My Week in Movies, 2016 Weeks 33 & 34

Apologies for these lists becoming fortnightly of late, all I can do is try to be better next week. I sit down to write them every weekend, but something comes up, or inspiration doesn’t, and I end up putting them off. The problem is then I watch more films, meaning more to write in these posts, and so on. Anyway, enough procrastinating, here’s what I’ve watched this past fortnight:

This is Where I Leave You (2015)
this is where
After the passing of their father, four siblings and their mother are forced to sit shiva for a week, during which time many past and current issues are worked out. All four siblings have their own problems they’re working through. Paul (Corey Stoll) is married to Annie (Kathryn Hahn) and the two of them are trying to get pregnant but are having difficulties, plus Paul has been left to handle their father’s business single-handed. Wendy (Tina Fey) is married to Barry (Aaron Lazar), a career-obsessed arse driving Wendy into the arms of the childhood sweetheart (Timothy Olyphant) stuck still living across the street due to a debilitating brain injury from his youth. Phillip (Adam Driver) is the youngest sibling, the wild child with no career path who is dating his older former psychiatrist Tracy (Connie Britton). And Judd (Jason Bateman) is our lead, having just found his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) sleeping with his jackass boss (Dax Shepard), rendering Judd both on the brink of divorce and unemployment, but fortunately solace is found in Rose Byrne’s Penny, whilst the siblings’ mother (Jane Fonda) attempts to wrangle them all together. It’s a firly standard, unsurprising plot with minimal twists and turns, full of performances that everyone has done before elsewhere. There’s nothing showy, no particularly stand-out elements (although Ben Schwartz is fun as a formely picked on kid now become the town’s Rabbi, but who still gets called “Boner” by Phillip), but this is still not a terrible film. Don’t go out of your way to watch it, but if there’s nothing else available you could do worse.
Lists: 2015 Movies
Choose Life 6/10

Sing Street (2016)
sing street
We’ve gotten to the time of year where the smaller releases I missed in theatres are now being released on DVD, so I can finally catch up with them. Sing Street is the latest from John Carney, the man behind Once and Begin Again, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed, and his streak continues with this story of an Irish teenage boy, Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), starting a band purely to spend time with a girl, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who he convinces to be a model in their music video. It’s a very simple plot, with minimal obstacles to be overcome, but it’s incredibly sweet and heartwarming, touching and hilarious as Conor experiences the myriad of music the mid-to-late 80s had to offer, altering his appearance to suit. It deals with real family drama – Conor’s parents (Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen) and his siblings (Kelly Thornton and Jack Reynor) are all going through trials of their own, but it never feels heavy, it always maintains Conor’s naive perspective, and the soundtrack is terrific too. Drive It Like You Stole It will hopefully we discussed in next year’s Oscars.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 8/10

The Palm Beach Story (1942)
August’s “Bad” movie choice.
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, “Bad” Movies
Full review here.

Eddie the Eagle (2016)
eddie the eagle
Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton) has dreamed, ever since he was a boy, of being an Olympian. The only problem is he possesses no natural athletic talent, and only his mother shows any kinds of encouragement. Eddie eventually sets his sights on ski jumping as his sport of choice, mainly because no-one else in the UK competes, so if he can just land the jump height and distance necessary, he’ll automatically be an Olympian and will compete for his country – Great Britain – in the Olympic games, for which he hires Hugh Jackman’s former jumping superstar Bronson Peary as his coach. If this sounds like the British, one-man version of Cool Runnings then the coincidences go even further with the 1988 Winter Olympics being the same real life celebration that also featured the infamous Jamaican Bobsled team. Dexter Fletcher’s light-hearted biopic takes the events as seriously as they need to, which is to say barely at all. Edwards has become something of a national hero in the UK, but is also very much a figure of fun, but in a good-natured way. He seems like a very nice chap, who just happened to be terrible at almost everything he tried, but the main thing was he did try, and he kept on trying, and that’s why people love him. This film conveys that message well, and it’s impossible not to root for him throughout. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, but it’s all done well and an enjoyable experience awaits all who watch it.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 7/10

