I, Tonya (2017) Review

I, Tonya (2017)

Directed by Craig Gillespie

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.

My Opinion:

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.

My Rating: 8/10

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016) & The Girl On The Train (2016) Reviews

Two quick reviews of two film adaptations of two books I read. My reviews of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs can be found HERE & The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins HERE. Okay, one is a thriller but the other is close enough to being a “horror” so I’m doing these for October Horror Month. Let’s see what I thought of the movies…

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016)

Directed by Tim Burton

Screenplay by Jane Goldman

Based on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Starring: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Judi Dench, Samuel L. Jackson

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

My Opinion:

When I was in the middle of reading this book years ago, I said to the hubby “Tim Burton needs to make this into a movie”. Imagine my surprise when Hollywood did something right for a change! He was the absolute perfect choice to adapt this book & he did a very good job with it. The problem is that 1) I didn’t exactly love the book, although I loved the “gimmick” of the old photographs that were used throughout it and 2) Tim Burton hasn’t made anything truly fantastic in years, which still breaks my heart as I absolutely adored his oldest films. I’d say this was somewhat a return to form for Burton but, as I said, I didn’t love the source material so was unlikely to love the movie.

From what I remember of the book, it seems a faithful adaptation until the end. But I didn’t care enough to continue reading the books so it’s possible the movie continues a bit into the next book for all I know? I wouldn’t say it renewed my interest enough to read the remaining books but I’d certainly watch a sequel if Burton makes one. The performances were pretty strong and, like Burton being the perfect choice for director, I think Eva Green was a perfect choice for playing Miss Peregrine. The child actors also all did a good job (I think Burton always does well in casting his films), with the lead young roles (played by Asa Butterfield & Ella Purnell) as the standouts. Terence Stamp & especially Judi Dench weren’t given much to do, which was a shame. And I enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson as always (who doesn’t love Sam Jackson?!) but he’s phoning it in a bit with this baddie role. Sorry, Mr. Jackson! I apologize a trillion times!


Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is a good adaptation of a bizarre book thanks to its also bizarre director. And I liked the look & vibe of it, as I always do with Burton’s style. I wish I liked both the book and the film more than I do, though. I like “weird” so can’t really put my finger on why the story didn’t quite work for me. With the book, I think I just couldn’t connect with the characters. To be fair, I think Burton improved on this with the film and I’d say this is one of those cases where the movie might be slightly better than the book. It also helped that it got a proper ending, as opposed to the open-ended cliffhanger that just left me frustrated with the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Girl On The Train (2016)

Directed by Tate Taylor

Based on The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Starring: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Édgar Ramírez, Lisa Kudrow

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A divorcee becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation that promises to send shockwaves throughout her life.

My Opinion:

I thought this book, although fun in a pulp-y sort of way, was pretty horrible. This was mainly because the characters were all truly hateful. The story itself was okay and I found it a very quick read as I wanted to get to the resolution of its mystery but, wow, I didn’t give the slightest crap what would happen to any of the characters. Not even ONE likable person? Really?? I’ll never understand stories that choose to make us despise everyone in them. And the thing with the baby upset me too much (and kind of pissed me off).

Well, the movie is a faithful adaptation, so… What can I say? I didn’t like the book so I wasn’t going to like a faithful adaptation anyway. The fact that is stars Emily Blunt, who is kind of a girl crush of mine, is what made me even bother to stick this on one evening & half pay attention to it. Meh. I don’t know. I just didn’t care. The actors did what they could with the material but the material was weak. Hold on a second – in this double review, Danny Elfman did the music for this movie but not the Tim Burton movie?! Now that’s bizarre.

My Rating: 5/10

The Help (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Natasha of Life Of This City Girl. Thanks for the review, Natasha! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of The Help, IMDB rank 234 out of 250…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Movie Review: The Help (2011)

Plot: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Rating: 8.5/10

Hey, T9M readers! I’m reviewing The Help here today, because when I saw it was on T9M’s remaining movies to review for her IMDb Top 250 challenge I greedily claimed it as my own, seeing my chance to finally watch it.

I was surprised. Not only is The Help a really good film, it is also right up my alley and has stayed with me since I saw it.

What works well for this film first and foremost is a fantastic cast. To name a few, but certainly not limited to, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Allison Janney to Anna Camp all came to life as some form of a Southern Belle working to adjust to changing times.

