Sunday, May 27, 2012

What I Watched This Week, May 20-26

Welcome to the seventh installment of What I Watched This Week. I don't review everything I watch, but I have time for quick comments about the movies that I don't fully review.

The Descendants (2011)

I keep going back to The Descendants. I must have seen it close to 10 times. Read my full review for more of my thoughts.

Overall Score 5/5

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

After checking my Top 25, I realized that I had seen 24 of them in the past year. Inglourious Basterds was something I overdosed on when it was released, so I hadn't seen it for 13 months. It was good to revisit the movie and spend 2.5 hours with these characters again. I still think the opening scene is probably the best that Tarantino has ever written. Christoph Waltz deserved his Oscar.

Overall score 5/5

Castle in the Sky (1986)

I've been looking forward to seeing Castle in the Sky on Blu-ray ever since it was released in Japan. The presentation is perfect, but the film was not quite as good as I remembered. There are too many chase scenes and explosions for my taste, although the Miyazaki magic shines through at times. The third act was easily the best part of the story beginning when we first set foot on Laputa. It's good to see an early Miyazaki title given such good treatment.

Overall score 4/5

Larry Crowne (2011)

Tom Hanks was one of my favorite actors 10 years ago, but I've been disappointed with his recent output. He teamed up with Julia Roberts in Charlie Wilson's War, but I didn't like it at all. Larry Crowne has received a lot of poor reviews, but I quite enjoyed it. I identified with his character as I also went to college late in life. This is a gentle comedy with plenty of good moments.

Overall score 3.5/5

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

I didn't really know what to expect from We Bought a Zoo. I enjoy Matt Damon's acting and Scarlett Johansson is usually pretty good, but what kind of story would this be? Damon's character plays a widower who is reminded of his wife by his possessions and surroundings, so he decides to move house. He has a girl of 7 and a boy of 14. The boy is a bit of a problem child and doesn't want to move, but his daughter is incredibly sweet and steals a lot of scenes. The story tells the tale of what happens when the three buy a zoo. They love the house, but have very little idea of how to take care of the animals. Luckily, the small staff, led by Johanssen's character, know what they are doing. This is a feel-good story of how the family makes a new life and pulls together with the staff to make the zoo a viable attraction. There's nothing startling, but it's worth your time.

Overall score 3.5/5

Battle Royale (2000)

I've been hoping to see Battle Royale ever since Tarantino named it as one of his favorite films. It's a Japanese language movie which tells the story of a class of children who are forced to fight to the death over the course of three days. I'm really not sure how I feel about it. There's a lot of violence and not much story, and it's hard to identify with many of the characters. I'm not against violent scenes if they add something to the story, such as some of the scenes in Kill Bill, but this particular story isn't really my kind of thing. I'm glad I saw it and I understand why people like it, but I don't need to own it. I could score this anywhere from 1/5 to 5/5. I'll give it credit for attempting as much as it did.

Overall score 3.5/5

Shame (2011)

My final selection this week was one of the most interesting films from 2011. The subject matter isn't easy to view and I'm not sure how often I will revisit the film, but it's extremely well made. Michael Fassbender plays Brandon, and he's addicted to sex. Women find him attractive at first, until they discover his true nature. We see him pursue several women and have sex with them, but the act has become something without much joy. It drains him rather than pleases him. He's not content to just have sex with other people; he uses computers at home and at work to search for porn, he sneaks off to masturbate, and he has a liaison with a man. His sister, Sissy, is played by Carey Mulligan, and she also has problems relating to people. Director Steve McQueen hints that it may be because of childhood experiences, but we aren't given the full details. This film is not for everyone. It contains a considerable amount of nudity and fairly explicit sex scenes, as well as other material which may disturb some viewers. I was impressed with the main two actors and the honesty of the film.

Overall score 4.5/5

Click here to see what I watched April 8-14.

Click here to see what I watched April 15-21.

Click here to see what I watched April 22-28.

Click here to see what I watched April 29-May 5.

Click here to see what I watched May 6-12.

Click here to see what I watched May 13-19.


  1. Interestingly the films you scored the least I liked the most! :)

  2. So you love The Descendants a lot. I recently saw Sideways, but I think I prefer The Descendants. What do you think? Have you watched it yet?

  3. Andina,

    The Descendants is something that I have seen close to 10 times in five months. I love it. Sideways is enjoyable, but not as good. I recently read the Sideways novel after talking to author Rex Pickett, and found that the book was better than the final film. One interesting character was completely removed from the film. I'm glad I own both though.

  4. I did not know that. They probably remove a character for shorter duration. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Books usually have a lot more detail. It's a shame because he was a good character and he was involved in one of the best situations in the book. They meet in a hotel bar and he says he'll take them hunting. He ends up pinning them down and using them for target practice. He evolves into quite an interesting character and even drives them to wine tastings.

  6. Great post, Steven. Seems like you had a fantastic movie week (with the possible exception of Larry Crowne, hehe). You really do love The Descendants, don't you? That first scene in Basterds is amazing and filled with tension. Waltz plays a great villain, maybe it's because he's incredibly charismatic.

  7. Yeah it was a great week. I'm glad to finally have more Studio Ghibli on Blu-ray.