Lady Bird (2017) Review

Lady Bird (2017)

Directed & Written by Greta Gerwig

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lois Smith

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, it is a coming-of-age story of a high-school senior (Ronan) and her turbulent relationship with her mother (Metcalf).

My Opinion:

I enjoyed this. It’s indie, though, so I had to go to a fancy, snobby cinema to actually be able to see it. There were sofas & fucking cushions. People had tea delivered to them. I don’t drink tea. I just wanted to stuff my face with popcorn. So I just sat there hungry instead (but comfy!).

Here’s a funny thing: I sat next to what appeared to be a grandmother with her 20-something granddaughter. They were talking about films (Yay! My kind of people) and the grandmother was talking about drive-ins and what they’re like in America. She told the granddaughter she needs to go to America sometime. The girl scoffed & said “Ha. No thanks! I’m alright. Not at the moment!“. I smiled to myself. Ahh… My home country is well & truly fucked. British people used to dream of visiting America. Now the thought of going there seems insane and potentially dangerous. What the fuck has happened? You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Shall I actually talk about this movie, which is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay? Does it deserve all the acclaim? Hmm. Yes & no. Maybe in the acting categories, at least. It’s a good coming of age film, a subgenre I love, but it’s not the absolute best of its kind that I’ve seen. I probably slightly preferred the previous  year’s The Edge Of Seventeen. Where were the nominations for that female-directed & written film??

The Oscars are going to get more interesting now & I’m very glad that they’re going to be more inclusive. But……. I dunno. Should Lady Bird be up for Best Picture & Director? I’m not sure about that but I don’t mind seeing it nominated for Best Picture. Lady Bird & Get Out do look like the odd ones out when looking at the more heavyweight nominees but not all movies have to be boring, heavy dramas to be good films. What I really want to see is the Oscars being more inclusive of ALL genres of films, regardless of who made them. A good movie is a good movie. The Oscars have always hated things like fantasy, science fiction, comedy, and horror. Brilliant films seem to be ignored if they’re not some boring ass historical drama that the majority of the public has no interest in seeing. The nominee I’m happiest about this year is The Shape Of Water. That’s slightly out of the Academy’s comfort zone. I want more stuff like that at the Oscars! Now if they can just accept science fiction… Arrival only getting ONE Oscar (Sound Editing) is a damn crime!!! Screw you, Academy!

Back to Lady Bird. I loved the tumultuous relationship between mother & daughter (Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf, both deserving of their nominations). Being both a mother & a daughter, I can confirm that it can be a complicated relationship at times & the film makes these characters feel real in their feelings & behavior. I’d have actually liked it to focus even more on the mother/daughter relationship than it did. I’d have liked slightly more time spent on Lady Bird’s relationships with her whole family, but the film does well with the character development in its hour & a half running time.

We get to see a lot of Lady Bird’s life at school with her best friend and with a couple of love interests. I loved her best friend (Beanie Feldstein). It made me wish I’d had a female friend in high school! But I went to school with a bunch of bitches. Lucas Hedges, from Manchester By The Sea, did well but there’s not a lot of time spent on him. And I finally got to see this Timothée Chalamet kid in a movie. He’s fine – it’s not a huge role and he’s an annoying rich boy so I’ll need to see him in more stuff. I still badly want to see Call Me By Your Name. Saoirse Ronan is the star of this, though, and I’m amazed that I never thought about the fact that she does NOT sound American in real life, so she must have done the accent well! Ronan & Metcalf make this film better. Without them, I’d have found it pretty average. But I kept hearing Andy’s mother from Toy Story… She didn’t have this much trouble with Andy!

Lady Bird is good but it’s indie and it’s definitely aimed more at females and at teenagers. Is it All-Time-Greatest-Best-Picture material? Not really. I’ve seen other coming of age films more worthy of Oscar nominations but I’m glad the Academy, through recognizing a wider variety of filmmakers, is probably going to end up giving us more variety in the film genres that receive nominations. Not all movies have to be The English Freaking Patient. (Lady Bird is far better than that one…)

My Rating: 7.5/10


Darkest Hour (2017) Review

Darkest Hour (2017)

Directed by Joe Wright

Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, Ben Mendelsohn

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and is a fictionalised account of his early days as Prime Minister, as Nazi Germany swept across Western Europe, threatening to defeat Great Britain during World War II, leading to friction at the highest levels of government.

My Opinion:

I’m not a history buff. It was always one of my least favorite subjects in school. I wonder why? I just always found it boring. I like fictional stories set in the future. We were all wankers in the past. Of course, we’re even bigger wankers now so… I guess there’s not much hope for the future anyway.

But I liked this movie far more than I was expecting. Gary Oldman is probably the biggest reason. He’s brilliant! Give him the damn Oscar, Academy!!! And the story was intense. Okay, I’m no history buff but I at least have a very basic knowledge of WWII. I can’t imagine living in the UK during that time. I didn’t know just how intense it became during the “Darkest Hour”, though. UK kids should be watching this movie (mine did). They should have a better understanding of British history than they probably do. In my defense, I grew up in America so the only real focus in my history lessons was, of course, ‘Murrica. F*^k yeah!

Back to Oldman. Ahhh, he’s so good! To be fair, I can’t say I know much about Churchill’s look & voice. All I know is that it did NOT feel like I was watching Gary Oldman. I do like watching movies where actors play real life people but I always feel like I’m watching that actor playing make-believe. Like anyone Tom Hanks plays… He’s a good actor but I feel like I’m watching Hanks playing a role the entire time. You don’t have to suspend disbelief when it comes to Oldman and that’s what I love. I like movies & stories more than the actors themselves. I want to fully buy into the characters. Oldman has always been a true chameleon, though, as mentioned in My Top Ten Gary Oldman Movies post (which I’ve just updated to add Darkest Hour). If he doesn’t win the Oscar this year, the Academy can go f*^k itself (Okay, I say this a lot. The winners often piss me off).

The WWII story itself held my attention the whole time (it helps when you have very little knowledge of what happened). I actually finally watched The King’s Speech after seeing this and it was interesting to see some of the same events from the King’s perspective instead of Churchill’s (That’s a good movie too, by the way – Not sure why I never wanted to watch it). Now I’m just waiting for Dunkirk to show up on Netflix or Prime and that will fill in my gaps in knowledge on that, which is a big part of Darkest Hour. What would I do without pretty movies giving me nice, glossy history lessons?!

WWII history aside, though, Darkest Hour also shows Churchill’s relationships with various people and this is what I most care about in movies. We see him with his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), his young secretary (Lily James), and the King (Ben Mendelsohn, not Colin Firth), as well as many other political dudes (but the first three are the main focus). His interactions with the two women were especially good & gave you more insight into Churchill as a person instead of just as a Prime Minister.

I enjoyed this movie quite a bit despite not being big on historical films and highly recommend it to anyone who loved Dunkirk. It makes no sense to watch that one without watching this one as well. As for me, I just find Christopher Nolan overrated so that’s my excuse for waiting for that one to show up on one of my movie services…

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Greatest Showman (2017) Review

The Greatest Showman (2017)

Directed by Michael Gracey

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is inspired by the story of P. T. Barnum’s creation of the Barnum & Bailey Circus and the lives of its star attractions.

My Opinion:

I really enjoyed this movie. I saw it a good few weeks ago & I’m glad I didn’t review it right away as this is one of those films that has really grown on me since seeing it. I can understand why it’s getting repeat viewings & why it’s still playing in cinemas so long after its release.

Now, I have to say I don’t think this is a perfect film. Far from it! It’s certainly not up there with the biggest musical classics such as The Sound Of Music or Singin’ In The Rain (My list of my Top Ten Movie Musicals can he found HERE). I don’t think it will age quite as well as the classics but it’s a fun film & the songs are far more catchy & memorable than those in La La Land. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a “better” movie than La La Land but I enjoyed it a lot more than that one. It feels more genuine & has more heart. Unlike La La Land, it’s not pretentious or “trying too hard”. Sorry – I can’t help but compare the two since they’re both current musicals. Seeing this has actually made me like La La Land even less.

Where do I start? I’ve always been intrigued by circuses & that whole lifestyle so I enjoyed the story in this one (I don’t know how accurate the story of P. T. Barnum actually is in this, though). One of the only slightly negative things I’ve read about this was how they “glossed over” the treatment of the entertainers (called “Freaks”) in the old days. I disagree. This is a musical, not a documentary. It’s lighthearted, yes, but it certainly didn’t ignore the poor treatment of these people. We all know how horribly they were treated. It was a different time and the movie does what it can to celebrate people’s differences. This does give me the opportunity to again mention a movie that I love & that I think deserves more attention – Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks. It was very ahead of its time & I’d recommend it to all bloggers. I reviewed it HERE (one of the rare reviews that I actually put some effort into). 😉

Back to the movie. Jackman is very good but that’s to be expected. You can tell he really enjoys doing films like this & I think that really shows in his performance. Who doesn’t like Jackman?! He seems like a sweetie. And I’m starting to like Zac Efron as well! I think I’ll always see him as a kid but he was really good in this and was great in the scenes with Jackman & with Zendaya. As for him & Zendaya, I loved that romance. I think that relationship will be a big part of the reason why people like this film so much. I loved their scene together with the hoop thingy. They’re so young & so cute (I sound like such a granny!).

There are so many characters & different types of relationships in this, which is probably another reason why it’s done so well as most people will have a different character they like or can relate to. It also felt like we got to know most of them pretty well. They spent an equal amount of time on Barnum’s personal life with his wife & young daughters as well as his professional life with his circus family. The song & dance numbers looked great and, as I already mentioned, the songs are quite memorable (I’m glad one of them, This Is Me, is up for an Oscar). I’m not sure if that song is my favorite but I’ve only seen the movie once. I’ll know better when I’ve heard the soundtrack a few times, which is likely as my young daughter liked this movie a lot. And I think that’s another reason this film has done well: it appeals to all ages.

I may have been wrong when I said at the start of this review that this may not age quite as well as the classics. I do think it’ll definitely age much better than La La Land, which doesn’t appeal to all ages in the same way that this does. Oops – I’ve brought La La Land into this again! Sorry. I’ll stop rambling now & just say that The Greatest Showman is a fun family musical. Ignore the snobby critics.

My Rating: 7.5/10

The French Connection (1971) Blind Spot Review

Happy 88th Birthday To Gene Hackman!

I didn’t even realize it was Hackman’s birthday when I decided to review this today as my first Blind Spot movie of 2018. What are the odds?! (Umm… 1 in 365, I guess???). Anyway! Happy Birthday, Mr. Hackman! Here are my thoughts on finally seeing The French Connection for the first time…

The French Connection (1971)

Directed by William Friedkin

Based on The French Connection by Robin Moore

Starring: Gene Hackman, Fernando Rey, Roy Scheider, Tony Lo Bianco, Marcel Bozzuffi, Frédéric de Pasquale, Bill Hickman, Ann Rebbot, Harold Gary, Arlene Farber, Eddie Egan, André Ernotte, Sonny Grosso

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.

