My Top Ten Stephen King Books

Happy Birthday to Stephen King, who turns 70 today!

Welcome to Day Four of Stephen King Week. I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews (including 2017’s It), and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m posting my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Books.

I love Stephen King’s books, which I’ve been reading ever since the age of about 12 when a friend let me borrow his Night Shift short story collection during study hall. I was immediately hooked. That version had the hand with the eyeballs on the cover (from the creepy short story I Am the Doorway):

It’s funny how the brain works: I remember the short stories in Night Shift as if I read them yesterday while I have trouble remembering some of King’s stuff that I read in later years. I suppose it’s a combination of it being a damn good book & the fact that we often seem to have a good memory for the things we loved in our formative years.

Anyway, I’ve always loved King’s short stories & novellas just as much as his full length novels so I don’t want to ignore the collections in this post. As they’d be too difficult to “rank” alongside one-story novels, my below list is a ranking of only King’s full-length fictional novels. But I’m going to talk a little about each of his short story collections at the end of this post too (Well, hell – there are ten so I suppose I can “rank” the collections as well. Oh I do love making lists!). 😉

First, here are My Top Ten Stephen King Full-Length Novels. As always, though, I’m doing a full ranking from least favorite to favorite book and I’ve read 37 in total. Here we go!

The Rest That I’ve Read

37. Dreamcatcher
36. The Regulators
35. Desperation (I honestly can’t remember which is which of The Regulators & Desperation – I barely remember either of them)
34. The Tommyknockers
33. Bag Of Bones
32. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
31. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-reading)

Top Thirty:

30. Finders Keepers
29. From A Buick 8
28. The Dark Half
27. Under The Dome
26. Blaze
25. Gerald’s Game
24. Thinner
23. Revival
22. Lisey’s Story
21. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger

Top Twenty:

20. Duma Key
19. Doctor Sleep
18. Cujo
17. Insomnia
16. End Of Watch
15. Rose Madder
14. Misery
13. Pet Sematary
12. Needful Things
11. The Running Man

Top Ten:

10. 11/22/63

9. Cell (I know I have this too high & will probably change my mind over time. I’ll be reviewing the movie tomorrow so will talk a little about the book too.)

8. Joyland

7. Mr. Mercedes

6. The Long Walk

5. The Shining

4. It

3. The Green Mile

2. ‘Salem’s Lot

1. The Dead Zone

Need To Re-Read:

Rage & Roadwork (I don’t remember them at all) & The Stand. I must have read three quarters of The Stand in my twenties then got too busy in life & took so long to get back to it that I’d have to start from the beginning again. It’s… long! It was great so I still regret not finishing.

Not Read:

Carrie, Firestarter, Christine, Cycle Of The Werewolf, The Talisman, The Eyes Of The Dragon, The Dark Tower Series (other than Book 1), The Plant, Black House, The Colorado Kid, Sleeping Beauties (book coming soon)

Now here are My Top Ten Stephen King Short Story & Novella Collections (ranked from least favorite to favorite). I’ve included my favorite stories from each collection as well:

10. Full Dark, No Stars: Big Driver & A Good Marriage. It’s weird that I don’t remember this collection that well when it’s not that old. I liked A Good Marriage but somehow didn’t even remember I’d read it until I was halfway through watching the film

9. Everything’s Eventual: 1408 is the only story I really remember from this collection. It’s a good one (and decent movie adaptation, as well).

8. Hearts In Atlantis: The story Hearts In Atlantis was very good but I somehow don’t remember the slightest thing about the other stories in this book…

7. Just After Sunset: Willa, The Gingerbread Girl, Stationary Bike, The Things They Left Behind, Graduation Afternoon. Looks like I remember quite a few, so obviously a pretty strong collection.

6. Skeleton Crew: The Mist (could do with re-reading), The Monkey, The Raft & The Jaunt (this last one haunts me to this day).

5. Four Past Midnight: The Langoliers, Secret Window Secret Garden & The Sun Dog (this creeped me the hell out). These stories were great but perhaps my absolute least favorite story of King’s is also in this book: The Library Policeman. Urgh.

4. Different Seasons: The book where only The Breathing Method didn’t become a movie because, seriously, that would NOT work as a film…! The Body became the brilliant Stand By Me, Apt Pupil was turned into an okay film, and it’s obvious what movie came from Rita Hayworth And Shawshank Redemption. I worship that film. Is it time to confess that it’s the only story in this collection that I can’t bring myself to read as I love the film so much? There. I’ve admitted it.

3. Nightmares & Dreamscapes: The End Of The Whole Mess, Chattery Teeth, You Know They Got A Hell Of A Band, Sorry Right Number, Crouch End. Another really strong collection I remember well despite it being fairly old now. It might help that several of these were made into shorts for the TV series.

2. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams: The Dune, Ur, Under The Weather, Drunken Fireworks, Summer Thunder. A really recent book I was very happy with after King’s collections from more recent years have been a bit weak compared to his oldest stuff. And I reviewed every single story in full (I’m a nerd).

1. Night Shift: Jerusalem’s Lot, The Ledge, Children Of The Corn, The Last Rung On The Ladder. I love this book so much. My introduction to King & still possibly my favorite book overall. I think he writes fantastic short stories (as does his son Joe Hill, FYI – I highly recommend 20th Century Ghosts). Children Of The Corn is really good (I think it was a hard one to translate to film without it ending up as cheesy as it did). The Last Rung On The Ladder is heartbreaking and possibly the one that most got me hooked on his work (odd, considering it’s a non-horror). Actually, it was Last Rung as well as Jerusalem’s Lot that got me hooked. Jerusalem’s Lot is a story set in the same town as in Salem’s Lot, which I have very high on my novel list. I remember actually almost enjoying the shorter story even more. Sometimes less is more.

People skip these short stories & novellas sometimes but they really shouldn’t be ignored. I think there’s almost more skill to making a short story really good (which is why my posts are always too long. I’m no writer! Blah blah blah. I need to get to the point).

Phew. I think I’ve covered everything? I’ve read none of King’s Nonfiction but Danse Macabre does sound interesting.

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It (2017) Review

Welcome to Day Three of Stephen King Week! King turns 70 tomorrow so I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews, and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m reviewing the recent It film.

It (2017)

Directed by Andy Muschietti

Based on It by Stephen King

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of seven children in Derry, Maine, who are terrorized by the eponymous being, only to face their own personal demons in the process.

My Opinion:

Is it weird that I’m so happy that this film is kicking ass at the box office?? I just love it when one of King’s books actually gets a good film adaptation and, even better, when it gets a lot of really positive reviews. I did a list yesterday of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (this film was at number five if you don’t feel like clicking that link). I admitted in that list that, while I always watch & enjoy all adaptations of King’s work, some of the movies have been pretty damn awful. But then we occasionally get masterpieces like The Shawshank Redemption & Stand By Me to make up for the bad ones. It (the film – such a confusing title!) isn’t quite up there with the likes of those two but I’m very happy to say that it’s easily one of the better Stephen King movies of the many that have been made. Yes! I love when the movies do his novels justice.

You’ve all probably seen reviews by now that compare this to Stand By Me and that’s a very accurate description. Stand By Me with added horror, of course. Like that, this is a coming of age tale first and foremost and I’ve always loved a good coming of age tale. That’s why I’m actually a bit surprised that this film has done as well as it has as I can’t see it being loved by full-on “horror” fans. Pennywise the clown is a great creation but I have to say that I don’t find either this or the 1990 version scary. The book is a bit unsettling but I wouldn’t say that feeling fully translated to the films. I’ve never been one to get too scared by movies, though. As far as “creepy” goes, Kubrick’s The Shining certainly has this film (and pretty much every other horror film) beat. It’s a shame that King hates that adaptation – I think it’s one of the greatest horror films of all time.

