Skyscraper (2018) & Tag (2018) Reviews

I’ll keep these fairly short. I have 5 more recent films to discuss after these so here are two quickies for two enjoyable movies that definitely won’t be winning any Oscars…

Skyscraper (2018)

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, Hannah Quinlivan

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story follows a former FBI agent who must rescue his family from a newly built skyscraper, the tallest in the world, after it is taken over by criminals and set on fire.

My Opinion:

Yeah, this was silly. Die Hard with extra cheese. I love how when the below poster came out, people laughed at how it would be impossible for a human to make that leap. No shit – it’s that kind of movie. No human could do the majority of what The Rock does in this (and in most of his movies). Sometimes you just have to sit back, eat your popcorn, and enjoy the ride. I laughed out loud a few times at the ridiculousness. But that’s okay sometimes! This is far from “good” but it’s an enjoyable enough disaster movie. It’s better than some & worse than some in this genre. As for Dwayne Johnson disaster movies, I liked it a little less than Rampage but definitely more than San Andreas.

Johnson was the same as always in this. He’s likable in these sort of roles. He definitely has a certain charm going on. I’m not sure when I started liking him? He’s not my type of actor AT ALL. I think it’s because my kid seems to like him & that’s cute. He’s the big action star of her generation like Arnold Schwarzenegger was for mine, I guess. I liked that Neve Campbell’s role didn’t have her being the completely useless wife that needs rescuing. Well, she does need rescuing since she’s stuck in a massive, burning skyscraper that she can’t scale like King Fucking Kong the way her hubby The Rock can! But she’s smart and makes some decent decisions. Their two young kids (a girl and a boy) are adorable (so that you of course want their hero dad to rescue them).

The baddies are cliché but I’d be disappointed if they weren’t in this type of film. And Enter The Dragon once again proves what a massive influence it still has on filmmaking with an over-the-top “hall of mirrors” scene that you know from the start will play a big role at the end (just like when The Rock fixes his wife’s phone – we all saw that coming!). Whatever. This movie was silly fun. And someone at our showing thought it would be funny to go outside & pull the building’s fire alarm 15 minutes before the end, making the entire cinema have to evacuate. But we were allowed back in to watch the predictable ending. Yay.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Tag (2018)

Directed by Jeff Tomsic

Based on It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It by Russell Adams

Starring: Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Annabelle Wallis, Hannibal Buress, Isla Fisher, Rashida Jones, Leslie Bibb, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is based on a true story that was published in The Wall Street Journal about a group of grown men, played by Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Jon Hamm, and Jeremy Renner, who spend one month a year playing the game of tag.

My Opinion:

I’ve heard very little about this film but also found it silly yet quite enjoyable. And I love that it’s based on a true story. Seriously! A group of 9 friends have been playing the game of tag since high school (23 years ago). The article about the real guys is fascinating – here’s the link: It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It by Russell Adams.

Now, there’s no WAY they actually do all the crazy over-the-top stuff that’s in this film (they’d all be dead by now) but they show some clips of the real guys at the end and they do go as far as dressing up in disguise and hiding in bushes to tag each other. The article mentions that they have to instruct fellow employees when the game is on to not let certain people into the building. And a couple of their poor wives have had the fright of their lives when their husbands have been tagged. Crazy! But quite sweet. I like how the game has kept this group in contact for all these years (it’s played every year for all of February – I think it was May in the film). And the film gets the slightly cheesy point of the importance of friendship & “staying young at heart” across quite well at the end.

As for the movie itself, it’s funny. I don’t know if it does the true story justice or not, though, as it clearly ramps things up more than it needed to as it’s a pretty fascinating story anyway. Jeremy Renner is the main one they’re all eager to tag as he’s never been “it”. He’s like some kind of crazy ninja assassin, which isn’t very realistic. Hell, one of the 9 real life guys is now a priest! Hilarious. I doubt any of them are ninja assassins. And I doubt any of the real wives are as into the game & competitive as Isla Fisher, who once again plays “crazy bitch”. I think a better film probably could have been made of this story but, if you go into it knowing it’s a great concept that’s had the typical Hollywood exaggeration treatment, you should have fun with it. It was a good day out for the hubby & me as I think we needed a simple film to de-stress that day.

My Rating: 7/10

Oh! Tag had a great soundtrack too. Mostly old school (well, 90’s) hip hop with some Ozzy, Danzig & Pixies thrown in. So that helped our enjoyment as well. Here’s a sample of A Tribe Called Quest & The Pharcyde in this film…

Advertisements

The First Purge (2018) Review

The First Purge (2018)

Directed by Gerard McMurray

Starring: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Lauren Velez, Marisa Tomei

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The fourth installment in The Purge franchise, the film is a prequel depicting the origins of the first annual “Purge”, a 12-hour span once a year in which all crime in America is legal.

My Opinion:

I guess I better do a quick review of The First Purge. I watched this on the 5th of July but I’ve not even done my Monthly Roundup post of all the stuff I watched in June yet (I may not manage that until next week). As always, I watched a lot of movies last month but most of them sucked. July is off to a better start with The First Purge being the first film I watched. I liked it just fine but I’m actually a fan of this entire series so far, despite them all having IMDb ratings that are lower than they each deserve. However, I think this movie is unfortunately the weakest of the series so far.


I did go into this with low expectations as I’ve wanted each film to actually more thoroughly explore the moral complexities involved in this dystopian future but they never really do. I still think these films have one of the best and most original concepts in recent years with the whole “annual purge” thing but the movies have all failed to delve very deep. After Election Year, however, I went back & slightly upped my ratings for each of the films as I do think this has been a solid series despite the execution of the concept being less than perfect. My reviews are here: The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy & The Purge: Election Year. My main worry was that The First Purge might damage a decent trilogy but I think it fits into the series just fine. Again, it feels like yet another wasted opportunity to be something slightly more than a “popcorn movie” but at least it stays true to the Purge formula that has worked for the other films and has given these a cult fan base.


What makes this film the weakest? I’m not entirely sure. It feels a lot like Election Year, which I did really enjoy, but I think the main problem is that they’ve given us the least believable characters yet in The First Purge. I think the Purge characters have become less & less believable with each film. These last two have had some characters (mainly baddies) who have felt like caricatures – a mean druggie named Skeletor in this one and that horrible bitch in the last one who I think ended up getting run over (yay!). The “goodies” are a little too good in these, as well. Which is fine – I want to like the characters in movies and I like that I’m wanting these people to survive the annual purge. But it didn’t work as well this time with the “good girl” with all the right values and the “naughty boy” drug dealer turned hero. It still stayed on the right side of the line, though. I liked the goodies & hated the baddies. But they’re all getting a little too silly to take very seriously…

Well, The First Purge is fine. It’s the weakest of the four but, if you liked the rest, you should like this too. Just know that it doesn’t add much to the series but it doesn’t harm it either. I feel bad that this review sounds negative… I also have to give it a lower rating than the other three but I liked it more than my rating suggests. I still just hope they might make another one of these that finally manages to do something more meaningful with the central idea.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Hereditary (2018) Review

Hereditary (2018)

Directed & Written by Ari Aster

Starring: Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd, Gabriel Byrne

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.

My Opinion:

I always get very excited when there’s a lot of hype about a horror movie. Horror isn’t exactly my favorite genre but I love the rare occasion when one is actually good. And it is a very rare occasion, especially these days. But I LOVED The Babadook & It Follows and was hoping Hereditary would live up to those as it had the same sort of hype. Umm. No. Damn. I was very disappointed. However, there were some things that I liked about it & it’s still much better than the majority of modern horrors.

First of all: Yes, the acting is very good. Yes, I like it when horror films have decent acting like in this and in The Babadook. There’s no reason for horror movies to not have good acting & I wish that more of them tried to have actors of a decent standard. Collette is certainly the standout here in what will have been a very difficult & intense role. Byrne also did very well as her husband who tries to keep things together as did Wolff and the young Shapiro playing her messed-up children. I think the acting in horror doesn’t get enough credit sometimes – I’d hate to have played Collette’s role in this! I think it would psychologically damage me for life. However, I felt no connection to this family. I’m not sure why, as the acting was good. For whatever reason, the movie didn’t have me sympathizing with these characters (which will be a big reason why it’ll get a lower rating from me than I was hoping & expecting). Maybe if the son had been likable to begin with…


I did like the film’s overall vibe at the start. I really liked the creepy dollhouses/miniatures. I liked that the movie seemed to be going for a Rosemary’s Baby thing, which is a true classic. Hereditary was atmospheric and the sense of dread was palpable. I soooo wanted to like it more. But, as I said, I didn’t care about the family. And then the story went completely off the rails. Now, I don’t mind when a story goes completely fucking nuts. I love David Cronenberg’s films, for crying out loud. I love crazy! But the ending of this just didn’t work for me. It was messy. The whole story just seemed a little too convoluted. That’s horror for you, though – you either love or absolutely hate how they choose to end them. I almost always hate the endings to horror films. I wouldn’t say that I totally hated Hereditary’s ending, but… Meh. It just didn’t quite work for me. To be fair, however, I’m not sure how it should have ended. It did at least end up in the sort of way you’d expect based on things that happened & were said previously in the film (so pay close attention).

Hereditary is a very good horror film compared to the majority of rubbish modern horror films that are out there. I’ve seen modern horror that I’ve liked much much more than this one but I can see why Hereditary has its fans even if it didn’t quite work for me. The film that it most reminds me of is The Witch (2015), which also had great reviews but which I found well-made yet very disappointing. If you loved The Witch, I think you’ll probably like Hereditary too. I prefer Hereditary but that’s mainly because of ONE scene. If not for that one scene, I’d give this at least half a point less. You know the scene I mean if you’ve seen this! That scene was totally unexpected. Well, no… Not entirely unexpected as it was obvious something was going to happen where it did. But it was a ballsy scene and changed the way you thought things were gonna go based on the marketing. So, yeah – an extra half a point at least for a horror movie having a scene that actually managed to surprise people.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Rampage (2018) Review

Rampage (2018)

Directed by Brad Peyton

Based on Rampage by Midway Games

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Naomie Harris, Malin Akerman, Jake Lacy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
When three different animals become infected with a dangerous pathogen, a primatologist and a geneticist team up to stop them from destroying Chicago.

