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?

Lists · Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Nicole Kidman

July just sort of ran by without me realising! I’ve been watching a lot of movies this month but didn’t realise the days going by so I have to admit, my Hidden Gems post is a little last minute this time around. 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. I think Mettel Ray is taking a break from the challenge this month but here I am with a post dedicated to Nicole Kidman.

Why Nicole Kidman?

She was a bit of a wild card choice for the challenge to be honest. I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve seen her in, but mostly her recent TV work, Big Little Lies and The Undoing. I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming Nine Perfect Strangers, too. She seems to star in a lot of thrillers and it’s one of my favourite genres, so I was keen to explore some of her older work.

Statistics

Letterboxd has an eye-watering 106 projects listed under Nicole Kidman, I took out 41 (a lot of shorts, TV movies, short movies and mini series’), leaving 65. Of those 65 movies I’d already seen 11, and funnily enough, one of those was watched for another Hidden Gems month! Some of my favourites include Paddington, Lion and The Others.

I’ve also seen The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Aquaman, Bombshell, Panic Room, Happy Feet, Prom, The Upside and Before I Go to Sleep.

It was so tough to choose just 3 movies from the ocean of ones I’m yet to see, but in the end I went with Eyes Wide Shut (1999), To Die For (1995) and Rabbit Hole (2010).

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Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

I try not to read too much into the movies I’m picking but when I’m so lost for where to start I do try to pick some that are widely well reviewed. Eyes Wide Shut seemed to be one of Nicole Kidman’s most well regarded movies so I hoped I was on to a good start. She stars along side Tom Cruise in a dark, erotic thriller directed by Stanley Kubrick and I tried my very best to look past the 159 minute runtime.

Eyes Wide Shut is going to join some other classic movies in the category I like to call ‘Artsy, Classic Movies Everyone Loves but I Find Totally Overrated’. I’m really sorry – I couldn’t get into this at all. I get that there’s a deeper meaning behind everything that happens but a movie two and a half hours long, I could explain the plot to you in about 30 seconds. I can appreciate the acting, the directing and the cinematography for what it is, but it’s not a movie I enjoyed at all.

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To Die For (1995)

This was very, very close to being a gem for me, I enjoyed it a lot. Nicole Kidman plays a woman wanting to be a world-famous news anchor and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. What she lacks in intelligence she makes up for in determination and sheer will. When her husband is found dead, she’s the main suspect, and the movie swaps back and forth between showing us the events leading up to her husband’s death and interviews with the people who knew her.

Nicole Kidman’s character is absolutely fascinating but there’s just something about the way the story is told that holds it back from being a truly great movie. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it immensely, but I can’t give out the prize of Hidden Gem to anything less than great. I wish more of the events had been told from her point of view so we could get a better understanding of her mind.

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Rabbit Hole (2010)

Why do I find myself attracted to such depressing movies?! They’re like a magnet to me. In Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman stars alongside Aaron Eckhart as parents who have recently lost their son after he was killed in a car accident. It’s a raw and painful exploration as to how people handle grief, and how they move on after such a tragic event. It’s less a movie that you enjoy and more a dive into the spectrum of human emotion.

So, another great movie. But man, it’s just too much of a downer to call a gem. The definition will be different for everyone but for me, a hidden gem has to be both technically great and enjoyable to watch. Technically, Rabbit Hole is superb but I couldn’t say it was a movie I enjoyed.

Final Thoughts

No gem this month, but two great movies out of three, so I’m not disappointed at all. I’ve learnt that there’s still so many more Nicole Kidman movies out there, I was just unlucky with my choices. I’d love to know what your favourite Nicole Kidman movies are? August is a month I’m really looking forward to – it’s Jake Gyllenhaal month!

Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Paul Rudd

Phew, I’m back to being more organised with my blog posts, for this week at least. I don’t like writing things at the last minute! That’s probably because the heatwave is over for now though, and I’m feeling fairly caught up with the latest movie releases. Let’s talk Hidden Gems though, shall we? It’s a challenge created by the wonderful Mettel Ray in which you choose an actor or actress for each month, and watch 3 movies of theirs you’ve never seen before in the hopes of finding a gem. Her pick for this month is Rachel Weisz and I’m really hoping she found a gem this month because I’d love to see more of Weisz’s movies! My choice for this month? Paul Rudd.

Why Paul Rudd?

