Watched, Read, Reviewed: June 2020

Looks like June was the month when I watched some actual “new releases”. Must admit I’m missing my pretty-much-weekly trip to the cinema but I have no plans on going back to one anytime soon. So I better get used to crappy straight-to-Netflix movies…

MOVIES WATCHED IN JUNE (ranked best to worst):

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga – Okay, I’m not going to pretend this is in any way a good movie. But I quite liked it. Am I just desperate for new releases?! I have to say that I can’t imagine Americans enjoying this movie in the same way. I think you have to see the real Eurovision every year to fully appreciate just how delightfully cheesy & ridiculous it is. It’s especially entertaining to live in the UK & watch the UK entry get almost no votes every year because all the other countries hate the UK (there’s a joke about this in the movie that gave us a good laugh).

I think this movie did the real contest justice. It seems like your usual over-the-top Will Ferrell comedy but, honestly, he hasn’t really exaggerated what the show is like. Ferrell is a big fan of Eurovision and I think the movie manages to show his love for it while at the same time lovingly making fun of it. In the end, it’s a sweet story and the final half of the movie makes up for a slow start. And, hell, the songs are pretty good! Maybe a little too good. Much better than most the shit in the real Eurovision. Ferrell is goofy as always (his films are hit or miss for me) and Dan Stevens & Pierce Brosnan are fun additions but I think Rachel McAdams is the best thing about the movie. Her more subtle comedy works well with Ferrell’s usual craziness (liked her in Game Night too). The movie is silly & it won’t be winning any Oscars but it’s one of the first-time watches from all of lockdown that I enjoyed the most. Jaja Ding Dong! – 7/10

The Vast Of Night – I really liked this movie as well, although I wanted to like it even more as I think they did a great job with it. I respect it. I always appreciate a good low-budget sci-fi where you can tell that the filmmakers have truly put their hearts into making the movie. Let’s give them credit: This movie was written by Andrew Patterson (under the pseudonym of James Montague) & Craig W Sanger. Based on this, I’d love to see what sort of a big budget film they could make in this genre. But, to be fair, the slow-paced low-budget indie-movie style perfectly suits this innocent 1950’s small American town setting. I don’t think a big, glossy Hollywood movie would have captured this town in the same way. I think I’m also a fan of “small town Americana” movies as I grew up in such a small town myself.

I thought they especially did a good job adding all the small details to make this one feel like it really was taking place in the 1950s. I have a lot of affection for that time period and that whole “UFO paranoia” thing as I grew up on the original The Twilight Zone. The movie is clearly influenced by that & introduces the story in a Rod Serling/Twilight Zone way that gave me warm fuzzies. I do think this is a very well made indie sci-fi with two strong main characters but also know it’s absolutely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Here’s the synopsis from IMDb if you’re interested: “In the twilight of the 1950s, on one fateful night in New Mexico, young switchboard operator Fay and charismatic radio DJ Everett discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever.” FYI: This movie is on Amazon Prime. I highly recommend this movie to old school ’50s sci-fi fans. But probably only to those people. It’s a shame the film may not get as much recognition due to being such a specific sub genre.

Also a quick mention of another good low-budget movie this reminded me of (not sure why) but in the horror genre: Pontypool. Bizarre movie but a great concept. It just gave me a similar vibe, but The Vast Of Night is a better film. I’m happy I happened to see TVON mentioned on Twitter (by Robert Englund – What?! Freddy Krueger?!?). Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known about it. Thanks, Freddy! – 7/10

Extraction – Not gonna lie: I 100% watched this for Chris Hemsworth. This isn’t my type of genre AT ALL so I wouldn’t have bothered if hottie Chris wasn’t in it. However, even though I don’t like this genre, I occasionally like the movies if they’re good enough. The likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger & Sylvester Stallone made plenty of this type of thing in my precious ’80s & I definitely liked some of those. But Extraction isn’t good enough. It’s… Forgettable. As in: I saw this only two months ago but don’t remember enough to write about it. Um… I think I remember Chris, like, sitting at the bottom of a lake & meditating (as you do)? And I remember the boy being likeable enough for you to want The Hems to save him. And I remember a ridiculous final scene (that I kind of liked as I thought this movie needed to be MORE ridiculous than it actually was – it would have made it more fun). Meh. At least I got to watch Chris Hemsworth in a new movie. – 6/10

