Dogville (2003) Review

Happy 50th Birthday to Nicole Kidman!

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

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

Dogville (2003)

Directed & Written by Lars von Trier

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

Narrated by John Hurt

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 7/10

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

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

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

A Dog’s Purpose (2017) Review

A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

Directed by Lasse Hallström

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

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 7/10

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

Get Out (2017) Review

Get Out (2017)

Directed & Written by Jordan Peele

Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Get Out follows a young interracial couple who visit the mysterious estate of the woman’s parents.

My Opinion:

Get Out was a pretty good and enjoyable film, especially for something from the “horror” genre (90% of modern horror movies suck). Then again, it’s not exactly your typical shitty, slasher-type crap. It had some thought put into it, a decent script & acting, and some likable characters. It also feels somewhat original compared to the usual stale horror movie crap that Hollywood pumps out. However, I don’t think it’s as groundbreaking as I’d expected from the little I had read of it. To be fair, I’m old & watch too many movies so I’m harder to impress but I do feel like I’ve seen this movie a few times already, just with a different spin.

Okay, I can’t do this completely spoiler-free. HUBBY – STOP READING HERE. (He hates even the tiniest spoilers). I’m not exactly going to spoil this movie but I AM going to name a few movies this film immediately brought to my mind as I watched it. So, if you’ve seen them, I guess that spoils this one for you. I’d already heard this movie compared to one specific film when skimming some reviews & it ruined it a bit as it meant the ending wasn’t really a surprise to me. So, SLIGHT SPOILERS NOW:

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This is very much The Stepford Wives (with racism instead of sexism) and I wish I hadn’t read that beforehand. However, I think updating the concept behind The Stepford Wives was actually a good idea & it worked very well in Get Out. I’ve always liked The Stepford Wives (and, bizarrely, The Stepford Children, a cheesy 1987 TV movie that I was obsessed with at the time & reviewed HERE). The other two movies I was reminded of were two guilty pleasures: the body horror classic Society (which I sort-of-reviewed HERE) and the super cheesy but kind of fun The Skeleton Key (which unfortunately has Kate Hudson in it. Ew). Between those three movies, you have Get Out. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing as plenty of movies are influenced by others and Get Out is certainly a better film than The Skeleton Key, is probably better although less memorable than Society, and is a worthy homage to the Stepford films.

I’m not going to ramble on about this film. It’s had excellent reviews & a lot of people really loved it. I can understand why as it’s a well-written social commentary with some fun comic relief provided by the dog-sitting friend. The acting was better than you get in your standard sort of horrors (just Allison Williams was weak) and I really liked the tone & use of music. But I still feel like this story has been done before & the movie is probably getting a little more hype than is deserved just because of its message. And I prefer to think the message is “Rich people are assholes”. Right??? I think that’s something we can all agree on. Yeah. Rich people. Rich people suck. 😉

There is one very important life lesson that I gained from this film: Bangs (or a fringe as they call it in the UK) do NOT suit everyone. Allison Williams, you gotta grow that shit out. That was a very bad decision.

My Rating: 7/10

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After returning to the criminal underworld to repay a debt, John Wick discovers that a large bounty has been put on his life.

My Opinion:

I think these John Wick films could grow on me if they keep making them. Although, having said that, I also hope they stop and make it only a trilogy to avoid overkill (Ha! Literally, since there’s a lot of killing in these!!!! Holy hell).

I reviewed the first John Wick HERE last week & gave it a sort of “meh” review. I’ve felt kind of bad about that ever since. It was a fun action film. If you don’t take it too seriously, you should enjoy it. I was possibly going to wait for the sequel to come to Netflix but an opportunity arose for me to go see it over the weekend so I did. I’m glad I did. This is one of those instances where the sequel has actually made me like the original film even more. Things are coming together and I think this becoming a trilogy will be perfect. We’re leaning more about John Wick and this crazy secret society of hitmen with their strict rules of conduct. But, at the same time, it maintains the air of mystery from the first film which at first slightly annoyed me but now makes more sense as I realize that maybe we shouldn’t know absolutely everything about the character of John Wick. We don’t need to. He’s an ex-killer. No… He’s had a change of heart but he’s still a killer. He’s far from perfect. But none of that really matters. We just want to see him kick ass. We still want to see him kick ass because THAT PUPPY WAS SO DAMN CUTE.

I’m going to keep this review short as I think I spent long enough explaining my feelings in my review of the first film. I want to love these movies as much as everyone else seems to but they still don’t quite resonate with me. I stand by my opinion that, when comparing Keanu Reeves action flicks, the John Wicks come nowhere near the awesomeness of Point Break. They also don’t manage to match up to Speed or The Matrix. However, I’ll give them this: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a very strong sequel that actually manages to elevate the first one whereas the Speed & Matrix sequels were so bad that they almost managed to completely destroy the original films.

These John Wick films are definitely headed in the right direction and I’m now looking forward to the next film much more than I’d expected. This sequel is even more slick & stylish than the first and the scenes in Rome plus an action-packed scene in a mirrored art installation were a joy to watch. And with so many exceptionally strong supporting characters (I’ve especially liked Willem Dafoe & Ian McShane but I could go on & on listing all the great characters), I can’t wait to see everyone again. The characters who are still alive, that is… 😉 Plus you know they’ll get just as many impressive actors for the next film as well since someone clearly has great Hollywood connections. Maybe Keanu is just friends with everyone in Hollywood. Who doesn’t love Keanu, right?

Oh! One last thought that I had in the middle of watching Chapter 2. Maybe this is why these films are subconsciously growing on me? In a youth-obsessed Hollywood, it suddenly occurred to me just how old the majority of the main cast in both John Wick films are. Keanu himself is (a very hot) 52! McShane (74), Dafoe (61), Fishburne (55), Leguizamo (52). Even the dead-flashback-wife is age-appropriate to her husband instead of being 20 years younger (Bridget Moynahan – 45). Wick 2 also has a very memorable scene proving that 45 can be sexy with a great performance from 45-year-old actress Claudia Gerini. And Common is as handsome as always in this sequel (I loved that he had such a big role) – It’s just funny to think that he’s kind of a youngster in comparison to everyone else (only 44!).


Anyway, this won’t seem like a big deal to twentysomethings but it was kind of awesome when I thought about it. These super violent, action-packed, stylish, well-acted, kick-ass John Wick movies star people old enough to be your parents & grandparents! And I’m thinking it doesn’t matter to the younger audience anyway, judging from the wide twentysomething to sixtysomething gender mix of those watching this in my cinema. They’ve managed to appeal to all ages & genders with these films, which is quite an accomplishment for action movies. I do get their appeal. They’re growing on me. I promise. I’ve upped my John Wick 1 rating (to the same as my rating for this one). If the next movie is just as good, I’ll up them all to 7.5. I promise. Let’s hope these films continue on this upward trajectory. Yeah, they might already deserve a 7.5. I may change my mind. I do that a lot. 😉 But for now…

My Rating: 7/10

I’m already thinking 7/10 may be a little low. FYI: This movie was FAR more violent than I expected based on its 15 rating in the UK. Just a warning for those with kids in the 15 age range. It was almost Tarantino-level violence. It was actually a bit much for me. (I’m a wuss). I’m a bit shocked that it’s not rated 18…

John Wick (2014) & The Neon Demon (2016) Movie Reviews

With John Wick: Chapter 2 coming out, I figured I better review the first film (which I finally watched a few months ago). So I wrote the below review. After writing it, I then watched The Neon Demon. I must say that John Wick has gone up in my estimation since seeing The Neon Demon. Every movie EVER MADE has now gone up in my estimation since seeing The Neon F*%#ing Demon!!!!! Let’s talk about these, shall we…?

John Wick (2014)

Directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

My Opinion:

I love Keanu Reeves. And, apparently, I’m not alone. I was very surprised when a list I did last year of My Top Ten Keanu Reeves Movies was one of my most viewed & most shared posts. Yay! Everyone loves Keanu! I honestly didn’t realize he was so popular.

So I made that list having not yet seen John Wick or The Neon Demon and figured I could update it once I’ve watched them. Well, I’ve now updated the list. I can tell you that The Neon Demon sure as SHIT doesn’t make the top ten (it’s atrocious). Unfortunately, John Wick doesn’t quite manage to break into my top ten either. It’s very close! I’ve put it at 12 but it’s probably hovering around the 10, 11 or 12 range depending on my mood… So there you go – I’m sure you were all dying to know my final official ranking of Keanu Reeves films! 😉

John Wick is a really fun action film. It was what I expected in being all style over substance so that didn’t bother me at all. We all need to turn off our brains sometimes & just watch a fun action flick! I think I was just disappointed that it wasn’t as much fun or as stylish as I’d been expecting in order for it to make up for that lack of substance. It’s an okay film but comes absolutely nowhere near Keanu’s best. This is no The Matrix or Speed and it’s especially no Point Break (Point Break rules!). Damn. But, man, I loved that puppy. Cutest puppy EVER! I’m giving this movie a slightly higher rating simply because of the puppy. A BEAGLE. A SNOOPY puppy!!!!!


Wook at that wittle face!

I do know how to enjoy a fun “popcorn” movie and, no, I wasn’t expecting Oscar-quality writing or acting in John Wick. However, I needed to know the character of John Wick a little better in order to care about him & his quest for vengeance. We get some flashbacks of his wife and, of course, we meet his adorable puppy. However, we didn’t get much of his backstory. I felt like I didn’t know a thing about him by the end other than that he was sad about his dead wife (not a spoiler – she’s already dead at the beginning of the movie). I mean, he’s a (former) killer. Right? How is he any better than the many, many (many) people he proceeds to kill throughout this film? Because a cute puppy licked his face & he loved his pretty wife?

Okayyyy – I fully admit to falling asleep in the middle of this like I often do during films at home so maybe I missed something (I’m a parent. I’m exhausted). 😉 Why did he retire? For love? Or because he developed a conscience? I hope that was the reason… The only way I can describe it is this: I sometimes watch a movie and feel like I’ve jumped right into the middle of it and missed a bunch of the beginning where they’ve set up the characters & the story. I felt that way 30 minutes into John Wick despite missing absolutely nothing from the start. I almost cared more about Willem Dafoe’s character (a great character, from the very little we get to know him – I’d love to know more about his previous relationship with Wick as well). Well, maybe we’ll find out more in the sequel? As fun as it is to watch some shoot-em-up non-stop action sometimes, I still want to know a little about the main character at the very least. If I care about him, I’ll get more enjoyment from his revenge. I do love a really good revenge movie! I liked John Wick well enough to watch the sequel but it’s a “wait for it to show up on Netflix” movie for me. (Although, initial reviews of the sequel are very good so maybe I can be talked into making a trip to the cinema for it. But the sequel puppy isn’t nearly as cute…!!!)

My Rating: 7/10

**SPOILERS. Kind of.**

The Neon Demon (2016)

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves

Plot Synopsis: Guy succeeds in making a decent film called Drive, which then gives him the freedom to make the biggest pile of shit I’ve seen since similar success for another writer led to the creation of the atrocious Jennifer’s Body. The Neon Demon makes Jennifer’s Body look good. 

My Opinion:

I called a movie that I reviewed last week a “load of pretentious bullshit” (the movie Comet). I now apologize profusely to that movie. I’d rather be strapped to a chair “Clockwork Orange-style” & forced to watch Comet 100 times than to ever have to even THINK about The Neon Demon again. I want to wipe this movie from my memory “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind-style“. I want to go back in time and, “Marty McFly-style”, tell myself it’s my destiny (density!) to NEVER watch The Neon Demon. I want to take a flame thrower to this movie “Ellen Ripley-style“. I want to get medieval on this movie’s ass “Marsellus Wallace- style“. I want to stick this movie’s head in a box “Gwyneth Paltrow-style“. I want to banish this movie to the cornfield “Twilight Zone-style“. I want this movie to eat itself, to puke itself up, to re-eat itself, to piss itself out, and to f*%k its own corpse “The Neon Demon-style“.

I can’t truly put into words just how much I hated The Neon Demon and its fake, derivative, shallow, pointless, pretentious aping of artistic masters such as Jodorowsky, Buñuel, Argento, von Trier, Cronenberg, Lynch, etc etc. Not everyone will be a fan of all of those I’ve named (I’m not even saying that I like them all myself) but, like their work or not, at least they did their own thing instead of making superficial & inferior copies of their influences.

I’ll give this movie an extra point for Elle Fanning, though, as I thought she did a decent job for her young age. Other than Fanning, everyone in this is now slightly ruined for me the next time I see them in other films (even Keanu, dammit). Still love him, though, so I’ll try to put this movie out of my mind. But I hope to never see Jena Malone in anything ever again so am very glad that I wasn’t a fan of hers in the first place. More than anything, I’m annoyed that this has tainted the movie Drive and especially that it has ruined Drive’s soundtrack for me, which I liked even more than the film. I’ve hated plenty of movies over the years but I don’t think there’s ever been one that I actually regretted seeing. The Neon Demon may very well be the first. In that regard, I suppose you at least have to give Nicolas Winding Refn credit for creating a film that generated some strong reactions from its’ viewers. I don’t mind movies with some shock value (of those I mentioned above, I do love a lot of Cronenberg’s work) but, to quote my husband, “The Neon Demon thinks it’s art when it’s merely just artifice”.

