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

Hidden Gems: Margot Robbie

Goodness me, I think this is the first Hidden Gems post that I’m writing at the very last minute rather than scheduling well in advance! There’s just too much fun to be had – it’s a 3 day weekend here in the UK and the weather has been STUNNING, meaning very little time to hide indoors and write! But alas, the end of another month is here and so it’s time once again for a Hidden Gems post, a challenge created by the amazing Mettel Ray. Her pick this month is James McAvoy and I’m excited to see what she’s seen – I’m a huge fan but definitely haven’t watched many of his movies. My pick this month if you haven’t seen already is Margot Robbie!

Why Margot Robbie?

Margot has only flown onto my radar in recent years but she’s an actress who I’ve never found any big faults with, I’ve tended to enjoy the things I’ve seen her in. That was until I, Tonya and Bird of Prey where she simply blew me away with her talents! From what I’ve seen of her in interviews she seems like a genuinely lovely person in real life too so I definitely wanted to explore some of the movies she’s been in that I’ve overlooked or simply not heard of.

Statistics

Letterboxd has 30 projects listed under Margot Robbie, I took out 8 (shorts and unreleased movies), leaving 22. Of those 22 movies I’ve already seen 13, a lot more than I thought I had, to be perfectly honest. My favourites include I, Tonya, Birds of Prey and About Time.

I’ve also seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Suicide Squad, The Big Short, Focus, Peter Rabbit, Peter Rabbit 2, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Goodbye Christopher Robin and Slaughterhouse Rulez.

My picks for the challenge were for a variety of reasons and ended up being Z for Zachariah (2015), Bombshell (2019) and Mary Queen of Scots (2018).

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Z for Zachariah (2015)

This movie was actually already in my watchlist so there’s a blogger out there who watched this years ago and wrote a review positive enough that it made it a desirable watch for me! It’s a bit post-apocalyptic, just hunkering down and getting by, lonely kind of movie that winds up focusing on a love triangle between Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine.

And there’s my problem, I guess. There’s no scenario where I wouldn’t pick Chris Pine and those ridiculously blue eyes every single time. On a serious note, it’s a good movie, just too quiet and slow for my liking. Loved the ending, though. That was tense!

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Bombshell (2019)

Obviously this is quite a recent pick that was a January 2020 release for me in the UK. If I’d known what was around the corner I’d have been at the cinema for it in a heartbeat but at the time there were other things to watch and although I loved the cast, the story didn’t seem compelling enough to get me to commit to a cinema trip for it. It’s based on the real-life story of how a group of women take down the head of Fox News for abusive behaviour.

Now, the tale is an infuriating watch and as always with movies like this, the screen of text at the telling explaining the aftermath made me angry as hell, but from the trailer I was expecting this to be told in a style similar to The Big Short or The Wolf of Wall Street, and it really fell short of the mark. An intriguing tale, but told in a dull way, which is a shame.

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Mary Queen of Scots (2018)

I don’t like period dramas, ok? I’ve tried to dance around the subject before but there’s just no point. A period drama featuring royals is, quite frankly, the worst – in my mind at least. But if anyone is going to get me to change my mind it’s going to be a dynamic duo in the form of Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan. It’s a fight for the throne and all I really knew about it was from memes mocking the way Margot Robbie’s character looked.

News flash – I still hate period dramas. The ending to this one was powerful, I’ve got to give it credit for that. The final 15 minutes were something fantastic to behold, it’s just a shame everything before that bored me to tears.

Final Thoughts

Needless to say. I did not find a gem this month. Not even close to finding one. But I can say I’ve seen over half of Margot Robbie’s movie work now and even after watching a few duds, I couldn’t say she put in a bad or a lazy performance. I’ve heard about all the work she’s putting in to push for Gotham City Sirens and I hope she succeeds, she’s certainly the perfect choice for Harley Quinn. Next month is Paul Rudd’s time to shine!

