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:

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! 🙂

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: 7/10

Gifted (2017) Review

Gifted (2017)

Directed by Marc Webb

Starring: Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate, Octavia Spencer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.

My Opinion:

Quickie review! Saw this a good few weeks ago & realized I never reviewed it. Not because I didn’t like it – I’ve just been too busy. I actually quite liked it, as far as family films go. I doubt it’s still in cinemas now but it’s worth a watch at home if you like the sound of it.

I went to Gifted with the hubby and the eight-year-old. I’m enjoying the fact that she’s of the age now where we’re getting to go to more non-animated “family” films. I wish there were more of them! We saw this not long after A Dog’s Purpose (which we all really liked). We all enjoyed this one as well but I think the kid & I slightly preferred A Dog’s Purpose because: Cute dogs. Although Gifted has: Cute Chris Evans. So, they kind of even out.

Chris Evans & Mckenna Grace are the true stars of this and what make the movie work as they’re believable as a single uncle & the niece he has to raise after his sister commits suicide (warning for if you do take a kid, although I don’t remember the topic of suicide exactly being dwelled on & my kid didn’t ask any questions about it). They were great together & my kid really liked Grace & the cheekiness of her character, who is extremely clever beyond her years. Octavia Spencer is also good as the neighbor & friend of Evans & Grace but also very wasted in this small role. Lindsay Duncan plays the mother of Evans, who fights him for custody of her granddaughter once she realizes she has inherited her daughter’s mathematical genius.


What else can I say? There’s not a lot more to this story but the characters were pretty strong and the custody battle was interesting. Evans wants to raise his child prodigy niece as a normal kid in a normal school with a normal life. The grandmother wants to raise her as the child genius that she is, with all the best schooling & training that money can buy (and which the working class Chris Evans can’t afford). So it comes down to which values you believe in (although the majority will be on the uncle’s side because the grandmother is a bitch). I’ll say that the movie has an interesting turn of events & it’s not often that I can’t guess the ending to a pretty simple family film so bonus points for that. I enjoyed the film. All three of us did. Give it a watch with your family on… whatever streaming service(s) to which you subscribe (it was so much easier when you could just say “watch it on home video”). 😉

My Rating: 7/10

Baby Driver (2017) Review

Baby Driver (2017)

Directed & Written by Edgar Wright

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

My Opinion:

I’m so behind on movie reviews but don’t want to miss out on writing something about this one. Because it’s good! So this will be a quickie review. I’d love to hear from others who’ve seen it. More than anything, I badly need to catch up on replying to all your comments on my blog! Sorry about that. I’ll catch up on that soon. Now let’s talk a little bit about Baby Driver

I know Edgar Wright has some diehard fans thanks to his Cornetto Trilogy (I reviewed all three films together HERE). Those are great, especially Shaun Of The Dead, so it’s obvious why he has loyal fans. Baby Driver, in my opinion, is actually the best film he’s done so far. I love Shaun & it’s a great horror comedy but Baby Driver feels more timeless. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but did think it would be a little more similar to Shaun, Hot Fuzz, World’s End, Scott Pilgrim, etc. It’s not. It’s very different. It’s not a comedy, although it does have some humorous moments (which is fine with me, as I’m not a huge fan of most comedies anyway). But it’s a kick ass crime/heist movie with great characters & a fantastic soundtrack. It’s pure entertainment, which is missing from movies far too often nowadays. But it’s not dumb Michael-Bay-Style pure entertainment – it’s pure entertainment that puts time & effort into its script, its characters, its look, and its awesome soundtrack (Did I mention its awesome soundtrack? Oh yes, I believe I did. It has an awesome soundtrack).

Baby Driver feels like it can stand alongside some of the great crime/heist thrillers of the 70s & 80s in that, 20 years from now, I think it will be seen the same way that we see things like The French Connection nowadays (although I’ve never actually seen that – I better add that to Blind Spot 2018!). Or… Perhaps Walter Hill’s The Driver (which I’ve also never seen) since Wright gave Hill a cameo in this film. Oh! Yes, I just checked IMDb trivia to verify. I wanted to know Wright’s influences for Baby Driver:

“This film drew inspiration from The Driver (1978), Raising Arizona (1987), The Blues Brothers (1980), and Riding Bean (1989).”

Well, Walter Hill’s The Warriors easily remains my absolute favorite older film that I watched for the very first time since starting my blog almost five years ago, so… Hill’s The Driver is probably worth a watch as Wright clearly has good taste since he’s made such a good film. Oh – and he also gave Paul Williams a small role in this as well. You know – the Rainbow Connection, Phantom Of The Paradise Paul Williams (you young bloggers don’t know who I’m on about). Wright’s influences are obvious (and similar to the things I like seeing as we’re a similar age, I guess) and his love of films & music really shows in how he’s made Baby Driver. It reminds me of how Tarantino makes his films: as a nerdy superfan. And that’s the way it should be. If you love your job, it’s going to be obvious in the final product that you produce.

I liked Baby Driver a lot and I’d say it’s probably my number one movie of 2017 so far but I’m not sure if I exactly loved it in the same way I loved the insanely fun & action-packed Mad Max: Fury Road a couple of years ago. I compare them as it seems like I should feel similar about two really great action films, which is a genre that often disappoints me. I really liked the characters in Baby Driver and I always adore a good love story. In this case, there are several and the girl/boy love story isn’t necessarily my favorite. Baby’s love for a pretty waitress is nice but we also see his love for his mother, his foster father, driving, and MUSIC. I’m going to connect with any movie that shows as much passion for music as this one does. I can’t think of any other movies that have focused on the love of music so much (without the story actually being about music). It works really well so I’m not sure why the film didn’t quite connect with me as much as I expected it to. I do think it’s a film that will grow on me, though, and I’d happily watch it again sometime to see if my opinion changes at all. I can certainly see why the movie has had so much love already as it feels very unique despite having such obvious influences. As I said, I do believe Baby Driver is a film that will stand the test of time & possibly be even more respected in future years than it is now.

My Rating: 8.5/10

**Hmm. I think Baby Driver would probably make it somewhere onto my list of My Top Ten Movies With Song Title Titles 🙂

Rocky (1976) Blind Spot Review

Happy Birthday to Sylvester Stallone, who turns 71 today! Guess I better review Rocky, which I’ve finally watched for Blind Spot 2017. Finally, right?!

Rocky (1976)

Directed by John G. Avildsen

Written by Sylvester Stallone

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Burt Young, Carl Weathers, Burgess Meredith

Music by Bill Conti

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight heavy-weight champion Apollo Creed in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.

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:

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

So, yeah – I liked Rocky the most (so far). It’s one of those movies that’s so iconic & has been spoofed so often that it felt like I’d seen it already anyway. I suppose that’s why it’s taken me so long to finally get around to watching the whole thing. I’ve seen bits & pieces of it over the years and knew the ending. It was definitely worth sitting down to finally watch it from start to finish, though. About damn time, right?!

Watching Rocky also means I can add another movie seen to my IMDB Top 250 Project (It’s currently at number 218. WTF? Too low). Yay! Another one crossed off my list (I’m never gonna finish watching those 250). Oh, and I can add it to my list of My Top Ten Best Picture Oscar Winners! Okay – I’ve just updated that post so you can go have a look to see where I’ve placed Rocky. Nah, screw getting extra views – I’ve put it at number six. It’s good. It’s worthy of its status. I’m glad it won Best Picture. What did it beat? *Googling now*… All The President’s Men (not seen it), Bound For Glory (wtf is that?), Network (okay but Rocky is better), and Taxi Driver (erm, like Rocky I feel like I’ve seen it but don’t think I’ve ever seen it all the way through. Rocky is better anyway).

