The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but didn’t love this book. I’ll be honest and say I knew nothing about it until the TV series started and, when hearing that the novel was “feminist dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi”, I was all “WHAT? That’s so my type of thing!!”. It’s a very good book. I can see why it’s a modern classic but I can’t say it’s one I’ll ever call a favorite of mine.

This is a novel that’s worthy of thorough analysis & discussion. You’re SO not gonna get that on my silly little movie blog! 😉 I’m happy to discuss it with any of you in the comments if you want but I think there are far better places online to find good write-ups of it. I would imagine that The Handmaid’s Tale is now studied in high schools (or perhaps colleges – Americans can be extremely uptight, so the sexual content would probably keep it out of high schools). Or… Is it? It should be studied & discussed, especially as it’s worryingly feeling more & more like a future that’s entirely possible in our lifetimes. I do remember when the TV series started & some people online were all “This show is obviously  anti-Trump!”. Ha! Hilarious. This show based on the book from 1985. Do these people not realize that seeing so many similarities between this book’s “fictional” dystopian future & modern day politics is scary as f*%k?!?!

I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that this book has been labelled “feminist” as this term bizarrely has negative connotations to some people and would probably keep them from reading it. It’s a very well-written & important piece of work that deserves recognition alongside old literary classics (although I suppose that 1985 is now “old” – it just seems like yesterday to me since I’m so damn old myself). At what point is a modern classic no longer a modern classic? Okay – I’m old & depressed now. Where were we?

Oh yeah – Feminist dystopia. Don’t let labels keep you from reading this book if it interests you. Even Margaret Atwood doesn’t approve of this being labelled sci-fi & prefers to call it “speculative fiction” (I read that HERE at Wikipedia, where there’s an interesting bit about the book’s genre classification). Sci-fi does bring futuristic technology to mind whereas this book, although set in the future, feels like it’s set hundreds of years ago due to society’s regression. Once again, it’s scary as hell as it’s starting to feel like we may be headed in that direction.

As for this book’s overall “readability” (as in, is it at all enjoyable as opposed to just worthy), I’d say it has a tiny bit of that “They’ve forced me to read this book in school” thing going on. I don’t really mean that as an insult & I personally found the story itself entirely engrossing. The story kept me very interested and turning the pages but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Also, I’m not one of these annoying people who require an explanation for EVERYTHING but you really don’t find much out in this book. Whatever happened to cause this apocalyptic(?) future is never fully explained and things from the past are only hinted at through the vague thoughts of Offred, our main character. I felt like we didn’t really get to know her, which made it hard to connect with her. Although I know that’s kind of the point as any kind of emotion must be hidden & she’s living her life in constant fear. Atwood also has an odd sort of writing style, which I think further made it slightly difficult to fully connect with the book. Fantastic concept & great story but a book I can’t say I loved since I didn’t have much of a connection with the characters.

As for the current TV series, I did watch the first episode after finishing the book. Rubbish. I won’t be continuing. Sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the show but, if you’ve not read the book, I definitely recommend it over what I’ve seen of the show. Long, drawn out scenes for zero reason other than to appear “deep & brooding”.  Added violence that was not in the book (what was done to Janine didn’t happen in the book). And the episode ends with, I think, a final line that is, very importantly, never said in the book. Why?!?! After that, I knew I couldn’t continue. They’re clearly going to change too much & piss me off. And now, hearing there’s a SECOND season?!? Piss off. Don’t milk it. End it where it’s meant to end. Pffft. Adaptations annoy the hell out of me sometimes. Skip the show & go straight to the book with this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Now currently reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Book Review)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What It’s About: (via Amazon)

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again.

Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.

If civilization was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

My Thoughts:

This is a pretty fantastic book within my beloved post-apocalyptic genre. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with this genre… But, anyway – I’ll probably compare this to The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J Walker since I read this just after that one. Running Club focuses on one main character & his family immediately after the world is pretty much annihilated by asteroids while this one follows several different characters twenty years after most of humanity was wiped out by the “Georgia Flu” as well as showing us some characters in flashbacks before the pandemic. I’d say I liked both of these books equally but Station Eleven is definitely the “better” one of the two. I believe it won an award (Yep – I just looked it up. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015, which is “a British award given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year“). This one feels like, I dunno… Proper literature! What I mean is that I could see Station Eleven being read in schools while Running Club is more mainstream fiction. Did I somehow manage to just insult both books in that sentence??? 😉 I didn’t mean to in any way – I really liked & recommend both books but they have quite different styles.

Station Eleven is very unique in the way the characters are connected, both past & present. Kirsten, an actress in a group of performers who travel the country to entertain people after society has collapsed, is obsessed with gathering information on a famous actor she worked with in a Shakespeare play as a child & who died before her eyes on the stage. That same night is when the Georgia Flu pandemic took hold & we slowly learn how Kirsten has come to be with this travelling group of actors & musicians twenty years later. There are very few survivors left after the pandemic and no electricity, medicine, etc. Travelling can be very dangerous but this group wishes to keep the arts alive.

Two of the only things Kirsten has left from the pre-pandemic world and her most prized possessions are the first two issues of a comic book called Dr. Eleven. The parts of the book that detail this comic book and its author plus the comic book’s story set on a space station called Station Eleven are my absolute favorite parts of this novel. It’s through this comic book that, unbeknownst to Kirsten & several other main characters, they’re all linked.

I’ve not given it a lot of thought but I suppose this book is making a comment on how humanity is all connected, even without the current modern technology that makes staying connected so much easier (Skype, air travel, etc – all these things no longer exist in this book). Also, it shows that we long for this connection and there are attempts to rebuild things in the book (the publishing of a newspaper given out to travellers and the way the symphony continues to travel & perform despite the danger). There are also the obvious parallels between this post-apocalyptic Earth and the hostile space station that Dr. Eleven finds himself on in the novel’s comic book.

I’ve not read another Emily St. John Mandel book but she’s written a fantastic novel here and the way in which she weaves these characters’ lives together was truly unique. This was quite different from other books I’ve read & is well worth a read no matter what sort of genre you like. I have to say that this book, based on its writing & originality, deserves a slightly higher rating than I’m giving it. The only slight downside for me was that I didn’t buy into the characters as much as I’d have liked. I can’t explain why, however… But for whatever reason, I cared more about the characters in The End Of The World Running Club. Like I also said with that one, however, this would make for an absolutely brilliant film if the right filmmakers/actors were involved. I’d love to see this story brought to life on the screen and for this book to get even more recognition. I’d happily read another book from Emily St. John Mandel if they’re as good as Station Eleven.

My Rating: 3.5/5

The Death Cure by James Dashner (Book Review)

I’ve finished reading the Maze Runner trilogy so I’ll do a short review of the final book: The Death Cure. I did a full-length double review of the first two books, The Maze Runner & The Scorch Trials, HERE. To be honest, I’ll only really be saying the exact same things again so I’ll keep this post brief. Let’s talk about The Death Cure

The Death Cure by James Dashner

What It’s About: (via The Maze Runner Wiki)
It’s the end of the line. WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test. Will anyone survive? What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say. The truth will be terrifying. Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all. The time for lies is over.

