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screen-goddessWay back in the Mists of Time I was set a challenge by my friend Silvery Dude to watch a series of films that he was astonished (and possibly appalled) that I had never seen. The original challenge was to watch them between 1 November 2011 and 30 January 2013, but I failed miserably at that, and revised it so that it became Films to watch because I’ve been told to with a cleverly unspecified end date.

But another conversation in the late summer with Silvery Dude and MargaRita has led to the list being revised and expanded, and I’m re-launching once again, with the aim of watching the films on this list before I’m 54 – so the challenge will run from 2 January 2015 to 30 January 2016 (the day before my 54th birthday).

If you are interested in the original challenge, the page is here and shows the films I’ve already watched.

The new challenge page is here. The revised list includes Sharknado. Pray for me.

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Big-fish-movie-posterWhat does IMDb say about this film?

A son tries to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths he told about his life.

Why Silvery Dude thought I should watch this?

Parents…love ’em, find them infuriating, no matter, this captures it.

What did I think of it? Big Fish was a film I had always intended to watch. I missed it in the cinema for reasons I can’t quite remember but whatever happened I didn’t try hard enough to see it, which is surprising because it has a lot of features which are way up on my list of Things That Normally Attract Me To A Film, namely

  • Tim Burton directed
  • Danny Elfman did the music
  • Helena Bonham-Carter is in it *fangirl squee*

Plus of course added Obi-Wan I mean Ewan McGregor. And I bought the DVD as soon as it came out (I actually think it may have been a Christmas gift way back in, wow, was it really that long ago?) And then it sat on the shelf until now, because I think I got a bit nervous about watching it in case I was disappointed. Which, of course, I wasn’t. At all. So Ed Bloom is a man who has told stories about his past as far back as his son Will can remember, and it has caused real estrangement between them as all the important events in Will’s life seem to have been overshadowed by everyone hanging on his father’s every word. But Ed is dying and Will has come home to support his mother of course, but also to try to get the truth from his father. Which of course he fails to do, or at least not directly, but as we see the stories come (very entertainingly) to life Will dissevers that they aren’t the total pack of lies that he had thought. I am so glad that I finally watched this, it’s a lovely film, really heartwarming but with a nicely odd and whimsical and slightly Gothic sensibility, showing what Burton can do when he uses the grotesque to illuminate the details of the story rather than overwhelm it (I may love Burton but I’m not blind to his faults; I’ve never been able to watch his Planet of the Apes film for a start). It’s beautifully cast and well-acted and gets to the truth of how maddening our parents can be but how little we really know about them and how much we will miss them when they’re gone. I spent the last 20 minutes in tears, but that’s a good thing, honestly. And it’s visually stunning. Loved it and glad that another film is not only knocked off the list but I can look the Silvery One in the eye and rate this as a success.

This is my seventh film in my Films to Watch because personal challenge. FTWBI51

The-Hitchhikers-Guide-to-the-Galaxy-2005-Hindi-dubbed-mobile-movie-poster-1Finally getting around to seeing another in the ongoing list of films Silvery Dude thinks I must watch, this was a difficult one but as it was on TV over the Bank Holiday weekend there was no way I could justifiably avoid it.

Before I get into it there is something you need to understand; I listened to the original H2G2 series, I bought and read all the books (multiple times), I even had the recording on vinyl (somewhere in the cupboard there is a bright red LP with a yellow rubber duck on it) and later on cassette and possibly also on CD. I was a member of a pub quiz team called Followers of the Great Prophet Zarquon. I watched the TV series with its ropy early Dr Who adjacent special effects. I quote it all the time. So it is clear that I will have had Feelings about watching this film.

But first, the usual.

What does IMDb say about this film?

Mere seconds before the Earth is to be demolished by an alien construction crew, journeyman Arthur Dent is swept off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher penning a new edition of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

Why Silvery Dude thought I should watch this?

