Movie Reviews

What I Watched: August 2021

Ah, goodbye summer. It felt like I was waiting for you for so long, and now you’re over. At least I thought you were. I put away all my daughter’s summer clothes, got out all her jumpers from last year (and realised she’s grown out of most of them) and there’s a mini heatwave coming next week now! British weather. Movie-wise, August was quite slow for me to begin with, but I caught up towards the end of the month and even ran out of time to write full reviews for movies I really liked. I guess that’s why I started doing these round-up posts!

Let’s dive right in to what I watched, shall we?

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Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) – I never bothered with the original Justice League movie. It came out when I had a newborn and cinema trips weren’t on my agenda, and I disliked Batman v Superman so much that I never sought it out when I had more free time. I know the entire world was excited for Zack Snyder’s version but I wasn’t too bothered, but obviously I vowed to watch it eventually! It was good though. I have nothing to compare it to which helps. There were some really great moment but no movie has the right to be this long. Either trim it down to no more than 2.5 hours, or make it a mini series!

The Suicide Squad (2021)Full Review

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Zola (2020) – You wanna hear a story about how me and this bitch here fell out? It’s kinda long, but it’s full of suspense. That’s got to be the best introduction to any movie, ever. We’ve moved on from creating movies based on fanfiction, and now we’re making movies based on Twitter threads – who’d have thought? I didn’t know what to expect from Zola but the hype was enough to get me curious and it was a really exciting movie. Absolutely crazy that it all happened in real life.

Vivo (2021)Full Review

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Aftermath (2021) – This was a typical mediocre Netflix watch. I should have known it wasn’t worth it about 20 minutes in but I hate not finishing a movie. So there’s this house where a murder suicide has just taken place. Super gruesome, very messy, etc. Introducing our young couple, with a relationship full of troubles. She cheated on him, and he clearly can’t move past it. I KNOW. Let’s move into the murder house, that’ll solve all our problems and I’m sure it won’t be haunted or anything. UGH.

Free Guy (2021)Full Review

Seabiscuit (2003)Full Review for Film & Wine Club

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Naked Singularity (2021) – What an odd movie. It’s such a shame that it tried to be two types of movie because it failed at blending the genres and could have been a pretty decent crime/thriller. You have to see it for yourself to fully understand what it was trying to do. Thankfully, the screen presence of Olivia Cooke and John Boyega make it entertaining, but it’s still a lot of wasted potential. Someone please give Olivia Cooke a better role next? She’s ace and she deserves better!

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The Courier (2021) – Here’s some proof that I’ll watch just about anything for my favourite stars. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the real-life businessman turned spy Greville Wynne in a retelling of the events that led to the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis back in the 60s. It was interesting enough from an educational point of view, but not thrilling or exciting enough for me to label it a good movie.

Reminiscence (2021)Full Review

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Sweet Girl (2021) – I have to hand it to Netflix, they chose the perfect scenes for the preview that plays whilst you’re scrolling and pausing to sell Sweet Girl to me. It looked really exciting, but it’s so by-the-book it’s almost painful to watch. Until of course, you reach the twist towards the end which is was…something. If I weren’t bored to tears by that point I might have actually enjoyed that twist. Great idea, dull execution.

Annette (2021) Full Review

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Censor (2021) – This was so much better than I expected! The less you know the better, but it’s set in the video-nasty era of horror movies and takes a very dark turn. I wish I’d found the time to write a full post for this one because I couldn’t recommend it enough. If you liked Saint Maud (2020) then I think you might like this, too. All hail the rise of Welsh horror movies!

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Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins (2021) – I enjoyed watching Henry Golding, but I know nothing about G.I. Joe so a lot of this was lost on me, I wasn’t the target audience. A lot of it felt quite generic but the last 40 minutes were great!

Candyman (2021) – Full Review coming soon

I also watched Wildlife (2018), Love & Other Drugs (2010) and Stronger (2017) as part of the Hidden Gems Challenge. Jake Gyllenhaal was obviously my choice for August and you can see my post here.

Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Jake Gyllenhaal

I started August off so organised that I was scheduling blog posts instead of publishing them straight away, and even started compiling my ‘What I Watched’ monthly round-up post as the days went by, and yet here I am on the night that Hidden Gems is meant to be posted furiously putting my post together having only just watched my third pick. Can’t will them all, eh? If you aren’t familiar with Hidden Gems, it’s a challenge created by Mettel Ray, where you pick an actor or actress for each month of the year, pick 3 movies of theirs you haven’t seen yet and give them a watch in the hopes of finding a gem. If you haven’t guessed already, my August choice was Jake Gyllenhaal!

Why Jake Gyllenhaal?

He was my first love. You may laugh, but I’m serious! Back when I was a sulky, young teenager, I watched The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and ended up with a bit of a crush on Jake Gyllenhaal. At the time, I wasn’t hugely into movies but this was the beginning of my hobby blossoming. I’d also discovered online retail (remember when Amazon and eBay were new?) and got myself copies of Donnie Darko (2001), Bubble Boy (2001) and The Good Girl (2002) on VHS just to watch more of him. The former is still one of my favourite movies of all time, and is the reason I love dark, twisty movies the most! So clearly, Jake had to be a part of this challenge for me.

Statistics

I was using Letterboxd for these statistics until now but it’s so tough weeding out all the unreleased movies, shorts and other anomalies that I think doing a manual count on IMDB is going to be easier. So, IMDB has 39 feature movies listed under his name. Of those, I’ve seen 21, which is a pretty decent figure if I may say so myself. Some of my favourites include Donnie Darko, Prisoners, Enemy and Nightcrawler.

I’ve also seen Spider-Man: Far From Home, Zodiac, Brokeback Mountain, Nocturnal Animals, Okja, Velvet Buzzsaw, Source Code, Life, The Day After Tomorrow, End of Watch, Everest, Jarhead, Demolition, Brothers, Bubble Boy, The Good Girl and Moonlight Mile.

I’ve had one Jake Gyllenhaal movie in my watchlist forever so only had to pick another two this time round thankfully. My three choices ended up being Wildlife (2018), Love & Other Drugs (2010) and Stronger (2017).

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Wildlife (2018)

This is the movie that’s been on my watchlist since it was released. Something stopped me from seeing it as soon as it came out, and over time I guess I’ve forgotten what it was even about. One thing I didn’t know at all until now is that Wildlife is Paul Dano’s directional debut! Which makes me happy because he’s so talented. Anyway, this stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan as parents of a teenaged boy. Gyllenhaal’s character loses his job and his sense of purpose, and leaves his family temporarily to go and fight a raging forest fire.

The best word I can use to describe Wildlife is devastating. It wasn’t the movie I thought it was at all. It’s not a bad movie at all, quite the opposite, but it will weigh heavily on your mind for quite some time. Watching this family lose faith and seeing the effect that has is just so upsetting. I can applaud the technical aspects of everything to do with the movie but I didn’t enjoy it enough to call it a gem.

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Love & Other Drugs (2010)

Look, I’m as surprised as you are that there’s a Jake Gyllenhaal romcom that I haven’t seen yet! This one was an odd experience to say the least due to the subject matter. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a salesman struggling with his numbers but not for charm. He lands himself a job as a sales rep for the medical company Pfizer (heard of them?!) and starts a relationship with Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a woman with a lot of health issues but a wit even sharper than Jamie’s.

Oh, 15-year-old me would have eaten this movie up for breakfast and then watched it every weekend until she knew the words by heart. 32-year-old me has a guilty appreciation for the sheer amount of nudity on display, but can accept that this movie is total garbage.

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Stronger (2017)

I’ve found myself watching a lot of sad movies for this challenge so far. Am I unconsciously avoiding them when casually watching movies or do I need to take more time when making my selections for the challenge each month? Who knows. Stronger is based on the real-life story of Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who lost both of his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

What an inspiring story, about an inspiring man. He went through so much, and did all he could to stay positive through it all, too. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to have been in that situation. This would have been a decent, interesting movie with any cast, but Jake Gyllenhaal acts his absolute heart out here and just raises the bar of the whole thing. Without a doubt, Stronger is a hidden gem, I just wish I watched it sooner and didn’t have to rush at the end of the month.