My Opinion:

Went to this movie the other night with the hubby & kid. It’s cool when the kids get older and the “family” movies get more fun! It’s probably the most extreme film the kid has now seen – it’s a fairly full-on monster movie. As far as family monster movies go (are there many of those??), Rampage was predictable and somewhat forgettable but a thoroughly entertaining popcorn movie. We all enjoyed it.

I may be starting to like Dwayne Johnson. I mean, I never paid much attention to him and I don’t think I’ve seen many movies he’s been in (I can only think of this, San Andreas & Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle). Oh, I suppose there’s Moana as well but he’s possibly the worst thing about that. Sorry! I don’t think he’s personally bad in it – I just don’t like Disney characters who aren’t timeless. I also really don’t like the Genie in Aladdin although I like Robin Williams. I want a Disney character, not a really obvious real-life actor. Oops – I’m off topic! The Rock is perfect for roles such as the one in Rampage and in Jumanji, which I actually liked a heck of a lot and found very funny. Weird how these big muscle guys end up in comedies or family movies so often. Well, Johnson is all he needs to be in this role. Is that a compliment? I think I mean it as one. I mean, it’s not like a movie like this is going to win anyone an Academy Award or anything.


The real star of this, though, is the albino gorilla (named George). Johnson’s character has helped raise George & taught him sign language but things all go to shit when a spaceship explodes with, like, science experiments that crash land in the Everglades and turn three creatures (including George) into enormous, raging monsters. The villains (those in charge of the experiments, including Malin Akerman) are cheesy as fuck but that’s the way villains should be in these sort of movies. Naomie Harris was good as the experiment expert (geneticist) who teams up with Johnson. Jeffrey Dean Morgan was mostly just distracting since he made me think about how much The Walking Dead sucks now. Who cares, though – this movie is all about the big monkey. George is cool. My kid loved him.

Rampage. It’s a monster movie. It’s cheesy but fun. It’s based on a video game that I know nothing about. Some have said it’s probably the best video game movie (as we know, they all suck major ass for some strange reason). No, it’s not a “good” movie but it’s fun & thoroughly entertaining. Yes, it’s probably now the best video game movie. There’s loads of action so, if you love watching monsters destroying big cities, you won’t be disappointed. It’s directed by the same guy who did San Andreas, which was a fun disaster movie but was also a truly bad film. Rampage has just as much destruction but it’s definitely a big improvement on San Andreas. And it’s cooler watching mutant monsters destroying cities than earthquakes. And there were no lovable big gorillas in San Andreas. Rampage is definitely the better film. I kind of want to give it a slightly higher rating…

My Rating: 6.5/10


Annihilation (2018) Review

Annihilation (2018)

Directed by Alex Garland

Based on Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Annihilation follows a group of military scientists who enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.

My Opinion:

I’m really glad this got rave reviews. I love a good sci-fi film. It’s great that there seems to have been a resurgence of hard sci-fi in the past few years with things such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, and Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina. However, I seem to be one of the very few who found Annihilation a bit of a disappointment.

I’m definitely a Garland fan. Besides Ex Machina, which I thought was absolutely brilliant, he wrote the screenplays for 28 Days Later…., Sunshine, and Dredd. I love all those, so maybe that’s why Annihilation was disappointing? That may be part of it but I think the biggest problem was that I read the book first (by Jeff VanderMeer) and I liked it a lot.

The movie follows the book quite closely to begin with but then goes off the rails. I do wonder how I’d feel if I’d not read the book? I’d probably have loved how utterly bizarre the film becomes at the end (I love weird shit). But you know what? The book is even more crazy. I really wanted to review the book as I enjoyed it so much but never did as I had no clue how to describe it. The novel perfectly conveyed this overall eerie feeling that stayed with me long after reading it. Unfortunately, my favorite parts (and the creepiest) were completely left out of the film. I can kind of understand why as it would’ve been hard to translate to film without it looking cheesy, but… Shit. I was so looking forward to seeing how those parts would be handled. In the book, there was a mysterious underground structure that seemed somehow linked to the lighthouse but was far more disturbing. The film kind of combined the two places a little bit but I still feel cheated.

Okay, I’ll try to focus on the positive now because I do still think this is a good sci-fi movie even though it doesn’t quite live up to the novel. I loved the look of this film and the gorgeous “Shimmer” they enter. The world inside The Shimmer looked as strange & beautful as how I’d imagined it. The ending involving the lighthouse was enjoyable even though it was completely different to what I was expecting. And, yes, I liked it being a group of women but this is the same as in the book anyway. To be honest, I’m giving less and less of a shit about who stars in a film as long as the story is good and the acting doesn’t totally suck.


The characters aren’t that well developed but I can’t complain as that’s the same in the book as well. We actually get far more backstory involving Portman’s hubby, played by Oscar Isaac, and the rest of the women than we did in the book. The book is truly only about its story, which was fine since it’s a strong one. Adding more to the characters for the film was a smart move as I think connecting with the characters is more necessary when it comes to film. I didn’t think any of the acting really stood out, though. Tessa Thompson was possibly the strongest but it’s not a huge role. I love Jennifer Jason Leigh but she’s not much different from usual in this. Sadly, I’d probably say the same of Portman. This was another thing a little disappointing as I thought the acting was so strong in Ex Machina (especially Vikander). I’m not saying anyone did a bad job, though. They’re all good actors but are just a bit MEH in this. And I found the final predictable scene in this a little too cheesy and “Hollywood” after watching this great bizarre story that can’t be easily explained.

So. I dunno. Maybe I should stop trying to read every single book before its film adaptation! My true love is film and I know this is a case where I definitely liked the film less than I would’ve if I hadn’t read the novel. However, it’s a damn good book so I’m still glad I read it and I highly recommend it to hard sci-fi fans. I guess I better read the rest of the Southern Reach Trilogy now (Annihilation is Book 1). I was waiting to see the film before continuing but now I wish I’d finished all three first. I can say I’m still an Alex Garland fan, though. I eagerly await his next project and hope he continues in this genre.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Black Panther (2018) Review

Black Panther (2018)

Directed by Ryan Coogler

Based on Black Panther by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary, in a conflict that has global consequences.

My Opinion:

I’ll keep this quick. As I say every time, I’m getting quite bored with superhero movies and even more bored with attempting to “review” them. They’re fun to watch & I do enjoy them but I’m not exactly deeply invested in these Marvel storylines. I usually ask the hubby to refresh my memory on characters & previous stories whenever we watch another Marvel film. They’re popcorn movies. I like the eye candy (THOR!) and the action. I’m afraid to say that, with Black Panther, I was thoroughly & very unexpectedly bored for the first half of the film. It does pick up but I really expected the movie to be better than it was. Maybe the hype hurt things. I usually try to avoid hype but it wasn’t easy this time.


Although I was disappointed with the movie itself, I can’t say the same of the characters. I thought they were very strong and I especially loved the three main female characters, who are given loads of screen time and quite frankly steal the show. Don’t get me wrong – Chadwick Boseman is great and Black Panther is a super cool character while Michael B. Jordan made a very good & complex villain but those women kicked ass. But as much as Lupita Nyong’o & especially Danai Gurira kicked ass, it was the wise-cracking little sister Letitia Wright that I most enjoyed. Her cheeky interactions with big brother Boseman were great and the Bond-like scene where she shows off all her fancy gadgets was the absolute best.


Then there was the lovely nation of Wakanda. I think the problem was that the movie took too long to finally let us fully see Wakanda, especially the super cool advanced technology. I found the first half of this movie extremely slow but, okay, I know I’m not a filmmaker and don’t know what could have been done better. All I know is that I was bored for at least an hour, which I can’t say of other Marvel films. Sorry! Wakanda was beautiful. The characters were great (other than Martin Freeman & Andy Serkis, who were written as fools and severely underdeveloped). I just didn’t care about the story. At all. I’m really happy that I liked the characters as this is actually the most important thing to me in films but I was still hoping for a better movie overall.

As I said, though, I don’t normally give too much of a shit about these Marvel storylines. Unfortunately, I think Black Panther has come at a time where I just really can’t get into these movies anymore. After the Guardians Of The Galaxy films (now easily my favorite superhero movies) & Thor: Ragnarok, I know that the more lighthearted & “funny” comic book movies are my thing. Those are definitely the ones for me. Give me Deadpool over Avengers: Infinity War. So I really am sorry for the slightly low rating I’m giving Black Panther. Maybe it doesn’t deserve it but I also believe it doesn’t deserve the massively high ratings I’ve seen. It has some very strong points but it was a disappointment for me personally, especially after the hype. It’s good. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s one of the better comic book movies but it’s not the best.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Gleaming The Cube (1989) Blind Spot Review

Gleaming The Cube (1989) (aka A Brother’s Justice and Skate Or Die)

Directed by Graeme Clifford

Starring: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Richard Herd, Le Tuan, Min Luong, Art Chudabala, Ed Lauter, Micole Mercurio, Peter Kwong, Max Perlich, Tony Hawk, Christian Jacobs, Buddy Joe Hooker

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Gleaming the Cube featured Christian Slater as Brian Kelly, a 16-year-old skateboarder investigating the death of his adopted Vietnamese brother.

My Opinion:

I’m getting this month’s Blind Spot review out of the way so I can focus on reviewing 2018 releases & Oscar nominees in these two weeks before the Oscars. So, yeah – I’m reviewing an old Christian Slater movie before things like The Shape Of Water & Black Panther, both of which I saw last week. I really liked one of those. But I’ll get to them later…

These are the 2018 Blind Spot films I’ve watched so far, from least favorite to favorite:

4. Atonement
3. Gleaming The Cube
2. The French Connection
1. Citizen Kane

I honestly don’t have much to say about Gleaming The Cube. It’s quite dated, as I’d expected. I put it on my Blind Spot list since I’m an 80s/early 90s teen and I adored Christian Slater at that time but, for whatever reason, I never saw this film. As far as “skater boy” movies go, I’m sure it’s far from the best. The only other one I can think of that I’ve actually seen is Lords Of Dogtown (that was better). But I had fun with the sheer 80s cheesetasticness of this. Tony Hawk has a small part in this as one of Slater’s group of skater friends. There were loads of other skateboarders in the film (I’ve only heard of Hawk). Here’s the list from Wikipedia if you’re interested:

“The skating technical advisor for the film was original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta. Among the skateboarders who appear in the film as stunt skaters are Mike McGill, “Gator” Mark Rogowski, Rodney Mullen, Rich Dunlop, Eric Dressen, Lance Mountain, Mike Vallely, Chris Black, Ted Ehr, Natas Kaupas, Chris Borst, and Steve Saiz. Tony Hawk (Buddy) and Tommy Guerrero (Sam), then members of the Bones Brigade, appear in the film as members of Brian’s skate crew. Future lead singer of The Aquabats and creator of Yo Gabba Gabba!, Christian Jacobs, also appears in the film as Gremic.”