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)
pride prejudice zombies
I’m not all that familiar with the works of Jane Austen, in fact I only saw my furst ever version of the zombie-free adaptation a few months ago, but I’d heard some good things about this so gave it a shot. With a title like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies I’d expected a deft blend of the original work’s romance and drama with a hefty scoop of comedy that should accompany such a preposterous premise, but this is all played bizarrely straight, and forgets to have much fun along the way. The brief it seems was to take as much of the original text as possible and insert fight scenes wherever they could possibly fit, but unfortunately none of the action scenes were shot in a way that allowed them to be easily followed, and the jarring juxtapositions in tone were probably intentional but remained wholly unpleasant. Matt Smith attempted the film’s sole comedic element as Parson Collins, but he gravely misjudges the character and overshoots by some distance, whilst everyone else remains po-faced throughout. Sam Riley makes for a decent and amusingly dour Darcy, and Lily James capably plays Elizabeth, but everyone else felt like under-used set-dressing. This is not the kind of film one should ever feel bored whilst watching, but that happened all too often. It’s a shame, because in the right hands this could have been something very special.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 5/10

Midnight Special (2016)
midnight special
My favourite kind of film at the moment, one in which I have no idea what’s going to happen or how it will end. Midnight Special begins my revealing the barest fragments of information – a man (Michael Shannon) with the help of another man (Joel Edgerton) have taken a boy (Jaeden Lieberher) from a cult led by Sam Shepard. Shepard sends a couple of men (Bill Camp and Scott Haze) to bring the boy back, whilst an FBI agent (Adam Driver) does the same. That’s all you get for a while, and frankly that’s all you need. Some have complained that not enough is explained, that too few questions are fully answered, but I argue you’re told everything you need to know to comprehend what the story is about, and primarily it’s a story of a father and a son, and what one is willing to do for the other. The performances are excellent – I’ll continue to watch Shannon in everything he does, especially if it’s for Jeff Nichols – the sparsely-used CGI is mostly effective (though there’s an awful faux helicopter shot towards the end that looks like a moving Windows desktop wallpaper with replicated trees) and the story kept me gripped throughout. As I mentioned, I couldn’t see where this was going, but I couldn’t wait to see it go there. To say more would be to give spoilers, so instead I’ll advise everyone to watch this knowing no more than I’ve already said.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 9/10

Closely Observed Trains (1967)
closely observed trains
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Full review coming soon.

Bad Words (2013)
bad words
The second Jason Bateman/Kathryn Hahn movie watched in as many weeks, this one sees Bateman’s Guy competing in a children’s spelling bee despite being 40 years old, due to a loophole he exploits for reasons of his own. Everyone hates him for it, but clearly there’s a motive behind his actions that we’ll have to wait an hour and a half to find out. Alas it wasn’t worth the wait, and Guy proves a thoroughly unlikeable character to spend pretty much any time with. Yes he’s meant to be a dick, but all his horrific actions never feel justified or paid for, and even enjoyable supporting turns from Alison Janney and Philip Baker Hall can’t save this from being something skippable.
Lists: None
Choose Life 3/10

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
August’s Blind Spot pick.
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301, Total Film Top 100, Blind Spot
Full review here.

Posts you may have missed:
Men & Chicken
Steve Jobs
The Palm Beach Story
Lawrence of Arabia
Lambcast #335: Streets of Fire: I was joined by Richard Kirkham, Todd Liebenow and Will Slater to discuss the LAMB’s latest Movie of the Month, Streets of Fire.
Lambcast #336: Lambyweds #2: For the second game of LambyWeds (in no way ripped off from NewlyWeds, honest), couples from the Milfcast, Talking Stars and The Lair Of The Unwanted battled it out to see who knew the most about each other. Much fun was had by all.

Goals Update
Aim: Review 8 or 9 1001 List movies each month
Reviewed: 39
Should be on: 65
On Track: No!

Aim: Review 1 “Bad” movie each month
Reviewed: 8
Should be on: 8
On Track: Yes!

Aim: Review 1 “Blind Spot” movie each month
Reviewed: 8
Should be on: 8
On Track: Yes!

Aim: Review 2 “Film-Makers” movies each month
Reviewed: 13
Should be on: 16
On Track: No!

2 thoughts on “My Week in Movies, 2016 Weeks 33 & 34

  1. I love Adam Driver (unpopular opinion: I even like him in Girls) so I’m sure I’ll be catching up with This is Where I Leave You at some point. I watched Sing Street when I was in Dublin in March and LOVED it, I also felt like I was being cultural despite essentially just watching a film on holiday. It was awesome though.
    You need to get it together with reviewing your 1,001 movies list though, or else you’ll be going for like 5 more years.

    • I think 5 years is a bit of an underestimate! If I keep going at the rate I have been so far this year it’s going to be about another 12 years, which would put me finishing at the age of 41, and my quest for completing the List will be old enough to drink.

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