Happy Friday! 🙂 Ending the week with some good films I watched this month.
In The Mood For Love (2000) (Chinese: 花樣年華, 花样年华)
Directed & Written by Wong Kar-wai
Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) It portrays a man (Tony Leung) and a woman (Maggie Cheung) whose spouses have an affair together and who slowly develop feelings for each other.
Been desperate to see this for years as it’s compared to Brief Encounter, which I love, because nothing beats intense sexual tension. Far sexier than any actual sex scenes. This film looks beautiful and my god her outfits were gorgeous. I wanted this couple to live happily ever after together so bad. Great film. Was hoping to instantly adore it a bit more but am thinking it’s one that will grow on me even more in retrospect. I know it’s one that will certainly stay on my mind.
My Rating: 8/10
I couldn’t find a better image but the above dress changed color as she moved & it was amazing…
La Haine (1995)
Directed & Written by Mathieu Kassovitz
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé, Saïd Taghmaoui
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film chronicles a day and night in the lives of three friends from a poor immigrant neighbourhood in the suburbs of Paris. The title derives from a line spoken by one of them, Hubert: “La haine attire la haine!”, “hatred breeds hatred”.
This was very good and one I wasn’t expecting to fully appreciate as I find it difficult to watch movies with unsympathetic characters. But it beautifully captured social injustice & the resulting civil unrest. Feels just as relevant today, especially as things continue to get even more extreme in parts of America. I really felt for the character of Hubert, who made an effort & just wanted a better life. Loved the film’s strong & deeply affecting ending – it’s one of those endings that will stay with you. I watched this as part of my IMDb Top 250 Project and am glad the project has made me see films like this that I otherwise may have not chosen to watch.
I’ve ranked this fairly high in my list of all foreign films I’ve seen here (excluding anime which is in its own list here).
My Rating: 8/10
I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (2018) (Japanese: 君の膵臓をたべたい, Kimi no Suizō o Tabetai)
Directed by Shinichiro Ushijima
Based on I Want to Eat Your Pancreas by Yoru Sumino
Was eager to see this cherry-blossom-in-your-face YA anime version of the teen-romance-with-terminal-illness subgenre as I love anime & still enjoy YA romance at my advanced age & that poster looked so pretty but, mainly, I loved the title. The title is explained & it’s pretty sweet & everything about this film is typical YA anime romance. Meaning the teens are far too dramatic and borderline annoying (especially the girl) but it has that anime charm that I always enjoy. So I liked this one a lot although it’s certainly not up there with the very best of the YA anime romance films from Makoto Shinkai, whose work this most resembles. So certainly watch this if you like his stuff but I’d also recommend all of Shinkai‘s work including 5 Centimeters Per Second, which this most reminded me of probably thanks to the cherry blossoms. Must admit I’m a sucker for those gorgeous cherry blossoms.
Check out this worthy shit that I watched! I realized this month that I’ll watch absolutely anything. From these silent classics to crap like The Death Of Dick Long & The FP to an Adam Sandler film to Super Mario Bros & Minions to In The Mood For Love & La Haine (I’m reviewing those last two tomorrow). Those last two were damn good (as were these two).
Man With A Movie Camera (1929) (Russian: Человек с киноаппаратом)
Directed & Written by Dziga Vertov
Cinematography by Mikhail Kaufman
“Plot” Synopsis: (via IMDb) A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.
Not gonna lie – I have a list on Letterboxd of My Favorite Film From Each Year (here) going back to 1920 but I was missing 1928 & 1929. Seeing that they were the most popular from those years, I watched this & The Passion Of Joan Of Arc.
I love films but know nothing whatsoever about filmmaking, so I can’t really comment on that side of things but the camerawork & techniques used in this are indeed extremely impressive for the time. Here’s a paragraph from Wikipedia explaining what’s been used in this film: “Man with a Movie Camera is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invented, employed or developed, such as multiple exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, match cuts, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, reversed footage, stop motion animations and self-reflexive visuals (at one point it features a split-screen tracking shot; the sides have opposite Dutch angles).”
FYI – I don’t know what a Dutch angle is but it sounds kinky.
That’s all obviously very impressive but, for me, I found just watching these people living their lives in 1920’s Soviet Union to be absolutely fascinating. I have no idea what version I saw but it also had some added modern music that was very calming. Wasn’t expecting to enjoy an experimental silent documentary with no story but I was enthralled. There’s even a shirtless Top Gun-style volleyball scene in the middle of this for your viewing pleasure.
Oh, and the above poster for this movie is cool as hell.
My Rating: 8/10
The Passion Of Joan Of Arc (1928) (French: La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc)
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Starring: Renée Jeanne Falconetti, Eugène Silvain, André Berley, Maurice Schutz
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The Passion of Joan of Arc is a 1928 French silent historical film based on the actual record of the trial of Joan of Arc. The film summarizes the time that Joan of Arc was a captive of England, depicting her trial and execution.
As mentioned above, this was my 1928 choice to watch for my Letterboxd list of My Favorite Film From Each Year.
This is a powerful film. But I have zero clue how to review it. I really need to watch more old films like this. I’ll just say that Renée Jeanne Falconetti was fantastic as Joan of Arc. What a stunning performance. I feel like we don’t get that sort of emotion in films in the same way today. I may have chosen to watch this to complete my list, but I’m glad it made me check this out. Excellent film.
Speaking of excellent, I felt bad that I kept thinking “Noah’s wife?”. Thanks, Bill & Ted!
My Rating: 8/10
Reviewed Nope separately earlier today as it didn’t really fit in with these two movies. Boy are my feelings mixed on that one…
Posting the last of my March movie reviews. Figured I might as well stick these in a separate post before my monthly roundup since I’ve already reviewed all the rest of the movies that I watched in March. Had never seen The Beatles movie but Ghost was obviously a rewatch…
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
Directed by Richard Lester
Starring: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Wilfrid Brambell
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film portrays 36 hours in the lives of the group as they prepare for a television performance.
I’m a huge music fan & absolutely love The Beatles. Easily one of my top five bands & they probably have the largest number of songs I love by just one group. But I’ve never been one to obsess over band members themselves & had only watched Yellow Submarine (love it) and Peter Jackson’s Get Back (fantastic).
This was a lot of fun, although I was worried at first as it gets off to a rocky start and oh boy that was quite the acting (but, yeah, who cares – they’re musicians & this was clearly for their fans). So it took some getting used to but the movie won me over by the end. And the great music obviously helped. I loved how much goofy fun John Lennon was having and Ringo Starr’s storyline was the best and his so-bad-it’s-good acting ended up being one of my favorite things about this. I want to watch everything else they did now. They seemed to be having a blast making this (just like Foo Fighters in Studio 666).
And not that anyone asked, but here’s my Beatles Top Ten 🙂
10. TIE: Happiness Is A Warm Gun & Carry That Weight
9. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
8. I Am The Walrus
7. Helter Skelter
6. A Day In The Life
5. In My Life
4. Dear Prudence
3. Across The Universe
2. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
1. Eleanor Rigby
My Rating: 7.5/10
Directed by Jerry Zucker
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The plot centers on Sam Wheat (Swayze), a murdered banker, whose ghost sets out to save his girlfriend, Molly Jensen (Moore), from the person who killed him – through the help of the psychic Oda Mae Brown (Goldberg).
Had the urge to rewatch this one as I liked it a lot when it came out in high school & I have fond memories of seeing it on a double date. I think it holds up well & that Whoopi Goldberg is just fantastic in it. Am so glad she won the Oscar for this – they really don’t like to reward comedic roles very often. And I’d forgotten just how much Demi Moore cries in the movie. If there was an Academy Award just for crying she’d have definitely been nominated that year too.
Still like the story in this movie a lot, the romance is good if you like that kind of thing, the baddie is oh so hateful, and Whoopi adds perfect comedic relief. They just don’t make such all-around entertaining films like this anymore. I feel like there’s something that most everyone could find to like in this film, whether you like romance, mystery, comedy, or the supernatural. But its rating seems a bit low so what do I know? And, like it or not, the pottery scene is a classic. You know a scene is iconic when there are loads of parodies (and when it gets referenced in Community). A very entertaining film. Wish we could have more like this one again.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A man spends a summer day swimming as many pools as he can all over a quiet suburban town.
Thanks to my longtime blogging buddy Film Miasma for introducing me to this movie via his reviews here: Part 1 & Part 2. How had I not heard of this movie before?
Well, this was an odd one but I liked it a lot. It’s certainly unique, which is something I’m always looking for as I watch too many movies & get bored with the majority being so predictable. I didn’t know where this story was going and honestly am still not sure what the hell was going on at the end & what it was meant to mean but man I loved how the film captured that swinging late ‘60s vibe. Also liked what it (maybe?) is saying about the lifestyles of the rich & the powerful (men especially) and the damage that can cause to them & those around them. It feels like this movie would fit in perfectly with recent films exploring these same themes, such as The Menu (which I didn’t love – it had a good idea but the execution could have been much better).
So, this guy (Burt Lancaster) has decided he’s going to swim his way back home via the swimming pools of all his friends & neighbors. The story starts out pleasant enough while he chats with those whose pools he’s using, although there’s an uneasy feeling running throughout the whole film & I loved that sense of dread in this beautiful setting. Things get more tense & bizarre with each pool that he encounters. Then comes the ending, which my Twilight Zone-loving self really appreciated.
The story feels quite ahead of its time for 1968 & I can easily see them doing a new version of this film as its ideas are just as, and maybe even more, relevant today. But I’d worry they’d make a complete mess of it & wouldn’t capture the same mood that worked so perfectly in ‘60s & ‘70s films. So hopefully the original film will instead become one of those that gets rediscovered. Don’t know why it’s not more well known. Would like to read the short story by John Cheever on which this is based.
I’m still not entirely sure what the film is about or what it’s trying to say. I think it could mean different things to different people, so I like that you can take whatever you may choose for yourself from it. For me, although I can’t relate specifically to a rich male not being able to come to terms with his issues, I felt quite sad about the changes in the film that I think could also represent the passage of time, aging, and sometimes feeling like we’re losing ourselves along the way.
Yeah, I liked this one a lot. Great story & deeply affecting. Wish there were more original films like this.
Happy New Year’s Eve! Was going to end on a couple of horror movie reviews this year but quickly wrote the below for my Letterboxd so I guess I’ll end on this one instead since it’s one of the better movies I saw in 2022… 🙂
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro & Mark Gustafson
Based on The Adventures of Pinocchio
by Carlo Collodi
Starring: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman, John Turturro, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Tim Blake Nelson, Christoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Loosely based on the 1883 Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, and strongly influenced by Gris Grimly’s illustrations for a 2002 edition of the book, it reimagines the story of Pinocchio, a wooden puppet who comes to life as the son of his carver Geppetto, as “a story of love and disobedience as Pinocchio struggles to live up to his father’s expectations, learning the true meaning of life” set in Fascist Italy during the interwar period and World War II.