I love Yo Gabba Gabba! Okay, I’ll steal the “definition” of Gleaming The Cube from Wikipedia as well:

“The title of the film refers to the cryptic question “Have you ever gleemed [sic] inside a cube?” that Garry Scott Davis (GSD) asked Neil Blender in an interview in the December 1983 issue of Thrasher magazine. In the film, Christian Slater’s character defines “gleaming the cube” as “pushing your limits to the edge.””

The film follows Slater trying to find out the truth about his brother’s death, which was made to look like a suicide. In typical 80s fashion, this teen investigating what ends up being a smuggling crime ring isn’t exactly realistic and of course ends with a silly but fun chase scene involving skateboards and his group of skater friends. But it’s an enjoyable film and I’ve seen far cheesier. Definitely worth watching if you like Slater & movies of that era. I know I’d have really liked this if I’d seen it in 1989.

I’ll quickly add that there are some other likable characters in this besides Slater & the skaters (hey, that rhymes). The murdered brother, the brother’s ex-girlfriend (who Slater teams up with following the murder), and the cool detective who originally finds Slater & his friends a nuisance but who later predictably comes to Slater’s aid in his investigation. He was cool. He was in Scarface and then loads of other stuff but I think Scarface was one of his only really big roles. Here he is (Steven Bauer):

I know that Gleaming The Cube is no Citizen Kane but I like to fill my Blind Spot list with some of those “Why did I never see this movie that looks like my sort of thing?” films as well as worthy classics. It was worth finally watching this. It’s certainly not in the same league as Slater films such as Heathers or Pump Up The Volume, of course. It’s more along the lines of The Legend Of Billie Jean (but not as good as that – Billie Jean kicks ass)! I’ve added it to My Top Ten Christian Slater Movies list (it does make the Top Ten). Okay, I gotta go so I’m keeping this review short. I have stuff to do. I’m gonna go gleam that cube!

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Frame, The Fits & Before I Fall Movie Reviews

Here are three quickie reviews for three more movies before I post my 2017 end-of-year lists. Two are 2017 (UK release) films & I try to review all current movies by the end of the year. The other one is just one that I really really liked. Here we go…

The Fits (2015)

Directed by Anna Rose Holmer

Starring: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da’Sean Minor, Lauren Gibson, Makyla Burnam, Inayah Rodgers, Antonio A. B. Grant Jr.

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of Toni (Royalty Hightower), an 11-year-old tomboy who struggles to fit into a girls’ dance troupe, which begins to suffer from an inexplicable epidemic of violent fits.

My Opinion:

This film is a hard one to explain. It’s indie as f*^k and I’d never ever recommend it to anyone other than hardcore film fans (like you guys!). Yeah, it’s one of those festival films so it’s 2015 but was only released in the UK this year. It’s good. It’s “arty”. Royalty Hightower, who plays the “11-year-old tomboy”, is the best thing about it. From what I read, a real life dance team was found for this film and Hightower was one of them. She feels very real, probably due to the fact that she wasn’t an actor. I think, with young people in films, it’s sometimes better when they aren’t from an acting background as actors can come across as too fake.

I watched this because I was intrigued by the synopsis (and also because I was short on time & it’s only 1 hour & 12 minutes!). I read this at Wikipedia, which explains where director & writer Anna Rose Holmer got the idea for the film:

“While developing the script, Holmer was inspired by real-life stories of communities succumbing to fits of hysteria. She first became interested in historic cases of mass psychogenic illness and conversion disorder while producing Ballet 422 (2014). Examples of outbreaks of seizure-like attacks and uncontrollable spasms date back to the Middle Ages, but there are still cases of this occurring today. In 2007, a group of high school girls in Virginia suffered from “twitching arms and legs” that eventually resolved itself. Holmer’s research into this subject, specifically cases like the Dancing Plague, and the pattern of these fits emerging amongst young women inspired her to explore the nature of this subject in a coming of age dance-film.”

Bizarre. I’ve never heard of this sort of thing. Anyway, if you watch this, don’t expect a straightforward exploration of this topic. Or any exploration whatsoever. The film is quite atmospheric, which is something I enjoy but won’t be to everyone’s taste. This probably isn’t a great comparison but this film reminded me a little bit of the feeling I had while watching Picnic At Hanging RockPicnic is certainly the better film but I liked the mysterious tension throughout The Fits. It deserves a higher rating than I’m giving it but I have to say this is one of those movies that you’re unlikely to watch more than once and a lot of people would find it very slow & be frustrated by its lack of explanation. It’s very well made and I loved its originality, however, and I liked how “real” the characters felt. I’d be interested in seeing more films made by Anna Rose Holmer. 

My Rating: 6.5/10

Before I Fall (2017)

Directed by Ry Russo-Young

Based on Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Starring: Zoey Deutch, Halston Sage, Logan Miller, Kian Lawley, Jennifer Beals, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
February 12 is just another day in Sam’s charmed life, until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over and over, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she’s losing.

My Opinion:

Teen movie based on a YA novel! Once again, I’ll admit to still enjoying teen movies & YA fiction. Us adults were teens once – we can still relate! I was actually going to read this book before the movie but gave up after having it on reserve at the library for ages. Yeah, the library! I’m a library nerd. I realized fairly recently that, like, you can read books from there for free. 😉

Anyway. This is Groundhog Day with the twist being that this pretty teenage girl has to relive the last day of her life over & over again. She tries to make changes each time to see if she can stop the cycle, which always results in her death at the end of the day. Zoey Deutch plays the main girl. She’s so adorable. She looks soooo much like her mom Lea Thompson!

I really enjoyed this movie. It certainly won’t be winning any Oscars and the plot felt far from original but I love the “Groundhog Day story” that has been done so many times (I badly wanted to see Happy Death Day this year as well but didn’t manage it). It’s always fun to see the different ways this storyline can play out. I’m not sure why this didn’t come out in cinemas in the UK like it was originally meant to as it’s better than half the shit that gets a cinema release.

I can’t give this a higher rating as I have to admit that, while it’s fun & I liked it far more than I was expecting, it still felt quite shallow. The whole point is that Deutch’s popular character starts to see what life is like for those in her high school who don’t have it as easy as she does. Her boyfriend and her circle of friends are the popular assholes that most of us despised in school. Deutch is the “nice one” of the group anyway so it feels unfair that she’s the one with this fate. The story also feels a bit too forced and the characters are extremely one-dimensional. Other than Deutch, everyone is a “popular asshole!” or “unhappy & uncool nerd!”. Teenagers are more complex than that. Still, I liked this movie. Deutch has her mother’s charm. Also, this movie has a Grimes song in it (Genesis)! I love Grimes (I wrote about her HERE). I’ve included the video for Genesis at the end of this post.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Frame (2014)

Directed & Written & Music by Jamin Winans

Starring: David Carranza, Tiffany Mualem, Cal Bartlett, Christopher Soren Kelly, Anthony Nuccio

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two strangers find their lives colliding in an impossible way. Alex is a methodical cargo thief working for a dangerous cartel. Sam is a determined paramedic trying to save the world while running from her past.

My Opinion:

I loved this movie. One of my favorite blogs here is mossfilm because he’s introduced me to a lot of great obscure sci-fi movies that I otherwise wouldn’t have heard of. The Frame is one of these films. I’m not going to say a lot about it as his review is PERFECT (you can read it HERE). This is my favorite genre and I love when we get a film like The Frame, which feels truly fresh & original. It’s a bit arty smarty-pants but I loved the story and the fantastic visuals.

I don’t know how to discuss this one without giving too much away. The mossfilm review does say a bit about the plot if you’re interested. I think, if you love this genre and like to see a story which will surprise you & keep you guessing, you may be best going into this one knowing as little as possible. I’ll say that it tackles some interesting themes (like faith & fate) and I think it’s one from which different viewers will come away with different questions and feelings about it. For me, I saw it as a very unique love story and I thought the two main characters were fantastic (Alex the cargo thief played by David Carranza and Sam the paramedic played by Tiffany Mualem). Others will see it as something far deeper than the simple love story at its core (and it is) but, more than anything, the story itself is damn good. I watch a lot of movies so I get bored seeing the same predictable stories over & over again. I want more stuff like The Frame. I’ll never forget watching it, whereas I forget half the mainstream movies that I watch a year or so after seeing them.

I so want to talk more about this movie but I’m trying to avoid spoilers! Can someone else please watch it so we can discuss it?? 😉 The Frame is currently available on Amazon Prime Video in the UK & I highly recommend checking it out before it disappears since it’s an obscure one that could later be hard to find. Here’s a spoiler-free way of describing it: The Frame is like a really good long episode of Black Mirror. But more arty. And what I’ve seen of Black Mirror so far is great. Watch The Frame.

My Rating: 8/10

There are a couple of trailers for The Frame. One gives away too much of the story so I don’t recommend that one. The one below shows only images from the film. Still, I recommend knowing nothing beforehand but this is the safer trailer if you’re interested:

And this is the video for the Grimes song Genesis in Before I Fall. It’s weird. I love it.

Ace In The Hole (1951) Review

Happy 101st Birthday (tomorrow) to Kirk Douglas! Last year, I reviewed his film The Fury for his 100th birthday & said that I really should review Spartacus for birthday 101. And I’ve totally not watched it yet again! Maybe for birthday 102. 🙂

Instead, I noticed this obscure Billy Wilder film showing on TV & was intrigued by its synopsis. Here’s my review of the Kirk Douglas film Ace In The Hole

Ace In The Hole (1951) (aka The Big Carnival)

Directed by Billy Wilder

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Ace in the Hole (aka The Big Carnival) is a 1951 American film noir starring Kirk Douglas as a cynical, disgraced reporter who stops at nothing to try to regain a job on a major newspaper.