My Rating: 2/10

The Color Of Money (1986) Review

Yesterday would’ve been Paul Newman’s birthday so I decided to kick off January with my Blind Spot review of The Hustler (review HERE). And since I’m a completist, I naturally had to watch the 1986 sequel directed by Martin Scorsese. Let’s have a look at Newman 25 years older as Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson in The Color Of Money

The Color Of Money (1986)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Based on The Color of Money by Walter Tevis

Starring: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Helen Shaver, John Turturro

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film continues the story of pool hustler and stakehorse Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson from Tevis’ first novel, The Hustler (1959), with Newman reprising his role from the 1961 film adaptation. The film begins more than 25 years after the events of the previous film, with Eddie retired from the pool circuit.

My Opinion:

This was a fun film but certainly not on the same level as the 1961 classic The Hustler plus it also suffers a tiny bit from that “dated 80’s movie” feel. This is unfortunate. However, if you’ve watched & liked The Hustler, I’d still recommend giving this one a go to see what Newman’s “Fast Eddie” is up to 25 years after the events of the first film.

The one thing I found interesting is that Newman is the true star of this movie. Well, of course he is but what I mean is that he so massively outshines Tom Cruise. I find this interesting as this film came out the same year as Top Gun but Cruise seems much younger and less experienced in this one. In my review of The Hustler, I mentioned how Newman had that special “something” that only certain actors have & it gave him a presence and a star quality that is lacking in Cruise in this film. Cruise often does have that movie star quality, though (such as in Top Gun). But I’ve clearly aged as I found the 60-year-old Newman far more attractive than the 20-something Cruise in this. Hmm! Showing my age again (I’d just like to point out that I’m younger than Cruise currently is, at least).

Newman is very good in this & actually won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Well, I think the Academy was clearly just making it up to him as it was his role in The Hustler that should’ve won instead. That’s The Academy for you, though! They realize their mistakes then reward someone another time instead. Glad he won one, though.

This isn’t as hard-hitting as The Hustler and doesn’t have the intense relationships that made that film so highly regarded. Cruise’s character comes across as an immature child (I think that’s the point) but it doesn’t make for a story that is as interesting to watch as the first film. He doesn’t have the same sort of chemistry with Newman as those in the first film had. I was never really a fan of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio but she’s good in this (and was also Oscar-nominated, unlike Cruise) and there’s some decent sexual tension between her & Newman.

The first half of the movie, which focuses on Cruise & Mastrantonio teaming up with Newman, was missing something due to this lack of chemistry between our male leads (and also due to me knowing that the first movie was so strong on its focus on human interaction). However, the second half does pick up as Newman’s character goes on a journey of self-discovery type of thing and he starts to feel more like the complex & somewhat broken “Fast Eddie” from The Hustler. I did enjoy this movie overall and liked revisiting Newman’s character. And it’s reminded me once again that I have to seek out more of Paul Newman’s work. Especially his older films… What a hunk.

Oh yeah – and I had to keep reminding myself that this was a Martin Scorsese movie so I’ve now added another one to my list of Scorsese films seen. I’ve already done My Top Ten Martin Scorsese Movies (list HERE) and The Color Of Money would break into my Top Ten (probably at, hmm… 8 or 9).

My Rating: 7/10

Oh, shit! I totally forgot to add that Iggy Pop has a small role in this! That was an awesome surprise. Check him out:

Also, I’ve know for years that Eric Clapton’s It’s In The Way That You Use It was in this since it had one of those videos with clips from the movie. Here you go! I’m not a big fan of solo Clapton but I like this song okay:

The DUFF & The Scorch Trials Movie Reviews 

Welcome to my “Young Adult Movie Adaptation Review Special“! I read one of these books (the movie was awful) and didn’t read the other book (the movie was surprisingly fun). Let’s see which was which…

The DUFF (2015)

Directed by Ari Sandel

Based on The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Nick Eversman, Skyler Samuels, Bianca A. Santos

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend – by her prettier, more popular counterparts.

My Opinion:

Even at my advanced age, I still enjoy a good teen comedy. Obviously, nothing will ever compare to my 80’s John Hughes classics but there have been a couple post-1989 ones that haven’t been too bad (Clueless, American Pie, etc). But the majority are bad and full of hateful teens (like in stuff such as Project X and, sadly, Dope – a movie I was hoping to love). However, The DUFF is easily one of the better ones I’ve seen from this genre in a long time & I really enjoyed it.

Mae Whitman (the voice of Tinker Bell in all those Tinker Bell movies! You’ll know them well if you have a daughter 😉 ) plays the DUFF, aka the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”. I liked her in the fantastic The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and she’s a lot of fun in this & totally relatable as a “real world girl”. I hate saying that as it sounds so rude but, yeah – unlike the girls in all other Hollywood movies, she looks like a normal person. Hollywood movie girls are too ridiculously attractive and it sets a bad example (especially in teen movies).

Whitman’s two best friends in this are of the unrealistic ridiculously attractive variety but I suppose they were trying to make her look less attractive in comparison. But, anyway! That’s not entirely relevant as this movie isn’t really trying to make as big of a statement on superficiality as I was expecting. Whitman’s character is, at first, entirely content with how she looks & dresses – she only changes when someone calls her a “DUFF”. So I guess the main message is more about how we treat people but there’s a bit of a moral about accepting yourself the way you are.

Anyway… Forget I said all that! This isn’t some annoying teen movie that thinks it has an important message or something – it’s just a lighthearted comedy & actually quite funny compared to a lot of current teen flicks. The humor is a tad on the raunchy side (fine by me) so this is probably aimed more at the mid to late-teen age range. Although certainly not at the same level as something like Heathers (nothing is!), The DUFF is smart & sassy like a lot of the 80’s teen classics. Hopefully more teen movies go in the same direction as this one since I’ll probably still be watching this genre when I’m 90.

My Rating: 7/10

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

Directed by Wes Ball

Based on The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Patricia Clarkson

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot of The Scorch Trials takes place immediately after the previous installment, with Thomas (O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers battling the powerful World Catastrophe Killzone Department (W.C.K.D., or WICKED), while facing the perils of the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with dangerous obstacles.

My Opinion:

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?!?!?! I’m so damn confused by this movie! I’ve read The Maze Runner trilogy (I did a recap & review of the final book HERE last week) and, although I have some major issues with it and it often annoyed the hell out of me, I thought it was a decent enough story overall. I read the books after seeing the first film, which I found quite enjoyable (much more enjoyable than the books, actually). So I finally watched The Scorch Trials after finishing the books. IT BARELY EVEN RESEMBLES THE BOOK!!! ??? Why ???

I would assume that books can be quite hard to adapt into films, especially long books that must be reduced to a roughly two-hour running time. The Scorch Trials isn’t a long book, however. Plus, the first movie was faithful to the book so it’s even more confusing that they’ve decided to take things in such a different direction in the sequel. I’m not overly bothered about a 100% faithful adaptation as I know things sometimes need slight changing or need to be left out due to running time. As long as there are no major changes that completely mess with the storyline, characters’ intentions/personalities, or the overall themes, I’m fine with them.

Well, The Scorch Trials has major changes. No, wait – that’s not exactly right as you can’t even really call them changes… It has completely new stuff added in. It’s so drastically different that it feels like the screenwriter(s) didn’t even read the book & instead based the story on its back cover synopsis or on some weird ass “Chinese whispers” version of the story.

You know what? I don’t care. I’m not going to waste my time reviewing this. It lost my interest after it started going so completely off the rails that I went & did other things around the house while it kept playing in the background. I’m not sure what the hell was going on. After this movie, I’m not going to bother with the next one since I sure as shit can’t be bothered to re-watch this one to figure out what the hell was going on. BAH! What a stupid waste of time. Either be faithful to a book or, if that fails, don’t follow it AT ALL & just steal the name (like World War Z). At least I knew beforehand with that one that they ignored the book….

My Rating: 4.5/10 (Not lower than that since I guess I still like the characters and think Dylan O’Brien & Thomas Brodie-Sangster are good in these films)

Eyes Without A Face (1960) Blind Spot Review

Happy Halloween, everyone! Here’s my final review for the day, after my review of the surprisingly fun Trick ‘r Treat posted earlier today. Now let’s look at a cult French horror classic…

Eyes Without A Face (1960)

Directed by Georges Franju

Based on Les yeux sans visage by Jean Redon

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel

Music by Maurice Jarre

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured, and goes to extremes to give her a new face.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Eyes Without A Face:

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

I’d been wanting to see this for years as it sounded quite bizarre. Hence, it ended up on my Blind Spot list & I finally got around to buying it on DVD. I can’t say it quite lived up to my high expectations, although it’s a very good movie and I would imagine it must have been very shocking back in 1960.

The story here is the exact one I expected. Although similar stories have been done since, I’m thinking this must be one of the (and maybe the very) first to do it. I was extremely surprised at just how much was actually shown… I expected to see nothing but we see it all in graphic detail (for 1960, anyway). Wow! No wonder it angered some people at the time from the little I’ve read of it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s funny now how blatantly obvious the special effects & make-up are but this must have been like the Saw of 1960.

I’m struggling with what to say about this film as I’m not as well-versed on those that are pre-1970 but I do wish to expand my knowledge in this area. The main thing I’ll say is that I absolutely loved how stylish this film was. The mask the disfigured daughter is made to wear is fantastic. So frightening in its simplicity. Plus she wears the best nightdress/housecoat thingy EVER. I wear sweatpants & T-shirts to bed. Why the hell don’t we still dress the way women did in the 1960s? They looked so groomed & lovely at all times. Even one of the film’s victims still looked immaculate afterwards & I just thought “Damn! Poor girl… but I love that dress!”.

I know I’ve put this as my “least favorite” of my Blind Spot films so far but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not good – I just enjoyed the rest slightly more. I think I was mainly disappointed that it was more straightforward than I expected plus the acting was a little off (mainly the father & daughter, although the father’s “secretary” and the other women in the film were good). It also wasn’t all that deep – this is a topic that could’ve been explored in-depth. Beauty on the inside, the ugliness of human nature, blah blah blah. But it’s just a pretty basic crime thriller, albeit with a gruesome twist.

However, it’s stylish as hell. Just look at the images in this post – I love the look of it all. I’m very glad that I put this on my Blind Spot list & finally got around to watching it. Black & white horror is something I truly wish to further explore & will happily take recommendations from fellow bloggers on this genre. I would imagine that Eyes Without A Face is one that will easily remain a favorite of mine within the black & white horror genre, though, as it’s one that could never be easily forgotten once seen. Shockingly beautiful, I’d love to have seen the reaction of audiences when this came out. It’s not quite up there with either Nosferatu (1922) or The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920) for me but, like those, it’s so ahead of its time & there’s no denying the amazing imagery in all of them. We need more horror movies with style nowadays…

My Rating: 7/10

Oh! I totally forgot to mention that I found the movie’s score, from acclaimed composer Maurice Jarre, interestingly bizarre. It was at times too distracting but I love the Jean-Michel Jarre connection (he’s Maurice’s son). Who doesn’t like a bit of Oxygène??

However, I have to end with this music clip instead. I’m sorry! This is just SO stuck in my head since watching this. 😉

Hush (2016) Review

Welcome to Day Three of my “Four Days Of Mike Flanagan Movies“! Let’s see what I thought of home invasion movie Hush… I’ve already reviewed Oculus & the unique Absentia. Tomorrow I’ll hopefully be reviewing his new release Ouija: Origin Of Evil (if I’ve managed to see it by then!). 🙂 **Okay – it’s unlikely I’ll be reviewing that tomorrow as I’ve still not seen it. 😉 Have any of you seen it? 

Hush (2016)

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Starring: John Gallagher Jr, Michael Trucco, Kate Siegel

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A deaf writer who retreated into the woods to live a solitary life must fight for her life in silence when a masked killer appears at her window.

My Opinion:

Hush is a worthy addition to the home invasion subgenre & I’d say it’s Mike Flanagan’s best film (of what I’ve seen so far). I slightly prefer Absentia just because I usually like supernatural horror more than straight-up home invasion flicks but Hush feels like Flanagan’s most well thought-out film whereas it seemed like he was making the story up as he went along in others. Hush has the best pacing, acting, and style of those I’ve seen and is the one I’d be most likely to recommend to people as it’s so straightforward & far less divisive than his other work.

The setup, a deaf woman being terrorized in her home by an intruder, is extremely simple but very effective. Has this been done before? The idea is so simple it feels like it must have… I know there was the Audrey Hepburn film where she played a blind woman terrorized in her home (Wait Until Dark – I just looked that up). Well, whether it’s been done before or not, Flanagan did well to include some very creative ways of using this setup (unlike in the thoroughly overrated Don’t Breathe, which makes a big deal of the “victim” being blind but then does nothing interesting with that plot device).

