Watched, Read, Reviewed: February 2021

Happy March, everyone! I watched way too many movies in February. To be fair, though, I did have a week off of work so what else was I going to do?! 🙂

Here are my quickie reviews of every movie & TV show I watched (and two books I read)…

MOVIES WATCHED IN FEBRUARY (ranked best to worst):

Les Diaboliques – I unfortunately saw the terrible 1996 remake of this starring Sharon Stone years ago. Rubbish! I thought I’d managed to completely put it out of my mind until halfway through this original French film, when I suddenly remembered the whole story. Damn. Well, it’s still a fantastic murder-plot-mystery thriller and I’d highly recommend the original film, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, to anyone who likes this sort of genre. (Seriously, do NOT watch the 1996 remake. Ugh.) The wife & the mistress of the same abusive asshole plot to murder him & make it look like an accident. But many weird & inexplicable things happen as the story unfolds. The actresses in this (Simone Signoret & Véra Clouzot) are fantastic and you are rooting for them (especially the poor wife) through the whole film. And do you know what happened when the credits came up at the end of this 1955 movie?! A warning to not spoil the ending of the film for others so that they could enjoy it too! Funny. So people were dicks about spoiling movies in 1955 just like they are in 2021. At least they could avoid Twitter in 1955. – 7.5/10

Willy’s Wonderland – I was never a huge fan of Nicolas Cage but he’s finally growing on me since Mandy. Mandy grew on me a lot too – I wasn’t sure how I felt right away but now I love that film & its look and its amazing score. I now want every Nicolas Cage movie to live up to Mandy but I don’t think any ever will. I did enjoy Color Out Of Space & it certainly gave Mandy a run for its money on “weirdness”. I love weird. It was no Mandy but I’m loving that Cage chooses such bizarre films with cult movie potential. He’s done similar again with Willy’s Wonderland but in the horror comedy genre this time (a favorite subgenre of mine). I was so damn excited to see the trailer for a film starring Cage battling demonic animatronic characters. Love this idea! The film sadly didn’t quite live up to its amazing potential but I still had a lot of fun with it. And Cage was as bonkers as always, even while remaining silent through the whole film. It has a good ’80s slasher sort of vibe to it as well, so I appreciated that. The ’80s had some of the best “bad” horror movies & I’ll always happily watch this kind of thing. – 7.5/10

**Decided to up the rating to 7.5…

The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things – Not gonna lie: YA books & movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. Think this one was just a short story instead of a full novel and I’ve not read it but I thought the movie was quite enjoyable. It’s a good story with likeable characters & that’s all I ask for from this genre. It’s also yet anotherGroundhog Day” setup. How many times can this same thing be done?! I think it doesn’t matter as long as the story still manages to feel like it has a unique twist on having to live the same day over & over and this movie does achieve that. Let’s see… Edge Of Tomorrow is still obviously the best film since Groundhog Day with this theme but I’d have to say I preferred The Map Of Tiny Perfect Things to the Happy Death Day movies & Before I Fall. Recommended if you do like the YA genre & a good story. – 7.5/10

**Decided to up the rating to 7.5…

Palmer – I really enjoyed this movie, even though I don’t always go for dramas. It depends on the characters & I liked the characters in this. Justin Timberlake was good as a guy just out of prison who has to try to make a new start & I liked Alisha Wainwright as the teacher of the young boy Timberlake’s character finds himself stuck with when the boy’s troubled mother disappears. The true star is the boy, however, played by Ryder Allen. He’s adorable & super likeable. I think movies often don’t get kids’ characters quite right. They’re sometimes just so obviously saying lines written by an adult screenwriter so it feels awkward (see review below for an example). They don’t act like real kids that age would act. Or, more often, they’re made to be far too “bratty”, which isn’t very realistic either. Not saying kids are never bratty (because they certainly are!!) but I hate how it’s so exaggerated in movies. The boy in this seems real & you just want him to have the best possible life. Yes, the film may be quite predictable & it’s nothing we haven’t seen before but a predictable feelgood film doesn’t exactly do anyone any harm. I liked it. – 7/10

All The President’s Men – I have a confession: This is NOT my type of film. At all. I just very rarely enjoy “historical dramas”. Same goes for true crime. Man, I hate true crime! I have no interest in all the true crime stuff on Netflix that people always go on about. I don’t know why. But I especially hate politics & crime & most of the crappy stuff that goes on in real life. I mainly watch movies for escapism so often go for sci-fi or fantasy or horror. Or, well, any genre really as long as it’s fiction. If I want a genuinely true story, I’ll watch a documentary.

I thought I’d give this one a chance, though, as it’s a respected classic and I really like Robert Redford & Dustin Hoffman. Yeah. It’s good. I guess it’s what you’d call a slow burn as you watch the story gradually unfold through the eyes of the reporters. It felt very “real” but, me being the person-least-interested-in-history-in-the-history-of-history, I haven’t got the slightest clue as to how accurate this movie is on the whole Watergate Richard Nixon thingy. Redford & Hoffman are great (as always). Everyone looks very ’70s which is also great (as always). I ended up playing on my phone through most of this, though, and only kind of paid attention when I realised they were talking to the Deep Throat guy (only porn movie I own!).

I’m sorry. I’m a terrible, terrible movie blogger. This is a classic & I lost interest & I played on my phone & I still have no knowledge of Watergate. But, hey – it’s super tame anyway compared to all the political bullshit these days! Watergate seems like child’s play now. I’ll give this movie a decent score but know it deserves an even higher rating. And speaking of child’s play, it certainly deserves a higher rating than what I gave the Child’s Play 2019 reboot! But I also gave that a 7/10 (it was fun)… – 7/10

Level 16 – No, this movie isn’t exactly the best or most original thing ever made but it IS very much my type of story so I quite enjoyed it. It’s on Netflix & this is the plot synopsis from Wikipedia: “Level 16 is a 2018 sci-fi thriller by filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy. It follows a group of girls who live at a “school” which educates them about how to be perfect young women for families that they are told will eventually adopt them. Two girls work together to uncover the truth about their captivity.” By the way, do NOT look this up on IMDb if you want to see it. The images they show ruin the whole story! WTF? So I knew what was going to happen. But I still enjoyed it. Being someone who grew up loving The Twilight Zone from a very young age, I’d have guessed the ending of this movie anyway as it’s pretty predictable if you watch as much of this sort of thing as I do. I suppose you younger people may also know what to expect if you like Black Mirror. But this is still worth a watch if you like mysterious sci-fi thrillers. – 6.5/10

I Care A Lot – I hadn’t planned on watching this until it ended up being so divisive on Twitter. Man, some people really hate this movie! But others seemed to really enjoy it. Well, movies with such a strong reaction always get me curious so I checked it out expecting to absolutely hate it as I usually despise hateful characters. I want characters to like & to root for!

I enjoyed this film. It’s not one I’ll ever watch again but I enjoyed the ride & thought the performances were good. It goes a bit overboard at the end but, whatever, it’s just a movie so that never really bothers me. And, with everyone going on about how evil these characters are, I thought they’d be far worse. Seriously?! Yeah, Rosamund Pike & Peter Dinklage are assholes. But that’s the whole point? We’re not meant to like them. And there have been many characters in movies just as bad & also much worse. Why such a strong reaction to these characters? Seems strange. I’d also point out that they both have one other person who they clearly love & do truly care about. That’s more than can be said for a lot of “evil” movie characters.

