As ever, there has been a lot of discussion about workload in teaching recently. I will blog on that once term is up and running, I am sure, but I enjoyed the #SLTchat discussion yesterday on the theme of ‘What wellbeing promise will you make to yourself for 2015?’
My promise (along with the usual hope to run and cycle more, eat less junk) is to try and spend more of my time on two of my hobbies – films and baking. To that end I will watch at least one new (for me) film every single week, either at home or the cinema. I might even bake something new too (what was that about less junk?!). A bit self indulgent – but I thought I’d pop a brief review of them all on here, as a record for me more than anything, but please (dis)agree if you would like to. If you have any suggestions of a film I should try and see – let me know in a comment or a tweet!
w/c Mon 16th March
The Book of Life
A very enjoyable animation, based around a teacher explaining the stories behind the Day of the Dead to some students in a museum. Thoughtfully put together, very funny, and some wonderful music. Highly recommended.
I guess we could say ‘well its Gilliam, what do you expect?’ A rich, fast-moving, engaging sci-fi thriller which, for me, missed the mark slightly. Bruce Willis travels back from 2017 to discover what caused a virus which destroyed 99% of the human race, forcing the rest to move underground. Viewed with some suspicion, he winds up in a mental hospital with the fantastic Brad Pitt. The story rattles along, and would probably benefit from being seen again, but I wasn’t a huge fan, and don’t think it lives up to Brazil or, latterly, the Zero Theorem.
w/c Mon 9th March
Big Hero 6
This is fantastic, and is one of the best animations I have seen in years, if not ever. Set in the beautifully constructed San Fransokyo, the story follows Hiro, a young tech genius who earns a place to study at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology – and his brother’s invention, Beymax, a robotic health care assistant. The story is engaging, funny, moving and fast-paced. The two main characters are wonderfully portrayed and have a series of fantastic scenes together. The animation is stunning, and everything about the film is a truly immersive experience. I implore you to go and see this at a cinema, as some of the visuals are truly mind-blowing on the big screen. This film has gone in to my top 3 of the year, above the Imitation Game. Not only that, I enjoyed it more than the Incredibles. Which is saying a lot. Balalalalala….
At just over 2 hours, it is too long. And for the first hour, there is too much running around and whooping from the ‘Dauntless’. Nonetheless, quite good fun, some good action scenes, and some decent special effects. I’m not target audience for this, and it is a little bit predictable, but certainly not dreadful and I would happily go and see the next one which will hit your screens this year, film fans.
w/c Mon 2nd March
This film is completely, totally, and endearingly bonkers. It isn’t very good by any usual standard, but it is very, very enjoyable. In short, Mila Kunis is a cleaner in Chicago who actually owns the Earth. She finds this out after one of three galatic heirs sends some space monsters to kill her, and she is saved by a wolf/human splicer (not the most odd splicer, of course – that is Sean Bean’s human/bee version). We then have a period of ‘Mila Kunis gets kidnapped by different folks and put on some wacky spaceships’ and various rescues and re-kidnaps. I’m not really sure what happened at the end, or how and why any of it happened. But it was all rather charming, and I certainly wasn’t bored.
Of Gods and Men
An advantage of listening back to the old ‘Wittertainment’ podcasts is that you get the chance to catch up on films that you didn’t see at the time. This, from 2010, is a very moving piece of work. A French-made film, it follows a group of monks in an Algerian monastery in the mid-90s. The portrayed events are true, and are shot in a wonderfully quiet and intense fashion. Religious imagery (unsurprisingly) in present throughout as the cast battle with forces both spiritual and actual. A hugely emotional set-piece at the end, where nothing is said, but everything is visible gives way to a moving finale. I recommend you find, and watch, this stunning film as soon as you can.
w/c Mon 23rd February
The Oscar-winning documentary for this year follows the events of the Edward Snowden affair of a couple of years ago. Suffice to say, this should be viewed by everyone who gets the chance. Very well put together, engrossing (and quite worrying), the journalists behind it have done an excellent job.
Silver Linings Playbook
Finally, I’ve caught up with this. And I am so pleased that I did. A wonderful little picture, centred around 3 fantastic, Oscar nominated performances from Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro. Dealing with topics of mental health, superstition, love, loss and (ahem) football, all wrapped up within a rom-com (just) is quite a lot in under 2 hours, but this film does so admirably. At times funny, often serious, and in one fantastic set-piece entirely wacky, this is one of the best films I have seen so far this year, and I would highly recommend you seek it out – even if (like me), you are not a fan of the ‘rom-com’ genre.
w/c Mon 16th February
The American The main problem here is that it wasn’t In Bruges. There were so many similarities (set in Europe, main character in hiding, falling for a local, excellent shots of scenery, guns, dodgy character at the end of a phone line, final shootout in a crowded area of town, Thekla Reuten) that I just kept being reminded of Martin McDonagh’s excellent picture from 2008. Sure, this isn’t as violent, as funny, as dark, as independent. And this also forms part of the problem. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t as good as it could have been.
One of Chris Nolan’s earlier works, and some familiar features for those of us who have almost seen his canon in reverse (time as an enemy, the nature of memory, interweaving story/time lines). This picture, following the attempts of a husband to avenge the murder of his wife, whilst being unable to store any ‘new’ memories, was very slick, witty and engaging. Good performances with a good script and excellent editing meant a very well-made film, which I probably need to see again to fully appreciate.
