Little Women (2019) Review

Little Women (2019)

Directed by Greta Gerwig

Based on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on their own terms.

My Opinion:

I’m not on the Greta Gerwig bandwagon. Her movies are decent. But neither this nor Lady Bird are “Best Picture” material. Yay for a woman being recognised by the Academy finally, I guess? But why Gerwig? There are better films that have been made by women. Okay – I’ll shut up now before I get in trouble. At least her movies are more worthy than her male partner’s (I thought Marriage Story was a self-indulgent snoozefest). I also admit to not being able to stand Emma Watson. Saoirse Ronan is okay but will never ever be a favorite actress of mine. Yeah, I know – I’m old so these people aren’t my generation. I know they have their fans. I also don’t get the Timothée Chalamet thing. Fuck it – I like what I like! I’m not going to pretend to like movies or actors just because they’re currently popular. So I went into this with low expectations.

Well, hell. I quite enjoyed this movie. I have a huge embarrassing confession to make, though. Although I read a lot & do try to read some books before watching the film adaptations, I never read Little Women. More surprisingly, I have also never seen any other film adaptations. And even more surprising than that, I’ve managed to almost completely avoid spoilers for this story for over 40 damn years (other than about Beth). Honest to god, I didn’t know how this story would play out. And I loved that. I can’t believe how much I enjoyed this story. However, is that thanks to Gerwig & some actresses I don’t particularly like? No but I’m glad they made it a fun watch & I even managed to not hate Emma Watson despite her making her usual scrunchy “acting face”. I should’ve read this book. Why didn’t they make us read this one in school?! Damn American educational system! Because this is a good story and I loved it. These characters are great and I loved how different their personalities were. I can see how everyone will have a favorite character from this story. Not sure who my favorite is but I’m going to read the book to decide that as they could be quite different (Florence Pugh was a lot of fun as Amy but I’m guessing she’s the most unlikeable in the book).

Luckily, the British educational system did make my hubby read this one as a kid (he’s a Beth fan, though I’m sure he’ll correct me if I got that wrong). One thing I’ll say is that he absolutely hated how they messed with the linear narrative of the original story. The movie’s story jumps around a lot and some very big reveals are shown right away, which he thinks will have ruined the story for me and for anyone one else who may also be new to Little Women. I have to say the nonlinear structure didn’t work well and, yes – it did ruin what could have been some very big moments. What a shame. Why mess with such a classic? The time jumps also weren’t portrayed well as the characters didn’t look much different despite it sometimes being years later, making it slightly confusing if you weren’t paying close attention (we could hear the people in front of us talking to each other & often being confused as to what just happened). Oh, Amy has bangs/a fringe… We must be in the past again! It was a stupid way to try to be “clever” with a story that people have been perfectly happy with for years. So, what can I say? I enjoyed this movie but let’s be honest: The credit goes to Louisa May Alcott. It’s a brilliant story. I loved it. I’m sorry I haven’t yet read the book. Shame on me.

My Rating: 7/10

Marriage Story (2019) & 1917 (2019) Reviews

As the Oscars are this weekend, I figured I better post my reviews for the Best Picture nominees this week. Below is a re-post of my review of Marriage Story & a new review for 1917. Well, a mini-review of 1917. Okay – it’s not much of a review for 1917!

Marriage Story (2019)

Directed & Written by Noah Baumbach

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever

Music by Randy Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a married couple (Johansson and Driver) going through a coast-to-coast divorce.

My Opinion:

I honestly don’t get the hype over this movie. And I’ve never understood the love for Adam Driver – that gross guy who had gross sex with gross Lena Dunham in gross Girls?! I just feel very out of touch with people the past several years. I see people raving about movies on Twitter so I watch those movies and end up extremely underwhelmed. Is it just me? Why do these same films fail to move me? Because I felt NOTHING while watching this. I didn’t feel that this couple had any sort of meaningful connection or any chemistry whatsoever so found it very hard to feel upset over the breakdown of a marriage that we saw so little of and didn’t get to witness developing in any way. We’re suddenly thrown in at the end of the marriage when they apparently don’t like each other anymore.

I think Driver & Johansson are okay actors (Johansson more than Driver). But they felt like actors in this movie. I felt like I was watching a play that was almost as boring as the ones directed by Driver’s “brilliant” character in this movie. And Johansson’s character was of course an actress. Despite Noah Baumbach sticking to that rule of “write what you know” and clearly writing about his own lifestyle, this movie somehow managed to make these characters feel anything but real to me. It was just odd as one of the main things I saw on Twitter was “This movie is so real!”. Seriously? Am I just dead inside? All I saw were two bland and self-absorbed people not loving OR hating each other enough to build up to that “I wish you were dead!” (or whatever he said) scene. We saw so little of their marriage anyway that I didn’t give a shit when they finally had a damn fight like normal couples do.

