Thursday Movie Picks: Break-Ups

There’s something about the changing seasons, days getting shorter and the weather getting colder that makes curling up on the sofa with a hot drink and a sappy movie so appealing to me. So I guess it’s great timing that this week’s Wandering Through the Shelves Thursday Movie Picks theme is break-ups!

When I started scouring my Letterboxd account for possible choices, I very nearly created a theme within a theme of Ryan Gosling break-up movies, but changed my mind at the last minute! It was a good reminder that there are still far too many of his movies I haven’t seen yet, though…

But without further ado, here are my 3 picks for the week:

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The Break-Up (2006)

I know this seems like the laziest choice ever, but I actually really love this movie! Back in the day when I didn’t watch many movies at all, The Break-Up was the first rom-com I watched with an ending that surprised me, it totally bummed me out and I’ve never forgotten about it! Plus, it has my favourite funny argument between a couple ever. “I don’t want you to do the dishes, I want you to WANT to do the dishes!” “Why would I WANT to do the dishes?!”

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Begin Again (2013)

Excuse me John Carney, it’s been 3 years since your last movie, we’re due another! You can always count on a John Carney movie to be beautiful and have the best soundtrack ever. I loved Begin Again so much. Keira Knightly plays a talented musician who finds herself single after her long-time boyfriend makes it big in the music industry and leaves her behind. It’s just stunning in all aspects!

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La La Land (2016)

I will never, ever, get over the sadness that the ending to La La Land caused me. It’s just not fair. I thought I was over it, and then on holiday we were stuck in some Los Angeles traffic and I found myself singing ‘Another Day of Sun’ and it brought the pain back to me. I do like that the embarrassment at the Oscars where La La Land was announced as Best Picture just to have it corrected a few minutes later was kind of a parallel to what the audience to this movie ends up going through, though. The irony isn’t lost on me!

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

hunt-for-the-wilderpeople-2016-poster-review(I’m on vacation right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

I’ll give any movie a try, within reason. I don’t listen to critic reviews, but I place a lot of faith in bloggers’ opinions. Bloggers review movies for fun in their spare time, you know you’re going to get nothing but their own opinions from their reviews. Hunt for the Wilderpeople only came into my radar a few weeks ago, and every blog review I read had nothing but praise for it. That was enough to convince me to add it to my watch list, but once I realised that it’s directed by Taika Waititi, the genius behind What We Do in the Shadows, I made it my mission to watch it as soon as possible.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is based off a book by Barry Crump called Wild Pork and Watercress. It has that book-adaptation feel to it (don’t ask me to explain that feeling – I can’t) anyway, and it’s broken up into Chapters which sum up the ongoings well. In fact, I’d really love to give the book a go, I hope it’s as funny as the movie.

Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a troubled young boy, moving around different foster homes. He’s dropped out at the farm belonging to Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill) as the last chance. If he screws this up, he’s going to end up in Juvy. Ricky struggles to settle in his new home, despite the love and attention given to him by Bella, and so he runs away into the bush. Hec goes out to find him, and the result is a national manhunt for the pair as it appears that Hec has kidnapped Ricky.

It’s a funny coincidence that I watched this in the same week as Swiss Army Man, because they both have a lot of similarities!

Waititi’s style is clear in this movie. It’s got that same sense of humour as What We Do in the Shadows, and it’s quirky from start to finish. Julian Dennison absolutely shines as the child star of the movie, and his delivery of the witty lines is perfect. He’s just like a lot of other 13-year-olds, thinking he’s a gangster because he’s shoplifted a chocolate bar, played GTA and listens to rap music. Yet he’s such a likable character!

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Every time I watch a movie set in New Zealand, I’m taken back by the beauty of the country. I’m sure a lot of work went into the cinematography, but honestly, the setting does half the work itself, it’s gorgeous to look at.

The movie walks that line of Comedy and Drama perfectly without throwing the tone all over the place. It has some horrendously sad moments that had me sobbing quite openly, although I won’t discuss why because of spoilers, but it’s also one of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year. The dialogue is brilliant, thanks in part to the chemistry Julian Dennison and Sam Neill share.

I’ve been trying to balance this review out with a few negatives to warrant the 9/10 score I wanted to give it, but I’m really struggling. Originally I thought the roles of the Child Protection Officer and her Policeman companion were too campy, but actually, they fit the overall feel of the movie perfectly, especially when I try to compare it to What We Do in the Shadows. I very rarely give perfect marks to any movie, I think there’s always room for improvement, but I can’t find it here!

