Watched, Read, Reviewed: July 2020

Hi All. Hope everyone is healthy & well. Guess I better catch up on these monthly roundups before the end of this shitty year. Here’s what I watched back in July. If I can remember enough to say anything about each of these all these months later… !

MOVIES WATCHED IN JULY (ranked best to worst):

Infinity Chamber – This was decent. One of those movies where the concept was better than the execution but they did well enough on what I assume was a low budget. Here’s the really short synopsis from IMDb: “A man trapped in an automated prison must outsmart a computer in order to escape.” I’m a big fan of sci-fi & of a good sci-fi story so I’ll watch anything in this genre if I like the sound of it. With these lesser known films, you sometimes find some gems (Circle was pretty great) and you sometimes get some duds. Infinity Chamber is at the better end of things but I’d only recommend it to fans of this genre. I was hoping for a bit more, though. I didn’t feel that we got to know the main character well enough & I wanted to be able to sympathise with this poor guy stuck in this automated prison. And, to be honest, I found the plot a little hard to follow. Although I admit I’m not the brightest & often get confused watching complicated sci-fi but the story could have been a little more coherent.

Speaking of lesser known films, though, this film starred Christopher Soren Kelly who was also in a movie I’m happy to have the opportunity to now mention again: The Frame. Another sci-fi film with a fantastic idea, I highly recommend The Frame (on Amazon Prime – I reviewed it HERE). So watch that first! Then watch Circle (not that crappy Tom Hanks movieTHIS Circle). I actually had the actors from both The Frame & Circle thank me on my blog & Twitter for praising those movies. I love when that happens! Those involved with these independent films appreciate it when you enjoy their work so I do try to support films like these. I want to give Infinity Chamber a higher rating than this as I do very much appreciate that stuff like this gets made. I’m always afraid that stuff like this doesn’t always get given a chance so, despite my somewhat “meh” review, do check it out if you’re a sci-fi fan. – 6.5/10

No Country For Old Men – I finally watched this to get it off of two lists I’ve been trying to work my way through: The IMDb Top 250 & Best Picture Oscar Winners. Guess I need to update both those ranked lists but No Country For Old Men will unfortunately be quite far down both lists. I’ve just never been a Coen Brothers fan. Sorry! Is that allowed for a movie blogger?! (FYI – I also hate Wes Anderson movies). Well, I don’t hate the Coen Brothers films. At all. I just don’t exactly like them either. I recognise that they’re good films and, once again, No Country For Old Men is a very good film with some brilliant acting and a truly despicable & hateful character. I guess Javier Bardem was deserving of his Oscar win since I did truly hate his character, as we’re meant to. What can I say? I’ve never liked “the baddies”. I’m always rooting for the good guy & I want to see evil get its comeuppance so most Coen Brothers films aren’t for me. Although I realise their films are never as simple as pure good vs. pure evil, as Josh Brolin’s character in this isn’t exactly a saint. But we see the bad guys win in real life enough so I don’t really need to see it in movies. Yet I love dystopian sci-fi & am a big pessimist & often a fan of a truly depressing movie ending, so… I don’t know exactly why I don’t get on with the Coen Brothers films. Hmm. It’s a good film so I’ll give it a slightly higher rating than I feel like giving it. Plus I don’t want to be yelled at. Not that anyone reads this blog… – 7/10

Wildflower – How the HELL did a movie exist in 1991 starring Patricia Arquette & Reese Witherspoon without me knowing about it?! I was still in high school at that point & this is the type of movie I’d have watched to death. I think it may have been a TV movie? But I somehow missed out on it. I can think of plenty of TV movies I watched to death at that sort of time: The Stepford Children, I Saw What You Did, In A Child’s Name, and this great little Winona Ryder thing called Square Dance, aka Home Is Where The Heart Is, which was kind of similar to Wildflower. Shit, I want to track down that Winona movie & watch it again! Bet it hasn’t aged well. But I’ll always be fond of it in the same way I’m sure I’d have been fond of Wildflower if I’d seen it in high school instead of now. And I thoroughly enjoyed Wildflower as I’m a fan of the actresses & am always happy to discover unseen movies from my teen years as I honestly feel like I’ve seen them all by now. Is it a good movie? Meh. It’s fine. The acting is okay. It does very much feel like a film with a TV movie budget. But I liked the characters and, as you can tell from my No Country For Old Men review, that’s important to me. I enjoyed this. Wish I’d seen it as a teenager. – 6.5/10

