Enter The Dragon (1973) Blind Spot Review

Enter The Dragon (1973) (龍爭虎鬥, 龙争虎斗, Lóng Zhēng Hǔ Dòu)

Directed by Robert Clouse

Starring: Bruce Lee, John Saxon, Ahna Capri, Bob Wall, Shih Kien, Jim Kelly

Music by Lalo Schifrin

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A martial artist agrees to spy on a reclusive crime lord using his invitation to a tournament there as cover.

My Opinion:

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

6. Atonement
5. Gleaming The Cube
4. The French Connection
3. Citizen Kane
2. Metropolis
1. Enter The Dragon

Yeah, I loved Enter The Dragon. It’s the first & only Bruce Lee movie I’ve seen & I’m thinking it’s possibly the only martial arts movie I’ve seen. Unless Rush Hour counts?! (I don’t remember a thing about that). By the way, Jackie Chan is actually in this movie although I can’t admit that I noticed him. From Wikipedia: “Jackie Chan appears as a guard during the underground lair battle scene and gets his neck snapped by Lee. He also performed several stunts for the film, including the scene where Lee’s character quickly climbs a rooftop at night. However, Yuen Wah was Lee’s main stunt double for the film.”

I did watch Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story many years ago as I was interested in the story of Lee’s tragically short life. I probably watched it just after The Crow & son Brandon Lee’s tragic death, who was also way too young. I love The Crow. Damn. I want there to be more movies starring each of them. I’ll certainly explore Bruce Lee’s other films now.

First of all: Bruce Lee is super cool in this. Okay, I get the appeal even though I’m a girl (but I prefer a movie like this to the really girly chick flicks). However, it’s the trio that I really loved in this film: Bruce Lee, John Saxon & Jim Kelly. I knew I had to finally watch this movie just as much for Saxon as for Lee. Saxon has been in 196 things according to his IMDb page. 196, for crying out loud!! He’s a cult hero. And I seriously don’t think I’ve seen him as anything other than Nancy’s dad in A Nightmare On Elm Street. But after finally watching Enter The Dragon, I think I can safely say I’ve probably now seen his absolute best films. And he was far cooler than I was expecting in this film. I didn’t know he could kick ass for real! I read this at Wikipedia too: “John Saxon is a black belt in Judo and Shotokan Karate, who studied under grandmaster Hidetaka Nishiyama for three years.” But he certainly wasn’t as cool as Jim Kelly. Who IS this guy?! He’s GROOVY. Well, he was – I see he died in 2013. It looks like he was only in 16 films? Damn. He should’ve been a big star (but perhaps he was within this genre – I obviously have very little experience with martial arts films!). Anyway, he kicked ass for real too – he was a karate world champion.


So, yes, these three characters very much help to make this film the absolute classic that it is. But I also really enjoyed the story, though it’s quite simple. And the backstory with the sister, though it’s quite sad. And the main baddie, though I suppose he’s a pretty cliché baddie. This movie follows the most basic storytelling rules but, well, that’s because that’s what works. Those are the stories that are the most enjoyable. Give me the hero’s journey and the obvious good guys versus bad guys. I love that. And toward the start of this film, we see these three dudes in separate boats coming together to join up & go to the “Island of bad men and hot women”. Their backstories are told as they’re in their boats and this was very effective. I liked it a lot. Can we get back to making movies more like this?? I know the story isn’t one that would change the world now but it was damn good fun.


Finally, I better mention the most iconic scene from this film as these sort of scenes are what truly make Lee’s films such cult classics (right??). There are loads of great moments & fights in this but the “hall of mirrors” fight is the best. It’s brilliant. John Wick: Chapter 2 recently paid tribute to this scene (as have countless other films, I’m sure – it’s a very famous scene). Oh! And I’ve not even mentioned the great funky score from Lalo Schifrin! Man I love the music in 70’s films. And that’s exactly what this movie is: It’s so “Seventies” it hurts. I mean that in a good way! This is another big reason (maybe the biggest reason) why I enjoyed this film so much. I love that funky decade. The world is completely lacking in funk & grooviness nowadays, man! 2018 is shit. I want to live in the Seventies. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Enter The Dragon. I want to check out more Bruce Lee stuff now but know that this very Seventies part-American English-language martial arts film may not be much like the others. Funky old martial arts movies are probably going to be more my sort of thing.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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Train To Busan (2016) Review

Train To Busan (부산행, 釜山行, Busanhaeng)

Directed by Yeon Sang-ho

Starring: Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok,Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Train to Busan is a 2016 South Korean zombie apocalyptic action thriller film. The film takes place on a train to Busan, as a zombie apocalypse suddenly breaks in the country and compromises the safety of the passengers.

My Opinion:

Happy Halloween! This is my final movie review for October Horror Month & I’ll post a recap later ranking all 32 horror movies I’ve watched in the past year. I’m ending with Train To Busan as it was my favorite horror that I saw this year. Well, that I saw at home – there’s one I saw in the cinema that I’ve ranked as number one.

So why was this movie so good? More than anything, it was the characters. How many times does it need to be said that we need characters we actually give a shit about if we’re meant to care if they survive or not? Why do so few horror movies bother to spend any time developing their characters? I’m not saying Train To Busan was perfect but we got to know the main characters really well and there was just enough time spent on several of the lesser characters too, making for a much more enjoyable (and intense) experience for the audience.

Yes, this is another “apocalyptic zombie film” and we’ve had loads of these in the last several years. However, this is a genre I’ve adored ever since falling in love with Romero’s original Dawn Of The Dead a good twenty years ago & I have yet to tire of these films. As long as they’re done right, that is. There are too many shit ones lately. Train To Busan is done right and I highly recommend it, even if you’re getting sick of zombie movies.


I know this is my last review of the month but I’m going to keep it short due to lack of time but, also, there’s not much more that I can say about this movie. The story, set mostly on a train (believe it or not!), is just original enough to feel like a somewhat fresh take on the zombie thing. The action moves along at a nice pace and the gore is at the right level (nothing overboard or extreme). And, most importantly, we get to know the characters and want to see them survive this sudden plague. Mainly: a father & his young daughter and a man & his pregnant wife. I loved seeing these strangers come together while trying to survive this violent outbreak. I’m so glad I finally got the opportunity to see this one and I hope that more people will check it out. It’s a good human story that I think even those who don’t necessarily love horror films might like.

My Rating: 8.5/10

It (2017) Review

Welcome to Day Three of Stephen King Week! King turns 70 tomorrow so I’m posting something King-related all week. One book review (End Of Watch), two movie reviews, and two Top Ten lists (including My Top Ten Stephen King Movies). Today I’m reviewing the recent It film.

It (2017)

Directed by Andy Muschietti

Based on It by Stephen King

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of seven children in Derry, Maine, who are terrorized by the eponymous being, only to face their own personal demons in the process.

My Opinion:

Is it weird that I’m so happy that this film is kicking ass at the box office?? I just love it when one of King’s books actually gets a good film adaptation and, even better, when it gets a lot of really positive reviews. I did a list yesterday of My Top Ten Stephen King Movies (this film was at number five if you don’t feel like clicking that link). I admitted in that list that, while I always watch & enjoy all adaptations of King’s work, some of the movies have been pretty damn awful. But then we occasionally get masterpieces like The Shawshank Redemption & Stand By Me to make up for the bad ones. It (the film – such a confusing title!) isn’t quite up there with the likes of those two but I’m very happy to say that it’s easily one of the better Stephen King movies of the many that have been made. Yes! I love when the movies do his novels justice.

You’ve all probably seen reviews by now that compare this to Stand By Me and that’s a very accurate description. Stand By Me with added horror, of course. Like that, this is a coming of age tale first and foremost and I’ve always loved a good coming of age tale. That’s why I’m actually a bit surprised that this film has done as well as it has as I can’t see it being loved by full-on “horror” fans. Pennywise the clown is a great creation but I have to say that I don’t find either this or the 1990 version scary. The book is a bit unsettling but I wouldn’t say that feeling fully translated to the films. I’ve never been one to get too scared by movies, though. As far as “creepy” goes, Kubrick’s The Shining certainly has this film (and pretty much every other horror film) beat. It’s a shame that King hates that adaptation – I think it’s one of the greatest horror films of all time.

I think the main difference between the 1990 It and the 2017 It is that Tim Curry’s Pennywise is the true star of the 1990 film while the kids are what make the 2017 version so good. I think this version has done things right in focusing more on the kids & their relationships with one another. I will always be fond of the 1990 film & prefer Curry’s Pennywise to Bill Skarsgård’s somewhat dull (and a little too funny-looking) Pennywise. It felt like Curry was truly having fun in the role & his Pennywise had far more personality. But… This story is about the kids. It’s about all kids who felt like “losers” when growing up. Pennywise shouldn’t really be stealing the show and I’m glad this version gets the balance right in making the kids the stars while also giving us just enough of the monster to keep the story interesting.

