Watched, Read, Reviewed: August 2019

Happy Almost-End-Of September! Where did August go?! I spent half of it in America & half of it mega busy with work but still managed to watch some movies (Six on airplanes – What the hell else can you do on a plane?!). Here’s what I watched & read in August…

MOVIES IN AUGUST

I saw Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood while in America & Crawl in the UK (links to my reviews are below). I also saw four 2019 UK movie releases on the plane trips so reviewed those in a separate post (also linked below). I’ve done mini-reviews of the rest…

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – 7.5/10


Green Book – 7.5/10


Sorry To Bother You – This movie was a little mental but, overall, fairly entertaining. It’s very hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t seen it and also one that’s absolutely impossible to recommend to anyone unless you know their tastes really well. Now, I absolutely love “weird” movies. The problem here is that it’s not weird enough. It’s quite straightforward through most of it – it only suddenly gets weird at the end (think From Dusk Till Dawn). I’d have liked more weirdness. Strangely, it gave me Joe Versus The Volcano vibes, though I have NO idea why (but only during scenes set in the dreary workplace office). It just reminded me that I badly need to rewatch that underrated film… But where was I? I’m getting off track! I have no idea how to review this film. I enjoyed it but it’s one where I can’t imagine ever watching it again for any reason. The strongest thing about it are the characters and I especially liked Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, and Steven Yeun (probably because his character Glenn was one of very few characters that I actually liked in The Walking Dead). Oh, and I loved Tessa Thompson’s funky earrings and cool sort of 80’s style. How did I not even realize that the smarmy guy was Armie Hammer? He just has such a nondescript smarmy face. Well, I liked this movie as a one-time watch and won’t forget it. It wasn’t perfect and didn’t fully work for me but it’s the kind of indie movie I’d like to see more of: Creative & highly original instead of just boring navel-gazing and hateful characters (I’m looking at you, Eighth Grade movie!). – 7/10


The Hate U Give – This was a fairly decent look at a very serious issue, albeit from a very YA perspective. I’d been thinking about reading the Young Adult novel first but never got around to it, so I can only judge this based on the movie itself. It’s certainly no Boyz N The Hood but I see no problem with raising awareness by aiming a story at a slightly younger audience. Amandla Stenberg is good – I enjoyed her in The Hunger Games & Everything, Everything (she’s certainly in some of the biggest YA stuff!). Other than her character, though, I’d say a lot of the others were a bit one-dimensional (especially her annoying school friend). I don’t mean to sound too down on this one as it’s a pretty good film but it does suffer a little bit from the YA feel and a slightly too perfect “things might be okay” sort of ending. But not everything has to be gritty – it’s good if this movie has given a more mainstream audience an insight into this issue. – 7/10


Bad Times At The El Royale – Well, this was an odd one and not quite what I was expecting. I’d been super annoyed at missing this after loving the look of a skinny, shirtless, Jesus-looking Chris Hemsworth in the trailers. Just FYI if you’re wanting shirtless Hemsworth – he doesn’t show up until an hour into the movie and his character is extremely hateful. Damn – how can you make someone as loveable as Chris play someone hateful?! I did like the strange atmosphere to this film and the 60’s setting and the mysterious & creepy hotel but the strangers’ stories were a mess and didn’t seem to have any sort of point. You also certainly aren’t made to care about any of them, other than maybe the two characters played by Jeff Bridges & Cynthia Erivo, who are the true standouts of this film and by far the best things about it. Dakota Johnson is as underwhelming as always and, as I said, can we not make Hemsworth a bad guy ever again? I love him but, honestly – it didn’t work. Sorry, Chris! It was completely unbelievable. Overall, I did like that this movie felt a little bit unique and thought Bridges and Erivo were great together and fun to watch but, man – the movie is just kind of a mess. – 6.5/10


