The Jungle Book (2016) Review

The Jungle Book (2016)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Based on The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Starring: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Jungle Book stars and introduces Neel Sethi as Mowgli, an orphaned human boy who, guided by his animal guardians, sets out on a journey of self-discovery while evading the threatening Shere Khan.

My Opinion:

(FYI – I’ve never read the book so can’t make any comparisons to it)

I actually wasn’t all that bothered about watching this one when I saw the trailer. I of course love Disney’s 1967 The Jungle Book. Who doesn’t?! It’s one of my top ten animated Disney movies (I did rank every single one I’ve ever seen HERE in the early days of my blog – I really need to update that list). And it’s one of the absolute best for songs (two of them made my list of My Top Ten Disney Songs. I love making Disney lists).

Anyway! I’m a big fan of the Disney classics and just didn’t really see the necessity (ha) of making this “live action” version. However, it’s pretty good. It could never replace the animated classic for me and I’m mighty pissed off that this new version has a higher IMDB rating than the 1967 film but, oh well – it’s an enjoyable film & its child star (Neel Sethi) does a really great job.

First of all, the CGI in this is spectacular. You have to remind yourself that Sethi was actually acting alone during these scenes – they just look so real. So you have to give the kid extra credit for that! A few bits didn’t look quite right but, overall, I’d have to say that nothing really threw me out of the movie the way that bad CGI can sometimes. Well, nothing as far as the “look” of the film threw me out of it… Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the voice acting.

Of all the animals, I especially loved Bagheera. He looked amazing and, just as importantly, he was voiced very professionally by Ben Kingsley. By saying that I mean this: you don’t go “WOW – that’s Ben Kingsley!” the second you hear Bagheera talk. In fact, we didn’t know until the end credits who actually voiced that character and that’s the way it SHOULD be if Disney wish to make their films timeless classics. I’d say the same for Lupita Nyong’o’s Raksha as well. Raksha was probably my second favorite animal character and I again think a big part of that was down to the fact that I wasn’t picturing the real-life voice actor the entire time.

I went to see this with extended family & seemed to enjoy it more than anyone else in the group. I’m glad I didn’t review it right away, though, as I liked it a little less the more I thought about it (I saw it a week & a half ago). My hubby was especially not a fan. He’s always pooping on my enjoyment of things! I’m pretty damn picky on movies but, believe me, he’s far worse. I do see his point, though, as his biggest complaint is that this movie felt like “The Bill Murray Show”.

I doubt there’s anyone out there who doesn’t love Baloo from the 1967 The Jungle Book. I suppose it’s a difficult job to voice such a beloved character but Bill Murray voices him in that typical Bill Murray way of his: he voices Baloo as Bill Murray. I guess that’s good if you absolutely love him and go to this wanting to see a Bill Murray movie but that’s not what I personally want from any Disney film. I don’t want to picture the actors. I want to get lost in the world created by the movie which, in this case, really did look pretty fantastic. But then Baloo came along acting all Bill Murray-like. And I also adore King Louie from the 1967 film (I actually prefer I Wan’na Be Like You to The Bare Necessities and love that part of the film). But who voices King Louie? Christopher Walken! Are there many voices more identifiable than his?! He did actually tone things down a bit in this but I still couldn’t help but picture King Louie with a gun to his head & talking about sticking a watch up his ass. 

My Daughter’s Opinion: I was surprised that she didn’t seem to like this one very much. Her first comment afterwards was “How long was that? It felt like it was on for aaaaaaages!” so that’s clearly not a good sign (it’s 1 hour 46 minutes, FYI). So I asked her how she liked it compared to the other movies she’s gone to this year & she said it’s last after Kung Fu Panda 3, Zootropolis, Pan & Goosebumps. Man, she’s harsh. But I’m not too upset – this hopefully means she’ll always prefer the superior 1967 film. 🙂

Summary:

If you pretend the 1967 film doesn’t exist, this is a very enjoyable family Disney film that looks absolutely amazing. A really good semi-live-action Disney film… (but not fully live action – it’s honestly so impressive that I keep thinking of it only as live action). The problem, though, is that the animated classic does exist so it’s impossible to not compare the two – especially as they’re so similar and this one does contain the two main songs from the animated film, which I was happy to hear yet at the same time wasn’t sure that they worked in this version. Plus they were sung by Murray & Walken and I’ve already said how I disliked their voices in this. Oh, actually – Scarlett Johansson was equally annoying as Kaa. That bit really didn’t work for me at all.

The other problem, and not everyone will care about this, is that you wouldn’t exactly want to have this one on if a two-year-old is in the room so it’s not as “entire family” friendly as the animated film. It looks far too real and many scenes are very intense for anyone really young.