The kids all did a great job in this film. As has been said, It has a very Stranger Things feel to it. But of course it would since The Duffer Brothers wanted to make It but went on to instead make Stranger Things, which is meant to feel like King meets Spielberg. Plus It used one of the same actors from that show (Finn Wolfhard, who bizarrely looks like The Shining’s Shelley Duvall). I have to say that the girl playing Beverly (Sophia Lillis) was especially good. She’s like a young Amy Adams (which is a compliment as I love Adams). I’d be surprised if Lillis, as well as most of the rest of this young cast, doesn’t go on to become a big star. However, I’m so glad they AREN’T big stars yet as having a cast of relatively unknown actors was a huge plus for this movie (in my opinion, anyway). I loved not having the distraction of having seen them in a million other things.


I do have to admit that the time period this is set in (1989 into 1990) was another huge plus for me in a way that may not work as well for the current younger generation. Or maybe that doesn’t matter? I loved Stand By Me & 1990’s It even though those kids were living in the late 1950s. I suppose the coming of age dramas tend to transcend their time period as kids that age still go through all the same sort of emotions. Although I found it kind of hilarious/scary reading this article about how the film’s director had to start a “bicycle camp” to teach these pre/early teen actors how to ride bikes for the film(!!).

But oh how I loved seeing kids the same age as me in this movie’s ’89/’90 time period. Well, sort of… I was the age of the slightly older bullies back then. And, like the bullies, I was also a huge fan of Anthrax. Anthrax! There’s an Anthrax song in this movie!!! But I’ll come back to that at the end of this review – I just want to point out that I was more like the kids being bullied than the ones doing the bullying, even though I was a metalhead. 😉 And I had way too much fun seeing the movie marquees in the film’s background accurately portraying the movie releases of that time (god I’m a nerd). And I enjoyed the fact that I could almost hear a massive WHOOSH in the cinema as the New Kids On The Block jokes went right over the heads of those in the audience. Not that I liked NKOTB… Anthrax!!! Oh, and there are lots of fun Easter Eggs in this film so, if you’re a King fan, be on the lookout for them. And read the IMDb trivia for the movie afterwards – there’s loads of fascinating info there.

I think I should try to wrap this up now or I’ll just continue to ramble on for ages. I’m clearly very happy with this adaptation of a favorite book by my absolute favorite author. The kids are fantastic, their characters are likeable (so rare in horror movies), there’s some Anthrax (and a few other soundtrack gems I won’t mention to keep some surprises), there’s a creepy clown who isn’t quite as cool as Tim Curry but still does the job, there are Stephen King and 1989/1990 pop culture references, poor little brother Georgie is still a cutie pie, “that” controversial scene from the book is thankfully again left out of the film, Sophia Lillis has true star power, the kids are the stars instead of the clown, this sentence is really long, and last but not least: this movie doesn’t rely on cheap horror movie “jump scares”. That’s not to say there aren’t some jumpy moments but I was impressed with how well the horror was handled. I especially loved the slideshow scene, which references a fantastic King novella in Four Past Midnight that really gave me the creeps. It focuses on telling its story and on its characters then it focuses on the horror. That’s what makes this a good film instead of yet another bland & predictable horror movie with expendable characters. I can’t wait to see the next film now, which will feature the kids as adults. However, as with the scenes involving the grown-ups in the 1990 film, I think the second film won’t have the same kind of magic as this one. There’s a special sort of innocence in these coming of age films and the ones that really capture that feeling end up being all-time favorites for some people. I know Stand By Me was that way for me when I was growing up & I can see It being that way for a new generation.

My Rating: 8.5/10

**Back to Anthrax, as promised**

As I said, I was a big Anthrax fan in my high school days and the fact that they had an Anthrax song & t-shirt in this movie filled me with such boring old-fart joy. I’ll assume they were used on purpose as they were always big fans of Stephen King and their songs so often referenced his work (such as The Stand in Among The Living & Misery in Misery Loves Company). I bet Anthrax are happy as f*%k that their song Antisocial is in a Stephen King film. And this was possibly my favorite song of theirs at the time, being the socially awkward misfit that I was (am). Anthrax!!! \m/ 🙂

Baby Driver (2017) Review

Baby Driver (2017)

Directed & Written by Edgar Wright

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 8.5/10

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

Rocky (1976) Blind Spot Review

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

Rocky (1976)

Directed by John G. Avildsen

Written by Sylvester Stallone

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

Music by Bill Conti

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary:

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

My Rating: 8.5/10

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

Akira (1988) Blind Spot Review

Akira (1988)

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo

Based on Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki, Tetsusho Genda

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Akira depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda. Several parties, including Kaneda, resistance terrorist Kei, Colonel Shikishima of the JSDF and a trio of espers, attempt to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira.

My Opinion:

This is my final Blind Spot movie of 2016 (see the full list HERE). I’m going to do a post tomorrow ranking & rating all twelve that I watched but I can say now that I’m happy to have ended on Akira. I liked this one a lot, although I won’t even begin to pretend to fully understand what the hell was going on! 😉

I first want to say that I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that those of you in the UK are enjoying Boxing Day. I prefer Boxing Day – it’s the day when you get to lie around all bloated & just watch TV all day. That’s what you’re meant to do on Boxing Day, right?? I think some people go shopping because of all the sales. Screw that! Okay – back to Akira

Ummmmmmmm………. I put some Japanese anime on my Blind Spot list as I’ve been meaning to explore this genre more since I have no knowledge beyond Studio Ghibli (which I love). I watched Summer Wars, which I really enjoyed, and know I’ll choose two or three more amines for my Blind Spot 2017 list (I’m happy to take recommendations!). Akira is the biggie, though, so I knew I had to get that one “out of the way”, so to speak. What can I say? I like to dive in at the deep end! And this is certainly the deep end.

For other people, I suppose this movie wouldn’t be the place to start but I think I kind of loved it. And I have no idea why! I can’t explain why or give you any more of a plot synopsis other than the one I used from Wikipedia at the top of this post. It’s an intense film but it immediately grabbed me & I was never ever bored. I’ll admit that I attempted to watch Ghost In The Shell about a year ago. After falling asleep half an hour in (I’m a parent of a young child – this happens a lot when watching movies once the kid is finally in bed), I never went back to it. Well, I’ll try that one again someday – I’m just glad that Akira grabbed my attention from the very start.

I’m not going to say much about this film. It’s the day after Christmas and we’re all exhausted, right? It’s a tough one to explain anyway. Akira is bizarre. It’s at times funny, which I didn’t expect. I really liked the character Kaneda and the fact that it seemed like someone was shouting his name every two minutes. “Kaneda! KANEDA!!!!” Tetsuo was a total dick. I liked those three weirdo kids. It’s dystopian & I love dystopian. It’s also “cyberpunk” which, in looking up the definition, it looks like I’m already a fan of anyway so I suppose that’s partly why this movie appealed to me. Even though I didn’t know what the hell was going on… Oh, and I loved that almost “body horror” ending as well! Fucked up.

As I’m clearly struggling with what to say about this one, I think I’ll explore it again sometime in 2017 & maybe post about it again when I have a bit more experience with Japanese anime. I’ll definitely be watching it again when I get a chance. Akira was a fun, strange watch and I’m very happy to have put it on my Blind Spot list. KANEDA!!!!!!!!!

My Rating: 8.5/10

**See you tomorrow for my ranking of the 12 Blind Spot films I watched this year & to see where I rank Akira. 🙂

Freaks (1932) Review For The At The Circus Blogathon

I’m happy to be reviewing Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks for the grand finale of the At The Circus Blogathon hosted by Serendipitous Anachronisms & Crìtica Retrô. The first set of entries were posted a month ago but our hosts kindly agreed to a second round of reviews of movies with circus themes (which will be posted today, tomorrow & Wednesday so be on the lookout for more reviews from other bloggers!). I’m glad I didn’t miss my chance – I knew immediately that I had to grab the opportunity to review Freaks, a highly controversial & misunderstood film at the time of its release in 1932. Here’s my review…

Freaks (1932)

Directed by Tod Browning

Based on Spurs, 1923 short story by Tod Robbins

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Rosco Ates, Henry Victor, Harry Earles, Daisy Earles, Rose Dione, Daisy Hilton, Violet Hilton, Schlitzie, Josephine Joseph, Johnny Eck, Frances O’Connor, Peter Robinson, Olga Roderick, Koo Koo, Prince Randian, Martha Morris, Elvira Snow, Jenny Lee Snow, Elizabeth Green, Delmo Fritz, Angelo Rossitto, Edward Brophy, Matt McHugh

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A circus’ beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

My Opinion:

Unlike our blogathon hosts, I don’t have a lot of knowledge when it comes to films that are pre-1970 or so and I’d love to expand my knowledge. In reading a little about Freaks, I noticed it was called a “Pre-Code” horror film, which is a term I’d never even heard of as a movie blogger. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines in 1934, usually labeled, albeit inaccurately, as the “Hays Code”… As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included sexual innuendo, miscegenation, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence, and homosexuality. Strong female characters were ubiquitous, in such films as Female, Baby Face, and Red-Headed Woman. Gangsters in films like The Public Enemy, Little Caesar, and Scarface were seen by many as heroic rather than evil.

