Viewing recap February

Life Itself (2014)
Martin Scorsese: “He made it possible for a wider audience to appreciate cinema as an art form, he really loved it, he really loved films, and he did not get caught up in certain ideologies about what cinema should be”
The most interesting part for me is how Ebert was friends with filmmakers like Scorsese and others, and was criticized for this, because it could cloud his judgement. Yet as is said, 200-300 years ago, it was common for critics and artists to mix and encourage each other.
The first half of the doc about Ebert’s rise to fame and early life was the most interesting. His recent problems everybody knows about already, if you are vagely familiar with him. The best thing is it doesn’t just praise Ebert, but reveals his flaws as well.
Rating 7/10

Whiplash (2014)
A gripping drama. I liked the main character for the first 40 minutes or so, up until the family dinner, after that my opinion of him changed. I guess you could say it was a brave move by the filmmakers to make Andrew Neyman a layered main character, and I commend them for not just letting him be a “faultless“ guy up against the “harsh” teacher. JK Simmons plays the teacher and he is unforgettable in his oscar winning performance.
SPOILERS: A couple of moments confused me, which has Simmons character not get mad about him being late at 6am, did Simmons not even intend to show up until 9am? Also, who stole the song sheets in the hallway? Was it Simmons character, because he wanted the other drummer to look incompetent, and thus replace him?
The message of the film is interesting. Because on the one hand it’s a motivational Hollywood movie which encourages us to work harder in order to reach our goals. Yet on the other hand Whiplash is also quite off-putting in how Andrew subjects himself to an almost torturous lifestyle, and the film suggests Fletcher’s questionable behavior to some degree is effective teaching, which is actually reprehensible, in that it green lights school teachers to go in that direction. The films also does nothing to suggest learning is not a one-size-fits-all, but is different for each individual. There’s a feeling that if a relaxed teacher had helped Andrew Neyman the film would not have gotten Oscar attention. It’s all about the showy performances.
While I’ve heard Whiplash may have technical inaccuracies in terms of how to set up a drum kit and the injury was sustained on the wrong hand, I did find the story totally captivating, hence my rating.
Rating 8/10

Imitation Game (2014)
Historically important, so it's worth seeing as a history lesson. But it could have been better, we don't really learn enough about the enigma code breaking, and why/how it was able to save so many lives.
Rating 6/10

Inherent Vice (2014)
For me, the biggest disappointment of the 2014 releases. Has moments that work well, but the storytelling is needlessly confusing, and lacking in tension and vitality. I’m guessing it's more pleasurable to read as a novel. Nice soundtrack, but a rare misfire by the great director. Was the first PTA film that had me bored, I didn’t care about the characters or the conversations.
Rating 4/10

Heathers (1988)
An 80s cult classic that didn’t wow me like it has others. Maybe if I had seen it as a teenager the impact would have been bigger. I was surprised how dark and shocking the screenplay is, apparently it’s a black comedy. In some respects, it’s an eerie reflection of American society. Winona Ryder gives a strong performance, and I liked the score
Rating 6/10

Wait Until Dark (1967)
Mainly takes place in the confines of an apartment. Good for suspense. But why was she so protective of the doll and willing to risk her life for it? If she gave it to them she wouldn’t have to worry anymore. This was something that really irritated me about the ending.

Rating 7/10

A Day At The Races (1937)
Entertaining Marx Brothers comedy, considered among their finest. So many great one-liners, I'll definitely be rewatching this again. A treat. The musical numbers do go on a tad too long and feel a bit of place, but in some ways act as a breather from the dialogue. Highlights are the "tutsi-fruitsi" ice cream sales man scene, the background verification telephone call of Dr. Hackenbush, and of course the ending by the race track.
Rating 8.5/10

Birth (2004)
From Jonathan Glazer, the director of Under The Skin. Good performances by Nicole Kidman and the boy she meets. More time could have been spent on flash backs to the real Sean and why she loved him so much. What we get is good for 30-40 min, but just feels too repetitive. Potential for a great short film, but the plot is a bit thin for a 100 min movie.
Rating 6/10

