Watched, Read, Reviewed: January 2023

First roundup of 2023! Let’s see if I can keep this up all year. I started January by watching Paul Newman being all sexy so not a bad way to start the year. Here’s what I watched in January…

MOVIES WATCHED IN JANUARY (ranked best to worst):

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof – Decided that gazing at young Paul Newman would be a lovely way to start a new year of movie-watching. Enjoyed this. Who doesn’t like watching a dysfunctional family yelling at each other? Well, those horrible brats & the sister-in-law were annoying as hell but Newman, Elizabeth Taylor & Burl Ives were great. Although it was a little distracting having Ives be so grumpy while sounding just like his Sam the Snowman character from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer… I kept expecting him to start singing Silver And Gold. Can relate to having to deal with family drama (although thankfully not nearly as dramatic as the cranky f*^kers in this movie) & I think many of us can probably relate to Taylor’s character so desperately wanting to have sex with Paul Newman. Mmm Hmm. – 8/10

Last Night In Soho – Happy to have finally seen this one & have ranked it pretty high in my list of 2021 films. I don’t think it’s Edgar Wright’s very best (I’d probably only rank Scott Pilgrim below it) but it had a lot to live up to as I don’t think he’s made a bad film. It’s certainly one of the better movies I’ve seen these last few dreadful years despite being really sick of Anya Taylor-Joy. Taylor-Joy & Thomasin McKenzie both did very well in this, it was fun seeing Terence Stamp & Diana Rigg, and I enjoyed the (quite simple) ghost story. But the real stars were the setting, the film’s vibe and, as I’d expect from Wright, great use of songs to perfectly capture the right mood. It’s a film I actually enjoyed watching, which I can’t say of a lot of films lately including two I watched just after this: The Batman (YAWN) and, another Taylor-Joy film, The Menu (overrated & tries too hard). I like that Wright’s films just come across as having been made by someone who loves watching as well as making movies. – 7.5/10

Crimes Of The Future – Love David Cronenberg’s body horror classics & enjoyed seeing a return to that after being disappointed with most of his recent films. It’s still not as good as his best but it’s one of the better 2022 films I’ve seen (I’ve ranked it 9th in my Cronenberg ranking & 11th for 2022). Viggo Mortensen & Léa Seydoux were very good and I was glad to see Kristen Stewart was in this way less than I was expecting. Honestly, though, I could’ve done with this one being far weirder. Seemed very tame for a Cronenberg body horror. Enjoyed the film, though, and hope Cronenberg continues to make more like this. – 7/10

King Richard – You can’t get me to watch sports but I’ll happily watch a feelgood sports movie. I know very little about Venus & Serena Williams besides, you know, that they’re really bloody good at tennis. So I liked seeing the story of their family & how they got into tennis although I assumed it got the glossy Hollywood treatment (it did – I shouldn’t have looked into things – I prefer to believe in fairytales). Smith was very good but it’s a shame that what happened at the Oscars will forever be associated with this film celebrating two amazing sisters & athletes. I liked it a lot & its inspiring message and thought the girls (Saniyya Sidney & Demi Singleton) were great. The only thing I found slightly disappointing was that I’d have liked more focus on Venus & Serena than on their dad (despite the name of the film). – 7/10

Marathon Man – Been meaning to watch this for years. Now I can see why the dental torture is always mentioned as it’s unfortunately the most memorable thing about this. I’ve actually never had a cavity or any dental work, though, so maybe that’s why this movie didn’t have much of an effect on me?? 

Did appreciate this movie’s look & vibe as I’m always a sucker for gritty ‘70s films. Dustin Hoffman was good as was Laurence Olivier as the badass dental torturer. Roy Scheider was also a very nice surprise as I somehow managed to not even know he was in this. So A+ for the stars and the acting but the story was an absolute mess. Not what I’d expect from a William Goldman story! Maybe it just didn’t translate well to film? To be fair, he’s had a few duds but I can’t help but compare everything to his brilliant The Princess Bride which I adore with all my heart (and Magic, which is also pretty great). I could barely follow the plot in this. Okay, I get a bit dumb when I’m slightly bored but WTF was going on in this? Something about diamonds & Nazis? Something going on with Hoffman’s dad that ended up having nothing to do with anything? Two old farts with road rage? Hoffman sleeping with some woman who was maybe bad or maybe she wasn’t I don’t know. It’s been about a week since I saw this and, yep, I mainly just remember the dental torture. And Hoffman running around a bit (hence the name of the movie, I guess!). Oh, and it was far more bloody & violent than I was expecting for some reason. 

