Rachel Getting Married (2008)

dir. Jonathan Demme. Kym (Anne Hathaway) gets out of rehab the day before her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) gets married. Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt are superb, creating a believable strained sisterly relationship. The atmosphere of the family gatherings is almost too real. It perfectly captures how it feels to be in the middle of a group of loving raucous, well meaning friends and family, when you’re really not in right frame of mind. Also captures the accidental cruelty of friends and family when everyone is under stress. The documentary style of the filming, makes it even more real, and often highly stressful. Hathaway is especially wonderful, with her face fluctuating between her winning smile, and flashes of sadness, as she tries to survive the festivities. The almost constant drone of violin music in the background is suffocating, but very effective. All of the performances in the family are strong, and give a very good example for a Best Ensemble Cast award in the major film industry awards.

27 Dresses (2008)

dir. Anne Fletcher. Jane (Katherine Heigl) has been a bridesmaid 27 times, selflessly planning her friends weddings to perfection. Due to a series of unfortunate events, she is left to plan her younger sisters wedding to a man she was developing feelings for, who is also her boss. Simultaneously Jane is dealing with the attentions of cynical wedding newspaper reporter, Kevin (James Marsden). I really enjoyed this. Written by the amazing Aline Brosh McKenna who wrote, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006), and MORNING GLORY (2010). These other films entwine sweet and sentimental plot lines within satires of American workplaces, with deft commentary on the challenges of being a women in various industries – 27 DRESSES does not have those elements. Jane’s job as an office assistant is set, and she has no other goals in life, other than to be married. That said, Katherine Heigl and James Marsden have real chemistry, and it feels natural they way they drift closer together. The scene where Jane tries on (almost) all of the titular 27 dresses for Kevin, is a real treat, I was grinning through the whole scene. The only real low point for me was Jane’s crush, and sisters new finance, George – I didn’t believe the impressive and confident Jane would have fallen for the milk-toast mumbling George. That role needed an actor with more charisma, like Robert John Downey Jr.. Wonderful female supporting cast, including Krysten Ritter (Jane in ‘Breaking Bad’), and Judy Greer (Kitty in ‘Arrested Development), and Melora Hardin (Jan in the US version of ‘The Office’).

In Bruges (2008)

dir. Martin McDonagh. Two killers hiding out in Bruges, Belgium after a job gone wrong. I always enjoy the first half of this movie, with some lovely banter between Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as they argue about which tourist spots to see. I enjoy the film less when it gets very Guy Ritchie-esque, with the wise cracking, sweary, trigger happy geezer crime boss. The ending is a bit too clever for me. The folk music soundtrack is wonderful, by Carter Burwell who also made the soundtrack for over a dozen Coen brothers films.

Ponyo (崖の上のポニョ) (2008)

dir. Hayao Miyazaki. Stunning hand drawn animation. Lots of visual similarities with PORCO ROSSO (1992), with the seaside town, and the beautiful aircraft and ships. I always think the end of the world plot line is too much, but it all comes to gather in the end. I love how the mother gets drunk and falls asleep on the carpet when the father is stuck out at sea. After SPIRITED AWAY (1995), and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (2004), this film might have the most delicious looking animated food? Craving ramen and ham right now, maybe with a can of Sapporo.