Should I get around to reviewing Rocky? I’ll be honest – I don’t really want to. It’s been around forever and has such loyal, diehard fans that you should really just go read reviews done by those who have a strong personal connection to this character and the film’s themes (like Eric of The IPC – this is his review). As the plot synopsis above says, this film is all about “going the distance” and believing in yourself and all that feelgood hoohah that so many movies attempt but very few manage to achieve without feeling phony & contrived. Rocky is genuine.

I was quite surprised when looking Rocky up at IMDB for this review to see that it has quite a low “metascore” (that’s the rating from “professional critics”). This is where professional critics piss me off. How miserable do you have to be in life to not at least be slightly moved by one of the best feelgood movies out there? Admittedly, Rocky is going to feel somewhat dated in its themes nowadays as sooooo many movies have tried to do similar since. But this came out in 1976 and there hadn’t yet really been any movies quite like it (that I can think of, anyway, but I’m probably wrong because I often am). It seems like uplifting, feelgood movies often get slammed by critics. Who wants dreary & depressing all the time?! Just because a movie is depressing, it doesn’t always make it good. And just because a movie is uplifting, it doesn’t always make it bad. Yeah, I’m also one of those lovers of feelgood galore The Shawshank Redemption. It makes me happy. And that’s okay, professional critics! It’s okay to be moved by a film because it makes you feel good! I happen to think that truly good filmmaking is the ability to make an audience love your film because they connect so deeply with your characters and/or your story. I know that Rocky is one of those types of films. Like my Shawshank, I can fully understand why Rocky means so much to some people.

Shit. I’ve still not really talked about Rocky yet in my Rocky “review”. Let’s start by talking about the character of Rocky. Am I a fan of Sylvester Stallone? No, not in the slightest. Is he a good actor? Nope. But that doesn’t matter. As Rocky, he’s perfect. He IS Rocky. I just read this little tidbit at Wikipedia:

“United Artists liked Stallone’s script, and viewed it as a possible vehicle for a well-established star such as Robert Redford, Ryan O’Neal, Burt Reynolds, or James Caan. Stallone appealed to the producers to be given a chance to star in the film. He later said that he would never have forgiven himself if the film became a success with someone else in the lead.”

Seriously?? Those choices would’ve been SO wrong to play Rocky and the movie wouldn’t have achieved so much success without Stallone in the role. I’m glad he fought for the part (and like the fact that the movie itself was an underdog that went on to beat the odds, just like Rocky himself). I think, having written the script, it really shows in Stallone’s performance how the character is a part of him and that we wouldn’t have gotten the same genuine feel from another actor. It’s why Rocky became such a beloved character. I can see why this movie propelled Stallone to fame and why he still has loads of, let’s face it, dude fans. He’ll still never ever be a favorite actor of mine but I certainly have more respect for him now. He makes this movie what it is. So don’t avoid this film if, like me, you don’t necessarily love Stallone.

Also, don’t avoid this movie if you don’t like sports movies or boxing. Yes, those elements are what have made this movie one that has made many manly men freely admit to crying manly man tears over. I f*^king hate sports. All sports. Especially boxing! Rocky isn’t really a sports movie and it has about as much actual boxing in it as British households have on Boxing Day (which is probably a little bit as family get-togethers at Christmastime can be very stressful). Seriously – I decided to torture myself by watching this & Million Dollar Baby over the same weekend back in February. Million Dollar Baby has a million times more boxing in it (but still not loads). However, I ended up loving them both. So, if I can like two “boxing movies” (that aren’t really about boxing), I promise that you can too! And one is a feelgood movie and one is depressing as f*^k but both are good. (But critics probably prefer the depressing one, as I previously bitched about in this review already). Where was I? Rambling, as always. There’s hardly any boxing in Rocky. Just FYI. Who knew??? (But I still don’t like Raging Bull very much. Certainly not a feelgood movie and probably a miserable critic favorite).

Oh! Burgess Meredith! I love Burgess Meredith. He was actually the biggest reason I wanted to finally make myself watch this film. And he’s great in the role of Rocky’s trainer. He’s perfect. I badly want to watch all the Rocky films now (but I’m waiting for hubby to make the time since he says he wants to watch them with me. Hint hint). I’m not stupid and know the rest aren’t meant to be great but I want to see what happens and I’m hoping Meredith has a bigger part in the second film. But….. I’m not sure what happens beyond that (other than finally getting to hear Eye Of The Tiger in, what, number three?). I’ve done my best to avoid the Rocky series spoilers this long but it hasn’t been easy!!! FYI: don’t read the synopsis for Creed if you KNOW NOTHING because I actually didn’t know… Something about someone. Ha. Damn. All I know is that Rocky & Adrian better stay together throughout them all or I’m going to be seriously pissed off (don’t tell me).

You gotta love Rocky & Adrian’s relationship. I loved those two crazy kids and their weird ass romance. It was sweet. And a little nerdy. They’re made for each other. Hollywood nepotism gets on my nerves but these two are such a perfect match that I’ll let that “how many f*^king Coppolas ARE there?!” thing with Talia Shire slide. At least her then-husband didn’t compose the music for the film, as originally planned. Can you imagine having Rocky without Bill Conti’s Gonna Fly Now song? No. You cannot. That song and its montage scene is one of the most iconic moments in movie history. Oh, and Carl Weathers was cool too. I look forward to seeing him in more in this series (He IS in more, right? How many? More than Meredith?? Wait. No. Don’t tell me).

Summary:

Rocky is good. Rocky makes grown men cry for some strange reason. I can’t claim to have gotten at all misty-eyed while watching it and I won’t pretend that I fully connected with it or that it moved me in the way it has moved a lot of (mainly male) viewers. However, it deserves the love it still receives to this day and I can fully understand why some people love it. It’s one that all film lovers should watch at least once if they want to continue calling themselves film lovers. No, it’s not a new all-time favorite of mine personally but I enjoyed it and I especially liked the characters, which is the most important thing to me when it comes to movies. Rocky lives up to its reputation and slightly exceeded my expectations.

My Rating: 8.5/10

*I saw this movie back in February and I’ve only seen it the one time so hopefully all these pictures I used are from the first movie & not the sequels or else some Rocky-loving dude will probably come along & yell at me… 😉

The King And I (1956) Blind Spot Review

The King And I (1956)

Directed by Walter Lang

Based on The King and I by Oscar Hammerstein II

Starring: Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner, Rita Moreno, Maureen Hingert, Martin Benson, Rex Thompson

Music by Richard Rodgers

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The King and I is a 1956 American musical film based on the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical The King and I, based in turn on the novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon. That novel in turn was based on memoirs written by Anna Leonowens, who became school teacher to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.

My Opinion:

Well, it looks like we’re halfway through the year & I’ve managed to watch 8 of my 12 2017 Blind Spot movies. Not too bad! So, I might as well have a look at where I think I’d rank each of them so far. From least favorite to favorite:

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

I’ve really liked all my movie choices so far other than The Last Temptation Of Christ (which was a bit of a snoozefest). So I have to say this Blind Spot thing is something I really do enjoy & the one thing I’d like to continue while I don’t really have time for much else on this blog at the moment.