I don’t know. Maybe it is just me. I don’t blame either Driver or Johansson, though, as I think the writing here is the problem. This movie is just not my sort of thing. It’s the pretentious & self-indulgent side of “indie” that I can’t stand. It crosses that indie line for me (I don’t know if it fits the indie definition but, who cares, it’s still indie as hell). I either love or hate these types of films. On the right side of the line we have films such as the Richard Linklater ones with brilliant dialogue and characters who are intriguing and fun to watch. Then we cross the line into Wes Anderson movies and, based on the two films I’ve now seen, Noah Baumbach movies. Self-absorbed characters in movies that think they’re much more important & intelligent than they actually are. Marriage Story isn’t awful it just isn’t anything groundbreaking and I didn’t care about the characters. I’ve seen this story plenty of times before but with characters who were much more believable & sympathetic. And don’t even get me started on the kid in this movie! Bloody hell – he’s eight (or so I read) but written like a thoroughly annoying four-year-old. Sorry but no eight-year-old acts like this idiot kid. Was he written by someone who has never been around children? I didn’t expect to hate the poor kid in this movie. Wow. Hey, Hollywood – learn how to write child characters!

My Rating: 5.5/10

1917 (2019)

Directed by Sam Mendes

Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch

Music by Thomas Newman

Cinematography Roger Deakins

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
1917 chronicles the story of two young British soldiers during World War I who are tasked with delivering a message calling off an attack doomed to fail soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich in 1917. This message is especially important to one of the young soldiers as his brother is taking part in the pending attack.

My Opinion:

Shit. This was a good film & all that but it’s just not my type of thing. I struggle to force myself to watch war movies. To be fair, there are plenty I do think are great (The Bridge On The River Kwai, The Great Escape, Full Metal Jacket, etc). This one looked great & the “feels like one shot” thing was interesting but honestly a bit distracting. I can see how some probably loved it, though, as it does feel like you’re taking this same journey with these characters. But for some reason I didn’t feel much emotion during this one, though I’m not sure why. The performances were perfectly fine. Again, I may have just been too distracted by the way it was filmed. 1917 is a good film and it’s a great technical achievement but, I’m sorry, I was a bit bored. I’m sorry! I have no class. I’ll still give it a decent rating since I know it’s a good film. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins Best Picture (but I’d like to see something less predictable win).

My Rating: 7/10

Marriage Story, Brittany Runs A Marathon & Support The Girls Movie Reviews

Marriage Story (2019)

Directed & Written by Noah Baumbach

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta, Julie Hagerty, Merritt Wever

Music by Randy Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a married couple (Johansson and Driver) going through a coast-to-coast divorce.

My Opinion:

I honestly don’t get the hype over this movie. And I’ve never understood the love for Adam Driver – that gross guy who had gross sex with gross Lena Dunham in gross Girls?! I just feel very out of touch with people the past several years. I see people raving about movies on Twitter so I watch those movies and end up extremely underwhelmed. Is it just me? Why do these same films fail to move me? Because I felt NOTHING while watching this. I didn’t feel that this couple had any sort of meaningful connection or any chemistry whatsoever so found it very hard to feel upset over the breakdown of a marriage that we saw so little of and didn’t get to witness developing in any way. We’re suddenly thrown in at the end of the marriage when they apparently don’t like each other anymore.

I think Driver & Johansson are okay actors (Johansson more than Driver). But they felt like actors in this movie. I felt like I was watching a play that was almost as boring as the ones directed by Driver’s “brilliant” character in this movie. And Johansson’s character was of course an actress. Despite Noah Baumbach sticking to that rule of “write what you know” and clearly writing about his own lifestyle, this movie somehow managed to make these characters feel anything but real to me. It was just odd as one of the main things I saw on Twitter was “This movie is so real!”. Seriously? Am I just dead inside? All I saw were two bland and self-absorbed people not loving OR hating each other enough to build up to that “I wish you were dead!” (or whatever he said) scene. We saw so little of their marriage anyway that I didn’t give a shit when they finally had a damn fight like normal couples do.

