Watched, Read, Reviewed: December 2020

Happy New Year! 2020 is finally over! ūüôā

I’m going to finish out the year by posting my monthly roundup of what I watched & read in December. I’ll then try to post some 2020 Top Ten Lists the rest of this week, although that’s been weird to put together this time & to try to figure out which movies were actually released in 2020 in the U.K. (a lot in my list were 2019 in the U.S.). It’s also been a terrible year for movies – I think it’s the first time there were no movies I rated above 7.5/10 all year. Very disappointing, even including the older films I chose to watch. I’ll miss doing the Blind Spot project, as that always meant I saw at least a few excellent films each year.

But first, here’s my month of December 2020…

*Edited to add two things I forgot I watched. How could I forget Wolfwalkers?! That was pretty good.

MOVIES WATCHED IN DECEMBER (ranked best to worst):

Calamity Jane – Caught this on TV & thoroughly enjoyed it. Was surprised it’s now one of my favorites this year. Hubby thought it was crazy I’d never seen it but I’d barely even heard of it. I sometimes wonder if certain films ended up slightly more popular in the U.K. than in the U.S.? Like, maybe they were shown on TV a lot more when people were growing up here. Anyway – I think it’s also my first Doris Day movie too (not counting that Hitchcock movie since I’ve of course watched his biggest films). Day is great in this! I liked the character a lot. She’s feisty & funny. And it’s proof there were strong female lead roles, even back in 1953. The only slight negative I’d say is that none of the songs stuck with me (I can’t remember any of them at the moment). Wasn’t sure whether to rank this above or below Meet Me In St. Louis (also a first-time watch this year). I’d probably put it just below it, as I remember two songs very well from that one & The Trolley Song is a classic plus I really like Judy Garland. However, I have to say I enjoyed the overall story & especially the main character in Calamity Jane more plus it had some great humor. A truly fun musical. – 7.5/10

Soul – Trying to figure out how to review this one. I think I’m tougher on Pixar movies as I hold them to a higher standard. They’ve made movies I consider all-time classics up there with any of the non-animated films considered by many to be masterpieces. So, even when I’m disappointed with a Pixar movie, it’s still usually a much better film than movies made by other animation studios. Soul is like that. As a Pixar movie, I’m a little disappointed. But it’s still a gorgeous piece of animation & still far better than the type of stuff we get from the likes of DreamWorks.

I think, mainly, I felt let down by the ending. It didn’t fully tie things up the way I expect from a Pixar film. It didn’t feel like the fully rounded sort of story we always get from the studio. What becomes of both of them? Has he really learned his lesson? Too many things still felt unresolved at the end (and one specific thing was hinted at early in the film & nothing comes of it in the end so what was the point?). I don’t know. I always hate being so picky with Pixar but that’s just because they have several truly brilliant films. And as a music lover, I think I was hoping to enjoy and feel more of a love for music in Soul as well. But in the end, it’s not really about music at all (sorry – spoiler sort of). And then the actual score was something I sadly didn’t even notice. When I think of Inside Out, I immediately think of that amazing Michael Giacchino score. That’s one of the finest scores of the past 20 years. It’s gorgeous. Same with the scores for WALL-E & Finding Nemo. Pixar have had many great scores so, for a movie whose main character is obsessed with music, I was hoping for more from the score.

Well, Soul is still a lovely film even if it didn’t live up to Pixar’s very best for me. I think it didn’t help that, unfortunately, our two main characters are… Unlikeable? Yeah, a bit. Which is fine for a story where the whole point is to become a better person. Hell, that’s the moral of the story in most every movie that gets made, isn’t it?? But, in this case, we didn’t get enough of a pay off at the end to make up for that. I honestly thought, at the very least, there’d be an end credits scene which would show us more of the end result. I think just one additional short scene like that would have really added to the story & I’d be rating it more highly instead of feeling unsatisfied. The barbershop scene was good – It would’ve been good to see more of his life as the “living people” bits were better than the little blue “soul people” bits. I didn’t feel like I got to know his character. And I think the story just ended up too convoluted to really get its point across to the audience. Inside Out also dealt with very complex themes but in a much more coherent way with a satisfying ending. – 7/10

