Sunday, 20 December 2009

Let's go to the movies...

Historically for me one vital Xmas feature has always been the special edition, two-week 'Radio Times' (and for those of you outside the UK the 'Radio Times' is la crème de la crème of TV/radio guides here). And in the days before VHS, DVD (and all that) one of the most exciting sections of the Xmas good book was the film guide. In those days it was different...we hadn't already seen was all new and exciting (rustle, rustle)...and as we looked at the precious pages we would find out what new films we would get to see this Xmas, which classics we might watch again and of course (the big question) when exactly 'The Wizard of Oz' would be on.

In the spirit of this most treasured tradition I thought I'd give you a film guide of my own...but not of the films on TV over Xmas...instead I've covered all the movies I've seen over the past 12 months (really, I have...just call me 'anal list-keepers anonymous'). I've been working on this off and on for a while and I don't plan to be doing much other posting over Xmas so this epic can last you all a while maybe. I hope you enjoy reading it (however much you get through) and maybe in the comments you could list your top 3 films of the year (they don't have to have been made in 2009 – just watched by you in the past 12 months). Or maybe you could just say what films or TV you're looking forward to watching over the holidays (assuming you get holidays...).

As you read the piece all these factors should be taken into account:

- often I watch films that are not necessarily my choice. I watch some that are our Girl's choice (and remember she's 9) and some that are Mark's choice (and remember he's an unashamed bloke in this respect – he has varied taste but he does like spy films and war films and lots of action and...lots of other things I wouldn't necessarily choose first). Also as Grandma lives here too I sometimes watch things I hope my Mum will like (mysteries, thrillers, anything with Meryl Streep...). Because of all these viewers I will rate each film (G) for Girl's, (M) for Mark's, (GM) for Grandma's and every now and then there's an (R) – something I chose! I'll score them all out of 10 too. And why not?

- the movies are all USA productions (unless otherwise stated). I try to watch a mix and not be overwhelmed by Hollywood...but for kids stuff especially...they have the market pretty well covered. And it's not all rubbish.

So. Here's what I watched in...

January 2009

Madagascar (Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath 2005)
Recorded off TV (G).
I laughed much more than I expected to along with this Disney Pixar cartoon about animals wanting to escape from a New York zoo. It's not original but it is funny and our Girl had seen it at the cinema but she liked it all over again. It was New Year's Day and we were tired – we all watched it (except Grandma who was probably asleep).
8 / 10

Ray (Taylor Hackford 2005)
Rented DVD via post (R)
Jamie Foxx is brilliant in this life of Ray Charles (and, let's be honest, he's bloody gorgeous too). I loved the music in the film (how could you not?) but it's a biopic...and it does follow the formula pretty much. We had a post about biopics after I'd watched it (back here) and it got the most comments I think a post of mine has ever attracted. People just like talking about films, I guess.
8 / 10

A History of Violence (David Cronenberg 2005)
Recorded off TV (M)
Mark recorded this and I watched it whilst doing something else (can't remember what...sewing...ironing...blogging?). I couldn't remember a thing about it until I looked it up again online so that tells you quite the impact it had on me. It's an action/suspense/thriller thing (so not really my area unless very, VERY good).
4 / 10 (Mark says 7)

Still Crazy (Brian Gibson 1998)
Recorded off TV (R)
A friend insists this British 'old rockers get back together' number is one of the funniest films ever made. I'd seen it once and been VERY disappointed (maybe it was her big build-up that did it...) so I wanted to give it another go. I did find it a little funnier second time round but still more corny than rib-cracking. Great actors of course – Timothy Spall, Bill Nighy...and Billy Connolly features too – and I'm sure it was a lot of fun to make. Some good costumes on Nighy too.
7 / 10

Camp Rock (Matthew Diamond 2008)
Borrowed DVD (G)
Lots of girls in her class had seen this summer camp of pop flick so our wee 'un wanted to catch up. I try to watch things with her the first time she sees them (well, apart from all the Barbie films...they are beyond me) so I watched this too and it was OK. It's like 'High School Musical' (same Disney factory) but with probably less style and certainly less appealing 'pretty' boys (the Jonas brothers...please no). It's a bit like a cross between 'Fame' and a boarding school story by Enid Blyton. Bland at its blandest.
4 / 10 (Girl says 8...but then she never gives under an 8 to anything!)

