Mr. Craig's Film Diary

a very important document of my viewing habits

StokerDirected by Park Chan-wookScreenplay by Wentworth MillerUSA / UK, 2013
Watched on 3rd April 2014First viewing

I enjoyed this a lot. It features a damn fine cast, beautiful cinematography and sound design, and the plot did not go at all where I expected. And between this and Only Lovers Left Alive, I’m starting to develop a bit of a crush on Mia Wasikowska.

Stoker
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Screenplay by Wentworth Miller
USA / UK, 2013

Watched on 3rd April 2014
First viewing

I enjoyed this a lot. It features a damn fine cast, beautiful cinematography and sound design, and the plot did not go at all where I expected. And between this and Only Lovers Left Alive, I’m starting to develop a bit of a crush on Mia Wasikowska.


Wreck-It RalphDirected by Rich MooreScreenplay by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee (from a story by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon)USA, 2012
Watched on 2nd April 2014First viewing

I enjoyed a lot of the retro arcade game references, and I admire the comedy stylings of most of the voice cast, but I could take or leave the actual film. Not bad, not great.

Wreck-It Ralph
Directed by Rich Moore
Screenplay by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee (from a story by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Jim Reardon)
USA, 2012

Watched on 2nd April 2014
First viewing

I enjoyed a lot of the retro arcade game references, and I admire the comedy stylings of most of the voice cast, but I could take or leave the actual film. Not bad, not great.


MagnoliaWritten and directed by Paul Thomas AndersonUSA, 1999
Watched on 1st April 2014Second viewing

I have no words.
I haven’t seen Magnolia for at least 10 years. Before I was just puzzled by it. Now I’m intensely moved. What an incredible film.
And it makes me feel the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman all the more strongly.

Magnolia
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
USA, 1999

Watched on 1st April 2014
Second viewing

I have no words.

I haven’t seen Magnolia for at least 10 years. Before I was just puzzled by it. Now I’m intensely moved. What an incredible film.

And it makes me feel the loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman all the more strongly.


The World’s EndDirected by Edgar WrightScreenplay by Edgar Wright & Simon PeggUK, 2013
Watched on 30th March 2014First viewing

This is the third film in Wright & Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, following zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004) and action comedy Hot Fuzz (2007). I thoroughly enjoyed both of those films when they first came out, so it’s with some disappointment that I say I didn’t enjoy the sci-fi comedy The World’s End at all. Whether that’s down to my changing tastes or a genuine drop in quality I can’t be sure, but I did not laugh once during The World’s End.
Simon Pegg stars as Gary King, a middle-aged manchild who ‘reforms’ his group of school friends (Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman) to have another go at The Golden Mile, a pub crawl they tried to complete 20 years previous. While his friends have matured in the intervening years, Gary still clings to his adolescence. He wears the same clothes, listens to the same music, drives the same car and still struggles with alcholism and other addictive substances. He is also intensely dislikeable.
—SPOILERS AHEAD— 
The twist comes with the realisation that, in John Wyndham fashion, the gang’s serene suburban home town has been overtaken by aliens who replace unwilling residents with compliant doppelgangers. When the aliens’ secret is discovered, the previously friendly robotic residents become intent on ‘upgrading’ the boys. The only way to stop them is to smash their hollow heads, spilling copious amounts of blue blood.
The film itself mirrors Gary’s reluctance to mature. The World’s End is essentially a retread of Shaun of the Dead, getting the old gang back together for one last film, this time with alien robot things instead of zombies. All the same tricks from Shaun are pulled here — a planned pub crawl that foreshadows the entire plot beat for beat, the revelation that a central character has been converted by the invading forces, a semi-apocalyptic ending in which some central characters live on as zombie / robot versions of themselves…
I wouldn’t mind, but there were precious few laughs along the way.

The World’s End
Directed by Edgar Wright
Screenplay by Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg
UK, 2013

Watched on 30th March 2014
First viewing

This is the third film in Wright & Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, following zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead (2004) and action comedy Hot Fuzz (2007). I thoroughly enjoyed both of those films when they first came out, so it’s with some disappointment that I say I didn’t enjoy the sci-fi comedy The World’s End at all. Whether that’s down to my changing tastes or a genuine drop in quality I can’t be sure, but I did not laugh once during The World’s End.

Simon Pegg stars as Gary King, a middle-aged manchild who ‘reforms’ his group of school friends (Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman) to have another go at The Golden Mile, a pub crawl they tried to complete 20 years previous. While his friends have matured in the intervening years, Gary still clings to his adolescence. He wears the same clothes, listens to the same music, drives the same car and still struggles with alcholism and other addictive substances. He is also intensely dislikeable.

—SPOILERS AHEAD—

The twist comes with the realisation that, in John Wyndham fashion, the gang’s serene suburban home town has been overtaken by aliens who replace unwilling residents with compliant doppelgangers. When the aliens’ secret is discovered, the previously friendly robotic residents become intent on ‘upgrading’ the boys. The only way to stop them is to smash their hollow heads, spilling copious amounts of blue blood.