Swiss Army Man (2016)

swiss-army-man-movie-poster-review(I’m on holiday right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

Oh boy, I’ve been looking forward to Swiss Army Man for so long now, it feels like forever since the trailer was released. I’m surprised I managed to find myself a cinema buddy for this one. When I first saw the trailer I felt a mixture of shock and disgust, but a second viewing really opened my mind to the possibilities.

The easiest way to describe Swiss Army Man is: Paul Dano is lost on an island, ready to end his life out of desperation and loneliness, until he spots Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent corpse washed up on the beach, and uses him to try and find his way back home. No exaggerations, there. You thought The Lobster was the weirdest movie you’ve ever seen? Think again!

Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are an absolute delight. I’m not sure just how much acting Radcliffe had to do here, but nonetheless, he really pulled off the dead-guy demeanor. I don’t know enough about movie awards to know Swiss Army Man’s Oscar chances, but Paul Dano would be in my nominations list for sure. This can’t have been an easy role to take on.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know what to expect, but a few things did shock me whilst I was watching. First and foremost is just how gross this movie was. Flatulence is one thing, we all have it, let’s be honest. I’ve never had it quite so bad that I could propel myself and another person across the ocean, but still, that’s not the worst part. Hank (Dano) uses Manny (Radcliffe) as a water source by quite literally squeezing the liquid out of him. Hurck. The most useful thing Manny can be used for is a compass. How? His boner leads the way. Yep. That’s about it for grossness, but Manny can also shoot things from his mouth and chop wood. Swiss Army Man for sure!

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The best part of the movie is the mystery of it all. I started to wonder whether Manny was even real, especially when Hank seemed to talk through his issues with him. Was Hank ever even lost, or had he just ran away? Hank has a fascination with a girl he saw on the bus, and re-enacts scenes with Manny by dressing up and even recreating the bus out of whatever he can find in the woods. It’s really quite incredible. I also thought Manny got more and more lifelike the more Hank started to find the root of his issues. He’s clearly a very troubled man.

Of course, there are also several laugh out loud moments. The boner scene was pretty funny until it got a little too much, and the first moment Manny spoke just to be punched in the face had me crying. Hands down, the best line in the movie is spoken by Hank: “If you don’t know Jurassic Park, you don’t know sh*t.” That line, coupled with the use of the Jurassic Park soundtrack, is nothing but pure genius, and is the real stand out moment of the entire movie.

I just don’t know how to feel about the ending. I mean, I don’t know how I wanted it to end myself, I guess I just couldn’t picture it. The movie itself is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, but the ending reminded me of Safety Not Guaranteed, and I never fully knew how to feel about that ending, either.

Swiss Army Man will be ‘too weird’ for many, but in a world full of superhero movies, sequels and remakes, this is a breath of fresh air for me.

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

nocturnal-animals-2016-movie-poster(I’m on vacation right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

I don’t remember ever going into the cinema as blind as I did last week for Nocturnal Animals. I’d heard a lot of buzz surrounding the name, I’d watched the trailer (once) which didn’t give much away at all, and I knew Jake Gyllenhaal was in it. That was enough for me, and I somehow convinced my husband to come along too. I don’t know how I did it, but I have a feeling it may have been something to do with the ever beautiful Amy Adams.

Before I go into an actual review, I have to share a funny moment with you. Tuesday and Wednesday showings have a silly amount of adverts before the movie, because of the wildly popular ‘Meerkat Movies’ 2-4-1 deal. This poor couple in front of us were already there when we arrived, sat through the whole slog of ads, the 5 trailers (although we were shown the Arrival trailer twice in a row, odd) and when the BBFC rating screen came on with ‘Nocturnal Animals’ emblazoned on the left-hand side, they realised they were in the wrong screen. I hope they didn’t miss too much of Doctor Strange, because that opening scene was awesome.

Anyway! Nocturnal Animals is a dark movie split into two narratives. First, we have Susan (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner living a seemingly-perfect life in her mansion of a house adorned with staff, and a husband who sadly, is hardly ever at home. One morning she receives a parcel from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), a manuscript for a book he’s written that he wants her thoughts on. The book turns out to be dedicated to Susan, but is a dark and twisted story, which haunts her.

Whenever Susan starts reading the book, we get to see it played out, by Jake Gyllenhaal himself and his book-wife (Isla Fisher). Their story isn’t for the faint-hearted, it’s a cruel and violent tale. Some scenes are particularly difficult to watch, and I get the feeling they were deliberately made as long as possible to make the audience uncomfortable. If that is the case, it definitely worked on me. I kept thinking to myself ‘Oh that won’t actually happen though, they wouldn’t show us that’ and then they did! I’m getting the shivers just thinking about it.