I don’t know. Maybe it is just me. I don’t blame either Driver or Johansson, though, as I think the writing here is the problem. This movie is just not my sort of thing. It’s the pretentious & self-indulgent side of “indie” that I can’t stand. It crosses that indie line for me (I don’t know if it fits the indie definition but, who cares, it’s still indie as hell). I either love or hate these types of films. On the right side of the line we have films such as the Richard Linklater ones with brilliant dialogue and characters who are intriguing and fun to watch. Then we cross the line into Wes Anderson movies and, based on the two films I’ve now seen, Noah Baumbach movies. Self-absorbed characters in movies that think they’re much more important & intelligent than they actually are. Marriage Story isn’t awful it just isn’t anything groundbreaking and I didn’t care about the characters. I’ve seen this story plenty of times before but with characters who were much more believable & sympathetic. And don’t even get me started on the kid in this movie! Bloody hell – he’s eight (or so I read) but written like a thoroughly annoying four-year-old. Sorry but no eight-year-old acts like this idiot kid. Was he written by someone who has never been around children? I didn’t expect to hate the poor kid in this movie. Wow. Hey, Hollywood – learn how to write child characters!

My Rating: 5.5/10

Brittany Runs A Marathon (2019)

Directed & Written by Paul Downs Colaizzo

Starring: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rel Howery, Micah Stock

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows an overweight woman in New York City who sets out to lose weight and train for the city’s annual marathon.

My Opinion:

This is based on a true story and I do respect anyone who runs a marathon. I will never ever ever do that – I’m far too lazy. So I don’t want to say anything too bad since this is a real person. Yay for her! She turned her life around. But the movie did NOT manage to make her very likeable. In fact, she was downright horrible to those around her who were only trying to help & support her. And we’re supposed to root for her? I always struggle with movies with hateful main characters. I avoid hateful people as much as possible in real life – why would I want to watch a movie about hateful people? At least make them entertaining if they’re awful people (I admit to really enjoying The Wolf Of Wall Street and he was an enormous asshole). Jillian Bell’s character was just so damn boring. This is considered a comedy drama but there’s no comedy, which I was expecting as Bell normally does comedy. This was fine as I’m not a big comedy fan anyway but a little disappointing as I wasn’t expecting an uninspiring drama. You also don’t get the uplifting payoff at the end of this since you kind of don’t feel the character has fully earned any success due to her behavior. I’m sounding very negative in these reviews! That’s why I’ve put off reviewing them. Oh well. Like Marriage Story, this film isn’t awful. I just found them both very bland but the actors themselves were okay and I guess they did what they could with weak material.

My Rating: 5/10

Support The Girls (2018)

Directed & Written by Andrew Bujalski

Starring: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, James LeGros, AJ Michalka, Dylan Gelula, Shayna McHayle, Lea DeLaria, Jana Kramer, Brooklyn Decker

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
The general manager at a highway-side “sports bar with curves” has her incurable optimism and faith, in her girls, her customers, and herself, tested over the course of a long, strange day.

My Opinion:

I didn’t hate this movie. Yay! It was… Fine. An okay movie that I enjoyed while watching it but will never watch again. That’s most movies these days – Perfectly pleasant but a bit forgettable. At least, unlike with Marriage Story & Brittany Runs A Marathon, there are likeable characters in this one. Regina Hall was very good as the manager at the sports bar/restaurant and as a mother-figure to the waitresses. It’s very much a “day in the life” movie and I enjoyed the different personalities of the characters. It’s a little bit “quirky indie”, which doesn’t always work but did in this case. I liked it. See? I like movies sometimes.

My Rating: 6/10

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

***SPOILER-FREE Initial Thoughts***

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Directed & Written by Rian Johnson

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro

Music by John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

My Opinion:

When I reviewed Star Wars: The Force Awakens (HERE), I wrote about it right after seeing it and before having time to fully process it. I didn’t want to put a rating on it right away & I didn’t want to go overboard on raving about how much I loved it just in case I was still too high on the feeling of having seen a new STAR WARS MOVIE!!!!

I’m a huge fan of the original trilogy and I can’t see ever loving one of the new films quite as much but The Force Awakens came very close. I knew immediately that I loved it, even though I tried to hold back a bit when first writing about it. With The Last Jedi, it’s a bit different. I’m again writing this too soon after seeing it, which I don’t really like to do as I like to think about a film first. However, this time I’m not worried about going overboard raving about my love of the movie. This time, I’m afraid of being too harsh. This time, I don’t immediately love the movie. At least, I don’t think I do. I hate to make a statement like that so soon as maybe I’ll change my mind. I hope I change my mind.

Don’t worry – this isn’t like the prequels. This is a good film. I think the problem, for me, is that it isn’t much like Star Wars. I didn’t feel that way about The Force Awakens. That film instantly felt like a part of the Star Wars universe. I love Rey & Finn & BB-8 and it didn’t take long at all for me to accept them as a part of that world. I don’t feel that way about any of the new characters introduced in The Last Jedi. In fact, I thought there were too many new additions and it took time away from further developing existing characters that I actually care about.

