Watched, Read, Reviewed: August 2021

Happy September. September?! Holy shit – when did that happen????

Here’s all I watched & read in August, spent mostly in bed recuperating after a hospital stay. So I was allowed to watch a lot of stuff (what else could I do??). 🙂

MOVIES WATCHED IN AUGUST (ranked best to worst):

Man On Fire – I reviewed this in full at the link. I decided to finally watch it after seeing a thread on Twitter of movies with very different audience & critic ratings (audiences loved it & critics hated it). I really enjoyed it. No, it’s not some good “Oscar worthy” film but it’s a very enjoyable revenge thriller. And it may be predictable but the friendship between Denzel Washington’s & Dakota Fanning’s characters was fantastic & they worked so well together. Plus Denzel is always absolutely perfect in this type of role. Don’t listen to the critics! They need to learn to just enjoy movies sometimes. – 7/10

Fantastic Planet (French: La Planète sauvage, Czech: Divoká planeta) – Well, this was bizarre!! I won’t say much about it here as I reviewed it in full at the link. This is the strange sort of shit I’m always searching for as I get so bored with mainstream movies since I watch way too many. I’m not sure what the hell was going on but I liked it. It had surreal artwork & a trippy, groovy score so was my type of thing. It’s on the Roku Channel in the U.K. if you’re interested. Here’s the plot synopsis for this animated allegorical tale (from IMDb): “On a faraway planet where blue giants rule, oppressed humanoids rebel against their machine-like leaders.” And I’ll give you one more image below to give you an idea of the animation style… – 7/10

Once Upon A Time In America – Being stuck in bed recuperating after a hospital stay made me decide to finally watch this almost-four-hour epic because what the hell else was I going to do with my time? It’s also a part of my IMDb Top 250 Challenge so it gets another movie crossed off of that list. I reviewed it in the full at the link so luckily don’t again have to say I didn’t love this film. Oops – Just said it! But I’m not a big gangster film fan & everyone was too hateful. I’m definitely a bigger fan of Leone’s Westerns but there’s no denying that this was still a good film even if I didn’t love it. – 7.5/10

Nomadland – And I watched this one while in the hospital as part of my Best Picture Project. Not gonna lie: It’s good but a bit boring. I’m gonna be real! Yes, I’ve ranked Man On Fire above this. Yes, Nomadland is certainly a better film than Man On Fire. But there are no butt bombs in this! I think it’s a deserving Best Picture Winner compared to the other nominees this year but, overall, it’s far from the best winner in the history of the Oscars.

I found the “houseless” lifestyle portrayed in this fascinating and guess I never exactly realized that there are people who live that way (but I’m a bit sheltered). I know there were real-life nomads playing characters in this & they were all very good. Frances McDormand, as always, was also very good as was David Strathairn. It’s not a film I can fault in any way & I thought they did a good job of portraying McDormand’s character’s heartbreak over the loss of her husband as well as her entire town & way of life. Yes, it’s a good film & deserves a higher rating. It’s just one of those movies that I feel I’ve seen once & have no need to see again. I miss having Oscar winning movies that I truly loved & enjoyed. – 7/10

Thrashin’ – Oh how I love finding ’80s movies that I somehow never saw at the time! I enjoyed this. Yes, it’s cheesy. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “Two skateboarding gangs battle each other for supremacy, and a member of one gang falls in love with the sister of his rival.” It stars Josh Brolin as the main character with one of the two assholes from Weird Science (Robert Rusler) as his punk rock skateboarding rival. It also had one of the Lost Boys vampires, Sherilyn Fenn, and of course Tony Hawk with a cameo but it must have been very small because I didn’t notice him. Oh!!! And the Red Hot Chili Peppers were in this performing at some club or whatever. So that was cool – It made it feel a little more credible as this sort of California scene makes me think of the Chili Peppers. Romance & skateboarding rivalry in ’80s California. What more can you ask for from a movie?! I love the ’80s. I don’t care. I enjoyed this. (Kind of feel like giving it a higher rating but then it would be the same as what I gave a Best Picture Oscar winner….). – 6.5/10

Fear Street Trilogy: Fear Street Part One: 1994, Fear Street Part Two: 1978, Fear Street Part Three: 1666 – I reviewed this trilogy at the link so I’ll just say it was fun but certainly not perfect. It had a good soundtrack (especially 1978) & I’d say the overall story that runs through all three films does come together pretty well. Oh, it’s also super gory so don’t be fooled by the R.L. Stine name! These are full-on slashers. I’d watch more if they make more. The trilogy was clearly made by lovers of old school slashers & they did a decent enough job of trying to be like those. – Part One & Two: 6.5/10, Part Three: 6/10

Cruella – Also reviewed this at the link so I don’t have to bitch about it again here. Mainly, I was mostly annoyed that it didn’t totally suck like I was expecting. Okay – the story itself was stupid as shit & completely pointless. But, damn – it had some fun outfits and an absolutely kick ass soundtrack. Why did they have to use such good music in a stupid Disney live-action thing?! Ugh! I loved hearing so many good songs but, man, those songs deserve to be in far better films. – 6.5/10

The Goldfinch – First of all, I read this book and it felt like it took me FOREVER because it was so damn long (seriously – I think it took me about a year to read). It’s a long book and spends a very long time developing the characters and spans many years, so there was no way a 2 1/2 hour movie was going to do it justice. As much as I hate a mini series & dragging a story out for TV, I think this probably should’ve been a mini series instead. However, I thought the film did a surprisingly good job squeezing in so much of the story. It mainly skipped over the time the main character spends as a boy in Las Vegas which, to be fair, dragged on for way too long in the book anyway. The only thing that was a shame was that it meant cutting out quite a bit of the Boris character, who was possibly the best thing about the book (besides wondering what would happen with the painting).