Hairspray (John Waters 1988)
Rented DVD via post (R)
This is the original film with Ricki Lake, Debbie Harry and, of course, Divine. I saw it when it came out but because of the new Hairspray (2007 – one of our Girl's favourites) I wanted to see the old one again (mainly because she kept asking if it was something she could watch and I couldn't remember how explicit it was). After seeing it again I'd say that mostly she wouldn't understand the 1988 version (very adult humour...though it gets a PG rating on the DVD I notice) and it doesn't have all the fun songs from the new one so she'd miss them too. It's very entertaining for adults though and it features excellent cheap sets (well, they look cheap anyway).
9 / 10

Happiness (Todd Solondz 1998)
Recorded off TV (R)
I wrote about this back here. It's very well observed and acted though very uncomfortable to watch in places. Not a family matinée number (despite the title!).
9 / 10

War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg 2005)
Recorded off TV (M)
Mark chose this but for me it's Spielberg at his cheesey worst and it felt like it could have been written by a 10 year old (and not a very imaginative one at that). I don't think they should have been allowed to use the title either. And it makes Tom Cruise look very gone-by-sell-by ('Jerry Maguire' seems a long time ago...).
2 / 10 (Mark says 6)

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle 2008)
At the cinema! (Sound of fanfare...we don't get there very often) (GM)
This British film shot in India was very enjoyable and lively and well worth seeing on the big screen (I saw it with my Mum who loved it). The story got a bit corny in places but that's big rollercoaster movies for you. I liked all the scenes in the Indian call centre particularly (nice to see things from that perspective).
8 / 10

Leatherheads (George Clooney 2008)
Rental DVD (GM)
I grabbed this in the DVD rental place thinking someone in the house might like it as it's a romantic comedy set in the world of 1920s (American) football (so it says on the web page). This is another one I'd forgotten I'd seen but now it is starting to come back to me...R Zellwegger and G Clooney camp it up big style in a film made to catch all audiences (men with the sport, ladies with the romance and the Cloon...). Some funny moments but (as you can see) fairly forgettable.
6 / 10


Snow Cake (Marc Evans 2006)
Recorded off TV (R)
This is a brilliant, unusual film that is part mystery, part social drama. Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver...two great actors in a gentle movie with something new to say. Hurray! Worth hunting down.
9 out of 10 (or maybe even more)

In Bruges (Martin McDonagh 2008)
Rental DVD via post (R)
I watched this Irish film after reading about it on Ken Armstrong's blog. It is harsh and full of swearing and violent, sometimes shocking, scenes with a particularly good performance from Colin Farrell (who I have to say I usually find wooden in the extreme). All this considered we enjoyed it (though it's a bit silly at the end as violent films so often are). Lovely shots of Bruges though...enough to make us stop off there on our summer trip.
8 / 10

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry 2004)
Recorded off TV (R)
I had been dreading this as I'm not a huge Carrey fan, a huge fan of the co-writer Kaufman (found both 'Malkovich' and 'Adaptation' too convoluted for my taste) or a fan of affected kookiness in general...but what do you know? I loved it. It is genuinely endearing, interesting and original (and Kate Winslet is good too). Hurray again!
10 / 10

Toy Story (John Lasseter 1995)
Old VHS copy of our Girl's that I bought second hand years ago (G)
Who hasn't seen this? It's a great film and Tom Hanks makes a great cowboy doll. The second one is just as good too (if not better...Kelsey Grammar and all).
10 / 10

28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo 2007)
Rental DVD via post (M)
Oh dear. The first film in this British zombie series ('28 Days Later' Danny Boyle 2002) was great but this one is dead from the neck up (and the neck down too probably). It's one of those of films that makes you shout 'oh, for god's sake' at the TV (a lot).
3 / 10


Stardust (Matthew Vaughn 2007)
Borrowed DVD (G)
I thought our Girl would like this and she did in the end (though she was a bit nervous about watching it for some reason). It is a fair adaptation of the Neil Gaiman book (though aimed more at kids in the film version) with fun performances from Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert de Niro. On film it's a bit Harry Potter without that annoying Radcliffe boy who doesn't do it for me at all.
7 / 10

Napoleon Dynamite (Jared Hess 2004)
Recorded off TV (R)
This was recommended by a friend who said 'if you liked 'Juno' you'll like this'. I did like 'Juno' (a lot) but I found this fairly dull. Quirky characters alone do not a good film make I'm afraid.
6 / 10

Billy Elliot (Stephen Daldry 2000)
Bought DVD (R for G)
I love the dance and music sequences in this British film and was keen for our Girl to see it but when I put it on it was only after a few scenes that I remembered why it might not be suitable for her (SWEARING! LOTS OF BIG SWEARING!). She'd already heard all the words after five minutes so I just said 'you know you're not to say any of these, right?' and she said 'yes' so we carried on with it. I loved Jamie Bell in this (and Julie Walters of course) and it's not Shakespeare or nowt but that scene where he dances round the yard to 'A town called malice' – that is cinema heaven! I've never wanted to see the stage's all new Elton John songs isn't it (and 1970s Elton John is OK but nothing later than, no, no!)? T Rex music used brilliantly too in the film of course.
8 / 10 (and 10 out of 10 for all the dance bits)