There are still quite a few classic musicals that I’ve never seen so I’ll probably try to do one each year as a Blind Spot choice (next year’s will probably be Fiddler On The Roof). I do love a few of them but, overall, musicals aren’t exactly a favorite genre of mine. I’ve now updated My Top Ten Movie Musicals post and The King & I just makes it in at number ten. It’s certainly not up there with the likes of The Sound Of Music or The Wizard Of Oz but it’s a lovely film definitely worth watching and one that I’m happy to have shared with my eight-year-old. I’m also happy to say that it met with her approval as well! She especially liked all the kids that are in the film and still often quotes Yul Brynner’s “Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera!”, which I find adorable. I’m loving sharing classic films with my kid & often feel like we don’t get enough of these types of movies nowadays. What are future generations going to share with their kids when it comes to movies? Baywatch???

I know this is one of quite a few films for which Marni Nixon provided the singing voice. I’ll never quite understand when they have a different person provide the singing voice. Surely you can find someone who can act and sing??? Anyway – Kerr was good in this (and I didn’t find her lip syncing obvious) but it was Brynner’s King who really made the film for me. Well, okay – it’s the two characters together which really makes the film work because of their completely different lifestyles & values. Who doesn’t enjoy the whole “opposites attract” thing?? That’s why it’s used so often in stories! But Brynner was especially fun to watch in this and I’d have to say I enjoyed the film more than I expected to after it got off to a fairly slow start.

I think The King & I has probably not aged quite as well as some films due to feeling out of date and due to, in my opinion, not having as many memorable songs as a lot of other famous musicals. The only one I already knew beforehand was Getting To Know You (which I’ve shared at the end of this post). I expected there to be more “Hey, I know this song” moments as I watched this. It’s not a huge complaint, though. I really enjoyed this movie & would happily watch it again. I liked the story, the characters, the costumes, the song & dance numbers, and the fact that The King & I just feels like an all-time classic musical in a way that La La Land just doesn’t feel like something that will be held in quite such high regard 60 years from now.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**This was meant to be my Blind Spot Movie for June but I’ve not had much time to write reviews. So I’ve quickly done two in one go! I’ll be posting the review for my July Blind Spot Movie, Rocky, tomorrow. 🙂

Dogville (2003) Review

Happy 50th Birthday to Nicole Kidman!

Instead of a birthday Top Ten, I figured I should review Dogville since I watched it recently. Looking at Kidman’s films, there are still a few big ones I need to see before doing a Top Ten anyway so maybe I’ll do that list next year if I’m still blogging. It would be an interesting list as she’s done many different types of films but I’m pretty sure that my current favorites are the underrated To Die For, guilty pleasure Malice, and great ghost story The Others. I’ve never been a huge fan but Kidman has gone up in my estimation in the last few years and I thought she was really good in the Big Little Lies TV series, based on the Liane Moriarty book. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

Now let’s see what I thought of this three-hour-long Lars von Trier avant-garde play that explores human morality. Woohoo! PARTY! Dogville would make for a fun double feature with The Hateful Eight… 😉

Dogville (2003)

Directed & Written by Lars von Trier

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Chloë Sevigny, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Ben Gazzara, James Caan

Narrated by John Hurt

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away…

My Opinion:

This is the third Lars von Trier film I’ve seen after Dancer In The Dark & Melancholia (which I reviewed HERE & which I quite liked. Sort of. I think…). His work is certainly not to everyone’s taste and, in looking up Dogville, critics’ reviews were either “this is a masterpiece” or “what a load of pretentious bollocks” (I’m paraphrasing there but it’s what they meant). I liked Dogville. I preferred Melancholia but both are unique and, so far, I like what I’ve seen of von Trier’s style and think we may have a similar view on people (although I think he seems to have even less faith in humanity than I do).

Dogville’s set up, as a play with very few props and where each house in the small town is shown as an outline from above, took less getting used to than I was expecting. The story & the acting were good enough to not really need props, special effects, etc. If you seriously hate plays I suppose you might not have the patience for this film. However, like with The Hateful Eight, this movie is unnecessarily long. Three hours! It wasn’t needed. I don’t think the extra time really added much depth to the characters – the story could have been told just as well with an hour shaved off. But I’m admittedly getting old & tired & too damn busy to sit through these extra long movies. Then again…. No. It IS too long, dammit. I’m not just being grumpy. When it’s necessary for the story, really great movies don’t feel too long. Seven Samurai doesn’t feel too long. Seven Samurai is a masterpiece.

Dogville is decent. I’m glad I sat through it (in three sittings). But it’s not a masterpiece and it’s not as important as it thinks it is. However, to automatically label it pretentious does seem unfair. Von Trier took a gamble on trying something different that certainly wouldn’t appeal to mainstream audiences (well, duh – that seems to describe all his films) but I think it worked pretty well overall for Dogville.

Kidman was very good and I loved John Hurt’s narration (I’ve added Dogville to My Top Ten John Hurt Movies list of all I’ve seen of his but it just misses out on being in the ten). Actually, Hurt’s voice was probably the very best thing about the film – I’m going to keep exploring his work that I missed out on. He was certainly an underrated actor. As for everyone else, they all did a very good job in making us hate the shit out of them. Paul Bettany had an especially interesting role as the only one who seemed to be on Kidman’s side but, although not directly unkind, he ends up the worst of the lot. I wanted to punch him in the damn face. So… Yeah. You’re meant to hate these characters. And you will. So they all succeed in their roles but, of course, it doesn’t make for a pleasant three hours. It’s a film worth a watch but you’ll need to be in the right frame of mind before giving this one a go. I liked the concept and von Trier’s attempt to explore humanity and what could happen if we had the ability to completely take advantage of someone in need. Would we treat them kindly or not? Von Trier obviously thinks not. I wonder why he hates people so much?! But, I must admit to really liking how this film ends so maybe I’m not so different from the residents of Dogville. Which I suppose is von Trier’s obvious point. But, seriously – he could’ve gotten that point across in well under three hours. 😉

My Rating: 7/10

**Just thought I’d add this bit I read at Wikipedia, as I was unaware that this film is meant to be the first part of a trilogy:

The film is the first in von Trier’s projected USA – Land of Opportunities trilogy, which was followed by Manderlay (2005) and is projected to be completed with Washington.

I liked Dogville okay but doubt I can be bothered to watch the rest, unless the final one gets rave reviews when it’s finally made… I think I’ll next check out those Nymphomaniac films instead. Which also look like loads of fun. PARTY! 😉

Wonder Woman (2017) Review

Wonder Woman (2017)

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Based on Wonder Woman by William Moulton Marston

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Before she was Wonder Woman she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

My Opinion:

I always struggle to write reviews of superhero movies as I don’t read comics & have zero knowledge of anything superhero-related beyond what I’ve seen in all the mainstream Hollywood films. I’ve watched the majority of them but I don’t obsess over them & I’m not some superfan of superheroes. They’re fun entertainment but I see them as popcorn movies. I’ve grown especially tired of the dark and dreary, too-serious types the last several years. Batman V Superman, which I watched last week in preparation for Wonder Woman, was beyond bad. I knew the reviews weren’t good, but… Wow! I still didn’t expect it to suck as much as it did.


I admit to preferring lighthearted superhero films to the serious ones (I love Guardians Of The Galaxy 1 & 2) but do enjoy the balance that current Marvel films seem to manage with serious stories that still have a sense of humor and fun to them. Wonder Woman is finally a DC film with the right balance. There was plenty of kick-ass action as well as funny moments, there were several strong characters who worked really well together, there’s a positive overall message, and Gadot is perfection. Oh! And I had fun watching it. That’s the way it should be.