Okay – let’s do this a different way otherwise I’ll just ramble on incoherently. As I’m still processing the film, I’ll try to separate my thoughts out into the good stuff & the not-so-good stuff.

What I Liked:

Several Great Moments Linking To The Original Trilogy. Well, this is tough to talk about in any sort of way as I have to stay completely spoiler-free. I mean, I’m not Holly Willoughby (yeah, she spoiled something major live on TV. you can see a clip here if you really want a big spoiler. luckily, I don’t watch TV). There are a few really good moments involving original trilogy characters and those moments made me feel all warm & fuzzy. And I guess that’s all I can say. Let’s discuss this movie like crazy in the comments, though! My comment section can be a spoiler zone!

Again Seeing Characters I Know & Love. Obviously. How awesome to see Luke doing much more than just standing there & staring at Rey. And Mark Hamill does a fantastic job, by the way. Loved him! And Leia… I’ll forever be heartbroken about Carrie Fisher and hate knowing she can’t be in the final film. Luckily, she does have plenty to do in this one compared to the last one. R2-D2 (my personal favorite), C-3PO, Chewbacca… I adore these characters. I grew up with them. I’ll always love seeing them up on screen. And, of course, it was great to see Rey & Kylo Ren develop much more (especially Kylo, as he came across as a slightly whiny emo kid last time). Finn has a lot to do but I felt he was quite wasted and far preferred his storyline in The Force Awakens. Poe also has a much bigger role this time but I don’t really feel much of a connection with him. And BB-8 rules. I do care about these Force Awakens characters, even though it’ll never be quite as much as I care about the original trilogy characters. Unfortunately, I can’t say I care about any of the new characters in The Last Jedi (more about that later).

Porgs. They’re cute.

What I Didn’t Like So Much:

Porgs. They’re utterly & completely pointless.

The New Characters. Oh man. After the fantastic job they did with the introduction of new characters in The Force Awakens, I really was expecting to walk away from this one with at least a couple of new favorites. The best new addition is probably Rose. I liked her & Kelly Marie Tran did well in the role but it’s far too big of a part. We already have our main characters. I think this wasn’t helped by the fact that her storyline dragged a little and, by having so much time devoted to it, it was taking time away from characters we already know and want to see much more of than we do (I’ll get to this later – don’t expect to see very much of the “lesser” original trilogy characters in this). Laura Dern also does a good job, but… Why should I care about this character who has come from out of nowhere? There are other characters around Leia who we already know & who I’d have rather seen given more authority & screen time. Benicio del Toro was very Benicio del Toro. Meh.

Not Enough Of The Original Trilogy Characters. Maybe a tiny spoiler but don’t expect to see much of R2-D2, C-3PO or Chewbacca. I’m extremely disappointed with how little screen time they got.

Some Of The Comedy. I love the small bits of comedy in the Star Wars original trilogy & in The Force Awakens. There’s even more in this, which was unexpected as it’s a dark film but wasn’t totally unwelcome. We need bits of comedy that are done well & they worked perfectly in the previous films. I got a few giggles from The Last Jedi but I have to agree with the hubby when he said that the humor in this one felt more like what we get in a Marvel movie. Okay, fine. I guess. But it didn’t feel like Star Wars humor. It just didn’t quite fit.

Very Few Great Images. I’ve seen some comments already about how good this movie looks. I agree there’s some “pretty” imagery. The use of red works really well. But the whole film is so damn dark. And there weren’t really any moments where I thought “wow – that’s a great, artistic shot”. I can think of SO many images from the original trilogy that looked amazing and like something you’d hang up and frame as a work of art. I know not everyone cares about this sort of thing but it’s very important to me. It’s a big part of why I’m a weird girl who likes things like Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns. They’re gorgeous. I want to see art up on the big screen. This movie feels more focused on telling its (somewhat convoluted) story. The story is important, yes. But so is everything else. Check out this video the hubby sent me of “The Star Wars: Concept Trailer“, which shows what Star Wars would look like if all of Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art had been used. Can we please get these students to work on the next Star Wars film??