This was a very good adaptation with stunning stop-motion animation. I like the tale of Pinocchio & enjoyed getting much more of a story here than Disney gave us plus this film has a lot more heart & emotion than recent Disney movies & certainly much more than their live action Tom Hanks Pinocchio. But I’m probably in the minority in still liking Disney’s 1940 version the most as nothing can top the old Disney classics & songs such as When You Wish Upon A Star for me. With so many current movies being new adaptations or reboots or sequels of existing stories I already know, I get a little bored. I don’t want to take away from how good Guillermo del Toro‘s Pinocchio is, though. It’s great! I just always crave new-to-me stories.
Besides the amazing animation & strong characters, this also had a great main theme to its score which stayed with me for days & a good score always gives a movie bonus points for me. Also appreciated the del Toro style in so much of this, especially The Wood Sprite & her sister Death as they reminded me the most of Pan’s Labyrinth (still brilliant & easily his best film). Also really liked the look of Pinocchio himself, which put the live-action Disney version to shame. At the moment I think I can only recall one song but that’s fine since you’re not gonna beat the Disney Pinocchio songs. I preferred that the songs in this were unobtrusive & didn’t take away from the emotion of the story. Leave the big musical numbers to Disney as they know their stuff on that.
Still trying to decide where I’ll place this in my 2022 movie release rankings but it should easily be in the top five. It won’t be an all-time favorite film of mine but it’s certainly one of the better movies released in the past few disappointing years.
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film stars Emilia Jones as the eponymous CODA (child of deaf adults), the only hearing member of a deaf family, who struggles to balance her attempts to help her family’s struggling fishing business and her own life aspirations.
Finally! After a week of watching a bunch of the films with Oscar nominations and getting really annoyed at how boring (Nightmare Alley), irritating & unwatchable (Spencer) most of them are, it was great to see something I thoroughly enjoyed. Why do the Oscars nominate so many films that feel like an absolute chore to watch? I’m surprised this was nominated for Best Picture, actually, as the Academy doesn’t often go for a sweet “feelgood” family film. They like dreary & depressing stuff so often but crowd-pleasing can be worthy too. I’m glad they recognised this one. Not sure of its chances but it would be lovely to see it win.
The performances were all great in this as well. Emilia Jones, Troy Kotsur, Daniel Durant & Marlee Matlin all would have been worthy nominees so it’s a shame it’s not up for more acting awards but I’m glad Kotsur was nominated at least. It’s also up for Best Adapted Screenplay so, again, not sure of its chances of winning Best Picture with only three nominations overall but I think Kotsur has a good chance. I really liked these characters & their strong family bond. Yes, it’s a heartwarming film but it’s not overly sentimental or saccharine. They got the balance right on that, which can be hard to achieve, and the film has some great funny moments too. Kotsur & Matlin were especially fun as horny parents still madly in love with each other. I’ve not seen Emilia Jones & Daniel Durant in anything else but this will hopefully get them more roles as they were both brilliant too. All four of them worked really well together & were believable as a family.
Oh, and I loved the setting too. I swear I want to be able to retire to a small East Coast America fishing village (this is set in Massachusetts). I blame Stephen King for that! I’ve just read too many of his stories set in Maine. And….. I can’t think of anything else to say! When I hate a movie, I can ramble on forever moaning about it. CODA is such a good & enjoyable film and there is absolutely nothing negative I could possibly say about it. It’s also not trying too hard to be something its not, which again is why I’m surprised it’s up for Best Picture. It’s a lovely film and I’m happy I got to watch it. (Thanks to my family gifting me that streaming service for Mother’s Day. They know exactly what kind of gifts I like!). Oh, and they both really enjoyed this movie too. It’s a great family film.
Based on West Side Story by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim & Arthur Laurents
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, Rita Moreno, Rachel Zegler
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) An adaptation of the 1957 musical, West Side Story explores forbidden love and the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs of different ethnic backgrounds.
I thought this film looked gorgeous. Steven Spielberg is a brilliant filmmaker so of course it was going to be good. Was it necessary when we already had a very good film adaptation in 1961 (which I briefly reviewed last month here)? Probably not, but I suppose it brings it to the attention of a whole new generation plus I think it fleshed out the story a tiny bit more. I still prefer the 1961 film as I like Natalie Wood & go for the more classic feel of that one, I guess. But it was never an absolute favorite of mine when it comes to movie musicals & it still wouldn’t make my top ten (but I did give it an honorable mention in this old list I need to update).
The weakest part of the film was unfortunately, for me, the two leads. Ansel Elgort had no charisma. Rachel Zegler was good but also kind of just a pretty face in a role that probably could’ve been filled by plenty of young actresses. That sounded way too negative! She was good. It was just unfortunate that there was zero chemistry whatsoever between her & Elgort. But, hey – I’d probably say all these exact same things about the 1961 film too. Made it harder to buy into this great big romance in both films.
I agree with what seems to be the general consensus that Ariana DeBose as Anita was the best thing about the film. But Rita Moreno as Anita was the best thing about the ’61 film too. Speaking of which, I also liked Moreno’s character in this version & think it worked well having her play that character. It’s fantastic that they got her into this film and, my god, she looks amazing. She’s 90! Can you believe that?! Anyway – Anita was great both times & Ariana DeBose is deserving of her Oscar nomination. I wish the lead characters had as much life in them.
Spielberg’s version of West Side Story is a very good film and I’m happy if it’s made some younger people get into musicals. But I’ll probably still stick with the 1961 film if I feel in the mood for a rewatch at any time. The songs are still the same either way (I think?! I’m no expert on this as I’ve not watched it multiple times like other musicals). But I did enjoy seeing Spielberg’s lovely vision of this.
Starring: John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Michelle Forbes, Rory Culkin, Parker Posey
Cinematography by Elisha Christian
Music by Hammock
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film follows the son of a renowned architecture scholar (John Cho) who gets stranded in Columbus, Indiana and strikes up a friendship with a young architecture enthusiast (Haley Lu Richardson) who works at the local library.
This popped up on Amazon Prime U.K. & I’d never really heard anything about it. I’m so glad I decided to give it a try! I thought it was a beautiful film. I’d have to say it’s probably even my favorite film I’ve seen (for the first time) so far in 2022. And I watched it just after finally seeing Spielberg’s West Side Story. Both are lovely films to look at but this one moved me more.
This is one of those films that people will either love or will find extremely boring. So I’m not recommending this to everyone (Film Miasma – you’ll probably want to avoid this one). 🙂 It’s about a very bright & promising girl (Haley Lu Richardson) with a deep love of architecture who stays in her town of Columbus, Indiana to take care of her mother instead of going to college & pursuing her dreams. She then meets John Cho’s character, who is the son of a famous architect who was due to give a lecture in the town. He doesn’t share his father’s love of architecture but sees how much it means to Richardson’s character and, like everyone else in her life, thinks she needs to move on with her life & make something of all her potential.
I have to say that I have pretty much no interest in architecture whatsoever. Well, that’s maybe not entirely true as I do find the design of some buildings very interesting (and think a lot are ugly, like cities with too many skyscrapers). But I have no knowledge whatsoever about architecture. I do know that Frank Lloyd Wright was from my home state not far from where I grew up & he’s really famous, right? For me, this is one of those films that really conveys someone’s love for something & has you understanding how they feel and, hell, I think I fell in love with architecture a little bit too by the end of the movie. I think her character also gets Cho’s character starting to understand his father a bit better despite not having a great history with him.
I think both Cho & Richardson were very good in this film but Richardson especially shines. I know she’s done plenty of other movies but, based on this role, I’m surprised she hasn’t become bigger in the more “Oscar-friendly” type of roles. Speaking of which, this feels exactly like the type of thing that the Academy normally goes for so I don’t understand how it got no nominations that year? At least for cinematography & directing if nothing else? Really?! Was it just too indie? Maybe I just know nothing about anything and I admit to knowing nothing about filmmaking but this has a real Nomadland (as in, that sort of Oscar nominee) vibe. But I liked this one far more than that one. It looks like it did get plenty of Independent Spirit Award nominations, so that’s good, and lots of others for awards I’ve never heard of (9 wins & 32 nominations). Oh, and Indie Queen Parker Posey is also in this & I liked her character too.
I wanted to do this review as a separate post since there are so many lovely images from this movie that I wanted to include. As far as its look, it reminded me of the beginning of the movie Swallow (although that’s a very different film). Something about the lighting or cinematography or something. I don’t know but that had a lovely house in it with lots of windows & natural light & I just really liked the look of both movies. Also, I didn’t give the music much thought while watching this but later realised the score was quite peaceful & I think helped give this movie, along with the cinematography, a calm sort of vibe that I appreciated. So I looked up who did the score & it was done by Hammock. Here they are on Wikipedia – they’ve done a lot of “Ambient, post-rock, shoegazing” music. Shoegazing?! I’d not heard of that genre before. I had to look it up! Here you go (from Wikipedia again).
Well, I liked this movie a lot but would totally understand if someone didn’t like it. It’s definitely not for everyone but I thought it was a lovely looking film with well written & likeable characters who all worked really well together. Happy I checked it out & am not sure why I’d heard nothing about it at the time.
I did a bunch of “my favorite horror movies” lists in October & one was My Top Ten Pre-1970 Horror Movies. I’d commented that it was shameful I’d seen so few to be able to make that list and had seen none of the classic “monster” movies such as Dracula, etc. So I was very happy when the Horror Channel in the U.K. showed a bunch of them over Halloween weekend. Thanks to the family for letting me watch half of them, too! I haven’t updated that list with these yet as I’m not sure where to place them at this point but figured that I should at least try to write a little something about these classics even though it’s after Halloween…
Directed by Tod Browning
Based on Dracula (novel) by Bram Stoker & Dracula (play) by Hamilton Deane & John L. Balderston
Starring: Bela Lugosi, David Manners, Helen Chandler, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film stars Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, a vampire who emigrates from Transylvania to England and preys upon the blood of living victims, including a young man’s fiancée.
I don’t know where to start with these “reviews” as I’ve not watched enough classic horror to be able to easily discuss them. I’ll say that Dracula was easily my favorite of those I watched Halloween weekend. Bela Lugosi was great as Count Dracula. Loved his look and the mood of the start of the film in his creepy old castle in the fog & full of cobwebs. The whole thing just said traditional “Halloween” to me, so that was great. A proper vampire movie! Also, I noticed it was directed by Tod Browning who did the movie Freaks, which I absolutely adore & think is a fantastic film that was ahead of its time. So I was eager to see another Browning film.
Vampires aren’t usually my favorite when it comes to the typical “Halloween” monsters. As far as these type of movies go, it seems to be the zombie ones I like the most (thanks, George Romero!). So I wasn’t necessarily expecting this to be my favorite (I thought it would be Frankenstein). But Lugosi was so good & I loved seeing all the “vampire rules” played out, which I admittedly know best thanks to The Lost Boys. No “death by stereo” in Dracula, though! Ha!