My Thoughts:

I love apocalyptic and/or dystopian books and I’ll happily read any YA books as long as they’re halfway decent. I’m very “must read the book before seeing the film!” but did it the other way around this time after seeing & really liking the first The Maze Runner movie. I then ended up quite disappointed with the first book. Yep – this is one time where I’ll say the movie was much better than the book! It managed to flesh out the characters & make them far more likable. Then I read The Scorch Trials & liked it a fraction more than the first book (until it totally went to shit at the end). Then I read The Death Cure. Then I watched The Scorch Trials movie (I’m all ass-backwards!). Oh. My. God. What in the HELL was up with The Scorch Trials film “adaptation”??? Did they read the book at all?!? (I’ll review/bitch about that movie tomorrow).

What am I even talking about? I’m so confused. Oh! The Death Cure. The final book. Well, except for a prequel, I think? Which I won’t be bothering to read. All I can say is that the third book is like the others in the trilogy, written in the same weird style and feeling like it’s being made up as it goes along. Looking at my reviews of the others, I see I threatened to throw this book out the window if it didn’t give answers & come to a satisfying conclusion. I’m happy to say that this book does come to a proper conclusion. There’s no cliffhanger or teasers of more to be added to the story. Hallelujah! I was worried that I was being strung along this whole time.

Am I happy with the ending? Meh – it was okay. I think I’m mainly annoyed that YA books of this genre all feel the need to be an entire series of books. I suppose it’s to milk as much money as possible out of its young audience but it’s getting old & tired now (like me!). Weird writing style aside, this was an enjoyable enough story overall that I think I’d have appreciated far more if it had been edited down into one book. I stand by my opinion that the first film is quite good and the story was intriguing enough to make me seek out the books but the second film is so awful that I have zero desire to see the final one(s?). As for the books, The Death Cure was my least favorite of the three but that’s not saying much – they’re all really the same thing. I feel bad saying this as I do respect anyone who is able to write a successful book and I believe in always reading the book before watching the film but, if you’re interested in this setup, I actually recommend going straight to the movies with these. It’s even possible I’d have liked the second film more if I hadn’t known that it doesn’t. follow. the. book. in. any. way. what. so. ever. What the hell…..?!

My Rating: 2.5/5 (same rating I gave the other two books)

The Girl With All The Gifts (2016) Review

The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)

Directed by Colm McCarthy

Based on The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Sennia Nanua

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot depicts a dystopian future following a breakdown of society after most of humanity is wiped out by a fungal infection and focuses upon the struggle of a scientist, a teacher and two soldiers who embark on a journey of survival with a special young girl named Melanie.

My Opinion:

First of all, I’ll point out that we’re dealing with a lot of my favorite things when it comes to this movie: Post-apocalyptic, dystopian, an infection that turns people zombie-like… So this movie is totally my type of thing but I have to say that I thought it was really good & quite an original take on a genre I never would have expected to become as mainstream as it has nowadays. I liked zombie movies before they were cool, dammit. 😉 lol

This is from the book of the same name by M.R. Carey & it’s a rare occasion that I haven’t read a novel in this genre before seeing the movie. I really want to read it now (but I hate doing it that way around). Has anyone here read it? It’s had very good reviews. But I have to say that it was nice to watch a movie like this where for once I didn’t know much about it beforehand & had no idea what would happen. So that probably helped but I really did enjoy everything about this film. I liked the story, I really liked the ending (I often complain about horror movie endings), and I thought it had a great overall atmosphere & very interesting score.

The characters are also really good in this, which is always extremely important to me. I’d have liked a little more character development & to know more about their pasts (maybe there’s more in the book?) but the movie still did well with them for its running time & I cared about what would happen to everyone. That’s more than can be said for most modern horror films (like Don’t Breathe, which I’ll review next week – hateful characters in that!).

Glenn Close plays a scientist trying to create a cure for the infection & Paddy Considine plays a soldier. They’re both good & have big roles in this story but the main characters are Gemma Arterton as a teacher & fantastic newcomer Sennia Nanua as her favorite student, Melanie. These two have a great mother/daughter type of relationship that kind of made me think of Ellen Ripley & Newt in Aliens. Being the mother of a daughter, I always enjoy that maternal instinct thing in movies (especially cool movies with aliens & zombies since I’m not a girly girl). Arterton did a very good job but Sennia Nanua was amazing. I immediately looked her up & she’s been in nothing else other than a short film (a ska film set in 1980 – I want to see it!). She’s certainly an actress to watch. What’s with young people being so damn good in movies nowadays? Between her & Jacob Temblay in Room, this has been quite a year for amazing performances from young people (btw – Room was this year in the UK before anyone corrects me).

I don’t want to get too detailed on the plot as, from what I can tell, this movie doesn’t yet have an American release date? That’s a shame – I do recommend it if it makes its way overseas (it’s an English film). If you liked 28 Days Later, this is worth a watch as it has a similar mood & vibe plus, of course, a deserted London thanks to a contagious infection that turns people zombie-like.

I think this is a good one to watch without knowing too much but I promise that it’s not “just another unoriginal zombie movie”. As there are so many now, it’s hard to bring something new to the table but I think this movie does manage to give us something a bit unexpected. It’s a serious film – almost more thriller than horror & more about the relationships between the characters & moral implications involving Glenn Close’s work as a scientist. So, yeah, it has people who want to feed on brains but it’s not a braindead film. I like a movie that makes you think & it’s a good one for discussion afterwards. I’m really glad I saw The Girl With All The Gifts – I hope it gets a wider release & that more people give it a chance. And Sennia Nanua is definitely one to watch.

My Rating: 8/10

**Here’s the trailer if you do want to know a bit more than what I’ve told you. I did see this trailer beforehand & it didn’t ruin anything for me.

Miracle Mile (1988) Review

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Miracle Mile (1988)

Directed by Steve De Jarnatt

Starring:
Anthony Edwards
Mare Winningham
Denise Crosby
Mykelti Williamson
Kurt Fuller

Music by Tangerine Dream

Running time: 87 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young man hears a chance phone call telling him that a nuclear war has started and missiles will hit his city in 70 minutes.

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My Opinion:

What’s this? An apocalyptic movie from my beloved 1980s with a Tangerine Dream score yet I’d not even HEARD of it let alone ever seen it?! How is this possible?!?! Well, I think UK Netflix is finally getting better as they’re starting to stick some slightly obscure 80s films on there, which is exactly what I want! I’m always on the lookout for lesser known movies from the 80s (and 70s) and Netflix has surprised me twice in the past month with this and then with one I watched a couple weeks ago (Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. I can’t wait to review that!).