Why you must watch it?  Because it’s all wrong when compared to the much-loved TV series, and yet it goes further than the TV series into the sequels, the role of Rooster etc.  Marvin is wrong, Ford…there can only ever be one, but the Vogons are brilliant !

What did I think of it?

Well, it turned out not to be as bad as I had feared. But it was a very strange experience; how can something seem so familiar and yet so unfamiliar all at once?

Stream of consciousness follows:

  • the opening song is dreadful and my heart was sinking but hurrah, 15 minutes or so in we have the proper theme tune
  • The Book has always been the best thing and Stephen Fry is a good substitute for the late Peter Jones, and I liked the visualisations
  • I actually quite liked Mos Def, but then I had never been that fond of the TV version of Ford Prefect (he looked a bit like a hamster, which is extremely unfair but what can I say?)
  • It’s (mostly) visually impressive; I really liked the design of Depp Thought and the Heart of Gold in particular
  • I thought Sam Rockwell was absolutely brilliant
  • Marvin shouldn’t be round, it just isn’t right (and I was thrilled to see original Marvin in the background of a later scene)
  • I normally love Martin Freeman but *whispers* I found him mostly annoying as Arthur, only underlined by the real Arthur’s cameo on Magrathea
  • the Vogons are indeed most excellent
  • the words just get lost in it all

So not a disaster, just disappointing. Though it did make me want to read the books for the nine millionth time so that must be a good thing.

This is my sixth film in my Films to Watch because personal challenge. FTWBI51

how-to-train-your-dragon-poster-poster-2027966073What’s it all about?

A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

Why did I want to watch it?

Dragons. Vikings. Animation. Coming of age. Finding yourself.

Also feeling left out as everyone said how good it was and how good the sequel is and how you can’t really enjoy the second without having seen the first and did I mention dragons?

And feeling guilty because I think the only reason I avoided this was being fed up as it was used in my local Odeon to explain the facilities for those with hearing or sight impairments and I got overkill from seeing the same clip of How to Train…over and over again.

Totally irrational and completely my loss.

Also Silvery Dude gave me that look.

What did I think of it?

Kicking myself that I hadn’t watched it before. Love Hiccup and now want to known as Astrid. Father/son stuff very moving. Thrilled to discover that Gerald Butler is not only King of Sparta but Viking head honcho. Dragon designs very cool, Toothless lovely and Big Bad properly nasty. Beautifully animated and great fun. Emotional without being sickly.

Looking forward to the next one, don’t intend to wait as long.

 

MV5BMjIwODkyNjc4M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTMxNDU4Mw@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_Previously on Bride of the Screen God…..

A couple of years ago my great friend Silvery Dude challenged me to watch a series of films before I turned 51, films that I had never seen (though some of them I had always intended to watch but just hadn’t got around to yet) but he thought I should if I was going to call myself a film buff. There are 18 on the list and so far I have seen 5 including most recently Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence. I missed my original target date but still intend to complete the list. Eventually.

What does IMDb say about this film?

In 1942 British soldier Jack Celliers comes to a Japanese prison camp. The camp is run by Yonoi, who has a firm belief in discipline, honour and glory. In his view, the allied prisoners are cowards when they chose to surrender instead of committing suicide. One of the prisoners, interpreter John Lawrence, tries to explain the Japanese way of thinking, but is considered a traitor.

Why Silvery Dude thought I should watch this

Ok, so this appealed to me as a teenage boy, all David Bowie, David Sylvian….quite edgy and bit like waiting for Godot, nothing happens, a lot….

Perhaps doesn’t stack up through adult eyes……*hangs head in shame*

Can you tell he shared this after he found out what I thought? Which brings me to….

What I thought about the film

Oh dear.

So this film came out in 1983 and I distinctly remember not wanting to see it at the time, and to be honest I think my gut instinct was right; this is definitely not the film for me. I can see that it was influential, I can understand why people fell in love with the soundtrack, but I couldn’t engage with it at all, it left me entirely cold. I can’t decide how much of this is to do with the passage of time, as I found the film really dated, far too shouty and a bit clichéd in terms of its portrayal of the whole “damn this bloody war” POW thing (speaking as one whose Dad loved war films and so I have seen a fair few of them in my time).