Lists · Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Michael B. Jordan

With the outdoors opening up and a week’s holiday to the coast, I haven’t watched as many movies as I usually do which led to a Michael B. Jordan crammed week in order to get my hidden gems post in this month! If you aren’t familiar with the Hidden Gems Challenge, it was started by Mettel Ray and you can find her original post here. Her pick for April is Keira Knightley and I can’t wait to see what she watched! Ii think Keira Knightley is a really underrated actress but there’s definitely a lot of her movies that I haven’t seen yet. But enough about Keira – let’s talk Michael B. Jordan!

Why Michael B. Jordan?

Well, he was voted People Magazine’s Sexiest Man in 2020, a title I’m certainly not going to argue about! But also, I can’t think of a single movie of his that I haven’t enjoyed (with the exception of Fantastic Four, but we can’t blame Jordan for that), and so there’s bound to be even more out there just waiting for me to watch! Jordan has a host of smaller awards already, but I definitely feel like an Oscar-worthy role is right around the corner for him.

Statistics

Letterboxd has 34 movies listed under Michael B. Jordan’s name. I took out shorts, documentaries, and unreleased projects which left me with 20. Before the challenge I’d seen 7 of those, not a lot but a decent percentage! Out of the ones I’d already seen some of my favourites include Hardball, Black Panther and Creed.

I’ve also seen Chronicle, Just Mercy, Fantastic Four, and That Awkward Moment.

As before, I tried to pick 3 movies where Michael B. Jordan played a main role, and so my choices ended up being Fahrenheit 451, Fruitvale Station and Creed II.

Fahrenheit 451 (2018)

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Based on a novel by Ray Bradbury, published in the 1950’s, Fahrenheit 451 is set in a dystopian world where books are illegal and firefighters start fires rather than putting them out. I’d heard that the book is great but the modern movie adaptation was terrible. Buuut the combo of Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon was too intriguing to pass up, so this was my first stop.

It’s not a great movie, but it wasn’t the train wreck I was expecting, that’s for sure. I loved the use of future technology that I imagine is one step further than the source material, and although it left me with a ton of unanswered questions, it didn’t put me off, and as a result I’m actually currently reading the novel in the hopes of getting the answers I’m looking for. Like, if the firefighters aren’t putting out fires, who is?!

Fruitvale Station (2013)

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Fruitvale Station is based on a true story – the event that took place in the early hours of New Year’s Day at Fruitvale Station in Oakland, California, where young Afro-American Oscar Grant was shot by a cop and later died in hospital. I knew this wouldn’t be an easy watch but it’s with regret that I admit I knew nothing about the event, and so it seemed the perfect opportunity to educate myself on this tragic event and also explore one of Michael B. Jordan’s more serious roles. It also stars Octavia Spencer, who just so happens to be another of my choices for the Hidden Gems challenge!

This is a powerful and deeply emotional movie. It opens with real life footage captured by passengers on the train at the station, then goes back in time to explore Oscar’s life, before ending at that tragic night. Oscar isn’t portrayed as a perfect person – he was a real guy who made some bad decisions in his past but was a fantastic father, a loving son and a caring individual. The climatic scene is brutal, unflinching and upsetting to watch, and I don’t know what’s worse – the fact that it’s a movie based on a real event, or the fact that 12 years later murders like this are still a regular occurrence. What is it going to take for this to end?!

Creed II (2018)

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I don’t know what stopped me from watching Creed II, I really enjoyed the first one. I think it was released not long after I became a Mum and stopped going to the cinema for a few months, and it just slipped off my radar. Anyway – Creed II follows on from the events of the first movie, but this time, the son of the boxer that caused Adonis Creed’s father’s death is on the scene and challenging the recently crowned world champion to a match. Rocky urges Adonis to turn him down, but this is personal.

I really need to make an effort to watch the other Rocky movies (I’ve only seen the first) because there’s something about these characters that I just adore. I’m not a boxing fan in the least but from what I’ve seen so far, these movies are so much more than the sport. I thought Creed II lacked some of the personal relationships that the first one did so well, but that final fight was so dramatic I could feel myself tense up and actually stop breathing. I’ll be in the cinema for Creed III – that’s a promise!

