A couple of kid-friendly Halloween movies for Horror Month today. Although I’m not sure how kid-friendly those hideous witches in The Witches actually are…
The Witches (2020)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Based on The Witches by Roald Dahl
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Octavia Spencer, Stanley Tucci, Jahzir Kadeem Bruno, Chris Rock
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb) A young boy and his grandmother have a run-in with a coven of witches and their leader.
Okay, I actually thought this movie was bloody terrible but I liked the main kid (Jahzir Bruno) and Octavia Spencer so much that I’m giving this an extra point to make up for the -1,000 points I want to subtract from it for Anne Hathaway’s dreadful performance and those horrible witches that I found far too disturbing for a kids’ film. I know they’re meant to be hideous but bloody hell! And Hathaway was so over-the-top and what in god’s creation was that stupid accent?!
Honestly, the kid and his grandmother were so likeable and the beginning had great Motown music and the whole thing was going far better than I was expecting until those stupid ass witches showed up & ruined the whole film. Kind of important to get the witches right in a movie called The Witches! Disclaimer: I probably have no right to judge this anyway as I never read the Roald Dahl book NOR watched the 1990 film with Anjelica Huston that everyone seems to far prefer.
My Rating: 5.5/10
Hubie Halloween (2020)
Directed by Steven Brill
Written by Tim Herlihy & Adam Sandler
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Julie Bowen, Ray Liotta, Rob Schneider, June Squibb, Kenan Thompson, Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Buscemi, Maya Rudolph, Tim Meadows, Karan Brar, Paris Berelc, Noah Schnapp, China Anne McClain, Michael Chiklis
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film follows a Halloween-loving delicatessen worker who must save the town of Salem, Massachusetts, from a kidnapper.
I liked this, although it’s certainly not my favorite Adam Sandler film (I did a top ten of his movies HERE so I suppose I should add this at some point). Not sure where I’d rank this – maybe around 10th place or so. But I’ve seen way more than ten of his movies so I should rank all of them – Hubie Halloween is probably somewhere in the middle.
What I liked about this movie more than anything was 1) the fact that it’s set at Halloween & I want more movies set at Halloween and 2) the inappropriate t-shirts his character’s sweet old mother wears and especially 3) Steve Buscemi. I love Buscemi.
I do like Adam Sandler, unlike some snobby people who refuse to admit to ever liking his films. However, I also fully admit that some of his movies are complete & utter shit. Where Sandler does best is when he finds people who make his movies better. Drew Barrymore & Steve Buscemi elevate the Sandler movies they’re in. Too bad Drew wasn’t in this one! Sandler has great chemistry with Drew & Buscemi has ended up being surprisingly hilarious in all of his small Sandler movie roles. Well, Buscemi was great again & the highlight of this film for me (plus it’s a much bigger role than most of his Sandler cameos). My kid was like “Steve Buscemi!” as soon as he came on screen. How many pre-teens get excited over Steve Buscemi, let alone even know who he is?? I’m a cool movie parent.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The film follows a group of women, led by Debbie Ocean, the sister of Danny Ocean, who plan a highly sophisticated heist of the Met Gala in New York City.
I like the Ocean’s films. Well, I didn’t actually see the last one… Oops! Guess I better watch that now. Think I missed something important?! Anyway, I enjoyed the first two but I can’t say I really remember much at all about them now. Heist movies are fun but not a favorite genre of mine. They’re popcorn movies to me. Fun, lazy Sunday afternoon movies. Ocean’s Eight was the same thing. It was fun & I enjoyed it, mainly thanks to its stars & their characters. But I probably won’t remember much about it a few years from now.
This film’s star power is far stronger than the story itself. I even like seven out of eight of these women! I find a lot of actors/actresses annoying for no good reason. By the way, the annoying one is Anne Hathaway. However, she’s fine in this in that she’s meant to be an annoying diva and she played the role well.
I really liked these characters & their very different personalities. Strangely, I possibly liked the main character the least (Sandra Bullock), although she seemed to be having fun as a “bad girl” for a change. I’m not sure if I could pick a favorite but it would be between the characters played by Cate Blanchett, Awkwafina, Rihanna & Helena Bonham Carter. Bonham Carter once again does “lady slightly off her rocker” but she does that kind of role SO well. If I could be any of them, I’d probably choose Blanchett’s character. She’s sexy & super cool. Rihanna’s hacker character was also great. I thought she might be distracting in this but that wasn’t the case at all. As the hubby & I discussed later, the only one who threw us both out of the movie was James Corden. Ugh! It really would’ve been better if he hadn’t suddenly shown up toward the end. He’s a million times more annoying than Hathaway. Oh, and Awkwafina’s character was a lot of fun – I’d never heard of her before this movie.
