Good Time & Kong: Skull Island Movie Reviews

Two quickie reviews for two 2017 movies that I finally saw. Then I’m going to focus on reviewing movies with at least one Oscar nomination (Kong: Skull Island has one nomination so I guess I’m kind of starting today). Next week I’ll review The Shape Of Water, Darkest Hour, and hopefully both Lady Bird & I, Tonya if I manage to see them after they’re released tomorrow. Oh, and tomorrow I’ll finally review The Greatest Showman (nominated in the Best Song category).

Good Time (2017)

Directed by Ben Safdie & Josh Safdie

Written by Josh Safdie & Ronald Bronstein

Starring: Robert Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ben Safdie, Barkhad Abdi, Buddy Duress, Taliah Webster, Necro

Music by Oneohtrix Point Never

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
After a heist goes awry, a bank robber spends a night trying to free his mentally handicapped brother from being sent to Riker’s Island prison.

My Opinion:

Good Time is one of those films that’s quite good but soooooo extremely “indie” that there’s absolutely no one in real life who I could recommend it to. Only you movie bloggers! 😉

So it appears this was directed by two filmmakers who are brothers & one also does the writing while the other also does the acting (in this case, playing the mentally handicapped brother of Robert Pattinson). This is certainly no Twilight! It’s good to see Pattinson in something so different. He does very well in this as a complete fuck-up who clearly loves & wants to take care of his brother despite not knowing at all what’s actually best for him.

I don’t really know what to say about this. You’ll either like its indie style or you won’t. Stuff happens but it’s the meandering sort of storyline that’s so common in indie films. The way that Pattinson’s character does absolutely everything wrong when it comes to his choices in life was amusing. I liked his brother (played by director Ben Safdie) and you really can’t help but kind of want things to work out for these two bumbling criminals. Oh! But, more than anything, I really liked the electronic score done by Oneohtrix Point Never. I’m a sucker for a good score & I know that really helped me to like this movie a little more than I otherwise might have. It kind of brought It Follows to mind. A good score is very important, filmmakers! Well done Safdie brothers & Oneohtrix Point Never.

My Rating: 7/10

**Forgot to say Jennifer Jason Leigh is barely in this. Damn. I like her.

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Based on King Kong by Merian C. Cooper & Edgar Wallace

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, John C. Reilly

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in 1973, the film follows a team of scientists and a US Army unit recently withdrawn from the Vietnam War who travel to an uncharted island in the Pacific and encounter terrifying creatures and the mighty Kong.

My Opinion:

Speaking of good music in a film, Kong: Skull Island has this as well. This time, though, it was a kick ass soundtrack as opposed to the score (I can’t recall the score). The soundtrack was easily my favorite thing about this movie. What is it with Vietnam-era songs?? I love the angry songs from that time in history. Warning: I’m going to go off on a short non-movie-related rant here. Throughout history, the worst times for the human race have often resulted in fantastic music being made. People pour their hearts into their art during the most desperate times. So… Why does music FUCKING suck nowadays? Hmm?! The world is completely fucked up right now so where’s the great music as a result?????? I’ve wondered this for a while now.

Okay – let’s talk about this movie. It really kind of sucked. I hated it at first. I was mega tired & attempted to watch it & zonked out about 30 minutes in. I remember muttering something like “can’t they make a good monster movie….zzzzzzzz…..snore…….”. Then I tried again and still thought it sucked but kind of enjoyed it in a guilty pleasure sort of way. I think this was mainly thanks to (besides the soundtrack) John C. Reilly. Easily the best character. It took far too long to finally introduce him! No wonder I fell asleep the first time.

Oh. I suppose I should mention the monsters??? MonsterSSSS (plural). Was Kong not enough?! What’s with people these days? Never satisfied! I thought Kong was done quite well. And he was a far more developed character than all those random army guys who were there just to die in entertaining ways. Kong was cool – I think I could be friends with that dude. This movie really did improve in the second half (more Reilly & more Kong). So. I dunno. I enjoyed it yet thought it was a pretty bad film. Fun but bad. Like Road House! No. Wait. Road House is fucking awesome. That’s an 8/10 goodbad movie. Kong isn’t bad enough nor good enough to be goodbad. I’m making no sense. I’m mega tired again.