Disappointing story from Goldman. Fine performances from the big name stars. As expected on the gritty Seventies-ness. Certainly worth a watch but not up there with others that are also considered classics from that same time period. Does have its moments, though, and my 3 star Letterboxd rating seems a little low but 3.5 tends to be what I give to movies that I enjoyed much more than I did this one. I prefer rating out of 10 & this would be 7/10 on that scale, which seems more fair. – 7/10

The Menu – Found this disappointing. A film that maybe thinks it’s more clever than it is? I did appreciate how tense it got & was enjoying that up until it became too ridiculous at the end & its message got all muddled. What was the point? Yeah, most rich people suck. No duh. I just think there are far better films that have explored that. And can we have a break from Anya Taylor-Joy being in every movie? – 6.5/10

The Lost City – Better than I was expecting. Is of course silly but I’ve seen far worse romcom adventures. Actually, we could use more movies in this sort of genre again, especially with the adventure part added in… Thought Bullock & Tatum were fine together & had decent chemistry. I may be wrong but think some complained about the age difference? Oh, so the exact same sort of age difference in a million other movies except the man is the older one in all of those and no one comments on them? Forget Tatum anyway – I’ll take the almost-60 Brad Pitt who is looking damn hot in this movie. Oh, and I thought this was much more enjoyable than Uncharted when comparing it to a similar recent film (minus the romance). – 6.5/10

Shotgun Wedding – This was silly but enjoyable. Happy to have some romcoms like this lately. This was a lot like The Lost City and it’s great that Bullock & Lopez are still doing these types of movies as they’re both so good in these roles. And I’m glad I didn’t look this film up beforehand so got a very nice surprise when the always amazing Jennifer Coolidge showed up as the groom’s mother. Love her! The story of course gets too ridiculous at times but who cares with this type of movie? Lopez & Duhamel worked well together as did Bullock & Tatum in The Lost City. Not sure which one I preferred but if you like one, you’ll like the other. If you like your romcoms to be a little less outrageous & don’t need the action, you may prefer the recent Lopez film Marry Me instead, which was also quite enjoyable & less silly. 

I can say that this is my favorite 2023 U.K. movie release that I’ve seen so far this year! But I’ve only seen three… – 6.5/10

Save The Cinema – Ah, another heartwarming based-on-a-true-story British film. They do love that genre here! I was of course interested in a story about a small Welsh town in the ‘90s trying to save their cinema from being demolished because I’d be trying to save it too (if my town had a cinema – man I wish it did!!). Figured it would be a “love of cinema” film like Cinema Paradiso etc etc (I love movies about loving movies). The movie should be called Save The Theatre, though, as it’s more about the woman who put on live productions there with the town’s children & that’s what she was trying to save. Samantha Morton was good in the lead role & I especially liked Jonathan Pryce as her old mentor & teacher and the one who has a love of cinema and brings that to the theatre as they realise getting enough people to come to movies there will help keep it in business.

There’s a great surprise for movie lovers at the end which I won’t spoil if you’ve not read the full plot synopsis. They chucked in a few quirky characters as they like to do in these sort of British films plus a nice little romance subplot but there wasn’t a lot of character development. Not the most memorable of these sort of movies but a nice story and an easy watch for a lazy weekend afternoon. Oh, and another surprise for the end: You find out that one of the sons of this woman became someone everyone living in the U.K. has heard over & over again… – 6.5/10

Jackass Forever – These dumbshits do make me laugh… Although there was nothing that felt all that new & original in this one. We’ve seen it all before from these guys but it was fun seeing them doing the same stupid shit again. Too many c*cks, b*lls & b*ttholes for my liking, though! – 6.5/10

You People – Can’t decide how I feel about this movie. Found some of it funny & enjoyed it while watching it but later felt annoyed at how over-the-top & ridiculous the parents were. Now I wish the couple had just told them all to stick it & eloped. 