I especially liked the use of technology in Hush. This is an intelligent writer living on her own and, especially being deaf, she’s going to rely on a lot of modern technology for writing, communication, safely running a household, etc. The use of technology wasn’t overdone, however, and felt natural instead of forced. I liked how it made the usual “home invasion” thing feel more modern. Again, it’s a simple thing but helps give the film a further unique edge. Although, I suppose it will also date the film in the future…

Hush gives us yet another “strong female lead” (played fantastically by Kate Siegel), which is becoming more & more of a common theme in films (not something I’ll ever complain about!). However, she’s not perfect & I appreciated that. She’s real. As much as I’d like to kick ass like Furiosa or Ellen Ripley, I know I never could. I’d be seriously f*^ked in any extreme situation as I’m a serious wuss & even the simplest tasks in life give me panic attacks. Home intruder? I can’t even handle a spider in the bathtub! Siegel’s character makes mistakes. She makes some iffy & dangerous decisions while dealing with the man who is terrorizing her but she’s doing her best in a situation that most of us couldn’t handle. She’s very relatable & you care about what will happen to her (again – it’s very a simple thing to make your main character likable yet so many horror films fail to do this for some reason).

Hush is a good film with a strong central performance & I would definitely recommend it to fans of the home invasion genre. It takes a simple concept & does it very effectively, making use of the main character being deaf and having to use other senses & means of working around this in order to defend herself. I wouldn’t say that home invasion films are a favorite thing of mine but I’ve seen quite a few & enjoyed this one much more than most. Hush is definitely one of the better examples of this genre.

My Rating: 7/10

Goosebumps (2015) Review 

I’ll be finishing Creepy Dolls Week tomorrow with a reblog of a review I did of a British horror classic which happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. Today I’m reviewing a fun recent kids’ film which also happens to contain a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. What is it with dummies?! They’re clearly evil. Let’s have a look at the Goosebumps movie… 🙂

Goosebumps (2015)

Directed by Rob Letterman

Based on Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell, Halston Sage

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

My Opinion:

This was my seven-year-old’s first proper live action “scary movie”. I’m happy to report that she loved it. I was too old for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series when he started it but know I would’ve absolutely loved those books if they’d been around when I was younger. I grew up watching (the original) The Twilight Zone & The Alfred Hitchcock Hour from a very early age (probably 7 or 8) and have loved strange, scary, and/or supernatural & sci-fi stories ever since. As a pre-teen I got into Christopher Pike books (nice & weird – I loved those) and remember reading some pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stine (Twisted, The Babysitter, Blind Date – I had fun looking these up just now & remembering the covers!).

Anyway, I’m not going to force it but I’m hoping that this movie gets my daughter into liking these kind of stories a bit more now. Then she can be as weird as her mother! 😉 I’d love to read the Goosebumps books with her at some point. For those who’ve read them, what sort of ages would you recommend them for? I always thought they were aimed slightly older than this movie, which felt quite “young”. The movie stayed the right side of the line for my daughter – she was a little scared by some bits but I didn’t feel anything was too scary or at all inappropriate. If your kid doesn’t scare easily, I think this is fine for ages 7 & up. Goosebumps is a really fun family movie and, believe me, when you have young kids you appreciate when you start getting to watch some movies with them that you yourself can get some enjoyment from as well!

I of course won’t have had as much fun with this movie as those who read the Goosebumps series, though. I imagine this film was a real treat for his fans. The story’s setup is fantastic, which sees various R.L. Stine monsters brought to life when they’re accidentally released from the manuscripts he keeps locked in order to keep his out-of-control creations imprisoned. Jack Black plays R.L. Stine, which was fine by me as I’m a Jack Black fan & my daughter already liked him thanks to School Of Rock. The film’s concept was very bold & I think it works really well. Imagine this same story with Stephen King. That would be interesting! Can you imagine someone letting Pennywise loose?! (Although, that’s kind of happening in the US & UK at the moment with those asshole clowns running around). Look! Gnomes! I adore garden gnomes. I never thought of them as murderous before this movie…

The werewolf was also pretty cool…

But, of course, the main “monster” unleashed from R.L. Stine’s books is Slappy, this evil-looking ventriloquist’s dummy…

Yep. Dummies are evil! I’ve always known that. There are other creatures that are set loose but these were my favorites & Slappy is definitely the best (and most evil) of them all. He’s not overly terrifying, though – he’s “kid-friendly scary”. If that makes any sense. He won’t be in my nightmares but my daughter might now have a lifelong (healthy) distrust of creepy dummies. Oh, there’s also an abandoned amusement park in this movie (complete with working electricity somehow). I loved the amusement park scenes – what a perfect setting for a kids’ film.

There’s not much more I can really say about Goosebumps other than that it’s great when they actually make decent family films like this one. However, I know you’re unlikely to watch this unless you have children between 7 & 13ish or if you grew up reading the Goosebumps books. Dylan Minnette is fine as the lead teenage boy & I have to say I far prefer this film to the wildly overrated Don’t Breathe (so very NOT a family movie, FYI! Just comparing as he starred in both plus I just reviewed that one recently). I enjoyed Jack Black as always but I thought the biggest stars of this film were Slappy & Stine’s daughter (played by Odeya Rush). She’s a strong female character, which is always important to me as the parent of a girl. I loved a final twist to this movie, which I saw coming from the very start since I’ve lived & breathed these types of stories for 30+ years but know my daughter will have thought “Wow!” to the twist. That’s what I want to see! Her loving a strong story & great twist ending in the same way I did when watching all those Twilight Zone episodes as a kid. I can see Goosebumps being a favorite movie for a lot of kids & thinks it’s one that my daughter will forever be fond of.

My Rating: 7/10

CREEPY DOLLS WEEK ROUNDUP:

The Boy (2016)
Magic (1978)
Dolls (1987)
Annabelle (2014)
Finders Keepers (2014)
– Goosebumps (2015)
Dead Of Night (1945)
My Top Ten Creepy Dolls In Movies & Television

Magic (1978) Blind Spot Review

Welcome to Creepy Dolls Week! Let’s look at Magic’s impressive set of names: Richard Attenborough, William Goldman, Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith… Wow! This is why I added Magic to my Blind Spot list. Was it as good as the talent involved would suggest?

Magic (1978)

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Based on Magic by William Goldman

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Ed Lauter, David Ogden Stiers

Music by Jerry Goldsmith

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A ventriloquist is at the mercy of his vicious dummy while he tries to renew a romance with his high school sweetheart.

My Opinion:

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

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

Of all the impressive names attached to this film, it was actually William Goldman’s that convinced me I should put this movie on my Blind Spot list & finally get around to watching it. Written by the same guy who wrote The Princess Bride, one of the best movies in the history of history??? Oh hell yeah – I had to see this. Plus I admit I have a strange fascination with/fear of ventriloquist’s dummies and this film’s cover has a suitaby creepy one (named “Fats” in the movie). Look at that face! What an evil looking bastard. Can you imagine that thing sitting in your home? Staring at you? Watching you dress? Hogging the remote control? Leaving the toilet seat up? Well, Ann-Margret seemed to find it charming…

Anthony Hopkins is great in this & it’s easy to see why he’s become such a highly respected actor. This is the type of role that can go seriously wrong if not played right but he does the “vulnerable, possibly insane, slowly becoming unhinged” thing perfectly. Then we have the brilliant Burgess Meredith as Hopkins’ high-powered agent who is trying to get a TV show deal for Hopkins & Fats. Aww. I love Burgess Meredith! I’ve had a soft spot for him ever since his various roles in my absolute favorite TV show growing up, the original The Twilight Zone (he just wanted to be left alone to READ!). I suppose I should get around to watching those Rocky films someday, huh? Anyway, he was a delight in Magic & probably my favorite thing about it. He looked weird with a partially shaved head, though.

Speaking of The Twilight Zone, I suppose I have to admit that Magic’s story doesn’t feel totally original as it was done before in things such as, yes, The Twilight Zone as well as in the not-as-well-known-as-it-should-be British horror anthology Dead Of Night. However, this story is often repeated because it’s a damn good one & Goldman has created very strong characters in order to pull it off. I’ll always happily watch the various ways of going about telling this same “crazy ventriloquist OR crazy dummy?” story.

Unfortunately, while I adore movies from the Seventies, this one hasn’t aged quite as well as some. The strong characters stop when we get to the one female in this film: Ann-Margret. She played the role fine but her character is flaky & far too forgiving. But I suppose that’s kind of the point of her character as she’s married to a possessive man, meaning that when she has an affair with Hopkins & he starts displaying bizarre behavior she just puts up with it as it’s the sort of behavior she’s come to expect. It was a different time, though, and I can’t say this hurt the film too much overall. But I couldn’t help but think that I’d kick that crazy dude & his ugly dummy the hell out of my house! No, wait – I wouldn’t let them in in the first place. You are NOT coming into my house with that dummy. I don’t care if we were friends in high school! And don’t send me any social media friend requests, either. Weirdo.

Magic is a good film. It won’t become an all-time favorite of mine but I’m glad I finally watched it. The story is well told with strong characters but I have a feeling it maybe worked slightly better in the book? Has anyone here read it? However, the acting really makes this film far better than it would’ve been had less talented people been involved. I do recommend Magic if it appeals to you in any way as I think it would be worth your time, especially if you’re a fan of Hopkins & appreciate good performances.

My Rating: 7/10

This song is in no way, shape or form related to this film. It’s just now stuck in my head. And I like it. 😉

Honeymoon (2014) Review

Honeymoon (2014)

Directed by Leigh Janiak

Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway, Ben Huber, Hanna Brown

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A newlywed couple finds their lake-country honeymoon descend into chaos after Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of their first night.

My Opinion:

I can’t exactly explain why but I quite liked this movie. It’s weird & it’s definitely not for everyone but I liked that it felt a bit different from your usual sort of horror flick nowadays. I think it had a good atmosphere & it did feel mysteriously creepy at times. Plus, the characters were pretty likable. How bizarre is that?! Likable characters in a horror movie! Although, they were SO lovey-dovey that it was a little over the top & fake but, still, it was a lot better than watching a bunch of assholes like we so often get in horror films (I’m talking to you, Don’t Breathe). I had a bit of a crush on Harry Treadaway throughout this movie. What a sweetheart.

Yes, the “You know nothing, Jon Snow” chick is in this. I actually found Rose Leslie a bit annoying in Game Of Thrones but she’s okay in this one, I guess. It’s really distracting to see Game Of Thrones actors in other things now, though. They’ll always just be their GoT characters to me! Like that Littlefinger bastard – he keeps showing up in movies & almost ruining them for me (such as Sing Street, which he didn’t manage to ruin – it’s actually my favorite movie so far this year & I totally recommend it to everyone).

Where was I? I have to say I really don’t know how to go about reviewing this movie. It’s not one I would be comfortable recommending to anyone whose movie taste I didn’t know really well. I think horror is probably the most divisive genre when it comes to movies, even more so than comedy. And I must admit that I especially seem to rarely agree with the mainstream public on movies when it comes to this genre (I don’t mean you bloggers – movie bloggers have good taste!). 😉 Okay, sorry – I’m going to bitch about Don’t Breathe yet again. I stupidly went to that based on its high IMDB score. It wasn’t exactly the worst film ever but it was your typical silly, throwaway horror movie that I won’t remember a year from now (except for one scene. Gross). Yet it currently has an IMDB user rating that’s much higher than that for The Babadook, which I loved & personally think is one of the finest horror movies in years. I honestly don’t understand IMDB users. I need to learn to ignore those ratings…

So, to explain my taste in horror a little bit, I’d say my favorites are psychological thrillers and/or those that deal with the supernatural in some way. I absolutely hate torture porn & excessive gore and I don’t tend to like anything too straightforward & realistic, such as serial killer movies. Unless it’s a supernatural serial killer like Freddy Krueger or something – the Elm Street films RULE! Oh, and I love a good zombie movie (preferably Romero) & funny horror comedies.

So, yes – Honeymoon falls into one of the categories that I like. Is it a spoiler if I say which? Well, it’s not an Elm Street-like slasher, zombie movie, or horror comedy. It’s a category people either love or hate. If you like your horror to have lots of fast-paced action & gore or to be really straightforward and not at all “weird”, then you should probably avoid Honeymoon. It has a slow pace & takes its time setting up our two main characters and showing us just how close they are. It creates a pretty effective unsettling mood as Leslie’s character becomes increasingly bizarre. It doesn’t feel the need to “show” us a lot (which some people hate) or to tie everything up neatly & leave us with no questions (another thing that some people hate). Well, these are the things that I like. Fairly well developed & likable characters, a creepy atmosphere, and a sense of mystery thanks to not having absolutely everything shown or spelled out to us.

But, hey, if you hate all of the above things yet still end up watching this for some reason I can at least guarantee you one thing: Honeymoon gets pretty seriously f*^ked-up at the end! The ending is a definite love it or hate it & was probably the make or break moment for anyone watching this. I bitch about horror movie endings a lot as I feel that they rarely get them right. Guess what? I have no complaints this time. Bravo on that ending, Honeymoon! I bet it pissed most people off, though.

This movie isn’t perfect & it certainly isn’t at the same level as something truly great like The Babadook. It’s still just a “horror” movie that will never be an all-time favorite of mine as only a handful of horrors have managed that. I know Honeymoon is a movie I’ll never watch again but I can honestly say that I’ll easily remember it, which is more than I can say for most modern horror films. So I’m therefore being a little more generous with my rating than I usually am with horrors. It was just nice to watch a modern one that didn’t piss me off for a change!