Well, damn – this sounds like an awesome period! If I’m going to explore older films, I think I need to start with the Pre-Code ones. To grab one more thing from Wikipedia before I talk about Freaks in my own words, I’d like to share its opening paragraph about the film for anyone who may be unfamiliar with it:

Freaks is a 1932 American Pre-Code horror film in which the eponymous characters were played by people who worked as carnival sideshow performers and had real deformities. The original version was considered too shocking to be released and no longer exists. Directed and produced by Tod Browning, whose career never recovered from it, Freaks has been described as standing alone in a subgenre of one.

I like that quote – “Standing alone in a subgenre of one“. I think that’s pretty accurate as I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like Freaks. There are certain films that I personally think all true film-lovers (and movie bloggers) absolutely must see and Freaks is one of them.

I first saw Freaks years ago after seeing a documentary in which it was mentioned and thinking it sounded utterly fascinating. This movie is my type of thing – an originally misunderstood film that has achieved cult-status and is now finally, I think, recognized for its beauty. I’m sure many are at least somewhat familiar with the plot by now so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the film’s horror label comes not from the so-called “freaks” with their physical deformities but from the ugliness of the outwardly beautiful trapeze artist & her lover, who try to take advantage of them. I can absolutely understand, however, why this film was vilified in 1932 as its themes and the bravery of its statement on human nature are so far ahead of its time. This is back in the day when people with physical deformities were treated as nothing more than sideshow entertainment. I suppose it’s just as shocking to us nowadays to know that people were once treated like that as it was for a 1932 audience to be told that their sideshow entertainment had feelings no different than their own.

When learning of this film, I did hesitate to watch it as I was afraid it would be exploitative and that made me very uncomfortable. Freaks was indeed banned in the UK for 30 years due to being “exploitative” but, again, I think the film was just massively misunderstood for years while people still lived in a time where they feared the unknown and anything “different” that they had no control over without the advances in medicine, prosthetics, etc that we have today. So I’m sorry if anyone does feel differently but I don’t find this film exploitative (at least, not in its final form – the ending was changed massively from its original release, which apparently no longer exists but sounds like it was actually changed for the better as the original cast its stars in a much more negative light at the end).

From what I’ve read, director Tod Browning had joined a travelling circus so did have knowledge of that lifestyle and the people interviewed for a documentary I saw on the film have commented that it was quite an accurate portrayal of the circus way of life. I’ve always had a fascination with that lifestyle as it seems like such a foreign way of life compared to the humdrum, office drone existence most of us lead so I’ve often gravitated toward circus-themed books & movies. I think Browning made a beautiful film about a lifestyle he’d experienced and, judging from the film, he must have had a strong affection for it. He captured the camaraderie between the circus performers that I’ve always assumed exists (?) but, like most of us, will never fully understand or experience. I’d love to think that, while shunned by society, the circus performers in the era of Freaks at least felt like part of a family within the circus in the way this film portrays.

The existing cut-down version of this film is very short (only 64 minutes) but we get to know all the characters very well in this time. I love how Browning somehow managed to focus on several individual stories (such as a marriage, a baby being born, various romances, etc) in between the main overall story involving evil trapeze artist Cleopatra marrying a lovestruck Hans for his money. It shows you just how much movies suck nowadays – these days we often spend two hours watching meaningless effects and leave knowing very little about even the main characters.

I should point out that, though the film demonizes some of the (for want of a better word) “normal” people, we have a lovely romance between one of the clowns and a lady named Venus (I’m not actually sure what she does in the circus. Hmm…). These two care about our title characters & treat them no differently than anyone else so it’s even more ridiculous that this film was so reviled at the time as, had it made everyone seem evil and without compassion, I could almost understand why audiences would be angry. But, in reading the IMDB trivia for Freaks, it turns out that some people working at MGM protested at having to eat lunch with the cast so those with the worst physical deformities were set up with a tent outside so they could eat separately. Appalling behavior – no wonder the world clearly wasn’t ready for this movie’s message. This is why it’s a shame that, also according to IMDB trivia, scenes such as this one were shortened:

According to the screenplay, the scene in which Madame Tetrallini introduces the wandering land-owner to the performers frolicking in the woods ran quite a bit longer. It included additional dialog that endeavored to humanize the so-called freaks. She tells him they are “always in hot, stuffy tents – strange eyes always staring at them – never allowed to forget what they are.” Duval responds sympathetically (clearly the stand-in for the viewing audience), “When I go to the circus again, Madame, I’ll remember,” to which she adds, “I know, Monsieur – you will remember seeing them playing – playing like children… Among all the thousands who come to stare – to laugh – to shudder – you will be one who understands.”

Summary:

Freaks is a movie that was, understandably, very misunderstood at the time of release in 1932 but I hope it will continue to be discovered by serious film fans. Its message of acceptance is timeless (and seems especially important in this current wretched year we’re having – it feels like we’ve gone back in time to 1932 in all the wrong ways). It’s beautiful & heartbreaking and shows the true ugliness of which humanity is capable. Its marriage banquet scene, in which the “freaks” declare the beautiful trapeze artist as “One of us! One of us! We accept you! Gooble Gobble!” is an all-time classic (and often referenced, such as in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street). The ending is, admittedly, quite a shock. In that regard, I can see why audiences were so angered at the time and this is a rare occasion where it sounds like some changes to a film were actually for the better (I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen this but the re-cut ending finishes on a slightly better note for our heroes). Is the ending offensive? No more so than the way in which society treated people who were different in the old days. I think the ending is perfect and this is a great film that, sadly, had to wait several decades for society to catch up to it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Waitress (2007) Review

Today I’m reviewing Adrienne Shelly’s fantastic film Waitress. This would’ve been Shelly’s 50th birthday so I’ve been reviewing some of her movies this week. I started by reviewing her Hal Hartley films The Unbelievable Truth & Trust (HERE) & yesterday reviewed the films Sleeping With Strangers & Factotum (HERE). I think Waitress is the best of her films that I’ve seen. She did an excellent job as writer, director & co-star and I think she’d have gone on to make many more great films if she’d had the chance. Let’s talk about Waitress!

Waitress (2007)

Directed & Written by Adrienne Shelly

Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Adrienne Shelly

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.

My Opinion:

First of all, I’m not one of these girly girls who goes for a lot of “chick flicks”. I do like some movies that are aimed mainly at women but, for me to like these types of movies, they have to be good. I don’t like dumb comedy or sappy romance and would run screaming from the crap that people like Kate Hudson star in. Waitress isn’t one of those types of movies. I hesitated to even use the words “chick flicks” above due to the negative connotations but, yes, I’d say this movie is certainly aimed at females. However, I think plenty of men would be far happier to watch this with their wives/girlfriends than, say, Pretty Woman or something. So don’t write this one off as just some “chick flick” as it’s better than that term implies.

However, I fully admit that this film won’t work for everyone. I wasn’t really planning on ever even reviewing it until I decided that I’d check out more of director/writer/co-star Adrienne Shelly’s previous acting work after really liking what she did with Waitress.

I can’t explain it exactly but I wanted to keep this movie to myself. I think most of us movie bloggers have some movies that just “speak” to us for whatever reason and Waitress is one of those films for me. I just get it. It works perfectly for me. Not everyone will have the same reaction to it & I know it probably helped that, when I first saw it, I was also pregnant like Keri Russell’s character. Although I wasn’t in the same circumstances whatsoever (her pregnancy is very much unplanned and her husband is an abusive asshole), I liked that this movie wasn’t all “Yay! Being pregnant is the greatest and most beautiful thing in the world!” and that it didn’t rely on dumb pregnancy/baby humor like so many “chick flicks/romcoms” often do. Russell’s character isn’t mean about her pregnancy or anything like that – she’s just kind of numb & goes through the motions during her pregnancy as she knows she doesn’t really have any other option. Although I couldn’t relate to the exact same feelings, I loved the honesty and the fact that her character felt real. I read that Shelly wrote this film while pregnant with her daughter & scared of how motherhood might change her life & career. They say “write what you know”, right? I think Shelly did that & ended up writing a great & honest film because of it.

