Watched, Read, Reviewed: February 2023

Hi All! Happy March! I guess I better switch my WordPress app over to this new app it keeps bugging me about. So I’ve quickly finished this post in the old app since, knowing I’m an old fart & useless with technology, I’ll probably fuck something up & never figure out how to post something on this blog ever again once I make the switch. 🙂

Here’s what I watched & read in February. Have even managed to go to the cinema a few times! (Saw Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania a few days ago, too).

MOVIES WATCHED IN FEBRUARY (ranked best to worst):

The Swimmer – Liked this a lot! Quite a weird one. Thanks to my buddy Film Miasma for reviewing this (here) as I’d not even heard of it before. Won’t say much about it in this post as I already did a separate full review of it here. – 8/10

Knock At The Cabin – I’m a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. I know he has his critics but I will always choose watching a story I don’t already know & which might surprise me instead of all the utterly bland & predictable sequels, prequels, reboots, superheroes, etc etc. Yeah, he’s had some duds but at least he gives us original ideas.

I know this is based on someone else’s book but he’s again, as with Old, chosen to adapt something that fits in so well with the kinds of stories he obviously loves to make. Still trying to decide how I feel about this one. It’s certainly not up there with the very best like The Sixth Sense (which I still think is brilliant) but it was much better than a lot of his work & Dave Bautista gave a really good performance. The girl was very cute, the family were likeable & the story was intriguing. I’ve currently ranked it 5th in my Shyamalan ranking, which I think is where it’ll stay. 

As I said, the story intrigued me so I thought about reading the book first (still have it on reserve at the library – long wait!). What I found most disappointing was that very little was explained. I’m wondering if the story is much more fleshed out in the book, as is often the case? So I’d still like to read it to see if there’s more to it. It also feels the least “Shyamalan” of his movies, maybe partly due to it not ending how you’d expect. Think the ending is a bit of a letdown after a good buildup. But, I still think the film itself is of a better quality than those I’ve ranked below it on my list. I did appreciate it and got a lot of enjoyment out of going to the cinema, which has become a very rare possibility for me. So maybe being back in the cinema is making me rate this one a bit more highly… – 7/10

All Quiet On The Western Front – I admit that I had to force myself to watch this one after it was nominated for Best Picture as I try to watch as many Oscar nominees as I can each year. I always have to force myself to watch war movies, even though I love some of them (The Bridge On The River Kwai, The Great Escape, Full Metal Jacket, etc). Don’t think I’ve ever disliked a war film but it will still never be a favorite genre for me. Life sucks enough! I want escapism. 

Yes, this is a good film. Lovely cinematography & a very interesting score. I did see the 1930 film in high school after reading the book but I remember nothing whatsoever about either & if this is at all similar. I liked the characters & the friendships but didn’t want to like anyone since, like Game Of Thrones, I knew I better not get too attached to anyone. This film is, as to be expected, very grim. As war movies should be. Don’t think it’s one of the very best I’ve ever seen but is still a worthy addition to this genre. Was worth the watch. And it inspired me to rank every war movie I’ve ever seen (here). Seen more than I’d realised! (56) – 7.5/10

Empire Of Light – Enjoyed this despite some negative reviews. Admittedly, I wanted to see this as I’ve been to where it was filmed (have photos of me at that roller disco) and I also always love movies set in a cinema or in some way having to do with a love of cinema. Oh, and I do love an ‘80s setting! Can understand why some were disappointed with the script/story as it was indeed a bit messy & I’d have liked far more character development for everyone. But Olivia Colman & Micheal Ward were very good and had an interesting relationship plus the film looked lovely as expected with Roger Deakins doing the cinematography (and it’s up for that Oscar). Can absolutely understand why the general public didn’t go for this one but think many film lovers should appreciate it. – 7/10

I went roller skating here!

Top Hat – Ashamed to say this is my first Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movie. Figured it was time to finally watch the dancing duo in action after watching my first ever Fred Astaire movie (Easter Parade) last year. 

Didn’t realise this was going to be a screwball comedy, which isn’t usually a favorite subgenre of mine, instead of just a straightforward musical. Not sure the comedic elements or the romance worked that well in this but the dance numbers were of course a joy to watch. I don’t know why I have to force myself to watch classic musicals such as this as I always end up enjoying them. And, as often happens with them, I thought I knew absolutely nothing from Top Hat so was surprised that I indeed knew two of the songs in it. Funny how the songs in these films really do stand the test of time. As for the story in this, though, I don’t think it has aged quite as well as some have. Have to say I definitely preferred Easter Parade but it could help that I think Judy Garland was just fantastic in everything I’ve seen her in.