I think the main difference between the 1990 It and the 2017 It is that Tim Curry’s Pennywise is the true star of the 1990 film while the kids are what make the 2017 version so good. I think this version has done things right in focusing more on the kids & their relationships with one another. I will always be fond of the 1990 film & prefer Curry’s Pennywise to Bill Skarsgård’s somewhat dull (and a little too funny-looking) Pennywise. It felt like Curry was truly having fun in the role & his Pennywise had far more personality. But… This story is about the kids. It’s about all kids who felt like “losers” when growing up. Pennywise shouldn’t really be stealing the show and I’m glad this version gets the balance right in making the kids the stars while also giving us just enough of the monster to keep the story interesting.

The kids all did a great job in this film. As has been said, It has a very Stranger Things feel to it. But of course it would since The Duffer Brothers wanted to make It but went on to instead make Stranger Things, which is meant to feel like King meets Spielberg. Plus It used one of the same actors from that show (Finn Wolfhard, who bizarrely looks like The Shining’s Shelley Duvall). I have to say that the girl playing Beverly (Sophia Lillis) was especially good. She’s like a young Amy Adams (which is a compliment as I love Adams). I’d be surprised if Lillis, as well as most of the rest of this young cast, doesn’t go on to become a big star. However, I’m so glad they AREN’T big stars yet as having a cast of relatively unknown actors was a huge plus for this movie (in my opinion, anyway). I loved not having the distraction of having seen them in a million other things.


I do have to admit that the time period this is set in (1989 into 1990) was another huge plus for me in a way that may not work as well for the current younger generation. Or maybe that doesn’t matter? I loved Stand By Me & 1990’s It even though those kids were living in the late 1950s. I suppose the coming of age dramas tend to transcend their time period as kids that age still go through all the same sort of emotions. Although I found it kind of hilarious/scary reading this article about how the film’s director had to start a “bicycle camp” to teach these pre/early teen actors how to ride bikes for the film(!!).

But oh how I loved seeing kids the same age as me in this movie’s ’89/’90 time period. Well, sort of… I was the age of the slightly older bullies back then. And, like the bullies, I was also a huge fan of Anthrax. Anthrax! There’s an Anthrax song in this movie!!! But I’ll come back to that at the end of this review – I just want to point out that I was more like the kids being bullied than the ones doing the bullying, even though I was a metalhead. 😉 And I had way too much fun seeing the movie marquees in the film’s background accurately portraying the movie releases of that time (god I’m a nerd). And I enjoyed the fact that I could almost hear a massive WHOOSH in the cinema as the New Kids On The Block jokes went right over the heads of those in the audience. Not that I liked NKOTB… Anthrax!!! Oh, and there are lots of fun Easter Eggs in this film so, if you’re a King fan, be on the lookout for them. And read the IMDb trivia for the movie afterwards – there’s loads of fascinating info there.

I think I should try to wrap this up now or I’ll just continue to ramble on for ages. I’m clearly very happy with this adaptation of a favorite book by my absolute favorite author. The kids are fantastic, their characters are likeable (so rare in horror movies), there’s some Anthrax (and a few other soundtrack gems I won’t mention to keep some surprises), there’s a creepy clown who isn’t quite as cool as Tim Curry but still does the job, there are Stephen King and 1989/1990 pop culture references, poor little brother Georgie is still a cutie pie, “that” controversial scene from the book is thankfully again left out of the film, Sophia Lillis has true star power, the kids are the stars instead of the clown, this sentence is really long, and last but not least: this movie doesn’t rely on cheap horror movie “jump scares”. That’s not to say there aren’t some jumpy moments but I was impressed with how well the horror was handled. I especially loved the slideshow scene, which references a fantastic King novella in Four Past Midnight that really gave me the creeps. It focuses on telling its story and on its characters then it focuses on the horror. That’s what makes this a good film instead of yet another bland & predictable horror movie with expendable characters. I can’t wait to see the next film now, which will feature the kids as adults. However, as with the scenes involving the grown-ups in the 1990 film, I think the second film won’t have the same kind of magic as this one. There’s a special sort of innocence in these coming of age films and the ones that really capture that feeling end up being all-time favorites for some people. I know Stand By Me was that way for me when I was growing up & I can see It being that way for a new generation.

My Rating: 8.5/10

**Back to Anthrax, as promised**

As I said, I was a big Anthrax fan in my high school days and the fact that they had an Anthrax song & t-shirt in this movie filled me with such boring old-fart joy. I’ll assume they were used on purpose as they were always big fans of Stephen King and their songs so often referenced his work (such as The Stand in Among The Living & Misery in Misery Loves Company). I bet Anthrax are happy as f*%k that their song Antisocial is in a Stephen King film. And this was possibly my favorite song of theirs at the time, being the socially awkward misfit that I was (am). Anthrax!!! \m/ 🙂

My Top Ten Stephen King Movies

Welcome to Day Two of Stephen King Week! King turns 70 on Thursday so I’m going to post something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch, yesterday), two movie reviews (including the new It film tomorrow), and two Top Ten lists. Here’s my list of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies.

I love when Stephen King’s novels are made into movies, even though some of the films have been atrociously bad. But I do my best to watch every adaptation that I can, and… Holy shit – I’ve watched a lot. I think this is the longest list I’ve ever done since I now choose to rank everything that I’ve seen instead of just the top ten. Wait – I lie! My list of My Top “Ten” Best Picture Oscar Winners is slightly longer. But not much.

For this list, I’ve excluded TV shows & most straight-to-TV mini-series(es?!). I cheated & included It (1990) & Salem’s Lot (1979), however. They’re so good we’ll pretend they were theatrical releases (which they actually were in the UK, I think). Some others may have been TV – hard to remember. Enough faffing! Let’s start this countdown.

Here are My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (from least favorite to favorite & not judging on if they’re “loyal” to the book). I could do with re-watching a lot outside the top twenty so don’t take the order of those too seriously… 😉

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

42. The Mangler
41. Sleepwalkers
40. The Lawnmower Man (WTF? Shares only the title.)
39. Dolan’s Cadillac
38. Rose Red
37. The Night Flier (Don’t really remember this)
36. Sometimes They Come Back
35. Dreamcatcher (Why, Morgan?!)
34. Quicksilver Highway
33. Desperation (Also don’t really remember)
32. Cell
31. Storm Of The Century
30. A Good Marriage
29. Carrie (2013)
28. The Dark Half
27. Apt Pupil
26. Dolores Claiborne (Could do with re-watching)
25. Thinner
24. Secret Window
23. Needful Things
22. The Langoliers
21. Hearts In Atlantis (I need to re-watch this – it probably deserves to be higher)

Top Twenty:

20. Christine (Again, I could do with re-watching this)
19. 1408
18. Firestarter
17. Cujo (Although the complete change of ending was odd)
16. Maximum Overdrive (I like this more than I should. The soundtrack helps.)
15. Children Of The Corn (I like this. Not ashamed. Malachai!)
14. Creepshow 1 & 2 (I could do with re-watching. To be honest, I’m not sure which is which so stuck them together)
13. Misery (I know this should be higher)
12. Silver Bullet (I know this should be lower but, you know, it has one of the Two Coreys…)
11. Cat’s Eye

Top Ten:

10. The Running Man

9. ‘Salem’s Lot

8. The Dead Zone

7. Pet Sematary

6. The Mist

5. TIE: It (1990) & It (2017) (In all honesty, the 2017 adaptation is the superior film but I’ll always have affection for the 1990 version and, of course, Tim Curry)

4. The Green Mile

3. Carrie

2. The Shining

1. TIE: Stand By Me & The Shawshank Redemption (Sorry. Don’t make me choose between them!)

Movies Not Seen:
Graveyard Shift, Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, Children Of The Corn II through VIII & TV Movie, Sometimes They Come Back…Again & …For More, Trucks, The Rage: Carrie 2, Firestarter 2, Carrie (2002), The Diary Of Ellen Rimbauer, Riding The Bullet, ‘Salem’s Lot (2004), Big Driver, The Dark Tower

TV Series/TV Movies:

Seen:
Golden Years, The Tommyknockers, The Stand, The Shining (1997), Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Haven (Saw most of. Stopped watching when it stopped being pretty damn good.)