I haven’t said a lot about the film itself but this isn’t the type of movie you need to thoroughly discuss & overanalyze. It’s meant to be entertaining & it was. It was a little overlong. The heist was, of course, the most enjoyable part but the movie needed to end more quickly after the heist as it did drag a bit afterwards (I mostly blame Corden). I’m not sure if all their “thieving” methods were actually at all plausible but, meh, who cares about those sort of details? It’s fiction. The Met Gala setting was a good idea and I’m now FAR less annoyed than I was a year or so ago when we all first heard those Kardashithingies would be in this (THE most annoying things in the universe -I’d rather watch James Corden 24/7). But it made sense to have them there in the background (it truly was just in the background. Phew.) Fun heist, fun characters, fun movie but average story, a little too long, not believable, and James Corden. No, Ocean’s Eight isn’t perfect but is definitely worth a watch to see these actresses together.
I have four quickie kids’ film reviews for you today! I promise they’ll be quick. Why? Because I barely remember three of them.
I’ve just seen Kung Fu Panda 3 so that review will be a little longer than the rest. You see, I get a little annoyed when I look at the pages on my blog & see that I still have some movies that I watched but never reviewed on the 2014 page & the 2015 page (never mind the 2016 page! I’m way behind). It’s especially annoying that the only movies that I actually went to the cinema to see but then didn’t review were these three 2014 kids’ movies. They were so “meh” that I guess I couldn’t be bothered.
So, here we go! I’ll finally say something about them two years later. I’m limiting myself to one paragraph each for the three older ones (plus my kid’s opinion on each). But let’s start with the longer review for the most current film (and by far the best of the four)…
Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J. K. Simmons, James Hong, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson
From: DreamWorks Animation
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.
I actually thought this movie was really good. As far as DreamWorks movies go, at least. I’ve stated here before how I see DreamWorks movies as strictly kids’ films while I view Pixar & most Disney ones as just being great films overall for every age group. Like, I wouldn’t feel weird discussing both WALL-E & Citizen Kane in the same breath. Except, I’ve not seen Citizen Kane… Never mind.
What I liked about Kung Fu Panda 3 is that, while it has a message as does every kids’ movie, it didn’t let the message get in the way of the movie being fun and actually making kids laugh. The previous movie we went to as a family was Disney’s Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) & I did NOT expect to think a DreamWorks film was far better than a Disney one! But that’s the case this time.
Kung Fu Panda 3 hasn’t forgotten that, first & foremost, it’s meant to be aimed at kids. I felt that Zootropolis completely forgot this while trying to drive its message home with a convoluted plot and uninteresting characters. But Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t dumbed down for kids, either, which is a big pet peeve of mine. Kids aren’t stupid & shouldn’t be treated that way. The jokes were all age-appropriate without being dumb but also not being too grown-up like things such as the Godfather references in Zootropolis.
I have to admit that Kung Fu Panda 3 was even enjoyable to me as an adult who probably wouldn’t watch many animated films not made by Disney or Pixar if I didn’t have a kid. I do love Jack Black (I don’t care about the haters!) and think he’s been perfect as Po in all these films. I think all the characters are strong & really like the setting and the look. In this one, the baby pandas are adorable & even had grumpy me going “aww”. The baddie in this one was also pretty cool, as were his storyline & all the chi stuff. Plus I’m a sucker for the color green. Here’s the baddie:
I’d even go so far as to say that I like the Kung Fu Panda movies the most out of all the ones made by DreamWorks. I find Shrek a little overrated and I’d say that the How To Train Your Dragon films are possibly their “best” work but they’ve never really clicked with me at all (or the kid). But all three of us have enjoyed each of the three Kung Fu Panda movies.
My Rating: 7/10
My Kid’s Opinion: She liked this movie a lot & giggled through the whole thing. She was far more enthusiastic about this one than she was after walking out of Zootropolis, which she called “not very good”. Her favorite part was Po doing his “chitty chitty chat chat” thing that she’s been annoying us with ever since (thanks a lot, Jack Black!). She also loved the baby pandas, especially when they ate everything in sight. She’s not watched the first two films since we went to see them but this one has renewed her interest (and mine!) in watching those again. I’d happily pick them up on DVD now – I think this is a very solid trilogy from DreamWorks.
