Watched, Read, Reviewed: January 2021

Happy February! Will try to stick to my resolution to at least post these monthly roundups (and hopefully on time) this year.

As January, the absolute dreariest & most depressing month of the year, was extra depressing this year thanks to the C word (not that C word) I watched way too many movies in an attempt to cheer up. So I’ll keep my comments on each brief.

MOVIES WATCHED IN JANUARY (ranked best to worst):

When Marnie Was There – There are very few Studio Ghibli movies I’ve not yet seen (mainly just have the non-Miyazaki ones left to watch). Desperate to see them all but also hate the thought of running out of them! So finally decided to watch this one & absolutely loved it. It just makes it into my Top Ten (which I need to update now) and is easily a favorite of the non-Miyazaki films. What I really liked was the story – there’s a bit of a mystery surrounding Marnie & I loved finding out her history. It’s a lovely, bittersweet film and was a great one to watch with my daughter, who also really enjoyed it. – 8/10

It Happened One Night – Although I’ve slowed way down on my 2013 IMDb Top 250 Challenge, I still try to watch a few Top 250 movies a year. This Frank Capra film was one I’d most been looking forward to watching & it didn’t disappoint. Clark Gable & Claudette Colbert were absolutely adorable together. I’m not exactly a girly girl & romance isn’t my favorite genre but I do seem to prefer the relationships in these older films. The couples had great chemistry in movies like these. Delightful movie! I should watch more pre-1970 films than I do. – 8/10

Black Narcissus (1947) – I thought this was some big classic but I don’t actually know anyone who has heard of it? Well, I think there’s some British TV adaptation right now that I have no interest in. I just know I’d seen images of the eerie looking building & bell high on a cliff lots in the past and have wanted to watch this movie for years based on the images alone. Well, that and the name Black Narcissus because it just sounds cool (named after a perfume if I remember correctly from the movie). Here’s the plot synopsis from IMDb for those unfamiliar with this British classic: “A group of nuns struggle to establish a convent in the Himalayas, while isolation, extreme weather, altitude, and culture clashes all conspire to drive the well-intentioned missionaries mad.

I enjoyed this one. It’s a beautiful looking film (as I was hoping from the images) and Deborah Kerr as Sister Clodagh is fascinating as the very stern nun in charge. There’s slowly building tension throughout, leading to an intense finale I’m happy had never been spoiled for me. There’s also a bit of sexual tension with a handsome Englishman. Sexual tension in old movies is the best! It’s why I love Brief Encounter. Am very glad I finally got the chance to watch this one while it was on BBC iPlayer (sorry, think it’s gone now). – 7.5/10

The Secret Of Kells – Having recently watched Tomm Moore’s gorgeous Wolfwalkers and having seen the equally beautiful Song Of The Sea a few years ago, I figured I’d finally check out his earliest animated film. For some reason, this one had appealed to me the least but I think I actually liked it the most. The animation style was of course fantastic (I’d happily put images from these films up on a wall) but I think I enjoyed the story in this one the most. Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A young boy in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids is beckoned to adventure when a celebrated master illuminator arrives with an ancient book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers.

If you’ve seen the others, I’d highly recommend this one as well. If you’ve seen none of these & like beautiful animation, fun characters & good folklore storytelling, these are all well worth your time. I saw this on iPlayer as well & think it’s still available. Here’s a second image from the film since there are so many great ones to choose from… – 7.5/10

Bringing Up Baby – Another movie I was happy to catch on iPlayer (it’s still available) and another one I was happy to cross off my IMDb Top 250 list. Sadly this is one that has disappeared from the Top 250 since that 2013 list I’m still working from. This was directed by Howard Hawks and stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It’s one of those romantic “screwball comedies” from that era. I confess I don’t have much experience with this subgenre. I enjoyed this movie but not nearly as much as It Happened One Night. Grant & Hepburn are very cute together. Hepburn is truly the star of the film as the flighty & clumsy heiress with a leopard named Baby. It’s a sweet film & perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. – 7/10

The Dig – This was fine. Not gonna lie – it’s not at all my type of thing but I’m absolutely desperate for current movie releases. Really missing my monthly cinema membership & seeing new releases regularly! I like Carey Mulligan, although her acting in these types of dramas is always a bit same-y, and I liked all of the characters in this (especially the Ralph Fiennes character). Speaking of cinema trips, you know what character I absolutely despised years ago?! That guy in those annoying Cineworld Unlimited adverts! Man, I still can’t believe he’s in actual movies now. I mean, he’s fine in this but he’ll forever be that jerk from those adverts to me (sorry, Johnny Flynn). Where was I? Oh yeah. This movie… The acting is fine, the true story is interesting if you like archaeology I guess, but it’s quite slow and character-driven so won’t be for everyone. I’m being generous with my rating as it’s a good enough movie but I’d never watch it again. – 6.5/10

