30 Films in 30 Days: What to Watch (with Comments)

What’s my main excuse for watching 30 films in 30 days? Simple: baby, it’s cold outside! But you don’t necessarily need to be stuck at home because of a snow blizzard like in Two Night Stand to enjoy some good movies.

Here’s what I have been watching, with comments.

1. Wild (2014)

I talked about Wild before.
You might like it if you enjoy films about travelling. Both Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern are fantastic in it.

2. Birthday Girl (2001)

You might like it if you are a fan of British humour. Nicole Kidman is excellent as the mail order Russian bride. It’s like soap opera meets mafia meets rom com. Some elements are dated like the lack of strict airport security, which makes this film improbable in today’s world. Still, it’s great fun.

3. The Fault in our Stars (2014)

If you, like me, had been meaning to watch it but didn’t get round to it, then I suggest you do it now. I’ll wait here…
You might like it if you liked A Walk to Remember.

4. Map to the Stars (2014)

You might like it if you enjoyed Only lovers Left Alive or films satirising Hollywood. Greek tragedy meets inflated egos and celebrities. Dark with some great funny moments. Watch out for the creepy massage therapist/ couples counsellor/ TV guru character played by John Cusack.

5. Whiplash (2014)

You might like if you enjoy macho films about physical endurance and standing up to bullies. J.k. Simmons is mesmerising as the villain. Second half of the movie is a bit weaker. I found I couldn’t sympathise with any of the characters but the drumming sequences are totally compelling and exciting. By the way, I watched Murder of a Cat because J.K. Simmons is in it and my advice is: avoid. A weak, boring, trite parody of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.

6. The Imitation Game (2014)

This film deserved more awards. Shame it lost to The Theory of Everything because the story was excellent. You might like it if you enjoy both films about geniuses and war movies.

7. Big Eyes (2014)

In one word: brilliant. Not your typical Tim Burton film, even though is trademark iconic characters are there (for example, the blonde ingenue). Christoph Waltz is the charming villain.
You might like it whether you like Tim Burton or not.

8. St Vincent (2014)

One of the best comedies I’ve watched in a long while (another good one is Nailed aka Accidental Love: more on that later). Bill Murray is on top form, there’s plenty of belly laughs throughout the film. A loveable loser. You might like it regardless of whether you like Bill Murray or not.

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

In one word: overrated. Yes, the cinematography is excellent but this film could have been so much better. You might like it if you are a fan of Ralph Fiennes. Talking of which…

10. Bernard and Doris (2006)

This is an HBO film for television starring Ralph Fiennes and Susan Sarandon. It’s a good light-hearted comedy, nothing fancy about it but pleasant. You might like it if you enjoyed Behind the Candelabra.

11. Pride (2014)

I was expecting more from this British comedy. I could not see too much character development. Yes, it’s a worthy subject but it probably needed stronger actors. You might like it if you like The Full Monty (but it’s far less humorous).

12. Dr Cabbie (2014)

Look, I only watched it because of Raj from Big Bang Theory. The best part of the film is in the first half, then it becomes predictable. It makes fun of immigration, it could have gone a bit further but played it safe. You might like it if you like a bit of Bollywood thrown in.

13. The Judge (2014)

Excellent film with great performances from Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr portraying a difficult father-son relationship. You might like it if you enjoy your courtroom dramas and a good, intense script.

14. Before Midnight (2013)

A precursor to Boyhood, this is a fine piece of cinema from Richard Linklater. Relationships and mid-life crisis with insightful dialogue. You might like it if you enjoy realistic films shot as documentaries.

15. Great Expectations (1998)

This is the version with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. I decided to watch some of Ethan Hawke’s back catalogue. This is very 90s but sexy and fascinating.  I would also suggest watching the 2012 adaptation by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral). You might like it if you enjoyed The Lake House.

16. The Woman in the Fifth (2011)

Ethan Hawke again, this time with the wonderful Kirstin Scott Thomas, whom I had the pleasure of seeing performing at the theatre. This film had so much potential but left me cold. However, the subject matter and the actors make it worth watching. You might like it if you enjoy metaphysical films about mental health disorders.