I think the movie kind of made me further appreciate the book as it is actually a decent story. So I’m giving this a decent rating as the movie was far better than I was expecting. However, if you’ve not read the book, I think the movie would probably be difficult to follow as they really do gloss over stuff. I have a feeling that those who liked this movie did read the book first. But I’d only recommend the book if you like reading epic stories with fairly unlikeable characters. Not gonna lie – the book was a real slog to read. Maybe it’s why I quite liked the movie… I don’t know. It’s a hard one to recommend! I can understand why it got poor reviews but it’s a pretty damn good adaptation. I liked it. – 7/10

– Wonder Woman 1984 – Was glad to finally see this without extra cost but had extremely low expectations due to terrible reviews. Well, it’s not that bad. It’s certainly not as bad as its IMDb rating (5.4/10). Okay, it’s also not very good but I didn’t hate it. I thought the first Wonder Woman was quite good so it’s a shame this didn’t live up to it. I think Wonder Woman herself was perfectly fine in this, so they didn’t ruin the character, and the story wasn’t awful. I think the main two problems were 1. The movie was too damn long and 2. The villains were rubbish. Kristen Wiig’s wasn’t quite so bad & they did a decent job developing her character and letting us see her rise & fall. Pedro Pascal was terrible, however. I mean the character as well as the acting (sorry, I don’t think he’s very good despite loving The Mandalorian – that show would be just as good with a different actor). Oh – I also don’t think they did a very good job of making this look like it was set in 1984 just by throwing a few ugly outfits on people and having Chris Pine give a fashion show. And where was all the ’80s music?! Disappointing, as I love the ’80s. Meh. Whatever. There are far better superhero movies but also worse ones. I’m bored with them all. This one will just be very forgettable. – 6/10

Wish Dragon – This was fine. I don’t have a lot to say about this animated film other than that it was better than a lot of the stuff that slightly bigger studios such as DreamWorks put out. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “Determined teen Din is longing to reconnect with his childhood best friend when he meets a wish-granting dragon who shows him the magic of possibilities.” I liked the animation, the characters were likeable, and the dragon was fun (even though he was a bit too similar to Aladdin’s Genie). It’s also not quite as “kiddie” as it looks. It’s certainly appropriate for very young kids but I’d say preteens would be perfectly happy watching this too (the main boy & girl are 19 in this). Decent film for one that I believe went straight to Netflix? – 6.5/10

Bliss – I was really looking forward to seeing this as I really liked Mike Cahill’s Another Earth & especially I Origins. This one is unfortunately not nearly as good. I was intrigued by the concept & did like the story. Here’s the IMDb plot synopsis: “A mind-bending love story following Greg who, after recently being divorced and then fired, meets the mysterious Isabel, a woman living on the streets and convinced that the polluted, broken world around them is a computer simulation.” It started out okay but the story got messy & it just didn’t work as well as his other films. The biggest problem was that it felt completely miscast. Owen Wilson & Salma Hayek were okay but just didn’t really work together. They’re also too famous – This would have been better with lesser known actors. Too bad Cahill didn’t use his usual favorite, Brit Marling. She’d have been good. Oh well – I did still like the story so it was worth a watch but I’d highly recommend his other films first. – 6/10

Black Christmas (2019) – Er. Um. UGH. Okay… This movie was mostly pretty damn terrible but for some reason I kind of liked it? At least at the beginning – that all went out the window at the very end. Holy hell! What a pile of shit ending!!! First of all: Yes, I saw the original but it was many many years ago so I should probably rewatch it. So I won’t be comparing them as I don’t remember that one well enough. I just wish Blumhouse would stop rebooting or remaking (or whatever you want to call it) old horror films. Well, that’s plenty of studios, actually. And these newer films are sometimes so different than the originals that I don’t understand why they use the same name. No, I lie – they use the same name because they’re more likely to make money from a known name. Pisses me off. Honestly, they could’ve given this one a completely different name from the original as I don’t think they’re very similar beyond the setting.

So. They kind of had a good idea here but just did such an awful job of cramming the agenda into this film. Spoiler: It’s basically about the rape culture at universities. Which is an important and serious topic not really suited for this seriously stupid horror movie. To be fair, it maybe could have worked if the film had treated the topic more seriously and if the ending hadn’t been laughable. It’s a shame as a well written film on this topic could’ve turned out well. Maybe a more serious type of horror such as Midsommar? Hell, that’s basically a toxic-male-hating film too about slightly inattentive boyfriends, right?

I did really like Imogen Poots in this so luckily the main character was fine. I like her in most things but I mostly think I just love that name. POOTS! Imagine having to grow up with the name Poots!! Her main SJW best friend (sorry to use that phrase but it’s the whole point of that character) was okay but very quickly gets on your nerves as you’d expect. I did kind of like the one friend who was really dumb (she was also good in The White Lotus). And one other thing I did really like in this movie was their song. That was a good scene. I like seeing rapists named & shamed. So the movie started out well…

While I do think this movie ended up being dreadful thanks to its ridiculously over-the-top ending, I think it has been unfairly rated way too low on IMDb. 3.4/10?! Okay, that will be those who see it as having a man-hating agenda. I suppose it does but I think it could have gotten away with it & done a better job of making its point if the ending wasn’t SO in-your-face about, um, toxic masculinity. Dammit! This movie made me use the phrases SJW & toxic masculinity. Phrases I steer WELL clear of on Twitter! And I’ve written waaaaay more than I wanted to about a pretty bad horror movie. I just wish it had done a better job of making its point in a more subtle fashion. Cramming your beliefs down viewers’ throats never works, even when viewers agree with what you’re trying to say (as I do). – 5.5/10