Didn’t finish:
Under The Dome (Started. Stopped. Not bothered. Hated the book’s characters.), The Dead Zone (2002) (Saw most of this. Pretty good show. Need to finish.), 11.22.63 (Started. Just don’t have the time to devote to TV shows nowadays.)

Not Seen:
Bag Of Bones, Kingdom Hospital, Mr. Mercedes, The Mist (2017), Various short stories…

**I cannot WAIT for Castle Rock to start up as I adore King’s short stories & want to see more of them made! But it’s gonna air on this Hulu thingymabob so who the hell knows how/when/if I’ll ever see that in the UK… 😦

End Of Watch by Stephen King (Book Review)

Welcome to Stephen King Week! King turns 70 on Thursday so I’m going to post something King-related these next five days. One book review, two movie reviews, and two Top Ten lists. Here’s my review of his novel End Of Watch.

End Of Watch by Stephen King (Part III of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Retired Detective Bill Hodges now runs a two-person firm called Finders Keepers with his partner Holly Gibney. They met in the wake of the ‘Mercedes Massacre’ when a queue of people was run down by the diabolical killer Brady Hartsfield.

Brady is now confined to Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, in an unresponsive state. But all is not what it seems: the evidence suggests that Brady is somehow awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city.

The clock is ticking in unexpected ways …

My Thoughts:

I previously reviewed the first two books in this trilogy: Mr. Mercedes (HERE) & Finders Keepers (HERE). The first book is still the best but I enjoyed this final book much more than the one in the middle, which didn’t feature enough of our main Mr. Mercedes characters. It was good to again have Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney & Jerome Robinson as the stars of this one. Oh, and Brady Hartsfield, of course. The wanker.

I love King most when he’s doing his “supernatural thing”. Give me the weird stuff! So Mr. Mercedes being a straightforward crime novel wasn’t really my type of thing. However, he developed these really enjoyable characters who work so well together and it was such a good story that Mr. Mercedes is fairly high up on my list of my favorite King books (But does it make it into the top ten? You’ll find out on Thursday when I rank all 47 King books that I’ve read 😉 ).

I’d heard that this final book was a supernatural one so I was very much looking forward to reading it. I have to say that, yes, it was a little strange to go from crime drama to supernatural horror but I suppose King decided to end on what he does best. The story itself is fine. King has certainly had better stories within this genre so End Of Watch isn’t going to be one that really stands out compared to his very best books. I also felt that the story ended too easily & abruptly. We needed a bigger “end” (I won’t spoil what happens) to the story of Brady Hartsfield. He’s such a bastard, we needed a little something more than what we got at the end.

But the thing that has made this such a good trilogy, the characters & their relationships with each other, is done pretty well in this final book and I’m happy with the “end” we had for Bill, Holly & Jerome’s friendship. I’m especially fond of Holly, although she’s probably a love her or hate her character for some. What can I say? I can relate to her socially awkward weirdness! And she’s a movie geek – I gotta love that.

King doesn’t exactly do anything too unusual or original with these characters but you can’t help but like them. I know it may seem unrealistic or “contrived” sometimes but I want to like the characters in a story. If I don’t give a shit about the characters, I’m unlikely to care about the story. For example: I recently watched The Lobster & The Wave (the 2015 Norwegian disaster flick). The Lobster is extremely original and well regarded by critics while The Wave is a predictable disaster film. I far preferred The Wave, which spent far more time on its characters than you usually get within the disaster genre. I quickly grew bored of The Lobster’s quirk and didn’t care what would happen to anyone. I suppose that makes me mainstream. But so does liking Stephen King. I don’t care – I want to be entertained & King has managed to keep this fan happy for a good 30 years now. End Of Watch isn’t going to change the world or win any awards. It probably ranks somewhere in the middle of all his books if ranked on “quality” but, overall, this was a fun & memorable trilogy thanks to the characters King created.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– Blaze by Stephen King
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– End Of Watch by Stephen King
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

**Currently reading some more of King’s son’s work: The Fireman by Joe Hill

Stephen King Week At CPD

Hi all! Starting on Monday, I’ve decided to do a Stephen King Week on my blog. King turns 70 next week so I’m going to post something King-related Monday through Friday. One book review, two movie reviews (including the new It film), and two Top Ten lists. Unlike certain political leaders, I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. I hope to chat with some fellow fans next week. 🙂

My Top Ten Queen Songs

Today would have been Freddie Mercury’s 71st birthday. I figured this would be a good time to do a Queen top ten list.

I like Queen. I went through a phase for about a year in my twenties when I listened to loads of Queen (I went through a lot of musical “phases” then). I’ve not listened to them as much in recent years and, like with a lot of bands, I must admit that I don’t know much beyond their greatest hits. I didn’t even really know Brighton Rock, which featured heavily in Baby Driver.

But Queen rightly deserve the reputation as one of the all-time greatest rock bands & I miss the days when we had performers as amazing as Mercury. Who do we have nowadays? Ed Sheeran?? Ugh. Everyone is so damn boring now. It truly sucks.

Like with all my lists, this is a ranking of every Queen song I know. If you know of a great album track missing from this list, I’m open to recommendations of songs I should check out. So, counting down to my favorite, here are My Top Ten Queen Songs:

The Rest Of The Songs That I Know:

33. Don’t Lose Your Head
32. Save Me
31. Play The Game
30. Tie Your Mother Down
29. Seven Seas Of Rhye
28. Somebody To Love
27. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
26. Headlong
25. You’re My Best Friend
24. Don’t Stop Me Now
23. One Year Of Love
22. I’m Going Slightly Mad
21. These Are The Days Of Our Lives

Top Twenty:

20. The Miracle
19. I Want It All
18. I Want To Break Free
17. Keep Yourself Alive
16. Stone Cold Crazy
15. Hammer To Fall
14. Princes Of The Universe
13. Flash (all the Flash soundtrack stuff…)
12. The Show Must Go On
11. Who Wants To Live Forever

Top Ten:

10. TIE: Fat Bottomed Girls & Bicycle Race
9. We Are The Champions
8. One Vision
7. Radio Ga Ga
6. We Will Rock You

Top Five:

5. Killer Queen

4. A Kind Of Magic

3. Under Pressure

2. Another One Bites The Dust

1. Bohemian Rhapsody (I didn’t want number one to be so obvious but it’s a damn good song)

And an honorable mention for Brighton Rock, thanks to Baby Driver.

And, sorry, but I have to include the Wayne’s World scene. Not ashamed to admit that this will always be one of my favorite movies…

The Raid (2011) Blind Spot Review

The Raid (2011)
US Title – The Raid: Redemption
Serbuan maut
ザ・レイド

Directed & Written by Gareth Huw Evans

Starring: Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah, Yayan Ruhian, Pierre Gruno, Ray Sahetapy, Tegar Sathya

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Raid is a 2011 Indonesian martial arts action–survival film in which an elite squad is tasked to infiltrate a high-rise building – run by a ruthless drug lord – located in the slums of Jakarta. Among them is Rama (played by Uwais), a rookie member of the team.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of the Blind Spot films I’ve watched so far this year, from my least favorite to my favorite:

9. The Last Temptation Of Christ
8. The Raid
7. The King & I
6. The Hustler
5. Jackie Brown
4. Ghost In The Shell
3. Watership Down
2. The Untouchables
1. Rocky

Even though The Raid is second from the bottom, I did really like it. This is just a strong list of movies! The only one I can’t say I really liked at all was The Last Temptation Of Christ.

I was expecting to maybe like The Raid more than I did, though. I loved the fast-paced action and the whole concept of battling their way through this high-rise building, which is such a simple yet brilliant idea for an action movie. And the movie does kick ass (although it was a bit too violent for me – I’m such a wuss).