The Help focuses on a time in America when things were changing. Women were entering the workforce, they were suddenly allowed to have bigger dreams than being barefoot and pregnant, and alongside that liberation came a movement where people realized that black people also had rights. Shocking, I know. Idiots. That’s where Skeeter Phelan comes in – she’s recently graduated and in look of making a name for herself. She moves back to Jacksonville, her home town that has not progressed with racial equality at all, and starts working a dead end job writing housekeeping tips for the local newspaper. Skeeter seeks to find the nanny who raised her, a woman whose disappearance makes her very worried – this is the woman that truly raised her, not her scatterbrained and often mean spirited mother. This leads her to embark on a project that records the tales of the black women who raise white children while their own sit at home.

In a very idealistic fashion, The Help isn’t particularly violent. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence at all. There is a time and place for it and only in certain films, and I get upset especially when it involves minorities being beaten down. Django Unchained is pretty much the threshold for me, and let me tell you, as much as I love Tarantino, that film was almost too much to watch. The Help tells and accurately depicts inequality without making it an unnecessary blood fest nor a pity party, and yet you walk away feeling definitely disgusted with white ancestry. I saw that a lot of people did feel that the movie fancily glosses over the atrocities that happened and I do agree on that point though.

I liked the most that there were some genuinely sweet white people that offset the heinous racists that were also depicted. Jessica Chastain plays the particularly kind Cecilia Foote, who has been shunned because she’s just a bit too attractive and fun loving for Hilly Holbrook, excellently brought to life by Bryce Dallas Howard. Hilly is racist and underhanded, using her status in town to control everything– social events, treatment of staff and generally just getting her way in everything. The good tries to offset the bad, but it is still so obvious about how unjust the system was – I recently saw that it was a time period where it was finally acknowledged that black people deserved rights, just not quite as many as white people. I’m not going to go all swearing about this, because I am guest blogging here, but you can please include a number of profanities to gather my opinion about this.

Most of all, the end impressed me – things do not end perfectly for Phelan. After successfully publishing her novel, Phelan is shunned by many in town, including her boyfriend, but since he was a pompous, primitive prick from the very start I’m not feeling that she’s missing out on something special. It shows that actions have consequences, even when the action was required and did something good.

If you are looking for a film that accurately portrays inequality in the 1950’s, this probably isn’t for you. The Help is mostly feel good with some bad moments between, a very well-produced and acted out film for this. Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for this and it is well deserved – her sassy attitude is a scene stealer every single time. I’m likely to watch it again at some point, and am pretty glad that I took the time to watch this.

Thanks for having me lady!

Minions (2015) Review

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Minions (2015)

Directed by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda

Starring Voice Actors:
Pierre Coffin
Sandra Bullock
Jon Hamm
Michael Keaton
Allison Janney
Steve Coogan
Geoffrey Rush

Production company: Illumination Entertainment

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatches a plot to take over the world.

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My Opinion:

First of all, I must confess that I love minions. LOVE THEM!!!! They’re hilarious and adorable and I desperately want some of my own (to do my evil bidding, of course). I specifically want a Bob after seeing this movie – he’s so sweet with his little teddy bear!

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So, anyway – I’m probably going to be far more forgiving of this movie’s flaws because…. MINIONS!!!! 🙂 Is this movie great? No. Is it even remotely as good as Despicable Me or Despicable Me 2? Hell no. But that’s okay – I didn’t expect it to be. I was hoping it would be better than it was, though, so that was a little disappointing. For the record, I think the first Despicable Me is absolutely brilliant (which shocked me as I’ve never really loved a kids’ film that wasn’t made by Pixar or Disney). I think it’s very funny as well as very sweet (without being schmaltzy). The relationship between Gru & the girls is done perfectly and I knew when they announced there would be a movie with just the minions that it would never live up to the Despicable Mes as Gru and the girls are what really make those movies so great. The fault with Minions isn’t the minions, though – they’re just as silly and loveable as ever. Unfortunately, the story and script are very weak as are all the non-minion characters. Bullock’s Scarlet Overkill is especially boring – I found her and the family the minions first meet to all be a bit stupid and pointless. We cared about Gru in Despicable Me and, even when he was at his most evil, he was at least funny & entertaining. In Minions, I really just wanted the human characters to go away. Maybe the next minions movie should be nothing but minions??? I suppose it would have to be narrated or subtitled through the whole thing, though… Okay, I suppose it wouldn’t work. I’d still watch it, though!

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I’m keeping this review short because, well, there isn’t much to say. If you adore the minions as much as I do, you’ll have fun with this movie even though you’ll recognize that it’s far from perfect. If you’re not a fan of the Despicable Me films or of the minions, I wouldn’t recommend Minions (I’m not sure why you’d want to watch it anyway in that case). I had plenty of fun laughs throughout the film but it’s lacking the heart of Despicable Me (as well as the amazing Pharrell soundtracks). For a soundtrack full of pre-existing music, though, I’d have to say that I did really enjoy the great 60’s songs they chose for the film (from The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, etc). Plus, thank god, they were smart enough to include Mellow Yellow by Donovan! (because, like, minions are YELLOW! Yeah?!). 🙂 I also enjoyed several 60’s pop culture references but, overall, it didn’t make up for the mediocre story and villain. I still love those minions, though!!!! Just do me a favor & watch Despicable Me instead if you’ve never seen it.

