John Wick (2014) & The Neon Demon (2016) Movie Reviews

With John Wick: Chapter 2 coming out, I figured I better review the first film (which I finally watched a few months ago). So I wrote the below review. After writing it, I then watched The Neon Demon. I must say that John Wick has gone up in my estimation since seeing The Neon Demon. Every movie EVER MADE has now gone up in my estimation since seeing The Neon F*%#ing Demon!!!!! Let’s talk about these, shall we…?

John Wick (2014)

Directed by Chad Stahelski & David Leitch

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo, Willem Dafoe

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
An ex-hitman comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him.

My Opinion:

I love Keanu Reeves. And, apparently, I’m not alone. I was very surprised when a list I did last year of My Top Ten Keanu Reeves Movies was one of my most viewed & most shared posts. Yay! Everyone loves Keanu! I honestly didn’t realize he was so popular.

So I made that list having not yet seen John Wick or The Neon Demon and figured I could update it once I’ve watched them. Well, I’ve now updated the list. I can tell you that The Neon Demon sure as SHIT doesn’t make the top ten (it’s atrocious). Unfortunately, John Wick doesn’t quite manage to break into my top ten either. It’s very close! I’ve put it at 12 but it’s probably hovering around the 10, 11 or 12 range depending on my mood… So there you go – I’m sure you were all dying to know my final official ranking of Keanu Reeves films! 😉

John Wick is a really fun action film. It was what I expected in being all style over substance so that didn’t bother me at all. We all need to turn off our brains sometimes & just watch a fun action flick! I think I was just disappointed that it wasn’t as much fun or as stylish as I’d been expecting in order for it to make up for that lack of substance. It’s an okay film but comes absolutely nowhere near Keanu’s best. This is no The Matrix or Speed and it’s especially no Point Break (Point Break rules!). Damn. But, man, I loved that puppy. Cutest puppy EVER! I’m giving this movie a slightly higher rating simply because of the puppy. A BEAGLE. A SNOOPY puppy!!!!!


Wook at that wittle face!

I do know how to enjoy a fun “popcorn” movie and, no, I wasn’t expecting Oscar-quality writing or acting in John Wick. However, I needed to know the character of John Wick a little better in order to care about him & his quest for vengeance. We get some flashbacks of his wife and, of course, we meet his adorable puppy. However, we didn’t get much of his backstory. I felt like I didn’t know a thing about him by the end other than that he was sad about his dead wife (not a spoiler – she’s already dead at the beginning of the movie). I mean, he’s a (former) killer. Right? How is he any better than the many, many (many) people he proceeds to kill throughout this film? Because a cute puppy licked his face & he loved his pretty wife?

Okayyyy – I fully admit to falling asleep in the middle of this like I often do during films at home so maybe I missed something (I’m a parent. I’m exhausted). 😉 Why did he retire? For love? Or because he developed a conscience? I hope that was the reason… The only way I can describe it is this: I sometimes watch a movie and feel like I’ve jumped right into the middle of it and missed a bunch of the beginning where they’ve set up the characters & the story. I felt that way 30 minutes into John Wick despite missing absolutely nothing from the start. I almost cared more about Willem Dafoe’s character (a great character, from the very little we get to know him – I’d love to know more about his previous relationship with Wick as well). Well, maybe we’ll find out more in the sequel? As fun as it is to watch some shoot-em-up non-stop action sometimes, I still want to know a little about the main character at the very least. If I care about him, I’ll get more enjoyment from his revenge. I do love a really good revenge movie! I liked John Wick well enough to watch the sequel but it’s a “wait for it to show up on Netflix” movie for me. (Although, initial reviews of the sequel are very good so maybe I can be talked into making a trip to the cinema for it. But the sequel puppy isn’t nearly as cute…!!!)

My Rating: 6.5/10

**SPOILERS. Kind of.**

The Neon Demon (2016)

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Starring: Elle Fanning, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves

Plot Synopsis: Guy succeeds in making a decent film called Drive, which then gives him the freedom to make the biggest pile of shit I’ve seen since similar success for another writer led to the creation of the atrocious Jennifer’s Body. The Neon Demon makes Jennifer’s Body look good. 

My Opinion:

I called a movie that I reviewed last week a “load of pretentious bullshit” (the movie Comet). I now apologize profusely to that movie. I’d rather be strapped to a chair “Clockwork Orange-style” & forced to watch Comet 100 times than to ever have to even THINK about The Neon Demon again. I want to wipe this movie from my memory “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind-style“. I want to go back in time and, “Marty McFly-style”, tell myself it’s my destiny (density!) to NEVER watch The Neon Demon. I want to take a flame thrower to this movie “Ellen Ripley-style“. I want to get medieval on this movie’s ass “Marsellus Wallace- style“. I want to stick this movie’s head in a box “Gwyneth Paltrow-style“. I want to banish this movie to the cornfield “Twilight Zone-style“. I want this movie to eat itself, to puke itself up, to re-eat itself, to piss itself out, and to f*%k its own corpse “The Neon Demon-style“.

I can’t truly put into words just how much I hated The Neon Demon and its fake, derivative, shallow, pointless, pretentious aping of artistic masters such as Jodorowsky, Buñuel, Argento, von Trier, Cronenberg, Lynch, etc etc. Not everyone will be a fan of all of those I’ve named (I’m not even saying that I like them all myself) but, like their work or not, at least they did their own thing instead of making superficial & inferior copies of their influences.

