Million Dollar Baby (2004) IMDB Top 250 Review

Happy Birthday to Clint Eastwood, who turns 87 today. This time last year, I did a week of Clint Eastwood reviews (you can see My Top Ten Clint Eastwood Movies HERE, updated to now include Million Dollar Baby).

I still wouldn’t exactly call Eastwood a favorite actor of mine but I’m glad that I finally explored some of his biggest films last year as I liked them a hell of a lot more than I expected to. Million Dollar Baby was still a big omission, however, so I’m glad I’ve finally watched that now as well. And, again, I like another Eastwood movie far more than I was expecting to! And, of course, the awesome Morgan Freeman is in it as well (who I would call a favorite actor & whose birthday is tomorrow – guess what Top Ten List I’ll be doing tomorrow…). 😉 Okay – I’ll shut up & review the movie now.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Based on Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner by F.X. Toole

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Mike Colter, Lucia Rijker, Brían F. O’Byrne, Anthony Mackie, Margo Martindale, Riki Lindhome, Michael Peña, Benito Martinez, Grant L. Roberts

IMDB Top 250 Rank: 172 (as of 01/01/13)

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This film is about an underappreciated boxing trainer, the mistakes that haunt him from his past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur boxer achieve her dream of becoming a professional.

My Opinion:

I avoided watching this film for years. I was like “It’s a boxing drama? Pass!”. (Kind of funny that I’ve just watched Rocky for the very first time the same week that I watched this. But I digress). Mainly, though, I avoided this because, when it came out, some annoying assholes decided to spoil the whole damn plot. So I’ve always known exactly how this ends. And that pisses me off. I know it’s not always possible to avoid spoilers but, in the case of this film, there was an uproar since what happens went against the beliefs of some people and they felt the need to warn the public (or something like that) before the film had even been fully released (if I remember correctly). Annoying.

Anyway! This is a great film. I expected to possibly find it contrived (films that try too hard to pull on the heartstrings & just come across as phony piss me off as much as people who spoil films). I expected to not be affected by this film since I knew the whole damn plot already. But it’s a good, heartfelt drama that came across as quite genuine and had fantastic actors playing likeable characters you wanted to see succeed. I sure as shit can’t say I exactly “enjoyed” it (holy hell! I don’t do well with serious dramas). But it’s not the overhyped Oscar bait I had kind of feared it might be.

Come to think of it, I guess this means I should also update My Top Ten Best Picture Oscar Winners list at some point with both this & Rocky. That list includes all 50(ish) Best Pictures that I’ve seen and I have to say that both these damn boxing dramas potentially break into my top ten. Easily top 20 for sure. I’ll have to think about it some more! They’re certainly my favorite boxing movies (Raging Bull didn’t thrill me…). 😉

It’s a shame that Hilary Swank kind of disappeared into bad movie obscurity after this & Boys Don’t Cry (a movie that manages to be even more depressing than this one). Clearly these sort of heart wrenching dramas did suit her but you can’t blame her for trying other things – Starring in nothing but these sort of films would probably mess with your head eventually. I really liked her character in this. Her enthusiasm and single-minded determination are infectious in the same sort of way that made us all like Rocky Balboa and to want him to succeed.

Swank & Eastwood make a great team and their relationship by the end of the film is beautiful & heartbreaking. Million Dollar Baby probably gets somewhat ignored compared to Eastwood’s full-on “guy” movies & bromances but, as great as I think he was in dude movies with the likes of Lee Van Cleef, his mentor/protégée and ultimately father/daughter-like relationship here is a welcome change (and just as good & valid as the bromances). Swank & Eastwood make this film.

But there’s still some male camaraderie for anyone needing that as well. Freeman plays Eastwood’s ex-boxer friend (and… co-owner? or maybe just a trainer living in the gym Eastwood owns. feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Anyway, I love Freeman and he’s as great as always and another reason why I ended up liking this film much more than I’d been expecting. There’s a story on the side involving skinny little Jay Baruchel wanting to be a boxer & Freeman taking him under his wing. I really liked this story as well (plus that cool confrontation involving Freeman & one of the young boxers). The main story involving Swank is of course the most important but it was good to get a bit more to the movie besides just that.

