Gran Torino (2008) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Cindy. You can find her blog, Cindy Bruchman, HERE. She also reviewed Double Indemnity for this project. Thanks for the reviews, Cindy! :-) Now let’s see what she has to say about Gran Torino, IMDB rank 125 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Clint Eastwood directed, produced and starred in the 2008 film, Gran Torino. There’s much to say about this oxymoron of a character: scarred and sweet, rude and noble, cantankerous and romantic all wrapped up into a celluloid package and delivered by the scruffy, inaudible Clint Eastwood. It’s ranked high at #95 on the IMDB 250 film countdown. Should it be?

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Clint Eastwood as Walt Kowalski

This was a film that had my heart and my head fighting each other. Any plot with a dynamic character is preferable than a static one. Clint acted as an old ‘Dirty Harry’ with too many snarls and one-liners; I thought the script by Nick Schenk was a choppy mix of horrible, mediocre, and small beams of brilliant. Walt Kowalski I could relate to. I grew up listening to veterans of the Korean war talking like Walt Kowalski. Men back then were supposed to be hard, unsympathetic. You better know how to chase a skirt, drink beer, swing a hammer, and  shed no tear. That generation kept their yards immaculate, took care of everything they owned and threw nothing away. They would die for their family and country. Racial tags and slurs were common growing up as a kid.  Political Correctness hadn’t been suggested yet. Another way to put it, Walt Kowalski was Archie Bunker, and Archie was as common as apple pie, lemonade, and the American flag. Experiencing this, I didn’t have a problem with Walt Kowalski in the film. Clint Eastwood has played the same character for fifty years, so I wasn’t surprised he was, again, the hard shell with the soft middle.

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Walt reluctantly mentors Thao, who he nicknames Toad. Thao is played by actor Bee Vang. It was his first acting job, and you could tell. Unfortunately, Bee Vang was one of the worst actors in the cast along with the neophyte priest, Father Janovich. Anytime they conversed with Clint Eastwood, it was painful to watch. The script was terrible and their acting wooden and unbelievable. There was very little chemistry between Eastwood and the actors in the film except the bright spot, Sue, played by Ahney Her.

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Ahney Her had a great role in Sue. Her lame boyfriend, appearing briefly as pretty-boy Trey, was played by Clint’s son, Scott Eastwood. Another family member contributed to Eastwood’s film, Kyle Eastwood, who wrote the score. But back to Ahney. She delivered her lines with grace and energy which was sorely lacking in the other performances. Sue was the interpreter, the feminist, the “smart” Asian female who intercedes and befriends Walt Kowalski. It is only after she is attacked that the film becomes interesting. While Walt hacks up blood, the ending is clear, but the climax is nicely done.

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While it sounds like I disliked the film, I cried at the end, and still love the film despite its flaws. Perhaps because I understood what Clint Eastwood was trying to do.  Here was a film about the effect of the horrors of war. Walt Kowalski lived with the guilt of killing Korean soldiers. It haunted and jaded his entire life. Here, now, was Thao, who was Walt’s redemption. By sacrificing his life for Thao, he was able to come to peace with his past and give a life to Thao who would be free of the gang preditors. By vindicating Sue’s attack, Walt in one move saves the neighborhood, the family, and Thao and Sue. The irony in the film is wonderful. Walt Kowalski becomes more comfortable with the customs and food of the Hmong than his own family.  Walt had failed as a father to his two sons, unable to have a positive relationship with them or affirming their manhood. With Thao, Walt is able to teach him how to be a man (albeit in an old-school way) by teaching him how to repair, garden, build, and care for possessions. That’s what real men do. They care for their families and protect them.

For those reasons, the audience discovers they look beyond the gruff exterior of Walt and see the loyal, loving man at the same time Walt Kowalski looks beyond the Asian stereotype and sees his Hmong neighbors as people with similar values as his own. While the traditions and customs displayed in the film might be inaccurate at times, the purpose behind the film is why Gran Torino is ranked pretty high. Clint Eastwood attempts to reveal Universal Truths in his films, and I appreciate that.

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Oh, also the sweet, green 1972 Gran Torino. I want one of those!

Phantom Of The Paradise (1974) Review

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Phantom Of The Paradise (1974)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Starring:
Paul Williams
William Finley
Jessica Harper
Gerrit Graham

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A disfigured composer sells his soul for the woman he loves so that she will perform his music. However, an evil record tycoon betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise.

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My Opinion:

This movie started getting a bunch of attention this year for its 40th anniversary and I’d never even heard of it before then. When I read reviews and saw that it was some weird sort of “rock opera horror” directed by Brian De Palma and starring the great Rainbow Connection Paul Williams and that it, basically, may be responsible for giving us DAFT PUNK… Well, I had to see it! I can’t believe I’d never even heard of this now-cult-classic before. Apparently, though, it was a major flop at the time everywhere other than Paris and for some reason Winnipeg, where they worship this film and have organized Phantompalooza. I’m not sure why the movie is suddenly getting so much attention but I suppose that it’s probably down to Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo (Daft Punk) declaring their love for it when collaborating with Paul Williams for their Random Access Memories album. Having watched it now, it’s obvious what a huge influence it had on them. Check out William Finley as the Phantom in the title:

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I finally saw this movie a couple of months ago and I still can’t quite decide if it’s a brilliant masterpiece or a big pile of shit. What a way to start a review, huh?! Maybe it’s just brilliantly horrible. Horribly brilliant? Either way, although I just called this a possible pile of shit, I’ll be giving it a 7.5/10 rating (so you can stop reading & just yell at me now, Brian). ;-) I sort of feel the same way about this movie as I did about David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. I know that, in a lot of ways, that movie was “bad” but I couldn’t help but be fascinated with it and it’s certainly one of the most memorable movies I’ve watched in the last couple of years and one I seem to come back to a lot when reviewing other movies that I liked yet can’t fully explain why. Phantom Of The Paradise was the same for me and totally worth being the only full price Blu-ray I’ve purchased for myself in ages, even if I WAS thinking to myself “what the fuck?!” the entire time I was watching it.

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Phantom Of The Paradise is a combination of The Phantom Of The Opera (obviously), Faust, and The Picture Of Dorian Gray. I’m not sure why it never achieved the success of two other similar films that both came out a year later – Tommy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It certainly feels a lot more ambitious than either of those, which I suppose may have been the problem? There’s a lot going on in Phantom and it maybe tries to be too many things at once. The other two aren’t really any less strange than Phantom, though. Unfortunately, the biggest problem may just be that the songs aren’t as good. Sorry, Paul Williams! I think you’re awesome and I love what you did with Daft Punk and Rainbow Connection is my favorite Muppets song. But, unlike in Tommy or Rocky Horror, there’s nothing really memorable in this when it comes to the music other than maybe the main ballad which is pretty but not exactly catchy like Time Warp or even Pinball Wizard.

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I suppose I was a little upset that I was left unsure of how I felt about this movie once it finished as I’d hyped it up in my mind to possibly be some kind of undiscovered gem that I’d absolutely love. Well, there ARE things I really liked about it. Images such as the one above are what helped to convince me to watch this. The band is known as The Undeads, which is their third and best incarnation in the film as they keep changing their style to suit whatever record producer Swan (Paul Williams) thinks the public wants. This is in contrast to composer Winslow Leach, played by William Finley, who cares only about the music itself instead of fame and who (obviously) ends up the “Phantom” of the film. Paul Williams’ Swan is an evil & greedy record producer and owner of “The Paradise” concert hall. Williams is great as some sort of satanic little brother to David Cassidy. Check him out:

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The best thing about this film is the main story between Williams’ Swan & Finley’s The Phantom. I loved the cause of The Phantom’s disfigurement and, of course, THE scene that is clearly the one that turned those lightbulbs on above Daft Punk’s heads. (Slight spoiler but not really if you know Phantom Of The Opera): The Phantom’s vocal chords have been destroyed along with his face so he not only needs to wear the strange silver helmet but also must use an electronic voice-box to talk (and sing). I wish I could find a clip of the scene to share here but can only find some images:

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I should also give a quick mention to Jessica Harper, of Suspiria fame, who plays The Phantom’s muse à la The Phantom Of The Opera and Gerrit Graham as a camp glam rocker. Both were really good in two fairly big roles and the below shower scene was pretty cool:

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Summary:

I know this review was far longer than my usual reviews but if I’ve talked at least ONE person into checking out this movie, I’ll be very happy. Is it good? Is it shit? I’m honestly still not sure. I’ve said it a few times recently but these are the types of films that actually make me want to run a movie blog. I’ll always watch & review loads of mainstream films but they rarely excite me in the same sort of way that the more “unusual” or artistic films do. I’d rather watch something extremely memorable like this than just another cookie cutter film made with a profit in mind. The main theme (of many) in Phantom Of The Paradise is timeless – art over profit. We need more Phantoms in this world but, unfortunately, there will always be more Swans.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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You know I have to end this with Touch, the Daft Punk/Paul Williams collaboration on Random Access Memories: :-)

The Apartment (1960) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Ruth of Flixchatter. She also did Mr Smith Goes To Washington for this project. Thanks for the reviews, Ruth! :-) Now let’s see what she has to say about The Apartment, IMDB rank 96 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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I’ve always wondered why the movie was called The Apartment, but within a few minutes I found out why. I like the opening sequence with Jack Lemmon’s narration. He played the protagonist, C.C. Baxter, who works as an insurance agent for Consolidated Life, one of the top five companies in the country with 31,259 employees. He works on the 19th floor in this giant office with rows upon rows of desks. By the end of the day, Baxter is the only one left. No, not because he’s a workaholic or anything, but he can’t come home to his apartment whenever he likes because he lets the executives of the company use his apartment for trysts. I seriously don’t know how he gets ANY work done as every day he’s so busy booking up his executives’ dates at his apartment and make sure they dates don’t get mixed up. At first I feel bad for him, especially when he gets a call in the middle of the night and have to clear out for one of the execs’ booty call. But you know what, Baxter brought this upon himself, he’s doing this favors to the execs to move up quickly to the top.