Crawl – 6.5/10


Instant Family – 6.5/10


Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 6.5/10


Mortal Engines – Look! Yet another adaptation of a dystopian YA novel! Hey, I’m not exactly complaining since dystopian YA is a huge guilty pleasure genre of mine but I think the general public has had enough of it. I did read this book (mini-review here) and really enjoyed it but it was mainly because I loved the bizarre concept. Basically, the cities in this dystopian future are on wheels and go around devouring smaller cities (I suppose there’s some sort of political message there). The characters could’ve been stronger but the story was enough fun that I didn’t care too much. Well, shit – this movie was pretty terrible but I can’t explain why as, from what I remember, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation. I was just bored. It should’ve been Mad Max: Fury Road levels of craziness but it was bland and the characters were so underdeveloped and uninteresting, although that was a fault with the book as well. They also shifted the focus onto the girl in the film, which is fine, but it meant they spent far too little time on the boy who’s the main character in the book. By the way, the girl is also WAY more disfigured in the book so they really did try to make her “Hollywood pretty” in the film. It’s just a surprisingly forgettable movie for one with such a nutso concept and I can’t see this having done well enough to warrant any of the remaining books being adapted. What a shame. If you like the sound of this concept, just watch Howl’s Moving Castle instead. – 5/10


Eighth Grade – 5/10

Re-Watched:

Adventures In Babysitting Yes, I still love this movie. It’s a personal favorite. – 8.5/10

Big Daddy – I don’t care what anyone says about Adam Sandler. Yes, he has some really bad movies but he also has several that I really like. The Wedding Singer is his best by far and I love it but I think Big Daddy is good too and doesn’t get enough credit – It’s definitely one of his better films. I mean, come on – it’s quotable and the kid is cute. “I wipe my own ass! I wipe my own ass!!“. Ha. I love that bit. And we once again get a small Steve Buscemi cameo! It’s not as hilarious as his Wedding Singer cameo but it’s still fun. And it’s even a little bit sweet and heartfelt without being over-the-top saccharine and annoying. Plus, quite frankly, Sandler’s character is likeable in this one. I like this movie. I like Scuba Steve. Screw snobby film critics. – 7/10

The Dark Crystal (1982) – I watched this since the new series was coming up and I’d not seen this in years and honestly couldn’t remember a thing about it. I adored the look of it. Of course! It’s Jim Henson! I’m an 80’s kid so I’m a sucker for his work. This is no Labyrinth, though – I’ll be honest and say that I still far prefer Labyrinth. I might have even snoozed through The Dark Crystal a little bit. Blasphemy, I know! I’m sorry. Maybe I’ll watch it again sometime. I did watch the first episode of the new Netflix series so I’ll try to get back to that when life is a little less hectic. – 7/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ

Shattered by Dean Koontz – Well, as I said I went to America in August so I needed a light & easy read to bring with me. I love Dean Koontz but I have to admit that his novels are usually light & easy reads so he was of course my first choice of author to bring along. Shattered is one of his older books (first published in 1973 under the pseudonym K.R. Dwyer) so it was perfect as it was short since he didn’t get so overly wordy in his older books. Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia: “Artist Alex Doyle and his new family, bride Courtney and her 11-year-old brother Colin, are moving from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Courtney’s flying out ahead to get the house set up. Alex and Colin are driving there in Alex’s new Ford Thunderbird. The cross-country trip starts out as a bonding experience, but their car is being tailed by a van; a van driven by a psychopath intent on terrorizing them.” This book was perfectly fine. For its short length, the characters were developed well enough (other than the wife, but there’s not much focus on her as she’s not the one being stalked on the journey). She’s a little too perfect & beautiful, though, like most female Koontz characters. My only issue with this book is that it ended way too abruptly. Loads of build-up and then, BOOM, it was over. Huh. Kind of like sex. – 3/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Stranger ThingsUm. I can’t, uh, even make it through Season 3 of Stranger Things. I think I have only two or three episodes to go but can’t even be bothered to get back to them. Everyone seemed to love it, though. Are the hubby & I the only ones not feeling Stranger Things anymore?? So disappointing after Season 1 was so enjoyable.

