20 December 2015

In Movie Lines: November 22 - December 19

My Movie Life

November 22nd - December 19th, 2015

From the Barnes & Noble November Criterion Sale, Jean-Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders and Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox are now on my shelf. 


Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011

This damn movie has eluded me for four years now, and I finally saw it. And what a film it is. So full of style and violence and just...cool. It is magnificent to look at. And that Cliff Martinez score though. Seriously, I can't say this film is a major masterpiece, like some have, but it is an interesting character study and throwback to a time when movie audiences could deal with the strong, silent type, a hero, so to speak, who doesn't have to scream and yell and blow shit up. He just wants what he wants and goes after it. ★★★ 1/2 

Dir. Lenny Abrahamson, 2015

Both Brie Larson and young Jacob Tremblay are primed for Oscar noms, it seems, and Room is quite an emotional experience, a movie that really works but won't be one I'll re-watch much. Click here for the full review. ★★★ 1/2 

Dir. Tom McCarthy, 2015

Not sure if he's much in the conversation, but I'd like to see Ruffalo get nomination here. The dude is proving, year after year, just how good he is. He is great here. And this is one of the year's perfect movies. Click here for the full review. ★★★★

The Searchers
Dir. John Ford, 1956

I thought this would be the one. Alas, I'm still hoping to find a classic Western that really grabs me. Of the few I've watched recently, this one is easily the best, but I just zone out and lose track of the story and end up slogging through. This is a gorgeous movie to look at, the colors so crisp, perfect shot compositions (see above). Maybe I just want more than I'm ever gonna get. ★★★ 

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Dir. Peter Weir, 1975

OMG!! Not an abbreviation I use, so it is not used lightly here. I absolutely loved this bizarre piece of Australia. I lost track of my Blind Spot series this year, bowing out on even watching my chosen films in September, October, and November. This was my original December Blind Spot pick, and I did it. Full post coming soon... ★★★★

What We Do in the Shadows
Dir. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, 2015

I've begun my trek back into The Year in Movies, 2015, starting with this absolute gem of a comedy. Taking both the mockumentary form and the vampire film to new heights, Kiwi geniuses Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) and co-writer/director/star Taika Waititi have really delivered a special film here that many many more people should've seen...er...should still see. I laughed literally non-stop. This movie was made for me...instant quotable classic and will easily make my Top Ten of 2015. ★★★★

Pitch Perfect 2
Dir. Elizabeth Banks, 2015

My comedies of 2015 trek continued with the follow-up to the 2012 smash and willfully admitted guilty pleasure for yours truly, Pitch Perfect. Just the same, I loved this movie. Okay. It's NOT a good movie. In fact, it is preposterous on most every level, but I'm glad to say that there is no puking in this one and the pop song a cappella mash-ups are even better than in the first. Nice addition in Hailee Steinfeld (of True Grit fame) all grown-up and ready to move this franchise forward. Also a great touch of casting is Keegan-Michael Key as Beca's (Anna Kendrick) new boss. Dude is perfect. ★★★

Dir. Paul Feig, 2015

I think it may have been a bad move to cap off my weekend of 2015 comedies with this one. I was on a silly high from Pitch Perfect 2, and this movie just didn't grab me at all. Instead of comedy in the vein of Feig's previous work with Melissa McCarthy, including the brilliant Bridesmaids, we essentially just get a full-on spy movie here. I don't know what I expected, but the tonal shifts, praised by most, didn't work at all for me. I pretty much quit watching and played on my phone about 1/3 of the way in. ★ 


A League of Their Own
Dir. Penny Marshall, 1992

I have so many fond memories of this movie. My Dad took my sister and I to see it in the theater when I was a little kid. We were raised to love baseball (and softball) and the movies about it. This is one of the best. Hanks is so perfect as the drunken, washed-up slugger Jimmy Dugan, and he found his match in Geena Davis as Queen of Diamonds, Dottie Henson. Just a solid, pleasing movie experience all the way through. 

Love Actually
Dir. Richard Curtis, 2003

Holiday Season Tradition #1: Watch Love Actually as background while decorating the house and putting up our Christmas tree. It is "actually" the perfect movie for that. I've now seen this movie exactly eight times. I pretty much know it by heart. And, how sweet and funny and even moving it is, even if all the many plot lines don't exactly work. 