Mainly, though, I’m just disappointed that they ruined the chance to make this yet another timeless Disney classic simply because they wanted to stick some big names in it. I expect that from other studios, such as DreamWorks, but not from Disney or Pixar. Okay – I’m not saying my two favorite (now joined) studios never use big names because, yes, they always do. But they usually first make sure that those voices suit the characters whereas this time it felt like they hired the actors without any thought as to if they were appropriate. It’s a shame as I think this would be pretty fantastic without those famous voice distractions. But, either way, it’s still not the animated classic so I don’t care too much anyway as that’s the one I’ll continue to watch for years. Interestingly, both my daughter and husband preferred Maleficent as well as the live-action Cinderella. Hmm. I’m not yet sure how I’d rank the three of them but I’ve given them all the exact same rating.

My Rating: 7/10

Oh! Oh! The baby wolves were adorable. Forgot to mention that. 🙂

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True Romance (1993) Blind Spot Review

True Romance (1993)

Directed by Tony Scott

Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Christopher Walken

Music by Hans Zimmer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.

My Opinion:

*This is my fourth Blind Spot review after An Education, Summer Wars & Natural Born Killers.

When choosing my Blind Spot movies for this year, True Romance was the first one I thought of as I’d been meaning to watch it for years but, for some reason, just never got around to it. I like Tarantino and love both Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette so I was really excited to finally make myself sit down & watch this. I ended up with two Blind Spot movies written by Quentin Tarantino as I also added Natural Born Killers as kind of an afterthought and wasn’t even really looking forward to watching that like I was with True Romance. However, I was very surprised to find that I was slightly disappointed with True Romance while I actually thought that Natural Born Killers was the much better film.

First of all, I’ll say that this movie has plenty of what Tarantino is good at: cool characters & fun dialogue. It also has another thing he’s sometimes good at: a messy plot. Normally, I don’t really mind that so much as long as everything else is good but I did find the messy story a little distracting with this one. I admit I watched this late at night & was very tired but did I miss whatever happened to Christopher Walken? It seemed like he was introduced & that he was important but then he just disappeared? I also thought the big finale felt a bit forced & silly. I wonder if the movie would be much different if it had actually been directed by Tarantino as well? This came out after Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (although I think it was written before?) but Reservoir Dogs is the much better film overall.

Don’t get me wrong, though – this movie is fun & I did enjoy it. It’s surprising I never watched it as I was totally in love with Christian Slater in those days thanks to Heathers, Pump Up The Volume & Untamed Heart (shut up – I adore Untamed Heart!). And he’s good in this but the true star is actually Patricia Arquette. I’ve really liked Arquette ever since A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors but have missed out on a lot of her movies (I recently did a top ten list of her movies HERE in which I kind of had to cheat to make it up to ten). I’ve never understood why she wasn’t in more movies so am glad she got recognized with an Oscar for her role in Boyhood. True Romance is surely her most defining role, though.

As with any Tarantino-related film, the cast they got together for this is super impressive. Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer, and…. Balki from Perfect Strangers?!? Okay, Bronson Pinchot felt out of place (plus it’s a fairly big role compared to some other big names!). Shall we have a look at those with much smaller roles? Hmm. Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore, Samuel L Jackson, Michael Rapaport, Saul Rubinek, James Gandolfini… so many well known names & faces in this! Although some weren’t as huge when this came out, I suppose. Such as Brad Pitt, who is adorable as a total stoner.

The two who really stand out in smaller roles, however, are Dennis Hopper (as Slater’s dad) & especially Gary Oldman (as Arquette’s evil pimp). I really miss Hopper – I always found him entertaining. He was loads of fun being a crazy bastard most of the time in things like Blue Velvet & Speed but I liked seeing him in a more straightforward role here & in a memorable scene with Walken.

I also like Gary Oldman (doesn’t everybody?) but, at the same time, I’ve never really noticed him all that much. He’s just one of those rare actors who is so different in every single role. For example, I love Jack Nicholson but always feel like I’m watching “Jack Nicholson” when I watch one of his movies. Oldman becomes the characters he plays and his role here, although far smaller than I thought it would be, is easily the most memorable thing about the whole film. I think James Franco clearly watched him in this before doing Spring Breakers. Oldman really deserves more recognition than he gets (but that’s probably because he’s so often unrecognizable!).