I just have to end by saying: Oh man – I hated the f*%k out of Swank’s family in this! Which made her character all the more likeable. To put a horrible upbringing behind her & to try to live her dream is the uplifting sort of message people look for in a good story. Which is another reason why I think some people were probably angered by the ending of this film. What IS the ultimate message at the end? But life isn’t always fair & a Hollywood ending in real life is rare. I do watch movies for escapism and do prefer a happy ending but I also can’t get angry at a movie telling a story in a realistic way. I think some people felt cheated by this film. I think we were given a good film with powerful performances & a message of determination and friendship. It’s not an easy watch but it’s a good film I’m glad to have finally seen.

My Rating: 8/10

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How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) Review

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How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

Directed by Dean DeBlois

Starring Voice Actors:
Jay Baruchel
Cate Blanchett
Gerard Butler
Craig Ferguson
America Ferrera
Jonah Hill
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
T.J. Miller
Kristen Wiig
Djimon Hounsou
Kit Harington

Production company: DreamWorks Animation

Running time: 102 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film takes place five years after the first film, featuring Hiccup and his friends as young adults. Hiccup discovers a larger conflict brewing between humans and dragons and he finds himself at the center of it.

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My Opinion:

Yesterday, Cara from Silver Screen Serenade reviewed the first How To Train Your Dragon HERE for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge. Thanks again, Cara! (You can also read her review of the sequel HERE. She’s a big fan of these films). 🙂

I enjoyed the first How To Train Your Dragon. I say it way too often and everyone is probably sick of hearing it but I’m a huge Disney and especially Pixar fan and feel that kids films from other studios (such as DreamWorks) never come close to how amazing most of those are for kids as well as for adults. It’s kind of the same with HTTYD 1 & 2 although I do think they’re certainly two of the strongest movies from DreamWorks.

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I won’t get too wordy as I think Cara has done better reviews but I’ll kind of try to review it for those with kids as well as give my own personal opinion. The sequel is pretty dark – both movies are aimed at a higher age than most of the Disney/Pixar stuff anyway but there are a couple things in the sequel that may be upsetting to younger kids. There’s a sad thing that may be very confusing to them & need explaining and there’s one very big, mean dragon that will probably frighten some. As always, it depends on each individual kid (I saw this with a five-year-old who rarely gets scared by a movie and even this one didn’t seem to bother this kid in the slightest). If your kid is very young and easily upset by movies, it’s probably best to wait a couple years on this one.

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One thing I really liked about the sequel was that there are LOADS of dragons compared to the first one. They’re colorful and it was really quite lovely seeing them all flying around. I also really liked there being much more development of the relationship between Hiccup & his father – this was probably the best thing about the movie. There’s also just as much going on in this one between Hiccup and Toothless, who is possibly even more adorable at first in the sequel and has a lot to do later in the film. The addition of a new character worked really well too, I thought. It’s a shame that Astrid and the other kids (well, they’re 20 now) didn’t have as much screen time as I’d have liked (especially Astrid as I think she’s a great female character in a movie aimed more at boys) but they are still in it plenty so I’m not really complaining.

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I think I must not have paid close attention to the first movie as, for half of this one, I thought the twins that look like Nelson (showing my age!) were both boys. The girl twin lusts after strong, manly men in this one and I honestly thought “Wow, that’s pretty cool that a kids film is brave enough to have an openly gay character. Bravo!”. With the Hiccup leg thing as well, I was thinking that DreamWorks are really doing a good job showing kids that there are lots of different types of people and that we’re all equal and all that. Lol! I’m an idiot. Well, maybe it’ll happen someday. And, hey – Kristen Wiig sounds like a boy. Here’s Nelson for you kids under 35:

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See??

Hopefully they get along better than these two:

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I’ll wrap this up now that I’ve admitted to being an idiot.

Summary:

How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a very strong sequel and they’re both two of the better (and possibly the best) DreamWorks movies. It’s much darker than the first, however, and younger kids may find a few things confusing and scary. For a kids film, the story gets a little complicated toward the end and I think the simpler story in the first one worked better, especially how it came full circle with what happens to both Toothless & Hiccup. It’s still a good sequel, however, and I liked seeing much more character development for the main characters as well as loads more dragons. Definitely recommended if you’re a fan of the first film but be cautious with younger kids as I think one upsetting scene will be quite difficult to explain to them.

