How to Train Your Dragon (2010) – ★★★
I approached this movie with some cynicism, and that was probably a good move. The movie turned out to be better than I expected yet not as amazing as various reviews and opinions had made it out to be. It has a sort of charm, and in terms of character design is rather reminiscent of Lilo & Stitch – unsurprising, as Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois co-directed both Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon. The movies have similar sensibilities but I think Lilo & Stitch was the more unexpected and charming one. Dragon is pleasant and fun but really predictable. There was nothing startlingly innovative about the plot, and the story being set in the Viking era didn’t exactly present anything especially interesting. I enjoyed it, nevertheless. It’s an easy watch, with cute dragons. haha
Rise of the Guardians (2012) – ★★★½
I’m not sure why this did so badly at the box office. I liked it. (At least when I saw the trailer I was intrigued, whereas The Croods just doesn’t interest me at all and yet that did better financially than Guardians??) It is predictable – I cannot say it wasn’t – but there was a great deal of novelty in the idea of Santa Claus being a tough and burly (but friendly!) Russian guy and the Easter Bunny being less cute and more like an Australian captain with an army of colourful Easter eggs at his beck and call. Jack Frost is the main character, though, and at the core it is the story of Jack Frost discovering his purpose in life – or, well, his second life, rather.
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) – ★★
Two people meet and fall in love, but they meet and fall in love out of order. His first time meeting her isn’t the first time she’s meeting him. The poor fellow is prone to abrupt and sudden time travel, which is posited by the story as being the result of a rare genetic condition. It is this condition that creates the possibility of a rather confused and reverse-order romance. This is a rather out-of-the-ordinary love story, but I as I had already been confronted by the even more complicated back-to-front storyline of the Doctor and River Song in the Doctor Who series, I was not particularly impressed or too confused by it. But what did impress me was the way they managed to tell the story in a comprehensible way. I haven’t read the book so I can’t say how faithful this cinematic adaptation is, but I think they succeeded in laying out the tale so audience’s could understand it and also feel for the characters.
Skyfall (2012) – ★★★
Clearly James Bond has been thoroughly modernised now. Gone are the more kooky or campy aspects of Bond – he’s now dead serious. And presumed dead by the Secret Service fairly early in the film. I felt that’s what Skyfall was trying to do – to ask the questions: What if James Bond “died”? What if he was not in top condition, not fit to serve? Would he then still be James Bond? Intriguing questions. But it somehow just failed to push the right buttons for me. It’s a decent film, but I don’t love it. (I do like the new take on Q, and Q’s little jab about exploding pens though.)
The Graduate (1967) – ★★
I tried very hard to see why this is one of those films that writers are fond of mentioning frequently, like Citizen Kane and Cinema Paradiso. (I think there should be an equivalent cinematic term for “name-dropping.” Film-dropping? Someone suggest a term…) And as with Cinema Paradiso, I couldn’t see what it was that film writers adore about it. Maybe it was the subject matter – a university graduate is seduced by an older woman and falls for her daughter. Maybe that was a “revolutionary” cinematic theme at the time. Critics and academics do seem to love the scandalous, so-called revolutionary stuff. But for me, there was just nothing about this film that I liked. I didn’t like the titular graduate, Benjamin (portrayed very well by Dustin Hoffman, I must say), I didn’t like his parents, I didn’t like the Older Woman Who Seduces Him, and I was apathetic towards her daughter. The one thing about this film that I appreciated, though, was the very effective methods employed to show Benjamin’s discomfort around other people – the framing and the editing were really good.
Kamikaze Girls (2004) – ★★★½<
Nakashima Tetsuya directs this story of an unlikely friendship between two girls; one a “Lolita” obsessed with frilly frocks and the Victorian era, and the other a “Yankii” – a delinquent biker girl. Fukada Kyoko and Tsuchiya Anna are perfectly cast as the “Lolita”-type Momoko and the “Yankii” Ichiko. The whole movie is drenched in over-saturated colours and posesses and almost gaudy, hyper-comic book sensibility. Similar to Ninagawa Mika’s Sakuran, actually, but even more comic book-esque. I’ve only seen one other movie by Nakashima Tetsuya – Memories of Matsuko – and that too, has the exact same stylistic properties as Kamikaze Girls. I can’t say I like the style but it is well-executed and suits the stories so I’m left with very little to complain about. It’s a simple story made interesting by the colourful (haha) characters and a slightly unexpected ending.
5 stars = “Really really liked it and would watch it again without hesitation.”
4 stars = “Really liked it.”
3 stars = “Liked it.” or “Didn’t really like it, but it was a good movie.”
2.5 stars = “It was ok”
2 stars = “Meh. It wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like it.”
1 star = “Forgettable/Boring/Not interesting.”
0 star at all = “Not even worth thinking about.” Or, “I dislike it so much that I am unable to think rationally about it.”