The Warriors (1979)
Overpraised gang movie, which starts out with an epic scene at a gathering. Then becomes about a group who must navigate their way home through enemy territories, which to me becomes repetitive after a while.
I expected more from the movie considering its reputation. I prefer Walter Hill's previous outing The Driver (1978)
In the City by Joe Walsh is a great closer.
Rating 6/10

The Way of the Dragon (1972)
Spurred on by a blog post written by Wendell at Dell on Movies, this is only my second Bruce Lee film.
The final showdown between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris is what the film is remembered for, but it’s so much more than that, and surprisingly funny. The way he uses the weapon depicted on the poster stayed with me.
Rating 8/10

The Big Boss (1971)
The story of injustice is pretty good, but overall it didn't have a lasting impact on me, and was a bit formulaic. I don't remember the fight scenes.
Rating 6/10

Abigail's Party (1977)
TV movie directed by Mike Leigh. A stressed husband must navigate both his job and a party at home, while his wife is not very helpful and doesn’t offer to buy the beer, and expects him to do it. However sympathy for the husband soon evaporates once the guests arrive and he belittles his wife in conversation.
During the film, themes such as divorce, marriage, raising kids are explored. Amusingly the husband and wife's taste in music doesn't match at all.
The story does show it’s datedness in a few areas such as the husband not allowing his wife to take a driving license, but it’s not overbearing, and doesn’t become a distraction.
Rating 8.5/10

Nuts in May (1976)
Entertaining and amusing depiction of a couple on a camping holiday with their tent. The male lead could be so annoying that it might lead you to switch off though.
Rating 7.5/10

College (1927) 
Buster Keaton comedy. More about story and less about stunts, although he still has daredevil moments. The scene when he sways back and forth and the group sway with him is memorable, as is the bullying scene with the old lady in the window. The sports activities are fun to watch too, even if Keaton’s failings become slightly predictable.
Favorite quote, customer to waiter: “Bring me something you can’t stick your thumb in!”
Rating 7/10

The Dreamers (2003)
While it is controversial and daring, I found the story a bit lacking and forgettable. The scene that stuck with me is when the parents return home and see them sleeping naked.
Rating 6/10

Home from Home – Chronicle of a Vision (aka Die andere Heimat - Chronik einer Sehnsucht) (2013)
Directed by 80 year old Edgar Reitz. A criminally underseen German epic, filmed in black and white. Set in a fictional town in the 1800s, I felt transported back to this era, when they faced different problems than we do today. The characters are memorable, and the pacing is well-handled, considering a running time of almost 4 hours. You could almost say it's a mini-series. See it if you get the chance.
Rating 9/10 

A Second Chance (2014)
Director Susanne Bier has said in an inteview she wanted to combine believable characters yet also let it be a thriller with twists. The film has good performances, and there are a few surprises I didn't see coming, yet the weakness is the last act, the writers have written themselves into a corner, and there is only way it can logically end. Also feels unresolved in terms of supporting characters. Worth a watch, but I prefer Bier's previous Scandinavian films.
Rating 6.5/10

Seen any of these? Agree or disagree? Watched anything great in February? As always, comments are welcome


  1. On Whiplash : I think Simmons meant to say to Teller 6 am just to make him prepare and 'prep' him before the actual rehearse. The stolen sheets was left to be like that, meaning someone just stole it. Either way, it showed how Teller want to conquer the song he even remembers it.

    The Imitation Game : Agree! I think the real reason they made the movie was the gay stuff, how gay society was treated unfair. I don't know if he really did invented computer, someone told me that there were few other inventors.

    The dreamers was totally controversial, agree that in the end it didn't go anywhere. It was just about experiencing the atmosphere, I guess.

    1. @Andina: For me, the 6am part was probably a test he puts all his protégés through. If Andrew Neyman walks off before 9am, then Fletcher knows Neyman doesn't have his heart in it.
      I agree the stolen sheets was left to be like that, we don't know who stole it.

      The Imitation Game: My interest was with the enigma machine, I wish they had focused more on that aspect.

      The Dreamers: I liked the dialogue, I guess it was just some young people experimenting and testing their boundaries.

  2. Yeah I wasn't that big on Heathers either. I need to give it another shot but the film was a little bit too weird for me

    1. @Sati: Yes, Heathers is quite weird, and the direction it took surprised me.