This is a smart comedy & I love the (bad) attitudes of every quirky character. As I’ve said, Keri Russell’s pregnant Jenna is very unhappily married to an abusive man (Jeremy Sisto) and certainly not at all happy to be carrying his child. She’s completely apathetic about everything in life other than baking pies, the one thing she loves. She creates her own pies & then gives them special names such as the “I Hate My Husband” pie, which was a fun little touch throughout the movie. Her best friends, fellow waitresses played by Cheryl Hines & Adrienne Shelly, are equally bitter yet so damn likeable.

Nathan Fillion plays Keri Russell’s doctor and the (potential?) knight in shining armor. I really like Fillion (who doesn’t?!) and am glad he was in this as I’m sure some people watched it just because of him. As with everyone else, he’s also far from perfect and comes across as quite awkward. One of the biggest surprises, though, was the grumpy old man played by Andy Griffith. Andy Griffith of all people! He’s great in this, though – a lonely & angry old man who clearly cares about Russell’s character even though it’s not immediately obvious from his gruff exterior.

I’m worried that I’m not making these characters sound very nice… Believe me, I can’t stand movies that have characters you hate! This movie isn’t like that. Hmm… I suppose the closest comparison I can make is to say that the characters reminded me a bit of those on Seinfeld. Every character is seriously flawed and I like that. No one is perfect in life! But they all work perfectly together in this film & create a great subtle humor. The movie stays on the right side of the line – it’s never too mean-spirited and also never becomes annoyingly soppy or saccharine. I personally have no complaints about this movie – I loved the story, the characters, the relationships, the humor, and the great ending (which is beautiful & bittersweet if you know Adrienne Shelly’s tragic story. FYI – if you watch this, the little girl in it is Shelly’s real-life daughter Sophie). Yes, I like Waitress a lot. I think Adrienne Shelly was a very talented writer & it’s a shame that we’ll never get to see anything else she would have created. This movie is an honest look at motherhood & ends up being a love letter of sorts to her daughter, so it’s a lovely film to end up as her legacy.

My Rating: 8.5/10

**I have to add that I had NO idea that Waitress had been made into a musical on Broadway until I started writing this review & saw that it was recently nominated for four Tony Awards. I’d love to see what they’ve done with it! I hope it still captures the spirit of the film.

Also, I wanted to mention that Shelly’s husband Andy Ostroy set up The Adrienne Shelly Foundation after her death, which supports female filmmakers. You can read more about Adrienne Shelly, the Waitress musical, and her Foundation in a recent People article HERE. There’s also a good article at thecelebrityauction.com HERE which has more of the interview with Shelly’s husband in which he talks about her feelings while making Waitress. There’s not a lot of other information online – she really was an “indie queen” in her acting career (which was obvious from the almost complete lack of comments on my reviews for the rather obscure Hal Hartley films on Wednesday). 😉 If you’re curious about her work, I obviously recommend Waitress but, after that, you may want to check out those Hal Hartley films as well.

Inside Out (2015) Review

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Inside Out (2015)

Directed by Pete Docter

Starring Voice Actors: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Richard Kind, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan

Production company: Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios

Running time: 94 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

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My Opinion:

So, I finally saw this Pixar movie on Tuesday – SIX YEARS after its release everywhere else on the planet!!! Okay – I guess it was only about a month’s wait but that’s like a lifetime to me when it comes to waiting to see a new Pixar film. I adore Pixar! I know the UK gets (and will be getting) all the Marvel films before America. But who cares?! Screw Marvel! I’d much rather not have to wait for the Pixar movies. Anyway, I was feeling some bitterness (along with some disgust, anger & sadness) at the long wait so didn’t exactly rush out to see this when it came out last Friday. I figured it might as well wait a few more days so I could go on my cinema’s cheap day. I give you enough money, Pixar, and you make me wait a month just because of the stupid UK school holiday dates! Lol. Okay… I can’t stay angry at my beloved Pixar for long… 😉

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Inside Out has a brilliant concept (it’s almost up there with Monsters, Inc in that department) and it’s so cleverly written, which is what we’ve all come to expect from Pixar anyway. I love that they don’t feel the need to dumb their movies down and they don’t treat kids like they’re idiots. Yes, some of the ideas and jokes will be over very young kids’ heads. So what? It’s a movie they’ll grow up with and they’ll learn to appreciate more and more as they get older. So bravo to Pixar once again making a brilliant, timeless classic for all ages. This is why I love Pixar so much and have come to respect their films far more than a lot of the non-animated movies that get made.

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However, I’m sad to say that I’m not exactly sure how I feel about Inside Out. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great film and I love that they’ve made something that will challenge young minds and might actually make the future a better place (well, it’s possible… if anyone can discover the secret to true happiness & world peace, it’s Pixar). But I’m not instantly in love with it the way I was with a lot of other Pixar films (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc and especially WALL-E). Man, I remember the feeling I had when I walked out of the cinema after watching WALL-E… You know that pure joy you get as a movie fan when you’ve just watched an absolutely amazing film?? I still almost get chills when I watch the opening of that movie and I stand by my belief that the beginning (on Earth) is a masterpiece. There were a few moments in Inside Out that almost reached those heights but it still didn’t pack the emotional punch that the opening scenes of WALL-E and Up did and it doesn’t have any characters that are quite as strong (and instantly loveable) as in Finding Nemo or Monsters, Inc.

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Okay – I know I take Pixar films way too seriously so I’ll lighten up a little now. 😉 I know they’re essentially “family” movies but, especially with one as grown-up as Inside Out, it’s hard to not review them as I would any non-animated films. As far as other, non-Pixar animated films go, Inside Out blows them all away. As far as most non-animated films go, Inside Out blows those away too. As far as other Pixar films go, Inside Out is definitely one of the best but may not be quite as instantly loved as some of them. That’s the problem – Pixar has such a huge reputation to live up to! Yet they continue to live up to it. I know Inside Out will grow on me. But I’m an adult – what do kids actually think of it?

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My Six-Year-Old’s Opinion: (in my words)

She of course loved Inside Out but most kids will say they love a movie immediately after they’ve watched it. I go more by her reaction to a movie while watching it & how much she talks about it over the next few days. She was completely engrossed throughout the entire film and had a big smile on her face. She entirely understood the overall, basic concept (which is good as the movie was way more abstract than I was expecting – it’s massively clever but also seriously deep at times). She’s been talking a lot about the different emotions she’s been feeling and I love how much the movie has made her think about things. That’s awesome. I think it’ll be a firm favorite of hers for years to come, especially as she reaches the same sort of age as its main character.

As a parent, I’m very happy that movies like this are being made for her generation and I’m a million times happier to let her watch a movie like this than one of those idiotic Barbie movies (which I do let her watch if she wants to. I’m not going to be some movie snob – she’s only six!). However, those Barbie movies usually get watched once and she never really has anything to say about them. That’s the power of Pixar! I think this is proof that kids can handle a more grown-up film with a complex concept and without a load of silly jokes and characters.

My Husband’s Opinion:

This is unusual but the hubby has read my review & actually wanted to state his opinion as he doesn’t fully agree with me. Here’s what he said:

“I consider after all the films Pixar has made, as pure commercial fun, this one is basically a true gift to the world that will fundamentally change how human beings relate to one another. AND they did it in a so-called kids film… I think this is actually Pixar’s most significant piece of work. Not about which movie is their “best movie”. But one that utterly changes the game? This one.”

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Summary:

While I may not instantly love Inside Out quite as much as I do some other Pixar films (or quite as much as both my daughter & husband seemed to), you can see I have a massive amount of respect for it. I know I’ve not really discussed any of the specific characters or anything but I think there have been enough reviews of this by now that I didn’t really see the point of being too specific. I’ll say that I was afraid I might find Joy slightly annoying as overly happy people piss me off but that wasn’t at all the case. I also really liked Disgust but Sadness was my favorite. I’m not sure what that says about me… 😉 Finally, I liked the character of Riley and the importance of her relationship with her family. The human characters seem like the background characters in this one but they’re the true heart of the film. As always, I found I cared more about these animated characters than I tend to care about the characters in most live-action films. I don’t quite know how Pixar manages to do this (or why I can’t make it through the beginning of Up without bawling) but they’ve once again made a movie that they can be very proud of. I’ll grow to love it a bit more – I know I will!

My Rating: 8.5/10

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Is There A Scene After The Credits?: Well, you should all know this by now but there are some great extra scenes during the credits that you have to stay for. I loved these scenes. There’s nothing after the credits, though.

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A very quick review of the Lava short:

As if the main Pixar film doesn’t fill me with enough joy, we of course also get a great short before the films. I always look forward to the shorts! This one, Lava, wasn’t my favorite. It’s of course very sweet and, hey – anthropomorphic volcanoes! I’m a huge fan of anthropomorphism. However, I found the song a little bit annoying and the ending predictable. To be fair, and speaking of those emotions in my head, I was in a very bad mood when we went to this movie so that may have had an effect on how I felt about this sappy little romantic short. Sorry. :-/ But it’s still a million times better than that stupid Boundin’. The short I loved most in recent times was Disney’s Feast – that one was brilliant!

