A few years ago I was asked by a friend to join her and friends as they challenge themselves each January to watch “30 Films in 31 Days”. I’ve been doing it for a few years now, and here are my first 10 from this year’s challenge!
#1: 2 Days in Paris (2007) (4/5)
dir. Julie Delphy
writ. Julie Delphy
Julie Delpy’s first in an eventual 2-part series is a fun and frustrating study a couple who aren’t quite ready to dive into one of their hometowns, which includes meeting the family, old friends and previous lovers. It takes a few turns but Delpy brings things back into focus pretty nicely. It took me about 10 minutes for my brain to switch out of the “Before…” series’ paradigm (and it’s certainly not as good), but I like stories about neurotic people and Paris is always nice to look at.
#2: 2 Days in New York (2012) (3/5)
dir. Julie Delphy
writ. Julie Delphy; Alexia Landeau
Chris Rock adds a great contrast to Paris’ Goldberg, but he’s not enough to save this from being a misfire on Delpy’s part. New York is a bit forced in story, drama and humour, with characters appearing as parodies of versions we met in Paris and plot points that just aren’t realistic. Paris felt more natural and New York is borderline slapstick, cliché and melodramatic. Still, it’s cool to see these character 15 years later, but one can’t help but compare these to the “Before…” series, which did it better.
#3: Accident (2009) (2/5)
dir: Pou-Soi Cheang
writ: Kam-Yuen Szeto; Lik-Kei Tang
The premise is kind of intriguing: a team of assassins who kill people by staging accidents. The script was way overcomplicated, with incredibly elaborate stagings and a silly, over-dramatic plot. Pretty forgettable.
#4: Aliens (1986) (4.5/5)
dir: James Cameron
writ: James Cameron
Aliens never gets old. I’ve seen it many times and I was still on the edge of my seat. Watched the director’s cut, which Cameron prefers and recommends as it fleshes some characters and scenes out. I’m always blown away by the genre-defining performance from Sigourney Weaver.
#5: Alien 3 (1992) (2/5)
dir. David Fincher
I’ve only seen this once, years ago, and this was the first time watching the version on the Blu-Ray set, the “restored workprint” version or something. I can see why Fincher disowned this; aside for a couple of cool scenes, this is pretty terrible.
#6: Alien Resurrection (1997) (3/5)
dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
This one’s got some great camera work and special effects, but I think the Alien Quadrilogy should really be a duo.
#7: American Sniper (2014) (2/5)
dir. Clint Eastwood
Super disappointed with this one. It was laughably over-dramatic and I don’t get the point of it. It wasn’t really a biopic, because the narrative was all over the place, and if it had a message, I’m not sure what it was. I don’t know what the point was, but it’s killing it at the box office so now it’s a solid contender for Best Picture.
#8: The Babadook (2014) (3/5)
dir. Jennifer Kent
The acting was great, the premise was enticing but it wasn’t that scary. Some cool set pieces but it felt like a short that was adapted into a feature length, but shouldn’t have been.
#9: Changeling (2008) (3/5)
dir. Clint Eastwood
I liked the story, but this movie dragged for the middle third and I lost interest. Angelina Jolie was good, though! And it was pretty creepy to imagine being in that situation, with a strange kid in your house who know isn’t your kid but who keeps saying he’s your kid. Plus the whole thing about your kid being missing… pretty terrifying, and she portrayed it really well. The way she was treated was deplorable, which is one of the main points of the film, obviously. The other themes came out pretty loud and clear: police corruption, missing children, strong woman, hope, etc… I think not that Clintwood knows how to be subtle (that’s not necessarily a criticism). But the movie is kind of a sleeper… literally: it’s pretty long and it was viewed over two sessions, with a big long sleep in-between.
#10. Citizenfour (2014) (4/5)
dir. Laura Poitras
It’s pretty amazing to watch these crazy events from the perspective of Snowden and a couple of reporters hidden in a Hong Kong hotel room. Before I heard about this film, I had no idea that Snowden had contacted some people about what he was about to do and that they were with him, documenting things as they happened and even writing those initial news articles with his direct in-person input. The documentary was very well put-together, showing great restraint and a real knack for telling a story that we thought we knew a lot about.