My Opinion:

I’ve now seen more Billy Wilder films than I realized. He has an impressive resume (CV to the British)! Let’s see what I’ve seen… The Apartment (my favorite), Witness For The Prosecution, Sunset Boulevard, Double Idemnity, and Some Like It Hot (I just watched this over the weekend & thoroughly enjoyed it). So I really liked the sound of Ace In The Hole and was happy to watch it as I’ve been impressed with Wilder’s cleverly written & entertaining films so far.

I’d say that this movie certainly has his fantastic writing style and its themes make it feel far ahead of its time and just as relevant nowadays (maybe even more so now). But I can see why it’s not as well known as the others I’ve just listed. No, I lie – I can’t explain why it’s not as good as the others. It’s just not as memorable. The writing is just as clever but, compared to those others, it’s lacking the truly iconic imagery & quotable lines that I instantly think of from all of Wilder’s other movies.

It’s a good story, however. It’s very dark and shows the lengths the media will go to in order to sell newspapers. The medium may be different nowadays but things haven’t changed at all. I suppose the only difference is that nowadays we have people happily willing to exploit themselves thanks to the Internet. In Ace In The Hole, Kirk Douglas plays a shady reporter who happens upon a story involving a man who has become trapped in a collapsed cave. In order to prolong the story, Douglas helps convince those involved in the rescue effort to use a method that will take much longer to free the man. I won’t say much beyond that to avoid spoilers but the whole thing becomes a big story and lots of people travel to the site of this cave-in, which becomes a big spectacle (the movie was also known as The Big Carnival as they literally turn the place into a carnival while the man remains trapped).

Overall, Ace In The Hole isn’t Wilder’s best film but it’s worth watching if you’re a fan of his work. It’s much darker & more cynical than a lot of his other films, which seems to be a big reason why the film wasn’t that well received at the time. I liked it as I always enjoy films that show humanity in its worst (true) light. Douglas does well as the cocky reporter and I think he took his shirt off at least once if I remember correctly (seriously – that guy is always half naked in his movies. What’s up with that??). It probably deserves a slightly higher rating and it’s a well written film but it’s a bit disappointing compared to Wilder’s most famous movies.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Before I Wake (2016) Review

Last year for my month of horror in October, I reviewed three Mike Flanagan movies: Oculus, Absentia & Hush. This year I’m reviewing three more: Gerald’s Game (reviewed Tuesday), Before I Wake and Ouija: Origin Of Evil (reviewed yesterday). Let’s see how Before I Wake compares to the rest of his films…

Before I Wake (2016)

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Written by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard

Starring: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok

Music by Danny Elfman & The Newton Brothers

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young couple adopt an orphaned child whose dreams – and nightmares – manifest physically as he sleeps.

My Opinion:

I actually quite liked this movie, although I can’t exactly say it’s “good”. In my review of Ouija: Origin Of Evil yesterday, I complained about how that was just another predictable supernatural film. Before I Wake is again more of the same but the overall story and some of the imagery made it feel a little more unique than Ouija. I enjoyed the story & the characters enough to overlook its flaws.

I watched this for two reasons: Mike Flanagan as well as Jacob Tremblay, who I thought was fantastic in Room. Tremblay gave one of the best child performances ever in that movie so I was curious what he’d be like in something else, especially a horror that’s not exactly “Oscar-worthy” like Room. Yeah…. He’s fine in this movie but it’s a role any child actor could’ve done. It’s a shame it was a bit of a waste to use him in this but I suppose his name is big enough now to help sell an unknown film such as this one. I’m curious to see how his film Wonder will turn out. Hopefully it will be a better role for him but I suppose no role will ever live up to the Room role.

Oh, look! Thomas Jane is in this! I’ve come full circle in my Stephen King/Mike Flanagan Week since Jane was in King’s 1922. I like Jane & he was fine as the adoptive father. However – it was the mother, Kate Bosworth, who had the bigger role. She was good (as far as acting in basic supernatural horrors goes). I’ve always liked her fine so it’s good to see her in something as it feels like she’s sort of disappeared. Small spoiler but not really as it’s at the start of the film: Jane & Bosworth are adopting Tremblay after the tragic death of their own son. I often avoid movies involving the loss of the child as I find that subject matter too upsetting but I think Jane & especially Bosworth did very well in conveying their grief. It may be why I liked this movie quite a bit more than Ouija even though I’m giving it a similar rating: I just really felt for the parents in this and for Tremblay & the revelation regarding his nightmarish “gift” of having his dreams come to life.

As to be predicted, his dreams are at first nice ones that bring beautiful things, such as a room full of colorful butterflies, to life. I liked these scenes a lot – it was great imagery for a horror movie. I can’t find images of the butterflies online for some reason. Anyway, as also to be predicted, the dreams soon turn to nightmares and the manifestation of a scary spirit of some sort. Yeah, I know: We’ve seen this sort of thing in loads of movies.

The movie then goes the way of most supernatural horrors: the end is a little messy and you’ll either like it or you won’t. I personally liked the direction the story went & how they chose to end this one. I’ll say the “revelation” was one that I hadn’t immediately predicted so it gets bonus points from me for that. Yes, I enjoyed Before I Wake but, as most films in this genre, the story will be one that either does or doesn’t work for you. It worked for me.

My Rating: 6.5/10

My Mike Flanagan Movie Ranking (from least favorite to favorite):

6. Oculus
5. Ouija: Origin Of Evil
4. Before I Wake
3. Hush
2. Absentia
1. Gerald’s Game

The Watcher In The Woods (1980) Review

The Watcher In The Woods (1980)

Directed by John Hough & Vincent McEveety (uncredited)

Based on A Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall

Starring: Bette Davis, Carroll Baker, David McCallum, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Kyle Richards

Production company: Walt Disney Productions

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of a teenage girl and her little sister who become encompassed in a supernatural mystery regarding a missing girl in the woods surrounding their new home in the English countryside.

My Opinion:

This is a Disney horror movie! Yep, you read that right! I can’t believe I didn’t know of this film’s existence. Well, I had heard of it and liked the sound of it so recorded it when it popped up on TV several months ago but I don’t think I ever realized it was a Disney film. Okay, it’s not like it’s a Saw film or something. This is “horror-light”. Think: R.L. Stine Goosebumps-level horror. It’s a fun film and I think, being a lover of things like the original The Twilight Zone from a very young age, I’d have loved this movie if I’d seen it as a kid.

This movie is from 1980 and I’m not gonna lie – it’s very 1980 so it’s unlikely that a younger generation would necessarily be able to tolerate its look & pace. Being a child of the 80s, I obviously have no issue with something that hasn’t aged that well. I’ve only JUST noticed when looking this movie up at IMDb for this review that a new version starring Anjelica Huston has been made! It has a US release date of tomorrow (21st of October 2017) & looks like it’s a TV movie. How can I see this in the UK?! I wanna watch it with my kid. But she doesn’t like scary stuff AT ALL. She doesn’t take after her mommy!

I enjoyed the supernatural story in this, even though it was a little cheesy at the end. But, hey – it’s for kids! Well, maybe more for teenagers at the time but nowadays it would be fine for pre-teens. As I said, I’d have loved this as a kid so I can’t really criticize it as I think it’s perfectly fine for its target audience at the time it was made. Bette Davis, as the lonely & mysterious lady who owns the English countryside house that an American family moves into, is the one big name in this and helps to give the film some credibility. There’s a mystery surrounding her daughter, who disappeared 30 years earlier. The two girls who’ve just moved into the house, a teenager & her young sister, try to solve the mystery.

For those of you who didn’t grow up on 70s & 80s movies, you may not be a used to the, um, acting style of kids & teenagers back then. They weren’t like Jacob Tremblay in Room (I love that movie). The acting from the two daughters in this, especially the teenager, is dodgy as hell. I’m not saying that’s their fault, though, as this was common in a lot of movies at the time. I think writers & directors just seriously didn’t know how to make young characters feel genuine back then. Come to think of it, Steven Spielberg probably deserves some credit for paving the way for believable kids in movies thanks to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The teenager in this, Lynn-Holly Johnson, was in a figure skating romance movie called Ice Castles (1978) with Robby Benson. Oh, I wanna see that! Looks like my type of thing. And the younger sister, Kyle Richards, was in Halloween but I mostly remember her as Alicia on Little House On The Prairie (that show rules and is another love of mine that I’ve been unable to get my kid to show any interest in). 😉

If you watch this movie bearing in mind the time it was made, you might get some enjoyment out of the story. I did, but I love a fun supernatural mystery. There’s also some good imagery that I’m sure stuck with kids who saw this at the time. This will be one of those movies that people my age would say “that movie scared the crap out of me as a kid!” and then, if they rewatched it now, they’d realize how tame it is. I liked it. I think Disney should’ve made more movies in this genre! But, having a horror movie with the “Disney” name attached to it, I can also see why that didn’t end up working.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Oh! I found the trailer for the 2017 movie! It’s a Lifetime movie. Bwahaha! I remember those from the days I lived in America! Not gonna lie – I loved some Lifetime movies. 😉 And it’s been directed by Melissa Joan Hart?! Whaaat? Clarissa? Sabrina? She’s a director? When did that happen? I’m so old. I seriously want to see this (it looks scarier than the 1980 film):

And the 1980 trailer for comparison:

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016) & The Girl On The Train (2016) Reviews

Two quick reviews of two film adaptations of two books I read. My reviews of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs can be found HERE & The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins HERE. Okay, one is a thriller but the other is close enough to being a “horror” so I’m doing these for October Horror Month. Let’s see what I thought of the movies…

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

Directed by Tim Burton

Screenplay by Jane Goldman

Based on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

My Opinion:

When I was in the middle of reading this book years ago, I said to the hubby “Tim Burton needs to make this into a movie”. Imagine my surprise when Hollywood did something right for a change! He was the absolute perfect choice to adapt this book & he did a very good job with it. The problem is that 1) I didn’t exactly love the book, although I loved the “gimmick” of the old photographs that were used throughout it and 2) Tim Burton hasn’t made anything truly fantastic in years, which still breaks my heart as I absolutely adored his oldest films. I’d say this was somewhat a return to form for Burton but, as I said, I didn’t love the source material so was unlikely to love the movie.

