsese’s best movie in years and possibly Leonardo DiCaprio’s best performance. (Nominated for 4 Oscars)THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit: Lightweight but enjoyable reboot of Jack Ryan sees Chris Pine as the fourth incarnation of the the character. All the cast are good but Kevin Costner steels the show.Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

August: Osage County: The third and most accessible but possibly weakest movie based on a Tracy Letts play. The fantastic cast is led by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts who are both nominated for Oscars. (Nominated for 2 Oscars)AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

Inside Llewyn Davis: A week in the life of fictional folk singer Llewyn Davis set in Greenwich Village folk in 1961. A film only the Coen Brothers could have made, and all the better for it! (Nominated for 2 Oscars)Inside Llewyn Davis

The Movie of the Month is:The Wolf of Wall Street poster

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This months contenders include a comic book sequel, a young adult adaptation sequel and acouple of original movies, but which is the movie of the month?

Thor: The Dark World: Thor and co restored order to the nine realms but the peace doesn’t last long. A race of Dark Elves are on the hunt for a MacGuffin that could bring the end of the world(s). Thor is on hand to save the day but not without the help of his treacherous brother Loki. Following the Iron Man blueprint, it is well balanced and paced with just enough humour. A fun movie that does what it is intended to do, makes me want to watch the next Marvel Movie.Thor The Dark World

Philomena: True story of a woman’s search for her son who was taken from her fifty years earlier when she was sent to a convent/forced labour laundry. Billed as a serious Steve Coogan movie, but it is actually very funny in places. Coogan and Judi Dench are both fantastic and play off each other really well making a film you just can’t help liking.Philomena

Gravity: After a collision in space astronauts George Clooney and Sandra Bullock have to try and find a way home. Generally I hate 3D but once in a will it works, once in a very long while, it really, really works, this is that film. To call it stunning is an understatement. My one reservation, it just won’t be the same on TV as it was in IMAX 3D.GRAVITY

In Fear: Ultra low budget British horror thriller about a couple who get lost in rural Ireland. There isn’t anything particularly original about the plot and there aren’t many scary moments but there is a real sense of dread and fantastic building tension. The real reason the movie works so well is the fantastic and believable performances from the young cast.in-fear Alice Englert

The Counsellor: Crime thriller directed by Ridley Scott, from Cormac McCarthy’s first original screenplay. The Counsellor of the title gets mixed up in drug trafficking and his seemingly perfect lifestyle enders a downward spiral. A sumptuous looking movie with a subtle plot and a fantastic performance from Michael Fassbender.  I can understand the negative reviews, they just happen to be wrong!The Counselor

Flu: Korean disaster thriller about a mystery virus that envelopes Bundang (a suburb of Seoul). The film doesn’t know if it wants to be a by the numbers disaster movie a or a satire on human nature. The comedy aspect of the movie doesn’t really work but the rest of it does. Not as hard hitting as Contagion but worth seeing.Flu

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: A year after the events of The Hunger Games and revolution is in the air. A new variation on The Hunger Games is devised to try and quash the thoughts of rebellion. Like the first movie, every character is perfectly cast. Bigger bolder and in some ways better than the first film despite weaker source material.The Hunger Games Catching Fire

The Movie of the Month is: Gravity; see it in IMAX 3D if you can.Gravity-poster

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Movies seen in October:

Girl Most Likely: A failed playwright finds herself living back home with her exocentric mother and brother. Kristen Wiig is as watchable as you would expect but the film is too thin and lightweight. Similar themes were better explored in Young Adult.Girl Most Likely

How I Live Now: Adapted from a young adult novel of the same name. An American teenager moves to England to stay with her aunt and cousins just as a war breaks out. Atmospheric photography and some interesting ideas make for an interesting film held together by excellent performances from the young cast particularly Saoirse Ronan.How I Live Now

Metallica Through The Never: A mix of concert footage and an esoteric and surreal adventure. In 3D Imax it’s the closet to a Metallica concert other than actually going to a Metallica concert. For fans only but a real treat for them.Metallica Through The Never

Rurouni Kenshin: In 1868 as Japan is in transition from the samurai age to the New Age former assassin Kenshin Himura carries a sword with an “inverted blade” as part of his vow not to kill. His resolve is tested when he comes up against a drug lord. The action scenes are great too few and far between.Rurouni Kenshin