I would never say that action movies are a favorite genre of mine but I do enjoy a really good one. The problem with action movies is that there are a lot of really bad ones and, while I don’t expect all of them to have much depth and am happy to sometimes just switch off my brain & be entertained, I do want to at least care about some of the characters. For me, an action movie either needs to be a) SO awesome & kick-ass that flaws in writing and weak character development can be overlooked or b) well-written with some really great characters & just enough action to keep things interesting. I prefer option b but option b with kick-ass action would be great. I’m trying to think of a “perfect” action movie. Hmm…. I don’t know. Maybe Aliens? Although I first think of sci-fi with that. The Terminator is another one. Maybe I only really like action within science fiction. What’s my point? I have no idea. I think what I’m saying is that The Raid is mostly option a. It’s a kick-ass action movie but is far more shallow than I was expecting after all the praise it’s had. I really liked our main “hero”, Rama, so that kept me caring about the final outcome but everyone else is as expendable as they’re written to be.

I did enjoy this movie so don’t want to come across as too negative. In thinking about what I consider to be my all-time favorite films, very few are from the action or crime genres. If this movie sounds like your type of thing, it’s one you should definitely watch if you haven’t. It’s a thoroughly entertaining film and I’m very much looking forward to seeing its sequel, which is even more highly rated for some reason. I’m hoping we maybe get a little more story & time spent on our main characters in that one?

I’m going to end by comparing The Raid to some other films. One obvious one is Die Hard (what with the whole baddies taking over a high-rise building thing). I’m not a huge lover of Die Hard like most people my age but it’s an action classic. Which is the better of the two? Probably Die Hard, and this is due to better characters. Another is the one a lot of people compare this to: Dredd. Although Dredd came out after The Raid, I saw it first & really liked it so it probably made seeing The Raid a little less interesting for me. Which is better? In a way, I think I enjoyed Dredd slightly more but The Raid is the better film. Dredd is 100% option a. No character development, shallow as hell, but really f*^king cool. I’d love to see them make a Dredd sequel but I don’t give a shit about what happens to the characters whereas I want to see The Raid 2 to see what happens since I cared just enough about (whoever may or may not have survived…? Spoilers??? 😉 ). Finally, it may seem an odd comparison but as I saw The Raid & Train To Busan recently, both are still in my mind. Well, they’re both foreign language films & they’re from the two genres that usually have the weakest characters: action & horror. The better film? Definitely Train To Busan. Why? Great characters! In a horror film!! So, it is possible. I suppose I just wanted a little something more from The Raid. I had a lot of fun watching it but it lacks that extra “something” that makes a film a true all-time classic.

My Rating: 7.5/10

After finally seeing The Raid, I definitely wouldn’t want to piss off Kanjiklub.

My Top Ten Jack Black Movies

Happy Birthday to Jack Black, who turns 48 today.

I love Jack Black. Some people hate Jack Black. I had no idea! I suppose he’s an acquired taste. But I love that first Tenacious D album. I don’t care what anyone says! Great songs on that. 🙂

So here are My Top Ten Jack Black Movies (ranked by how much I like the movie, not performance – I’m aware some of these are tiny roles). Damn – looks like I still need to watch Demolition Man, which most people said I should watch after it wasn’t on my list of My Top Ten Sandra Bullock Movies. Oops.

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

23. The Fan
22. Bio-Dome
21. Shallow Hal
20. Shark Tale
19. Anchorman
18. Tropic Thunder
17. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
16. Waterworld
15. Orange County
14. Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny
13. The Holiday
12. Be Kind Rewind
11. The Cable Guy

Top Ten:

10. Enemy Of The State

9. Ice Age

8. King Kong

7. The Muppets

6. The Kung Fu Panda Movies

5. Mars Attacks!

4. Goosebumps

3. Bernie

2. High Fidelity

1. School Of Rock

Not Seen:

Demolition Man, Neverending Story III, Dead Man Walking, The Jackal, Saving Silverman, Envy, Nacho Libre, Margot At The Wedding, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Year One, Gulliver’s Travels, The Big Year, Sex Tape

Ancien And The Magic Tablet (aka Napping Princess) (2017) Review

Ancien And The Magic Tablet
(UK Title – Napping Princess: The Story Of The Unknown Me)
ひるね姫 〜知らないワタシの物語〜
Hirune Hime: Shiranai Watashi no Monogatari

Directed by Kenji Kamiyama

Starring Voice Actors: Mitsuki Takahata, Shinnosuke Mitsushima, Tomoya Maeno, Rie Kugimiya, Arata Furuta, Hideki Takahashi, Yōsuke Eguchi

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Kokone has university exams to prepare for, but instead she dozes off. Even when her father is unceremoniously arrested prior to the Tokyo Olympics and the family is hiding away a mystery or two she finds herself taking refuge in sleep where thrills await her. Could there be more to her dreams?

My Opinion:

I didn’t know a thing about this movie when looking up cinema times & seeing that something called “Napping Princess” was playing (Which is a crap title – I prefer the American title on this one). I was like “Ohhh. Japanese anime! Let’s go to that!” even though it doesn’t have the greatest IMDB rating (6.3/10). I’ve also since seen the Empire magazine rating (2/5). Bit harsh!! It’s certainly not the best anime I’ve seen but it was entertaining enough & my kid seemed to enjoy it. Although she mainly liked it for the girl’s cute blue toy dog thingy – I think she would’ve liked the movie far less without that character.

I admit to really getting into the Japanese anime thing lately so I’m probably giving this a higher rating than it actually deserves since it’s more my type of thing than most Western animated films (just from DreamWorks, etc – Disney & Pixar are awesome). Napping Princess is far from perfect. I thought the story was a bit too messy & convoluted while the characters weren’t all that memorable. When all I’ve really seen are the very biggest Japanese anime films (Akira, Ghost In The Shell, all the best Studio Ghiblis), this film definitely pales in comparison. Okay – I suppose this movie is like the Japanese equivalent of a DreamWorks movie while the Studio Ghibli stuff is like the very best of the Pixar movies. Ancien And The Magic Tablet is cute, lighthearted fun but I doubt it’ll ever be considered a classic in Japan.

The overall concept of the film is good even if the plot did get a little messy. The main character, schoolgirl Kokone, has bizarre dreams in which she’s a princess with a magic “tablet” (iPad) that enables her to bring things to life (such as the cute blue dog thingy & a Transformer-like motorcycle). In real life, her dad is secretly working on programming driverless cars when he’s suddenly arrested & Kokone doesn’t know why. However, he’s left a tablet (iPad!) behind, which may provide the clues…

It’s a shame more work wasn’t put into the characters. I mean, the Transformers-like motorcycle was kind of wasted – that could’ve been a really cool companion like The Iron Giant or something (I love that movie). Cute blue dog thingy also didn’t have much to do and I don’t remember much about the boy who helps Kokone after her father is arrested. The relationship between Kokone & her father plus finding out more about her mother was done fairly well, though, so that’s one of the story’s stronger points. Without giving anything away, the real world & dream world start to collide toward the end, which is when the story got a little messy but was also enjoyable in a Christopher Nolan Inception-y way. It’s worth a watch if you like Japanese anime & it’s probably fine for most kids ages 8 & up or so. I think it probably wants to be Your Name but tries too hard with a story that doesn’t come together as well as it did in that film. By the way – I definitely DO recommend Your Name if you’ve not seen it… Check that one out before Napping Princess.

My Rating: 6.5/10

FYI according to Wikipedia:

“A English-dubbed version was released in the United Kingdom from August 16, 2017; whereas the United States will receive a US-dubbed version sometime later in August.”

Luckily, I saw the Japanese language version with English subtitles. Far prefer seeing the subtitled versions of these films.

