Viewing recap for August

Locke (2013)
All takes place in one night, with Tom Hardy character talking to people over the phone in his car. Doesn’t sound that fascinating, but was told in a suspenseful way. His accent seemed forced though, as if he was behaving like someone older.
Favorite quote:
“You’re the complete opposite to me, all the things I love mean absolutely zero to you”
Rating 8/10

Biutiful (2010)
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, and Javier Bardem's central performance also received an oscar nomination. Set in the seedy underworld of Barcelona, the story involves people who make money in illegal ways, bribing and running from the police, and so on. Bardem is not a well man, and his relationship with his girlfriend/wife is tumultuous. Their two children experience all this mayhem first hand. The story is slow-paced and takes a long time to get going, it's overlong and a little predictable, but does have its powerful moments. A film where you don't need to watch every second to get the gist of the story.
Rating 7/10

Almost Famous (2000)
I love the bus scene with the song Tiny Dancer, and love the compilation soundtrack, but I don’t see it as masterpiece as others do. While good, I’m hesitant to call it great. Granted the premise is interesting and it won awards. I’ve now seen both directors cut and theatrical versions but I just don’t get the fuss about this movie and find it quite overrated.
If you ask me, Say Anything (1989) and Vanilla Sky (2001) are more emotionally engaging movies.
Rating 7.5/10

Purple Rain (1984)
I agree with another reviewer that the soundtrack is too good for the movie. However I was impressed how the lyrics often fit with what’s happening in the film.
My favorite part is when Prince listens to father character play piano and the father says “No man, I don’t have to, that’s the difference between you and me” when Prince asks if he wrote the music. I don’t know if he in actual fact came from a dysfunctional family, those scenes feel autobiographical.
Fans have been trying to work out the meaning of "purple rain" for decades now. Some believe it’s about the end of the world, a theme Prince was interested in mid-80s. This quote from His Royal Badness suggests the apocalypse wasn’t far from his mind:
“When there’s blood in the sky - red and blue = purple.. purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god" guide you through the purple rain”
According to band mate Lisa Coleman, the song symbolises “a new beginning. Purple, the sky at dawn; rain, the cleansing factor"
Quotes from NME
Rating 6/10

Junebug (2005)
Amy Adams delivers a memorable performance as the socially undisciplined, but cute and lively farm girl. My favorite sequence is when George and his new girlfriend Madeline arrive at the house, and Ashley (Amy Adams) asks her all kinds of awkward questions. I didn’t think the rest of the movie was as strong as that early sequence. The ending was quite powerful and thought-provoking.
While uneven in the middle part, I'd still call it one of the better independent films of recent years.
Rating 7.5/10

American History X (1998)
The part in prison struck me as the most powerful. The story is a nuanced depiction of racism, neo-nazism and hatred, and not just showing us evil Nazis. The moral of the story is simple, yet very impactful.
Rating 8.5/10

Whale Rider (2002)
I didn’t think the first hour was that interesting, but the last part is unforgettable and very moving, especially when those whales are stranded on the beach and what happens afterwards. The female lead is the youngest ever to be nominated for Best Actress.
Rating 7/10

Traffic (2000)
Very well-paced, like a thriller, never bored for a second by the multiple stories. Characters feel very authentic, although Michael Douglas segment is quite heavy-handed in the way it plays out.
Rating 8/10

Burn After Reading (2009)
Brad Pitt is very funny in this one. I would have liked the film even more if the profanity was less. The ending scene didn’t need to be so violent, especially for a comedy.
I liked how The Coen’s made fun of how obsessed people are nowadays with fitness and their appearance, it's a good topic for some laughs.
Rating 7/10

A Shot In The Dark (1964)
Pink Panther sequel directed by Blake Edwards A highlight is the billiard table sequence, also the way Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is arrested is amusing. Clouseau is funny, but even funnier to me is his boss Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom)
Favorite quote: ”Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world”
Rating 7.5/10

Subway (1985)
Directed by Luc Besson. The film is atmospheric and about 75% is filmed in the underground Paris metro, I would say it’s more about the setting than the plot. Benefits by a couple of exiting chase sequences. The ending is strong, but there’s hardly any characterization. The romance between Christopher Lambert and Isabelle Adjani was not that believable, which felt forced, even though they are both rebels/outsiders. I was never bored, though it did feel like fluff. Style over substance.
Rating 6/10