My Rating: 7/10

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How To Train Your Dragon (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Cara of Silver Screen Serenade. She also reviewed Fargo HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Cara! 🙂 Now let’s see what she has to say about How To Train Your Dragon, IMDB rank 166 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.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010) IMDB Top 250

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This movie…THIS MOVIE. Oh my God. I’m a little obsessed.

How to Train Your Dragon was one of those movies that came out, and I thought, “Huh. That looks kind of cute. I guess I’ll check it out.” So I went to the movie theater…and it blew my mind. I saw it twice, and I have been watching it over and over on DVD ever since I got it. When HTTYD popped up on Miss Mutant’s IMDb Top 250 Challenge, I was all over it. So here I am. Let’s do this.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders

Starring:

Jay Baruchel
Gerard Butler
Craig Ferguson
America Ferrera
Jonah Hill
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
T.J. Miller
Kristen Wiig

Music by John Powell

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot synopsis: (via IMDb)

A hapless young Viking who aspires to hunt dragons becomes the unlikely friend of a young dragon himself, and learns there may be more to the creatures than he assumed.

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What I liked:

 

  • Gees where to begin? How about the entire freaking voice cast? Jay Baruchel is perfect as misfit Hiccup; he’s sarcastic and funny and lovable all at once. Gerard Butler just…is Stoick, and it’s so wonderful to hear him with his natural Scottish accent. Same for Craig Ferguson as Gobber—love his accent. Plus, he’s just hilarious. Add in the voice talents of America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, and T.J. Miller, and it’s quite a cast.
  • Oh! And did I mention David Tennant? Because David Tennant (a.k.a. the Tenth Doctor, for my fellow Whovians) tooootally has little fill-in lines for this! Apparently he voices the audiobooks for the series this film is based on, so they brought him on for this, too. Neat, right?
  • Can I just say in general that I love this premise? Due credit to Cressida Cowell for that—she is the mastermind behind the books. I think bringing Vikings and dragons together is not only a lot of fun, but very visually interesting, too.
  • The humor in this film is spot-on. It may lean toward appealing to the kiddies, but there are plenty of laughs to be had for grown-ups as well, which makes it an excellent candidate for family movie nights.
  • TOOTHLESS THE DRAGON. He is adorable and hilarious, and he will absolutely warm your heart. The relationship he develops with Hiccup is too wonderful for words. Imagine the best human-animal relationship you can think of and multiple it by a thousand. I mean, that scene where Hiccup reaches out and touches Toothless for the first time…PERFECT.
  • There’s an absolutely gorgeous scene where Toothless flies through the clouds with Hiccup and Astrid. Love it.
  • The end of this film is sheer perfection. There’s a dramatic final fight, a very touching moment, and then just joy. I won’t ruin it if you haven’t seen it, but I will say this: Hiccup and Toothless were made for each other (*sniffle*).
  • There’s a nice lesson to be learned here about being your own person—even if that means going against the grain. Hiccup has a tough time convincing his fellow Vikings about a few things, but he knows what’s right, and he stands by that. The little guy is an excellent role model.

 

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What I didn’t like:

 

  • Though the little romantic thing between Hiccup and Astrid is cute, it’s kind of unnecessary—the relationship we really care about is Hiccup and Toothless. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see Hiccup get the awesome dragon bestie and the girl, but it simply becomes a subplot that is barely touched (heck, it’s hardly addressed in the sequel either).
  • I do love the supporting Viking kids, but does anybody else find it weird that none of them have the thick Scottish accents that all the adults have? It’s a minor qualm, and I’m sure this was done to set the kid characters apart from the adults (and maybe to make them more relatable to American kiddies), but still…
  • I wouldn’t mind spending more time getting to know some of the types of dragons. Some of them have weird rules—like having limited fire, needing two heads to start a fire, having to report to an alpha dragon, etc.—and some don’t. I think the film does a good job covering most of this, but there are a few questions here and there.
  • By the end of this film, you will want a dragon. Like, a lot. I struggled with this for a long time. And after seeing the sequel, I am struggling with it all over again.