Am so glad I finally watched this. I want to see all the Hammer Horror now too to compare, especially Dracula! Am guessing that just has more heaving bosoms. They loved heaving bosoms in old English movies. So between this Dracula, Nosferatu & my beloved The Lost Boys, maybe I do love vampires after all. It’s made me want to revisit Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula now as well. Or… maybe even read the book! Maybe. I did read Frankenstein recently. We’ll see!
My Rating: 8/10
Directed by James Whale
Based on Frankenstein (novel) by Mary Shelley & Frankenstein (play) by Peggy Webling & John L. Balderston
Starring: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Boris Karloff, Dwight Frye, Edward van Sloan, Frederick Kerr
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Dr. Frankenstein dares to tamper with life and death by creating a human monster out of lifeless body parts.
Unlike the rest, I do think I at least saw bits of this as a kid. I definitely remember the part with the girl. I forced myself to read this book during lockdown as I must admit I don’t read enough classics. Yes, I stick with Stephen King. I’m old, busy & tired. I’ll watch a serious film as it takes up less of my time but don’t have the energy to read War And Peace or some shit. Give me light entertainment for reading! I admit reading Frankenstein, with its 1818 language, was hard going. But I love the overall story. It’s damn good.
So I was expecting to like this movie the most but I think I ended up a bit disappointed as I didn’t realize how different it was from the book! I have no clue how close Dracula was to Stoker’s novel so that’s probably why I was able to just enjoy that movie as it is. Looks like Frankenstein was also partly based on a play adaptation? I was just kind of sad as I didn’t feel this movie captured the creature’s complex feelings & turned him into more of a monster while the flawed Victor Frankenstein character is hardly explored at all. But, hey – it’s a 1931 film. It’s still a horror classic & gave us the iconic “Frankenstein’s monster” look we now all associate with the character (which is also unlike described in the book). And I’ve now seen Boris Karloff in action as well as Bela Lugosi! It’s about time, I suppose.
My Rating: 7.5/10
The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)
Directed by James Whale
Based on Premise suggested by Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Elsa Lanchester, Ernest Thesiger, E. E. Clive
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Mary Shelley reveals the main characters of her novel survived: Dr. Frankenstein, goaded by an even madder scientist, builds his monster a mate.
This was a bit of an odd one to me but I really liked that, combined with the first movie, we get a little more of the story from the book. Well, a little. We get a bit with the blind guy and I really liked that part of this movie. My favorite part of the book was when “the creature” hid in a family’s cottage for a very long time & sort of became fond of them & learned from them and the blind man in the movie was I guess a nod to that.
I liked that Elsa Lanchester plays Mary Shelley, starting to tell more of her Frankenstein story, as well as The Bride in the title of the film. Didn’t know that, as I knew nothing whatsoever about this film beforehand. Again, it was great seeing The Bride & her also now truly iconic horror look. Love that crazy hairdo!
I also liked a super weird part of this movie in which a mad scientist guy has some tiny people in jars. In looking it up, I found they’re called “homunculi“. Fascinating! Here’s what it says at that Wikipedia link: “A homunculus is a representation of a small human being. Popularized in sixteenth-century alchemy and nineteenth-century fiction, it has historically referred to the creation of a miniature, fully formed human.” So that seemed silly at first but now I kind of love that bit. Fun film and, overall, I like the two of these movies together as one.
My Rating: 7/10
The Wolf Man (1941)
Directed by George Waggner
Starring: Claude Rains, Warren William, Ralph Bellamy, Patric Knowles, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers, Lon Chaney Jr.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Larry Talbot returns to his father’s castle in Wales and meets a beautiful woman. One fateful night, Talbot escorts her to a local carnival where they meet a mysterious gypsy fortune teller.
Enjoyed this one as well, although I don’t really know what to say about this or The Invisible Man as I knew the least about these stories (but of course know the werewolf legend). Well, I know about werewolves thanks to An American Werewolf In London & the beginning of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, of course! Oh, and Teen Wolf. I’m so ’80s! Hey – did you know a guy in Teen Wolf flashes his penis at the end of that movie?
So, anyway – Yeah, I like werewolves almost as much as vampires when it comes to classic Halloween monsters so of course enjoyed this very straightforward werewolf story. Hairy guys are just a little less sexy than those bloodsuckers, I guess. Lon Chaney Jr. stars as the Wolf Man in this (I knew that thanks to Warren Zevon). So I’ve seen another classic monster movie & actor. Feel like I have a tiny bit more movie blog cred now! Wow – this was a pathetic review. Oh! I like the Silver Bullet movie too. God I’m so ’80s…
My Rating: 7/10
The Invisible Man (1933)
Directed by James Whale
Based on The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
Starring: Gloria Stuart, Claude Rains, William Harrigan, Dudley Digges, Una O’Connor, Henry Travers, Forrester Harvey
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A scientist finds a way of becoming invisible, but in doing so, he becomes murderously insane.
I know the least about this story and, no, I’ve not read the H. G. Wells book. In all honesty, I think the 2020 movie was my first real introduction to this character (which I assume is very different from the book!). So I’d feel like an ass saying too much about this movie.
I enjoyed it but liked it a bit less than the more “classic monster” movies I watched Halloween weekend. I loved the special effects, though. I thought they were damn good for 1933! I know jack shit about filmmaking but, with all the stupid CGI these days that rarely moves me, I was more impressed by whatever probably super simple tricks they used in this movie to make this guy’s head, etc, invisible in some scenes. Brilliant! Way cooler than computer magic.
FYI – the star of this one is Claude Rains and, once again, I’m happy to finally see these actors in these iconic roles. And, hey – the old lady from Titanic, Gloria Stuart, is in this. Her heart will go on! God I suck at reviewing old movies. This was good, though. All of these were. I’m glad I finally saw them. Thanks, Horror Channel!
I haven’t finished writing my July Roundup post yet but, again, I’ve ended up writing a bit too much about a movie to include it in the monthly roundup of “brief” reviews. So here’s a review on its own for the best film that I watched in July…
Wings Of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) (1987)
Directed by Wim Wenders
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Peter Falk
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal.
I’d been wanting to see this for years so was sooooo happy when it turned up on Film 4 (it’s still available on the All 4 rewatch thingymabob for a couple more weeks, FYI). Not gonna lie: I saw City Of Angels when it came out & really liked it and its interesting idea involving immortal angels who observe us so have since been curious about the original film. I do wonder how City Of Angels has held up – I should rewatch it. But, wow – they really are very different movies. Wings Of Desire is obviously the superior film, of course, and I liked it a lot. I’ll be honest, though – it’s very “arthouse” so is not one for a mainstream movie audience (which is probably why they made City Of Angels as the story itself is good).
I feel bad with films like these as this obviously deserves a really good write-up but I wouldn’t know what to say about it. There will be great articles out there from proper film scholars & shit. I’m only really qualified to write reviews of things like Road House, etc. “A polar bear fell on me.” Hahaha! I love that movie. No one says that in Wings Of Desire & no one gets their throat ripped out. Well, Patrick Swayze’s character Dalton was all into philosophy and the angels in Wings Of Desire spend the whole movie listening to people’s thoughts on the meaning of their own existence & shit so, hey, maybe Road House Dalton isn’t so different from these angels! Apart from the throat ripping.
Yes, this whole movie involves angels listening to people thinking about the meaning of their own lives. Wings Of Desire is way existential (that’s a Clueless quote, FYI). You know, I use that Clueless quote a lot but I think this is the first time I’ve used it within the correct context! Yay, me! So, if you’re having an existential crisis, this may be the movie for you. Or… maybe you should avoid it if you are?! Hmm. Anyway, there are some great memorable & powerful moments (such as in the image above). And I really liked the main characters: Two angels & a mortal trapeze artist (who one of the angels falls in love with – a trapeze artist is more fun than Meg Ryan as a doctor) plus Peter Falk as a movie director/star was fantastic. Didn’t know he was in this! “As you wish“!
Before I finish I really need to mention another brilliant movie, A Matter Of Life And Death, as these two films have so much in common. I think it’s fairly well known in the U.K. but not outside the U.K. for some reason. I take every possible opportunity to recommend it because it’s a fantastic film. My short review is in the above link & here’s the IMDb synopsis if you’re curious: “A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.” Both films also make use of something I really loved visually but don’t want to give it away if you know nothing about either of them (although if you go looking them up online you’ll see what I mean). But if they sound like your type of thing, I’d suggest going into them knowing as little as possible. I’d definitely recommend both of these films but I do prefer A Matter Of Life And Death overall & it’s the one I would suggest watching first of the two. The two together would make for an amazing double feature! Good stuff.
Starring: Katherine Langford, Charlie Plummer, Hayley Law, Piper Perabo, Rob Huebel, Yvonne Orji
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb): Get ready for the outrageous coming-of-age love story about growing up…and blowing up. When students in their school begin exploding (literally), seniors Mara and Dylan struggle to survive in a world where each moment may be their last.
I really wasn’t expecting to like this movie so much. First of all, I assume this is a YA book? Though I’m not sure as I’ve not read it & know nothing whatsoever about it. I hate to use that Young Adult label as it gets a negative response these days and I thought this was a really good film. This movie gave me a Heathers vibe (come to think of it, I suppose Heathers would be what’s considered YA these days too). And Heathersrules but I really thought that sort of dark humor wouldn’t be allowed anymore. As a big fan of dark humor & a full-on “I trust no one” & “Just leave me the f*^k alone” Gen-Xer, this movie spoke to my teenage self & I’m curious what current teens think of it. If they can find a way to watch it… (It’s rated R in America & 15 in the U.K.). It’s very dark so is certainly only for the late teens into twenties sort of age. It’s extremely bloody, too (though not what I’d call “gory”). Hard to avoid it being bloody since it’s about a class of high school seniors who suddenly start randomly blowing up.
The main girl is Mara, played by Katherine Langford. She’s fantastic & cool as shit. Yeah, she’s kind of the Winona Ryder Veronica in Heathers. I think that if you go for her character, you’ll like this movie. She’s very funny with a very morbid sense of humor. But she’s also not necessarily a very nice or likeable person. I could really relate to her character as she very much has the attitude that I had in my late teens. She manages to be cool and say the perfect bitchy things that I think lot of us wish we could’ve said in high school if we weren’t all so scared of what people would think of us. So she’s kind of that ideal “cool teen” most of us were too scared to be.