The House Of Magic (2013) (US Title: Thunder And The House Of Magic)
Directed by Jeremy Degruson & Ben Stassen
Starring: Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Murray Blue, Kathleen Browers, Joey Camen, Grant George, Shanelle Gray, Nina Grillo, Kyle Hebert
From: nWave Pictures, StudioCanal
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) The House of Magic is a 2013 3D Belgian-French computer-animated fantasy-comedy film. The film focuses on an abandoned young cat who seeks shelter in the home of an old, retired magician with his automatons and gizmos.
I admit to not fully remembering the plot of this strange little Belgian/French film (which was in English but I assume originally in French?) two years later. But I clearly remember the kind old magician, the cat he adopts, and the man’s REALLY cool magical toys (automatons and gizmos) such as that adorable lightbulb dude in the photo at the very top of this post. I also remember some great songs being used quite prominently (The Lovecats by The Cure & the always catchy House Of Fun by Madness). It’s not some big Disney, DreamWorks, etc production and that does show but I still thought that the characters, the music, and especially those inventive toys were pretty damn good! I wonder if those who made this have gone on to do more animated films? I’d like to see this sort of thing with a bigger budget. It’s a very sweet & charming film from what I remember. I wouldn’t complain at being made to watch it again.
My Rating: 6/10
My Kid’s Opinion: She doesn’t now remember much of this but does remember all those really cool toys that I mentioned above. She said she’d like to watch it again too (fine with me – I’ll pick up the DVD if I see it).
Rio 2 (2014)
Directed by Carlos Saldanha
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy García, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx
From: Blue Sky Studios
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they’re hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets his father-in-law.
Wow. I really remember very little of this except that I think it was about saving the rainforest, right? I don’t remember the first one either – I only know that these Rio movies are very bright & colorful and have some big musical numbers that are okay. This is from Blue Sky, whose movies are quite similar to DreamWorks in that I see them strictly as films aimed at kids and only truly enjoyed by kids. The only Blue Sky one I really liked was The Peanuts Movie but that’s because I’m obsessed with Peanuts & the movie stayed very true to its spirit. Don’t get me wrong – these Rio movies aren’t bad. They’re very pretty to look at & not the worst way to spend a couple of hours with your kid but I don’t think they’re very memorable. I’d have to say that the Ice Age films are a stronger series from this studio as the characters are better. Also, could they get a more annoying set of voice actors for Rio? Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann & Kristin Chenoweth(!!)?? Ugh. I think I remember Eisenberg’s bird kids in this being quite cute, though…
My Rating: 5.5/10
My Kid’s Opinion: She says she liked this although she couldn’t remember the specifics of it now. She said “I liked the pink frog!” (Ugh. Kristin Chenoweth.) I think it’s proof that the Rio films are pretty & enjoyable enough while being watched but are ultimately forgettable.
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Directed by James Bobin
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, The Muppets
From: Walt Disney Pictures
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.
I grew up with The Muppet Show so I of course love The Muppets. Who doesn’t?! The Muppets movie in 2011 (2012 here) was pretty good. It was fun and managed to kind of capture the spirit of the original show (plus I like Amy Adams). But I found Muppets Most Wanted really disappointing even though it was great, as always, to see these beloved characters. The problem was the messy, boring story and the fact that I really didn’t like the main real-life stars. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell & Tina Fey? How do you go from Amy Adams to some TV stars? Never been a fan of any of them (in fact, who is Ty Burrell anyway? That prick in Dawn Of The Dead??). I just think they made a real mess of this movie – I’ll stick to watching my DVDs of the original show.
My Rating: 5.5/10
My Kid’s Opinion: She remembers this one more than I thought she would! She remembers the plot & the evil Kermit with the mole. She likes The Muppets & says she liked this movie. Maybe I should give it another try…
This is her favorite Muppet-related thing. I agree:
**I’d like to finally take this opportunity to draw attention to a favorite blogger of mine here who does fantastic paintings of The Muppets (and loads of other awesome artwork with a focus on pop culture – but I first started following him because of The Muppets). Please have a look at Scott’s site at Mojoswork.com. You can see all his Muppets artwork HERE.
Scott – I’m sorry it took me two years to finally get around to doing this review! Let me know if you want me to add any more info or if you want me to include a specific Muppets image you’ve done. 🙂 Oh! Scott does a lot of wrestling & sports stuff as well and I thought his History Of The WWF was absolutely amazing despite knowing nothing of that sort of thing myself (MIB – you should really check this out).
I figure I should end this with some Madness since I have House Of Fun in my head after talking about The House Of Magic. I miss this era of music!