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I’ll start by saying that Miracle Mile isn’t exactly a great movie & it’s obvious why it didn’t end up some mainstream hit at the time. However, I liked it because it’s my type of thing and I’ll probably end up giving it a higher rating than it may actually deserve. I think my positive reviews here are sometimes taken as recommendations but I’d only recommend this one to a select few people. I kind of attempted to explain my rating system in my recent Re-Rated post (HERE). For example, though I LOVE Hardware and gave it a really positive review, I’ve only actually recommended it to two people (who haven’t watched it) as I know it’s only for a certain type of person. So I take no responsibility for anyone hating this if they watch it! Make up your own mind & don’t get mad at me if you choose to watch this and then hate it like MovieRob did after I declared my love for Hardware. 😉

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Miracle Mile is an odd one. From the tiny bit I read when I discovered it on Netflix & from looking at some pictures, I thought it may be more of an “apocalyptic romance” and in a way it almost looked like it could be closer to an 80s teen film than a dreary nuclear war film (as in, it looked like it would be a little closer to WarGames than Threads but it ended up somewhere in between the two). There IS a romance that’s quite sweet but not in a bad or annoying way – I liked how it was fit in around the story of how the main character (Anthony Edwards) is going to get to safety in only 70 minutes after hearing a chance phone call telling him missiles are about to strike his city. He’s an awkward guy and he’s only just met a quirky girl who seems to be his perfect match (Mare Winningham). After missing their date due to his alarm clock not going off, he receives the phone call & then must track her down in order to save her. For anyone not into romance, they don’t exactly get a lot of screen time together but when they do I liked seeing their strange little relationship & Winningham’s innocent & almost childlike character (except when she says to Edwards “Third date, Harry, I’m gonna screw your eyes blue“).

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When I mentioned this movie, someone somewhere (sorry, I don’t remember who – it may have been on Twitter) said something about Mare Winningham being a second rate Lea Thompson but, really, we have a movie that stars Goose instead of Maverick so it was less likely to be a big blockbuster with Anthony Edwards in the lead. It also looks & feels pretty low budget (I have no idea if it was) and the acting from some of the supporting characters isn’t the greatest. But, hey – I liked the story and it went in a way I wasn’t really expecting. It’s nice to watch a movie that’s not 100% predictable for a change. Edwards meets a lot of different types of people in his 70 minutes of running around the Miracle Mile neighborhood of L.A. and it was fun seeing faces I recognize from other 80s films & TV shows.

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You of course have Edwards & Winningham in this who, although not often in leading roles, were in their fair share of big 80s movies (Top Gun, St. Elmo’s Fire, Revenge Of The Nerds, etc). You also have Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump), Denise Crosby (Star Trek: TNG & Pet Sematary – two things I loved way too much!), Kelly Jo Minter (Mask – an all-time favorite film of mine), O-Lan Jones (crazy lady in Edward Scissorhands), Jenette Goldstein (the woman who stabs the guy through the milk carton in Terminator 2 and who was Vasquez in Aliens, which is possibly the best movie ever!), Earl Boen (also in Terminator 1, 2 & 3!), and Brian Thompson (in The Terminator! what’s with all the Terminator people in this?! okay – looks like they’re from the same film company or something). I can’t find a good picture of Brian Thompson from Miracle Mile so here he is in The Terminator – he has a face that’s hard to forget!

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My favorite “Hey, it’s that guy” actor, though, is Kurt Fuller (Wayne’s World) & I was very happy to see him in this! Here’s Fuller in Miracle Mile – he probably has the most memorable scene of the whole movie.

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Summary:

Miracle Mile certainly wasn’t quite what I was expecting but I love that it managed to actually surprise me. It’s somewhat quirky & unpredictable. It won’t be for everyone but I enjoyed it and, as always, enjoyed seeing familiar faces from what’s probably my favorite era of movies. The Tangerine Dream score did help to give it that 80s feel I love although none of it was quite as good as the train sex music from Risky Business. There was one great totally Tangerine Dream-y scene which I’ll include a YouTube clip of at the end. Another scene like that really would have helped this strange little film I’d never before heard of but I did like it & am hoping to discover more movies like this that I somehow managed to miss when I was younger.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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**This scene is safe to watch – it’s toward the beginning of the film & just shows how Edwards misses his date. It’s a great piece of music.**

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Review

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***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Directed by George Miller

Starring:
Tom Hardy
Charlize Theron
Nicholas Hoult
Hugh Keays-Byrne
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Riley Keough
Zoë Kravitz
Abbey Lee
Courtney Eaton

Running time: 120 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

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My Opinion:

YES! This is what movies are meant to be like! I’ve been moaning for years that they can’t make a decent action blockbuster anymore. It’s all CGI bullshit now with shitty scripts and crappy characters. Oh how I’ve longed for the days of The Terminator & Alien/Aliens. Well, I’m happy to say that Mad Max: Fury Road is a return to the good old days of action-packed blockbusters. And, as a HUGE added bonus, we have ourselves another Ellen Ripley with Charlize Theron’s kick-ass Imperator Furiosa. That’s right, ladies! This is a totally bonkers, violent, non-stop adrenaline-fueled extravaganza that has its female audience in mind just as much as its male audience! YES!!!! The female characters don’t take a backseat in Fury Road – they’re driving this bastard!

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I’m now kind of regretting my post from two days ago (HERE) in which I re-rated several movies I thought I’d given either too high or too low of a rating. I said that I think I sometimes rate new releases too highly due partly to hype & partly to my enjoyment of the experience of going to a movie in the cinema. So now I’ve gone to the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time & I’m still on a high as I’m writing this just after seeing it and I know I’m going to just rave about it like an idiot and end up giving it a really high rating. Well, you can trust me on this – Fury Road is not a movie that will need re-rating because I’ve rated it too highly in my excitement. In fact, I’m afraid I won’t do it justice & may rate it slightly too low as I want to be more cautious with my ratings now. Damn. We’ll see… I still don’t know at this point what rating I’ll give it.

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I always try to stay as spoiler free as possible in my reviews and I want to be especially careful with this one as I think knowing as little as possible before seeing Fury Road may add to your enjoyment (I know it did for me as I didn’t know quite what to expect beyond the one trailer I’d seen). So, I’m not going to get very specific about things that happen in the movie as I’m not sure what is common knowledge & what isn’t. I think people will like this one whether they’ve seen the Mel Gibson films or not. My experience is this: I saw the first two but I admit that, although I did really like them at the time, I only watched them once sooo many years ago that I don’t remember them as well as I’d like. Sorry Mad Max fans – I’d wanted to re-watch them before seeing Fury Road but haven’t had the time. I’ll definitely make time for them again at some point now but Fury Road works just fine as a film on its own.

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What I loved about Fury Road (besides the kick-ass female characters that I just can’t rave about enough) was, well… Everything. I loved the look & feel of the post-apocalyptic world and its insane inhabitants. I loved the action that never ever let up – the stunts they pulled off were amazing! My eyes couldn’t actually keep up with the amount of action going on – it was nuts! But in a good way – I want to watch this again as I know I missed things. The writing was very good – we got decent character development (for an action movie) as well as sympathetic characters we cared about and who cared about each other (so many action movies barely bother with this!). The baddies are over the top and outrageous in the most awesome way possible. Hell, the whole movie is over the top and outrageous but it’s so much damn FUN. George Miller really went to town with Fury Road & it all works perfectly. It reminds me in a way of how Tarantino makes his films – you can tell there’s a real love of what he does. It feels like he really put his heart into making this film. I wish every director would do the same.