My Opinion:

I’ve actually already managed to watch 4 of my 2018 Blind Spot choices and I’m not all that impressed so far. Here’s my ranking (I’ll review 1 each month):

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

Well, the top two are clearly leagues ahead of numbers 3 & 4. But I didn’t like The French Connection nearly as much as I thought I would considering that I do love a good, gritty, manly 70’s film (I’m a weird girl). It was okay. The famous car chase was pretty cool. But, man – Hackman’s Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle was hard to like. That’s quite a popular character – I knew that name before even seeing the movie. He’s a jerk. But I realize that’s kind of the whole point. I’ll come back to that in a bit…

This movie won the Best Picture Oscar. I didn’t realize that when I watched it. I’ve added it to my ranked list of Best Picture winners I’ve seen HERE (I put it as 26th). It beat Oscar nominees: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof (another Blind Spot choice! Not seen it yet), The Last Picture Show & Nicholas and Alexandra (Oh wow – I’ve never even heard of this). Hmm. Yes, it deserved to win over those I’ve seen although I do like the controversial A Clockwork Orange.

“Crime drama” will never be a favorite genre of mine but I do appreciate when one is really good. This one is very good but I’ve seen better in the genre. I watched The Untouchables, another crime drama, for this Blind Spot thing last year. That was fantastic! I think a big part of that was the fact that I really liked the characters. Well, the Ennio Morricone score helped too. Fantastic score with well-developed, likable characters always works for me. I can’t currently remember the music in The French Connection (think it was jazz?) and I can’t say the characters are exactly likable. These reasons will be why I didn’t connect (ha!) with it quite as much but it’s certainly worth watching if you haven’t seen it. I do understand why it’s so well regarded.

Gene Hackman & Roy Scheider, who play the NYC cops in The French Connection, are both very good (Hackman won the Best Actor Oscar & Scheider was nominated for Best Supporting Actor). Hackman’s Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle is an iconic character & he plays it well. I know this is based on a true story & these characters are (loosely?) based real-life people. I don’t know how true to life the characters are. The thing that some people (aka: millennials. I may get in trouble for that. 😉 ) might struggle with when watching this nowadays is Popeye’s womanizing, racist ways. He’s not easy to like but, as I said, that’s kind of the point. He’s determined to solve the drug smuggling crime in this film and it seems he will do whatever it takes, no matter who gets hurt. This specific job becomes an obsession for him and I do appreciate the strong characterization. However, it does make it hard to root for the supposed “good guys” in this film.

Overall, I did enjoy this film although it won’t become a personal favorite. I do approve of its many awards & its status as a classic. As for Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle, he’s an iconic character. He’s flawed but he feels real. I’d rather watch a movie with strong characters like these, even when unlikable, than watch a movie whose characters have no depth.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Coco (2017) Review

Coco (2017) Review

Directed by Lee Unkrich

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Edward James Olmos

Music by Michael Giacchino

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel Rivera who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead, where he seeks the help of his deceased musician great-great-grandfather to return him to his family among the living.

My Opinion:

Finally! I hate how we have to wait months for Pixar movies to be released in the UK. What’s up with that?!?! I adore Pixar! So, thanks to months of hype about Coco, maybe that’s why I was slightly underwhelmed. Cute movie & nice story but it certainly won’t be at the top of my list of favorite Pixar films. I did do a list of My Top Pixar Movies HERE. Actually, that list needs updating. Okay, I’ll do it in this post! Here’s my Pixar Movie Rankings (counting down to my very favorite & including Coco):

18. Cars 2
17. Cars
16. The Good Dinosaur
15. Finding Dory
14. Monsters University
13. Coco
12. Ratatouille
11. Brave
10. A Bug’s Life
9. Up
8. The Incredibles
7. Toy Story 2
6. Toy Story 3
5. Inside Out
4. Finding Nemo
3. Monsters, Inc.
2. Toy Story

13th? Hmm. That’s disappointing. I do think Coco was hurt slightly by Book Of Life coming out first. My daughter said afterwards that Coco was okay but that she likes Book Of Life more. That’s unfortunate as I think Coco is definitely the superior film. It’s more timeless and has a better story. I liked the focus on family & following your dreams compared to the more complicated love story in Book Of Life, which I think fewer people can relate to.

I’ll keep this short. Coco is still a far better film than all the animated stuff we get from the Non-Disney/Pixar studios in Hollywood. I just have incredibly high standards when it comes to Pixar and some movies have been a bit disappointing in recent years. But even the worst Pixar films are FAR from “bad” (well, the Cars films leave a lot to be desired).

Coco’s lead character, Miguel, is strong and I really liked Héctor (voiced by Gael García Bernal). We don’t get to know a lot of Miguel’s family as well as I’d have liked, though (Plus they come off as a bit unlikeable at first). I also thought the movie was quite slow to begin with. Pixar movies usually grab me from the start but I didn’t really get into Coco until almost halfway through the film. The “reveal” was also very obvious from early on but, I dunno… I suppose that’s just because I watch too many movies. As always with Pixar, the film was lovely to look at (Even all the use of orange, my least favorite color! It looked great in this). Mostly, I just didn’t fully connect with the story & the characters in the same way that I usually do with Pixar movies.

This review is coming across as far more negative than I’m intending. Sorry! Coco is a really good film. I just look at that list of Pixar movies above and most of them are stronger films than this one. And I consider both WALL-E & Inside Out to be damn near masterpieces that transcend the whole “Oh, that’s just an animated kids’ movie” thing. (Which isn’t how I feel about animated films – I just know that some people see them as nothing more than “cartoons”). Coco is no WALL-E or Inside Out or the beautiful beginning of Up but it’s also not some other studio’s piece of shit like Trolls or something. Yay, Pixar! You’re still the best. I’m sure Coco will grow on me after I see it on DVD several times…

My Rating: 7.5/10

**I did a “double feature” of Coco & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (great combo!). I’ll try to review Three Billboards tomorrow or Friday. I really didn’t expect that to be the one that I preferred of the two but I liked it a lot.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017) Review

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle (2017)

Directed by Jake Kasdan

Based on Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale, Alex Wolff, Madison Iseman, Ser’Darius Blain, Morgan Turner, Colin Hanks, Missi Pyle

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set twenty-one years after the first film, the film follows four teenagers who are transported into the video game world of Jumanji, and playing as the characters they chose, must beat the game in order to return home. The film is also a tribute to Robin Williams, star of the original.

My Opinion:

I’ll be honest – I really liked this movie. It was exactly what I was in the mood for the other day. I needed a fun, chill-out, popcorn movie.

The first Jumanji isn’t exactly near & dear to my heart as I wasn’t the right age for it when it came out (I was in my damn 20s already. Shit I’m old). It’s a good family classic, though. I watched it again a couple of weeks ago with my daughter to refresh my memory. Sheesh – I can’t say it has aged all that well. How terrible did those monkeys look?! Even the kid commented on that. However, she absolutely loved the film. I was surprised. So the story and the characters stand the test of time even if other things about the movie aren’t doing so well now.

As I like but don’t have some kind of huge childhood affection for the first film, I had zero issues with them updating the story for current times. I thought they did a really good job adapting it to a video game this time around and I actually prefer this film to the first one. But don’t tell my kid that – she still loves the first one much more. The story just feels far less messy in this one plus I enjoyed there being a lot more humor. And penis jokes. Lots of penis jokes! But as I’m an old woman with a Beavis & Butthead sense of humor, I appreciate a good penis joke.

The teenagers were all fine in this but we don’t spend loads of time with them as they become their avatars in the game. The avatars (Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart & Karen Gillan) were great. I’ve not seen that many Dwayne Johnson films but I can say that this is the most I’ve ever liked him in a movie. He was very funny, as was Karen Gillan. There’s this whole flirting scene involving Gillan & Jack Black that’s pretty damn hilarious. Love him or hate him (I love him), Black seems to be having a lot of fun in this film and Kevin Hart also does well as his usual Kevin Hart self. You know what you’re gonna get with Black & Hart, though, so the bigger surprise was how funny Johnson & Gillan were.

Yeah, I really liked Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle. As the kid gets older, I’m enjoying seeing more of these family films that are actually entertaining for the whole family instead of just the kids. But with penis jokes. Beware the penis jokes! I think this movie is aimed a bit older than the first Jumanji.

My Rating: 7.5/10

It looks like this is my last review of 2017. Hope you all have a fun New Year’s Eve! See you in 2018 with my end-of-year Best Of 2017 lists, starting tomorrow.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Review

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW (as far as I’m aware!!)***

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Directed by Taika Waititi

Based on Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

My Opinion:

As I always say when I start these superhero movie reviews, I’m getting very superheroed-out. However, I do have fun with the Marvel ones even though I wouldn’t call myself a massive fan. But then the Guardians Of The Galaxy films came along and it turns out that the “funny superhero movie” thing is MUCH more my type of thing! I love GOTG. And as for the Avengers, Thor is probably my favorite character because, um. I dunno? I’m trying to think of something mature to say… Okay, I like Thor the most because Chris Hemsworth is visually appealing. Okay?!

Of the standalone movies, the first Iron Man may be my favorite and I think the first Thor film is quite weak. But then I liked Thor: The Dark World a hell of a lot more than the first film and, with the Avengers films, we were able to see Thor develop much more of a personality. The “Thor with a sense of humor” thing that started to appear really worked for the character and I’m very happy that they’ve finally gone fully in that direction with this film. I’m surprised it’s getting such good reviews overall, though, as I can’t see “funny Thor” working for everyone? I hated Batman V Superman with a passion (yeah, I know that’s DC) and that whole “dark, brooding, depressing” superhero bullshit annoys me. But some people love that. Those who love dark & brooding are unlikely to love this new version of Thor. I personally love this new version of Thor (and all versions of Thor, including shirtless Thor) but my only negative comment is that this film does feel out of place in amongst all the other Marvel Avengers movies. It doesn’t really “fit”. I don’t know how some fans will feel about that.

I lied: I have one more negative comment so I’ll get that out of the way now. The story in this movie isn’t anything special. It’s your typical Marvel plot. But I honestly never give much of a shit about any of the Marvel plots as they all seem the same to me anyway & I see these all as “popcorn” movies that I don’t want to have to think about. I don’t mean to sound dismissive of these films as I know they have so many fans – I just see them in a different sort of way than a full-on fanboy or fangirl would see them. I don’t think I can say that this movie really added anything important to the overall Avengers stories. It was just a lot of fun to watch, which is the main thing that a superhero movie should be (in my opinion).

Here are the positives: there are loads of genuinely funny moments, Thor and Hulk are hilarious together, and I thought all the new characters were very good (especially Tessa Thompson’s super cool Valkyrie & Cate Blanchett’s super evil Hela). Oh, and Jeff Goldblum, of course. I didn’t realize he had such a big following! People seem to love him & he’s very funny in this. I also really liked Karl Urban (Oh yeah – I like Dredd a lot & that’s dark & depressing! Hmm) and I liked seeing Idris Elba get to do more than I can remember him getting to do in the other Thor films (I could do with re-watching them but doubt I’ll ever bother). And I think everyone knows that director Taika Waititi plays a character named Korg. He’s pretty damn hilarious and was clearly a favorite with the audience in my cinema. Oh, and it was one of those weird times when some people in my cinema clapped & cheered at the end of the movie. I always find that strange (it’s not a play!) but it gives you an idea of how some feel about Thor: Ragnarok – I saw a lot of people who clearly had a great time watching this.