My Spy – I shouldn’t be “reviewing” this as I slept through a good chuck of it. But it was so predictably predictable that sleeping through some of it made no difference. Anyway – I don’t know why but I’ve seen a lot of this weird genre (tough action movie guy doing a family film with a bunch of kids). When did this become a thing?? Because I kind of like these stupid films. I blame that on Kindergarten Cop. Kindergarten Cop rules. All I expect from these films is for them to have a few laughs, to have a cheesy heartwarming moment, and for the kid(s) to be somewhat likeable (or at least cheeky without being overly annoying). This movie fulfils the requirements well enough. Dave Bautista is fine as the latest big muscle-y dude to do this sort of film but the girl, Chloe Coleman, is the star. I can see her easily getting more roles after this. This movie is meh but at the better end of this genre. Not as good as Kindergarten Cop but thankfully much better than Tooth Fairy… – 6/10

As Above, So Below – This was disappointing. I have a fascination with the catacombs in Paris. I’ve been there and walking through row upon row of skulls & bones is a pretty freaky experience so I can see why it has inspired horror movies. But they have yet to make a good horror movie set there. There was a truly dreadful 2007 movie called Catacombs, starring Shannyn Sossamon & Pink, that I would never recommend to anyone. I actually bought that stupid DVD just because I’d been wanting a horror movie to be set in the catacombs. From what I remember, though, it did at least manage to be a little creepy.

As Above, So Below is certainly the better film of the two but it’s such a weird mishmash of genres that it just didn’t work for me. And it’s not creepy enough. I think a movie with this setting needs to be pure horror but this movie had a sort of Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider thing mixed in with the horror. And then some weird supernatural stuff which is something I normally love but was just too dumb in this case. And the characters were okay but extremely underdeveloped while our lead girl was a tad unlikeable (although the actress was fine). Oh, it’s also a “found footage” film, which not everyone likes (I don’t mind found footage). Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis: “It is presented as found footage of a documentary crew’s experience exploring the Catacombs of Paris and was loosely based on the seven layers of Hell.” Oh yeah – there’s some weird religious stuff going on & ancient artefacts & that kind of shit. I wanted to like this movie but the weird Lara Croft thing going on with the main girl was just awkward. I guess I was expecting a more straightforward horror film but I also give the movie credit for trying to do something a little different. – 5.5/10

Rewatched:

The Wedding Singer – This is a favorite of mine & by far Adam Sandler’s best movie. I know he has a lot of bad ones but The Wedding Singer is genuinely good. And he has great chemistry with Drew Barrymore (love her). I mean, my username comes from this movie. Still think I was brave to use an Adam Sandler reference on a movie blog! I obviously like this movie even more because of Drew but the ’80s setting & great soundtrack help a lot as well. Steve Buscemi is hilarious. Rapping granny is adorable. And don’t you talk to Billy Idol that way! Plus I’ll always love the mutants at table 9. – 8/10

Never Been Kissed – More Drew Barrymore! Rewatched this one with the kid. I’ve always found this movie very “sweet”. And Josie Grossy is still fun to say. And Michael Vartan was a cute “hot teacher”. And I like the ending because I DO occasionally like girly romantic stuff. – 7.5/10

Turner & Hooch – Rewatched this with the kid as well. It’s a fun family film & I miss the days when they made so many films in this genre. Where have all the decent family films gone?! Anyway – the movie has aged pretty well. I still love a good “dog buddy” comedy. – 6.5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JUNE

MUSIC LISTENED TO

I’ve listened to no “new” music the past couple of months… Can anyone recommend a good new album??? Or, better yet, a good old album since 90% of current music sucks? I’m bored.