Inside Out
Dir. Pete Docter, 2015

So, I bought the Blu-Ray and watched Inside Out twice in the past five days. It is so good every time. Tears...every time. Laughs...every time. This is the truest movie of (in many senses of the word) of 2015 and is growing ever closer to the top of my list of Pixar films and best films this year. Seeing it again with my wife was wonderful. Then, seeing it with a group of 100 8th graders in a school auditorium on the last day before break was just as wonderful. They absolutely loved it. The best things about kids...they clap at the end of great movies. Click here for my full review

Home Alone
Dir. Chris Columbus, 1990

Holiday Tradition #2: Watch Home Alone while wrapping Christmas presents. I saw this movie at the theater when I was six years old. It scared me when Marv took the hot iron to the face. In time, my fear turned to joy, and I've watched this movie an unhealthy amount of times since. And that John Williams score. It has to be one of his most underrated. 

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Dir. Chris Columbus, 1992

Holiday Tradition #3: Watch Home Alone 2: Lost in New York immediately after Home Alone. "That would've killed him," my wife says, making clear that Marv really should've died a number of times before the end of the movie. Poor Marv. 

Merry Christmas!

- Kevin

The Numbers

I have seen 211 movies this year so far. 

Re-Watched - 76

First-Timers - 135

What have you been watching? 


  1. In the past few weeks, I've seen even more movies.

    I saw Brooklyn a few weeks back. Excellent, one of the top 5 films of the year so far.

    The week after, I saw Creed. One of the best films in the Rocky franchise.

    And then, a week later, I saw The Martian. Awesome, one of the best films this year.

    I watched High Fidelity a couple weeks ago. One of the top 5 best films I've ever seen.

    I also saw Love & Mercy last weekend. Amazing, one of the best films this year.

    Last week, I finished watching The Newsroom, & I now plan on watching Twin Peaks & House of Cards. After that, I plan on watching Fargo & American Horror Story.

    And while I'm on Christmas vacation, I plan on seeing The Big Short, The Hateful Eight, Joy, & Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

    And I will watch the rest of the Wes Anderson films that I haven't seen yet.

    1. And I also watched the first 6 Star Wars films this weekend. I know, I should've watched them a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

      And I also watched the classic film, To Kill a Mockingbird. It is just as good as the book.

    2. I watched the first 6 Star Wars movies recently myself. I'd seen the original trilogy years ago. Great stuff! The prequels are the biggest pieces of garbage ever made.

      To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite novel. The movie is wonderful.

      Brooklyn is on my list to see soon. Won't watch Creed yet, simply because I've never seen any of the Rocky movies. The Martian is great. High Fidelity is brilliant. Love that one. Love and Mercy is sitting by my TV right now. Will watch tonight, most likely. Seeing The Force Awakens today. The Newsroom is great. House of Cards is better. Twin Peaks, I've never seen. Fargo is the best television show...period. I have no interest in ever watching American Horror Story. I will be seeing all the movies you mentioned over my break as well.

      Let me know about those Wes Andersons.

    3. Yeah. The original trilogy was excellent (although the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi got on my nerves a bit). Phantom Menace was ok, but Jar-Jar was the most extremely annoying character not just in Star Wars history, but in film history. If I hear Jar-Jar say "Meesa back," one more time, meesa gonna beat the shit out of him. Attack of the Clones was better, but only by a little bit. Revenge of the Sith was great, & I couldn't blink or speak or perform any functions for about a minute when Mace Windu got killed. (Why did they have to kill off SAMUEL L. JACKSON?)

      To Kill a Mockingbird is definitely one of the best books ever made. I just got finished reading it in my 9th grade English class. What a powerful & emotional novel it is.

      Brooklyn was just spellbinding. Saoirse Ronan was excellent in that. The costume design, cinematography, production design, make-up & score were all excellent. The vibe of the film reminded me of the classic film by Mike Leigh, Secrets & Lies. Though the plots are very different, they have the same vibe: drama, with a good amount of comedy mixed in. (I know I keep mentioning Secrets & Lies a lot, but it's excellent. When are you going to watch this amazing film, & other amazing films from the British filmmaking master Mike Leigh?)