I liked this movie a lot but, for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I didn’t love it. It seems like all the elements are there for me to love it. I think Taika Waititi is very funny, I far prefer fun & lighthearted superhero movies like this, and I loooooove Chris Hemsworth. The new characters are great, I laughed quite a bit, and even though I haven’t listened to Led Zeppelin in years after having a big phase of worshipping them in my teens I never stopped loving Immigrant Song (because it kicks ass) and its use, though predictable, is perfect for this movie. So why don’t I love this movie? I disagree with the hubby quite a bit on movies these days but I have to agree with him saying that this movie feels a bit “throwaway”. It’s fun but, years from now, it may not stand up as well when compared to some of the strongest Marvel films.

Also, I’ll remain spoiler-free but just a warning if you bring kids under 12: this movie is more violent than some and there’s one particular moment that was quite horrifying. My daughter turned to me with a look of horror on her face but I don’t think I was much comfort since I had a similar look of horror. 😉 But you know kids: they bounce back quick. About 15 minutes later she whispered “I love this movie!” while I still had yet to fully recover. The moment is listed in the parents’ guide at IMDb if you really need to know beforehand but it’s a major spoiler. Also, this movie is a lower rating in the UK but is a PG-13 in America. Damn. As we got it here first, I had no warning beforehand so be careful if taking sensitive kids to this. Knowing America, though, it probably only got the higher rating there for some “dirty talk” that will go over kids’ heads anyway. 

My Rating: 7.5/10

Is there a scene after the credits? Duh. Of course. One partway through and one at the very end. Worth staying for if you like to get the full experience.

Stan Lee Cameo: I feel like I should start rating these… I loved this one. Another fun cameo and he was the perfect person for this part. 🙂

The Final Girls (2015) Review

The Final Girls (2015)

Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson

Written by M.A. Fortin & Joshua John Miller

Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Malin Åkerman, Adam DeVine, Thomas Middleditch, Alia Shawkat, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young woman grieving the loss of her mother, a famous scream queen from the 1980s, finds herself pulled into the world of her mom’s most famous movie. Reunited, the women must fight off the film’s maniacal killer.

My Opinion:

I enjoyed this. My enjoyment was only affected slightly by my hubby hating this & complaining throughout it. Sorry, dude – I thought it was okay! Flawed & certainly not perfect but fun and a great concept that was far more original than we usually get in the horror genre.

I’m going to start with the flaws. Mainly: Adam DeVine. I’m sorry but I can’t stand him. I happen to love Jack Black (I know a lot of people hate him) but why is DeVine acting like a horrible impersonation of Jack Black in this? If you hate Jack Black, please tell me that you hated DeVine in this as well. It’s like if Jack Black was still his outrageous self but completely unfunny in any way whatsoever. It was actually painful to watch. It was a shame, really, as I think there’s a potentially brilliant film hidden beneath the surface here that doesn’t quite break through due mostly to some of the performances (but mainly DeVine’s).

Other than DeVine, the rest of the movie’s flaws were pretty minor. I did find most of the characters weak or slightly annoying but, luckily, our two main ones (Taissa Farmiga & Malin Åkerman) were good. But I suppose that’s kind of the point as this is a horror comedy spoofing horror movies of the Eighties and all the silly clichés that go along with them, including everyone but the “final girl” being expendable.

I guess the biggest problem, really, is that the movie Scream already did the horror spoof thing with a much more clever script than The Final Girls. But there have now been plenty of horror comedies that spoof 70s & 80s horrors and I do love a good horror comedy so I still enjoyed this movie. I already did a list of My Top Ten Horror Comedies and The Final Girls comes close to being added. I’ll probably add it to that list & at least give it an honorable mention but DeVine sucks some of the “comedy” part out of the film’s genre classification.

As far as the story goes, I truly appreciated the originality involved in the concept of the teenage daughter of a scream queen ending up in her mother’s most famous 80’s slasher film. I was interested to see that this film was co-written by Joshua John Miller, someone from my day & age (I’m the age of the scream queen mother in this). He was in Halloween III, River’s Edge, Near Dark, Teen Witch, the cheesy Class Of 1999, and my favorite episode of Highway To Heaven! No, seriously – I liked that silly show. Anyway, I found this film to be an interesting mash-up of Generation X vs Current Teen and I thought that worked well. I probably connected to it as it was written & directed by those my age who also grew up on 80’s slashers.

Most of all, I really loved the mother/daughter relationship between Taissa Farmiga & Malin Åkerman. It was actually quite heartbreaking when the mother died (in the beginning & the plot synopsis so not a spoiler). When the daughter is reunited with her mother within her mother’s slasher film, the look of happiness & love on the daughter’s face was great. It was genuinely sweet & heartfelt for a horror comedy so they did do a great job with the two most important characters: the “Final Girls”. And I absolutely loved the climactic scene when the mother dances to Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes while her daughter watches. It was lovely & bittersweet & seriously one of my favorite movie scenes in recent years. And I’ve always liked that song and now I like it even more & will always think of that scene when I hear it. I’d love for the writers & director to get together & make a sequel to this (being a spoof of “80’s slasher clichés”, it’s obviously left open for a sequel). I’d happily watch Part 2. Just please leave Adam DeVine out of it… !

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Raid (2011) Blind Spot Review

The Raid (2011)
US Title – The Raid: Redemption
Serbuan maut

Directed & Written by Gareth Huw Evans

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 7.5/10

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

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

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

Directed by Luc Besson

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

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 7.5/10

The King And I (1956) Blind Spot Review

The King And I (1956)

Directed by Walter Lang

Based on The King and I by Oscar Hammerstein II

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

Music by Richard Rodgers

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 7.5/10

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

Logan (2017) Review

Logan (2017)

Directed by James Mangold

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a past-his-prime Logan embarking on a “road trip” across a dystopian future version of America for one final mission.

My Opinion:

I’m not going to say yet again how superheroed-out I am and that I skipped watching all superhero movies last year other than Deadpool & Captain America: Civil War. Oops – I guess I did just say it again? Anyway, I’m not a big superhero geek & don’t read any comics (well, I read Watchmen & Tank Girl so I’m lying a little) but I enjoy these movies when they’re halfway decent. The X-Men movie series has probably actually been my favorite. At least, character-wise, it’s the group of “superheroes” (okay, mutants) that I’ve been drawn to the most. The movies started out pretty good (although a little cheesy) but have ended up so disappointing in recent years. Hell, I didn’t even watch X-Men: Apocalypse or The Wolverine. That’s pretty bad considering how much I loved these characters after the first couple of films.

Then Logan came along, which looked a bit different and had a great trailer (plus a young girl kicking ass!) so I was finally once again excited to watch an X-Men movie. I suppose it helps that two of the absolute best X-Men characters are the stars of this one (Professor X is my personal favorite. Yay, Patrick Stewart!). I honestly didn’t miss having loads of other mutants in this. I find it overkill sometimes when you have too many characters, like in Civil War. Sometimes less is more and I liked so much focus being on Logan, Charles & Laura.

I really enjoyed Logan. It’s a very good film for this genre. I think the more violent, more grown-up thing worked very well for the character of Wolverine but wouldn’t necessarily work for all other comic book characters. It was the perfect “end(?)” to this character’s story (for me). And, I’m not gonna lie – I loved seeing a young girl kicking ass. Plus I love a good father/daughter-like relationship in a movie. Dafne Keen did a great job and I was a sucker for the relationship she developed with Logan as well as with Charles. And of course the further development of the existing relationship between Logan & Charles. I love that kind of shit. A fucked-up, crazy, loving mutant family! Good character development & angst & feelings. I like that! Good stuff.

I admit that I didn’t care too much about the actual story itself. The story was decent enough. I can’t say I ever take these comic book storylines too seriously anyway. With these kind of movies, I always care more about really good characters & just enough action to keep things moving along and Logan delivers as far as these two things are concerned. Did I like it more than the very first two X-Men movies? I don’t know. In some ways, yes. I think it’s the better film but certainly not as much “fun”. But it’s not meant to be – I guess it depends what you want from a comic book movie. I like either fun or serious depending on my mood and I enjoyed Logan as much as the first couple of X-Men films, just in a different sort of way. Other than that, I don’t have much more to say. I’m no expert on these movies as I haven’t read any of the comics so can’t compare. I like the films. I love the characters. I thought Logan was a great final film for Wolverine. For now. Until another sequel or prequel or evil twin or clone or time travel or some alternate reality bullshit comes along…

My Rating: 7.5/10

T2 Trainspotting (2017) Review

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Directed by Danny Boyle

Based on Trainspotting and Porno by Irvine Welsh

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Anjela Nedyalkova, Shirley Henderson, Irvine Welsh

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
20 years after the previous film, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Scotland to make amends with his friends, Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner) and Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), whilst avoiding the psychopathic Francis “Franco” Begbie (Robert Carlyle).

My Opinion:

I enjoyed this sequel more than I thought I would and it was better than I expected. It’s interesting that just last week I reviewed The Hustler (1961) and its sequel The Color Of Money (1986). It doesn’t always work to revisit characters with films that are 20+ years apart. However, in the case of both The Color Of Money & T2, I did thoroughly enjoy seeing what our much older characters are now up to and I don’t think either film ruined its (admittedly superior) predecessor.

Let’s face it – the Trainspotting sequel was never going to be better than the original. Trainspotting was so of its time and it captured a mood, time & place in a way I don’t think could ever be replicated now. All I wanted was a sequel that wasn’t embarrassing & didn’t ruin the characters as we remember them and I think Danny Boyle has managed to deliver this to Trainspotting fans. I’ve actually been extremely disappointed with some of his films I’ve watched lately (Trance, Slumdog Millionaire) so am very happy to say that this sequel met & even exceeded my expectations. I still like these characters. (Other than Begbie, of course… What an asshole!)

I really like the first film and think it deserves its acclaim for being something quite unique. When I first saw it years ago, it was when I was first starting to really get into films and it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before (and probably one of the most shocking I’d seen at that point in my life). I was also still in America at that point so I suppose it was very foreign to me as well. I’ve only watched it once more since (just after moving to the UK over a decade ago) so, while I think it’s a very good film, I’m not one of its obsessive fans and had even forgotten bits & pieces of it. More than anything, it was the soundtrack from the original that stuck with me (Excellent soundtrack!). I probably could’ve done with re-watching the first before the sequel but, with the help of some flashbacks which I thought were well done, it filled in a few blanks in my mind.

My point is this: I’m no expert or obsessive Trainspotting fan and I’ve never read the books so I don’t feel very qualified in reviewing this sequel. I know I personally enjoyed it and it was great revisiting the characters and seeing them together again (especially Renton & Spud. I’d forgotten how likable Spud was – he’s easily my favorite character in the sequel). This is a more grown-up film and certainly not as intense as the original but it feels “right“. These guys are 20 years older – they’re not going to be exactly the same. However, they still stay true to their characters and, though older and supposedly wiser, still make bad decisions and mistakes.