Filth: Adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s supposedly un-filmable novel. James McAvoy is monumental but the movie is a little patchy.James McAvoy and Eddie Marsan in Filth - Jul 2013

Captain Phillips: The true story of Richard Phillips, the Captain of the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates. Paul Greengrass’ direction is sublime and Tom Hanks gives the performance of his career.Tom Hanks

Sunshine on Leith: Dexter Fletcher’s second movie as a director is musical based on the stage musical of the same name featuring music by The Proclaimers. Largely enjoyable but too saccharine sweet.FILM Fletcher 4

Machete Kills: Danny Trejo is back as the eponymous hero in Robert Rodriguez pastiche of exploitation movies. Sillier than the first movie and without the political message but still great fun. Lots of people will hate it, personally I can’t wait for “Machete Kills Again …In Space”.Machete Kills

Prince Avalanche: Director David Gordon Green finally lives up to the promise he showed in Undertow (2004) with a bizarre road movie starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as a mismatched pair of labourers painting lines on a road in rural Texas.Prince Avalanche

Escape Plan: A security expert who escapes from prisons for a living to help make them more secure until he agrees to test the worlds most secret and secure prison. Forget The Expendables, this is the first proper teaming of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger and I am pleased to report it isn’t bad. Its silly and predictable but, it really isn’t bad. Stallone tries hard to keep it serious and ernest, Schwarzenegger is clearly having a blast as he hams it up. The plot contains a couple of twists that even the most casual of viewers will see coming.THE TOMB

Ender’s Game: Forget the negative publicity surrounding the politically incorrect views of the author of the source novel and take the movie on its own merits. An international military space program are looking for a leader to save the world from a pending alien attack. The young cast includes Asa Butterfield and Hailee Steinfeld who impressed in Hugo and True Grit respectively, they are both good here too. Harrison Ford plays Colonel Graff, given his personal Colonel Gruff would be more appropriate. Far darker than you would expect and surprisingly good.ENDER'S GAME

For all the good films I have seen this month, there has only been one great one: Captain Phillips is movie of the month. To take things a stage further, I haven’t always agreed with Tom Hanks’ Oscar nominations/wins but if he wins for this I won’t be disappointed.Captain Phillips Poster

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Movies seen in May:

Dead Man Down: Two damaged people (Colin Farrell and Noomi Rapace) looking for revenge find each other. A disjointed crime thriller that has its problems but gets away with them because they are outweighed by the charms of the leading actors.IMG_5538.CR2

Star Trek Into Darkness: Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise go after a terrorist (perfectly played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Lots of well placed nods to the original series but the movie feels a little hollow and undoes some of the great work of the excellent first reboot movie.Star Trek Into Darkness

Mud: Two young teenage boys find a fugitive living in a boat stranded in a tree on a river island. They agree to help him despite the obvious dangers. Further proof that given a decent movie Matthew McConaughey is one of the most underrated actors of his generation coupled with the emerging talent of Tye Sheridan who you may have seen in The Tree of Life.Mud

The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann’s take on the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is as good as it can be for a story that belongs on the page not the screen. The best things about it are the visually stunning party scenes and the stunning performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. Sadly the best things about the film work against each other not with each other making a good and stunning film but not a great and mesmerising one.The Great Gatsby

Fast and Furious 6: Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Conner (Vin Diesel & Paul Walker) and their crew are once again hired by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). This time they are after British thief Shaw (Luke Evans) who is working with (back from the dead) Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). The story is rubbish leavening the film feeling flat after the surprisingly good previous film. There is enough car action for fans of the series and the fight between Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano is good.Fast & Furious 6

Byzantium: After being discover by a mysterious organisation who is tracking them a pair of female vampires (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) flee and end up in a rundown English seaside town. Neil Jordan returns to the vampire movie in the atmospheric and melancholic British horror that may just be the antidote to twilight.Byzantium

The Purge: Set in a near future America where on one day every year there is a 12 hour window when murder is legal. A suburban family get caught in the crossfire when the son decides help a man fleeing from a mob. What could have been a great sleazy B movie or a classy allegoric tale tries to be both and ends up being neither. Interesting and fun but flawed.The Purge

Byzantium Just misses out as movie of the month to Mud:Mud Poster

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