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Summary:

Mad Max: Fury Road is totally bonkers. Its fast pace may have you leaving the cinema wondering what the hell just hit you but, hey – that’s what action movies should be like. Fury Road gives us Imperator Furiosa, a new badass female who deserves a place among the likes of Ellen Ripley and The Bride. As a female who is often frustrated by the sexism and misogyny in movies, I couldn’t be more happy about that (and the movie sure as shit passes the Bechdel test!). I think those who aren’t fans of the other Mad Max films should like this just as much as those who are but those who are may be a little disappointed that this movie should almost be titled Furiosa & Mad Max: Fury Road. That title sounds damn good to me, though – maybe we can get the female character’s name in the title of the next one.

My Rating: 9/10

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Melancholia (2011) Review

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Melancholia (2011)

Directed by Lars von Trier

Starring:
Kirsten Dunst
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Alexander Skarsgård
Brady Corbet
Cameron Spurr
Charlotte Rampling
Jesper Christensen
John Hurt
Stellan Skarsgård
Udo Kier
Kiefer Sutherland

Running time: 136 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.

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My Opinion:

Here’s one of the most-voted-for movies in my recent poll (I already reviewed the top two winners: Spirited Away & Grave Of The Fireflies). I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Lars von Trier film. They’re artsy fartsy & weird, right? I was thinking this was my first von Trier film but, oh yeah!, I actually saw Dancer In The Dark years ago. That was pretty good… I know that probably a good ten years ago I spent quite possibly the most I’ve ever spent on a set of DVDs when I bought something called Riget (The Kingdom – a Lars von Trier TV mini-series from 1994-1997) because I’d read about it & it sounded awesome & I didn’t know who the hell Lars von Trier was. Shit… what did I buy?! I’ve still not watched it all these years later. Has anyone seen it? I’m a little scared now – I hope no one mutilates their genitals in it. Anyway, after all the rambling I’m going to say that I actually liked Melancholia quite a bit! Huh. I was expecting it to be totally pretentious (which I suppose it is) but I also thought it was very beautiful.

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Melancholia is pretentious and artsy fartsy and full of rich wankers with their first world problems & Kirsten Dunst is depressed even though she’s young and rich and beautiful and successful and has an amazing chest. So right away it’s very hard to feel for these people although, as we’re introduced to more of Dunst’s family, we do at least start to feel for her having had to deal with these people in her life (especially her bitch of a mother) and start to understand why she is the way she is. Her sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is also very supportive so, as the movie is about the two sisters, it doesn’t get too annoying as these two are bearable. It’s like Frozen with severe depression! Look – shit is shooting from Dunst’s fingers kind of like how ice shoots from Elsa’s!

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This movie is divided into two parts: Part 1 focuses on Dunst & the evening of her wedding while part 2 deals with Gainsbourg’s fear of the strange new planet Melancholia, which she is afraid will collide with Earth. I think a lot of people may struggle with part 1 as you really just watch Dunst in a wedding dress growing more & more depressed but it’s necessary for the character development of the two sisters & seeing what their relationship is like. I have to say I loved the very beginning which was just full of strange & beautiful imagery while classical music played (from Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde. I won’t even pretend I didn’t have to look that up – I like some classical music but I’m more of an Iron Maiden fan). So I liked the first half of this film just fine although I think more will prefer the second half in which we watch Melancholia come closer & closer to Earth and the sisters’ roles are reversed. Basically, part 2 is much better (or is more “exciting”, I suppose) as the characters face their impending doom. Yay! I’ve always wanted to say “impending doom“!

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Summary:

Melancholia isn’t for everyone – you’ll probably love it or you’ll hate it. I suppose it is kind of a part of one of my favorite genres: apocalyptic. I’m obsessed with anything apocalyptic so right away I had an interest in checking out this film. I also don’t mind a bit of artsy fartsy pretentiousness now & then (I love things like Daft Punk’s Electroma) so I had no problem with any of that here. Although, it’s a pretty straightforward story and any symbolism isn’t weird or confusing – it all made sense & I actually thought it was a very interesting way to explore depression. I mean, there’s nothing that makes you go “what the HELL is von Trier smoking?“, which is the impression I get about his other films that I haven’t seen. There’s no genital mutilation here or anything. You know, I’m just assuming everyone knows what I’m on about since we’re all movie bloggers but maybe I should point out that this happens in his film Antichrist so some people don’t think I keep mentioning the mutilation thing out of the blue for no reason. I think I probably prefer watching pretty rich people being a little sad to some of Lars von Trier’s other films from what I’ve read of them but I wouldn’t say no to watching some more of his stuff based on Melancholia.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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It’s The Apocalypse, Charlie Brown!

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Holy shit! Two of my favorite things TOGETHER… Peanuts & the Apocalypse! 🙂 This piece, called It’s The Apocalypse Charlie Brown, was created by artists Sean Ellery, Max Dunbar and Vitali Iakovlev. You can read more about it at GeekTyrant HERE along with the following story to go with the art:

Ever since Lucy had finally gone too far in her quest for power and launched the nuclear apocalypse, Charlie Brown had roamed the wastes watching his Peanuts gang being whittled down one by one until only he and his faithful beagle; Snoopy IV were left…. But he would never give up, never. Not until he found the little red haired girl.

She was out there… somewhere…

Dead Snow (2009) Review

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Dead Snow (2009) (Norwegian: Død snø)

Directed by Tommy Wirkola

Starring:
Vegar Hoel
Stig Frode Henriksen
Charlotte Frogner
Lasse Valdal
Evy Kasseth Røsten
Jeppe Laursen
Jenny Skavlan
Ane Dahl Torp
Bjørn Sundquist
Ørjan Gamst

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Dead Snow is a 2009 Norwegian zombie splatter film that centers on a group of students surviving a Nazi zombie attack in the mountains of Norway.

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My Opinion:

This is my second favorite Norwegian movie of all-time after Troll Hunter! (Okay – they’re the only Norwegian movies I’ve seen). This is also the third zombie comedy I’m reviewing for my month of horror movie reviews (that I totally flaked out on and stopped posting for a week). I liked Dead Snow much more than Life After Beth but, while I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much The Return Of The Living Dead, I did like it and thought it showed a lot of promise. I’ve heard some pretty positive things about the sequel and am not surprised as I thought this was a great concept that didn’t quite work overall but could possibly be improved upon in a sequel. I’ll have to check that out at some point.