Immediately after watching this, I was mostly curious what fellow blogger Mark of Marked Movies thought of it as I know he’s a big fan of the original (and he’s from Scotland, I should add). He kindly reviewed the original a couple of years ago for my IMDB Top 250 Project HERE (Thanks again, Mark!). I figure that his opinion on this sequel is far more relevant than mine so, if you’d also like the opinion of a big Trainspotting fan, you can read his review of the sequel HERE. It looks like we both feel quite similar about the sequel so Boyle seems to have done a good job keeping loyal fans (as well as casual fans such as myself) happy. Oh yeah – The soundtrack is also okay but it’s not as awesome as the first film’s!

My Rating: 7/10

La La Land (2016) Review

La La Land (2016)

Directed & Written by Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt

Music by Justin Hurwitz

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

My Opinion:

So, this movie got a record 1,582 Oscar nominations yesterday (roughly). I finally saw it over the weekend & knew instantly that it would get loads of Oscar noms as this is the type of movie that’s SO right up the Academy voters’ street (and butt). Don’t worry – I’m not going to be all “this is overrated!”. Those people who go around shouting “this is overrated!” are so overrated. This is a lovely film. It’s a good film. It’s not, in my opinion, up there with the all-time musical greats such as The Sound Of Music, The Wizard Of Oz, Singin’ In The Rain, etc etc etc. It’s good! I enjoyed it and really liked Gosling & especially Stone, who are as great together as always. But I think people will realize ten years from now that La La Land doesn’t come close to touching the all-time classic musicals. (It’s also far less of a “musical” than I was expecting!)

I found the movie a little uneven. It starts out with a big musical number that has such a different sound & vibe from the rest of the film that it feels like it’s from a different movie. It’s an okay number (not my favorite & I can’t even remember the music from it right now) but it sets things up to be this epic musical when all we get are a few more “big” song & dance numbers (I did really like two of these) and several smaller-scale musical scenes. I felt bad thinking that this movie was overlong and could’ve had at least 20 minutes shaved off of it (it’s 2 hours 8 minutes) but I don’t think I’d have been checking my watch if they’d had more scenes like the musical number with Gosling & Stone in the observatory. That one was lovely & it was one of the only times I thought the film came close to the standard I expect from a really good musical.

This movie didn’t seem to have a clear overall goal or, shit, I dunno… a clear aesthetic? Don’t get me wrong – I loved the bold, primary colors and I’m still trying to decide which dress of Stone’s I liked the most (probably the green dress in the above photo). But this didn’t always fit with the other imagery or with the music when the movie tried to be more “classic Hollywood” or tried to go with a jazz vibe. Damien Chazelle was possibly trying to cram in too many different artistic & musical styles he likes instead of sticking to one main theme or at least trying to make these different styles mesh together a bit better. Being a lover of film & classic Hollywood, I was naturally more attracted to the scenes such as the lovely observatory number that attempted to imitate this (although some of the classic Hollywood scenes were somewhat derivative) than I was to the brightly colored musical numbers that felt like some 1990’s Gap ad. Or, as my hubby put it, a Feist video. 

I think what’s possibly my biggest problem with the movie (this may get me into trouble to say but, hey, no one is reading this, right?) – La La Land is a bit too “Millennial Musical” for me to really see it as all-time classic. I can’t see me wanting to watch this 52 years from now the way I’ll still happily watch all 3 hours of The Sound Of Music. FYI – I did the math to find out that The Sound Of Music is 52 years old. Then I realized that I’m sounding like the grumpy old person that I am so I did some more math and realized that I’ll most likely be dead in 52 years anyway, so… Okay, I guess if you really love La La Land & I’ve offended you with my “Millennial Musical” statement, you’ll get the last laugh when I die of old age soon. 😉


La La Land is a good film with Stone & Gosling just as lovable together as always. I’m very happy for their Acting Oscar nominations and think they’re well deserved. I know I often come across as negative but I’m perfectly fine with all the nominations this film has received as I do think it’s a very good and, at times, almost fantastic film. It’s not like I could make a better movie! What do I make? Stupid spreadsheets! (Although I do make them almost as colorful as La La Land).

I just feel like some absolute masterpieces have actually been made in the past few years with little or no rewards while La La Land will likely win all it’s up for mainly because it’s the Academy voters’ type of “thing”. They love a musical and anything that celebrates their way of life. I truly wanted to love this movie. I wanted to be moved by a film that celebrates a “love of cinema & the arts” the way I was by Cinema Paradiso. Or perhaps The Artist or Hugo – these three films capture the filmmakers’ love of cinema in a way that La La Land never quite manages. I wanted the powerful emotional response I had to Arrival & to Room (btw – Amy Adams was ROBBED!!!). For whatever reason, though, La La Land didn’t strike a chord with me. It’s a lovely movie to take your mind off the rest of the world for a couple of hours but I didn’t walk out of it with that feeling of elation that I (and other movie nerds) get from only the truly best pieces of filmmaking.

My Rating: 7/10

Here’s that Feist video. La La Land is an enjoyable film but if you really don’t fancy it, I suppose you can just watch this video to get a feel for one of the three main vibes going on in it.

Plus this Gap ad:

And this is easily my favorite theme from La La Land. I do think this is beautiful and wish all the music in the film was as simple & elegant as this piece. THIS feels timeless:

Running On Empty (1988) Blind Spot Review

Running On Empty (1988)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 7.5/10

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

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)


Directed by Gareth Edwards

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

Music by Michael Giacchino

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Initial Rating: 7.5/10

Kubo And The Two Strings (2016) & Trolls (2016) Movie Reviews

Here are two reviews for the only two films I’ve seen in the cinema in the past two months. Help!!! I want to go to a grown-up movie again someday! 😦 Well, at least one of these was good…

Kubo And The Two Strings (2016)

Directed by Travis Knight

Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Production company: Laika

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film revolves around Kubo, who has magical powers and whose left eye was stolen. Accompanied by Monkey and Beetle, they must subdue the Sisters, Raiden the Moon King and his army of evil spirits.

My Opinion:

Yep – As you probably guessed, this is the good one of these two films. We went to this as a family and all really liked it but, of the three of us, my hubby is the one who loved it the most. He’s a big fan of stop-motion animation (probably thanks to growing up on Ray Harryhausen films) and seems fascinated by the behind-the-scenes stuff that Laika put in their end credits.

Of the Laika films so far, ParaNorman is still possibly my personal favorite but Kubo is a very close second and the one I’d actually say is their “best film” so far. I hated The Boxtrolls (can’t win them all!) but the animation was fantastic as always. I admit to falling asleep in the middle of Coraline years ago & never going back to it but that’s been due to lack of time more than lack of interest. I really should finish that one but will wait until I think the kid is old enough to watch it with me (what I saw was kind of creepy – what age would you guys recommend on that one?).

As with other Laika films, Kubo And The Two Strings is dark, serious, and slightly intense. It’s one you’re obviously not going to bring a three-year-old to or to watch for the simple, silly giggles like you get out of something like Trolls. Laika doesn’t need to make those sort of films, though – we already have studios such as DreamWorks for that. As a (admittedly sometimes too snobby) fan of film, I have a lot of respect for Laika (and Pixar) making true art for kids & grown-ups alike and for never dumbing things down for their younger audiences.

As a lover of Studio Ghibli & a lot of Japanese films, I loved the setting & vibe of Kubo (although, of course, it’s voiced mostly by American or British actors). That’s my only small complaint about the film – the voices of Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara & Matthew McConaughey don’t exactly give this film a genuine Japanese vibe. But, well… it was made in the West & we speak English, so…

Anyway – I don’t want to take away from the film as it’s a lovely work of art with an original & unique story. No, not all kids will love it and you might not want to let anyone too young watch it (mine is seven & she really liked it, though not as much as the Studio Ghibli films she’s seen. Yes! I love my kid). 😉 I’d say minimum age of six on this one but, as always, it depends on each individual kid. The evil Sisters & Moon King are quite frightening and Kubo’s eye is stolen for crying out loud (this isn’t shown)… Actually, yeah – this one is pretty scary come to think of it. But there are still light-hearted moments and my daughter seemed pretty taken with Kubo, Monkey & Beetle, who are strong main characters.

I want to give this movie a slightly higher score as I think it’s very good but there’s also something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think I just have yet to fully connect with any of the characters in Laika’s films in the same way I have with so many Pixar characters. I don’t get the same sort of wave of emotion that I do while watching the best of Pixar or Ghibli but I think Laika is coming closer to someday achieving that same level of genius. I feel kind of the same about this film as I do Song Of The Sea, which I also watched recently. That was absolutely gorgeous to look at but I didn’t “care” as much as I’d hoped to while watching it. Still, Kubo is another step in the right direction & I look forward to future films from Laika.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Trolls (2016)

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Gwen Stefani

Production company: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film revolves around two trolls on a quest to save their village from destruction by the Bergens, creatures who devour trolls.

My Opinion:

Kids’ films are hard to review, which is why at one point I tried to review Cinderella (2015) in a way where I gave my daughter’s opinion as well as my own (and hubby’s – he’s actually as big of a movie nut as I am). This was because I was accused of taking kids’ films too seriously in one of my reviews and I actually got quite upset because it was a time when I cared what people thought of me. Not anymore! 😉 Screw that. I’m a movie-blogging-asshole with strong opinions & feel that even “kids’ films” should maintain certain standards. Hell, they’re even more important since what they teach (and too often preach) is going to have an impact on impressionable young minds. Which brings me to Trolls…..

I have no idea how to review this because it seriously SUCKS but my daughter LOVED it! Hahaha! I’m so conflicted!!!! My snobby self wants to trash it but, in all honesty, it’s one of my favorite trips to the cinema in ages. She giggled like crazy through this entire glitter vomit nightmare and it made me so happy that I wanted to cry. What’s better than seeing your kid happy?! So, um… Hmm.

Trolls! Ugh. Well, this movie was pretty much what I expect from DreamWorks. DreamWorks has made loads of highly successful films and I respect that as it’s far more impressive than staring at spreadsheets all day like an un-artistic loser like me but I’ll never see their films as anything more than “movies for kids”. There’s nothing wrong with this and I’m glad they’ve made so many kids happy but I prefer family films that appeal to young & old alike. And so you don’t think I’m a grumpy old fart who can’t just shut up & enjoy a simple kids’ movie, I do like some DreamWorks (I should do one of my annoying top tens! The Kung Fu Pandas & Monsters Vs. Aliens are probably my favorites while my kid seems to like How To Train Your Dragon & that weird Puss In Boots).

Trolls! Is it obvious I don’t feel like reviewing this??? Let’s see… Poppy was very cute. My daughter loved young Poppy at the beginning of the movie and, while she went too annoyingly cute at times, the character mostly stayed on the right side of the sickeningly sweet line. The kid also loved that she’s voiced by Anna Kendrick since she knows her as the Cups song girl. She also likes Gwen Stefani, who was completely wasted in a tiny role in a movie so full of music.