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Though it’s obviously a major inconvenience for Baxter, he tolerates this whole charade because of his ambition. That is until he met this cute elevator girl Fran Kubelik. Shirley MacClaine is so cute here with her pixie haircut, this is the first time I saw her in her earlier films as the first movie I saw her in was Guarding Tess (1994) with Nic Cage. This is also the first time I saw Fred McMurray. He’s quite memorable here as the top exec who makes life complicated for Baxter. I’m not going to spoil it for you in case you have not seen the film, though the plot is not entirely unpredictable. What did surprise me was how dark the film got, especially in regards to MacClaine’s character. I think those who’ve seen this know what I’m talking about. Even the whole cheating execs thing is not exactly a wholesome subject matter. But of course, given this is set in the 60s, it’s still a very demure film nary of any risque scene.

At times the storyline reminds me a bit of Roman Holiday in that the protagonist was initially an ambitious go-getter, someone ruthless enough to get ahead in their career. But when they fall in love, their perspective completely changes. I love how Baxter becomes the sweetest, most caring man even after he realizes his chances to be with the girl he loves is slim to none. Jack Lemmon is absolutely endearing in the way he dotes on Fran, taking care of her when she needs it most.

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This film won five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Film Editing. Both Lemmon and MacClaine were nominated in the acting categories, too. I’d have been ok if Lemmon had won Best Actor but then again I don’t know who else was nominated that year. Baxter is the heart and soul of this film, and the transformation of his character as the film progresses is very believable.

I love so many things about this movie. The sharp script by Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, lovely music by Adolph Deutsch, and the perfect balance of drama and comedy. I love the hilarious way Baxter made spaghetti, straining the pasta through the grid of a tennis racket. It’s quite an iconic scene that’s cute and heartwarming.

Fran Kubelik: Whats a tennis racket doing in the kitchen?
C.C. Baxter: Tennis racket? Oh, I remember, I was cooking myself an Italian dinner.
[Fran looks confused]
C.C. Baxter: I use it to strain the spaghetti.

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Of course the performances are great all around, I quite like the chemistry between Lemmon and MacClaine, and it’s the kind of romance that’s rarely seen today as their love develops with barely any physical contact! There’s not even a single kissing scene between the two actors, but you definitely felt the connection between the them.

The ending is one of those that made me go up and cheer… especially when Baxter finally stands up for himself and decides to become a *human being* (or a mensch as his doctor neighbor told him to be it just the night before). It turns out having the career he’s always wanted is not all that’s cracked up to be, meanwhile Fran too has an epiphany moment of her own. The finale is definitely one of the most memorable New Year’s Eve moments in movies. I feel that this ending is pretty typical for rom-coms, complete with the girl running to catch the guy she *finally* realizes to be the love of her life + a bit of panic happening that she could be too late. Yet, it doesn’t feel clichéd or hackneyed here, and that’s the beauty of this movie.

I’m glad I finally caught The Apartment, it’s one I wouldn’t mind seeing again. Now that I’ve seen two Billy Wilder movies, I definitely see why people love his work so much. I look forward to catching up on more of his films in the future!

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Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014) Review

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Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014)

Directed by Steve Purcell

Starring:
Tom Hanks
Tim Allen
Wallace Shawn
Kristen Schaal
Kevin McKidd
Emma Hudak

Running time: 22 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
It’s a post Christmas play date and the toys have to go up against the fearsome and aggressive new dino toys.

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My Opinion:

Yes! Another Toy Story short! This aired in the UK on Saturday and I couldn’t wait to see it as I’ve loved all the shorts so far (Hawaiian Vacation, Small Fry, Partysaurus Rex and of course Toy Story Of Terror, which was a longer TV special like this one). It’s hard to pick a favorite, but… I think it’s probably this one now. And Angel Kitty RULES. :-)

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I’ll say that, yes, this sort of uses the same idea from the first Toy Story film in the same way Toy Story Of Terror was similar to Toy Story 2. I thought this one worked better than Terror, though, and I found myself giggling at funny moments a lot more often this time. I really liked the new characters that are introduced, especially Reptillus Maximus and Angel Kitty with her profound statements said in an adorable child’s voice.

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Trixie the dinosaur is the star of this one and I don’t have a problem with that at all – I love it when they focus on characters other than just Buzz, Woody & Jessie. Although Jessie is sadly almost completely absent from this one, the other main characters are still in it enough to keep fans happy. In this story, Trixie wants the chance to play at being a dinosaur for a change and is finally given the chance when Bonnie takes her along for a play date at her friend Mason’s house. It’s a couple of days after Christmas and he’s just received what appears to be the entire set of toys called “Battlesaurs”. I won’t go into the story much more in order to avoid spoilers but it of course has an obvious but simple message that once again fits in with the overall themes in the Toy Story universe. They don’t hammer you over the head with the message or anything like that, unlike in most of my favorite Christmas specials (Charlie Brown, The Grinch… Not that I’m complaining as I loooooove those). My only complaint would possibly be that it didn’t really feel at all like a “Christmas” special but it makes it one you can easily watch year round, I guess.

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Summary:

A worthy addition to the Toy Story franchise, Toy Story That Time Forgot is packed full of the humor we’ve come to expect. I think I laughed even more than the kid I watched this with so, once again, I think they got the balance right with the adults liking it as well as their kids. Bonnie is still as sweet and wildly imaginative as in Toy Story 3 and we get a lot of Rex and especially Trixie, two characters I really like, as well as some great new toys. Plus a cute ending and scene during the credits. Oh, and watch out for the hilarious theme tune! I really had fun with this one. And… Everyone needs an apartment shaped like their own head! :-)

My Rating: 8/10

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Btw – I’m posting a review on Wednesday for Brian De Palma’s Phantom Of The Paradise and I’m hoping at least a couple of people will check it out as it’s the type of movie I enjoy reviewing here. But people only want to read about things like Interstellar… :-( (which I kind of trashed HERE…). Lol ;-)

Paperhouse (1988) Review

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Paperhouse (1988)

Directed by Bernard Rose

Based the novel Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr

Starring:
Charlotte Burke
Glenne Headly
Elliott Spiers
Ben Cross

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Summary: (via IMDB)
Anna is becoming lost in the loneliness of her own world when she discovers she can visit another, a house she has drawn herself and occupied by a young disabled boy. But as she discovers more of the links between her fantasy world and the mundane present, she is drawn only deeper into a dream turning into a nightmare.

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My Opinion:

Well, what a strange little movie this was! I’m not quite sure what to think of it. If I’d have seen this as a 12 or 13-year-old, I think I’d have loved it. It’s very much the weird sort of dark fantasy/slightly scary kind of thing I always loved (my favorite TV show from a very young age was The Twilight Zone). Too bad I missed out on this one, probably because it’s an obscure British film. I caught this on the Horror Channel a few months ago and it’s a shame that the quality was sooo AWFUL. Just like when I watched the movie Popcorn, it was harder to fully enjoy because of that. I thought the story was great, though. Like all the other movies I’ve reviewed this week, this was based on a novel (Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr). I know nothing about it but imagine it’s a good read and, again, am sure I’d have loved it as a pre-teen. I bet the few now-grown-up kids who saw this in 1988 would be like “Oh, wow – I remember that movie!”. There are certainly some scenes that would stay with you if you’d seen it at a young age and a couple that were kind of “borderline” on the horror and violence so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than 12 or 13. When looking this up, I saw that it’s from the same director (Bernard Rose) who later went on to make Candyman. A lot of reviews compare this movie to Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, which is kind of a fair comparison although Paperhouse is certainly less horrific. It’s just a bit “eerie” and slightly unsettling. It also reminded me in a small way of things like Labyrinth and Mirrormask, two other movies that involve young teens living in their own fantasy worlds.

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In Paperhouse, an 11-year-old girl is home recovering from an illness when she draws a house which she soon starts visiting in her dreams. She finds she can add to this world by drawing more of the picture but things soon turn sinister in her dream world. I was a little confused by the sudden turn of events having to do her father and am not sure what the meaning of that was meant to be. I enjoyed it because I like to see films that are a bit “different” but it’s not one I put much thought into afterwards. The movie doesn’t go out if its way to explain things and I suppose you could interpret her dream world in different ways. I’m curious about the book now and if it goes into more detail or if, like the movie, it’s up to you to decide what it all means. It’s certainly not a film for everyone and it’s hard to know if I’d recommend it to anyone. Hmm. Oh! I know who might like it! Laura – I think you’d be interested in checking this one out. :-)

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Summary:

An odd film that, I think, is aimed at a pre to mid-teen audience. I really liked the central story of a young girl living in an eerie fantasy world that she’s created in her drawings and the relationship she forms with the boy she meets in this world. Everything is dark and grey and dreary and I’m not entirely sure if that’s down to the horrible quality of the version I saw or if it’s just because, well, it’s set in England (Ha! No, I’m actually not joking – you wouldn’t believe how sunless & dreary it is here). It helps sets the tone & mood of the film, though, and makes it feel like more of a “horror” film than it actually is. I’m really not sure how to rate this one… In some ways, I found it great and very refreshing as it’s so unusual and I love to get a break from your typical mainstream types of movies sometimes. However, I don’t know if it’s exactly a “good” film. It feels very low budget & 80’s (not negative things in my book) and… I don’t know! Seriously – I have no clue what to rate this one. Brian is going to yell at me for my confusing ratings again if he reads this. I actually had this movie on my to-watch list for YEARS after reading about it a very very long time ago and liking the sound of it. I’m very glad I managed to finally see it & it’s one that will stay with me as the story and visuals were so unique. It may not be the best film I’ve seen this year but it’s one of the most memorable. I appreciate its creativity.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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By the way – Thanks to everyone for all your wonderful comments on my blog this week! I don’t get much time to reply to anyone during the week – I’ll catch up with you all this weekend! :-)

Odd Thomas (2013) Review

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Odd Thomas (2013)

Directed by Stephen Sommers

Based on Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz

Starring:
Anton Yelchin
Willem Dafoe
Addison Timlin
Nico Tortorella

Running time: 93 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In a California desert town, a short-order cook with clairvoyant abilities encounters a mysterious man with a link to dark, threatening forces.