Jonah Hill & Lauren London were a likeable couple (although I found it hard to believe she’d agree to go out with him in the first place). The relationship was quite sweet. I couldn’t relate to Hill’s character and style. Is this what people that age are like? He seemed like more of a caricature. Everyone felt that way. Only London‘s character felt a bit more realistic. Julia Louis-Dreyfus did well with what she was given and was funny as always but, again, the character was too ridiculous. Same goes for Eddie Murphy. Nia Long was given absolutely nothing to do. Did find David Duchovny’s cluelessly dumb father quite fun, though, and liked Sam Jay as Hill’s friend.

I think it just wrapped things up too nicely at the end. So after all that bullshit they suddenly all accept everyone for who they are, cocaine habits and all? They should still think about moving far far away from their families & the cocaine friends. – 6/10

Dog Gone – My first 2023 release I watched! This was safe and wholesome and a bit bland but it had a loveable dog in it so who cares. It’s apparently based on a true story but it looks like they changed the character of the dog’s owner quite a bit, making him younger & not telling the tragic reason why he got a dog. Not sure why but maybe they wanted to keep the story a little more lighthearted? An inoffensive sweet dog movie to pass the time on a weekend afternoon. And Rob Lowe is looking mighty fine at this age. – 6/10

The Batman – I’m admittedly not a huge fan of superheroes. Don’t read comics but watch the movies. Enjoy them but they’re throwaway entertainment for me. When it comes to Batman, Tim Burton’s is my preference. Usually prefer more lightweight superhero movies to the dark & dreary ones now so knew this one probably wasn’t going to be for me but, bloody hell,  I didn’t think it would be so boring

Robert Pattinson‘s emo Batman put me to sleep (literally), Zoë Kravitz looked lovely but she & Pattinson both had zero presence in this, and Andy Serkis had no character development whatsoever but I guess we’re meant to have an emotional attachment to him since we already know who he is thanks to there being so many Batman stories. That may be the problem, though. As I said I’m not some huge fan & this movie seemed to be for the fans who read the comics & already know all the characters well as this movie didn’t set any of them up at all. The movie seemed to assume you already know all you need to know about everyone but I need a movie to make me care about the characters, even when they’re characters I’ve seen in other films already. I have zero desire to watch a sequel to this version whereas I did want to see what would happen in each of the Nolan films (and I’m not even a big fan of those, either, but they were great in setting up very strong characters). Oh, and the story in this was as dull as the actors. I guess Paul Dano was fine but he gives me a creepy vibe all the time anyway. Actually, Jeffrey Wright was decent too – a slightly more developed character than the rest for some reason. 

I guess the best thing I can say about this is that it made me appreciate Nolan’s trilogy more. It also made me think much more highly of Joker. I still like Burton’s Batman the most & the same amount that I already did. It also didn’t affect how much I hate the ZS superhero movies. So I’m giving this an extra half a star as it at least still managed to be far better than any of those films. It’s not a horrible movie, it’s just dreadfully dull. – 6/10

Movies Rewatched:

Stand By Me – I can’t fully put into words how much this movie means to me. I watched it every day after school when I was 13. Finally rewatched it with my daughter as she’s the right age now & am very happy to say that she liked it too. Have never reviewed it as I find it hard to review my all-time favorites but wrote quite a bit about what it means to me on this list I did on my blog: My Top Ten Stand By Me Insults. 🙂 – 10/10

Footloose – Felt like rewatching this ‘80s favorite. Being the age I am I grew up on this so of course love it, although certainly not to the same degree as the John Hughes teen movies. Reminds me of my small American town (minus the crazy people banning music & dancing). One of the most Eighties movies of them all. Man I miss those days & miss when movies had such great soundtracks. – 8/10

Circle – Seen this film 3 times now as I keep convincing others to watch it with me. Just love the idea, which very much feels like it could have been a classic Twilight Zone story. And still love that one of the film’s actors & producers commented on my full review of this on my blog (here). Love when that happens. I recommend checking this one out if you like the sound of the story. – 7.5/10

Documentaries, Shorts, Miscellaneous:

The Imposter – This was certainly an unbelievable story but surprisingly far less shocking than I was expecting based on other documentaries from recent years. I’m not sure what it says about the state of the world that this ten year old doc doesn’t seem quite so outrageous now. Seriously, though – that guy looked nothing like that missing kid. There was definitely something else going on in this wild story. And I can’t believe this guy did the same thing over & over again. Crazy stuff.