As an overall movie, I found Top Hat quite average but was worth a one-time watch for the dance numbers & songs. – 6.5/10

Strange World – Well this wasn’t so bad? I quite liked the story, which felt far more original than a lot of family films. I think the issue, for me, is that it’s one that again is just not up to Disney standards. It felt more like I’d just watched a good DreamWorks movie. So I feel like I’d give this an extra star if it was DreamWorks based on my lower standards for them, which seems unfair, but I expect a bit more when it’s got the Disney or Pixar name on it. 

Before I sound too negative, I did enjoy this and don’t understand the really bad reviews. As I said, I thought the story was unique and the “strange” world was wonderfully bizarre and lovely. Was a bit Dr. Seuss-ian (which is fine by me). The characters were likeable enough, though underdeveloped, and the creature Splat was fun. Again, it’s not up to Disney’s very best but it was much better than I was expecting based on the negativity. I liked it more than Pixar recents like LucaOnward & Turning Red. – 6.5/10

True Spirit – A 2023 release on Netflix that no one I follow on Letterboxd has watched yet?! Yes, it’s a very predictable, inspiring, feelgood true story but these types of movies never hurt anyone. Knew nothing of the real girl, Jessica Watson, who sailed solo around the world at the age of 16. That’s amazing. Thought the girl who played her, Teagan Croft, was good and felt super old seeing Anna Paquin playing her mother. Enjoyable weekend afternoon viewing. – 6/10

Somebody I Used To Know – After becoming obsessed with Community last year, I was very excited to see a new release starring “Annie” and, my favorite, “Abed”. Well, this is maybe a fraction better than the recent Your Place Or Mine (reviewed below). But certainly not by much & Brie’s character is far more annoying than Witherspoon’s & borderline hateful. So she hasn’t talked to her lovely ex in ten years & now suddenly wants to ruin his wedding which is in just a few days? The most unbelievable thing was his fiancée putting up with that bullshit. A disappointment overall, mainly as I disliked the main character and what the hell is the point of that? Meh. Maybe I’ll rank the Witherspoon movie just above this one after all. Oh – I quite liked her hometown in this, though. Reminded me of some small towns where I grew up. – 5.5/10

I just want that Community movie they said would happen…

Your Place Or Mine – This wasn’t great. The best thing about it was The Cars soundtrack. That band deserves more love. 

Reese & Ashton had zero chemistry & I barely believed them as friends let alone lovers. The story was predictable, as expected, but who cares with a straight-to-Netflix romcom. It was a pleasant enough film to pass the time & completely forget about in a year. Did like Steve Zahn as the weirdo neighbour. Always fun to see him pop up in films.

Found the recent romcoms Shotgun Wedding & The Lost City much more enjoyable than this one. – 5.5/10

Movies Rewatched:

Heathers – Hubby & I felt like rewatching this absolute classic we’ve seen many times. Love it. They don’t (and won’t) ever make good dark teen comedies like this anymore. Feel sorry for today’s teens & their rubbish entertainment. 9/10

Documentaries Watched:

Managed to watch all but one of the Best Documentary Oscar nominees…

A House Made Of Splinters – Heartbreaking. The one I found most moving of the Best Documentary Oscar nominees this year. Have so much respect for those who try to help children caught up in terrible situations. You can currently see this on BBC iPlayer. 

Fire Of Love – What an amazing couple & bittersweet love story. Although I can’t say I’m that fascinated by volcanoes, I always love to see someone show such passion for something. It’s infectious. And, wow – they captured brilliant volcano footage. And now I want to watch Joe Versus The Volcano again. Ha! (Seriously, though – that film is underrated).

Although I found A House Made of Splinters the most moving, I think this is the best documentary I’ve seen this year & that it has a chance of winning the Oscar. I’d be happy to see it win. My only complaint is the narration. It’s certainly a unique voice – I just mainly found it distracting as I thought at first that the woman who voiced Sadness in Inside Out was narrating (she’s not). 

Navalny – Fascinating story & person! Well worth a watch before the Oscars ceremony. Recommended. Also on BBC iPlayer.

