My Top Ten John Hurt Movies

Happy Birthday (soon!) to John Hurt, who will be 77 on Sunday, January 22nd.

Wow – I didn’t realize just how much Hurt has starred in until I looked him up for this list. So this will be yet another Top Ten where at the end I’ll have to list some of his biggest films that I’ve not yet seen. But I won’t list everything since he’s been in 207 things!!! So here we go… Here are My Top Ten John Hurt Movies (as opposed to performances) counting down to my favorite (which is one of the greatest movies EVER):

Honorable Mentions:

14. Hellboy
13. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (Nuke the fridge!)
12. Thumbelina
11. The Skeleton Key (I actually quite liked this stupid movie)

10. The Black Cauldron

9. The Harry Potter Movies

8. I, Claudius

7. 1984

6. Contact

5. Melancholia

4. V For Vendetta

3. Spaceballs

2. The Elephant Man

1. Alien

I Saw These But Don’t Really Remember Them:

– King Ralph
– Lost Souls

Some I’ve Still Not Seen:

– Watership Down (animated) (This is on my 2017 Blind Spot list)
– The Lord Of The Rings (animated) (This is on my list to watch soon)
– Midnight Express (I’ve been meaning to watch this for years… Maybe it can be a 2018 Blind Spot!)
– Rob Roy
– Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
– Dogville
– Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer
– The Oxford Murders
– Brighton Rock
– Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
– Sightseers
– Only Lovers Left Alive (I keep asking the hubby to watch this with me, dammit! I want to see it!)
– Snowpiercer (This never did get a proper release in the UK. Still want to see)
– Jackie

Sound City (2013) Review

Yesterday, to celebrate tomorrow’s birthday of the lovely Dave Grohl, I posted a list of My Top Ten Foo Fighters Songs. Today I’m reblogging my review of Grohl’s fascinating documentary about Sound City recording studio. Well worth checking out if you’re a music fan! 🙂

Cinema Parrot Disco

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Sound City (2013)

Directed by Dave Grohl

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of Sound City Studios from its early days in 1969 until its closing in 2011. It then follows Dave Grohl’s purchase of the studio’s custom analog Neve console, which he moved to his personal studio, Studio 606. Famous musicians who recorded at Sound City reunite at Studio 606 for a jam session and to make an album of “all-new all-original songs, each one composed and recorded exclusively for the film within its own 24-hour session on that console.”

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Artists Featured: (also via Wikipedia because I’m lazy today)

The documentary features interviews conducted by Grohl of artists associated with the studio:

Vinny Appice
Frank Black
Lindsey Buckingham
Johnny Cash (archival)
Kurt Cobain (archival)
Kevin Cronin
Rivers Cuomo
Mick Fleetwood
Neil Giraldo
Josh Homme
Alain Johannes
Jim Keltner
Paul McCartney
Barry Manilow
Rupert Neve
Stevie…

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My Top Ten Foo Fighters Songs 

Happy (early) birthday to Dave Grohl, who’s turning 48 on Saturday. Who doesn’t love Dave Grohl? If you hate Dave Grohl, we can’t be friends. I’m allowed to marry Dave Grohl, if he’ll have me. My hubby agreed to that once. What do you say, Dave??? 😉

I’ve always had a thing for talented music dudes & Grohl is one of the best. He’s consistently made brilliant music with various bands but it’s his Foo Fighters stuff that I like the most. I’ve lost touch with music in the past several years where life has gotten too busy plus I suppose I spend any free time I do get on this blog & on movies instead of music. So I admittedly only know the singles from recent albums. It was fun putting this list together, though, as I hadn’t listened to a lot of these songs in a long time. I need to get back to listening to music more often – I don’t do it enough these days. I envy people who to get to listen to music all day while they work.

It wasn’t easy to decide on the order for this list but the top two are definite and I can’t see that ever changing – I adore those songs. As for the rest, they’re all so good that I couldn’t leave them out so I’ll count down from 20. They’ve never had a bad song, which can’t be said of many bands. Here are My Top Ten Foo Fighters Songs:

Honorable Mentions:

20. Walk
19. Walking After You
18. Stacked Actors
17. Next Year
16. I’ll Stick Around
15. The One
14. Best Of You
13. This Is A Call
12. These Days
11. Rope

TOP TEN:

10. TIE: Arlandria & Breakout

9. The Pretender

8. Big Me

7. Times Like These

6. My Hero

5. Learn To Fly

4. All My Life

3. Something From Nothing

2. Everlong

1. Monkey Wrench

My 2017 Blind Spot Choices


Last year I really enjoyed joining in on the Blind Spot series so many bloggers choose to do each year. You can see my final ranked list & review links to my 12 Blind Spot Movies Of 2016 HERE. I won’t be doing quite as much on this blog this year but I do like the thought of at least selecting another 12 films that I’ve been wanting to watch & finally making myself get around to watching them. So here are my choices for 2017:

Wolf Children

Jackie Brown

The Hustler

Watership Down

The Raid

Rocky

Fritz The Cat

The Last Temptation Of Christ

The King And I

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

Zodiac

House (Hausu)

Some Alternates (depending upon availability of the above & free time):

El Topo
The City Of Lost Children
Tetsuo (1989)
Solaris (1972)
Altered States
Ghost In The Shell
The Untouchables
Gandhi
The Right Stuff
Once Upon A Time In America

My 2017 Blog Resolutions 

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you’re all having a good 2017 so far. (Okay – it’s the 10th of January. I’m done saying “Happy New Year”). 😉

Like most people, I’ve made my own personal resolutions for 2017. I won’t share those here but they’re my main priority. However, I don’t want to abandon my “online movie diary” completely so I’ve decided on some things I’ll focus on this year in order to keep this blog going. Here are my 2017 Blog Resolutions:

Keep It Short

I ramble on too much (probably because I’m not a writer & I suck with words!). This has kept me from reviewing a lot of the (79!) movies I watched at home last year. This year, I’ll keep any reviews of non-current, meh movies very brief.

One Or Two Posts A Week

Simple: I’ll do a minimum of one or two posts a week. Some weeks there will be more but I won’t stress if I only manage one. I’ll mainly post Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and/or Thursdays.

Blind Spot Movie Reviews

The one blog commitment I didn’t come to regret in 2016 was watching & reviewing the 12 Blind Spot Movies that I chose last January. This is one of my main blog resolutions that I plan to stick to again this year. I’ll be posting my 2017 Blind Spot Choices tomorrow.

Reviews Of New Releases

I’ll again do my best to at least review all the current movie releases that I go to see this year. I’m always pretty good about keeping on top of this so it’s my other main commitment along with doing Blind Spot reviews.

IMDB Top 250 Project

This has been almost entirely on hold for the past couple of years. I no longer want any guest reviews as some became too much of a headache. But I do, from the bottom of my heart, thank those of you who fulfilled your guest review commitments at least once. Sincerely. *Hugssssss!* I got a lot of excellent classics reviewed on my blog thanks to you guys (and it gave me the opportunity to be very lazy for over a year with a guaranteed weekly post I didn’t have to write). 😉 I’m now going to go back to doing this on my own but I’m in no rush. By now, I’ve watched the majority of the Top 250 films that I actually WANT to watch. So I’ll make my goal, hmm… To watch & review four IMDB Top 250 Movies this year. Think I can manage that!

Top Ten Lists

I’ll still do these but not on a regular basis. When I do, I’ll probably continue to post them on a Thursday.

Books & Reviews

I tend to read about one book per month & I kept on top of reviewing them all in 2016. I’ll continue to try to do this but I’ll make my book reviews very brief as well. 

Themed Weeks/Months

I enjoy doing themed weeks and/or months on my blog but I won’t commit to definitely doing any this year. If I’m in the mood & if I have the time, these are the ones I keep toying with:

Studio Ghibli Week: I already devoted all of January 2015 to Studio Ghibli but have since been working my way through the non-Miyazaki films as well. I’ve watched five already so I’ll review them all one week. Probably. I already started 2017 by watching Arrietty. 🙂

Akira Kurosawa Week: I keep putting this off as I don’t know how to go about reviewing these fantastic films (I’ve only watched three so far). But I’ve just bought myself a lovely blu-ray set of five of his samurai films (it was cheap!) so, maybe one week by the year 2021, I’ll actually review all the Kurosawa films that I’ve watched.

John Carpenter Week: Another thing I’ve been putting off for two years! I have, however, watched plenty of his movies in preparation. One of these weeks…. BAM! I’ll suddenly review them all. Maybe. We’ll see.

New York City Week: I’ve watched so many movies based in NYC in the past year & have saved them up to devote a week to reviewing them. 

Rocky Week: To kill two birds with one stone, I’m putting the IMDB Top 250 film Rocky on my Blind Spot list. But, as the hubby keeps telling me how good Creed was, I figure I better watch all the Rocky movies first, right?? Ugh. Are there seven? Well, I’ll try! I do have them all available so I might as well. Considering how much I ended up enjoying Clint Eastwood Week last year, I’m bizarrely looking forward to watching all the Rocky “guy” movies. I’m a weird chick…

Non-Disney, Non-Pixar, Non-Ghibli Animation Month: One thing I really want to focus on is watching more animated films that aren’t necessarily “kids’ films” (although some will be). I’m talking about things such as Ralph Bakshi movies & non-Ghibli Japanese anime. There are also some movies that I’ve been meaning to watch for years, such as Watership Down. I have quite a long list, however, so it’s likely that I’ll watch what I can this year but not review anything until 2018. Hmm… 2018 resolution?! I’ve not even had a chance to break all my 2017 ones yet!