I don’t want to get into the whole “sexism” debate & female-only screenings of Wonder Woman & some jerk claiming the director was only hired because she’s female & how some have said that maybe the good reviews are just because people are too scared to talk bad about the first true female superhero movie & blah blah BLAH. Who cares?! Why are people so hung up on this? A good movie is a good movie. And this is a really good movie. This is a far better movie than the majority of superhero films in recent years. And, yeah, its star happens to be a woman. Yay! It’s 2017 – it’s about f*^king time. She kicks ass as well as all the male superheroes. And she sure as shit out-acts some of them (I’m looking at those in Batman V Superman & Suicide Squad, although I’m aware that weak scripts & directing will often result in bad performances so the actors may not be 100% to blame).

I’ve not seen Gal Gadot in anything else besides BvS & wasn’t sure what to expect but she’s truly fantastic and I’m not saying that “just because I’m a woman”. I can’t fault her performance in any way. Heck, I even didn’t mind Chris Pine and he sometimes slightly gets on my nerves. I’d have preferred someone unknown in his role but he did a good job with a really likable character. There are several “sidekicks” during the WWI segment that I really enjoyed and I of course loved all the Amazon women and watching a kick-ass Buttercup train Wonder Woman for battle (Robin Wright, as Gadot’s aunt, was another very big highlight of the film).

I’ll wrap this up before I just ramble on for ages. I thoroughly enjoyed Wonder Woman. Is it perfect? No, it has some flaws. It’s definitely a little too long, especially in the middle during the WWI stuff. Other than that, though, I can’t really think of anything much more negative to say. It turns into a pretty typical superhero vs baddie showdown at the end but that’s what we want from these movies. And it’s a great showdown! Plus, with it being a female superhero doing the fighting, it did feel somewhat original this time.

Oh, I guess the only other slight negative is that I’m not sure this version of Wonder Woman will quite connect with young girls as the movie is aimed at a slightly older audience. I took my 8-year-old to it and she liked it & definitely liked the character but I do know she was a bit bored throughout the middle war segment. However, I don’t think it’s too big of a deal as I think it’s a film that young fans will grow into & like even more as they get a bit older. I don’t think it’s inappropriate for young kids (a couple “procreation” jokes will go right over their heads) – younger audiences will just lose interest a bit during certain parts of this 2 hour 21 minute film. Most importantly, though, this is a female character I’m very happy for my daughter to be seeing in a movie. Wonder Woman is strong & independent with values & beliefs she’s willing to fight for. It feels really good to know that the girls of this generation are starting to get more & more positive female role models in films but I do also hope that we can eventually stop focusing so much on gender and just enjoy a movie because it’s good or an actress because she happens to be really great in a role. There’s absolutely no reason to not take your sons to this film as well as your daughters. Surely any boy will want to see one of the best superhero films of recent years.

My Rating: 8/10

Oh! And I love Wonder Woman’s theme… 🙂

Million Dollar Baby (2004) IMDB Top 250 Review

Happy Birthday to Clint Eastwood, who turns 87 today. This time last year, I did a week of Clint Eastwood reviews (you can see My Top Ten Clint Eastwood Movies HERE, updated to now include Million Dollar Baby).

I still wouldn’t exactly call Eastwood a favorite actor of mine but I’m glad that I finally explored some of his biggest films last year as I liked them a hell of a lot more than I expected to. Million Dollar Baby was still a big omission, however, so I’m glad I’ve finally watched that now as well. And, again, I like another Eastwood movie far more than I was expecting to! And, of course, the awesome Morgan Freeman is in it as well (who I would call a favorite actor & whose birthday is tomorrow – guess what Top Ten List I’ll be doing tomorrow…). 😉 Okay – I’ll shut up & review the movie now.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Based on Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner by F.X. Toole

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Mike Colter, Lucia Rijker, Brían F. O’Byrne, Anthony Mackie, Margo Martindale, Riki Lindhome, Michael Peña, Benito Martinez, Grant L. Roberts

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 172 (as of 01/01/13)

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This film is about an underappreciated boxing trainer, the mistakes that haunt him from his past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur boxer achieve her dream of becoming a professional.

My Opinion:

I avoided watching this film for years. I was like “It’s a boxing drama? Pass!”. (Kind of funny that I’ve just watched Rocky for the very first time the same week that I watched this. But I digress). Mainly, though, I avoided this because, when it came out, some annoying assholes decided to spoil the whole damn plot. So I’ve always known exactly how this ends. And that pisses me off. I know it’s not always possible to avoid spoilers but, in the case of this film, there was an uproar since what happens went against the beliefs of some people and they felt the need to warn the public (or something like that) before the film had even been fully released (if I remember correctly). Annoying.

Anyway! This is a great film. I expected to possibly find it contrived (films that try too hard to pull on the heartstrings & just come across as phony piss me off as much as people who spoil films). I expected to not be affected by this film since I knew the whole damn plot already. But it’s a good, heartfelt drama that came across as quite genuine and had fantastic actors playing likeable characters you wanted to see succeed. I sure as shit can’t say I exactly “enjoyed” it (holy hell! I don’t do well with serious dramas). But it’s not the overhyped Oscar bait I had kind of feared it might be.

Come to think of it, I guess this means I should also update My Top Ten Best Picture Oscar Winners list at some point with both this & Rocky. That list includes all 50(ish) Best Pictures that I’ve seen and I have to say that both these damn boxing dramas potentially break into my top ten. Easily top 20 for sure. I’ll have to think about it some more! They’re certainly my favorite boxing movies (Raging Bull didn’t thrill me…). 😉

It’s a shame that Hilary Swank kind of disappeared into bad movie obscurity after this & Boys Don’t Cry (a movie that manages to be even more depressing than this one). Clearly these sort of heart wrenching dramas did suit her but you can’t blame her for trying other things – Starring in nothing but these sort of films would probably mess with your head eventually. I really liked her character in this. Her enthusiasm and single-minded determination are infectious in the same sort of way that made us all like Rocky Balboa and to want him to succeed.

Swank & Eastwood make a great team and their relationship by the end of the film is beautiful & heartbreaking. Million Dollar Baby probably gets somewhat ignored compared to Eastwood’s full-on “guy” movies & bromances but, as great as I think he was in dude movies with the likes of Lee Van Cleef, his mentor/protégée and ultimately father/daughter-like relationship here is a welcome change (and just as good & valid as the bromances). Swank & Eastwood make this film.

But there’s still some male camaraderie for anyone needing that as well. Freeman plays Eastwood’s ex-boxer friend (and… co-owner? or maybe just a trainer living in the gym Eastwood owns. feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Anyway, I love Freeman and he’s as great as always and another reason why I ended up liking this film much more than I’d been expecting. There’s a story on the side involving skinny little Jay Baruchel wanting to be a boxer & Freeman taking him under his wing. I really liked this story as well (plus that cool confrontation involving Freeman & one of the young boxers). The main story involving Swank is of course the most important but it was good to get a bit more to the movie besides just that.

I just have to end by saying: Oh man – I hated the f*%k out of Swank’s family in this! Which made her character all the more likeable. To put a horrible upbringing behind her & to try to live her dream is the uplifting sort of message people look for in a good story. Which is another reason why I think some people were probably angered by the ending of this film. What IS the ultimate message at the end? But life isn’t always fair & a Hollywood ending in real life is rare. I do watch movies for escapism and do prefer a happy ending but I also can’t get angry at a movie telling a story in a realistic way. I think some people felt cheated by this film. I think we were given a good film with powerful performances & a message of determination and friendship. It’s not an easy watch but it’s a good film I’m glad to have finally seen.