Speaking of music, Trolls took a lot of GREAT songs and ruined them. Again, I’m conflicted as they had the good taste to pick songs by artists such as Gorillaz & Justice (!!!) but then ruined them by turning them into dumb songs about troll hair (!!!!!). Oops – I’m being bitchy again. But I thought the hubby was going to either cry or scream & run out of the cinema when the Trolls version of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love started up… Lol! (You think I’m a snob? He’s far worse than I am). To be fair, the movie’s Cyndi Lauper True Colors scene wasn’t bad. And, hey – I think the Justin Timberlake song, Can’t Stop The Feeling, is a genuinely good song and the one thing from this film that will stand the test of time. It got the biggest reaction from kids in the cinema (some even cheered). I said something positive! Yay me! Oh, I also kind of liked the cloud dude. He was weirdly funny. My daughter didn’t like him, though – she looked at me like I was a weirdo when I said he was my favorite character. He looked stoned:

Trolls! They look nothing like the classic Trolls we grew up with. That’s annoying. I want my kid to have a genuine ugly, naked troll doll – not these pink, sparkly cartoon versions! Dammit. At least the classic ones have a brief cameo, I guess. The bad guys in this, the Bergens, were stupid & got on my nerves but at least they made me like the Trolls more. Hey – there’s another positive. Yay me! I’ve said some good things about this movie! Justin Timberlake’s character wasn’t too bad, mostly since he had the right attitude (not an asshole Bergen but not annoyingly happy like the other Trolls).

This review is too long & I’m bored. I was going to write one paragraph & be done with it. Ha! I do ramble on when I’m being bitchy. Sorry about that. Trolls! It sucks but your young kid will probably love it and seeing your kid smile will melt your frozen heart (Anna/Elsa-style!). But those goddamn troll-hair songs will still make you cringe…

My Rating: 5.5/10

**Okay – I admit I was in a horrible mood when I wrote these reviews. Yesterday, however, I watched my first proper grown-up film in months and MAN was it a good one!!! So I’m slightly less grumpy now. 😉 I’ll try to review that film tomorrow…. (it was Arrival, FYI)

Trick ‘r Treat (2007) Review

Happy Halloween, everyone! This movie was an unplanned watch over the weekend. So, there will be two horror reviews from me today: this one and later on one of my Blind Spot choices I’d already planned to be the end to my October Horror Month. As for Trick ‘r Treat, I’d not even heard of it until fairly recently. I didn’t necessarily expect much from it as the majority of modern horrors suck. Well, Hell – this was a pleasant surprise! Let’s talk about it…

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Directed & Written by Michael Dougherty

Starring: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Rochelle Aytes, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Moneca Delain, Tahmoh Penikett, Leslie Bibb

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Trick ‘r Treat centers on four Halloween-related horror stories. One common element that ties the stories together is the presence of Sam, a mysterious child trick-or-treater wearing shabby orange pajamas with a burlap sack over his head, that makes an appearance in all the stories whenever someone breaks Halloween traditions.

My Opinion:

This movie somehow completely passed me by when it came out. I saw a couple of bloggers give it positive reviews last year so I’ve since been curious about it but still didn’t rush to try see it. Thank you to the hubby for seeing the DVD cheap the other night and picking it up for me as a Halloween treat! 🙂 I hadn’t planned on actually watching any horror movies for Halloween this year but I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed this one. It has the best “Halloween spirit” of anything I’ve seen in a very long time.

I do love horror anthologies. I’ve always been a fan of this format, though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Yes, this film could be accused of being somewhat derivative as it’s very much like watching Tales From The Crypt meets Creepshow meets Goosebumps. It even throws in the comic book panel thing. Well, I’m not going to complain as all work is derivative anyway. As long as something good & enjoyable comes from it, I don’t really mind.

I thought this film was quite clever in the way it connected these four stories (actually five stories, including the opening to the film). Sam the adorable/creepy trick-or-treater with the sack on his head makes an appearance in each story as do the various characters within each of the other stories. It all takes place during Halloween festivities in a small Ohio town.

What I love about anthologies is that you get a variety of stories and everyone will have a different favorite. I’m still not sure which is my favorite from Trick ‘r Treat. Possibly the school bus massacre? Or maybe the Sam segment… I don’t know! The cool thing is that I liked all of them. And I’m super picky, especially with this genre.

I’ll say something quick about each segment (using the names for each as listed at Wikipedia – I don’t know if they have specific titles):

The Opening:

This is a short story that opens the film and for some reason doesn’t seem to get counted as I keep reading that there are “four stories”. Like the rest, though, it’s interwoven throughout the film as we see these characters again (a Halloween-hating woman & her Halloween-loving boyfriend). It’s a decent opening and a throwback to Eighties slashers.

The Principal:

This is one of the two segments that I’d label “horror comedy”, yet I haven’t seen this movie called a horror comedy anywhere. Actually, the entire film has fun comedic elements so I’m not sure why it’s labelled strictly as horror/thriller.

When I got this DVD, I immediately looked up the film’s director & writer (because I’m a weirdo nerd) and discovered it’s from the guy who did Christmas horror comedy Krampus (Michael Dougherty). Krampus wasn’t perfect but I did really enjoy it and you can very much tell that these films are from the same person (especially the Meet Sam segment below, which had a very similar feel to Krampus). Dougherty hasn’t done a lot of directing – he’s mostly been a writer for things like X-Men 2, Superman Returns, X-Men: Apocalypse… Screw that superhero stuff – he needs to make more stuff like Trick ‘r Treat & Krampus! This is what he seems to be best at. Where’s the Trick ‘r Treat sequel supposedly in development? I now want a sequel.

Oops – I went off on a tangent. The Principal! This was a funny segment & you gotta love Dylan Baker as the “school principal with a dark secret”. He was perfect for this role – that dude is so weird. Anyone here ever watch The Good Wife besides me? Probably not but he’s so similar here to his great unhinged character from that show. Not my favorite segment but it’s good & probably the most “Creepshow“-like.

The School Bus Massacre Revisited:

I really liked this story, although I’ve seen it compared to R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps stories. I can see why there’s the comparison as, overall but especially with this story, this movie was far more tame than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, though – this is not a kids’ film so don’t gather the family around for this one on Halloween! 😉 There’s still plenty of blood & violence but it has a great cheesy 80’s vibe as opposed to the sick torture porn shit of today (I can’t stomach those). This story, starring kids telling the tale of the legend of a “school bus massacre” in the town’s past, is minimal on gore but probably the one that’s most in the spirit of Halloween & the scary tales we liked to hear as kids. Fun stuff!

Surprise Party:

This story revolves around four (teenage? twenty-something?) girls on their way to a party & doing the typical “let’s dress slutty for Halloween” thing. Oh, but one of them (Anna Paquin) is a virgin & looking to find a date & make her first time special. I’d assume this is possibly the most popular segment? It’s probably actually the best of the five. It wasn’t the most original if you’ve seen enough horror films but I really liked the direction this story took. Plus there’s some boobage for the male viewers, if you like that sort of thing…

Meet Sam:

If I had to pick a favorite segment, I’d probably go with this one in which we finally meet that adorably creepy sack-head trick-or-treater we see throughout all the stories. “Sam” is a great design – it had to be difficult to make something so cute yet scary as f*^k at the same time. This bit is silly in a wonderfully retro-Eighties way and I would assume this is either people’s favorite or least favorite of the five. If you just go with it & have fun in the way I believe the director/writer intended, you should really enjoy the Meet Sam segment. If you liked Krampus, you’ll like this. And vice versa.

Conclusion (the movie’s & mine):

After our five stories, the movie neatly wraps things up for each of them and gives a satisfying conclusion as far as horror films go. Again, I liked how cleverly interwoven the stories were and would only have one small complaint about something that felt forced & didn’t quite add up (involving the other story the school principal is a part of – it made no sense how he came to be there…). That’s a minor thing, though – I really enjoyed this film overall and think it’s a fantastic one to watch each Halloween.

But I admit that this movie is going to be more to my taste than to a younger generation because of its obvious Eighties influences. I looked up the director’s age afterwards to see if he was the same sort of age as me since it felt like he must have grown up on the same kind of horrors that I did (he is so he clearly did). Younger audiences may not appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor and may mistake this film for “cheesy” as opposed to an homage to the fun horrors I grew up on and which weren’t meant to be taken so damn seriously. Yeah, I enjoyed Trick ‘r Treat quite a bit and am even giving it the highest rating of everything I’ve reviewed this month. Good old-fashioned horror fun. Bring on the sequel!

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974), San Andreas & Pixels Movie Reviews 

Three quickie reviews today & I mean it. I’m going to try to not ramble on in my reviews anymore. I mainly just like discussing movies with people in the comments so I’m only really here to say whether I liked a film or not & then to hear what others have to say about it.

It’s an odd assortment today but I can tell you that one was really good, one was really bad but fun, and one was just really bad with a great concept it somehow managed to shit all over. I’m sure you can guess which is which…

The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

Directed by Joseph Sargent

Based on The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey

Starring: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In New York, armed men hijack a subway car and demand a ransom for the passengers. Even if it’s paid, how could they get away?

My Opinion:

I really enjoyed this movie. I love movies from the 1970s and was happy when both this & Escape From Alcatraz became available on one of our movie services. Man it’s hard keeping track of which movies are available where, when & how – I know I’m old school but I still kind of prefer just being able to go to a video store. So, anyway – I made the hubby watch them both with me about the same time last year and they were great. Alcatraz was better and I highly recommend that one but Pelham was really good as well. No, I’ve not seen the remake with John Travolta and I don’t plan to.

If you’ve not seen this, imagine Speed set on a subway train in 1974 instead of a bus with attractive people in 1994. So, I guess Walter Matthau is kind of the Keanu Reeves in this. Gotta say I prefer Keanu (he was such a hottie in Speed). Actually, I found Matthau a bit distracting but he was probably the only thing I didn’t really like about this as he just seemed out of place. Robert Shaw was great as one of the hijackers, though! I think I’d only ever seen him in Jaws before this (which he’s AWESOME in). All the hijackers were great & I loved all the drama on the train. The only times the movie dragged a little were when we got away from that action and back to the cops & Matthau’s character dealing with the hostage takers’ ransom demands. Overall, though, The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three is a great 70’s action thriller I’d definitely recommend to anyone who is a fan of this sort of genre.

My Rating: 7.5/10

San Andreas (2015)

Directed by Brad Peyton

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Paul Giamatti

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey with his ex-wife across the state in order to rescue his daughter.