From what I remember of the book, it seems a faithful adaptation until the end. But I didn’t care enough to continue reading the books so it’s possible the movie continues a bit into the next book for all I know? I wouldn’t say it renewed my interest enough to read the remaining books but I’d certainly watch a sequel if Burton makes one. The performances were pretty strong and, like Burton being the perfect choice for director, I think Eva Green was a perfect choice for playing Miss Peregrine. The child actors also all did a good job (I think Burton always does well in casting his films), with the lead young roles (played by Asa Butterfield & Ella Purnell) as the standouts. Terence Stamp & especially Judi Dench weren’t given much to do, which was a shame. And I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as always (who doesn’t love Sam Jackson?!) but he’s phoning it in a bit with this baddie role. Sorry, Mr. Jackson! I apologize a trillion times!


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a good adaptation of a bizarre book thanks to its also bizarre director. And I liked the look & vibe of it, as I always do with Burton’s style. I wish I liked both the book and the film more than I do, though. I like “weird” so can’t really put my finger on why the story didn’t quite work for me. With the book, I think I just couldn’t connect with the characters. To be fair, I think Burton improved on this with the film and I’d say this is one of those cases where the movie might be slightly better than the book. It also helped that it got a proper ending, as opposed to the open-ended cliffhanger that just left me frustrated with the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Girl On The Train (2016)

Directed by Tate Taylor

Based on The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez, Lisa Kudrow

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

My Opinion:

I thought this book, although fun in a pulp-y sort of way, was pretty horrible. This was mainly because the characters were all truly hateful. The story itself was okay and I found it a very quick read as I wanted to get to the resolution of its mystery but, wow, I didn’t give the slightest crap what would happen to any of the characters. Not even ONE likable person? Really?? I’ll never understand stories that choose to make us despise everyone in them. And the thing with the baby upset me too much (and kind of pissed me off).

Well, the movie is a faithful adaptation, so… What can I say? I didn’t like the book so I wasn’t going to like a faithful adaptation anyway. The fact that is stars Emily Blunt, who is kind of a girl crush of mine, is what made me even bother to stick this on one evening & half pay attention to it. Meh. I don’t know. I just didn’t care. The actors did what they could with the material but the material was weak. Hold on a second – in this double review, Danny Elfman did the music for this movie but not the Tim Burton movie?! Now that’s bizarre.

My Rating: 5/10

Pontypool (2008) Review

Pontypool (2008)

Directed by Bruce McDonald

Based on Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess

Starring: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, Hrant Alianak, Rick Roberts, Boyd Banks, Tony Burgess, Rachel Burns

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A radio host interprets the possible outbreak of a deadly virus which infects the small Ontario town.

My Opinion:

This film was quite unusual. I love that! With all the lame & predictable horror movies that keep getting made, it’s great when we actually get something with a concept as original as in Pontypool. The plot synopsis above doesn’t tell you much so I’ll add a bit more, which is kind of spoiler-y but tells you that this is a “zombie-like-virus outbreak” film with a unique twist. So don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you like knowing nothing whatsoever but knowing this is what made me want to see the film: the virus in this film is spread through language. Certain words cause certain people to become infected. Therefore, setting this movie within a talk radio station with a former “shock jock” radio DJ being the only one who can try to somehow get messages to listeners without infecting them was a brilliant idea. I already loved the overall idea behind this film before even watching it.

The execution of the story is a little strange, though, and I can’t say I fully connected with the characters. Only three characters really matter, played by Stephen McHattie (as DJ Grant Mazzy), Lisa Houle (as station manager Sydney Briar) & Georgina Reilly (as technical assistant Laurel-Ann). Oh, and we do get to hear from “helicopter reporter Ken” throughout the film but don’t get to really know anything about him. We get a few backstory tidbits about our three main characters at the station and I really liked the chemistry between the DJ & station manager but, for the film to have truly connected with me, I’d like to have cared more about the fate of these people. Even Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead remake managed more character development with way more than three characters. Hell, I’m still upset about poor Andy at the gun store across the street from the mall in Dawn Of The Dead and we only hear him on a walkie talkie! So I think it is possible to make a zombie or zombie-like-virus movie with strong characters.


Also, I felt the telling of the story in Pontypool was a little messy. I suppose you could argue that that’s partly the point as the film should be showing us the importance of language and how we use it to communicate and how lost we’d be without it. Without proper communication, there’d be a lot of confusion. Unfortunately, I don’t think the story ever really delivers on its fantastic concept. There’s a lot to think about here! Imagine trying to communicate without using language that may potentially be deadly. It’s a very clever idea I’d like to see explored further. I see this has been adapted from a book (Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess), so I wonder if the book delves any deeper.

I want to give this movie a higher rating as I loved the idea behind it so much and I did quite like it but, sadly, I can’t say it really lived up to its potential. It seems very low budget (I don’t know if that’s the case) but that works well with this film and gives it a good atmosphere in the confined space of the radio station. There’s also some dark humor throughout it that will work for some people and not for others. I always love dark humor so would like to have seen much more of it. I don’t think it comes across properly and feels like a much more straightforward horror story than I think was intended. Finally, there’s a confusing extra scene after the credits that was originally meant to be the final scene of the film. I think it’s good that it was moved to after the credits as it would have been a little jarring as the actual end of the film. All in all, however, I have far more respect for a film like this that tries to be different than I do for the countless cliché horror movies (like The Forest, which I trashed HERE yesterday). Pontypool may not have fully worked for me overall but I can see some people really loving it & I’d be happy to watch it again with a friend if I had cool friends who watched movies with me. But I have no friends. Which is fine as it means I’m far less likely to be infected by a conversational virus!

My Rating: 6.5/10

Monster Hunter (2014), Lifeforce (1985) & The Forest (2016) Reviews

Three quickie reviews of two dreadful movies & one that was decent…

Monster Hunter (2014) (aka US Title: Dark Was The Night)

Directed by Jack Heller

Starring: Kevin Durand, Lukas Haas, Bianca Kajlich

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An evil is unleashed in a small town when a logging company sets up shop in the neighboring woods.

My Opinion:

This is the movie that was decent. It’s now almost a year ago that I watched all three of these films so that’s why I’m doing quickie reviews as I can’t say they were all that memorable. I remember this one the most, though. The look of the creature was done well and there was some decent acting, which is more than can be said for a lot of mainstream horrors that have bigger budgets.


Little Lukas Haas is in this. Aww. Remember him? It’s so weird that I still think of him as a little kid like when he first started out in movies such as Witness, which is stupid as he’s actually the same age as me. He plays a New York City cop who is now deputy to the sheriff (Kevin Durand) in a small town logging community. I liked the characters and thought Kevin Durand did well as a father grieving the accidental death of one of his sons. Decent characters in a horror movie! Yay!

There’s nothing in this movie that’s exactly groundbreaking. The story is fairly predictable and the characters behave as you’d expect in this sort of genre. However, I found the film enjoyable and really liked the “isolated small town” atmosphere, which is a setting I’ve often gone for in horror films (maybe being from a tiny isolated town myself). The onset of winter also added to the isolated feel, which is another horror cliché that I really like. I’m okay with some horror clichés as long as a decent film comes out of it and I’d say that this movie is quite good for one that doesn’t seem to have any big names attached to it or to be that well known (I’d only heard of it thanks to this good review at Vic’s Movie Den).

If you’re a fan of “creature” movies and not too picky, this is one I’d definitely recommend. It’s a very straightforward but fun monster movie that isn’t too silly or too serious. I’ll end with this bit from Wikipedia if you’re interested in checking the film out:

“The film is loosely based on the real-life events that unfolded in Topsham, England in 1855, known as The Devil’s Footprints. The small town woke to find freshly fallen snow and biped hoof prints tracing the landscape. Dark Was the Night is said to tell the story of a present-day community’s reaction to a similar event.”

My Rating: 6.5/10

Lifeforce (1985)

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon & Don Jakoby

Based on The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson

Starring: Steve Railsback, Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, Mathilda May, Patrick Stewart

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film portrays the events that unfold after a trio of humanoids in a state of suspended animation are brought to Earth after being discovered in the hold of an alien space ship by the crew of a European space shuttle.

My Opinion:

Ugh!!! This movie was so bad. Why does it have a decent IMDb rating of 6.1 out of 10?! Oh. That’s right. It’s because the woman is fully nude for, like, 90% of the movie….

I was kind of excited about this one. Directed by Tobe Hooper (RIP), who did do a lot of dodgy stuff but also did the awesome Poltergeist & Salem’s Lot. Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon (also RIP), who wrote things like The Return Of The Living Dead & a decent little thing called ALIEN(!!!). And, of course, Patrick Stewart was in this and I love Patrick Stewart. Sounds like a recipe for success to me! Ugh. Hell no. And Stewart was terrible.

I can’t be bothered. This movie sucked. I’m sure it has its fans but I do wonder if they’re all male. Feel free to speak up if you’re a fan! I promise I won’t be rude. I’m genuinely curious to know what it is that people like about this movie. To be fair, I may not have been in the right mood since I wasn’t feeling well when I watched this. I watched it in bed on a small iPad while lying on my side, giving me a backache. My backache and the movie’s full frontal nudity are all that I really remember now.

My Rating: 3/10

The Forest (2016)

Directed by Jason Zada

Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Eoin Macken

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Forest follows a young woman who travels to Aokigahara (the suicide forest) to find her sister.

My Opinion:

Crap. Seriously. Surely Game Of Thrones star Natalie Dormer can be in movies better than this boring & cliché horror tripe. I mean, she got to make out with Chris Hemsworth in the surprisingly good Rush. Hot DAMN he was hot in that. How can you go from that to starring in this???