My Rating: 8/10

Ghost In The Shell (1995) Blind Spot Review

Ghost In The Shell (1995)
攻殻機動隊
Gōsuto in za sheru / Kōkaku kidōtai (Ghost in the Shell / Mobile Armored Riot Police)

Directed by Mamoru Oshii

Based on Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow

Starring Voice Actors: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka, Iemasa Kayumi

Running time: 82 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Ghost in the Shell follows the hunt of the public security agency Section 9 for a mysterious hacker known as the Puppet Master. With the assistance of her team, Motoko Kusanagi tracks and finds their suspect, only to be drawn into a complex sequence of political intrigue and a cover-up as to the identity and goals of the Puppet Master.

My Opinion:

So this was an “alternate” Blind Spot choice of mine (I guess I need to kick one of the main ones off the list now). I decided to watch this because a) the live-action American remake was out recently and b) I noticed the running time of only 82 minutes! Okay – the running time was the biggest reason. Why are so many “worthy” films at least 2.5 hours long? I’m too busy!

I’m glad I did finally get around to watching this. I really enjoyed it. I do want to see the Scarlett Johansson one at some point too just to see how they recreated certain scenes but know that it will of course pale greatly in comparison to the original. I’d be interested to hear from those of you who’ve seen both and from fans of the original.


I’m not going to write a lot about this film as I don’t have much knowledge when it comes to Japanese anime (other than my beloved Studio Ghibli). It’s a genre I’m becoming more & more interested in and want to explore by at least watching some of the most well known stuff. I watched Akira as a Blind Spot choice last year (I decided to dive in at the deep end!). Akira isn’t quite like anything I’d seen before and I loved it (it was my favorite of my twelve 2016 Blind Spot films).

I think Ghost In The Shell is fantastic too and I can understand why it’s so popular but, unfortunately, I wasn’t as blown away as I was with Akira. I think a lot of that is probably thanks to me seeing things like The Matrix and even Ex Machina before seeing Ghost, meaning that Ghost feels almost dated now even though it came beforehand and clearly had a big influence on a lot of later films.

Okay – I don’t think “dated” is at all the right word to use… The animation is beautiful and the story is probably even more relevant now than in 1995. I think anyone who enjoys this type of science fiction would definitely like this film if they haven’t seen it. I suppose it’s just that the themes in Ghost In The Shell have been explored in loads of entertainment over the years (and especially in the years that followed its release), meaning that it doesn’t feel quite as original in 2017 as it will have 22 years ago. But it’s still a damn good science fiction anime & worthy of its status as a classic in this genre. There’s a lot of iconic imagery & an amazing musical montage (I’ve included a clip of this below). I’m happy to say that Ghost In The Shell was well worth my time & a worthy addition to my list of Blind Spot movies.

My Rating: 8/10

Oh, and I love this Mondo poster created by artist Martin Ansin

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Book Review)

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” teen book. I know plenty of grown-ups like myself who still read YA stuff and there have been some fantastic novels in this genre. Unfortunately, though, the Young Adult label has a somewhat negative connotation to it nowadays. This is probably partly due to the fact that there seems to be so much of it now. There wasn’t half as much of it around when I was a young adult myself. Man, I’d have especially loved the post-apocalyptic dystopian thing that is so overused in this genre now. 

What’s my point? I’m getting off topic! I think my point is this: don’t automatically assume a book isn’t good just because it has the YA label. Some feel very teenage while others are just really good stories that transcend any sort of recommended age range (is Harry Potter considered YA? I would assume so). And like them or not, The Hunger Games books don’t immediately make me think “ugh, teenagers!!!”. 

Some YA, however, is very teen and Everything, Everything is clearly written with its teenage audience in mind. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming to please your target audience. This would’ve probably been a favorite book of mine if it had been around in my early to mid-teens (although it would’ve been a very rare favorite in the romance genre as it’s not often that I go for a love story of any sort). As an adult, I can’t say this could now ever be a favorite book of mine but I did find it a very enjoyable read (easily one of the most enjoyable I’ve read so far this year). It has a fairly unique story, an unconventional romance, and a really likable main character. 

I think a lot of YA novels don’t always write convincing teenage characters, probably because the authors are usually adults. The characters either seem too grown-up or too childish and are often hard to like. I think Yoon got the right balance with the character of Madeline as she felt like a real 18-year-old with the hopes & dreams you’d expect from a girl who has been stuck in her home for 18 years due to having severe combined immunodeficiency. She was intelligent but not mature beyond her years and, most importantly (to me), she was very likable in a convincing sort of way. I do think that not enough attention was given to the other characters: the neighbor boy she falls in love with, her mother, and the nurse who cares for her during the day. We don’t get to know any of them as well as I’d have liked but I can forgive this as it’s not a very long book. Madeline is very much the novel’s main focus and I was happy with her character. 

I’m having a hard time explaining why I liked this one… I doubt I’ve talked anyone into reading it! But if you do really like YA novels (probably aimed more at a female audience in this case), this is one I’d definitely recommend as a lightweight but entertaining read. Madeline has had to find ways to keep herself entertained while being a “prisoner” in her own home so we get to see some fun drawings & doodles of hers throughout the book plus we get to read e-mails & instant messages between her and the neighbor boy she falls for. These gimmicks may not be for everyone but I like books that have this sort of thing as it makes it a bit more personal & fun to read. It also shows how Madeline has managed to maintain a sense of humor through her illness. Plus, as I said, I just liked the story/setup. It’s a topic I’ve found interesting ever since seeing John Travolta in The Boy In The Plastic Bubble (Ha! The 1976 TV movie… I totally just aged myself). Well, that movie was far from “good” and Everything, Everything has done a much better job of telling the story of a teenager with the “bubble baby” disease. Plus I really wanted to see what/if/how things would be resolved in this book. I will of course stay spoiler-free but the ending probably left people divided (and that’s all I’ll say). I liked it. I hope they’ve done a good film adaptation. 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the trailer for the movie (but I think it gives away too much of the story so skip the trailer if you want to know as little as possible…):

The books I’ve read so far in 2017, from least favorite to favorite:

15. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
14. Tape by Steven Camden
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

And I’m currently in the middle of reading Blaze by Stephen King (so far, so good). 🙂

Alien: Covenant (2017) Review

Alien: Covenant (2017)

**Spoiler-free ranting below**

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

My Opinion:

I’ll keep this brief and of course spoiler-free as I know Alien: Covenant isn’t yet out in America.

I’m a huge fan of the first two Alien films. I’ve never talked about them on this blog because I’m not a good writer and I find it hard to review the films I love the most (I made an attempt to review favorites, which I called CPD Classics, but gave up after a while as it took too long to write those). I can’t find the right words to express the awesomeness of those first two films. The H.R. Giger designs (above all else), the mood, the horror, the mystery, the action of the second film plus a great set of characters, Hicks (hottie), the knife/hand thing and, of course, a kick-ass female. Those first two films are perfection. I suppose that’s why every Alien film since those has been such a huge disappointment. How can you top those? You can’t. And Alien: Covenant is yet another massive disappointment.

I didn’t read any reviews at all before seeing this but the main comment I couldn’t help but see several times on Twitter was that “it starts out okay & almost feels like an Alien film but then turns into Prometheus 2“. That’s exactly right. If you liked Prometheus, you’ll probably like Covenant. If you hated Prometheus, I doubt you’ll like this one. I’m no fan of Prometheus. To be honest, I barely remember it now as I never watched it again after going to the cinema to see it. I wouldn’t say I hated it as I will probably always watch each & every movie that explores the Alien universe as it’s an overall idea that I absolutely love but, man – I wish they’d stop f*^king things up so much!