Awesome Vietnam songs! Black Sabbath & David Bowie! Holy shit! John C. Reilly great. Kong very good. Too many monsters spoil things (ONE other big monster to fight Kong is all we need). Rest of the characters extremely weak, especially all those random army guys. But I still always like having Samuel L. Jackson in a movie so that was a bonus. I enjoyed it more than Godzilla (2014). But I have to say that the best monster movie I’ve seen recently is definitely Colossal.

My Rating: 6/10

From the soundtrack: Time Has Come Today by The Chamber Brothers

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10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Review

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg

Produced by J. J. Abrams & Lindsey Weber

Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.

My Opinion:

Well, THIS was certainly an interesting one…

I usually like to write a review at least a couple of days after seeing something since, sometimes, I’m not quite sure how I feel about a movie. More often than not, they actually go up a little in my estimation (I ended up liking The Good, The Bad And The Ugly way more by the time I got around to reviewing it. I’m glad I didn’t review it immediately after seeing it). Well, I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane a few hours ago & I’m still trying to make my mind up on how I feel about it. I’ll say that my husband & I seem to disagree on it, which is unusual. I think I liked it quite a bit more than he did. At least, I think I liked it…

First of all, I’ll say that I really liked the first Cloverfield a lot. Okay – these movies are impossible to talk about without spoilers if you somehow know nothing whatsoever about them. If that’s the case, it’s probably best to skip my review. It occurred to me that some bloggers were actually a little too young for the first one when it came out. Oh MAN…. That’s depressing. So, therefore, some are watching this movie with zero idea of what it’s about. I think that’s the absolute best way to see & enjoy this one. Trust me – if you’re in the dark, stay that way.

While discussing this movie with the hubby, I realized what a big part of the problem with it is: It should have been the first film. SPOILERS BELOW if you haven’t seen it:
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Think about it! If the word “Cloverfield” wasn’t associated with “monster movie” because of the first film, this one could have been marketed as the movie it is in the beginning and then BAM! It would have gone all From Dusk Til Dawn on our asses! I’d have loved that. Then, if the first film was actually the second film, it would have carried things on in just the right way & I know I’d be a bigger fan of the overall Cloverfield thing as a whole right now. Instead, this movie ended in the way we were all expecting from the start if we’d seen the first film. And I imagine that those wanting a straight-up monster movie were probably quite disappointed to get something entirely different for three quarters of it.

Personally, I was a fan of the “two movies for the price of one” thing. Not everyone will be, I’m sure. I got the impression that the audience I saw this with were overall quite confused. And the hubby won’t like me saying this as he thinks I always misquote him but, screw it – He actually compared the ending to Skyline. Skyline!!! Have any of you seen that? If you haven’t, DON’T! It’s an enormous pile of shit with the worst movie ending in recent memory. That’s a huge insult to this movie! But, dammit, I can see why he made that comparison. Damn him. That’s ruined this movie for me a little. I should stop going to movies with that guy! But he’s my ride, so…. 😉 He also compared it to Signs, which isn’t quite as bad. It has a definite Signs vibe but M Night Shyamalan isn’t loved by everyone and I think the same people who really hate his stuff also won’t like 10 Cloverfield Lane.

I do like Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I enjoyed her performance and cared about her character. I can’t say I really connected with the two men, though. I didn’t think the characters were as well developed as they should’ve been considering how long we spend with them trapped underground. And. Um. Hmm. Yeah, I don’t know what else to say and when I get that way I tend to ramble on without making any sort of point. I think I’d rather just stop writing about this movie and instead discuss it with you guys in the comments. It’s a good one for discussion!

I’ll just end with this: If I’ve read things right, the plan is to sort of use the “Cloverfield” name to make a series of unrelated films with strange & interesting stories in the same way the name “The Twilight Zone” was used for a series of bizarre stories. That is something that very much has my interest as I think the original Twilight Zone was the best series of stories EVER. If they do that, it could end up like The Twilight Zone did: 90% utterly brilliant stories with 10% that were real stinkers. Some will see 10 Cloverfield Lane as one of the stinkers. If this plan happens and we have ten Cloverfield movies years from now, I’d be very interested to look back on them all to see where this one ranks for me. If there are enough utterly brilliant ones, I think I’d end up actually appreciating this one a little bit more as well. Let’s see where they go with these!