The Shades Of Gray. This is something that people will either love or hate (mostly love). It seems there can be no simple good vs evil in movies anymore. Everyone wants shades of gray and conflicted characters and blah blah blah. And that’s fine & I totally get that. That’s exactly what I want from a lot of films, especially sci-fi. From things like Blade Runner 2049. From Star Wars? Not quite so much. Give me the Joseph Campbell hero’s journey thing. It was done beautifully in the original trilogy and the formula clearly works otherwise there wouldn’t be this massive Star Wars following. The Force Awakens started to follow the same pattern. Now? I don’t know. Just be prepared to see these movies go in a completely different direction now. And R2-D2 & C-3PO will clearly no longer be our “droid guides” through this journey. They seem to have been cast aside. Which leads me to my next gripe…

The Way It Feels Like The Original Trilogy Characters Are Being Cast Aside. I’m very happy that Luke & Leia are given loads of screen time in this. I don’t really have any complaints about how their characters were handled. As I said, though, R2-D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca and some other characters I won’t mention (not sure what’s common knowledge when it comes to others) are truly cast aside in this film. It felt almost as though Rian Johnson wants rid of them & to focus more on all new characters. I know times are very different nowadays and people are demanding that things be new & constantly changed, but this is the most beloved film franchise. Do it justice. Don’t throw it away. Did J.J. Abrams do too much “fan service” in The Force Awakens? Maybe. But this is Star Wars. The rules are a little different. Surely you can keep old as well as new fans happy.

I Can’t See Where They’ll Go With The Next Film Or Why We Should Care. I also can’t say much about this in order to avoid spoilers. Let’s just say that I’m less excited about the next film now. I think it’s going to be too “different” for my own liking. The hubby & I have discussed this movie quite a bit since seeing it (as much as I love it, he’s a far bigger Star Wars fan than I am) and I think we both feel similar in not yet knowing exactly what to think about it. It’s disappointing to not instantly love it. One thing he asked me is if I feel that these sequels are adding to the story in a way that feels right or if they’re starting to kind of ruin the magic of the original trilogy now. Okay – that’s not quite how he phrased it but it was something like that. At this point in time, I can say that I thought The Force Awakens was taking my beloved Star Wars forward in a way that would do no harm to the original trilogy’s legacy. After seeing The Last Jedi, I’m not sure if I can make that same statement. I guess we’ll have to see where Episode IX takes us and just hope that it doesn’t damage something that so many of us love.

Overall, at the moment, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has left me feeling a little bit cold. Which is heartbreaking. I’ll give it my initial rating, which I may think is a bit too low once I’ve watched the movie a second time. We’ll see (and maybe it will change depending on what I think of the next film & how it all ties in). But I can’t see my rating going up by more than half a point.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Now let’s discuss this movie in the Comments! SPOILERS ALLOWED!!! I’m dying to discuss this. 🙂 Just try to still put a warning & a bit of a gap….

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little Lies is a seven-episode series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman & Shailene Woodley. It’s airing on HBO in America this Sunday (19th of February) and looks like it will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK sometime in March.

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the show was created by David E Kelley & directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (director of films such as Wild & Dallas Buyers Club). Having just read the book, I figured it was time I do a quick book review for anyone who may be interested in either the novel or the TV show…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Perfect family, perfect house, perfect life; Jane, Madeline and Celeste have it all . . . or do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.

My Thoughts:

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it’s certainly not my usual sort of genre (give me Stephen King, fantasy, dystopian, or post-apocalyptic!). Is it chick lit? I hate that term – It’s so condescending. And I hate the so-called chick lit genre as it tends to be the “silly” books that are given this label. I suppose it’s certainly aimed at female readers, though.

I haven’t read reviews at all but I would assume the main comparison being used to describe this book’s story & overall feel is Desperate Housewives, which would be extremely accurate. I have a confession: I’m not a girly girl & watch very few girly things but I watched all of Desperate Housewives (despite its AWFUL title, which almost made me not watch it in the first place). But then the opening DH scene started with a tragic death and a woman who then happily realized that it meant she wouldn’t have to return (some kitchen appliance she’d borrowed – can’t remember) to the now-dead woman. And I was hooked! Well-written dark humor with rich characters is something I can get behind. Who cares what label you give it? I don’t think Big Little Lies is quite as good as that first season of Desperate Housewives (as with all shows, DH went badly downhill in later years) and it doesn’t have as much of that darkly humorous streak but it’s a fun satire on parents, particularly mothers, and the crazy world of school politics.

Big Little Lies starts with a tragic & unexplained death on the night of the adult-only trivia fundraiser taking place at the novel’s school. Our three main characters, Jane, Madeline & Celeste, each have five-year-olds attending their first year of school. This is a fairly long book that I found a very quick read thanks to the way it was broken up into so many chapters & the way most chapters ended with statements from witnesses who were there on the trivia night. After the opening chapter in which someone has died, the novel then goes back to the beginning of the school year to introduce us to all our main potential victims and murderers. I loved not even knowing who ends up the victim, which kept me reading as I was anxious to find out. The witness statements at the end of the chapters give us little clues along the way as to what may have happened.