I don’t mind the casting of David Bowie, although there are a couple of real arty-farty scenes which were mildly annoying, but I really didn’t like Ryuchi Sakamoto’s performance at all. Quite early on I came to the conclusion that he was a sulky teenager in eyeliner playing dress-up in a military uniform and although that may be unfair it was an impression I couldn’t shift. He does a good line in flouncing. I found the story rather disjointed and I still really don’t know what the thing between Sakamoto and Bowie was really about though I’m assuming a gay subtext is intended. The flashbacks to Bowie’s character’s childhood were interestingly done and obviously intended to help us understand him but…. well, let’s just say it didn’t work for me.

I did like Tom Conti’s performance very much (and not just because he comes from my home town) and the last scene was quite moving, but it all came a bit too late.

Silvery Dude and I may have had a frank exchange of views in an e-mail exchange just after I saw the film, it’s entirely possible that I was very rude about David Sylvian (the word “poser” may have been used) and I may have had a virtual stapler thrown at me, but we have agreed to disagree. Interestingly I think that our different reactions to the film may have something to do with (a) the age difference (I am almost *gulp* 7 years older than the silvery one) and (b) the fact he saw it as an impressionable teenager and I saw it as a hardened old girl, but as he said it would be boring if we all liked the same things.

FTWBI51This is my fifth film in my Films to Watch because personal challenge.

MV5BMTg0NTgxMjIxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM0MDY1OQ@@._V1_SX214_Zombies have never been a favourite horror thing of mine but they have clearly taken over from vampires and I find myself reading a lot of zombie-focused books these days, but the films, well that’s a different matter. I’m not always good with gore. Often, just not always.

What’s World War Z all about?

Let’s turn to our friends at IMDb:

United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

If I was a person who quibbles I would point out that he is a former UN employee but I try very hard not to be that person. Though I usually fail.

Why did I want to see it?

Well I read the source novel a few years ago (you can find the review here on my other blog) and Silvery Dude started watching it but only made it through the first twenty minutes (far be it from me to suggest he might be a wuss), though his description made it sound very cool. And it was a sunny Saturday, ripe for horror even of the slick and not too grungy sort.

So what did I think of it?

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  It bears only a superficial resemblance to the source material but that was always going to be the case, and it was a bit disconcerting seeing George Square in Glasgow pretending to be Philadelphia given that I used to walk through there twice a day on my way too and from uni.

I liked the way the film just launched into the story without the usual disaster movie setting up of character back story so you can worry about which ones are not going to make it. There were some very nice jumpy moments and it moved at a cracking pace. Brad Pitt is as always a personable screen presence, believable as a UN worker and good at the whole compassion thing. The zombies are pretty cool and they swarm effectively, and the world gets saved from Cardiff (well, nearby anyway). Nice cameo from Peter Capaldi reminding us all just how sinister he can look without really trying (and he’s one of the good guys). Very enjoyable.

But *whispers* the book is better, go read it.

71GYVBDW09L._SL1276_What do our friends at IMDb think it’s about?

As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbour who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.

What do I think it’s about?

So the earth is going to be hit by an asteroid and Steve Carrell’s wife dumps him (I don’t think panic has anything to do with it, I think she was just horrible) and as the world is falling apart he decides to try to find his childhood sweetheart and tell her what she means to him. Due to a series of misadventures Keira Knightly (for it is she) ends up tagging along and he decides to help her try to get back to her family in the UK before its too late.

Of course what it’s really about is loneliness and loss and regret and grief and the transcendent power of love. But that might just be me (sentimental old fool that I am).

Why did I want to see it?

I seem to have missed Seeking a Friend for the End of the World when it came out last year, but it popped up on my radar for reasons I cannot now recall, and then Silvery Dude said it was wonderful and I would love it. Had to give it a go after that.