My Rating: 6.5/10

Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014) Review

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (2014)

Directed by James Gunn


Starring:
Chris Pratt
Zoe Saldana
Dave Bautista
Vin Diesel
Bradley Cooper
Lee Pace
Michael Rooker
Karen Gillan
Djimon Hounsou
John C Reilly
Glenn Close
Benicio del Toro

Running time: 122 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
In Guardians of the Galaxy, Peter Quill forms an uneasy alliance with a group of extraterrestrial misfits who are on the run after stealing a coveted orb. (Thank you, Wikipedia – that was very brief!)

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My Opinion:

If I don’t keep this short like I did with Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, I’ll never get around to writing it. I thoroughly enjoyed Guardians Of The Galaxy. A lot. Like with all comic book movies, I have zero knowledge of any of these characters beyond what I’ve seen of them in all these films. As far as “superhero” characters go, I totally bought into these – raccoon & walking tree & all. That’s always what’s most important to me in any film. If I don’t buy into at least one character, it feels like a complete waste of my time. I loved these misfits. Who DOESN’T like a group of loveable misfits? That’s why this movie is such a huge success already.

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Hmm. What else? Groot. I loved Groot! I want my own Groot!!! Chris Pratt & Zoe Saldana were both great. Chris Pratt means nothing to me – No, I’ve not seen this Parks And Recreation thingamabob and I prefer it that way as Peter Quill is all he’ll be to me. Even Bradley Cooper was perfect & he gets on my nerves sometimes. I loved the relationship that formed between these characters.

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Summary:

Guardians Of The Galaxy is just a really really “fun” movie. Yes, I love all the Marvel movies but I really appreciated this slight departure from the seriousness of recent Marvel films. These are comic books! Have some fun! I loved the humor in Guardians Of The Galaxy and think it all worked perfectly. The story was still good, too, and I cared about what would happen to everyone. Maybe it was all a little predictable overall but what movie like this isn’t? This movie made me happy and kept me entertained but also managed to have fantastic characters and genuinely funny moments. Oh – and an awesome soundtrack! This old lady was loving THAT. Bowie! Moonage Daydream, baby! Oh, and of course the scene after the credits… Lol. Stay for that if you want but only those of a certain age will truly appreciate it. I’m of a certain age. 😉

So, basically, I pretty much loved this movie. Yep.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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** There are some fantastic alternate posters out there for this movie! The one I used above is by Matt Ferguson. Also love the two below by Matt Needle & Doaly. See links to these posters & more here: io9.

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Dawn Of The Dead (2004) Review

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Mike over at Screenkicker has been running the Screenkicker Olympics, a great blogathon in which people have discussed something movie-related from where they grew up or where they now live. It’s been a really fun blogathon & I’ve enjoyed reading all the entries & voting for the best actors & actresses from around the world in a series of polls (I voted for Chris Hemsworth several times but I don’t think it counted all my extra votes!). Thanks for letting me join in on the fun, Mike! 🙂

Anyway, I chose the 2004 flesh-eating zombie film Dawn Of The Dead to represent my home state. You can read my review HERE. 🙂

Oh, and, what the hell? Are there seriously so few other Twilight Zone lovers?! That show was AWESOME! Here are my All-Time Top Ten TV Shows if you missed it.

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Her (2013) Review

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Her (2013)

Directed by Spike Jonze

Starring:
Joaquin Phoenix
Amy Adams
Rooney Mara
Olivia Wilde
Scarlett Johansson

Music by Arcade Fire

Running time: 126 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Her is a 2013 American science fiction romantic drama film written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze. The film centers on a man who develops a relationship with an intelligent computer operating system (OS) with a female voice and personality.

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My Opinion:

Finally! Finally this came out in the UK! Then I just barely managed to see it as it played for one week then pretty much disappeared from all local cinemas. So annoying! Anyway – I was really looking forward to this and went to it with pretty high expectations, which isn’t always a good thing. Well, it was actually even better than I’d been expecting.

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I’m writing this as I watch Captain Phillips as I’m so behind on this blog and on watching all these nominated movies before the Oscars. I’m distracted so I’ll keep this short. I wondered before watching this what sort of direction they could possibly take with what seems like a pretty simple (if unusual) concept. I was pleasantly surprised at some of the things they did with this story. I (like all of us) watch lots of movies so most are totally predictable but this one did leave me guessing and did surprise me a couple of times, which was great.

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As for the “relationship”, I didn’t know beforehand if I’d be able to buy into it. But I did. It’s very well written (as I expected from Spike Jonze) and, thanks to great performances from Joaquin Phoenix & Scarlett Johansson, I totally did believe they were in love. Funny thing is that I normally find Johansson’s voice really annoying yet in this I thought it was perfect. Actually, I think this was probably the best performance we’ve ever had out of her. I’ve also never exactly been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix but he’s great in this! It’s a shame he’s not up for an Oscar. I’m glad the film & screenplay are up for Oscars as I think they’re certainly deserving of the nominations although I know wins are very unlikely. I’d love to see this win for screenplay at the very least as it’s very clever & I wish films like this got made more often. And, again – this is another best picture nominee that’s better than American Hustle! All that I’ve seen so far have been.

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The film looks beautiful, everyone gives a very good performance (especially the two leads), it’s dramatic yet has really funny moments (Alien child cracked me up!), it’s clever and very well written, and it does a good job exploring all the different kinds of love and how wonderful and painful it can be. I loved little things like the safety pin. But god those pirates are being REALLY mean to sweet Tom Hanks! Okay – I’m too distracted. I’ll just finish this review by saying: I loved Her and I wish there were more films like it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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**I’ve finished Captain Phillips before this is scheduled to post so I’m going to rank the only best picture nominees I’ve seen. Because I’m anal like that! Starting with my favorite:

1. The Wolf Of Wall Street
2. Her
3. Gravity
4. Dallas Buyers Club
5. American Hustle
6. Captain Phillips

(2 & 3 are close – I may change my mind. I do that a lot.) 🙂

The Lego Movie (2014) Review

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(I had to use this amazing Mondo poster by artist Tom Whalen. Link here: GeekTyrant)

**SPOILER-FREE REVIEW**

The Lego Movie (2014)

Directed by Phil Lord & Chris Miller

Starring:
Chris Pratt
Will Ferrell
Elizabeth Banks
Will Arnett
Nick Offerman
Alison Brie
Charlie Day
Liam Neeson
Morgan Freeman

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh (Yo Gabba Gabba! Yes! And Devo, of course)

Running time: 100 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The wizard Vitruvius attempts to protect the “Kragle”, a superweapon, from the evil Lord Business. He fails to do so, but warns Lord Business of a prophecy where a person called the “Special” will find the Piece of Resistance capable of stopping the Kragle.

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My Opinion:

I don’t know how many of you will have read it but when I reviewed Mr Peabody & Sherman recently, I was pretty mean. My main problem (besides one terrible character) was that the movie didn’t seem to know what sort of an audience it was aiming for and ended up making something I think only those between the ages of 6 and 10 will enjoy. I moaned, as I always do, that only Disney and, especially, Pixar seem capable of making kids’ movies that people of all ages love. Well, I’m very happy to report that The Lego Movie achieves this perfect balance as well. And, although aimed more at boys, it’s one that girls will also love thanks to the characters of Wyldstyle and, my personal favorite, Uni-Kitty. Hooray for The Lego Movie! 🙂

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I’m actually going to say nothing whatsoever about anything in this film. My ONLY complaint about this is that I think the trailers showed too many of the funniest scenes, meaning I didn’t get as many surprises as I’d have liked (although there were still some great ones). I absolutely LOVED a few of the surprises but think I’d spoil it for anyone who’s not seen this yet so, unfortunately, I can’t discuss those things! I can be vague and say that I loved loved loved the ending, though – especially the very final thing. It’s so satisfying when a movie gets the ending so right!

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The characters are strong and there are a lot of them & they’re so varied that everyone will have a favorite (go Uni-Kitty!). The “hero”, Emmet Brickowski, is completely ordinary & totally loveable. Wyldstyle is cool & a strong female character great for the young girls watching, Morgan Freeman is of course perfect as the Gandalf-like Vitruvius as he has the coolest voice EVER (well, maybe after James Earl Jones), and there are several superheroes which will make a lot of geeks happy (I say “geeks” in a nice way because we’re all geeks here. And we rule!). One lesser character really cracked me up and, oh my god, the cameo(s) I didn’t know about…. LOVE! (Everyone probably knows by now but, hey – I don’t want to be the person who ruins it for the few people who maybe don’t know everything about this movie by now).