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What does work is, as I said, the concept. Nazi zombies! Why did no one think to do that sooner? Or HAS it been done before? Not that I can think of. A lot of reviews have also mentioned the look of the blood on all that white snow and it did make for a great look to the film. Also, the characters are decent. At least, as far as horror movie characters go, a few of them are fairly well developed. There’s a great “movie nerd” guy who keeps talking about & quoting movies throughout the film so that was fun for a geek like me. And guess what? Slight spoiler, but… He’s the one who gets laid! So there may still be hope for movie geeks (maybe even Mike?). 😉

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I think what didn’t work quite as well as I’d been hoping was the comedy. The movie takes itself slightly more seriously than I was expecting and a couple scenes felt a little too dramatic for a comedy. The pacing was a little off as well as it seemed too slow at first then suddenly gets pretty mental at the end. These aren’t huge complaints, though, as I still thought it was pretty good. I think I’m just trying to figure out why I didn’t like it QUITE as much as I should have as it’s my type of thing and all the elements are there for it to potentially be great. I think they could have upped the comedy more and been a little more silly and made it a bit more “fun”. It sounds like this may be the case in the sequel?

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Summary:

If you’re looking for comedy horror, I’d recommend Tucker & Dale Vs Evil or Grabbers instead as they were just loads of fun. If you specifically like zombie movies, though, I think you’d be perfectly happy with this as a zombie comedy as well as just a zombie movie. The gore gets fairly excessive at the end so that should keep zombie fans happy. It’s not as funny as The Return Of The Living Dead but there were a few unexpected laughs and the characters are more well developed and likable than a lot of horror movie characters manage to be. The movie doesn’t quite reach its potential but it’s still a pretty good effort. However, I can’t believe that girl sucked that guy’s finger just after he’d done a poo & wiped himself and hadn’t yet washed his hands!!!!! That’s just nasty.

My Rating: 7/10

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CPD Classics: Night Of The Comet (1984) Review

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Night Of The Comet (1984)

Directed by Thom Eberhardt

Starring:
Catherine Mary Stewart
Kelli Maroney
Robert Beltran
Sharon Farrell
Mary Woronov
Geoffrey Lewis
Peter Fox
John Achorn
Michael Bowen

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive.

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First of all, I know I promised “Zombie Fridays” through October but I’ve had to change my schedule slightly so may not manage that. I’ll try. Night Of The Comet is KIND OF a zombie movie! Second of all, I should point out that CPD Classics are simply some of my all-time favorite movies or movies I just feel deserve more attention. Not all of them will necessarily be “good” but they’re all special to me (like Hardware!). Night Of The Comet won’t be for everyone but I grew up with it and it’ll always make me think of my early teens and make me feel all nostalgic.

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Why It’s A CPD Classic:

Night Of The Comet is part of the post-apocalyptic genre that I adore. I did a list of My Top Ten Post-Apocalyptic Movies HERE and gave this an honorable mention. I think that’s back when I wanted you all to take me seriously but, if I’m honest, this would be in my Top Ten. This is certainly one of the movies most responsible for my fascination with this genre.

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So, as the above plot synopsis says, a comet wipes out pretty much everyone on Earth besides the two sisters in this film and a small group of scientists who were the only ones smart enough to worry about the comet and took shelter. Oh, and it also turned some people with limited exposure to the comet into “zombies”. See? Zombies! (Don’t go expecting a full-on zombie movie, though – there are only a few of them!)

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There truly aren’t many survivors in this movie and I was always quite fascinated with how desolate it is (think Will Smith in I Am Legend or Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later). These two girls are left roaming around these silent big city streets and there’s not a soul in sight (except for a couple of those zombies). They first go to this great massively 80’s-looking radio station as they figure there may be survivors there since the station is still on the air. Then, and this is my FAVORITE bit, they realize they can go to THE MALL and take whatever they want since everyone is dead! So we get this great 80’s montage where the sisters, seemingly not too terribly bothered about the planet being wiped out, go on a fun little shopping spree and try on loads of clothes. I LOVE IT. Now, I’ve never been a girly girl but I first saw this when I was 12 or 13 and I think a small part of me wished for a similar scenario in real life so I, too, could go on a post-apocalyptic shopping spree. Is that fucked up?? Lol. Screw that shopping spree in Pretty Woman (where Julia Roberts shows those snobby bitches that she’s not just a slut, she’s a slut with MONEY!). Night Of The Comet has THE best cinematic girly shopping spree.

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Now, onto the characters… The little sister is played by Kelli Maroney and, when I used to watch this all the time, I found her character a little annoying. I actually did re-watch this for the first time in years the other day and liked her much more. She’s just very “young” and she’s meant to be the less mature one who kind of needs to be taken care of by her older sister. It’s quite cute how the only thing she cares about with everyone dead is the fact that she may never have another boyfriend plus I have a soft spot for her as she was also in Fast Times At Ridgemont High and the awesomely bad (but I love it anyway) Chopping Mall.

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Probably the MAIN reason I liked Night Of The Comet so much, however, was because of the older sister (played by the lovely Catherine Mary Stewart). She’s COOL. There are a few (mostly obscure) actresses I wanted to “be” as a young teen. Regulars here will already know how much I loved Elisabeth Shue in Adventures In Babysitting. I also had a thing for Meredith Salenger (most her movies were crap but I wanted to look like her) and Tammy Lauren (a prize to the first person who can name something she’s been in without looking her up! she’s going to be in another review of mine this month). Then there was Catherine Mary Stewart in THIS. First of all, she works at a movie theater which I thought was pretty cool. She’s wearing this dumb uniform at the beginning but manages to look awesome in it. She’s also screwing the projectionist, which is super cool (yeah – I think it would kick ass to make out in that little room while a movie is playing). Hell, it’s what saves her life as she’s not outside when the comet appears!

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Let’s see… She’s also amazing at playing video games (she’s super pissed off that some new initials have emerged in amongst all her high scores on the video game at the movie theater where she works). Oh! And… She’s good at fighting off zombies and is really good with a gun as the girls’ father was in the military or something and taught them both how to shoot (now very convenient for these comet-apocalypse girls!). Finally, she wears the coolest 80’s clothes and is of course totally attractive.

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Summary:

Wow. I hope none of you actually read any of that above – it sounds like I was a massive geek! Well, all kids are geeks at that age, right? This is the first CPD Classic that I actually re-watched before writing my review as I hadn’t seen it in a long time. I already knew it wasn’t that “good” so was expecting it to be horribly dated now. You know what? It’s better than I remember. I can’t say anyone watching this for the first time now is going to love it unless they love 80’s movies (and this is VERY 80’s) but it’s a fun film and has a very “cult classic” feel to it now. There are plenty of 80’s films I still adore even though I will readily admit that they’ve not aged well but I was very surprised to find that, after re-watching Night Of The Comet, it’s actually gone up in my estimation. Worth a watch for lovers of the 80’s, anything post-apocalyptic, zombies, video games, girls dressed as cheerleaders while shooting guns, no thorough plot explanations, and shopping.