After the first exploding teen, a boy named Dylan (played by Charlie Plummer) gets up the nerve to let Mara know that he has a crush on her. He’s most definitely not Christian Slater’s J.D. from Heathers: Dylan is sweet & nerdy and instantly lovable. He also has a quirky sense of humor that goes really well with Mara’s and they end up being one of those movie couples who just work perfectly together. Oh, and he’s a movie nerd & the two of them quote cool movies so obviously that made me like them & root for them even more. These two are really great in this. I know Langford has been in a few things I’ve seen but I’d not really noticed her before & Plummer was in a movie I hated and I didn’t notice him at all. In this, however, they’re fantastic. I’d be a fan of them both right now if I was a teen. Also liked Mara’s best friend, played by Hayley Law. They had a cool friendship (the sort I always wanted in school but girls never liked me).
Besides all the exploding teens & great dark humor, this movie does have a serious sort of undercurrent running through it. I very much disagree with the fairly low rating on IMDb. I’ve only had a brief glance at what people are saying but can’t exactly figure out what the haters don’t like about this movie. Maybe they wanted a straightforward horror comedy? That’s not quite what this is (although it is funny and also horrific). The simple thing would be to say that this movie is a coming of age film and an allegory for their fear and uncertainty at finishing high school and becoming adults. I think it’s way more than that, though. I feel very sorry for teens these days as they’re living in extremely difficult times. I can’t imagine the constant fear of possibly being shot every damn time they go to school (talking about American teens in this case, which is where the movie is based). What kind of life is that? And now they’ve had to deal with Covid too. And I won’t even go into all the other shit as I try to avoid anything political but, man, the the last four years have been a total clusterfuck. Add the social media nightmare into the mix, something Gen X didn’t have to worry about at all, and I honestly don’t know how current teenagers are able to get out of bed each day. I can barely handle any of this shit as an adult (but I’ve never been good at being one of those).
So, yeah – I imagine that being a modern teen must feel like living with the fear that you could spontaneously combust at any moment. I think the movie is telling us that without actually telling us that. Besides having one very obvious message to live each day to the fullest as you never know what might happen, it doesn’t have any other specific messages it’s trying to force on us. The movie is thankfully not at all preachy (which I hate). It doesn’t offer any obvious answers or explanations but I like it being ambiguous as I think the film could mean different things to different people. I think anyone struggling with the many issues related to being a teen nowadays would be able to identify with these characters and their feelings.
Well, I honestly kind of loved this movie. It’s darkly funny and deeply sad and I love that different people will get different meanings from it. The “live life to the fullest” message is maybe a tiny bit simplistic for such dark film but, hell, it’s the exact same message Ferris Bueller gave those of us in Generation X. It may be over 30 years since the John Hughes days but it was hard being a teenager then and it’s sure as shit hard now. I truly am sorry that society has failed to protect these kids & teenagers.
My Rating: 8/10
**Just a note to say that I watched waaaay too many movies in April so I’m going to be very late posting my April roundup as it’ll take forever to write. But a few of the April roundup reviews, like this one, ended up being so long that I decided to post them separately. It also helps that I really enjoyed each of these. I also fully reviewed Promising Young Woman, Swallow & Bloodsport (yes, the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie). Oh, and Sound Of Metal & My Octopus Teacher for the Oscars.
Starring: Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche, Denis O’Hare
Plot Synopsis (via IMDb): Hunter, a newly pregnant housewife, finds herself increasingly compelled to consume dangerous objects. As her husband and his family tighten their control over her life, she must confront the dark secret behind her new obsession.
I’d been wanting to see this for ages as it looked like the weird kind of shit I like. Sounded like the kind of story David Cronenberg would do (but don’t get the wrong idea – this is nothing like a Cronenberg film!). I liked this one a lot (I’d say it’s one of my favorites I’ve watched so far this year, actually).
Swallow certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, though – I just like an unusual story. What also made me very happy is that this film is beautiful. She lives in this absolutely gorgeous house with an amazing view and wears ridiculously lovely dresses while vacuuming her gorgeous home in high heels like a good old-fashioned housewife, and the cinematography (I guess?) showcases all of this beautifully. I know nothing whatsoever about filmmaking & what makes this movie pretty. Cinematography? Art direction? I don’t know. I just know that I liked the look of it & I’m very into a film’s visuals (it’s why I like Argento & Leone movies). Promising Young Woman also had a good “look” that I liked. Swallow is a lovely looking film, so I’ve added quite a few images from it to give you an idea.
Besides looking so good, I was very surprised to find that this was a great character study. I thought Haley Bennett, as Hunter, was perfect. I think some people may have had the wrong idea before seeing this film, which is probably why its IMDb rating is unfairly low. Even I had wondered if it would somewhat be a “horror” (as I said, I had Cronenberg vibes from the synopsis). It’s also rated 18 (R in the US) but that must only be because the subject matter is so disturbing. Understandable, as it’s a scary but also very real disorder (called pica) and is a movie that shouldn’t be seen by anyone young as they’d not understand it.
Whether the movie does a good job exploring this real disorder I can’t say. I know nothing about it but am sure it has been studied by plenty of experts. But, as a film with a fictional character, I thought it did a great job showing someone with a mental illness & how those in her life didn’t support her. You could feel how alone Hunter felt despite having this seemingly perfect life. Without support & love from those in her life, her condition spirals out of control. I wanted to smack her damn husband & say “Be there for your wife, you superficial asshole!“.
Well, this was meant to be in my “monthly roundup” post next week. As it’s ended up a fairly long write-up, I’m posting it as a separate review. I don’t do that much lately due to not having the time but do wish I could do more posts dedicated to just one film when I really like one. I thought this was a very good film with odd & disturbing subject matter & a strong performance from Bennett. It’s one I’d be scared to actually recommend to anyone, though. Definitely not one for everyone & you’d have to be sure you’d be okay watching the character doing this dangerous thing to herself. It could be a very upsetting movie for some people due to a few uncomfortable subjects in it. As a film lover, I’m happy to see such a well made film. The director hasn’t made many films yet & I’d be interested in seeing more of his work now.
My Rating: 8/10
*Just like with Promising Young Woman, I’m teetering on the edge of giving this 8/10! I think I’m not as generous with my ratings now as I’ve rated stuff too highly in the past. I may still make this an 8…
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path.
I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this film before seeing it. Movies are difficult nowadays. Many films have had strong beliefs throughout the years but I feel those from the past ten years or so (and especially in the past five years) present those beliefs in a very different way. I’ve never been against movies with strong or controversial opinions, even if I don’t agree with them. I’m just very against how forced this feels in so many films now. An important and worthy topic doesn’t automatically make a film “good”. I still want a good script, good characters, a gorgeous score & cinematography, and all that other good shit that makes the very best movies true works of art. It’s great if a film has all of that good shit and also manages to have a really good message. I admit that with Oscar nominees these days I always wonder if I’m going to see a strong message with a mediocre film written around it or a good film that also happens to have a strong message that works well within that film.
I did a horrible job explaining that. What I’m saying is that I wondered if Promising Young Woman would be a full-on “all men are evil and must die” movie. Hey, I’m a woman – I’m not gonna pretend I don’t like a good revenge film. Of course I feel strongly about this topic. I’ve always been uncomfortable with “rape revenge” films, though. Although I try to watch most every type of movie that I possibly can to have a fully informed opinion, this is one subgenre I haven’t explored much. I’m not going to look into it, either, as it’s something I don’t want to go searching for but I do wonder how many of these films were made by women? I admit that I probably watched the worst possible example of this subgenre (the 1978 I Spit On Your Grave), so I didn’t want some gory “kill all the men” bloodbath. Exploitation flicks have their place, I guess, but they’ve been done. And I especially didn’t want an extremely exploitative rape scene as in that film. Women don’t want to see that. Those films are made for the excuse to have a graphic rape scene. No thanks. It’s possible to empathise with the victim & want her to get revenge without seeing in graphic detail what happens to her.
Okay, I don’t want to say the word rape anymore. I hate it. Just trying to explain that I wasn’t sure what this movie was going to be. I liked Promising Young Woman a lot. I may have even kind of loved it a little. I’m still not completely sure of the rating I want to give it, though. I feel it’s one of those that I need to think about for a while before I know how I really feel as I can see my opinion of this either going up a lot or possibly going down ever so slightly. I’m really not sure! I felt this way about Mandy… I knew I liked it a lot after seeing it. But after a few months or so of thinking about it, I realised I loved that crazy ass movie & that it’s easily an absolute favorite from recent years. Anyone else ever feel that way about a movie?? I think it’s because I love a divisive film. They excite me. I see too many bland & totally forgettable movies. I’d rather see a slightly “bad” film that’s maybe a bit weird or has a very memorable scene or two than the hundreds of truly boring duds I’ve seen since starting this blog. (Not that Mandy or Promising Young Woman are bad – I think they’re both very good films that are just unconventional)
Carey Mulligan is great in this. We’re all so used to seeing her in “worthy” Suffragette type roles (although I did like that film). But it was fun seeing her like this & I liked her a lot. Although I don’t know if I exactly liked her character. And that’s what I liked! How many times can I say “like”?! I thought this movie did well with the balance I thought it wouldn’t get right. No, it doesn’t portray men in a great light. But it also didn’t have an “all men are bad & all women are good” message. I hate movies like that (unless you’re talking fun sci-fi or fantasy films – I do want straightforward good vs evil in something like Star Wars). But this movie is dealing with a serious real life issue & real life isn’t so black & white. Mulligan’s character is flawed & damaged. You feel for her and you’re on her side but you also don’t always necessarily agree with her & all her methods. You know what else was good? She wasn’t just some kick-ass bitch. I mean, I love a kick-ass bitch! Ellen Ripley rules. But we already have some great female characters like that to look up to so I liked seeing someone more real in this. It’s more relatable. And even when you think she may take some things a little too far, it’s helped by the fact that she’s avenging her best friend. Also, I loved how she fucked with peoples’ minds. That was great & more fun than some super violent revenge porn.
Mulligan is definitely the best thing about this but I also enjoyed the characters played by Bo Burnham & Laverne Cox and their relationships with Mulligan’s character. Clancy Brown & Jennifer Coolidge were also good as her frustrated parents. I was expecting more dark comedy than we got in this, though. I’d have liked much more of that as what we did get worked pretty well. I’d heard beforehand that this movie is sort of a mix of genres and I loved that (as I said, I like unconventional & unpredictable). It was probably hard to classify this film but I’m not sure if I’d agree with those who have included “comedy” in its description. I think some people were probably expecting something very different and can see some really hating this movie but I was pleasantly surprised with how the story played out & loved that it wasn’t at all predictable. I SO wish I hadn’t had the ending spoiled for me on Twitter. Oh, and I liked her colorful fingernails! I liked the use of girly colors in this film (it reminded me of the end of Waitress, a movie I absolutely love).