Anyway. I liked this far more than I was expecting so it was a nice surprise. I especially liked Dianne Wiest (always makes me think of The Lost Boys & Edward Scissorhands – she has a great filmography!) & Eiza González was very good as well. So there are two characters who are a little less evil if you really can’t handle Pike & Dinklage. I’d almost give this a higher rating but it’s not a “rewatcher” for me. I’d say just don’t necessarily avoid it based on people being all weird about it. – 6.5/10

Greenland – This was a perfectly fine disaster movie. Not the best but certainly not the worst of this genre. The characters were more likeable than in some of them (I especially liked Scott Glenn as the grandfather). I think we’re all just desperate for blockbuster action movies during lockdown??? So everyone seems to be giving it slightly more praise than it may actually deserve. We’d probably be more harsh on it if we weren’t all stuck indoors with nothing but mediocre Netflix stuff to watch. Compared to most of the straight-to-streaming films we’ve had in the past year, this is one of the better ones. Still far prefer Deep Impact but this was at least less cheesy than Armageddon. – 6.5/10

9 – Somehow missed out on this when released even though its style is the type of thing I like plus I love anything post-apocalyptic. It’s a bit Tim Burton-esque. Which makes sense, as he produced it (he saw & liked the original 9 short film, so produced this feature length film). I wanted to like this one more, as I loved the look and it had so many great names involved. Here’s the synopsis & its stars from Wikipedia: “The film stars the voice of Elijah Wood as a small ragdoll-like robot who awakens shortly after the end of mankind, and must find eight other robots to figure out the mystery behind humanity’s destruction while tangling with the vicious creations of a massive soul-stealing machine, alongside other voices of John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Crispin Glover with Martin Landau and Fred Tatasciore.” I think the story just kind of fell apart plus I wasn’t crazy about the ending. Still a great looking film, though, and am glad to have finally seen it. – 6.5/10

Malcolm & Marie – This was fine. Not sure how to go about reviewing it. It certainly had some issues & some of it came across a bit too “I’m a brilliant filmmaker and my movies are masterpieces and everyone else is an idiot”. Malcolm was hateful as hell as the pretentious filmmaker and complete asshole of a boyfriend. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else that Sam Levinson has done but, looking at his filmography, it doesn’t look all that impressive (does he see himself as Malcolm??). Movies that come across too condescending do annoy the hell out of me. I had the same issues with Marriage Story (I hated that). I didn’t hate this one but I can’t see myself ever wanting to watch it again. Zendaya is definitely the best thing about the film & she does a great job. It’s worth watching just for her performance. John David Washington is good as well, I guess, as he certainly manages to make you hate his character. And people moaned about the characters being too hateful in I Care A Lot?!? Honestly, the guy was a prick. I kind of wanted her to stab him. That would have been a fun turn of events! It would be cool for a movie to go from being all arthouse pretentious to some f*^ked up horror movie like From Dusk Till Dawn at the end. I want to see that version of Malcolm & Marie! I’ll be nice & give it an extra half a point for the good performances. It also made me want some good ‘ol American Mac & Cheese. – 6.5/10

It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – This was… Fine? Man, I’ve seen so many “fine” movies in the past year. I’m bored!! Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “A clinically depressed teenager gets a new start after he checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward.” Emma Roberts is in this. And that guy in the photo who I know from nothing else (Keir Gilchrist. Oops – looks like he was in It Follows, which I loved). And Zach Galifianakis, the dude everyone thought was the guy in the Robert Redford meme on Twitter. It’s a predictable but harmless film. Meh. – 6/10

Finding ‘Ohana – This was fine too. Kind of Goonies-light. Very much aimed at kids, so it wasn’t really for me, but I could see why a kid might really like this one. The characters are fun and they mention “nips” a lot. And one of the girls loves Keanu Reeves, which is totally understandable. Cute movie but watch it with a kid of 11 or younger. – 6/10

News Of The World – This movie probably deserves a higher rating. To be fair, I watched it knowing it’s not really at all my type of thing. I think I just feel like I should watch any big new releases that other bloggers are talking about but I’ve been underwhelmed with 90% of the newer films released on streaming services in the past year. Hanks was his usual Hanks-self & the girl was pretty good (Helena Zengel). And I was pretty bored. It ended well, though. So that’s nice. – 6/10

Over The Moon – This started out strong but I lost interest halfway through (and may have fallen asleep for a while). It’s a cute movie with a likeable girl and fun younger boy and adorable pet rabbit. It’s also a musical but the songs aren’t very good. It may have actually been better without the songs. It’s also another movie very much aimed at kids (mine is a bit too old for it & seemed bored by the end). Am sure young kids would like it and the super cute pet bunny, though. – 5.5/10

In Fabric – This was bizarre. I was very excited to see this on BBC iPlayer as it looked like just my type of thing. I like to watch these “Giallo-inspired” movies. But then they end up being really shit & I think I’d have been better off just watching an actual Italian horror from the ’70s instead of a very poor imitation. Hated that Suspiria remake too! What was the point of that?? Well, at least this was an original story instead of a remake, I guess.

I did like director Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio okay but this one didn’t really work. I’d say there were certain things I liked about it, though. The score & the look were fine (even though it’s ripping off the Giallo style – Again, I should have just checked out another Dario Argento film even though I know none are as good as Deep Red or Suspiria). There are also two stories in this weird “killer dress” movie & the second one sucks. The first one, starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste & Gwendoline Christie, actually wasn’t too bad & I’d be giving the film a higher rating if it had ended there. Why did they feel the need to add the second? Also, the movie is veeeeery slow & the first story dragged on for far longer than it needed to. I think this may have actually been a decent horror anthology instead with four or five movies involving the killer dress. I’d watch several really good stories about a killer dress! Why do one okay story & one completely rubbish one?? Well, I don’t recommend this unless you like slightly boring modern movies that poorly rip off ’70s horror classics (if you liked The Love Witch, which I thought was terrible, you’d probably like In Fabric). – 5/10

Saint Frances – Didn’t like this one. This is just one of those movies where you don’t really care about anyone. The main character is boring & self-absorbed. The only decent characters are the cute young girl & her mother who has a new baby so needs to hire the main character as a nanny to help take of her. Where I mentioned in the review for Palmer above that a lot of writers don’t seem to know how to write child characters? This is one of those. The girl is super cute and I think 5 or 6 years old but talks like an adult sometimes. It doesn’t work. And I know I did a list of My Top Ten Period Dramas but there was waaaaay too much of that in this movie. No thanks. – 5/10

Shorts & Miscellaneous

Wayne & Garth for Uber Eats – I’m a huge Wayne’s World fan. I (kind of) reviewed it HERE. I love Wayne and adore Garth and they’re the two movie characters I’d probably most like to hang out with. I couldn’t believe it when I found out there was a two and a half hour Wayne & Garth Uber Eats “ad”. There is! It’s HERE! And I watched all of it. It was the perfect thing to just stick on in the background – it really feels like you’re just hanging out with Wayne & Garth in Wayne’s basement. There are a couple of guest stars too (one of them is super cool but not a surprise to fans). Highly recommend leaving this on one day if you’re a fan of these guys & just want to hang out with them for a couple of hours.

Rewatched

The Breakfast Club – It would have been the 71st birthday of John Hughes in February & we felt like rewatching a couple of his films. I also again shared all the links to all the guest reviews from the John Hughes Blogathon I had here. Well, I already reviewed The Breakfast Club at the above link so won’t do that here. I’ll just say that I still love it now as much as I did in the ’80s. It’s still my favorite Hughes movie. – 9/10

The Matrix – Thought it was time to introduce this one to the kid. She loved it! She does love a really interesting concept. I have to admit I’d not rewatched it in years, especially after the horrible sequels. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this again & think it has aged very well. I’m now maybe a bit more excited about The Matrix 4 (even though the last two were huge disappointments). We’ll see. It won’t live up to the first film, though. It really is a modern classic. – 8.5/10

Sixteen Candles – Watched this one too in honor of John Hughes. It’s another favorite (reviewed in full in my link). – 8.5/10

Ponyo – Rewatching a lot of my Studio Ghibli favorites. Again, I won’t go into this as I reviewed it in full at the link but I love Ghibli & Ponyo is great. Am also very happy to have introduced another blogger to Studio Ghibli via this film, which she chose as the first one to check out. You can read Claire’s review of Ponyo HERE at Cinematic Delights. Think we may have a new Ghibli fan! 🙂 – 8/10

Catch Me If You Can – Still love this Steven Spielberg movie. Think it doesn’t get quite as much attention as his other films but it’s such a fascinating true story plus Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio & Christopher Walken are all fantastic. Highly recommend it if you’ve never seen it. – 8/10

Tremors – Hadn’t watched this one in years after watching it many times in my teens. I remember this being on TV all the time in America. It’s unfortunately one that ended up being not quite as good as I remembered but it’s still a really fun monster movie slash horror comedy. – 7/10

