Movies Watched: Mar 1 – Mar 10, 2016

[Mar 1] “Le Chef” (2012)

le_chefA French comedy starring Jean Reno as a veteran chef who is at odds with the owner of his restaurant, who wants him to modernize by cooking molecular gastronomy. He finds an unlikely brilliant sous chef who happens to not have any formal training, and together, they achieve culinary heights. Jean Reno is as reassuring as usual, and Michaël Youn is brilliant as the oddball perfectionist chef Jacky. It’s fast-paced, it’s funny, it’s cute, and it has a lot of heart. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this movie as much as I did.

[Mar 2] “Great Expectations” (1998)

Great_expectations_posterAn adaptation of the Dickens novel set in contemporary America. Ethan Hawke plays the protagonist Finnegan Bell (Pip in the novel), a poor fisherman who is also a talented artist. When he acquires an unknown benefactor that provides him with an artist’s life in New York City, he assumes that it’s the eccentric Mrs. Havisham, who he spent a lot of time with growing up, and whose ward Estella he’s never gotten over. I enjoyed the movie, Ethan Hawke is great, and Gwyneth Paltrow drove me absolutely crazy as the untouchable Estella (as she’s supposed to). A lot of the more melodramatic aspects of the novel are removed, and I thought the movie told a tight story even if you’d never heard of the book. Also, both Robert De Niro and Chris Cooper are fantastic in this movie.

[Mar 3] “Amistad” (1997)

amistad-movie-posterThis Steven Spielberg movie tells the true story of the legal case of the survivors of the 1839 revolt on the Spanish slave ship Amistad. When the United States government captures the ship, abolitionists help defend the African captives’ right to be free from the several parties who claim all property on board, including the slaves – the Spanish government, the ship’s owner, the American men who found the ship. The movie was somewhat predictable, but I enjoyed it. I liked Matthew McConaughey as the main lawyer, and it was interesting to see the legal system of 1839. It wasn’t a very subtle movie though, especially with its constant foreshadowing of the Civil War.

[Mar 4] “Emma” (1996)

emmaEmma is my favourite Jane Austen novel (it’s certainly the most fun) and I was pretty excited about watching this movie. The poster (Gwyneth Paltrow shooting an bow) had me somewhat worried that they’d modernized it too much, but this was a very good adaptation. Emma is a young woman who is convinced that she is great at matchmaking, but her attempts fail and she has to learn that people aren’t as simple as she thought they were. The relationship between Emma and Mr. Knightley is filled with banter, but it’s delightful. Gwyneth Paltrow plays a terrific Emma, she’s lovable but you also sometimes want to scream at how oblivious she is. And Jeremy Northam is dreamy as Mr. Knightley.

[Mar 4] “The Fifth Element” (1997)

The Fifth ElementIn the 23rd century, the universe is threatened by an all consuming Great Evil and the only thing that can save us is the Fifth Element. The cult that protects the secret of the Fifth Element is dangerously outnumbered. and it’s up to cab driver Korben Dallas to protect the Fifth Element and get her where she needs to be. This was a rewatch, and I love this movie. It’s silly, it’s cacophonous, and the story is pretty simplistic, but it’s so much fun and such a visual treat, and it’s got all the cool worldbuilding of something like Star Wars. Luc Besson is great at kickass women, and Leeloo is no exception, and Bruce Willis is perfect as the curmudgeonly ex-military protagonist. And Chris Tucker’s Ruby Rhod is a really memorable character.

[Mar 5] “Gosford Park” (2001)

gosford-parkDuring a shooting party at a country manor in England in the 1930s, the host is murdered, and nearly everyone in the house had the motive to kill him. The movie isn’t really about the murder though, it’s about the lives and secrets of both the guests and their servants below. It was written by Julian Fellowes, who you might know as the creator of Downton Abbey (which was originally supposed to be a spinoff of Gosford Park). This was also a rewatch for me, and it’s just as good as I remember it being. It’s a pretty quiet movie, it’s not very dramatic, but you’re really drawn into the world that it portrays. And the cast is great too – Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi…

[Mar 5] “Fly Away Home” (1996)

fly-away-homeWhen Amy Alden’s (Anna Paquin) mother dies, she has to go live with her crazy inventor father in Canada. She has a lot of trouble adjusting to her new life, but when some motherless geese imprint on her, she finds something to care about. But the geese need to migrate thousands of miles during the fall, and without a mother to teach them, her geese won’t know the way. Clearly the only solution is to teach them using a goose shaped low powered airplane (and this is based on a true story!) There are antics and there’s environmentalism and there’s even some villains, but when it comes down to it, this movie is just oodles of heart. Also, Jeff Daniels is extremely reassuring as the inventor dad who clearly cares a lot about his daughter.

[Mar 6] “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995)

mr-hollands-opus-movie-posterThis movie tells the story of Mr. Holland, an aspiring composer who gets a job as a high school music teacher to pay the bills. His definition of a successful life slowly changes over his career, though. This was one of my favourite movies I’ve watched since we began watching a movie a day, it’s about growing up, and then growing up some more. Richard Dreyfuss is fantastic as Mr. Holland, he plays a very irritatingly real person. It isn’t a perfect movie – some characters are a bit cliched, the way the school was run seemed a bit extreme on occasion, especially at the end, but I loved it.