Where’s a movie starring Chris Hemsworth fully nude for 90% of the movie like Mathilda May in Lifeforce? Hmm???? Equal rights, dammit! Anyway. Where was I? Oh yeah. The Forest. Um. I don’t remember this one AT ALL. I watched it almost a year ago. Natalie Dormer goes into a creepy forest to find her possibly suicidal twin sister, who went missing there. Weird shit happens. There’s a potential love interest. It doesn’t end well if I remember correctly (as to be expected from this predictable sort of supernatural type of horror). How stuff like this gets a major mainstream release in loads of cinemas is beyond me. Unless you’re absolutely in love with Dormer, don’t bother with this one unless you’ve never watched another horror film in your entire life. If you have, you’ve seen this all before.

My Rating: 3/10

**Here’s my review of a (comedy) horror that I actually did enjoy, which makes fun of horror movie clichés: The Final Girls (2015). I had problems scheduling it last week & don’t think it posted correctly. I do like horror movies sometimes! There are just way too many bad ones.

The Witch (2015) Review

The Witch (2015)
(stylized as The VVitch, subtitled A New-England Folktale)

Directed & Written by Robert Eggers

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Witch follows a Puritan family encountering forces of evil in the woods beyond their New England farm.

My Opinion:

I’d really been looking forward to this after it got some great reviews, which is rare for a horror movie. I’ve been very disappointed with the horror genre these last 20 years or so. It’s so rare to get a good one anymore. However, there’s been an increase in good horror films the past few years (I especially loved The Babadook & It Follows). I did a list last October of My Top Ten Horror Movies Of The 21st Century and was disappointed I’d not yet seen The Witch as it sounded like another good modern horror that may actually make my list. I’m sad to say that, while I think it’s an okay film, I can’t say I loved it & I certainly don’t need to add it to that Top Ten list.

I can see why it has its fans. There’s a good atmosphere & I did like the genuine oldy worldy feel of witches & satanic goats & all that good devil stuff. When it comes to horror subgenres, I love a good devil movie! The Omen is a favorite. What a classic. And I guess I can again plug one of my favorite top ten lists – My Top Ten Devil & Hell Songs. Clearly, witches and demons make for great movie & music material. Therefore, I suppose it didn’t help that I had such high expectations for this movie…

Anya Taylor-Joy does a good job as Thomasin, a girl whose deeply religious 17th century Puritan family go a bit crazy when mysterious happenings occur. Her mother (Kate Dickie, who was Lysa Arryn in Game Of Thrones) is a nutjob once again engaging in some breastfeeding weirdness. She’s a bit like Carrie’s mother in Carrie but unfortunately not nearly as entertaining as the wonderful Piper Laurie in that. When bad things start happening, such as the disappearance of her newborn, she blames Thomasin for everything. There’s lots of praying & religious hysteria & I really wanted poor Thomasin to be able to get away from all that shit. Luckily, her father does have some sense and tries to protect her a little bit. Except for Thomasin & her father, it was hard to really care about what would happen to anyone.

The Witch is a good old-fashioned atmospheric horror movie that relies on a slow build-up of terror instead of jump scares and/or lots of gore. It’s my type of horror but just didn’t quite work for me. Overall, I was a bit bored but can see why some people really liked it.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Altered States (1980) Blind Spot Review

Altered States (1980)

Directed by Ken Russell

Starring: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid, Drew Barrymore

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Altered States is a 1980 American science-fiction horror film directed by Ken Russell and adapted from a novel by the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. The film was adapted from Chayefsky’s only novel and is his final screenplay. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly’s sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine and LSD.

My Opinion:

Here’s a list of the Blind Spot films I’ve watched this year from my least favorite to my favorite (I’ve finished watching them all! Just need to review the rest):

12. The Last Temptation Of Christ
11. Altered States
10. The Raid
9. House (Hausu 1977)
8. The King & I
7. The Hustler
6. Jackie Brown
5. Ghost In The Shell
4. Wolf Children
3. Watership Down
2. The Untouchables
1. Rocky

As with a lot of my Blind Spot picks, Altered States was put on the list as I’ve been meaning to see it for years. I’d heard it described as a “Body Horror” film and I have a strange fascination with those (I did a list of My Top Ten Body Horror Movies HERE). I’d say I liked it okay but it didn’t really live up to my expectations. And it’s certainly not a David Cronenberg-style body horror, which is the kind of thing I go for. It IS pretty bizarre, though, so I appreciated that. But I became a bit bored with it overall. Oh well – I still found it far more entertaining than this year’s Blind Spot choice of The Last Temptation Of Christ.


**Yeah, this photo is from Altered States – not The Last Temptation Of Christ…

I didn’t know beforehand that this movie is (I’m assuming rather loosely) based on John C. Lilly’s real-life isolation tank experiments (as in the plot synopsis up there). So I then looked up John C. Lilly (here on Wikipedia) as I admit I’d never heard of him & read a little about his research. Whoa – talk about an interesting life! Man I’m boring. And those 60’s drugs sound crazy, man. His isolation tank experiments seem less bizarre than some of the many other things he researched, such as dolphin communication and what he called “Solid State Intelligence” and “Earth Coincidence Control Office (E.C.C.O.)”. Whaaat? I can’t even explain those – just read the Wikipedia entry. Has anyone read his work? I think I’d be confused as hell. But I doubt he ever actually “devolved” into some kind of apelike creature like William Hurt did in this movie (Sorry – Spoiler??). I’m sure this movie was pretty “out-there” in 1980 but parts of it are very silly when watching it now for the first time.

Sorry – this is going to be a short review. I honestly don’t know how to go about discussing this one. I think the science behind it all was just way too far over my head. Or maybe it would help to watch this while using mescaline, ketamine and LSD to better understand Hurt’s experiences while drugged-up & suspended in the isolation tank??? I have to say I’ve always wanted to try those float therapy places where you float in water in a dark tank for an hour or whatever. I think I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to turn into this:

Or this:

But I wouldn’t mind looking like this:

The naked lady is actress Blair Brown, who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything else. Well, apparently she was in Dogville but I can’t say I remember her character. Anyway, she plays William Hurt’s wife in this & I thought she was really good. I felt sorry for her character having to put up with all of Hurt’s weird, rambling, intellectual mumbo jumbo. He treated her pretty crap and I kept forgetting they had kids together as his family took a backseat to his research. Hell – one of their kids was even played by Drew Barrymore & I somehow managed to totally miss that since they were barely a part of the film. I love Drew! Oh, Altered States doesn’t manage to make it onto My Top Ten Drew Barrymore Movies list I did ages ago, so… Good! I won’t have to update that list. Hurt did well with the role – it’s just such a hard character to relate to in any way.

I probably sound more negative about this film than I actually feel. I think it’s worth watching as it’s quite unique and I did enjoy some of the imagery, such as in these last few photos I’ve put in this post. I wish there’d been more of that but we also had simian Hurt running around with his monkey balls out & crucified, multi-eyed, Jesus-goat-thingy Hurt and it was hard to take the movie too seriously as these specific effects haven’t aged as well as the more psychedelic scenes have. I’m glad I finally saw Altered States and another Ken Russell film other than Tommy. I prefer Tommy, but that’ll mainly be because of the music.

My Rating: 6.5/10



**I think that’s Drew in this movie, although I can’t say for sure. Aww. So cute!

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

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

Directed by Kenji Kamiyama

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 6.5/10

FYI according to Wikipedia:

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

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

Despicable Me 3 (2017) Review

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

Directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda

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

Music by Heitor Pereira & Pharrell Williams

Production company: Illumination Entertainment

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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


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

My Rating: 6.5/10

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

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.

Dolls (1987) Review

I originally posted this review for the Recommended By Blogathon over at Head In A Vice. Hopefully Tyson doesn’t mind me re-posting it in full now as it’s the perfect fit for the Creepy Dolls Week I’m doing here. 🙂

Dolls (1987)

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Starring: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, Cassie Stuart, Bunty Bailey, Carrie Lorraine

Running time: 77 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A group of people stop by a mansion during a storm and discover two magical toy makers, and their haunted collection of dolls.

Why I Chose This For The Recommended By Blogathon:

Dolls was reviewed HERE by Laura over at FILMNERDBLOG & I thought it sounded hilariously bad but fun. Laura reviews a wide variety of films but seems to especially have a love/hate relationship with cheesy horror movies. I started following her when I saw she was reviewing things like Basket Case. 🙂

I thought it was time I return the favor as Laura has watched a couple of movies based on my reviews (From Beyond, which is from the same director as Dolls, and the awesome Hardware). I think she regretted both, especially From Beyond. Lol! I mean, check this From Beyond shit out – what a trooper she is:

My Opinion On Dolls:

I don’t think I liked this QUITE as much as Laura did but I did have a lot of fun with it. It’s pure 80’s cheese with dodgy acting & fake-looking gore so it’s totally my type of thing (I can’t watch modern horror – too gross!). And the DOLLS… Man I hate dolls – I can’t think of anything much creepier than going into some strange old mansion in the middle of nowhere & finding it’s filled with THESE:

The characters in Dolls are exactly what you’d expect from a horror movie like this (and I mean that in a good way). The main character is the young girl and she’s cute & sweet and you want everything to turn out okay for her as she’s stranded in this mansion with her father & step-mother who are both complete assholes. I really thought the step-mother was a man until I looked her up at IMDB. Turns out she was also in From Beyond! Ha!


Also stranded in this mansion on this stormy night are two girls dressed as “punks” crossed with Madonna and they speak in ridiculously bad Cockney accents. I think? I’m bad with accents. And there’s a nice dorky guy who gave the punk girls a lift and he’s the only one of the bunch (besides the little girl) who isn’t an asshole. Finally, we have the fabulously cliché owners of the mansion: an old doll maker & his wife. These two are great – they totally look the part. Both British actors, the woman was in Don’t Look Now & the man was in movies such as And Now The Screaming Starts! with Peter Cushing and was the Puppet Master in several of the films in that series. Look at these two! Perfect for Dolls:

Anyway – everything you expect to happen, happens. Everyone you expect to die, dies. It’s predictable and the acting is pretty atrocious but… C’mon – Who cares? It’s a movie about dolls that go around killing people! It’s fun! It even has a bit of a moral (which is more than can be said about most horror films). Basically, the moral is that you should always stay young at heart. If you don’t, DOLLS WILL COME TO LIFE & KILL YOU!