Final Thoughts

It feels so good to have found a gem this month, I was starting to lose faith a little bit! It’s clear to me however that not only have I seen a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies, I’ve seen the majority of the great ones. He’s an actor who I’ll always be excited to see, no matter what kind of movie he happens to star in next. September is Octavia Spencer’s month and I’d love to hear some recommendations from you if you have any?

Movie Reviews

Annette (2021)

annette-movie-review-poster-2021Director: Leos Carax

Genre: Musical, Drama, Romance

Runtime: 141 Minutes

Main Cast: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg, Devyn McDowell, Ron Mael, Russell Mael

Plot: Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), a stand-up comedian and Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard), an opera singer have a seemingly perfect life in front of the press. They have a child together, named Annette with a surprising gift.

My Thoughts: …I’m not even going to pretend that this review will be coherent. I’ve sat on my thoughts for nearly 3 days now and I’m still not any clearer. One word of warning, if you have an interest in Annette, close down my post and come back when you’ve seen it. I won’t talk about any big moments in detail but it really should be seen knowing as little as possible. I was expecting weird, I was expecting bizarre, but I was still left completely speechless. This is a musical, but it’s not The Greatest Showman or La La Land! There’s singing and dancing on a boat in the middle of a storm, a singing puppet, and let’s not forget singing into a vagina…

Let’s start with my reason for watching, Adam Driver. Seriously, the things I have watched for my crushes! I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when he discussed the script over the dinner table. He clearly enjoys these kind of roles and fair play to him for being able to do that! It’s very much his show but oh am I fed up of him playing a douchebag. I loved the earlier parts of the movie where it hinted towards Henry’s dark side and what he was capable of.

The entire movie just wasn’t what Ii was expecting at all, I’d gotten it all backwards in my mind. I thought the individual scenes themselves would make sense but the plot itself would be impossible to get my head around, but it was the other way round instead. There’s a very clear, simple story here, it’s the detailed elements that are…out there. I can’t criticise the actual quality of the movie though, it’s just too far away from my comfort zone for me to truly love it. Between watching something original and strange or generic and samey however, I’d pick strange every day.

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Best Bit: I can’t say the line itself for spoilers, but the line that Annette says after refusing to sing at the end of movie was pure gold. You know the Chris Pratt, shocked face gif? That was my exact reaction! The final scene itself was brilliant, though. I was still confused but after poking fun of the entire movie from start till that point, that final scene had me in near silence the whole time.

Worst Bit: Some serious Twilight vibes with that puppet/doll! Seriously. She was equal parts adorable and straight up terrifying. I can’t wrap my head around it. And why was it never explained where that chip in her head came from?! We already know she got sat on, what else did the poor thing go through?!

Fun Trivia: While filming in Brussels, Leos Carax’s dog “Javelot” got scared by passing traffic and ran away, leading Adam Driver to post a filmed appeal on social media to help find the dog, re-tweeted by several people including Mark Hamill. Javelot was then found safe and sound in a nearby train station.

My Rating: 3 cribs that will never not be funny to see the hulk that Adam Driver is lying in them with his legs sticking out.

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Movie Reviews

Reminiscence (2021)

reminiscence-movie-review-poster-2021Director: Lisa Joy

Genre: Mystery, Romance, Sci-Fi

Runtime: 116 Minutes

Main Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Daniel Wu, Cliff Curtis, Angela Sarafyan, Natalie Martinez, Marina de Tavira, Mojean Aria

Plot: Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman) is a private investigator of the mind by helping his client retrieve lost memories. His life is forever changed when he takes on an alluring new client by the name of Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). He quickly becomes obsessed with her and is lost when she mysteriously vanishes one day.

My Thoughts: What happened? One week I was considering a rewatch because I’d seen everything my local cinema was showing, and the next there’s 6 movies that I haven’t seen yet! It’s impossible to decide what to choose, especially as I might end up missing 1 or 2 completely, so I left it up to Twitter to choose for me, and Reminiscence was the winner! I knew nothing about it other than it was mysterious and it starred Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. The reviews out there aren’t great and I’m glad I didn’t look them up before watching the movie because I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The biggest issue for me is that it’s trying to do too much, instead of concentrating on doing one thing well. The part that fascinated me most was the fictional world that the story was set in. It’s the Miami that we all know but global warming has clearly taken it’s toll and it’s mostly underwater. Some parts of the city have been mostly saved by dams but the wealthy live in what’s known as the ‘drylands’. The whole setting has almost nothing to do with the actual plot itself, but it was stunning nonetheless. Then of course the mystery is compelling but there’s no big shock moment, which isn’t a deal-breaker but still a shame.