Wolfwalkers – This was a really lovely film. I love the artwork. I felt the same way about Tomm Moore’s Song Of The Sea. Gorgeous. (I’ve not seen The Secret Of Kells). But, for whatever reason, I didn’t love either of these movies although they’re both very good. I slightly preferred Song Of The Sea, which was quite bittersweet. Both movies had good stories that I just didn’t fully connect with despite the girls in Wolfwalkers being good characters and the wolfwalker girl especially being feisty & fun. I think the movies themselves just don’t quite live up to the great visuals. But I’d happily stick images from these movies up on a wall. They feel almost more like pieces of art than films. – 7/10

The Midnight Sky – Sci-fi is a favorite genre of mine so I rarely dislike movies like this. I liked this one but would have to say it’s not for everyone. It has an extremely slow pace, so I can see those who aren’t big sci-fi fans not necessarily having the patience for this one. Loving ’70s sci-fi, I’m fine with loooong & drawn-out sci-fi films as so many old ones are like that. To be honest, I don’t think The Midnight Sky is “good enough” to have had a cinema release (don’t know if that was the plan?) but as a “straight to Netflix” film it’s fine. It’s a good sci-fi film with a predictable but decent twist. I liked it. – 7/10

The Trial Of The Chicago 7 – I’m not really a fan of courtroom dramas & this one started out VERY slow. I also have zero knowledge when it comes to history so knew nothing about this story. What didn’t help was that the first half of the movie doesn’t tell you what the hell actually happened. It’s not until about halfway through that they show you the actual incident that took place to lead to the trial. Then it got good – the second half of this was far better than the start. I thought Sacha Baron Cohen was especially good as Abbie Hoffman but all the acting was pretty top-notch. And, hey – the real-life guy played by Eddie Redmayne ended up marrying Jane Fonda (thanks, Wikipedia). I think this is just a very interesting real-life story that we didn’t get to actually see as the focus was on the trial. I’d rather have seen this story play out from the start with the trial at the end of the movie. And each of the 7 characters (well, 8 – one was falsely accused) are worthy of their own separate movies focusing on them. I’d rather watch those movies if they got made. – 7/10

Babyteeth – This was good and is the type of thing I often like so was hoping to like it more than I did. It’s about a teenage schoolgirl with cancer who falls in love with an early twenty-something drug dealer. All performances in this were good, especially from our two main characters above & the girl’s parents. It’s an odd film. I think I couldn’t really relate to it as everyone’s behavior was so bizarre. Especially the drug dealer (as to be expected, I suppose). But I really didn’t understand his behavior at the end of the movie & why he reacted the way he did (avoiding spoilers, obviously). Well, it’s a decent film with very good performances and a bit of the quirky indie thing I like. I did still appreciate the movie even if I couldn’t relate to the characters. – 7/10

Santa Claus: The Movie – I still can’t believe there’s an ’80s movie, especially a Christmas one that will have been shown many Decembers of my life, that I never saw. I liked this. Yeah, it’s a bit cheesy & a little dated but I think it still stands up today. I know I’d appreciate it more if I’d actually grown up with it but I’d happily watch it again some other Christmas. Oh, and Burgess Meredith has a small but cool role in this too. Love him. – 7/10

Hillbilly Elegy – This Ron Howard movie was fine. I’m wondering if these Netflix movies were meant to actually be 2020 cinema releases? Because this is another one that doesn’t feel good enough for cinemas despite its big name stars. It’s a decent enough story with good acting but feels like a TV movie (not that there’s anything wrong with TV movies). It’s just a very straightforward “person makes it despite bad childhood” storyline. I love Amy Adams and she was good as always as the drug addict mother but the performance felt a bit phoned in. Glenn Close was also good as her mother but I thought Haley Bennett especially stood out in her role as daughter of Adams. Gabriel Basso (had to look him up) was also good as the son & main character. Good. Yeah. The movie is just… kind of good. But nothing we haven’t seen before. – 6.5/10