Final Thoughts

April has been a great month! Or perhaps I should say, the final week in April has been great! As that’s when I squeezed all three of my picks in. Fruitvale Station is without a doubt a hidden gem, and Creed II is very close to being one. Also, I already mentioned that I was so interested in Mettel Ray‘s challenge because I’d tried and failed to do the Blind Spot challenge at least 3 times. Well, I’ve stuck out this challenge for longer than my other attempts and I’m seeing no signs of stopping before the year is out! Next month is dedicated to Margot Robbie, so wish me luck in my picks!

Movie Reviews

Hidden Gems: Dan Stevens

We survived January, folks! At least I hope we did, because I’m starting Mettel Ray’s Hidden Gems Challenge with such enthusiasm that I’m actually writing this in mid-January, having already watched my 3 chosen Dan Stevens movies. If you want to find out more about the challenge, check out Mettel Ray’s original post.

Why Dan Stevens?

My Dan Stevens phase happened very quickly and out of nowhere, as many of my obsessions do. I’d just started watching Legion with my husband, without realising the lead star also happened to play Beast in the new Disney remake I’d only watched days before. Suddenly, Dan Stevens was cropping up in more things I just happened to be watching and well, who doesn’t fall for those shockingly blue eyes?

Statistics

Letterboxd has 36 movies listed under Dan Stevens’ filmography (although some are shorts and others are unreleased) and before the challenge I had seen 10. Not bad! Out of the ones I’d already seen some of my favourites include The Guest, Eurovision Song Contest, Colossal, and, of course, Beauty and the Beast.

I’ve also seen Her Smell, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, The Rental, The Call of the Wild, A Walk Among the Tombstones and The Fifth Estate.

I tried to pick 3 movies where Dan was in a lead role, and so my choices ended up being Kill Switch (2017), Apostle (2018) and Permission (2017).

Kill Switch
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Well I started on a right blunder here. Does anyone remember the 2015 movie, Hardcore Henry? It was an action movie shown entirely in a first-person view. To this day I haven’t watched it, because for whatever reason just the trailer gives me motion sickness. Not great when a huge chunk of Kill Switch is also shown in the same view. Hurk!

What I will say though is this. Kill Switch isn’t a very good Sci-Fi movie at all, but it’s ambitious. It also has some absolutely stellar CGI work which is almost baffling considering how small of a movie it is. Seriously, the CGI here is better than in some very recent WB movies I’ve seen…not naming names, of course.

Apostle
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This movie has been on my radar for a while but it took the Hidden Gems challenge to finally push me to see it. It’s quite long and it has a Wicker Man feel to it which just isn’t my kind of movie at all. The genre has just never appealed to me, and I couldn’t tell you why. For most, this would have definitely counted as a gem of a movie, and I can appreciate it for what it is, especially the horror elements.

I like to think I can handle gore in movies quite well, but there were several scenes in here which were really hard to watch – but I say that with praise because it’s clearly a testament to how well those scenes were shot!

Permission
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Here’s the setup. Dan Stevens and Rebecca Hall are, on paper, the perfect couple. They’ve been together ever since school and Dan Stevens is waiting for the perfect moment to propose. But they’ve only ever had sex with each other, and after a suggestion from their friends they decide to sleep with other people to “get it out of their systems”. It’s an AWFUL idea. Frustratingly awful. Some reviewers praised the movie for its unexpected ending but I would have been mad as hell if it ended any other way. There were still some great moments in the movie though that so very almost made me class it as a Hidden Gem.

Their friends are a gay couple with problems of their own, made worse by one’s desire for children. On his walks to the park he meets a struggling Dad (Jason Sudeikis) and I so desperately wanted his character to be gay also so they could be happy together. The prize moment goes to Dan Stevens whilst drunk with the customer who bought a table from him just to sleep with him though. She tells him to do whatever he wants with her, absolutely everything is allowed. What does he do? Spits in her mouth and then bursts into tears. It was so shocking I burst out laughing and terrified my cats.

Final Thoughts

No gems this month then but it’s confirmed one thing to me – this challenge is definitely what I needed to do this year! I probably never would have seen these 3 movies otherwise and although I can’t say I loved them, they were still entertaining and I always enjoy finding new movies out there. Next month it’s Kristen Stewart’s turn!