Pieces Of A Woman – Again, this isn’t really my type of movie. If I were being honest, I’d stick my next movie above this & The Dig but it’s not nearly as “good” as these two. This one is all about the acting & Vanessa Kirby does put in a good performance. I actually preferred her performance as Margaret in The Crown, though. She’s good in this but I also didn’t feel the performance lived up to the hype. Am I allowed to say that?! I also felt that way about the thoroughly overrated (and throughly boring) Marriage Story. Are people just less picky with Netflix movies or something? Or am I just too picky? Anyway, I did feel for these characters & their terrible tragedy, although they were all very hard people to like. But everyone deals with grief differently & I can understand Kirby’s character becoming so emotionally detached. Not an easy movie to watch and certainly not one I’d watch again. Man, Ellen Burstyn knows how to pick the “I never want to watch this again” movies! Imagine this as a double bill with Requiem For A Dream… Or Surviving!! Ha! Bet none of you youngsters have seen THAT one! (I actually watched that thoroughly depressing TV movie multiple times, though. Loved it. Zach Galligan! Molly Ringwald! River Phoenix! I’m so Gen X). – 6.5/10

Escape Room – I enjoyed this, even though it was a bit f*^king ridiculous. Especially the very end, but most horror movies like these have stupid endings. I don’t know what to say about this… It’s the usual sort of shit but at least it has a fun idea & the different escape rooms the characters find themselves in are entertaining. When it comes to horror, I lower my expectations a lot as most modern horror sucks. I prefer the classics from the ’70s & ’80s. There have been some good ones in recent years, though (The Babadook, It Follows, and especially the delightfully bonkers Mandy which is very much my type of thing). But the good ones are rare so I’m happy to watch these lightweight & utterly predictable ones to pass the time in between the good ones. This was a bit like the recent Countdown and both have a Final Destination vibe (though not as good as that one, of course). Meh. I liked this. The characters were decent & the story was entertaining. I expect nothing more from this sort of thing. – 6/10

Tangerine – Not sure how to go about reviewing this one. I can’t relate to the lives of these characters in any way whatsoever but I enjoyed watching this “day in the life” film (I like those) & really liked the main characters played by Kitana Kiki Rodriguez & Mya Taylor. This is from Sean Baker, the same one who did The Florida Project. I quite liked The Florida Project but am still not sure why. Tangerine is very similar. I think I liked it? But I’m not sure why? If you like one, you’ll like the other (and if you hate one, you’ll hate the other). What an in-depth review! You’re welcome. Watch Tangerine if you like a good puke scene! (That was a lot of puke. Gross.) – 6.5/10

Sputnik – I was excited about this. Foreign sci-fi!! A Russian Alien!! Sadly, I was disappointed. I think it had a good idea (even though, yes, it’s very similar to Alien), the alien dude thing looked good, and the acting was decent. There’s even a mini twist at the very end. But… I dunno. It just didn’t quite work. I can’t explain why, though, as this is totally my type of thing. Maybe my expectations were just too high as one of my favorites last year was a foreign dystopian sci-fi film (The Platform). – 6/10

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – This was pretty crap. I think my daughter just really likes to watch movies starring The Rock (me too). You never know what you’re gonna get with these family films, though. Many are rubbish. But then you get one where they actually put some effort in & every age group is actually able to enjoy it. I’m thinking of a recent reboot with The Rock: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle & The Next Level were loads of fun! Suppose we were hoping for something similar to those but this one was mostly just silly & had dodgy special effects. The tiny elephants were cute, though. I want one! Oh, we also read that you didn’t really need to see the first film first (2008’s Journey To The Center Of The Earth) but I’m thinking it would’ve helped. – 5/10

Movies Rewatched (lots of rewatches during lockdown! I don’t normally rewatch movies often – I’ll be even more brief):

The Jungle Book (1967) – Classic! Love this one & it’s always been one of my favorites for Disney songs. – 8.5/10

Despicable Me – I’m a Disney/Pixar/Studio Ghibli girl but I absolutely adore this Illumination film. The relationship between the adorably cheeky girls & hilariously grumpy Gru really makes these films work. AND a brilliant score from Pharrell Williams. AND, of course, the Minions. AND fluffy unicorns. “It’s so fluffy!” – 8.5/10

WarGames – Hadn’t seen this in years. It has aged better than I was expecting (except for the actual technology, obviously). But it’s still a thoroughly entertaining story and I’ll forever love the ’80s films I grew up on. – 7.5/10

Howl’s Moving Castle(Original review HERE). As I said above, I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli & especially love the ones directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Howl’s is as visually stunning & weird as all the rest but it’s never been an absolute favorite of mine as the story is just a bit too messy. I do love Ghibli weirdness but it just works better in Spirited Away for me. I’m still not sure what the heck is actually going on in Howl’s but do love the look & its characters (as with every Miyazaki movie). And Howl is hot with his Bowie-ness. – 7.5/10

Police Academy – I’ll always love the ’80s & its inappropriate humor. This one was even more inappropriate than I remembered! Ha! Filth. Good thing it’s not on the Disney channel – they’d have to slap a huge disclaimer on it since, you know, humans can’t be trusted to judge these things for themselves & must have history censored for them. – 7/10

National Lampoon’s Vacation – Surprisingly, I also hadn’t seen this John Hughes-written film in years either & was surprised to enjoy Police Academy slightly more. Not quite as good as I remembered but I still enjoyed it. Am just so used to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation now, which is far superior. – 7/10

Idiocracy – Again, a film that wasn’t as good as I remembered. I think with this one, I just loved (and still absolutely love) the concept. It’s scarily accurate. Especially after the last four years… We really are turning into a bunch of f*!king morons. The movie becomes more accurate with every year that goes by & for that I think this Mike Judge story is brilliant even if the execution could’ve been better. – 6.5/10