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Was disappointed with this but think that was mainly because I didn’t know beforehand that it’s a play & that the movie would very much be like a play & mainly in only one setting as they record an album. The play format occasionally works in movies but is not usually my type of thing. I think it depends on the characters. Unfortunately, I don’t think most of them get as much development as I’d have liked. Besides Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and Levee (lovely Chadwick Boseman – R.I.P.) who get plenty of screen time but I didn’t feel we really even learned enough about Ma Rainey. But both were very good in their roles, especially Boseman. He seemed like a lovely guy & had such a great presence in films – he will be very sadly missed. Was not happy with how his character ended up in this movie, however. Wasn’t expecting that. Why?!?! Again – average movie but good performances. – 6.5/10

Wild Child – Hey, I gotta watch these teen chick flicks with the kid sometimes. Even as an old lady, I still enjoy teen movies. What can I say? I grew up in the John Hughes era! Not that this is anywhere near as good as a John Hughes movie. It’s silly & predictable in every way but it’s also more fun than I was expecting. There are several different fun characters in the group of girls at the snobby English school the bitchy California rich girl (Emma Roberts) gets shipped off to. Does she learn to not be such a bitch by the end?! Duh! Of COURSE. Who cares? That’s the point of these movies. I want predictable with something like this. Happily ever after & all that shit. There’s even a fun makeover/clothes shopping bit. That was fun. I can be girly sometimes! And I swear I’ve visited wherever they did that clothes shopping – that English street looked very familiar. – 6/10

The Princess Switch: Switched Again – Ugh. Not good. The first film was fine. Throwaway Hallmark-type of feelgood movie. This one was too silly with a ridiculous “villain” thrown in. I guess it’s worth a watch if you really loved the first movie but lower your expectations for this one. – 5/10

A Chinese Ghost Story – I can’t fairly review this 1987 Hong Kong film as I ended up not fully paying attention to it. I was bored. Think I saw someone mention it on Twitter & decided to watch it as it sounded fun & had a good IMDb rating. It’s… Strange. I didn’t like it but it’s weird enough that I guess I can see why it would have some fans (think it has a cult following). Here’s the plot synopsis from IMDb: “After a string of bad luck, a debt collector has no other choice than to spend the night in a haunted temple, where he encounters a ravishing female ghost and later battles to save her soul from the control of a wicked tree demon.” – 5.5/10

Shorts, etc:

If Anything Happens I Love You – My god, this was absolutely soul destroying! I hated it, in a way. It’s very good but also way too emotional. It’s a topic I can’t stand the thought of and one very big reason I’m glad to not live in America at the moment. Would like to think someone with the right connections would watch this animated short on Netflix & be moved to make some sort of difference to the laws in America. But let’s be honest – that will never happen. Hard to know what to rate this as it’s good & very moving but I never ever ever want to see it again. Only one small complaint I hate to bring up but the song in it threw me out of it a bit. Bad song. Would’ve been even more emotional if it had just stayed as an instrumental score (although I don’t think I could’ve handled it being even more emotional). – 7/10

Death To 2020 – This was fine but a little underwhelming. I did get a few giggles out of it but think I’ll have forgotten most of it in a few months. They did seem to tread very lightly (I suppose you have to be super careful to offend no one these days). I was happy to find that they made fun of both sides politically (a bit), as I expected this to be very far left. Meh. It was okay but it took no risks. Come on – we’re all used to South Park now! But I always love Samuel L. Jackson so he was fun & Hugh Grant seems to have become surprisingly funny with this & in The Gentlemen. – 6/10

Rewatched:

Whip It – I adore Drew Barrymore & I love this movie she directed about a bunch of badass roller derby girls. I desperately wanted to be an old badass roller derby girl like Juliette Lewis after watching this movie but I’m too much of a wuss. Anyway, I rewatched this with the kid & she loved it too. This is more my kind of chick flick. I want badass chicks in my chick flicks! Still love this movie. – 8/10

Scrooged – I ranked this as my number one Christmas movie once (HERE). It maybe still is but I change my mind on my top five a lot. Well, I’ll always love the Christmas Carol story & love that there are so many clever adaptations of it. This one will always be my favorite modern adaptation. – 8/10

Miracle On 34th Street (1947) – Finally got my kid to watch another Christmas favorite of mine with me this year! I think she enjoyed it. When Santa sings in another language for that girl is one of my absolute favorite Christmas movie moments. Love it. He’s my favorite movie Santa & Natalie Wood is so good as the girl doubting him. Will always be a favorite of mine. – 7.5/10