The Devil Wears Prada – I do enjoy this movie, despite finding Anne Hathaway annoying & not being a big “chick flick” girl and not being into fashion whatsoever (what a stupid waste of money). But the story is fun, Emily Blunt is entertaining, and Meryl Streep is great as a complete & total bitch. She’d get along with Malcolm! Hey, this character is super hateful but people don’t moan about this movie like they moaned about I Care A Lot… Oh, I also admit that I like any movie that has a makeover scene. Why?!? No idea. Oh, and I also like Stanley Tucci. This is one of the better “chick flicks”. I shouldn’t call it that, though. I hate that term. This is a good film. What do we call the equivalent male films starring the likes of Steven Seagal, etc? Those don’t get condescending names, do they?! And there are some terrible “bro movies”. – 7.5/10

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – Another rewatch that wasn’t as good as I’d remembered. Still think it’s a fun film, though, and there’s nothing else quite like it so I like that as I watch too many movies that all feel the same. It’s very of its time, though, so can see its fans mainly being of the right age when this came out who have a thing for all the fairly big name actors in it. They’ll be nostalgic for it the same way that I am for ’80s movies that don’t necessarily translate to a new, younger audience. – 7/10

The Maze Runner – I remember quite liking this when it came out. It even made me buy the books after so I could read them (even though I prefer to read the book before seeing the movie). Wow, those books were disappointing!! Maybe that’s partly why I didn’t enjoy this film as much on the rewatch, as I know how terrible the sequels were and how strange the books were. Too bad, as this first movie is still a decent film in the YA dystopian genre. – 6.5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ

Moon by James Herbert – Supernatural horror is my favorite genre to read. This book had been lying around the house for years so I finally read it since libraries have been closed for the past year. Also, I really liked Herbert’s freaky deaky book The Rats so decided I might as well try a second book of his. The Rats was more fun (but super gross). Moon is about a guy with a psychic connection to some psycho murderer & it’s exactly what you’d expect from this type of story. I’ve read loads of stories like this, so… I don’t have a lot to say. It passed the time & I’ll completely forget it years from now. Kind of like how all the Dean Koontz books I read all meld together in my mind & I honestly never know if I read one years ago or not but I still love to read his stuff… – 2.5/5

Iggie’s House by Judy Blume – As I said, libraries have been closed for a year so I’m grabbing whatever books are around the house. I stocked up on Judy Blume books from charity shops for my kid years ago as I grew up on Blume’s books. I’d actually not read this one as a kid and I’m obviously not the target audience now (the kid is too old for it now too – Damn, I don’t think she read all the Judy Blumes I got her!). It’s about racism & obviously seems dated now plus it’s overly simplistic. But it’s also clearly aimed at very young kids so I suppose it’s a good introduction to this sort of topic for them. The kids in it are good characters & they don’t fully understand the adults & their behaviour. It’s written from the point of view of an 11-year-old girl & I think Blume does well to get inside the head of a kid this age. Like I said above, many adults don’t seem to know how to write kids but Blume does, which is why kids liked her books at the time (don’t think they’re as popular now, unfortunately, due to many probably seeming dated). – 3/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

The Muppet Show – Watched four or five of these when they showed up on Disney Plus. Loved how excited everyone was on Twitter! Everyone seemed to be watching them at the same time. This show is a classic & it’s amazing how much I giggled while watching these again despite being an adult (well, not sure I’m an adult but I’m old). I absolutely adore the genuinely funny family comedy in this show. It’s brilliant. The two best we’ve rewatched so far are the Rita Moreno & Mark Hamill episodes (obviously seen the Hamill one many times, though). Wish we had access to ALL of them but think certain episodes, such as the Johnny Cash one, have been pulled? Well, at least that 12 second message they’ve slapped onto the start of each episode of this amazing show gives you time to go grab a snack. Guess we just have to be thankful that they let us watch some stuff from the past still? It won’t last. Grab this stuff on DVD before they go fully Fahrenheit 451 on our asses.

WandaVision: Season 1 Episodes 5-8 – Really been enjoying this even though I’m not a huge Marvel fan (seen all the MCU films, though). I do like how original this show feels as I was getting bored with all the superhero stories, which all end up being exactly the same in all the films. Although, the same thing is obviously happening on this show now as more is being revealed & they’re no longer on the “classic TV sitcom” thing, which was fun. Also, I’ve never seen an episode of Modern Family – it was more fun when I understood the references. The penultimate episode was a bit of a letdown but it needed to lead into the finale at the end of this week, so it did well in getting us all excited for the final episode. Really looking forward to it & will be sure to avoid Twitter on Friday until I’ve seen it.

21 Jump Street: Season 1 Episodes 1 (double Episode) & 2 – This is on Amazon Prime U.K., FYI. Being Gen X, I loved this show at the time & was of course in love with Johnny Depp. Forced my kid to watch the first few episodes. She likes it so far. Yay! I was surprised as it’s admittedly a bit dated. There was also a guest star in the first one whose acting was truly abysmal & we both had a good laugh over that. Hoping to watch some more, as I know it got better & also a bit more serious later on.

Raising Hope: Season 1 Episodes 1-11 – This is on Disney Star. Shhh! Don’t tell anyone! Am pretty sure we’re the only family watching it as clearly no one has complained about it yet to force a 12 second warning message onto it. I’d seen some of these at the time (off & on – I had a young baby). I’d kind of forgotten about it & how funny it was. We’re loving watching these (especially the kid as it’s borderline inappropriate). What can I say? I love sitcoms about dysfunctional American families. They’re the only types of sitcoms I’ve ever really gone for. I hate “perfect” families. Give me the f*#ked up ones! Can see why I like this, as it’s created by the same guy (Greg Garcia) who did My Name Is Earl. Loved that too.

The Crown: Season 3 Episode 3 – Still seriously not feeling the new cast in The Crown, which is probably why we’ve slowed way down on watching these. Man, Claire Foy & Co were so much better!! Episode 3 of Season 3 (Aberfan) was really good. A very tragic story I knew of but didn’t know much about. Heartbreaking. Will try to watch more as want to get to the Diana years but am not loving the show currently.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

I’m going to try to get back onto watching films for my 2013 IMDb Top 250 Challenge as I only have 34 of those 250 left to watch. I’ll post about that sometime soon & rank the 65 that I’ve watched for the project so far.

I’m also going to start a Best Picture Oscar Project & try to watch all the Best Picture Oscar Winners. Will post about that closer to Oscar-time. I just realised after watching It Happened One Night in January that I’ve seen a lot of the winners anyway (there are only 31 I have yet to see).

I’d also planned to stick a list of my favorite old movies recently added to Disney Star U.K. at the end of this post but it’s ended up long enough already so I won’t bore you with my weird taste in movies. I’ll just say that I’m super excited that Ladyhawke & Can’t Buy Me love are on there, so that gives you an idea of my Gen X tastes. Maybe I’ll bore you all with a separate post about it.

Let’s end with a classic clip from The Muppet Show

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019) Review

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019)

Directed & Written by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino

Narrated by Kurt Russell

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is set in 1969 Los Angeles, where an aging television actor and his stunt double and longtime friend navigate the changing Hollywood film industry.

My Opinion:

I never got around to reviewing this as I saw it a few weeks ago while on vacation in America. It’s a very good film. Yes, it’s probably one of Tarantino’s best films overall. I can’t say I loved it, though. In fact, I was a tiny bit bored and very much felt its 2 hour and 41 minute running time. But I’ll be honest: I was a little bit on edge the entire time, which probably didn’t help my enjoyment.

It was great being back in America for the first time in over a decade. I was in a super comfy reclining seat, which seems to be more of a “standard” thing than in the U.K., and I was thoroughly enjoying the superior (and, holy shit, one free refillable!) American popcorn. However, the main things running through my mind for almost three hours were “I wonder how many people in here have guns on them” and “There will be more guns in this showing than in other movies since we’re watching a violent Tarantino film” and “I’m the closest one to the door so very likely to be the first one shot if someone comes in and starts shooting“. Is this what daily life is like for everyone living in America now?

Don’t worry – I am NOT about to get into any sort of political discussion. That’s not me. I just want to joke around & chat with people on my blog about my nerdy love of movies. It just made me long for a more simple time as I do have some great memories of growing up in America and will always see it as my home. Which brings me back to the actual topic: I did appreciate Tarantino’s obvious love for the era of Hollywood depicted in this film. The nostalgia he feels for it really does show through and I could relate to that feeling as I sat there, in the country I spent the first half of my life in, feeling nostalgic about how things used to be and knowing they’ll never be that way again. Also, who wouldn’t like to rewrite some of their own personal history, right? I’d like to write some happier endings to a few things from my past.