All That Breathes – The last of the Best Documentary nominees I managed to see on services (thank you, BBC iPlayer). Beautifully shot & lovely melancholy score. I like that the nominees I’ve seen this year are mostly about people who are devoted to something they’re passionate about. Was heartbreaking to see what is happening to “all that breathes” this polluted air. Worth mentioning a great short documentary nominee also about lovely people devoted to rescuing animals: The Elephant Whisperers. Liked that a lot.

Shorts Watched:

Again, two more Oscar nominees I managed to find to watch. Really want to see the rest of the animated shorts! Anyone know where I can see them??

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse – This had lovely animation & I appreciate its uplifting sayings, etc. But was a bit over-the-top on that. Overly saccharine. Also felt too long.

The Flying Sailor – I like that this is supposedly based on a (maybe) true story? Nuts. (Ha. Literally!). Whereas the previous one felt way too long for a short, this felt too short. Could’ve been better considering its fascinating story.

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN FEBRUARY

BOOKS READ

Fairy Tale by Stephen King – First of all, that above cover is SO much better than the U.K. cover I have! Most of the recent covers on King’s books in the U.K. are rubbish.

Well, I liked this book a lot. I know I’m a huge King fan so I’m likely to love most his books but I do really dislike a few (kind of hated Under The Dome & not crazy about The Outsider). As I like horror, I’ve avoided King’s fantasy stuff. Did try The Gunslinger (twice!) and cannot get into that so have read no more of The Dark Tower. But I finally read The Eyes Of The Dragon last year & loved that Game-Of-Thrones-Light book! So I went into this new fantasy with an open mind after that one. Yes, if you liked The Eyes Of The Dragon, you’ll probably like Fairy Tale but I am sure some of his pure horror lovers won’t like this one at all.

Really liked the boy in this and of course loved the dog sidekick. Who doesn’t like a loveable dog?? It was like reading a Dean Koontz book (he loves adding a dog sidekick). It’s kind of two books in one, with the first half in the “real world” being so very different from the fantasy world but I like getting two for the price of one & really enjoyed both parts. King has once again given us a very descriptive, imaginative & bizarre fantasy world, which I’m a big fan of in so many of his books such as Lisey’s Story, etc. Adored the shoemaker woman and the others like her that he encounters in the other world. The story did lose its way a bit about three quarters of the way through and it was quite different for a while (just after the sundial – so, actually, it was more like three stories in one). But I still enjoyed that section and overall liked this one a lot. Would still rank The Eyes Of The Dragon a bit higher but would love to read more of this type of fantasy story from King. – 4/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

The Last Of Us: S1 E4-7 – Enjoying this but not obsessed with it like some existing fans seem to be as the game means nothing to me. I can’t say it feels like anything all that new as we’ve seen this type of story so many times now. But I love apocalyptic & zombielike stories so I’m still happy. Sad to see episode 7 was the lowest rated episode but I really liked it. Two girls hanging out & having fun in a post-apocalyptic mall? Dawn Of The Dead AND Night Of The Comet vibes?! I’m here for that! Love those films.

Tried the first episode of Extraordinary. Liked the highly inappropriate & filthy humor. Hubby wasn’t feeling the show at all so I may continue on my own but have too much else to watch at the moment. We also tried the first episode of The Goldbergs but neither of us were feeling that one. And for nostalgia, I rewatched the first two episodes of Silver Spoons on YouTube. Man I love pure ’80s cheese!

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

Well, the Oscars are coming up so maybe I’ll do a post on Friday with the reviews of the nominees I’ve seen (more than I realised but not enough of the “big nominees”). If I can be arsed. 🙂 I’m expecting Everything Everywhere All At Once to be the big winner, which I didn’t love. Can’t say I truly loved any of the nominees I’ve seen. As usual.

I’ll end with a song from The Cars as they had so many of their songs in that underwhelming Reese Witherspoon movie. I’ll go with Let’s Go as it’s the first one I remember hearing in the movie.

Happiest Season (2020) Review

Happiest Season (2020)

Directed by & Story by Clea DuVall

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Dan Levy, Mary Holland,Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a woman who struggles to come out to her conservative parents while she and her girlfriend visit them during Christmas.