You know what? I actually think I like Prometheus slightly more now. Compared to Covenant, it’s probably the better of the two. Yikes. It’s like having to choose between two horrible candidates & having to go with the lesser of two evils. Prometheus kept things slightly more simple whereas Scott feels like he’s aimlessly & pointlessly overcomplicating things now. The mystery of the alien race in the first film is a big part of what makes the entire Alien universe so horrifying. Stop trying to explain everything. Stop showing us too much. Stop all the pretentiousness. Make an Alien film. Stop making Prometheus films, dammit. How are so many filmmakers & studios so damn clueless as to what the public actually want?

Okay – maybe it’s time to stop making these films altogether. Or perhaps let someone else take over again (Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 looks fairly promising so far). Either way, I’m pretty good at blocking things out of my mind when I want to and these sequels & prequels have yet to ruin the legacy of the first two films for me. But I grew up with the first two during my early teen film-loving beginnings. How much are these newer films damaging those first ones for the current generation?

I can’t be bothered with this “review”. I’m just annoyed. BUT, I did go in with very low expectations (I’m not stupid). Therefore, I’m not as annoyed as I seem since I got what I pretty much expected. Like with Prometheus, I didn’t exactly hate this film. I just try to think of these films as a separate sort of thing (kind of like with the Star Wars prequels). They mostly suck but there are moments that I enjoy thanks to my love of the original films (the moments that feel like an Alien film & not a Prometheus film and there are a few of these, luckily). Michael Fassbender (hottie) is very good. He steals the show. I just wish they could’ve made us care about this set of characters as much those in Aliens (but that wasn’t Scott). Other than Fassbender, everyone is very one-dimensional & their relationships felt forced for added drama (most of the those on the Covenant are married to someone else on the ship – what’s with all the romantic connections?).

Oops – I was trying to end with only positive comments to help explain why I’m not giving this a lower rating after all my bitching. Um. There’s a Xenomorph. There’s a facehugger. There’s bursting. That’s why the score isn’t lower. God I’m shallow. If they make another one of these movies, I know I’ll still watch the damn thing even though it’s 99% likely that at least 75% of it will suck. 😉 But if I had to rank all these now (not counting those AVP ones), Covenant is probably at the very bottom. That’s so not what I wanted. Why do I continue to live in the hope that there could ever be another good Alien film?

My Rating: 6.5/10*

*I’m being way too generous. Because it’s an Alien film. Sort of. But not really. Damn.

A Dog’s Purpose (2017) Review

A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

Directed by Lasse Hallström

Based on A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, Josh Gad, KJ Apa, Juliet Rylance, John Ortiz, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Peggy Lipton

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A dog looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners.

My Opinion:

So, yeah – I clearly went to this with the family over the weekend. You know what? It’s not bad! For a family movie. Well, it’s actually not bad for a movie in general. Hubby & I often say that they don’t seem to do as many non-animated “family films” nowadays. We had so many growing up in the Eighties! I miss them. And now that I have a young kid, I want more of them again.

My main concern beforehand was that this movie would be overly sentimental or, even WORSE and a massive pet peeve of mine, that it would be preachy. I hate movies that shove their values down your throat! Luckily, A Dog’s Purpose doesn’t do this. It tells the story in a straightforward way and it’s obvious message (of what things are truly the most important in life) isn’t at all heavy-handed. It comes fairly close to being like all my beloved 80’s family films I saw on TV all the time growing up. Plus, of course, it has cute dogs. Who doesn’t love cute wittle doggies?!

I just have to say something that may be spoiler territory if you know nothing at all but is known if you’ve seen the trailer or read the synopsis: There are several dogs (five, I think) because the dog keeps getting reincarnated. It was cool seeing him as different dogs (always voiced by Josh Gad) and with different owners/families. I like the sort of setup where you get several different stories in a movie and it worked really well in this film. Anyway – someone started sobbing the first time the dog died and I was thinking “I do hope they realize this is gonna happen over & over again.” Lol. Not to be cold-hearted but, seriously, you must know what you’re getting into if you go to a movie where a dog keeps getting reincarnated… 😉 (That person cried every time)

A Dog’s Purpose was a pleasant surprise and a nice return to an old-fashioned family friendly film with a positive message that occurs naturally instead of feeling forced. Will you enjoy it even if you don’t have a family? I think any dog lover certainly will. And with several different stories, you’ll find one or two that you connect with the most. I liked the main story focusing on the dog as a golden retriever named Bailey, which is the personality the dog continues to identify with and remember through all his lifetimes, and the story where he’s a corgi named Tino belonging to a lonely college girl. I guarantee you’ll love Bailey, no matter which form he takes. And as an added plus, the human characters are likable as well!

My Rating: 7/10

FYI – I’d heard nothing of the controversy surrounding this film due to a video of alleged animal abuse that made the rounds just as this movie was released in the US (maybe that’s why it has come out so much later in the UK). Anyway, as with most fake news, I’m sure that faked video was spread around far more than the story of the investigation that showed it was re-edited to make it look like animal abuse. Here’s the story (from Los Angeles Daily News). Hopefully no one’s career was ruined. We all care about animals being treated well but I often wish humans cared half as much about other human beings as they do animals.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

I’m reviewing the book The Dinner by Herman Koch as the movie is released today in the U.S. There’s currently no U.K. release date scheduled. The movie was directed by Oren Moverman & stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye & Chloë Sevigny.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but it’s probably not for everyone. I’ll avoid plot spoilers but I’ll tell you that none of the characters are very likable, which puts a lot of readers off (including me, usually). The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading, however, and it’s not a long book so it’s a pretty quick read. It might be worth your time if the plot synopsis interests you. However, it’s also the type of story that should work well as a movie so, if it’s a decent adaptation, you might want to skip the book. I’ll let you know if the movie does the book justice (if the movie ever gets a U.K. release date)! It’s a film I’m definitely wanting to check out as it’s one I feel could possibly improve on the book if handled well. The cast seems promising.

I liked the way the story was presented as courses instead of “Chapters”: Appetiser, Main, Dessert, etc etc (I can’t remember all the posh terms for all the different courses. Never knew there were so many courses to a fancy meal!). We slowly learn more & more about the four adults having this meal together while the story of the horrible act commited by their teenage sons comes to light.

I’m not going to say much more as the story is pretty straightforward and there’s not much more I could say anyway without spoiling it. I’ll say it’s a decent character study but doesn’t explore all the moral implications as much as it could have. By the end, it felt more shallow than I was hoping for. That’s why I’m hopeful for the possibility of a really good film adaptation as there’s some meaty material here for a really good set of screenwriters & actors to sink their teeth into. We’ll see. The Dinner isn’t as deep & meaningful as it could’ve been but it’s still an intriguing story told in a fairly original way and I’d say I enjoyed it more than several of the other 13 books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 3/5

**Yes, I’m keeping a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. At the moment, this is probably how I’d rank them (from least favorite to favorite). If you really want to know… 😉 I hope to review them all by the end of the year:

14. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

(And, yes, I’m focusing on reading books that have been movies/TV shows recently or will be very soon) 🙂

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) Review

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
**SPOILER-FREE REVIEW**

Directed & Written by James Gunn

Based on Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sean Gunn, Kurt Russell

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage.

My Opinion:

I was so unbelievably excited for this sequel. I absolutely loved the first Guardians Of The Galaxy (review HERE). I think, having become pretty sick of superhero movies doing the SAME DAMN THINGS OVER & OVER AGAIN these past several years, I really bought into these characters & this universe as it finally felt like we were getting a slightly different sort of superhero movie. I prefer lighthearted humor in my superhero movies to the dreariness of things like Nolan’s Batman trilogy (those films, other than Ledger’s performance, have really started to go down in my estimation). I guess I’ve just never taken these sort of movies seriously so, for me, one with a sense of humor works better. Plus, of course, the soundtrack was indeed awesome! An awesome soundtrack will always make me like a movie even more. And… Groot. GROOT! I love Groot. Who doesn’t love Groot?