Well. That’s it. So much for my “Keep It Short” resolution!!! There – I’ve broken one already… See you tomorrow with my Blind Spot Choices. 🙂

A Recap Of My 2016 Top Ten Lists

I hope you’re all having a wonderful 2017 so far! 🙂 While I try to get back into the swing of things on this blog, I thought I’d do a quick recap post with links to my 2016 End-Of-Year Top Ten Lists which I posted during the week after Christmas. Here are the links:

My Top Ten Movies Of 2016 (released in 2016)
My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016 (not released in 2016)
My 2016 Blind Spot Movies: Ranked
My Top Ten Books Read In 2016

I took a blog break through December & have only just caught up on replying to comments over the weekend. Thanks to those of you who have stuck around despite my absence – I really do appreciate the comments and do love to have a chat. I’ll be posting less & hopefully reading more over the next few weeks. I really want to see all your End-Of-Year Lists as well so feel free to add links to them in the comments as I know I’ve probably missed out on most of them by now!

I’ll be posting some “blog resolutions” tomorrow, in which I’ll discuss some of my blog plans for 2017. Then I’ll be posting my 2017 Blind Spot Choices on Wednesday, which I’m really looking forward to doing again (I’ve already watched my January Blind Spot film). So, once again, a final Happy New Year to you all! I’ll do my best to not take a month to reply to your comments in 2017… 😉

My Top Ten Robert Duvall Movies

Happy Birthday to Robert Duvall, who turns 86 today!

Robert Duvall has been in a lot of big films but he seems to be an actor who is often overlooked. To be fair, when I decided to do this Top Ten after watching THX 1138, I couldn’t have instantly named all the movies he’s been in & was like “Oh yeah – he was in that one too!” when looking him up at IMDB & seeing his full list of films. I think some of the films in this list are overlooked as well (I actually really like Falling Down, Colors & Deep Impact, which is why I have them fairly high & will probably be moaned at for having them above a couple of classics). 😉

As always, I’ve ranked these according to how much I personally like these movies (Not according to Duvall’s individual performances in each. But he’s good in them all!). Here are My Top Ten Robert Duvall Movies:

10. Network

9. Apocalypse Now

8. Crazy Heart

7. Deep Impact

6. Colors

5. Falling Down

4. To Kill A Mockingbird

3. THX 1138

2. The Godfather: Part II

1. The Godfather

The Rest That I’ve Seen:
Days Of Thunder
Four Christmases
Phenomenon
Gone In 60 Seconds

Saw These But No Longer Remember Them (sorry!):
The Natural
The Paper
M.A.S.H.

I Like These But His Role Was Uncredited (so I didn’t count them):
The Conversation
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

A Few Big Ones I’ve Not Seen:
Bullitt
True Grit
The Apostle
The Road

My Top Ten Movies Of 2016

Here’s my last post of this unbelievably insane & cruel year. Goodbye & good riddance, 2016! You’ve robbed us of far too many kind & talented people and left us under the care of far too many people full of pure evil & hate. I’d like to think that mankind deserves better than this. But do we?

Well, let’s lighten the mood slightly as I started this movie blog for one reason only: to discuss movies. Because I love them. In this fucked up world, we can turn to them and find a beauty that so often seems to be lacking in the “real world” (especially in 2016). I find it interesting that, as the world is getting worse & worse these past several years, we’ve also had some truly beautiful films that have displayed human kindness in a way that is so hard to capture onscreen without becoming overly sappy & sentimental. So, there must be some good people left? To be able to create art as powerful as in things such as the top two films on my list, there must be some good left in the world. Right?? All I know right now is that I wish Arrival was a true story. We need some aliens to visit us & give humanity a much needed kick up the ass!

A quick note that, as always, I go by the UK release dates for these end-of-year lists. Too damn confusing otherwise! I’m aware that my number 1 is a 2015 film in the U.S. (Which will still be pointed out by those who don’t read these intros). 😉

Here we go! My Top Ten Movies Released In The UK In 2016 (that I’ve managed to see – you can see my entire, ranked list of all 38 HERE). Counting down to my favorite & with links to my full reviews, these are ranked on my own personal taste as opposed to “worthiness”. But in my opinion, the top two are damn near masterpieces in a league of their own.

Honorable Mentions:

15. Kubo And The Two Strings
14. Everybody Wants Some!!
13. Captain America: Civil War
12. Deadpool
11. Midnight Special

Top Ten:

10. Moana

9. The Edge Of Seventeen

8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

7. Nocturnal Animals

6. The Purge: Election Year

5. The Girl With All The Gifts

4. Your Name

3. Sing Street

2. Arrival

1. Room

My Other End-Of-Year Lists:

My Top Ten Books Read In 2016
My 2016 Blind Spot Movies: Ranked
My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016 (not released in 2016)

I’m now taking a much needed break from posting anything for a while & instead catching up on reading other blogs and all of your end-of-year lists. So, for now, I wish you all a Happy New Year! See you sometime in 2017. 🙂

My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016

Today I have my penultimate End-Of-Year List: My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016. I started by ranking My Twelve 2016 Blind Spot Movies then did a list of My Top Ten Books Read In 2016.

I’ll finish these last two days with movie lists. Tomorrow I’ll post My Top Ten Movies Of 2016 (movies I saw that were released this year in the UK). That list is always the most popular as the majority of people like reading about very current films. However, I always enjoy making this “Movies Watched At Home” list slightly more. It’s more varied and quite often contains better films overall as they’re from a variety of years plus I try to (force myself to) watch some classics each year. However, I have to say that this year has been a good year for new films & a lot of the 2016 films would make an amalgamated Top Ten List of absolutely every movie I watched this year. I love the word “amalgamated”…

But it’s easier to do two separate lists! So here are My Top Ten Movies Watched In 2016 (but not released in 2016). And, as I saw so many good ones this year, I’ll count down from 20. And, if that’s not enough for you, I’ve ranked & rated ALL 79 of them HERE. Ha! I’m sad. 😉

(Oh, I should also add that these are FIRST TIME watches only. I don’t count re-watches so things like the fantastic Freaks, which I re-watched & reviewed for the recent At The Circus Blogathon, aren’t included)

Honorable Mentions:

20. Magic
19. THX 1138
18. Turbo Kid
17. Running On Empty
16. Stories We Tell
15. Trick ‘r Treat
14. The Cat Returns
13. The Wind Rises
12. For A Few Dollars More
11. Play Misty For Me

Top Ten:

10. Wizards

9. Circle

8. Ikiru

7. Battle Royale

6. Natural Born Killers

5. Predestination

4. Space Station 76

3. Akira

2. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

1. In Your Eyes

**Yep – I have quite a few classics here but my number one is a modern romance movie written by Joss Whedon. As you can tell from the rest, I’m not exactly a “girly” girl but I did love In Your Eyes. A romantic movie that worked & didn’t make me want to puke! And I was totally in love with the guy. How adorable is he in that picture? His character was such a sweetheart.

Also, I’m glad I managed to review most of my favorites this year (links above). I’m planning to do themed weeks (or months) in 2017 with those I’ve not yet reviewed. I’ll have a Studio Ghibli Week, an Akira Kurosawa Week, and possibly a month of animated films when I’ll review things like Wizards. Am looking forward to focusing on more non-Disney, non-Pixar animations in 2017.

See you tomorrow for my final post of 2016: My Top Ten Movies Released In 2016 (That I’ve managed to see, obviously. I can’t watch everything!). 🙂

My Top Ten Books Read In 2016

Welcome to Day Two of my annoying End-Of-Year Lists! Today I’m ranking the thirteen books that I read in 2016 (but it’s still a Top Ten as I didn’t really like the bottom three very much). As always, I rank things according to my own personal taste. For example, number 13 is a far better & more well-written book than 12 or 11 – I just enjoyed 12 & 11 slightly more. I’m also quite proud that I somehow managed to review them all (poorly, though – I suck at book reviews even more than movie reviews) so I’ve included the links to what I said about each.

So now, counting down to my very favorite, these are all the books that I read in 2016:

Three Not-So-Great:

13. Straight White Male by John Niven

12. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

11. The Death Cure by James Dashner

Top Ten Much-Better-Ones:

10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

9. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

8. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

4. Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

3. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

2. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

1. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Can I just say that, while I highly recommend at least my top seven, I want to give a special mention to Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. I’ve now read several of his books after wanting to find out if he was as good as his father (Stephen King). I’ve really enjoyed all his books so far but, finally, 20th Century Ghosts is one that I really loved. As with all short story collections, some stories are much stronger than others. But the best ones are fantastic!