Awesome. Thanks, Laura! I really enjoyed watching this one. 🙂

My Rating: 6.5/10

*I’ve upped my rating by half a point. This was a fun watch*

**Can I just add, as I didn’t realize this when I originally posted the review, that the girl (Bunty Bailey) from A-ha’s Take On Me video is in this?! She’s one of the two Cockney punk girls. Hilarious. 🙂

The Invitation (2015) Review

The Invitation (2015)

Directed by Karyn Kusama

Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, Mike Doyle, Jay Larson, John Carroll Lynch

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.

My Opinion:

After being so negative over the past two days when reviewing New Zealand horror comedies Housebound & Deathgasm, I’m happy to review this pretty solid & intense psychological horror/thriller. I’d seen some very positive reviews of The Invitation from fellow bloggers & the plot synopsis sounded like the sort of mystery I go for so I’m glad I listened to you guys as I did enjoy this one. 🙂

The setup was a little iffy as Logan Marshall-Green brings his girlfriend to a dinner party his ex-wife & her new husband are having at his former home with a bunch of their mutual friends. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think many people invite their ex-spouses to dinner parties – I think they just meet up with their mutual friends separately. But these people appear to have a lot of money & people with money can be a bit weird, so, who knows!

I’ll try to not give too much away but there’s a tragic past between the divorced couple & I really felt for Logan Marshall-Green’s character (and his ex too but she’s so weird you can’t really relate to her in the same way). He plays his character well, with a great escalating paranoia that never goes too over-the-top. You remain on his side as something clearly bizarre is going on that most of the other guests either don’t notice or choose to ignore.

There’s a good mix of different personalities in this. Marshall-Green & his girlfriend (Emayatzy Corinealdiare) are, obviously, the main characters we’re meant to root for while most of the friends are fun (albeit in a self-absorbed sort of way). None of their characters are really explored, though, as this is mainly about the divorced couple & the thing that tore them apart and the movie did well to convey their feelings to the audience.

The remaining characters, the ex-wife’s new husband and the new friends they’ve made, are the ones we’re not sure if we can trust. Are they crazy? Or is Logan Marshall-Green losing it? Or maybe some of the mutual friends can’t be trusted?

This is the sort of psychological mystery thriller that I enjoy & I’d recommend it to those who aren’t necessarily horror fans as this is certainly more thriller than horror. I have to say that the pacing was a little slow and, besides Marshall-Green, I didn’t really care too much about anyone (but at least they weren’t all totally hateful like in Don’t Breathe). This is also another one of those movies with a Game Of Thrones actor (sexy Daario: Michiel Huisman as the new husband). I always find this a bit distracting as these people are their GoT characters to me (like “You know nothing, Jon Snow” Rose Leslie, who was in the movie Honeymoon that I really liked & reviewed last week). He was good in this, though, and not too distracting (aside from being sexy). At least Littlefinger wasn’t in this one like in the (fantastic) Sing Street… He’s in everything, dammit! Ugh. Now I’m totally off topic so I’ll shut up. I recommend this one although it’s a “one-time watch only” for me personally. I see no need to re-watch this once finding out what’s really going on but it was enjoyably tense with a decent story & good acting.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Oh! This movie had a song I really like playing over the end credits. I actually discovered this song when I did a list of My Top Ten Devil & Hell Songs. It’s folk! Can’t say I like (or, more like that I even know) much folk but I think this song is great. Here’s Devil’s Spoke by Laura Marling. (This movie doesn’t involve Satan, though. Sorry – didn’t mean to throw you off by including this! Or DOES the movie involve Satan? Hmmmmm….) 😉

Lights Out (2016) Review

Lights Out (2016)

Directed by David F. Sandberg

Based on Lights Out by David F. Sandberg

Starring: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Maria Bello, Lotta Losten

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.

My Opinion:

So, this was a great little short film on YouTube (link HERE). Watch it! It’s only a few minutes long. I was really surprised when I found out that this short film would be made into a long film (well, not really – it’s only 1 hour & 21 minutes!). I was expecting this to possibly be awful but then it got very positive reviews so I got excited since it’s difficult to find any decent horror movies these days. This film is okay. Not great, not awful, just average. I think people are just shocked when a horror film doesn’t 100% suck so they go a little overboard on praise. But it has some creepy moments & does show promise. Overall, it feels slightly more original than a lot of films in this genre nowadays.

I think the biggest problem with this longer film is that there’s now too much of an explanation of the “figure in the dark”. Why do so many horror films feel the need to spell everything out for us? I like a bit of a mystery! I’m more scared of the unknown & the unseen (or the barely glimpsed). Glimpsed is a very weird word, isn’t it? Say it ten times! Sounds bizarre. The mysterious “figure in the dark” in Lights Out is terrifying. THAT scares the shit out of me. Even now I’m not a fan of the dark & usually have a small light on somewhere when I go to bed. How many of us have been scared by strange human-shaped shadows in the dark?

So, for those of you who like a full backstory & explanation, I promise that you do get one. It’s not a bad story & I liked it fine but personally prefer the mystery of the short film. Everyone puts in a decent performance & I especially liked the characters of Teresa Palmer’s little brother & her hot metalhead boyfriend who is a total sweetheart. They all do some idiotic things, like the majority of horror movie characters, but I’ll forgive that this time since it’s a mega short film & goes straight into the action yet still manages an okay amount of character development considering its short running time. I found it kind of hilarious that Teresa Palmer was a metalhead chick because she had to grow up with a crazy mother who talked to strange figures in the dark. Because having a bad childhood naturally makes you listen to heavy metal! I must have had a bad childhood. Teresa Palmer looked really hot as a metalhead, though – I think the metal chick eyeliner suits her.

Oh, I hate being old. I didn’t read anything about this movie beforehand so, when it started, I thought Teresa Palmer & Maria Bello were going to be sisters instead of mother & daughter. Ugh. I suppose that makes sense since there’s a 19 year age difference (Yes, I looked up their ages). Both are older than I thought & I think Palmer is meant to be playing an early twentysomething when she’s actually 30 in real life. But, still – it’s depressing when you realize you’re at the age where you’re meant to be identifying with the parents or, even worse, the grandparents in movies. Not that I identify with the mother in THIS one – she’s completely bonkers! HA! Hahaha! HAHAHAHAHA!!!! I’m actually a hot twentysomething metal chick in my mind, at least. 😉

Lights Out isn’t perfect but it has some effective scary moments with creative use of lighting & sound. There were a few times in the cinema where the noises made by the dark figure sounded like they were coming from directly next to me so that was a bit unsettling (I know nothing about this sort of thing – maybe I was just in a good position in the theater). I also went to this alone and no one sat near me, which helps add to a movie’s creepiness. We end up knowing & seeing a bit too much to remain fully unsettled but, overall, this is a fairly good supernatural horror (my favorite type) and better than a lot of the current crap in this genre. But with films such as It Follows & especially the brilliant The Babadook finally proving that supernatural horror movies can be really damn good, other films in this genre are going to have to raise their game more than this one manages in order to keep me from being a little disappointed.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Just want to make a quick mention of Gene Wilder passing away yesterday. 2016 has been an awful year for celebrity deaths. The film & music industry have lost so many hugely talented people this year. R.I.P. Gene Wilder. Pure Imagination will always be my favorite moment of his…

Swallows And Amazons (2016) Review

Swallows And Amazons (2016)

Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe

Based on Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome

Starring: Rafe Spall, Andrew Scott, Kelly Macdonald, Jessica Hynes, Harry Enfield, Dane Hughes, Orla Hill, Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen, Bobby McCulloch, Seren Hawkes, Hannah Jayne Thorp

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film chronicles the story of the Walker children on their adventures in the Lake District with the goal of claiming a remote island for themselves. Heading over there on the boat “Swallow”, they soon discover they’re not alone. A gang of rebellious children, the Blacketts also known as the “Amazons”, have set up camp there and a battle for the island begins. But with Britain on the brink of war and a “secret agent” looking for the Blackett children’s uncle, real battles aren’t far away and their childhood paradise is turned upside-down.

My Opinion:

This movie is based on the classic book by Arthur Ransome. Okay, I admit it – I’ve never heard of this book. I’m sorry. Maybe it wasn’t famous outside the UK when I was growing up?? Well, we saw the trailer for this before Pete’s Dragon and my kid really liked the look of it. She actually didn’t like Pete’s Dragon at all (I did!) but she seemed genuinely excited about going to see this one after watching the trailer so we went the next week. Success! She really liked this one. Think the hubby quite liked it too. What a relief after they both pretty much hated Pete’s Dragon (I didn’t!). Swallows And Amazons is a great “family” movie & a nice break from the endless stream of animated kids’ films that come out every month.

My kid is seven & a good age for this one – I’d probably recommend it for ages seven & up. Ha! 7 Up… I only drink that if I have a stomach ache. Does anyone here drink it for pleasure? Seriously – I’m curious! And I’m trying to get out of doing a review. I’m finding movie reviews a chore at the moment.

There’s nothing inappropriate in this so you’re safe to watch it with the whole family. I just think that it may not hold the attention of those under seven & the really young wouldn’t follow the story (but it’s not aimed at that age group anyway). It’s set in the lovely Lake District area of the U.K. in 1935, which appealed to me as I think it’s good for kids to see how different life was in the old days. There’s no way that today’s kids could sail across a lake, set up camp, and fend for themselves alone on an island for a few days! Well, okay, I couldn’t do that either…

I read somewhere that, as this was a series of books like Harry Potter, they’re wanting to set up a series of films in the same way. Well, there’s no way they’d be as big as Harry Potter as the stories are obviously going to be far more simple but it’s a shame that I can’t see any more being made anyway. Maybe! I’d like to see more but it feels like this movie really wasn’t promoted at all & the showing we went to wasn’t very busy.

It feels like kids might not have the patience for a series of films set in the 1930s but that’s probably not fair to say as my own kid liked it far more than I was expecting. With the kids in this film being a range of ages with different personalities, I think those watching this will find at least one character they can relate to. The story of a group of kids trying to claim a deserted island as their own while also dealing with an angry & mysterious man who claims to be pirate should have fairly wide appeal, even to today’s youth. The movie isn’t perfect & I don’t think we get to know the kids as well as we could (especially the “Amazons”) but this would be remedied if they made more films. Which I doubt they will. But, hey – hopefully there’ll be a renewed interest in the series of books now.