Pitch Black (2000) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

There’s some big solar eclipse in America today, right? Well, I tried to think of something eclipse-related that I could reblog today but the closest thing I could think of was my review of that shitty Pitch Black movie. So here it is! Enjoy the eclipse, America. We’ll probably all be plunged into eternal darkness soon anyway the way things are going… Happy Monday! 😉

Cinema Parrot Disco

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Pitch Black (2000)

Directed by David Twohy

Starring:
Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David

Running time: 110 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
A bunch of hateful people crash land their spaceship on a planet filled with aliens who, luckily, attack them thanks to the fact that they’ve landed on this planet at the worst possible time.

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Halloween Horror Fest:

I’ve watched most of the films now for my Halloween Horror Fest and just have to finish writing up the rest of the reviews. I’ve loved a couple and hated a couple. I didn’t love Pitch Black… Here’s the list of films I’ve watched so far:

From Beyond (6/10)

The Descent (8/10)

ParaNorman (7.5/10)

Pitch Black

Insidious

Dog Soldiers

Grabbers

The Innkeepers

Nosferatu (1922)

Sisters (aka Blood Sisters)

Still to watch:

Berberian Sound Studio

High Tension (maybe…)

There was a lot of talk about Pitch Black as whatever number…

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My Top Ten Amy Adams Movies

Happy Birthday to Amy Adams, who turns 43 today. I’ve updated my Top Ten from two years ago since two of her newer films easily break into my Top Ten (including my new number one).

Cinema Parrot Disco

Happy Birthday to Amy Adams, who turns 41 today!

Yes, I needed a quick & easy Top Ten this week so I did my usual lazy thing of looking up celebrity birthdays. 😉 Adams was the only one worthwhile today – I really like her so was surprised to find that some people find her annoying. Look at her in that picture – she’s so adorable! Wish I looked like that. Anyway, I’ve liked her ever since her Oscar-nominated performance in Junebug.

So now, counting down from ten, these are My Top Ten Amy Adams Movies:

**List updated 20/08/17 to include Arrival, Nocturnal Animals & Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice

10. The Fighter

9. Night At The Museum 2 (I mention it in my review of the third film)

8. Enchanted

7. The Muppets

6. Junebug

5. Sunshine Cleaning

4. Nocturnal Animals

3. Her

2. Catch…

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Book Review)

As the movie is (finally) out in the UK today, I’m reblogging my review of the book Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It’s very “YA”, but I really enjoyed the book…

Cinema Parrot Disco

The film adaptation of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon comes out today in the United States. It was directed by Stella Meghie and stars Amandla Stenberg & Nick Robinson. I must admit that I really enjoyed this book and am annoyed about the three month wait to see the film in the United Kingdom (the release date is set for the 18th of August here). Here’s my review of the novel…

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The novel centers on 18-year-old Madeline Whittier, who has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), also known as “bubble baby disease”. Due to her condition, Madeline is stuck inside her house in Los Angeles, where she lives with her mother, a physician who takes care of her.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. But I must admit that it’s a full-on “Young Adult” teenbook. I know plenty of…

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My Top Ten Robert De Niro Movies

Happy Birthday to Robert De Niro, who turns 74 today.

I was thinking I may not be able to do this list as I may struggle to find ten De Niro movies that I’ve seen. Ha! I’ve seen 29! How did that happen?! Sheesh – he’s been in loads of films. Took me ages just to type out the biggest ones I’ve seen & not seen.

I like De Niro but I’m not gonna pretend he’d make a top ten list of my favorite actors. Of the two, though, I’ve always preferred him to Al Pacino (I’ve only seen 14 of his movies).

As always, I’ll include a list at the end of some of the biggest De Niro movies I’ve not seen. And there are truly some biggies! As for Taxi Driver, it’s a bit like Rocky was for me until I finally watched it all the way through this year for my Blind Spot thingy: I’ve probably seen most of Taxi Driver from seeing bits & pieces over the years but can’t really include it on this list until I fully watch it properly.

I do want to see Once Upon A Time In America & The Untouchables (Maybe I’ll make them Blind Spot 2018 choices!). I have no desire to see Casino as it sounds too violent for my wussy self. And I have a feeling I may get yelled at for Raging Bull not making my Top Ten… 😉

So, of what I’ve managed to see so far, here are My Top Ten Robert De Niro Movies (ranked by movie, not performance):

**List Updated 22/08/17 to add The Untouchables 

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

27. The Fan
26. Cape Fear
25. Great Expectations
24. Red Lights
23. Shark Tale
22. Arthur And The Invisibles
21. Angel Heart
20. Hide And Seek
19. Limitless
18. Cop Land
17. Sleepers
16. American Hustle
15. Backdraft
14. Silver Linings Playbook
13. Meet The Parents & Meet The Fockers
12. Analyze This & Analyze That
11. Raging Bull

Top Ten:

TIE: 10. Ronin & The King Of Comedy

9. Stardust

8. Brazil

7. Awakenings

6. Heat

5. The Deer Hunter

4. Jackie Brown

3. The Untouchables

2. Goodfellas

1. The Godfather: Part II

Need To Re-Watch/Fully Watch:
Taxi Driver, Midnight Run

Not Seen:
Mean Streets, New York, New York, Once Upon A Time In America, Falling In Love, The Mission, We’re No Angels, Stanley & Iris, Mad Dog & Glory, This Boy’s Life, A Bronx Tale, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Casino, Marvin’s Room, Wag The Dog, Flawless, The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Men Of Honor, 15 Minutes, The Score, The Good Shepherd, Machete, Little Fockers, The Family, Last Vegas, The Intern, Joy, Dirty Grandpa

Valerian And The City of A Thousand Planets (2017) Review

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (2017)
French: Valérian et la Cité des mille planètes

Directed by Luc Besson

Based on Valérian and Laureline
by Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

My Opinion:

I liked this. I didn’t really expect to. I do think I should just go into every movie with low expectations as I often end up far less disappointed that way. I went into this with low expectations as it looked like it could be a disaster. It’s a fun film.

Believe me, this movie is far from perfect. But if you like Besson’s The Fifth Element, I can’t see why you wouldn’t get some enjoyment out of this one as well. It’s visually impressive and I especially liked the gorgeous planet & alien race at the beginning of the film. I’m not sure if it’s really accurate to compare it to Avatar but I couldn’t help comparing them in my mind & I personally enjoyed this “science fiction movie with funny-looking aliens that some people won’t take seriously” film more than that one. The story itself & the look of the whole thing & even the comic relief all worked just fine for me. As I said, it’s a fun film & it kept me entertained throughout its rather long running time. I actually didn’t think it felt overlong, whereas I did feel that way about the film I watched before this one, Spider-Man: Homecoming.

The only thing I can really fault about this film is its casting. Specifically its main stars: Dane DeHaan & Cara Delevingne as Valérian and Laureline. It’s a shame, as I think the lack of true leading character star power hurts the film. I know nothing whatsoever about the source material but they seem like two pretty cool characters and I imagine that they don’t really do them justice in this film. The surprising thing is I think DeHaan was almost weaker than Delevingne (who I really don’t like), although I’ve thought he was pretty good in the past in things such as The Place Beyond The Pines. Even more surprising is that Rihanna was pretty good in a small role but also as one of the better characters in the film overall. I liked her dance routine, which was pretty unique (but a little saucy if you bring your kids to the movie). Well, it’s no more saucy than her videos. But I may be the only one in my cinema who kept picturing the girl from Home every time she talked (my kid really likes that movie so I’ve seen it several times).

So. Where were we? A fun movie with weak stars that let the film down a little but lovely to look at and filled with wacky characters & some comic relief that you’ll either love or hate. The film is definitely not going to be for everyone but, hey – if you’ve seen The Fifth Element, you should know what to expect. If you like this genre (it’s my favorite) and if you’re happy to just enjoy a movie without overthinking things & being too judge-y, you may like this one just fine.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Review

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Directed by Jon Watts

Based on Spider-Man by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei, Robert Downey Jr., Laura Harrier, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green, Martin Starr

Music by Michael Giacchino

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.