My Rating: 7/10

The Artist (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Jia Wei of Film & Nuance. Thanks for the review, Jia Wei! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on The Artist, IMDB rank 193 out of 250 on 01/01/13…

There are another 14 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

When I saw that CinemaParrotDisco‘s IMDB Top 250 challenge had The Artist up for grabs for reviewing , I signed up immediately. I’ve always wanted to watch the film and it was in my Blindspot list as well, so I figured, kill two birds with one stone eh? 🙂

The Artist is bravura in film-making. It is completely unapologetic. Instead of your mainstream film that champions a bonanza of eye-popping camera tricks and visual feasts, or prides itself as having dialogue that’s engaging and extensive, The Artist is a complete rejection of the big-screen movie formula. It dispels the notion that ‘effects’, or some other word suggesting the advent of modern film-making, is needed to produce a great film. In fact, it is in the very drastically different approach the film has taken that has led it to create new experiences for audiences; It has broken into the virgin land of pure emotional resonance. Indeed, it’s not the first silent and black and white film. But considering our current day and age, it has boldly relived a nostalgic era of the past and breathed new life into a picture that transcends accesorries: No colour, no sound and nothing to adulterate the experience. To use a cliche phrase on a wholly un-cliched film, The Artist is the embodiment of ‘less is more’. Director Michel Hazanavicius and actors Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo seemed stretched to their maximum potential to create raw tension from acting alone. And how fitting was it that the film was about the very struggle itself, the fight to hold on to the last vestiges of success, and the tragic tryings of a man who desperately held on to that which he gave him voice – Silence.

In all that forms The Artist, nothing can be said to be pretentious. We’ve seen too many pretentious films these past two years, the most notable of all is a fellow Oscar winner same-genre film Birdman. It features a ‘washed-up broadway actor’ trying hard to regain relevancy and salvage his ego. One cannot help but compare the two, and if you’ve put off seeing The Artist for some reason like I did until recently, I say wait no more! But enough about the one-take ‘much ado about nothing’ film and let’s talk about something truly revolutionary. Paying homage to both the black & white as well as the silent era of films in the past, The Artist could only have pulled its stunt off with the conviction and power in both Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo’s acting. The former plays a sort of celebrity figure in a dying age. Dujardin mixes just enough pomp and suave to foreshadow his later downfall. Bejo plays the vivacious and preppy up-and-coming rising star hoping to rise through the ranks. Their chemistry is unmistakable, and becomes a point of contention between destructive co-existence and fruitful romance.

John Goodman plays the ultra realistic director/production boss who shifts with the tides of cinema, at one point telling George Valentin(Jean Dujardin) quite directly, “The audience want’s fresh meat.” But let’s get real here, the other characters didn’t really leave us with anything. Jean and Berenice stole the show. Oh wait, I almost forgot George’s pet puppie. But we’ll get back to that later. Michel Hazanavicius’ directing is splendid. What I love so much about the film was its untainted portrayal of the ‘silent era’. Even in the most joyful moments, the quiet functioned to unsettle a little,then a little more until the internal struggle of the mind truly reared its ugly head. Indeed,silence does play around with how we feel. In the film’s happiest moments, the psychological effects of George’s nadir festers in subtlely. At the end, quite surprisingly, one of the film’s sweetest moments come when the end seemed doomed to the inevitable.

Ultimately, The Artist takes you through the bygone age, unearthing a richly depicted world of film-making in the silent era way back. You’ll find the silence a little puzzling at first, but when Jean begins to hear the sounds of his habitus but not the sound of his own voice, you will start to fully appreciate what the film is actually trying to say. It’s not simply a romance film of disconnected lovers . It’s not about a love-hate relationship with ego toying with the frailties of man. It is in fact about the value of a man in terms of the art he creates, and his horror and sadness at the cruel workings of time that slowly sweeps everything it once glorifies into memory. Dujardin’s performance is powerful in that he is able to show the artist that has come undone, and Hazanavicius masterfully creates humour and catharsis to salvage the nilhilism and devastation he has built up. Oh I almost forgot…the dog! Well actually other than being Jean’s best pal, this little guy actually represents both George and Peppy(Berenice Bejo); The dog’s loyalty mirrors George’s unflailing love for his art while also being a symbol of Peppy’s undying support for Jean. There’s so much to explore and interpret on your own, so go watch it if you haven’t because I’m sure it’ll touch you.