**See you for two more end-of-year lists over the next two days. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a list of My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016 then will end on Friday with My Top Ten Movies Released In 2016 (going by UK release dates). 🙂

Carrie Fisher

I can’t believe I’m having to do yet another tribute post in 2016 to one of my biggest idols. We all know that this year has been extremely cruel & unfair when it comes to the amount of hugely talented artists it has taken from us. And like many people, I’m not only sad – I’m angry.

I struggle with these tribute posts, especially when it comes to those artists who mean so much to me. I always feel a bit weird doing them as, obviously, it’s not the same as losing a family member or people you know in real life. It’s a terrible, hate-filled world full of so much tragic death on a daily basis that it feels almost wrong to mourn a “celebrity”. But it’s also understandable as, to their fans, these talented celebrities help provide a form of escapism from our real-life troubles and the evils of this world. They entertain us, they make us laugh, and they make us cry.

I don’t need to go into what a legend Carrie Fisher is and how she inspired so many of us by bringing Princess Leia to life (especially us girls, as we so rarely got such strong, sassy heroines in that male-dominated era & genre). A witty writer, a very funny lady, and forever one of the most-loved and iconic characters in the history of cinema. I’m so glad I was able to see Carrie in person at Star Wars Celebration Europe this year and to have shared that experience with my husband and 7-year-old daughter, who is part of a new generation of Star Wars fans through which Carrie Fisher’s Leia will forever live on. 

R.I.P. Carrie Frances Fisher (October 21, 1956 – December 27, 2016)

My 2016 Blind Spot Movies: Ranked

Happy “Almost End Of 2016”, everyone! Let’s kick this year in the balls & move on. But first, I’m doing my End-Of-Year Lists for the rest of this week. List-making is the BEST & it’s totally sad how much I look forward to making these at the end of each year.

I’ll start today by ranking My Twelve 2016 Blind Spot Movies. As always, I’ll count down to my personal favorite. I have to say that I chose wisely last January, though – I enjoyed every single one of these so there are no “losers” on this list. I of course wanted to love them all but I can say that all of these are definitely worth your time if you’re interested in them.

Here we go! Counting down to my favorite, with the links to my full reviews included:

12. Eyes Without A Face

11. An Education

10. True Romance

9. Summer Wars

8. Phenomena

7. Magic

6. THX 1138

5. Running On Empty

4. Play Misty For Me

3. Battle Royale

2. Natural Born Killers

1. Akira

**I switched my Top Three around SO many times! I’m still not sure of the order of those but the Top Three are easily my favorites on this list & ahead of the others by a long way. See you tomorrow for My Top Ten Books Read In 2016. 🙂

Akira (1988) Blind Spot Review

Akira (1988)

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo

Based on Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki, Tetsusho Genda

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Akira depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda. Several parties, including Kaneda, resistance terrorist Kei, Colonel Shikishima of the JSDF and a trio of espers, attempt to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira.

My Opinion:

This is my final Blind Spot movie of 2016 (see the full list HERE). I’m going to do a post tomorrow ranking & rating all twelve that I watched but I can say now that I’m happy to have ended on Akira. I liked this one a lot, although I won’t even begin to pretend to fully understand what the hell was going on! 😉

I first want to say that I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that those of you in the UK are enjoying Boxing Day. I prefer Boxing Day – it’s the day when you get to lie around all bloated & just watch TV all day. That’s what you’re meant to do on Boxing Day, right?? I think some people go shopping because of all the sales. Screw that! Okay – back to Akira

Ummmmmmmm………. I put some Japanese anime on my Blind Spot list as I’ve been meaning to explore this genre more since I have no knowledge beyond Studio Ghibli (which I love). I watched Summer Wars, which I really enjoyed, and know I’ll choose two or three more amines for my Blind Spot 2017 list (I’m happy to take recommendations!). Akira is the biggie, though, so I knew I had to get that one “out of the way”, so to speak. What can I say? I like to dive in at the deep end! And this is certainly the deep end.

For other people, I suppose this movie wouldn’t be the place to start but I think I kind of loved it. And I have no idea why! I can’t explain why or give you any more of a plot synopsis other than the one I used from Wikipedia at the top of this post. It’s an intense film but it immediately grabbed me & I was never ever bored. I’ll admit that I attempted to watch Ghost In The Shell about a year ago. After falling asleep half an hour in (I’m a parent of a young child – this happens a lot when watching movies once the kid is finally in bed), I never went back to it. Well, I’ll try that one again someday – I’m just glad that Akira grabbed my attention from the very start.

I’m not going to say much about this film. It’s the day after Christmas and we’re all exhausted, right? It’s a tough one to explain anyway. Akira is bizarre. It’s at times funny, which I didn’t expect. I really liked the character Kaneda and the fact that it seemed like someone was shouting his name every two minutes. “Kaneda! KANEDA!!!!” Tetsuo was a total dick. I liked those three weirdo kids. It’s dystopian & I love dystopian. It’s also “cyberpunk” which, in looking up the definition, it looks like I’m already a fan of anyway so I suppose that’s partly why this movie appealed to me. Even though I didn’t know what the hell was going on… Oh, and I loved that almost “body horror” ending as well! Fucked up.

As I’m clearly struggling with what to say about this one, I think I’ll explore it again sometime in 2017 & maybe post about it again when I have a bit more experience with Japanese anime. I’ll definitely be watching it again when I get a chance. Akira was a fun, strange watch and I’m very happy to have put it on my Blind Spot list. KANEDA!!!!!!!!!

My Rating: 8/10

**See you tomorrow for my ranking of the 12 Blind Spot films I watched this year & to see where I rank Akira. 🙂

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (Book Review)

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (short story collection)

What It’s About: (via Amazon)

Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . . .

Francis was human once, but now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . .

John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . . .

Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of ’77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . . .

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. . . .

My Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this short story collection from Joe Hill. I’ve read several Joe Hill books now & commented on my review for Heart-Shaped Box that, while I’m really enjoying his books, they still weren’t quite living up to his father’s (Stephen King – my favorite author). But I was determined that one day I’d read a Joe Hill book that I really do love. I’d say that 20th Century Ghosts is finally the one!

This collection is fantastic and the very best stories live up to King’s short stories. What was also great was that there were plenty that weren’t even within the horror genre, including some with brilliantly original ideas (such as in the story Pop Art – I’ve never read anything quite like that one). So I’ll review this one in the same way I reviewed his dad’s short story collection The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams – I’ll give a very brief opinion on each story then an overall rating & what my five favorite stories were. So here we go!

My Quick Thoughts On Each Story:

Best New Horror:

Yikes. This one was genuinely disturbing and one for true lovers of “horror”. I was a little worried, as this was the first story, that the rest of them would be as horrific (which wasn’t the case at all). But this is a brilliant piece of writing & one of the stories that I know I’ll remember the most from this collection years from now. Atmospheric & creepy, this story shows that Hill can write very effective horror.

20th Century Ghost:

I ADORED this story. I can tell you right now that this was my favorite but, of course, it was likely to be as it involved something very dear to me: a love of movies. I won’t get into details on the story to avoid spoilers but, as the title may suggest, it’s about a ghost haunting a movie theater. This story is perfect. I loved it so much! And what a relief to read this one, which made my heart happy, after the thoroughly disturbing one that started the book…

Pop Art:

Wow. This story is truly brilliant and utterly unique. It’s about a boy named Art. And he may pop. Why? Because he’s inflatable. This is some good shit. How is Joe Hill not a household name after writing this one?? Well, maybe it’s too weird for the mainstream but those who appreciate something a bit left of center may love this one.

You Will Hear The Locust Sing:

Another piece of amazing writing, this is Hill’s ode to Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Not my personal favorite but admittedly one of the better stories in this novel overall.

Abraham’s Boys:

Again, not a personal favorite of mine but this was an intriguing alternative take on vampire-hunter Van Helsing’s life.

Better Than Home:

This was a beautiful story about a loving father & son relationship. I can’t say I really related to it, especially as there’s a lot of baseball talk (Hill & his father clearly love baseball) but it’s a sweet & not overly-sentimental story I’m sure a lot of people would like.

The Black Phone:

A very King-like story about a kidnapped boy & the mysterious phone in the basement where he’s being kept. Loved the supernatural vibe. Fans of Hill’s dad will like this one.

In The Rundown:

A good story about a late teen/early twentysomething(?) boy beat down by life and about a woman going to desperate measures. But I have to admit I had to grab the book just now to remind me what this one was about so it’s clearly not one that stuck with me.

The Cape:

Definitely one of the strongest stories in the book, I thoroughly enjoyed this story of two brothers and a magic cape that allows one of them to fly. And I loved the turn the story took at the end. Another one that really displays Hill’s storytelling talent.

Last Breath:

A very short story but, again, a truly original & unique idea. I’d love to see this one & a few others adapted for some kind of anthology film/TV show. This story would work really well on screen.

Dead-Wood:

This is another one where I just had to refresh my memory. Didn’t take long as it’s only just over one page! A good, weird little story that actually reminds me of a Tales Of The Unexpected episode I saw once involving plants “screaming”. Man I loved that show. I guess it’s a bit like The Happening too, though. Ugh – Sorry! I didn’t mean to compare that movie to Hill’s work. Hill’s work is much better…

The Widow’s Breakfast:

Another lovely story that doesn’t fall at all within the horror genre, this is about a kind widow & a homeless man in the 1930s. I easily remembered this one – I preferred it to the father/son story in Better Than Home. But both are great for non-horror lovers.

Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead:

Joe Hill, you’re truly after my heart with your choices of settings in these stories! First we had the brilliant movie theater ghost story then, with this one, we have a “love story” on the set of George A. Romero’s 1978 Dawn Of The Dead! An all-time favorite film of mine (and by far the best zombie flick ever)!!! Loved this story. Loved it! Hill & I clearly like the same sort of stuff. Other than baseball…

My Father’s Mask:

A bizarre story with a fantastic vibe. Sort of made me think of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut for some strange reason. But, like, a good version of that…

Voluntary Committal:

BRILLIANT story! The best in this book (and also my favorite alongside 20th Century Ghost, which has a slight edge for me only because it’s movie-related). I always feel bad comparing Hill to King but, yes, this one is very King-like and King’s fans will love it. It’s my favorite sort of story – one with a supernatural edge and very strong writing. I’d hazard a guess that this story is the favorite of most who read this collection. After this story and the four others I’ve listed below, I’m now indeed a firm fan of Joe Hill’s writing.

Scheherazade’s Typewriter:

A sneaky little story hidden within the Acknowledgments at the end of the book. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that… It’s meant to be a surprise! Well, don’t miss out on this fun 3-page story – it’s well worth your time. As is this entire book. Fantastic work from Joe Hill! Now I can’t wait to read my new copy of The Fireman.

My Overall Rating For 20th Century Ghosts: 4.5/5

My Top Five Stories (in book appearance order):

20th Century Ghost
Pop Art
The Cape
Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead
Voluntary Committal

**Hope you all have a great weekend and, for those who celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas! I’ll be back next week with a review of my final Blind Spot Movie (Akira), followed by four end-of-year lists of my favorite books & movies this year. I love end-of-year lists!!!! Hope to see all of yours too. 🙂

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Book Review)

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Batoru Rowaiaru
Japanese: バトル・ロワイアル

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story tells of junior high school students who are forced to fight each other to the death in a program run by the authoritarian Japanese government, now known as the Republic of Greater East Asia.

My Thoughts:

I watched the Battle Royale movie as one of my Blind Spot choices this year (review HERE). I really liked it but my one complaint was that it felt a bit more “shallow” than I’d been expecting. So I picked up the (very thick!) book in the hopes that I’d get more of an in-depth look into why these children are being forced to fight to the death and to also get to know the characters and their motivations a bit better. I now have to say that reading the book if you’ve already seen the movie isn’t necessarily needed…

Don’t get me wrong – I liked the book a lot so I don’t feel like I wasted my time on this (very thick!) novel. I did get to know the characters better, especially the main three that are followed (Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa & Shogo Kawada). It was also cool to get a good few pages or sometimes even several chapters (mostly on the best friends of our main character) devoted to each and every one of the 42 students in the Battle Royale program.

However, the film is quite faithful to the book & I didn’t learn much more than I did from the movie. And what did get changed for the film actually worked for the better, I think. This was especially true of the changes to the man in charge of the group, Kinpatsu Sakamochi. I was surprised to find, in the novel, that he actually has no prior attachment in any way to these students while there’s an interesting link in the film. Also, the film pushes the girl (Noriko Nakagawa) front and center a bit more while she’s the least-developed of the main characters in the book & it’s very much the boy (Shuya Nanahara) who is the star. The book’s male characters are better developed overall than its females are but, again, I did appreciate getting to know the extra characters in the book as the movie obviously couldn’t devote time to all 42 of them.

All in all, Battle Royale is a thoroughly entertaining (and gory) book & film. It has a message of sorts but I feel it’s sort of lost in the gore. I can now see why Quentin Tarantino loves the film as it feels like violence for the sake of violence. I do now have to admit that The Hunger Games is indeed very close plot-wise in so many ways that it’s understandable why Battle Royale fans called that series a rip-off. The Hunger Games is Battle-Royale-Lite, though – both are considered Young Adult in their country of origin but the violence is far more excessive in this novel. Just a warning – I doubt anyone will be handing this book over to their 13-year-old to read anyway. I feel kind of “bad” for enjoying this one as the violence seems excessive. But I really liked the main characters & getting to know all the other students, the action and pacing worked well, it was a fairly quick read (despite being very thick!), and that whole Lord Of The Flies setup is still an intriguing one. But you really can just watch the movie if you don’t fancy the (really thick!) novel.

My Rating: 4/5

Running On Empty (1988) Blind Spot Review

Running On Empty (1988)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Starring: Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, River Phoenix, Martha Plimpton, Steven Hill

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Running On Empty:

11. Eyes Without A Face – 7/10
10. An Education – 7/10
9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. Magic – 7/10
7. Summer Wars – 7/10
6. True Romance – 7/10
5. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
4. Running On Empty – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

This was a slight cheat for my Blind Spot list as I think I saw at least part of this film at the time but didn’t remember it. I’m not sure why I never fully explored it as I absolutely loved River Phoenix and I was completely & utterly obsessed with Stand By Me. That remains my most-watched movie to this day due to the multiple times I watched it at the age of 13/14. And, no, I’m still not over River’s death! You know how some of you younger bloggers feel about Heath Ledger?? River was the Heath of my generation. So damn talented… What a sad loss for the acting world – River was already fantastic at such a young age.

So, I’ll start with River’s performance in Running On Empty. He’s the true star of the film & his role won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (although I’d call it a lead role). I still often wonder what he’d be like today, at the age of 46, and how many Oscars he’d have (he’d most certainly have some). He’d be another Leonardo DiCaprio. Yep – there are some damn fine actors from my generation! Anyway, he was great playing a boy of (17?) in this film and he had just the right mix of maturity yet boyish playfulness. I sometimes get annoyed when teenagers are too mature in films – it’s not believable.

So, yeah – River is the best thing about this movie but there are strong performances from everyone involved. Christine Lahti is probably the most moving as a mother who knows she may need to let her son go in order to give him a chance to live a normal life. Judd Hirsch plays the father who insists that the family will always stay together, on the run, no matter what. And Martha Plimpton plays a girl who, along with the opportunity to go to a prestigious college, makes River’s character long to lead a normal life instead of always having to move from place to place & assume new identities every time his fugitive parents are in danger of being discovered. They’re a very close-knit family and you can’t help but want them to be able to somehow live happily ever after despite the mistakes the parents made in the past (they’re ex-hippies who bombed a napalm laboratory, seriously injuring a janitor who wasn’t meant to be there).

I think this is a sadly overlooked Sidney Lumet film as he’s done so many absolute classics (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, etc). It’s a shame as Running On Empty is a very good film with moving performances (especially from River – it’s amazing that I somehow missed out on this one as a fan of his). It has, admittedly, maybe not dated all that well in the same way a lot of 80’s films haven’t so it won’t necessarily be one that a younger generation will go for. If you grew up on 80’s films, however, this is a must-see that I think plenty of people didn’t see. I’m not sure why it didn’t get more attention but I’m glad that River Phoenix at least got an Oscar nomination. And I’m glad I finally took the time to watch it! And to once again have him break my heart… River did 80’s coming-of-age dramas perfectly.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Yes, this Jackson Browne song was in my head the whole time. No, it’s not in the movie. Hmm – I should add this movie to my list of My Top Ten Movies With Song Title Titles! FYI – Stand By Me was number one on that list…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW***

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker

Music by Michael Giacchino

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Rogue One follows a group of Rebel spies on a mission to steal design schematics for the Galactic Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star.

My Opinion:

This is going to be really short because a) I have a headache & want to go to bed and b) I’ve realized that no one actually reads anything that I write anyway. Ha! 😉 So I’m more interested in having a discussion about this movie with all of you in the comments instead of me rambling on about the movie for ages. So spoiler-free review but spoilerific in the comment section once you’ve all seen this. Here are my initial thoughts:

I might come back to this movie in a week and give some further thoughts on it here like I did a few days after my initial review of The Force Awakens (review HERE). With The Force Awakens, I wanted to re-visit it a few days after my excitement died down to see if I really DID like it as much as I seemed to (my initial reaction was right – I still love it). Rogue One is quite different in that I don’t instantly love it in the same way I did The Force Awakens. Not even close. I think it’s known by now that this is a very “different” Star Wars movie and I can confirm that that’s indeed an accurate statement. This one is going to take some getting used to. Will I like it more after some time has passed? I honestly have no idea. I hope so…

This isn’t your typical “family” Star Wars movie. This isn’t your straightforward black & white, good vs evil type of story. So many shades of gray to these characters, which is great & very grown-up. But that will also make for a much more divisive movie. And, no – your kids probably aren’t going to like this one very much. If at all. Do NOT let this one be their introduction to the Star Wars universe! FYI – the proper way to introduce kids is to show them in release-date order in my humble (and correct) opinion. If you don’t start with A New Hope, you’re doing it wrong! 😉

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is another strong female lead, which I’ll never complain about. I’m loving this current movie trend! She’s no Leia or Rey, though. I didn’t have the instant connection with her like I did with Rey. With Rey, I was shocked to find by the end of the film that I cared about her just as much as I do the original trilogy characters. Same with Finn & BB-8 – these characters ARE Star Wars to me and I absolutely cannot wait to see them again in the next movie. Unfortunately, I can’t say I felt any connection like this with any of the Rogue One characters. I enjoyed watching the story unfold and lead up to A New Hope, my favorite of all the films. But I just felt a bit empty by the end. I didn’t really care about these people. Oh man… I don’t want to say that about a Star Wars movie!