My Opinion:

I saw this a few weeks ago but never reviewed it and now it’s annoying me because I at least try to review the current releases I actually go out to see, so…. I’ll keep this short! I don’t have a lot to say.

I liked this but, as I often say about these sort of movies, I’m getting very superheroed-out. There are some that I truly do enjoy (like Wonder Woman & especially the Guardians Of The Galaxy films) but I’d probably never bother to re-watch half the superhero movies I’ve seen. I think Spider-Man: Homecoming is one of the ones I’m unlikely to watch again. Sorry… It’s not bad! It just feels like, you know, more of the same old thing despite trying to be a little bit different with certain things (like with saucy Aunt May).

The storyline is a pretty standard Marvel storyline so I couldn’t get too excited about that but I did like the John Hughes-esque teen movie thing going on, which worked well instead of feeling forced. Tom Holland & his friends felt like actual teenagers, as they’re meant to be. Which leads me to the very best thing about this movie: Tom Holland is great. He’s easily my favorite Spider-Man between him, Andrew Garfield & Tobey Maguire. I think they finally got the character right (not that I can have a fully informed opinion since it’s not like I read the comics or anything). But, seriously – he’s the most believable as a teenager (he’s 21!) and easily the most likeable.

I also really enjoyed Michael Keaton & Marisa Tomei in this. I like the career revival Michael Keaton has had these past few years (he’s still my favorite Batman, okay??) and I’ve liked Tomei ever since Untamed Heart (that movie rules & I love it). I like saucy Aunt May! I looked up Tomei’s age as well as Holland’s. She’s 52! That’s awesome. I like that Hollywood is actually seeming to be a little less scared lately of using actors & actresses who dare to be over 40. Anyway – Holland, Keaton & Tomei are perfect in these roles and are what make this movie so enjoyable since the story itself is a bit “whatever”.


I can see why people do like this movie and I’m sorry that I think I sound more negative than I actually feel. If I was a teen/early twentysomething, I think I’d probably love it & would see it as “my” Spider-Man (like those who grew up with the Tobey Maguire ones are so fond of those). I think this latest incarnation of Spider-Man is easily the most promising of the last three & the younger generation are lucky to have Holland as “their” Spider-Man. I assume we’ll be getting to see more of Zendaya in a sequel (I was surprised her role was so small in this), which would be good as I want to see more of Peter Parker’s awkward teenage high school life & all of his relationships (even more than his Spider-Man life). But, as for his Spider-Man life, I think he’s the perfect fit to work alongside the other Marvel superheroes. That’s one of the best things about the Marvel films – I think all the actors are pretty much perfect in their superhero roles and also have great chemistry when they’re all brought together. I’m happy to know that this is the Spider-Man we get to see working with them. I think the previous two would have felt out of place with them so Holland clearly has a certain star power to work so well alongside such established actors & actresses.

My Rating: 7/10

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Book Review)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

My Thoughts:

I read this as, which you may notice by my list at the end of this review, I’m reading books before their movie adaptations are released this year. The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, is out today in the U.S. and October 6th in the U.K. I’m a fan of Larson, especially after the fantastic Room as well as Short Term 12 (which was also from the director of The Glass Castle, Destin Daniel Cretton). So, even though “true story dramas” don’t normally appeal to me, I decided to give this a read since I’ll happily watch a movie with this film’s cast. I didn’t expect the book to quite possibly be my very favorite that I’ve read so far this year. But, I think it probably is. What a pleasant surprise.

I liked the way in which Walls wrote her story. It’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t seem to be passing judgement on her parents & the way in which they chose to raise their children. Like a lot of people raised in small-town American Midwest, my childhood was pretty straightforward (and pretty damn boring). Not rich, not poor, working parents, regularly attended school, followed all the rules & the “societal norms”, etc. The Walls family are unlike any I’ve ever personally known and I found their story fascinating. I suppose there are other nomadic families in America but it’s a world I’ve never experienced & can’t even begin to imagine. The Walls family moved from place to place all across America, sometimes homeless & living out in the open, rarely holding down regular jobs despite having the ability to work (including the mother having the qualifications for teaching) and despite the fact that their children had to dig their classmates’ uneaten lunches out of the trash at school in order to have anything to eat. I was often shocked by the horrendous neglect endured by Jeannette, her two sisters, and her brother (and amazed that these children were never taken away from their parents). However, as I said, Jeannette never really speaks poorly of her parents – she just tells her story in a straightforward manner without the need to embellish things. Their story is so outrageous that I don’t think you could make up half of the odd things their parents did. Yet Jeannette does still give us glimpses of the love their parents had for them, especially from her father through his many broken promises that I think he himself may have genuinely believed he’d keep even though his children knew he never would.

This is a hard book to describe without making it sound horribly depressing but it’s not really that way at all. It’s truly amusing and at times had me smiling at some of the bizarre things this family went through (like when they try to move a piano into their house). Jeannette’s parents, though they will sometimes make you very angry if you read this, are truly a couple of unique characters & free spirits. It’s highly unusual for me to enjoy (or even bother to read) a true story but, as they say, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Do they say that? Hmm. Well, someone said that. Sounds like something Jeannette’s father would say. I don’t know if I’ve talked anyone into reading this but I do highly recommend it. It’s frustrating. It’s uplifting. It’ll make you angry. It’ll make you smile. It’ll make you shake your head in disbelief. You won’t know whether you want to hug or punch the parents (most likely the latter). But it’s also not soppy or trying to be some big tearjerker, which is the kind of thing that gets on my nerves. It’s just a well-written story of a girl who somehow managed to survive & to thrive after living a truly unusual childhood with two very eccentric parents. The movie has “meh” reviews so far & the below trailer doesn’t really blow me away (although I’ll still watch it). So, if you can, READ THE BOOK FIRST.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black”, for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

My Thoughts:

Another quickie book review! I figured I better “review” The Gunslinger since The Dark Tower movie is out now in the US (and out August 18th in the UK). Not many positive reviews so far, though! Damn.

Stephen King is easily my favorite author. I’ve read almost all of his books other than The Dark Tower series, which never really appealed to me for some reason. I got into King in my early teens (maaaaaaany years ago now) and I did read The Gunslinger early on but didn’t remember a thing about it other than that I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. Therefore, I guess that’s why I never continued. I hate re-reading books. Don’t know why. But I obviously had to re-read this one before I could continue with the series & the movie coming out has finally forced me to read it again.

I lie – I do remember one thing from reading it many years ago. Desert! Lots of desert. I remember the book dragging in the first half (in the desert). Reading the book again now, I wonder if I didn’t actually finish it as I remembered nothing at all from the second half of the book, which I found much more enjoyable. The story really picked up once Roland met up with Jake (toward the end of the long desert journey). I mean, I love King but a guy walking alone through a desert gets a bit boring after a while. Maybe I just don’t like stories set in the desert? Nah, that can’t be – I love post-apocalyptic desert landscapes (like in Mad Max: Fury Road or the book Wool). And I don’t mind long journeys (like in The End Of The World Running Club or King’s own The Long Walk or, you know, The Lord Of The F*^king Rings…). So. I dunno. Wow, I suck at reviews lately.

I think the main problem may have been that I didn’t really buy into the character of Roland Deschain. I didn’t like him (not that you’re meant to). He’s so stoic. Having to walk through the desert with that guy would be a total drag. I made him super hot in my head, though, so that helped. Oh! I did like the flashbacks to when he was young & being trained to one day fight to declare his manhood. The flashbacks & the time spent with Jake were the best bits (for me) and made up for the bits that dragged on a bit too long (like the time spent in Tull, although I liked his relationship with the woman while there). The “man in black” was a disappointment but I’m assuming we get a lot more of that story in the remaining books…

Well, I did like this book more than it probably sounds from this so-called review. I’m probably rating it half a point more than I otherwise would since a) it’s Stephen King & b) I can see a lot of potential for the remaining books. I’m assuming this first book barely even scratches the surface of this story. You really learn nothing whatsoever about Roland & the “man in black” and I found it entertaining enough to want to continue & learn more, especially about Roland’s past. I’ll read the rest. Eventually…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Oh, and it looks like the Mr. Mercedes TV series is starting today on the Audience (?!) network in the US. So I don’t know how I’ll see that in the UK but I’d like to as I enjoyed the book (more than The Gunslinger). Here’s the trailer for the show, starring Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Mary-Louise Parker, Kelly Lynch & Ann Cusack:

My Top Ten Richard Linklater Movies

Happy Belated Birthday to Richard Linklater, who turned 57 yesterday.