Running time: 169 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.
I’ve avoided reading the many reviews of Interstellar here on WordPress because I really didn’t want to know a single thing beforehand. As there are so many (much better) reviews out there, I’ll keep this super short and instead go & read all your reviews when I get a chance. Besides – the more I talk about Interstellar, the more annoyed you’ll probably all get with me. So I’ll just say this: I was underwhelmed. I was bored at times. And, by the end, it kind of just left me feeling empty (well, except for my bladder).
Okay – I’ll say a little more because I’m sure you all want to hear me once again complain about a movie. Right?! 😉 Most who actually read my reviews know by now that I’m of the 70’s & 80’s generation and the majority of my favorite movies are from those two decades. I like plenty of current movies (you can see a ranked list of everything I’ve watched in 2014 HERE and see that I’ve given several movies a rating of 8 or higher). So this isn’t just age talking. No, wait… It IS age talking. I’ve been around a long time now and I’ve seen a lot of truly excellent films. Christopher Nolan is a very good director. I realize that he’s sort of like the “Steven Spielberg” for a generation below mine. For me, though, he’s only made one film so far that I’ve truly loved and it’s not The Dark Knight and certainly not Inception (it’s The Prestige). Other than that one, I wouldn’t watch his films over and over again like the way I have with plenty of Spielberg’s films. I think he’s done a great job with the movies he’s directed but, unfortunately, I think maybe Interstellar was a little too ambitious and comes up very short when compared to sci-fi classics.
Science fiction! It’s something my little brain never fully understands (WTF is a wormhole anyway?) but I absolutely LOVE the genre above all others when it comes to entertainment so I was of course not going to miss this epic space movie. However, I’m also going to be far more picky than some. We have some TRULY classic sci-fi films and I wanted this to be another one. Maybe my expectations were just too high? However, I really had no issues with Gravity. I even ended up thinking Edge Of Tomorrow was far better than I’d ever expected it to be. I think, more than anything, the “human drama” element to Interstellar didn’t fully work. There were definitely some good performances but, overall, it all felt a little shallow and I never really connected with anyone. The “space stuff” (sorry – I hope I don’t lose anyone with my big technical terms!) was fine although, again, I had even less of a connection with the humans in space than I did with those on Earth. It all looked pretty but I wouldn’t say it’s the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen. The first half of the film dragged and I just wanted them to get the hell up into space. But then even that didn’t live up to my expectations.
You know what? I’m going nowhere with this review & these days I get maybe 20 minutes to write them. Plus I said I’d keep it short but as always I just blabbed & blabbed! I’m sorry I’ve not been able to put it into better words but, hey – I was just a little disappointed. That’s all. I like what I like and I’m always completely honest here. Hopefully some of my regulars will know I’ve written enough extremely positive reviews of movies I’ve loved to know that I’m not just trying to be difficult as I know some get a little over sensitive about opinions. The Prestige?? I love it. That’s a 9/10 for me. Interstellar is okay. I know Nolan-worshippers won’t have a bad thing to say about it and I do still recommend it to his fans and, well – to everyone, really. It IS worth a watch on a big screen. It just didn’t quite work for me personally and I’d now rather re-watch a sci-fi classic or something like The Right Stuff, which is one I’ve been meaning to watch for years. Ultimately, Interstellar tries too hard to be Spielberg with the human drama and Kubrick with the rest but never comes close to achieving the greatness those two directors have when they’ve been at their best. I think more focus on either one or the other would have actually made this a better film overall but instead both elements kind of fail.
My Rating: 6.5/10
***Not that anyone is still reading this now that I’ve given a Christopher Nolan film less than an 8 but these are some great sci-fi films & I’d highly recommend them to fans of the genre (the extremely obvious as well as some that are less so). I’d be happy if at least one person gave one of these movies a shot after watching Interstellar (or, better yet, before!). 🙂 And I’d happily take some recommendations as well as there are still plenty I haven’t seen, such as The Right Stuff & the original Solaris or most things from before the 70’s:
In no particular order:
2001: A Space Odyssey
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Star Wars (original trilogy)
Alien & Aliens
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Planet Of The Apes
Back To The Future
The Last Starfighter
Blade Runner (I’ve just lost Brian!)
The Terminator 1 & 2
Death Race 2000
Fahrenheit 451 D.A.R.Y.L. (I’ve just lost the rest of you!) HARDWARE (I had to include it) 😉 The Man Who Fell To Earth (Because… David Bowie!)