My Rating: 7/10

**Stay tuned for three days of reviews of horror comedies from New Zealand, starting on Sunday! And tomorrow I’ll be reblogging two reviews of two good South Korean horror films. Have a great weekend, everyone! 🙂 

Phenomena (1985) Blind Spot Review

Phenomena (1985) (aka Creepers)

Directed by Dario Argento

Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, Dalila Di Lazzaro, Donald Pleasence, Patrick Bauchau

Music by Goblin, Claudio Simonetti, Bill Wyman, Simon Boswell, Pina Magri

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Phenomena is a 1985 Italian horror film directed by Dario Argento and starring Jennifer Connelly, Daria Nicolodi, and Donald Pleasence. Its plot focuses on a young girl at a remote Swiss boarding school who discovers she has psychic powers that allow her to communicate with insects, and uses them to pursue a serial killer who is butchering young women at and around the school.

My Opinion:

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

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

I don’t have any experience with any Dario Argento films besides Suspiria or with any of the Italian “giallo” films. I’ve thought about exploring them but am pretty sure I’d find them too graphic – they don’t really look like the sort of thing for me. So this is written by someone with very little Argento knowledge & I have no idea if Phenomena is typical of his usual work or not.

This movie appealed to me as I of course like Labyrinth-era Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence is pretty cool, the plot sounded interesting, and I’m a sucker for good cover art & like the above poster. Oh, and it’s from 1985. I’ve been wanting to see this for a long time, which is why it ended up on my Blind Spot list. I’m afraid it didn’t live up to my own hype but I’m glad I finally saw it & it’s one I think I like slightly more now, months after seeing it. It’s bizarre & I can’t honestly say it’s “good” by any means but bizarre is better than boring in my book.

I’ll say that this movie certainly doesn’t follow any Hollywood conventions (not that it would since it’s Italian, obviously) so I don’t know anyone I could recommend it to who doesn’t have a bit of an interest in film or filmmaking & wanting to explore the work of certain directors. I’m sure some fellow bloggers love this one, though, as it’s a movie blogger’s sort of film. Thinking of the ONE other Argento movie I’ve seen, Suspiria, I suppose Phenomena has a very similar structure. Actually, now that I think of it, I can see some similarities in the layout of Once Upon A Time In The West, which was co-written by Argento. What I mean by that is that I didn’t know what the hell was going on in West either (but it’s an absolutely beautiful film).

Phenomena’s plot is all over the place, to the point where it’s kind of hard to follow what’s going on. There are elements thrown in which seem completely unnecessary, like the whole thing with Connelly being able to communicate with insects. I thought that would be more important to the story but only one silly insect scene, which made no sense, seemed to be mildly important so it felt like something thrown in to make this movie sound more interesting than just a “killer is killing schoolgirls” slasher. It also unfortunately made Donald Pleasence’s character feel unnecessary as some kind of weird bug expert that Connelly just happens to stumble upon when becoming lost in the woods. Okay – I just re-read the entire plot at Wikipedia & Pleasence is a “forensic entomologist” helping work on the case of the murdered girls. Is that actually a thing? Can you use bugs to track down killers? Well, he’s in a wheelchair with a chimp as his assistant so that was cool – it reminded me of George A Romero’s Monkey Shines, which I had loads of fun reviewing HERE. Hmm… as Romero & Argento are friends, I wonder if Monkey Shines was partly inspired by this.

But I digress. As always, my reviews are all over the place. Kind of like this movie! I get the feeling that the visuals & general weirdness are more important to Argento than the plot anyway & I can appreciate that – I almost find these elements more important in a film as well. Make it an interesting enough film to look at and/or listen to and I won’t care if the plot isn’t the best (I’m thinking of movies like The Man Who Fell To Earth, which I loved but was seriously WTF). Speaking of being interesting to listen to, Argento used the great Goblin once again for the score. And he threw in some heavy metal songs which I can’t honestly say fit in AT ALL but I will never complain at an Iron Maiden song featuring very heavily in a film since that’s my favorite band. I guess the music helped add to the bizarre nature & very non-Hollywoodness of the movie. I made up a word there! I sound so professional.

I think I’m talking myself into liking this a bit more. The chimp helped – there should be more chimps in movies. I didn’t understand what the hell was going on half the time, the insect thing was honestly pretty stupid, it was a little too gory for me, and I’ve never been a big fan of slashers which show great delight in specifically killing women (which is why I know that “giallo” films probably aren’t for me). However, there are scenes I’ll never forget which is more than I can say for the majority of boring horror movies that get churned out by Hollywood with all its Hollywoodness. The visuals are interesting, the silly ending that turns this into something more like a typical American slasher like Friday The 13th, etc, has really grown on me as I think that’s what Argento was actually aiming for, there’s some Goblin & IRON MAIDEN!!!, there’s Dr. Sam Loomis & the President of the United States, there’s Jennifer Connelly’s eyebrows, and there’s a chimp. Who cares about the plot when you have all of these things?? Okay, I’m upping my rating by half a point. I’ve talked myself into liking this f*^ked-up movie.

My Rating: 7/10

**Here’s Iron Maiden’s Flash Of The Blade, which was used so heavily in this film that I’ll now never hear it without seeing Jennifer Connelly’s face…

And here are two interesting facts that I just read in IMDB trivia:

– “The film was inspired to Dario Argento after he learned that insects are sometimes used during murder investigations.” – Okay, so I guess that’s an actual thing.

– “Jennifer Connelly had part of her finger bitten off by the chimpanzee in the final scene at the end of the film. She was rushed to the hospital and the finger was re-attached.” – DAMN! I don’t like that chimp so much anymore.

The Shallows (2016) Review

The Shallows (2016)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Blake Lively, Óscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen, Sedona Legge, Angelo José Lozano Corzo, José Manuel Trujillo Salas, Pablo Calva, Diego Espejel, Janelle Bailey

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A surfer gets stranded 200 yards from shore, and must use her wits and determination to survive a great white shark attack.

My Opinion:

What can I say about a shark movie? You either like them or you don’t. We’re obviously never going to get another classic like Jaws but The Shallows is a decent enough shark attack thriller for those who go for this very specific genre.

Blake Lively is fine. I’ll be honest – her character got on my nerves at first. She’s just so “pretty, bubbly, skinny blonde in a tiny bikini” and you can’t help but feel that she’s extremely irresponsible for going to a secret beach all alone. If this wasn’t a shark attack movie, you’d assume that the two guys she meets there in the middle of nowhere would kill her. A friend was going to go with her but cancels at the last minute, surprise surprise, but how was her friend going to find the “secret beach” anyway since Lively is already on her way there? Hmm??? So it’s your usual silly Hollywood movie setup, complete with sad backstory that’s meant to give our main character a reason to “fight to survive!”. There’s also some annoying texting back & forth at the beginning, which flashes up on the movie screen. I hate when they do that in movies. Amazing phone reception at this secret beach, though!

I’m sounding too picky now. I realize this kind of movie always gives a similar sort of story to the main character. If we don’t get a little bit of a backstory, why would we care if they survive? So after a bit of a silly start & some details thrown at us that we KNOW will come in handy later, we get to the action & the movie does get a lot better. Does Lively’s character do the smartest things at all times? Well, aside from stupidly going to this beach completely alone in the first place, I think she does her best with the situation. There wasn’t anything that annoyed me too much, at least, like when people in horror movies make one stupid decision after another. As my hubby kept pointing out to me “You’d be dead by now in this situation“, I can’t really complain about anything she does since I’d do everything wrong & die within five minutes. Thanks hubby – you know I’m of no use in extreme situations! I admit it. 😉

I know I’ve sounded a little negative but I did enjoy The Shallows. I don’t think anyone really goes to a shark attack movie wanting to see something Oscar worthy, do they?? The action was decently paced, the special effects were good enough, and the story was all it really needed to be. I only sound “meh” because the movie ended up being exactly what I expected. I have to say I had a lot more fun watching this than I have watching quite a few other films so far this year. 2016 is turning out to be a shockingly bad year for movies! So I may be giving this a slightly higher rating than it deserves but, if you’re into this kind of movie, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll like this one just fine. And if you like butts, you’ll love it as you get to see A LOT of Lively’s butt while she’s paddling her surfboard. I think I saw more butt than shark. “Shark butt, ooh ha ha!” (Sorry – that was a poor Finding Nemo joke. The hubby & I kept making Nemo jokes while watching this…)

My Rating: 7/10

The Secret Life Of Pets (2016) Review

The Secret Life Of Pets (2016)

Directed by Chris Renaud & Yarrow Cheney

Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Steve Coogan, Ellie Kemper, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Jenny Slate, Albert Brooks

Production company: Illumination Entertainment

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A terrier named Max’s quiet life is upended when his owner takes in Duke, a stray, who Max instantly dislikes.

My Opinion:

Ah, Illumination Entertainment… They gave us the Despicable Me movies (love those!) and Hop (awful!). Oh, and The Lorax (meh) and Minions (disappointing movie but Minions are one of my favorite cinematic creations so I can’t complain too much). Luckily, The Secret Life Of Pets is closer to Despicable Me than Hop. I thought it was fun & think I actually enjoyed it even more than my kid did. It will never be a personal favorite of mine the way Pixar movies and Despicable Me are, but it’s nice to go to an animated kids’ film that I can get some enjoyment out of too. I’m so selfish… 😉

The Secret Life Of Pets starts out really strong with our main character (a dog named Max) and the owner he adores. We then meet his friends: the neighbor pets who are all left home alone each day when their owners head off to work. We see the pets interact & watch how they keep themselves and each other entertained all day. These scenes were cute with some genuinely funny moments & they really could’ve stayed within this one building for the entirety of the movie and it would’ve been great. Unfortunately, it all goes a little too over-the-top once they leave the building & the story gets more complicated. I think the simplicity of the first half of the movie worked much better.

The second half was still fun, though. This movie has LOADS of characters, which kind of takes away from our main set of pets from Max’s neighborhood. But I suppose it also means that every kid will easily have a couple of favorites as there are so many different types of animals & personalities going on. My kid loved Gidget. Not sure who my favorite was… I liked Gidget as well as Max & Pops (an old dog with wheels voiced by Dana Carvey).

I have to say that one bit with the “bad guys” (previous pets abandoned by their owners) & a big viper is a bit intense for the very young. My 7-year-old didn’t like this part & she’s not one to really get too scared by movies. So bear that in mind if you’re wondering if it’s suitable for a toddler (I’d say it’s not).

I was surprised that my kid said the movie was “just okay” afterwards & that she preferred Zootropolis. Zootropolis really rubbed me the wrong way by being far too preachy (I bitched about that HERE). I don’t mind messages in kids’ films but don’t like when they’re forced down our throats. Plus, I just found that movie really boring. The Secret Life Of Pets is a straightforward animated kids’ movie with funny characters, some good laughs & no preaching (Although I suppose you could say there’s sort of a message to not discard your pets). Unlike Zootropolis, I thought it was funny and had far more memorable characters. But, hey – the kid liked it less so what do I know?? I was just happy to watch a decent kids’ movie that didn’t bore me to tears or annoy me. It’s a fun popcorn movie that was more enjoyable than I was expecting but certainly not a timeless classic like many Pixar & Disney movies. But very few movies are as good as those, right?

My Rating: 7/10

If you’re curious, this is how I’d rank the cinema movies I’ve seen with my kid in 2016. It’s summer vacation now so I’m kind of stuck seeing only kids’ films now until September. Oh well – at least I’ll finally be seeing Finding Dory this weekend. Can’t wait!!!

My 2016 Kids’ Movies – Best To Worst:
– Goosebumps
Kung Fu Panda 3
– The Secret Life Of Pets
The Jungle Book
Zootropolis

My Kid’s Best To Worst Order As I Suppose Her Opinion Is More Important: 😉
– Pan (went with her father – she loved it)
– Goosebumps
– TIE: Kung Fu Panda 3 & Zootropolis
– The Secret Life Of Pets
The Jungle Book

Money Monster (2016) Review

Money Monster (2016)

Directed by Jodie Foster

Starring: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell, Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito, Caitriona Balfe

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, a TV personality who advises his audience on commerce and Wall Street, and who is forcefully interrogated by Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell), a grief-stricken bankrupt viewer who lost his money after a previous tip.

My Opinion:

I chose to go to this movie in this way: “Eeny meeny miny… Oh, Money Monster has a much shorter running time than X-Men: Apocalypse or The Nice Guys so let’s just watch that one”. Money Monster is a decent enough film but it’s one of those that you know most people won’t bother to make a trip to the cinema to see. It’s a home-watcher. I enjoyed it even though it’s a bit formulaic & predictable but, hell, most movies are. If you like any of its stars or want to see a Jodie Foster film (I thought she’d directed far more movies than she actually has!), you’d probably like this one just fine.

This movie (its basic plot, at least) reminded me a lot of Man On A Ledge & I did keep thinking of that movie thoughout this one. I remember really looking forward to that film as it had a great concept but it ended up being a stupid, silly mess. Luckily, Money Monster is much better than Man On A Ledge so don’t worry about my comparison! It has much better writing & acting plus situations that aren’t as ridiculously far fetched.

Unfortunately, it does fall apart at the end after a pretty promising start. It’s one of those films where the “surprise” of what’s “really going on” isn’t a surprise in the slightest, which was a little disappointing as I wanted it to be something more than just “Oh, that’s it? Well that was obvious from the start”. I think it also fails to get its message across (if it even has a message?). I suppose the message of sorts is just about how big business/money always screws over the little guy but we all know that’s a fact of life anyway. This movie could’ve provided a good commentary on that but instead just turns into a pretty straightforward good guy vs bad guy hostage drama. I’d have to say that at least The Big Short made this same sort of point in a much more effective way & had a message (I actually hated that movie, though. Snoozefest!). Money Monster takes the path of “entertaining movie” more than “thought-provoking drama”. But there’s of course nothing wrong with a movie being entertaining – I just wish Money Monster had dug a bit deeper to be a little something more.