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My Opinion:

Well, I have to use the word: This movie is certainly “odd”. It’s also not exactly “good”. However, I kind of liked it and am going to have some affection for it since I read A LOT of Dean Koontz books. Odd Thomas is one of his better books and certainly one of the best characters he’s created. Which is why I suppose there’s a load of Odd Thomas books now… When did that happen?! I only knew of three. I read the first two and bought the third (which I then lost and still can’t find anywhere – I need to find it so I can continue!). Anyway, the first book IS really good and this movie doesn’t capture how great the characters are but I appreciate that they made the effort. At least it sucks less than most the other truly awful Koontz adaptations.

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I’ll be honest – if you’ve not read Odd Thomas, I don’t recommend this movie. If you’ve read it, I think you’ll at least enjoy seeing Odd Thomas (the character – it’s his actual name) onscreen and I did really like Anton Yelchin as Odd even though he’s not exactly what I’d pictured. I’ve liked Yelchin since the underrated Charlie Bartlett & think he has the right sort of quirkiness to play Odd. Addison Timlin was also good as his girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn and they had a very nice chemistry together, although they came nowhere near capturing the relationship as well as in the book (through no fault of their own – you’re just never going to get as much character development in a movie). The humor in the movie feels a little out of place and just doesn’t work the way it worked so well in the book. And then there’s the strange “supernatural” stuff… Well, it comes across as quite cheesy in the movie and, if you’ve not read the book, I think you might laugh at those bits. To be fair, I think it’s probably very hard to get a Dean Koontz movie “right” onscreen. Well, they’ve managed to make some Stephen King stories into excellent films but I suppose he’s more well known and those movies probably have a bigger budget. Odd Thomas feels like a made-for-TV Stephen King movie, basically. I watch EVERYTHING Stephen King-related and know there’s been some truly dodgy adaptations of his work but I still enjoy watching them. I felt exactly the same way watching Koontz’s Odd Thomas. By the way – I think the girl playing Odd’s girlfriend was truly adorable:

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But I’m not sure how necessary THIS shot was:

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Summary:

First of all, I highly recommend reading Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz if you at all like supernatural fiction with a bit of horror. He’s Stephen-King-lite. I have a strange relationship with Dean Koontz – his books are an “easy read” and I devour them then totally forget about them but, occasionally, I love one. My favorites are Twilight Eyes & Watchers but Odd Thomas would be close to the top of the list as well, especially as I think it’s one of Koontz’s finest endings for a story as well as one of the best characters he’s created. The movie handles the ending fairly well, which I was worried about them getting right. I think there are some changes from what I remember of the book but nothing that bothered me too much as it was more important to get the characters right and I think the movie did a decent enough job of achieving this. You’ll like it okay if you’ve read the book but you probably won’t if you haven’t (unless you’re not bothered by a low-budget sort of feel). Read the book. THEN watch the movie. Then read a few more Dean Koontz books. Then watch Charlie Bartlett.

My Rating: 6/10

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I did it! I’ve managed to review movies based on books all week! I’ll attempt to do another tomorrow but at this point don’t have anything written yet. I may do Paperhouse – that was an “odd” film as well! Either that or The Spectacular Now… So far I’ve reviewed The Maze Runner & The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I & of course Odd Thomas. :-)

The Maze Runner (2014) Review

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The Maze Runner (2014)

Directed by Wes Ball

Based on The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Starring:
Dylan O’Brien
Kaya Scodelario
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Will Poulter
Ki Hong Lee

Running time: 113 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Maze Runner is a science fiction dystopian action thriller film. The story follows sixteen-year-old Thomas, portrayed by O’Brien, who awakens in a rusty elevator with no memory of who he is, only to learn he’s been delivered to the middle of an intricate maze, along with a slew of other boys, who have been trying to find their way out of the ever-changing labyrinth — all while establishing a functioning society in what they call the Glade.

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My Opinion:

I actually quite liked this movie. As I said in my review for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I, I do love my “YA post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi books” but I’ve not read The Maze Runner or Divergent. Of those two movies, I definitely enjoyed The Maze Runner more than Divergent and will possibly read the books now. So, obviously, this review won’t be comparing the movie to the book (which will be a relief as I can get pretty picky if I’ve read the book first, as you can see in my review of The Giver. Not too happy with that adaptation!).

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I liked that this was some sort of sci-fi Lord Of The Flies. I liked the mystery of the maze & not knowing who had put these kids there and why. If I had any complaints, they’d probably be that I’d liked to have seen even more of the maze and its mysteries (I’m assuming it’s even more complex in the book?) and that I’d have liked more character development of the girl, who doesn’t seem to have much to do in this film. Other than that, I liked the relationships that formed between the characters and that they each had very distinct personalities. There’s a pretty generic “bad guy” but that’s to be expected as you need two different groups wanting to deal with their predicament in different ways. It just seemed to work as a movie much more than Divergent but I’m not sure why.

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Summary:

I actually enjoyed The Maze Runner a bit more than Mockingjay even though I think Mockingjay is the superior film. I assume the following books & films will suffer from the same problems as The Hunger Games in that the first book has a great and original idea that you can’t exactly repeat in book 2 (well, except for The Hunger Games having yet another Hunger Games in book 2…). ;-) I mean, I’d assume there’s not a second maze, which is the cool thing about this first movie. But instead it’ll turn into this big fight against the evil powers in control and blah blah blah. Right?? Well, it’s the only direction these sort of stories can ever really take so I’m not really complaining – I’m just hoping it’s a more satisfying conclusion than in Mockingjay. I’m at least intrigued enough to probably read this series.

My Rating: 7/10

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A Beautiful Mind (2001) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from John of 501 Must See Movies Project . He also reviewed Amadeus HERE and Platoon HERE. Thanks for the reviews, John! :-) Now let’s hear his thoughts on A Beautiful Mind, IMDB rank 198 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been.”

A Beautiful Mind explores the life of John Nash (Crowe), Nobel Prize winning mathematician.  Beginning with his graduate studies at Princeton, Nash discovers a new concept of governing dynamics, the Nash Equilibrium.  Following Princeton, Nash works at a research lab at MIT doing work for the Pentagon and teaching on the side.  He meets Alicia (Connelly), one of his students, and the two fall in love.  He is also approached by William Parcher (Harris) to do classified work in decoding a Soviet attack on America.

However, not everything is as it appears.

Based on the book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind is a film that balances a number of movie genres.  It’s got drama,mystery, romance, a little bit of comedy.  The various elements of the film make it insightful, suspenseful, and entertaining on a number of levels.

From a visual perspective, a lot goes on in A Beautiful Mind.  Some of the film’s early scenes, specifically at Princeton, have an older look to them.  I like when a director can add little elements like that.  It helps in contrasting the different time periods throughout the film.  They also do good with showing Nash’s perspective as he sees the various connections and patterns in the math.

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Though some of the character’s mannerisms were annoying to me, Russell Crowe does a great job of bringing John Nash to life.  I’m probably nitpicking more than anything else.  He does well with portraying the paranoid genius who was given “two helping of brain but only a half a helping of heart.”  The real life John Nash visited the set, and Crowe notices some of his tendencies, hand movements, and things of the sort, and incorporated them into his performance.

A Beautiful Mind was filmed almost entirely chronologically, and I think that helped Crowe’s performance as he became Nash and progressed naturally through the various stages of life portrayed in the film.

Jennifer Connelly, wow, what a performance is all I can say.  Even though she doesn’t command every scene she’s in, she gives a strong performance and more than holds her own.  From the beginning of their love story through the pain and anguish later on, her portrayal of Alicia Nash is believable and genuine.  As I’ve looked at some of the other people considered for her role and Crowe’s, I know Ron Howard made the right call with those two.

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Paul Bettany is an interesting character to say the least.  Having portrayed Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale, an entertaining role, Bettany demonstrated his ability to be a sort of classical funnyman in A Beautiful Mind.  Though a lot of his performance has the comedic undertone, he has nuggets of truth and deep insight throughout the film.  Ed Harris also gives a decent performance.  He excels in the serious no-nonsense roles like Parcher.  I don’t know if I would call him a typecast character, but his most memorable performances are ones like this one.

This is a film I’d recommend seeing twice before forming an opinion about it.  I saw this one twice in the theaters: the first time I hated it, the second time I loved it.  Knowing the major plot twist gives perspective and a different understanding to the first half of the film.   Akiva Goldsman, Ron Howard, and Brian Grazer created the world through Nash’s perspective, so the audience experiences the major twist at the same time Nash does.  I remember being very confused the first time I saw it, hence not liking it.

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“I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible.”