Pay It Forward
A bit too obvious, a bit too saccharin, a bit too cheesy. Not really a fan of this I’m afraid, despite the best efforts of Spacey and Hunt.
w/c Mon 9th February
The Mangler Useless. Dreadful story, dreadful acting, dreadful effects.
Finally, I caught up with this wonderful little picture having missed it on 2 goes round the local cinemas. I am a huge animation fan anyway, and this was a fantastic film, full of wit, charm, suspense and humour. It may have been slightly predictable, but this didn’t detract from a brilliant animated movie, with an excellent voice cast and endearing characters. It could easily pick up the Oscar for best animated movie, particularly as the LEGO Movie isn’t involve. (I’d have the Boxtrolls slightly ahead anyway!)
w/c Mon 2nd February
This is an amazing film. You must go and see it. I have a (slight) vested interest here: I play the drums. But this isn’t really about drums (even though the drumming in it is brilliant). It is almost a war movie, and JK Simmons’ sergeant is one of the most disturbing (and wonderful) characters I have seen in cinema in the last few years. Great performances from Simmons and Miles Teller, and superb direction from Damien Chazelle. This should win awards. Simmons will win an Oscar. And from what I’ve seen, there should be a few more statues winging their way towards this film, the best I have seen in the last 12 months.
Paul Thomas Anderson’s first film is a bit of an unknown gem. A slick film-noir thriller, starring Philip Baker Hall and John C Reilly, and set around the casinos of Las Vegas, this is really worth looking up. Excellent performances are produced by the whole cast (including a brief appearance by Philip Seymour Hoffman) and it moves along a pace. Quite enthralling.
w/c Mon 26th January
Alter Egos A perfectly acceptable, endearing little (under 1h20) comedy. A bit like a live-action version of The Incredibles (nowhere near that good, though) in which the super heroes have fallen out of favour, and need to find a way of being accepted. Some quirky performances from the 3 leads, and a nice little twist to keep me interested at the end.
Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
This is very, very good (as you’ve probably read or seen for yourself!). Some genuinely excellent performances, perhaps more so from Emma Stone and Edward Norton than Michael Keaton (although it is a great performance from Keaton). It moves along quickly, and is thought-provoking, funny and endearingly quirky. The in-one-take-but-not-really works well (except the in and out of the screen bit) if being a little bit ‘hey look how clever we are’ and the visuals are rich and engaging throughout. Not as good as tGBH, but still one of the better films of the last 12 months. The drums though. The drums.
Aguirre, Wrath of God
An introduction to Werner Herzog, after it being named TV film of the week by Mark Kermode. I imagine a lot has been written about this far more eloquently than I can manage, but it was dark, comedic, absorbing and very interesting. Thanks Dr K, I think I will seek out more of Herzog in the weeks to come!
w/c Mon 19th January
The Zero Theorem
Finally caught up with Terry Gilliam’s recent sci-fi offering. It is (as expected) quite surreal, and has some very good performances throughout. I’m not convinced it is Gilliam’s greatest offering, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Into The Woods
Some funny princes. And some decent songs. A couple of half-laughs. A good Emily Blunt, but an out-of-depth James Corden. Average
w/c Mon 12th January
Before I Go To Sleep I quite liked this. I hadn’t read the book, so guess I came to it not really knowing what to expect (which was the same as when I saw Gone Girl, which I think added something to the enjoyment I got). The central performances were good, the plot moved along quickly (it is under 90 mins) and the twists were enough to provide a suitable amount of intrigue. Enjoyable, and worth seeing.
Now. I realise I’m not ‘target audience’. But this was not a good film.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
This weeks second Liev Schrieber film was much better than the first! A very engaging, thought-provoking film with some strong performances. A second political thriller for this week, but this is well worth seeing.
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
I really don’t know what to make of this. Whilst quite liking the whole ‘exposing a mega corporation’ theme, I just found the whole thing rather silly. Which probably isn’t the point! Denzel Washington was good, without being great, and quite a lot of questions seemed to be left hanging, rather than ever really being addressed. Not very impressed.
w/c Mon 5th January
The LEGO Movie
EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! This is a very enjoyable, endearing and funny film. A great cast of voice actors, and the twist near the end is very very well done indeed. Easily passed the 5 laugh test, a real treat.
Hmmmm. A little bit predicatable. Some clever shooting to build tension and a sense of claustrophobia, but without a very good performance from Tom Hanks this would have been distinctly average. He made it watchable, but not something I would recommend anyone rushes to see.
w/c Mon 29th December
The Imitation Game
This is, quite simply, a wonderful piece of cinema. The account of the role Turing played in WW2 is one which is well known now, through books such as ‘Enigma’ by Robert Harris. This was not an issue, however. I was gripped from start to finish by wonderful performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly and others (including Tywin Lannister…). The movement between 3 periods of Turing’s life was seamless and very well managed, and a sombre reminder of the brutality with which homosexual men were treated until very recently was very moving. I expect a large number award nominations to be winging their way towards the cast and crew – they will be much deserved.