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

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

Green Book (2018)

Directed by Peter Farrelly

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali, Linda Cardellini

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

My Rating: 7.5/10

Instant Family (2018)

Directed by Sean Anders

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

My Rating: 6.5/10

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Directed by Marielle Heller

Based on Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant

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

My Opinion:

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

My Rating: 6.5/10

Eighth Grade (2018)

Directed & Written by Bo Burnham

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

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

My Opinion:

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 5/10

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My Top Ten Roller Coaster Scenes In Movies

Summer is almost here which means warm weather, amusement parks, and… Roller coasters! I actually hate roller coasters. I used to throw up in the backseat of my parents’ car on short car journeys so I’m not a big fan of anything that can give me motion sickness. 😉

I was going to do a list of amusement park scenes in movies but, after watching True Romance recently, I decided to narrow it down to just roller coaster scenes since there are way too many amusement park scenes to easily do that list. I love amusement parks in movies, though… Not sure why.

I thought the majority of these should heavily feature roller coasters instead of one just being a backdrop in a scene. However, I’ve included two films where the backdrop was so iconic that it didn’t feel right leaving them out. Hey – can I just say it’s annoying how roller coaster is sometimes two words & sometimes one?? Roller coaster seems more common than rollercoaster so I’ve gone with two words!

So, here are My Top Ten Roller Coaster Scenes In Movies:

10. TIE: True Romance & The Hole (2009)
I had to include True Romance since it’s what made me decide to do this list. And a roller coaster plays a part in the plot of The Hole, a movie I had high hopes for but found disappointing. It could’ve been a great modern Joe Dante film! But it was certainly no Gremlins.

9. Beavis And Butt-Head Do America
Honestly, I don’t remember if this was in the actual movie or just in the Red Hot Chili Peppers video for their cover of Love Rollercoaster… Anyone know?? Oh well – I love the song.

8. Zombieland
This movie always makes me want a Twinkie.

7. Big
Well, he can’t go on the roller coaster because he’s not big enough. It’s the whole reason for the movie’s plot! So I figure it deserves a place on my list. 😉

6. National Lampoon’s Vacation
Man, I really need to watch this again. Not seen it in years! Still prefer Christmas Vacation.

5. Final Destination 3
I couldn’t exactly leave this one out, either, as the whole plot revolves around the “accident”.

4. Despicable Me
LOVE THIS!! Although it’s still not quite as awesome as when Gru wins the “It’s so fluffy!” unicorn.

3. TIE: The Lost Boys & The Warriors
These are the two I really had to include even though we don’t actually see anyone on a roller coaster. But the roller coasters & the entire amusement park backdrops in both films are so iconic & immediately identifiable. Plus I absolutely LOVE these movies. 🙂

2. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
It counts. Because it’s my list & I say it counts. 😉

1. Fear
I really couldn’t put anything else at number one. Nothing tops this one (especially for Reese Witherspoon!). I have to admit that this movie is truly a “guilty pleasure” of mine. Because it’s pretty bad…

I should point out that there’s a 1977 film called Rollercoaster but I’ve not seen it so couldn’t include it in the list. Here’s the IMDB plot synopsis: A blackmailer threatens to sabotage roller coasters at various American amusement parks if he isn’t paid a huge ransom.

That sounds quite good! However, the trailer makes it look a bit cheesy & dated (but they did do horrible trailers for everything back then). Here it is:

Also, this post reminded me that I saw video of a very cool looking roller coaster at Shanghai Disney Resort. It’s called the “Tron Light Cycle Power Run”. Check it out! It looks cool. There’s video of it at this link: Robot 6.

Finally, here’s the whole video for Love Rollercoaster by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (love them, although I prefer the Ohio Players version):

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 Fighter

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Felt like watching a “quality” movie tonight so went with The Fighter.

Great performances. I’m not a Christian Bale fan AT ALL but he was very good in this. I like Amy Adams a lot – it was good to see her in a different sort of role as I’m more used to her as a cheesy Disney princess in Enchanted. Mark Wahlberg gave a solid performance as well – I just always see him as Mark Wahlberg in everything… I probably liked him most in Ted. (Great movie!) 😉

I’m a girl so a movie about something I’m not at all interested in (boxing? ugh!) was probably never going to be a favorite. I can understand why this movie did so well as the actors all did a very good job but I can’t help but compare it in my mind to The Wrestler. That was also a movie about a sport I’m not at all interested in (wrestling? ugh! actually- all sports- ugh!) but I loved that movie. Mickey Rourke was SO good in that. I felt more for his character than for those in The Fighter even though The Fighter was based on a true story.

So, The Fighter was an interesting true story with some very good performances but I don’t think it’s one that will stick with me for long.

7/10