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Summary:

I know I’ve not said a lot about this movie but that’s the whole point. If you’ve not watched every single trailer by now and if you’ve not read much about this film yet – DON’T. I think you’ll enjoy being surprised by just how funny and, quite frankly, epic The Lego Movie is. A lot of talk online says this is the perfect little kids’ introduction to the teachings of Joseph Campbell. It is. It’s an epic adventure with a really great message told in a very unique & un-preachy way. It’s been seen plenty of times but not quite in this fashion and not often in a “kids’ film”. Awesome.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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The Great Escape (1963) Review

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The Great Escape (1963)

Directed by John Sturge

Starring:
Steve McQueen
James Garner
Richard Attenborough
James Donald
Charles Bronson
Donald Pleasence
James Coburn

Music by Elmer Bernstein

Running time: 172 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia):
The Great Escape is a 1963 American film about an escape by Allied prisoners of war from a German POW camp during World War II. The film is based on the book of the same name by Paul Brickhill, a non-fiction account of the mass escape from Stalag Luft III in Sagan, in the province of Lower Silesia, Nazi Germany. The characters are based on real men, in some cases composites of several men.

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My Opinion:

This is the 23rd (and probably final for this year) movie I watched for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge. 23 in a year – I’m slacking! Just too many new movies to watch as well.

As I’ve said before, I’m least looking forward to all the westerns & war movies in the Top 250. But then I watched The Bridge On The River Kwai and it ended up being one of my favorite films I’ve watched this year (Review HERE). So I figured I’d give The Great Escape a chance as well. I’m glad I did – it’s brilliant!

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I didn’t know quite what to expect and I have to admit that I’ve never seen Steve McQueen in anything before this. I was surprised that he’s not exactly the main star of this – this is filled with lots of great actors who all share some equally big roles. I know he’s considered super cool and all that but I’ll stick with sexy Paul Newman as my favorite cool guy in old films for now. McQueen’s character is great in this, though – I should give more of his films a watch. ALL the characters are great in this film, which I think is what makes The Great Escape such a widely loved classic.

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I loved how they all had such different personalities in this film and they were all so well developed & the acting was superb. It’s one of those movies where you really feel like you know the characters by the end and this is probably the most important thing to me in a film. If you can’t connect with the characters, what’s the point? And they each have their own “specialty” when it comes to preparing their big escape. Brilliant! It’s hard to pick a favorite character in this as they’re all so good in different ways. Richard Attenborough has one of the most important roles as the brains behind organizing the whole escape and he’s very serious and it was weird watching him as I’ve only ever known him looking like he does in Jurassic Park (I know I know – I have no culture).

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Back to Steve McQueen: His character is cool & cheeky and maintains this great optimistic attitude in terrible conditions. He’s the guy who annoys his captors with his constant escape attempts. He’s called “the cooler king” as he spends most of his time locked away from the other prisoners after he keeps getting re-captured. He does his own thing & the only negative was that we don’t get to see him interact with the other characters much as he’s so often locked away. He develops a great friendship with another prisoner, though, who is also locked up next to him and this was my second favorite relationship in the film. There are several different relationships going on and, again, I’m sure everyone has their own personal favorite.

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I’m sure some guys go for the “tunnel kings”, the two guys in charge of digging the escape tunnels. Charles Bronson plays one of the tunnel kings. I have a little crush on Senior British Officer, Group Captain Ramsey (James Donald). I was excited to see him in this as I loved him in The Bridge On The River Kwai and he gets an even bigger role in this one. I loved how he supports & looks after his men and stands up for them by saying “it is their duty to try to escape” when he’s told by the German commandant of the camp that “there will be no escapes from this camp”.

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I’m leaving so many characters out but I’ll be here all day if I go into each of them in detail. The final ones I’ll mention form my favorite relationship in the movie: James Garner as “the scrounger” who finds ways of getting people the tools & other things they need and Donald Pleasence as “the forger” in charge of getting the forged documents ready for when the prisoners have escaped. Donald Pleasence was my favorite character in this film full of SO many likeable characters (even though I kept thinking he looked a bit like Phil Collins).

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This review is getting too long and all I’ve done is talked about some of the main characters but this film really does have one of the greatest casts and most memorable & likeable characters I’ve seen in a very long time. The story itself? Brilliant, of course. It’s about a massive escape attempt from a POW camp so it’s very tense & exciting and even though it’s a very famous movie I honestly had no clue how it was going to end as I’ve managed to avoid all spoilers for this. What I was surprised at was the “light” mood it managed to maintain throughout most of the movie. The prisoners have such positive attitudes and some have a great sense of humor and, of course, there’s the uplifting score with one of the all-time catchiest theme tunes EVER that I couldn’t help but whistle for days afterward. Considering the subject matter, it doesn’t go all “gritty” like modern war movies. Films were so different in the old days and feel so much more “epic” than what we get nowadays. Why is that??

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Summary:

I’ve been rambling on for ages & everyone has probably stopped reading by now so I’ll wrap this up. The Bridge On The River Kwai remains slightly ahead in my opinion – I think it’s a better film overall with some of the best acting I’ve ever seen thanks to Alec Guinness but The Great Escape, with its overall lighter tone and immensely enjoyable characters, is a very close second favorite war movie for me. Both films had the ability to leave me dumbfounded and just sitting there staring at a blank screen in silence for several minutes after they ended while I let what I’d just witnessed sink in. Such powerful films & mind-blowing endings – I find that very few movies in this day & age leave me feeling quite the same way. Brilliant stuff. I highly recommend The Great Escape (and The Bridge On The River Kwai) to anyone, like me, who is unsure of watching “war movies”.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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Why are there so few great theme songs for movies these days?

Frozen (2013) Review

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Frozen (2013)

Directed by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee

Based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

Starring:
Kristen Bell
Idina Menzel
Jonathan Groff
Josh Gad
Santino Fontana

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Animation Studios

Running time: 102 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
After Elsa accidentally leaves her kingdom of Arendelle in an eternal winter due to her uncontrollable secret powers that create ice & snow, her sister Anna must find where she has gone into hiding to see if they can find a way to save their kingdom.

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My Opinion:

Finally – a return to the traditional sort of Disney(fied) fairy tale that I grew up on. I loved Frozen! Loved it loved it loved it! 🙂

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Where do I start? Well, I’m going to try to stay spoiler free so I’ll just talk about some of the things I liked about Frozen. First of all, it’s a great opening. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high so early in the film but the introduction of the sisters, Anna & Elsa, is fantastic! It’s like all the best classic Disney openings/introductions to the main characters. Sweet, tragic, magical & musical – all that usual good Disney stuff! And the song Anna sings is lovely & really touching. There are some great songs in this. But I’ll come back to the music later…

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Before we’re introduced to the sisters, however, we actually first meet one of the main male characters (Kristoff) while a bunch of manly men sing a manly song. I know Disney took this same sort of angle with Tangled – they didn’t want it seen as another “Disney Princess” movie so they gave the guy a bigger role and gave it the non-girly name of Tangled instead of Rapunzel. I think this works much better in Frozen, though. The sisters are very much the stars here but there’s PLENTY for boys to like in this one as well whereas I still saw Tangled as just another Princess movie. You can easily take an entire family of all ages to Frozen. Girls will like the sisters, boys will like Kristoff & his reindeer, and ALL kids (and adults!) will LOVE Olaf. Honestly – The adults in the cinema were laughing at Olaf even louder than the kids were. He’s hilarious. I love Olaf! I already loved him before even seeing Frozen as his big musical number (In Summer) was available on YouTube. Check it out if you’re unsure about if you want to see Frozen or not & you may be convinced to go.

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Going back to the music, Frozen has some instant classics. The songs were written by husband & wife Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. I don’t make it to nearly as many musicals as I’d like to but the only one I’ve WANTED to see in a long time is The Book Of Mormon while one of the only ones I HAVE seen is Avenue Q, which I loved. I was surprised to find out that the guy who wrote the songs for these two musicals had done the songs for Frozen. So, yeah – I guess the guy responsible for “The Internet Is For Porn” wrote the great songs in Frozen. Makes sense – there’s a funny sense of humor in the lyrics of songs such as Olaf’s In Summer & another song called Fixer Upper but the main “numbers” such as For The First Time In Forever and Let It Go are surely Oscar contenders & will long be remembered with other Disney classics.

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What else? The story – I loved it. I don’t know the original Hans Christian Andersen story but, hey – this is a Disney adaptation so I’m sure it bears little resemblance to the source material. I really wasn’t quite sure how they’d end it which was nice as kids’ films are always so predictable (and I thought it was a very satisfying ending). The look of the film was beautiful – the colors used & all that frozen snow & ice… I can see this being a film that families watch every winter. And it may sound stupid and girly but Anna & Elsa had the greatest dresses! Anna is often in greens while Elsa is in blue and it was great that it wasn’t all girly pink & purple colors going on in this. And… as I’m mostly of Norwegian heritage, I’ve always loved anything with a Scandinavian look. I mean, a guy in the film even mentioned lutefisk. And look at Anna’s main outfit and her cool boots:

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Finally, the most important thing in a Disney movie is the characters. They can have a great story and great songs but if they don’t get the characters right, they might as well not bother. Frozen is already nearly perfect in every other way and, luckily, the characters are just as perfect.