Okay – I did like two characters a lot. Don’t get me wrong – I really did like Jyn Erso but she wasn’t my favorite character in the end. The two who really stole the show were Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe & Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus. Actually, I loved these guys! Great characters, but they didn’t feel like “Star Wars characters” (not that anyone really did). I’d happily watch a standalone movie with these two characters, though – they were fantastic. They kicked ass, were super cool, and had great chemistry. Without them, I’d probably rate this movie quite a bit lower to be honest. I was thankful they were in it as the movie seriously picked up once they showed up.

Sorry – I said this would be super short. I’m going to end here & see how I feel about Rogue One a week from now. I certainly didn’t hate it but I also know I don’t instantly love it the way I did with The Force Awakens. I’ve not read any reviews yet to avoid spoilers but the one thing I kept seeing on Twitter was that it “feels like Star Wars!”. I’m not sure I agree with that statement. Sorry….

My Initial Rating: 7.5/10

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Book Review)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What It’s About: (via Amazon)

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again.

Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.

If civilization was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

My Thoughts:

This is a pretty fantastic book within my beloved post-apocalyptic genre. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with this genre… But, anyway – I’ll probably compare this to The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J Walker since I read this just after that one. Running Club focuses on one main character & his family immediately after the world is pretty much annihilated by asteroids while this one follows several different characters twenty years after most of humanity was wiped out by the “Georgia Flu” as well as showing us some characters in flashbacks before the pandemic. I’d say I liked both of these books equally but Station Eleven is definitely the “better” one of the two. I believe it won an award (Yep – I just looked it up. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015, which is “a British award given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year“). This one feels like, I dunno… Proper literature! What I mean is that I could see Station Eleven being read in schools while Running Club is more mainstream fiction. Did I somehow manage to just insult both books in that sentence??? 😉 I didn’t mean to in any way – I really liked & recommend both books but they have quite different styles.

Station Eleven is very unique in the way the characters are connected, both past & present. Kirsten, an actress in a group of performers who travel the country to entertain people after society has collapsed, is obsessed with gathering information on a famous actor she worked with in a Shakespeare play as a child & who died before her eyes on the stage. That same night is when the Georgia Flu pandemic took hold & we slowly learn how Kirsten has come to be with this travelling group of actors & musicians twenty years later. There are very few survivors left after the pandemic and no electricity, medicine, etc. Travelling can be very dangerous but this group wishes to keep the arts alive.

Two of the only things Kirsten has left from the pre-pandemic world and her most prized possessions are the first two issues of a comic book called Dr. Eleven. The parts of the book that detail this comic book and its author plus the comic book’s story set on a space station called Station Eleven are my absolute favorite parts of this novel. It’s through this comic book that, unbeknownst to Kirsten & several other main characters, they’re all linked.

I’ve not given it a lot of thought but I suppose this book is making a comment on how humanity is all connected, even without the current modern technology that makes staying connected so much easier (Skype, air travel, etc – all these things no longer exist in this book). Also, it shows that we long for this connection and there are attempts to rebuild things in the book (the publishing of a newspaper given out to travellers and the way the symphony continues to travel & perform despite the danger). There are also the obvious parallels between this post-apocalyptic Earth and the hostile space station that Dr. Eleven finds himself on in the novel’s comic book.

I’ve not read another Emily St. John Mandel book but she’s written a fantastic novel here and the way in which she weaves these characters’ lives together was truly unique. This was quite different from other books I’ve read & is well worth a read no matter what sort of genre you like. I have to say that this book, based on its writing & originality, deserves a slightly higher rating than I’m giving it. The only slight downside for me was that I didn’t buy into the characters as much as I’d have liked. I can’t explain why, however… But for whatever reason, I cared more about the characters in The End Of The World Running Club. Like I also said with that one, however, this would make for an absolutely brilliant film if the right filmmakers/actors were involved. I’d love to see this story brought to life on the screen and for this book to get even more recognition. I’d happily read another book from Emily St. John Mandel if they’re as good as Station Eleven.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams & Straight White Male by John Niven (Book Reviews)

Here are two mega quick reviews of two books since I’m trying to review everything I’ve read this year before I make my end-of-year lists. Let’s have a look at this strange combo…

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
There is a long tradition of Great Detectives, and Dirk Gently does not belong to it. But his search for a missing cat uncovers a ghost, a time traveler, AND the devastating secret of humankind! Detective Gently’s bill for saving the human race from extinction: NO CHARGE.

My Thoughts:

My absolute favorite book of all-time is The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams. But I’ve never re-read it (I’m not a re-reader of books) and I’ve never read the rest in that series or anything else by Adams until this one. I know I really should read more of his work as, judging by the two I have read, I love his fabulous sense of humor and he was clearly clever as hell. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is NOT as utterly brilliant as Hitchhiker’s. However, it has the same style and wacky characters and was a lot of fun. Will I read more in this series (it’s a series, right?)? No, probably not but I’d love to re-read Hitchhiker’s now & maybe continue with those.

The crazy characters in this book are its selling point more than the actual story, which was at least certainly intriguing. I’m not sure why but I found this book to be very slow going at first & it took me a while to get into it (probably just because I’m not super smart & Adams was clearly all intellectual & shit). It picks up about halfway through, though, and I did enjoy the ending.

Okay – I’m seriously struggling with what to say as this is a very hard book to describe, especially to anyone who has never read anything by Adams. As I have so little experience with his work myself, I’m not going to ramble on like an idiot. I love all the little things thrown in, like the Electric Monk (a time-saving device of the future or, um, parallel dimension (?) that was created to believe all the things humans are meant to believe so that we no longer have to spend our own time worrying about such things…. Did I get that right?!). There’s a couch stuck on some stairs even though its being there is a scientific & mathematical impossibility, there’s a horse in a bathroom, there’s a ghost, there’s a dead cat, and there’s a lot of the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan. The main thing I got from this book is that I really want to read those poems now – they sounds nuts! Or maybe it’s just this book that’s nuts.

Anyway, I won’t pretend that I fully followed what was going on in this book but it was bizarrely entertaining. Read Hitchhiker’s first if you’ve never read Douglas Adams but, if you think sci-fi comedy is something you’d like, he’s definitely a must-read author. I need to read more myself and I happily will. Does anyone have any science fiction comedy recommendations? (I actually have another sci-fi comedy one for you – I loved George R.R. Martin’s Tuf Voyaging, which I reviewed HERE. I need to explore this genre more as I really enjoy it).

My Rating: 3/5

Straight White Male by John Niven

What It’s About: (via Goodreads):

Kennedy Marr is a novelist from the old school. Irish, acerbic, and a borderline alcoholic and sex-addict, his mantra is drink hard, write hard and try to screw every woman you meet.

He’s writing film scripts in LA, fucking, drinking and insulting his way through Californian society, but also suffering from writer’s block and unpaid taxes. Then a solution presents itself – Marr is to be the unlikely recipient of the W. F. Bingham Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Modern Literature, an award worth half a million pounds. But it does not come without a price: he must spend a year teaching at the English university where his ex-wife and estranged daughter now reside.

As Kennedy acclimatises to the sleepy campus, inspiring revulsion and worship in equal measure, he’s forced to reconsider his precarious lifestyle. Incredible as it may seem, there might actually be a father and a teacher lurking inside this ‘preening, narcissistic, priapic, sociopath’. Or is there…?

My Thoughts:

This book won’t be for everyone. I find it hard to read a book with a truly hateful lead character and you can’t get much more hateful than this book’s Kennedy Marr. He’s the exact definition of the type of prick I absolutely cannot stand and would avoid at all costs in real life. However, it’s a well-written and at times very funny book. The character arc is fairly believable (we don’t get a MASSIVE change, which is good as it would go too against character) but he somewhat redeems himself.

I know John Niven wrote Kill Your Friends, a similar sort of story set within the music industry as opposed to the literary world and I’d possibly find that one a little more entertaining due to its setting. I wouldn’t totally avoid another book of his but I also wouldn’t hurry to read another. I didn’t hate Straight White Male but didn’t actively enjoy it either since I really didn’t care what would become of Kennedy Marr and his dick, the one true love of his life. I admit, though, that his masturbatory adventures were highly amusing. Do guys actually go to that much trouble when doing that?? Put that much effort into something else instead & maybe something good will happen! World peace? Well, now that I’ve used the phrase “masturbatory adventures” on my blog, I think I’ll just declare this post finished & give this book a rating. I’m spent.

My Rating: 2.5/5

This song kept popping into my head while reading the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poems in Dirk Gently!

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016) Review

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

My Opinion:

Yes! Another funny, well-written, smart “teen movie”. I reviewed The DUFF last week, which I really enjoyed despite my teen years being far far behind me, and commented that I hoped more teen movies would go in that direction as I do still enjoy a good one. Trust me – no matter how old you are you never forget high school. It’s a traumatic time! I think I’ll forever feel like it was only yesterday that I finally graduated & escaped that f*^king place.