I suppose I was a bit tough on this film in my opening paragraph but, as is obvious from what I’ve spent the whole time talking about, the strong characters are what I assume make this film such a fan favorite. And it certainly feels like the films that Tarantino went on to direct himself due to the characters, the conversations, and of course the copious amounts of violence that I had to turn away from (one scene involving Arquette was a bit too intense for me). Shockingly, I found this more violent than the super violent (yet anti-violence) Natural Born Killers.

The thing that works the most, though, (for me at least) was the actual “romance”. I loved Slater & especially loved Arquette and wanted them to live happily ever after. These two had amazing chemistry in this! You just knew their characters had really hot sex. And, hey – they first meet in a movie theater & bond over a similar love of movies: that’s the perfect way to start a romance in this movie blogger’s opinion! Did they date in real life after making this like most stars do when they make films together? I have no idea but they should have. Hey – are they both single nowadays? I think they should hook up! Arquette totally should’ve married Slater instead of Nicolas Cage. Although I can’t blame her for marrying Thomas Jane. He’s a hottie.

Summary:

Well, I’ve said all I really need to say about this. True Romance is a really fun film thanks to Tarantino’s way of writing great characters & their interactions with one another but I was still a little disappointed that the story itself was weak. I also thought the scenes involving Elvis talking to Slater’s character didn’t really work & felt out of place. But I’d most definitely recommend this if you’re a fan of either Tarantino or Tony Scott or of the many big name stars in this movie. Like most of Scott’s films, this has a little bit of the gung-ho American action movie thing going on but it still mostly feels like a Tarantino movie (and it sure as hell is a lot more violent than Scott’s other work). I’m glad I finally watched this and the main things I’ll always remember are the fantastic performances from the likes of Arquette, Oldman and Hopper plus, of course, the romance itself. Slater & Arquette are perfect together.

My Rating: 7/10

Catch Me If You Can (2002) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Satu of Fairytale Pictures. Thanks for the review, Satu! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of Catch Me If You Can, IMDB rank 240 out of 250…

There are another 16 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

I originally wrote this review/summary for my scriptwriting course, so there’s more plot details that I usually include but change is good, right? I also added some points. Hope you enjoy reading it. Spoilers ahead.

Sometimes it’s easier living the lie​​​​

Catch Me If You Can is a crime dramedy based on a biography of Frank Abagnale Jr., American con-man who succeeded in forging millions of dollars of fake checks while pretending to be a Pan-Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, all that before his 19th birthday. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg. It was released 2002 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a main character Frank Abagnale Jr., Tom Hanks as a federal officer Hanratty chasing him and Christopher Walken is Frank Sr.

I saw Catch Me If You Can for the first time when it was released in Finland in 2003. I liked it back then and I liked it this time even more, probably because I paid more attention to the details of the film. Spielberg knows how to do details, his films are always looking and sounding great. The film is not overly emotional, so, even though I’m quite emotional person, I didn’t cry during the film. Mostly I guess I was exhilarated and afterwards relieved and in the end, disappointed, at least a bit. The main character is likeable and a con-man, so it’s easy to get excited for him and feel relieved after he manages his mischiefs. Disappointed-part is debatable.

(SPOILERS IN THIS PART) “Sometimes it’s easier living the lie”, says Hanratty at the end of the film. The phrase summarizes the film. Catch Me If You Can is a story of responsibility, growing up and bringing up. It’s a story of owning up. The film might be an adventure to viewer but it also makes you think what is justified in order to get around in one’s life. But in the end, I figure that Catch Me If You Can is a bit too much of a “lesson” about what kind of life you should live. And that is what let me down; the film ended up being one those familiar stories; bad childhood, rebelling child, moral aberrations and again, happily ever after. I kind of wished a bit more demanding ending, I guess.

Even though Spielberg has yet again a child as his lead, Catch Me If You Can is very stylish crime thriller. It has this adult feel and I believe children or even teens would be bored while watching it. The film must be PG because there’s basically no violence and very little of sex and nudity but the story and especially how it’s told tells that the target audience is civilized, smart adults who has taste and style. Catch Me If You Can has jamesbondish vibe to it without the sexual content. One of the Abagnale’s alter-ego is even named Mr. Fleming.

All of the actors are great; obviously. What else would you wait from DiCaprio, Hanks and Walken? Amy Adams also makes unforgettable role in the film as Abagnale’s love interest. That must have been one of the bigger roles in the beginning of her career. Catch Me If You Can got two Oscar nominations for Walken as Frank’s dad, deservedly so, he’s heartbreaking in a small kind of a way, and un-surprisingly to John Williams who smartly scored the film, I liked the music a lot. DiCaprio was also nominated for the Golden Globe. All in all, the film is good, solid 8/10 but it misses the last punch.