I think this may be one of my reviews where I decide by the end of the review that I liked the movie more than I realized… This is why I keep this blog going even though I don’t think anyone reads it anymore: I’m sometimes able to sort my thoughts out on something as I write about it. Yes, I think Tarantino did a good job evoking the mood of that late sixties going into early seventies movie star & movie making world. As a lover of film, I always enjoy movies about filmmaking & that lifestyle. And what I was afraid would be the “central event” of the film but thankfully wasn’t (I won’t use the person’s or the “family’s” name), I guess maybe to Tarantino that event symbolized the loss of innocence and a more simple time in not only the types of movies being made but also in what it was like to live in America. So I’m starting to understand his “rewriting of history” in some films. It’s fun to think that, if we could erase certain events from history, maybe the world would be a different & better place. That’s the whole point of movies for me personally. I like the escapism and Tarantino clearly does too. His escapism just involves waaaaaaaaaay more violence than mine would!!

Okay, I’m now deciding that I liked this movie more than I realized. Although I was clearly a bit distracted while watching it, my experience was probably quite unique since I was in the position to be feeling the same sense of personal nostalgia that Tarantino was trying to convey in this film about a time he clearly misses as well. My main issue with the film is that the overall story is weak. The dialogue also isn’t as strong as in Tarantino’s other films in order to make up for the lack of story and the movie seriously drags in places, especially at the beginning (I kind of forgot that Al Pacino was even in this – I had a very hard time getting into the movie at first but I was busy scanning the audience for guns).

However, I think my old Brad Pitt crush has been renewed. Pitt is brilliant in this and the true star of the film. Don’t get me wrong – Leonardo DiCaprio & Margot Robbie were also fantastic. DiCaprio gives his usual best and has to do more serious “acting” than Pitt but we’ve seen Leo do this sort of role so often now. Leo is one of the finest actors of our time, yes, but Pitt has the true charisma in this film. He embodies the old school “Hollywood star” vibe from the era that Tarantino is portraying, which is fun as he’s just the stunt double to Leo’s fading movie star character.

As for Margot Robbie, she’s thoroughly charming as Sharon Tate and, like Pitt, also very much has that old school “Hollywood star” vibe. It’s a fairly small role, however, which I think was the right move for this film despite people moaning about the “female role” being too small. What happened to Tate and the others was horrible and tragic and, thank god, is not the focus of this film. That story is a backdrop and not glorified or dwelled upon, which is why I think her scenes were kept more simple and less likely to be disrespectful in any way. Unlike the Bruce Lee scene, unfortunately – I can see why his portrayal upset his family and fans although I can also understand that this is an “alternate history” thing and I don’t think Tarantino meant to cause offense with that bit. Enough with women’s bare feet, though, Tarantino!! We get it. You like feet! Most people don’t. We don’t want to see feet. Please stop with the feet.

Okay, I’ve rambled on enough considering that I didn’t even know how I felt about this movie at first. I loved its mood and its setting and absolutely loved Brad Pitt. I enjoyed DiCaprio & Robbie. I hated the “family” (but I suppose that’s the point – I just could’ve done with less time being spent on them). I disliked the bare feet. The story dragged. It was too long. There were fun cameos (as usual). I really liked the ending, which I’d accidentally had spoiled beforehand and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. I liked that this was less violent overall than Tarantino’s other films. To be honest, this is Tarantino’s most “feelgood” film and I liked that I was able to walk away from a Tarantino movie feeling a bit more uplifted and less stressed than I usually do after leaving his films. It’s funny that the only stress I felt this time was the real life environment around me but I’m happy to have experienced this movie in my home country, which gave me a more unique perspective. Hell, I don’t know… I think this movie is a bit all over the place and I’ve never felt quite so confused as to if I truly enjoyed a Tarantino film or not. Maybe it IS a damn masterpiece like so many are saying. There’s a messy sort of brilliance going on and I wouldn’t disagree with those who loved it even though I can’t say I feel the same way. However, I think it’s one that will age well and, over time, is likely to be more highly regarded than a lot of Tarantino’s other films.

My Rating: 7.5/10


**I’ve added Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood to my ranked list of films directed by Quentin Tarantino HERE. I really didn’t know where to put it and still might change my mind. I’m contemplating moving it up one space as it’s admittedly a much better film than Jackie Brown but, man, I love that damn soundtrack so much…

Also, I’m really busy at the moment and don’t know when I’ll get a chance to do my monthly movie roundup post. So, for now, here’s the ranked & rated list of all the movies I watched in August (six while on airplanes!). I’ll try to do at least mini reviews of these at some point but most were very disappointing anyway. I’ve starred the airplane movies (sad, I know – but it’s so I remember when I read this ten years from now). 🙂

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – 7.5/10
*Green Book – 7.5/10
Sorry To Bother You – 7/10
The Hate U Give – 7/10
*Bad Times At The El Royale – 6.5/10
Crawl – 6.5/10
*Instant Family – 6.5/10
*Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 6.5/10
*Mortal Engines – 5.5/10
*Eighth Grade – 5/10

My Top Ten Leonardo DiCaprio Movies

As it looks like Leo may soon *finally* get that Oscar he deserves, I figured it was time for me to do My Top Ten Leonardo DiCaprio Movies.

DiCaprio would also easily make a list of My Top Ten Actors but, although we’re the same sort of age & I’ve grown up with him since the days of Growing Pains, I never would have called him one of my favorite actors when we were younger. However, I’ve really respected his acting ever since What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.


Look at how cute he was in Growing Pains!

I often say that I don’t think Leo got the respect he deserved in the past because he was too much of a pretty boy but I think I was also guilty of feeling that way about him. I mean, look at that baby face he had! It also kept him looking much younger than he really was. And although I have his two big “romance” movies high on my list, I can’t say I ever crushed on him. It was Johnny Depp I had the hots for in things like Gilbert Grape, it was never ever Leo. I just didn’t see him in that way. I think I have a slight crush on him now as an adult, though, with his baby face gone & his starring in proper “grown-up” movies.

Even though I always liked him, I’m not sure when it was that I finally started taking him more seriously. I think it was possibly thanks to Catch Me If You Can & then The Departed. And then, of course, Django Unchained (he really should’ve been up for an Oscar for that role). But, as I ALWAYS say with these lists but will still get asked about it, I’m ranking these according to my favorite films, not Leo’s performances. That list would vary quite a bit, I think (number one would stay the same but I’d have others much higher). I just happen to care about liking a movie first and then I care about the performances. But Leo is great in everything. 

As I’ve already typed out absolutely everything of his that I’ve seen and as he’s been in so many damn good films and only one rather dodgy one, I figured I might as well just rank them all. (And, yes, I like number four. It’s good. I don’t see why some people have a problem with it). So here are My Top Ten Leonardo DiCaprio Movies (including the remaining films as honorable mentions):

Honorable Mentions:

16. Poison Ivy
15. Revolutionary Road
14. The Man In The Iron Mask
13. Shutter Island
12. The Great Gatsby
11. Inception

Top Ten:

10. The Aviator

9. The Revenant

8. TIE: The Basketball Diaries & The Beach

7. Django Unchained

6. The Departed

5. Romeo + Juliet

4. Titanic

3. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

2. Catch Me If You Can

1. The Wolf Of Wall Street

**Aww – check out this interview where he talks about joining the cast of Growing Pains. He was so damn cute. 🙂 Why didn’t I have a crush on him? Just too pretty for my liking back then, I think.

Catch Me If You Can (2002) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Satu of Fairytale Pictures. Thanks for the review, Satu! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of Catch Me If You Can, IMDB rank 240 out of 250…

There are another 16 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.

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

I originally wrote this review/summary for my scriptwriting course, so there’s more plot details that I usually include but change is good, right? I also added some points. Hope you enjoy reading it. Spoilers ahead.

Sometimes it’s easier living the lie​​​​

Catch Me If You Can is a crime dramedy based on a biography of Frank Abagnale Jr., American con-man who succeeded in forging millions of dollars of fake checks while pretending to be a Pan-Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, all that before his 19th birthday. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg. It was released 2002 and stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a main character Frank Abagnale Jr., Tom Hanks as a federal officer Hanratty chasing him and Christopher Walken is Frank Sr.

