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:

Altered States (1980) Blind Spot Review

Altered States (1980)

Directed by Ken Russell

Starring: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban, Charles Haid, Drew Barrymore

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Altered States is a 1980 American science-fiction horror film directed by Ken Russell and adapted from a novel by the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. The film was adapted from Chayefsky’s only novel and is his final screenplay. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly’s sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine and LSD.

My Opinion:

Here’s a list of the Blind Spot films I’ve watched this year from my least favorite to my favorite (I’ve finished watching them all! Just need to review the rest):

12. The Last Temptation Of Christ
11. Altered States
10. The Raid
9. House (Hausu 1977)
8. The King & I
7. The Hustler
6. Jackie Brown
5. Ghost In The Shell
4. Wolf Children
3. Watership Down
2. The Untouchables
1. Rocky

As with a lot of my Blind Spot picks, Altered States was put on the list as I’ve been meaning to see it for years. I’d heard it described as a “Body Horror” film and I have a strange fascination with those (I did a list of My Top Ten Body Horror Movies HERE). I’d say I liked it okay but it didn’t really live up to my expectations. And it’s certainly not a David Cronenberg-style body horror, which is the kind of thing I go for. It IS pretty bizarre, though, so I appreciated that. But I became a bit bored with it overall. Oh well – I still found it far more entertaining than this year’s Blind Spot choice of The Last Temptation Of Christ.


**Yeah, this photo is from Altered States – not The Last Temptation Of Christ…

I didn’t know beforehand that this movie is (I’m assuming rather loosely) based on John C. Lilly’s real-life isolation tank experiments (as in the plot synopsis up there). So I then looked up John C. Lilly (here on Wikipedia) as I admit I’d never heard of him & read a little about his research. Whoa – talk about an interesting life! Man I’m boring. And those 60’s drugs sound crazy, man. His isolation tank experiments seem less bizarre than some of the many other things he researched, such as dolphin communication and what he called “Solid State Intelligence” and “Earth Coincidence Control Office (E.C.C.O.)”. Whaaat? I can’t even explain those – just read the Wikipedia entry. Has anyone read his work? I think I’d be confused as hell. But I doubt he ever actually “devolved” into some kind of apelike creature like William Hurt did in this movie (Sorry – Spoiler??). I’m sure this movie was pretty “out-there” in 1980 but parts of it are very silly when watching it now for the first time.

Sorry – this is going to be a short review. I honestly don’t know how to go about discussing this one. I think the science behind it all was just way too far over my head. Or maybe it would help to watch this while using mescaline, ketamine and LSD to better understand Hurt’s experiences while drugged-up & suspended in the isolation tank??? I have to say I’ve always wanted to try those float therapy places where you float in water in a dark tank for an hour or whatever. I think I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to turn into this:

Or this:

But I wouldn’t mind looking like this:

The naked lady is actress Blair Brown, who I don’t think I’ve seen in anything else. Well, apparently she was in Dogville but I can’t say I remember her character. Anyway, she plays William Hurt’s wife in this & I thought she was really good. I felt sorry for her character having to put up with all of Hurt’s weird, rambling, intellectual mumbo jumbo. He treated her pretty crap and I kept forgetting they had kids together as his family took a backseat to his research. Hell – one of their kids was even played by Drew Barrymore & I somehow managed to totally miss that since they were barely a part of the film. I love Drew! Oh, Altered States doesn’t manage to make it onto My Top Ten Drew Barrymore Movies list I did ages ago, so… Good! I won’t have to update that list. Hurt did well with the role – it’s just such a hard character to relate to in any way.

I probably sound more negative about this film than I actually feel. I think it’s worth watching as it’s quite unique and I did enjoy some of the imagery, such as in these last few photos I’ve put in this post. I wish there’d been more of that but we also had simian Hurt running around with his monkey balls out & crucified, multi-eyed, Jesus-goat-thingy Hurt and it was hard to take the movie too seriously as these specific effects haven’t aged as well as the more psychedelic scenes have. I’m glad I finally saw Altered States and another Ken Russell film other than Tommy. I prefer Tommy, but that’ll mainly be because of the music.

My Rating: 6.5/10



**I think that’s Drew in this movie, although I can’t say for sure. Aww. So cute!

Top Ten Actresses I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything

Okay – it was fun bitching about my most hated actors & actresses last week but now it’s time to do another list that Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are has done. You can see her list of “The Top Ten Actresses That I’d See In Pretty Much AnythingHERE. So here’s my own list of actresses I love. (Yes – I do love Drew Barrymore!). 🙂

With my favorite actors list, I’ve had to narrow it down by only including living actors so I’ve done the same here. Otherwise, Grace Kelly would be on this list. Now here are The Ten Actresses I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything (in no particular order…):

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Amy Adams
Best Movie: Her or Catch Me If You Can but she was lovely in Junebug

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Emily Blunt
Best Movie: Edge Of Tomorrow but I also love The Adjustment Bureau

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Melanie Laurent
Best Movie: Inglourious Basterds

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Jennifer Lawrence
Best Movie: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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Drew Barrymore
Best Movie: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial but I also love The Wedding Singer & Whip It

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Chloe Grace Moretz
Best Movie: Hugo

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Sandra Bullock
Best Movie: Gravity but I do love Speed. (Gravity helped to put Bullock back on this list. But I still wouldn’t watch that thing she did with Melissa McCarthy. Damn! I missed her on my “Most Annoying” list…

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Carey Mulligan
Best Movie: Shame but she was better in Never Let Me Go. (If I’ve forgotten someone, Carey Mulligan would be the first one replaced. I found her disappointing in Shame and beyond bland in The Great Gatsby. Hopefully she’ll have another good role soon…)

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Elisabeth Shue
Best Movie: Adventures In Babysitting

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Michelle Pfeiffer
Best Movie: Ladyhawke

Donnie Darko (2001) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Liam of Liam Does Film. Thanks for joining in, Liam! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Donnie Darko, IMDB rank 176 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. I’ve stopped receiving so many guest reviews now so if you send yours soon, it should post soon. I only have enough for the next month.