BLOG PLANS FOR SEPTEMBER

Ha! Well, the month is pretty much over. Crap… It’s almost October! I usually do October Horror Month but don’t think I’ll have time. Maybe I’ll try to re-post mini reviews of the many horror movies I’ve watched this year.

September Movies I Want To See:

It Chapter Two – Seen it! Thoroughly enjoyed it. My review is HERE.

Hustlers – Well, I had no interest in this as the thought of watching Cardi B makes me cringe but it’s had such surprisingly good reviews that I just might check it out…

Ad Astra – Sci-fi is my favorite genre and I badly want to see this.

Rambo: Last Blood – Nah! I’m not bothered but thought I should mention that it’s out.

The Farewell – Looks good! Going to try to go this week.

Ready Or Not – Looking forward to this after it got great reviews. Looks a bit fucked-up! I love fucked-up…

The Goldfinch – Shit! Not happy this has had such terrible reviews as I’ve been working my way through the extremely long novel for MONTHS and I’m finally almost finished with the damn thing.

Poms – Looks a bit stupid but the cast is great so I’ll catch this one on Netflix when having a girly night alone.

There was no great music in what I watched in August other than Adventures In Babysitting (which has an awesome soundtrack). Here’s the Iggy Pop song Real Wild Child (Wild One) that’s in the film. Love it.

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Green Book, Instant Family, Can You Ever Forgive Me? & Eighth Grade Movie Reviews

I managed to see four 2019 UK cinema releases while on planes to and from America in August (I realize they were 2018 releases in the US). I’d not flown anywhere for years – When did the movie selection get so good & recent?? I figured I’d give these quickie reviews since I try to review all UK film releases each year. I’ll start with the best and end with the worst…

Green Book (2018)

Directed by Peter Farrelly

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in 1962, the film is inspired by the true story of a tour of the Deep South by African American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) and Italian American bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) who served as Shirley’s driver and bodyguard.

My Opinion:

I’m glad I managed to catch up on seeing this controversial Best Picture Oscar winner. I enjoyed it. I know there’s a lot of hate for this one but I thought the performances were strong and I always like stories involving an unlikely friendship between two very different personalities. I thought Mahershala Ali was great in Moonlight and, at the time, was hoping he’d get more roles so I’m happy that’s happening (and that he keeps winning Oscars). I thought his character & Viggo Mortensen’s worked well together and it felt realistic in that the friendship was often awkward and grew very slowly as they were so different.

Is it true to their real life story? I think some of the controversy comes from Don Shirley’s family saying the two weren’t friends at all (the film was co-written by Frank Vallelonga’s son) but interviews with Shirley himself say differently. Who knows? That’s just what I read at Wikipedia to try to find out what caused the controversy surrounding this movie but I’ve read no more than that. I love movies for their escapism so don’t often go for the “true story” films anyway. I like to think it’s all true but know that movies always play up the feelgood factor. As long as it doesn’t feel too over the top & phony, I’m happy enough with a little bit of feelgood cheese.

At least Green Book keeps it fairly real as things are far from perfect during their journey but I’d have liked a tiny bit more focus on the history of the actual Green Book itself (but that would easily make for another whole separate movie). The focus here is on the friendship between the two men and, as far as roadtrip friendship movies go, I found Green Book enjoyable despite any issues surrounding it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Instant Family (2018)

Directed by Sean Anders

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Moner, Tig Notaro, Margo Martindale, Julie Hagerty, Octavia Spencer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A couple find themselves in over their heads when they foster three children.

My Opinion:

This movie was fine. It actually had a great IMDb rating when it came out in the U.K. and I’d really wanted to see it but the feelgood cheese (as I mentioned in my Green Book review) was a little too much at times in this one.

To be fair, though, this movie was marketed as a comedy drama so it kept things fairly light instead of being a hard-hitting drama at all times (which isn’t my thing anyway – real life is depressing enough!). I just think that this situation in real life would probably be far more challenging than depicted and, for whatever reason, I never felt a strong connection between the couple and the foster kids although the actors all did a perfectly fine job.