Crocodile Dundee – Ha! Introduced the kid to this silly classic ’80s movie too. I’d actually not seen it in years myself so was expecting it to have not aged well. Surprisingly, I think it has aged quite well. Kid liked it more than I expected. For a movie I can’t exactly say is “good“, I think there’s just something really likeable about it. Probably why it has managed to be fairly popular for so many years. – 7/10

Deadpool – Rewatched this. I’m starting to question my memory as I had this all mixed up in my mind with Deadpool 2. Enjoyed this again but am thinking the sequel really upped the humor? Need to rewatch that one too. Still love the foul-mouthed naughty humor. More fun than most the superhero movies, which were getting a bit boring… – 7/10

The Holiday – This isn’t a favorite of mine, although a lot of girls seem to love it. It’s not really for me but I do love Jack Black. The movie is fine. Predictable & cheesy but a nice enough rom-com. I personally relate most to Jack Black’s movie score loving character & liked his job as composer (is it weird I often relate to dudes more in movies?!? Lol). Honestly, though – I couldn’t be less like Cameron Diaz’s character. Mainly I was just like “How much f*^king money do these people MAKE?!” when watching this. Their beautiful homes had to cost absolute fortunes. The movie is okay but, my god, I can’t relate to all that privilege. – 6.5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

Jeff Wayne’s The War Of The Worlds – Watched this musical performance & really liked it. Already knew & liked a couple of the songs. They’re obviously the best songs but I’d happily listen to this full album again. I sooooo miss the ’70s and the big concept albums! Why do we never get cool stuff like that anymore??

BOOKS READ

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – Took a little while to get into this one but then I really liked it. The main character sold it to me. She’s damaged & extremely socially awkward & so likeable in her own strange way by the end. She reminded me a bit of Holly Gibney, a character Stephen King created in Mr. Mercedes and has used in a few books since. I like her in the same way. I think maybe I just relate to socially awkward people. Hooray for the socially awkward! My kind of people. This book is funny at times but also heartbreaking & serious. It’s not a “lightweight” book, which I was thinking it might be. It’s a good book with good characters. I liked it. – 3.5/5

Looking For Alaska by John Green – This is the third John Green book I’ve read now since The Fault In Our Stars & I have to say this and the other one (Paper Towns) were very disappointing after TFIOS. It’s better than Paper Towns but, like that one, the main male character is in love with a somewhat unlikeable Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The girl in this is luckily not as utterly hateful as the one in Paper Towns and I liked the overall story & other characters okay. But that’s two in a row where Green has written an annoying girl who is the exact definition of Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Please tell me I just got unlucky reading these two in a row? Because I’d read another book of his if more like The Fault In Our Stars. – 3/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

The MandalorianSeason 2 – My god. THAT FINAL EPISODE. I loved it so much. Soooo much! That episode made me far happier than any movie has in the past several years. It certainly filled me with more joy than any of the sequel trilogy films. Look how easy it was to please Star Wars fans! How did the sequel trilogy movies get things so wrong?? I have to say I also loved watching the many reaction videos online of people watching that final episode for the first time. So much pure joy (and lots of tears too). Love it. I felt the same way. I won’t “review” The Mandalorian as I don’t really review TV anyway but I think the entire thing has been absolutely brilliant from start to finish. And, like most people, I’m utterly & completely in love with that adorable little green puppet. Greatest character creation in years. Greatest Star Wars character since the original trilogy characters. He’s perfection. And his cuteness will never be topped. Maximum cuteness has now been achieved! Love him. Love this show. Love that some of us had something to help get us through this shitty year. Yes, it’s just a TV show but seeing those reaction videos shows you just how much it helped to lift peoples’ spirits. That’s brilliant filmmaking (TV-making??). I don’t rate TV but, if I did, my overall score would be 9.5/10 for this show so far. It’s THAT good.

The Crown – Season 2 – Not quite as good as season one but I’m still really enjoying this show despite this not normally being my type of thing. It’s very good. Talked a tiny bit more about it HERE.


God I love that cute little face

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

I only plan to post my 2020 Top Ten lists & then take a blog break. But I’ll try to do these monthly roundup posts.