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is, exactly as I was hoping & expecting, loads of fun but not as good as the first film. Which is fine as it’s hard to top that first film. I always enjoy the introduction of new characters and seeing them get to know each other, which was especially great in the first film and obviously missing from this one. We get to see our main characters’ relationships with each other develop a little more but not quite as much as I’d hoped. But, hey – you know there’ll be another one of these films (and I’ll happily be watching it) so hopefully we’ll get even more character development in the next film. I can’t really say we learned much more about these characters than we did the first time around.

I’ll say that, for this sequel, they’ve upped the humor even more. Maybe they felt the need to after Deadpool? I’m certainly not complaining – I’m loving this “funny superhero movie” thing. Between this and The LEGO Batman Movie and that great trailer for the next Thor film, I’m starting to actually enjoy these superhero movies again instead of almost finding them a chore to sit through. For example: I didn’t even bother with Batman V Superman or Suicide Squad but hubby probably wants to see Wonder Woman and I suppose that means I should catch up on those I’ve missed, but…. Meh! Sounds like way too much work. If that’s the way I feel about having to watch a movie, being a movie-obsessed blogger, they’re clearly doing something wrong with those films. Right? The Guardians films aren’t a chore. They’re fun and I actually enjoy them. That’s the way it should be.

If you loved the first film, you’ll definitely like this one too. If you don’t love the sense of humor thing but want to watch a superhero movie, I’d say there’s still plenty here that you’ll like. The story is… Okay. As far as superhero stories go, it’s pretty standard stuff (to be honest, I hardly ever fully remember the stories in superhero films). But it’s the main characters who really make these two films and they again don’t disappoint. People my age are also gonna love the involvement of a couple of big actors in this one (I actually have no clue if this has been kept under wraps so I’ll say no more other than that I felt a little funny seeing someone again at first. In a good way… 😉 ). There’s also enough serious stuff going on to balance out the humor so that this feels like a Marvel film and doesn’t go full-on silly like some cheesy Eighties flick. It’s probably quite a hard balance to achieve and I think these films stay on the right side of the line. I love these characters and I don’t think we’d care about them as much as we do if the movies were too silly.


Yes, I really enjoyed Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. As expected, it’s not as good as the first but it’s still a worthy sequel that will keep fans happy and wanting more. And it’s a hell of a lot more fun than most superhero films these days. Give me Groot over moody Batman! Speaking of Groot, I’ll finish with him and with the soundtrack as these are the two things that really make me adore these movies.

If you don’t like Baby Groot, you aren’t going to like this movie (or me, since we can’t be friends if you don’t like Baby Groot). 😉 They clearly knew they were on to a winner with this character and his adorable cuteness is used to full effect. As my hubby asked afterwards, did they rely on him a little too much in this film? Hmm. Probably. But I loved each & every Baby Groot scene. You can’t have too much of a good thing! But if you prefer moody Batman, you probably don’t love these films or Baby Groot anyway. I’m sure Guardians fans will love the excessive Groot cuteness as much as I did. As for the soundtrack: Once again, it was pretty awesome. But definitely not as awesome as the first one. Damn! I avoided looking at the tracklisting beforehand as I wanted all the songs to be a surprise. Maybe it was less impressive since it wasn’t as unexpected the second time around? Still, though, there are some great songs and it’s a lot better than 99% of movie soundtracks these days so I’m just being overly picky because I love the first film. But I’m happy with this sequel and am already looking forward to seeing these characters in more films.

My Rating: 8/10

Is there a scene after the credits?: Hahaha! It’s a Marvel film! Do I really need to answer this? 😉 Okay… No. There isn’t one. There’s… Four? I think it was four. I lost count. And, yes, they are SO worth staying for. Especially two of them. There are scenes throughout the credits plus one after the credits. So hold your pee as one of the two best is that very final one.

Stan Lee cameo: Hubby loved it and said it was probably the best one yet. He knows a lot more about this Marvel stuff than I do but I’m pretty sure you can read about it if you want to as I’ve already seen lots of people talking about this one. 🙂

The Circle by Dave Eggers (Book Review)

The film adaptation of The Circle by Dave Eggers is out today in the US (there’s no current UK release date that I can find. Hmm…). It was directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly & Bill Paxton (R.I.P.). I’ll probably try to go to the film at some point, so will of course review that if I do. For now, here’s my review of the novel…

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Fast, thrilling and compulsively addictive, The Circle is Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel about our obsession with the internet and where it may lead. When Mae Holland lands her dream job at the world’s most powerful internet company, she has no idea what awaits behind the doors of The Circle…

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books where I loved the concept & agreed with its stance that, basically, the Internet & big corporations (such as the one that Fincher’s The Social Network is about) are evil. Okay, yes – I’m a blogger and I admit that I love to tweet but I’d happily hop into a time machine to go back to the Eighties and live without this sort of technology as I think we were better off without it. The world is a dreadful place & we’re living in an Orwellian dystopia. But we actually brought this all on ourselves, which I think even Orwell didn’t fully foresee. Hell, even Orwell couldn’t predict something as absurd as the rise of the Kardashi-thingies & wannabes! 😉 I blame them for society’s devolution (enabled by the Internet, of course). But back to this book…

I bring up Orwell as The Circle is indeed in a similar vein to 1984. But dystopian novels are more popular than ever and this is yet another of many that come nowhere near that masterpiece. I was pretty disappointed with The Circle overall. I absolutely love this genre and, as I said, I fully agree with this novel’s beliefs so I did expect to thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, I’ve read 14 books so far this year (that’s a lot for me!) and this is possibly my least favorite. Damn. I didn’t expect that.

I found The Circle a bit too long & meandering. It started out okay but, by halfway through, it was becoming a bit of a chore to read as its lead character (Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson in the film) was becoming more and more and MORE unlikable. I think her character is the main problem I had with the novel as I always struggle to enjoy a book when I hate its main character. This can only very occasionally be made up for if the story is exceptionally good but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with The Circle. I know the book’s whole point is that The Circle (the evil corporation in the story) is almost cult-like and that its believers follow blindly while the reader can see what’s really going on but, ugh, you just want to slap the shit out of Mae and knock some damn sense into her! I suppose Emma Watson is a good choice for the role in the film, though, as she’s seriously starting to get on my tits lately. But I’m hoping that the film will write her character slightly differently and give her some sense.

Well, I plan to check out the movie anyway since I always like to see how novels get adapted. Maybe they can actually improve on the book (it does happen sometimes). I still really like the overall idea behind the novel & its very obvious message even though I don’t think the story and its unlikable lead character do well to convey that message & the seriousness with which we should be taking it. I think I was just hoping for something a little more insightful and less obvious. The Circle doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know and I’m not sure if it was trying to be satirical or not but, if it was, it gave the novel an odd tone that didn’t really work. I prefer my dystopian literature to either be proper satire or full-on bleak, depressing dreariness! The Circle can’t quite decide what it wants to be but I do appreciate its effort to bring further attention to a very important topic we should be taking far more seriously. I think, unfortunately, the satire maybe doesn’t work simply because this book isn’t as exaggerated as Eggers may have originally intended. This story doesn’t feel like a distant future – it feels like it has already happened.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Here’s a trailer for the movie (as is often the case lately, I think it gives too much away):

My Top Ten Clint Howard Movies

Happy Birthday to Clint Howard, who turns 58 today.