A quick mention of the film’s stars: Clooney’s role has his name written ALL over it – I would imagine he was the exact person they had in mind for the role even as it was being written. So, yeah, that works but his performance can’t help but feel a bit phoned-in because of it. I’d have to say that Julia Roberts actually does a better job here (and that’s being said by someone who really isn’t one of her fans). This is the perfect sort of role for her these days, though, and I’d even possibly go so far as to say she’s the best one in this. I know there’s been a lot of positive buzz around Jack O’Connell after Starred Up & ’71 (both of which I’ve not seen) and he’s decent enough in this but I think that his character lets him down as the movie fails to make him as sympathetic as I think it had intended.   Dominic West, Giancarlo Esposito & especially Caitriona Balfe all did a good job and some of the smaller characters were pretty well-written and provided tiny bits of comic relief, even down to the cameraman who has to stay to film the whole thing while George Clooney has a bomb strapped to him.

I’d recommend Money Monster to anyone who thinks they’d enjoy it. As long as you don’t expect anything too deep, you’ll probably like it okay. I think it has slipped under the radar, which is kind of a shame as there aren’t a whole lot of similar films currently being made. I think Jodie Foster did a decent job with this one & should do more directing.

My Rating: 7/10

Warcraft: The Beginning (2016) Review

Warcraft: The Beginning (2016)

Directed by Duncan Jones

Based on Warcraft by Blizzard Entertainment

Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu, Glenn Close?!?!

Plot Synopsis:
The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.

My Opinion:

I really didn’t fancy going to see this movie at all but the hubby kind of wanted to see it and, well, I never really pass up the opportunity to go to a movie… So I went! I have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about Warcraft so I figured it would be best to just go in totally blind & see what I thought. You know what? The movie isn’t bad. I was worried as I mentioned the other day that I’ve never seen such a wide gap between public opinion at IMDB (7.9/10) & the metascore (the opinion of critics – a very low 31/100). I’m usually somewhere between the two scores but I’m closer to public opinion on this one. Critics never really rate fantasy highly anyway so screw them – if you like this sort of thing, give it a go! I enjoyed it just fine.

I’ll admit that the thing that interested me the most was watching another film from David Bowie’s son. I thought Moon was great and Source Code was entertaining but not perfect. I’d say the same of Warcraft – it definitely has its issues but I found it entertaining. I think I may have even enjoyed it a little more than Source Code. The characters were pretty strong (for a fantasy movie based on a game, anyway) and it has me interested enough to watch a sequel if one gets made. It doesn’t have me interested enough to explore the story/game at all but I do actually hope there’s a sequel.

The movie starts off with the orcs & I thought I’d find the look of them really distracting but it didn’t take long to get over that. I think the movie looks pretty good – it’s not like the orcs look any weirder/cheesier than creatures in the Lord Of The Rings movies. We got a good story involving that orc dude in the above photo & I like that – I want to give a shit about characters in movies. I think this movie did a pretty good job in developing several key characters (considering that there are quite a few to get to know) & giving us some good back stories plus loads of potential for more to come in any sequels.

Yeah, I said “that orc dude” up there because the one thing I really struggle with when it comes to fantasy are all the damn names. Here are some examples from this movie: Gul’dan, Durotan (chieftain of the Frostwolf clan!), Draka, Orgrim Doomhammer (lol! that last name kicks ass), Sir Anduin Lothar, Khadgar, Medivh, Garona, Daenerys Stormborn, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons, blah blah blah. Okay, I threw some extra shit in at the end there. I did feel like I do when watching Game Of Thrones – the hubby must get so sick of my “Who the hell is that dude?!” questions. There are orcs, there are humans, there’s a sexy half orc/human, there are these cool wizard dudes (my favorite! I love cool wizard dudes!), there are kings, queens, chieftains, cool scary beasts & birds that the orcs & humans ride, Glenn Close (!), and an adorable uglycute orc baby. And they all go to war. And use cool blue & green magic. And I was never really sure what was going on and I sure as hell still don’t have a clue what any of their names were. Meh – it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s meant to be a bit of fantasy entertainment & I think it does achieve this quite well. The very low critic ratings are unfair.



The wizard dudes were the best. Or whatever they were called as I don’t think they were called wizards…

Besides the wizard dudes, I also really liked the sexy half human/half orc (Paula Patton), the main good guy orc dude & his family (okay okay – I looked his name up! it’s Durotan played by Toby Kebbell), the human king (Dominic Cooper) & his family, plus the main good guy human (Travis Fimmel). I’ve never seen Fimmel in anything before & he’s fine but I was distracted by him being this weird cross between Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison and Richard Tyson as the bad guy in Kindergarten Cop



Summary:

Ignore the snobby critics – if you like this sort of genre, I don’t see why you wouldn’t like Warcraft. It has all the elements I expect from a fantasy film plus characters I liked & storylines I enjoyed. What more can you ask for? No, it’s obviously no Lord Of The Rings but it’s a decent movie based on a game. Hell, it’s probably one of the very best “game movies” as most of those are complete & utter shit. The one thing I’ll say is that it could’ve used slightly more comic relief – the movie has a small amount of this (mostly with the young wizard, who was probably my favorite character) but a little more would’ve helped me warm to the characters a bit more. I’m not gonna lie – this is a movie I probably won’t remember a thing about in a couple of years. But, hey, it does the job. And I do want a sequel.

My Rating: 7/10


I did like the hero’s eagle thingy. I want one.

Is There Anything After The Credits? Nope! Not at the end or even halfway through. So go have a pee!

The Dead Pool (1988) Review

Welcome to Day 3 of Clint Eastwood Week! On Monday I reviewed Play Misty For Me and yesterday I did a double review of A Fistful Of Dollars & For A Few Dollars More. Today I figured I should do at least one Dirty Harry film. Here’s The Dead Pool (the one with Clint Eastwood, not Ryan Reynolds). 🙂

The Dead Pool (1988)

Directed by Buddy Van Horn

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Patricia Clarkson, Liam Neeson, Evan Kim, Jim Carrey, Guns N’ Roses

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Dirty Harry Callahan must stop a sick secret contest to murder local celebrities, which includes himself as a target.

My Opinion:

Okay, I can’t pretend that The Dead Pool is exactly “good” but I really did thoroughly enjoy it! There’s so much cheesy 1980’s goodness going on in this one & I always have a huge soft spot for that because of my age. Liam Neeson as a horror movie director with an embarrassing ponytail! Guns N’ Roses looking totally out of place in awkward cameos! The most amazing remote-control car ever! Jim Carrey giving a massively cringeworthy performance while lip syncing to Welcome To The Jungle! Patricia Clarkson, um, doing a decent job! (But she’s probably a bit embarrassed as this isn’t the sort of movie she does nowadays).

I know this probably isn’t the Dirty Harry film I should’ve started with. Actually, though, I know I did see at least part of both Dirty Harry & Sudden Impact. My dad is a big Clint Eastwood fan (it’s a requirement by law for American males his age) & I know I saw plenty of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry types of films on TV throughout my childhood as he watched them. I remember very little of them now, though, and wanted to start with Dirty Harry but The Dead Pool is the only one I had available and I don’t have the money to go buying movies just for blog reviewing purposes. Sorry! 😉 So I’m reviewing this one now but I’ll certainly re-watch Dirty Harry if it pops up on TV.

I have a feeling I’ll “like” this one the most of the Dirty Harry films anyway, although I doubt I’ll consider it the “best”. I just liked the feelings of nostalgia I got watching it – I wish I’d seen it at the time. Although I later went off of them, I was a big Guns N’ Roses fan in 1988. And the exact car that we had throughout my childhood was in this! Well, in a different color… Ours was gray & black. Check it out!

Was that a Monte Carlo? I know nothing about cars. I just remember that my dad never took the protective plastic cover off the backseat (probably due to my car sickness & tendency to throw up on car journeys) and, man, that plastic burned my legs in the summer! I hated that. Anyway, back to this cheesy movie… Oh! I really liked Clint Eastwood’s partner in this (Evan Kim). They’re great together so I assumed maybe they were partners in all of them but, damn, I guess not.

So, yeah, Liam Neeson is in this and he’s pretty funny with his ponytail but, let’s be honest – it’s not like this movie is really any cheesier than stuff like Taken so he doesn’t feel totally out of place. Patricia Clarkson plays a news reporter slash love interest for Eastwood slash damsel in distress. She’s fine in this – her character isn’t too annoyingly “in need of rescue”, which is all that female characters often were in these types of movies back then & is probably why this genre has never really connected much with me (or with most women).

Eastwood is good – he’s his usual Eastwood self. I mean, I have no memory of other Dirty Harry films so can’t compare them but get the feeling this one is a little less intense than the others? He seemed angrier in the others. I did read that he didn’t make any more of these after this one as he felt he was too old to keep playing Dirty Harry & that it would start to feel like a joke (he was 58 in this). He didn’t feel awkward in this movie but I think he quit at the right time. Then there’s Jim Carrey… Holy hell! I’d heard his role mentioned before but didn’t realize just how bad he was in this. Hilarious! His lip syncing is probably my favorite bit of the movie, though. Either that or the remote control car… I love the cheesy crap that movies got away with in the Eighties!

Summary:

The Dead Pool is an entertaining Dirty Harry movie. It feels older than it actually is – it’s weird to think that this was 1988 when, in a lot of ways, it feels more like it’s from 1978. It’s not a bad film but, when compared to big blockbusters of the day, this seems very low budget in comparison. I suppose that cop drama TV shows were very popular in the 80’s & this movie almost feels like a long episode of Miami Vice or Magnum, P.I. Oh! Or Simon & Simon! Lol! Remember that?? Actually, no – The Equalizer is probably a better comparison. What’s my point? I have no idea! I mean, a lot of people liked those sort of TV shows so, if you were a fan of those, you’d probably enjoy this movie. I guess my point is that this movie hasn’t aged well. This was out a year after Lethal Weapon yet looks & feels much older. I think Eastwood made the right decision to move on from the Dirty Harry films but I did really have fun watching this one.

My Rating: 7/10

**For a laugh, here’s the clip of Jim Carrey lip syncing Welcome To The Jungle. You have to watch this if you’ve not seen the movie. How utterly embarrassing!

A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) & For A Few Dollars More (1965) IMDB Top 250 Reviews

Happy Birthday to Clint Eastwood, who turns 86 today! 🙂

My blog is having a Clint Eastwood Week (I reviewed Play Misty For Me yesterday). And I figured what better way to celebrate his birthday today than to review his famous Dollars Trilogy for my IMDB Top 250 Project as they’re all in the 250. Well, I already recently reviewed The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (you can see that review HERE). I didn’t realize it was the “third” in the trilogy when I watched it first but it really doesn’t matter as the stories aren’t connected (they just have the same director & composer plus the main actor playing a different character in each). It was interesting seeing their “evolution”, however, as I think each film was better than the previous one. Let’s start by talking about the first in the trilogy: A Fistful Of Dollars.

A Fistful Of Dollars (1964) (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari)

Directed by Sergio Leone

Based on Yojimbo by Akira Kurosawa & Ryuzo Kikushima

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volontè, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, Joseph Egger

Music by Ennio Morricone

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A wandering gunfighter plays two rival families against each other in a town torn apart by greed, pride, and revenge.

My Opinion:

I had no idea that this movie is basically the Yojimbo story by Akira Kurosawa & Ryuzo Kikushima (but not credited at the time, apparently). That’s interesting – there are a lot of Kurosawa films in the Top 250 & I’m very eager to work my way through them as I love Seven Samurai. So far, I’ve watched Ikiru & Rashômon so I’ll make Yojimbo the next one (I’ll have a Kurosawa Week once I’ve watched them all). I really liked the story of a drifter playing two rival families off against each other so am looking forward to seeing the original & comparing them.

I get the impression that some people may slightly prefer these first two Dollars films to The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. As I said above, I personally think each film got better & that the final one is the best but the first two do have much better pacing, less distracting voice dubbing, and stories that are easier to follow & that actually get right into things from the start instead of meandering along for almost three hours until reaching a fantastic finale.

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly is the only one I’d call a “masterpiece” but these first two are also very good in a different way & are much more straightforward in telling their stories, which some people may prefer. There’s still a fair amount of time spent on characters standing around & staring at each other but it wasn’t yet to the extreme Leone went to in Once Upon A Time In The West. No, I’m not being a smart ass because I think that film is brilliant – the opening scene honestly contains the best staring ever committed to film. Here you go – the Once Upon A Time In The West staredown!

But back to A Fistful Of Dollars… I did find this the weakest of the three, mainly due to the fact that I didn’t really connect with or care about any of the characters (other than one family with a small boy) whereas the next film had a better revenge theme going on that I found more interesting & also had a good partnership that this one lacked. There’s plenty here for dudes, though – lots of fighting (with & without guns) and the usual amount of Clint Eastwood just looking like a stud while smoking & wearing a poncho. Eastwood IS very cool in these spaghetti Westerns, whether they’re your sort of thing or not, and has a great presence that not all actors manage (but is matched by his co-star in the second film). I now have less experience with his Dirty Harry movies than his Westerns but I think the Westerns suit him better.