What did I think (featuring best and/or worst bits)?

You need to understand that I was at a bit of a low ebb and the Book God was away at a thing, so I watched a rental of this with takeaway Thai food and fizzy white wine curled up on my own on the sofa on a very quiet Saturday night. I was vulnerable. I sobbed for the last 20 minutes and a good quarter of an hour after that. I adored it. I adored it so much I immediately ordered my own copy because this is a keeper.

The leads are brilliant. Keira could have been annoyingly kooky but she never crossed that line. I spent the whole film wanting to give Carell a hug. There were some brilliant cameos from Connie Britton and William Peteresen *sigh* and especially Martin Sheen. I saw the end coming a mile off but I didn’t care. It was perfect. If you watch this and don’t cry there is no hope for you at all.

Conclusion

At the risk of repeating myself, I absolutely adored this. If I was re-doing my Desert Island Films it would be on the list, near the top. I have already recommended it to two people. I have allowed Silvery Dude to be smug because he recommended it to me. This is how much I liked it.

If you don’t think this is fabulous then we have nothing to say to each other.

paranorman-posterI like creepy films that are aimed at kids. The Nightmare Before Christmas (one of my all-time favourite films). Coraline. Frankenweenie. And so on.

So when Silvery Dude recommended ParaNorman he did so on the basis of firm evidence and I was happy to have a look, and I’m glad I took his advice because this is just a lovely film

Norman is a bit unusual because he can see and communicate with the dead (particularly his grandma, the wonderful Elaine Stritch) and hasn’t kept this talent to himself, so his mother worries about him, his father is exasperated, his older sister treats him with contempt (though as an older sister myself I think I remember that being part of the job description) and all the kids at school make fun of him. But he is the only person with the skills to cope when the witches curse which has historically hung over his home town turns out to be real, and a group of zombies is unleashed.

Like I say I thought this was a lovely film, not to demean it in any way, it’s just that there are lots of super-positive things in it, especially in the way Norman resolves the whole crisis, makes friends with Neil who is also tormented (in his case because he is fat, but manages to maintain a phlegmatic outlook and is very sweet) but all the while continues to be himself (and looks like doing so once the trouble is over and everyone gets back to normal). Even the school bully comes out pretty well. And as for the witch, well that’s another thing altogether.

And it’s always good to see a rampaging horde of bloodthirsty townspeople brandishing  the modern equivalent of a pitchfork.

One to be added to the Halloween watch-list.

cloud_atlas_movie_poster_2Cloud Atlas was one of my most anticipated films of the year for a number of reasons:

  1. I really enjoyed the book (my thoughts on it are here)
  2. I was intrigued by the idea of individual actors playing multiple characters that crossed race and gender and
  3. (possibly most importantly) Silvery Dude was overcome by a level of excitement which was infectious

So, first thing to say was how difficult it was to actually see this film. I know it didn’t do well in the US but I thought such a big budget adaptation of a significant novel would be handled better by the distribution companies over here, but it was a struggle to get to a screening in our bit of south west London, only one a day by the looks of it and I’m not the only one who had that experience.

But having got there at 7pm on a Sunday evening it was nice to see that the cinema was busy and we settled down expecting a real spectacle which is exactly what we got. I loved this film despite its flaws because it was really trying to do something special and different and I thought its messages about love and spirituality really came across, and it looks totally and utterly spectacular.

The structure was very interesting. It was one of the things I wondered about when I heard it was being made was how the directors would handle the nested story structure, and sensibly they decided to do something different, moving backwards and forwards between the narrative strands in a very fluid way, with dialogue from one story still playing over the visuals of the next one, and that really worked for me.

In terms of the cast, they were uniformly great. I’ve come to really admire Tom Hanks and his range here is wonderful, Halle Berry is really very good (and not someone I normally warm to), Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent were real delights, but the big revelation for me was Hugh Grant, reminding us all that he can do so much more than the floppy haired posh Englishman; in a couple of the stories he was actually unrecognisable.