The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants – I really like this movie, even if it’s a little cheesy & “teenager”. Actually, my rating is a bit low as I probably don’t want to admit that I really like these characters & their stories. I like that we get four stories in one here (I always like movies like that – four for the price of one!). Some are better than others. I’ll rank them! The best story is definitely the Amber Tamblyn one where the cheeky young girl befriends her (that girl is the best character in the whole movie). Next is America Ferrera’s divorced family drama as I felt really bad for her (her dad & his new family were assholes & she was far too forgiving!). Next was the predictable Alexis Bledel Greece romance but Greece itself was gorgeous. Last was definitely the boring soccer romance drama (sorry, Blake Lively). Anyway, I like this movie more than I probably should & think my daughter really enjoyed it too. Much better than that Journey 2 crap! – 6.5/10

The Shallows(Original review HERE). Not sure why but I really like this Blake Lively shark attack story (more than her boring soccer romance drama – maybe this should’ve been her Sisterhood story!). It has a predictable backstory setup but, hey, the pretty blonde needs a reason to want to survive. Maybe I just like shark attack movies. I do enjoy most any kind of disaster movie… – 6.5/10

Shorts:

Pixar Popcorn – Of course we watched all of these super short Pixar shorts. For the most part, they’re not nearly as good as the longer ones we get before films (of course), but there are a few really fun ones here. Surprisingly, I liked the Ducky & Bunny ones the most (they weren’t favorite characters of mine from Toy Story 4). But the one where they argue over who is more lovable is hilarious. Here, I’ll rank them since I’m a pathetic, ranking fool!! (from best to “worst” but of course all are good):

1. Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Love
2. Dory Finding
3. Cookie Num Num
4. Fluffy Stuff with Ducky and Bunny: Three Heads
5. Chore Day – The Incredibles Way
6. Soul of the City
7. To Fitness and Beyond
8. Dancing with the Cars
9. A Day in the Life of the Dead
10. Unparalleled Parking

Modest Heroes (Kanini & Kanino, Life Ain’t Gonna Lose & Invisible) – Watched this collection on Netflix of three shorts from Studio Ponoc, who made the delightful Mary And The Witch’s Flower (from people previously with Studio Ghibli). These were fine but a little underwhelming. The final one, about a lonely guy no one can see, is the best. It’s still worth checking out these shorts if you like anime.

Canvas – This was a lovely short on Netflix as well about a man who loses his passion for painting after his wife dies. Not as powerful as If Anything Happens I Love You but still good.

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JANUARY

BOOKS READ

Demon Seed by Dean Koontz – Am a big Dean Koontz fan (did a Top Ten list HERE). Honestly couldn’t remember if I’d read this one years ago but think I only saw the 1977 Julie Christie movie based on it. What was disappointing was that I didn’t realise the version I have is actually one that Koontz later re-wrote to update the technology in it & I assume references to specific actresses. I’m old – I can handle reading about out-dated technology. I’M out-dated technology! Anyway, this book is interesting as I’ve always been fascinated by the thought of machines taking over. (They will, you know!!). But it’s also creepy & very rape-y so not one I’d recommend easily to absolutely anyone. There’s a real “woman hating” thing going on here, but I think part of the point of the book is the dreaded “toxic masculinity”. I do wonder if that was as much a part of the original book or if Koontz put more of that in to fit more with the topics of today. – 3/5

Currently Reading Moon by James Herbert as I enjoyed that freaky deaky The Rats book.

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Cobra Kai: Season 3 – I’ve gone on about how much I adore Cobra Kai in previous posts so I won’t do that again. I’ll just say that I still love it. As expected, many shows go downhill and that’s the case with seasons 2 & 3 of Cobra Kai too but, luckily, I’d say they’re only going slightly downhill. This isn’t Stranger Things, where I couldn’t even finish Season 3. I still loved every moment of Cobra Kai Season 3 & the writing is still sharp and the characters are still strong. But, at this point, they’ve now covered most everything they can from the films and the teens have all fought each other in every way possible so I don’t see where they can easily go from here. But I’ll keep watching because I love these characters (especially Johnny – still can’t believe they turned that asshole around!).

The Crown: Season 2 & 2 episodes of Season 3: Oh man, I’m really not feeling the new cast in Season 3. Give me Claire Foy back! I hope these get better again, because I thought the first two seasons were great even though I only started watching this to get to the Diana years in Season 4…

WandaVision: Season 1 – Episodes 1-4 – I’m not a huge Marvel fan, although I’ve watched all the MCU movies and do like the characters. Am not sure what to think of this show but do love how original it feels. Being an ’80s latchkey kid who grew up watching loads of reruns of shows from the ’50s through to the late ’80s, I’ll always be fond of those shows and like that WandaVision is paying tribute to them (although the fake WandaVision shows aren’t as good as the original classic shows they’re spoofing). After episode four, I’m glad the story seems to be going in the direction I was expecting & I’m looking forward to watching the story fully unfold. But I’m hoping we get back to sitcoms next week as I want to see which ’80s one they do!