I keep meaning to do this top ten because I really love some of Linklater’s films. Then I remember that there are a few I still need to see, such as Tape & Waking Life, which are very likely to knock number ten off this list since I can’t say I liked that one very much.

But time is short these days and I’m unlikely to see my “unseen Linklaters” anytime soon. So I’m doing this list now, which goes like this:

1-3: Love ’em
4-6: Really like ’em
7-9: Like ’em
10: Barely remember it & would rather just watch the original, which is a classic.
11: Ugh.

For now, here are My Top Ten Richard Linklater Movies (that I’ve seen):

11. Slacker (not really a fan of this one)

TOP TEN:

10. Bad News Bears (meh)

9. A Scanner Darkly

8. Everybody Wants Some!!

7. Before Midnight

6. Boyhood

5. Bernie

4. Before Sunset

3. Before Sunrise

2. School Of Rock

1. Dazed And Confused

Not Seen:
SubUrbia, The Newton Boys, Waking Life, Tape, Fast Food Nation, Me And Orson Welles

My Top Ten Sandra Bullock Movies

Happy Birthday to Sandra Bullock, who turns 53 today.

Remember when Sandra Bullock & Julia Roberts were making all that silly rom-com stuff around the same sort of time? I always preferred Bullock. I think most people did… (Am I right??!!). It’s weird how Roberts had a sort of backlash against her that Bullock seemed to escape. Now I’m wondering which of the two has actually been in better films overall. Hmm. I’m pretty sure I like more Bullock films than Roberts films. Guess I should do a Roberts Top Ten sometime… Of which, considering I’m not a huge chick flick lover, Steel Magnolias would be number one. Because it’s awesome, despite being one of the absolute chick flickiest! And Pretty Woman deserves more credit than it gets – it’s mega quotable.

But back to Bullock! I bet British people found her name funny when she became famous. Bollocks! I don’t have a lot to say here. I like Bullock. She seems pretty sweet in real life & has been in a lot of throwaway but enjoyable films. I’m happy she has an Oscar but, I do apologize, I’ve not seen her in that role. That movie looked too pukey feelgood Americana. If you can convince me otherwise, I’ll try to watch it & not be so judge-y. Anyway, everyone likes Bullock! Right?!

Here are My Top Ten Sandra Bullock Movies, ranked from least favorite to favorite movie (not by performance):

**Note: I know it seems like I say this a lot, but… WOW, I barely remember half of these! So don’t take the lower part of this list too seriously. 😉

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

21. Miss Congeniality 2 (a vague memory of this being bad)
20. Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood (barely remember)
19. Speed 2: Cruise Control (yikes)
18. Two Weeks Notice (barely remember)
17. Premonition (barely remember)
16. Murder By Numbers (barely remember)
15. The Net (barely remember)
14. Forces Of Nature (remember-ish)
13. The Vanishing (am aware I should see the original instead)
12. A Time To Kill (too upsetting)
11. Crash (not Oscar-worthy)

10. Hope Floats (remember liking the cute little girl at the time. didn’t know it was Mae Whitman! need to rewatch)

9. Minions

8. 28 Days

7. Miss Congeniality

6. The Thing Called Love

5. While You Were Sleeping

4. Practical Magic (could actually do with re-watching this as well)

3. The Lake House

2. Gravity

1. Speed

I think I still have a secret desire for Bullock & Reeves to marry in real life…

Some I’ve Not Seen:
Demolition Man, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, In Love And War, The Prince Of Egypt, The Proposal, All About Steve, The Blind Side, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Heat, Our Brand Is Crisis

My Top Ten Willem Dafoe Movies

Happy Birthday to Willem Dafoe, who is 62 tomorrow.

I have to admit that I’m not necessarily a huge fan of Dafoe. I think he’s a decent actor & has been in an interesting range of films but my main reason for even giving him much thought is probably because he’s one of so few actors from my home state. Why are there so few famous people from my state?!

As with all my actor top tens, these are ranked from my least favorite to favorite movie instead of by performance (Although, to be honest, number one is probably my favorite performance as well. He’s awesome in that!). So here are My Top Ten Willem Dafoe Movies:

The Rest That I’ve Seen:

18. The English Patient (screw this movie)
17. Speed 2: Cruise Control
16. American Dreamz
15. American Psycho
14. Cry-Baby
13. Born On The Fourth Of July
12. The Last Temptation Of Christ
11. Clear And Present Danger (barely remember it, to be honest)

Top Ten:

10. TIE: The Fault In Our Stars & Daybreakers

9. Odd Thomas

8. The Spider-Man Movies

7. The Aviator

6. Streets Of Fire

5. Platoon

4. John Wick

3. The Hunger

2. eXistenZ

1. Finding Nemo

Honorable Mention:
Finding Dory, because it’s just a small cameo

Some Of The Many I’ve Not Seen:
To Live And Die In L.A., Mississippi Burning, Wild At Heart, Body Of Evidence, Basquiat, The Boondock Saints, Shadow Of The Vampire, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Manderlay, Inside Man, Tales From Earthsea, Antichrist, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Cirque Du Freak, John Carter, Nymphomaniac Vol II, The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but didn’t love this book. I’ll be honest and say I knew nothing about it until the TV series started and, when hearing that the novel was “feminist dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi”, I was all “WHAT? That’s so my type of thing!!”. It’s a very good book. I can see why it’s a modern classic but I can’t say it’s one I’ll ever call a favorite of mine.

This is a novel that’s worthy of thorough analysis & discussion. You’re SO not gonna get that on my silly little movie blog! 😉 I’m happy to discuss it with any of you in the comments if you want but I think there are far better places online to find good write-ups of it. I would imagine that The Handmaid’s Tale is now studied in high schools (or perhaps colleges – Americans can be extremely uptight, so the sexual content would probably keep it out of high schools). Or… Is it? It should be studied & discussed, especially as it’s worryingly feeling more & more like a future that’s entirely possible in our lifetimes. I do remember when the TV series started & some people online were all “This show is obviously  anti-Trump!”. Ha! Hilarious. This show based on the book from 1985. Do these people not realize that seeing so many similarities between this book’s “fictional” dystopian future & modern day politics is scary as f*%k?!?!

I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that this book has been labelled “feminist” as this term bizarrely has negative connotations to some people and would probably keep them from reading it. It’s a very well-written & important piece of work that deserves recognition alongside old literary classics (although I suppose that 1985 is now “old” – it just seems like yesterday to me since I’m so damn old myself). At what point is a modern classic no longer a modern classic? Okay – I’m old & depressed now. Where were we?

Oh yeah – Feminist dystopia. Don’t let labels keep you from reading this book if it interests you. Even Margaret Atwood doesn’t approve of this being labelled sci-fi & prefers to call it “speculative fiction” (I read that HERE at Wikipedia, where there’s an interesting bit about the book’s genre classification). Sci-fi does bring futuristic technology to mind whereas this book, although set in the future, feels like it’s set hundreds of years ago due to society’s regression. Once again, it’s scary as hell as it’s starting to feel like we may be headed in that direction.