The Big Year – This was fine? A very safe & inoffensive movie. Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis: “It was based on the 2004 nonfiction book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik. The book followed three men on a quest for a Big Year – a competition among birders to see who can see and identify the greatest number of species of birds in North America (north of Mexico) in a calendar year.” So it’s an intriguing story. I had no idea this was a real thing that people do?! Of course the characters themselves are fictional (Owen Wilson is especially over-the-top in his bird obsession) but it’s still interesting that people do this in real life. As I said, it’s just a very safe film. Pleasant. The kind of thing you can have on in the background while visiting with family on a Sunday afternoon. So… somewhat forgettable but was a nice watch & I always love Jack Black. Steve Martin was also good but Black was the best character & he was very understated compared to his usual sort of crazy antics. – 6/10

Over Her Dead Body – This sucked. Cliché & predictable every step of the way. The story is about a controlling woman (Eva Longoria) who dies on her wedding day (you’ll see the obvious death coming a mile away). She then haunts the first woman who shows an interest in her husband-to-have-been about a year later & tries to keep them apart. I 100% watched this because I love Paul Rudd. Who doesn’t?! A controlling dead bitch wouldn’t keep me away from him either! But, of course, she sees the error of her ways and that she needs to let him move on with his life. Duh. I’d have given a spoiler warning there but it’s not a spoiler when you already know the stupid ending from the very start. Whatever – it’s a dumb romcom & not trying to win Oscars or something. So I’ll be nice with my rating since Paul Rudd was of course adorable in this. – 5/10

Movies Rewatched:

Rear Window – Finally convinced my daughter to watch her first Alfred Hitchcock film! 🙂 And I started her on my favorite. I’ve always loved Rear Window & how we get a glimpse of various peoples’ lives through their windows. I was always most concerned about Miss Lonelyhearts & loved the newlywed couple who kept their blinds closed for days. Plus James Stewart is always great & Grace Kelly is gorgeous & classy in all her fancy outfits. I know I always wear a dress & pearls around the house like in the above photo! Such a fun & stylish film. Trying to convince the kid to watch The Birds next. Let’s have another look at Grace Kelly… – 9.5/10

The Lost Boys – YES! Adore this movie. And, yes, it’s my favorite vampire movie. Of course – I was a young teenager when it came out & had a crush on The Two Coreys. I don’t know what else to say about it but you’ll either love this lightweight teen horror comedy or you won’t. The characters are fun, everyone is young & pretty & super cool, and it has great quotables. Death by stereo! Love it. Oh, and it has that greased-up saxophone player. Hubba hubba. Maggots, Michael! You’re eating maggots! –9/10

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Reviewed this in full already for the big John Hughes Blogathon I did years ago. Obviously, I’m Gen X so naturally a big fan of John Hughes (which is why I did the blogathon). Still think this one is great although The Breakfast Club is still my favorite. – 9/10

Wreck-It Ralph – I liked this one a lot the first time I saw it but it grew on me more & more and it’s now easily one of my very favorites of modern-era animated Disney. I think the story is very clever and I love the characters (yes, even Vanellope although I’m sure she gets on some people’s nerves). And I like the Sugar Rush song (seriously – I have it on my Apple playlist). Is it normal for me as an adult to rewatch these movies as much as kids do?! – 8.5/10

Robin Hood (1973) – For whatever reason, I’d not watched this Disney movie a million times like a lot of the others so figured it was time for a rewatch as I didn’t remember it well. I really enjoyed it! Not sure why I never watched it much. The characters and a couple of the songs were fun. Glad I gave it a rewatch after all these years. – 7.5/10

Spider-Man (2002) – Not sure if I have the energy but think I need to rewatch all these Spider-Man movies before the new film comes out. Mainly need to watch with my daughter who hasn’t seen any pre-Tom-Holland ones. Wanted to watch the second of these before rating this one as I seem to remember it being quite good? I like this one, though. We’ll give it a 7 & see if 2 is a 7.5! Don’t remember loving any of the rest. Still think the first couple of Tobey Maguire ones are the best, though, even though I think Tom Holland is decent. – 7/10

Attack The Block – I really like this one although I can’t explain exactly why as the main characters are a group of young criminals. But the aliens are quite effective and it’s a decent alien invasion movie, which I always enjoy. – 7/10

Practical Magic – A bit girly for me but I have to like chick flicks sometimes, right?? – 6.5/10

The Island – Think this is pretty decent for a, uh, Michael Bay film. Until it turns too Michael Bay-like at the end. But it starts out well & the story is fine & Steve Buscemi is in it & Steve Buscemi rules. So, good enough. – 6.5/10

The Hole (2009) – Trying to ease the daughter into horror as she’s not a big fan like I was at her age. Well, she didn’t like this one. It’s a very odd film. Expected so much more from Joe Dante as Gremlins is awesome. But this one is weird. It’s not really scary but it’s hard to know what sort of age it’s aimed at as it IS far too scary for kids at least. But teens & older would mostly find it silly. I don’t think it’s a horrible film – I think it’s just one that would only be liked by a small percentage of people if they’re just the right sort of age when they watch it. I just don’t know what age that might be! 10/11/12, maybe? – 6/10

Okay – as I was stuck in bed for most of August, I usually had movies playing in the background so put on a lot of favorites. I’ve already reviewed most of them in the past: The Wizard Of Oz, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocats (I love this one & think it’s an underrated Disney classic).