My Opinion:

First of all, can I just say that I hate watching Christmas movies during any month other than December?? Seems pointless. At least the U.K. did get this before Christmas (I think??) – I just didn’t have that streaming service at the time. So, I suppose it lost a tiny bit of that special “Christmas feeling” by watching this in May but it’s also not an overly Christmassy film anyway despite being set in that time period. So watch it now if you want! It’s still enjoyable. It looked like it could be decent so I didn’t want to wait until December.

I liked this one. I’m not one of these Kristen Stewart haters but I’m also not of the generation who seem to absolutely love her for some reason. I don’t have much of an opinion on her one way or another but she was good in this (and very good in the film Underwater that I watched the other day & will try to review this week – she carried that whole movie). I liked her relationship with Mackenzie Davis in this and wanted them to live happily ever after & all that but I didn’t really feel they had much chemistry. Stewart’s character was more likeable & sympathetic and I kept thinking she might be better off with Aubrey Plaza. Well, they were still fine as a couple but a lot of the other characters helped to make this a really enjoyable movie. It was a bit slow to start but picked up when the family of the Mackenzie Davis character showed up as well as Dan Levy, as Kristen Stewart’s friend.

Victor Garber & especially Mary Steenburgen were great as the parents of Mackenzie Davis, whose house the couple stay at for several days over Christmas. Steenburgen was hilarious as the type of mother who wants her family to be perfect and is always making snide bitchy comments. Her treatment of the, I think middle?, of the three sisters was especially funny – that poor girl is always pushed aside and never lives up to expectations like the other two sisters do. Besides Stewart, my favorite characters were the middle sister (played by Mary Holland), Steenburgen as the pushy mother, and Dan Levy as Stewart’s friend. Don’t think I’ve seen Levy in anything before (I’ve not seen Schitt’s Creek). He was funny & I was glad he ended up in the movie a bit more by the end. We also had some fun sibling rivalry between Davis and her “bitchy” sister Alison Brie plus Aubrey Plaza, as I mentioned earlier, who plays a family friend & former secret girlfriend of Davis. I find Aubrey Plaza hit or miss but this was a good character for her.

I especially enjoyed this movie because it was “pleasant”. That sounds like a horrible compliment but I do mean it in a good way as there have been FAR too many dreary & depressing drama movies during this pandemic. I think we could all use a break from that! Sometimes you just want a lightweight rom-com with good characters & a fun sense of humor. The characters are what really make this film & it’s great that they had so many good ones. And I want to read the book the middle sister is writing. Her painting was pretty good too. Stop being mean to Jane!

My Rating: 7/10

Promising Young Woman (2020) Review

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Directed & Written by Emerald Fennell

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.

My Opinion:

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!

**Okay, I did it!

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) Review

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019) Review

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Based on Lego Construction Toys

Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Music by Mark Mothersbaugh

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: Lego Duplo invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild.

My Opinion:

Damn. What a massive letdown after The Lego Movie, which I thought was one of the best and most original animated family films of these past several years. I think they need to stop with all the freaking sequels for EVERY animated family movie that’s EVER been made. Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, whatever the hell studio made this (Warner?), etc etc etc. STOP! Just stop it, dammit! Surely they now know they’ve gone too far after the huge negative reaction to the atrocious-looking Will Smith Aladdin Genie?!?! Stop it with the sequels and the reboots and the remakes and especially the pointless live-action versions of animated classics! Latest rumor I saw online was a live-action version of A Nightmare Before Christmas. OMG. Don’t touch that! It’s perfect as is! I’ll boycott! I’ll march! I’ll go on a hunger strike! (Okay, maybe not a hunger strike)


Oh. Yeah. Back to The Lego Movie 2. After all my ranting & raving, I can’t quite put my finger on why this one was so bad compared to the first. It just lacked the heart of the original. It felt stale and unoriginal. It felt soulless. It felt like a cash-grab (as do the majority of these animated sequels). The story felt forced to fit in with the ending of the original & the sort of values that movie was promoting. The jokes weren’t as funny and there weren’t as many fun surprises & cameos. It wasn’t clever in the same way the first one was with things like the Kragle and the “Piece of Resistance”; the script for the first film was smart & truly funny. And Tiffany Haddish has quite a big voice role in the sequel, which is not fun to listen to if you find her as obnoxiously annoying and unfunny as I do (If you love her, you’re in luck!). Also, Emmet’s naive & charming cluelessness got less and less charming as this movie went on, but I’m wondering if that’s just me finding the real life Chris Pratt less and less charming lately as well. Man I’m a bitch! I think I need “unknown” celebs to be in movies since there are far too many that get on my nerves. I have to say that I appreciate Ralph Breaks The Internet a bit more now, which I found very disappointing at first. What I realised is that I still loved the characters in that sequel just as much as in the first film, which made up a bit for the story being weak. I found I didn’t care about the characters in The Lego Movie 2, although it was nice getting to know a little more about Wyldstyle (I still like her).