Well, I’ve rambled on long enough. I know I must have found this film interesting as I haven’t done one of these long rambling “reviews” where I try to sort out my thoughts on a film in a long time. I think the only long reviews I did in recent years were for Mandy, Midsommar & Deep Red. I really liked this film. I’m still thinking about it three days later, especially its unexpected ending. I keep going back & forth on what I want to rate it. 8 & up means I really loved a movie and/or I thought it was a really good film. Is Promising Young Woman worthy of being a Best Picture Oscar nominee? These days it is. It’s certainly my favorite of those nominees I’ve seen so far. But it wouldn’t have been nominated years ago. I’m curious what I’ll think of this one 20 years from now. I look back at some nominees & think “How the hell did that get nominated?”. Will I think that about this? I don’t think so. I’m glad something a little bit unusual & a film that I actually *wanted* to watch is nominated.
My Rating: 8/10
*I may edit this post later & give it 8/10. I don’t know!
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Chang Hyae-jin
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Parasite stars Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, and Park So-dam, and follows the members of a poor household who scheme to become employed by a wealthy family by infiltrating the household and posing as unrelated, highly qualified individuals.
After a year of hearing everyone raving over this on Twitter, the UK is FINALLY getting the chance to see it today. I was beyond excited & extremely happy to see it two weeks early with my cinema membership. It’s a very good film. But is it a masterpiece as so many are claiming? I hate how any halfway decent current film gets declared a damn masterpiece. Let a movie age a bit! See if it stands the test of time. Will Parasite be a “masterpiece” 20 years from now? I’m not sure about that but I think it’ll always be a well respected film. I expected this to be my favorite Best Picture Oscar nominee as I love foreign films. It might be my favorite but in some ways I think Joker is a better film despite people whining about it (although Parasite is far more “me” than a Scorsese-wannabe comic book movie). Okay, yes – Parasite is probably my favorite Best Picture nominee this year… I admit it’s grown on me over the past two weeks.
Despite the hype, I didn’t go into a Parasite with really high expectations as I’ve not loved any of Bong Joon-ho’s work that I’ve seen. Although the concept for Snowpiercer was amazing, the film was a bit of a mess. Okja was mostly just annoying as, with Snowpiercer as well, the characters were so unpleasant & ridiculous (especially Swinton & Gyllenhaal). I think I may have actually enjoyed his film The Host the most as I like a decent monster movie & the young girl in it was really good (and one of the only Bong Joon-ho characters to not be hateful in some way). However, as much as I hate hateful characters (which is why I suppose I haven’t gotten on with his work), they work perfectly for Parasite. I mean, it’s a social satire & the whole point of the film. Actually, these are probably his least hateful movie characters as the bad in each of them is far more subtle & none of them are the ridiculous Swinton-type caricatures. Everyone is flawed in some way, making them feel more real (we’re all flawed). You feel both sympathy & repulsion for every character at various points in the film.
I do think Parasite is a clever film with far deeper characters than we’ve had in Bong Joon-ho’s other work (that I’ve seen) & I understand some of the hype. It’s certainly his best film & I did enjoy the strange mix of genres, especially the dark humor. I was just hoping I might love Parasite. It’s been a while since I’ve watched a new movie that I know will be an all-time favorite of mine. Parasite is a very good film but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. I respect it. It’s well-written, it looks fantastic (it’s too bad I’m doing a short review so don’t have many images from the film as there are some great shots), and the acting is very good. But there are loads of foreign films I’ve thought were much better that didn’t get this same level of acclaim. Still, I’m happy to see a foreign film getting so much attention & hope that maybe it will open more people up to the idea of checking out some non-English language movies.
I’m taking part in the Luso World Cinema Blogathon hosted by Crítica Retrô and Spellbound By Movies. You can read all about the blogathon HERE & HERE. Thanks for letting me participate! I look forward to reading all the entries. 🙂
My entry is a review of the 2002 Portuguese language film City Of God, which was nominated for four Oscars and is currently ranked 22nd in the IMDb Top 250. I originally watched & reviewed this as part of my IMDb Top 250 Project and as a Resolutions 2014 film as I’d been meaning to make the time to watch it. I admit that my knowledge is very limited when it comes to Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking countries) films. So I’m very interested in reading the other entries as I do try to explore all types of cinema. But, yeah – I had to use the Keanu Reeves banner. Who doesn’t love Keanu!!
Here’s my uneducated review of City Of God. I’m sure I don’t do it justice but it is a really good film.
City Of God (2002) Portuguese: Cidade de Deus
Directed by Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund (co-director)
Based on City of God by Paulo Lins
Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Alice Braga, Jonathan Haagensen, Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) City of God (Portuguese: Cidade de Deus) is a 2002 Brazilian crime drama film adapted by Bráulio Mantovani from the 1997 novel of the same name written by Paulo Lins, but the plot is loosely based on real events. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1980s, with the closure of the film depicting the war between the drug dealer Li’l Zé and criminal Knockout Ned. The tagline is “If you run, the beast catches; if you stay, the beast eats”, (a proverb analogous to the English “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”).
I’d been curious about this movie for a long time as it’s SO high in the IMDB Top 250 films of all-time (it’s currently number 22). I’ve been working my way through the 250 since starting my blog as I have a challenge to try to watch them all and this was the second highest ranking film I’d not yet seen.
It’s good, yes. I liked it. Does it deserve to be above things like Once Upon A Time In The West & It’s A Wonderful Life? I’m not sure about that. It’s definitely a fascinating look at a lifestyle that I (luckily) can’t really relate to as someone from a very small town in the American Midwest. I know this is “loosely based on real events” but haven’t looked into it enough to know what is fact and what isn’t. Either way, it’s awful knowing that people have had to live this way and terrifying to see the ease with which some of the characters in this engage in violent activity and don’t think twice about taking someone’s life.
I will say that I can partly see why this film is so popular, even though it’s not really my kind of thing. There are some great characters in this. The lead & narrator, Rocket (above), is the one truly “good guy” in a film filled with people who seem to have no conscience and you really do want the best for him. His friend Benny is very cool – he’s the guy everyone likes and he helps to keep the peace a bit between the two main rival gangs who are controlling the area. I love that this takes place during the late 60s into the early 80s & Benny adopts a groovy 70’s look. Then there’s Knockout Ned, a great character I’d love to have seen be a bit further developed (although he’s more well-developed than most of the characters in this) and the truly amoral Li’l Zé, who is the most powerful criminal in the area.
What’s amazing is I read that only one person in this was a professional experienced actor and the majority were people from “favelas” (shanty towns) and some from the actual City Of God who were chosen and then trained in acting as the director wanted the film to feel authentic. I’ll say that it definitely worked and the “actors” in this did an excellent job. I felt bad after giving Slumdog Millionaire a horrible review & then finding out some of those in it were from real-life slums (turns out it was the kids, who were the only good thing about that film anyway). Fortunately, City Of God is a much better film than Slumdog Millionaire and feels very real whereas Millionaire felt like it was trying too hard and just felt phoney to me (sorry, fans!).
I’ve just scratched the surface on the characters as there are LOTS of them in this film but those are some of the main ones & the most memorable. But as there are so many, we unfortunately don’t get as much character development as I’d like to have had. Why do they do the things that they do? I suppose it’s because they don’t have much other choice. But then why does Rocket manage to remain a “good guy”? We’re given a reason for Knockout Ned making the choices he makes but not really for why Li’l Zé is so evil. But, as I’ve said, it really isn’t a lifestyle I have any sort of experience with so I can’t comment on it too much. This is sort of the Boyz N The Hood of Rio de Janeiro. I think that’s a great film as well but, again, I couldn’t fully relate to it. But both films are certainly worth a watch to gain at least a small understanding of what it’s like for those who have no choice but to live a life surrounded by poverty and/or violence and to be grateful for the lives so many of us are fortunate to have outside of that.
Was City Of God a worthy watch? Yes – I’m glad I finally watched it. It won’t become an all-time favorite of mine like some of the IMDB Top 250 films I’ve watched in the last few years already have but I’d recommend it to anyone who thinks that it sounds like their sort of film. The performances are very good & the movie isn’t preachy – it just shows us the poor & violent lives led by those living in & around the City Of God from the late 60s to the early 80s.
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Years following the events of “The Shining,” a now-adult Dan Torrance meets a young girl with similar powers as his and tries to protect her from a cult known as The True Knot who prey on children with powers to remain immortal.
I watched Doctor Sleep today and don’t have a lot of time so I’ll keep this very brief. I wanted to quickly write something about it, though, since it makes sense to review it on Halloween. I adore Stephen King and try to read or watch at least one thing of his each October. I love that there’s SO much King content lately (Well, I didn’t love In The Tall Grass. Ugh.) You can find my very short reviews for the Doctor Sleep novel as well as the In The Tall Grass short story HERE.
I’m a huge fan of The Shining. And by that, I mean the Stanley Kubrick film that Stephen King hates. I of course love the novel as well but, as I saw The Shining at a fairly young age, it’s one of very few King adaptations I saw before reading the book. I hate doing it that way around but it can sometimes make you slightly prefer the movie as it’s the version you knew first. I love both the book and the movie but The Shining is a brilliant piece of filmmaking and will forever be one of my all-time favorite films. So I actually had the film version in my head more than the novel as I watched this sequel.
Doctor Sleep is good. From what I remember of the book at this point, it’s a faithful adaptation. Flanagan, who I’m starting to really like and whose adaptation of Gerald’s Game I thoroughly enjoyed, does a good job of keeping the fans of the novels as well as fans of Kubrick’s film happy. It’s no masterpiece, though. I do think it’s been hyped up too much by horror fans.
As for the story itself, I liked it but didn’t love it but I already knew that going into the movie. I far prefer the simplicity of the story in The Shining. I’m someone who does love the supernatural more than any other type of horror but the whole thing with The True Knot was always a bit too far out and silly for me, even for a Stephen King story. The Shining is far more scary as it feels somewhat more plausible and also leaves more to your imagination. Not only is it one of the best psychological horrors with a truly terrifying descent into madness, it’s also a damn good and thoroughly creepy ghost story. We don’t get many good ghost stories. Comparing just the films themselves, Doctor Sleep has none of the special atmosphere of The Shining. I’m not someone who is ever scared by movies but The Shining comes closer than most to being truly scary thanks to its tone and its score and its carpet and I suppose the fact that it was made by such a gifted director. The Shining is a work of art whereas Doctor Sleep is just a good horror movie.
Okay – I’m not sure if I’m making sense since I’ve only just seen this and I’m trying to post a quick review before Halloween is over. I enjoyed Doctor Sleep but it had a hell of a lot to live up to. To be fair, the novel itself didn’t live up to the first book either. I’m glad the movie stayed faithful to the book but am not sure yet how I feel about bits of Stanley Kubrick’s film being recreated. At first I felt a little warm & fuzzy about it but then I kind of maybe didn’t like it so much. Kubrick’s film is beautiful & so iconic. I’m not sure I wanted to ever see it with lookalikes??