Big Little Lies isn’t exactly some piece of “worthy literature” but it was a light & entertaining read and should make for an enjoyable TV series. I’d actually like to see them up the dark humor for the show if they can. The book sounds more shallow than it actually is – It tackles some heavy issues, especially at the end, but it could’ve done with sticking more to its sassy satire we mainly glimpse in the witness statements and through the character of Madeline. Speaking of Madeline, the casting of Reese Witherspoon for this role is absolute perfection – I can totally see her as this outwardly superficial character with the deep down heart of gold. I can also see Woodley & Kidman as Jane & Celeste now even though Celeste won’t be how I pictured looks-wise but Kidman definitely has the right sort of personality & manner to suit the role well. With a lot of big names involved, including Jean-Marc Vallée as the director, I think the show is in good hands & I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the UK trailer for the TV show. I think they’ve upped the drama! Hope the show doesn’t take itself too seriously…

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982) Review

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Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982)

Directed by Lou Adler

Starring: Diane Lane, Laura Dern, Marin Kanter, Ray Winstone, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Paul Simonon, Fee Waybill, Barry Ford, Black Randy, Elizabeth Daily, Brent Spiner

Running time: 87 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The media and disaffected teens mistake the acerbic rants of an obnoxious teenage punk rocker as a rallying cry for the women of America, launching her and her talentless group to national stardom.

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My Opinion:

I mentioned this movie in my review for Miracle Mile because, like Miracle Mile, this is a movie from my beloved Eighties that I had somehow never even heard of! I love discovering movies such as these as I’ll always be especially fond of movies from this era. So, like I warned in my Miracle Mile review, I’m going to be positive about this movie but it is NOT one that most people who are reading this would like as much as I did.

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Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains stars a very young Diane Lane…. as a PUNK! I wish I had seen this as a teen because I’d have loved it and I’d have wanted to be just like Diane Lane’s character (I’d still like that but I’m pretty old so I think my “sexy punk rocker girl” days may be behind me). She starts off looking like a normal, pretty girl-next-door but then reveals this look while on tour with her “band” for the first time:

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How awesome is that look?! Although I’d be far too self-conscious to wear the see-through red top… But I love the hair & the red eye-makeup! It’s funny that her look didn’t inspire a bunch of copycats – I think that the movie was just too obscure. I’m not sure exactly why this movie didn’t make it big. Yes, it’s not the greatest movie out there & it’s very dated now but I’ve seen far worse movies from the Eighties. After watching this, I figured it was time for me to finally watch Lane in Streets Of Fire as I somehow missed out on that one. You know what? Even though that one is more well known and is from the same guy who made the excellent The Warriors, I’d have to say I definitely preferred Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains to Streets Of Fire (I’ll be posting a review of that one on Friday). This one feels more gritty and “real”. Part of that may be the fairly low budget look and part may be because this was made by someone known more in the music industry than the movie industry.

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This was directed by Lou Adler, who only directed one other film (Up In Smoke) but did produce a few movies as well (such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show). He’s mainly known for being a record producer & manager and I think this film works well as a look into the music industry and how quickly musicians can rise to fame and then just as quickly come crashing back down thanks to a fickle audience. Lane’s character is an angry teenager who becomes a hero of sorts when being interviewed about her town for a local TV station. This leads to her “band” being signed up for a tour with two other bands (despite the fact that no one has heard them play) and it’s discovered during their first concert that they have no talent. But it doesn’t matter as Lane’s punk look & attitude propel them to stardom & she becomes a kind of symbol for feminism while telling everyone that she “never puts out”. Pretty soon every girl wants to be just like her:

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As always, I love seeing familiar faces when I watch films from the Eighties. Laura Dern plays one of the members of The Stains while an extremely young Ray Winstone plays the leader of the more talented punk band on tour with The Stains (The Looters). Elizabeth Daily has a small role as a maid (Dottie from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure – she has a bigger role with Lane in Streets Of Fire). I also loved the look of the aging metal band on the tour, Metal Corpses, who are well past their prime but don’t want to retire.

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Unlike in Streets Of Fire (it’s hard to not compare them since I just watched them both), Lane’s character has some depth here and we see that she’s just a young girl who has been left with no parents after her mother’s death & she’s angry at the world. It’s strange how some movies don’t make it big – I thought this was pretty good and, although it of course looks dated, I think the subject matter works just as well now. The issues raised still seem just as relevant (maybe even more so as “fame” is now more shallow and full of no-talent assholes than ever). I liked it and I’d watch it again. In fact, I don’t like that this isn’t available on DVD here as it won’t stay on Netflix forever – it’s one I’d like to keep.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Jurassic Park (1993) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews. He also reviewed Inception HERE. Thanks for the reviews, Drew! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Jurassic Park, IMDB rank 247 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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Synopsis
Archeologist Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and archeobotonist Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are invited by John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) to visit Jurassic Park, Hammond’s unique prehistoric wildlife preserve, along with choatition Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), and Hammond’s grandchildren (Joseph Mazello and Ariana Richards).  When systems start failing across the park, Grant and the other guests must survive on an island where dinosaurs are roaming free and causing havoc on the island.