Lemony Snicket's 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' (Brad Silberling 2004)
Recorded off TV (G)
Unusually for us, we saw this before reading the books (I usually insist that Girl and I read the books first) and I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected (the Jim Carrey factor partly...'the Mask' has a lot to answer for). This is a beautiful movie though with some lovely cameos, gorgeous children and amazing outfits. It made the Girl want to be Violet for Halloween. The books are good too.
9 / 10


Black Beauty (Caroline Thompson 1994)
Recorded off TV (G)
Sad, sad, sad. How many times can humans be (fictionally) cruel to a horse? I remember the TV series from the 1970s (very vaguely...great theme tune..) but I have never read the book (I was not even remotely horsey as a child). This British movie is a real tearjerker though and whips through all the sad phases of poor old Beauty's life at such a pace that you feel pretty knackered too by the end.
7 out of a 10

Nanny McPhee (Kirk Jones 2005)
Girl's DVD (G)
Our Girl loves this British kids film and I have to admit I do too. It is a bit 'Mary Poppins' meets 'Love Actually' but somehow it works (b'gad, a real miracle!). Emma Thompson is as marvellous as ever, Colin Firth quite acceptable, Kelly Macdonald just dreamy and it's a good story too. OK it's about as relevant to most kids' lives as the Clangers but hey, they need to learn about everything (including dressing up donkeys in their Sunday best). The wedding scene is just beautiful (it almost makes me want to get married...almost...) and I'd never heard of the 'Nurse Mathilda' books before this (Thompson adapted them to make this script) but we have read them since. They are quite fun but much more rambling than the film (lots of servants).
9 / 10

Kung fu Panda (John Wayne Stevenson and Mark Osborne 2008)
Girl's DVD (G)
She got this cartoon for her birthday and so we all had to watch it at least once. It was surprisingly OK. Certainly above average. It is about a panda that learns to do Kung Fu.
8 out of 10

Monsters vs Aliens (Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon 2009)
At the cinema (more fanfare) (G)
We saw this in 3D (what a waste of time). I found it a kids film by numbers and could barely stay awake. Yawn.
6 / 10

Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman 2006)
Recorded off TV (R)
Not Robert Altman's most memorable movie but his last (he died in 2006). It has much Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin and a little Lindsay Lohan and it's very wandery but with some pleasant moments.
7 / 10 (but if you're an Altman fan, as I am, you'll watch it anyway and like it)


Bedtime Stories (Adam Shankman 2008)
Rented DVD (G)
Adam Sandler's is not a name that makes me pick up a DVD box but the Girl fancied this and it was a lot of fun and quite charming (stories that come to life...done with some imagination). We watched it a couple of times...and to be fair I do quite like the grown-up film 'Spanglish' which features el Sandlo too.
(As kids films go) 9 out of 10

High School Musical 3 (Kenny Ortega 2008)
Girl's DVD (G)
Well, I'd already seen this at the pictures last year with our Girl but now the DVD too! In honesty it's really OK (as far as slushy, predictable, bubblegum kids movies go). She watched it a lot.
(For what it is) 8 out of 10

Enchanted (Kevin Lima 2007)
Girl's DVD (G)
This is a hugely enjoyable kids film (well, for girls and parents anyway...can't speak for small boys). We saw it at the pictures when it came out and we all love it (and I defy you to not smile during the big Central Park dance sequence – blogged back here). Lots of laughs and good vibrations.
10 out of 10

Happy Feet (George Miller 2006)
Girl's DVD (G)
We saw this at the pictures when it came out and I found it just too bizarre (disco dancing penguins...and an awful lot of Earth, Wind and Fire's 'Boogie Wonderland'...never their best track). Seeing it again on DVD I found it slightly more bearable but she got bored and went off to do something else.
7 out of 10


Defiance (Edward Zwick 2008)
Rented DVD via post (M)
Daniel Craig and others playing a group of Ukrainian Jews who go to live in a forest to escape the Nazis during WW2. We started off thinking it was going to be a bit 'crap accents and cheese' but we watched to the end and it really wasn't too bad (and quite effective in places). It's based on a true story (no, not just the war...). Worth a look.
8 out of 10

Splash (Ron Howard 1984)
Cheap DVD (G)
We thought the Girl would like this one (and she did...she always has liked mermaids). I presumed I had seen it growing up but as I watched it didn't seem familiar at all. I enjoyed it...and I even enjoyed the DVD extras about the making of the film (Girl loves all that stuff...she has the makings of a real movie nerd).
8 out of 10