I saw Catch Me If You Can for the first time when it was released in Finland in 2003. I liked it back then and I liked it this time even more, probably because I paid more attention to the details of the film. Spielberg knows how to do details, his films are always looking and sounding great. The film is not overly emotional, so, even though I’m quite emotional person, I didn’t cry during the film. Mostly I guess I was exhilarated and afterwards relieved and in the end, disappointed, at least a bit. The main character is likeable and a con-man, so it’s easy to get excited for him and feel relieved after he manages his mischiefs. Disappointed-part is debatable.

(SPOILERS IN THIS PART) “Sometimes it’s easier living the lie”, says Hanratty at the end of the film. The phrase summarizes the film. Catch Me If You Can is a story of responsibility, growing up and bringing up. It’s a story of owning up. The film might be an adventure to viewer but it also makes you think what is justified in order to get around in one’s life. But in the end, I figure that Catch Me If You Can is a bit too much of a “lesson” about what kind of life you should live. And that is what let me down; the film ended up being one those familiar stories; bad childhood, rebelling child, moral aberrations and again, happily ever after. I kind of wished a bit more demanding ending, I guess.

Even though Spielberg has yet again a child as his lead, Catch Me If You Can is very stylish crime thriller. It has this adult feel and I believe children or even teens would be bored while watching it. The film must be PG because there’s basically no violence and very little of sex and nudity but the story and especially how it’s told tells that the target audience is civilized, smart adults who has taste and style. Catch Me If You Can has jamesbondish vibe to it without the sexual content. One of the Abagnale’s alter-ego is even named Mr. Fleming.

All of the actors are great; obviously. What else would you wait from DiCaprio, Hanks and Walken? Amy Adams also makes unforgettable role in the film as Abagnale’s love interest. That must have been one of the bigger roles in the beginning of her career. Catch Me If You Can got two Oscar nominations for Walken as Frank’s dad, deservedly so, he’s heartbreaking in a small kind of a way, and un-surprisingly to John Williams who smartly scored the film, I liked the music a lot. DiCaprio was also nominated for the Golden Globe. All in all, the film is good, solid 8/10 but it misses the last punch.

The Revenant (2015) Review

The Revenant (2015)

Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Based on The Revenant by Michael Punke

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820’s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team

My Opinion:

PELTS! I’ve never heard that word so many times in my life… Man, January is a tough month for movies. As if winter isn’t depressing enough as it is?? (I’m not a fan of winter. Winter can go screw itself). Seriously – why can’t they release lighthearted, happy films in January? I’ll admit that The Revenant is good, though. Grim as hell! But good grim. Your typical Oscar-Worthy January Release Grim.


PELTS!

I fully admit that I watched this movie for one reason only: Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ve always thought Leo was a fantastic actor who didn’t get enough credit in his early days because he was too “pretty” (he’s luckily getting the recognition he deserves the past few years now). I’ve only seen one of the other Actor Oscar nominees (Fassbender in Steve Jobs) but I’ll be very surprised if Leo doesn’t finally get his gold statue this year. He definitely earns it in The Revenant and the movie is worth watching for his performance alone.


LUCY VAN PELT!

That’s not to say that The Revenant isn’t a good film without Leo – it just isn’t my sort of “thing” and I know I wouldn’t have watched it if it had starred someone else. I have to say that it’s breathtakingly beautiful and if I didn’t hate winter & cold with a passion, I’d want to visit the places where this was filmed. Gorgeous. And I don’t know exactly how much CGI was involved in this overall but nothing looked iffy to me & the bear attack looked damn good (I know Leo is a very dedicated actor but I’m assuming he wasn’t attacked by a real bear).


*Actual scene from The Revenant

This movie is even more brutal than I was expecting for its 15 rating in the UK (I’m assuming it’s rated R in America?). But, as I said with Dead Snow (and the curiously snowless Dead Snow 2!), there’s something quite striking about red blood-splattered snow and you get plenty of that here. Does that make me sound like a psycho?! I just mean, artistically, it looks cool. I’m a wuss about violence, though, and The Revenant certainly made me squeamish a few times. Hell, just seeing the eating of all the raw animal meat was gross enough for me! I’d have made a really shitty frontierswoman. I could never even make it very far through The Oregon Trail before dying of dysentery.

Summary:

The Revenant is a beautifully shot story of survival & revenge with stellar performances from all involved (but especially DiCaprio – his performance blows everyone else’s away). It’s epic in scope and if you have a spare 7 hours & 36 minutes, I’d certainly recommend this film as I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t get that Best Picture Oscar as well as Best Actor Oscar. As always, though, my ratings are based first & foremost on my own personal enjoyment of a film with about 30% based on a film’s “worthiness”. The Revenant is worthy and I’m glad I experienced its beauty in the cinema. I hope it wins lots of awards but I’d prefer to not sit through it again anytime soon.

My Rating: 7.5/10


BJÖRK PELT!

Shutter Island (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. Thanks so much for all the reviews, Zoe! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thinks of Shutter Island, IMDB rank 235 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. 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 I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

shutter island poster

Sanity’s not a choice, Marshall. You can’t just choose to get over it.” Dr John Crawley

SYNOPSIS: A U.S Marshal investigates the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. – via IMDB

Yes! You better believe it! I am back again, I just cannot resist this IMDB Top 250 challenge at all, and I just want to thank the lovely Miss Mutant for allowing me to submit so many reviews to her site for it. Well, we all know what goes here, so now we will move on to the movie reviewing bit itself – I am talking Shutter Island today.

Now, I know there are a few people that are not overly enamoured with this endeavour by the dream team that is Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio (super cough directed at you, Eric). But you know what? I guess we will leave this at each to their own.

shutter island the island

I have read Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name, and I loved that, too. Lehane is a gifted writer and I have enjoyed all his work so far. Granted, I read the book after the movie, but I would like to mention that it is one hell of a loyal and great adaption of the book. Shutter Island was a trip to take; it was just wonderful for me. It was suspenseful, very well acted and I loved the cast. The CGI may not have been perfect, but that was really peripheral for me in all honesty. I have always said that I can deal with crappy effects provided that the story is gripping and captivating. Now, these effects were by no long shot dreadful, but they were quite a way from being on the level of something like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The score for this was loud and in your face, building suspense, though at times I even thought that it was a little excessive (yes, defender of the film that I am and all). Most people complain about how heavy and loud it is in the beginning, but I thought that it served its purpose perfectly there – it was going out of its way to make you feel uncomfortable and jangle your nerves.

I did not see that plot twist coming really; I was more interested in experiencing what was going down as it was without thinking too far forward. That is usually unlike me, I call these things rather quickly, and I know a lot of other people did call it early for this movie, but still. Maybe it is because the first time I watched this I was distracted with other things I was doing at the time, either way, it was a really pleasant surprise for me. Now, let’s talk about the performances. We all know that I am extremely taken with the super-talented Leonardo DiCaprio, and what he did in Shutter Island was no exception to his wonderful repertoire of roles. He came in as US Marshal Teddy Daniels and just… worked that role. He was angry, upset, driven by his work though definitely had some undertow of grief due to the loss of his family and a side project he was working. Mark Ruffalo complemented him fantastically as Chuck Aule, the two working back and forth, engaging and entertaining. DiCaprio came in and lent credence to Teddy, giving us some intense flashbacks of the things that he has seen in the past, the places he has gone.

shutter island sick world

The flashbacks are broken apart by the main story, which is also broken by the flashbacks. They come together so well, and give the movie a cool way of storytelling. The partnership between Teddy and Chuck was something different. Suspect, trusting, devolving into the mad crusade that Teddy is so preoccupied with… it is presented as a locked box mystery, but that in itself is such a side measure to the real issue at hand: Teddy and Shutter Island.

shutter island which would be worse

Martin Scorsese might not have delivered his finest work with Shutter Island, but he did deliver a solid adaptation of Lehane’s novel as well as a highly entertaining and undervalued film exploring the lengths that the mind will go to in order to protect itself. I find it to be a extremely enjoyable watch and something I will always recommend to people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iaYLCiq5RM

Top Ten Actors I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything

Here we are! My final list of the four started by the fabulous Abbi of Where The Wild Things Are. You can see her list of “The Top Ten Actors I Would Watch In Almost Anything HERE. This is a great thing you started, Abbi! I believe others have made similar lists so let me know if you want me to add your link. I know Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger also did her list of actors HERE. 🙂

I did my most annoying actors & actresses last week but, surprisingly, it took THIS LIST of my favorite actresses to piss people off the most (yes – I grew up with Drew Barrymore & I love her. So sue me!). 😉 Thanks for all the wonderful comments on these – I’ll be replying to each & every one of you soon.