Mystic River (2003)
Retwatch. Very well-acted. Like Zodiac, the story is pretty much solved by the end of the film, and like rewatching Zodiac, less ambiguous than I remember. Still very very good, but not great. The filmmakers in both cases are too eager to spoon-feed the audience solutions to the mystery.
Rating 8/10

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
A couple of strong scenes, when the ghosts visit them by the table, and the waterfall scene when she looks into the water and sees a more beautiful version of herself is a highlight too. We also see a cave which glows in the dark and a huge illuminated birthday cake. While beautiful on the eye, the film has too many boring passages, and lack a sense of direction.
Rating 6/10

Adaptation (2002)
Nicolas Cage does a good job playing twins. I love how there is enthusiasm for an original script, and mocks how his less talented brother writes a script full of clichés and the studio pay good money for safe formulaic stuff. Both a celebration of originality and a comment on how studio excutives sometimes don’t know what is good or bad. I also like the journeys the characters go on, and one of the smarter movies from Hollywood.
Rating 8/10

Monsieur Verdoux  (1947)
A captivating story starring Charlie Chaplin as a serial killer, you can’t help watching even though he is a monster. However I almost did turn off the film when he attempts to poison that poor girl. There are unrealistic aspects such as characters speaking English in France, and wives not checking up on what their husband does for a living, which was a bit implausible considering the number of deceptions going on.
Rating 8/10

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
Won the Palme d’Or and nominated for 5 Oscars. A gimmicky musical where every line of dialogue is sung by the characters. The wallpaper in the umbrella shop and the women’s house is very colorful, as is the alleyway.
Rating 8/10

Frantic (1988)
A tense kidnapping thriller set in Paris with Harrison Ford. Polanski at his most mainstream. Good, but not particularly memorable. The final scene is too similar to a Bond movie from the 80s.
Rating 7/10 

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
I don’t have a lot to say, other than the performances, soundtrack, and visual style are top notch. My favorite scene is when Royal takes the kids out for a fun day. The actual story isn’t that great, and for me the weakest part of the film.
Rating 8/10

Trading Places (1983)
How it will end is too predictable. Eddie Murphy was funnier in other films. Surprised at the racist moments.
For me, the only laugh-out-loud moment was the jacuzzi scene with Eddie Murphy.
Rating 6/10

Fame (1980) 
Directed by Alan Parker, who is a director I admire. The spontaneous dance sequences in the cafeteria and in the street are so full of life that you can’t help letting the positivity effect you.
An entertaining coming of age drama/musical, but also full of clichés.
Rating 7/10

Rules of the Game (1939)
A rather dull watch. For me, an overrated classic. Granted the dialogue has its moments, but I felt nothing for these characters. We follow members of upper-class French society and their servants just before the beginning of World War II, showing their moral callousness on the eve of impending destruction. Depicting “people, who might have had an influence in shaping the world, but did nothing to prevent an advance of Fascism; some of whom actually welcomed it". 
The rabbit hunt scene is often compared to the senseless death that occurs during war; Renoir said he wanted to show a certain class of people killing for no reason. Renoir himself had never killed an animal and called hunting "an abominable exercise in cruelty"
Rating 6/10

Lifeboat (1944)
A group of people are stuck in a lifeboat. In the opening credits their ship sinks. Well-acted and technically impressive. A rather one-sided portrayal of the Germans. Hitchcock was very pro-allies.
Rating 7.5

Enen (aka Case Unknown) (2009)
Under-appreciated Polish drama, directed by Feliks Falk. Raises questions about how mental patients should be treated, what is the best way to recovery, and ethical questions about locking someone up and their right to free will. Open to debate if the doctor (main character) is brave or reckless in attempting to advance his career by jeopardizing his family and digging into old wounds.
The filmmaking style is quite bland and unremarkable, so it’s mainly for the story and performances you should watch.
Rating 8/10

Tillie and Gus (1933)
Fun to see WC Fields (Augustus) have a side-kick in the form of his ex-wife (Tillie). The card game on the train is a great little scene. The paint mixing part was hilarious, following instructions from the radio.
However the dice throwing scene in China doesn’t make sense, as Tillie knows the dice are doctored with, yet she still goes ahead.
“Passing years have slowed you on the draw, my little cricketie”
Rating 8/10