Partly a tribute to film of ages past and partly a romantic-comical film, The Artist is an ode to the psychology of the artist, craftsman and performer. It is an insightful look into the fine barometers by which these artists weigh their own worth and success, and the dysfunction when the world no longer shares the same sentiment. It is admirable but also tragic and Hazanivius shows how there can perhaps be a saving grace that transcends all the art and craft in the world. In a nerve-wrecking finish, The Artist offers us what we hope for. And although we can’t truly say that we’re certain of what lies ahead, we know for sure that love that is pure is love that can save us all.

Rating: 9/10

Images credited to La Petite Reine, ARP Sélection, Studio 37, La Class Americane,France 3 CinemaU Film, Jouror Productions, JD Prod, Warner Bros and The Weinstein Company

The Big Lebowski (1998) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mark of Marked Movies. He also reviewed Heat (HERE) and Argo (HERE). Thanks for all the reviews, Mark! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on The Big Lebowski, IMDB rank 131 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.

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Directors: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Screenplay: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, David Huddleston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Elliott, Ben Gazarra, David Thewlis, Jon Polito, Tara Reid, Peter Stormare, Flea, Torsten Voges, Aimee Mann, Mark Pellegrino, Philip Moon, Jack Kehler, Jimmie Dale Gilmour, Leon Russom, Ajgie Kirkland, Asia Carrera.

This film has such a massive cult following that it has even spawned a traveling, annual festival called “The Lebowski Fest“, at which fans congregate dressed as their favourite characters. It has also amassed a new belief system called “Dudeism” of which you can be ordained as a Dudeist priest. Now, this might be going a bit far but it’s all in the name of fun, of which, this Coen brothers tale supplies plenty of.

Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) is a cannabis smoking throwback from the seventies. He minds his own business, enjoying “bowling, driving around and the occasional acid flashback”. One day, two thugs break into his home and urinate on his rug – “which really tied the room together”. As he looks for answers, he finds that he has been mistaken for his namesake Jeffrey Lebowski, the Passadena millionaire (David Huddleston). Otherwise referred to as “The Big Lebowski”. Looking for compensation for his rug, he pays the millionaire a visit and finds that his absent, trophy wife Bunny (Tara Reid) owes money all over town – including known pornographer Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazarra), who sent the thugs (to the wrong house) to collect on the debt. But the thugs aren’t the only ones who have gotten their Lebowski’s mixed up. A trio of Nihilists threaten “The Dude” for a ransom of $1 million, claiming they will kill his wife. Reluctantly, “The Dude” gets involved, with his crazed Vietnam veteran buddy Walter (John Goodman), in trying to get the bottom of all the confusion. Does this make sense? Don’t worry, “The Dude” doesn’t get it either.

Trying to even give a synopsis of the plot in this complex tale, is hard enough, but that’s to the Coens’ credit in concocting this elaborate modern day private detective story. In the past, the Coens payed homage to crime writer Dashiell Hammett with “Miller’s Crossing” and here, they pay homage to Hammett’s contemporary Raymond Chandler. It has all the elements of a classic private-eye yarn but masquerades as a zany comedy. It’s so much more than that. It’s a film that relies heavily on consistently sharp dialogue and each word, pause and stammer are delivered perfectly by an exceptionally brilliant cast; Bridges is a very fine actor but this is his moment of glory, in a role that is perfectly suited. He has received numerous plaudits throughout his career – for his more serious roles – but this is his most iconic. Coens regular John Goodman is also at his maniacal best as his loyal buddy, Walter. Sam Elliott is wonderfully endearing, as “The Stranger”, in cowboy attire, that narrates the whole wacky tale and a scene-stealing John Turturro is simply unforgettable as Jesus Quintana, a latino, sex-offending bowler. In fact, it’s very difficult to single out a specific performance, there are so many great appearances: from the likes of Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, David Thewlis, Ben Gazzara, Jon Polito and the always marvellous Philip Seymour Hoffman. The entire cast are just sublime and deliver their, razor sharp, dialogue under the most creative guidance from the Coens. It’s not just the performances that stand out though; usual Coens cinematographer Roger Deakins works with a rich and colourful pallet and the choice of music throughout, accompanies the scenes perfectly. I could go on and pick out every perfect detail of this classic but then I’d just be ruining it for you, even if you’ve already seen it. It’ll do no harm to see it again – with a spliff and a beverage – and allow your “casualness to run deep”.