Shorts:

Short Circuit Shorts: Season 2 – These are really good animated shorts on Disney Plus. Of season two, Going Home really stood out. It was heartbreaking but a great short film.

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Okay, I also watched way too many TV shows while stuck in bed. These are in no particular order…

The White Lotus – Enjoyed this! It’s certainly not for everyone but I liked the dark humor & the characters were good. And Jennifer Coolidge was as fun to watch as always. And, MAN, I hated that newlywed husband! What a prick. I also liked that it was a short series. I hate things that drag on for years. I think a new series will focus on new people? Will definitely check it out based on Season 1.

Erased (Boku dake ga Inai Machi, 僕だけがいない街) – This was quite good. I knew nothing about this Japanese anime series so am glad I gave it a chance. Here’s the IMDB synopsis: “29-year-old Satoru Fujinuma is sent back in time 18 years to prevent the events leading to his mother’s death, which began with a series of kidnappings while he was in 5th grade.” Again, I really liked the “one short series” thing.

Cruel Summer – This was kind of terrible and cheesy but I also kind of liked it? It was very “YA” and the acting was all pretty dreadful other than from the actress Olivia Holt. But I think I’ll forever be a sucker for YA drama. I don’t believe this was based on a book but this is exactly the kind of guilty pleasure YA stuff I still like to read. There’s a lot of back & forth as to who is telling the truth and you never know who to trust. It’s also set in the ’90s, which was fun, back when I was just a little older than these characters. It takes place in flashbacks all exactly three years apart in the two girls’ lives. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “In a small Texas town, popular teen Kate, is abducted. Seemingly unrelated, a girl named Jeanette goes from being a sweet, awkward outside to the most popular girl in town, but by 1995 she has become the most-despised person in America.

Dark: S1 E1 – The hubby & I have decided to start watching this but have only seen one episode so I can’t say much yet. I’m certainly intrigued, though!! Very good first episode.

Nine Perfect Strangers: S1 E1-4 – My god – look at all these “adult drama” TV shows I watched in August! Not normally my type of thing. I’m liking this okay but The White Lotus was much better than what I’ve seen of this so far. Still interested to see what happens, though, and I think the acting is very good. I especially like Melissa McCarthy in this much more serious role & Bobby Cannavale. They’re really good so far. And I’m interested to see what will become of Regina Hall’s character (and all the guests, really).

Monsters At Work: S1 E6-9 – Yep – I love this show!! Said more about it HERE. Hope there’s a Season 2!

Steins;gate: S1 E1 – Decided to check out this anime series after really liking Erased. Well, the first episode hasn’t grabbed me. Will try a couple more…

The Crown: S4 E3-4 – Finally watching the Diana episodes I’ve been looking forward to for ages! I’m enjoying them but I don’t buy into the person playing Diana at all. Which is a shame.

TV Shows Rewatched:

Star Trek: The Next Generation: S1 – This is an all-time favorite of mine so am enjoying revisiting.

The Golden Girls: Various episodes – Can always stick on an episode of this to cheer me up. 🙂

Grey’s Anatomy: S1 – Daughter wanted to watch this as it’s her friend’s favorite show. Oh boy – I’d forgotten how inappropriate some of it is. But it’s rated 12, so, oh well – I guess I saw similar shows at her age. Anyway – I’ve watched this show for 17 years & have a love/hate relationship with it. Seeing Season 1 again was strange. It really was a better show at the start…

BOOKS READ

If It Bleeds by Stephen King (Four Story Collection: Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life Of Chuck, If It Bleeds & Rat)Oops. I read another Stephen King book… Well, I enjoyed it. I always love his shorter story collections. I’ll say just a tiny bit about each. Not sure what to rate it as it’s good but not as strong as some of his other collections. I suppose I’d give the whole thing this: – 3.5/5

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone – Really liked this very simple story of a boy who gifts an iPhone to an elderly neighbour. But the story of course gets a little more weird later on…

The Life Of Chuck – Thought this three-part story (told in reverse order) was interesting. The first story was really good & very clever when you later realise what’s going on. The second story was okay & the final one was good with the right amount of creepiness but also strong characters & not a full-on “horror”.

If It Bleeds – This is a short story continuing on from The Outsider (which I actually didn’t like very much). However, it revolves around one of my favorite new Stephen King characters: Holly Gibney from Mr. Mercedes. She’s a love her or hate her & I love her so like that King keeps using her as well as other likeable previous characters. So I enjoyed this story mainly because I got to revisit these characters again.

Rat – This is the most “Stephen King” story about a writer (shocker! can’t remember if he was also in Maine…) who makes a deal with a talking rat when he wishes to write a successful novel. It’s a twist on The Monkey’s Paw and is a better story than you’d think it could be considering it has a talking rat. But King can write the weird stuff well!

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

No plans for September but am considering doing October Horror Month again since I skipped it last year. But it would just be me reposting reviews of all the horror movies I’ve watched in the past year.