History Of Swear Words – This was fine. A fun throwaway show with lots of swearing. I love swearing, dammit. They covered a different word in each episode. Damn was one – how mild is THAT?! That’s not a swear word. Damn. Nicolas Cage was the perfect host for this. Although Samuel L. Jackson would have been better… Whoa – I have to update my Nicolas Cage Top Ten list!! Mandy would be number one now.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

No plans besides posting these monthly updates. But I’ve been contemplating doing Top Ten lists again as I always enjoyed those…

What I’m really enjoying is trying to make the time to read movie blogs again. I miss the old days (I’ve been here 8 years) but there are some great new blogs. Have been feeling out of touch on movie releases where release dates are a nightmare thanks to the C word & I’ve not had time to read blogs to keep informed. And an old favorite blogger is back! Yay!! I mean old as in was here when I started… (I’d link him but not sure if he’s keeping a low profile). 🙂

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

No clue. Are any movies coming out?! As I said, I’m very out of touch. I still need to catch up on 2020 films that haven’t been on U.K. streaming services yet…

As I end these posts with a music clip, I’ll go with a favorite from The Jungle Book as I mentioned loving the songs in that.

Watched, Read, Reviewed: July 2018

I’m not finding much time for blogging at the moment but I’ll still try to do these monthly updates (over halfway through the next month!). I only managed to review one movie in July, although I did see quite a few in the cinema. I’ll try to review those over the next few weeks. And at some point I’ll manage to reply to comments too! Sorry I’ve not been around for those…

MOVIES THIS MONTH

MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

The First Purge6.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

Incredibles 2 – Will review in full – 7.5/10

The Light Between Oceans – I’m not sure why I stuck this on as it didn’t look like my type of thing (Oh yeah… because Michael Fassbender is hot). I thought it was very good and Alicia Vikander & Rachel Weisz were especially great at conveying the emotions involved in motherhood. It was easy to feel bad for both sides, even knowing that one was very much in the wrong. Good movie but probably more for women/mothers/grown-ups. – 7.5/10

Hotel Artemis – I’ll review this in full as well. Liked it much more than I expected to. – 7.5/10

The Secret Of Marrowbone – Will review this too. I thought it was a solid psychological horror compared to most the horror crap out there these days. – 7/10

Charade – I figured it was time to check out another Audrey Hepburn film after watching Roman Holiday a while back. I preferred this one, which I didn’t realize was going to be a bit of a comedic spoof of Alfred Hitchcock-type films. Hepburn & Cary Grant were adorable together, it had a great Henry Mancini score, and the opening titles were fantastic (I thought they were done by Saul Bass as they looked like Hitchcock titles but looked it up & they were done by Maurice Binder, who did titles for James Bond films). I wanted to like this movie more than I did, though. It does deserve a higher rating than I’m giving it. I think I’m just not normally a fan of the 60’s “screwball” comedies and prefer a full-on Hitchcock suspense film to the mix of genres in Charade. I can see why this would have its fans, though – it’s a fun movie with that great 60’s look and very iconic stars. – 7/10

Tag – I’ll review this as well. Love that this is based on a real group of guys. – 7/10

The First Purge6.5/10

Say When (aka Laggies) – I’ve said on here before that Keira Knightley annoys the hell out of me, so I’m not entirely sure why I keep watching her movies. I suppose it’s because she does “chick flicks” that suck less than most of them do plus the hubby will let me watch them alone. I enjoyed this one (despite it being Knightley!). It’s about a twentysomething who needs to grow up & do something with her life and, hell, I think most of us can relate to that (even if, like me, you’re almost double her age). It’s not the greatest film ever but I liked it as I could somewhat relate to it plus Sam Rockwell was great as the quirky dad of Knightley’s new teenage friend (Chloe Moretz). Actually, Rockwell was the best thing about this… he made up for Knightley. – 6.5/10

Happy Death Day – I was really annoyed that I missed this in the cinema last year as it sounded like a fun horror in the slightly-cheesy 80’s slasher style I’ll always have affection for (since I’m old). But the movie was a disappointment, although it’s enjoyable enough for an hour and a half of your time. I just think I won’t remember a thing about it in a few years. The biggest problem was probably that the main character was a hateful bitch, so it was hard to care if she’d ever be able to stop her murder from happening. Yeah, she changes at the end (as to be expected – the whole point is that she needs to be a better person), but… Meh. I think my expectations were just too high. This concept was obviously done so well in Groundhog Day that nothing that’s tried to use that same idea has worked as well. If you want a non-horror teen movie with the same idea, I enjoyed Before I Fall slightly more than this one. And if you want a modern horror comedy with a cheesy 80’s thing going on, The Final Girls was better than this one as well. – 6.5/10

Skyscraper – I’ll review this. So cheesy! – 6.5/10

Call Me By Your Name – I was sooooo looking forward to this one and really annoyed that I didn’t have the opportunity to see it before the Oscars. But I found it a bit boring? And I didn’t care about or like the characters in the slightest. Not sure why? The acting was fine. But the only real enjoyment I got out of this was loving the Psychedelic Furs song in it and thinking that Italy looks fucking gorgeous and how much I’d love to be living the life of these rich fuckers in 1980’s Italy. Actually, I think that’s the reason I couldn’t relate to this – not the fact that it’s a male romance but that I really can’t relate to their extravagant lifestyle. Did they do any work?! I want that life. I couldn’t truly feel sorry for Chalamet when he got to live such a privileged life. Plus, the romance was more lust than love. I didn’t feel a true connection between them despite Chalamet & Hammer both giving good performances. I just didn’t feel their heartbreak. Sorry! And that peach bit was gross. – 6.5/10