Golden Compass (Chris Weitz 2007)
DVD Girl got as a present (G)
This is one of those trying-to-pack-a-long-book-into-one-and-a-half-hours films and they very rarely work – you just rush from scene to scene and it makes no sense to anyone (particularly a child who really wants to UNDERSTAND ours does). This film looks pretty but really it's a bit duff.
5 out of 10

Rendition (Gavin Hood 2007)
DVD we were given as a present (don't ask)
This is kind of an exciting thriller but at the same time just a bit of silly American nonsense. Hollywood and politics/current affairs...not often a marriage made in heaven.
5 out of 10

Happy Go Lucky (Mike Leigh 2008)
Rental DVD via post (R)
I had read two very different reviews of this British film on blogs (see Ms Baroque's here and Poetikat's here) and so I wanted to see for myself. As often happens with me I could see both arguments ('yes, it's total bollocks' and also 'yes, it has a heart of gold') but overall would I recommend it? No. I often find the same thing with Mike Leigh films...I wish they were 30 minute TV dramas instead of long feature films. Not enough happens and the dialogue is really boring and sometimes inane to the point of derangement (if I want to listen to people talk longwinded crap I don't need to watch a DVD...). But at the same time I admire what he's doing...making the kind of films he wants to make, doing something different and I never hate the films...but they're never my favourite either. I did like 'Vera Drake' probably best of all and mainly because it was ABOUT something. This one is well-meaning but tiresome (like its central character really).
7 out of 10

Uncle Buck (John Hughes 1989)
Cheap DVD (G)
Again we thought our Girl would like this one (and she did...lots of rude bits and bad behaviour). It's a good memory lane bit of nonsense (1980s fashions – urgh!) but better than I remembered too and John Candy is brilliant in it.
8 out of 10


Marley and Me (David Frankel 2008)
Rented DVD (G)
By now you might know that our Girl likes dogs. She (and her Dad) loved this film at the cinema and enjoyed it at home. I didn't like it much...but I kept quiet.
Girl 10, Him 8, me 4 out of 10

I've loved you so long (Philippe Claudel 2008)
Rented DVD (GM)
My Mum likes anything with Kristin Posh Thomas in so I rented this for us to watch together. It's a very French and fairly sad family drama but it's also thoughtful and not too predictable. I did think the end was a bit of nonsense (one of those where you're shouting 'but everyone would have known that!') but it's not really story-led's more about character and acting really.
7 out of 10 (maybe 8 for some aspects)

Australia (Baz Luhrmann 2008)
Rented DVD (GM)
My Mum likes Nicole Kidman so I rented this...Australian movie for her to watch but she couldn't follow it for some reason and fell asleep. I watched it the next day and really quite enjoyed it – it's a right good old romp through the outback but it's quite a long romp so it's one for a long winter's afternoon or something.
8 out of 10 (if you stay awake)

Beverley Hills Chihuahua (Raja Gosnell 2008)
Rented DVD (G)
Girl has to see all dog films (and boy, are there a lot of dog films!). I was dreading this one but it was really funny.
(For what it is...a film with lots of jokes about dogs wearing clothes...) 8 out of 10

Fame (Alan Parker 1980)
Rental DVD via post (R)
This is the original movie and I watched it this year because I couldn't remember what it was like and one of the songs was stuck in my head (see here). The Parker film is much more serious and adult than the TV series and it has both some great scenes and some cringe sections. Lots of legwarmers, obviously.
8 out of 10 (but not for young kids)


Hotel for Dogs (Thor Freudenthal 2009)
Rented DVD (G)
Another dog movie...and a really good fun one in fact. Phoebe from Friends turns up as a useless foster mum and overall it's time not badly spent.
For what it is (another dog film) 8 out of 10

Duplicity (Tony Gilroy 2009)
Rented DVD (M/R)
This was one of those 'it's 4 for £10, quick grab another one' items and it features Julia Roberts and Clive Owen as undercover industrial spies (or something). Ridiculously complicated but not unentertaining. And Julia Roberts is still lovely on screen.
6 out of 10 (Mark says 7)

Inkheart (Iain Softley 2008)
Rented DVD (G)
Another kids film where they packed a bit too much in I think but in all honesty I can't remember that much about it now. It has a nice central idea (when the lead character reads a story the events in it really happen...) but it just ends up with lots of running about. Might be better as a mini series. Or not.
7 out of 10


17 Again (Burr Steers 2009)
Rented DVD (G)
This was a bit old for our Girl really but it's Zac Efron (he of 'High School Musical') and lots of her peers are huge fans of ZE and I try to keep her in the loop (don't know why I bother...she's not really one for the loop to be honest). Anyway, it's a bit of a 'Back to the Future' thing really and quite a lot of fun. We all enjoyed it but it is strictly light-hearted entertainment! Chandler from Friends is the grown-up Zac. He seems to have one approach to acting.
For what it is (i.e. fluff) 8 out of 10