My Rating: 8/10

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The Return Of The Living Dead (1985) Review

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The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

Directed by Dan O’Bannon

Starring:
Clu Gulager
James Karen
Don Calfa
Thom Mathews
Beverly Randolph
John Philbin
Jewel Shepard
Miguel A. Núñez Jr
Brian Peck
Linnea Quigley
Mark Venturini
Jonathan Terry
Allan Trautman

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Return of the Living Dead is a 1985 American black comedy/zombie horror film that tells the story of how three men accompanied by a group of teenage punks deal with the accidental release of a horde of brain hungry zombies onto an unsuspecting town. The film is known for introducing the popular concept of zombies eating brains, as opposed to just eating human flesh, like previous zombie iterations, as well as its soundtrack, which features several noted deathrock and punk rock bands of the era.

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My Opinion:

Confession time: any regulars here will know that my first love when it comes to movies are those from the 70s & 80s and that I’ve seen my fair share from those decades. However, I never saw this one. This is a movie people like THIS GUY and THIS GUY love and one of them will moan at me for not being all like “Oh my god this is the best movie EVER!!!” like he did when I reviewed Night Of The Creeps HERE even though I gave it a positive review. 😉 I’ll probably compare the two movies a bit as they’re a similar genre from the same era & I didn’t see either of them until years later.

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I’m still trying to decide which film I prefer. Overall, I think I liked the story and characters in Night Of The Creeps a bit more but think The Return Of The Living Dead is actually the better movie and script & slightly more my thing as I do love my zombies. As with Night Of The Creeps, however, I won’t ever love it in the same way I might have had I seen it as a young teen and grown up with it.

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So, anyway – the director of this film wrote a few other obscure things such as the Total Recall screenplay and, um… the story for something called… Alien?

In The Return Of The Living Dead, one of the female characters rips her clothes off at the beginning and then runs around fully nude for the ENTIRE movie. I’m sure this made those two guys I mentioned earlier quite happy, especially as horny teenage boys. For an old lady watching this for the first time now, it was a bit of a chuckle at first then got a little tiresome. This is from the guy who created the story that gave us one of the strongest (and probably my favorite) female movie characters of all-time. Lol. No, I’m not being a prude – I just found it kind of funny. (I’ve looked into this as I was curious and he actually wrote them all as generic non-gender-specific characters for Alien so he wasn’t the one who created the final character of Ripley. FYI in case you’re curious too!). Hey – the naked actress in this follows me on Twitter which I think is kind of awesome so I’m not really complaining. 😉 This movie is a laugh and I did have fun with it. Ellen Ripley rules, though! I know which character I’d rather have with me in a zombie apocalypse – she’d be awesome fending off the zombies with her flame thrower.

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Summary:

I’m not being harsh – I enjoyed this movie quite a lot. I got a good few laughs out of it too (“send more paramedics…” lol! that was hilarious!). If anything, my main criticism would be that I felt this was too short and the ending was pretty abrupt. Being a typical horror movie, I’m assuming there may be longer cuts of the film? I’ve not looked into it but this is one case where I actually wanted the movie to go on for longer. So, that’s probably a good sign that I was enjoying it. I liked the “punks” and love how that ties the movie to an era I love but the characters I actually liked the most were all the older men in this. A bit more character development would have been nice but I know this movie is more about the fun, the cheesy gore, and the laughs. Hey, if “black comedy/zombie horror” is your type of genre, you should be watching this if for some odd reason you haven’t seen it. Yes, I think I’d rate this one above Night Of The Creeps. In fact, I think it probably doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. When you think about it, this was 19 years before Shaun Of The Dead but certainly doesn’t seem to get mentioned as often as that one does.

Actually, I’d really like to watch this one again…

My Rating: 8/10

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**FYI: This movie is waaaaaay better than Life After Beth. THIS is a proper zombie comedy.

Life After Beth (2014) Review

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Life After Beth (2014)

Directed by Jeff Baena

Starring:
Aubrey Plaza
Dane DeHaan
Molly Shannon
Cheryl Hines
Paul Reiser
Matthew Gray Gubler
John C Reilly
Anna Kendrick

Running time: 89 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young man’s recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead, but he slowly realizes she is not the way he remembered her.

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My Opinion:

I can’t figure out how I feel about Aubrey Plaza. I’ve never seen Parks And Recreation. I first saw her in Safety Not Guaranteed, which I didn’t exactly love but I didn’t mind her. Then I saw her in a couple interviews and thought she was kind of weirdly funny. Then I watched that awful The To Do List and she just got on my nerves. This is my “horror month”, however, so I figured I’d check this movie out as I love a decent zombie movie (even though there are too many of them now).

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This movie had potential even though it’s too much of the same old “been there done that” when it comes to zombie comedy. The title is perfect and it makes you wonder if they came up with the title first then tried to write a movie around it. Some of this movie works but most of it doesn’t. Unfortunately, the weakest thing about the film is its two main characters (played by Aubrey Plaza & Dane DeHaan). I didn’t really like Plaza in this one – she played the role fine, I guess, but it possibly could have been a bit better with a different actress. That funny-looking Dane DeHaan was fine (sorry, Zoe – I think he’s a little funny-looking). 😉 I liked him most in Chronicle but it feels like he plays that same sort of role too much and his role in this one is somewhat similar in that he’s again a “troubled youth with issues”. Oh well – the role suits him. His main issue in this one is that he seems perfectly happy to have sex with a girl who has just returned from the dead and is very likely a zombie. Ew. The ROT…

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I understand the point this movie is trying to make about relationships and how we can sometimes stay in unhealthy ones because we find it hard to let go. It doesn’t work that well in the film, though, as I really didn’t care at all about the two main characters (especially poor Beth, who we don’t get to know at all in “life” – we only see her as a thoroughly unlikable zombie-girl made to represent the stereotypical “crazy bitch” girlfriend, which was almost a little sexist & insulting). It may have been better if we’d seen her as she was before her death. Maybe. I don’t know.

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What DOES work fairly well in this movie are all the lesser characters that provide the comic relief. Both sets of parents (John C Reilly & Molly Shannon as Plaza’s and Cheryl Hines & Paul Reiser as DeHaan’s) were pretty funny and I liked DeHaan’s asshole brother (Matthew Gray Gubler), who was a little bit like Bill Paxton in Weird Science. I wish these characters had had more screen time and that we’d had more of the overall story explained & happening all along (there’s a bit more to it than just “girlfriend comes back from the dead”) but, unfortunately, they chose to pretty much focus ONLY on the relationship between Plaza & DeHaan. This may have worked if their characters had been at all developed so that the audience cared one way or another what would happen to them. Without knowing what their relationship was like before the death, it just seemed a bit pointless.