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Donnie Darko (2001)

Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi

Director: Richard Kelly

Writer: Richard Kelly

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonell, Holmes Osbourne

Rating: ★★★★★

Those who have said bad things about this film have just not understood it. Donnie Darko is that film where you’ll find yourself watching it over and over looking for the explanation; on the way you will then discover just how good this film is and why it’s rated as one of the best of all time, deservedly being on IMBD’s top 250, among many critics, including myself, personal favourites. It has an amazing cast; a young Jake Gyllenhaal plays the character of Donnie, after he will star in award winning films such as Brokeback Mountain and The Day After Tomorrow. Future Batman star Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jake’s actual sister, plays Elizabeth Darko whilst we also get to see the well-known Patrick Swayze alongside Drew Barrymore. However it isn’t just the cast, a well-written story which dives into the world of complexity and defines the phrase thought-provoking, makes Donnie Darko hard to forget, and for me it is simply brilliant in every aspect and sense of the word.

Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a far from ordinary teenager, suffering from hallucinations Donnie starts to be visited by a demonic six foot rabbit named Frank, who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, however Frank’s arrival into Donnie’s life is more important than first thought. At the dinner table his sister Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) tells his parents (Mary McDonell, Holmes Osbourne) that he hasn’t been taking his medication, however later that night due to these visions Donnie escapes death as a 747 Jet engine crashes and destroys his bedroom whilst he’s on a midnight trip with Frank. Frank tells him that the world is going to end in “28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds”, The mystery grows as the jet engine is unknown by the FBI creating the question of where exactly did it come from? All that is known is that Donnie’s escape from death and Frank’s appearance are two supernatural events that have crossed and are somehow linked, and as Donnie is enlightened to a whole new way of thinking, he then realises the truth behind Frank’s words.

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The story fuels from a “countdown” method, as each day passes we get closer to a predicted doomsday. However it is what the film gives us in those days that are great, not only are a string of relationships and subplots introduced but a series of clues in which just like Donnie, we have to piece together. As stories develop our characters all become very likable, something that Donnie Darko benefits from greatly, Donnie himself is loveable; lost, bold and witty, whilst the same aspects are all shared by his sister Elizabeth, newly found girlfriend Gretchen (Jena Malone) and his English teacher played by the seemingly ageless Drew Barrymore. The film keeps you on the edge, with a mixture of unexpected, dark plots balanced by strangely comedic moments. Richard Kelly for me deserves a huge amount of credit, as Donnie Darko holds such an amazing story.

Jake Gyllenhaal soon became one of my favourite actors after his role as Donnie; it is flawless, creating and portraying one of the most memorable teen characters for me since Ferris Bueller. There is something very likable but at the same time relatable with his character and Jake brings it to life superbly. The rest of the cast are great, Jena Malone portrays Gretchen well with it seeming very natural, whilst also providing one of the memorable quotes and scenes, “you’re weird … that was a compliment”. Drew Barrymore as Donnie’s English teacher is great, she provides a laughable aspect, whilst Patrick Swayze portrays the not so lovable Jim Cunningham well as you would expect of such talent, rounding off a truly remarkable ensemble; which even includes a hidden Seth Rogen.

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This film does well to provide everything from comedy moments to suspense, thrills and gasps fulfilling so many aspects with even the soundtrack becoming an iconic element. Maybe when watched a few times you seem to pick up on Kelly’s details, and the soundtrack is brilliant as each song and piece of score predicts what’s happening next or compliments the events on the screen. The songs of choice all seem very fitting too, with Mad World becoming nostalgic after time.

Donnie Darko should be known for a long time to come, and hopefully it will be as Richard Kelly’s first film shines in every way it could have. A brilliant story, portrayed by a great acting ensemble, whilst everything else fitting perfectly around the two makes Donnie Darko in my eyes flawless, and my favourite film of all time. Entertaining, thrilling and funny, complex and thought-provoking are some of the things this film can be described as, but overall it is a master-piece which will be sure to be your favourite, or your new obsessive guilty pleasure, deservedly being rated as one of the all-time greats.

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My Top Ten Drew Barrymore Movies

Happy Birthday to Drew Barrymore! Drew is one of my favorite actresses. I’m a small town girl from the Midwest and am about the same age as Drew so I basically grew up with her through her movies. It was kind of inevitable that I’d be a fan.

I know it’s Saturday so no one will read this anyway but here are My Top Ten Drew Barrymore Movies, counting down from ten to my favorite. (One is a shocker! Just kidding – it’s totally not). 🙂

10. 50 First Dates
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9. Firestarter
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8. Ever After: A Cinderella Story
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7. Wayne’s World 2
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6. Never Been Kissed
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5. Donnie Darko
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4. Scream
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3. Whip It
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2. The Wedding Singer
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1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
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Honorable Mentions:

Altered States
Blended
Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind
Going The Distance
Riding In Cars With Boys
Cat’s Eye
Irreconcilable Differences (I don’t remember this as I was too young but I’m counting it anyway because I vaguely remember liking it) 🙂

**List updated March 12th 2017 to add Blended. I actually liked it far more than I expected! Also updated September 2017 to add Altered States.