As for this book’s overall “readability” (as in, is it at all enjoyable as opposed to just worthy), I’d say it has a tiny bit of that “They’ve forced me to read this book in school” thing going on. I don’t really mean that as an insult & I personally found the story itself entirely engrossing. The story kept me very interested and turning the pages but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Also, I’m not one of these annoying people who require an explanation for EVERYTHING but you really don’t find much out in this book. Whatever happened to cause this apocalyptic(?) future is never fully explained and things from the past are only hinted at through the vague thoughts of Offred, our main character. I felt like we didn’t really get to know her, which made it hard to connect with her. Although I know that’s kind of the point as any kind of emotion must be hidden & she’s living her life in constant fear. Atwood also has an odd sort of writing style, which I think further made it slightly difficult to fully connect with the book. Fantastic concept & great story but a book I can’t say I loved since I didn’t have much of a connection with the characters.

As for the current TV series, I did watch the first episode after finishing the book. Rubbish. I won’t be continuing. Sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the show but, if you’ve not read the book, I definitely recommend it over what I’ve seen of the show. Long, drawn out scenes for zero reason other than to appear “deep & brooding”.  Added violence that was not in the book (what was done to Janine didn’t happen in the book). And the episode ends with, I think, a final line that is, very importantly, never said in the book. Why?!?! After that, I knew I couldn’t continue. They’re clearly going to change too much & piss me off. And now, hearing there’s a SECOND season?!? Piss off. Don’t milk it. End it where it’s meant to end. Pffft. Adaptations annoy the hell out of me sometimes. Skip the show & go straight to the book with this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Now currently reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Which Movie(s) Should I Review? (Two Polls!)

Hi all! I’m really slacking on writing movie reviews this year. So, when that happens, I decide to make a poll instead. Because I’m a procrastinator!

Below are the movies I’ve watched in the past few years but never got around to/didn’t feel like/couldn’t be bothered reviewing. I’ll probably do them as “quickie threesome” reviews but was curious which ones people would be most interested in hearing about. You can vote for as many choices as you like (if I set this poll up right… Who knows!).

Also, I’d like to do a themed week again (or month). I’ll be honest: If I do, it’ll be in 2018. But I’m wondering which of the choices below sound the most fun/entertaining/not-too-boring.

I do plan to review the below films soon, though, so I’ve not added them to the poll:

The Frame (2014) (fantastic! deserves recognition, which is why I’ll review it)
The Beguiled (1971) (good)
Hell Or High Water (good)
Okja (overrated)

I’ll still be reviewing 5 more Blind Spot films before the end of the year (I’ve watched The Raid & am halfway through Zodiac, which I’m struggling to finish). Also, as usual I’ve not reviewed any horror films I’ve watched in the past year since I’ll try to review them all in October (if I have the energy). But one of my favorite films I’ve seen overall this year is Train To Busan, which will definitely get an October review. Loved it! These are the horror reviews you might see (most of them sucked, which is why I may not have the energy…):

Monster Hunter, The Forest, The Watcher In The Woods, Lifeforce, The Witch, The Gift, The Final Girls, Pontypool, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Wailing, Byzantium, Green Room, Before I Wake, Poltergeist (2015)

So, I do still make plans for this blog even though it feels like I’m abandoning it this year. I should be around a bit more in the next month while life hopefully settles down a little! 🙂

R.I.P. George A. Romero 

I was very sad to hear of George A. Romero’s passing. He’s a true master of horror and his Dead films have never been topped, although many have tried to copy them.

I’ve always wanted to review Night, Dawn & Day Of The Dead but never have as I always struggle to write about my all-time favorite films. Dawn Of The Dead is one of a very small handful of horrors that I consider to be all around favorite films despite being within the horror genre. I’m sad now that the only Romero film I’ve reviewed is Monkey Shines (which was a lot of fun to review!). It’s certainly no Dawn Of The Dead, though, which has topped many top ten lists that I’ve posted (such as My Top Ten Horror Movies & My Top Ten Horror Movie Quotes). Heck, I even managed to review the Dawn Of The Dead remake for Mike over at Screenkicker. Yet no review of the original. The best. I’ve never reviewed Romero’s TRUE ZOMBIE CLASSICS Night Of The Living Dead & Dawn Of The Dead. Or Day Of The Dead! Also love Day. And now we’re stuck watching the inferior The Walking Dead while humanity turns into a Romero mall zombie. The horror legends are dying. It sucks.

Rest in peace George Andrew Romero
February 4, 1940 – July 16, 2017

Oh, here’s an odd recommendation but Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill, has a great short story in his collection 20th Century Ghosts called Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead. It’s a love story, of sorts, between two extras on the set of Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. Loved it! I highly recommend the entire book – it’s a fantastic short story collection.

**Seriously? I just finish this post then read that Martin Landau has died as well. I must admit that I didn’t know him from much but did love him as Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood. His Oscar for that was well deserved!

Rest in peace Martin Landau
June 20, 1928 – July 15, 2017

Despicable Me 3 (2017) Review

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Nev Scharrel, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews, Jenny Slate, Chris Renaud

Music by Heitor Pereira & Pharrell Williams

Production company: Illumination Entertainment

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
In the film, Gru teams up with his long lost twin Dru in order to defeat a new enemy named Balthazar Bratt, a 1980s child actor who grows up to become a villain.

My Opinion:

Another quickie review today! I’m trying to catch up since I try to review the things I see in the cinema (I managed to finally review Gifted yesterday). At least I missed out on Spider-Man: Homecoming due to a headache so I don’t have to worry about reviewing that! Wait, no – that sucks. I want to see that, dammit. But now I don’t know when it’ll be. Anyone seen it? What did you think? Oops – I’m meant to be reviewing Despicable Me 3…

What can I say? I love those damn minions (one of cinema’s greatest creations, quite frankly). I absolutely adore the three Despicable Me girls (I’d adopt them if you could legally adopt cartoon children) and I love their adorable relationship with Gru. The first Despicable Me film is a favorite of mine, which is extremely rare for an animated movie that wasn’t made by Pixar or Disney. I’m a total Disney/Pixar snob – all other animation production companies can’t even compare. BUT! The first Despicable Me rules. The characters, the soundtrack, the MINIONS…. ! Love it.

As with all money-grabbing animation sequels, though, Despicable Me 2 & 3 obviously pale in comparison to the first. I looked back at my review for Despicable Me 2 (HERE) and I was far too generous with my rating, which I’ve now knocked down slightly to 7.5/10. That’s still probably too high but I think I was buzzing from once again getting to see these characters that I enjoy. I felt the same way while watching number 3 and, when first coming out of the cinema last weekend, probably would’ve rated it slightly too high if I hadn’t waited a week to review it. I at first felt it was a tiny bit better than number 2 but have since changed my mind since watching part of that one with the kid again. 2 & 3 are fairly close but 2 gets half a point more for funnier minion scenes, better use of Pharrell’s brilliant music, and a much stronger opening. Both 2 & 3’s villains are quite weak but, meh – who cares when we get to see Gru, the girls & the minions again? Gru’s long-lost twin brother is probably a love-him-or-hate-him addition but I found him a better character than the lacklustre villains of the last two and slightly less annoying than Lucy (who I’m still unfortunately not crazy about, but that’s not helped by her not being given much to do in number 3).


I think I’m probably going too easy on this film because I love the characters & also love seeing how much my kid enjoys these movies (I think she thinks she IS Agnes sometimes). Despicable Me 3 isn’t a great film but, if you love these characters, I think you’ll get some enjoyment out of it anyway so I would still recommend it to fans. I think reviews have been a bit too harsh since the first movie was so good. But, to be fair, I’ve seen FAR worse animated sequels. And it’s certainly better than the Minions movie, which truly suffered from the lack of the three girls. Oh, and I’ll say I was very worried when seeing the trailer for this one that the girls would barely be in it (why the hell weren’t they in the trailer?!) so I’m happy to say their roles are about as big as they were in the second film. Maybe that’s why I ended up not being disappointed since that horrible trailer gave me very low expectations. But I enjoyed it just fine. It’s watchable. I still adore these characters. But it would be nice if the movies were getting slightly better each time instead of slightly worse…

My Rating: 6.5/10

*I’ve amended this rating – think I was too generous with a 7/10…