You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939)
Comedy starring W.C. Fields. Not as funny as his best comedies. Has its moments, my favorite scene is near the end when he talks about snakes at the party.
Rating 6/10

Six of a Kind (1934)
Ensemble comedy. The best parts are with WC Fields, who plays pool, acts as a salesman, and 
the big dog in the car was also pretty funny.
Favorite quote “Are you busy? About as busy as a pickpocket in a nudist colony”
Rating 5.5/10

Poppy (1936)
WC Fields comedy.
The guy who wanted to return five bottles was my favorite character. The croquet scene was probably the highlight.
Rating 6/10

Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree? As always, comments are welcome


  1. Started watching Locke when I was half asleep. Bad idea! I did like what I saw, though makes for a strange choice of film subject. The Brit talent involved in the "voices" was pretty impressive though!

    American History X is probably my favourite film that Edward Norton's been in. But damn is it hard to watch at times.

    1. @Jaina: Locke is an odd little film, I was captivated. I agree the voice acting is really good. Haven't seen Steven Knight's other film Redemption-which got mixed reviews.
      American History X is brutal, yet powerful. Norton deserved his oscar nom.

    2. My OH tells me that it's an awful film (Locke). But he liked it. But it's a terrible film LOL! Don't know what to make of that at all!

    3. @Jaina: haha, I don't know what to make of that statement either. If he liked it, then I guess it can't be all bad :)

  2. Wow, that's a damn good list of films.

  3. You are a prolific movie viewer! I loved Biutiful, Junebug, American History X, Whale Rider, Traffic, and Burn After Reading. I also really liked Adaptation and Almost Famous.

    1. @Irene McKenna: August was a pretty active month in terms of film watching for me. Good to know you loved/liked many of these films!

  4. Too many to comment on, but just a couple thoughts:

    I love Whale Rider. I've seen it four times and the speech for her grandfather has gotten me every time.

    I was a little disappointed in Uncle Boonmee, too.

    I really liked Adaptation and I also like that I get to describe it as "a movie about a screenplay about a book about an orchid thief."

    1. @Chip Lary:
      I saw your 5/5 rating for Whale Rider on letterboxd-so I checked your review as well. Particularly the last 30 minutes I found moving, including that speech. Whale Rider reminded me a little of an Australian tv-show I once saw in my teens called Ocean Girl:

      Uncle Boonmee was visually quite beatiful, just I felt the story was too vague. Perhaps the intention was for the story to be that way, like a poem.

      Adaptation was cerrtainly a highlight for me this month, I almost gave that a 9/10

  5. Lots of good stuff , here. I think your absolutely right about Biutiful and Almost Famous, as well as most others. I will admit to being a sucker for Purple Rain, though.

    1. @Wendell Ottley: Thanks, Purple Rain is not a bad movie, I just felt it was made to sell his music, if that makes sense. Usually the story is the main thing, and in this case the music was the best thing about it, so I needed to get my head around that.

  6. What a long list you have here!
    Locke is interesting but I don't see myself watching it again.
    I had the same response with Almost Famous when I first watched it a couple of years ago. I think highly of it now.
    I also thought Amy Adams was charming in Junebug, a very good performance.
    I haven't seen Mystic River in a while, but I remember liking it. Dark film
    I was blown away by Adaptation and the meta direction it took. It's one of my favorite films of the 2000s.
    Burn After Reading and The Royal Tenenbaums are nice films. I should rewatch them sometime.
    Umbrellas of Cherbourg is one of my Blind Spots. I'm seeing it this month. I also heard the colors are wonderful. However I don't know how I'll respond to the sung dialogue part. Seems too much.
    I should see American History X and Traffic soon. Heard a lot of great stuff about them.

    1. @cristianbordea: I agree Locke is probably a one-time watch, I still think it deserves praise.
      Adaptation is interesting, and Spike Jonze's and Charlie Kaufman team-up is what we want. Being John Malkovich is really good too, so hopefully a third collaboration will happen.
      Will keep an eye out for your thougts on Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The sung dialogue is ok, however I wouldn't want to see it every day.
      American History X and Traffic I recommend.