As I did a Top Ten of movies directed by his big brother Ron Howard a few weeks ago, I figured I should also do a Clint Howard Top Ten. Of course, several movies appear in both lists as Ron often casts his brother in a small role. And as he’s often in small roles, I couldn’t find images of him in some of the below movies. Well, I suppose you can picture him in those anyway – he has a memorable face! 🙂

Here are My Top Ten Clint Howard Movies:

The Remainder That I’ve Seen (I hate 16-18 & strongly dislike 14 & 15!):

18. Halloween (2007)
17. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
16. The Cat In The Hat
15. Little Nicky
14. The Waterboy
13. Fun With Dick And Jane
12. That Thing You Do!
11. Edtv

Top Ten:

10. Parenthood

9. Backdraft

8. Curious George

7. The Austin Powers Movies

6. Night At The Museum 2

5. The Rocketeer

4. Apollo 13

3. Splash

2. Cocoon

1. The Jungle Book

Saw But Don’t Remember:
Tango & Cash, The Paper

Some I’ve Not Seen:
Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, The Wraith, Gung Ho, Far And Away, Leprechaun 2, Ice Cream Man, Barb Wire, My Dog Skip, The Lords Of Salem

And I’ll never ever forget him in this episode of Star Trek. He played Balok in the Original Series episode The Corbomite Maneuver.

The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988) Blind Spot Review

The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Based on The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie

Music by Peter Gabriel

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Like the novel, the film depicts the life of Jesus Christ and his struggle with various forms of temptation including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust.

My Opinion:

I’ll keep this short & I’ll be totally honest – The Last Temptation Of Christ was on my 2017 Blind Spot list mainly because I wanted to see David Bowie’s role in it. So now I can say I have! All five minutes (at most) of it, toward the end of the 2 hour & 44 minute film. I suppose I also wanted to add another Martin Scorsese film to my ranked list of his films that I’ve seen (it doesn’t quite make it into the top ten, out of the 12 I’ve seen, nor does it make the list of My Top Ten Harry Dean Stanton Movies). Not gonna lie – out of almost a year & a half of doing this Blind Spot thing, this film is easily my least favorite & was the biggest struggle to work my way through.

I won’t get into the film’s story and religious beliefs. I watched this because I’m a film fan & it’s a movie by a very respected director with some big name stars (and because: David Bowie). No, “biblical dramas” are not at all the type of genre I go for (give me sci-fi) so that wasn’t going to help but it’s definitely overlong and it didn’t feel as, I don’t know… As well put together as most of Scorsese’s other work? I know nothing about filmmaking but this just isn’t up there with the likes of something like Goodfellas (also a genre that’s not at all my type of thing but a good film is a good film, whatever the genre). Not that this isn’t a good film… It must be a decent piece of filmmaking considering that Scorsese was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for it, the film’s one & only nomination. Hmm. It’s very hard to review respected films that just really didn’t speak to you personally! That’s why I’m keeping this very short for a Blind Spot review. I’d love to instead hear from fellow bloggers who, unlike me, have strong opinions one way or another about this film. I do know it was & still is very controversial & hated by some while there are others who think it’s another Scorsese masterpiece.

The acting is solid and Dafoe does a good job but I also felt that the acting let the film down a bit. I didn’t think “Wow – so-and-so was brilliant in this film!” the way I’ve thought some of the actors were pretty amazing in the majority of Scorsese’s other films. Some felt very miscast (Keitel) while some are actors I’ve never been particularly impressed with (Hershey). Okay okay – and my beloved Bowie! I fully admit that acting was never his biggest talent… 😉 However, he did okay in his very small role & didn’t feel as out of place as some of those in larger roles. Harry Dean Stanton was a highlight, though – he’s such an underrated actor.

Overall, I’m sorry to say that this is one of those films that I won’t remember much of a year or so from now. There weren’t really any specific scenes that stood out in my mind (we all know the story already anyway so I saw pretty much exactly what I expected, although this is a somewhat alternative version). I was especially disappointed that the acting didn’t stand out for me and it seriously felt even longer than it already was, especially at the end when we’re given a long look at an alternative life for Jesus? Sorry. I didn’t love it. It’s not a bad film but I’d only recommend it to those interested in religious dramas or to serious Martin Scorsese fans who want to see all he’s done. Ugh. I feel like a bad blogger for not loving a Scorsese film.

My Rating: 6/10

Only I would review The Last Temptation Of Christ & Smurfs: The Lost Village in the same week… Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017) Review

Smurfs: The Lost Village (2017)

Directed by Kelly Asbury

Based on The Smurfs by Peyo

Starring: Demi Lovato, Rainn Wilson, Joe Manganiello, Jack McBrayer, Danny Pudi, Michelle Rodriguez, Ellie Kemper, Ariel Winter, Meghan Trainor, Jake Johnson, Mandy Patinkin, Julia Roberts

Production company: Sony Pictures Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In this fully animated, all-new take on the Smurfs, a mysterious map sets Smurfette and her friends Brainy, Clumsy and Hefty on an exciting race through the Forbidden Forest leading to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history.

My Opinion:

I don’t have the energy to “review” this. I suppose Smurfs: The Lost Village isn’t as bad as those godawful live action movies they did with Doogie Howser but that’s not saying much. I know I’m probably too picky on kids’ movies but it’s hard not to be when Pixar & Disney have proven that it is actually possible to make really good movies that people of all ages enjoy. This movie has that “straight to video” feel and it’s one that parents will stick on for their kids to watch while they go & do housework or something. So I suppose that’s one positive thing about it? They should stick that on the cover when it comes out on DVD! “Smurfs: The Lost Village is a good ‘keep the kids entertained while you do housework’ movie.” – Cinema Parrot Disco.

I suppose I’m also a little extra picky since I adored the Smurfs cartoon as a kid in the Eighties so can’t help but compare. At least they didn’t mess with the look of the Smurfs too much but it unfortunately didn’t work as well as The Peanuts Movie, which I really enjoyed. To be fair, this movie is at least a step in the right direction and I don’t think it does any damage to the Smurfs legacy (unlike the horrible live action ones). Actually, I’m not entirely sure why this movie doesn’t quite work. It could’ve been worse but a dull story and some pretty bad casting of voice actors who didn’t suit the characters made for an hour & a half that felt very long in our uncomfortable cinema seats. I hated Gargamel – sorry Rainn Wilson! And Jack McBrayer as Clumsy Smurf probably isn’t to everyone’s taste… His voice can get highly irritating after an hour & a half (or two minutes). I guess Demi Lovato was fine as Smurfette since I didn’t really give her voice any thought and didn’t know until the end credits who had played her. There’s some bland & totally forgettable pop music in the movie, which always annoys me in kids’ films. Oh – except for Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Eiffel 65, which is a thoroughly embarrassing guilty pleasure of mine. Pure cheese! But less embarrassing than this movie.

Okay – a slight spoiler now (if you care). But as my kid pointed out during the movie, she knew all about the lost village already thanks to the toys that have been released (my kid likes to complain about SPOILERS! It’s adorable). The totally predictable & not at all surprising mystery of the lost village is that it’s all girl Smurfs. So Smurfette is finally not the only female Smurf. I’d have never guessed! I only bring it up because it felt like that all female community on The Walking Dead, giving me & hubby the opportunity to make Negan jokes to each other throughout the film to help ease our boredom. Maybe we can make Smurfs jokes to ease our boredom while watching The Walking Dead next season (since that show SUCKS lately – why do we keep watching?!). I think this “review” is finished. I’m going to go do some housework.

My Rating: 4.5/10