Now here are my Top Ten Actors I’d Watch In Pretty Much Anything (in no particular order plus I’ve narrowed it down by only including living actors):

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Leonardo DiCaprio
Best Movie: The Wolf Of Wall Street

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Jack Nicholson
Best Movie: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

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Morgan Freeman
Best Movie: The Shawshank Redemption

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Chris Hemsworth
Best Movie: Rush

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Tom Hardy
Best Movie: The Dark Knight Rises

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Michael Caine
Best Movie: The Prestige

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David Bowie
Best Movie: The Prestige but I also love Labyrinth & The Man Who Fell To Earth

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Christoph Waltz
Best Movie: Django Unchained

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Michael Fassbender
Best Movie: Shame (is he wearing an Iron Maiden shirt?? We’re meant to be!) 😉

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Ian McKellen
Best Movie: The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

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Patrick Stewart
Best Movie: X2 or Star Trek: First Contact

**That’s 11 but Ian McKellen & Patrick Stewart count as one! 😉

Inception (2010) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Drew of Drew’s Movie Reviews. Thanks for joining in, Drew! Now let’s see what he has to say about Inception, IMDB rank 14 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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Inception Review
Watched: 2/28/2014

Synopsis
Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are “extractors,” a type of thief who enters a target’s dream to steal information. Japanese businessman Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires them and their team to plant an idea inside someones head, or “inception,” a task many consider to be impossible. The target is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy), son of Saito’s dying competitor. Arthur tries to refuse the job but Saito offers Cobb an offer he can’t refuse: the opportunity to return home to his family.

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Review
It can be hard to find a truly original movie nowadays among the sea of remakes and reboots. Inception breaks away from the crowd and offers one of the most original stories told today. Top it off with a great cast of actors and an amazing director and the result was bound to be something spectacular.

Sometimes movies try to explain their world before getting into the story. But Inception doesn’t do that. Rather than use the beginning to set up the technology used to enter one’s subconscious, it is used to introduce the concept of dreams within dreams and simply give an idea of what it the technology can do. Later we get the explanation through Ariadne (Ellen Page), the bridge between the movie and the audience. So rather than bore us with the details early on, the movie accepts that entering dream space is already an established technology.

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Although there is a large ensemble, each character gets their fair share of screen time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are the main focus, but they handle the attention well and give amazing performances. I haven’t seen Cillian Murphy much except for this and the Dark Knight trilogy, but between the two he definitely shows what he is capable of. I’d have to say my favorite performances is Tom Hardy as Eames. He brings a charisma that fits his character perfectly.

Cobb has become one favorite movie characters. He is very complex and it’s easy to forget that he is a thief. He is an antihero but is one because of the circumstances and only wants to get back to his family. Most antiheroes say they have good intentions and only become so out of necessity but secretly enjoy being a thief/killer/whatever kind of antihero they are. But Cobb is truly doing was is necessary simply to return to his family.

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I have mentioned in several of my other reviews how important the score can be to a movie. Like most other aspects of Inception, the sound work and music complement what is happening on screen perfectly. The movie can get loud to accentuate the action going on, but it also gets very quite, making these moments more intimate. Hans Zimmer is my second favorite composer (behind the wonderful John Williams) and for a good example of why he is amazing just look at this movie. His score is memorable and gives a certain gravitas to the events unfolding on screen.

There were some pretty cool visuals, too. Working inside a dream allowed the action to be limited only by the imagination. One of the coolest was an early scene when Ariadne was learning about molding dreams. She is walking around Paris and made the city fold on itself, among creating other things. There is also a fight scene in zero gravity in a hotel hallway. And these are just a few! The visual department outdid themselves.

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Inception is one of the most original movies that has come out in a long time. Rather than waste the first scene setting up the technology, it uses it to set up the concept of multi-leveled dreams that is an integral part of the plot. The dream scape setting allows for some pretty awesome action sequences, such as a folding city and a zero gravity fight… inside a hallway. Cobb is an fascinating character that is surprising complex for a thief. Despite the large ensemble cast, each character gets some good moments to shine. I think part of the appeal of Inception is the heist itself and the originality of the whole thing. Really, if you haven’t seen Inception, what are you waiting for?

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director/Writer
Hans Zimmer – Composer

Leonardo DiCaprio – Cobb
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Arthur
Ellen Page – Ariadne
Tom Hardy – Eames
Ken Watanabe – Saito
Dileep Rao – Yusuf
Cillian Murphy – Robert Fischer
Marion Cotillard – Mal
Tom Berenger – Browning
Pete Postlethwaite – Maurice Fischer
Michael Caine – Miles
Lukas Haas – Nash

The Basketball Diaries (1995) Review

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The Basketball Diaries (1995)

Directed by Scott Kalvert

Starring:
Leonardo DiCaprio
Lorraine Bracco
Marilyn Sokol
James Madio
Patrick McGaw
Mark Wahlberg
Roy Cooper
Bruno Kirby
Alexander Chaplin
Juliette Lewis
Michael Imperioli
Michael Rapaport
Ernie Hudson
Manny Alfaro
Cynthia Daniel
Brittany Daniel
Jim Carrol

Running time: 103 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 American drama film directed by Scott Kalvert, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, James Madio, and Mark Wahlberg. It is based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Jim Carroll. The film centres around Jim Carroll (DiCaprio), a promising teenage basketball player who develops an addiction to heroin with his misguided friends.

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My Opinion:

I’d always heard that Leonardo DiCaprio was amazing in this film & have been meaning to watch it for years. Unfortunately, I found this movie pretty disappointing. Leo is good but I really wasn’t missing much by waiting so long to see this.

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First of all – hey, I didn’t know Leonardo DiCaprio & Mark Wahlberg had been in a film together before The Departed! Their acting has definitely improved since The Basketball Diaries (especially Wahlberg’s). They’re both fine in this but it still felt a little bit like young actors playing at being drug addicts. However, at least they were close to the ages they were playing and were believable as high schoolers (I assume they were in their 20s but it’s not like they were 40 playing 17 like in Grease). And I’ve sort of forgotten how “pretty” Leo once was now that he’s aged & really proven himself as an actor. Man he looks young in this! I know it took him years to shake off the pretty boy thing, which wasn’t really fair as he’s an excellent actor. Is he as good in this as people say? I’d say he’s definitely showing major promise here. It’s a shame the movie itself probably lets him down a bit.

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As for the movie… I’m not sure what it is that I found disappointing. I think, for one thing, it hasn’t aged well. It’s a 1995 movie but actually feels older. I don’t know if maybe it didn’t have a massive budget? And as I’ve said, for some reason I didn’t really buy into these pretty young actors as drug addicts. I also felt like the movie was trying too hard to be “cool” and stylish but it didn’t really work. I watched this last week & can only really remember two scenes well (a good one and one that’s notorious). After the death of a friend (minor spoiler but not really), the friends play basketball in the rain. That was a really good scene. But I’d completely forgotten why this film later became so controversial until I got to the school shooting scene. Yikes! WAY too similar to things that would happen four years later. And then again. And again. And again. And again…. But I digress!

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Summary:

The Basketball Diaries has had pretty good word of mouth over the years but I think, in some cases, people are remembering a movie they liked when younger but haven’t watched since. I can definitely see people my sort of age having a soft spot for it if they saw it at the time but it hasn’t aged well. Leo’s performance is very good, though, and the main reason to bother seeing this now if you haven’t already (I’d definitely recommend it to DiCaprio fans). But I just didn’t find the actors believable as drug addicts (which I don’t think was the fault of the actors themselves). The movie makes its biggest mistake in, I think, not making any of the characters very sympathetic. If the characters are unlikeable, you’re not going to care about them and the drug addiction that’s destroying their lives. I don’t know… It’s not a bad film & is worth a watch just to see Leo but it could have done a better job telling the story.