Seven Psychopaths (2012) Review

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Directed & Written by Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Željko Ivanek

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

My Opinion:

I’d been meaning to watch this movie for a while as I really liked Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. Unfortunately, I ended up being a little disappointed as Seven Psychopaths is definitely not as good as In Bruges. There are several fantastic moments, though, and some great performances from the impressive cast. In fact, I’d say there are a few moments of pure brilliance & I’ll be sure to discuss the movie’s positives as well as the negatives. But, overall, I thought the main plot was a bit of a mess and far too convoluted.

In this movie, Colin Farrell’s character is a writer working on a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths. He hasn’t gotten very far with the script (I think he’d only managed to think up one out of the seven psychopaths if I remember correctly) so his friend (a dognapper played by Sam Rockwell) tries to help him out with the other six. Meanwhile, Rockwell (who kidnaps dogs for “boss” Christopher Walken) has managed to anger a real-life psychopath (Woody Harrelson) after kidnapping his beloved dog.

What’s unfortunate is that this overall dognapping story is the main part of the plot yet it’s the weakest thing about the movie. The main story is messy & feels too forced. Okay – part of this may somewhat be down to my dislike of Woody Harrelson. Aside from his “dumb guy” character in Cheers, I’ve never liked him in anything else. He just seemed very weak next to the likes of Walken and even Rockwell (who was fantastic in this). Colin Farrell was just his usual Colin Farrell self (I’m not a big fan of his either but he’s fine in this although his role could have been played by anyone).

The interesting thing about this movie, which I didn’t know beforehand, is that there are several other stories that get told throughout the film as ideas for further psychopathic characters are discussed. We witness these stories (such as the one with Tom Waits in the above photo) and, DAMN, these stories are good! I’d watch full movies of a few of these stories as they’re all far more interesting than the overall plot involving the dognapping & Woody Harrelson’s character. It reminded me a lot of Grindhouse & how the fake trailers looked so good that they ended up making movies of some of them (I didn’t watch Machete so I don’t know if that was any good but I really enjoyed Hobo With A Shotgun).


As well as these “stories within a story”, which I liked a hell of a lot, I really loved Christopher Walken & Sam Rockwell. I like Christopher Walken but he can be a little strange sometimes. I complained about him “phoning it in” in my review of Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. He plays the same sort of character far too often but, although he’s playing that sort of character once again here, he gives such a perfect performance. His final scene is especially awesome as were the scenes with his character’s wife (played by a woman named Linda Bright Clay, who appears to have been in very little else. Why?! She’s fantastic in this! Another one of this movie’s highlights). Walken’s & Clay’s characters were both fantastic, as was their story. Well done to McDonagh on writing their parts. 

Sam Rockwell was possibly the main highlight for me, though. At least, as far as the acting was concerned – my favorite thing was definitely the “stories within a story”. I have a post about Rockwell scheduled for tomorrow & I say the same thing that I’ll say now: I don’t think he’s really lucked out quite yet in getting that one “perfect role”. When he does, I think he’ll finally get the attention he deserves. This is definitely a defining role for him, however, and probably my second favorite performance of his. I’m starting to kind of finally see the reason he seems to have some pretty loyal fans. If you’re a fan of his but haven’t seen this movie for some reason, I highly recommend that you check it out. 

Summary:

Seven Psychopaths is an odd one. It’s so good at times and just plain confusing at other times. I’m afraid that it tries a little too hard to be cool. I think it wants to be like something made by Tarantino but, although the clever dialogue is there and there are some very rich characters, the story is even more convoluted than that in Pulp Fiction. I’m struggling with rating this one as I think it deserves a higher score than I’ll probably give it but I can’t ignore the fact that the main plot really didn’t hold my interest at all. But I’m in no way trying to talk people out of watching this one as I think parts of it are brilliant and the writing is far better than we get from most movies. I’d actually recommend this one as I think a lot of people reading this would like this movie quite a lot. If you like In Bruges or Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead or anything from Tarantino, you’ll definitely like this one as well. I guess I’d rather have a few moments of brilliance than a movie that’s mediocre the whole way through.

My Rating: 7/10

Drugstore Cowboy, At Close Range & Slacker Movie Reviews

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Here are three more mini-reviews of movies I don’t have enough to say about to fill a full review for each! Sound exciting? Two were okay but one totally sucked…

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Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

Directed by Gus Van Sant & Based on Drugstore Cowboy by James Fogle

Starring: Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Remar, James LeGros, Heather Graham, William Burroughs

My Opinion:

It seems like I’ve watched quite a few movies about people who are addicted to drugs but they’re never exactly favorites of mine. It’s certainly something I can’t relate to as I’m afraid I’m going to OD if I take one little wussy aspirin for a headache. The last drug movie I watched was The Basketball Diaries, which was also based on the real-life drug addiction of the story’s author. That movie was a little disappointing but had a good performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. I maybe liked it slightly more than this but Drugstore Cowboy is probably a bit better as a film.