The film itself mirrors Gary’s reluctance to mature. The World’s End is essentially a retread of Shaun of the Dead, getting the old gang back together for one last film, this time with alien robot things instead of zombies. All the same tricks from Shaun are pulled here — a planned pub crawl that foreshadows the entire plot beat for beat, the revelation that a central character has been converted by the invading forces, a semi-apocalyptic ending in which some central characters live on as zombie / robot versions of themselves…

I wouldn’t mind, but there were precious few laughs along the way.


The Way, Way BackWritten and directed by Nat Faxon & Jim RashUSA, 2013
Watched on 30th March 2014First viewing

I’ve been really busy and exhausted this month, so I’ve not had the time and energy to watch many films. (Those I’ve seen but not written up here were Dallas Buyers Club, The Browning Version, The Innocents and Boogie Nights.)
The Way, Way Back is a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy drama about Duncan (Liam James), a shy and awkward 14-year-old boy on a summer holiday with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), Pam’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and Trent’s daughter Steph (Zoe Levin).
The relationship between Duncan and Trent is strained, as demonstrated in the opening scene where Trent asks Duncan to rate himself out of 10. When Duncan relucantly gives an answer, Trent suggests that Duncan is in fact “a three.” This is apparently inspired by an incident from co-writer Jim Rash’s childhood, which makes me want to give him a massive hug.
Duncan soon finds some happiness at a nearby water park, where he befriends the manager Owen (Sam Rockwell). He takes on a job at the park, forming a makeshift family of his own and building his confidence.
Making a heartwarming coming-of-age tale may seem like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone who was once a teenager must have countless painful memories to draw on when trying to connect with a film like this. (It’s written right there on the poster: “We’ve all been there.”) But to hell with it, this is a particularly lovely example of the genre, so I am one happy fish.

The Way, Way Back
Written and directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
USA, 2013

Watched on 30th March 2014
First viewing

I’ve been really busy and exhausted this month, so I’ve not had the time and energy to watch many films. (Those I’ve seen but not written up here were Dallas Buyers Club, The Browning Version, The Innocents and Boogie Nights.)

The Way, Way Back is a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy drama about Duncan (Liam James), a shy and awkward 14-year-old boy on a summer holiday with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), Pam’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and Trent’s daughter Steph (Zoe Levin).

The relationship between Duncan and Trent is strained, as demonstrated in the opening scene where Trent asks Duncan to rate himself out of 10. When Duncan relucantly gives an answer, Trent suggests that Duncan is in fact “a three.” This is apparently inspired by an incident from co-writer Jim Rash’s childhood, which makes me want to give him a massive hug.

Duncan soon finds some happiness at a nearby water park, where he befriends the manager Owen (Sam Rockwell). He takes on a job at the park, forming a makeshift family of his own and building his confidence.

Making a heartwarming coming-of-age tale may seem like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone who was once a teenager must have countless painful memories to draw on when trying to connect with a film like this. (It’s written right there on the poster: “We’ve all been there.”) But to hell with it, this is a particularly lovely example of the genre, so I am one happy fish.


Hard EightWritten and directed by Paul Thomas AndersonUSA, 1996
Watched on 1st March 2014First viewing

This was Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature film, and while the performances are good and much of PTA’s distinctive visual style is already present, the actual story wasn’t as compelling as most of his others. Not bad, but not great.

Hard Eight
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
USA, 1996

Watched on 1st March 2014
First viewing

This was Paul Thomas Anderson’s first feature film, and while the performances are good and much of PTA’s distinctive visual style is already present, the actual story wasn’t as compelling as most of his others. Not bad, but not great.


Only Lovers Left AliveWritten and directed by Jim JarmuschUK / Germany, 2013
Watched (at Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford) on 26th February 2014First viewing

I’m being spoilt this year. First a new Coen Brothers film, now a new Jarmusch too. And what a wonderful film it is! Slow and moody but also very funny, with a great cast and a distinctive soundtrack. My new favourite vampire movie.

Only Lovers Left Alive
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch
UK / Germany, 2013

Watched (at Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford) on 26th February 2014
First viewing

I’m being spoilt this year. First a new Coen Brothers film, now a new Jarmusch too. And what a wonderful film it is! Slow and moody but also very funny, with a great cast and a distinctive soundtrack. My new favourite vampire movie.