My Opinion:

Ha! This movie was so bad. But it was “fun bad”. It was exactly what I think we’ve all come to expect from these cheesy disaster movies so, therefore, I kind of enjoyed it. It’s utterly ridiculous. Some random people get saved at the last minute, which is supposed to make the audience all cheer while thousands of others are sucked into the Earth to their deaths. Never mind those people as long as a girl with big boobs & a dog get saved! Actually, San Andreas didn’t pull the “save the dog” trick. Damn – I always laugh out loud when the dogs get saved…

Alexandra Daddario wears a shirt over a tight tank top which, conveniently, has to he taken off & used as a bandage or something. I don’t remember. But this is just in time for the coming flood which will see her submerged in water while wearing the tight tank top, of course. She’s ended up with a somewhat dorky boy her age who can’t believe his luck at being in an earthquake with such a babe and his little brother who I realized was Rickon Stark. Then they had to run from the earthquake while Kylie Minogue shot arrows at them. Okay, not really but that would’ve been funny. But Kylie Monogue was seriously in this. WTF? Not for long, though – she falls out of a building. Sorry! That’s not really a spoiler since she’s a bitch & this film follows the disaster movie rules of “If you’re an asshole, you die”. Then Dwayne Johnson dies. HA! Just kidding! Of course he doesn’t. He’s not an asshole – he’s the hero! Can you believe that this is the only Dwayne Johnson movie I’ve ever seen??? Oh yeah – and I totally forgot that Paul Giamatti was in this in a completely pointless role. I guess we all gotta pay the bills, huh? And, let’s see… Dwayne Johnson & Carla Gugino (Alexandra “tight tank top” Daddario’s parents) are divorced because they have a tragic past that tore them apart but now they have to work together to save their daughter and THE END IS A COMPLETE SHOCK THAT I DIDN’T SEE COMING!!!! Lol. Just kidding. Predictable disaster movie bullshit every step of the way. GOOD! That’s exactly what I wanted & this movie delivered. Fun bad! But still very bad… 😉

My Rating: 5.5/10

Pixels (2015)

Directed by Chris Columbus

Based on Pixels by Patrick Jean

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, Brian Cox

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.

My Opinion:

When I found out they’d be making a full length movie of the fantastic Pixels short film, I was excited. It’s such an awesome concept & the short is great. What could possibly go wrong, right? Holy shit – how did they manage to mess this film up so completely?! You can watch the (far superior) short film HERE.

I actually don’t hate Adam Sandler like I know a lot of people do. He’s been in plenty of movies that are complete & utter shit but he’s also been in several that I liked okay. He’s from “my” era of SNL and, overall, I don’t really have anything against him. But I worried like hell when I heard that this would be an Adam Sandler film & thought “well, maybe it will have decent writers & he’ll just star in it”. Nope, this is an Adam Sandler movie. It’s not the worst of his worst: it’s one of the “mediocre” Adam Sandler movies. But that’s not what this should’ve been! There was so much potential here to make a decent movie out of that brilliant short and instead they decided to make The Waterboy version of Pixels. Pixels Gilmore! Pixels Madison! Pixels Nicky! You Don’t Mess With The Pixels! I Now Pronounce You Pixels & Larry! 8 (Bit) Crazy Pixels!

This movie was such a massive disappointment. Sandler is actually fine, I guess – he’s far less annoying than the other characters. Kevin James plays the most unbelievable President Of The United States in the history of film. Peter Dinklage is, sadly, just plain embarrassing. Not only did this movie piss all over the short film but it also managed to somewhat destroy one of the greatest Game Of Thrones characters for me! Rickon Stark was better in San Andreas. Oh, and that reminds me: Sean Bean has a small role in this too. How could I forget Ned Stark being in this as well?! Because the movie is forgettable, that’s why. Michelle Monaghan, unsurprisingly, plays Sandler’s usual paint-by-numbers love interest. Q*bert plays a character WHO TALKS. What the @!#?@! That really annoyed me. Wreck-It Ralph got Q*bert right! Wreck-It Ralph got a lot of things right. That movie has really gone up in my opinion over time & Pixels made me appreciate it even more. Watch the Pixels short & watch Wreck-It Ralph. Watch any of the movies in my list of My Top Ten Video Game Movies. Then watch The Wedding Singer if you want to watch an Adam Sandler movie because that one is good. Then, if you really MUST satisfy your curiosity, watch Pixels with extremely low expectations. After all my bitching, I should give this a lower score but I’ve seen movies that are worse and I have to admit that one cool thing came out of watching this: it got my daughter very interested in classic arcade games. That alone made the movie worthwhile but, dammit, I really wish it had been good.

My Rating: 5/10

**The soundtrack for Pixels predictably features songs that you just KNOW Sandler chose from his own collection of personal favorites. The main song featured was Cheap Trick’s Surrender:

Pete’s Dragon (2016) Review

Pete’s Dragon (2016)

Directed by David Lowery

Based on Pete’s Dragon by Malcolm Marmorstein

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Robert Redford

Production company: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.

My Opinion:

I’m not going to ramble on & on with some long review of this. I thoroughly enjoyed this version of Pete’s Dragon. My 7-year-old didn’t like it all that much. My hubby pretty much hated it. I was so disappointed in him spoiling my enjoyment! 😉 Grumpy turd. Yeah, I get to go to movies with a hubby who says things in disgust like “sometimes his (Elliot’s) fur blows in the wind & sometimes it doesn’t” and “this is so hipster” and “this movie is draining” and “I haven’t felt so cold on a movie in a long time”. He’ll be annoyed when he reads this tomorrow & he’ll probably moan that I’ve misquoted him… Anyway, I feel like I must have watched a completely different film from the one my husband & daughter saw while sat next to me. I really liked it.

I’m not gonna lie – this movie is vanilla ice cream on wholesome white bread. This movie is golden retriever puppies sliding down rainbows into cotton candy clouds. I think that may be one of the hubby’s biggest problems with it. I can’t say that a film being too wholesome bothers me all that much, as long as I don’t feel like it’s preaching to me or trying to shove its values down my throat (like I felt while watching Zootopia/Zootropolis). I just thought this was a lovely family film with its heart in the right place. It doesn’t exactly cover any groundbreaking territory in terms of its lessons but it’s not preachy & I cared about the characters. What more do you want from a Disney movie?

The boy playing Pete (Oakes Fegley) was very good as was the young girl (Oona Laurence). How are kids such good actors these days? The acting from kids used to be pretty dodgy in old movies. I far preferred Bryce Dallas Howard’s character in this to the thoroughly unlikable one in Jurassic World. Her relationships with Pete and with her father (an underused Robert Redford) were believable. Sappy, yes, but you seriously want everyone to live happily ever after in this. For some reason, though, I felt like Wes Bentley & Karl Urban should have been in each other’s roles. Don’t know why, but I pictured Urban as Howard’s boyfriend for some reason.

Then, of course, there’s Elliot. I loved him. I think they did very well with his look. He’s just scary enough when need be but also believable as a gentle creature who could be a boy’s best friend. I want an Elliot! Oh, this movie was directed by David Lowery, who hasn’t directed many big films other than Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (which I reviewed HERE). These are obviously two very different films storywise but do have a similar lovely look & mood that I especially appreciated in Saints. Pete’s Dragon is luckily more of a re-imagining than an actual remake & doesn’t harm the (admittedly dated) original, which I can’t quite say of this year’s The Jungle Book. Of these two modern “remakes”, I definitely prefer Pete’s Dragon. I haven’t read other reviews of this yet so don’t know if people agree more with me or with my husband so I’d love to hear your opinions if you’ve seen the movie. I really liked it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Legend Of Billie Jean, Less Than Zero & Private School Movie Reviews

Welcome to my 80’s Quickie Movie Review Special! I’m catching up on reviewing the things I’ve watched the past couple of years and, since these three were from the same decade (the BEST decade), I’ve decided to stick them together. One is a film I saw at the time & really liked but hadn’t re-watched in years, one is a throwaway film that was exactly what I expected for its sort of genre, and one is a film I’d badly wanted to see for years & found to be a big disappointment after finally seeing it for the first time now. Here we go!

The Legend Of Billie Jean (1985)

Directed by Matthew Robbins

Starring: Helen Slater, Keith Gordon, Christian Slater, Peter Coyote, Yeardley Smith

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A Texas teenager cuts her hair short and becomes an outlaw martyr with her brother and friends.

My Opinion:

I did watch this on TV several times in the 80s & I really liked it but it never became an all-time favorite like other movies from the era (even though Christian Slater, one of my big teen crushes, was in it). It was a lot of fun watching it again with the hubby several months ago, though, and it’s gone up in my estimation due partly to nostalgia and partly to being older & able to appreciate things such as the female empowerment going on (which will have gone straight over my head when I first saw this at the age of 13 or so). It reminds me a bit of the same sort of theme running through the little known 1982 Diane Lane film Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains and the two would make a great double feature. Any female bloggers want to come over to my place for a movie night? We’ll watch these two. Bring lots of popcorn! No pillow fights, though – we’re not going to feed any male fantasies. They can just go watch Private School (review below). 😉

I love Helen Slater (she’s a definite girl crush) and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Billie Jean. I like the City Slickers connection with both Slater & Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) also being in that together (love that movie!). I also like that this movie has a period scene on my list of My Top Ten Period Scenes In Movies & that I get to link to that post again. Ha! There are great songs in this like Pat Benatar’s awesome Invincible (the movie’s theme song) & Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. Oh, that plot synopsis above is pretty crap so here’s a bit more if you’re curious: Basically, Slater & Slater (no relation IRL!) are a poor brother & sister in small town Texas. C. Slater’s motorbike is trashed by local hoodlums & H. Slater demands that the (rich by small-town standards) father of the main hoodlum boy pay for the repairs. After the father instead attempts to rape H. Slater, C. Slater accidentally shoots the asshole in the shoulder. The siblings & their friends then go on the run & H. Slater’s Billie Jean ends up a media sensation & heroine outlaw to all those who believe in how she stands up for what’s right. Through it all, her only demand is that her brother’s motorbike repairs be paid for by the prick responsible. It’s actually a great, simple story & I can see why it has achieved a sort of cult status.

I do really like The Legend Of Billie Jean even though it’s not one that I watched 1,582 times as a teenager. It’s a must see if you love movies from this era but somehow missed out on it. I’m not sure how a younger generation might feel about it but it has aged slightly better than some other movies from its time so it may be worth checking out if you like the sound of it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Less Than Zero (1987)

Directed by Marek Kanievska

Based on Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr.

Music by Thomas Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars Andrew McCarthy as Clay, a college freshman returning home for Christmas to spend time with his ex-girlfriend Blair (Jami Gertz) and his friend Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is also a drug addict. The film presents a look at the culture of wealthy, decadent youth in Los Angeles.

My Opinion:

I didn’t see this movie at the time as I suppose I was a little too young for it but then I just never managed to catch it on TV or anything. Anyway, it’s a movie from 1987 starring big 80’s actors so I’ve of course been wanting to see it for almost 30 years now (yikes! I’m old). I also loved the big song from this movie (a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Hazy Shade Of Winter by The Bangles) and I saw that video full of clips from the film so many times that it almost felt like I had seen the film. Was the movie worth the long wait? No, it wasn’t. Damn – what a disappointment. I was surprised to find it quite boring, especially as the novel is from such a controversial author. I think it was one that needed to be seen at the time as it’s not at all shocking nowadays.