Paul Rudd is just so wholesome. My introduction to him was Mike in Friends and he was instantly one of my favourite characters in the whole show. Since then I’ve seen a lot of his comedy movies and he’s now of course a huge part of the MCU as Ant-Man, a character I didn’t think I would like much – but Paul Rudd’s charm won me over. I thought I’d seen most of his best work but if there was any way to test the theory, the Hidden Gems was it.

Statistics

Letterboxd has a whopping 92 projects listed under Paul Rudd, I took out 31 (a lot of shorts and some unreleased movies), leaving 62. Of those 62 movies I’d already seen 20. A fair amount but not a huge percentage. Some of my favourites include Avengers: Endgame, Ant-Man and the Wasp, This Is the End, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

I’ve also seen Captain America: Civil War, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Ant-Man, Clueless, Night at the Museum, Romeo + Juliet, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Sausage Party, Knocked Up, The Fundamentals of Caring, Wet Hot American Summer, I Love You, Man, Role Models, This is 40, They Came Together, and Admission.

It was really tough to choose just 3 movies from the enormous selection of ones I haven’t seen yet, but in the end the three I chose were Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), How Do You Know (2010) and Dinner for Schmucks (2010).

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

When I watched the first Anchorman movie many years ago, I’m sure I enjoyed it, so I don’t know what’s been stopping me from watching the sequel for all this time. I’ve been sat on my thoughts for this movie for so long now that I’m risking the rest of this post being late but I can’t quite work out my feelings. I think I should have re-watched the original first because one side of me is thinking that the plot was just too silly and that it can’t be classed as a gem. The other side of me knows that the silliness is the whole point and thinks the jokes themselves were hilarious!

At the time of watching my critic head was giving it a 3.5/5 but then the final showdown in the park happened. All those cameos? Absolutely brilliant! And now I’ve made up my mind. Anchorman 2 is definitely a gem!

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How Do You Know (2010)

I totally watched these in the wrong order. Imagine for a second that This Means War (2012) is one of your favourite romcoms, featuring a love triangle between Reese Witherspoon and 2 other men, and realising another Witherspoon love triangle movie was already in existence? I was so excited! In How Do You Know it’s Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson fighting for her love. A hopeless battle because, let’s face it, we would all pick Paul Rudd but still? It could have been a funny movie at least?

No. Not only was it boring and unfunny (with the exception of a drunk Paul Rudd singing to his lamp) but Owen Wilson plays one of the most unlikeable douche bags I’ve ever witnessed in film. Boo!

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Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Weirdly, when I started watching Dinner for Schmucks I had a feeling of dejavu, and realised I’d already part-watched this movie, but clearly never finished it. That should have been the warning signal but no, I continued. And then it took me 2 days to finish it. I think I stopped at the same point as last time. The problem with this movie isn’t the actors or the characters. In fact, I could watch Paul Rudd and Steve Carrell have a blossoming friendship all day long, but they themselves were 100 times better than the plot and the script.

Final Thoughts

I think that the fact my other 2 picks downright sucked is spoiling what should be clear – I DID find a gem this month. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is just as funny as the original, although it’s been too long for me to compare the storyline of the two. Paul Rudd seems to be another actor of whom I’ve already seen their best movies. What’s your favourite Paul Rudd movie, maybe there’s something huge that I’ve missed? Either way, tomorrow brings a new month, and July is going to be Nicole Kidman’s time to shine!

Movie Reviews

Remember Me (2010)

remember-me-2010-movie-review-posterDirector: Allen Coulter

Genre: Romance, Drama

Runtime: 113 Minutes

Main Cast: Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Pierce Brosnan, Lena Olin, Chris Cooper, Ruby Jerins, Martha Plimpton, Gregory Jbara, Meghan Markle

Plot: Tyler (Robert Pattinson) accepts a bet from his friend to try and hook up with the daughter of a police cop who wronged him as payback. Along the way he ends up falling in love with the girl, Ally (Emilie de Ravin) as they both struggle to deal with traumatic family events they both suffered years ago.