Ewan McGregor is fine as Dan Torrance and Kyliegh Curran is likeable as Abra. Their friendship is great but I didn’t really feel a strong connection between them. The true star of this film is actually Rebecca Ferguson as Rose The Hat. She’s awesome! She’s a horrible, evil bitch. Is it weird that I think I have a slight girl crush on her? She’s scary & sexy and one of the best villains we’ve had in horror in quite a while. So, I did enjoy her performance and I did like seeing the story unfold. I watch all Stephen King adaptations and always enjoy them, even when they aren’t so good (which unfortunately has been quite often). I’m happy to say that Doctor Sleep is definitely one of the better adaptations. However, it’s never going to be an all-time favorite of mine the way The Shining, Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption are. I liked this film but I was hoping to love it. I actually think that It Chapter One was a better King adaptation from recent years. Oh well – at least Doctor Sleep did turn out better than It Chapter Two.
My Rating: 8/10
**I haven’t yet added Doctor Sleep to My Stephen King Movie Rankings. I have to give it a bit more time to sink in before I decide where to put it. I’m thinking it’s probably around 9 or 10. I was really hoping it would be higher…
Deep Red (1975) Italian: Profondo Rosso (aka The Hatchet Murders)
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring: David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Macha Meril, Eros Pagni,Giuliana Calandra
Music by Goblin & Giorgio Gaslini
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Deep Red stars Macha Meril as a medium and David Hemmings as a pianist who investigates a series of murders performed by a mysterious figure wearing black leather gloves.
Happy Halloween! I thought I better finally review one of my Blind Spot choices this year so it seemed like the perfect time for Dario Argento’s Deep Red. I do try to explore a little bit of most every genre of film but my knowledge of the Italian Giallo horror thing is severely lacking. This is my third Giallo horror and I’ve only seen Argento’s movies so far; Suspiria, which I saw years ago and should really watch again, and Phenomena as a Blind Spot a few years ago. While I still think Suspiria is the best mainly due to being so iconic (and having that amazing Goblin score), Deep Red may actually be the more “enjoyable” and certainly the more accessible film. If someone was entirely new to this genre and wanted a good film to start with, I’d probably recommend this before Suspiria just because it’s a much more straightforward murder mystery and far less strange. Both are absolute must sees for film fans, though – Deep Red is just an easier starting point.
I’ll start with the obvious things that made this such an enjoyable watch for me personally: The look & the imagery, the atmosphere, and the score. These are extremely important elements to me when it comes to all films but especially for horror. I admit that I’m old but there’s just something special about the look & feel of Seventies & early Eighties horror movies that very few modern horrors manage to achieve. We do occasionally get some good ones now but it’s interesting how often they try to copy the look of old films. It never quite works, though. I appreciate things like The House Of The Devil trying to look like a Seventies or Eighties film but no modern movies ever manage to fully capture that mood and it always just feels like modern actors playing dress up (true for non-horrors too, such as American Hustle). Deep Red has a brilliant Seventies vibe. The clothing! The awful hair! The ugly decor! A stunning & creepy old abandoned mansion! Then we also get some amazing imagery, some of which I’ve posted but others that I can’t due to spoilers. We get a couple of creepy dolls (I love creepy dolls!), lots of that super bright red blood they seemed to use in Italian horror, a big sharp knife in a famous spoiler image, funky artwork on the walls, and closeups of the killer’s eye and the killer’s strange trinkets.
The imagery is fantastic but the score is just as important for setting the mood in this sort of film. I don’t know why modern movies so often seem to care so little about the score. A great score can turn a movie I like into a movie I love. Hell, I know I rated The Good, The Bad And The Uglymuch more highly than I would’ve without Ennio Morricone’s masterpiece score (Italians do it better! Wasn’t that on a Madonna t-shirt?!). Goblin did the Deep Red score and I already love it along with the soundtracks for Suspiria and Dawn Of The Dead (1978), an all-time favorite film of mine. Many of my favorite films also have brilliant scores so I do think the music is important. I’ve added a clip of this Goblin score at the end of this post. Goblin feature heavily on my phone’s playlist. I know the scores to these Argento movies better than I know the movies themselves. I now want to watch every single movie that has a Goblin score (but I think a lot of them are very obscure and I’m sure the music is much better than the films).
Atmosphere & music aside, Deep Red also has a decent murder mystery as well as some good characters. David Hemmings is good and I enjoyed watching him investigate these murders, especially when he explores a lovely old mansion as the main Goblin theme below plays. Daria Nicolodi is great as the female reporter who joins Hemmings in his investigations. The two had really good chemistry and I liked her sassy attitude. She added a bit of humor to the movie, which I wasn’t expecting in a Dario Argento horror. So, while I personally always prefer the supernatural and things like witches in Suspiria to murder mysteries, I can see plenty of people actually preferring Deep Red. I’m not sure why it doesn’t seem as popular or quite as well known as Suspiria? I think Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso) is a brilliant horror classic and I’d recommend it to anyone curious about this genre. I’m glad I finally watched it as I’ve seen way too many bad horrors in 2019. Deep Red is by far my favorite of those I’ve watched in the past year.
My Rating: 8/10
Here’s part of the fantastic Goblin score. Love it. I wish movie scores were still as brilliant as they were in the Seventies & Eighties…
**As this posts, I’ll be watching Doctor Sleep. I’ll try to do at least a quick review by the end of today, although I may not have time. I love Stephen King and have very high hopes based on the trailer…
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin
Music by Alan Silvestri
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War (2018), the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.
22 movies! I can’t believe I’ve seen all of these. It’s certainly the most films I’ve ever watched in a series. I thoroughly enjoyed each & every one of these MCU films (certainly much more than the dreary DC movies, although they’ve gotten better in the past few years). However, I’m not a huge comic book/superhero movie fan so I won’t pretend that these movies mean as much to me as they do to the hardcore fans. I see them as escapist entertainment. They’re fun popcorn movies. But I can absolutely understand the love for the MCU and think they did a brilliant job setting up so many strong, likeable, and well-developed characters. The films are good (and several are very good) but the characters are great. I can see how fans will feel as strongly about these characters as I do about the characters in Star Wars. They feel like family in a weird sort of way. And Avengers: Endgame provided a fitting end(?) to just over a decade of watching these beloved characters grow & come together as a team.
Avengers: Endgame isn’t a perfect film, though, and I can’t even say it’s going to be an absolute favorite MCU movie for me personally. I do think it’s one that may go up in my estimation over time and it in no way hurts the overall legacy but my initial reaction is that I far preferred Infinity War. That ending had balls. To be honest, I kind of wanted that to be the actual end to the whole MCU (that would be a bit dark, I suppose – this isn’t DC!). But Endgame certainly will have been an emotional rollercoaster for diehard fans so I can appreciate that it will be higher on their lists. I expect to feel the same sort of emotions when watching The Rise Of Skywalker.
I just felt that Endgame took the easy way out with some of its characters. I’m obviously trying to avoid spoilers so I’ll just say that, if this is indeed the last time we’re going to see some of these characters, a few had very satisfying “endings” but I was disappointed with the direction they took for a couple of them. Overall, the movie was more predictable than I was hoping. I wanted more surprises but only got a few small ones. I even managed to successfully avoid ALL spoilers for two entire days so was disappointed to get so few surprises.
I’ll keep this short so I don’t accidentally spoil anything. I struggle with reviews for these films as I do feel like they’re the same formula over & over again and Endgame really isn’t any different from what we’ve seen before besides obviously needing & having a darker tone. Luckily, there are still a few funny moments too. The reason I far prefer Marvel to DC is because they get the right amount of genuinely funny humor mixed in with even the most serious films in the series. I’ve ranked all 22 MCU movies HERE, including Endgame. Maybe Endgame will move up in the future but, from my list, it’ll be clear that I prefer the lighthearted & funny superheroes. It’s Guardians Of The Galaxy for me. And, as Thor is my favorite character overall, I think the best decision Marvel made was to make his originally boring (but hot) character funny. Hemsworth is hilarious. I know that not all will agree with the “funny superhero” thing but I absolutely loved the comic relief provided by Thor & Ant-Man in Endgame. It was needed so that it didn’t turn into DC dreariness. But, as I said, I love that Marvel gets the right balance and the serious nature of this storyline was handled very well. To have such a strong mix of characters with very different personalities is what makes the MCU so enjoyable. There’s something for everyone across these 22 films. To make these many films in just over a decade and to bring all these characters together is a hell of a feat. This may not be my favorite Marvel film but I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Based on A Star Is Born by William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker & Alan Campbell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle, Sam Elliott
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) A Star Is Born follows a hard-drinking musician (Cooper) who discovers and falls in love with a young singer (Gaga).
I’m way behind on reviewing 2018 movie releases I’ve seen (I have 9 more to go!). So I’ll post a bunch of quickies this week, starting with this one since you know it’ll be up for shitloads of Oscars. Is it Oscar-worthy? I’d say that the performances definitely are although the story itself is one we’ve seen loads of times. The characters are very strong in this film, though, which kept me fully interested for its 2 hour 16 minute running time despite the fact that dreary dramas aren’t at all my type of thing.
It was good seeing this after watching Bette Midler in The Rose a few months ago. Milder was great but that movie seems to have been forgotten even though she was nominated for an Oscar. It’s a similar story of a rock star in a downward spiral and also well worth a watch if A Star Is Born is your type of thing. As I said, though, this story has been done many times so it was important to get the characters right. I was surprised at how “real” Cooper & Gaga felt, especially when it came to their relationship and how they felt about each other. I’m not at all a fan of either of them, which is why I didn’t rush out to see this one. But by the end, I just wanted them to live happily ever after and make great music together (their characters, not them – Lady Gaga isn’t my type of music). And… Sam Elliott!!! Loved him as Cooper’s brother. Who doesn’t love that stud? I’ll forever love him thanks to Mask & Road House. The most surprising thing, though, was seeing Andrew Dice Clay’s name in the credits at the end and actually having to Google him to see who the hell he played. Her father?! That was a big role! That was him? He was… good. Huh.
Is this film good enough to possibly win Best Picture? It’s certainly not up there with some of the absolute Oscar classics but at least it’s not one I’d be annoyed to see win. At the very least, it does deserve Oscars in the acting categories. What it doesn’t deserve is some of the weird backlash it’s had. I had to read these words (which annoy the fuck out of me) too many times when seeing people discuss this movie on Twitter: “toxic masculinity“. Seriously? Fuck off with that phrase. Cooper is great in this film and his character is broken and he needs help. I didn’t find anything at all toxic about him or their relationship. They both fully supported each other’s careers (he only criticized hers a little when he felt she wasn’t being true to herself anymore). They never stopped loving each other despite their problems. How was he toxic? Had their characters’ roles been reversed, no one would be calling Gaga’s character “toxic”. No one called Midler “toxic” in The Rose. Sorry for the rant – I just get sick of self-righteous bullshit phrases being thrown around online these days. Guess I’m just old since I found this to be a strong love story and pretty damn heartbreaking. And it’s so not my usual type of film.