My Rating: 6/10

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The Departed (2006) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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To kick off the IMDB Top 250 guest reviews, we have the lovely Zoe from The Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger. Zoe writes fantastic movie & book reviews and top ten lists (and guest top ten lists, should you wish to join in on the fun). She’s super cool & friendly and Leonardo DiCaprio’s number one fan. She also reads LOTS of books & and is way smarter than me so you really need to check her site out if you haven’t already. 🙂

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.

Now over to Zoe & her thoughts on The Departed, IMDB Rank 50 out of 250

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I got really gung ho involved with Table 9 Mutant’s IMDB Top 250 list. I got excited and I basically took a whole bunch, filling my arms. But whatever, moving along, they are great movies that need to be honoured. I thought that The Departed is one of those films. I have an obsession with this movie. I love it. I really, really do, and I revisit it often. I know dear old Mutant is not the hugest Scorsese fan, but I love the man and was going to explore this, no two ways about it. Oki, I’m going to stop rambling now, and get down to it.

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“We have a question: Do you want to be a cop, or do you want to appear to be a cop? It’s an honest question.”
– Oliver Queenan

Plot Synopsis: An undercover state cop who has infiltrated an Irish gang and a mole in the police force working for the same mob race to track down and identify each other before being exposed to the enemy, after both sides realize their outfit has a rat. (IMDB)

Now, for me I really enjoyed the story, it was sharp and tight and very well written, and had a stellar cast to carry the story as well as a phenomenal director to helm it. Leonardo DiCaprio (yep, here I go again) is just amazing. He nailed the role of Billy Costigan, truly amazing work from him yet again, I expected no less. Coming up from nowhere, working his backside off to get into the police force and being shot down was a painful thing, but when Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) offer him the chance to go undercover for them, to take down a big Irish crime lord, he takes it, not thinking twice. What I loved is how he went in, incredibly optimistic, a chance to prove himself, be more than was expected. Instead he ended up running scared, trying so hard to outsmart everyone and keep his real life separate from the undercover life that was designed for him, and struggling to distance himself as well as accept all the cruel and nasty things that he saw.

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“I’m gonna need the identity of your undercovers.” – Colin Sullivan

Jack Nicholson delivered quite the performance here. As Frank Costello, the Irish mob boss whose gang Costigan has wormed his way into, you can see exactly why he is being hunted. He is sharp as a tack, he is ruthless and psychopathic, calm and cool all the time, not much ruffling him. Never mind the mole snooping around his little unit, he as one up on the police: he has his very own mole really high up in their department. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has been working with Costello since he was a child, and is treated like the son. The two have a very solid relationship with each other, and work really well together. They rely on each other and they understand each other. Costello has his organisation so tightly wrapped up that even Sullivan is a very well hidden secret from within. Things are going fine up until the point that Costigan gets in. It dawns on the police as well as Costello at roughly the same time that someone is leaking information from the inside. This was really great for me, seeing how things started to heat up. The movie never dragged, and even though it took a while for both sides to make the realisation, it was a fantastic one to arrive at.

The camera work was amazing, and keeps bringing new things to the table, keeping it all fresh. The cast works so well together. On one hand you are rooting for the good guys, and the other you want to see the bad ones succeed. Again, this is an example of fine filmmaking for me, though ultimately your loyalty lay with Costigan and his shattered life due to his cover story, his one “big” opportunity that he was granted. Dignam proved to be an exceptionally angry character, though it was grand watching Wahlberg and DiCaprio together, and Sheen regulating them all the time. The score was great; it worked so well with this film, and the whole Irish theme. Vera Farmiga had her psychiatrist role as Madolyn, seeing police who have fired their weapons in line of duty. A meeting with Sullivan in the elevator and all his cocky confidence start their relationship, and all seems to be going well. Naturally, as all paths are crossing in this movie, she meets Costigan, and the two enter into an unknown thing together, which soon break the practitioner/patient boundaries and escalates into an affair. Costigan is hanging onto her like some kind of lifeline, and it is crazy to watch how her perfect relationship with Sullivan crumples when he starts to hide things about her, stripping her of her character, basically. He is a control freak, and everything has to be just so.

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“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.” – Frank Costello

The movie pacing is great. It is a long film but never (for me) actually feels that way, which is just awesome. It starts off, sets the tone, introduces the characters, and works with them all a little bit so that we have some background understanding, making all the events that unfold into something more than just a quick smack dab crime flick. As the movie progresses, you witness the cracks that start to show in the characters, the perfectly uneventful lives suddenly have issues that they have never dealt with before. Everything slowly starts unravelling, and soon gains momentum, spinning out of control but never losing the audience or sight of what is going down. Costello’s cockiness is slowly but surely falling away, and he is devolving into something more brutal and his anger is barely kept in check. Nicholson, of course, played that down to a tee. From the relaxed but scary Irish gang leader before, he refuses to relinquish his power, and everyone that stands before him will pay. Sullivan is doing what he can to protect himself as well as Costello, and is desperate to wheedle out the rat that has upset the perfect balance.

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“I can’t wait to wipe that fucking smirk right off of your face.” – Dignam

All in all The Departed earns a 9/10 for me. A simply stunning piece of cinema, it was astounding to watch and never ceases to provide the height of entertainment that I am looking for, supported by a outstanding cast, great score and story, and stellar directing, this was destined to be a goodie. It is deserving of all praise, and you are sure that whenever DiCaprio and Scorsese come together, something beautiful will come from it!

The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013) Review

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The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Based on The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort

Starring:
Leonardo DiCaprio
Jonah Hill
Margot Robbie
Matthew McConaughey
Kyle Chandler
Rob Reiner
Jon Bernthal
Jon Favreau
Jean Dujardin
Joanna Lumley
Cristin Milioti
Christine Ebersole
Shea Whigham
Katarina Čas
P. J. Byrne
Kenneth Choi
Brian Sacca
Henry Zebrowski
Ethan Suplee
Barry Rothbart
Jake Hoffman
Spike Jonze

Running time: 179 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Wolf of Wall Street is a 2013 American black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Belfort, a New York stockbroker who runs a firm that engages in securities fraud and corruption on Wall Street in the 1990s.

(But DiCaprio’s character is a lot more fun to watch than Gordon Gekko and the acting is A BIT better than Daryl Hannah’s…)

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My Opinion:

I know I just did a list of my top ten Martin Scorsese films HERE but, the truth is, I’m not a huge fan. Is The Wolf Of Wall Street REALLY better than things like Goodfellas & Taxi Driver? Okay – probably not. But I can honestly say that I enjoyed this film the most out of all the Scorsese films I’ve seen & it’s my own personal favorite of his. Scorsese & DiCaprio make a great team and this three hour film felt about ten minutes long when compared to The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (I thought that damn thing would never end!).

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I’m not sure where to start. I’m really not sure what to say about this at all. I’m not even completely sure why I enjoyed it so much! It’s raunchy as hell. It’s all “fuck” this and “fucking motherfucker cocksucker” that and HOOKERS DRUGS HOOKERS DRUGS! It’s full of a bunch of disgusting, unlikeable, rich douchebags. What a bunch of horrible pricks. But, goddamn, this was funny as hell and just plain fun to watch! I’m still chuckling over Leo & Jonah Hill on quaaludes & fighting over the telephone.

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DiCaprio & even Hill (who I never liked before this movie) are absolutely incredible. LOVED them. Everyone in this was excellent – not one person seemed wrong for their part. I also especially loved Rob Reiner as DiCaprio’s dad (freaking HILARIOUS) and Matthew McConaughey in a small role played to absolute perfection. Brilliant. Every single person in this. And I’ve decided I have a thing for Jean Dujardin now (I’m growing up & liking the older, classy men now. Yum).

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Screw it. You know what? I really don’t know what else to say. My reviews are always too long anyway. This was out ages ago in America, right? Everyone has reviewed this by now & discussed it to death. I liked it. No… I loved it. I loved a Scorsese film where I didn’t have to worry about someone’s head being stuck in a vice (I’ve avoided Casino for years because of that). I’m not sure if there’s some kind of message to this film other than “rich people are assholes”. Who cares? It managed to keep my interest for THREE HOURS and made me laugh and made me happy, dammit. It’s full of some of the best acting I’ve seen in a long time. Great soundtrack, too! I really hope it wins some Oscars over the inferior American Hustle.