I have tried to find the words that do this film justice but I still don’t think I have. Rest assured though, this is the most enjoyable Coens movie to date and an instant cult classic that wll take one hell of a film to topple it from my #1 spot.

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Mark Walker

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Argo (2012) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Mark of Marked Movies. He also reviewed Heat for this project – you can read that review HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Mark! 🙂 Now let’s hear his thoughts on the movie Argo, IMDB rank 195 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 HERE. See the full IMDB Top 250 list & links to all the films that have been reviewed HERE.

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Director: Ben Affleck.
Screenplay: Chris Terrio.
Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber, Kyle Chandler, Zeljko Ivanek, Richard Kind, Kerry Bishé, Chris Messina Michael Parks, Taylor Schilling, Titus Welliver, Bob Gunton, Keith Szarabajka, Philip Baker Hall.

After a great directorial debut with “Gone Baby Gone” in 2007 and a brilliant sophomore effort with “The Town” in 2010, all eyes were on Ben Affleck in his third outing as director. Questions were asked as to whether he could do it again. And the answer? The answer is a resounding, ‘Yes’. Argo completes Affleck’s hat-trick behind the camera and confirms that he’s definitely a director that has an abundance of talent and awareness.

Based on true events in a post-revolution Iran in 1979. A mob of Ayatollah supporters storm the US Embassy and take 56 American hostages. 6 officers managed to escape, however, and take refuge in the home of a Canadian Ambassador. After two months in hiding and their sanctuary becoming increasingly risky, the CIA hatch a plan to get them home and extraction officer Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is given that responsibility. His plan is to create a fake movie called “Argo” and pretend that the six officers in hiding are his crew, scouting for shooting locations within the country.

Before going into Argo, I admittedly expected a heavy-handed political thriller but that’s not exactly what it delivers. Apart from the first five minutes of a brief overview of the, questionable, political relations between the U.S. and Iran, it sidesteps any political agenda and gets down to capturing the thrilling, human drama at it’s core. I’m not adverse to political film’s at all. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy them but Affleck is wise not to get too bogged down in boardroom banter and bureaucracy when there’s an brilliantly exciting story to tell. It does share similarities with the great political tinged thrillers of the 1970′s like Alan J. Pakula’s “All The Presidents Men” or “The Parallax View“. The late 70′s and early 80′s style is captured to perfection by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and Affleck’s orchestration can sit comfortably beside any from that great decade of cinema.

Chris Terrio’s solid screenplay delivers many dialogue driven scenes but Affleck keeps things moving at a frantic pace and not for a second, does the film ever get dull or drawn out. The tension is almost unbearable at times. Why Affleck didn’t, at the very least, nab an Oscar nomination for his substantial and well-constructed direction here is beyond me. There’s no doubt that he’s in complete command of his material as he leaps from Tehran to Washington to Tinseltown and delivers completely satisfying environments and effortless shifts in tone for the whole film to gel and come to life. He has the ability to capture a politically ravaged country; the backroom jargon of the CIA and the dark humour of Hollywood (that shares more than a passing resemblance to Barry Levinson’s “Wag The Dog“). In order to capture this ludicrous, stranger-than-fiction story in it’s entirety, it demands a maestro at work and Affleck can certainly consider himself one.

This is the edge-of-your-seat tension that “Zero Dark Thirty” wishes it had. With only three film’s under his hat, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Affleck has been at this directing malarky for a very long time. The comparisons with actor, turned quality director, Clint Eastwood will rage on and if anyone thinks otherwise, then Affleck can tell them to “Argo fuck yourself“.

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Mark Walker

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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Review

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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Starring:
Oscar Isaac
Carey Mulligan
John Goodman
Garrett Hedlund
Justin Timberlake

Executive Music Producer: T Bone Burnett

Running time: 105 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Inside Llewyn Davis is a 2013 American comedy-drama film… about one week in the life of a singer who is active in New York’s folk music scene in 1961. Although Llewyn Davis is a fictional character, the story was partly inspired by the autobiography of folk singer Dave Van Ronk. Most of the folk songs performed in the film are sung in full and recorded live.

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My Opinion:

Meh. I don’t know. I saw this early last week and have been putting off reviewing it because…. Meh.

