Wednesday, April 1, 2015

March Movie Status

I watched 22 new movies in March, plus rewatched 1 film, plus rewatched a TV show season.

I spent the month mostly concentrating on 2014 films so that I could put together my Top 10 list for the year.  I only saw three films from the TSPDT list.  I happened to see one movie from the Empire Top 500 list because it was expiring from Netflix Instant.  I also spent a sizable chunk of time rewatching the fourth season of Game of Thrones, which came out on Blu-ray this month.  Once again there are a ton of extras on the disks.  As always, I will be writing a review for it before the fifth season starts in mid-April.

I said last month that I was figuring on completing the current version of the TSPDT list either that month or this month, depending on how much I concentrated on it.  Since I saw so few from the list in March I will have to set the same goal of completing it either this month or next month.  I have 27 entries left to go.  And I still have three films new to my Consolidated IMDB Top 250 at the 2014 year end that I have left to watch.

Here are the 22 new movies I saw in March.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

TSPDT (3): Street Angel (1937), Dust in the Wind (1987), Land of Silence and Darkness (1971)

Empire (1): Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

Other Movies (18): Ida (2014), The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2014), The History of Future Folk (2012), The Zero Theorem (2014), I Origins (2014), Big Hero 6 (2014), The Boxtrolls (2014), The One I Love (2014), 30 for 30: I Hate Christian Laettner (2015), Nightcrawler (2014), Dinosaur 13 (2014), Inherent Vice (2014), Song of the Sea (2014), Upside Down (2012), In Your Eyes (2014), Damaged (2014)

Rewatches (1): The Core (2003)

Ida (2014) – Good, but not great, despite winning the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.  You can read my full review here.   3 stars

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014) – Well done film from Studio Ghibli and the director of Grave of the Fireflies.  The animation style is a little different and for the most part it works.  3.5 stars

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) – People who hadn’t read the book were disappointed by the fact that they felt this was slow, but if you know what to expect going in you should find this to be quite good.   4 stars

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2014) – Documentary on Studio Ghibli shot during the production of their films The Wind Rises from Miyazaki and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya from Takahata.  There is far more Miyazaki in this since he apparently cooperated with the documentary crew more.  It's a good look at the inner workings of the studio, and Miyazaki shares his thoughts on many things, not all of them positive.  For instance, he figures Studio Ghibli will be no more in the future with the way things are going.   I would recommend having at least seen The Wind Rises before watching this since the ending of that film is discussed.  And the more Studio Ghibli films you have seen, the more you will enjoy picking up on a lot of little things such as artwork hanging around the studio or references various people make while talking.  3 stars

The History of Future Folk (2012) – This is a fun movie.  You can read my full review here.  4 stars

Street Angel (1937) – This is a strange mix of slapstick comedy and melodrama, all in an early Chinese film.  The combination didn’t quite work for me.  2.5 stars

Dust in the Wind (1987) – Yet another slow moving Taiwanese slice of life film from Hou Hsiao-Hsien.  I’m beginning to think it’s the only kind of movie he knows how to make.   2.5 stars

Land of Silence and Darkness (1971) – Occasionally moving, early documentary from Werner Herzog.  It’s about people who are both deaf and blind.  One such woman tries to help others like herself.   3.5 stars

The Zero Theorem (2014) – Gilliam’s semi-remake of his own Brazil that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  Melanie Thierry is the best thing about it.  The sound mix on the DVD wasn't great, and when combined with the multitude of accents from the cast, it made about every other line unintelligible.  I had to turn on the subtitles about 10 minutes in.  3 stars

I Origins (2014) – Mike Cahill and Brit Marling, who gave us one of the best films of 2011 - Another Earth - pair up again on this film.  While not quite as good as Another Earth it is still well worth seeing if you like topics outside of the norm handled intelligently.  3.5 stars

Big Hero 6 (2014) – Entertaining film.  You can read my full review here.  3.5 stars