Hannah Montana – the movie (Peter Chelsom 2009)
Rental DVD via post (G)
Our Girl has not been one of the Hannah army but (as above) I try to keep her at least in the same universe as the rest of her class. This film is your total pre-teen be-yourself, express-yourself, pop stuff but we enjoyed it and the ballads are surprisingly bearable (though the hip-pop stuff I can live without).
For what it is...8 out of 10

Red Road (Andrea Arnold 2006)
Recorded off TV (R)
I'd had this film recorded for ages and eventually we got round to watching it. It's unusual, very non-Hollywood (Scottish in fact), bleak but very watchable. I'm not sure the end is as good as the rest of the film but that can happen with good novels too (it can be hard to find an end that is worthy of the rest). Still overall it's an interesting film – good acting especially – and a new take on 'The Conversation' perhaps.
Him 8, me 9 out of 10

The Merchant of Venice (Michael Radford 2004)
Recorded off TV (R)
Al Pacino in Shakespeare? Why the al not? I'd never seen or read this play (well, Shakespeare did write a lot you know...and I've been busy...) and I found this a really good introduction. It's beautiful to look at, lively, spirited. Really not bad.
8 out of 10 (maybe even 9...)

Milk (Gus van Sant 2008)
Rental DVD via post (R)
We saw this because of the Oscar for Sean Penn I suppose (partly). We both really enjoyed it (and in fact my Mum did too...even with all the talk of regular bumming). Penn does give the performance of his life and it is one of the better biopics I've seen (again perhaps because Harvey Milk actually DID something rather than just drink and take drugs like so many famous people...). Some great era evoking too.
9 and a half out of 10

For your Consideration (Christopher Guest 2006)
Recorded off TV (R)
This one got a good write-up in the Radio Times (or something) and we did enjoy this film about a corny little Jewish movie that gets rumours of an Oscar nod (with humorous consequences...). It's not all laughs though (some harsh truths here and there too).
8 out of 10

Life and Death of Peter Sellers (Stephen Hopkins 2004)
Recorded off TV (R)
Geoffrey Rush plays a blinder here as Sellers and though it is one of those drink'n'drugs (and belt your missus...) biopics it manages to keep the viewer interested enough and it looks very groovy most of the time. Not brilliant but very watchable and unusual in places. British, I presume.
8 out of 10


Bee Movie (Steve Hickner, Simon J. Smith 2007)
Rented dvd (G)
This Jerry Seinfield animated vehicle is funny at the time but instantly forgettabubble. Bees save the world (I think). Whatever. Always nice to hear the Zellwegger voice of course.
7 out of 10

Bridge to Terabithia (Gabor Csupo 2007)
Rented dvd (G)
Most parents know that this is the 'kids film where one of the main characters DIES' and prepare for tears. In fact our Girl (though she was nervous about watching it) was not so fussed about the death (far more tears when we read 'Charlotte's Web' or watched 'Lassie'for example) but she did like the whole imaginary world (Terabithia) sections and it's probably one we would watch again. A nice break from the HSM, Hannah Montana wave of this movie one of the families is even poor too! Can you imagine?
9 out of 10

400 Blows (François Truffaut 1959)
Rental DVD via post (R)
I decided it was time to watch a Truffaut film (somehow I never had...and I've seen my share of French cinema over the years). I went for this one because there used to be a band named after it and it's a very documentary style piece about a young boy who bunks off school and runs a bit wild in Paris. Obviously it's very dated now (it is 50 years old!) but it has beautiful faces and is an interesting not-so-rosy look at the 'good old days when no-one even knew where their kids were'.
8 out of 10

Up (Pete Docter, Bob Peterson 2009)
Cinema! (G)
We really enjoyed this tale of the flying house and the talking dogs at the flicks. It's not one of those that left much impression afterwards though so I'm not sure it's quite the 'classic' everyone was saying in the autumn (was I one those people...almost...). One thing I didn't like in it were the faces though...very empty...I preferred the dogs (it must be catching...).
9 out of 10 (though that's fading to an 8 over time)

Coraline (Henry Selick 2009)
Rented DVD (G)
What a beauty! This is a really gorgeous stop-animation film (it has all the expression and emotion that 'Up' lacks for me). Our Girl loved it and so did we...haunting, creepy, unusual, delightful. The extras on the DVD are all great too (though don't bother with the 3D).
10 out of 10

The Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood 2008)
Rental DVD via post (M)
Well...yes, Eastwood is great to look at (still!) and it's great that it is another section of the US population getting a look in and yes, it's an important topic (gangs in US cities) uses a lot of corny plot devices (and worse) and there were things about it that I really didn't like too (can't say too much – don't want to give away plot). Good but not for me.
7 out of 10 (Mark says 8)


Garage (Leonard Abrahamson 2007)
Rental DVD via post (R)
I watched this quiet little Irish film for our friend TFE's writing challenge (if a little late) and I wrote about it here. Well worth checking out.
9 out of 10

In the Loop (Armando Iannucci 2009)
Rental DVD via post (M)
This is the feature length child of the British TV political comedy 'In the Thick of It'. This time the useless and the mean head off to the White House and the U.N. but are just as useless and mean there. Compared to other 'TV comedies go film' I found this enjoyable and perfectly watchable with still a good proportion of genuinely funny lines (asides especially). I didn't believe for a minute though that they had any kind of insight into the US political system (everything just seemed too cheap and small) but still it was great to see James Gandolfini again (he plays a US military... heavyweight). Since finishing watching the Sopranos (back in August – see here) I've really missed Tony S...I mean James.
8 out of 10 (Mark says 7 or less...harsh!)

Muppets from Space (Tim Hill 1999)
Recorded off TV (G)
Girl likes muppets. I used to love them as a child (who doesn't/didn't?) though of course we only really saw the Show (not any movies). This one was OK. Much Gonzo.
7 out of 10

Bean (Mel Smith 1997)
Recorded off TV (G)
I didn't see any Bean when he was around in the '90s and thought Girl might like it (she likes slapstick humour). She was interested enough (though not wild about it) whereas I laughed a lot more than I expected (I didn't know a lot of it was a spoof of the art world). I particularly liked the Whistler's Mother merchandise (tie anyone?).
8 out of 10 (no, really)


Nativity (Debbie Isitt 2009)
Cinema! (G)
We had a cinema opportunity and this was the kids film that was on. I didn't have particularly high hopes but we all really enjoyed it – 'The Office's Martin Freeman is lovely in it and all the kids are brilliant. Lots of songs, lots of Xmas, lots of feel-good... but not in an unbearable way.
8 (or on a good day 9) out of 10 (and at the right time of year, obviously)

The Unloved (Samantha Morton 2009)
Recorded off TV (R)
Desperately sad but beautifully made, this is Morton's made for TV film about a little girl in a children's home. Amazing in many different ways.
10 out of 10 (but not something to be watched lightly)

Tom's Midnight Garden (Willard Carroll 1999)
Charity shop DVD (G)
Girl and I read the 1958 book by Philippa Pearce this year and (after a slow start) we enjoyed it (she is very keen on time travel books and films – she loved watching all the 'Back to the Future's with her Dad this year too). This film is on the cheap side in places (and the boy seems too old) but all in all our Girl gave it a thumbs up – enough of the original story, good girl characters, a bit of adventure, interesting costumes, ice-skating. Not amazing but acceptable.
7 out of 10.

Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby 1971)
Rental DVD via post (R)
I had missed this film somehow but kept seeing it in people's 'must watch' lists. They're not wrong either (said people) as it is a little jewel of a film and it features great acting, great visual variety, great acting, great lines, great music (by Cat Stevens). 'Harold and Maude' is often listed as a comedy but I would say it is only's one of those artworks that's really beyond genre (think 'the Graduate' meets 1971 'Willy Wonka' with a bit of 'Mash' thrown in and you might start getting warm). It's also uplifting without being crap – quite a feat – and very quotable. My favourite line on first viewing is (Maude to Harold) 'you gotta aim above morality'. My motto for this Xmas, I think.
10 out of 10.

So that's my year (so far) in film. Can't believe I've watched all those really!

And now...

The End.



hope said...

Wow! What a list! It's hard to comment because I should've been taking notes. :)

The ones I remember agreeing with by vigorous head nodding were "War of the World", "N. Dynamite" and "Gran Torino", which we watched last night. I can't believe Spielberg could make such a mess out of a film! And frankly, I wanted the aliens to go ahead and take Tom back. {He is an alien, right?}. Couldn't make it through the first 15 minutes of the 2nd one. The older Eastwood gets, the more impressive I find him but hubby kept saying to me last night, "WHAT did he just say?"

On the other hand "Madagascar" made me giggle like a 9 year old. I love those 5 crazy penguins! Don't know if you have it there, but here, the Madagascar Penguins have their own cartoon show!

You've given me one to look for in "Snow Cake" as I've always liked Alan Rickman. And perhaps when hubby isn't home, I'll find "In Bruges" on again so I can see how it ends!

Thanks for the list and I hope you house is filled with happiness, now and for the coming year!

Jim Murdoch said...