Managed to watch three short Oscar nominees:

The Elephant Whisperers – This was a lovely short documentary about a couple who raise orphaned baby elephants in India. God I want to raise a baby elephant! Absolutely adorable.

The Martha Mitchell Effect – Intriguing story about the wife of John Mitchell, Nixson’s Attorney General. She helped to bring down Nixson over that whole Watergate thang by being a cool busybody who shared way too much info & was treated like shit for being a woman with an opinion.

Le Pupille – This was a weird little story. Didn’t really see the point of it & absolutely hate stories where sweet orphans are treated like shit by nuns. But the girls in it were very cute.

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JANUARY

TV SHOWS WATCHED

The Last Of Us: S1 E1-3 – Have zero knowledge of this game but enjoying the show so far. But I do always love anything apocalyptic & zombielike… Thought episode three was really good in giving us a great backstory to, from what I understand, a lesser character from the game? Am hoping they’ll do that more with the main characters. They’ve fleshed out Pascal’s character somewhat in that strong first episode with his daughter but we know nothing about that woman he was later with & they have yet to really make us care about that Game Of Thrones girl. We’ll see. Will definitely keep watching.

Chucky: S2 E1 – The first season was a bit of fun throwaway entertainment. Got a bit too ridiculous at the end, though. Don’t think this first episode was a strong start to season 2 but will give another episode or two a try. Guess they have to try to set things up again with all those they didn’t kill off.

One Of Us Is Lying: S1 – This was… Meh. It’s based on a YA book I’d been thinking about reading. Was annoyed after starting it to realise it was 2 seasons instead of just 1. We need more limited series shows! Am I the only one who likes a limited series?! I don’t have time to devote to TV shows that just get worse season by season as they milk the fuck out of everything these days. I don’t think I care enough about this one to bother with season 2.

BOOKS READ

Very nearly finished with Fairy Tale by Stephen King so will review it next month. Loving it!

Here’s some more sexy Paul Newman 🥵

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

Well, I’ll probably spend the next month watching as many Oscar nominees as possible before the Academy Awards. Not many on services, though, so won’t manage to see many of the biggest nominees. I’ve seen only four of the Best Picture nominees but have a feeling I’ve seen the winner anyway (I think it’s between Everything Everywhere All At Once or The Banshees Of Inisherin). All Quiet On The Western Front could have a small chance & I’ve just watched that over the weekend. Hoping I can find a place to watch all the animated shorts. Any idea where to see those?!

As I said, I really enjoyed the Last Night In Soho soundtrack so I should really finish this post with one of the great ’60s songs capturing the mood of that era. But I HAVE to finish with a song that played during “current day” in the movie as I love this song. Here’s Happy House by Siouxsie and the Banshees:

The 94th Academy Awards – Reviews Of Nominated Films & List Of All Nominees

The Oscars are on tonight so I’m finally doing a post with links to the reviews I’ve done of some of the nominated films.

I can’t believe I used to stay up all night long to watch the Oscars live when I first moved to the U.K. Ugh. I don’t anymore because 1) I don’t always have access to the live ceremony because that service is too expensive and 2) I’m too old & tired to stay up all night (and then go to work! how did I do that?!) but most importantly 3) Screw the Oscars! They’ve become a joke in the past several years & this year’s ceremony sounds ridiculous. I had a rant during my Mass review but I’ll just say again that I don’t have time for a movie awards ceremony that doesn’t see the Best Original Score & all the others not being presented as important enough to make the live show.

But I’m sure I’ll still watch the shorter recap show tomorrow night & bitch about the ceremony the whole time…

Well, there seem to be better Best Picture nominees than some years but I’ve only seen six of the ten. Of those I’ve not seen, I really do want to see Drive My Car. I’m sure I’ll check out King Richard, Licorice Pizza & Belfast when available too but I’m in no rush. I think The Power Of The Dog will probably win anyway, which was my least favorite of those I’ve seen. I loved Dune & CODA. Actually not sure which of the two I preferred. Dune is more “me” but CODA was so lovely & thoroughly enjoyable to watch. They’re maybe tied.