BOOKS READ

Dune by Frank Herbert – As I’ve said in every recent post, it took me months to read this but I finally finished in June. I said I’d review it in my June post but… I can’t do it! How the hell do you go about reviewing Dune?? It’s a loooong book and a lot happens. I enjoyed it very much, yes, but not enough to read the rest of the books (which I’ve heard aren’t as good anyway). I’m really looking forward to the Denis Villeneuve adaptation now, though, as I love his films. I’m especially wanting to see how Rebecca Ferguson does as Lady Jessica as she was my favorite character. I think she should do well as I thought she was great in Doctor Sleep. By the way – Lady Jessica kicks ass (for those wanting more strong female characters in books & film). Oh, and apparently the film is only covering half of this first book?? Bloody hell. Well, I don’t have time to continue reading these tomes but do like the story so am hoping for an epic series of films from Villeneuve. – 4/5

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman – This was a strange one. I first read Malerman’s Bird Box, which I really enjoyed (so much more than the movie adaptation!). But I was absolutely blown away by his short story included at the end of that book (Ghastle And Yule). It was brilliant. I loved it so much that I tweeted the author to tell him that (I never really tweet “celebs” because that feels stalker-y & weird). But I think he appreciated the praise. Here’s the synopsis for Black Mad Wheel from Amazon, which sounded amazing so is why I chose it as the next book of his to read: “The Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious—and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.

A creepy supernatural story about a rock band? Totally my type of thing! I wanted to like this one more than I did, however. Only Philip Tonka, the band’s front man, gets any character development. The story also doesn’t give much of a resolution if that sort of thing bothers you (I don’t mind that so much, especially with supernatural stories, as I like to sometimes have things left to my own imagination). What the story does have, though, is a lot of originality. It also has a good “vibe”. I don’t know how else to describe that but, especially with his Ghastle And Yule short story, I felt like I was there & could easily picture everything that was happening. Based on what I’ve read of Malerman’s so far, I’ll definitely be reading more. His stories are unusual & completely unpredictable. I like that. I need more of that. I just want to like his characters a bit more. Likeable characters are always a big thing for me. By the end of Bird Box, I still didn’t like the main character. I want to care about the fate of at least one character… (I should point out that Ghastle And Yule aren’t likeable either but they’re not meant to be. They’re just great characters). – 3/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

It looks like I watched no TV in June other than catching up on the latest season of annoying Grey’s Anatomy. Ugh.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

I’ll hopefully post my July roundup post by the end of August. Then post my August roundup in September. I have no blog plans beyond doing monthly roundup posts. Life is too busy at the moment, even with being stuck at home.

I should end this post with a song from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. But I’d rather post one from The Wedding Singer soundtrack. Woohoo! Eighties!! Here’s Musical Youth’s Pass The Dutchie:

Beauty And The Beast (2017) Review

Beauty And The Beast (2017)

Directed by Bill Condon

Based on Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson

Music by Alan Menken

Plot Synopsis: The same as the 1991 animated Disney film. Just watch the animated version instead if you haven’t already.

My Opinion:

Mehhhh…. I can’t be bothered to write much of a review for this movie. It’s a cash grab – we all know that. I can’t really trash Disney, though. I grew up on Disney films & I’ll always love Disney, even when they sell out. It doesn’t matter – the majority of film studios, actors & actresses, directors, etc etc, all sell out at some point. As long as Disney keep making some original & quality films alongside these pointless remakes & sequels, I can forgive some selling-out. But I’m sorry to say that this remake of Beauty And The Beast is indeed completely pointless.

I actually didn’t mind the live-action Cinderella (which I reviewed HERE). The kid watched that again recently & I still don’t mind it. At least it’s not a straight copy. I also enjoyed Maleficent quite a bit more than this as it felt somewhat original. With Beauty And The Beast copying everything, right down to giving us inferior versions of the fantastic songs from the original, I just don’t see the point. Okay – there were a few extra things added in storywise (and, I can’t remember now – one or maybe two new boring songs) that didn’t really enhance what was already a good & simple fairy tale.

Emma Watson: Wrong for the part. I’ve thought that since it was first announced that she would be Belle. She doesn’t do a horrible job but Hermoine as Belle was always going to be very distracting. Dan Stevens: Nope! Didn’t work. Plus he’s not hot enough (cartoon beast-turned-human was a babe). Kevin Kline: He was okay. Luke Evans: Actually, I guess he was pretty perfect as Gaston. Josh Gad: Not too bad – he was kind of fun but all I can hear is Olaf. Ewan McGregor: He did okay copying the original version of the character but the French accent was just confusing. Well, all the accents in this were confusing (but I suppose the same can be said of the original). Emma Thompson: Perfect casting but YOU CAN NEVER TOP ANGELA LANSBURY, dammit!!!! Chip was still cute, though. Just not as cute as animated Chip. But nothing in this topped the original in any way, so….