Elle – Umm. Not sure how I felt about this. I thought it was gonna be a good “revenge” drama but it’s not as straightforward as that. Stupid me should’ve looked at the director first – I’d have known what I was getting into with a Paul Verhoeven film! Well, Isabelle Huppert was fantastic so I can see why she was nominated for an Oscar for this performance. She’s 65 now?! She’s sexy as hell (I can say that without being creepy since I’m female). The subject matter (rape) is certainly uncomfortable, though. Don’t watch if you’re overly sensitive. – 6.5/10

Force Majeure – This was disappointing, especially as it had good reviews. The story revolves around an avalanche (that doesn’t end up hurting anyone) and the way the husband/father of a family of four has the instinct to run away from the danger instead of trying to protect his wife & kids. It’s listed as a comedy drama for some reason so I was expecting some good dark humour but it’s really just a straightforward drama. The acting is fine but it’s hard to really like anyone involved despite family problems being relatable to everyone. The movie is overlong and slightly boring as very little happens. – 6.5/10

The Incredible Hulk – I’ve now finally seen the only current MCU film I’d not yet seen! Damn – I guess I better update My Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie Ranking. Well, I’m in no hurry since this one certainly isn’t my favorite. It’s possibly in last place, although it’s not as bad as I was expecting. It’s just a little boring and felt somewhat pointless? Meh. Norton and Tyler were fine but we all see Ruffalo as the Hulk now anyway. I did like a couple of nods to the TV series, though, since I’m old & watched that show… – 6/10

A Ghost Story – What a load of pretentious twaddle. I was all prepared to like this, too, since I like Rooney Mara for some reason (even though she displays zero emotion in everything I’ve ever seen her in). To be fair, I can appreciate what this story was trying to achieve (does life have meaning or will we all just die and fade away and be forgotten blah blah blah). It’s actually quite a depressing film but do we really need to be reminded that life sucks, especially with the current state of the world?? Here’s my Twitter “tweet review” of this movie: Well. That was tedious. #AGhostStory ✨🏠👫🎹🎧🚗 💢 💀👻🙍🏻‍♀️🥧👩‍👧‍👦👻🍽💢😱🏚🏗🏙👩🏼‍🌾👻💀💀💀🏠👫👻👻📜🕳✨ – 6/10

Tromeo & Juliet – I’d seen most of Tromeo & Juliet in the past but decided to finally watch it all in, like, solidarity with James Gunn. Or something like that. He wrote this. It’s a fucking Troma film. Anyone who has seen a Troma film knows that the whole damn point is that they’re in extremely poor taste. They’re bad movies that are meant to be bad movies. And this one is as dreadful as the rest. No… Wait. To be fair, it’s quite well written for a Troma film. I still “like” The Toxic Avenger the most but Tromeo & Juliet has more memorable moments than most Troma films. I suppose it’s a masterpiece when compared to other movies from this studio. Here’s an image of the infamous penis monster in the film. You’re welcome. (And the next Guardians Of The Galaxy movie better not suck now. I love those films!) – 5/10

Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me – A couple of years ago, I spent a week reviewing Adrienne Shelly films after loving her own film Waitress and wanting to explore her older (and very indie) work as an actress. As I say, her old films are the very definition of indie and not easy to get a hold of so, when this one popped up on Amazon Prime in the UK, I watched it immediately. It’s… not good. But Shelly is as adorable and charming as always. I really wish she’d made it bigger in films much better than this one. But, in a way, I suppose that would have ruined some of that mysterious indie charm that she had? Anyway, I suppose this isn’t the worst low budget film I’ve ever seen but it tries too hard to be quirky. Sean Young plays batshit crazy the same way she always does and the Adult film star playing Shelly’s sister is truly hateful (but she’s meant to be so she plays the role well, I guess). I’d have hated the movie if it hadn’t been for Shelly and her love interest (played by Max Parrish) having good chemistry and being pretty likable. – 5/10

Tooth Fairy – Okay, my kid seems to have a thing for The Rock so we’re encouraging that and letting her watch the more family-friendly films of his. Yeah. Um. This one is pretty bad. I know it’s aimed at kids, but… Yikes. This is why I’m such a big fan of family films that are actually decent and manage to entertain people of all ages. Kids aren’t stupid – they know when a movie, like this one, is just a little too dumb. I’m glad Dwayne Johnson is doing better stuff now! By the way – the brilliant Julie Andrews is in this. Why, Julie? Why?!?!? – 4/10

The Snowman – What the FUCK was this?! How was this so bad?? Okay, I read and kind of enjoyed the book (review HERE) although it’s not the greatest and maybe a little cheesy. But they seriously could have made a decent film from the material. This movie was just… embarrassing. I’m sort of embarrassed that I still watched it despite the bad reviews. Trust the reviews. Maybe read the book if you think it sounds like a decent story. They changed quite a few things anyway (not for the better). Why did they start with this story anyway since it’s not the first book in a series involving this detective (played by Fassbender). I’m still annoyed I read the book assuming it was a one-off or at least the first book since a movie was being made of it. I’m not even going to start on Val Kilmer’s performance in this film. I don’t have the energy… – 4/10