It’s been probably about a decade since I’ve watched A Beautiful Mind.  Having a chance to re-visit it for me was enjoyable and a reminder of how great A Beautiful Mind is.  Russell Crowe brings John Nash’s story to life, has great on-screen chemistry with Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, and most importantly Jennifer Connelly.  Ron Howard has created a great film, one certainly deserving of the Best Picture Oscar.  See this one twice if you haven’t seen it yet.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) Review

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Starring:
Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
Liam Hemsworth
Woody Harrelson
Elizabeth Banks
Julianne Moore
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jeffrey Wright
Stanley Tucci
Donald Sutherland

Running time: 123 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story continues to follow Katniss Everdeen; having twice survived the Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself in District 13. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the Capitol and fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

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My Opinion:

I love YA fiction (especially of the post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi variety!) and have read The Hunger Games books. It was before this blog started but I did review the Catching Fire movie (HERE if you’re bothered). The first two books are possibly my favorite of the YA stuff I’ve read in recent years and I think the first two films were very faithful, especially the second, and I’ve been happy with them and with the choice of actors (other than maybe Josh Hutcherson). I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of the final book so I’m naturally unlikely to like these last two movies as much as the first two. However, from what I can remember of the final book now all these years later, I think this film again stayed pretty faithful. It’s a solid movie and everyone again does a good job with their roles but I still can’t help but feel a bit “meh, so what?”. It especially doesn’t help that they’ve done that thoroughly annoying thing again of splitting the final book of a series into TWO movies. Why why why?! It’s not as annoying as the whole Hobbit bullshit but, seriously – they’re doing it to get more money out of us as opposed to making sure to make the best piece of “art” they can and it gets on my nerves.

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Now that I got that little rant off my chest: Is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Freaking 1 any good? Yes, it’s fine. I enjoy the story and seeing the characters again and still think Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for the role of Katniss (even though we’re starting to see her in too many movies and I’m afraid she could someday be on my annoying list instead of my favorites list). They have some very famous actors in these movies and it feels like they take their roles seriously as opposed to just “phoning it in”, which it feels like famous actors do in some other YA films. I think it makes The Hunger Games movies feel a bit more “grown up” than others (which I see as a good thing). The final book is the darkest and the movies have been good at getting the tone right but, hopefully, no parents are letting anyone see these if they’re TOO young…

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Summary:

I don’t think I need to go into this film much. If you liked the first two, you’ll like this one even though you may be annoyed at again not getting any sort of “conclusion”. If you like the books, you’ll be happy enough with this adaptation. The acting is really good, especially for a “YA” film, and Lawrence is still the perfect Katniss. I understand that the story needed to take this direction in the final book and couldn’t just do the same thing once again but it just didn’t work as well for me and I don’t expect to like the final two films as much as the first two. Speaking of YA stuff, I saw The Maze Runner a couple weeks ago but haven’t had a chance to review it yet. Maybe Wednesday…. Yes! I’ll make this a “movies based on novels” week here at CPD since I also just watched Odd Thomas! Anyway, although I think Mockingjay is the superior film, I kind of enjoyed The Maze Runner more as I haven’t read the books and liked watching a story unfold without already knowing what would happen. I’ve watched Mockingjay as I want to see how they handle the books but I really wish they’d just made this into one film. But I’ll of course shell out money once again this time next year to see Part 2. And I’m sure I’ll complain about that once again. ;-)

My Rating: 7/10

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Happy 2nd Blogiversary To Me

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I’m having a party! And you’re all invited…

Hi all! How is it possible that I’ve not seen a movie where Mary Ingalls slaughters a bunch of people?! Well… I’ve made it to two years! Wasn’t sure that I would (and almost didn’t). I’m now chilling a bit and just doing this thing when I have the time. Let’s do a little recap of this past year and then I’ll talk a bit about my (more laidback!) plans for the future of this blog. :-)

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MOVIES:

As usual, I’ve watched a lot of movies so far this year. I’m way behind on reviewing the movies I’ve watched at home but have at least managed to review most the movies I went to in the cinema. Top Ten lists will of course be done end of December (god I love LISTS!) but here are My Top Five Movies (watched in the theater & at home so far in 2014) (the full RANKED list can be found HERE for anyone who is really curious. or bored).

Seen In The Cinema:

1. The Wolf Of Wall Street – 9/10
2. Guardians Of The Galaxy – 8.5/10
3. Her – 8.5/10
4. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes – 8/10
5. Edge Of Tomorrow – 8/10

Seen At Home:

1. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind – 9/10
2. The Return Of The Living Dead – 8/10
3. Spring Breakers – 7/10
4. Full Metal Jacket – 8/10
5. Marnie – 7.5/10

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STATS:

My views are still nothing compared to the 100,000 a lot of you seem to get in just one year but I’m happy enough considering I know I’ve slowed down on the blogging this year. As always, I’m most thankful to everyone who stops by & leaves me a comment as I always love some movie chat. :-) I’ve found it very hard to keep up with blogging this year but I do my best on catching up when I can.

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As always, I loved seeing my above All-Time Top Search Terms. I had no idea 21 Jump Street was in the lead, probably because I reviewed the movie as well as talked about the TV show (which was way better and nothing whatsoever like the movies). It’s nice to see that Avengers Dildos is still going strong and that Duplicitous Taint is slowly gaining. The power of anything slightly pervy, eh?

Which leads me to My Most Viewed Posts. Well, number one by FAR is still the same as last year: My Top Ten Shower & Bath Scenes In Movies. Coming in second is Chris Hemsworth’s Butt In Rush (along with Natalie Dormer’s naked butt as well – I know this now that I’m obsessed with & halfway through Game Of Thrones). In third place is my About Me page. I’m honored to be so close to Chris Hemsworth’s naked bum! *snicker snicker* I was hoping that My Top Ten Carpets & Rugs In Movies would be a top post but it doesn’t quite make it.

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One of the highlights for me this year was getting a lot of Twitter attention for my review of Night Of The Comet. The film’s star, Kelli Maroney, thanked me for the review and she & Catherine Mary Stewart now follow me on Twitter! Oh, and Egg Dude in the middle. We’re all gonna go on a post-apocalyptic shopping spree together! :-)

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GUEST REVIEWS:

I’d once again like to thank everyone who participated in my massive John Hughes Blogathon back in March. I believe I managed to get at least one review for every film written by Hughes (except for one obscure one – I’ll try to do that one myself someday). You can find the links to every John Hughes review HERE including my The Breakfast Club and Don’t You Forget About Me (documentary about John Hughes) reviews that NO ONE read as everyone was sick of Hughes after an entire month… ;-)

Also, thank you as always to everyone who has contributed to (or at least signed up for) my ongoing IMDB Top 250 Challenge (you can find the links to every review HERE). I have guest reviews scheduled for every Tuesday from now through February at the moment! I’ve fallen way behind on the 100 I’m meant to be doing myself – this year I’ve only managed to watch 9 and, of those, only reviewed 3. Yikes! So I plan to do a lot more IMDB reviews myself in 2015. Which leads me to some plans I have for Cinema Parrot Disco in 2015…

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FUTURE PLANS FOR THE BLOG:

As I said before, I’m planning to take it a little easier & not push myself to do loads of reviews if I don’t have time. I have a few things planned, like an Akira Kurosawa Month & a Charlie Chaplin Month where I’ll work through reviewing their IMDB Top 250 films (plus a few more). Don’t worry, I won’t overdo things like I did with John Hughes – I’ll still review other things too those months. ;-) I also plan to start my own blogging relay soon that I’m hoping will work its way around WordPress. And, as always, I’m still trying to think of the best ways to make the time to READ READ READ all your blogs too! :-/ The main things I’ll be focusing on for this blog in 2015 besides my own IMDB Top 250 reviews are:

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Studio Ghibli Month in January:

As you can see above, I’ve ranked Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind as the best movie I’ve seen at home this year but I’ve not yet reviewed it. I’ve watched a lot of Studio Ghibli films this year that I’ve not yet reviewed so have decided I’ll review as many as I can through January. As so many of them are in the IMDB Top 250, I’m doing all those (as well as several others) and am holding off on the guest IMDB reviews that month.

John Carpenter Project:

When I finished the John Hughes Blogathon, I announced that my next blogathon would be a John Carpenter one. Apologies to the few people who got really excited about this… I kept putting it off as I remembered JUST how much work is involved in a blogathon so, instead, I’ve decided to make it my own personal project to review all his movies in 2015. Not sure yet if I’ll post them randomly when I get time or if I’ll save them up then post them all when I’ve finished them. Either way, I’m not going to stress about it & will take my time. I’m doing this because there are a few big films of his I’ve still not seen. Unlike the Ryan Gosling Project, I won’t abandon this project. (I got bored with Ryan Gosling. I’m so fickle! Then again, it’s not like he’s done anything as bad as Ghosts Of Mars. Hmm…)

Wow. Sorry for the LONG POST! It was all a bit “me me me”, which I hate. The truth is, I’ve kept doing this for two years now thanks to all you great people! I do love to “have a chat” when I have time and wish I could find more time for this blogging thing. Thanks again to everyone who visits and who comments – I’m sorry I’ve not been visiting other blogs much this year. I really do appreciate you all! Not just these lovely people below but also those who’ve taken the time to comment on even one of my silly posts. You’re the best! THANK YOU! :-)

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Psycho (1960) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Kelechi of Confessions From A Geek Mind. He also did Singin’ In The Rain. Thanks for the reviews, Kelechi! :-) Now let’s see what he has to say about Psycho, IMDB rank 29 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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****WARNING: SPOILERS****

IMDB Top 250 Guest Review – Psycho (1960)

If you’ve noticed the tagline on my blog banner then you can probably tell where I borrowed it!

Yes the words “we all go a little geek sometimes” is a play on words from Norman Bates’s famous line from Psycho and honestly, Psycho is one of my favourite horror movies.

Psycho tells the story of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), an office worker who is fed up with the way life has treated her. She regularly meets up with her lover Sam (John Gavin) during her lunch breaks and would love to move forward with him. However there is a catch. Sam is a divorcee and has to pay alimony money. He cannot afford to move on and provide a decent way of living for Marion. In an opportunistic move to start a new life, Marion decides to steal $40,000 from her employer who entrusted her to pay into the bank. On the run as a thief she decides to get out of town and head to California where Sam is located. After a long drive she pulls into The Bates Motel, which is managed by a quiet young man called Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his controlling mother. As the hours tick by, Marion suddenly becomes a first hand witness to Norman’s deep dark secret.