This film does of course have yet another great showdown (as to be expected at the end of every Leone film I’ve seen so far). To say it’s the weakest of the three (or four if I include West as well) isn’t really a bad thing as all the Leone films I’ve now seen are fantastic & I can understand why they’re so popular even though this isn’t my favorite genre so I’ll never love them to the same degree as fans.

My Rating: 7/10

For a Few Dollars More (1965) (Italian: Per qualche dollaro in più)

Directed by Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Gian Maria Volontè, Luigi Pistilli, Aldo Sambrell, Klaus Kinski, Mario Brega

Music by Ennio Morricone

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two bounty hunters with the same intentions team up to track down a Western outlaw.

My Opinion:

Now… For A Few Dollars More was genuinely enjoyable! Don’t get me wrong – I think these Leone films are beautiful works of art and worthy of the praise & recognition they later achieved but I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t find them all a bit of a chore to sit through. Of all four I’ve seen, I’d rank this as the third best yet I’d also say it’s the most enjoyable overall in that it’s the only one that held my interest the entire time.

It’s a simple (if rather cliché) story of revenge but, hey – that’s what I want from a Western. The one seeking revenge is Lee Van Cleef’s character. And what a great character he is! It’s the only time another character felt as important as Eastwood’s (if not more) and I cared about his story. The two of them are fantastic together & have amazing chemistry onscreen. He was also the “Bad” to Eastwood’s “Good” in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly but this was a much better role for him & I preferred their relationship in this.

Another thing that worked a bit better in this one than the previous film was the main baddie. He’s an evil bastard but also not quite right in the head & haunted by things in his past. He felt more developed than a lot of Western baddies. Actually, all the characters felt more well developed than usual (other than Eastwood’s but I think that’s always the whole point of his mysterious Man With No Name characters). That’s a big part of what made this film the most enjoyable – I can’t fully get into a film unless I buy into the characters & the story and this film did a good job with these elements.

Okay – I’ve not yet mentioned the Ennio Morricone score for either of these films. I don’t want to go on & on as I already raved about him in my review for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly but, damn, the man is a genius. There were no specific themes that stood out for me as much as in that one but the music truly helps make all these Leone spaghetti Westerns. Without the scores, I know I wouldn’t personally rate any of these movies as highly. The score is as important to these films as is Eastwood’s character & Leone’s cinematography. They all work perfectly together & make these films far greater than they’d be with one of these three elements missing.

Well, I think I’ve said enough about these movies. As I’ve said before, I’m no expert on Westerns but the four Leone films I’ve seen really are something special & definitely have my appreciation as beautiful works of art. I do think that each movie got better & better with Once Upon A Time In The West actually being the best overall. However, I’d probably stick with The Good, The Bad And The Ugly being my favorite as I think the score as well as the final 30 minutes or so of that film easily tops all others & pushes it into the “masterpiece” category that I don’t like to use as a label too often (if you’re curious, I gave both those movies a score of 8/10). I highly recommend both of those films at the very least but, if you want to start a bit smaller, the first two Dollars films are more easily “digestible” & For A Few Dollars More is probably the best one for non-Western lovers as I think a lot of people love a basic story of revenge.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Paths Of Glory & On The Waterfront IMDB Top 250 Reviews

These are my final two IMDB Top 250 Project movies I’ve watched but not yet reviewed (not counting the Clint Eastwood or the Akira Kurosawa films, which I plan to review all together). So from now on I’ll only be reviewing movies for this project on the occasional Tuesday as I happen watch more of them. My Tuesdays are now free! What the heck am I going to post weekly instead of these Top 250 reviews?!? Hmm. Most likely, nothing. I like the idea of a blog-free weekday!

I’ve put off “reviewing” these two as I don’t have much to say about them. They didn’t connect with me like so many of the films that I’ve watched for this project have. I understand why they’re classics & agree that they do deserve to be in the Top 250, though, despite them not working for me. Hey – we can’t all love the same movies! What a boring world this would be if that was the case.

So I’m going to say a very small bit about each film now just to get them off my list. Here you go: Two short paragraphs each for two all-time classics I’m clearly not cultured enough to have fully appreciated! 😉

Paths Of Glory (1957)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Based on Paths of Glory by Humphrey Cobb

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Wayne Morris, Richard Anderson

Plot Synopsis:
Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refuse to continue a suicidal attack. Dax attempts to defend them against a charge of cowardice in a court-martial.

My Two Paragraph Opinion:

Wow – I, um, believe this is the only Kirk Douglas movie I’ve ever seen. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t watching Michael Douglas as they’re so similar (I suck). At least I’ve added another Stanley Kubrick to my list of movies seen (I’ve ranked his films HERE – I need to add in Full Metal Jacket at five while Paths Of Glory would be at six).

I preferred Paths Of Glory to On The Waterfront. The pacing was pretty slow so I’ll fully admit that my uncultured, non-war-movie-loving mind wandered quite often but it did have an overall story that I found far more compelling than that in On The Waterfront. I won’t give away the full story for those who know nothing about this but it’s something that should have moved me a bit more than it did. I think that, perhaps, they didn’t spend enough time developing a few characters who really deserved to have more time spent on them. I’ll say that Douglas was great in this so, yes, I really should watch at least one other movie he’s been in. The novel was based on a true story & this practice (what happens in the film) was done during World War I from what I can tell of the very little I read of this movie at Wikipedia (war experts can feel free to chime in on this). I don’t know how often this tactic was used but it’s truly appalling & the movie did finally have my full attention at the end. Honestly, I didn’t have a clue what the outcome would be – I don’t know how I managed to avoid such a huge movie spoiler for all these years. Paths Of Glory is a film deserving of all its praise with great performances & a very important topic that needed to be brought to light (apparently this movie was fairly controversial at the time as it’s a pretty anti-war film). It’s just not my type of thing but I’d certainly not disagree with anyone who says they love it as I can see it being a favorite film for some people. For all lovers of war movies, it’s a must-see.

My Rating: 7/10

On The Waterfront (1954)

Directed by Elia Kazan

Starring: Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J Cobb, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint

Music by Leonard BernsteinIt’s the end of the world as we know it! (And I feel fine)

Running time: 108 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An ex-prize fighter turned longshoreman struggles to stand up to his corrupt union bosses.

My Two Paragraph Opinion:

I watched this movie on September 9th, 2014. It’s taken me almost two years to muster up the (strength? courage??) to do a little write-up for it. I remember sticking this movie on & kind of half-watching it while doing some housework then finishing it later while in bed. This is when we were working on painting a wall in the bedroom so a big cabinet was in the middle of the room & partially blocking my view of the TV from the bed. So, yeah… this is how I watched On The Waterfront – a huge Oscar-winning, beloved classic. What can I say? I have no class. I’m a bum!

Umm. Unions? Mobs? I think I remember some pigeons. Marlon Brando! He’s in this. I haven’t watched a lot of Brando’s films (but at least I’ve watched more Brando films than Kirk Douglas films). Let’s see: I’ve seen this, The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and Superman. That’s it. I’m not a fan. Should I delete my blog? Will some big Brando fan come along to yell at me & tell me that my blog should be “taken down” like the Western-loving guy who commented on my review of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? As much as I’ve moaned about having to watch all the war movies & Westerns in the Top 250, I’ve ended up really liking the ones I’ve watched so far (some are even favorites now, like The Bridge On The River Kwai & The Good, The Bad And The Ugly). So maybe I can’t keep saying they’re “not my type of thing”? The story in On The Waterfront, however, is what I think really isn’t my type of thing. It didn’t connect. I’ve never really gone for movies involving the mob in some way or for this type of drama. When it comes to older films, I prefer the “grand epics” to the types of films involving true-to-life human conflict with Oscar-worthy performances and lots of talking & drama. I find something like a Morricone score coupled with beautiful cinematography far more moving than an intense performance from an actor/actress. That’s just me – we’re all moved by different things & I’m not one to care too much about the “acting” in a movie (as long as the performances don’t totally suck). Brando is great in this, yeah. I didn’t follow the story very well or really find myself caring about any of the characters. I don’t remember it much now but that’s to be expected, I suppose, when you are only partially paying attention to a movie while it’s on. On The Waterfront won loads of Oscars (best picture, director, actor, supporting actress, screenplay, cinematography, art direction & film editing). Oh shit… That’s really a lot of Oscars. I’m going to delete my blog. I coulda had class! I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it! *blog deleted* (Let’s go ahead & give this the same rating as Paths Of Glory, although I preferred that one. I’m sorry! Don’t hurt my pigeons!)

My Rating: 7/10

**If you can’t bear to see nothing posted on this blog on a Tuesday, here are the remaining films available for guest reviews:

Cool Hand Luke 1967
The Wrestler 2008
The Graduate 1967
The Lives of Others 2006
The Sting 1973
Die Hard 1988
Léon 1994
The Hobbit 2012
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
Rain Man 1988
Taxi Driver 1976
The Best Years of Our Lives 1946
Before Sunrise 1995
Before Sunset 2004
Life Is Beautiful 1997

**Selected for now**
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels 1998 (Tom)
To Kill a Mockingbird 1962 (Tom)
Gone with the Wind 1939 (dbmoviesblog)
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 (Drew)

The Jungle Book (2016) Review

The Jungle Book (2016)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Based on The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Starring: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Jungle Book stars and introduces Neel Sethi as Mowgli, an orphaned human boy who, guided by his animal guardians, sets out on a journey of self-discovery while evading the threatening Shere Khan.

My Opinion:

(FYI – I’ve never read the book so can’t make any comparisons to it)

I actually wasn’t all that bothered about watching this one when I saw the trailer. I of course love Disney’s 1967 The Jungle Book. Who doesn’t?! It’s one of my top ten animated Disney movies (I did rank every single one I’ve ever seen HERE in the early days of my blog – I really need to update that list). And it’s one of the absolute best for songs (two of them made my list of My Top Ten Disney Songs. I love making Disney lists).

Anyway! I’m a big fan of the Disney classics and just didn’t really see the necessity (ha) of making this “live action” version. However, it’s pretty good. It could never replace the animated classic for me and I’m mighty pissed off that this new version has a higher IMDB rating than the 1967 film but, oh well – it’s an enjoyable film & its child star (Neel Sethi) does a really great job.

First of all, the CGI in this is spectacular. You have to remind yourself that Sethi was actually acting alone during these scenes – they just look so real. So you have to give the kid extra credit for that! A few bits didn’t look quite right but, overall, I’d have to say that nothing really threw me out of the movie the way that bad CGI can sometimes. Well, nothing as far as the “look” of the film threw me out of it… Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the voice acting.

Of all the animals, I especially loved Bagheera. He looked amazing and, just as importantly, he was voiced very professionally by Ben Kingsley. By saying that I mean this: you don’t go “WOW – that’s Ben Kingsley!” the second you hear Bagheera talk. In fact, we didn’t know until the end credits who actually voiced that character and that’s the way it SHOULD be if Disney wish to make their films timeless classics. I’d say the same for Lupita Nyong’o’s Raksha as well. Raksha was probably my second favorite animal character and I again think a big part of that was down to the fact that I wasn’t picturing the real-life voice actor the entire time.

I went to see this with extended family & seemed to enjoy it more than anyone else in the group. I’m glad I didn’t review it right away, though, as I liked it a little less the more I thought about it (I saw it a week & a half ago). My hubby was especially not a fan. He’s always pooping on my enjoyment of things! I’m pretty damn picky on movies but, believe me, he’s far worse. I do see his point, though, as his biggest complaint is that this movie felt like “The Bill Murray Show”.

I doubt there’s anyone out there who doesn’t love Baloo from the 1967 The Jungle Book. I suppose it’s a difficult job to voice such a beloved character but Bill Murray voices him in that typical Bill Murray way of his: he voices Baloo as Bill Murray. I guess that’s good if you absolutely love him and go to this wanting to see a Bill Murray movie but that’s not what I personally want from any Disney film. I don’t want to picture the actors. I want to get lost in the world created by the movie which, in this case, really did look pretty fantastic. But then Baloo came along acting all Bill Murray-like. And I also adore King Louie from the 1967 film (I actually prefer I Wan’na Be Like You to The Bare Necessities and love that part of the film). But who voices King Louie? Christopher Walken! Are there many voices more identifiable than his?! He did actually tone things down a bit in this but I still couldn’t help but picture King Louie with a gun to his head & talking about sticking a watch up his ass. 

My Daughter’s Opinion: I was surprised that she didn’t seem to like this one very much. Her first comment afterwards was “How long was that? It felt like it was on for aaaaaaages!” so that’s clearly not a good sign (it’s 1 hour 46 minutes, FYI). So I asked her how she liked it compared to the other movies she’s gone to this year & she said it’s last after Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootropolis, Pan & Goosebumps. Man, she’s harsh. But I’m not too upset – this hopefully means she’ll always prefer the superior 1967 film. 🙂

Summary:

If you pretend the 1967 film doesn’t exist, this is a very enjoyable family Disney film that looks absolutely amazing. A really good semi-live-action Disney film… (but not fully live action – it’s honestly so impressive that I keep thinking of it only as live action). The problem, though, is that the animated classic does exist so it’s impossible to not compare the two – especially as they’re so similar and this one does contain the two main songs from the animated film, which I was happy to hear yet at the same time wasn’t sure that they worked in this version. Plus they were sung by Murray & Walken and I’ve already said how I disliked their voices in this. Oh, actually – Scarlett Johansson was equally annoying as Kaa. That bit really didn’t work for me at all.