Movies I Want To See:

Am very annoyed to have missed so many 2020 UK releases that I really wanted to see. So none of these will be included in my 2020 Top Ten Lists (if they’d make the ten). But these are the movies I still want to see the most of what I missed:

Possessor (big fan of his dad David Cronenberg)
Swallow
The Invisible Man
The Hunt
The Lighthouse
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire
Vivarium
Fatman
VFW
Promising Young Woman
Peninsula
Relic
The Lodge
Spontaneous

Would also watch these if recommended (but could live without the Netflix ones & the thought of sitting through Mank doesn’t thrill me):

Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, Unhinged, Proxima, His House, Mank, The Forty-Year-Old Version, Rebecca, The Old Guard, The Babysitter: Killer Queen, The Call, Queen & Slim, On The Rocks, Happiest Season, Underwater, The Rhythm Section, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Blow The Man Down, King Of Staten Island, Black Bear, Run

Any other movies that I missed? Any recommendations from the above lists?

Am very out of touch with movie releases lately! Also find it very hard to keep track of where each of these can be seen thanks to so many streaming services & the U.K. not having access to many of them. I can’t afford multiple services. Do really hate the way things are going when it comes to accessing movies but I suppose that was going to change with the times eventually anyway. But I’m finding it harder & harder to watch the slightly weird & less mainstream stuff I like. It’s kind of destroying my love of film, making it hard to find the energy to run a blog to discuss nothing but a bunch of very “Meh” straight-to-Netflix movies.

Okay, I’ll quit whining about movies. There are far bigger problems in the world now! I just like having the distraction & it’s always been my main hobby but it’s very hard to enjoy anything at the moment with everything going to shit for everyone (except the rich). I hope everyone is staying safe & well in these crazy times. Here’s to a happier 2021. ūüôā

Gotta end with a spoiler-free clip of this little guy. So many favorite moments to choose from! Here’s a favorite bit from Season 2. ūü•į

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Review

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Directed by Ron Howard

Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany

Music by John Powell & John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.


My Opinion:

I saw this at midnight last night. I’m exhausted! But I suppose I better do a quickie review before America gets to see this tonight (is that right?). Because I’m sure everyone is just dying to know my opinion as there’ll be NO other reviews to be found for this movie anywhere. Yeah, the other reviews will be much more detailed than mine. You won’t find that here. I’ll make this very quick and just let you know if I liked the latest Star Wars movie or not.

Yep! I liked it. I really really liked it. Not sure yet if I loved it, but… Maybe. I need to see it again. Here’s how I feel about all the new Star Wars movies (I’ve linked to my full reviews):

‚ÄĘ The Force Awakens: LOVED it. Easily my favorite of the new ones.
‚ÄĘ Rogue One: Certainly didn’t hate it but didn’t love it. Liked it okay but, overall, it just didn’t work for me. Felt the least “Star Wars” to me.
‚ÄĘ The Last Jedi: Wasn’t happy with this at first. It has grown on me. I certainly like it much more than a lot of people seemed to but, depending on what they do with the final film, I could end up liking this one much more or much less. Really hope they do the final film right (I want it to be more like The Force Awakens).

My ranking? I don’t yet know until the final film but it’s currently probably The Force Awakens, then The Last Jedi or Solo (time will tell so I’ll make them a tie at the moment) and then Rogue One. My hubby’s order (HUGE Star Wars nut), if you’re interested, is currently: The Force Awakens, Solo, Rogue One, The Last Jedi. I was surprised he has Solo in second place so far but he did thoroughly enjoy it.

So onto Solo… As most people have said so far, this movie is a lot of fun. There seems to be a big backlash against this movie before people have even seen it. I truly don’t understand that. Is it just because they didn’t like The Last Jedi?? Wow, people are hard to please. I was shocked that the midnight showings for this at my cinema were completely dead. One screen had only six people! I love Star Wars and, no, I really don’t want to see its legacy ruined. Yes, I worry that The Last Jedi has started down that path. But let’s see how they handle the final film. And, in the meantime, let’s spend some time having fun with Han, Chewbacca & Lando since they’re fantastic characters we all love. I also saw a lot of people say “Oh, people are saying Solo is fun. That just means it’s bad”. Huh? Since when did people decide that movies aren’t meant to be fun anymore?! I want movies to be fun. I want to be entertained. Fun doesn’t automatically mean bad.