The film is about rich California kids & Robert Downey Jr is a drug addict whose friends try to help him when his family give up on him. Downey Jr was fine as was McCarthy, I suppose (I never liked McCarthy – he’s so boring & bland. He’s like an American Hugh Grant). I’m a fan of Gertz mainly because of my love for The Lost Boys but she feels the most miscast of the three. None of them feel quite right in their roles, though, and the story isn’t very hard hitting for one about drug addiction. The story just kind of meanders & the sex scenes with McCarthy & Gertz felt awkward – talk about less than zero chemistry.

I’ve never read a Bret Easton Ellis book so can’t compare this movie to the novel but I don’t like the film American Psycho & what I’ve read of the book sickens me while I absolutely hated The Rules Of Attraction film & found it extremely offensive. I’m not normally easily offended (I’ll get into this a bit more with Private School) but, considering how much the author’s other adaptations have pissed me off, you’d think Less Than Zero would at least have some balls. This is probably the most tame “drug addiction” movie I’ve seen. Very disappointing. I watched this several months ago & barely even remember it now. Good soundtrack, though! I do remember appreciating that.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Private School (1983)

Directed by Noel Black

Starring: Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine, Michael Zorek, Ray Walston, Sylvia Kristel, Kathleen Wilhoite

Music by Rick Springfield

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Private School is a 1983 teen oriented sex comedy film. It follows a teenage couple attempting to have sex for the first time.

My Opinion:

Being the age that I am, I saw plenty of teen sex comedies while growing up. It’s difficult to watch them nowadays without cringing. I suppose it was a very different experience to be a girl watching them in the 80s as opposed to a boy. It’ll seem strange to females nowadays but, in my day, we didn’t give teen sex comedies much thought. It’s amazing that we didn’t find them offensive & I’m happy that they’re, for the most part, a thing of the past. Private School certainly isn’t a “good” movie but, if you really love 80’s sex comedies, it’s worth a watch. It’s better than crap like Porky’s and the girls (whose boobs we see plenty, yes) are fairly decent characters instead of just feeling like victims for the horny male characters (like in movies such as Revenge Of The Nerds with its rape scene that would never be allowed in a movie nowadays. Yikes). I didn’t find Private School offensive & there’s certainly enough nudity in it for horny males everywhere so I think it gets the right sort of balance for both sexes to be able to watch it. But, of course, we get no male nudity. No surprise there!


Yes, we get a guy spying on the girls in the showers. But, nowadays, he’d take pictures & stick them online. 80’s sex comedies usually don’t feel sinister in the same sort of way that the few modern day films do. We also get the guys dressing up as girls & sneaking into the girls’ dorm. They’re so obviously boys, though, that the girls just have fun messing with them. Especially the below girl, who surprises everyone with a topless ride on a horse. I’m sure it was a very popular scene with young male viewers.

By the way – in looking for pics for this post, I discovered that the topless horse rider (Betsy Russell) is Jigsaw’s ex-wife in the Saw films. Speaking of movies that I find offensive, I find stuff like the Saw films far more offensive than 80’s sex comedies. Yet movies with excessive violence are more readily accepted by society while the briefest flash of a nipple starts riots (way to go, Janet Jackson!). It’s a fucked-up world. Private School is a pretty forgettable film (unless you’re a 13-year-old boy) and it sure as shit isn’t very good but at least the female characters are treated like human beings & have personalities. They’re actually stronger characters than the boys, who are quite dull.

Oh! And Kathleen Wilhoite (in the above photo with the lovely Phoebe Cates) is in this. She’s such a “hey, it’s that girl”. She’s also in Road House. God I love Road House! Road House is “good bad”. Private School is just kind of “meh bad”. I love that I got a Road House mention in here.

My Rating: 5/10

Love these songs!!! Soundtracks from the Eighties are the best. And you get clips from the movies as well. 🙂

Finding Dory (2016) Review

Finding Dory (2016)

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy

Music by Thomas Newman

Production company: Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Finding Dory focuses on the amnesiac fish Dory, who journeys to be reunited with her parents. Along the way, she is captured and taken to a California public aquarium, from which Marlin and Nemo attempt to rescue her.

My Opinion:

I adore Pixar. Any regulars here will know that by now but, just in case someone new is reading this, I LOVE PIXAR!!! And we always have to wait a couple of months to see them in the UK. I love Pixar so much that I’ve even contemplated travelling to other countries to see Pixar movies when the UK has a much later release date. 😉 Finding Nemo just makes it into my Top Five (I did rank the Pixar movies HERE but I’d re-arrange that a bit now) and Dory is probably still close to the top of a list of my favorite Pixar characters (which I posted HERE on my very first day on this blog – I’ll update that list too!). So, yes – I was very much looking forward to spending more time with characters I love. Was it worth the extra wait? Well, it certainly wasn’t worth a trip to another country to see it early so I’m glad I didn’t do that.

Baby Dory is one of the cutest things ever but all the cuteness still isn’t enough to make up for such a weak story. I was even a little bored throughout the film (as was my kid). It breaks my heart to say that about a Pixar movie other than Cars! I enjoyed seeing Dory but Marlin & Nemo almost felt unnecessary, which sucks. I know they’ve already had their own movie but Dory was just as big of a star in Finding Nemo as Marlin & Nemo were. In this, it felt a bit like “well, we have to have Marlin & Nemo tag along as it makes no sense to not have them in the film”. They also tacked on an appearance from Crush & Squirt that I’m not exactly going to complain about as those two are AWESOME, dude, but I just walked out of Finding Dory feeling like I’d watched an inferior version of Finding Nemo. It’s the exact same story again minus the creativity & imagination involved in the first film. The characters are far weaker and there are none of the special little moments that made Finding Nemo so great.

The biggest new addition is an octopus named Hank & I know he has some fans. Hank is okay but, for me, he’ll never be a favorite. In Nemo, even the tiniest roles were fantastic. I could happily watch an entire movie set just in that tank in the dentist’s office… Gill, Bloat, Peach, Bubbles, etc – every single fish in that tank was more memorable than any of the new characters in the sequel.

I always do this – I’m far more critical of the things that I love. I suppose I just have really high standards when it comes to Pixar because they’ve made so many movies that I consider to be perfection. I did enjoy Finding Dory and, to be expected, I enjoyed it more than any other recent animated kids’ films from other studios. To compare it to something like The Secret Life Of Pets, I definitely liked it more. But when compared to other Pixar films, it would be fairly low down the list. I think I feel similar to how I now feel about Monsters University. Both sequels just can’t live up to the originals but that’s because the originals are so damn good (I just checked my review of that, though – I was way too generous with an 8/10! I guess it was my excitement at seeing Mike Wazowski again). But the Toy Story sequels are great so, I dunno… I’ve realized that part of the problem is seeing Dory upset & not the same silly, optimistic, lovably forgetful fish from the first film. She’s almost become Marlin in this film, which works well for his character but not for hers. The story & the characters all just worked together so perfectly in the first film whereas it all feels a bit too forced this time around. But, hell – it’s still Pixar and I still love Dory & it’s still a million times better than Cars. Maybe it’ll grow on me when I see it more at home. But I’m sad to say that I don’t think the kid liked it all that much so I don’t think it’ll get a lot of repeat home viewings unlike the Toy Stories & Monsters, Inc.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Is There A Scene After The Credits?: Yes – at the very end. I found it worth staying for, especially as a fan of the first film.

How About The Short Beforehand?: Piper is freaking ADORABLE. Just as adorable as baby Dory in that above picture and actually better than the Finding Dory film. It was great to see such a good Pixar short after being disappointed with things like Lava. Good job, Pixar!

Circle (2015) Review

Circle (2015)

Directed & Written by Aaron Hann & Mario Miscione

Starring: Michael Nardelli, Carter Jenkins, Lawrence Kao, Allegra Masters, Julie Benz, Mercy Malick, Lisa Pelikan, Cesar Garcia

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Fifty people wake up in a darkened room, only to find that one of them is killed every two minutes or when they attempt to leave. When they realize that they can control which person is selected to die, blocs emerge based on personal values.

My Opinion:

This movie was a pleasant surprise! Circle has stuck around on Netflix for a while & I’ve seen a couple bloggers give it okay reviews but I’ve watched too many obscure Netflix movies that bloggers have liked & I’ve ended up extremely disappointed (Blue Ruin, Housebound, etc…). So I wasn’t sure I wanted to give this one a chance as it looked like it would be yet another terrible low budget movie that was never widely released in cinemas and that hardly anyone has heard of for good reason.

Well, I’m glad I decided to watch Circle. I found the story fascinating & liked the simple way it was presented. It IS yet another obscure movie on Netflix with what appears to be a very small budget. However, the story makes it a totally worthwhile watch. In fact, I think the low budget helps this film as there’s no need for distracting special effects when you have such a strong story idea. Someone is killed every two minutes – it doesn’t get much more tense than that! FYI: this is labelled at IMDb as “Drama, Horror, Mystery”. Don’t let the “horror” thing turn you off as I really wouldn’t label it that. There’s no blood or gore whatsoever. “Psychological sci-fi thriller” would be a better description. I almost didn’t watch this partly because I thought it was more of a horror film.

I won’t lie – this movie isn’t for everyone and some will hate it. It’s my sort of thing: A strong story that gets you thinking of the morality issues involved and how you would react in a similar situation. It feels like you’re watching a play as it all takes place in the strange dark room in the above poster. Each person isn’t allowed to move from their red circle on the floor – all they can do is talk to each other & try to figure out what’s going on and how to survive. Many issues are discussed such as: race, age, career, family, lifestyle, and what makes a person “good” & worthy of being kept alive as they all soon figure out that they’re able to control who the next person to die will be. Ultimately, they realize that it’s more a case of deciding who amongst them should be allowed to survive until the end.

If you like the sound of this story, give the movie a shot. Plus, it’s really short! (1 hour 27 minutes). I didn’t realize that when I had a bit of alone time one day & put it on figuring  I’d watch half a movie. But, hey – I managed to watch the whole thing just before the family got home! (You appreciate little things like this as a parent). 😉 Just don’t expect much character development or explanations as to what’s going on. With such a short running time & the fact that they had to get through 50 characters in under an hour & a half, I think the movie did a good job with this simple yet thought-provoking concept. We get right into the action from the start & these people figure things out far faster than seems possible but it was nice to have a film move along so fast and not waste our time with anything unnecessary. The story is the star here so if you buy into that and aren’t expecting explosions, fancy special effects, or Oscar-calibre acting, you may find this as entertaining as I did. I can easily say that I wasn’t bored for one second. Now I suppose I should finally watch Coherence as it’s another obscure Netflix movie I’ve been avoiding for ages that has been praised by fellow bloggers. Hmm…

My Rating: 7.5/10

THX 1138 (1971) Blind Spot Review

THX 1138 (1971)

Directed by George Lucas

Starring: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Don Pedro Colley, Maggie McOmie, Ian Wolfe

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
THX 1138 stars Donald Pleasence and Robert Duvall and depicts a dystopian future in which the populace is controlled through android police officers and mandatory use of drugs that suppress emotion, including outlawed sexual desire.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank THX 1138:

6. An Education – 7/10
5. Summer Wars – 7/10
4. True Romance – 7/10
3. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
2. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

First of all, I have to point out that I’m going to be reviewing this in an odd way. I’ve unfortunately only seen the Director’s Cut of THX 1138 as it’s the only version I have. I’m a bit of a snobby purist (even little things like replacing the guns with walkie talkies in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial pisses me off) so knowing that an original, minimalist, un-fucked-with version of THX 1138 exists and that it appears not at all easy to get a copy of seriously annoys me.

