When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, I don’t tend to bother. What makes January 1st any more of a life-changing moment than any other date on the calendar? Also, I have absolutely terrible will-power and lack any traditional source of self-motivation, so resolutions of any kind were often left forgotten and neglected before the leftover Christmas turkey was finished. However, 2017 saw a great many changes occur within my world, not the least of which was me turning 30 and becoming engulfed in an all-consuming sense of my own mortality. As such for me 2018 shall be a year of re-evaluation; a year of assessing just what it is in life that I enjoy, and what brings joy to those around me, and how can these things be experienced more. I’m also taking steps to becoming a little more healthy, mainly by sleeping more and running now and then. The first run, which took place on January 1st at approximately 8:17am, last all of 18 minutes and covered a little under 2 miles. I could attribute this dismal performance to the fact that the skies were dispensing torrents of icy cold rain and I was wearing just a t-shirt and shorts, but ultimately it’s my own utter lack of fitness that is to blame. Since then I have wrapped up considerably more warmly and embarked upon two more 4+ mile quests, and returned home chilly, exhausted, but proud of having taken meagre steps towards a better way of life.
Ordinarily you might expect a post around about now with a title along the lines of “Life Vs Film in 2018” wherein I’d lay out my goals for the year ahead. Alas there will be no such post. I’ve set goals before, and failed to achieve them – just last year I endeavoured to watch-and-review a measly fourteen films throughout the entirety of 2017, of which I ultimately watched two and reviewed neither – so this year I’ll be taking a more devil-may-care let’s see-what-life-throws-at-us approach, and I hope to end the year significantly less stressed and disappointed than in the past. Speaking of the past, here’s what I watched in the first week of 2018:
Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
The last Christmas gift Blu-Ray I watched (after Dunkirk and Baby Driver, though technically the latter is Aisha’s). It was Aisha’s first viewing, and she is the first person I’ve heard to question why they didn’t include Spider-Man’s radioactive spider bite origin story. It’s briefly referenced, but not explicitly shown, and I think the film is all the better for it, as we’ve seen that at least twice before and it doesn’t really add anything other than a CGI spider. Of the three 2017 MCU movies this sits squarely inbetween the good-not-great Guardians 2 and the oh-my-eyes-awesome of Thor Ragnarok. Tom Holland is fantastic as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, though whilst I enjoyed his quipping and awe-struck curiosity, Aisha found him a little annoying after a while. Michael Keaton is an effective ground-level villain to go along with the everyday hero that is Spider-Man, and I appreciated how a relatively small-scale threat – a guy and his crew salvaging and re-selling stolen weaponry – was still portrayed as a major world-ending problem to Spider-Man, because he’s just a kid and would amplify the dangers in his mind. The supporting cast is fantastic, with shout-outs to Jacob Batalon as Peter’s friend Ned and Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. Martin Starr and Hannibal Buress are both great as teachers too, plus the integration into the greater Avengers world is well-handled.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 8/10
I can’t think of many better ways to see in the new year than watching my favourite Pixar movie with my wife and dog. Full review here.
Choose Film 10/10
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
It’s Faye Dunaway month over at the LAMB, so this was the perfect opportunity to cross off her collaboration with Steve McQueen. Some argument could be made for style over substance, but this was still a good time.
Lists: Steve McQueen Movies
Full review coming soon.
Paddington 2 (2017)
I’m very annoyed that I didn’t see this until after I’d compiled my 2017 Review, as this would have threatened the top spots. Paddington was delightful, and the sequel is just as much, if not maybe even more so. This time around our ursine hero (Ben Whishaw) is trying to raise money to buy his aunt a pop-up book of London, so he takes up various endearing and accident-laden odd-jobs to do so. Alas one night the prized book is stolen, and Paddington finds himself framed as the thief and is sent to prison. Can he survive his incarceration whilst his family (Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin) seek out the true culprit? Of course he can, but as predictable as the outcome will be, there’s so much fun to be had along the way. Practically the entire cast returns from the original, but is expanded to include a cornucopia of supporting players both in and out of the prison scenes. Inside, the likes of Brendan Gleeson and Noah Taylor are amongst Paddington’s new inmate pals, and the Brown family’s neighbours include Ben Miller, Jessica Hynes and Sanjeev Bhaskar to join the returning Peter Capaldi. The real star of the show though is Hugh Grant, here playing the prime antagonist, Phoenix Buchanan, a past-his-prime actor eager for the spotlight again. Grant is clearly having a blast, hamming it up at every opportunity, and it’s a delight to behold. If you enjoyed the first film you’ll love the second, and if you didn’t enjoy the first then there’s probably something wrong with you.
Lists: 2017 Movies
Choose Film 9/10
This month’s Movie of the Month over on the LAMB. I can’t say I was overly looking forward to watching Ishtar given it’s less than stellar reputation as a box-office flop and supposedly one of the worst films of 1987. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, to find out that it was just a bit meh. The film sees aspiring songwriters Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman only being able to find employment in Morocco, whereupon Hoffman is immediately propositioned by a strange woman (Isabelle Adjani) dressed as a man to swap suitcases and passports with him, so she can cross a border and deliver a map. For some reason he agrees, possibly because she flashes her left breast at him in a crowded airport to prove she is female, because of course that’s the only way she could do that, and Hoffman finds himself approached by the CIA, whilst Beatty in turn becomes in league with the revolutionaries, and everything gets very complicated and eventually involves a gun auction, glow-in-the-dark beads and a blind camel. If this is supposed to be a complete comedy it fails, because the plot gets mired in its own convoluted nature, especially involving the politics and machinations of Ishtar, but when it focuses on Beatty, Hoffman and Charles Grodin as the CIA contact there’s a lot of fun to be had and many genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. It was still overall a struggle to get through though, and my wife described it as “the worst film I’ve ever seen” which I think was a little harsh, though I’ll admit it’s not something I can ultimately recommend. Expect a podcast episode on it soon.
Choose Life 5/10
Posts you may have missed:
Lambcast #307: Best Movies of 2017 I was joined by Howard Casner, Kristen Lopez, Nick Rehak and Rebecca Sharp to recount our favourite films of the past 12 months.
2017 Review of the Year