“I think I must have one of those faces you can’t help believing.” – Norman Bates

To start off, I guess you need to ask is why Psycho has lasted over the years. Why is it considered Hitchcock’s greatest film and why is it one of the best horror films ever?

Modern horror films rely on gore to surprise the audience, using endless clichés that has been repeated a thousand times before. They almost become comedic because of this exposure. Psycho differs purely because it is (pardon the phrase) a psychological approach to the horror genre.

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Psycho doesn’t rely on a creature/monster/a guy with some deformity or mask who lusts for revenge on the people around him. On the surface, Norman Bates is just an ordinary, everyday man. He has that innocent and charming face, an all American type hero that would happily help you with anything (which is how Anthony Perkins got the part). He’s unsuspecting. Norman Bates is that friend you knew from school, a work colleague or that person you bumped into at a shop. In essence, these key attributes play an essential and powerful role in the ending and ultimate reveal of Norman’s secret.

What separates Norman from the sane folk in the world is his mental psychology. Norman is an expert in duality (trying very hard not to spoil this!) His life is completely dominated by his mother in every aspect yet plays the dutiful son responsible for her well being. At times he reacts fearfully or angrily based on what his mother would think or behave. He can be defensive about his mother because the outside world doesn’t understand their relationship. When Marion turns up at the Motel, psychological jealously ensues with Norman being attracted by Marion and his mother being very disapproving. In the extremity of it all with its steady build-up of clues and uncertainty, it eventually leads to shocking and murderous intentions as demonstrated in the famous shower scene where Marion Crane is brutally stabbed to death by Norman’s mother.

Psycho illustrates within each frame of film how dangerous, twisted and scary the human condition can be. You can never truly know what someone is thinking (unless you’re a psychic). By making this point it’s central theme, it makes the audience uneasy, questioning and self-doubting. Without you realising it, it creates an aura of unpredictability in the human behaviour that Norman Bates (with his poster boy charm) embodies. His devilish smile at the end of the film is a great example of that distorted duality which he accepts and embraces.

Oh, we can see each other. We can even have dinner but respectably in my house with my mother’s picture on the mantel and my sister helping me broil a big steak for three.” – Marion Crane

In reality, Psycho is two stories for the price of one. What often gets remembered and talked about is the second half because of how disturbing it is. However, it is the first half of the film that importantly sets the second half of the movie in motion.

In some parallel universe, Marion Crane would never have met Norman Bates. She would have kept on driving and probably made it to California with her lover, $40,000 richer as well.

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Marion (like Norman) goes through a psychological change but of a different kind. Her backstory is not heavily dwelled on. She’s not perfect but she is a decent woman seeking to better her frustrated life. Sensing the perfect opportunity to change her fortunes, she becomes a thief, stealing money from her employment. It’s clearly her first offence – she acts nervously and cautiously around a car salesman and a policeman, desperately hoping not to get caught. When she does feel she’s out of the woods, she begins to smile, enjoying the thrill and a clear satisfaction that her plan is coming to fruition.

It is only when she turns up at Bates Motel that her euphoria rapidly changes.

Whether it’s female intuition or just a natural conscious within her, her small talk with Norman Bates becomes revealing. She begins to notice the strangeness behind the false façade of his personality – his mother, taxidermy as a hobby, twelve rooms with twelve vacancies etc. You could probably hint at Marion beginning to feel a little uncomfortable and it is through this self-doubting exchange that she develops a conscience. She begins re-evaluating her decision, calculating how much she spent from the stolen money. She may have flushed the calculations down the toilet but it was her way of recognising and apologising for her mistake. She then takes a shower to “wash away” her sins.

In the end, despite the change of heart she still gets punished – stabbed to death by mother.

Some could argue that Marion got her comeuppance. If she didn’t steal the money she wouldn’t have found herself in a vulnerable position. But then again – did she really deserve that? Was her crime fiendishly bad in comparison to what Norman Bates was doing?

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This build-up is crucial to how the second act of the film plays out. Marion (just like Norman) is an everyday person – a beautiful and attractive woman who made a mistake. We quell our thoughts of criminality by our own sense of morality and conscience (unless you’re playing Grand Theft Auto) but Marion decides to act on them. Her sudden and dramatic death after she tried to correct a wrong comes out of the blue. The shower scene highlighted how exposed Marion was, powerless and defenceless to stop the assault. In Bernard Herrmann’s dramatic score, each sharp-pitched string note represented the sound of the knife sinking deeper and deeper into Marion’s skin, prolonging the agony the longer it went on. It wouldn’t have the same memorable impact if the entire scene was silent, something that Hitchcock originally intended. The rest of the film takes a dramatic and sinister tone as the audience slowly begins to uncover the dark undertones of Norman’s personality, with Sam and Marion’s sister leading the enquiry.

Janet Leigh was a popular actress in her heyday so to see her killed off halfway through a film was a bold move. Usually when a star headlines a film, they stick through to the end. Again this provides further evidence of Hitchcock’s mantra with Psycho – no one is truly safe.

The two stories are beautifully woven together. At first they appear random but the criminal undertones and characteristics are present with Marion and Norman. Unfortunately for Marion, she met someone far more devious and dangerous than herself.

There’s an old saying, “First customer of the day is always the trouble!”” – California Charlie

Another cool benefit to Hitchcock’s directorial work on Psycho is the low budget feel of the movie. It’s a cinema release yet feels like a TV special. Everything about Psycho feels intimate, drawing the audience closer to the story and the clues. Filming in black and white made Psycho visually engaging. Colour would have been distracting; black and white maintained the mystery, hiding the truth in plain sight and keeping character motivations ambiguous. It was also a clear nod to Hitchcock’s favourite film at that time – Les Diaboliques (1955). Psycho represents Hitchcock at his best, utilising his skills and knowledge from his TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and bringing them to the big screen.

Hitchcock also created hype with Psycho aiming to create illusion and surprise. Audience members were refused entry to the cinema to see the film if they turned up late. It’s essentially the director punishing you for your time-keeping skills but also giving you a fair opportunity to watch his film without guessing or questioning the context by watching it as it was intended – from A to B. Even the original 1960 trailer ran over six minutes which was completely unheard of as Hitchcock wanders through the set teasing the plot like a crime scene detective.

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Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho will always be fondly remembered as one of the best horror films because the film exploits the psychological fear within it. The events that occur in Psycho are believable and real and could happen to anyone. That fear is scarier if you knew that madness was happening on your doorstep instead of some grotesque monster suspiciously lurking around the neighbourhood. It’s a fear we choose not to entertain too much as it’s easier to believe in supernatural characters that defy logic such as Freddy Kruger or Pennywise the clown.

Nevertheless, those characters had an inspiration and Norman Bates leads the way for that realistic portrayal of fear.

As Norman would say – we all go a little mad sometimes.

Question Of The Month At Oracle Of Film – Best Character Of 2014?

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Another month & another brilliant question from Luke over at Oracle Of Film. This month we all chose “The Best Character Of 2014″. (Yep, I chose someone from Guardians Of The Galaxy). You can see all our replies HERE.

I saw the adorable Guardians Of The Galaxy/Peanuts artwork in a tweet from James Gunn a few days ago. It’s by artist Matthew J Fletcher.

Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014) Review

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Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (2014)

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Based on Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Starring:
Steve Carell
Jennifer Garner
Ed Oxenbould
Dylan Minnette
Kerris Dorsey
Bella Thorne
Elise & Zoey Vargas
Sidney Fullmer
Megan Mullally
Jennifer Coolidge
Dick Van Dyke

Running time: 82 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Alexander’s day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. Though he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother, and sister all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

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My Opinion:

Well, what can I say about this one? It’s a family movie aimed at kids. I thought it did a good job keeping various ages in mind (probably starting around age 7 or 8 & up) and I don’t think the parents who take their kids to this one will hate it or anything. I even think non-grumpy teens wouldn’t mind it as there’s a teenage brother (if there’s such a thing as a non-grumpy teen?). Sometimes the animated thing can be a little boring so you almost feel like you’re watching a “proper movie” at least when you start watching some live action stuff with your kid.

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I enjoyed this one just fine as a wholesome “family” movie. I didn’t know the story at all so don’t know how closely it follows the book. What I liked is that you see a day in the life of each family member so you get each of their stories as they each have their own “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”. Being the age of the parents I of course liked their stories, especially Jennifer Garner’s book publishing fiasco (with a visit from Dick Van Dyke. Chim Chim Cher-ee!). The title character, Alexander, is just turning 12 so you have the story of his birthday party drama as well as his teenage brother’s prom drama, his older sister’s school play drama, and both his parents and their separate work dramas.

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It’s of course a little “silly” at times but not to the point that I found it at all irritating, which is more than I can say for a lot of kids’ films. The kids felt “real” as opposed to some perfect-looking actors and the family felt like a realistic, loving family plus they didn’t bicker in obnoxious ways (which is far too common in some family movies and always gets on my nerves). Jennifer Coolidge has a small role as the teenage brother’s driving instructor. She may be a “love her or hate her” but I love her – she always cracks me up! Steve Carell is also not to everyone’s taste but I don’t think anyone would mind him in this – he plays it straight. OH! And the baby “brother” is played by the same set of twin girls who played the baby girl in Bad Neighbours (aka Neighbors). Most adorable babies EVER.