  • My Thoughts: Straight up, I’m giving you a SPOILER WARNING. There’s no way I can talk about this movie without mentioning the ending. Let me tell you how I got here in the first place, though. I’m starting to fall down a Robert Pattinson hole. It snuck up on me, he’s found himself into a lot of things I’ve been watching and well, it’s been a while since my last obsession so it was bound to happen eventually. Remember Me has been on the edge of my radar for years now and ironically, I could never remember why…

This is straight up angsty romance in every sense of the word. If you don’t like your romance movies to be depressing you’ll hate this, but I have a weird love for them. Tyler is completely lost, with no idea what he’s doing with his life but he’s a passionate family guy, and has a fierce protectiveness for his little sister. Ally has struggles of her own but fits into Tyler’s world perfectly. Of course, when a relationship starts because of a dare…it’s not going to stay a secret forever, and I knew the fallout was coming.

What I didn’t see coming? THAT ENDING. Bloody hell. Those last few minutes were so confusing. Everything seemed fixed, things were starting to look up, for everyone, but the music didn’t match the tone of the images and I couldn’t work out why. And then the tiny pieces of the puzzle fell into place and…oh man. Was it a cheap and easy way to evoke emotion from an audience? Maybe, but it ruined me. I turned the movie off and disappeared upstairs to ugly cry under a blanket!

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Best Bit: Although it’s one of the biggest, did not see that coming, kind of twist, it broke my heart and it’s not allowed to be the best bit. Being the total loser I am, my favourite scene was in the coffee shop or diner or wherever it was that Tyler introduced himself to Ally. His awkward yet witty charm…I fell for him.

Worst Bit: You know how everyone just hates it when the dog in the movie dies? Well that’s how I feel when kids in a movie are upset. Ever since becoming a parent, I just can’t handle it. So when Tyler’s little sister is mercilessly bullied at school, it really hurt to watch.

Fun Trivia: When casting, Twilight hadn’t come out yet, which means the producers had no idea the attention the movie was about to get when they cast Pattinson in the lead role of Tyler. “I didn’t know who he was,” Allen Coulter [Director] admitted. “That was an advantage, because I cast him just because I liked him.”

My Rating: 4 out of 5 cigarettes which Tyler will swear to you are his last ones.

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Movie Reviews

Black Swan (2010)

black-swan-movie-review-2010-posterDirector: Darren Aronofsky

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Horror

Runtime: 108 Minutes

Main Cast: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Ksenia Solo, Sebastian Stan

Plot: Nina is a young, talented ballerina who finds herself fighting for the position of the Swan Queen in her company’s latest production. She is pushed back initially for not being able to embody the Black Swan as well as the White Swan, but as she strives for perfection, her mental state suffers.

My Thoughts: My youngest brother is a huge fan of twisty movies like Inception, Shutter Island and Memento. Can you imagine my frustration when he refuses to watch Fight Club because “I don’t want to watch a movie about boxing”?! I think he’s avoiding it on purpose now, the argument has gone on for years. Anyway…I guess in a way I’m guilty of the same, I’ve avoided Black Swan because I’m not really a fan of ballet.

Yes, there is a lot of ballet in this movie. There is some incredible dancing, as well as some shots of the dancer’s injured feet that made me cringe – but it’s not surprising with how much time these talented people spend on their toes. Black Swan is so much more than this though, it’s the story of a beautiful, shy girl’s descent into madness, and it’s such a thrilling ride. I’ve seen criminally little of Natalie Portman’s work so I’m open to suggestions of where to turn next, and this is also the first serious role of Mila Kunis’ I’ve seen, she was brilliant too.

10 years later, I think I might be the only person who hasn’t seen this movie yet, but on the rare chance you haven’t, definitely add this to your watch list. It’s slow in places but the payoff is so worth it. Whilst you’re at it, help me convince my brother to watch Fight Club. When I tell him it isn’t about boxing, he says “what is it about then?” and looks less than impressed when I tell him the first rule of Fight Club.

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Best Bit: The ending was so wild. I won’t spoil anything of course but the last 10 minutes are adrenaline-fuelled and you find yourself needing to know if what you just saw was real. You do find out – and bam, what a final shot. Just stunning.

Worst Bit: It’s been 10 years and we don’t have a spin-off movie about what happened to Winona Ryder’s character? Come on Hollywood, sort it out!

Fun Trivia: Natalie Portman met her future husband, choreographer Benjamin Millepied, on the set of this film. Portman herself pointed out the irony that his character in the film scoffs when asked if he’d have sex with Nina, and joked that obviously, he was a good actor.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 of the comfiest-looking slipper boots that I just want to hand out to everyone in this movie.

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