  3. Great post! I really like Wait Until Dark. I'd never heard of Home from Home -- I need to check it out.

    1. @Irene McKenna: A shame about Foreign Language Film Academy Award race. I loved Home From Home, and Force Majeure, both were not nominated, and for me are better films than Ida and Leviathan. So if you ask me, the Academy got it wrong. At least Home From Home won several national awards in Germany.

  4. I heard that the novel version of Inherent Vice was just as crazy as the film was as I'm eager to see it again. It's a very weird film.

    I really want to see those early Mike Leigh films.

    1. @thevoid99: Inherent Vice just wasn’t for me(except the soundtrack)

      Of the two Mike Leigh films, especially Abigail’s Party impressed me, hope you enjoy them too, extremely British films.

  5. Great selections Chris! Man I still haven't seen the first two you listed, I almost saw Whiplash this weekend but it was too late already by the time we got home so we ended up watching an episode of The Honourable Woman.

    Speaking of Bruce Lee biopic, I just read that his daughter is developing a biopic that'd capture his philosophical aspect of his life, on top of his kick-ass martial arts parts he's famous for. I'm intrigued by that.

    1. @Ruth: Thanks, you should definitely see Whiplash. I didn't know about the new Bruce Lee biopic his daughter is developing, thanks for the info!
      I haven't seen them, but apparently the documentary Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey (2000) is worth a look, and also the biopic Enter The Dragon (1993)

  6. Life Itself - I liked this a lot.

    Whiplash - he sent him there at 6:00 AM as the first abuse of his power to treat the kid like shit. The stolen sheets are a little more up in the air, but it would be in character for the teacher to have done it just to dick with him some more.

    The Imitation Game - I liked this more than you. My reasons:

    Heathers - is so great because you could never make a movie like this now, and you could barely even make it back then. More than once I was amazed by what they got away with in that movie.

    Wait Until Dark - I liked this quite a bit.

    A Day at the Races - in my memory this blends together with the other Marx Brothers' films.

    The Warriors - is talked about so much not because it's a great movie, but because it's a cult movie with a lot of fervent fans. I like it.

    College - Keaton is always entertaining, but this film was just a ripoff of Harold Lloyd's 1925 film The Freshman. Check that one out sometime. (And if you haven't seen his classic Safety Last! then you absolutely have to see that.)

    The Dreamers - I watched it to see what all the controversy was about. Eva Green's nudity was the biggest thing that impressed me. The story didn't do much for me. The scene of her recreating the Venus d'Milo was stunning. I could have done without the chain smoking.

    1. @Chip Lary: Yep, he has all the power to treat them and manipulate the students as he wants. Wonder what the school board and other teachers think about Fletcher? They must at least be somewhat aware that he is behaving in that manner.

      I too was surprised at the audacity of Heathers, even though I didn't really care for the characters

      A Day at the Races: I loved it as a pice of entertainment, although if you analyze Marx Brothers films on a deeper level they don't always make sense.

      College: I have seen Safety Last which I loved, yet to see The Freshman

      The Dreamers: it's a film that is different to a lot of other films out there, that's for sure. Eva Greeen using black gloves to create the Venus d'Milo moment was clever. There are quite a few cultural references in the film.

  7. Glad you enjoyed the two Bruce Lee flicks. I agree that The Big Boss was a bit lackluster, though. I really like Birth and think its underrated. I loved Heathers back when I first saw it, but it's been so long I need to revisit it. I need to see Life Itself since I'm a big fan of Ebert. As thanks for the link...extra thanks...I'll pretend you didnt say anything negative about The Warriors since I'm one of the nutty fans that swear by it.

    1. @Wendell Ottley: Of the two Bruce Lee films, The Big Boss (1971) was just okay, but I really liked The Way of the Dragon, which now sits in my top 10 of 1972. I hope to see The Chinese Connection (1972) soon.

      Life Itself does cover a lot of familiar ground, but there are a few insights, mostly about his early years.

      haha, well sorry for dissing The Warriors, I realize its regarded as a cult film. Perhaps I was the wrong age discovering it, who knows.