Never thought to keep a list. Maybe I'll do that for 2010 but knowing me I'll forget. Some nice films in your list especially Snow Cake which I think I got for Xmas last year. I really don't watch that many films these days. I have a DVD recorder choking on them and I can't bring myself to delete any to make room for more. I watched a batch of sci-fi films when Carrie was in America but nothing leaps to mind especially.

I asked Carrie which film stuck out for her this year and she came up with Sunshine Cleaning which reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine which reminded me of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee which reminded me of Personal Velocity which reminded me of Star Trek which probably was the best film of the year for me.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Used to go the the cinema every weekend in the late 80's and loving it.There was a bar right across the road that was always packed out on a Fri night and would always empty in a mass exodus 5 mins before the film began.Ah, happy days. Haven't been to see a grown up film since.Remember liking Uncle Buck though.

swiss said...

it's a kidteastic list that's for sure and no bad thing for it. i'm wanting to see up for definite but you've got me intigued on the coraline score.

what's her opinion on the dancing result?

The Weaver of Grass said...

That is a marathon Rachel - I am impressed. Dare I say that I have not watched a single film - in fact I rarely watch TV (apart from Strictly to which I have become addicted!) other than the news - am usually doing something else. It is good to see that everyone in your family gets a turn.
I do hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a happy new year. Love

Marion McCready said...

I'm simply amazed that you keep a list of them!! I struggle to remember three films I've watched this year and that's not because I've not watched many. Saw the new Startrek one last night, which I loved, State of Play was really good - political thriller with Helen Mirren and Russell Crowe, and Ice A and Ice Age 2 are my fav kids films. I've mainly got a bit of a blokes taste in films!

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I was definitely rooting for the aliens in WOTW, Hope. And yes mumblin' Clint...we didn't bother passing that DVD on to my Mum - no way she would have been able to understand what he was saying! You'll love 'Snow Cake' though...and 'In Bruges''ll like some of it...probably.

You're not the only one to mention the new Star Trek, Jim. Mark went to see that with pals as I've never been much of an ST fan (the closest I came was with Voyager and even then I only liked bits of it). Mark insists that new film is good (and lower down here Sorlil seems to agree). Of the others you mention the only one I've seen is 'Little Miss Sunshine' which I quite liked (though I'm not sure it was quite as good as its hype). I thought the little girl in it was fab though...same in 'The Unloved' that I watched in December or so...another great performance from a young lass.

We've had quite a filmy year this year, TFE, and partly because our Girl is turning into a right film buff. It's fast becoming one of the main things we do together...that and walking the dog.

Swiss - she was thrilled with Strictly as she was Chris Hollins all the way (we also quite liked Jade so were sad when she had to pull out...Grandma preferred Ali and Brian). Girl liked Hollins because he has a real childlike quality and he's small (like her). She loved Ola (his partner) too. She's managed to get their names into most of her school writing projects recently!

Weaver - thanks for the good wishes...and yes, we are a Strictly household too. Even Mark gave in and watched some of it this year!

Girl has watched the Ice Age films, Sorlil, (well 1 and 2 anyway) but I've always sent her with Mark as I didn't fancy them (no real reason). And 'State of Play' is probably one we'll catch on DVD next should please Mum...and Mark...and maybe even me too!


Anonymous said...

Jings, that's an amazing list. However, it's convinced me that I'm not a film person - I've only seen two of the films - Harold and Maude, and A Prairie Home Companion. Both 'quirky', so I guess that says something about my tastes.

Cheers for now.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, but take away the kids films Colin and it's not that many. We don't get out and about as much as you either...not with an under 10, an over 80 and a man who's very tired after work every day. If you did a list of poetry book launches/literary events I bet it would be as long (if not longer...).

Anonymous said...

You know, Rachel, I might just do that kind of listing as my end-of-year round-up, but leaving out all the meetings etc.

Kat Mortensen said...

We used to go out to see movies on a regular basis. Noisy patrons, noisier trailers and and an overload of special effects has dwindled our enjoyment.
We also used to scour video stores for vhs films, foreign films, etc. and built up a huge collection.
Then it was on to dvds (of which we have a considerable number). We recently culled almost all of the vhs films and transferred a few to dvd format. We have albums with lots of them catalogued and stored on shelves. We also have a good collection of t.v. shows on dvd.
I've seen, "Still Crazy" (we owned on vhs and loved it), "War of the Worlds" ( not terribly impressed), "Napoleon Dynamite" (had a Scandinavian feel for us which we loved), "Toy Story" (all good), "Billy Elliot" (we did have on vhs, but got rid of a while ago, although we really enjoyed it), "Kung Fu Panda" (was an acceptable, animated film-it didn't bore me like some of them do), "Splash" (lots of fun in the 80s, but I don't think I could sit through it now).
We saw "UP" and Kevin enjoyed it, but I really didn't. Can't explain why, except that it all seemed totally outrageous and I'm not great with suspension of disbelief. I hated "Wall-E".