**I end these posts with a good song from one of the movies I watched but the Fear Street Trilogy & Cruella had LOADS of good songs! Well, I already posted David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World & I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges in those reviews. So here’s Time Of The Season by The Zombies (which was in Cruella):

Exam, Paul Williams Still Alive & The To Do List Movie Reviews

Happy Bank Holiday Monday to those in the UK who won’t be reading this since you’re not at work pretending to work while actually reading blogs! Then I think you Americans have next Monday off? So, since no one will be around the next couple of weeks, I figured it was time to do a few more mini-reviews of movies that I didn’t give enough of a shit about to review when I watched them a year ago. Sounds like fun, right?! 😉 Here we go…

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Exam (2009)

Directed by Stuart Hazeldine

Starring: Adar Beck, Chris Carey, Gemma Chan, Nathalie Cox, John Lloyd Fillingham, Chuk Iwuji, Luke Mably, Pollyanna McIntosh, Jimi Mistry, Colin Salmon

My Opinion:

Exam is the best of these three movies, which doesn’t say much for the other two. I’ll say that Exam had a brilliant concept and I did appreciate that. It started out pretty great but got too far-fetched & silly by the end, which was disappointing since it had a lot of potential. I’m feeling lazy today so I’ll let Wikipedia give you the set-up:

The film is set in present-time United Kingdom in an alternate history. Eight candidates dress for what appears to be an employment assessment exam; they enter a room and sit down at individual desks. Each desk contains a question paper with the word “candidate”, followed by a number, from one to eight. The Invigilator, a representative of the company named DATAPREV, explains that the exam is 80 minutes and consists of only one question, but there are three rules: they must not talk to the Invigilator or the armed guard at the door, spoil their paper, or leave the room. If they do, they will be disqualified.

That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? And it is – it’s why I watched this movie. And it gets even more interesting when the exam starts and the candidates discover the one question. The state of the world in this alternate history, which we learn a little about as the movie progresses, does help to explain the lengths that these eight candidates are willing to go to in order to get this job. But not quite… As to be expected, there are a couple of pricks who you’re meant to immediately dislike but none of the characters are very well developed and you don’t care enough about any of them to really care who will get the job at the end.

Had the characters been better instead of so one-dimensional and had the story been less far-fetched by the end, I’d have liked this one a lot more. I did really enjoy the mystery involved with the whole thing. It was fun seeing the candidates trying various ways to figure out what the hell was going on with the bizarre exam. In a world (shit, did I just use the “in a world” phrase?) where times are desperate, as in the story’s alternate history, you can almost believe that these candidates will do anything to get this very important job. However, the movie doesn’t manage to make us believe that “this could really happen”, which sucks as I think it could. Exam reminded me a lot of The Purge, which is another movie that I thought had a brilliant concept & so many ideas to be explored but never were. Like The Purge, Exam feels like a wasted opportunity (although I really liked The Purge and find myself always sticking up for it).

Don’t let my negativity discourage you if you like the sound of this movie. I think I may just be too picky in always expecting movies to have some deeper sort of meaning. If you don’t think about it too hard & are able to suspend disbelief, you may get some enjoyment out of Exam.

My Rating: 6/10

Paul Williams Still Alive (2011)

Directed by Stephen Kessler

Starring: Well, mainly just Paul Williams, his wife, and the director but there’s plenty of old footage with famous celebrities to watch. 

My Opinion:

What a shitty documentary. Hell, I think I could make a better documentary. The trouble isn’t the subject as I think Paul Williams is fascinating enough to make for an interesting documentary. But god the director, Stephen Kessler, is annoying! This reminded me a bit of the John Hughes documentary, Don’t You Forget About Me (which I reviewed HERE). In both films, the makers almost feel more like stalkers than like proper filmmakers.

I’ll say that Paul Williams comes across a bit grumpy in the documentary but that’s probably understandable as the director pretty much spends the whole film talking about how Paul Williams used to be a pretty big star but now he’s nothing (which isn’t true at all, especially since Daft Punk soon after declared their love for him & worked with him on their amazing Random Access Memories album). It’s ridiculous as Paul Williams has had a longer and FAR more successful career than Kessler (his only other movie you’ll have heard of is the crappy National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation).

As for Paul Williams, I know some people here probably know nothing about him although you may recognize his face. He was (well, still is) mainly a singer-songwriter but also an actor whose most famous work was in the Seventies. He wrote songs for people such as Barbara Streisand (Evergreen) and The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun & Rainy Days And Mondays). Perhaps his most famous song, though, is The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie (it’s certainly my favorite & in my list of My Top Ten Happy Songs). He was also in Smokey And The Bandit and the spectacularly mad Brian De Palma film Phantom Of The Paradise, which I reviewed HERE. Williams plays an evil record executive in Phantom, which is a mental “horror musical” that I enjoyed so much that I decided to watch this documentary soon after. Bah! Rubbish. Watch Phantom instead.

It’s hard to know what to rate this as it IS worth checking out if you’re interested in Paul Williams and don’t know much about him. There are plenty of old clips with lots of famous celebrities & the film is almost worth watching for that alone. Don’t expect the most in-depth documentary ever, though, and be prepared to feel as annoyed by the director as Williams sometimes clearly is. I’m glad I watched it but would like to see a better documentary about Paul Williams.

My Rating: 6/10

(okay rating more for the fact that Williams is an interesting character than for the quality of the documentary)

The To Do List (2013)

Directed by Maggie Carey

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rachel Bilson, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Andy Samberg, Scott Porter, Connie Britton

My Opinion:

How can a totally filthy sex comedy be so BORING and completely unfunny in any way? What a load of shit.

I’m thinking that maybe I truly don’t like Aubrey Plaza. I don’t have much experience with her (she’s in that Parks & Recreation thing, right? Never seen it). I didn’t mind her in the slightly pretentious Safety Not Guaranteed but then she mostly just got on my nerves in the disappointing Life After Beth. Well, I’d have to say I pretty much hated her in this. I don’t know if that’s entirely her fault, though, as I can’t say I liked anyone in this plus the movie is just plain bad. I honestly can’t think of a less funny “comedy” that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s almost as bad as a Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer “parody” movie.