So, yeah – I wasn’t exactly the Homecoming Queen and I could totally relate to Hailee Steinfeld’s self-loathing, angst-filled, neurotic nutjob in The Edge Of Seventeen. Hubby was like “I think she may be even more messed up than you!”. Hahaha! Nice. Funny. Seriously, though – I’d have been friends with this character as a teen. Okay, I lie – I WAS this character (but not as crazy – Holy shit, Steinfeld’s character is HIGH MAINTENANCE!).

For those who may get annoyed by phoney teen angst movies, don’t automatically avoid this one. This is teen angst done right. It has the right balance of humor & of more serious issues. Think a cross between The DUFF (pure comedy) and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic but a little too serious). The characters come across as genuine and I think it will speak to an audience of all ages from 15 or so & up. I do think certain teen films nowadays are written by people my age (like Perks), which is cool as it means people my age end up liking them but I’m not sure if they all work for actual modern teens. I think The Edge Of Seventeen avoids this problem. I can see a lot of friends my age liking this and, judging by the laughs & reactions of the much younger crowd in my cinema who made me feel very old, the younger generation seemed to be enjoying it a lot as well. I can find very little information on this film’s writer & director, Kelly Fremon Craig, but I’d hazard a guess that she’s written a bit of herself into these characters? I could be wrong but writing from experience often seems to make the most believable characters & she’s done an excellent job here. I’ll happily watch more of her work! Hopefully the positive buzz from this film is getting her noticed.

Just a quick FYI: the language & situations make this one not suitable for pre & early teens. It’s rated 15 in the UK and I think it’s rated R in the US?? Typical uptight America – R is too strict for this & means that 15 & 16 year-olds are missing out on a good movie. Maybe they should’ve added some guns & violence as opposed to swearing & sex talk, huh? Then it would be rated G in America! I’ve often thought the American rating system needs a rating in the middle, like a UK 15, which I think is the right sort of rating for this one. Sorry for the mini-rant… 😉 Back to the movie!

Besides Hailee Steinfeld’s darkly humorous unhappy teen, we have her parents and a very rocky relationship with her mother, her best friend who suddenly starts dating her attractive & popular brother who gets on her nerves, her crush, her teacher, and a boy who has a crush on her. They’re all great but the two stand-outs are Hayden Szeto as the adorably awkward boy with a crush on her and Woody Harrelson as the doesn’t-give-a-fuck teacher she confides in (probably due to seeing a bit of her own pessimistic attitude in him).

The chemistry between Steinfeld’s & Harrelson’s characters is great and I loved their complexity. There’s no sappy “teacher gives student meaningful life lesson” bullshit going on here. In fact, they speak quite horribly to each other & it’s hilarious. You can tell that, despite clearly thinking she’s a pain in the ass, Harrelson’s character also has a huge soft spot for this fucked-up kid. Both of these characters are two of the absolute best I’ve seen in a film this year and are why this shouldn’t be dismissed due to being a “teen movie”. Oh, and Hayden Szeto’s character with a crush on Steinfeld is probably the most likable character in a film this year. He’s hilariously, awkwardly adorable. Who is this guy?? He’s been in hardly anything! Put him in more movies! I’d have totally loved having a boy like him have a crush on me in high school. Damn you, Steinfeld – he’s a sweetheart. Date him! It’s like Molly Ringwald not wanting Jon Cryer in Pretty In Pink! Man, teenage girls are idiots sometimes. Anyway – Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson, and Hailee Steinfeld are all amazing in this but probably won’t get recognition due to the film being part of the teen genre.

Summary:

I’ve rambled on about this movie long enough. I’ve realized now that my saying this is something in between The DUFF & The Perks Of Being A Wallflower isn’t quite accurate. The Edge Of Seventeen is more like The Way Way Back with a girl instead of a boy as the central character & Harrelson filling the Sam Rockwell role in this one (their characters are quite different personality-wise but equally fantastic). I feel that teen movies get dismissed, especially if a girl is the central character, but this movie deserves recognition. If you liked The Way Way Back (I loved that one), you should like this one as well no matter what age or sex you are. Movies like these give me hope that maybe some modern teenagers will turn out alright after all & I appreciate filmmakers who credit them with some intelligence & don’t dumb their movies down for them. I still remember being a teen & I like to think I wasn’t a total idiot. And anyone who says they didn’t have a hard time in high school is a liar. Teen angst is real, people! I’m happy to say that The Edge Of Seventeen handles the angst in a realistic, humorous, and at times heartbreaking fashion.

My Rating: 8/10

You know I gotta end this with the brilliant Stevie Nicks song from my own teen years, which is not in this movie whatsoever. Wait – I wasn’t a teen yet when this was released… I just added several years onto my age there! Oops. Whatever. I love this song. 🙂

Freaks (1932) Review For The At The Circus Blogathon

I’m happy to be reviewing Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks for the grand finale of the At The Circus Blogathon hosted by Serendipitous Anachronisms & Crìtica Retrô. The first set of entries were posted a month ago but our hosts kindly agreed to a second round of reviews of movies with circus themes (which will be posted today, tomorrow & Wednesday so be on the lookout for more reviews from other bloggers!). I’m glad I didn’t miss my chance – I knew immediately that I had to grab the opportunity to review Freaks, a highly controversial & misunderstood film at the time of its release in 1932. Here’s my review…

Freaks (1932)

Directed by Tod Browning

Based on Spurs, 1923 short story by Tod Robbins

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Rosco Ates, Henry Victor, Harry Earles, Daisy Earles, Rose Dione, Daisy Hilton, Violet Hilton, Schlitzie, Josephine Joseph, Johnny Eck, Frances O’Connor, Peter Robinson, Olga Roderick, Koo Koo, Prince Randian, Martha Morris, Elvira Snow, Jenny Lee Snow, Elizabeth Green, Delmo Fritz, Angelo Rossitto, Edward Brophy, Matt McHugh

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A circus’ beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

My Opinion:

Unlike our blogathon hosts, I don’t have a lot of knowledge when it comes to films that are pre-1970 or so and I’d love to expand my knowledge. In reading a little about Freaks, I noticed it was called a “Pre-Code” horror film, which is a term I’d never even heard of as a movie blogger. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines in 1934, usually labeled, albeit inaccurately, as the “Hays Code”… As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included sexual innuendo, miscegenation, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence, and homosexuality. Strong female characters were ubiquitous, in such films as Female, Baby Face, and Red-Headed Woman. Gangsters in films like The Public Enemy, Little Caesar, and Scarface were seen by many as heroic rather than evil.

Well, damn – this sounds like an awesome period! If I’m going to explore older films, I think I need to start with the Pre-Code ones. To grab one more thing from Wikipedia before I talk about Freaks in my own words, I’d like to share its opening paragraph about the film for anyone who may be unfamiliar with it:

Freaks is a 1932 American Pre-Code horror film in which the eponymous characters were played by people who worked as carnival sideshow performers and had real deformities. The original version was considered too shocking to be released and no longer exists. Directed and produced by Tod Browning, whose career never recovered from it, Freaks has been described as standing alone in a subgenre of one.

I like that quote – “Standing alone in a subgenre of one“. I think that’s pretty accurate as I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like Freaks. There are certain films that I personally think all true film-lovers (and movie bloggers) absolutely must see and Freaks is one of them.

I first saw Freaks years ago after seeing a documentary in which it was mentioned and thinking it sounded utterly fascinating. This movie is my type of thing – an originally misunderstood film that has achieved cult-status and is now finally, I think, recognized for its beauty. I’m sure many are at least somewhat familiar with the plot by now so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the film’s horror label comes not from the so-called “freaks” with their physical deformities but from the ugliness of the outwardly beautiful trapeze artist & her lover, who try to take advantage of them. I can absolutely understand, however, why this film was vilified in 1932 as its themes and the bravery of its statement on human nature are so far ahead of its time. This is back in the day when people with physical deformities were treated as nothing more than sideshow entertainment. I suppose it’s just as shocking to us nowadays to know that people were once treated like that as it was for a 1932 audience to be told that their sideshow entertainment had feelings no different than their own.

When learning of this film, I did hesitate to watch it as I was afraid it would be exploitative and that made me very uncomfortable. Freaks was indeed banned in the UK for 30 years due to being “exploitative” but, again, I think the film was just massively misunderstood for years while people still lived in a time where they feared the unknown and anything “different” that they had no control over without the advances in medicine, prosthetics, etc that we have today. So I’m sorry if anyone does feel differently but I don’t find this film exploitative (at least, not in its final form – the ending was changed massively from its original release, which apparently no longer exists but sounds like it was actually changed for the better as the original cast its stars in a much more negative light at the end).