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Review
Jurassic Park holds a special place in my heart.  Not only because it was the first PG-13 movie my parents let me watch before I was 13 (rebellious, I know), but because it was one of the first movies I would watch over and over again.  After viewing it more recently, I realized I had missed several of the finer points of the story when I was younger.  I guess the kid in me just enjoyed watching dinosaurs come to life, like most young boys dream of.  Even today that is one of my favorite parts about this movie, but now I appreciate more of the nuances of the story, as well as the fantasy of living dinosaurs.

At the time, computer-generated imagery (CGI) was still in it’s infancy.  Several movies had dabbled with the it previously, but nothing really substantial.  However, Jurassic Park completely embraced the up-and-coming technology, revolutionizing it, leading to the flashy and spectacular effects we see today in blockbusters like Avatar, The Avengers, Pacific Rim, and the recently delayed Jupiter Ascending.  And despite being twenty years old, the effects don’t look dated.  It looks almost as good as effects you would expect to see today.  An amazing feat considering it is one of the earliest films to use CGI.

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Before CGI became the predominant method for special effects, animatronics were used.  I think this movie is a perfect example of how to use animatronics correctly, and is the pinnacle of the technology (which is funny considering it also ushered in the age of CGI).  If the movie had been done completely with CGI, the dinosaurs would not have come life as well as they did.  That is one of the reasons Steven Spielberg is my favorite director, because he understood how to use both CGI and animatronics side-by-side.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex is largely featured in the marketing for Jurassic Park.  However, the “big baddies,” if you will, are the velociraptors.  From the very first scene, literally, they are set up as smart, cunning, and dangerous.  First, a worker gets pulled into the cage and eaten.  Then Alan Grant (Sam Neill) talks about how they are pack hunters.  Later, the characters go to the raptor cage and they discuss how “they don’t want to be fed, they want to hunt.”  Then there is a break away from the velociraptors to focus on the T-Rex, but there is a mention about the character causing the power outages knowing not to shut down the power to the velociraptor cage.  So finally, when the velociraptors appear on screen, it is well established how deadly they are.  It was a fairly slow process, but it did well to establish the threat they possessed.

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To me, a movie’s soundtrack and score is very important.  It can almost tell you how to feel more than what is happening on screen can.  John Williams, my all time favorite film composer, writes a great and memorable soundtrack.  But honestly, what would you expect?  Everything the man writes is fantastic.  His score for Jurassic Park is up there as one of my favorite film scores.  I mean, try not to become filled with emotion and wonder and awe when John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) says “Welcome to Jurassic Park” and Williams’ Jurassic Park theme starts playing.  Go ahead, I dare you.

Some movies have one character who is just fun to hate.  In this film, that would be Jeff Golblum’s Ian Malcolm.  He’s annoying and obnoxious, but he has a charm to him that I don’t think many other actors other than Goldblum could portray so well.

One thing that surprised me about this movie is how funny it can be.  It is by no means laugh out loud funny, but every now and then someone says something that made me smile or even chuckle a little.  Even though it wasn’t much, this small amount of humor prevented Jurassic Park from becoming too serious or dark.

Here is your daily fun fact.  Several times throughout the movie, Lex Murphy (Ariana Richards) refers to herself as a “hacker,” even correcting her brother (Joseph Mazello).  Back in the day, the term “hacker” didn’t have the negative meaning it usually is said with today.  Instead, it meant someone enjoyed exploring computers as a hobby.  This included building, modifying, and creating either hardware or software or both.  There is your little slice of knowledge for the day.  Don’t say I never did anything for you.

