Viewing recap August

Was a slow month for film viewing, because I've been watching and reviewing documentaries for my marathon. Part 1 and part 2 I already posted, and part 3 is on the way.

Inside Out (2015) (Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen)
There's enough story and emotion to engage both adults and children. Can remind you of what it was like growing up.  I loved the concept, and the animated characters come alive and have personality. The dinner table confrontation between Riley and her dad was pretty funny. A couple of scenes in the second half made me tear up.  I kind of disagree with the movie that so much sadness is associated with the loss of childhood, as I've always remembered those years with fondness myself. The strong last 30 minutes elevate the film to best of the year.
I do have a few issues about the storytelling. The idea of the goofy side of us crumbling seems odd(maybe just becoming dormant?), since we use that when we have kids of our own. Joy and sadness in life-threatening danger also seems wrong, because those are emotions we continue to have whatever happens. Even if you pick these things apart, it's still a highly entertaining and moving story. A film that could be rewatched with an equal amount of enjoyment.
Rating 8.5/10

Phoenix (2014) (Christian Petzold)
Petzold's previous film Barbara (2012) was an interesting look at post WW2 Germany in the 1980s, and gave me reason enough to check out what the director could come up with next.
Let’s start with the good. Good acting by Nina Hoss. She is given the task of playing someone with plastic surgery who looks different than before. I can’t imagine many actors have ever done that before. That aspect felt unique.
Unfortunately that’s the only praise I have. It’s very slow paced, and felt like three hours rather than 98 minutes. To me, it was simply not believable the husband doesn’t recognize his own wife’s voice or posture, and implausible the family/friends don’t question her different appearance. I also can’t believe facial surgery could be so technically advanced in the 1940s.
Christian Petzold’s previous film Barbara felt realistic. Sadly I just couldn’t buy the premise in Phoenix. The idea is simply implausible.
Indiewire gave the film an A- and wrote in their review it's "as much a portrait of a woman longing to find herself again as a portrait of an entire nation longing for a way to re-build."
Rating 4/10

Far From The Madding Crowd (2015) (Thomas Vinterberg)

Very happy I saw this on dvd. I had read mixed reviews, and was pleased to discover that Vinterberg has done a great job. I was captivated during the whole film, the acting was superb. I cared about what would happen to the characters and had an emotional investment in them. I can't compare the 2015 film to the 1998 TV-movie or the 1967 adaptation with Julie Christie, which I haven't watched. They are both longer and are obviously more detailed. What I did learn is I should explore more adaptations of literary classics.
Rating 9/10 

A Swedish Love Story (1970) (Roy Andersson)
Roy Andersson does a great job of authentically depicting first love, the boy and girl exchanging glances is very cinematic. Especially the girl gives a good performance, you can tell what she is feeling by looking at her face.  Andersson juxtapositions this with the world weary adults, and has created a timeless and universal story.
The family life at home was a bit vague, maybe on purpose. The quote below is from a domestic situation, sister talking about her problems, and it feels slightly awkward given the young age of her younger 13-year-old sister, who just listens. The older sister admits to being lonely. In a later scene, we witness the mother who has an angry and frustrated partner John, he yells and laughs at his wife. The mother is a passive character in the film. He also humiliates his daughter's boyfriend for not knowing guitar tunes. John has a habit of saying the wrong thing, insulting the host of a party by laughing at his offer of painting his car, and John insists on bringing in a fridge even though the host explains it’s not needed due to a cold basement.
The end scene is unforgettable, and the glances at the beginning between the boy and girl is what stayed with me the most.
Favorite quote: ”Sometimes I feel panicky because I’m not married. When I see my old school chums with prams, I feel like…people are staring at me”
Rating 8.5/10

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) (Woody Allen)
While it does cover familiar themes such as infidelity, deception, and anxiety, the script is so well-told, the acting so good, and with characters you care about, that it’s an above average Woody Allen movie.
Allen manages to capture the beauty of New York once again, architecture, parks, etc. Has plenty of Allen’s trademark wit. The flawed characters are fleshed out quite well which is not always the case in in his other work.
Favorite quote: “It’s hard to be around someone who gives so much and needs so little in return”
Rating 8/10

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) (Christopher McQuarrie)
The fifth film in the series. Directed by the screenwriter of 2014's Edge of Tomorrow. A suspenseful and entertaining installment. It’s very much in the same vein as Ghost Protocol (2011), not least because of the humor, Simon Pegg’s and Jeremy Renner’s involvement again, and the exotic locations.
The underwater scene and what follows was the highlight.
If I had to point to a weakness it’s that the villain lacks distinguishing characteristics, the only thing I remember the bad guy for was the final scene. Still, I’d rank Rogue Nation ahead of M:I 3.
Rebecca Ferguson did a good job, a very modern action heroine, she was Ethan Hunt's equal. The action sequences lifted the film above average for me.
Rating 8/10

La Vie en Rose (2007) (Olivier Dahan)
As a biopic of Edith Piaf the storytelling is quite linear during her childhood, but becomes messy and a bit confusing in her adulthood, jumping back and forth to different important moments. She was the victim of an unsettled upbringing, moving from place to place, her parents not taking responsibility and not able to give her the love she needed. Perhaps as an adult she wanted everyone to love her as singer due to lack of parental love as a child.
The reason to watch is Marion Cotillard's oscar-winning performance. Edith Piaf's life story is eventful, becoming world famous thanks to an incredible singing voice. As is so often the case, fame changed her.
Rating 7/10

Agree or disagree? Seen anything great during August? As always, comments are welcome


  1. Some nice movies and happy to see you enjoyed Inside Out as much. I recently saw A Swedish Love Story as well, but I found it pretty slow and boring although the acting by the kids was good.