She’s Gotta Have It – This is an interesting film to follow the above two as, clearly, I often like films that I can “relate” to. Wildflower has actresses my kind of age (sort of) so I know why I liked it as I was that age in 1991 & it’s somewhat a coming of age story. I can’t relate to anyone in No Country For Old Men in any way whatsoever. But I also can’t relate to anyone in She’s Gotta Have It. However, I liked it much more than No Country For Old Men. I’d possibly even rank it higher (I find it hard to “rank” very different types of films when I do these lists). I of course love to see a strong, independent woman in a movie so I really liked the character of Nola Darling (played by Tracy Camilla Johns). I also liked the men all fighting for her affections as they had such different & entertaining personalities. I kept changing my mind on who she should choose (not any of these men, really – they were idiots!). I fully admit to not seeing many of Spike Lee’s movies other than Do The Right Thing, which I thought was a great film (I’d rank that far above No Country For Old Men). Of course I’m not going to exactly relate to his films being a small town Midwest girl but a good film with good writing is something I’ll always appreciate. I enjoyed the conversations in She’s Gotta Have It. It’s so New York. Or at least how I imagine that big city I’ve never ever been to. I think a lot of people in this world are probably a little fascinated with New York as there are SO many movies set there and I like seeing a slice of life so different from my own. I enjoyed this movie more than I was expecting to & would like to see more of Lee’s work, especially from that late ’80s/early ’90s time period. Any recommendations? – 6.5/10

The Borderlands – I love a good horror. We get so few good horror films these days. This one was… Okay. Not even close to being a great modern horror (like It Follows, Train To Busan or The Babadook). But it was a perfectly decent example of the found footage & religious horror subgenres & had a good creepy atmosphere. I also kind of liked the ending as it got a bit weird. I like some weirdness! The whole thing could have done with more of that. I have NO clue why but this one made me think of horror movie The Ritual. That was an odd one. Oh, probably just because they’re both British. Anyway, The Ritual has gone up a bit in my estimation since I first saw it. That one was better. But if you like that, you might like this. And vice versa. – 6/10

Blades Of Glory – Sometimes you want to chill out with a dumb comedy. I don’t give comedy films enough of a chance as I hate so many of them, especially nowadays. So I tried to be open-minded! But this was disappointing. A little too dumb. Maybe I chuckled once? Can’t remember. Saw this four months ago now & already barely remember it. Meh. Will Ferrell is very hit or miss & this was a miss. – 5/10

Step Brothers – Ugh. This movie was truly dreadful. I actually watched it immediately after Blades Of Glory as I thought it looked like it would be the better of the two and I like John C. Reilly sometimes. I was so wrong! I think it made me appreciate Blades Of Glory more. Dumb & immature jokes and two grown men acting like hateful teenagers. Another big Will Ferrell miss! I’ll stick to SNL Celebrity Jeopardy & Elf. And, hell, that Eurovision movie too as it was surprisingly enjoyable. Cheesy but enjoyable. Step Brothers was just painful. Do people not moan when grown women act immature in things like Bridesmaids?! Why is it okay when grown men do the same sort of so-called comedy? (For the record, Bridesmaids isn’t my type of thing either but the comedy in that was a hell of a lot better than in this piece of crap. I at least get some laughs out of Bridesmaids). – 4/10

Golden Time – This was an animated short on Netflix. I forgot about it until I noticed it listed here all these months later. It was fine. It was certainly better than those two dumb Will Ferrell comedies but it’s just a short so I’m sticking it at the end of my list. And I’m not rating it either. Because it’s four months later & fuck if I remember much about it now!! It was about a TV in a junkyard. I think. What an amazing review! Wow I suck at blogging these days. I probably liked it because there were anthropomorphic inanimate objects. A favorite thing of mine! I used to do a series on this blog called Anthropomorphic Cuteness. I miss doing those posts.

Movies Rewatched In July:

Already reviewed most of these in the past (in the links below). I seem to have spent lockdown re-watching movies more than watching ones for the first time. I’m missing first-time watches, but what’s on offer on the services isn’t great…

Weird Science – I will always love John Hughes movies (which is why I did a big John Hughes Blogathon here years ago. Ah – the good ‘ol blog days. Happy times…) – 8.5/10

The Truman Show – Finally introduced the kid to this one. Think she liked it. I think it’s a great film & that Jim Carrey was perfect for the role. I remember the movie seeming a little exaggerated at the time. Not now! We’re certainly living in this sort of reality show nightmare now. They tried to warn us! – 8/10

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – Meh. The first two films (and books) are so much better. But the kid thoroughly enjoyed these films. – 7/10

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – Still hate how this book ended… But still think Jennifer Lawrence was born to play Katniss. – 7/10