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Summary:

This is a perfectly fine wholesome family film that’s actually pretty fun and has something for everyone as there are characters of varying ages with each of their own storylines. Even Jennifer Garner’s character using the word “penis” was still wholesome (and one of the funniest bits! but that may just be me showing my maturity level). I saw a few negative “critic” reviews but, seriously – lighten up grumpy butts! What do they expect – The Godfather for kids? Sometimes you wonder if certain adults were ever kids themselves. This movie is what it is and I consider it a perfectly acceptable form of simple family entertainment that isn’t too preachy or too stupid – it’s just meant to be fun.

My Rating: 6/10

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Dial M For Murder (1954) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. She’s already reviewed The Godfather: Part I (HERE) and Part II (HERE) as well as The Departed (HERE) and The Green Mile (HERE) and Big Fish (HERE) and Snatch (HERE). Thanks once again for all these reviews, Zoe! :-) Now let’s see what she has to say about Dial M For Murder, IMDB rank 167 out of 250.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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So Miss Mutant still had a few movies on her “to take” list for her IMDB Top 250 challenge. I know I have taken quite a few, but I had very recently watched Dial M For Murder for the Alfred Hitchcock blogathon that Rob of Movie Rob and I hosted. Lo and behold, Dial M For Murder was still lingering, looking for a taker. I figured because it was so fresh in my mind, I might as well.

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SYNOPSIS: An ex-tennis pro carries out a plot to murder his wife. When things go wrong, he improvises a brilliant plan B. – via IMDB

“People don’t commit murder on credit.” – Tony Wendice

I had never seen Dial M For Murder prior to it being on my Hitchcock films to watch. Getting to it certainly proved it was one of the better ones that I had seen during my run. This presents a solid film from Hitchcock, and it was decent. While maybe not my favourite of his, it had a lot going for it.

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I enjoyed the cast. Grace Kelly is an absolute beauty, and I still think Robert Cummings is a real cutie, and I enjoyed him here as a mystery writer Mark Halliday. Although I thought it was wrong for Margot to be cheating on Tony (Ray Milland) with Mark, and there is no way to justify it, the man was neglectful and careless with his relationship with his stunning wife, and ultimately viewed her as nothing more than keeping him in the right circles and serving as her meal ticket. She deserved a man to honour her and treasure her, such as Mark, but it still isn’t right how they went about that. If Tony was such a prat, she should have just left him.

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Besides my moral gripe, the movie has many other things going for it. The plot was very simple, and laid out in a straightforward manner. Sometimes bells and whistles do detract from the overall experience of a film, when people try to get too fancy and smart, they leave holes and continuity issues. This one came together nicely, and was paced well. John Williams portrayed Chief Inspector Hubbard fantastically, and he was certainly a character I enjoyed thoroughly.

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Dial M For Murder was shot nicely, the performances were solid all round, and the score complemented the film. Cummings and Kelly shared some great chemistry, even though there was not much of it on screen all the time. However, when it was, it was great. Tony’s scheme was really clever – on paper and in his mind – but it was evident that he had not thought of any possible unforeseen circumstances, which provided an interesting concept on how he was going to deal with all the little things that started popping up all over the show. His flawless Plan A suddenly doesn’t look so grand anymore, and his impromptu Plan B seems to be so much better laid out than the original, anyhow. Much… neater, almost. Definitely a decent watch to look into, escpecially if you enjoy Hitchcock!

My Top Ten Actors’ Eyes

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Err… Would this actually be a Top 20???

Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are once again did a couple Top Tens that I’d like to rip off. ;-) Her lists of her Top Ten Most Annoying Actors & Actresses (as well as the actors & actresses she’d watch in most everything) have now been copied by pretty much every one of us movie bloggers on WordPress. Well, a while ago Abbi got the idea from Cindy Bruchman’s Mr Bright Eyes Top Ten list of blue-eyed actors to then do her own list of Top Ten Blue Eyed Actors followed by her Top Ten Brown Eyed Actors.

Well, I’m mixing it up a bit! If I had to pick, I’d say brown eyes are what do it for me the most but I do love some sexy blue eyes as well (hello Chris Hemsworth!). So I’m putting both in one list.

Here are My Top Ten (Twenty!) Actors’ Eyes:

10. Jesse Williams

Whenever I’m not watching Grey’s Anatomy because it’s full of moany wankers, I always think “Damn! That guy has some lovely eyes.” But then I think “Not that I would know, since I totally don’t watch that annoying Grey’s Anatomy bullshit. Umm. It must be The Cabin In The Woods I’m thinking of. Yep, that’s where I saw him. Not Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t watch that shit. Honest!”

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9. Orlando Bloom

I wouldn’t say I have a big crush on Bloom but his brown eyes are perfect. I could have put either Orlando Bloom or Andrew Garfield at number nine as they both have the perfect type of brown eyes that make me melt but I went with Bloom as, well, he’s definitely the more attractive of the two.

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8. David Bowie

That’s me – once again using any excuse to get David Bowie into a post. ;-) I’ve always been quite fascinated by people who have eyes of different colors (even though, in Bowie’s case, it’s down to a childhood accident). It’s just another quirk that makes him unique.

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7. Paul Walker

Aww – poor Paul Walker. I wasn’t a fan of those silly testosterone-fueled Fast & Furious movies but I loved Walker’s baby blues. It was a shame he’d done so many of those movies – I’d have liked to see him in other things. You know what movie of his I really liked? Roadkill! (Called Joy Ride in the US. Isn’t it weird when they change movie titles??)

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6. Johnny Depp

Another crush from my teen years who had beautiful brown eyes. I can’t help it… the majority of guys I had crushes on through my teens just always seemed to have brown eyes! Holy shit, though – look at the size of that collar.

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5. Paul Rudd

Sweet, funny, adorable Paul Rudd. I’ve loved him since Clueless. Cute AND funny – that’s how I like ‘em! Love his slightly unusual greenish eye color.

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4. Chris Hemsworth

Those who know me know that I kind of have the hots for The Hems. He’s gorgeous from top to bottom anyway but having eyes that are such a perfect shade of blue certainly doesn’t hurt either.

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3. Jim Sturgess

I told you I liked brown! Don’t get me wrong – Hemsworth is still my number one crush. Jim Sturgess, however, has THE most perfect puppy dog brown eyes. This is the type of boy I’d have fallen desperately in love with as a teenager (and who would’ve broken my heart, of course. the bastard!).

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2. Paul Newman

Back to blue! Okay, Chris Hemsworth is gorgeous but Paul Newman beat him to “baby-blue-eyed sex symbol” fame. What a legend! What a face. What a hottie!

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1. Michael Schoeffling

Ha! Yes, Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles. What can I say? Jake Ryan topped my list HERE of My Top Ten Movie Crushes. As your biggest crushes are when you’re in your teens, a lot of the guys on that list are of course from my teenage years. Jake Ryan was the perfect guy to me back then (in a totally shallow looks-wise way). So I have to put the lovely Michael Schoeffling’s beautiful brown eyes at number one.

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Green Eyes & The Ladies:

It feels like I should mention some actresses as well, such as Elizabeth Taylor, whose eyes were a deep shade of blue that sometimes appeared violet and who was lucky enough to be born with a “mutation” of a double row of eyelashes!! (I had never heard that until I looked people up when putting this list together). Also, seeing as I have neither blue nor brown eyes, I felt like I should give a shout-out to all the AWESOME green and hazel-eyed people out there. There are lots of beautiful green-eyed actresses but not actors for some reason. I read that green eyes are more common in women but that was somewhere on the Internet and the Internet is full of LIES, so… Who knows! Anyway, here are a few actresses with lovely eyes (yeah, mostly green as green-eyed girls rock):

Evangeline Lilly
Scarlett Johansson
Angelina Jolie
Emily Browning
Charlize Theron
Melanie Laurent

And the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen belong to actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, who was specifically hired for the (great) movie I Origins, a film in which the plot revolves around the eyes and their mysteries. I wondered throughout the movie if they were faked but they’re indeed her actual eyes with the unusual markings and different colors. Gorgeous!

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In A World… (2013) Review

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I’ve done a review for the lovely Cara over at Silver Screen Serenade for her NOOOOvember Series. The idea of this series is to talk about movies we expected to love (or at least like in my case) but that ended up leaving us very disappointed.

You can read my entry, a review of In A World…, HERE. Thanks for letting me be a part of this series again, Cara! I’m really not as grumpy as I may appear after writing this review and the one for Interstellar yesterday! ;-)

Interstellar (2014) Review

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****SPOILER-FREE REVIEW (but slightly bitchy…)****

Interstellar (2014)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring:
Matthew McConaughey
Anne Hathaway
Jessica Chastain
Michael Caine
Bill Irwin
Ellen Burstyn

Running time: 169 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

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My Opinion:

I’ve avoided reading the many reviews of Interstellar here on WordPress because I really didn’t want to know a single thing beforehand. As there are so many (much better) reviews out there, I’ll keep this super short and instead go & read all your reviews when I get a chance. Besides – the more I talk about Interstellar, the more annoyed you’ll probably all get with me. So I’ll just say this: I was underwhelmed. I was bored at times. And, by the end, it kind of just left me feeling empty (well, except for my bladder).

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Okay – I’ll say a little more because I’m sure you all want to hear me once again complain about a movie. Right?! ;-) Most who actually read my reviews know by now that I’m of the 70’s & 80’s generation and the majority of my favorite movies are from those two decades. I like plenty of current movies (you can see a ranked list of everything I’ve watched in 2014 HERE and see that I’ve given several movies a rating of 8 or higher). So this isn’t just age talking. No, wait… It IS age talking. I’ve been around a long time now and I’ve seen a lot of truly excellent films. Christopher Nolan is a very good director. I realize that he’s sort of like the “Steven Spielberg” for a generation below mine. For me, though, he’s only made one film so far that I’ve truly loved and it’s not The Dark Knight and certainly not Inception (it’s The Prestige). Other than that one, I wouldn’t watch his films over and over again like the way I have with plenty of Spielberg’s films. I think he’s done a great job with the movies he’s directed but, unfortunately, I think maybe Interstellar was a little too ambitious and comes up very short when compared to sci-fi classics.