The problem with these drug movies is that, even though they show the terrible effects that drugs have on people, I think they still manage to glamorize drug addiction to a certain degree. Diaries is more guilty of that than Cowboy – I think Drugstore Cowboy tells a more straightforward story without trying to appear too “cool”. However, it also makes for a slightly more boring film.

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I’ve never really liked Matt Dillon with his gormless face & Bert from Sesame Street eyebrows but I guess he’s fine in this (he’s just not on a Leonardo DiCaprio level acting-wise). Kelly Lynch was pretty good as Dillon’s bossy, horny girlfriend (or I think she may have been his wife?). I haven’t really seen Lynch in many films but all I ever think of is how Bill Murray calls her husband to tell him that Kelly is having sex with Patrick Swayze anytime Road House is playing on TV (I really need to watch that movie – it looks so gloriously bad). I was surprised to see a very young Heather Graham looking all cute like she did in License To Drive. That’s the thing with these Hollywood drug movies – you’d think only really attractive people become addicted to drugs.

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Overall, I liked Drugstore Cowboy okay but I don’t think it’s going to change anyone’s life. It’s not as hard-hitting as some of the other drug addiction films that are out there but it does a decent job telling the story of a group of people who rob drugstores to feed their addiction and what a pointless existence they’re living.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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At Close Range (1986)

Directed by James Foley

Starring: Sean Penn, Christopher Walken, Mary Stuart Masterson, Crispin Glover, Tracey Walter, Christopher Penn, Kiefer Sutherland

My Opinion:

At Close Range is probably the best movie of these three but I really had no idea how mean and violent it was going to be. All I really knew of the movie was what I saw in the clips of that Madonna video Live To Tell. It’s an Eighties movie that I missed out on at the time but always kind of wanted to see (probably because of that video). When it appeared on Netflix, I decided to watch it after being reminded that Mary Stuart Masterson is in it (and Crispin Glover! he’s his usual weird, Crispin Glover self in this). Oh yeah – and Christopher Penn! I’ve always liked him more than grumpy Sean.

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I didn’t know that this movie was based on the true story of a notorious crime family in Pennsylvania in the 1960s & 70s. There’s very little information on the real life criminals on Wikipedia so I can’t say how accurate the movie is but it’s a very gritty film and Walken is truly evil in this role. It was strange to see Walken playing a bad guy with absolutely no over-the-top acting or sick sense of humor like in movies such as Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. I absolutely HATED this guy (as you’re meant to) so I guess you can say that Walken played the role really well despite a very distracting hairstyle.

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At Close Range follows Sean Penn’s character and his estranged criminal father, played by Walken, who suddenly appears back in his son’s life and involves him in the family’s crime ring with very tragic consequences. Looking up the true story, I saw just how young these kids were when all this occurred (Penn’s character, his brother, his friends & his 15-year-old girlfriend) and I found it quite heartbreaking to see how this group of adult criminals were able to so easily use these young kids, some of them their own family, with absolutely no remorse.

At Close Range was a much darker movie than I was expecting for some reason (maybe because of that Madonna video) but I suppose it was a pretty good film. I’m just not normally a fan of true crime films as I find them too upsetting and the treatment of Penn’s & Masterson’s characters was especially difficult to watch. I’d recommend this if it sounds like your type of movie but be prepared to hate Walken’s character and to possibly feel a little angry when it finishes.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Slacker (1991)

Directed & Written by Richard Linklater

Starring: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Mark James, Stella Weir, John Slate, Louis Mackey, Teresa Taylor

My Opinion:

I love Richard Linklater. I really do. Dazed And Confused is a favorite movie of mine and I really liked Boyhood even though a lot of people hated it. Bernie was pretty damn good as well, I love the relationship in the Before films, and School Of Rock is a huge guilty pleasure of mine (although I shouldn’t feel guilty about it – it’s great! Jack Black haters be GONE!). So…. I decided it was about time I check out Linklater’s feature length debut Slacker.

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Slacker has a high IMDB rating for an older film (7.1/10). I knew it was loads of “talking” like most of his films, which I don’t mind. Dazed And Confused and the Before films are loads of talking. The difference is that those films have characters we give a shit about and a f*%king STORY instead of a bunch of random idiots telling stupid, boring stories that have absolutely no connection to each other.