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Ned Dennehy, Olwen Fouéré, Richard Brake, Bill Duke
Music by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) The enchanted lives of a couple in a secluded forest are brutally shattered by a nightmarish hippie cult and their demon-biker henchmen, propelling a man into a spiraling, surreal rampage of vengeance.
I don’t know how to go about reviewing this film. Mandy isn’t even the weirdest film I’ve seen: I watch loads of weird shit so this was actually fairly tame. But I can usually think of other movies to compare a film to so that I can give you a better idea of what sort of thing to expect if you watch it. I don’t know what can be compared to this one. Maybe some Lars von Trier (mostly Melancholia)? I definitely thought of Heavy Metal & Hellraiser a few times. I didn’t get a David Lynch vibe from this – Mandy is weird in a completely different sort of way (Mandy is more my type of weird than Lynch’s work). Maybe a bit of Under The Skin style-wise? Maybe. Not really. I don’t know. Mandy isn’t much like anything I’ve seen before. And I love that! As I watch so many films, I’m always searching for something that feels a little bit different. Mandy certainly satisfied that need.
But did I like it? I definitely enjoyed watching it and it was probably worth the extremely expensive trip into London to see it. Yes, I liked it. I didn’t love it – I just appreciated seeing something so memorable. I can’t imagine watching it again but, with something like this, I don’t feel the need to as I’ll never forget it. That’s also important to me as I watch so many films that end up being truly forgettable. There are movies I saw a year ago that I hardly remember a thing about now. What’s the point of that?? I feel like I waste too much time on movies but that’s because I’m always searching for something feels like a work of art. I’m happy to say that, although I’m still trying to fully sort out my feelings on it, Mandy was worth my time. I expect it to make it into my Top Ten at the end of this year but it’s very hard to know where to place it at the moment.
Let’s start with what I liked the most: My favorite thing was probably Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score. What a terrible loss to the world of filmmaking. Mandy is dedicated to him – it’s one of the last films he scored before his death. He’s most known for his work on several of the brilliant Denis Villeneuve’s films and his score for Mandy truly helped set the bizarre, trippy & unsettling mood. Next would be the way that Panos Cosmatos used color throughout the film. It’s a beautiful film. Great imagery, combined with an atmospheric score, are often all I need to keep me happy. Oh, speaking of Villeneuve, I suppose I was also reminded a bit of Blade Runner 2049 here with the gorgeous use of color or cinematography or whatever the hell made these movies so lovely (I know nothing about filmmaking – I just know what my eyes like).
Besides a great score & look, the next thing I most care about is great characters. Mandy isn’t quite as strong on that as it is on its look & sound but the actors were all fantastic and made these characters far stronger & more interesting than you normally get in a horror film. The story itself, well, isn’t really all that important anyway. I’m not sure what the hell was going on with the Weird Science demon biker dudes but that doesn’t matter either. They were silly fun. All you need to know is that it’s a revenge film and who doesn’t love a good revenge film? It’s the only time I can stomach violence in a movie: when evil fuckers get what’s coming to them. Is that fucked-up? I’m a wuss with violence but didn’t look away during any of Mandy. That may partly be due to it being cheesy, 80’s sort of gore (the film is set in 1983 so that’s the vibe it’s going for).
Back to the characters: Nicolas Cage is really good in this. Yes. Can you believe it? I’m not really a fan as he’s just too damn cheesy most of the time. I’ll say there were two fellow bloggers who helped convince me to make the journey to see Mandy: Mike at Screenkicker (review HERE) and Greg Moss at Mossfilm (review HERE). I totally agree with what Greg said about it feeling like Cage was reined in on this one. He’s still crazy Nic Cage but it works with this bonkers film and he’s far less nuts than the bad guys. He was perfect for this role & I assume credit has to be given to Cosmatosfor Cage not being too over-the-top for once. Even looking like this, he’s not the craziest motherfucker in this thing:
And his thirst for vengeance is completely understandable as we get a good amount of time seeing his character with Mandy and how in love they are. Andrea Riseborough gives a great understated performance as Mandy (someone had to be understated in this thing!). It was a good contrast with the batshit crazy leader of the cult who becomes obsessed with her & tries to make her another one of his followers. Cult leader Jeremiah is played by Linus Roache and he’s probably the most terrifying character I’ve seen in quite a while. Michael Myers has nothing on this twat. (By the way – I’m reviewing the new Halloween movie later today). Jeremiah is completely unhinged and I wanted Nic Cage to kill the absolute fuck out of this bastard:
Whoa. This is the longest “review” I’ve written in ages. It just goes to show that I’m far more interested in a film like this than I am in the same old predictable shit that we normally see. As I said, I’ll be posting my review of Halloween (2018) later today and it’s super short as I have very little to say about it. It’s nothing we haven’t seen in hundreds of other slashers. But Mandy is unique. Most people are likely to hate it if they watch it but they certainly won’t forget it.
My Rating: 8/10
To give you a little bit of an idea of the mood of this film, the below King Crimson song (Starless) is played at the beginning. It sets the mood perfectly. Mandy is basically the prog rock of movies: it’s trippy, it’s a little bit pretentious, and only a select few will actually like it (yes, I do like a bit of prog rock when I’m in the mood for that sort of thing…):
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany
Music by John Powell & John Williams
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) During an adventure into a dark criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.
I saw this at midnight last night. I’m exhausted! But I suppose I better do a quickie review before America gets to see this tonight (is that right?). Because I’m sure everyone is just dying to know my opinion as there’ll be NO other reviews to be found for this movie anywhere. Yeah, the other reviews will be much more detailed than mine. You won’t find that here. I’ll make this very quick and just let you know if I liked the latest Star Wars movie or not.
Yep! I liked it. I really really liked it. Not sure yet if I loved it, but… Maybe. I need to see it again. Here’s how I feel about all the new Star Wars movies (I’ve linked to my full reviews):
• The Force Awakens: LOVED it. Easily my favorite of the new ones.
• Rogue One: Certainly didn’t hate it but didn’t love it. Liked it okay but, overall, it just didn’t work for me. Felt the least “Star Wars” to me.
• The Last Jedi: Wasn’t happy with this at first. It has grown on me. I certainly like it much more than a lot of people seemed to but, depending on what they do with the final film, I could end up liking this one much more or much less. Really hope they do the final film right (I want it to be more like The Force Awakens).
My ranking? I don’t yet know until the final film but it’s currently probably The Force Awakens, then The Last Jedi or Solo (time will tell so I’ll make them a tie at the moment) and then Rogue One. My hubby’s order (HUGE Star Wars nut), if you’re interested, is currently: The Force Awakens, Solo, Rogue One, The Last Jedi. I was surprised he has Solo in second place so far but he did thoroughly enjoy it.
So onto Solo… As most people have said so far, this movie is a lot of fun. There seems to be a big backlash against this movie before people have even seen it. I truly don’t understand that. Is it just because they didn’t like The Last Jedi?? Wow, people are hard to please. I was shocked that the midnight showings for this at my cinema were completely dead. One screen had only six people! I love Star Wars and, no, I really don’t want to see its legacy ruined. Yes, I worry that The Last Jedi has started down that path. But let’s see how they handle the final film. And, in the meantime, let’s spend some time having fun with Han, Chewbacca & Lando since they’re fantastic characters we all love. I also saw a lot of people say “Oh, people are saying Solo is fun. That just means it’s bad”. Huh? Since when did people decide that movies aren’t meant to be fun anymore?! I want movies to be fun. I want to be entertained. Fun doesn’t automatically mean bad.
I think the most important thing to me was that they’d get our most beloved characters right. I think we all had our doubts about Alden Ehrenreich but I think he did a good job. Was he the perfect person for this role? Maybe not. But who could be? Han Solo is one of the most iconic (and coolest) characters of all time. Who can possibly do Han Solo justice?? I had no problem with Ehrenreich – I liked him as Han. And Donald Glover is great as Lando but I think we had already accepted him based on the trailers. He’s cool as f*^k. I loved seeing these two characters meeting and, even as I write this, I’m probably liking this movie even more as I think of young Han, Lando, and Chewbacca all meeting for the first time. I adored all their scenes together.
I thought all the new characters were pretty great as well. I’m not sure that I have any new absolute favorites but it’s very hard to top all of the original trilogy characters. I’m not going to get into the new additions, however, as I wish to remain completely spoiler free. I’ll just say that I liked the history that Han had with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), Woody Harrelson and his team of “can they be trusted?” misfits were a joy and the perfect fit to team up with Han & Lando, and the baddies were quite effective – they looked the part and were menacing.
What else can I say? This movie gave me what I wanted. It’ll never top the original trilogy but no new Star Wars movie ever will. I don’t expect that from any of the new movies. I think Ron Howard has done a great job with Solo, especially considering that it was such a troubled production. It stays very faithful to & respectful of the Star Wars legacy and does all the existing characters justice. There are some great “fan service” bits that are a real pleasure but don’t feel at all forced (they aren’t the type you’ll roll your eyes at – they’re just fun). Yeah. Fun! This movie is fun. Fun is good. Fun is what I wanted. It’s okay to have fun sometimes! Solo: A Star Wars Story is a good film and, for me, it’s a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe.
**SPOILER-FREE REVIEW (but I’m sure you’ve all seen it by now)**
Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Based on The Avengers by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
If anyone has ever read a review here, they’ll know that all my superhero reviews start with me saying “I’m superheroed out”. This is movie number 19 of the MCU, for crying out loud! But I’ve watched all of them (other than The Incredible Hulk. Oops.) I do enjoy them. They’re fun popcorn movies & characters and, thanks to Guardians Of The Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok adding in much more humor & fun, I’ve liked them a bit more in the past few years. I wasn’t overly excited for Infinity War but knew I’d go to it as I do with every Marvel film. I thought it was pretty great! Slow to start but a truly ballsy ending that I loved. In fact, I liked it so much that I want it to be the true ending. Screw Infinity War 2!
I’ve finally ranked all the MCU movies (I’ll post that tomorrow or Wednesday) and had to re-read the plot synopsis for a few of them to refresh my memory. The ones I remember the least are the Avengers ones with loads of characters. It’s always fun to see them all together but the stories become messy and I find that I barely remember the plot afterwards. I mostly prefer the individual character movies.
I expected Infinity War to be just as convoluted and, okay, it probably is a little messy at first while the movie does loads of jumping around from one place to another. But I had a lot of fun with the various small groups of Avengers meeting & working together for the first time. Considering the massive amount of superheroes in this movie, I thought they did surprisingly well with getting the right balance when it came to time spent with each group and with some further character development.