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Jurassic Park is special to me because it was one of the first movies I really go into.  When I was younger, I enjoyed it because of the action and the fantasy of dinosaurs roaming the Earth once again.  As I grew older, I started to appreciate it for the story as well.  A mix of revolutionary CGI and amazing animatronics give this movie a unique look and feel, truly bringing prehistoric creatures back to life.  From the beginning, velociraptors are set up as a dangerous threat, so when they are finally shown on screen, the danger they pose has already been established.  John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme is very emotional and one of my favorite movie scores.  Although not laugh out loud funny, there is still humor throughout the film that prevents the movie from slipping into a dark tone.  No matter how old I get, I will never lose the sense of wonder I felt when I first watched Jurassic Park and believing that, despite this being a piece of fiction, dinosaurs once again roamed the Earth.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Michael Crichton – Screenplay / Novel
David Koepp – Screenplay
John Williams – Composer

Sam Neill – Dr. Alan Grant
Laura Dern – Dr. Ellie Sattler
Jeff Goldblum – Dr. Ian Malcolm
Richard Attenborough – John Hammond
Bob Peck – Robert Muldoon
Martin Ferrero – Donald Gennaro
Joseph Mazello – Tim Murphy
Ariana Richards – Lex Murphy
Samuel L. Jackson – Ray Arnold
Wayne Knight – Dennis Nedry

***BTW – Tomorrow is Drew’s one year blogging birthday! Or… Anniversary! Happy Blogiversary, Drew! And he’s having an anniversary celebration all week so head on over & check it out HERE. 🙂

The Fault In Our Stars (2014) Review

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The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Directed by Josh Boone

Based on The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Starring:
Shailene Woodley
Ansel Elgort
Nat Wolff
Laura Dern
Sam Trammell
Willem Dafoe

Running time: 125 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Shailene Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, a sixteen-years-old cancer patient who is forced by her parents to attend a support group, where she subsequently meets and falls in love with Augustus Waters, portrayed by Ansel Elgort.

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My Opinion:

I read this book last year (you can see my review HERE) and I liked it a lot. It was my first John Green book and I thought he did an excellent job bringing these characters to life and making us care about them (I’ve just finished my second John Green book, Paper Towns. Hmm… Not as much of a fan of that one. He’s a very talented writer, though – I’ll certainly read more from him).

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It’s annoying when they don’t do a good job adapting books into films but, at least as far as YA books go, they’ve been doing a damn good job with some of them lately. I think The Hunger Games films have been great so far (especially Catching Fire) and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is still one of my favorite films of the past few years and was an extremely faithful adaption (helps that the author made the film himself – I also reviewed the book HERE). Well, I’m very happy to say they did an amazing job with the adaptation of The Fault In Our Stars and I really have no complaints. Some things were left out as usual due to length, such as a bit about Augustus’ life prior to meeting Hazel, but I don’t think it was necessary for the film anyway.

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Shailene Woodley was good as Hazel (when I reviewed Divergent I wondered if maybe this movie would suit her better. I was right – The Fault In Our Stars feels more like the right kind of role for her). However, the true star here is Augustus Waters (played by Ansel Elgort). I’m an old lady reading YA fiction but can TOTALLY understand young readers falling completely in love with the character of Augustus. He’s charming, funny, cheeky, confident, handsome… the kind of boy teenage girls dream of, in other words. Luckily, I think Ansel Elgort captures this character and I’m sure he has loads of young female fans now. And there’s a great chemistry with Woodley so it’s very easy to get sucked into the story and believe that they’re a couple. I really can’t find fault with anyone cast in this film – they all played their roles well. The best friend of Augustus was made maybe a little too “funny” for the movie but that’s a very minor complaint – he was kind of the “comic relief” in the book as well.

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Summary:

If you loved the book, you’ll love the film. It’s an extremely faithful adaptation and, having enjoyed the book, I’m very happy with what they’ve done with the film. I don’t think anyone was miscast and I’d find it very surprising if you’re a YA-aged female who doesn’t fall in love with the character of Augustus Waters after watching this movie (and/or reading the book). However, although I love reading Young Adult fiction, “teenage melodrama” isn’t normally my genre of choice for the most part (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower being an exception). So the film probably deserves a slightly higher rating than what I’m going to give it but I rate based on a combination of personal opinion as well as “worthiness” (I feel I have to explain myself after you all picked on me for my Godzilla rating). 😉 It’s not a movie I’ll necessarily ever watch again but if I was a teenager right now I’d probably watch it over & over & over and declare it the best movie ever. It’s a very good YA film.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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**I’ve become a member of The Stone Cold Bitch Club as I shed no tears while watching The Fault In Our Stars (I do find some movies to be tearjerkers, though – you can see my list HERE).

Here are some reviews of The Fault In Our Stars from other WordPress bloggers:

Stone Cold Bitch Club:

Me!
Zoe
Cara
Abbi
Rob

Crybaby Club:

Melissa
Tom
Box Office Buzz
Natalie
Natasha
Anna

In Between Club:

Mike

Which club do YOU belong to? Let me know! If you’ve reviewed this, I’ll add a link to your review above under the correct category. 🙂

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