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I’m sorry to anyone who is a fan of this one but I just do NOT get the appeal. It would be okay if the pointless talking was funny and entertaining like it was in Dazed And Confused but none of it is funny or entertaining. Scratch that – the chick in the photo above (and the poster) is mildly (emphasis on mildly) entertaining as she discusses buying a Madonna pap smear (hey – a Madonna connection to my previous review!). I guess that’s why that character ended up on the poster as she’s the only one I can even remember other than Linklater himself, who starts off the string of pointless talking in the very first scene.

I guess the one good thing about Slacker is that it was the start of Linklater’s career. I’m still a fan of his as he went on to make much (much!) better films than this one but Slacker is a huge waste of time for anyone who isn’t a slacker and has better things to do with their time.

My Rating: 4.5/10

Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (1995) Review

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Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead (1995)

Directed by Gary Fleder

Starring: Andy García, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, Treat Williams, Jack Warden, Steve Buscemi, Fairuza Balk, Gabrielle Anwar, Christopher Walken, Michael Nicolosi, Bill Cobbs, Marshall Bell, Glenn Plummer

Running time: 115 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Five different criminals face imminent death after botching a job quite badly.

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My Opinion:

Okay…. I think it was almost a year ago that I watched this movie so I guess I’ve put off reviewing it for long enough. It’s a favorite of a fellow blogger who shall remain nameless (ERIC!) and he and another blogger who shall remain nameless (MARK!) were always shouting (well, typing) “Boat Drinks!” at each other and I was like “What the hell is that all about?”. I was never in a big hurry to watch the “movie where they shoot people up the butt” but it was on TV one day so I thought “Screw it – let’s see what this Boat Drinks thing is all about”.

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Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead was better than I was expecting based on what it’s most famous for (the butt thing. sorry – I normally avoid spoilers on this blog but, seriously, it’s such a well known fact about this film & probably why I avoided it for so long). I have to say it’s actually a pretty solid crime drama with some really great characters and some very memorable lines & scenes. It seems to get compared to (or accused of ripping off) the previous year’s Pulp Fiction a lot but, in some ways, I think it’s actually a better film (I find Pulp Fiction overrated). I think it’s closer to, although not as good as, Reservoir Dogs. It has the same sort of interesting characters, amusingly witty banter, shady characters, violence, and the always entertaining Steve Buscemi. I suppose it just didn’t have the “style” the Tarantino films have so it didn’t get the same level of attention. Which is sort of a shame because, if you haven’t seen this, you’re missing a fantastic performance from Christopher Lloyd. He was the best thing about the movie for me and the “boat drinks” scene between him & Andy Garcia is the definite highlight of the film. It’s a wonderful scene! I’m happy I saw the movie just for Christopher Lloyd and that one scene.

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There are other good things about the movie, though. Lloyd was my favorite but each character in this group of misfits is entertaining and they all have very different personalities, meaning that everyone who watches this will have a different favorite character. I have to say that Treat Williams as a violent lunatic was a real treat for a change (ha!) and I always enjoy seeing Steve Buscemi in a movie even if he’s playing a similar sort of role as he has in a lot of other films. The two female characters (Fairuza Balk & Gabrielle Anwar) are of course pretty unimportant in this “guy movie” (typical) but I don’t really have too much of a complaint there – they get a bit more screen time than other female characters in similar “movies for dudes”. My only real disappointment, unfortunately, was with Christopher Walken. I like Walken most of the time but, in this, he’s a little too “Christopher Walken”. If you love him, you’ll like him in this as he’s being his usual, crazy sort of character but it almost felt like he was bored in this one. I don’t know… I think it’s one way in which Pulp Fiction has this movie beat – Walken was more interesting with a watch up his ass.

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Summary:

I think that Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, although not my usual sort of movie, is a very good film within its violent crime genre. I think it actually deserves more praise & recognition than it seems to have gotten. This is probably down to it coming out after both Reservoir Dogs & Pulp Fiction and being accused of being a Tarantino rip-off. It’s not as good as a Tarantino movie but it’s also much better than a lot of the other films that could be accused of ripping him off. I suppose it could be argued that there would be no Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead if there was no Reservoir Dogs but I don’t think that matters – plenty of films are similar and it’s still a good movie in its own right. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of this genre. I’ll also make a bold statement here & say that I actually enjoyed this movie more than another similar film that also came out in 1995 – The Usual Suspects. The ending of that one is of course great but, overall, I liked this one more.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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**Speaking of one of those bloggers who likes this movie, I participated in Eric’s popular Shitfest celebration of horribly bad movies over at Isaacs Picture Conclusions. You can view my entry, a review of the annoying Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus, HERE. 🙂

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The Deer Hunter (1978) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mark of Marked Movies. Thanks for all the reviews, Mark! 🙂 Now let’s hear what he has to say about The Deer Hunter, IMDB rank 134 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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Director: Michael Cimino.
Screenplay: Deric Washburn.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Cazale, John Savage, George Dzundza, Chuck Aspegren, Rutanya Alda, Shirley Stoler, Pierre Segui, Joe Grifasi, Somsak Sengvilai.