(Just go play with yourself instead of watching this movie – you’ll have way more fun)

So, in this movie, perfect student Plaza decides she wants to lose her virginity & do every sexual thing that she can before heading off to college. Or something like that – I don’t remember much of this movie now. Anyway, here’s her sexual “to do” list:

I wouldn’t call myself a prude so my issues with the movie have nothing at all to do with the subject matter. I do enjoy the occasional sex comedy. But what I require is for them to actually be funny. I mean, WTF is this shit?:

Aubrey Plaza’s character is beyond annoying in this movie & I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do any of the things on that above “to do list” with her. The only funny thing, looking at that list, is how it says “British?” next to “teabagging“. lol. Okay – that’s kind of funny. But the rest of this movie is NOT. This movie can go do all of the above things to itself. Yeah… Go fuck yourself, movie!

My Rating: 3/10

Now here’s the rather epic, totally 70’s prog rock-y Touch, Paul Williams’ song with Daft Punk on Random Access Memories:

The House Of The Devil (2009) Review

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The House Of The Devil (2009)

Directed by Ti West

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

Running time: 95 minutes

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

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My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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Summary:

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

My Rating: 7/10

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Dead Snow (2009) Review

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Dead Snow (2009) (Norwegian: Død snø)

Directed by Tommy Wirkola

Starring:
Vegar Hoel
Stig Frode Henriksen
Charlotte Frogner
Lasse Valdal
Evy Kasseth Røsten
Jeppe Laursen
Jenny Skavlan
Ane Dahl Torp
Bjørn Sundquist
Ørjan Gamst

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Dead Snow is a 2009 Norwegian zombie splatter film that centers on a group of students surviving a Nazi zombie attack in the mountains of Norway.

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My Opinion:

This is my second favorite Norwegian movie of all-time after Troll Hunter! (Okay – they’re the only Norwegian movies I’ve seen). This is also the third zombie comedy I’m reviewing for my month of horror movie reviews (that I totally flaked out on and stopped posting for a week). I liked Dead Snow much more than Life After Beth but, while I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much The Return Of The Living Dead, I did like it and thought it showed a lot of promise. I’ve heard some pretty positive things about the sequel and am not surprised as I thought this was a great concept that didn’t quite work overall but could possibly be improved upon in a sequel. I’ll have to check that out at some point.

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What does work is, as I said, the concept. Nazi zombies! Why did no one think to do that sooner? Or HAS it been done before? Not that I can think of. A lot of reviews have also mentioned the look of the blood on all that white snow and it did make for a great look to the film. Also, the characters are decent. At least, as far as horror movie characters go, a few of them are fairly well developed. There’s a great “movie nerd” guy who keeps talking about & quoting movies throughout the film so that was fun for a geek like me. And guess what? Slight spoiler, but… He’s the one who gets laid! So there may still be hope for movie geeks (maybe even Mike?). 😉

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I think what didn’t work quite as well as I’d been hoping was the comedy. The movie takes itself slightly more seriously than I was expecting and a couple scenes felt a little too dramatic for a comedy. The pacing was a little off as well as it seemed too slow at first then suddenly gets pretty mental at the end. These aren’t huge complaints, though, as I still thought it was pretty good. I think I’m just trying to figure out why I didn’t like it QUITE as much as I should have as it’s my type of thing and all the elements are there for it to potentially be great. I think they could have upped the comedy more and been a little more silly and made it a bit more “fun”. It sounds like this may be the case in the sequel?

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Summary:

If you’re looking for comedy horror, I’d recommend Tucker & Dale Vs Evil or Grabbers instead as they were just loads of fun. If you specifically like zombie movies, though, I think you’d be perfectly happy with this as a zombie comedy as well as just a zombie movie. The gore gets fairly excessive at the end so that should keep zombie fans happy. It’s not as funny as The Return Of The Living Dead but there were a few unexpected laughs and the characters are more well developed and likable than a lot of horror movie characters manage to be. The movie doesn’t quite reach its potential but it’s still a pretty good effort. However, I can’t believe that girl sucked that guy’s finger just after he’d done a poo & wiped himself and hadn’t yet washed his hands!!!!! That’s just nasty.

My Rating: 7/10

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Don’t You Forget About Me (2009) Review

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Don’t You Forget About Me (2009 Documentary)

Directed by Matt Austin

Written by:
Matt Austin
Michael Facciolo
Kari Hollend
Lenny Panzer

Running time: 90 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Don’t You Forget About Me is a 2009 Canadian documentary film about screenwriter, director, and producer John Hughes. The film specifically focused on Hughes’ fade from prominence in the early 1990s. It details the journey of a group of young filmmakers who go in search of the reclusive icon, documenting their search through interviews of the people with whom Hughes had worked and fans of his films.

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My Opinion:

Obviously, I was interested in watching this documentary as, like the filmmakers, I grew up with and love John Hughes teen movies and was sad that he stopped making those types of films and that he pretty much disappeared from Hollywood. I think it’s quite a sad story and, as we know, he died too young from a heart attack at the age of 59 on August 6, 2009, just after this documentary was filmed.

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This is worth a watch for anyone who is a big fan of Hughes but not so much worth a watch if you’re not. The best part by far was seeing all the interviews with those who had worked with Hughes and those who were influenced by his work. It’s pretty impressive that they were able to get as many people together for this documentary as they did. The following are just some of the people they interviewed:

Ilan Mitchell-Smith
Ally Sheedy
Judd Nelson
Kelly LeBrock
Mia Sara
Alan Ruck
Kevin Smith
Roger Ebert
Richard Roeper
Jim Kerr

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As for the rest of the documentary, I was hoping for something a bit more in-depth on why they thought Hughes had disappeared but we don’t really get this from the filmmakers. They talk a bit about their favorite Hughes films and what those movies meant to them but we don’t really hear anything new. I was a little confused by a couple things too. They say they spent two years (or maybe it was two and a half) on this documentary. I don’t think this is a spoiler: they drive to Chicago to try to track down John Hughes & interview him (I won’t say whether they manage to or not). But, once they get there, they sit down and start writing out some questions to ask him. Then they try to decide how to go about contacting him: walk right up to his house & talk to him or give him a letter or what. They write the letter right outside his house. In two years they didn’t think to have any of this prepared until they arrived in Chicago to try to meet with Hughes???