Of the various superheroes meeting for the first time, the Guardians of the Galaxy & Thor are the absolute best. They made a fantastically funny team. I want them to team up for good and make spin-off movies together! Okay, I admit that Thor & Groot are my two favorite characters and the Guardians movies are my favorites but seeing these characters bond was exactly what I wanted. Loved it! I also loved that a lot of characters who’ve had smaller roles in previous Avengers films (or no role at all) had more screen time here. I really liked seeing the Guardians, Thor, Doctor Strange, Vision & Scarlet Witch given important things to do. Especially Doctor Strange – I don’t know if he’s exactly a fan favorite but I think I’m a fan. I find his abilities far more interesting than those of some of the other characters.
Not that our usual Phase One characters have nothing to do – we still get plenty of Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, etc etc. But I’m glad they slightly took a backseat (As presumably they’ll have the biggest roles in part 2. If alive. I’m not saying!). Iron Man still has a large role in this one and I’m now really liking his growing fatherly friendship with Spider-Man. I actually thought there was too much Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Homecoming but now see that it really help set up their relationship for this film.
I’ll wrap this up before I accidentally give away a massive spoiler or something (although the biggest fans will have made sure to see this by now, I hope!). It was hard to avoid spoilers for this one and I’m glad I managed to for two whole days as I think it made me appreciate this film even more. I’ve not mentioned all the characters but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in this (or that they’re dead!). Maybe no one dies in this. Maybe they do. No one really dies in superhero movies, though, so I guess that’s why I’ve never become a massive superhero movie fan. I can’t take them too seriously. It’s not like Han Solo or something – I’m never getting him back! As I said, these Marvel films are just fun popcorn movies to me. Infinity War was actually far more enjoyable than I was expecting and, at the moment, it’s one of my favorites of the 19 MCU movies. But Part 2 could change my mind… I hope it doesn’t undo the good that the end of Part 1 does. I want a superhero movie to do something truly unexpected for a change.
My Rating: 8/10
I love Thor.
Is There A Scene After The Credits?: Yes. Of course? No mid-credits scene, only one at the very end. Yes, you have to stay for it. For once, not ONE person left my cinema before the end credits scene. It only took 19 movies for people to finally figure out that they need to stay through the credits for Marvel movies…. 😉
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A family is forced to live in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound.
I was really looking forward to this movie well before all the hype. I liked the sound (ha!) of the plot synopsis as it seemed like an original idea plus I really like Emily Blunt so that helped as well. And Emily Blunt is a proper actress – she wouldn’t be in a BAD horror movie! Well, okay – Wind Chill wasn’t the greatest (although I kind of liked it but that’s probably only because of Blunt). Anyway, good modern horror movies are extremely hard to find and I’m very picky when it comes to this genre. There’s been an improvement, however, in the past few years with things such as It Follows and The Babadook and I’m happy to say that A Quiet Place continues this trend of original, well-acted, and smart horror films.
First of all, this movie does what I think is the most important thing in all movies, really, but is often ignored in the horror genre: it takes time setting up and making you care about the characters. Just like with the It adaptation last year (another chance to mention It – I loved that film). I’ll stay completely spoiler free in this review but I think it’s known that A Quiet Place focuses on one family as they struggle to survive in complete silence. It’s obvious that the parents love each other. How sweet – Blunt & Krasinski may actually have a loving real-life Hollywood marriage. I hope so! I want another Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward Hollywood love story. I’d like to believe the love is real because it comes across that way in the film. They were both great and the kids also did really well. You know the parents will do whatever it takes to protect their family.
By the way – Yes, it was really was hard to eat popcorn in this movie. Crunch crunch crunch! Hats off to those in my cinema – everyone actually stayed really quiet for this film. Shocking! You always have some asshole ruining things but I think, as the film was so quiet, everyone was too self-conscious to make any noise. Now if we could just get everyone to not distract the audience with their BRIGHT FUCKING PHONE SCREENS! What sort of movie could make people not want to look at their phones, I wonder? Hmm…. (Wasn’t an issue for me in this film since I was in the front row)
What else can I say? You’ve already seen all the reviews raving over this & heard all the hype. This is a brilliantly acted and thoroughly effective horror film. It didn’t scare me but no movies ever really do so maybe that’s just me (I’ve watched too many movies!). But I was very tense as I wanted this loving family to survive and, for a change, I wasn’t able to predict what would happen (unlike with the majority of cliché modern horrors). I’m happy to say that A Quiet Place lives up to all the hype. I’m loving this new trend of modern horror movies actually being damn good films. Can the Academy please recognize this one with some Oscar nominations next year? It’s time to start giving these films more credit when it’s deserved.
Starring: Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan, Allison Janney, Julianne Nicholson, Bobby Cannavale, Mckenna Grace
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) Competitive ice skater Tonya Harding rises amongst the ranks at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but her future in the activity is thrown into doubt when her ex-husband intervenes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I’m still contemplating putting it as my number one movie of those released in the UK this year. I do think Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri & The Shape Of Water are better “films” but, to be honest, I probably “liked” I, Tonya more. It’s a shame it wasn’t up for Best Picture as it’s certainly much better than Get Out and probably even Lady Bird. I know I liked it more than Darkest Hour, although that was very good. I’ve not seen the other Best Picture nominees, FYI. Oh well – at least the Academy recognized Margot Robbie & Allison Janney. They were absolutely fantastic! I was rooting for Robbie to win as well as Janney.
For any non-Americans who aren’t around the same sort of age as me (not much younger than Harding now), you may not realize what a huge story the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan thing was at the time. It was insane! Perfect tabloid fodder. I’m not a big “news” person and I’m not at all into tabloids but I lapped that damn story up. And it was weird how it all turned into a “Poor Tonya” thing in the media (after Kerrigan’s personality came across as thoroughly unlikable). As Robbie’s Harding said in this movie, Kerrigan won a silver medal and looked like she’d just stepped in poo (or something like that). Okay, I admit to being Team Tonya instead of Team Nancy. But, hey, that’s the most I’ve ever watched of the Olympics! In the end, though, I was definitely Team Oksana Baiul. She was far more graceful on the ice and seemed really sweet. She deserved that gold medal and I was happy she won. (Seriously – these are three of the only athletes I can even name….).
Back to the movie! I have no idea how factual it is. Did Harding really not know about the planned attack? Maybe not. Probably not. But Robbie was brilliant as Harding! Especially at the end, when she learns her consequences for the attack. If this movie was made to make us sympathetic to Harding, I’d say it worked. Was her mom really that much of a bitch?! Holy hell! Janney was hateful (but funny) as fuck. I suppose it annoys some people, just like when this incident happened, that a lot of people seem to be on Harding’s side in this whole thing. I do think it’s sad that her career was ruined because of it and that this incident will be with her forever. Instead of being known for skating, she’s known for the attack and the whole media circus. It will follow her until the day she dies (same for Kerrigan). Oh, and I think Sebastian Stan deserves a mention as Harding’s abusive hubby Jeff Gillooly. He’s overshadowed by Janney & Robbie but he was so good I kept forgetting it was him – he was almost unrecognizable. He possibly became his character even more than his co-stars. Subtle is good too. Oh! And that cute little girl from Gifted (Mckenna Grace) briefly plays Harding at a young age. She’s also very good. An actress to keep an eye on.
Obviously, I enjoyed this film a lot but I’ve always been very interested in this story. I don’t think you need to know anything about the true story to enjoy this, though. It’s a very well-written film and the dark humor was done perfectly. The mockumentary style suits this crazy tabloid incident and the main performances are all Oscar-worthy. Honestly, I’m confused as to why this didn’t get a Best Picture nomination? Three Billboards also has the same sort of blend of dark humor, serious drama, and great acting that I, Tonya does. Oh well – I highly recommend this movie to anyone, especially film-loving bloggers who haven’t seen it yet.
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Set in Baltimore in 1962, the plot follows a mute custodian at a high-security government laboratory who falls in love with a captured humanoid-amphibian creature.
It felt like the longest wait EVER to finally see The Shape Of Water in the UK. It came out on Valentine’s Day with that Fifty Shades Shit. Give me the fish man over that crap any day! I was really excited as this is my type of thing & I think Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth is fantastic. I probably hyped this one up too much in my mind after months of anticipation. I did really like it but Pan’s Labyrinth is still by far del Toro’s best. This is my second favorite he’s directed that I’ve seen, though.
Where do I start?! It’s pretty bad when you can believe in a love story involving a fish man more than one in some sappy romcom bullshit starring Kate Hudson (or whoever has replaced her nowadays – I’m not a big romcom chick). Doug Jones does well giving life to… Umm… Fish Man! Do I have to keep calling him that??? Okay – he’s officially credited as Amphibian Man / The Asset. The whole point of most of del Toro’s work seems to be that the true monsters are those who appear normal on the outside and, as expected, that’s the theme here. You’ll feel for Amphibian Man and understand why the character played by Sally Hawkins wants to protect him. You may not want to have sex with him, though. Who knows. Maybe you will! That’s just not for me, but I’m sure I’d have a lovely platonic friendship with Amphibian Man.
The overall story was more predictable & straightforward than I was expecting. Michael Shannon made for a good baddie as usual but his performance also felt a bit phoned in. That’s probably because he does this type of role so often. He’s quite a one-dimensional baddie, which was a little disappointing. But I do love to truly hate the bad guy in a movie and he certainly manages to achieve that here.
Besides Amphibian Man, we have four main human characters who help him out. Sally Hawkins is of course the cleaner who falls in love with him, Octavia Spencer is her friend & co-worker, Richard Jenkins is her friend & neighbor, and Michael Stuhlbarg is a scientist who doesn’t approve of the treatment of Amphibian Man. Hawkins, Spencer & Jenkins are all up for acting Oscars and I’m happy with that. I loved that Hawkins was mute, making her connection with Amphibian Man even stronger. Hawkins & Jones do a great job expressing their emotions without words. I especially liked Jenkins as her neighbor and Spencer was once again a very likeable friend of our main character, though it would be nice to see her as more than just the friendly sidekick (I’ve not yet seen Hidden Figures).
The characters are what make this movie and I really enjoyed them. The story is simple as are its themes but I still like its theme of love & acceptance, which is still relevant today. Set in 1962, all our characters have to deal with intolerance (the mute Hawkins as well as Jenkins & Spencer due to sexual orientation and race). While I despise anything too overtly political in movies, The Shape Of Water remains subtle and this group of people and the parallels with the treatment of Amphibian Man work really well. There are some beautiful scenes & cinematography as well as a lovely score (it’s also nominated for cinematography, production design & score).
I hope The Shape Of Water does well at the Oscars but I keep flipping back & forth on if I prefer this or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This one is more “me” but I think Three Billboards may be slightly ahead for me. I’d be interested to see if my opinion changes in a year. The Shape Of Water feels more timeless & cinematic and may be the more highly acclaimed film in the future. Oh, and as one last thing, I have to add that I love where Hawkins lived in this film. Guillermo del Toro knows how to please cinephiles!