DoubtWritten and directed by John Patrick Shanley (based on his own play)USA, 2008
Watched on 11th February 2014First viewing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have several old favourites of his lined up to watch soon, but first I’ve been checking out some films that I missed when they were released. This was one.
And I really liked it. It’s uncomfortable and thought-provoking. Set at a Catholic church and adjoining school in 1960s New York, Hoffman plays Father Flynn, a priest who takes a special interest in the school’s first and only black student. The school’s principal Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) becomes suspicious of Father Flynn, accusing him of molesting the boy. Neither the audience nor Flynn’s accusers ever find concrete evidence, hence the title of the film. (In actuality, only Shanley and Hoffman knew the truth about Father Flynn.)
Yes, as I said, I really liked it… up until the last 30 seconds. Having been successful in her quest to have Father Flynn removed from the school (although his new job turns out to be a promotion — the bishop didn’t believe the accusations either), Sister Aloysius breaks down and confesses to the young and naive Sister James (Amy Adams) that she herself has doubts. “I have doubts… I have such doubts!” are her exact words, over a dramatic swell of church organ music.
That final moment was the death of nuance, so brazenly signposting the theme, indeed the title, of the film. Perhaps it was the music, from the notoriously unsubtle Howard Shore, or perhaps just saying the title of the film in its final moments, but something about that finale just spoiled the film for me. It left me wondering if any other films I have yet to see with one-word titles end in a similar manner. I now have visions of Michael Fassbender weeping and sceaming “I HAVE SUCH SHAAAME!”

Doubt
Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (based on his own play)
USA, 2008

Watched on 11th February 2014
First viewing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have several old favourites of his lined up to watch soon, but first I’ve been checking out some films that I missed when they were released. This was one.

And I really liked it. It’s uncomfortable and thought-provoking. Set at a Catholic church and adjoining school in 1960s New York, Hoffman plays Father Flynn, a priest who takes a special interest in the school’s first and only black student. The school’s principal Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) becomes suspicious of Father Flynn, accusing him of molesting the boy. Neither the audience nor Flynn’s accusers ever find concrete evidence, hence the title of the film. (In actuality, only Shanley and Hoffman knew the truth about Father Flynn.)

Yes, as I said, I really liked it… up until the last 30 seconds. Having been successful in her quest to have Father Flynn removed from the school (although his new job turns out to be a promotion — the bishop didn’t believe the accusations either), Sister Aloysius breaks down and confesses to the young and naive Sister James (Amy Adams) that she herself has doubts. “I have doubts… I have such doubts!” are her exact words, over a dramatic swell of church organ music.

That final moment was the death of nuance, so brazenly signposting the theme, indeed the title, of the film. Perhaps it was the music, from the notoriously unsubtle Howard Shore, or perhaps just saying the title of the film in its final moments, but something about that finale just spoiled the film for me. It left me wondering if any other films I have yet to see with one-word titles end in a similar manner. I now have visions of Michael Fassbender weeping and sceaming “I HAVE SUCH SHAAAME!”


CapoteDirected by Bennett MillerScreenplay by Dan Futterman (based on the book by Gerald Clarke)USA / Canada, 2005
Watched on 10th February 2014First viewing

I must admit I’ve yet to read any of Truman Capote’s work, but I had seen the 1967 film of In Cold Blood, which gave me some idea of the background to the story presented in Capote. It’s a fascinating, eminently watchable film with a beautifully subtle central performance by the sorely-missed Philip Seymour Hoffman. We see Capote’s flamboyant public persona, but also a more troubled, introspective private life — and the conflict between his personal attachment and concern for the murderers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock versus his need for In Cold Blood to end with their execution. It’s a film that lingers, and has certainly persuaded me to read Capote’s books.

Capote
Directed by Bennett Miller
Screenplay by Dan Futterman (based on the book by Gerald Clarke)
USA / Canada, 2005

Watched on 10th February 2014
First viewing

I must admit I’ve yet to read any of Truman Capote’s work, but I had seen the 1967 film of In Cold Blood, which gave me some idea of the background to the story presented in Capote. It’s a fascinating, eminently watchable film with a beautifully subtle central performance by the sorely-missed Philip Seymour Hoffman. We see Capote’s flamboyant public persona, but also a more troubled, introspective private life — and the conflict between his personal attachment and concern for the murderers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock versus his need for In Cold Blood to end with their execution. It’s a film that lingers, and has certainly persuaded me to read Capote’s books.


Wilbur Wants to Kill HimselfDirected by Lone ScherfigScreenplay by Lone Scherfig and Thomas Anders JensenDenmark / UK, 2002
Watched on 4th February 2014First viewing

This was recommended and lent to me by a friend, who described it as darkly funny. And it is, but not all of the humour worked for me I’m afraid. The blurb on the back of the box describes the film as “life-affirming”, which is wasn’t particularly to me.
That said, the performances were good, especially the wonderful Shirley Henderson. But the film didn’t quite do it for me. I just came away thinking, “Well, it’s no Harold and Maude, is it?”

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Screenplay by Lone Scherfig and Thomas Anders Jensen
Denmark / UK, 2002

Watched on 4th February 2014
First viewing

This was recommended and lent to me by a friend, who described it as darkly funny. And it is, but not all of the humour worked for me I’m afraid. The blurb on the back of the box describes the film as “life-affirming”, which is wasn’t particularly to me.

That said, the performances were good, especially the wonderful Shirley Henderson. But the film didn’t quite do it for me. I just came away thinking, “Well, it’s no Harold and Maude, is it?”