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Summary:

A documentary worth watching if you love John Hughes films as you get to see some interesting interviews with those he worked with and those he influenced. However, you won’t really learn anything new or get an in-depth look into the man and why he disappeared from the scene. It’s also a little disappointing that there’s no focus whatsoever on any of his movies other than a few teen ones (what’s wrong with the Vacation movies? Planes, Trains & Automobiles? Etc?). Like I say – I do recommend this if you like John Hughes but I was a little uncomfortable at the thought of fans trying to track him down as I think he wanted a peaceful life with his family. And knowing that he died so soon afterwards made watching this even harder. (Please read below the picture for something I DO highly recommend….) And for another opinion on this documentary from another fan of John Hughes, you can read Rob’s thoughts over at his MovieRob blog HERE.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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**To be honest, if you’re a John Hughes fan (or even if you’re not), I’ve been meaning to share this absolutely fascinating piece from a girl who was pen pals with Hughes from 1985-1987 (and more beyond). THIS should be read by everyone – Hughes lovers or even those who are simply interested in being writers or just knowing a bit more about the feelings of someone who was in the public eye. It’s a brilliant insight into the man & you will learn much more about him from this lovely piece written by a girl called Alison Byrne Fields than you will from watching this documentary. Please read this – It will be well worth your time (and there’s more to be read if you wish to explore more about John Hughes on her blog). Link here: Sincerely, John Hughes

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) Review

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson

Starring:

Michael Nyqvist
Noomi Rapace
Lena Endre
Sven-Bertil Taube
Peter Haber
Peter Andersson
Marika Lagercrantz
Ingvar Hirdwall
Björn Granath
Ewa Fröling

Plot Summary:

Wealthy retired businessman Henrik Vanger hires disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist to investigate the mysterious 1966 disappearance of his favorite grandniece, Harriet. Blomkvist is aided in his investigation by a deeply troubled but genius young hacker by the name of Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo).

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My Opinion:

I know this is a very popular book & film series. I read the first book a few years ago. Yes, I thought it was good. The mystery was very compelling & I read the thing really quickly because I couldn’t wait to find out what had actually happened to Harriet Vanger. Top marks for the mystery! And then there was the character of Lisbeth Salander. Such an intriguing character! As I’ve only read the first book, I don’t know much about her. I didn’t enjoy the first book enough to read the rest but, if I ever do, it will only be to read more about her character & what happens to her & Blomkvist. You find out very little about her in the first one – I hope her character is more fully explored in the rest?

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As for the movie, it follows the novel very closely from what I remember other than (naturally) having to leave some things out to save on time. In the novel, the Vanger family is huge and so complex – I remember there was a family tree in the book that I had to keep going back to when I couldn’t remember who someone was in relation to everyone else. The movie seemed to leave a lot of this out but I think it still managed to be a bit confusing for viewers who hadn’t read the novel beforehand. I found all of the Vanger family members very underdeveloped in the film and was glad I’d read the book first so I had a bit more understanding of each of them.

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The film focuses much more on the far more interesting characters of Mikael Blomkvist & Lisbeth Salander. Which is fine as they’re the main characters in all the books (um, right?) but I think the intriguing mystery suffers a little bit in the film – it was much more exciting in the book. Part of this is me, though – I often don’t enjoy a film as much when it’s an adaptation of a book I’ve already read. And I get annoyed when the film isn’t faithful to the book but then get a little bored when it IS as it’s then an inferior version of what I’ve already “seen” in my head. Plus, with a mystery, once you know how it ends there’s not as much excitement in hearing the story again, I suppose.

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As for the actors, they all do a fine job. Yes, Noomi Rapace is very good – I know she’s been praised for the role. When looking this up for the review, I found it interesting that the title of this in Swedish, Män som hatar kvinnor, is “Men Who Hate Women”. Yes, that title makes sense. Lisbeth Salander has some kind of horrible history that’s hinted at in the film. And then there’s all the raping… Yes, lots of that. This is why I wasn’t really planning on reading the rest of the books and I’m not sure if I’m bothered about the rest of the films or not, although I’d like to know more about Lisbeth. Plus, there’s not enough hacking for my liking! She’s this brilliant hacker but they don’t go into that TOO much in the book or the film. I’m hoping there’s much more of this in the further books/films? I’d like far more hacking & far less raping. And Lisbeth kicking more ass. Will I get these things? Do you recommend I at least watch the further films? (Doubt I’ll bother with the books but I may enjoy the films more that way anyway).

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Summary:

A very compelling mystery that’s not explored in near as much detail in the film as in the novel, which I found a little disappointing. The family who are a part of this mystery are underdeveloped in the film. But the mystery kind of only really serves as a backdrop to the two main and much more interesting characters of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander anyway – I was satisfied with their portrayals in the film. There are very disturbing themes in the film that I can’t fully go into in case you’re one of the only people left who doesn’t know a thing about these books or films. Overall, this “genre” has just never been my sort of thing. The book & film ARE better than I’m making it sound and I suppose I would recommend them. If you’re not easily disturbed by misogynistic violence…

I hope Lisbeth kicks more ass in the further films.