The Emoji Movie – It’s as bad as you’ve heard. Okay – I can’t “review” this as I got too annoyed and ended up playing around on my phone the whole time. At home, by the way – people who play around on their phones in the cinema deserve severe punishment. Such as being forced to watch The Emoji Movie... – 3.5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ (ranked best to worst)

• Strange Weather by Joe Hill (Snapshot & Loaded) – Oh I love Joe Hill. I’m starting to almost love his work as much as his dad’s (Stephen King). But maybe that’s because it’s becoming more & more like reading a King story… Hell, I won’t complain at that. I want another Stephen King! To be fair, Hill’s stories feel more “fresh” in some ways as they’re more modern. I’m also a sucker for the stuff he references as we’re clearly a similar age with similar pop culture tastes. This is a book of four novellas and I read these first two stories in July (I’ve finished the rest now – will talk about them in my August Roundup).

Story One: SnapshotI really liked this story – it’s maybe my favorite of the four (and, admittedly, the most King-like). I think it’s possibly also the shortest but I love a short story when it’s a good one. As always, I love a great concept and this (as well as Aloft) has a great one. Basically, a mysterious camera seems to “steal” the memories of those whose photos are taken with it. And I’ll leave it at that – I’ve already given away too much. I love supernatural weirdness. – 4/5

Story Two: Loaded – This was a really good story about various people and how guns have been a part of their lives (and how they bring them all together at the end). Knowing how vocal King & Hill are on Twitter, I think I know how they feel about America’s ridiculous gun obsession. I didn’t find this story preachy, though – it’s told in a straightforward way and it’s scary how believable it is. Because it’s the same damn story we hear coming from America every day and what those outside of the U.S. can’t understand. WELL! Fuck all that. It pisses me off. This is why I prefer supernatural stories about memory-stealing cameras! Good job, though, Hill – this was very well-written and your scariest story yet. Please go back to writing about weird things that I know probably won’t actually kill me or anyone I know… – 4/5

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera – I have to stop reading YA books. I can’t help it… they’re easy reads! And usually enjoyable. This one is pretty good. As usual, I read it because I liked the concept (it’s set in a world where everyone receives a call on the last day of their lives to tell them that they’ll die within the next 24 hours). Obviously, the book is about living our lives to their fullest as we never know if each day may be our last. The story follows two strangers: teenage boys who receive the call & meet each other (through the “Last Friend” app) and decide to spend their last day on earth together. It’s pretty heartbreaking but I can’t say I really connected with the characters. I liked how their personalities were so different, though, as the more outgoing boy tries to bring the other boy, who has always been afraid of living, out of his shell for just one day. – 3/5

Currently Reading: The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon (oops. YA again)

TV SHOWS WATCHED (ranked best to worst)

Sharp Objects I really liked this book by Gillian Flynn and its throughly fucked-up characters. When I found out that Amy Adams would star in the TV adaptation, I was thrilled (love her!!). And then I was thrilled when they cast It’s Sophia Lillis to play the young version of the character. Perfection! They look so damn alike. It’s ridiculous that Chastain is playing her in the next It film. PAH! They look nothing alike. It should be Adams! Anyway – Adams is brilliant in this. As is Lillis, but that’s a much smaller part. As is Patricia Clarkson. As is everyone. So far, the show has been quite faithful to the book. I’m liking this adaptation far more than Big Little Lies, which made changes from the book which I really didn’t like (like making Witherspoon unfaithful!). Looking forward to seeing the rest of this & seeing everyone’s reaction to the ending…

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

No plans – I probably won’t post much. Well, I already haven’t… the month is almost over! I’ll try to catch up on reviewing cinema releases I’ve seen.

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

As I said, the month is almost over but these are the August releases I want/wanted to see…

Ant-Man And The Wasp – Saw it. Really enjoyed it. Will try to review it.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – I actually just watched Rogue Nation in preparation but have decided I now don’t have the energy for this film as it’s so long… Netflix!

The Meg – But only at a “cheap” cinema. Not a film I wanna see at full price!

Christopher Robin – Looks cute. Will probably go to this.

The Darkest Minds – More fucking Dystopian YA?! I love Dystopian YA. Anyone know if this is okay for a mature 9-year-old who knows Tooth Fairy is shit?

BlacKkKlansman – Anyone know if this is okay for a 9-year-old? HA! Just kidding!!!! Oh shit. I forgot you can’t joke online! People will realize that was a joke, right????? Anyway – I want to see this.

The Happytime Murders – Hmm. I don’t know. I’m not sure about this one. But I did love Avenue Q

Upgrade – Like the sound of this one but it may be a “wait for Netflix” type of thing.

Searching – See same comment as for Upgrade

Now check out these awesome Charade titles and the fantastic Love My Way by The Psychedelic Furs from back in the old days when music didn’t suck ass like it all does now…

North By Northwest (1959) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of Raging Fluff. Thanks so much for contributing to these IMDB reviews, Niall! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Alfred Hitchcock classic North By Northwest, IMDB rank 42 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 HERE. See the full list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

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***SPOILERS THROUGHOUT***

North by Northwest (1959)

Number of Times Seen: Too many to recall

Synopsis: A Madison Avenue ad executive, Roger Thornhill, is mistaken by enemy spies as CIA agent George Kaplan, a man who doesn’t even exist. Or, as the publicity had it, “it’s a deadly game of ‘tag’ … and Cary Grant is ‘it’!”