I sound like I’m really dragging this movie though but I really did enjoy it. I loved the scenery, I loved the chemistry between Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson, I adored Thandiwe Newton’s character and finding out more about her life. I was constantly wanting to know what the next 5 minutes held to unravel the mystery of Mae’s disappearance. It’s not the most original story out there, the memory-retrieval gimmick has been done a few times now but I was entertained and that’s all I need from movies.

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Best Bit: I’d gotten so used to Nick’s speech, “You’re going on a journey” that it was starting to sound peaceful and tranquil when he next said it. Then of course it came to that quite…rough…interrogation and the way Nick’s voice changed was actually really funny to me, until the moments that shortly followed after. Ouch.

Worst Bit: When Watts (Thandiwe Newton) went into the tank so Nick could view her memories, and Watts had clearly given up the secret of her feelings towards him, which went completely over his head. Oh, Nick! I wanted to shake him, I swear.

Fun Trivia: Director Lisa Joy is the sister-in-law of Christopher Nolan. Hugh Jackman starred in The Prestige (2006), directed by Nolan and co-written by his brother and husband of Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan.

My Rating: 3 and a half fish tanks that Watts may or may not have been aiming for.

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Movie Reviews

Seabiscuit (2003) Film & Wine Club

seabiscuit-movie-review-poster-2003Director: Gary Ross

Genre: Drama, History, Sport

Runtime: 140 Minutes

Main Cast: Tobey Maguire, David McCullough, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Gary L. Stevens, Eddie Jones, William H. Macy, Chris McCarron

Plot: Based on a true story, Sseabiscuit was an undersized race horse who took the racing scene by storm during the Depression-era, right when people needed an underdog story the most.

My Thoughts: Welcome back to Film & Wine Club! We’ve each thrown another 3 movies into the hat and first pick is one of Dad’s – Seabiscuit. It’s safe to say my Mum wasn’t looking forward to it. Drama, history, horse race, Depression-era was enough for her, I think. But just like the entire of the USA back in that day, that small horse won us over. Tobey Maguire plays a to-tall jockey who can’t catch a break, Jeff Bridges plays a once-successful car maker trying to rebuild his life after the death of his son, and Chris Cooper is a loner with a natural talent for rearing horses. Together, they’re a dream team.

It’s your typical Oscar-bait movie really but movies about horses don’t have a wide appeal. That’s where the talent of the actors and the directing comes into play and I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. Clearly it’s a favourite of my Dad’s but I imagine he might have been regretting his choice when Mum and I asked “Is that Seabiscuit?” every time a horse came onto the screen. By the final two races even Mum was out of her seat shouting encouragement and that is honestly the best review I can give – it tells you all you need to know!

So here I am, doing something I never expected I would be doing, and I’m recommending you a movie almost two and half hours long about a horse. It’s just entertaining, and heart warming. Let’s hope Seabiscuit has built up enough karma for when it’s Dad’s next movie, eh? Well, the next movie out of the hat was one of mine, and it’s Fargo (1996). It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it but it’s always stuck with me so I hope my parents enjoy it too. Watch this space!

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Best Bit: Easy, it has to be the moment that Seabiscuit won the race against War Admiral. It was the perfect victory, especially after all the animosity caused by War Admiral’s owner’s refusal to even have the race in the first place.

Worst Bit: I was gutted when Red (Tobey Maguire) couldn’t ride Seabiscuit. Red lost his family so early in life and racing was all he had. There were no ‘bad’ moments in this movie for me, just a lot of sad ones! It was slow going until the trio got together though, and I feel like Elizabeth Banks was completely underused. Those are my only complaints.

Fun Trivia: The companions Seabiscuit is given to calm him down were actually used in real life. The stray dog was named Pocatell. The female horse, Pumpkin, would accompany him to all his races through out his racing career.

My Rating: 4 and a half horseshoes that got given away to all the press that turned up.

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