My Rating: 6.5/10

And if you’re curious, these would be my Despicable Me ratings:
Despicable Me: 9/10
Despicable Me 2: 7.5/10
**Updated post to add Despicable Me 3: 7/10**

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My six-year-old’s opinion: I’ve not done this as a “family” review as, to be honest, I’d have watched Minions even if I didn’t have a kid. But I did ask her for her opinion of the movie as I always do after we watch one together. She of course enjoyed it and giggled plenty throughout the film but I know she didn’t like it as much as Despicable Me. She gives the Despicable Me films 10/10 & Minions 8/10 (she tends to rate things too highly). 😉 She sat pretty still through the whole movie so it did keep her attention the entire time. I’d say it’s definitely worth going to if your kids love the minions as much as mine does. Oh, and her favorite bit has to do with a famous band (but I can’t say any more to avoid spoilers).

What my hubby had to say:
“Such a wasted opportunity. Yes I giggled at the odd thing here and there… but what a waste of some of the most iconic creations of the past ten years.”

Is there a scene after the credits? YES! There are a lot of scenes throughout the credits but there’s also a very long scene after the credits as well. It’s worth staying for (in my opinion. if you’re a music lover…).

American Beauty (1999) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Steven of Past, Present, Future In TV And Film. Thanks for the review, Steven! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about American Beauty, IMDB rank 51 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The American family. Such a mystery at times. This easily explains why films and television love to portray them in various ways. What we see in public, is usually just that, what we see.

The DreamWorks Pictures film “American Beauty”, seems to create a very dysfunctional family that aims to be perfect and outstanding to all those on the outside, but with more than just dramatic flare.

This drama stars Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”, “Horrible Bosses”), Annette Bening (“The Face of Love”, “Girl Most Likely”), Thora Birch (“Petunia”, “Pregnancy Pact”), Wes Bentley (“American Horror Story”, “Cesar Chavez”), Mena Suvari (“Chicago Fire”, “American Reunion”), Allison Janney (“Mom”, “Tammy”), and Chris Cooper (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “August: Osage County”) and Peter Gallagher (” Covert Affairs”, “Whitney”).

The film was directed by Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”, “Away We Go”). It was written by Alan Ball (“True Blood”, “Towelhead”).

The film originally opened in theaters on Oct. 1, 1999 after a limited release on Sept. 8. The film would later go on to receive eight Academy Awards nominations; winning five including Best Picture, six Golden Globe award nominations; winning three including Best Picture-Drama, and four Screen Actors Guild nominations; winning three including Best Cast in a Motion Picture.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of dark humor. Most of what makes this film absolutely fun too watch, is how there’s a level of satire throughout. It’s not just from bits of dialogue but more importantly situations that occur. One situation later in the film is when Spacey’s character is just lounging at home and playing with a toy race car, when in walks Bening. She’s surprised and as they move into conversation, Spacey’s trying to seduce her. When it seems like things will succeed, she notices that he’s about to spill his beer on the nice couch of hers. Much like many of his actions in the film he turns into some sort of antagonistic person just to spite her.

There’s also a scene involving Bentley and Spacey that’s misinterpreted completely by Cooper’s very conservative father character. Cooper see’s his son, Bentley, over at Spacey’s and believes that there’s some sort of affair going on between them. While I’ll argue Cooper’s character brought this on himself, as he’s too strict and intrusive, it’s a pretty funny set up and speaks so well to his character.

The characters are all so fascinating because of who they are behind closed doors. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much what this film is representing. Incredibly flawed people, but wonderful when out in public. One scene that sent me into fits of laughter was when Bening was preparing herself to show a house, the ridiculous ritual she went through to psych herself up. Everything was so specifically planned and executed that it goes beyond that of a perfectionist. Later, after being unsuccessful, she’s slapping herself and crying for the failure she sees herself as. She’s a perfectionist and cherishes this kind of ideal family, where everything’s perfect, so it’s absolutely hilarious. Even Bening’s look for this character, is perfect! Everything is in place and impeccable, definitely that of a perfectionist. In its own way, this film is like a modern day version of “Ordinary People”, but without the huge and incredibly dramatic story.