    1. @Nostra: Yep, I thoroughly enjoyed Inside Out, and happy you did too!
      A Swedish Love Story was not a usual coming of age film, was a bit slow in places, but I liked how the story focused on both the parents and teenagers, and in that way, it kind of was similar to Inside Out, both a film for adults and a film for young people.

  2. Inside Out's theme of the sadness associated with the loss of childhood does get pretty deep and dark. Definitely over dramatised for film purposes. I think what kids of a certain age will get from this is it's okay to be sad every now and then. And maybe parents getting reminded that kids will get sad!

    Constantly amazed at all the positive stuff said about Rogue Nation - yet to see it, but I know I didn't enjoy the last one all that much. Think the last one I enjoyed was J.J. Abrams's 3rd outing.

    1. @Jaina: I like what you say about: kids of a certain age will get from this it's okay to be sad every now and then”
      M:I 3. had its moments, I prefer the action and female character in Rogue Nation

  3. As always, your monthly wrap-ups put me to shame, if not for their length and variety, then for the quality of the films herein contained. I have only seen one of these, even though I've heard of every one except for Phoenix, your one dud.
    As your rightfully say, La Vie en Rose is a good biopic, but not one that stands out if it weren't for the tour-de-force of Marion Cotillard. One of my all-time favorite performances. Five minutes into the film I could not see the actress anymore. She became her and I was completely immersed in her pain. In general, I found the film painstakingly difficult to watch. Very much a tragedy despite all of her success.
    Far From the Madding Crowd was in my radar after I saw the trailer, but then life got in the way and I forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me. I'll probably give it a go soon.

    1. @niels85: haha, well don’t feel too shameful. I tend to be fussy with what I watch. I go for new films that have been well-received, or classics which have a great reputation. Life is too short to sit through mediocre stuff.

      I had high hopes for Phoenix based on what critics are saying, the story just wasn’t believable.

      Agree Marion Cotillard totally immersed herself, I haven’t heard the real life Piaf speak so I don’t know how accurate it was, but Cotillard impressed. It was a sad biopic, luckily she brought plenty of joy to the world.

      Look forward to your take on Far From the Madding Crowd

  4. I just saw Inside Out couple of days ago! I loved it, and I admire Pixar for translating such complicated psychology matter. I agree with you to see it's odd how Joy and Sadness in danger. It did reminded me of such early teenage days. I think of how the story never quite explain the boss of those emotions, meaning who are controlling them in the first place.

    Wow, I never thought you enjoyed Far From The Madding Crowd that much, but the performances were great indeed. I won't mind watching the TV series

    Hannah and Her Sisters was weird for me as there are feelings from the husband from other sister

    Agree Rebecca Ferguson felt really equal to Ethan Hunt.

    La Vie en Rose was worth it just to see Cotillard's performance

    1. @Andina: Inside Out: Teenage years is a difficult time when you are not a kid anymore and not an adult yet. Agree did seem odd that Joy and Sadness were in danger, but I think the confusion of those characters did mirror the confusion of Riley. I also wondered who is controlling them in the first place. We follow our emotions, there’s a bit of mystery in there, sometimes we don’t know why we do things. In her case moving away from a happy place was tough.

      Madding Crowd: I may have been a bit generous with my rating :) I connected with it emotionally.

      Hannah and Her Sisters: I think he(Michael Caine) was bored in his marriage, and his impetuous behavior made it awkward for the three of them for the future.

  5. That's quite a varied bag.
    I'm glad you liked Far From the Madding Crowd.

    1. @ assholeswatchingmovies: I did, thanks for reading!

  6. Great list of movies you watched there Chris. I dont think Inside was about the loss of childhood and that's the cause of sadness. I think kids need to have both sadness and Joy. Hannah and he sisters is a great movie but not my favorite Allen flick. I will agree that underwater scene in Rouge Nation was good, but the rest fell a little flat( oh and the director of Edge pf Tomorrow was Doug Liman of Bourne Identity and Go) Agree That Marion Coltiard was the reason to see La Vie en rose

    1. @TheVern: Thanks, I’ve corrected the typo
      Inside Out, (SPOILER) I agree we need to have sadness to appreciate what joy is.
      Riley lost her sense of self and her connection with those around her. All her joy was attributed to her childhood. I think moving to San Fran was both a practical one, and because of her age also a psychological transition. Moving to a new city is tough, I think you can feel sad/confused about leaving, no matter what age. Unless it was a bad neighborhood and then you might be happy to leave.

  7. Replies
    1. @Lights Camera Reaction: Thanks for reading! Going to read your review of Inside Out tonight

  8. Yay! You loved Far from the Madding Crowd and A Swedish Love Story! :) I just saw Phoenix, and I actually had the opposite reaction. I was captivated, and found it devastating. Loved it. It might even be my new #1 of 2015.

    1. @Josh: Think it was you who recommended A Swedish Love Story, so thanks for that!
      Far from the Madding Crowd (2015) I just added to my favorite films on letterboxd, along with Inside Out (2015) and In The Heat of The Night (1967).

      Phoenix (2014) could work if you buy the premise and I admit Nina Hoss gave it her all, it was the story that derailed it for me.


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