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I’ll start by saying I’ve never been a huge fan of the Coen brothers so that won’t have helped. Don’t hate any of their movies but never have exactly loved one either. Oscar Isaac does a decent job playing an unlikeable character in this. Carey Mulligan does a decent job playing an unlikeable character in this (but not for long – her role was smaller than I was expecting). John Goodman does a decent job playing an unlikeable character in this. Garrett Hedlund does a decent job being a hottie. I’ve not really seen him in anything else but I plan to now! And Justin Timberlake does a decent job playing Justin Timberlake.

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Hottie & Sulley

There’s a cat so I guess that’s good. If you like cats. Which I don’t. There’s folk music so I guess that’s good. If you like folk music. Which I mostly don’t other than the occasional Bob Dylan. There’s, um… Oh wait. That’s about it. Oh! I kind of liked the scene where they sang that silly Mr Kennedy song and I was all like “hey, that guy with the low voice is in Girls!”. Oh wait – I thought of another thing. There’s a lot of moping so I guess that’s good. If you like people moping.

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I really hope this isn’t the first review of mine that someone new to this blog is reading! This must be my worst review ever. (I’m lying – it’s totally not the worst. Don’t go digging through my oldest stuff!). 😉

What I’m saying is… This movie is okay. Not a lot happens. If you love the Coen brothers, don’t worry – you’ll like this one just fine. If you’re not a huge Coen brothers fan or if you have no experience with their films, don’t make this the first film of theirs that you see. They have better. But they probably have worse as well (I’ve not seen everything). Sorry for the crappy review – I struggled knowing what to say with this one! It’s not bad. I just won’t remember it in a couple years. Those are the films that depress me the most – I’d almost rather watch a REALLY BAD movie. At least they’re memorable.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Man, I’m going to take some heat for this one…

ParaNorman (2012) Review for Halloween Horror Fest

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ParaNorman (2012)

Directed by Sam Fell & Chris Butler

Starring Voice Actors:
Kodi Smit-McPhee
Jodelle Ferland
Tucker Albrizzi
Anna Kendrick
Casey Affleck
Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Leslie Mann
Jeff Garlin
Bernard Hill
Elaine Stritch
Tempestt Bledsoe
John Goodman
Alex Borstein

Studio: Laika

Distributed by: Focus Features
Universal Pictures (International)

Running time: 92 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Norman Babcock is able to see & speak with the dead. No one, including his family, believes him and he’s ridiculed & bullied at school. But it’s soon up to Norman to save his town from an old witch’s curse.

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This is my second review for my Halloween Horror Fest. I first reviewed From Beyond (which was pretty messed up). I liked the sound of ParaNorman after reading Abbi’s review at Where The Wild Things Are HERE. She liked it okay so I figured it must be good as she’s not a huge fan of this sort of kids’ stuff usually. 🙂

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My Opinion:

ParaNorman was a pleasant surprise. I really enjoyed it! This is from the same studio that made Coraline, which I fell asleep in the middle of in 2009 and haven’t yet bothered to finish. I know that was more highly rated & looked great but I really didn’t find it any fun to watch. ParaNorman is fun & a few things actually made me laugh (I’m not a “laugh out loud” person).

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Norman can see all of the dead people in his small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, including his own grandmother (who lives in Norman’s living room & watches zombie movies with him). His father doesn’t believe him and wants him to start acting “normal”. His sister and his schoolmates think he’s a freak. One day an overweight bullied boy named Neil Downe befriends Norman after he sees him being bullied as well. I loved Neil! He’s a typical dorky chubby kid in a movie but he’s so sweet & funny that you can’t help but like him. He’s the first one to believe Norman & thinks it’s really cool that he can talk to the dead (As he says to Norman: “Can you see my dog, Bub? He was hit by an animal rescue van. Tragic and ironic.”). Ha! Well, it was funny in the movie.

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I think what makes this film better than a lot of other kids’ films (Other than Pixar. Sorry – Nothing beats Pixar!) is the fact that it’s aimed at a higher age so a lot of the jokes and references are “older” and will also be funny to the adults watching it. I’m not talking anything risqué (I don’t think that has a place in a kids’ film) but things such as a great reference to Halloween (the movie, not the holiday). Loved that! And a Friday The 13th gag that was pretty damn funny too.