[Mar 6] “RED” (2010)

red_movie_posterWhen Frank Moses’ (Bruce Willis) peaceful Cleveland home is attacked by assassins, he reassembles his old “Retired, Extremely Dangerous” team to figure out who’s after them and why. This is a silly action movie based on a comic book, but it’s so much fun. First of all, Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle is something I’d apparently always wanted to see but didn’t realize until I saw it. Bruce Willis is in his usual form, and he’s a great action star. Plus Morgan Freeman! I also have an irrational crush on Karl Urban, so I love seeing him in things. My only complaint is that I find Mary-Louise Parker somewhat annoying, and she plays a really ditzy character, but that’s okay.

[Mar 7] “Shakespeare in Love” (1998)

Shakespeare-in-LoveA young William Shakespeare’s (Joseph Fiennes) play is about to start rehearsals, but he hasn’t actually written it yet, and he’s out of ideas. But then he meets and falls in love with a rich woman with a passion for theater, and he’s inspired to write one of his most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. The movie is structured kind of like one of Shakespeare’s plays – there’s action and comedy and romance, and you can see that the cast is having so much fun. The conceit of being so meta could’ve been disastrous, but it is actually very well-executed (probably helped by the fact that the movie was written by Tom Stoppard, who is great at riffing off of Shakespeare  – he also wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead). And the cast is excellent, the main characters of course, but I also enjoyed Ben Affleck as the actor Ned Alleyn and Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth.

[Mar 8] “The Big Short” (2015)

the-big-short-posterThe Big Short is about a bunch of (real-life) people who successfully predicted the recent housing market crash and were thought to be crazy but actually ended up making a boatload of money. It’s also one of the best movies I’ve seen recently, just because it’s told in such a fun way. I love movies that break the fourth wall, and this one does so constantly, even offering meta commentary on the movie. It does a great job of showing how much fun it is to screw over big banks while also keeping in perspective that the thing all these people bet on were tons of people losing their houses. The characters and actors are really good, of course. Christian Bale in particular plays a really convincing socially awkward genius, and Ryan Gosling was almost unrecognizable at first. I really like movies that talk about the world (especially politics and economics), so there’s no way I’d find this movie boring, but even if you think finance sounds boring, watch it! It’s fast-paced, it doesn’t dwell on exposition (it breaks the fourth wall instead to get the context over with) and I promise you’ll both enjoy it and learn something.

[Mar 8] “Mumford” (1999)

mumfordA psychologist named Mumford moves into a small town (also named Mumford) and has a huge impact on the lives of people there. It turns out that he might not be exactly who he says he is, though. This was a re-watch for me, it’s a cute feel-good movie where the solutions to people’s problems are pretty simple, if they would only look in the right places and learn to accept who they are. Mumford doesn’t have a very strong personality, but that’s part of what makes him reassuring. I also like the supporting cast a lot.

[Mar 9] “Burnt” (2015)

burntBradley Cooper plays Adam Jones, a chef who destroyed his career on drugs and bad behavior. Now he’s cleaned himself up and is determined to earn the third Michelin star that he was never able to get. We are big fans of both Bradley Cooper and cooking shows, so we had to watch this movie as soon as possible. It’s pretty good, Bradley Cooper is great as the intense chef who has already learned a lot from his mistakes, but still has something to prove. The fancy restaurant scene seems pretty cutthroat, and the movie can get pretty tense sometimes.

[Mar 9] “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2015)

second_best_exotic_marigold_hotelIn this sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (reviewed here), the hotel is doing really well and Sonny (Dev Patel) is pursuing financing to expand. His potential backers are sending an anonymous guest to check the place out, but there’s trouble when two new guests arrive with only one vacancy left. Plus, pretty much everyone has stuff going on on the romantic front. I didn’t think the movie was on the same league as the first one; the characters seem to have changed to fit the plot (especially Sonny’s mother), and there seemed to be a lot more silliness than heart. The cast continues to be great, and there are some touching moments, but overall, I was disappointed.

[Mar 10] “The Virgin Suicides” (1999)

virgin_suicidesA group of boys are fascinated by the five Lisbon sisters, who live an extremely strict and sheltered life, but are clearly unhappy in it. I’m not really sure how to describe this movie but I thought it was incredible. This was Sofia Coppola’s first movie, and she’s apparently always been really good at realistic and sympathetic women that are also lonely (and usually in pretty crappy situations). She also captures being a teenager extremely well, both from the boys’ side and the girls’. The story of the Lisbon girls seems almost dreamlike, because how could a story like that happen in a normal suburban neighborhood, but it’s also painfully real.

[Mar 10] “Friday” (1995)

friday-movie-posterTwo friends, Craig and Smokey, have to figure out how to get their drug dealer $200 by the end of the day. Along the way, they smoke a lot of weed and have some encounters with their friends and neighbors, mostly from their front porch. I haven’t seen a lot of stoner movies, but I found this one pretty funny. There aren’t a lot of crazy adventures for most of it, just two friends hanging out. Chris Tucker is great (as usual) and Ice Cube plays a good straight man (and also apparently wrote the movie.)

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