My Take: Should obviously be seen by Hitchcock completists and fans of Cary Grant, but should also be essential viewing for anyone interested in editing and scoring.

First, let’s get the film’s flaws out of the way. At 136 minutes, it’s far too long. James Mason as the villain is unfortunately given far too little screen time. The famous finale at Mount Rushmore is, for me, not as exciting as I think it could be, and several of the effects shots are rather shoddy. The filmmakers were prohibited from filming on top of the real Mount Rushmore. The plot itself doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny, and the famous crop-dusting scene – brilliant though it is – is the most ludicrous way to dispose of someone: wouldn’t it be easier to just drive by and shoot him?

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All that aside, it is still wonderfully enjoyable and holds up to repeated viewing. It’s a great piece of romantic suspense cinema. Director Alfred Hitchcock turned down the suggestion of Cyd Charisse as the girl, casting Eva Marie Saint instead, and we should be happy that the hero is played by smooth Cary Grant instead of drawling James Stewart, who was the original choice.

Screenwriter Ernest Lehman was originally hired to adapt The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes, but finally admitted to Hitchcock he simply couldn’t do it without turning it into “a boring courtroom drama”. Hitchcock told Lehman they would simply work on something else; the studio brass couldn’t believe their luck, thinking they were going to get two Hitchcock films for the price of one. In the end, Hitchcock passed on the Innes story to others, and he and Lehman focused on North by Northwest. Film fans should be grateful: we got, in Lehman’s words, “the Hitchcock film to end all Hitchcock films”, and The Wreck of the Mary Deare is seldom remembered.

North by Northwest is a marvellous, breezy and confident retread of the best of Hitchcock, combining parts of The Thirty-Nine Steps and The Man Who Knew Too Much. It has many of Hitchcock’s great touches: a fantastic score by Bernard Hermann, a brilliant title sequence by Saul Bass, an ice-cold blonde, a suave villain, a powerful mother-figure, and a shallow, sophisticated big-city hero caught in a story of intrigue that will put him in peril in a sequence of masterful set-pieces.

TITLE SEQUENCE:

He’s a shallow, possibly unlikable character, Roger O. Thornhill: R.O.T. (“What does the O stand for?” “Nothing.”) He begins the film as a man in total control, a 1950s movie idea of success, a smooth-talking, twice-divorced adman, dapper in his grey suit, without conscience or guilt, dictating instructions to his secretary that include buying kiss-off gifts to girls. For reference, let’s say he’s closer to Roger Sterling than Don Draper. By the end, he’ll have been almost killed several times, start an affair with a beautiful double agent, beginning with one of the sexiest conversations in cinema, have hung off Mount Rushmore (a working title for the film was ‘The Man in Lincoln’s Nose’), and finally be successfully married.

It wouldn’t work if the man wasn’t handsome and charming Cary Grant, but because it’s him, and because many of the dramatic scenes are played as high comedy, the film bounces along on its own sense of ridiculousness. He’s abducted by a couple of heavies and transported to a Long Island mansion. “Not that I mind a slight case of abduction now and then, but I have tickets for the theatre this evening.”

They pour a vat of bourbon into him and put him behind the wheel, hoping he’ll drive off a cliff. He doesn’t, and when the police arrest him for drunk-driving, he calls his mother from the jailhouse. “They poured a whole bottle of bourbon into me … No, they didn’t give me a chaser.” Thornhill’s mother (Jessie Royce Landis, in real life the same age as Grant) doesn’t believe his abduction story. She’s almost as joyously reckless as he is. When they’re in a lift beside the thugs, she turns to them and cheerfully asks, “you gentleman aren’t really trying to kill my son, are you?”

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Of course Thornhill calls his mother. He still lives with her. He is still essentially a child, even if he is a ladies’man. Mind you, he’s the one who gets seduced by the beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie-Saint). She turns out to be the mistress of the chief villain, but also a double agent. Their romantic meeting on the train has been copied several times, most recently in the forgettable The Tourist with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

The villain, Van Damm, is James Mason, and to watch he and Grant together, trading witticisms in their beautiful voices, is one of the great pleasures of film-watching. Mason casually says, “the least I can do is afford you the opportunity of surviving the evening.” Van Damm’s chief henchman is played by a nervous-looking Martin Landau, who plays the role with a hint of homosexuality: at one point he asserts his “woman’s intuition.”

The villains think Thornhill is a man called George Kaplan, who it turns out doesn’t exist. He’s a fiction created by the CIA as a decoy so the bad guys don’t realise that the real CIA agent is right under their nose. The McGuffin – only revealed at the end – is some microfilm they’re trying to smuggle out of the country. Having failed to kill him in the car, they try again, luring him to an Iowa cornfield, where they try to kill him with a crop-duster. The reasons for the scene makes very little sense, but it’s so brilliantly conceived and constructed – nearly six minutes of silence before anything happens – and the fact that it’s urbane Cary Grant in a nice suit being chased by a plane in the middle of nowhere, make it unforgettable. If you want to study how effective direction, editing and music score can be when combined correctly, watch that scene repeatedly.