      Creed was really good. I haven't watched most of the Rocky series, but I saw it because it looks like a huge Oscar contender.

      The Martian was really good as well. It had a lot more humor than I was expecting.

      High Fidelity was nothing short of amazing. It's definitely in my top 5 films of all time. (Did you get that High Fidelity reference?)

      Love & Mercy was an excellent biopic of the musical genius that is Brian Wilson.

      The Newsroom was so excellent. The first 7 minutes of the first episode were so amazing.

      House of Cards sounds like a really awesome show. I will definitely watch anything with Kevin Spacey in it.

      Twin Peaks is an excellent show from what I've watched so far. David Lynch is a master of filmmaking & TV.

      Fargo looks really good. I've heard you rave about it a lot. But I wouldn't be surprised that you loved it because Fargo is your favorite movie of all time, isn't it?

      American Horror Story looks good. It seems like everyone I know watches it. And it looks really good, from what I've seen. Why don't you have any interest in watching it?

      I also forgot to mention that last week, I saw a film that I thought was one of the WORST films I've ever seen. It's called Nothing Like the Holidays. It's with John Leguizamo, Alfred Molina, Debra Messing & Elizabeth Pena. Avoid that film as much as possible, if you haven't seen it. It's so bad that I would rather watch Christmas With the Kranks than watch Nothing Like the Holidays. (While we're on the subject of Christmas movies, I really should watch Love Actually).

      The Big Short looks really excellent. The trailer really suckered me into it (especially with its use of "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin. One of the best songs ever).

      The Hateful Eight looks amazing, just like every other Tarantino film.

      Joy looks really good. I love Jennifer Lawrence. She is such an amazing actress. I also love Bradley Cooper & Robert De Niro, as well as David O. Russell. I really should watch the rest of his films. (Out of all his films, I've only seen Silver Linings Playbook & American Hustle). I'm surprised that this is getting mixed reviews so far.

      Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks excellent. It looks like it's a return to form for the Star Wars franchise.

      And I watched The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou today. Really funny. One of Wes Anderson's best. I plan on watching the rest of his films this week.

      I also plan on watching Ex Machina tomorrow. Can't wait.

      And to paraphrase Yoda, "Begun the Oscar season has."

    4. Dude. You're all over it. Right on.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Good haul of flicks. So happy you loved What We Do in the Shadows and Drive. Those are two phenomenal films.

    I'm a fan of The Searchers, it's a wonderful film. It's not my favorite western, but it's up there. My fave is Once Upon a Time in the West, followed by The Man With No Name trilogy. All four movies are directed by Sergio Leone, whose work I am very fond of. I understand lots of people just don't get into westerns, though. Curious though, do you like modern westerns better? If so, I'm curious if you've seen the remakes to 3:10 to Yuma and True Grit. I thought both were excellent.

    Pitch Perfect 2 was pretty much the exact same film as the first. so I understand the appeal. It just felt like a case of diminishing returns to me. I liked, not loved the first and thought this one was meh, at best.

    Bummed you didn't like Spy. I had a grand time watching it. It's my favorite of the Feig/McCarthy collaborations.

    Confession: I have not watched any of the Home Alone movies. I've probably seen all of the first in bits and pieces, but never gave it a proper viewing. I know, bad blogger.

    1. The Spaghetti Westerns are coming. Trying to get the big American ones out of the way first. I have a felling I'll like those better. I do like modern Westerns better. I've seen both of those remakes and thoroughly enjoyed both. I honestly think it might have to do with being able to relate to the casts and the filmmaker more.

      I obviously need to try Spy again. I think I just wasn't in the mood. And, yes, just see the Home Alone movies (only the first two) already. You have kids, man! I hope your kids at least have seen them. Lol.

    2. I know my daughters have seen it. They caught it on TV one night. Not sure my son has. He is at the stage where he thinks he's too cool for such movies anyway, so it might not be until he has kids of his own before he can picture himself watching it, lol.