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Science fiction! It’s something my little brain never fully understands (WTF is a wormhole anyway?) but I absolutely LOVE the genre above all others when it comes to entertainment so I was of course not going to miss this epic space movie. However, I’m also going to be far more picky than some. We have some TRULY classic sci-fi films and I wanted this to be another one. Maybe my expectations were just too high? However, I really had no issues with Gravity. I even ended up thinking Edge Of Tomorrow was far better than I’d ever expected it to be. I think, more than anything, the “human drama” element to Interstellar didn’t fully work. There were definitely some good performances but, overall, it all felt a little shallow and I never really connected with anyone. The “space stuff” (sorry – I hope I don’t lose anyone with my big technical terms!) was fine although, again, I had even less of a connection with the humans in space than I did with those on Earth. It all looked pretty but I wouldn’t say it’s the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen. The first half of the film dragged and I just wanted them to get the hell up into space. But then even that didn’t live up to my expectations.

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You know what? I’m going nowhere with this review & these days I get maybe 20 minutes to write them. Plus I said I’d keep it short but as always I just blabbed & blabbed! I’m sorry I’ve not been able to put it into better words but, hey – I was just a little disappointed. That’s all. I like what I like and I’m always completely honest here. Hopefully some of my regulars will know I’ve written enough extremely positive reviews of movies I’ve loved to know that I’m not just trying to be difficult as I know some get a little over sensitive about opinions. The Prestige?? I love it. That’s a 9/10 for me. Interstellar is okay. I know Nolan-worshippers won’t have a bad thing to say about it and I do still recommend it to his fans and, well – to everyone, really. It IS worth a watch on a big screen. It just didn’t quite work for me personally and I’d now rather re-watch a sci-fi classic or something like The Right Stuff, which is one I’ve been meaning to watch for years. Ultimately, Interstellar tries too hard to be Spielberg with the human drama and Kubrick with the rest but never comes close to achieving the greatness those two directors have when they’ve been at their best. I think more focus on either one or the other would have actually made this a better film overall but instead both elements kind of fail.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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***Not that anyone is still reading this now that I’ve given a Christopher Nolan film less than an 8 but these are some great sci-fi films & I’d highly recommend them to fans of the genre (the extremely obvious as well as some that are less so). I’d be happy if at least one person gave one of these movies a shot after watching Interstellar (or, better yet, before!). :-) And I’d happily take some recommendations as well as there are still plenty I haven’t seen, such as The Right Stuff & the original Solaris or most things from before the 70’s:

In no particular order:

2001: A Space Odyssey
Silent Running
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Star Wars (original trilogy)
Alien & Aliens
They Live
The Thing
Enemy Mine
Moon
Sunshine
WALL-E
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Predator
Planet Of The Apes
Back To The Future
The Last Starfighter
Dark Star
Blade Runner (I’ve just lost Brian!)
The Terminator 1 & 2
Death Race 2000
TRON
Nineteen Eighty-Four
Fahrenheit 451
D.A.R.Y.L. (I’ve just lost the rest of you!)
HARDWARE (I had to include it) ;-)
The Man Who Fell To Earth (Because… David Bowie!)

That took ages. I’ll stop there although I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch. A few of these movies are definitely not as good as Interstellar. However, I enjoyed them all more…

Strangers On A Train (1951) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Rob of MovieRob. He also reviewed Saving Private Ryan HERE and The Manchurian Candidate HERE and Pulp Fiction HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Rob! :-) Now let’s see what he has to say about Strangers On A Train, IMDB rank 138 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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“My theory is that everyone is a potential murderer.” – Bruno

Number of Times Seen – 1 (4 Nov 2014)

Brief Synopsis – After two strangers meet by accident during a train ride, one of them suggests that they commit crisscross murders for each other so neither will be suspected of the crimes.

My Take on it – Despite being a co-host of a Hitchcock blogathon a few months ago, I still haven’t seen most of his movies yet.

This is one of them that I have been meaning to see for years, but for some unknown reason, I have constantly procrastinated seeing.

I knew the basic premise (which was re-used in Throw Momma From the Train (1987) and couldn’t wait to see how Hitchcock handled it.

As a fan of movies, I generally prefer good and gripping plots as opposed to masterfully filmed movies from a technical standpoint. That’s probably the reason that I never fully appreciated Hitchcock’s films because he was known more for his camera angles, shots and perspectives than for his storylines.

That’s actually my major gripe about this movie tho; the premise is genius, but the actual storyline execution is weak. The characterizations and plot should have been developed more instead of making sure that the reflection through a pair of eye glasses was done properly. But that’s what one should expect from a Hitchcock movie, so I can’t really complain about something I was already aware of when I watched this.

There are a few great suspense filled scenes, the most notable one is with a lighter in a storm drain.

I wish I could say that I loved this movie, but frankly I can only say it was very good.

Bottom Line – Amazing premise and great work by Hitchcock, but the story itself is weakly plotted. Camera shots are excellent and perfectly done just like Hitchcock was known for. Recommended!

Rating – Globe Worthy

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***MOVIES FOR MOVIEROB & THE IPC

Hi. Your Cinema Parrot Disco host here. So, a few months ago, Rob did a review of Need For Speed for Eric’s Shitfest at The IPC. At the end of the review, he posted 10 pictures from 10 road racing movies and said that whoever got the most right would be able to choose 5 movies for him and 5 movies for Eric to watch & review. Well, I WON! :-)

Sorry for the huge delay, guys – I know you’ve been anxious for these, Rob! Life has gotten in the way these last few months but, as promised once October was over, here are your five movies each. I have a few alternates in case you’ve seen any of these already or if you can’t get a hold of some. I’ve put links in on the ones I’ve reviewed and there’s also one I’ve never seen (Nikita). No time limit whatsoever on these (although I’m sure Rob will have these watched, written, and posted by lunchtime tomorrow). ;-)

Rob’s Movies:

Harold & Maude
Before Sunrise
Amelie
I Origins
The Babadook

Eric’s Movies:

The Secret In Their Eyes
Sisters (aka Blood Sisters)
Vanishing Point
The Brood
Nikita

***Stay tuned the next two weeks for two more IMDB Top 250 Alfred Hitchcock guest reviews.

Happy 45th Birthday To Sesame Street!

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Oh! I just found out it’s Sesame Street’s 45th birthday today so I figured I should do a quick little post at a totally irregular time for me. (No one will see this anyway – I think I scared everyone off with my rectum & testicle post yesterday). ;-)

I’m such a huge fan of Sesame Street. I won’t go into it again in this post – you can read what I had to say about it HERE in my list of My Top Thirty TV Shows (it’s number three but, in many ways, it’s actually number one). Best show for kids EVER.

This Time article is an interesting read: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Early (Sunny) Days of Sesame Street.

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Also, it’s the 40th anniversary of another favorite from my childhood: Little House On The Prairie (number five on my Top Thirty list). Damn I’m old!!!! Check out this Entertainment Weekly article: ‘Little House on the Prairie’ reunion: The cast remembers life in Walnut Grove.

Well, I ended my TV post with two of my favorite clips from Sesame Street (the Yip Yip Martians & The Pinball Song) so here are a couple more.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SESAME STREET! :-)

I still say “and a stick of butter!” when rattling off a shopping list… ;-)

Anthropomorphic Cuteness Part VI: Rectum! Testicle! GUTS!

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I WANT THESE! These adorable anthropomorphic organs can be bought from this website: I Heart Guts! :-)

The rectum is quite cute. (Rectum? It nearly killed him!): ;-)

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But I think I’m partial to this adorable testicle:

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Seriously, though – you really need to check out the entire website. It’s hilarious! They have a description of each organ and what it does plus things such as their “likes & dislikes”. (The Rectum, Bringing Up The Rear details are my favorite! Favorite song: Drop It Like It’s Hot by Snoop Dogg. Lol). They also do art, pins & buttons, stationery, clothing, etc. The plush toys are definitely my favorite, though – they look so cuddly! And this Periodic Table Of Your Period looks quite handy…

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The Book Of Life (2014) Review

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The Book Of Life (2014)

Directed by Jorge Gutierrez

Produced by Aaron Berger, Brad Booker, Guillermo del Toro, Carina Schulze

Starring:
Diego Luna
Zoe Saldana
Channing Tatum
Ron Perlman
Christina Applegate
Ice Cube
Kate del Castillo

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

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My Opinion:

Hmm. I liked this movie and did think it was lovely to look at (but was probably a bit “too much” visually – they could have toned it down). As an adult, it’s not always fun sitting through kids movies but I enjoyed the story well enough in this and didn’t just want to sleep through the whole thing like I pretty much did during the horrible Boxtrolls movie. The problem with this one, though, is that I think adults may almost enjoy it a bit more than really young kids as I think the story is too confusing for those under maybe 8 or so. There’s no reason that younger kids can’t go to it – I just think they won’t like this one as much as it’s very fast paced, the story is too complex, and it’s just very “busy” – you’re constantly bombarded with the visuals, the story, the songs… I found it hard to keep up myself so I doubt a five-year-old really could.

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As I said, I did quite like the story. It’s actually told as a story that’s being told to a group of kids at a museum and I wasn’t sure that would really work at first but it wasn’t too bad – it just made it a bit harder to get into the characters who are in the “story within a story”. I put the very simple plot synopsis at the top but here it is from Wikipedia in much more detail to show you exactly what the central story is about (although, as I said, it’s more complex than this):

The spirits La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, appear at the San Angel’s Day of the Dead festival where they set up a wager after seeing two boys, Manolo and Joaquín, competing over a free-spirited girl named María. La Muerte bets that Manolo will marry María, while Xibalba bets on Joaquín. If La Muerte wins, Xibalba can no longer interfere in mortal affairs, but if Xibalba wins, he and La Muerte would switch lands.