Okay, this movie wasn’t all bad. It just had a lot to live up to. What did I like? I loved the adorable kiddie voices of the Duplo toys. Those smiley stars and hearts with the sweet little voices were cute as shit. There were still plenty of funny jokes – I guess I’m comparing this to the first movie, which was hilarious, but this sequel was still a lot better than most of stuff made by other studios such as DreamWorks (Sorry – I’m not a DreamWorks fan). My daughter and I still got some giggles out of this one, which I always love to see. There’s also a song that’s almost as good/catchy/annoying as Everything Is Awesome so it’s great that they were almost able to match the joy of that song (it’s called, of course, Catchy Song). In the end, though, this sequel was all just a bit forgettable and disposable, which I’d never say about the first film. Oh well. They can’t all be the Citizen Kane of family-friendly animation.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Not sure if I’ll have time this week but I’ll try to review a film I went to just after this one and did really enjoy – Alita: Battle Angel. It was a pleasant surprise.

The Kings Of Summer, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints & X+Y Movie Reviews

I figured it was time to catch up on reviewing the movies I’ve watched by doing another quickie review trio. All three of these films were quite good (although one of them was a little on the boring side…). Let’s discuss! 🙂

The Kings Of Summer (2013)

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring: Nick Robinson, Moisés Arias, Gabriel Basso, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.

My Opinion:

I kept seeing movie bloggers on here compare The Kings Of Summer to Stand By Me and, since Stand By Me is one of the best movies EVER, I knew I had to watch it. Well, it’s certainly no Stand By Me (but what is??). However, it’s still a good modern day coming-of-age film and I can see some current young teenagers connecting to this one in the same way I connected to Stand By Me.

I have to say this was off to an excellent start when the the first song in the film was Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song. Yes! It was the perfect fit & had me all excited to keep watching this. But then I remembered that the film wasn’t set in the Seventies even though they were using an old song. Damn! You know what? I think this film would’ve been awesome if it had been set in 1976 or so. But maybe part of the point is that these boys choose to “live in the wild” and away from today’s modern conveniences, giving the film a somewhat timeless feel that’s pretty cool.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of humor in this as I thought it was going to be more of a coming-of-age drama. I found it kind of jarring at first but got used to it and, by the end, I enjoyed the humor. The humor is of the “Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, etc” variety. They’re a part of that group of people who mean absolutely nothing to me as I don’t watch whatever American TV show(s) they’re all in together and I think that movies that rely on these types of actors don’t always translate so well overseas. I found the film fairly funny overall but preferred when the boys were on their own & away from their crazy American TV parents. In fact, I could understand why they wanted to get the hell away from their annoying parents & go live in the woods. I did really like the token “crazy friend” who says & does some pretty bizarre things – he probably made me chuckle the most (in my head – I’m not a laugh-out-loud person):

I enjoyed this movie but was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t just a little more serious or heartfelt. It reminded me of Mud, which was another recent coming-of-age film with “boys in the wild”. I’d have to say that I actually enjoyed The Kings Of Summer more and would be more likely to watch it again but that Mud is the superior film with better performances.

The Kings Of Summer is at its best when the boys are on their own building their house in the woods as these parts of the film feel timeless in a way that will still make it relevant years from now. The film is unfortunately let down somewhat by quirky adult characters whose humor won’t work for everyone, although I personally didn’t mind it. I sound disappointed but the comparisons to Stand By Me didn’t help, I suppose. The Kings Of Summer is a very enjoyable film and is definitely worth a watch if you like coming-of-age stories as much as I do. Just don’t expect anything too deep – it’s mostly just light-hearted fun.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Directed by David Lowery

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Rami Malek, Keith Carradine, Charles Baker, Nate Parker

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The tale of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.