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Kristoff is a loveable oaf and his relationship with his best friend, reindeer Sven, is funny. It was also fun watching Sven constantly trying to eat Olaf’s carrot nose. Speaking of the hilariously entertaining Olaf, you already know how I feel about him but I loved the sisters most of all and their story & their relationship felt quite unique compared to the what we’ve seen in other Disney films. I liked their very different personalities & I can see Anna ending up pretty high on my list of my Top Disney Princesses (if/when she’s officially added). Anna is sweet & little dorky with such a childlike charm that you can’t help but like her.

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Summary:

After a good couple decades of some very disappointing Disney films (other than The Lion King & Beauty And The Beast & everything made by the brilliant Pixar which Disney can now claim as its own), we’ve finally been given an instant classic that will stand the test of time just like those from Disney’s good old days. Magical & beautiful, a great story, classic songs, strong female characters, lots of genuinely funny humor & hilarious characters – Frozen gets everything so incredibly right. Thank you, Disney! You’re back! 🙂

My Rating: 8.5/10

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The Way Way Back (2013) Review

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The Way Way Back (2013)

Directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

Starring:
Steve Carell
Toni Collette
Allison Janney
AnnaSophia Robb
Sam Rockwell
Maya Rudolph
Rob Corddry
Amanda Peet
Liam James

Running time: 103 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) goes on summer vacation to his mom Pam’s (Toni Collette) new boyfriend Trent’s (Steve Carell) beach house in Cape Cod. Duncan looks set to have a dreadful vacation as Trent treats him horribly but things start looking up when he meets pretty neighbor Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and local water park employee Owen (Sam Rockwell).

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My Opinion:

You know how some indie movies (Is this indie? Maybe not. The lines are so blurred these days) are annoyingly pretentious and no fun to watch? Well, even though it looked like it had the potential to be, The Way Way Back luckily isn’t one of those. It was great fun and is definitely close to the top of my list of 2013 movies I’ve seen.

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The Way Way Back reminded me a bit of Adventureland (Wait! Don’t run away if you hated that one!). I enjoyed that film despite not being a fan of any of the stars as I loved the setting of a theme park in the 1980s. I think most people hate at least one star in Adventureland, which hurt the movie. The Way Way Back doesn’t have that problem (for me) and is a better film with a much better script.

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It was originally going to be set in the 80s as well but, due to not having the budget, they had to set it in the present. But the film still has a great 1980’s feel to it, which is a big plus to me as I love that cheesy decade. They even left in things like Duncan singing REO Speedwagon (Can you get more “80’s cheese” than that?! Maybe with some Journey…) and Owen quoting Bonnie Tyler & using Pac-Man to explain his whole philosophy on life. Oh I loved all that! And I loved the water park setting as there were a lot of these in my neck of the woods and I miss those lovely, sunny 80’s summers (especially the sunny part now that I live in England!).

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Yes, it’s a “coming of age” story but I love a good coming of age story when done well. Liam James is great as Duncan, a very likeable shy and awkward boy who is almost non-existent to his father and his new wife while his mother’s new boyfriend constantly belittles him and bosses him around. Now, Steve Carell isn’t for everyone (me included) but he’s truly excellent in this role, which is FAR different from his comedic roles. He’s a total prick to Duncan and you’ll seriously want to punch him in the face, especially during the “three” talk. But his character doesn’t go overboard – he feels very much like a real person as, unfortunately, there are many people just like him. And Toni Collette is very good as Duncan’s mom, who is just trying to keep things together after her divorce and doesn’t like seeing Duncan so unhappy.

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But! Things aren’t all sad & depressing in the film. Duncan finds a girl’s bike in the garage one day and cycles to a water park called Water Wizz where he befriends Sam Rockwell’s Owen, who offers Duncan a job at the park. The water park scenes are by far the highlight of the film. Owen is an easygoing, laidback (probably too laidback) guy who, predictably but hilariously, helps turn Duncan’s life around and makes him finally feel like he belongs somewhere. I’ve never been quite sure how I feel about Sam Rockwell but I LOVED him in this. He’s hilarious but also so sweet as the seemingly bad role model for Duncan who in reality turns out to be the most positive male influence in Duncan’s life.

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There are other good characters in the film, such as Maya Rudolph as the Water Wizz employee always trying to get Owen to behave more responsibly, AnnaSophia Robb’s Susanna as the cute girl-next-door who befriends Duncan, and Allison Janney as Susanna’s irresponsible mother (Typical annoying, mouthy, and nosy neighbor but she’s SO damn funny in this!). However, the best thing about the movie is definitely the friendship between Duncan & Owen.

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Summary:

The Way Way Back is a great coming of age film that gets just the right balance between comedy and drama without being overly sentimental. The characters feel real as do their relationships. I really can’t think of one negative thing to say about The Way Way Back – it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film and one of my favorites of the year.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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Django Unchained (2012) Review

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Django Unchained

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring:
Jamie Foxx
Christoph Waltz
Leonardo DiCaprio
Kerry Washington
Samuel L. Jackson
Walton Goggins
Dennis Christopher
James Remar
Michael Parks
Don Johnson

Running time: 165 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

Set in the antebellum era of the Deep South and Old West, the film follows a freed slave (Foxx) who treks across the United States with a bounty hunter (Waltz) on a mission to rescue his wife (Washington) from a cruel plantation owner (DiCaprio).

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My Opinion:

Django Unchained got second place after Stoker when I asked all of you which film I should review next. Sorry it’s still taking me a bit of time to get around to these reviews.

I should maybe re-watch this one as I saw it in the cinema back in January but I remember it well anyway. I still consider it my favorite film of 2013 (UK release date). But it’s one of the only 2013 movies that I didn’t review. I have a strange relationship with Tarantino films – I think they’re brilliant but I also can’t fully watch any of them as I’m a mega wuss about violence. Figure that one out… Plus so many people love Tarantino and there will be tons of great reviews online from people who are proper writers and I don’t know what I could really add to all that. So, as usual, I’ll just discuss what I personally liked about the film.

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I’ll get right to it and say that there’s ONE very specific thing that made me really go for this movie even though I literally “saw” less of this than probably any other Tarantino film as I found the violence in this one the most disturbing yet & didn’t even look at the screen for a couple entire scenes (the “Mandingo” fight for one – the sound effects alone were enough to make me feel ill). I think everyone knows what I’m going to say that one specific thing is as I think most people agree:

CHRISTOPH WALTZ

He’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I have to say I’m not one to worship actors – I just like movies. I do have some favorite actors, of course, and a few actors who will make me actually watch a film they’re in (or, more often, avoid one). But I just enjoy watching movies I think are good and for the most part don’t care who’s in them as long as the actors fit the part and they’re not really horrible at acting and they’re not Tom Cruise.

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But… Oh my god I love Waltz in Tarantino films! I know that not ALL the credit can go to Waltz, though – As many people have already said, there’s just something about a Tarantino script combined with Waltz’s acting that’s just the perfect fit. I really need to watch Inglourious Basterds again – the scene with Waltz at the beginning was so intense (I barely watched that scene. Sorry – I just couldn’t! My heart was pounding like crazy).

I love the character of Dr King Schultz in Django Unchained. He’ll go down as one of the all-time best characters with one of the all-time greatest performances (in my opinion but, hey, he did win an Oscar for it). This is why poor Jamie Foxx seems so overlooked in the title role – He was fine but he just didn’t quite have that special “something” that Waltz has so his performance naturally pales in comparison.

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Before I go on kissing Waltz’s ass too much, there was one other performance that I also felt was worthy of at least an Oscar nomination: Leonardo DiCaprio. Why does he keep getting overlooked? Is it because he’s a former “heartthrob”? I’m not exactly a Leo fan but I think he’s had some amazing performances in a variety of films and Django Unchained is one of them.

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As for the film itself, I liked the overall story. I like revenge (Kill Bill being my favorite Tarantino film) and I like some good old-fashioned “rescue the helpless woman” sometimes as it’s set in the old West (or old South). I found the “Blazing Saddles” type of comic relief scene with the masks funny, all the stuff at Candyland was great, Don Johnson was actually not bad and, as already mentioned, DiCaprio and especially Waltz were brilliant and a joy to watch whenever they were on screen (which was quite a lot, luckily).

Tarantino’s role was a bit embarrassing, the violence was too much for me, and I’m not 100% sure if it’s okay to like Samuel L Jackson’s character or not. I love the guy (I’ve had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!) but that role was probably getting into iffy territory and I’m so not going there – there’s already been enough talk of the excessive use of the N word in this so I’ll leave that to intelligent people to dissect. I also felt that Django Unchained lost its way a bit in the last 45 minutes or so – it started to feel a little overlong and seemed to not be completely sure how to end although I found it a satisfying enough conclusion.