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Summary:

Pretty pointless zombie-romance-comedy when there are plenty of better ones out there in this day & age of zombie movie obsessiveness. Just watch Zombieland or Shaun Of The Dead if you want a zombie comedy (or the movie I’ll be reviewing tomorrow) or Warm Bodies if you want this weird new genre of zombie romance. Those are good – Life After Beth is not. A waste of a good movie title.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz & The World’s End (Cornetto Trilogy Review)

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Poster by Tyler Stout for Mondo. Link here for this & alternate poster: SlashFilm

1. Shaun of the Dead

The first and still the best. I don’t have a lot of history with Simon Pegg & Co. I watched Shaun of the Dead in the cinema when it came out and it was my first experience with them. And I thought it was pretty good! I’m a HUGE fan of Romero’s zombie films (especially Dawn of the Dead) so a zombie comedy spoof was something I was more than happy to watch. As I watched The World’s End and Hot Fuzz for the first time last week, I thought it was time to re-watch Shaun as well & review all three.

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I appreciate Shaun of the Dead more after this second viewing. I think it starts out VERY strong. I like how it takes a while to actually get to the zombies while they take time setting up the characters (these days not many people have the patience to wait that long for the “action”). The two morning walks where the first morning is normal and the second one is clearly not yet Shaun is completely oblivious to all the zombies lurking about is brilliant and probably my favorite bit of the film. This is closely followed by the other best bit of the film where Shaun & Ed discover zombies in the back garden and proceed to defend themselves with some vinyl records (but not the REALLY good ones…).

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Shaun & Ed are of course great characters and Shaun’s girlfriend is fine. I also really liked Shaun’s mother & stepfather but I found Shaun’s girlfriend’s friends slightly annoying. And while the film starts out brilliantly, I do think it loses steam once Shaun & Ed are joined by these friends. I feel this way about all three films, actually. I kind of feel like Shaun of the Dead (and the rest) isn’t sure how it should end. Then it just… Does. Not a horrible ending or anything but just a bit of a let down after such a strong beginning. But still a great movie for its genre.

My Rating: 8/10

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2. Hot Fuzz

My least favorite of the three. Not saying I didn’t like it, though – it’s very close between this & The World’s End.

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I actually knew next to nothing about Hot Fuzz. I thought it was JUST a buddy cop movie spoof. But it actually ended up being more than that and I liked it better than the film I was expecting to see. I’m not a fan of the “buddy cop movies” that it does spoof (well, other than Point Break. I love Point Break!). So I wasn’t going to go for this one as much as Shaun Of The Dead.

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I didn’t buy into Pegg’s or Frost’s characters as much in Fuzz as in Shaun. And while there were some funny moments, nothing really compared to the funny moments in Shaun. I liked the story, though. I don’t know if this is a spoiler but I liked that Fuzz suddenly sort of went all Wicker Man on our asses. Hell, Edward Woodward was even in it! That was fine by me – The Wicker Man is a classic. So, again – not at all the movie I was expecting but that was a good thing in this case. However, I always enjoy a movie more when I feel they’ve done a really good job setting up the characters and I like them or maybe even identify with them in some way. Shaun is superior on story but also far superior when it comes to the characters.

My Rating: 7/10

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3. The World’s End

I actually saw this and then immediately watched Hot Fuzz when I got home from the cinema. Although Hot Fuzz is third for me, it’s probably actually a much better “film” than this one. I know it’s not out for ages in America (ha!) but I can see this one dividing people much more than the other two films. Not entirely sure but that’s kind of the impression I get from those in the UK who have seen it so far. I think it’s not going to be for everyone.

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So why did I like it more than Hot Fuzz? Well first of all – the genre, like zombie movies, is much more my kind of thing. I love sci-fi. And apocalyptic! Oh I love apocalyptic! (What’s with so much of that this year? You’ll have to check if The World’s End makes my list of My Top Ten Apocalyptic Movies HERE). 🙂 Secondly, as with Shaun, I think the characters are much stronger than they were in Hot Fuzz. Although this time, not necessarily “likeable”. Finally, because of my age, I was able to identify with some of the themes in The World’s End unlike in Fuzz (mainly the fear of getting older and wanting to relive the past but knowing deep down that none of us can). So, that’s why I prefer The World’s End. Oh, and decent music as well. Although nothing tops Grandmaster Flash in Shaun. 🙂

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The World’s End suffers the most of the three in “not knowing how to end”, I think. That’s the bit that will probably most divide people. As for supporting characters (so, other than Pegg’s & Frost’s), I think they’re actually the strongest in The World’s End. I really liked the different personalities of the friends in this one (which helped to make up for the two lead characters being a bit weaker & less likeable than in Shaun). I can see people not liking Pegg’s character in this one but I could really feel for him & what he was going through so I found him to be a good strong character. There’s not much more I can say about this as I try to keep my reviews spoiler-free plot-wise. I did quite enjoy The World’s End although I think it’s definitely flawed. I look forward to seeing what people in the US think of it once it’s out there.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Quote from my hubby on the Cornetto Trilogy:

“I can’t believe they got away with making the same bloody film three times”.

(To be honest, that IS a very accurate summary. Much more concise and to the point than my three reviews.) 😉

Recap for those who don’t actually read my reviews & just scroll to the ratings:

Shaun Of The Dead: 8/10
Hot Fuzz: 7/10
The World’s End: 7.5/10

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This Is The End (2013) Review

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This Is The End

Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Starring:
James Franco
Jonah Hill
Seth Rogen
Jay Baruchel
Danny McBride
Craig Robinson
Michael Cera
Emma Watson

Running time 106 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Well, I think everyone knows by now that the actors listed above play themselves (or fictional versions of themselves, at least). While at a party at James Franco’s house, the final apocalypse begins…

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My Opinion:

This looked quite funny (and I LOVE apocalyptic movies – see my Top Ten here), so I figured I’d check it out even though I’ve never been overly bothered about this little group of actors. So… Do you need to love these actors to enjoy the film? Well, I think it would certainly help but I did still enjoy it anyway. And I have a tiny bit of a crush on Jay Baruchel, who I liked most in a movie I don’t THINK had anything to do with this group (She’s Out Of My League). The two main movies that most everyone in This Is The End seems to have been in are Pineapple Express (think I finished that in about three sittings) and Superbad (don’t remember a THING about that other than the “McLovin” thing). Anyway, in my opinion this movie is at least funnier and more memorable than those two were. Or anything else from this group. So… You’re gonna get a fairly balanced review, I think, as I don’t absolutely worship these guys. 😉

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I don’t think I’m giving anything away that isn’t in the trailers by saying that some of the appeal of this movie is watching celebrities getting killed in humorous ways. I think, like me, most of us love celebrities as much as we hate them. Or is that just me?! So I found that entertaining and would have liked to see more of it. There are some fairly impressive cameos – It would have been even cooler to have a few more celebrity deaths that were as inventive as the first one.

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As to be expected, there’s lots of crude humor and lots of drug-taking and lots of humor involving all this drug-taking. Basically, it’s like all their other movies but I found the actual concept and story a lot more fun than something like Pineapple Express.