Here are my reviews of those I’ve seen of all the nominees (from my favorite to least favorite):

TIE: Dune & CODA
The Lost Daughter
Don’t Look Up
West Side Story
Tick, Tick… Boom!
The Mitchells Vs The Machines
Raya And The Last Dragon
Encanto
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The Eyes Of Tammy Faye
Free Guy
The Power Of The Dog
Cruella
Nightmare Alley
Coming 2 America
Luca
Being the Ricardos
Spencer (hated this)

There were also some strong documentaries & shorts that were luckily available on U.K. services. Summer Of Soul was great with fantastic music so I really enjoyed that. And Please Hold was a good Black-Mirror-Inspired story.

Nominated Documentaries & Shorts I’ve Seen (not ranked):

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
Audible
Lead Me Home
The Queen of Basketball
Please Hold
The Long Goodbye
Three Songs For Benazir
Boxballet
The Windshield Wiper
Robin Robin

Here are all the Oscar nominees:

Best Picture:
“Belfast”
CODA
Don’t Look Up
“Drive My Car”
Dune
“King Richard”
“Licorice Pizza”
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story

Best Actress:
Jessica Chastain, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Olivia Colman, “The Lost Daughter
Penelope Cruz, “Parallel Mother”
Nicole Kidman, “Being the Ricardos
Kristen Stewart, “Spencer

Best Actor:
Will Smith, “King Richard”
Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog
Andrew Garfield, “Tick, Tick… Boom!

Best Supporting Actress:
Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter
Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story
”Kirsten Dunst, “The Power of the Dog
”Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”
Judi Dench, “Belfast”

Best Supporting Actor:
Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog
J.K. Simmons, “Being the Ricardos
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog
Troy Kotsur, “CODA
Ciaran Hinds, “Belfast”

Best Director:
Kenneth Branagh, “Belfast”
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog
Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story

Best Original Screenplay:
“Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh
Don’t Look Up” Adam McKay, David Sirota
“King Richard,” Zach Baylin
“Licorice Pizza,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Worst Person in the World,” Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt

Best Adapted Screenplay:
CODA,” Siân Heder
The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion
“Drive My Car,” Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
Dune,” Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal

Best International Feature Film:
“Drive My Car” (Japan)
“Flee” (Denmark)
“The Hand of God” (Italy)
“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” (Bhutan)
“The Worst Person in the World” (Norway)

Best Documentary Feature:
“Ascension”
“Attica”
“Flee”
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”
“Writing With Fire”

Best Animated Feature Film:
Encanto
“Flee”
Luca
The Mitchells vs. the Machines
Raya and the Last Dragon

Best Animated Short:
“Affairs of the Art”
“Bestia”
“Boxballet”
“Robin Robin”
“The Windshield Wiper”

Best Documentary Short Subject:
“Audible”
“Lead Me Home”
“The Queen of Basketball”
Three Songs for Benazir
“When We Were Bullies”

Best Live Action Short:
“Ala Kachuu ― Take and Run”
“The Dress”
“The Long Goodbye”
“On My Mind”
“Please Hold”

Best Cinematography:
Dune
Nightmare Alley
The Power of the Dog
“The Tragedy of Macbeth”
West Side Story

Best Film Editing:
Don’t Look Up
Dune
“King Richard”
The Power of the Dog
Tick, Tick … Boom!

Best Production Design:
Dune
Nightmare Alley
“The Tragedy of Macbeth”
West Side Story
The Power of the Dog

Best Original Song:
“Be Alive” (“King Richard”), Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Dixson
“Dos Oruguitas” (“Encanto”), Lin-Manuel Miranda
“Down to Joy” (“Belfast”), Van Morrison
“No Time to Die” (“No Time to Die”), Billie Eilish, Finneas O’Connell
“Somehow You Do” (“Four Good Days”), Diane Warren

Best Original Score:
Don’t Look Up,” Nicholas Britell
Dune,” Hans Zimmer
Encanto,” Germaine Franco
“Parallel Mothers,” Alberto Iglesias
The Power of the Dog,” Jonny Greenwood

Best Sound:
“Belfast”
Dune
“No Time to Die”
The Power of the Dog
West Side Story

Best Costume Design:
Cruella
“Cyrano”
Dune
Nightmare Alley
West Side Story

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:
Coming 2 America
Cruella
Dune
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
“House of Gucci”

Best Visual Effects:
Dune
Free Guy
“No Time to Die”
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
“Spider-Man: No Way Home”

What are your favorite Oscar nominees this year & what do you most want to see win?