Whatever. It’s not a horrible movie. The CGI is decent. No, wait – I suppose the CGI actually quite good but we’re all spoiled these days & expect perfection. If you love the animated film, odds are that you’ll want to watch this at some point but I wouldn’t say you have to rush out to see it. If you haven’t seen the animated film for some reason, please just watch that first. Or instead. I’ll give this an extra half point since my kid seemed to enjoy it. I guess that’s all the really counts, right? 😉

My Rating: 6/10

The Guest (2014) Review

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The Guest (2014)

Directed by Adam Wingard

Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Leland Orser, Sheila Kelley, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick

Running time: 100 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.

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My Opinion:

I watched this a couple of months ago & I’m still trying to decide if I really liked it or not. I’ve seen so many positive reviews for it here on WordPress but I’m kind of surprised as this movie is such an odd mix of genres that I would think opinion would be more divided. I do think it’s a total “movie blogger” type of movie – stylish & unique but too odd to be popular with a mainstream audience. I wouldn’t be able to mention this movie to co-workers and find anyone who likes it let alone anyone who has even heard of it. Which is a good thing! That’s a big part of the reason why I started this blog – I love discussing these sorts of films with like-minded movie lovers who’ve watched all kinds of weird & wonderful films. I still get strange looks from co-workers when they see the Totoro wallpaper on my computer & they ask me “what’s that cartoon??”.

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I can see why this keeps getting compared to the movie Drive. It’s “cool”. It has an interesting visual style, soundtrack, and lots of violence. Even its star, Dan Stevens, has a Ryan Gosling way and look about him. I like Drive and have to say it’s the much better film of these two but my opinion on Drive has gone down slightly since I first saw it. I love the soundtrack and its style is great (that jacket rules!) but all style & no substance isn’t going to make for a movie I’ll love as an all-time favorite. I think where The Guest fails most in comparison to Drive, though, is with Dan Stevens (I’m going to get in so much trouble with other female bloggers for that statement!). I’ve kind of gone off Gosling but I did love him for a while. I have to say he has that certain something, though, that only some actors can achieve. There’s an extra something there – a distant calmness that makes you think his character has all kinds of deep thoughts going on in his head when all he’s doing is just sitting there & staring (I admit that Gosling “stares” too often! Lol). Dan Stevens has a sexy sort of thing going on, I suppose (not my type), but he doesn’t have that special something to make this film even better in the way I think Gosling did perfectly with Drive. I think Drive is a good film but Gosling helped make it so.

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This is from the same director as You’re Next (Adam Wingard). I wasn’t a huge fan of that one as I felt, like this one, it didn’t have much substance. There wasn’t much of a plot to You’re Next – it was just an excuse to watch a lot of gory violence (however, I did like the main female character). The Guest has a plot but it’s pretty damn silly & laughable by the end. I think I know what it is about these two movies… It feels like the characters were thought up first with a vague idea of a story, then some interesting deaths, then the story was written to fit around all that. It kind of feels like, if this movie wasn’t so “cool & hip” with a young, attractive cast (ha! does anyone say “hip” anymore?!), people would be laughing at it instead of raving over it. If this had been made in the 80s, you youngsters would all hate it! You know it!! (And I’d probably love it…) 😉

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Now that I’ve made it sound like I really hated this, I have to say there are some things that I did really like about it. First of all, I think Wingard has taken a step in the right direction with this movie. I think it’s much better than You’re Next and will have earned him a fan base that will be eager to see his next film. It’s a very unique movie, which I’ll never complain about as I watch a lot of movies and get very bored with the mainstream at times. I like when a movie really surprises me and appreciate it when one does something a bit “different”.

Also, as with You’re Next, we have a strong female character I liked (Maika Monroe’s Anna Peterson). I thought Monroe was pretty great in It Follows and I think she’s the real star of this one as well. (I have to say It Follows is fantastic, though, and does a unique twist on the horror genre so much better than The Guest does with the thriller/action/whatever-the-hell-genre-it-is genre. watch It Follows first!). Can I just say it’s nice to get female characters who aren’t sluts, bitches, or idiots?? We seem to be getting that more often lately. Thank you, Hollywood! I hope Monroe continues doing characters similar to these (and hooray for the clothes staying on in both films!).