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As with much of Hitchcock, the film has to do with his own fears. He distrusted authority and was afraid of the police. The crop-dusting scene works in part because its setting induces agoraphobia: no matter which direction you look, all you see is a flat expanse of nothingness extending to the horizon. The film also has a lot to do with the suave and charming persona of “Cary Grant”. It was their fourth film together. He was 55 when he filmed North by Northwest – getting up there, but still something of a romantic lead – and some have read his journey in the film as a journey through his career. It’s an interesting idea: at times you can see the Grant of Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and The Philadelphia Story. There’s a wonderful moment where he breaks into a hospital room and wakes up a woman. She screams “Stop!” Then she gets a good look at him, melts and breathes “Stop…?”

Some other moments worth noting: the opening shot of the side of a skyscraper reflecting the traffic; the incredible overhead shot of the plaza in front of the United Nations building; the schoolboy joke of the train going into the tunnel that ends the film.

As enjoyable as North by Northwest is, I’d probably still choose to watch Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps first. It treads similar ground with verve, wit and economy (a mere 81 minutes), and is beautifully filmed in black and white, instead of the rather lurid technicolour of the 1950s.

Niall McArdle

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TRAILER:

IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #16 – Notorious Review

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Notorious (1946) – IMDB Rank #155

Watched 6/5/13

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Starring:
Cary Grant
Ingrid Bergman
Claude Rains

Plot (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the American daughter of a convicted Nazi spy, is recruited by government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant) to infiltrate an organization of Nazis who have relocated to Brazil after World War II.

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Alfred Hitchcock:

Alfred Hitchcock is the director with the highest number of films in the IMDB Top 250. I love Alfred Hitchcock and think he deserves to be at the top. (If you’re curious, here’s a list of the directors with the most films in the IMDB Top 250). He currently has nine films in the top 250 and I’d seen all but three (of ten) when I started my IMDB Top 250 Challenge on 01/01/13. The films are:

1. Dial M for Murder
2. North by Northwest
3. Notorious
4. Psycho
5. Rear Window
6. Rebecca
7. Rope
8. Strangers on a Train
9. Vertigo

I’m working off the list as it was on 01/01/13. Unfortunately, Shadow Of A Doubt has now been knocked out of the Top 250. That’s a real shame. Again, far too many current films are knocking the classics out of the top 250 (don’t get me started on that). Anyway, I figured I’d work my way through the Alfred Hitchcock movies I’d not seen first. My previous reviews are here :

Rope Review

Shadow Of A Doubt Review

With Notorious, I’ve now seen all the Hitchcock films in the Top 250.

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My Opinion on Notorious:

Of the three I watched to complete my Hitchcock Top 250-watching, I enjoyed Rope the most. Notorious is a close second but it felt very different from other Hitchcock films to me. The plot sounds intriguing & suspenseful but the story that unfolds is actually far more simple than in a lot of other Hitchcock films. This felt more like a romance film than a film from the master of suspense. Not that I’m complaining, though. Cary Grant & Ingrid Bergman have great chemistry and all that kissing was AWESOME. Seriously. They kissed. And kissed. And kissed. And having just looked Notorious up on Wikipedia, I read that there was actually a ban at the time on movie kisses more than three seconds long so Hitchcock got around this in Notorious “by having his actors disengage every three seconds, murmur and nuzzle each other, then start right back up again.” Well, it worked because those kisses felt like they went on forever. Loved it. 🙂

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I’m still a bit new to watching classic films but I’m trying to watch more of them and working my way through the IMDB Top 250 should help with that a bit. I’ve not seen THAT many films with Cary Grant but even fewer with Ingrid Bergman (other than Casablanca but to be honest I was SO young when I saw that that I really should watch it again). She’s fabulous. Sexy. Why can’t more actresses be like that nowadays? Classy. And not exactly a thin little stick insect, either. Give me CURVES on women! Why am I going on about this? Lol. How about Cary Grant? So handsome and SO cool & aloof in this film. What is it about the cool & aloof men that I always find SO sexy? 😉

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Okay – this film is about more than lots of sexy kissing (although that’s what I happened to enjoy the most about it). I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that Bergman & Grant’s characters fall in love in this (what with all that kissing talk). Or do they? You’re kept guessing on the true nature of their relationship throughout the entire film. Bergman is asked to go further and further into her deception of her father’s Nazi friends, forming intimate relationships with them and putting herself in great danger while never knowing if the agent who recruited her, Cary Grant, cares about her fate. These are the things that remind you that this is a Hitchcock film – there ARE some great moments of suspense in amongst all that sexy kissing.

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Summary:

Cary Grant & especially Ingrid Bergman shine in this excellent classic from Alfred Hitchcock. As to
be expected from Hitchcock, there’s some real suspense as Bergman’s character puts herself in great danger while infiltrating a Nazi organization. But the thing that really makes this film such a classic (for me, at least) is the smoldering romance between the steamy & passionate Bergman and the cool & aloof Grant. And ALL THAT KISSING. Great stuff. 🙂

My Rating: 7.5/10

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(Oh, I’d just like to say how annoying it is that when you Google Notorious, it’s the Notorious B.I.G. movie that always comes up first!)