Released in 1978, only three years after the official end of the Vietnam war, Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” seemed as if it may have been too soon for the American psyche. It was a surprising box-office hit but was also one of the most controversial, major theatrical releases about America’s involvement in the war. It went on to receive 9 Academy Award nominations (winning 5 – including Best Picture and Best Director). Despite this, the backlash was pretty vehement. It received criticism from the likes of Jane Fonda and John Wayne – who in his last public appearance had to present it with it’s Best Picture award even though he wasn’t fond of the film. These criticisms came in many forms but for as many critics as it had, there were also a great number who considered it to be another American classic.

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Michael (Robert DeNiro), Stevie (John Savage) and Nick (Christopher Walken) are among a group of friends who live and work in the steel mill town of Clairton, Pennsylvania. They spend their time getting drunk and going deer hunting before they are enlisted in the airborne infantry of Vietnam. What was once a slow-paced and fun-filled life is shoved into the stark reality of warfare and how their experiences change their lives forever.

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Clocking in at just over three hours, “The Deer Hunter” is a film of length. However, it’s one that never overstays it’s welcome as Cimino wisely works within a three act structure – book-ending the war with marriage and death. He may take his time and linger long on shots but it never gets boring. To view it as simply another Vietnam film is to entirely miss the point also. If it is to be viewed in any way, it should be as a commentary on American disillusionment and it’s loss of innocence at this time. It’s intention is not to focus on the war itself but on the aftermath and the impact war can have on the lives of ordinary working people. In fact, the scenes that take place in Vietnam only amount to a very small portion of the film, overall. Ultimately, it’s a character study that’s only heightened by the 50 minute wedding sequence at the beginning of the film. Many grumble about this being too indulgent but it’s integral that we get to know these characters in order to fully understand them. It’s during the wedding reception that they come across a Green Beret who has just finished his Tour of Duty; they buy him a drink and take offence when all he has to tell them about the war is… “Fuck it!“. This perfectly sums up the naïveté of these young men as they seem to have a romanticised idea of war and have absolutely no idea of what is to become them.

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Following this, a bunch of them go on a deer hunting trip where we again see the dynamic of the group and get to know each of them more personally. Suddenly, we are thrust into the chaos of Vietnam and it’s not before long that the films iconic and controversial Russian roulette scene takes place. This is a scene that has received much criticism in not only being claimed as inaccurate – as there was no evidence to suggest that any such atrocities took place during the conflict – but for being racist in it’s sadistic stereotype of the Viet Cong captors. These criticisms are justifiable to an extent but, personally, I think the critics have taken it far too literally. If viewed as a metaphor for the senselessness of war and the inhumanity of man during wartime struggles then it’s entirety fitting to the films themes and says more about an initiation into manhood. It was literally minutes before this powerful scene that DeNiro’s Michael and Walken’s Nick were discussing how a deer should be killed with “one shot” and now (ironically) they must face a similar fate. This game of chance is the catalyst that changes the dynamic of the three principle characters (the other being John Savage’s Stevie) and further adds to the character development that was so playfully and innocently displayed in the opening wedding sequence or the camaraderie of the deer hunt. It’s purpose is not to be racist but to capture the extreme pressure that soldiers face in conflict. In the film’s final act, some of them return home only to realise that they’re traumatised as they struggle to fit back into society. There have been claims that it doesn’t take an overly pro or anti stance towards the conflict but I struggle to see how. This was one was of the first films to challenge the perspective on Vietnam. The likes of Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” and Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” were praised for such honesty and I believe this deserves the same credibility.