Finally, I really liked the end. Or… the “final confrontation”, shall we say (to avoid spoilers). I liked the setting & the look and this is where I most appreciated this film’s style. Don’t get me wrong – a film’s style is very important to me and I’m a total sucker for ones that look great. This is why I like things like Daft Punk’s Electroma even though people give me weird looks for liking stuff like that. I can understand why people have gone for this movie even if it didn’t totally work for me in the same way. There are some strong characters and good, memorable scenes which is more than can be said for a lot of mainstream blockbusters.

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Summary :

I think I appreciated The Guest more than I actually liked it. I wouldn’t say no to watching another Adam Wingard film after this one and hope he continues to go more in this strange thriller sort of direction instead of continuing with the gory slasher genre. This movie has some good moments and I really did want to like it more than I did. I do think it’s one that’s definitely worth checking out if you’re at all curious about it and I think I can understand why a lot of people love it.

My Rating: 7/10

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Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (2014) Review

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Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb (2014)

Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring:
Ben Stiller
Robin Williams
Owen Wilson
Steve Coogan
Dan Stevens
Ben Kingsley
Rebel Wilson

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
The things in a museum come to life every night. For the third time. But in London this time!

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My Opinion:

Well, I had nothing ready to post for today so here’s a quickie! I saw this just after Christmas but never got around to reviewing it. What can I say? I actually quite like these Night At The Museum movies. As far as “family” movies go, anyway, I think they’re far more enjoyable than some of the other terrible “family” films these days that maybe only one member of the family actually enjoys. I still say they don’t make good non-animated movies for the whole family like they used to (such as Big. I miss things like Big!) but the Night At The Museum movies are a step in the right direction.

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Secret Of The Tomb is, of course, not as good as the first film but is at least better than the second one. I thought the second film was the weakest of the trilogy & went overboard on making so many exhibits come to life that the movie ended up a bit of a mess. It also forgot to focus on the main characters that we liked so much from the first movie so, in Secret Of The Tomb, they don’t make the same mistake again & they give us lots of time with our main favorites while adding only a few interesting new ones.

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I’m really not a fan of Ben Stiller at ALL but I don’t mind him in this series. There’s a “Neanderthal” version of him in this one which I found pretty stupid but I’m sure he was a hit with the kids who saw this. Owen Wilson & Steve Coogan once again make a fun duo and that damn monkey is just as lovable/hateful as always. Rebel Wilson does a great job playing “Rebel Wilson as a security guard” (she’s a love her or hate her – I’m pretty sure I don’t love her) and Dan Stevens from that movie The Guest that everyone goes on about plays the biggest new addition, Sir Lancelot. We even get to briefly see Dick Van Dyke, Bill Cobbs & Mickey Rooney once again – love those guys! It was bittersweet seeing Rooney again but it just plain heartbreaking seeing Robin Williams, whose character I’ve always felt is the best thing about the Night At The Museum films. It was hard to not get teary-eyed over his final line in the film. SPOILER WARNING – this was the line:
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His final line, spoken to Ben Stiller, is: “Smile, my boy. It’s sunrise.” Which, if you’ve seen the movies, you know that means day has come & the exhibits will no longer be “alive” so he goes back to being a wax figure after speaking this line. So perfect but so sad.

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Summary:

There’s not much else I can say about Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb other than that it’s an enjoyable film for the whole family. Some of the humor is a little silly but that’s to be expected from a family film – I still had plenty of fun watching it as an adult. Possibly the best thing about these movies, however, is that I think they’ve made plenty of kids interested in visiting museums & learning more about history. What did I do about a week after seeing this? I of course ended up making a trip into London to visit The British Museum where we were told we weren’t the first ones to ask if they actually had the big nine-headed snake thing from the movie (they don’t). However, they DO have the cute little dude in my below photo (Garuda). 🙂

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Here’s a good link to check out if you plan on watching this movie then taking your kids to The British Museum: A Night At The Museum – Fact Vs Fiction