 

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Summary: My issues with this film are very, very minor. I’ve already made it abundantly clear, I’m sure, but I’ll say it anyway: I adore How to Train Your Dragon. It’s one of the most creative, touching, humorous, and adorable animated films I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m going to be super bossy and tell you to go watch it RIGHT NOW—RIGHT NOW, I say!

My Rating: 9.5/10 (An A, maybe even an A+ on my rating system!)

Thanks, Mutant, for letting me geek about this film! Also, I’m sorry for so much geeking about this film. 😉

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**Note from Cinema Parrot Disco:

Cara also reviewed How To Train Your Dragon 2 over on her blog. You can read her review HERE. Plus, if you’re interested, I’ve just seen the sequel as well and will also be reviewing it HERE tomorrow. 🙂

This Is The End (2013) Review

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This Is The End

Directed by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg

Starring:
James Franco
Jonah Hill
Seth Rogen
Jay Baruchel
Danny McBride
Craig Robinson
Michael Cera
Emma Watson

Running time 106 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Well, I think everyone knows by now that the actors listed above play themselves (or fictional versions of themselves, at least). While at a party at James Franco’s house, the final apocalypse begins…

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My Opinion:

This looked quite funny (and I LOVE apocalyptic movies – see my Top Ten here), so I figured I’d check it out even though I’ve never been overly bothered about this little group of actors. So… Do you need to love these actors to enjoy the film? Well, I think it would certainly help but I did still enjoy it anyway. And I have a tiny bit of a crush on Jay Baruchel, who I liked most in a movie I don’t THINK had anything to do with this group (She’s Out Of My League). The two main movies that most everyone in This Is The End seems to have been in are Pineapple Express (think I finished that in about three sittings) and Superbad (don’t remember a THING about that other than the “McLovin” thing). Anyway, in my opinion this movie is at least funnier and more memorable than those two were. Or anything else from this group. So… You’re gonna get a fairly balanced review, I think, as I don’t absolutely worship these guys. 😉

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I don’t think I’m giving anything away that isn’t in the trailers by saying that some of the appeal of this movie is watching celebrities getting killed in humorous ways. I think, like me, most of us love celebrities as much as we hate them. Or is that just me?! So I found that entertaining and would have liked to see more of it. There are some fairly impressive cameos – It would have been even cooler to have a few more celebrity deaths that were as inventive as the first one.

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As to be expected, there’s lots of crude humor and lots of drug-taking and lots of humor involving all this drug-taking. Basically, it’s like all their other movies but I found the actual concept and story a lot more fun than something like Pineapple Express.

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I saw this three days ago and, to be honest, I’m struggling to remember specific things so I’m not sure what else to say. There’s a scene involving a porn mag that’s quite funny and probably the highlight of the movie. Oh – the music was (mostly) good! Never going to complain at a bit of Black Sabbath! Also don’t mind some Cypress Hill & KRS-One. So other than an annoying boy band & Whitney Houston, fairly decent soundtrack. Oh yeah – and at one point a character calls someone a “duplicitous taint” and I was like “I need to remember that because I think I know a certain someone who would probably appreciate that. (The IPC…). Lol! But I didn’t quite remember because I’m getting old and senile and I’m now not sure if that’s exactly what was said but I know the second word is right. Anyone feel free to correct me if I got that wrong. Okay, I’m rambling now – time to finish this review. 😉

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Summary:

This Is The End is rude, crude, and fun. If you love this group of actors, you’ll probably worship this movie. Great job on the pretty original idea of having them play “themselves” in the middle of one messed-up apocalypse. But, overall, I found the whole thing quite forgettable. As much as I enjoyed it while watching it, I can’t see it being one I’d watch again anytime soon. As far as comedies go, I’m very picky but the few I love I could watch over & over again. This Is The End isn’t one of those for me but neither are any of the other movies from this group of actors. For me, at least – I know I seem to be in the minority on that.

My Rating: 7/10

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Scene After The Credits?: No, there’s nothing after the credits. It’s the kind of movie where I expected something.

Cameos?: I know some people will want a list of all the cameos in This Is The End. As I didn’t know several of the actors anyway, here’s a good link with the list: BuzzSugar

My Top Ten Apocalyptic Movies – Does this make the list?

Movies Seen In 2013 – Where does this rank?