My Opinion:

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is the one that’s “a little on the boring side” of these three movies. I don’t have a lot to say about it so I’m going to attempt to not ramble on & to write only two paragraphs (not counting this one!). I watched this for two reasons: I liked the odd title and I have a bit of a girl crush on Rooney Mara.

As for the title, I found this in IMDB trivia: “The title is director David Lowery’s “mondegreen” – a mishearing of a song lyric – and has no actual meaning”. Interesting! But a little disappointing as I was hoping the title was meaningful in some way. As for Mara, she’s her usual type of character in this: A tiny, quiet waif with beautiful eyes and zero personality. I don’t mean that in a bitchy way – I haven’t seen some of her biggest roles yet but she’s always this exact same sort of character in what I have seen. I’d like to see her play something very different but, for this film, she was perfect for the role as the “Bonnie” type character in a very laidback & extremely slooooooooow version of the typical outlaw couple story made famous by the brilliant Bonnie And Clyde film.

This movie is worth a look if you like outlaw couple stories, a very slow pace, and some lovely cinematography that clearly takes its inspiration from Terrence Malick’s films. Actually, I suppose this movie is much more similar to Badlands than to Bonnie And Clyde. It’s hard to know whether or not to recommend it as I think you’ll either love it or be bored out of your mind. I’d say that you should make sure to watch the classics Bonnie And Clyde and Badlands first but then you’d find that this one most definitely pales in comparison. It’s a very pretty movie with shallow characters and not a lot of story but I think some film lovers have bought into its look and style. I did appreciate Ain’t Them Bodies Saints as I sometimes go for style over substance but I feel like this same sort of film has been done much better by other filmmakers in the past. Based on this movie, I’ll be interested in seeing what the director (David Lowery) does with the Pete’s Dragon remake as I adored that movie as a kid but, as much as I hate remakes, it’s one that I’ll admit could do with being updated as it’s badly dated now.

My Rating: 6/10

X+Y (2014) (aka A Brilliant Young Mind in the U.S.)

Directed by Morgan Matthews

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Rafe Spall, Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Jo Yang

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A socially awkward teenage math prodigy finds new confidence and new friendships when he lands a spot on the British squad at the International Mathematics Olympiad.

My Opinion:

Although The Kings Of Summer was my favorite of these three movies, I’d have to say that this was actually the best film of the three. By the way, this is called A Brilliant Young Mind in America. X+Y was inspired by a documentary the director (Morgan Matthews) did called Beautiful Young Minds, which was about the British team in the 2006 International Mathematical Olympiad and how many of these young mathematics geniuses have some form of autism as does Asa Butterfield’s character in X+Y.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding rude but this movie is SO very British. Well, I have to admit that the British do the “life is hard & everyone is damaged in some way” movies best. At least it’s honest & much more realistic than Hollywood movies filled with the beautiful & the perfect but I’ve always turned to movies more for escapism from the realities of life & have to be in the mood for a drama before I watch one. Don’t get me wrong, though – I far prefer a movie like this, which is filled with rich characters & good performances, to some of the shallow crap that Hollywood churns out.

The quirky British comic relief in this film is provided by Rafe Spall’s character and I liked him a lot. He deals with his own serious issue through humor and his relationship with Butterfield’s character & Butterfield’s mother (Sally Hawkins) work really well in the film. I also really enjoyed the scenes showing the British team in China. Most of all, though, the story is about an autistic boy and the difficulties faced by those who love him (specifically, his mother in this movie – the mother/son relationship is the key to this film).

X+Y is a tad too formulaic & clichéd at times but, ultimately, that doesn’t usually bother me too much as long as a movie is done well and has characters that I care about (I felt the same way about a great little obscure romance recently called In Your Eyes). This movie admittedly deserves a slightly higher rating than I’m giving it as movies with a little too much tragedy & drama aren’t really my thing but don’t be discouraged by my slight negativity if you think you’d like this. X+Y is a good film.

My Rating: 7/10

**You know I need to end this with Thin Lizzy’s Cowboy Song, as heard in The Kings Of Summer… 🙂

The Lego Movie (2014) Review

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

**SPOILER-FREE REVIEW**

The Lego Movie (2014)

Directed by Phil Lord & Chris Miller

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

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

Running time: 100 minutes

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

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My Opinion:

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

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

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

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Summary:

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

My Rating: 8.5/10

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