Lists

UPDATED – Top 100 Movies of the Decade: 2018

When I started my little Top 100 Movies of the Decade project I said from the outset that I would update it over time. If I’m honest I wasn’t sure when that would be, but I didn’t expect it to be within a year of writing it. However, over lockdown I watched 2 movies from 2019 and 2018 that absolutely blew me away. I wasn’t blogging at the time and so there isn’t a dedicated post for them here, so instead it only seemed right that I updated my current lists for those years.

Are you actually kidding me? I’ve done 8 of these lists now, you’d think I would have become hardened to only picking the very best movies that I truly loved. I should have it down to a cold-hearted process, right? I just counted my starter list for 2018, and it has 21 movies on it. 21! That’s not including a lot of movies I really enjoyed but knew they weren’t quite Top 10 material. I have to cut this list in half, and chop another off after that.

Maybe 2018 was a fantastic year for movies, but it’s maybe more down to me re-finding my love for this little hobby of mine after losing myself at the start of the year. Either way, this is going to be tough. Here goes nothing. You can find my other lists here.

2018 Movies Watched: 89
Movies that just missed out: BlacKkKlansman, Bandersnatch, Bird Box, The Favourite, Incredibles 2, Deadpool 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One, A Quiet Place, Game Night, Love Simon, American Animals

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#10 Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Watching this movie was never on my agenda until Melissa McCarthy started getting nominations left, right and centre for it. I’m very love her or hate her with McCarthy but she was incredible here, and Richard E. Grant is a delight too. It’s a story that some might find a bit dry but I was enthralled.

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#9 Hereditary

Hereditary was the first movie I went to see by myself with my shiny new Odeon card. I must have been mad, but it was a great experience. I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending but there are scenes in that movie that still bug me and haunt me, and they always will!

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#8 Widows

Badass women doing badass things – count me in. Viola Davs is absolutely terrifying in Widows, I 100% would not want to be on her bad side. There are bound to be some copycat style movies following this, but Widows will remain the original and best.

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#7 Ant-Man and the Wasp

Look – I don’t know what to tell you. I’m sure this is at the bottom of everyone’s favourite MCU movies but there was something about Ant-Man and the Wasp that struck a chord with me. It’s funny, it’s got great action scenes and it’s just…wholesome.

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#6 Green Book

Green Book is another of those movies I would have skipped if I didn’t make a habit of watching all the Best Picture nominees. I know it wasn’t a popular winner but I loved it. The story was engaging, the message powerful, and it had a surprising number of funny moments. I’m still a little mad Mahershala Ali was considered a Supporting Actor rather than Lead Actor, though.

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#5 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

So the internet decided that Into the Spider-Verse was the best Spider-Man movie ever made. I thought there was no way that could be true, but there’s only one way to find out. Turns out, the internet was right! From the stylish animation, to the smart story, funny one-liners and characters that should be annoying but aren’t, I loved every minute of this.

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#4 A Simple Favor

A comedy/mystery movie directed by Paul Feig and starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively is like, right up there on my list of dream movies. There was no way I wasn’t going to love A Simple Favor. It’s stylish, sexy and mysterious, and although it gets way too over the top at the end, it’s a wild ride.

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#3 A Star Is Born

I’ve listened to the soundtrack from A Star Is Born countless times since watching the movie, but I’m yet to bring myself to actually rewatch it. It’s such a beautifully painful story, but ugh, my heart hasn’t recovered quite yet.

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#2 Blindspotting

Ironically, I don’t know how I managed to avoid Blindspotting. I don’t remember seeing a single trailer, and the only time I reacll seeing it’s name was in the outrage on Twitter and the blogs I follow that it was ignored by the Academy. Well, it took falling in love with Hamilton (2020) and wanting to see more of Daveed Diggs to get me to pull my head out of the sand. Blindspotting is a stunner of a movie that is more important now than ever in the current #BlackLivesMatter movement. I’ve seen it twice now and I can’t recommend it enough!

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#1 Searching

An odd choice, I admit, but let me explain. I love movies that bring something a little different to the table. All scenes in Searching are through a screen, be it a laptop, mobile, CCTV, FaceTime. That alone makes it great in my eyes. The cherry on the top is a simply brilliant mystery story that twists and turns constantly, with a hugely satisfying conclusion. Love it.