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And speaking of that, it was great that this film has a clear love of old scary movies (traditional stuff – zombies, witches, etc). Norman’s room is full of classic movie monster toys, posters, a cool alarm clock, etc. It reminds me how little I’ve watched the old horror classics (Vincent Price, Hammer Horror, that kind of stuff…). It gives this film a great “Halloween” feel (the holiday, not the movie). This movie actually reminded me a bit of the 1986 Amazing Stories episode called “Go To The Head Of The Class”. I used to watch that EVERY October but had sort of forgotten about it until Norman made me think of the teenage boy in that (Scott Coffey), who is obsessed with classic horror films & agrees to perform some black magic on his mean old teacher (Christopher Lloyd) to impress a girl (Mary Stuart Masterson). Oh man – I want to watch that again. It’s been years! Hell – I’ll watch it and do a mini review later. Let’s finish talking about ParaNorman instead…

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Summary:

ParaNorman is a great family film for the slightly older kids (maybe 8 or 9 and up but don’t quote me on that in case your 8-year-old is traumatized) that the adults will enjoy as well thanks to some genuinely funny stuff and references to horror classics. There’s still a “moral to the story” for the kids but it’s not a Disney-style one that’ll make the adults gag – It’s actually a good one for pre-teens. A pleasant surprise and a fun watch for this adult.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Sorry – that review was even more rubbish than usual because I’ve just realized that if I’m going to manage this Horror Fest I’ve planned, I’m going to have to post one review every day until Halloween now. Argh! So they’ll be written quickly…

Oh – Here’s another ParaNorman quote that made me giggle like an 11-year-old boy:

Mr. Prenderghast: [hiding behind statue] Psst!
Neil: [whispers to Norman] I think that statue just pissed at us.

Hahaha! I loved Neil. I’m immature…

Monsters University (2013) Review

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Monsters University

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Starring Voice Actors:
Billy Crystal
John Goodman
Steve Buscemi
Helen Mirren
Alfred Molina

Music by Randy Newman

Studio:
Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios

Running time: 103 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

This prequel to Monsters Inc shows us how best friends Mike & Sulley first met while at Monsters University. And how they weren’t exactly best friends at first…

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My Opinion:

Oh Pixar… I love you so much. You’ve brought me so much happiness over the years, which is pretty amazing considering that I was already an adult when Toy Story came out. I won’t go on about Pixar too much – I’ll get on with the Monsters University review. Just letting you know I’m a HUGE Pixar fan.

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Does Monsters University live up to Monsters Inc? No, of course not. But I doubt anyone expected it to – that would be a pretty impossible task as the first one is absolutely brilliant. One of the best things about the first one is the relationship between Sulley and the adorable Boo. Obviously, you don’t get that here so I knew from the start that it was going to be missing a big part of what helped to make these characters (especially Sulley) so endearing in the first place. I was also a bit worried as the trailers were making it look more and more like some sort of All-American Animal House kind of college comedy film. And it is. But it’s still fun and it was great seeing two of my favorite characters together again.

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As far as Pixar sequels (er, prequels) go, Monsters University is unfortunately not as good as Toy Story 2 & 3 were. I felt those really stood on their own as good films – the third one actually managed to be almost as good as the first while the second one was very funny. I was hoping that, where Monsters University wouldn’t have another “Boo” relationship, it would at least be really funny to make up for it. And it IS funny (unlike most inferior kids films from other studios, such as Dreamworks). But it had way fewer laughs than I was expecting – Monsters Inc is much more funny overall. I think a big part of the reason is that Mike Wazowski, one of my favorite movie characters EVER, is far more serious in Monsters University as he works very hard to achieve his dream of becoming the best scarer at Monsters University and to work at Monsters Inc. Okay – I realize he’s very serious in the original as well but all the funny stuff at his expense just worked much better in that one. Also, Sulley isn’t the loveable big blue furball that he is in the first one. As I said, this is thanks to the fact that we don’t have Boo there to help make his character that way. But also, and I think this is pretty common knowledge by now, he starts out a little “less than likeable” in Monsters University. But we all know that this prequel is about watching HOW the friendship develops between these two very different monsters and that was fun to watch. I still adore these two guys!

