50/50 Reading Challenge Update: April Movies

I’m at a loss as to how five movies showed up on my 50/50 Reading Challenge list for April.  I could have sworn I didn’t have time to watch even one film, let alone five.  It just goes to show how skewed perception can be when compared to reality.  Of the five movies, only two were chosen by me.  The other three were forced upon me for one reason or another which I’ll discuss shortly.  Regardless of how I came to view these mysterious flicks, they still count toward the total.  This means that at the four month mark, I have 19 movies under my belt.  Not bad, if I do say so myself.  (If only books could be conquered so easily.  Sigh….)

  • Johnny English Reborn (2011) – Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Gillian Anderson.  For the Whimsey Pie clan, hanging out together often revolves around watching movies.  As you can imagine, with kids aged 15, 13, and 10, we often have to appeal to the lowest common denominator for everyone to be happy.  Most of the time this means lots of action and adventure which suits me just fine.  Sometimes it means brainless, silly comedies that I could happily live my whole life without experiencing.  For the most part, Johnny English Reborn falls into the latter category.  Except for the fact that a few times I actually belly laughed.  And the fact that I like Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, and Gillian Anderson.  Johhny English Reborn reminded me a lot of Get Smart with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway –  a couple of very embarrassingly funny parts, an unlikely love match between a hot chick and a dorky spy, and a need for the dorky spy to redeem himself.  It wasn’t a total waste of my time, but one go ’round was enough for me, thank you very much.  (3/5 stars)

  • Modern Times (1936) – Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard.  I was required to watch Modern Times for a Modern Culture and the Arts class I’m taking this semester.  The viewing experience wasn’t the greatest because I watched it in sections on YouTube but the movie itself was fascinating.  Of course, I already had the historical information about the film and biographical information about Chaplin which added significant depth and insight to the viewing.  I really enjoyed this.  I found Chaplin’s Little Tramp to be more endearing than funny and the film is filled to the brim with commentary about the culture of the time.  Incredible as it may seem, I didn’t miss the talking.  While I wouldn’t want every movie I watched to be silent, it has intrigued me enough to give some other silent movies a try.  Maybe I should put The Artist on my to-watch list. (4.5/5 stars)

  • Wives and Daughters (1999) – 4 part BBC Mini-series starring Francesca Annis, Michael Gambon, Tom Hollander, Bill Paterson, Rosamund Pike.  After reading the book last month, I was excited to see that Netflix had the movie available for streaming.  Although it is technically a TV mini-series, it requires about six hours of focused attention so it rates as a movie in my book.  My daughter and I watched it over the course of three days.  I love period flicks like this so my opinion may be slightly biased.  I thought it was very well done.  The characters were cast perfectly (except maybe for Tom Hollander in the role of Osborne Hamley) and the script exactly followed the storyline.  I suppose six hours of available time offers the luxury of getting every detail right.  We laughed at the hairstyles, enjoyed the fashions, and relished the story.  A good time was had by all.  Wives and Daughters won’t appeal to everyone, but for those who love the genre it is a very satisfying viewing experience. (4/5 stars).

  • Dial M for Murder (1954) – Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings.  Dial M for Murder was another movie available for streaming through Netflix so Hubby and I watched it late one evening after the kids were tucked in.  The film is based on the idea of the perfect murder which goes terribly wrong, in this instance a husband attempting to get rid of his unfaithful wife.  However, the husband, played by Ray Milland, manages to use the circumstances to set his wife up as the conniving murderer who receives the death penalty.  The movie is interesting, to say the least.  There are copious amounts of talking and very little action except for the attempted murder scene.  Almost the entire movie takes place in the couple’s apartment.  Daydreaming during this movie, even for a second, is simply asking for trouble because you’re likely to miss a vital piece of the puzzle.  If you just want to veg in front of a big screen, Dial M for Murder may not be a good choice.  If you’re looking for some cerebral stimulation with a dose of vintage, this might be the ticket.  And, Grace Kelly – what can I say?  She is the epitome of classic beauty, even as a cheating wife. (4/5 stars)

  • Cowboys and Aliens (2011) – Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde.  This was another Family Movie Night selection (a.k.a. not my choice).  Because it was an action/adventure/sci-fi film, and because Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were players, I was at least more excited about it than Johnny English Reborn.  Unfortunately, I’m still shaking my head and saying “What?!”  For one thing, it was too violent, and I’m not talking about battling the aliens.  I’m talking about human on human nastiness.  I’m beginning to think excessive violence and Daniel Craig go hand in hand.  Also, the whole futuristic space alien situation in the untamed West of the 1800’s was just plain weird.  Every cliché of both scenarios was addressed: struggling town, wealthy cattle rancher who owns said town, spoiled son who harasses said town, bandits, gold, wise and distrustful Indians, bad guy who becomes the hero, cruel and ugly aliens, mind control, human experimentation and dissection, little space ships and a somewhat camouflaged mother ship, green alien blood, laser guns of all shapes and sizes, etc., etc., etc.  The only redeeming qualities were the actual acting and the relationships that developed between the characters.  Great actors just aren’t enough to counteract this kind of weirdness. (2.5/5 stars)

This month has reinforced a few bits of information for me.

  1. I am not a big fan of slapstick comedy movies.  I’d much rather watch stand-up comedians if I want some good laughs.
  2. I still love period dramas.  They are my tried and true comfort food of the cinema.
  3. I am really enjoying film noir and suspense genres from the 1940’s and 1950’s.  I think I’ve even gotten Mr. Whimsey intrigued.  I just love the glamour of this style of film.
  4. I’m often astonished by what I like (Modern Times) and what I don’t like (Cowboys and Aliens).  Being open to new experiences offers all kinds of interesting surprises.

May is looking very good for watching movies and reading books.  My schedule opens up wide once the semester is over.  I can’t wait!  If you have any suggestions for movies or books, I’m all ears….

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