I think the most important thing to me was that they’d get our most beloved characters right. I think we all had our doubts about Alden Ehrenreich but I think he did a good job. Was he the perfect person for this role? Maybe not. But who could be? Han Solo is one of the most iconic (and coolest) characters of all time. Who can possibly do Han Solo justice?? I had no problem with Ehrenreich – I liked him as Han. And Donald Glover is great as Lando but I think we had already accepted him based on the trailers. He’s cool as f*^k. I loved seeing these two characters meeting and, even as I write this, I’m probably liking this movie even more as I think of young Han, Lando, and Chewbacca all meeting for the first time. I adored all their scenes together.


I thought all the new characters were pretty great as well. I’m not sure that I have any new absolute favorites but it’s very hard to top all of the original trilogy characters. I’m not going to get into the new additions, however, as I wish to remain completely spoiler free. I’ll just say that I liked the history that Han had with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), Woody Harrelson and his team of “can they be trusted?” misfits were a joy and the perfect fit to team up with Han & Lando, and the baddies were quite effective – they looked the part and were menacing.


What else can I say? This movie gave me what I wanted. It’ll never top the original trilogy but no new Star Wars movie ever will. I don’t expect that from any of the new movies. I think Ron Howard has done a great job with Solo, especially considering that it was such a troubled production. It stays very faithful to & respectful of the Star Wars legacy and does all the existing characters justice. There are some great “fan service” bits that are a real pleasure but don’t feel at all forced (they aren’t the type you’ll roll your eyes at – they’re just fun). Yeah. Fun! This movie is fun. Fun is good. Fun is what I wanted. It’s okay to have fun sometimes! Solo: A Star Wars Story is a good film and, for me, it’s a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe.

My Rating: 8/10

My Top Ten Ron Howard Movies

Happy (belated) birthday to Ron Howard, who turned 63 on March 1st. I was going to post this last Thursday but decided to post My Top Bill Paxton Movies (R.I.P. Bill Paxton – such a sad & unexpected loss).

Okay – I’ll admit that Ron Howard would never really make a list of my favorite directors (Oh… I should really make that list! That would be a tough one). I do like how varied his filmography is, though. I truly enjoyed my number one choice as well as thinking it was a very good movie. Numbers two & three aren’t exactly Oscar-worthy but they’re guilty 80’s pleasures of mine. And number four would probably top most people’s lists (and is admittedly a better film than two & three). The rest? I could take them or leave them. And man I hate How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

So, counting down to my favorite (and including all 13 I’ve seen) here are My Top Ten Movies Directed By Ron Howard:

13. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Hate)
12. Ransom
11. Angels & Demons

TOP TEN:

10. Edtv

9. The Da Vinci Code

8. Parenthood

7. Backdraft

6. A Beautiful Mind

5. Willow

4. Apollo 13

3. Splash

2. Cocoon

1. Rush

Saw But Don’t Remember:
– The Paper

Not Seen:
– Frost/Nixon
– In The Heart Of The Sea
– Everything else he’s done that I’ve not already listed… (Okay – I got bored with typing. Have a nice day, everyone!) ūüėČ

A Beautiful Mind (2001) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

IMG_7625.JPG

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE and Platoon HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! ūüôā Now let’s hear his thoughts on A Beautiful Mind, IMDB rank 198 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

IMG_7594.JPG

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

A Beautiful Mind explores the life of John Nash (Crowe), Nobel Prize winning mathematician.  Beginning with his graduate studies at Princeton, Nash discovers a new concept of governing dynamics, the Nash Equilibrium.  Following Princeton, Nash works at a research lab at MIT doing work for the Pentagon and teaching on the side.  He meets Alicia (Connelly), one of his students, and the two fall in love.  He is also approached by William Parcher (Harris) to do classified work in decoding a Soviet attack on America.

However, not everything is as it appears.

Based on the book of the same name by Sylvia¬†Nasar,¬†A Beautiful Mind¬†is a film that balances a number of movie genres. ¬†It’s got drama,mystery, romance, a little bit of comedy. ¬†The various elements of the film make it insightful, suspenseful, and entertaining on a number of levels.