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Summary:

As to be expected, it lacks a lot of the heart of Monsters Inc but is also unfortunately lacking in the number of laughs we get from that one. It’s a bit too “frat humor” at times, which kids and most people outside of America won’t relate to. And the straight-forward college comedy/underdog storyline just can’t compare to the totally “out there” concept of Monsters Inc, which I feel sometimes doesn’t get the credit it deserves for how truly original it is.

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I hate that I’m making Monsters University sound bad, though, as it certainly isn’t – it’s just very hard to NOT compare it to the Monsters Inc movie I so adore. It does drag a bit in the middle but the beginning and, luckily, the ending DO make up for it and capture some of the magic (and some of the “heart” I keep mentioning) of the original. I obviously won’t give away the ending but I’m happy to report that I found it a satisfying conclusion (or “beginning” if you want to look at it that way) for Mike & Sulley. And as my hubby pointed out, it sends a good message to kids – which is good after a bit too much “college humor” that probably went over their heads. As for the beginning: I loved it. Probably my favorite part of the whole movie. But Mike Wazowski has always been my favorite… For lovers of Mike, you’ll be happy to know that Monsters University is much more the story of Mike whereas Monsters Inc is more Sulley’s story. And Mike as a little kid is the cutest thing I’ve seen in a very long time. 🙂

My Rating: 8/10

(FYI – My Monsters Inc rating is probably 9.5/10)

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Scene After The Credits?: Yes, Monsters University does have an extra little fun scene at the very end of the credits. Worth watching for completionists. Like me.

Characters From Monsters Inc?: Yes, we get to see some characters from Monsters Inc. I won’t say who so it can be a surprise. I feel bad at not mentioning Randall – it was fun seeing him again as well. Watch for the poster above his bed – You’ll recognize it if you know Monsters Inc well.

How does Monsters University compare to Despicable Me 2?: I was very much looking forward to both of these as I love the originals so much. My fear was that Despicable Me 2 was looking like it was going to be much better than Monsters University. Well, I do think Despicable Me 2 did manage to live up to its original a bit more than Monsters University did. I thoroughly enjoyed both but almost hate to say that I enjoyed Despicable Me 2 (slightly!) more. My review is HERE if you’re bothered.

Flight

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I’m a useless movie blogger. I watch the movies but don’t get around to writing about them! The “watching” part is easy. 😉 So I’ll at least do a short review for Flight, which I watched a few days ago.

My hubby thinks I have a thing for Denzel Washington because I always seem to want to watch a movie if he’s in it. I really don’t have a thing for him – I just know that you’re guaranteed to get a good solid performance from him every time. He’s a good actor and once again, in Flight, he doesn’t disappoint.

It’s true that Flight is the best thing Robert Zemeckis has done in quite a while. It’s certainly no Back To The Future (what is? hard one to live up to!) but is more along the lines of Cast Away and I’m not sure which one I prefer of the two. I think Cast Away will probably be the one more people would remember ten years after seeing it. This is how I often judge a movie – would I remember much about it ten years after seeing it if I didn’t watch it again in that time? I think too many movies don’t pass this test.

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Flight, as I think everyone knows by now, follows a pilot’s continuing struggle with drugs & alcohol after he becomes a hero for miraculously landing a plane that falls apart, even though he had been drinking & doing cocaine before getting on the plane. So, it’s obviously a serious subject matter & Denzel does a great job (like I said – as to be expected from him!). Also thought the main actress, Kelly Reilly, did a good job as an addict he meets while he’s in the hospital after the crash. I did also enjoy John Goodman as Denzel’s drug dealer – he provides some comic relief in a movie that is otherwise quite serious. I know a few people didn’t like the bits with John Goodman and I can see how his character could maybe throw you out of the movie a little bit but I didn’t mind him.The main thing that annoyed me about him was that he kept listening to The Rolling Stones. I’m a Beatles girl! It felt like a Scorsese movie with all the Rolling Stones & classic 70’s rock. 😉 The music choices in this movie seemed too obvious & unoriginal. Good classic rock, yes, but certainly no surprises!

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So, overall, Flight is a good movie with some good performances, especially Denzel’s. I’d recommend it to anyone BUT I don’t exactly think it’s going to change the world or anything. It’s a bit deeper & more serious than most blockbusters these days but I’d say it’s still what I like to call a “popcorn movie” – fairly simple, light entertainment. But a little more grown-up than some…

My Rating: 7/10

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