The other problem, and not everyone will care about this, is that you wouldn’t exactly want to have this one on if a two-year-old is in the room so it’s not as “entire family” friendly as the animated film. It looks far too real and many scenes are very intense for anyone really young.

Mainly, though, I’m just disappointed that they ruined the chance to make this yet another timeless Disney classic simply because they wanted to stick some big names in it. I expect that from other studios, such as DreamWorks, but not from Disney or Pixar. Okay – I’m not saying my two favorite (now joined) studios never use big names because, yes, they always do. But they usually first make sure that those voices suit the characters whereas this time it felt like they hired the actors without any thought as to if they were appropriate. It’s a shame as I think this would be pretty fantastic without those famous voice distractions. But, either way, it’s still not the animated classic so I don’t care too much anyway as that’s the one I’ll continue to watch for years. Interestingly, both my daughter and husband preferred Maleficent as well as the live-action Cinderella. Hmm. I’m not yet sure how I’d rank the three of them but I’ve given them all the exact same rating.

My Rating: 7/10

Oh! Oh! The baby wolves were adorable. Forgot to mention that. 🙂

True Romance (1993) Blind Spot Review

True Romance (1993)

Directed by Tony Scott

Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken

Music by Hans Zimmer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.

My Opinion:

*This is my fourth Blind Spot review after An Education, Summer Wars & Natural Born Killers.

When choosing my Blind Spot movies for this year, True Romance was the first one I thought of as I’d been meaning to watch it for years but, for some reason, just never got around to it. I like Tarantino and love both Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette so I was really excited to finally make myself sit down & watch this. I ended up with two Blind Spot movies written by Quentin Tarantino as I also added Natural Born Killers as kind of an afterthought and wasn’t even really looking forward to watching that like I was with True Romance. However, I was very surprised to find that I was slightly disappointed with True Romance while I actually thought that Natural Born Killers was the much better film.

First of all, I’ll say that this movie has plenty of what Tarantino is good at: cool characters & fun dialogue. It also has another thing he’s sometimes good at: a messy plot. Normally, I don’t really mind that so much as long as everything else is good but I did find the messy story a little distracting with this one. I admit I watched this late at night & was very tired but did I miss whatever happened to Christopher Walken? It seemed like he was introduced & that he was important but then he just disappeared? I also thought the big finale felt a bit forced & silly. I wonder if the movie would be much different if it had actually been directed by Tarantino as well? This came out after Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (although I think it was written before?) but Reservoir Dogs is the much better film overall.

Don’t get me wrong, though – this movie is fun & I did enjoy it. It’s surprising I never watched it as I was totally in love with Christian Slater in those days thanks to Heathers, Pump Up The Volume & Untamed Heart (shut up – I adore Untamed Heart!). And he’s good in this but the true star is actually Patricia Arquette. I’ve really liked Arquette ever since A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors but have missed out on a lot of her movies (I recently did a top ten list of her movies HERE in which I kind of had to cheat to make it up to ten). I’ve never understood why she wasn’t in more movies so am glad she got recognized with an Oscar for her role in Boyhood. True Romance is surely her most defining role, though.

As with any Tarantino-related film, the cast they got together for this is super impressive. Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, and…. Balki from Perfect Strangers?!? Okay, Bronson Pinchot felt out of place (plus it’s a fairly big role compared to some other big names!). Shall we have a look at those with much smaller roles? Hmm. Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, James Gandolfini… so many well known names & faces in this! Although some weren’t as huge when this came out, I suppose. Such as Brad Pitt, who is adorable as a total stoner.

The two who really stand out in smaller roles, however, are Dennis Hopper (as Slater’s dad) & especially Gary Oldman (as Arquette’s evil pimp). I really miss Hopper – I always found him entertaining. He was loads of fun being a crazy bastard most of the time in things like Blue Velvet & Speed but I liked seeing him in a more straightforward role here & in a memorable scene with Walken.

I also like Gary Oldman (doesn’t everybody?) but, at the same time, I’ve never really noticed him all that much. He’s just one of those rare actors who is so different in every single role. For example, I love Jack Nicholson but always feel like I’m watching “Jack Nicholson” when I watch one of his movies. Oldman becomes the characters he plays and his role here, although far smaller than I thought it would be, is easily the most memorable thing about the whole film. I think James Franco clearly watched him in this before doing Spring Breakers. Oldman really deserves more recognition than he gets (but that’s probably because he’s so often unrecognizable!).

I suppose I was a bit tough on this film in my opening paragraph but, as is obvious from what I’ve spent the whole time talking about, the strong characters are what I assume make this film such a fan favorite. And it certainly feels like the films that Tarantino went on to direct himself due to the characters, the conversations, and of course the copious amounts of violence that I had to turn away from (one scene involving Arquette was a bit too intense for me). Shockingly, I found this more violent than the super violent (yet anti-violence) Natural Born Killers.

The thing that works the most, though, (for me at least) was the actual “romance”. I loved Slater & especially loved Arquette and wanted them to live happily ever after. These two had amazing chemistry in this! You just knew their characters had really hot sex. And, hey – they first meet in a movie theater & bond over a similar love of movies: that’s the perfect way to start a romance in this movie blogger’s opinion! Did they date in real life after making this like most stars do when they make films together? I have no idea but they should have. Hey – are they both single nowadays? I think they should hook up! Arquette totally should’ve married Slater instead of Nicolas Cage. Although I can’t blame her for marrying Thomas Jane. He’s a hottie.

Summary:

Well, I’ve said all I really need to say about this. True Romance is a really fun film thanks to Tarantino’s way of writing great characters & their interactions with one another but I was still a little disappointed that the story itself was weak. I also thought the scenes involving Elvis talking to Slater’s character didn’t really work & felt out of place. But I’d most definitely recommend this if you’re a fan of either Tarantino or Tony Scott or of the many big name stars in this movie. Like most of Scott’s films, this has a little bit of the gung-ho American action movie thing going on but it still mostly feels like a Tarantino movie (and it sure as hell is a lot more violent than Scott’s other work). I’m glad I finally watched this and the main things I’ll always remember are the fantastic performances from the likes of Arquette, Oldman and Hopper plus, of course, the romance itself. Slater & Arquette are perfect together.

My Rating: 7/10

Turbo Kid & Space Station 76 Movie Reviews

I figured I’d review these two movies together as they’re both (spoofs of? homages to?) a couple of very specific genres that I love. And I really enjoyed them both! But neither manages to quite capture the spirit of the films they’re emulating, although I appreciate their effort. Let’s discuss… 🙂

Turbo Kid (2015)

Directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell & Yoann-Karl Whissell

Starring: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Edwin Wright, Aaron Jeffery, Romano Orzari

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows the adventures of The Kid, a teenage boy turned superhero in the “Wastelands”, an alternate 1997 Earth where water is scarce. He teams up with a mysterious girl, Apple, to stop the tyrannical leader Zeus.

My Opinion:

An 80’s-style post-apocalyptic film set in an alternate sci-fi 1997?! And starring Michael Ironside, my favorite low-budget Jack Nicholson?!! Holy shit – sign me the hell up! I actually knew nothing about this movie until reading Digital Shortbread Tom’s great review (HERE). So, when it finally appeared on UK Netflix a couple of weeks ago, I watched it immediately. It’s a lot of fun! It’s flawed but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was hoping to love it but I appreciate the effort they put into the film.

There’s Michael Ironside hamming it up perfectly as the main baddie! And check out this other baddie, who looks like some fucked-up mash-up of Jason Voorhees & a Quiet Riot album cover.

This was out ages ago in America but if you’re in the UK & don’t know anything about it, be warned that it’s mega violent. Funny, very fake violence. Lots of people exploding & blood splattering everywhere. The type of OTT fake gore that I can actually handle – I’m a wuss about realistic violence in movies but it’s played for laughs in this one. In fact, I have to give the writers credit on some extremely inventive kills here, such as one involving a bike & a rather lovely one involving an umbrella. They’re almost up there with the marionette death in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (but not quite – nothing beats that one).

As every review of this states, this movie is Mad Max on bikes instead of in cars. That alone was enough to sell it to me. Seeing all the images from the film helped as well and I think they did a decent job making things look good on (what appears to be but maybe it’s meant to appear to be??) a very low budget. The gory special effects had the great fake 80’s look they were going for but, more than anything, I just really liked the design of the characters and their crazy mix of 80’s-post-apocalyptic-inspired costumes. And look how cool our two main heroes look! I’d dress like Apple if I was a teenager & into cosplay instead of a boring old woman working in an office. Mainly, I just BADLY want my own gnome stick! 

Speaking of Apple, I was afraid she’d be waaaay too annoying at first but I have to say they managed to turn that around & I ended up liking her by the end. So bear with her if you watch this – she’s meant to be annoying but she ends up rather endearing. And I thought that Munro Chambers, who plays Turbo Kid, was really good! I wonder if this role will get him noticed – it looks like he hasn’t been in much besides TV stuff like Degrassi: The Next Generation. Ha! I remember when they made us watch Degrassi Junior High early on in high school because it dealt with issues such as pregnancy & the teachers didn’t want us to get knocked up, I guess. Or to have to teach a class instead of sticking us in front of a TV…

This will be one of those reviews where I say loads of great things then confuse people by giving it an average rating. I can’t quite put my finger on it but, overall, this film doesn’t quite work. It maybe tries a little bit too hard? Like I said to the hubby, it often feels like current movies like these are being made by people who love 80’s films but are too young to have actually lived through that whole decade (I can’t find info on the directors’ ages). I have to say that Space Station 76 actually got things more “right” in terms of re-creating a mood from a specific era although Turbo Kid is the more entertaining film of the two. I do respect what they’ve done with this movie, though, as it feels like a movie where those making it have really put their heart into the project. I’d certainly be interested in watching anything else this group of people will hopefully make in the future. Turbo Kid 2? I’d definitely check that out if it happened. I mean, don’t a lot of people prefer the second Mad Max film to the first one? Maybe Turbo Kid 2 would be perfect.

My Rating: 7/10

Space Station 76 (2014)

Directed by Jack Plotnick

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Matt Bomer, Marisa Coughlan, Kylie Rogers, Kali Rocha, Jerry O’Connell, Keir Dullea

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A 1970s version of the future, where personalities and asteroids collide.

My Opinion:

A dark comedy in the style of a 1970’s sci-fi film?! Plus Keir Dullea, Todd Rundgren, and a hot guy (Matt Bomer)?!? Sign me the hell up! I’m obsessed with 80’s movies & with post-apocalyptic movies just like the makers of Turbo Kid clearly are but nothing beats good ‘ol 70’s sci-fi for me and I absolutely loved the way they captured the look of those films for this. However, I’m going to put this disclaimer in right now: I am not recommending this movie to anyone. Watch it at your own risk & don’t come moaning to me if you hate it. Got it? Because most of you would hate this movie. I almost steered clear when I saw its IMDB score of 4.9/10. Yikes! That’s the kind of rating for the movies Eric watches! But I’m glad I decided to watch it anyway & make my own mind up. Because I really liked it.

I’d say that labelling this a “comedy”, dark or not, was maybe a bit of a mistake as a lot of people were probably expecting something very different. This movie is quite depressing at times, as each character is suffering from a different kind of lonliness and a longing to be loved or, at the very least, accepted. I read that the director thought of the space station in the film as a suburb, which perfectly describes how the movie feels. A groovy 70’s suburb! Far out, man. The closest I can come to describing this movie is to say it’s Dynasty in space. But more Seventies than Eighties… (Hubby disagrees with me & says it’s “Space: 1999, the Richard Linklater edition” but I never saw Space: 1999 so can’t make that comparison)

We don’t know what year this movie is set in (and don’t need to) but it’s meant to look & feel like the 1970s in the same way so many sci-fi films made during that decade still looked totally Seventies because of the clothing & the decor despite being set in the future & in space . What I really liked were all the movie’s subtle little touches & anachronisms. They’re on a fancy space station complete with cool gadgets such as therapy robots yet they use videotapes labelled with those awesome label maker labels. Remember those?! You’re all too young. We had one like the one below. I want one again! I also want a therapy robot…


The characters are also stuck in the past: the men are male chauvinists, especially the male captain (Patrick Wilson) who is a closet homosexual & treats his new female co-captain (Liv Tyler) horribly as he feels threatened by her. The women are self-absorbed & catty and, of course, everyone smokes constantly. But it works well as everyone is a sympathetic character in their own way. Well, except for the mother of the young girl – I wanted to punch that woman… The characters played by Liv Tyler, Matt Bomer, and the young girl playing Bomer’s daughter (Kylie Rogers) make up for the less likeable characters, though. I have to say that I’ve never noticed Bomer before & that I only knew him from that shitty Magic Mike movie but he’s absolutely adorable in this. It helps that he’s the only male character who isn’t a pig (although he does like to listen to Todd Rundgren while fantasizing about a naked Playboy model played by Anna Sophia Berglund. There – I’ve named her so that should get me some pervy Google views. But I won’t post the full frontal nude images from the movie. Sorry, boys!).