17. Ex Machina (2015)

One of the best movies ever. Even if I am not a fan of science fiction, Ex Machina feels like a play with interesting dialogue and a good amount of tension. Clear references to Big Brother (the reality TV show). Great acting and stunning locations (Norway). You might like it if you enjoyed Prometheus.

18. Prometheus (2012)

Did anyone say Prometheus? I admit that I only watched it because of Michael Fassbender but was pleasantly surprised by the excellent performances from Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce (under a lot of prosthetics). Great tension and typical gore from the Alien franchise. You might enjoy it even if you are not a fan of sci-fi for the great storytelling.

19. Eden Lake (2008)

Another Fassbender film. Dark, tense drama about UK teenage gangs. Very bloody; difficult subject matter treated extremely well. You might like it if you enjoyed Kidulthood.

20. Nightcrawler (2014)

After my personal Ethan Hawke retrospective I embarked on a Jake Gyllenhaal retrospective. I liked the concept of bleeding edge TV reporting, but this film is quite thin in terms of insight and plot. You might enjoy it if you are a fan of Gyllenhaal, but it’s a forgettable film.

21. Donnie Darko (2001)

I know, I know… Up until this year I still hadn’t watched Donnie Darko! Now I understand why it is a classic. Thrilling, mind-boggling, intriguing. Two realities overlap… Plenty of food for thought. You might enjoy it if you like metaphysical films.

22. End of Watch (2012)

Another Gyllenhaal movie, this time it’s a gritty police drama. Far superior to Nightcrawler. You might enjoy if you liked 7even.

23. The Lego Movie (2014)

Everything is awesome! This is not your typical film for kids: most of the jokes are aimed at adults. Fast-paced and colourful. You might like it if you enjoyed Finding Nemo. For those days when you need some light entertainment.

24. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

I am not a fan of Scorsese but I enjoyed every minute of Wolf of Wall Street. Unexpectedly funny and obviously violent in parts. A good glad to riches story about greed. You might enjoy it if you liked Catch me if You Can, also starring Leonardo di Caprio.

25. My old Lady (2014)

Reviews are mixed but the leads Kevin Kline, Kirstin Scott Thomas and Dame Maggie Smith are all fantastic. The story is original, the Paris location is glamorous and there’s some intense moments. Kline gives one of the best performances of his career. Not perfect, but it works. You might like it if you enjoy French comedies like Le Prenom.

26. The Grand Seduction (2013)

A quirky Canadian comedy about a fishermen village who need a doctor. The whole village go on a seduction offensive to convince a high-flying cosmetic surgeon to move there permanently and become their GP. Funny and sweet. You might like it if you need some light entertainment.

27. The Spectacular Now (2013)

Miles Teller from Whiplash and Shailene Woodley from The Fault in our Stars in a sweet coming of age drama. I haven’t read the novel which this movie is adapted from but I was told the original book by Tim Sharpe is better. You might like it if you enjoyed Fault in our Stars but can’t cope with too much sobbing. The film could have dug a bit deeper. Also featuring Teller is Two Night Stand: another film with good potential but lazy execution.

28. Enemy (2013)

Another Jake Gyllenhaal film: haunting, confusing and mysterious. Very Kafkian, at times uncomfortable. What happens when you find your exact double living a much better life than you? For similar films on doubles I also suggest The Double by Richard Ayoade and The Identical starring Ray Liotta. Two completely different movies in terms of genre but both explore the concept of doubles.

29. Accidental Love (2015)

And another Gyllenhaal film, this time a canned project by David O. Russell (Nailed), released 7 years late. Hilarious, laugh-a-minute comedy poking fun at politics. You might like it if you liked There’s Something about Mary and Moonrise Kingdom.

30. Beyond the Lights (2014)

Fabulous film about a young British singer who finds commercial success thanks to a pushy mother (an excellent Minnie Driver) and a raunchy image. Award-winner Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a fascinating mix of Ciara and India Arie. A good story that manages to avoid cliches. You might like it if you liked Honey.

Bonus: Films to Avoid

Quick fire round:

  • Mr Turner (overrated)
    Flying home (cliche)
    4 Minute Mile (boring)
    A Most Violent Year (pointless)
    The Master (suffocating)
    Jobs (flat)

Picture: the screen interior Source Peter Grendle Wikimedia

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