From a visual perspective, a lot goes on in¬†A Beautiful Mind. ¬†Some of the film’s early scenes, specifically at Princeton, have an older look to them. ¬†I like when a director can add little elements like that. ¬†It helps in contrasting the different time periods throughout the film. ¬†They also do good with showing Nash’s perspective as he sees the various connections and patterns in the math.

IMG_7598.JPG

Though some of the character’s¬†mannerisms¬†were annoying to me, Russell Crowe does a great job of bringing John Nash to life. ¬†I’m probably nitpicking more¬†than anything else. ¬†He does well with portraying the paranoid genius who was given “two helping of brain but only a half a helping of heart.” ¬†The real life John Nash visited the set, and Crowe notices some of his tendencies, hand movements, and things of the sort, and incorporated them into his performance.

A Beautiful Mind¬†was filmed almost entirely chronologically, and I think that helped Crowe’s performance as he became Nash and progressed naturally through the various stages of life portrayed in the film.

Jennifer Connelly, wow, what a performance is all I can say. ¬†Even though she doesn’t command every scene she’s in, she gives a strong performance and more than holds her own. ¬†From the beginning of their love story through the pain and anguish later on, her portrayal of Alicia Nash is believable and genuine. ¬†As I’ve looked at some of the other people considered for her role and Crowe’s, I know Ron Howard made the right call with those two.

IMG_7596.JPG

Paul¬†Bettany¬†is an interesting character to say the least. ¬†Having¬†portrayed Geoffrey Chaucer in¬†A Knight’s Tale,¬†an entertaining role,¬†Bettany¬†demonstrated his ability to be a sort of classical funnyman in¬†A Beautiful Mind. ¬†Though a lot of his performance has the comedic undertone, he has nuggets of truth and deep insight throughout the film. ¬†Ed Harris also gives a decent performance. ¬†He excels in the serious no-nonsense roles like¬†Parcher. ¬†I don’t know if I would call him a typecast character, but his most memorable performances are ones like this one.

This is a film I’d recommend seeing twice before forming an opinion about it. ¬†I saw this one twice in the theaters: the first time I hated it, the second time I loved it. ¬†Knowing the major plot twist gives perspective and a different understanding to the first half of the film. ¬†¬†Akiva¬†Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer created the world through Nash’s perspective, so the audience experiences the major twist at the same time Nash does. ¬†I remember being very confused the first time I saw it, hence not liking it.

IMG_7597.JPG
“I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible.”

It’s been probably about a decade since I’ve watched¬†A Beautiful Mind.¬† Having a chance to re-visit it for me was enjoyable and a reminder of how great¬†A Beautiful Mind¬†is. ¬†Russell Crowe brings John Nash’s story to life, has great on-screen chemistry with Ed Harris, Paul¬†Bettany, and most importantly Jennifer Connelly. ¬†Ron Howard has created a great film, one certainly deserving of the Best Picture Oscar. ¬†See this one twice if you haven’t seen it yet.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Rush (2013) Review

20130927-014319 pm.jpg
Rush (2013)

Directed by Ron Howard

Screenplay: Peter Morgan

Starring:
Chris Hemsworth
Daniel Br√ľhl
Olivia Wilde
Alexandra Maria Lara
Pierfrancesco Favino

Music: Hans Zimmer

Running time: 122 minutes

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia – I think everyone knows this):

Rush is a biographical action film directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan about the 1976 Formula One season and the rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

20130927-124052 pm.jpg
Before I Start The Review:

I’ll start by saying I hate sports. All sports. Racing? Don’t care. James Hunt & Niki Lauda? I’d never even heard of them before this film and knew nothing of this famous rivalry. So do you think I actually liked this film? Oh my god – I absolutely loved it.