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“The Deer Hunter” is, undoubtedly, epic filmmaking and despite your political interpretation, there’s no denying the power of it’s emotionally devastating narrative. It’s unlikely that Cimino will be able to deliver a work of this magnitude ever again. He tried (and many would say failed) in 1980 with “Heaven’s Gate” (bankrupting United Artists Studios in the process) but his scope and ambition here deserves the utmost respect. So too does the work of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond for his astounding ability to capture both the expansive landscapes of Pennsylvania and the war ravaged mountainous villages of Vietnam. The actors are also very strong and committed throughout. This would be the last performance of the great John Cazale – before his untimely death to cancer – and the first notable one from Meryl Streep, who brings a touching vulnerability to her supporting role. Walken (who won a Supporting Actor Oscar) is a marvel and deservedly made a name for himself in the process. As good as they are, though, it’s DeNiro who anchors the film in a enigmatic display of stoicism. Another deserved Oscar nomination came his way and even though this is a film that many omit from DeNiro’s plethora of magnificent performances throughout the 70’s and 80’s, it happens to be one of his strongest and most unsung. DeNiro apparently described his role as one of the most physical and exhausting that he’s ever done, and it’s easy to see why; the emotional, physical and mental abuse that he seems to be suffering is perfectly and gruellingly displayed onscreen.

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The 1970’s are well known for producing some of the finest experiences in cinema and “The Deer Hunter” can, proudly, consider itself one of them. It’s marvellously structured, harrowingly vivid and so grand and ambitious that it thoroughly deserves it’s epic status. Truly one of the best of it’s decade.

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Mark Walker

Pulp Fiction (1994) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Rob of MovieRob. He also reviewed Saving Private Ryan HERE and The Manchurian Candidate HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Rob! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Pulp Fiction, IMDB rank 4 out of 250…

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

Also, I’ve never thought to mention it but if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB Review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews. I know I’ve made a few that are specific to the movie being reviewed. I’ll also do an IMDB update post soon & will post some more logos.

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Quentin Tarantino showed the world was he was made of with his debut film Reservoir Dogs and that movie’s success led to this masterpiece getting proper funding.

His use of non-traditional methods of storytelling works extremely well here as he tells three interweaving stories in a very unconventional non-linear fashion.

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The fact that he was capable of securing so many great actors for this movie is a testament to how amazing his story and script are.

Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Eric Stoltz and Rosanna Arquette are all excellent.

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I love how QT has always been able to take characters in non-conventional roles and write perfect conversation dialogue totally unrelated to their current situations making the characters seem more real than we thought possible.

The idea of having two hitmen discuss fast food in Europe while on their way to ‘work’ is brilliant.

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Truth is in many ways, QT’s written dialogue is what holds his stories together.

In the twenty years since this movie came out, I have found its dialogue to be so easily quotable.

Here’s a list of some great lines from this movie. In order to try and keep this spoiler free, I will omit what characters say each line.

  • Hamburgers. The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast.
  • I don’t need you to tell me how ****ing good my coffee is, okay? I’m the one who buys it. I know how good it is. When Bonnie goes shopping she buys ****. Me, I buy the gourmet expensive stuff because when I drink it I want to taste it. But you know what’s on my mind right now? It AIN’T the coffee in my kitchen, it’s the dead nigger in my garage.
  • That’s thirty minutes away. I’ll be there in ten.
  • It breaks down like this: it’s legal to buy it, it’s legal to own it, and, if you’re the proprietor of a hash bar, it’s legal to sell it. It’s legal to carry it, but that doesn’t really matter ’cause – get a load of this – if you get stopped by the cops in Amsterdam, it’s illegal for them to search you. I mean, that’s a right the cops in Amsterdam don’t have.
  • The way your dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He’d be damned if any slopes gonna put their greasy yellow hands on his boy’s birthright, so he hid it, in the one place he knew he could hide something: his ass. Five long years, he wore this watch up his ass. Then when he died of dysentery, he gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable piece of metal up my ass for two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. And now, little man, I give the watch to you.
  • Bring out the Gimp.
  • Nobody’s gonna hurt anybody. We’re gonna be like three little Fonzies here. And what’s Fonzie like? Come on Yolanda what’s Fonzie like?
  • That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the **** up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.
  • Are you calling me on the cellular phone? I don’t know you. Who is this? Don’t come here, I’m hanging up the phone! Prank caller, prank caller!
  • Uuummmm, this is a tasty burger
  • Mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down with?
  • What now? Let me tell you what now. I’ma call a coupla hard, pipe-hittin’ niggers, who’ll go to work on the homes here with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy? I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’ma get medieval on your ass.

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1994 was a very strong Oscar year and although this movie got 7 nominations including Best Picture, it only was able to win 1 award (Best Screenplay).

It’s hard to say if this is a better overall movie than Forrest Gump or Shawshank but it is clear that this movie has grown in appreciation over the last two decades.

This movie is currently #5 (but #4 when Mutant first started her list)  on the IMDB Top 250 and is definitely worthy of such a lofty position.

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