The strongest performance was from Isabela Moner as the headstrong and challenging teenager. She was tough but not totally hateful, which is often a danger with teenage characters. The relationship between her character & Rose Byrne’s felt the most realistic and it was nice seeing those two grow closer. Overall, Instant Family was a nice and somewhat safe film that was at times a tiny bit contrived but, oh well – A feelgood film never killed anyone.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Directed by Marielle Heller

Based on Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a biographical film based on the confessional memoir of the same name by Lee Israel. Melissa McCarthy stars as Israel, and the story follows her attempts to revitalize her failing writing career by forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights.

My Opinion:

This was a pretty typical movie with Oscar nominations for acting: The acting was fantastic but the movie was just okay. The true story is actually pretty interesting but I guess it didn’t translate well to film as I was a bit bored throughout the movie. However, Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant were so great and such entertaining characters that this one was still well worth a watch to see their Oscar-nominated performances. I think both of them haven’t gotten enough credit over the years (Yes, even McCarthy, whose brand of humor isn’t my thing for the most part but I can see why she has fans). It’s great that they got recognition for their parts in this film as they’re what made it enjoyable and they had really good chemistry. I’ll keep this short, though, as I honestly have nothing else to say about this movie. Good story, a little slow & boring at times, but fantastic performances and interesting characters.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Eighth Grade (2018)

Directed & Written by Bo Burnham

Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, Fred Hechinger

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The coming-of-age story follows the life and struggles of an eighth-grader, played by Elsie Fisher, during her last week of classes before graduating to high school. She struggles with social anxiety but produces vlogs giving life advice.

My Opinion:

This came out aaaaages ago in America but was only finally released in the UK in April this year. It got brilliant reviews from “Film Twitter” people and, even though I’m an old lady, I’m still always up for a really good coming of age film ever since falling in love with Stand By Me during my own coming of age years. Plus, I can relate to the whole socially awkward thing since I’m still awkward as shit.

Well, damn – This movie was very disappointing. I’ll say that the actress, Elsie Fisher, did a good job and felt very real (she seems sweet – I have nothing bad to say about the actress). She also did the socially awkward thing extremely well so, in that regard, I identified with her (even though she was actually far more awkward than I ever was!). However, I couldn’t relate to the character in any other way whatsoever. I know that pre & early teens can be annoying as hell but her character really was a bit too hateful for me to care at all what would happen to her. And her dad just put up with her whiny bullshit and her being a bitch to him and he didn’t monitor her time spent online AT ALL.

Yeah, yeah – I know I’m sounding old. But, seriously – keep your kids away from all forms of social media as long as fucking possible! It’s dangerous. And if you can’t do that for some reason, monitor what the hell they’re doing! FYI – the girl is a vlogger and this movie is NOT about the dangers of living a phony online existence – It’s just about not fitting in during the most awkward time of life. I’m simply having my own personal rant because seeing young girls living out their lives online and pretending to be something they’re not breaks my damn heart. Do we seriously need a whole generation of superficial KardashiJenners?! I can’t stand that fake bullshit and don’t want real-life girls like this character committing suicide when they can’t live up to the impossible standards set by “influencers” and people with an unlimited supply of money.

No, this movie isn’t about suicide or depression or anything like that – It’s a “comedy” drama, supposedly. Maybe I just AM too old for teen movies now as I found Booksmart disappointing as well. However, I thought The Edge Of Seventeen was very good and a more realistic portrayal of being a teen. I don’t know – I just think Eighth Grade would’ve been better with a more likeable and therefore more sympathetic main character. And possibly with “comedy” that was actually funny – I had to double check to see if this was actually considered a comedy. It also felt like it dragged on forever, despite being a short film. It has one of those typical meandering indie movie storylines that doesn’t go anywhere – I don’t know how I managed to stay awake watching this one on the plane. I suppose that reading all the hype for this one while waiting at least a year for it to come out in the UK didn’t help either as my expectations were probably way too high. What a massive disappointment.

My Rating: 5/10