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – Showed the kid the other (and main) side of Jim Carrey with this one. Should I admit that? It’s a bit inappropriate. Screw it – I saw stuff no less inappropriate at her age. And she of course loved it when he talked with his butt. Kids are so immature… (Speaking of dumb comedy like when I bitched about Step Brothers, I know Ace Ventura is dumb too. But I like it. – 7/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JULY

BOOKS READ

Flight Or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales edited by Stephen King & Bev Vincent – Enjoyed this. I really like short story collections, especially in the horror or sci-fi genres. I’m not going to go into each story but, if you like Stephen King’s stuff (or his son Joe Hill’s), you’d like this collection of stories from various authors both well-known & not so well-known. They’re all stories revolving around airplanes and/or flying. So don’t read it while on a flight! Not that anyone can fly anywhere at the moment anyway… – 3.5/5

The Taking by Dean Koontz – I love Dean Koontz books. They’re a huge guilty pleasure of mine. I ranked them all HERE once. Well, I don’t love ALL his books. I sometimes really don’t like one. I didn’t like this one all that much. Not sure why. But, man, is it fucked up! I should love it. I like full-on supernatural weirdness. I have to say that, if it had been made into a movie, it could’ve been a kick ass body horror film! Again, I should like it as I have a weird fascination with body horror films (mainly those from David Cronenberg). I don’t know – I think maybe the characters just weren’t that strong. I usually like Koontz characters (Odd Thomas is great). I’ll give it an extra half a point for Koontz saying fuck it & going fucking crazy with this one. – 2.5/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Well, I made no notes here of what I watched so I guess I watched no TV shows in July. Let’s be honest – only The Mandalorian & Cobra Kai are worth watching anyway. Those are the only shows I’ve truly enjoyed in years.

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

Umm. Maybe I’ll attempt to post my monthly roundups for August, September & October? If I can be bothered. πŸ™‚ I’ve watched nothing that great anyway. Except The Platform! That was good. Man, I can’t wait to see Pixar’s Soul at the end of December…

I always try to end these roundups with good music from a movie that I watched that month. Think I’ll go with something from Weird Science. John Hughes always chose the best music for his movies. This is my absolute favorite song from Weird Science & an overall Eighties favorite of mine – here’s Tenderness by General Public:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015) Review

***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

My Opinion:

Well, I was attempting to take a week off from blogging but I just watched the final Hunger Games film so figured I should say something about it before the weekend (I also watched Steve Jobs this week but a review for that can wait until next week). Hmmmmmmmm……. Mockingjay – Part 2………….. What can I say? I want to stay very spoiler-free, even for those who’ve read the books as I’m sure the readers will be very curious to know if certain things get changed. But I’m not going to tell you! I can say that I’ve read the books and was a very big fan (of the first two, at least. like most people). I also think the first two films are very good. These final two, though? Well… I’ll get to that more in a bit.

What’s interesting is that my husband, who hasn’t read the books, had quite a different reaction to this film than I did. He thought the first two were good but did NOT like these final two. He had a lot to say about it but I’m not going to go into any of that – I just find it interesting that he disliked these final two so much & wonder if others who haven’t read the books will have the same reaction that he did. I think they probably will. I think they’ll feel exactly the same way about the final two films as us book readers felt about the final book.

I think The Hunger Games book trilogy is fantastic. I know it’s “YA”, which puts some people off. But it’s nothing like things such as Twilight – Collins is a great writer and the first two books are two of my very favorites that I’ve read in the past decade or so. Yeah – the first two. Not the final book. I think most readers felt the same way about that one.

I don’t know how to go about reviewing this movie as, for me, it’s impossible to review it on its own & not compare it to the book. No, I didn’t like the final book. So… I was never going to love the final two movies (not helped by the fact that splitting one book into two movies pisses me the hell off). As a whole, though, these movies are quite faithful adaptations & that’s always very important to me. It’s been a long time since I read these but Mockingjay – Part 2 is very faithful from what I remember (without giving away to the books’ readers whether or not anything big was changed). So, I can’t fault the two Mockingjay films. They did what they could with them and remained pretty loyal to the source material. Which is great! It’s just unfortunate that the source material isn’t so great.

I haven’t reviewed the first film as I wasn’t blogging yet but I reviewed Catching Fire (HERE) and Mockingjay – Part 1 (HERE). Catching Fire was really good (I gave it 8/10) but Mockingjay – Part 1 felt pointless as there was no need to turn it into two films (I gave it 7/10). Part 2 is at least a bit better than Part 1 since you finally get a conclusion instead of being left hanging halfway through a story. I once again enjoyed re-visiting these characters & stand by my opinion that Jennifer Lawrence was the perfect choice to play Katniss (although the hubby thought she seemed bored in these last two films, which I don’t totally agree with but do admit that it did feel that way a little at times).