The Boxtrolls (2014) – A little disappointing since it was nominated for an Oscar as Best Animated Film.  It relies too much on the grotesqueness of the characters for humor, when they should have been trying to make a better overall story.   2.5 stars

The One I Love (2014) – Great movie with a completely unexpected story in it.  It’s another winner from the Duplass brothers.  It made my Top 10 for 2014 and I will be reviewing it in full in the coming days.   4 stars

30 for 30: I Hate Christian Laettner (2015) – Amusing documentary on just how wrapped up some people got (and still get) in hating a man who was a very successful college basketball player 25 years ago.  3 stars

Nightcrawler (2014) – Great movie with a great lead performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.  It deserved an Oscar nomination, but the subject matter probably made some of the Academy squeamish.  It made my Top 10 for 2014 and I will be reviewing it in full in the coming days.    4 stars

Dinosaur 13 (2014) – If this documentary doesn't piss you off about abuse of power then I don't know what will.  After fighting to keep their T-Rex fossil that they had found, excavated, bought, paid for, and were putting on display in their little town near where it was found – only to have the government come in with the National Guard to take it away from them – a few folks then find that the government is doubling down by now coming back to indict them on more than 100 charges.  As one of them points out, if you added up all the time he would get if convicted on all charges it would be 363 years in prison - more time than Jeffrey Dahmer got for killing and eating 13 people...and all for collecting dinosaur bones and not filling out two forms properly.   4 stars

Inherent Vice (2014) – For the life of me I have no idea how this received a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination.  A large part of this 2 1/2 hour film consists of scenes where people just show up to spout exposition at the protagonist to explain to him what is going on.  Combine this with the voice over narration and it's as if the director was trying to reproduce the book instead of make a movie.  I can't believe this is the same person who adapted an Upton Sinclair novel to make There Will Be Blood.   2 stars

Song of the Sea (2014) – This Oscar nominee for Best Animated Film is from the same people who brought us The Secret of Kells (2009).  If you liked that film then you should like this one, too.   3.5 stars

Upside Down (2012) – Packaged as science fiction, but really fantasy, a boy and girl who live on different planets only hundreds of feet from each other, but with opposing gravity fields, fall in love with each other and create an interplanetary incident.  It has a great concept, although it doesn’t always play by its own rules of how the planets and people interact.  3 stars

In Your Eyes (2014) – Based on a more than 20 year old script Joss Whedon wrote when first trying to break into Hollywood, a man and woman on opposite sides of the country can literally see through each other’s eyes and hear each other.  This creates a very intimate relationship, which is a problem since she is married and he is an ex-con on parole who can’t leave his state.   3 stars

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) – Large Marge sent me to tell you that if I had seen this as a child I probably would have loved it.  Seeing it as an adult meant being really annoyed by the main character (and yes, I realize the whole point of the character is to be an annoying child).  On the other hand, the movie got better once he hit the road and the jokes were not focused on Pee-Wee's personality.  For example, the "deep in the heart of Texas" scene was silly, but it made me laugh.  All in all, they balance things off.   3 stars

Damaged (2014) – Lead actress Merritt Patterson is very beautiful, but that’s about the only reason to watch this movie that I stumbled across on Lifetime and thought, “Wow, she’s beautiful.  Who is that?”   2 stars


  1. I might check out that doc Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, but I think I want to watch the esstential Ghibli stuff first(still a few more to go on my list)

    Inherent Vice was a disappointment for me too, I didn't expect to be bored after only 20 minutes. The storytelling is needlessly confusing, and lacking in tension. The only thing I liked was the soundtrack. I didn’t care about the characters or the conversations.

    Zero Therom looks skippable. Like a lot of Gilliam's recent efforts.

    1. I've only seen The Brothers Grimm and The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus among Gilliam's films since 12 Monkeys. I liked the latter a little more than The Zero Theorem, but I also liked Theorem to a certain extent.