20130927-124203 pm.jpg
And now I have to say this – 2013 has been a disappointing year for movies. We’ve either had movies that were lots of fun but had terrible scripts & cliche characters (Pacific Rim) or we’ve had inferior superhero films (Iron Man 3) with over the top action sucking the soul out of something that had the opportunity to be a fresh new start (Man Of Steel). We’ve had a magic film (Now You See Me) already done way better in past films (like The Prestige) and a sci-fi film (Oblivion) already done way better in past films (like the myriad of sci-fi classics Oblivion wanted to be). And never mind all the sequels, remakes, and usual lack of any original ideas from Hollywood. And then there was Oz The Great And Powerful – don’t get me started on that…

20130927-010953 pm.jpg
So that leaves us with “based on a true story” films. Usually a safe bet but quite often lacking in “fun”. Being a movie lover, I hate feeling like I’ve been really negative about films lately (like I was in all the reviews listed above). So it’s with great pleasure that I can FINALLY say this: Rush was the most rewarding cinema-going experience I’ve had in a very long time and you’re now going to read absolutely nothing negative. ūüôā

20130927-125301 pm.jpg
My Opinion On Rush:

Obviously I can’t speak of the true story (although I’m certainly interested in knowing more now!) so I’ll only be discussing Rush as a film.

This story, although in many ways quite a simple story about a sports rivalry, is absolutely fascinating. No wonder they based a film on it and how on earth had I never heard a thing about it? (That “I hate all sports” thing, I guess). Clearly by my excitement you can see you don’t need to be a racing fan to enjoy this film – you just need to be human and have at least a little bit of a heart (mine is pretty tiny). If you ARE a racing fan, though, you still won’t be the slightest bit disappointed. Howard gets the perfect balance, I think, between emotional human drama & edge-of-your-seat racing action. In a way I wonder if it was slightly more exciting for someone like me who had no clue how any of the races would end. I’m actually very glad I didn’t read up on any of the true story before the film as it probably made watching it much more intense.

20130927-125416 pm.jpg
As for James Hunt and Niki Lauda, at least how they’re portrayed here, what a couple of great characters! As this took place in the 70s and (thankfully) way before the days of Twitter & celebrities airing all their dirty laundry in public and getting on our nerves, I don’t know how much of this rivalry was played out in public & how much was just written about? I don’t know just how intense it got in real life but it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch in this film. I loved how they were so different yet SO similar, especially in their arrogance. I like how this movie made them human and made us truly care about them despite some very big character flaws in both of them. I think one of the biggest things I’ve always hated about sports is the arrogance that you get from some of the sportsmen (and women? Don’t want to sound sexist!). That this movie had me loving two guys like this by the end of the film was quite a feat. Honestly – you have no idea how “unlike me” it is to like guys like these & to enjoy anything related to sports.

20130927-125533 pm.jpg
Chris Hemsworth as James Hunt: Cocky, sexy, ladies man, bad boy all the girls want and all the men want to be, lives life to the fullest and doesn’t care about consequences. He was brilliant. Perfect. I couldn’t take my eyes off him and for once it was based on his performance alone.

Daniel Br√ľhl as Niki Lauda: Cold, arrogant, intense, has no friends, personal lifestyle the exact opposite of ladies man Hunt. Also brilliant. Perfect. Possibly even MORE brilliant and perfect. And by the end I guarantee you’ll love him. And you’ll love Hunt. Even though they’re still the same people they are at the start.

20130927-010042 pm.jpg
Summary:

Heart-pounding human drama that captures all the excitement and fear that are a part of racing & the risk of death those drivers face every time they get into those cars for another race. And what surely must be one of the most fascinating and intense rivalries in the history of sport between two men so different yet so alike that they can’t stand each other? THIS is the stuff of great movies. I fell in love with these men by the end of this film and now want to know more and, hell, may even start watching racing. I can’t emphasize this enough: making ME like these men and admit to MAYBE now watching a sport? Honestly, you don’t know me so you have no idea what that means. This film is THAT good. And I’m going to steal my hubby’s line after the film: “But which one of these guys was truly LIVING life?”. The film seems to ask this & everyone will have a different opinion on that just as the two main characters in the film clearly do. But should a sports movie really be making us question things so deeply? Bravo, Ron Howard! Your movie moved this hater of sports.

My Rating: 9/10

20130927-010206 pm.jpg
And, yes – My list of 2013 Movies Seen has a new first place. As you might suspect. I’d use a racing term here if I knew any.

(Where are you Tim The Film Guy? For once you can’t say my rating is too low…) ūüôā