This movie is hard to describe & I can understand the low ratings but those will mainly be due to it being watched by the wrong people. I hate when people say “you just don’t understand it” when talking about a movie as I think that sounds snobby as hell but, well… I think that’s the case with this movie. If you don’t love the Seventies and/or sci-fi films from that decade, I really can’t see you appreciating this one at all.

I have to say that, although Turbo Kid is fun and the one that I’d recommend, I actually think Space Station 76 did a better job of portraying a specific era & genre and I actually have more respect for this one. If I’m honest, I preferred it to Turbo Kid. It’s surprisingly sad at times & I found the stories involving Liv Tyler & the young girl especially heartbreaking. I’m not sure I was happy with the way the movie ended as we don’t get much of a resolution. However, I’ve never seen anything quite like this film and I like that. It’s different. They took a gamble with this movie and it certainly won’t work for everyone but I found it very unique and have thought about it a lot since seeing it. I’m glad I ignored the IMDB rating.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Not gonna lie – I’m old & uncool so I loved the use of all the Todd Rundgren songs Space Station 76. I’m sure it was easy to get the rights with the Liv Tyler connection as he was her step-dad… Anyway, at least Daft Punk agree with me that Rundgren is cool! International Feel is used in this film and, as I said in my review of Daft Punk’s Electroma, they also prominently featured the song so I’m going to share that clip from Electroma (in Space Station 76, it plays while Bomer fantasizes about the naked Playboy model):

And, of course, they use Hello It’s Me – one of Rundgren’s most well-known songs:

Kung Fu Panda 3, The House Of Magic, Rio 2 & Muppets Most Wanted Movie Reviews

I have four quickie kids’ film reviews for you today! I promise they’ll be quick. Why? Because I barely remember three of them.

I’ve just seen Kung Fu Panda 3 so that review will be a little longer than the rest. You see, I get a little annoyed when I look at the pages on my blog & see that I still have some movies that I watched but never reviewed on the 2014 page & the 2015 page (never mind the 2016 page! I’m way behind). It’s especially annoying that the only movies that I actually went to the cinema to see but then didn’t review were these three 2014 kids’ movies. They were so “meh” that I guess I couldn’t be bothered.

So, here we go! I’ll finally say something about them two years later. I’m limiting myself to one paragraph each for the three older ones (plus my kid’s opinion on each). But let’s start with the longer review for the most current film (and by far the best of the four)…

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J. K. Simmons, James Hong, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson

From: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

My Opinion:

I actually thought this movie was really good. As far as DreamWorks movies go, at least. I’ve stated here before how I see DreamWorks movies as strictly kids’ films while I view Pixar & most Disney ones as just being great films overall for every age group. Like, I wouldn’t feel weird discussing both WALL-E & Citizen Kane in the same breath. Except, I’ve not seen Citizen Kane… Never mind.

What I liked about Kung Fu Panda 3 is that, while it has a message as does every kids’ movie, it didn’t let the message get in the way of the movie being fun and actually making kids laugh. The previous movie we went to as a family was Disney’s Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) & I did NOT expect to think a DreamWorks film was far better than a Disney one! But that’s the case this time.

Kung Fu Panda 3 hasn’t forgotten that, first & foremost, it’s meant to be aimed at kids. I felt that Zootropolis completely forgot this while trying to drive its message home with a convoluted plot and uninteresting characters. But Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t dumbed down for kids, either, which is a big pet peeve of mine. Kids aren’t stupid & shouldn’t be treated that way. The jokes were all age-appropriate without being dumb but also not being too grown-up like things such as the Godfather references in Zootropolis.

I have to admit that Kung Fu Panda 3 was even enjoyable to me as an adult who probably wouldn’t watch many animated films not made by Disney or Pixar if I didn’t have a kid. I do love Jack Black (I don’t care about the haters!) and think he’s been perfect as Po in all these films. I think all the characters are strong & really like the setting and the look. In this one, the baby pandas are adorable & even had grumpy me going “aww”. The baddie in this one was also pretty cool, as were his storyline & all the chi stuff. Plus I’m a sucker for the color green. Here’s the baddie:

I’d even go so far as to say that I like the Kung Fu Panda movies the most out of all the ones made by DreamWorks. I find Shrek a little overrated and I’d say that the How To Train Your Dragon films are possibly their “best” work but they’ve never really clicked with me at all (or the kid). But all three of us have enjoyed each of the three Kung Fu Panda movies.

My Rating: 7/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She liked this movie a lot & giggled through the whole thing. She was far more enthusiastic about this one than she was after walking out of Zootropolis, which she called “not very good”. Her favorite part was Po doing his “chitty chitty chat chat” thing that she’s been annoying us with ever since (thanks a lot, Jack Black!). She also loved the baby pandas, especially when they ate everything in sight. She’s not watched the first two films since we went to see them but this one has renewed her interest (and mine!) in watching those again. I’d happily pick them up on DVD now – I think this is a very solid trilogy from DreamWorks.

The House Of Magic (2013) (US Title: Thunder And The House Of Magic)

Directed by Jeremy Degruson & Ben Stassen

Starring: Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Murray Blue, Kathleen Browers, Joey Camen, Grant George, Shanelle Gray, Nina Grillo, Kyle Hebert

From: nWave Pictures, StudioCanal

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The House of Magic is a 2013 3D Belgian-French computer-animated fantasy-comedy film. The film focuses on an abandoned young cat who seeks shelter in the home of an old, retired magician with his automatons and gizmos.

My Opinion:

I admit to not fully remembering the plot of this strange little Belgian/French film (which was in English but I assume originally in French?) two years later. But I clearly remember the kind old magician, the cat he adopts, and the man’s REALLY cool magical toys (automatons and gizmos) such as that adorable lightbulb dude in the photo at the very top of this post. I also remember some great songs being used quite prominently (The Lovecats by The Cure & the always catchy House Of Fun by Madness). It’s not some big Disney, DreamWorks, etc production and that does show but I still thought that the characters, the music, and especially those inventive toys were pretty damn good! I wonder if those who made this have gone on to do more animated films? I’d like to see this sort of thing with a bigger budget. It’s a very sweet & charming film from what I remember. I wouldn’t complain at being made to watch it again.

My Rating: 6/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She doesn’t now remember much of this but does remember all those really cool toys that I mentioned above. She said she’d like to watch it again too (fine with me – I’ll pick up the DVD if I see it).

Rio 2 (2014)

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy García, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx

From: Blue Sky Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they’re hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets his father-in-law.

My Opinion:

Wow. I really remember very little of this except that I think it was about saving the rainforest, right? I don’t remember the first one either – I only know that these Rio movies are very bright & colorful and have some big musical numbers that are okay. This is from Blue Sky, whose movies are quite similar to DreamWorks in that I see them strictly as films aimed at kids and only truly enjoyed by kids. The only Blue Sky one I really liked was The Peanuts Movie but that’s because I’m obsessed with Peanuts & the movie stayed very true to its spirit. Don’t get me wrong – these Rio movies aren’t bad. They’re very pretty to look at & not the worst way to spend a couple of hours with your kid but I don’t think they’re very memorable. I’d have to say that the Ice Age films are a stronger series from this studio as the characters are better. Also, could they get a more annoying set of voice actors for Rio? Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann & Kristin Chenoweth(!!)?? Ugh. I think I remember Eisenberg’s bird kids in this being quite cute, though…

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She says she liked this although she couldn’t remember the specifics of it now. She said “I liked the pink frog!” (Ugh. Kristin Chenoweth.) I think it’s proof that the Rio films are pretty & enjoyable enough while being watched but are ultimately forgettable.

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, The Muppets

From: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.

My Opinion:

I grew up with The Muppet Show so I of course love The Muppets. Who doesn’t?! The Muppets movie in 2011 (2012 here) was pretty good. It was fun and managed to kind of capture the spirit of the original show (plus I like Amy Adams). But I found Muppets Most Wanted really disappointing even though it was great, as always, to see these beloved characters. The problem was the messy, boring story and the fact that I really didn’t like the main real-life stars. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell & Tina Fey? How do you go from Amy Adams to some TV stars? Never been a fan of any of them (in fact, who is Ty Burrell anyway? That prick in Dawn Of The Dead??). I just think they made a real mess of this movie – I’ll stick to watching my DVDs of the original show.

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She remembers this one more than I thought she would! She remembers the plot & the evil Kermit with the mole. She likes The Muppets & says she liked this movie. Maybe I should give it another try…

This is her favorite Muppet-related thing. I agree:

**I’d like to finally take this opportunity to draw attention to a favorite blogger of mine here who does fantastic paintings of The Muppets (and loads of other awesome artwork with a focus on pop culture – but I first started following him because of The Muppets). Please have a look at Scott’s site at Mojoswork.com. You can see all his Muppets artwork HERE.

Scott – I’m sorry it took me two years to finally get around to doing this review! Let me know if you want me to add any more info or if you want me to include a specific Muppets image you’ve done. 🙂 Oh! Scott does a lot of wrestling & sports stuff as well and I thought his History Of The WWF was absolutely amazing despite knowing nothing of that sort of thing myself (MIB – you should really check this out).

I figure I should end this with some Madness since I have House Of Fun in my head after talking about The House Of Magic. I miss this era of music!

The Conversation (1974) Review

It’s the final day of Coppola Week at Cinema Parrot Disco & I’ll be finishing with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation. I’ve also reviewed his movie The Outsiders and his daughter Sofia’s movies The Bling Ring & Marie Antoinette. Yesterday, I ranked their films in a list of My Top Ten Coppola Movies.

Now let’s talk about The Conversation, which is one that doesn’t seem to get mentioned that much but is really quite good…

The Conversation (1974)

Directed & Written by Francis Ford Coppola

Starring: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Michael Higgins, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, Teri Garr

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A paranoid, secretive surveillance expert has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered.

My Opinion:

First of all, let’s face it: I suck at writing “movie reviews”. 😉 I’ll remain spoiler free for anyone who hasn’t seen this movie but for those who have, you’re much better off reading this article HERE than my ramblings below. It’s Francis Ford Coppola being interviewed by fellow filmmaker Brian De Palma about the making of The Conversation. It’s a really interesting read considering it’s a conversation between two respected directors. Damn – Francis Ford Coppola doesn’t totally love Alfred Hitchcock movies, though!

I can see where Hitchcock comparisons were made in the above article as the plot of this movie certainly has a Hitchcock feel to it, which is probably why I enjoyed the story since I love Hitchcock’s films. As also pointed out in that article, its story is somewhat similar to the 1966 film Blow-Up but has a conversation being listened to over & over again that takes on new meaning instead of a photograph as in that film? Maybe – I did see Blow-Up a very long time ago but remember very little now. I should watch it again!

The Conversation is very good and I even prefer it to Apocalypse Now but I’ll admit that I also found it a little slow & dated. The opening scene was absolutely brilliant, in which Cindy “Shirley” Williams & the man in the above picture (not the stupid mime – the other guy) are being “listened to” & recorded by surveillance expert Gene Hackman as they walk around a loud & crowded Union Square in San Francisco.

One of the biggest strengths of this film is, surprisingly, Gene Hackman as the surveillance expert who has been hired to spy on this couple but becomes increasingly concerned with what he fears the outcome will be as a previous surveillance job resulted in people being murdered. I don’t mean to be rude about Hackman – it’s just that he’s one of these old male actors who has been around for years but I’ve never really “noticed” him all that much. He’s great in this role, though! His job has led him to be extremely secretive, paranoid, and obsessed with his own privacy. Or perhaps he was this way to begin with, which is how he ended up in a job which would result in him living a very lonely life? Either way, it means he’s unable to form any close relationships as he doesn’t trust anyone, which we see in the way he interacts with colleagues and especially with his lover (played by Teri Garr). Oh! Oh!! And I read that, basically, Hackman is playing this same character again in Enemy Of The State with Will Smith?? I mean, not the actual same character but one very similar. I wonder if that was intentional? I guess I need to watch that one again as well as Blow-Up! Anyway: Bravo to Hackman in this film.

You know who else is in this movie? Harrison Ford!!! It makes for a nice little American Graffiti connection with Cindy Williams. But he doesn’t have a huge role. Luckily. Because, um, his acting is a little dodgy… I mean, it was still very early in his career so who cares if his acting was a little “off” – the dude is Indiana Jones & Han Freaking Solo! Look at him – so damn handsome:

Summary:

I know I haven’t seen all of Francis Ford Coppola’s films but The Conversation is a very good piece of filmmaking that I suppose gets somewhat unfairly ignored as it came out in between The Godfather & The Godfather: Part II. It’s slow & subtle and not some “grand epic” like those but the mystery involving the couple Hackman is spying on had me intrigued and Hackman’s performance deserves special recognition. I forgot to mention during my review yet another movie this one reminded me of: the absolutely brilliant German film The Lives Of Others. The Conversation isn’t quite as good as that one nor as good as its Hitchcock comparisons but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes a good “mystery thriller” with a great central performance. Don’t let my score slightly put you off as I rate mainly according to my own personal enjoyment & this one did drag a bit in the middle. If I was basing this only on worthiness, I’d give The Conversation a slightly higher rating. 

My Rating: 7/10

Since I couldn’t help but think of Laverne & Shirley anytime Cindy Williams was on the screen, here’s one of the many excellent clips from my beloved Wayne’s World. Zang! 😉