So I’m reviewing & rating this movie as if I’ve seen the original version as I can see that there’s a very good dystopian sci-fi film here hiding underneath a bunch of added & completely unnecessary digital bullshit. I know it’s a weird way to do this as I haven’t even seen the original so I can’t be as annoyed as I am with the stupid changes Lucas made to the original Star Wars trilogy (WHY, George Lucas? Why?!?!?) but I’ve looked into the changes that’ve been made & seen images from the original version so I have an idea of what it was like beforehand. There’s a really good comparison between the two versions along with images HERE at if you’re interested. For example:

The first image is from the original film. Lucas seems to be a big fan of “extending hallways, etc, and adding more people”. Many of the THX 1138 changes involve making an area look much larger and to have it filled with more things & more people. Why? I honestly don’t see the point. The thing I liked most about this film was its striking imagery, especially the stark white of the majority of the scenes in the beginning of the film. It was quite beautiful in its minimalist approach & this artistic vision is undone every time a very obviously altered scene crops up. A lot of the rather drab gray shots of the factory in the beginning are also replaced with completely new shots of a large & busy factory with a sort of golden hue instead. It’s a dystopian sci-fi film – the “drab” shots of the factory made more sense! Surely George Lucas is missing the entire point of his own film by making visual changes that work against its themes?

Okay – that’s ALL I’ll say about the Director’s Cut & its changes. I promise! I now just want to talk about this movie. The sci-fi dystopian (and/or sci-fi post-apocalyptic) genre is and always will be my absolute favorite above all others, which is why I put this movie on my Blind Spot list as I felt it was a huge gap in my knowledge of these sorts of films. And I did really like it, although it’s a hard one to actually recommend to others who aren’t die hard fans of the genre. If you don’t love this genre, you’re very unlikely to enjoy this movie. I’m not going to pretend that it’s not a bit of a struggle to sit through. It’s very slow, especially in the first half. I do love the story but, yes, it’s one that has been done in loads of “dystopian future” novels & films. No, I wouldn’t say it necessarily brings anything all that new to the table in terms of its themes but you have to remember the fact that it was released in 1971 and does actually feel ahead of its time. We’re just used to movies like these now as there have been a lot of similar ones since but THX 1138 deserves more recognition than it seems to have received. Visually, I think it has dated very well (and I do mean the original version) unlike some other sci-fi films of its time and the lower budget, minimalist look really is to thank for this.

I’ll be honest & admit that this is one of those films that I appreciate but that I like the “thought” of it more than the actual film itself. It’s a lovely work of art. I’m a sucker for great imagery & would happily stick a poster of an image from this film up on the wall of my cinema room (if I was rich and actually had a cinema room… that would be cool). I have very similar feelings about several other films I’ve watched since starting this blog: The Man Who Fell To Earth, Rollerball, Under The Skin, and Daft Punk’s Electroma. These are my favorite sort of movies & I loved them all (well, Rollerball was a bit weak & didn’t age as well) but plenty of people would sadly yet understandably find these films just plain unwatchable. Yep, THX 1138 is a struggle and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I fell asleep the first time I attempted to watch it. But I still ultimately find this sort of movie far more rewarding than most of the crap that gets made nowadays. I’d say that they’d never allow this sort of movie to be made now but things like Under The Skin & Ex Machina (which actually IS very good & totally watchable, FYI) prove that theory wrong. I’m glad that artistic movies like these which won’t please a mainstream audience or rake in loads of blockbuster money are still sometimes given a chance. THX 1138 easily fits alongside other visionary sci-fi classics and still feels relevant 45 years later. It really didn’t need to be messed with…

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Unbelievable Truth (1989) & Trust (1990) Reviews

This coming Friday would’ve been Adrienne Shelly’s 50th birthday so I’m going to be posting reviews of five of her movies over the next few days. I figured I should begin with these Hal Hartley films as that’s where she got her start.

First of all, I’ll say a little bit about why I’ve chosen to devote a few days to Adrienne Shelly’s films. I became interested in checking out more of her work after watching the fantastic film Waitress, which she wrote & directed and in which she also starred. I watched Waitress while pregnant just like its main character (played by Keri Russell) and the movie just “spoke” to me in that special sort of way that I know only fellow diehard film lovers might understand. I’d seen her in nothing before & sadly didn’t even know her name until news of her murder just before the film’s release.

Anyway – I won’t go into Waitress now as I’ll be reviewing that on Friday but I so loved the movie & its mix of quirky characters (including Shelly’s role) that I wanted to see the films she’d starred in previously. Wow – they’re hard to get hold of! The one I’m most interested in (Sudden Manhattan, which she also wrote & directed) isn’t available. Of what I could get, I have to say that I liked Waitress far more than the films she only starred in. It’s sad to think of the other fantastic movies she could have made had she not been so cruelly taken from her family, her friends, and the filmmaking world.

The Unbelievable Truth (1989)

Directed & Written by Hal Hartley

Starring: Adrienne Shelly, Robert Burke, Christopher Cooke, Julia McNeal, Katherine Mayfield, Gary Sauer, Mark Bailey, David Healy, Matt Malloy, Edie Falco, Paul Schultze, Bill Sage

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After serving time for murder, Josh Hutton returns to his home town where me meets Audry Hugo. No one can remember exactly what Josh did, but they are all wary of him, especially Audry’s father.

My Opinion:

I honestly don’t know how to go about reviewing these two Hal Hartley films. I’ll say they’re definitely NOT going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I do like indie films but they’re all different – I love some but hate others that I find desperate or pretentious. Too many films get the “indie” label slapped on them nowadays so the definition has become muddled. I can say, though, that these two Hartley films are the true definition of INDIE (in all caps & bold!). Hartley has a very unique style & I can say that I’ve never seen any other movies quite like these two.

I watched The Unbelievable Truth first & liked it quite a bit (and much more than Trust, although I get the impression that most Hartley fans prefer Trust?). I just thought it had the better story & I liked the characters a lot more. Both films are less about the “story”, I think, than about the odd mix of characters & how they relate to each other. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of social commentary going on as well (especially in Trust) that I’m just a little too thick to fully grasp.

Once again, I know nothing about filmmaking but this movie felt very art house to me. The conversations between characters are bizarre & don’t feel like how people would actually interact with each other in the “real world”. Hartley also films the characters in odd ways, such as the way he makes them stand as they speak (almost as if they’re in a play). I’m sure this is a specific style used in art films as I remember old school 1970’s Sesame Street as well as Saturday Night Live spoofing this technique. I really want to share the Sesame Street clip so you know what I mean but I can’t find it! Maybe that’s why I liked this movie, though, as I adore old school Sesame Street. 😉 Oh, I did look up the proper definition of art film at Wikipedia just now and, yes, these are most definitely art films:

An art film is typically a serious, independent film aimed at a niche market rather than a mass market audience. An art film is “intended to be a serious artistic work, often experimental and not designed for mass appeal”; they are “made primarily for aesthetic reasons rather than commercial profit”, and they contain “unconventional or highly symbolic content”.

*I want a dollar bill painted above my bed now

Well, I doubt that what I’ve said so far is really selling this film to anyone… I think both films have the potential to be someone’s all-time favorite film (perusing the IMDB message boards confirms this for me) but you really have to be a big fan of art house indie cinema if you’re going to watch these.

The quirky characters in this film are what sold it to me. And, yes – I liked the awkward ways in which they interacted with one another. I especially liked the two leads with their strange love story (Robert Burke being quiet & mysterious and Shelly being brooding & adorable) and I found the father of Shelly’s character quite funny. This is one of those indie films that worked for me. Yes, it has a dark humor & is “quirk city” but it was fun & entertaining and didn’t feel pretentiously fake like many indie films do nowadays.

But I watched these films simply to see Adrienne Shelly & I wasn’t disappointed. I loved her character in this: a smart & unusual teenage girl who is obsessed with the thought of nuclear war & who falls for a mysterious man who has just finished a jail term for murder. She was unconventionally beautiful (by Hollywood standards – I think she was gorgeous) and it’s a shame that she didn’t become a more well known name for her work. However, it’s also great in many ways that she remained an “indie queen” in this hidden little gem of a movie. If you’re interested in watching one of her films, I’d still recommend her own Waitress movie first but The Unbelievable Truth is most definitely worth your time as well if you love Waitress as much as I did.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Trust (1990)

Directed & Written by Hal Hartley

Starring: Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Edie Falco, Merritt Nelson, John MacKay

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
When Maria (Shelly), a recent high school dropout, announces her unplanned pregnancy to her family, her father dies of heart failure, her mother immediately evicts her from the household and her boyfriend breaks up with her. Lonely and with nowhere to go, Maria wanders her town in search of a place to stay. Along the way, she meets Matthew (Donovan), a highly educated and extremely moody electronics repairman. The two begin an unusual romance built on their sense of mutual admiration and trust.

My Opinion:

After really enjoying The Unbelievable Truth, I found Trust to be disappointing. Both films are very obviously from the same director but the “quirk city” thing that worked for me in the first film just didn’t quite connect with me this time. I think some Hartley fans do prefer this one, though, so I guess it just depends on the sort of thing you go for.

Both films have a dark humor but this one is definitely much darker plus I didn’t like any of the characters at all, really, whereas they were the best thing about The Unbelievable Truth. Shelly’s teenage character is the best thing about both films but this time comes across as a bit “bratty” at first. However, this does turn around plus ends up being completely understandable as we spend more time with her asshole family. I also liked the male love interest far less in this movie but, again, that may just be me as a lot of fans really liked him. He’s extremely emotionally unstable which is fine but, no thanks – he’s far too high maintenance for my taste! I just bought into the whole thing of “two people not fitting into society yet bizarrely working perfectly as a couple in their own fucked-up way” thing much more in The Unbelievable Truth. I found that I didn’t care what happened to the characters in Trust.

I’m keeping this review short as I think I covered everything in the first review. Basically, this is the same movie again but darker, with an even more meandering story that seemed to go nowhere, and with characters I didn’t like. It’s not a bad movie, though – these are two unique films & I can understand why Hartley has a following of fans (and why others would absolutely hate his stuff). From what I’ve read, all of his films have the same sort of style so I don’t know if I’ll ever watch another one as, yes, I only watched these to see Adrienne Shelly. I’m slightly curious about seeing more and if they differ much, though – if they were more easily available I might check one out. I’d love to hear from any fans of his but think my blog may have finally gone a bit too obscure this time. 😉 Has anyone else here ever watched a Hal Hartley film?

My Rating: 6/10

*I know that not many people will have even heard of these movies so I’m including the trailers in case you’re at all interested…