I will admit that I was a bit worried at the start as the approach seemed a bit scattergun and the tone uneven (which isn’t surprising when you consider how different the individual stories actually are) but any concerns seeped away and the whole film was justified by the last forty minutes and I was crying quietly (in a good way) by the time the credits rolled.

Silvery Dude considers this his “new most favourite film….EVER”. As I said, I loved it and is now on my must buy list.

5843_5949511633I kind off went off Woody Allen some time after Manhattan Murder Mystery, which was the last film of his that I really enjoyed, and to be honest I stopped watching his movies completely. So when Silvery Dude told me that Midnight in Paris was a return to form I was sufficiently interested to borrow the DVD. I’ve had this for a while (sorry Your Silveriness) and finally got around to watching it on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

The premise is that Owen Wilson is a writer on holiday in Paris with his fiancée and her parents and is trying to finish his novel against a background of increased dissatisfaction with his life and a deep nostalgia for the American expatriate community in the 1920s. Wandering around Paris on his own one night he discovers that at midnight he can travel back in time to meet all of his literary heroes.

I wanted to love this SO MUCH, and there is a lot to enjoy, but I found it vaguely disappointing, and there were a couple of really irritating things which I couldn’t get over. That feeling of mild irritation hit me about 15 minutes in and lingered for the rest of the movie. For example the opening scene – oh look, all the famous landmarks, just to show we’re definitely in Paris. That’s Paris, France by the way.

So stuff I liked:

  • love Owen Wilson’s voice (but sounds weird delivering lines that should have been coming out of Woody’s mouth)
  • “all that’s missing is the tuberculosis”
  • love Alison Pill as Zelda “my talent really lies in drinking” (actually generally just love Alison Pill)
  • ditto Tom Hiddleston (swoon)
  • OW SO slow on the uptake, very amusing for a bit…
  • if I thought Hemingway was really as he’s portrayed here I would like him more
  • “you’ll never write well if you fear dying”
  • Kathy Bates IS Gertrude Stein (and I have the same view as of Hemingway above)
  •  the past has aways had a great charisma for me”
  • Marion Cotillard is luminous
  • Adrien Brody as Dali very, very funny (and possibly the best bit in the whole film)

But.

I wanted to thump Michael Sheen as soon as he turned up (which shows what a good actor he is as I adore Mr Sheen). The differences between Owen’s character’s current life and his 1920s experience are just too sharp; Inez is SO annoying that I just couldn’t believe that Owen’s character would ever have been with her. I thought that part was unsubtle and could have been handled so much better.

The same could be said about the introduction of characters from the past. For example, some of the literary in-jokes are pretty heavy-handed, the Djuna Barnes one in particular was meant to be funny (he had been dancing whether and when told who she was he said “no wonder she wanted to lead” – ooh you mean she’s a lesbian?) A picture of the lovely Djuna here to make up for Djunabarnesher footnote as a poor joke.

Two other examples:

  • without giving away too much, at one point Gauguin and Degas appear, and it made me think of a quote from Clive James reviewing the TV series Lillie from 1978

As they arrive, people cry “It’s Wilde and Whistler”

  • the whole approach to introducing the past led to some more Clive James, this time about the Borgias (in 1981), 

The reason Cesare tells Rodrigo that he, Cesare, has a brother called Joffre is so that we, the audience, may be informed

My favourite example of all of this is when Owen gets into the car which is occupied by a man who identifies himself as Tom Eliot (“Tom Eliot? Thomas Stearns Eliot? TS Eliot? Prufrock’s, like, my mantra”). I did giggle, but not sure I was meant to giggle in quite that way. Oh, and Dali introducing his friends Bunuel and Man Ray. I know these guys all hung out together but would they really have referred to each other in this way? Bet Hemingway called Stein Gertie.

I’m probably being a bit unfair, but I suppose that’s a function of perhaps expecting too much? It feels too much like an “and the moral of this story is….” film. I’m sure lots of people love this, but it’s not one I’ll take time to watch again.