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I saw this three days ago and, to be honest, I’m struggling to remember specific things so I’m not sure what else to say. There’s a scene involving a porn mag that’s quite funny and probably the highlight of the movie. Oh – the music was (mostly) good! Never going to complain at a bit of Black Sabbath! Also don’t mind some Cypress Hill & KRS-One. So other than an annoying boy band & Whitney Houston, fairly decent soundtrack. Oh yeah – and at one point a character calls someone a “duplicitous taint” and I was like “I need to remember that because I think I know a certain someone who would probably appreciate that. (The IPC…). Lol! But I didn’t quite remember because I’m getting old and senile and I’m now not sure if that’s exactly what was said but I know the second word is right. Anyone feel free to correct me if I got that wrong. Okay, I’m rambling now – time to finish this review. 😉

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Summary:

This Is The End is rude, crude, and fun. If you love this group of actors, you’ll probably worship this movie. Great job on the pretty original idea of having them play “themselves” in the middle of one messed-up apocalypse. But, overall, I found the whole thing quite forgettable. As much as I enjoyed it while watching it, I can’t see it being one I’d watch again anytime soon. As far as comedies go, I’m very picky but the few I love I could watch over & over again. This Is The End isn’t one of those for me but neither are any of the other movies from this group of actors. For me, at least – I know I seem to be in the minority on that.

My Rating: 7/10

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Scene After The Credits?: No, there’s nothing after the credits. It’s the kind of movie where I expected something.

Cameos?: I know some people will want a list of all the cameos in This Is The End. As I didn’t know several of the actors anyway, here’s a good link with the list: BuzzSugar

My Top Ten Apocalyptic Movies – Does this make the list?

Movies Seen In 2013 – Where does this rank?

World War Z (2013) Review

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World War Z

Directed by Marc Forster

Produced by:
Brad Pitt
Dede Gardner
Jeremy Kleiner
Ian Bryce

Based on World War Z by Max Brooks (Supposedly. Like… Extremely LOOSELY based on! Lol.)

Starring:
Brad Pitt
Mireille Enos
Daniella Kertesz
James Badge Dale
Fana Mokoena
Ludi Boeken
Matthew Fox
David Morse
Elyes Gabel

Plot Synopsis:

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), a former employee of the United Nations, is called upon to leave his family & travel the globe in search of the cause of a worldwide zombie pandemic and in the hope of finding a cure.

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My Opinion:

So, okay – I read World War Z by Max Brooks (son of Mel!). I LOVED it – I thought it was one of the best books I’d read in years. Then I heard they’d be making it into a movie and I’m usually happy about that – although I rarely like the movies as much as the books, I still enjoy seeing how they adapt them. After all kinds of known problems while trying to make this movie, we finally got to see the first proper trailer. And, like everyone else who read the book, I was like “what the HELL is that?!”. Lol. I don’t need to say more – I think everyone knows by now that, aside from the title, the book and the movie have VERY little in common. So let’s move on…

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Knowing this was NOT going to be the World War Z I know, I went to this with fairly low expectations and also went to it knowing it was going to be more of a serious “nationwide pandemic” film than some kind of Romero zombie movie. This is more I Am Legend or even Contagion than Night Of The Living Dead. And that’s fine – I ended up enjoying it more than I had expected. Not that the book was a full-on zombie thing anyway – it’s more like a book on war… (Sorry – not going there! I won’t mention the book again). 😉

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Apocalyptic Movies of any sort are always my type of thing. Don’t know why… And World War Z is a decent enough example of this type of film. We got to see the human side of things through seeing Brad Pitt’s character have to leave his wife and two daughters behind as he travels to try to discover the cause & a cure. We briefly meet some soldiers that we get to know a little bit about – this was one of the better parts of the film (and a small part of this was in the book!!). And Brad helps a female soldier in Israel played by Daniella Kertesz. She’s probably one of the best characters in this and she wasn’t even listed when I looked up the actors’ names on Wikipedia! We meet quite a few characters as Brad travels the globe and I enjoyed that and actually wished they’d been able to spend a little more time with some of these characters.

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As for the action & “gore” – well, there IS no gore. Honestly. Never seen a zombie movie with pretty much NO blood whatsoever. But that’s fine by me. As I said, this isn’t some zombie horror movie – this is a human drama exploring the effects of a worldwide pandemic. And, aside from a few minor silly things, this movie does the “apocalyptic” thing so much better than a Roland Emmerich movie. Other than some CGI zombies piling on top of each other and looking a little silly, World War Z felt much more realistic than an Emmerich film ever has. And the action seemed just right – just enough but nothing too insane and over-the-top (hello Man Of Steel!).

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Summary:

If you go to World War Z with an open mind and expecting a human drama about a worldwide pandemic instead of a gory zombie horror movie, you may find that you actually enjoy it. It certainly has some problems and is far from perfect but it isn’t the total disaster we were all expecting after hearing about all the production problems and all the changes that were made. I’d have liked to see a bit more character development of some of the lesser characters but we meet them all too briefly to really achieve this. So, overall, I’d probably recommend this film. But I’d DEFINITELY recommend the brilliant book. You can do both – they’re completely different things…

My Rating: 7/10

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**I think a lot of people will have by now read about the original World War Z ending and how it was massively changed. If you’re interested, this is a very good article explaining the changes: The Playlist.

I hate the sound of this original ending! I have to say they made the right decision.

See if World War Z has made this list of My Top Ten Apocalyptic Movies. 🙂

My Top Ten Apocalyptic Movies

In order starting with my favorite (and I’m cheating massively with this list by putting films together that are part of a series). 😉

1. Alien & Aliens

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2. WALL-E

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3. George A Romero’s zombie films

(I love them all but especially love Dawn Of The Dead, which is one of my all-time favorite movies in general)

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4. The Terminator & Terminator 2: Judgment Day

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5. Hardware

(Yeah, I have a thing for this film for some strange reason. Especially the music in it. And the shower scene…)

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6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (the BBC series)

(That’s right. Not that horrible Hollywood film. Ugh. The BBC series was a much better adaptation of my favorite book.)

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7. Dr Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

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8. 28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later

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9. Planet Of The Apes

(Spoiler! Screw it. It’s old. Everyone has seen it.)

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10. Children Of Men

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Honorable Mentions:

Night Of The Comet

Dawn Of The Dead (2004)
Zombieland
The Matrix
Warm Bodies
Deep Impact
The Stand
Omega Man
I Am Legend

World War Z
This Is The End
The World’s End

An explanation of this list:

This was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I love apocalyptic (& post-apocalyptic) films. I don’t know why but I’ve always been drawn to them. I made the mistake of discussing this list with my hubby and we ended up arguing over ones that he insisted are NOT apocalyptic.

After spending way too long discussing it, I decided to just go by this list of what’s considered an apocalyptic film according to Wikipedia. And two we disagreed on (WALL-E & Alien/Aliens) are on the list. So, nyah! I win. I’ve included them.

There are some that are iffy, like The Omen. Not in the Wikipedia list so I’ve left it out although I’d consider that to fit their criteria of a “prelude to such an end”. And there are others I thought might be considered apocalyptic but are really dystopian (turns out I like a lot of those as well so I’ll do a list of that at some point too). And I’ve now spent way too long thinking about this… So, bye. 🙂