  7. Great recap here Chris!

    I was impressed by Locke, the direction was superb considering the constrained space and Hardy's a charismatic actor who shined in a one-man show.

    I'm curious about Mystic River after having seen Zodiac recently. Did you just watch Almost Famous for the first time? That's one that I still need to see, I know lots of people loved that one.

    1. @Ruth: I was also impressed by Locke, how it maintained suspense with such simple means.

      Mystic River is worth it, it's a mainstream film, although the subject matter is quite dark

      I watched directors cut of Almost Famous. saw the original a few years ago. I think I prefer the longer version, because you get to know the characters a bit better.

    2. Ah I see. I figure since you're a big music fan that you'd seen Almost Famous repeatedly. I might give it a shot at some point.

    3. @Ruth: Almost Famous soundtrack is great, but I prefer the characters in the two other Cameron Crowe films I mentioned :)

  8. A lot of great movies you have seen there. I will agree with you about Almost Famous. It's good, but not great. Umbrellas of Cherbourg is really good, although the 13 year old kid in me would disagree. Traffic is a good movie, but I thought Requiem For a Dream dealt with the subject of drug addiction much better. Junebug was good just for Amy Adams but I forgot the rest of the story.

    1. @TheVern: I'm with you that I prefer Requiem for Dream, and it had a bigger impact on me emotionally in terms of the anti-drug message. Traffic is a fine film too and I feel highlights the extreme difficulty of cleaning up the illegal drug trade

  9. Great variety last month!

    Locke is a winner in my book simply because it somehow managed to make dialogue about concrete pouring exciting. Really enjoyed Tom Hardy's performance in that one.

    Bummer to hear you're not much of a fan of Almost Famous. I had a blast finally catching up with the Bootleg Cut last month.

    Junebug and Whale Rider have been on my to-watch list for a while. Glad to hear you liked them.

    1. Eric @ The Warning Sign:
      Indeed, who would have thought a guy talking about concrete pouring would be entertaining :)

      Glad you enjoyed the bootleg version so much, I quite like Almost Famous and currently is in my top 20 of 2000(moving up slightly after seeing the dir cut). But it’s not as high on my year lists as other Cameron Crowe films such as Vanilla Sky(my #1 film of ‘01), and Say Anything(my #4 film of ‘89). The latter two are in my top 100 actually.
      Junebug I prefer over Whale Rider, though Whale Rider has a powerful last 30 min

  10. Glad that you finally checked out Almost Famous. I actually thought it was great at first, mediocre second viewing. But once I realized it was based on Crowe's real experience, I appreciate it more.

    I loved Locke, but I was disappointed of the ending. It's like we are being left on the street after joining him in his intense ride, ahah.

    1. @Andina: Almost Famous I’ve seen twice now. Improved for me a little watching the longer directors cut 162 min, because the characters are fleshed out a bit more. It’s still not a film I love, but I do like it. I read that too, that Crowe was a rock journalist himself, and a big music fan also.

      Locke(SPOILERS) I was ok with the ending, where he still has a choice, maybe could have been too sappy if he drove to the destination. I know some want a definitive ending, but we don’t get that here. The open ending allows us to think about what we would have done in that situation.

  11. Aw, shame you didn't love Almost Famous as much as I do! It's my favourite film of all time.
    Glad you liked Locke, the dialogue was a little too on-point for me at times, but I still really enjoyed it!

    1. @Light Camera Reaction: There’s a lot to like about Almost Famous, just I didn’t personally have a deep emotional connection to the characters.
      Yeah, Locke did have a few contrived moments in how it played out on the phone, still, I agree it was enjoyable.

  12. Great round-up, as usual. I want to rewatch Locke soon, but I agree Hardy's accent seemed a bit forced. The Rules of the Game gets better in the second half, though I can totally understand finding it dull. Glad to see such a high rating for American History X, which is still a fantastic, albeit brutal, film.

    1. @Josh: woah, nobody’s ever left 14 comments before all at once, thanks. I liked Hardy’s performance, just the accent was a tad distracting at times.
      The Rules of The Game is one of those classics that just wasn’t for me sadly. I agree American History X is fantastic and brutal.

    2. You're very welcome. I got way behind doing the CinSpecs, so I was happy to catch up with what I missed. :)


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