From what I’ve read, director Tod Browning had joined a travelling circus so did have knowledge of that lifestyle and the people interviewed for a documentary I saw on the film have commented that it was quite an accurate portrayal of the circus way of life. I’ve always had a fascination with that lifestyle as it seems like such a foreign way of life compared to the humdrum, office drone existence most of us lead so I’ve often gravitated toward circus-themed books & movies. I think Browning made a beautiful film about a lifestyle he’d experienced and, judging from the film, he must have had a strong affection for it. He captured the camaraderie between the circus performers that I’ve always assumed exists (?) but, like most of us, will never fully understand or experience. I’d love to think that, while shunned by society, the circus performers in the era of Freaks at least felt like part of a family within the circus in the way this film portrays.

The existing cut-down version of this film is very short (only 64 minutes) but we get to know all the characters very well in this time. I love how Browning somehow managed to focus on several individual stories (such as a marriage, a baby being born, various romances, etc) in between the main overall story involving evil trapeze artist Cleopatra marrying a lovestruck Hans for his money. It shows you just how much movies suck nowadays – these days we often spend two hours watching meaningless effects and leave knowing very little about even the main characters.

I should point out that, though the film demonizes some of the (for want of a better word) “normal” people, we have a lovely romance between one of the clowns and a lady named Venus (I’m not actually sure what she does in the circus. Hmm…). These two care about our title characters & treat them no differently than anyone else so it’s even more ridiculous that this film was so reviled at the time as, had it made everyone seem evil and without compassion, I could almost understand why audiences would be angry. But, in reading the IMDB trivia for Freaks, it turns out that some people working at MGM protested at having to eat lunch with the cast so those with the worst physical deformities were set up with a tent outside so they could eat separately. Appalling behavior – no wonder the world clearly wasn’t ready for this movie’s message. This is why it’s a shame that, also according to IMDB trivia, scenes such as this one were shortened:

According to the screenplay, the scene in which Madame Tetrallini introduces the wandering land-owner to the performers frolicking in the woods ran quite a bit longer. It included additional dialog that endeavored to humanize the so-called freaks. She tells him they are “always in hot, stuffy tents – strange eyes always staring at them – never allowed to forget what they are.” Duval responds sympathetically (clearly the stand-in for the viewing audience), “When I go to the circus again, Madame, I’ll remember,” to which she adds, “I know, Monsieur – you will remember seeing them playing – playing like children… Among all the thousands who come to stare – to laugh – to shudder – you will be one who understands.”

Summary:

Freaks is a movie that was, understandably, very misunderstood at the time of release in 1932 but I hope it will continue to be discovered by serious film fans. Its message of acceptance is timeless (and seems especially important in this current wretched year we’re having – it feels like we’ve gone back in time to 1932 in all the wrong ways). It’s beautiful & heartbreaking and shows the true ugliness of which humanity is capable. Its marriage banquet scene, in which the “freaks” declare the beautiful trapeze artist as “One of us! One of us! We accept you! Gooble Gobble!” is an all-time classic (and often referenced, such as in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street). The ending is, admittedly, quite a shock. In that regard, I can see why audiences were so angered at the time and this is a rare occasion where it sounds like some changes to a film were actually for the better (I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen this but the re-cut ending finishes on a slightly better note for our heroes). Is the ending offensive? No more so than the way in which society treated people who were different in the old days. I think the ending is perfect and this is a great film that, sadly, had to wait several decades for society to catch up to it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Nocturnal Animals (2016) Review

I’m reblogging my recent review of Nocturnal Animals as I believe it’s now out in America & I still can’t stop thinking about it. A thoroughly disturbing, haunting film…

Cinema Parrot Disco

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Directed by Tom Ford

Based on Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

My Opinion:

Well! This movie was certainly… interesting? I love Amy Adams but sci-fi is my type of thing so Arrival is the only one I’d planned on going to see (it’s EXCELLENT, by the way – I’m posting my review tomorrow). Hubby saw Nocturnal Animals then was weirdly insistent on me seeing it too while being cryptic as to if it would actually be worth my time. Now I understand: This is one of those movies you want other people to see so…

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The Fury (1978) Review

Happy Birthday to Kirk Douglas, who turns 100 today! I recently did a list of My Top Ten Michael Douglas Movies & commented that I’d only seen one of his father’s films (Paths Of Glory, and that was also quite recently for my defunct IMDB Top 250 Project). I know – it’s shameful to be a movie blogger & to have seen so few movies from someone who has been around as long as Douglas! So I vowed to watch Spartacus & review it on his birthday. Well, Spartacus isn’t very “me” and I shamefully still haven’t watched it. However, I did watch one of his films. Brian De Palma is more my speed so let’s have a look at The Fury, my second Kirk Douglas movie! Maybe I’ll do Spartacus for birthday 101… 🙂

The Fury (1978)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Based on The Fury by John Farris

Starring: Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Amy Irving, Andrew Stevens, Rutanya Alda, William Finley

Music by John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A government agent is determined to come to his son’s rescue when a sinister official kidnaps him to harbor his extremely powerful psychic abilities.

My Opinion:

Well, damn, I guess I should’ve watched SpartacusThe Fury is honestly not very good. 😉 How disappointing! I’ve wanted to see this for years, ever since a scene from it was shown as part of an art installation I saw at the Tate Modern. I don’t remember the artist now but it was a series of scenes from movies involving psychic powers and I’d never heard of The Fury before then. I know De Palma’s filmography is a bit all over the place but I’m a fan of quite a few of his films, especially his Seventies ones such as Carrie & Phantom Of The Paradise. Even Sisters (1972) was better than this. Considering that The Fury is dealing with the similar supernatural/horror themes that I enjoy, I guess I was hoping for something better. Heck, even Firestarter was a better look at telekinesis & the secret government study of individuals who possess these powers. But I do love Stephen King (and Drew Barrymore!). Unfortunately, The Fury pales even further in comparison to De Palma’s adaptation of King’s telekinetic masterpiece Carrie.

I guess I’ll start with Kirk Douglas since I watched this in honor of his birthday. He plays the man whose powerfully telekinetic son is kidnapped by government baddies who want to harness this power. The movie starts out well with the action-packed kidnapping but later turns silly as a half-naked Douglas humorously steals some clothes from a couple & friendly elderly mother and then hitches a ride with Dennis Franz going against character & playing a cop. By the way – Douglas is half naked a lot in this. Is this a Douglas thing? I assume he’s half-naked in Spartacus a lot too. Anyway, the movie has such an uneven tone for a while there with some almost comic relief going on. It was bizarre as there’s none of this whatsoever in the rest of the movie, which has a serious & more horrific tone than I was expecting. Because, you see, using your telekinetic powers on people makes them bleed profusely out of every motherf*%#ing orifice! It was super gross. Well, until the end… The special effects for the big climactic moment were so hilariously bad that I genuinely laughed out loud (I’m not a “LOL”er). And I’m not a special effects snob! I grew up on dodgy old effects. DAMN the end of this was funny as shit, though.

Oops – I went off topic. I was talking about Douglas! Well, he does what he can with a dodgy script, I guess. I’ll give a more “worthy” film of his a go at some point. I was excited to see Amy Irving in another De Palma/psychic ability film after Carrie & it’s cool that she has the ability this time. She’s probably the best thing about the movie, actually, along with the love interest of Douglas (played by Carrie Snodgress). It probably helped that their roles didn’t contain any weird-ass humor while the male roles in this film were lame (especially the son of Douglas – I’m surprised that the kidnappers didn’t want to give that moody, whiny fucker back to him).

My review is as off-the-rails as this film’s plot. I admit my mind wandered & I fucked around on my phone instead of paying much attention to the movie after it got silly. No wonder it had all that orifice bleeding! That’s the only time it got interesting & distracted you from the meandering plot and the fact that you didn’t really care about Douglas finding his asshole son or not. I’m trying to remember what I did on my phone while this movie was on… I think I wrote my review for Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes (Good book. Hey – King connection!). I’m pretty sure I added a bunch of pointless shit to my Amazon Wish List as well. I currently have a variety of those Japanese good luck cats knocking about in my wish list. Why do I do that? It’s not like I’ll ever BUY myself that kind of stuff. I also have an insane amount of Studio Ghibli toys & Kokeshi dolls in there. Someone buy me this stuff for Christmas so I can take them off my Wish List!

Speaking of Dennis Franz above (honestly – I did mention him in my rambling), my favorite thing about watching old movies like this is spotting celebrities that I grew up watching. At least I got something out of The Fury – there were some great obscure actors! I’m pretty sure I saw that chick who was on ER for years (Dr. Weaver) and freaking Nikki Newman from The Young & The Restless!!! HA! I miss that stupid fucking soap opera since moving to the UK. Is Nikki still married to Victor? God those two were annoying. Oh! And when I looked up The Fury at IMDb I saw that I missed Daryl Hannah in this as well as Large Marge from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure! Now THAT’S a good movie.

Um. Screw it – this “review” is going nowhere. Happy 100th Birthday, Kirk Douglas! I’m sorry I’ve not watched more of your films as I’m sure most of them were better than The Fury. But, hey – I still think De Palma is cool & like even some of his “bad” films (other than Mission To Mars – that truly sucked). No shame in being in a De Palma film! I have no doubt that The Fury has a cult following & feel bad that it didn’t work for me. I’m now going to give this a halfway decent rating since, hell, I guess I did get some fun out of it. And a good laugh at that ending!

My Rating: 6/10


Nikki Newman!


Daryl Hannah & the ER chick!