That took ages. I’ll stop there although I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch. A few of these movies are definitely not as good as Interstellar. However, I enjoyed them all more…
Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Luke of Oracle Of Film. He’s already reviewed Batman Begins (review HERE) & The Dark Knight (review HERE). Thanks again for doing all these, Luke! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on the final film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, IMDB rank 38 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.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: THE REVIEW
Director: Christopher Nolan Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman Plot: Batman is long gone, the Harvey Dent Act putting rest to all organised crime. However, when a dangerous mercenary hell-bent on vengeance arrives in Gotham, it seems like the perfect time for the Batman to rise once again.
The Dark Knight Rises has taken a bit of a beating recently. I admit that there are so glaring plot holes in the story that not even rasping ‘Because Batman’ can truly fix. Fans, after being euphorically lifted by the magnificence of the Dark Knight, were left underwhelmed at the finale in the Dark Knight trilogy. These reactions all surprised me, because, in my books, The Dark Knight Rises is the best Batman movie to date.
Look past the plot and you realise that Nolan’s aim is creating a more thematic conclusion to the trilogy. This is about every Batman fan’s number one question: when does it end? Does Batman simply hang up the cape one day or does he die in the line of battle? Nolan opens his story with a Gotham no longer in need of a Batman. Dent’s death inspired the Mayor to create a tougher police force, wiping organised crime from the city. The Batman faded away, believed to be a murderer. However, just when the city had gotten lazy, anarchist Bane arrives in the town and uses the luxury of the rich to turn Gotham in on itself. Batman, fuelled by past glories, returns and is quickly subdued. Gotham surrenders to the rule of Bane and Batman is a thing of the past. Christopher Nolan keeps the tone measured perfectly, always hitting the correct notes, whenever he needs an emotion card to be played. When he wants us to feel despair, we have our hearts in our mouths. When he wants us to feel sadness, we feel our throat choking up. And when he wants us to soak in happiness and the awesomeness of seeing the Dark Knight back in action, we are in the palm of his hand, letting the guy who remastered the mythology of the Batman, show us how good cinema can actually be.
The biggest complaint that I heard of the Dark Knight Rises is a very slow middle act. Batman disappears from the plot totally and we get the story of freedom fighters, struggling to take the city away from the all-knowing Bane. Sure, it does feel a little jarring, when we are given break-neck action, only for Nolan to hit the brakes and leave us out in the cold. But, it is all for a good reason. For one, it makes us feel the absence of the Batman. The tone is kept grim and despairing as we realise that, in ending the trilogy, anything could happen. It also means that when the Batman returns, it is one of the most uplifting movie moments of 2012. The second reason for letting Nolan slow the action right down is that the supporting cast are given precious moments to look cool. Gary Oldman, always threatening to steal the show from everyone else, gets a much larger slice of the action. Newcomer Joseph-Gordon Levitt shows himself as one of the newer action heroes on the block. Looking at the trilogy on a whole, this is a refreshing change of pace and lets every card get played, rather than letting certain sides of the story get lost for a more mainstream style of blockbuster.
Another great addition is the villains. Bane has always had a rough deal in the Batman universe, going from the most cold-hearted mercenary in comic history and being resorted to a slapstick thug in ‘Batman and Robin’. Even the games, which have a habit of showing most villains in a positive light, turn Bane into a junkie. Here, on-the-nose casting lets Tom Hardy bring Bane back to one of the most intimidating figures in the trilogy. We have had some great nemesis figures for Batman to face off against, but none have come as close to victory as Bane. The Joker may have broken Batman’s spirit, but it was Bane that actually broke his body. Also, Nolan takes my least favourite villain, the Catwoman, and makes her relevant to the story. She actually makes sense and, while she still sticks out like a sore thumb at certain beats, her addition eventually becomes a key part of the conclusion. There is one more bad guy here, but the less said about that the better. The thrill is in the mystery.
I could rave about how the massive moments really send the Dark Knight Rises into the history books. The final fight on the streets of Gotham, the first fight between Batman and Bane, the heart-breaking explosion over the waters of Gotham… But it is the smaller beats that really make the film. My favourite moment is when Alfred confesses his secrets to Bruce Wayne. It is the quiet disappointment of Christian Bale that gets to me. He is too far gone to break down, but we can see the exhaustion in his eyes, the losses he has faced destroying his soul. This is a man on the way to his deathbed. Easily forgotten, but another testament to how impressive Christopher Nolan’s depiction of the Batman really is.
Final Verdict: Yes, I’m giving every Dark Knight movie five stars. Why? It is the greatest movie trilogy of all time and that’s not an easy competition to win.