  8. I haven't seen a few of these, and had not even heard of a couple. Your rating of Home from Home - Chronicle of a Vision has me intrigued. Where did you find it so that I can do the same?
    I share your thoughts on Dreamers, I enjoyed the moments that were sexy and borderline controversial, but there was hardly a story around the characters.
    Also agree when it comes to the Imitation Game. I found it to be very worthy if only for raising my awareness about the story of Alan Turing, who was a truly remarkable man who did not get the recognition he deserved and was incredibly tortured due to his homosexuality. Given the story, I felt the film was lacking and did not give me a real sense of how high the stakes were.
    Lastly, I think I enjoyed Whiplash a bit more than you did. I found it mesmerizing, to put it mildly. I can't think about the last scene enough, as it was probably the most exhilarating bit of film I saw last year.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. @niels85: Home From Home (2013) is a prequel to the director’s acclaimed 80s tv-mini-series Heimat(which I haven’t seen), but I’ve read in reviews no prior knowledge of the series is necessary to watch Home From Home. I watched it from a library streaming service in my country, with Danish subtitles, hopefully the film will not remain an obscurity, deserves a proper dvd release with english subtitles.

      Agree about The Dreamers and Imitation Game

      Whiplash is indeed a knockout and is in my top 10 of 2014. What prevented an even higher rating is I dislike how the story suggests Fletcher’s methods are effective teaching, which is actually reprehensible if you think about it, in that it can green-light school teachers to go in that direction. Obviously that’s just one way of looking at it. The film can also be understood in how the teaching method can be harmful. Whiplash is open to several interpretations.

  9. Hi Chris! Great blog, I just found you through Flixchatter. There are a few on here that I'd like to see including Abigail's Party and Life Itself. I love Whiplash - interesting that you mention the music sheets, that's a good theory! The Dreamers is one of my favourite films, mainly because of it's atmosphere.

    1. Hi Natalie, thanks for the stopping by! Abigail's Party is brilliant, I loved it. Whiplash does have some unanswered questions, which makes it interesting to ponder over.
      I remember Mette at Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions also listed The Dreamers as a top 100 favorite. Just was too odd for my taste, although I do like the dialogue.

  10. Good stuff last month!

    I heard that Life Itself is coming to Netflix later this month. Can't wait to finally see that.

    Glad you enjoyed Whiplash. I was happy to see it pick up a few Oscars this year.

    I still haven't got the chance to check out Inherent Vice. As much as I love PTA, I have been hesitant to watch it due to many of the same reasons you stated. It sounds rather challenging to sit through.

    1. Eric @The Warning Sign: Thanks, Life Itself didn’t even get a cinema release over here, so I had to wait for the dvd. It’s a pretty good doc, which doesn’t just praise Ebert, but reveals some of his flaws too.

      Yep, Whiplash deserved those Oscars, an exhilarating yet uncomfortable watch.

      Inherent Vice is not as accessible as PTA’s other work. For me it was a dull movie and I had to force myself from not falling asleep. I prefer his other films.

  11. Glad you liked Whiplash!
    Inherent Vice was a big disappointment for me too, I really just didn't care about what was going on. And it was so long!!
    Nice soundtrack though.

    1. @Lights Camera Reaction: Whiplash is definitely a highlight of the films from 2014.
      Inherent Vice I became bored with after only 20 minutes, that shouldn’t happen /: Agree the soundtrack was good.

  12. Glad you liked Wait Until Dark, Whiplash, and Life Itself. Inherent Vice was thrilling for me on both viewings, but I can totally understand being disappointed with it. I still need to see those early Mike Leigh films, and I'm looking forward to A Second Chance.

    1. @Josh: I’m surprised you consider Inherent Vice thrilling, I had the complete opposite reaction. We’ll have to agree to disagree :)

      Abigail’s Party is a gem from Mike Leigh’s early career. Very British, so I don’t know if it has appeal to those in US

      A Second Chance is decent enough, but for me among Susanne Bier’s weaker films.

      I ranked Bier's filmography.I haven’t seen Serena. From what I've read it would probably be 8th on my list:

    2. Nice list! I'd also put After the Wedding and Brothers at the top. I haven't seen Open Hearts, though.

    3. @Josh: After the Wedding and Brothers are so good. Open Hearts/Elsker Dig For Evigt (2002) is very good too, especially the performances, but sadly not many have seen it outside of Scandinavia. Has a 7.7 rating on IMDb and 96% on RT


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