Elizabeth Banks & Woody Harrelson have very small roles in this final film, which is a shame as they’re two great characters. The character of Peeta is once again a bit of a bore (sorry if you like him! but his character is a bit bland). One big complaint I’ve had all along & still have is that I don’t think they developed the character of Primrose (sister of Katniss) enough. Well, the books were kind of guilty of this as well if I remember correctly but they should have given more screen time to the two sisters and slightly less to the somewhat annoying love triangle. I don’t think the films fully gave you the sense of love that Katniss has for her sister and also felt they didn’t fully explain some important plot points to a movie audience that hasn’t read the books. I think I’d have been slightly lost during the two Mockingjay films if I hadn’t read the books.

Summary:

I really want to hear from you guys what you all thought of this one & whether or not you’ve read the books. I’ve not yet read any other reviews so don’t know what kind of reaction this movie is getting but I’d guess that those who haven’t read the books will feel the way that my hubby did & won’t really like this film. As I said, I can’t really fault this movie as it’s a good adaptation and I think they’ve done a pretty great job in choosing the cast for this entire series (especially Lawrence). Mockingjay – Part 2 is a good film but I kind of lost interest in it in the same way I did with the final book. Obviously you’ll want to see it if you’ve watched all the others but don’t expect it to be much different than Part 1. However you felt about Part 1, you’ll probably feel the same about Part 2

Sorry for that rather uninformative review! It’s a very hard one to talk about without spoiling things so feel free to discuss it with me further in the comments. πŸ™‚ Just try to put a spoiler warning at the start.

My Rating: 7/10

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) Review

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Starring:
Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
Liam Hemsworth
Woody Harrelson
Elizabeth Banks
Julianne Moore
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jeffrey Wright
Stanley Tucci
Donald Sutherland

Running time: 123 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story continues to follow Katniss Everdeen; having twice survived the Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself in District 13. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the Capitol and fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

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My Opinion:

I love YA fiction (especially of the post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi variety!) and have read The Hunger Games books. It was before this blog started but I did review the Catching Fire movie (HERE if you’re bothered). The first two books are possibly my favorite of the YA stuff I’ve read in recent years and I think the first two films were very faithful, especially the second, and I’ve been happy with them and with the choice of actors (other than maybe Josh Hutcherson). I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of the final book so I’m naturally unlikely to like these last two movies as much as the first two. However, from what I can remember of the final book now all these years later, I think this film again stayed pretty faithful. It’s a solid movie and everyone again does a good job with their roles but I still can’t help but feel a bit “meh, so what?”. It especially doesn’t help that they’ve done that thoroughly annoying thing again of splitting the final book of a series into TWO movies. Why why why?! It’s not as annoying as the whole Hobbit bullshit but, seriously – they’re doing it to get more money out of us as opposed to making sure to make the best piece of “art” they can and it gets on my nerves.

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Now that I got that little rant off my chest: Is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Freaking 1 any good? Yes, it’s fine. I enjoy the story and seeing the characters again and still think Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for the role of Katniss (even though we’re starting to see her in too many movies and I’m afraid she could someday be on my annoying list instead of my favorites list). They have some very famous actors in these movies and it feels like they take their roles seriously as opposed to just “phoning it in”, which it feels like famous actors do in some other YA films. I think it makes The Hunger Games movies feel a bit more “grown up” than others (which I see as a good thing). The final book is the darkest and the movies have been good at getting the tone right but, hopefully, no parents are letting anyone see these if they’re TOO young…

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Summary:

I don’t think I need to go into this film much. If you liked the first two, you’ll like this one even though you may be annoyed at again not getting any sort of “conclusion”. If you like the books, you’ll be happy enough with this adaptation. The acting is really good, especially for a “YA” film, and Lawrence is still the perfect Katniss. I understand that the story needed to take this direction in the final book and couldn’t just do the same thing once again but it just didn’t work as well for me and I don’t expect to like the final two films as much as the first two. Speaking of YA stuff, I saw The Maze Runner a couple weeks ago but haven’t had a chance to review it yet. Maybe Wednesday…. Yes! I’ll make this a “movies based on novels” week here at CPD since I also just watched Odd Thomas! Anyway, although I think Mockingjay is the superior film, I kind of enjoyed The Maze Runner more as I haven’t read the books and liked watching a story unfold without already knowing what would happen. I’ve watched Mockingjay as I want to see how they handle the books but I really wish they’d just made this into one film. But I’ll of course shell out money once again this time next year to see Part 2. And I’m sure I’ll complain about that once again. πŸ˜‰

My Rating: 7/10

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