My Rating: 7/10

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**This was the second place choice when I asked all of you which film I should review next. First place review is here: Exit Through The Gift Shop.

Thanks again for all your input. 🙂 Up next will be The Man Who Fell To Earth.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture & The Wrath Of Khan & Star Trek (2009) Reviews

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My Star Trek Knowledge:

I figure you should know how much I know of the entire Star Trek universe before I write anything about these movies. My Star Trek knowledge isn’t very extensive. Well, somewhat extensive for a girl, maybe? Or is that sexist? Here’s what I know of Star Trek:

– I saw a few episodes of the original TV series as a young girl. Thought they were okay but I saw that one with the creepy diseased kids or whatever and it freaked me the hell out. (I’m sure Trekkies would be able to name it – it was called Miri).

– When I was a bit older, The Next Generation came along. And I LOVED it. I turned into a massive TNG geek. I still know the most about this series and (sorry) will always love TNG the most.

– I didn’t watch any of the following Star Trek stuff other than a tiny bit of Deep Space Nine. Instead, I then went back and watched the majority of the original series. Yes, I do like that too but, obviously, it’ll seem dated to anyone who didn’t grow up with it.

– The movies. Here’s my confession: The first movie I watched was Star Trek: Generations. And I watched every one that followed that. But I never went back and watched the ones with the original Star Trek cast. Shocking, I know.

But with Star Trek Into Darkness coming along, I thought I should make a start. So this past week I re-watched Star Trek (2009) and then watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture & The Wrath Of Khan for the first time. And I’m now just back from seeing Into Darkness. I’ll do a review for that later…

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Star Trek (2009) – My Opinion:

Yes, this was a good reboot. The characters still didn’t mean quite as much to me, though, as TNG characters. I should have watched the old movies before seeing this one – I’m sure I would have enjoyed it much more and I’m sure it’s a good feeling to understand the “inside jokes”. The film (of course) had to spend quite a while setting up each of the characters for those in the audience who were seeing this without having seen anything of the original Star Trek at all. I do think the overall plot suffered a bit because of this. I re-watched this as when I first saw it I actually fell asleep and didn’t remember it that well. Well, I fell asleep this time too. I did finish it but, overall, I was a little underwhelmed by the story. I’m not saying it was bad – it was a very good reboot of the original series. But I was a tiny bit bored and, after then finally watching the first two movies, I actually liked this the least of the three I’m reviewing here.

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Star Trek: The Motion Picture & Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan – My Opinion:

I’ll do these together. As we’ve all heard for years, “The Wrath Of Khan is the best!!”. Well, I can certainly see why die hard Trekkies would feel this way. But bear in mind that I’ve just watched this now after seeing later Star Trek movies and knowing there were plenty of (original cast) sequels after The Wrath Of Khan. So, naturally, the ending of it is NOT going to pack the same punch as I’m sure it did when the movie first came out.

So, to be honest, I probably liked the first and second movie pretty much equally. I enjoyed the first one more than I was expecting to. I think the music was much better in the first movie than in the second. I think the first one, in a way, felt more “cinematic” (at least at the beginning). The pace was very slow (I don’t think the current generation would make it far into this movie!) but I kind of liked the long slow shots of space & the spaceships & all that – kind of reminded me of the end of 2001 (although that’s a much better film). But the ending of the first one was a bit, well, pathetic. I personally LIKED the story, though – it felt very very much like an episode of the TV series. But you want a bit more than that from “the motion picture”. So the movie felt a little bit like a good TV episode stretched into a long movie.

The Wrath Of Khan, to start out, felt even more like a TV episode to me than the first movie did. I don’t think the much more boring musical score helped this feeling either. Also, I like sci-fi. Obviously Star Trek is all sci-fi but the second movie is more of a “revenge story” movie whereas the first one focused more on cool “space stuff”. Sorry if that makes no sense but not sure how else to put that. I just liked the “majesty” of the first one a bit more, even if the special effects weren’t necessarily the best. (I think what I saw of the first one was a Director’s Cut? I have no clue how that might differ from the original version). Basically, the beginning and middle of the first movie are very good and the ending is “meh”. The beginning of The Wrath Of Khan is “meh”, the middle is fairly good, and the ending is excellent.

I think the ending of The Wrath Of Khan makes people forgive (and forget about) any of the weaker bits of the film. If the ending hadn’t been SO good, I’d have to say I’d prefer the first movie. And, quite frankly, Khan just kind of doesn’t do it for me as a villain in this. Ohh – controversy! But I think most people, watching The Wrath Of Khan for the very first time these days, would feel the same way and also probably wouldn’t be too moved by the ending knowing all that’s known by now. (Not that I exactly know – I still have to watch the third movie!). 😉

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Summary:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture & Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan are both very good films in the overall Star Trek universe and I did enjoy them. They are, however, very dated and won’t have as much of an emotional impact for someone watching them for the very first time today. Trekkies will probably find no fault in either film but as a bit of a “partial-Trekkie”(?), I can see the faults while still being able to look past most of them and still enjoy the films. I did enjoy them more than Star Trek (2009) but that’s mainly because I know just enough of (and have just enough of an affection for) the original cast and had a hard time adjusting to new actors playing them. All in all, the strengths and weaknesses of all three films mostly even them out for me, although I do prefer the first two but have to recognize that the 2009 film was a good start to a new series.

My Ratings:

Star Trek: The Motion Picture – 7/10

Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan – 7.5/10

Star Trek (2009) – 7/10

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Link to Star Trek Into Darkness Review