My Rating: 9/10

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The Great Gatsby (2013) Review

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The Great Gatsby (2013)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Starring:
Leonardo DiCaprio
Tobey Maguire
Carey Mulligan
Joel Edgerton
Isla Fisher
Jason Clarke
Amitabh Bachchan

Running time: 142 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Rich people are bastards. Don’t get drawn into their world – Stay a nice Midwesterner!

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My Opinion:

Okay – I’m trying to catch up on reviewing the 2013 films that I’ve seen. Out of 41, I only have three left to do (The Great Gatsby, Sound City & Gravity, which I’ve just seen). So here we go!

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I never got around to reviewing Gatsby because I wasn’t sure what to say about it. I went to see it with a friend and she’s the one who chose it – it’s not really my type of thing. I didn’t mind Romeo + Juliet (but that may be due to my slightly weird crush on John Leguizamo). I really didn’t like Moulin Rouge (but that may be due to my slightly weird dislike of Nicole Kidman).

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Here’s my Great Gatsby knowledge prior to seeing the 2013 film: NOTHING! Never read the book, never saw the Robert Redford film. I think that helped, though, as the only thing I really enjoyed about the film was the story and it was nice not knowing beforehand how it would end. Other than the overall main story going on, I didn’t find the rest of it to be a very good film.

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Music:

Annoying. I know that’s important in these Baz Luhrmann films like Moulin Rouge but I found it all very distracting in Gatsby. Instead of going “Oh that’s cool & clever how they’ve stuck this modern music in this old timey film” it just felt totally out of place in this one. Okay, and I just didn’t like any of the songs (other than No Church In The Wild) so that didn’t help. I just wanted to find out what was going to happen in the story instead of suddenly having to hear Will.i.am. Yuck. (I’m aware I sound like a grumpy old person).

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Actors/Characters:

Out of place & jarring music aside, I really did like the story as I said and I liked Leo (usually do – he’s a great actor) and even Tobey Maguire was less annoying than usual. But one thing I was really looking forward to beforehand was seeing Carey Mulligan. I’ve liked her ever since that great Doctor Who episode Blink (which was pretty much all her & barely featured Doctor Who and still managed to be one of the best episodes in recent years). So, unfortunately, I feel really bad having to say that I didn’t like her in Gatsby. I can’t say that she was “wrong for the part” as I don’t know anything about the character. Maybe it’s a poorly written character in this script? No idea. Maybe it’s not her fault but I found it really hard to believe that someone would be so completely in love with a girl who’s soooo damn BORING. She’s adorable & I’ve always thought blonde hair & brown eyes are lovely together and she’s been great in other things so… I don’t know. Just really wasn’t feeling the Daisy Buchanan character! Leo’s Gatsby & Maguire’s Nick were the two best characters by far and the only ones that I cared about – I could take or leave the rest of them. The rest were hateful (but I suppose they were meant to be). Well, Daisy’s friend (Jordan? The golfer…) was a decent character. But… Daisy’s husband – prick! Isla Fisher’s Myrtle – moron! Daisy – vapid! Everyone else – boring, apparently, as I can’t remember anyone else.

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Summary:

The Great Gatsby wasn’t as bad as I’m making it sound. The story was intriguing (but I don’t think the movie can exactly take credit for this). Leo was good & he was believable as was Tobey Maguire’s relationship with him. It’s just unfortunate that their friendship was far more believable & interesting than the “romance” with Dull Daisy! The film was lovely to look at and the story was good enough to make me mostly forgive the music that felt totally out of place but luckily didn’t take over the entire film (the music was way less prominent than I’d been expecting it to be before seeing the film). Overall, I liked it okay but it’s thanks only to a) The story b) Leo’s Gatsby c) The relationship between Gatsby & Maguire’s Nick. Maybe I should read the book?

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Django Unchained (2012) Review

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Django Unchained

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring:
Jamie Foxx
Christoph Waltz
Leonardo DiCaprio
Kerry Washington
Samuel L. Jackson
Walton Goggins
Dennis Christopher
James Remar
Michael Parks
Don Johnson

Running time: 165 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

Set in the antebellum era of the Deep South and Old West, the film follows a freed slave (Foxx) who treks across the United States with a bounty hunter (Waltz) on a mission to rescue his wife (Washington) from a cruel plantation owner (DiCaprio).

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My Opinion:

Django Unchained got second place after Stoker when I asked all of you which film I should review next. Sorry it’s still taking me a bit of time to get around to these reviews.

I should maybe re-watch this one as I saw it in the cinema back in January but I remember it well anyway. I still consider it my favorite film of 2013 (UK release date). But it’s one of the only 2013 movies that I didn’t review. I have a strange relationship with Tarantino films – I think they’re brilliant but I also can’t fully watch any of them as I’m a mega wuss about violence. Figure that one out… Plus so many people love Tarantino and there will be tons of great reviews online from people who are proper writers and I don’t know what I could really add to all that. So, as usual, I’ll just discuss what I personally liked about the film.

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I’ll get right to it and say that there’s ONE very specific thing that made me really go for this movie even though I literally “saw” less of this than probably any other Tarantino film as I found the violence in this one the most disturbing yet & didn’t even look at the screen for a couple entire scenes (the “Mandingo” fight for one – the sound effects alone were enough to make me feel ill). I think everyone knows what I’m going to say that one specific thing is as I think most people agree:

CHRISTOPH WALTZ

He’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I have to say I’m not one to worship actors – I just like movies. I do have some favorite actors, of course, and a few actors who will make me actually watch a film they’re in (or, more often, avoid one). But I just enjoy watching movies I think are good and for the most part don’t care who’s in them as long as the actors fit the part and they’re not really horrible at acting and they’re not Tom Cruise.

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But… Oh my god I love Waltz in Tarantino films! I know that not ALL the credit can go to Waltz, though – As many people have already said, there’s just something about a Tarantino script combined with Waltz’s acting that’s just the perfect fit. I really need to watch Inglourious Basterds again – the scene with Waltz at the beginning was so intense (I barely watched that scene. Sorry – I just couldn’t! My heart was pounding like crazy).

I love the character of Dr King Schultz in Django Unchained. He’ll go down as one of the all-time best characters with one of the all-time greatest performances (in my opinion but, hey, he did win an Oscar for it). This is why poor Jamie Foxx seems so overlooked in the title role – He was fine but he just didn’t quite have that special “something” that Waltz has so his performance naturally pales in comparison.

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Before I go on kissing Waltz’s ass too much, there was one other performance that I also felt was worthy of at least an Oscar nomination: Leonardo DiCaprio. Why does he keep getting overlooked? Is it because he’s a former “heartthrob”? I’m not exactly a Leo fan but I think he’s had some amazing performances in a variety of films and Django Unchained is one of them.

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As for the film itself, I liked the overall story. I like revenge (Kill Bill being my favorite Tarantino film) and I like some good old-fashioned “rescue the helpless woman” sometimes as it’s set in the old West (or old South). I found the “Blazing Saddles” type of comic relief scene with the masks funny, all the stuff at Candyland was great, Don Johnson was actually not bad and, as already mentioned, DiCaprio and especially Waltz were brilliant and a joy to watch whenever they were on screen (which was quite a lot, luckily).

Tarantino’s role was a bit embarrassing, the violence was too much for me, and I’m not 100% sure if it’s okay to like Samuel L Jackson’s character or not. I love the guy (I’ve had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!) but that role was probably getting into iffy territory and I’m so not going there – there’s already been enough talk of the excessive use of the N word in this so I’ll leave that to intelligent people to dissect. I also felt that Django Unchained lost its way a bit in the last 45 minutes or so – it started to feel a little overlong and seemed to not be completely sure how to end although I found it a satisfying enough conclusion.

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Summary:

Django Unchained is another great film from Tarantino with a brilliant script and excessive violence than can be a little hard to watch. But I suffer through the violence as I think Tarantino is one of today’s most talented filmmakers. I’ve never watched classic Westerns but did force myself to watch the excellent Once Upon A Time In The West for the first time a couple months ago and it’s made me appreciate Django Unchained even more and made me want to further explore the influences on the film. Django Unchained isn’t a perfect film and does lose its way toward the end but with such a mesmerizing performance from Christoph Waltz, who cares? The man is amazing.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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See where Django Unchained ranks in My Top Five Films Directed By Quentin Tarantino.

My Shitty Django Unchained Haiku:

To rescue his love
Django and Schultz hunt bounty
The D is silent