  3. SO glad you caught up with and loved Drive. Definitely one of the best films of recent years. That score is flawless.

    I quite enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2 (which I also saw for the first time this week!) - not as much as the first, which is totally a not-at-all-guilty pleasure for me, but that's par for the course with sequels - it's fun and I liked the new cast additions.

    I thought Spy was the funniest film of the year and the best Feig/McCarthy collaboration yet. Very strong spy spoof and really funny performances from all the supporting players (Rose Byrne! Jason Statham!). Sucks you didn't like it.

    I caught Brooklyn and Spotlight in theaters this week. I thought the latter was purely functional - well done but kind of empty, especially when compared with the warmth and depth of feeling of the former. Great performances in both. Ronan definitely in the running for Best Actress, and Julie Walters should be racking up Supporting Actress citations right and left for her scene-stealing performance.

    1. The score was what stood out the most for me with Drive. Really fucking cool.

      I knew I'd take some heat on Spy, but neither my wife nor I could get into it at all. Need to try again maybe.

      Brooklyn is next up for me after Star Wars and The Hateful Eight this week. Really looking forward to it. Looks like a real classic. I got the sense of emptiness from Spotlight as well. But that didn't matter ultimately because it is just such a flawlessly made film.

  4. OMG!

    I use it all the time, but it certainly applies to your response to Weir's masterpiece!!!! So happy to see your love for it!

    Also, have you watched Band of Outsiders yet? I must know your thoughts on Godard, who is, like, GOD.

    1. PS...your closing pic is too cute ;-)

    2. Thanks, buddy. So glad you're back. I certainly have seen Band of Outsiders and Breathless. That's it for Godard...so far. I adore both of them, especially Band of Outsiders.

  5. I'm glad you finally saw Drive. Love that film.

    I wanted to enjoy Picnic at Hanging Rock so much but I thought it was such a mess. I couldn't get into it at all.

  6. Interesting mix of films, there’s a few I still have to catch up with though.

    Of the ones I’ve seen:
    I agree about Drive being a cool, sleek throwback. I could have done with a little less gory violence, what’s inferred is always more disturbing than what’s shown. Gosling, Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks were all great.

    Picnic at Hanging Rock is one mind trip of a movie. This was the first Peter Weir movie I saw and I was an instant fan. I haven’t loved every one of his films but they always have an intriguing slant. I saw this in the theatre on a re-release and it was interesting to listen to the comments on the way out, mostly positive but a few “What was that?” or “I don’t understand!”

    I didn’t love League of Their Own the first time I watched it, I thought it was fine but unmemorable but I looked at it again recently and my appreciation for it increased. Hanks and Geena Davis are super but it’s the color provided by the supporting players that really make it more than just a flyaway film.

    I LOVE Love Actually! I’d be hard pressed to name my favorite part though Emma Thompson and Laura Linney tear at my heart and Bill Nighy is a positive scream, then there’s Hugh Grant dancing through the Prime Minister’s residence and on and on.

    The first Home Alone was dumb fun, once was enough for me though. The second gives me ajeda just remembering going to see it. I was being the good uncle and took my two nieces, my nephew and five of their friends to see it for their birthday to a matinee. I’m a tough nut when I take kids to the movies with three rules...sit in your seat unless you have to use the bathroom, don’t talk once the lights go down and if either rule is broken in excess we leave. So I had a row of quiet good children in a sea of unsupervised sugar fueled little maniacs! Ugh! Never again. On top of that I hated the movie except for Brenda Fricker’s Pigeon Lady.

    I got a big kick out of Spy, I thought it was a fun silly romp but then I watched it directly after Chabrol’s La Cérémonie as a sort of cleanse after that exercise in dark misery. McCarthy and Miranda Hart made a terrific Mutt and Jeff team.

    Finally so sorry that you didn’t love The Searchers. I think it’s one of the great films, easily the best of its year and the best that John Wayne ever was. It helps that I like westerns as a genre but the way Ford uses the imagery to show the isolation of all the characters and then the joining together at the end for all but Ethan Edwards, always the outsider, is so powerful. The last shot is so simple in its elegance but makes such a profound impact.