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So, whilst we see Edward’s story played out in snippets, we also go back to Susan often to learn more about her, and more importantly, what happened all those years ago between her and Edward. There’s a theme of revenge here for sure, and we know that Susan left him, but not why, or under what circumstances. It’s really well edited in these sections, the way something happens in the book that then takes us back to real life, and editing isn’t something that I normally take notice of.

Of course, I won’t give anything away, but I love an ambiguous ending. One that’s satisfying enough when taken at face value, but when you start to analyse every little detail, you begin to come up with different theories about certain elements.

I really loved this movie, but I will NOT forgive that jump scare. You can witness it for yourself, I’m not going to warn you, but it scared the crap out of the entire screen. Then I had to watch the next ten minutes from the corner of my eye in case something else happens. My poor nervous wreck of a husband now labels Nocturnal Animals as ‘that piece of sh*t movie that scared me’. He liked it of course, but he’s a bigger scaredy-cat than me!

So yes, a big seal of approval from me. Just…skip the opening credits if you can…trust me.

The Nice Guys (2016)

the-nice-guys-2016-movie-review-poster(I’m on vacation right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

Have you ever seen a movie trailer for the first time and get the feeling that you know it’s going to be brilliant? Like, no fear of disappointment or anything because you know you’re going to love it? That’s what happened to me and my husband in January this year. We were at the cinema to see Spotlight, and after having a bit of a movie/blog hiatus over Christmas all of the trailers were a surprise to me. Cue a 70’s looking Ryan Gosling wrapping fabric around his knuckles, punching through a window, and then gripping his wrist, bleeding everywhere, followed by Russell Crowe accepting $30 to beat up a little girl’s friend, and I was practically dancing in my seat.

Of course, like every other movie I’ve been looking forward to this year, it got released in the cinemas during my wedding/honeymoon weeks, which meant I missed it.

There was a game I used to play on the Xbox 360 called L.A. Noire, it’s possibly still one of my favourites games of all time. You play as an LAPD Officer called Phelps, trailing Los Angeles for clues and interviewing witnesses to solve cases. That’s just what The Nice Guys is like, only it’s side-splittingly hilarious at the same time. In The Nice Guys, Holland March (Ryan Gosling) has been hired by a worried mother whose daughter, a porn star by the name of Misty Mountains, has been missing for days. She was last sighted 2 days ago by her mother herself. The only issue here? Misty died in a car accident 4 days ago…

Holland’s search puts him in the line of fire of Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), who has been paid to stop Holland from nosing around. And so our pair meet, which as you can probably tell from the movie poster, ends badly (and painfully) for Holland. If I had any doubts about the chemistry these guys might share on-screen, they were fizzled out by their performance at the Oscars earlier this year. They bounce off each other so well!

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I’ve been so used to watching Ryan Gosling play a tough guy (Drive, The Place Beyond The Pines, Only God Forgives) that this completely threw me off balance. I’m really not joking when I say he screams like a girl, and it didn’t matter how many times it happened, I laughed till I cried. He’s just a bit of a doofus, but a very good detective at the same time, which means when he does slip up and does something stupid, it comes without warning. His character Holland also has a young teenage daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice) who is constantly trying to help. Characters like Holly normally get in the way and get annoying, but in some cases, she actually saves the day, and she’s a delight to watch.

It was just so much fun to watch, and I’ll be watching it again and again over the years, I’m sure. If there were only one movie this year that deserves a sequel, it’s this, because I could watch Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe work together solving cases for hours on end. In fact, I don’t even know why I’m scoring this a 9/10, I can’t think of a fault to pick at, but I hate giving out full marks!

Arrival (2016)

(I’m on holiday right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

arrival-2016-movie-review-posterOh boy. I know this year has been a bit of a stinker for blockbusters, but overall I personally think it’s been a fantastic year, and now a new movie has rocked up threatening to become my favourite of the whole year. November, you are awesome. This also means that I’ve been to the cinema for two weeks in a row, which is honestly the first time that’s happened all year. Two Amy Adams movies in a row, too!

Arrival is directed by Denis Villeneuve, the master behind Sicario, Prisoners, Enemy and Incendies. He’s currently working on Blade Runner 2049. This man is fantastic, I can’t emphasise that enough. I haven’t watched a movie of his yet that hasn’t wowed me, and Arrival is no exception. The UK has been marketing the hell out of this flick, in fact, last time I was at the cinema, during the trailers we were shown 2 different Arrival trailers in a row. It was starting to get on my nerves a tad, but only because I didn’t want to know so much before going in.