Brad Pitt!


The No Face figure from Spirited Away which has been in my wish list for years! Years! He’s lonely. He needs someone to buy him for me.

Moana (2016) Review

Moana (2016)

Directed by Ron Clements & John Musker

Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk

Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

My Opinion:

Yes! Moana is a really good film that I (and my daughter) thoroughly enjoyed. I have to say that the trailers really hadn’t blown me away so I was kind of worried this could end up being one of Disney’s rare duds. It’s not quite up there with some of Disney’s oldest classics & I think Frozen is better & more timeless but I’m happy to say that Moana is fully worthy of the Disney name. It’s certainly 1,000% better than some of the its late-90’s/early 2000’s stinkers! It’s great that Disney is making timeless classics once again. And I can add toddler Moana to my list of “animated kids I want to adopt” along with Boo from Monsters, Inc & Agnes from Despicable Me. What a cutie patootie!


So adorable that I had to include two pictures…

Speaking of Moana herself, she’s also a worthy addition to the Disney name. She’s strong-willed & has no interest in that whole “finding a prince” thing that annoys so many modern women about the older Disney films. However, she also doesn’t go over-the-top in the other direction, which annoys me in some of the more current animated films. Let’s face it – Brave’s Merida is a bit of a stroppy bitch! There’s nothing wrong with being strong-willed AND likable as well… Moana gets the right balance as a female lead character and I’d be happy to have my daughter look up to her.

Animated kids’ movies don’t solely rely on one good main character, though, and Moana is filled with the usual funny & lovable sidekicks we’ve all come to expect from Disney. I may be an adult but I loved that stupid chicken! Her pet pig was super cute, the “coconut” bad guys were adorably evil, her family (especially her kooky grandmother) were sweet, and the main “lava baddie” was actually quite frightening for a Disney villain (so this one isn’t really toddler-suitable, unlike a lot of other Disney movies. Just FYI – it’s nothing too scary, though). Yeah, sorry – I’m too lazy to look up all the proper names of these characters but I can guarantee you that I’ll know them once this is on DVD. 😉 I can tell my daughter will watch Moana multiple times (and I won’t even complain about that).

There are two other characters that need mentioning: the main one is sidekick Maui, the demigod voiced by Dwayne Johnson, and the other is the shiny crab villain dude voiced by Flight Of The Conchords/What We Do In The Shadows Jemaine Clement. I think most everyone will like Maui just fine – he’s charmingly cocky and makes a great duo with Moana. Plus, his “living tattoos” were quite amusing. I didn’t really expect to like his character as much as I did. Very predictable character arc, though!

However, the villain crab (Tamatoa – I looked that one up!) will be far more divisive. At first I kind of hated that character. Then I kind of loved that character. I think… I don’t know. I haven’t fully made my mind up on him yet. Guess I’ll know how I feel after 25 times of seeing Moana at home. Anyway, David Bowie is the clear inspiration for Tamatoa so I guess that’s why I’m conflicted as I’m such a big fan.

Summary:

Disney can be proud to add Moana to its resume (Or Curriculum Vitae in the UK. Yep – I totally had to look up that spelling). The animated scenes involving The Abyss-like ocean were beautiful, especially the one involving toddler Moana (Cutie patootie!  She’s much cuter than Ed Harris). I wish I could say that Moana was perfect – However, some of-the-moment jokes that will date and songs that aren’t as instantly memorable as some of the absolute classics in Disney’s history will keep this film from being quite as timeless as I’d have liked. Still, Moana helps keep Disney & Pixar a thousand miles ahead of anything made by other Western animation studios. Keep up the great work, Disney! We’ll just pretend things like Chicken Little didn’t happen.

My Rating: 8/10

Is there a scene after the credits? Yes, at the very end. Is it worth staying for? Hmm… Only if you’re one of those who HAS to see the end credits bits. Like me. It’s fairly funny but nothing too amazing if you really gotta pee. 

I’ll just say a very small bit about the short shown before Moana:

I’m sure a lot of people have called Inner Workings a rip off of Inside Out. Well, it sort of is but that’s not really fair as it’s quite a lovely short with a great moral about following your heart & living life to its fullest. I think it’s one of the better animated shorts I’ve seen in a while and I have to admit that I do love a good, non-preachy life-lesson. The Disney & Pixar shorts really know how to “tug at the heartstrings”! I far preferred this to Lava, which I didn’t like very much. I bring this up as it’s funny that Moana is quite reminiscent of Lava. Oh well – Inner Workings is pretty good. Better than Lava but still not as good as Feast (I loved that short!).

My Inner Workings Rating: 7.5/10

Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the 100th birthday of Kirk Douglas by reviewing a lesser-known Brian De Palma film in which he starred…

The DUFF & The Scorch Trials Movie Reviews 

Welcome to my “Young Adult Movie Adaptation Review Special“! I read one of these books (the movie was awful) and didn’t read the other book (the movie was surprisingly fun). Let’s see which was which…

The DUFF (2015)

Directed by Ari Sandel

Based on The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Nick Eversman, Skyler Samuels, Bianca A. Santos

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend – by her prettier, more popular counterparts.

My Opinion:

Even at my advanced age, I still enjoy a good teen comedy. Obviously, nothing will ever compare to my 80’s John Hughes classics but there have been a couple post-1989 ones that haven’t been too bad (Clueless, American Pie, etc). But the majority are bad and full of hateful teens (like in stuff such as Project X and, sadly, Dope – a movie I was hoping to love). However, The DUFF is easily one of the better ones I’ve seen from this genre in a long time & I really enjoyed it.

Mae Whitman (the voice of Tinker Bell in all those Tinker Bell movies! You’ll know them well if you have a daughter 😉 ) plays the DUFF, aka the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”. I liked her in the fantastic The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and she’s a lot of fun in this & totally relatable as a “real world girl”. I hate saying that as it sounds so rude but, yeah – unlike the girls in all other Hollywood movies, she looks like a normal person. Hollywood movie girls are too ridiculously attractive and it sets a bad example (especially in teen movies).

Whitman’s two best friends in this are of the unrealistic ridiculously attractive variety but I suppose they were trying to make her look less attractive in comparison. But, anyway! That’s not entirely relevant as this movie isn’t really trying to make as big of a statement on superficiality as I was expecting. Whitman’s character is, at first, entirely content with how she looks & dresses – she only changes when someone calls her a “DUFF”. So I guess the main message is more about how we treat people but there’s a bit of a moral about accepting yourself the way you are.

Anyway… Forget I said all that! This isn’t some annoying teen movie that thinks it has an important message or something – it’s just a lighthearted comedy & actually quite funny compared to a lot of current teen flicks. The humor is a tad on the raunchy side (fine by me) so this is probably aimed more at the mid to late-teen age range. Although certainly not at the same level as something like Heathers (nothing is!), The DUFF is smart & sassy like a lot of the 80’s teen classics. Hopefully more teen movies go in the same direction as this one since I’ll probably still be watching this genre when I’m 90.

My Rating: 7/10

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

Directed by Wes Ball

Based on The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Patricia Clarkson

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot of The Scorch Trials takes place immediately after the previous installment, with Thomas (O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers battling the powerful World Catastrophe Killzone Department (W.C.K.D., or WICKED), while facing the perils of the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with dangerous obstacles.

My Opinion:

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?!?!?! I’m so damn confused by this movie! I’ve read The Maze Runner trilogy (I did a recap & review of the final book HERE last week) and, although I have some major issues with it and it often annoyed the hell out of me, I thought it was a decent enough story overall. I read the books after seeing the first film, which I found quite enjoyable (much more enjoyable than the books, actually). So I finally watched The Scorch Trials after finishing the books. IT BARELY EVEN RESEMBLES THE BOOK!!! ??? Why ???

I would assume that books can be quite hard to adapt into films, especially long books that must be reduced to a roughly two-hour running time. The Scorch Trials isn’t a long book, however. Plus, the first movie was faithful to the book so it’s even more confusing that they’ve decided to take things in such a different direction in the sequel. I’m not overly bothered about a 100% faithful adaptation as I know things sometimes need slight changing or need to be left out due to running time. As long as there are no major changes that completely mess with the storyline, characters’ intentions/personalities, or the overall themes, I’m fine with them.

Well, The Scorch Trials has major changes. No, wait – that’s not exactly right as you can’t even really call them changes… It has completely new stuff added in. It’s so drastically different that it feels like the screenwriter(s) didn’t even read the book & instead based the story on its back cover synopsis or on some weird ass “Chinese whispers” version of the story.

You know what? I don’t care. I’m not going to waste my time reviewing this. It lost my interest after it started going so completely off the rails that I went & did other things around the house while it kept playing in the background. I’m not sure what the hell was going on. After this movie, I’m not going to bother with the next one since I sure as shit can’t be bothered to re-watch this one to figure out what the hell was going on. BAH! What a stupid waste of time. Either be faithful to a book or, if that fails, don’t follow it AT ALL & just steal the name (like World War Z). At least I knew beforehand with that one that they ignored the book….

My Rating: 4.5/10 (Not lower than that since I guess I still like the characters and think Dylan O’Brien & Thomas Brodie-Sangster are good in these films)