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The girl in this is pretty good – she’s feisty and when the boys are fighting over her says something like “I belong to no one!” so I was all for that as too many female characters in kids movies are horrible role models to young girls. Her pet pig was pretty adorable and there weren’t any annoying or unlikable characters.

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The jokes in this are actually somewhat funny, even for the adults (well, one joke was SO dirty that the hubby & I looked at each other in disbelief! Don’t worry, though – your kids would NOT pick up on it. Just don’t laugh at it if you can help yourself. I couldn’t help myself…). There’s also a lot of music in this film which was sometimes fun as they did some popular stuff. Although I wasn’t sure if I should think it’s cool or if I should be pissed off at them doing Radiohead’s Creep… But, hey – it’s the first time I’ve heard Biz Markie’s Just A Friend since 1989!

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Summary:

The Book Of Life is a decent enough film that adults probably won’t mind sitting through as well. I do think it’s too complex for the very young but, aside from one dirty joke they won’t get anyway, I wouldn’t say there’s really anything inappropriate for kids (other than maybe the issue of “death” being discussed but you get that in most Disney movies anyway). Obviously, it’s not Pixar or Disney so it’s still just a kids film to me & I never rate those as highly as I’d rather watch a grown-up movie. I liked this okay, though, and think most kids of at least 7 or 8 probably will too.

My Rating: 6/10

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Here’s some Radiohead for Cara. ;-)

Nightcrawler (2014) Review

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Nightcrawler (2014)

Directed by Dan Gilroy

Starring:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Rene Russo
Riz Ahmed
Bill Paxton

Running time: 117 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Nightcrawler tells the story of a driven young man who stumbles upon the underground world of Los Angeles freelance crime journalism.

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My Opinion:

I’m not sure how to go about reviewing this one. I did think it was good but, unfortunately, not quite as good as I was expecting. I’ll say this isn’t necessarily my usual “type” of movie plus I’ve never really been a big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal. I think I was just expecting much more of a hard hitting drama and something even darker? This feels like a “movie”. It’s pretty & glossy just like the news shows in the film. So maybe that was the whole point? I don’t know. We all know the issues raised in this film – people who may be willing to go too far in their pursuit of what they want and sensationalist journalism, etc. It’s not really anything new so the concept was totally believable. However, too many things in the film really weren’t very realistic so it made it feel too much like a “movie” as some of these things wouldn’t actually happen in real life. I can’t get specific as I have to avoid spoilers.

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I know a lot of people have praised Gyllenhaal’s performance. He’s definitely very good at playing the subtle creepiness of his character. I think it’s another case of a performance being better than the film itself. Man, why do I always sound so negative in my reviews? Am I too picky?!

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Here’s what I liked: I loved the look of the film and all the shots of the city at night. I’m a small town girl and big cities stress me out but I do love the look of all the city lights at nighttime. I far prefer London after dark! Like I said, Gyllenhaal is very good in this and it was also nice seeing Rene Russo in a movie again plus I really liked Riz Ahmed’s character. Oh, and Bill Paxton! Who doesn’t love Bill Paxton at least a little bit thanks to Aliens and Weird Science?? I also did really like the story overall and thought they did a good job keeping it interesting the whole time. Even though it’s pretty predictable, I was happy with the conclusion of the film and the final half hour is gripping.

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Summary:

Nightcrawler is a good film and if it looks like your type of thing or if you’re a fan of Gyllenhaal, you should definitely check it out despite my lacklustre review. It’s not a perfect film but I think my expectations were just a little too high. It’s thoroughly entertaining and perhaps it’s meant to be slightly shallow as it’s making a statement on our society being this way. Yeah… I probably just missed the point!

My Rating: 7/10

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Amélie (2001) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mark of Marked Movies. He’s also reviewed Heat (HERE) and Argo (HERE) and The Big Lebowski (HERE) and Trainspotting (HERE). Thanks for all the reviews, Mark! :-) Now let’s hear his thoughts on Amélie, IMDB rank 62 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Director: Jean-Pierre Juenet.
Screenplay: Guillame Laurant.
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Yolande Moreau, Artus de Penguern, Urbain Cancelier, Dominique Pinon, Maurice Benichou, Jamel Debbouze.

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s collaboration with co-writer/director Marc Caro resulted in a couple of marvellous and inventive films in “Delicatessan” and “The City of Lost Children”. Those two had a dark element to them but now that Jeunet has went his own way, “Amelie” shows that he is the one that possesses the lighter side of the duo.

In the heart of Paris, Amelie (Audrey Tautou) brings joy to her friends, secretly sorting out the sad little problems in their lives. But when she discovers a strange photo album belonging to Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) she realises that she is in love and has problems of her own to sort out.

I struggle to think of a contemporary film that boasts such richness in detail and creative, infectious enthusiasm as ‘Amelie’ does. It’s playfulness, poetry and emotion are rarely touched upon these days in film and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet deserves applause for his uplifting achievements here. It’s also stunningly shot by cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel (inspired by the paintings of Brazilian artist Juarez Machado) lending an artistic look to the highly creative and artistic content. Without being overly elaborate though, it finds its art in the simple things in life, observing people’s individual pleasures and pains. Quite simply, the whole film is a complete joy to behold. The performances are also delightful. As much as I’m an admirer of actress Emily Watson (whom the role of Amelie was originally intended) I’m glad the relatively unknown Audrey Tautou got the part. She is absolutely adorable and captures the essence of this wonderful character perfectly. With flair and originality that’s hard to come by these days, ‘Amelie’ is one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema I have seen and will always be one of my favourites.

The humour; the look; the characters and performances; the delightful and fitting music by Yann Tiersen all culminate into the ultimate feel-good film and confirmation of the creativity and inventiveness of French cinema. A heartwarming modern classic.

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Mark Walker

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The House Of The Devil (2009) Review

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The House Of The Devil (2009)

Directed by Ti West

Starring:
Jocelin Donahue
Tom Noonan
Mary Woronov
Greta Gerwig
Lena Dunham
Dee Wallace

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the 1980s, college student Samantha Hughes takes a strange babysitting job that coincides with a full lunar eclipse. She slowly realizes her clients harbor a terrifying secret; they plan to use her in a satanic ritual.

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My Opinion:

Last October I watched my first Ti West movie for my Halloween Horror Fest (The Innkeepers – review HERE) and actually quite liked it so I’ve been meaning to check out The House Of The Devil ever since then. Hmm. I’ll say it’s very obvious it’s from the same director. I’m still not sure how I feel about Ti West but, based on the little I’ve seen, he clearly likes to use the same sort of template for his films. I was thinking about checking out his movie The Sacrament soon as well but was expecting it to be another movie where NOTHING happens for the first hour or so and then suddenly all hell breaks loose in the last 20 to 30 minutes (and Cara has just confirmed that this is indeed the case once again in her review of The Sacrament HERE). I like his style for the most part so far but can totally understand why a lot of people hate his movies. Be aware that if you watch The House Of The Devil it’s veeeeeeeery slow until, yes, all hell breaks loose in the final 20 minutes or so. Exactly like The Innkeepers.

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I’m struggling to think of what to say about this one and am still not completely sure how I feel about it. There were certain things I loved, like the opening credits in the photo above and the look & mood of the film and, of course, how it’s set in my beloved 1980s. My favorite scene is when the main girl, played by Jocelin Donahue, puts on her walkman and dances around to The Fixx (One Thing Leads To Another! Remember that song?? I’m so old…). Oh yeah – and the house is a pretty cool looking creepy old house as well.

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Dee Wallace has a small role, which is cool for us old horror fans. Also, Mary Woronov is in this who I was shocked to realize was the scientist in the underrated Night Of The Comet (which I recently reviewed HERE). Here she is – I can’t say I recognized her:

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I also really did like the main girl and thought she had the perfect look for this movie – it felt like West was going for a Margot Kidder/70’s actress type of look which helped to set the “Suspiria” mood, which I think he was also going for. I like and appreciate that as all my favorite horror films are from the 70’s & 80’s but, if I want to watch Suspiria, I’ll just watch that instead of a modern day copy.

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This is sounding a bit too negative. I was almost sort of loving this movie, actually, until the end. With The Innkeepers, I was a little bored until the final half hour which I thought was really good and saved the movie. I often complain that horror movies rarely know how to end but I found the ending of The Innkeepers pretty satisfying. However, the opposite is true of The House Of The Devil. I REALLY wanted to love it and things were going well as I was actually thoroughly enjoying that “Ti West thing where nothing happens for the first hour” but then the ending just didn’t quite work for me. This was pretty disappointing as I think I’d be raving about this movie if I’d been happy with the ending. I of course won’t spoil it so can’t go into what I didn’t like (there was only really one specific thing). Let’s just say I wish he’d kept it a little more simple and “classic”. And, although the absolute final scene didn’t bother me, I’m sure a lot of people hated it.

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Summary:

I think what I’m trying to say in a really long-winded way is this: I liked this movie (despite my negative-sounding review) but can totally understand why it’s not for everyone. I doubt anyone will go read my Innkeepers review now but I was much more positive in that one. However, although I think The Innkeepers is more “accessible” and is the one I’d be far more likely to recommend to people without worrying that they’d hate me for recommending it, I actually think The House Of The Devil is the better film of the two. Does that make sense?? That may be why I sound so disappointed. I think this movie had a lot of potential and I’d like to see a Ti West movie I can truly say I loved from start to finish. Maybe someday. This was so close at first…

My Rating: 7/10

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