I'm sticking by my assessment of "Happy Go-Lucky". I think being a North American makes some of the quirkier British films a bit more endearing to us than they feel to you. It was a weird film to watch and I agree that it was even annoying at times, but I found myself admitting after the fact that I had enjoyed it.

On my list currently, I would have to put the recently viewed (for the first time) "Hello Dolly" with Barbara Streisand, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford. I have since watched the musical numbers about 8 or 9 times and can't stop singing them. I even have a Youtube video in the sidebar of my blog, just so I can get a fix when I want.
Two other films? I agree with Sorlil, I think who said that "State of Play" was really good. It was. Excellent. I didn't see the original series on t.v., but if it's anything like the movie, I expect it to be fantastic.
What else I have I seen? Julie and Julia, which was kind of fun although I'm not a huge Streep fan. Mind you, I quite enjoyed watching "The Devil Wears Prada" on television for the performances of Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt.

I'm done. (I bet you're glad too.)


Titus said...

My God! I am so impressed that you have a list of the films you've seen this year. Nanny McPhee probably gets my vote from the lot, and Coraline is now a must-see.

I am also astonished that you can go a whole year without watching Ben Hur, El Cid or The Quiet Man. I cannot.

Rachel Fox said...

Kat - 'Hello Dolly' a fantastic film! I loved it as a child and love it still (and our Girl enjoyed it on first watch a couple of Xmases ago). I don't listen to Streisand sing on a regular basis (and never have particularly) but I do love her so maybe it's time for a full-on Streisand season in this house. Maybe I'll tie it in with next summer's world cup (football/soccer...).

As for 'Happy go lucky'...Leigh uses very whiney English voices a lot of the time and maybe they are quaint to foreign me they just grate! And my real objection is the lack of good lines so often. I like a screenplay to be well-written, to have the words used to maximum potential...this adlibbing, improvising business...can be just waffle if it's not careful!

Titus...impressed? You're too kind. Some people would think me sad. 'Coraline' is quite spooky...but gorgeous. I liked 'El Cid' as a child (my brothers watched all 'man films' and so, therefore, did I)...maybe it's time for a classic films season too. As before...maybe when Mark is watching footie in the summer!


green ink said...

Really enjoyed this post Rachel - you've given me some inspiration for next time I hit Blockbuster! Glad to see you loved Eternal Sunshine as much as I do. x

Kat Mortensen said...

I take your point about the whininess, Rachel. In fact, perhaps a second viewing of the film might grate just a bit more after all.
I do love, "Topsy Turvy" however. I think it is brilliant!

As for Streisand, I wasn't a big fan as a youth, but I adored her in "Hello Dolly" and remember my parents took me to see "Funny Girl" when I was very young. I'll trying to catch that one over the holidays.

If I must have one thing on my screen on a regular basis, it's a good western. My favourite of all time is Sergio Leone's, "Once Upon a Time in the West". The opening scene (with no dialogue) is stunning and the casting is genius. If you've never seen Henry Fonda in a nasty role, you must see this! (He is evil!)

My best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Christmas and a wonderful holiday season.


Rachel Fox said...

Yes, I enjoyed 'Topsy Turvy' too. As for westerns...I watched plenty growing up (2 big brothers) but haven't watched many since. They're not on TV as much as they used to be, are they?

Happy holidays to you too.

Rachel Fox said...

Oh and hi GI! Yes, I must watch 'Eternal Sunshine...' again. I was so shocked the first time I watched it...shocked that I was enjoying it!

Niamh B said...

very comprehensive list! With you on Marley and Eternal Sunshine! Will have to check out your other 9s and 10s!! Thanks

Ken Armstrong said...

Gosh. What a post.

I'll be back to this one whenever I see something to see what you thought.

Gosh again.

Happy Christmas.


Rachel Fox said...

I know you're a big film fan too Ken and I did think of you whilst writing it now and again! I don't write about films on the blog very much but I think I've made up for it with this post!
I know you share my excitement about a well-written film too Ken...when a screenplay is good (unpredictable, clever, sometimes funny) it can make for such a great piece of work.


Ken Armstrong said...

We saved up two much-anticipated movies for the Christmas DVD fest. Both Star Trek and District 9 hit the spot very well.

Rachel Fox said...

Shall we make our own little film club, Ken (your family and mine!)?

Mark has already seen the Star Trek (I'm never interested in those...) but I've added the other one to our lovefilm list. Thanks.