First and foremost, this isn’t a Sci-Fi in the typical sense. It’s an alien invasion, for sure, but if you’re expecting Independence Day then this isn’t the movie for you. The world is most definitely at risk here, but there’s no room-shaking action sequences or alien punching of any kind. Our main character is Louise (Amy Adams), an expert linguist recruited to work with scientist Ian (Jeremy Renner) to learn from the aliens what their purpose on Earth is. Twelve pods have descended in seemingly random locations around the world, and they don’t seem intent to blow us into smithereens.

I never excelled in science, and I can’t speak a second language, so I was grateful for the fact that I could easily understand what was happening during the movie, and actually found myself completely in awe of the linguistic work that Louise was doing. It’s fascinating stuff! How she went about teaching the aliens (heptapods, if you’ll excuse my most likely bad spelling) simple vocabulary, to lead up to actually asking a question was something that seemed impossible at first, but when broken down into stages, actually made a lot of sense.

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Louise herself is a captivating character. We are drawn to her instantly and warm to her within the first few scenes when we’re shown a tragic moment in her life. She feels so real, and relatable. I’m pretty sure if we were sent up into a pod to talk with an alien we would freak out as much as she did, rather than staying cool and calm, with our hair and make-up perfectly intact. But I’m getting off-topic now.

I’m almost trying not to talk about the movie to be honest because I want to be really careful about what I say. The less you know, the better, because the final 20 minutes of Arrival was one of my favourite movie experiences ever. That feeling in your mind of everything clicking into place is just amazing.

Safe to say, my husband fully forgave me for scaring the crap out of him last week when we saw Nocturnal Animals, and he’s even gone so far as to say this might be his favourite movie of all time! It’s definitely threatening to become my favourite of the year.

Tickled (2016)

(I’m on holiday right now celebrating my 30th Birthday! To fill the void whilst I’m away I’m posting some old movie reviews that I wrote for the blog I had before I started Often Off Topic. I’ll be back in early September.)

tickled-movie-documentary-reviewIn between the cinema trips and desperately trying to catch up with Westworld (which I’ve done – yay!) I put some time aside to check out a documentary that I’d seen reviewed on a few blogs I follow called Tickled. I can count the number of documentaries I’ve seen on one hand, so although I was curious to add to the number, I did wonder how interesting it could be without the dramatics of a regular movie.

Tickled was funded by both Kickstarter and the New Zealand Film Commission in 2014, and is directed by journalist David Farrier and his colleague Dylan Reeve. David makes a living from looking into all things unordinary, so when he saw videos online of ‘Competitive Endurance Tickling’, needless to say, his curiosity was tickled! Har har har. That’s where the laughs stop though. These videos are far from ordinary and feature young men bound by their wrists and ankles, and then tickled by other young men.

There didn’t seem to be a sexual connotation about the videos, the young men were clothed at all times, but the ‘sport’ was certainly weird enough for David to want to look into it. The videos were produced by a company called Jane O’Brien Media, which had it’s own Facebook page, so David sent a message asking if he could conduct an interview with either Jane herself or another producer to learn more for his article.

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Rather than be welcomed with open arms, or politely turned down, David was instead bombarded with hostile responses, pointing out David’s own sexuality and firmly stating that this sport is a “passionately and exclusively heterosexual athletic endurance activity”. When David persisted with his line of inquiry, Jane O’Brien Media sent legal threats and even flew out 3 members of staff to intimidate David and Dylan.

Really, that’s as far into it as I want to go in this post. This is all most other bloggers wrote about, and honestly, if that alone is enough to get you interested then you’ll find the rest of the documentary absolutely fascinating. The way it had me chuckling at how absurd the sport is to suddenly feeling shocked at what was happening is just a little bit unreal.

As I said, I watch very few documentaries so I don’t feel able to comment on how well it was filmed, edited, etc, but I was hooked from the very first minute right up until the credits rolled. Then I had to sit in silence for about ten minutes while I took it all in. If you’ve already seen Tickled, then check out the Wikipedia page for it, right at the bottom is a section about the response to the documentary from the people involved, and that in itself is quite shocking. It’s definitely a subject that I want to keep updated with!

Has anyone else seen Tickled? If you have it was probably your blog that led me down this rabbit hole! I don’t know whether to thank you or curse you, ha!