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Summary:

Django Unchained is another great film from Tarantino with a brilliant script and excessive violence than can be a little hard to watch. But I suffer through the violence as I think Tarantino is one of today’s most talented filmmakers. I’ve never watched classic Westerns but did force myself to watch the excellent Once Upon A Time In The West for the first time a couple months ago and it’s made me appreciate Django Unchained even more and made me want to further explore the influences on the film. Django Unchained isn’t a perfect film and does lose its way toward the end but with such a mesmerizing performance from Christoph Waltz, who cares? The man is amazing.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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See where Django Unchained ranks in My Top Five Films Directed By Quentin Tarantino.

My Shitty Django Unchained Haiku:

To rescue his love
Django and Schultz hunt bounty
The D is silent

Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010) Review & Haiku

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Exit Through The Gift Shop

Directed by Banksy

Narrated by Rhys Ifans

Starring:

Thierry Guetta
Banksy
Shepard Fairey
Invader
André

Plot Summary:

This documentary follows a man named Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in LA who is obsessed with recording every moment of his life. While visiting France, he discovers that a cousin of his is actually the well known street artist Invader.

This is the start of Guetta’s obsession with the secretive lives of street artists. Through Invader, he meets & documents other street artists at work including Monsieur André, Zevs & finally Shepard Fairey back in LA who then helps Guetta to document several other street artists throughout the country. Through Shepard Fairey, and to Guetta’s huge delight, he finally meets the extremely elusive Banksy, who agrees to be documented as long as his identity remains a secret…
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My Opinion:

I saw this movie back in January. Although I absolutely loved it, I guess I never reviewed it because I had no idea how to go about it. But when I asked all of you which film I should review of the ones I hadn’t, this was the winner (yay! you all have good taste.). 🙂

There is SO much more to this documentary than what I’ve put in the above summary! I’ve barely even scratched the surface. To be honest, if you don’t yet know much about this film, I don’t think you should really know any more before seeing it. Just watch it. I highly recommend it – it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in the past few years.
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If you have the slightest interest in art or filmmaking (or even if you don’t and would just enjoy a very entertaining film with some oddball characters), watch this. Don’t read too much about it beforehand – it really needs to be seen to be believed. Or possibly not believed… It’s an absolutely fascinating look at the world of art. What defines art? Is street art really art? Or is it only art once it’s hanging in a museum? Can just anyone make it? And what about Banksy, who started out a simple street artist but is now having art shows and selling his work for lots of money to the rich & the famous? Is he any more or less of an artist now?

This documentary explores these things in such a unique way by turning the tables on the viewer. I thought this film was extremely clever, even if I was just being brainwashed the whole time. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who Banksy is. It doesn’t matter who Mr Brainwash is (who?! watch the movie…). 😉 What matters is that art is art as long as there’s at least one person who considers it to be (in my opinion) and this film is a thoroughly entertaining piece of art.
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Banksy:

Okay – I love Banksy. That’s going to have helped me liking this film. I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to watch this documentary. I suppose that, by the time the film finally came out, Banksy was EVERYWHERE. You couldn’t walk through a shopping mall (in the UK at least) without seeing Banksy stuff for sale. As with anything that becomes too mainstream, it loses its appeal a bit. Especially something that’s meant to be so anti-establishment in the first place. (Did I use that word correctly? Check out me & all my big words in my reviews lately! Lol!).

Many years ago, before he was quite so well known, I went on a Banksy tour around London to see some of his work. Unfortunately, some of it was already gone (like this famous one – now painted over. what a shame! we could just make out the outline):
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I did manage to get one decent photo of one that was still there (on my ancient camera phone!) – I’ll include that at the end of this post. But I really can’t finish this “review” without posting pictures of some of Banksy’s work:
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Shepard Fairey:

Shepard Fairey also plays a very big part in this documentary. I wasn’t that familiar with his work before the film. He created that whole “Obey”/Andre The Giant thing, which comes partly from a favorite movie of mine: They Live. Fairey later created the following They Live Mondo poster for the Alamo Drafthouse. I absolutely adore it & have already posted it a couple of times:
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Fairey has done lots of other work, including things such as album covers & the Barack Obama “Hope” poster.

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One great thing about this documentary is that it got me very curious about everyone involved. I spent ages reading about Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Mr Brainwash, etc. I hope you’ll watch this film and then do the same. It’s the sign of a good film when you get your audience wanting to explore things further. As for Banksy – Yes, he’s supposedly been named. There’s a picture that’s meant to be of him. But I won’t post links to these things. If you want to look for it, you can. But I think knowing who he really is would ruin what makes his work so special. Anonymity is rare in this age where everyone famous is on Twitter or has some ridiculous reality show.

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Summary:

A fascinating documentary about the world of street art that also happens to be a thoroughly amusing & entertaining film with some great characters. I’ve said very little about what actually happens in the film – it needs to be seen to be believed (or not believed…). Go to it without reading up on it too much beforehand – save that for after the film. Trust me, you’ll WANT to read more about it the second the film finishes. An excellent work of art.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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My Grin Reaper photo from my “Banksy Tour” around London:

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My Exit Through The Gift Shop Haiku:

Banksy does street art
And great documentary
Who’s Mr Brainwash?

IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #11 – The Kid

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The Kid (1921) – IMDB Rank #128

Watched 19/2/13

The Kid is the third Chaplin film I’ve watched now for my IMDB Top 250 Movie Challenge. I first watched Modern Times and then City Lights.

Hmm… I think I’m watching these out of order! I was kind of going by what ones were the most highly rated on IMDB. It was a bit strange going from the 1936 film Modern Times, which was made after movies with sound came along, to the much older 1921 film The Kid – I probably should have watched them in order starting with the oldest. You really can see how much Chaplin’s comedy (especially physical comedy) evolved in the years between these two. Not that I’m exactly an expert after only watching three of his films! I’m assuming the budget was much bigger for later films as well & that other advances in filmmaking made for much more complex gags (such as the gears in Modern Times). I’m not saying that The Kid doesn’t have some great comedic moments, though. It’s just a more simple story and as sweet & heartwarming as City Lights. You can’t watch the movie and not fall in love with that adorable kid in the over-sized trousers. 🙂

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The story is about an unwed woman (oh, the shame in those days!) who leaves her newborn baby in an expensive car with a note asking them to take care of her baby. The car is stolen, the baby abandoned by the thieves and, of course, Chaplin’s Tramp is the one who finds the baby boy & raises him.

The relationship between The Tramp and the boy is so sweet and charming and it’s fun watching them trying to earn a living by The Tramp fixing windows after the boy has broken them with rocks and run away. At one point the now five-year-old boy gets into a fight with an older boy (and kicks his ass!). The boy is GREAT in this scene and so funny. He was so excellent in this that I had to look him up on IMDB. Kind of wish I hadn’t – how did that adorable little kid grow up to be Uncle Fester in The Addams Family?! Haha! Ruined the magic of The Kid for me a little bit… 😉

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I’m not sure how safe this is. Someone call Social Services!

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In one funny scene, The Tramp doesn’t want to get out of his warm bed to eat breakfast. He decides to make use of the hole in his blanket by sticking his head through it and wearing it to the table. That’s right, folks – Charlie Chaplin invented The Snuggie! Who knew?! 😉

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The Kid is sweet & charming and has as much heart & comedy as the later Chaplin films I’ve seen. I highly recommend all three.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Went to this movie recently and really liked it – one of my favorites this year. Logan Lerman & Ezra Miller were both very good and I think Emma Watson probably was as well but I was too distracted by the fact that I kept thinking I was watching Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club! When did she turn into her??

Anyway – indie movies – I love them or I hate them. This one got it right. I now want to read the book to get more character development (there’s supposedly a lot more about his family in the book), which I very rarely do – it’s hard to read a book after seeing the movie. I always do it the other way around!

One very trivial thing that annoyed me in this movie, though. As I felt I could really relate to the characters, I figured it was written by someone my age or it took place when I was a teenager. From what I can gather, it did – it’s set in about 1991. So… I was the same age then as the characters in the movie. GREAT characters. The type of people I wanted as friends in 1991 (but didn’t exist in my small hick town). Characters very into music. Like I was (and am still). Characters who, in 1991, don’t know a popular David Bowie song?! Come on! I sure as hell knew David Bowie, I certainly knew “Heroes”, and these characters certainly would have too! Okay, like I said it’s a trivial thing but it annoyed me. Oh, and the music in the movie was okay but quite predictable. “We are a quirky indie movie therefore we must stick a song by The Smiths in there”. 500 Days of Summer beat you to that. Both great movies, though, so I’m not really complaining… 😉

Rating: 8.5/10

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