While everyone really shined, it was Cooper, that stole the show. His conservative retired Marine Corps Colonel, even all these years later, was a far cry from anything I’d seen him play before. When he came on screen and continued to show his dominance over his family, which was evident from the way Janney’s character behaved, as well as Bentley’s, there was something of a pull towards his character. For a man you could spend much of the film disliking, there was still enough to make him somewhat vulnerable and remind you that he too is human.

One thing that I definitely noticed was the score created by Thomas Newman (“Get on Up”, “Saving Mr. Banks”). For films that aren’t action films it seems difficult to capture the feeling of a dramatic film or a comedy. Here, Newman managed to balance both. He created playful tunes and dramatic tones to fit the moment, which was usually brought on by something the character was doing or feeling. The score helped to make the film a bit more satirical at times and whimsical. Either being its own character or enhancing the different characters in the film.

Somehow, and this I find difficult to discuss most of the time, I love how brilliant the writing for this film is. The first moment I saw this film, and when I came back to it, I was hooked by all that was going on. The characters are each so different and well defined that it didn’t take much to decide how I should feel towards each one. One scene early on, that shows this is when the family is leaving the house and Bening and Birch are both impatient, but Spacey is going as fast as he can. Somehow it’s not enough. His briefcase falls open and that just manages to annoy both of them even more. Then you add in the general nature of the dialogue and you get so much clever, dark, and witty humor. It helps to define what stages they’re in in their lives and how they view each other. This writing makes for some pretty interesting situations throughout this film, that it’s hard to look away.

As a film lover I’m constantly aware of films from the past, especially those that earn widespread acclaim. However, there’s something that usually keeps me from seriously seeking out these films. Fortunately this film was just one of those films, otherwise, I don’t know if I could appreciate it for what it is and enjoy every aspect of the film. I can easily imagine missing so much of the humor or not being able to form my own thought on what I feel this film represents. Some things you can only appreciate when you’re older.

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Mr Peabody & Sherman (2014) Review

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Mr Peabody & Sherman (2014)

Directed by Rob Minkoff

Starring Voice Actors:
Ty Burrell
Max Charles
Leslie Mann
Stephen Colbert
Ariel Winter
Allison Janney
Stephen Tobolowsky
Mel Brooks

Studio: DreamWorks Animation
Pacific Data Images
Bullwinkle Studios

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is an American 3D computer-animated adventure comedy film based on the characters from the Peabody’s Improbable History segments of the 1960s animated television series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

(A genius dog teaches his adopted human son about history by taking him there using a time machine. It’s like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure but not as cool or fun or good.)

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My Opinion:

This one will be quick – I promise! I didn’t like this movie. I’m never sure if I should write reviews of kids’ films from their perspective or mine. As an adult, you’re unlikely to enjoy this one. As a kid? I don’t know – I think it’s not aimed at a wide enough age range. I’d say this is maybe best for those between the ages of 6 & 9? There are too many “clever” jokes & puns and, of course, all the history lessons that the very young won’t understand. And I don’t think it’s funny enough or feels “grown-up” enough for anyone of ten or older to really be bothered about it. It’s a pretty typical animated kids’ film – It’s not one that the entire family can enjoy, no matter what age. Why can only Disney & Pixar achieve that perfect balance? I know I say that all the time but it really doesn’t seem that difficult.

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My biggest complaint about this movie is the above girl. She’s a HORRIBLE character! She’s a very bad example for any young girls watching this. She’s a spoiled little shit! And I’m not giving anything away by stating the obvious fact that she changes a bit through the film and becomes nicer. But it’s not enough! She’s still pretty awful through the whole thing. And people complain about Disney not having the best role models for girls sometimes? Those films always have a moral, even if the girls always have to be “pretty”. But the girl in this is mean for no reason and never apologizes and keeps having to be rescued and, honestly, I was like “Leave her stuck in history! We have enough bitches like this in 2014!”. And what’s with all the eyeliner? She’s meant to be, like, eight!

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Anyway. Rant over. I didn’t like this. I’m old but even I barely remember Rocky & Bullwinkle. I’m not sure why they’ve chosen to make this film as these characters will mean nothing to current kids. I guess they’re trying to re-introduce them to a new generation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. I can’t see these characters catching on again based on this film. It’s kind of a shame – it’s a decent enough idea and, with a time machine, there are SO many stories (and sequels) that could be done. I’m sure they just made this with sequel dollar signs in their eyes. But, man, they really could have done a better job with this one.

My Rating: 4.5/10

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The Way Way Back (2013) Review

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The Way Way Back (2013)

Directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

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

Running time: 103 minutes

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

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My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Summary:

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

My Rating: 8.5/10

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