My Rating: 6.5/10

*I did this movie as a double feature with Lights Out (which I went to alone afterwards without the kid, obviously!). How do you like that combo?? I’ll review that one next week. Have a nice weekend, everyone! 🙂

The Book Thief & Paper Towns Movie Reviews

Here are two quickie reviews of two movie adaptations of two books that I read recently. Since I read the books, I figured I better finally watch the films. I never really enjoy a movie much after reading the book and, in the case of one of these, I pretty much hated the book so I wasn’t hoping for much from the movie. Here we go!

Paper Towns (2015)

Directed by Jake Schreier

Based on Paper Towns by John Green

Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After an all night adventure, Quentin’s life-long crush, Margo, disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends follow on the journey of a lifetime.

My Opinion:

I did a very short review of the Paper Towns book HERE (I rated it 2.5/5). Full of hateful characters, I didn’t enjoy the book very much. The main boy (played by Nat Wolff in the movie) was okay but a bit bland. The girl he loves (Margo, played by Cara Delevingne) & his best friend (who is a sexist little shit & calls all girls “honey bunnies”) are annoying as hell. Seriously, Margo isn’t interesting & mysterious – she’s a bitch. But I liked the story, which involves Margo’s friends trying to track her down through a series of bizarre clues she’s left behind.

Once I’ve read a book, I always try to watch the movie adaptation but it’s never that exciting to me since I already know the story & get a bit bored. This one is a pretty straightforward & faithful adaptation. If you like the book, you should like the movie. I think this is a rare occasion where the film is better & I’d say it’s mainly down to them making Margo seem a little more human & less hateful. I also thought Nat Wolff did a good job as Quentin & made the character less dull than in the book. If you’re interested in the story, I’d actually recommend watching the movie & skipping the book as the book doesn’t really flesh out the characters any more than the film does and the movie doesn’t leave out anything important (from what I can remember).

Even though I’m WAY past “Young Adult” age, I still really enjoy reading/watching YA stuff as I can still relate to most of it. Trust me – when you get old like me, it’s very likely that it’ll still feel like you only just finished high school yesterday. It’s a traumatic time in life & I remember more from that time than I do from when I was a twentysomething. However, Paper Towns was one I couldn’t relate to at all. Maybe I’m finally out of touch? Or maybe John Green just doesn’t quite capture what teens are really like? The characters didn’t feel real to me, unlike the ones in things like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic film & book!). But that one was set in my own era of high school with an awesome soundtrack while Paper Towns is set now & the characters refer to things from their own youth that mean nothing to me (like singing what I assume is the Pokémon TV show theme tune). No, I think the characters are weak and are the real reason I can’t connect with Paper Towns. At least the movie improves on the book slightly so I can’t give it a low rating as it’s a good adaptation and I think plenty of teens/twentysomethings probably really like it. But I’d recommend other YA stuff to people my own age before I’d recommend this one.

My Rating: 6/10

The Book Thief (2013)

Directed by Brian Percival

Based on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Heike Makatsch, Barbara Auer, Roger Allam

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is about a young girl living with her adoptive German family during the Nazi era. Taught to read by her kind-hearted foster father, the girl begins “borrowing” books and sharing them with the Jewish refugee being sheltered by her foster parents in their home.

My Opinion:

I reviewed The Book Thief novel HERE (along with all 14 books I read last year – I ranked this one my 8th favorite out of 14 & rated it 3.5/5). Unlike Paper Towns, this book had strong characters & I really cared what would happen to them. The book was actually let down slightly by its unnecessary gimmick (it’s narrated by Death aka The Grim Reaper) and did feel overlong. I really liked the book but didn’t love it like I was hoping, despite loving the characters. Still, I’m glad it got the characters right as that’s really important to me.


In this case, I’d definitely recommend reading the book before watching the film. It’s a good adaptation with fine performances but they’ve had to leave things out (as to be expected with a long book). The characters are just so richly developed in the book, which rarely gets captured as well in a film. They did come close, however – both Sophie Nélisse (Liesel – the main character) & Geoffrey Rush (Hans, her foster father) are fantastic & exactly as I pictured. Emily Watson (Rosa, her foster mother) & Nico Liersch (Rudy, her best friend) are also very good but have far less time spent on them than in the book. Rosa is a complex character so it will have been hard to capture this but I was most upset with how little we got to know Rudy in the film as I absolutely loved him & his beautiful friendship with Liesel in the book. Ben Schnetzer (as Max, the Jewish refugee they’re hiding) was also very good & as I had pictured but, again, he sadly doesn’t get enough time devoted to him in the film.

Luckily, the movie leaves out quite a lot of the Grim Reaper’s narrative. It’s done well & not distracting, whereas it kind of threw me out of the story every time they came back to it in the book. But don’t let that criticism talk you out of reading the book as I’d definitely recommend it if the story interests you. I’m not sure how to rate this movie… I thought it was quite good but, knowing the novel is better, I couldn’t help but be just a little let down despite great performances & some perfect casting. If you’re someone who really doesn’t like to read, then by all means watch the movie instead & probably add an extra point to my below rating. It’s a good film & they’ve done the best they possibly could with a somewhat difficult novel to adapt but, ultimately, the film doesn’t deliver the same emotional punch as you don’t get to know some of the characters as well as you do in the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Okay, I admit to knowing the Pokémon song very well now since my kid has become addicted to the show….

And here are some of the best Pokémon we’ve caught (I love annoying people with this!) 😉

Red Dawn (2012), People Like Us & We’re The Millers Movie Reviews

Here’s another trio of super short reviews of movies that I watched two years ago & barely remember now! What’s the point, you ask? Well, it’s annoying me that they’re still sitting HERE on my list of Movies Watched In 2014 without reviews attached to them. So, let’s get this over with. One paragraph each! Don’t expect any in-depth analysis. Not that you ever get that from this blog anyway… 😉

IMG_9872

Red Dawn (2012)

Directed by Dan Bradley

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise, Brad Garrett, Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A group of teenagers look to save their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers.

My Opinion:

Wow. It’s bad enough that so many pointless remakes keep getting made but it’s especially frustrating when they’re complete & utter shit like this Red Dawn remake. Don’t worry – I’m not going to be all “They shouldn’t have touched Red Dawn because the original is a classic!” since that was never an absolute favorite of mine & I’m not all precious about it like I am with a lot of other 80’s movies. But why take a mediocre movie & remake it into something 1,000 times worse?? Oh well! I only watched this because sexy Chris Hemsworth is in it (with his short hair – I prefer him that way). I don’t remember now who lives & who dies but I do remember completely losing interest and not giving a shit about any of the characters. I also remember that I watched this just after getting Netflix & they seemed to have a horrible selection back then (it’s much better now) so I wasted too much time on shit like this & that stupid ATM movie. Speaking of which, that weird little Josh Peck was in that one as well. He had a really bad year for movies between Red Dawn & ATM! Screw Red Dawn. Screw ATM. You know what Josh Peck movie was actually pretty good? Mean Creek. Just watch that instead. Don’t watch this. Not even for short hair Chris Hemsworth. He looks the same in The Cabin In The Woods & that’s much better. Do a double feature of Mean Creek & The Cabin In The Woods! Don’t watch Red Dawn.

My Rating: 3.5/10

People Like Us (2012)

Directed by Alex Kurtzman

Starring: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Michael Hall D’Addario, Michelle Pfeiffer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While settling his recently deceased father’s estate, a salesman discovers he has a sister whom he never knew about, leading both siblings to re-examine their perceptions about family and life choices.

My Opinion:

This was a decent movie – I’m not sure why I never reviewed it. Movies about family relationships don’t always appeal to me but this one, where Chris Pine finds out that he has a half-sister & nephew he never knew about, worked pretty well. I can’t stand Chris Pine but really like Elizabeth Banks plus the boy who played her son (Michael Hall D’Addario) was good so that helped. Oh! And Michelle Pfeiffer was in this too as Pine’s mother – love her. It was partly based on the life of the director, who first met his half-sister at the age of 30, so it probably also helped that the script was based on personal experience. I also liked this little bit of trivia HERE about the music memorabilia of Pine’s musician father in the film belonging to the record producer father of one of the script’s writers:

Much of the music business memorabilia in the “Jerry’s Study” set belongs to Jody Lambert’s father Dennis Lambert, a Songwriter’s Hall of Fame nominee whose hits as writer and/or producer include “Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I’ve Got)”, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, “Baby Come Back” and “Nightshift”.

Anyway, People Like Us isn’t going to change the world but it’s the type of movie that’s perfect to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Good performances from those involved & I liked the story.

My Rating: 6.5/10

We’re The Millers (2013)

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Quinn, Ed Helms

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A veteran pot dealer creates a fake family as part of his plan to move a huge shipment of weed into the U.S. from Mexico.

My Opinion:

This movie is really not my type of thing and I don’t know why I watched it. I think I just wanted a simple movie on while I did stuff around the house plus I think I still kind of live in the hope that a modern comedy may actually turn out to be funny. Nope! This is yet another stupid modern “comedy” that failed to make me even crack a smile. Maybe I’m just old & bitter since I’ve liked hardly any comedy films since 1992? Comedy isn’t my favorite genre but I think the fact that so few movies are ever actually funny anymore is to blame for me going off the genre in recent years. Wait! I may have cracked a tiny smile when Will Poulter’s balls were bitten by a spider & they swelled up to an unnatural size while the movie showed us his whole package in gory detail. That was brave of Poulter as I’m sure a lot of people think “spider balls!” anytime they seen him in anything now. Although, I’m pretty sure we were seeing stunt balls. How does one get a job as a stunt penis? Anyway, maybe this movie wasn’t crude enough for me if that’s the only memorable part for me. I mean, I do like the Jackass movies & Bad Grandpa so, what the hell, I can’t figure out my taste in comedy. But I thought We’re The Millers was shit. Except for spider balls being mildly funny…

My Rating: 4/10