I’ll give this movie an extra point for Elle Fanning, though, as I thought she did a decent job for her young age. Other than Fanning, everyone in this is now slightly ruined for me the next time I see them in other films (even Keanu, dammit). Still love him, though, so I’ll try to put this movie out of my mind. But I hope to never see Jena Malone in anything ever again so am very glad that I wasn’t a fan of hers in the first place. More than anything, I’m annoyed that this has tainted the movie Drive and especially that it has ruined Drive’s soundtrack for me, which I liked even more than the film. I’ve hated plenty of movies over the years but I don’t think there’s ever been one that I actually regretted seeing. The Neon Demon may very well be the first. In that regard, I suppose you at least have to give Nicolas Winding Refn credit for creating a film that generated some strong reactions from its’ viewers. I don’t mind movies with some shock value (of those I mentioned above, I do love a lot of Cronenberg’s work) but, to quote my husband, “The Neon Demon thinks it’s art when it’s merely just artifice”.

My Rating: 2/10

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) Review

The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)

Directed by Chris McKay

Starring: Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Bruce Wayne must not only deal with the criminals of Gotham City, but also the responsibility of raising a boy he adopted.

My Opinion:

The LEGO Batman Movie is easily my favorite 2017 UK release so far! Well, okay – it’s only February and I’ve only seen three other movies (La La Land, T2 Trainspotting & Split). But I’m sure it’ll be in my top ten at the end of the year. It really cheered me up after a crappy day at work – it’s lots of fun and the humor is genuinely funny. And I mean an “all ages” funny – this is one of those movies I’m sure plenty of adults without kids are wanting to see as well. Go to it! You’ll like it no matter what your age, especially if you’re a superhero fan. Although you don’t really have to be a superhero fan, either – I’m a very mild one. In fact, I’m so superheroed-out that I went to, I think, only one of the superhero movies released last year. I didn’t go to that Batman/Superman thingy! I’m pretty sure The LEGO Batman Movie is superior to that anyway from what I’ve read.

I absolutely loved the first The Lego Movie, which I re-watched with the kid again this week. I thought that was one of the best family movies in recent times and it somehow actually manages to still go up slightly in my estimation anytime I see it. This LEGO Batman “sequel” follows a similar sort of hero’s journey narrative and delivers another great message in a thoroughly entertaining, funny, and non-preachy way. I still adore the message from the first film and, while this second film is much more obvious with its straightforward message and the story isn’t quite as “deep” or as uniquely told as in the first film, it’s still a wonderfully written film and so much better than the majority of mindless kids’ films that get made with only cheap laughs and cheap toys in mind. Crap like Trolls! What’s the message in that? Be happy no matter what! Tra la la, stupid happy songs, don’t think for yourself, don’t have emotions…

I also want to emphasize the “non-preachy” message thing, as I get so thoroughly annoyed by preachy kids’ films (I seem to have a very unpopular opinion on Zootopia but I sincerely felt that it rammed its message down our throats. Plus, the film was just boring so that didn’t help). These LEGO movies, like the Pixar films and most (not all) Disney films, get the perfect balance. It feels like the focus is first & foremost on telling a good and entertaining story, which ultimately does a better job in getting its point across anyway since any message it may have doesn’t feel forced.

I suppose I should end this review by actually talking about the movie in some way?? I don’t do that a lot anyway since I like to avoid spoilers and prefer to just discuss my feelings about a movie. What can I say? I thought the jokes in this were genuinely funny (almost as funny as in the first film). “Clever” funny. I’m very picky on comedy and like very few adult films in the comedy genre. Why is the best, most well-written comedy in films nowadays in these so-called kids’ movies? The LEGO movies (and everything made by my beloved Pixar) put all the immature, silly, live-action “adult” comedy to shame. Are adults idiots or something? Considering that our cinema screen was nearly empty when we went to see this while queues were going out the door for that new Fifty Shades movie, I’m thinking that must be the case.

I can’t help but compare this to the first LEGO movie, of course, but to say it’s not quite as good as that one isn’t really an insult as that’s a hard one to live up to. Batman himself is great but the rest of the characters are a bit weak in comparison. The focus is on Batman’s relationship with each of these people, though, and this is done really well. You gets loads of fun pop culture cameos (Gremlins & a Twilight Zone reference put a big goofy grin on my face) and I know there are plenty of superhero in-jokes that I’ll have missed but that hardcore fans will love. I saw so many “dads” alone with their kids at this one and I’m sure they loved it as much if not more than their kids. I like to pretend that those dads’ wives weren’t next door at Fifty Shades… This is why I don’t get along with many other women! Do any girl bloggers out there who prefer LEGO Batman to Fifty Shades want to be my friend??. 😉

The story itself is, well, a pretty standard superhero storyline. But better. I wish more live-action superhero movies were half as good as The LEGO Batman Movie. This film is more lighthearted and “fun” than the first one but it still has a fantastic message and put as big of a smile on my face as on my husband’s and, most importantly, our daughter’s. Well, maybe slightly bigger smiles on ours. But her generation of kids are gonna be great adults thanks to growing up on good movies like these and like those made by Pixar. This generation of kids are gonna save the world! They’re gonna be better adults than all the current idiot grown-ups! If we all live that long. Hmm. This review took a dark turn. Kind of like the death metal songs written by LEGO Batman.

My Rating: 8/10

Dope, Comet & Me And Earl And The Dying Girl Movie Reviews

Three mega quickies for three movies I watched last year. I have a lot of these old reviews to catch up on so I’m going to keep these threesomes short. Here we go!

Dope (2015)

Directed by Rick Famuyiwa

Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman, Tyga, Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Life changes for Malcolm, a geek who’s surviving life in a tough neighborhood, after a chance invitation to an underground party leads him and his friends into a Los Angeles adventure.

My Opinion:

I couldn’t wait to see this and the hubby & I immediately watched it the second it turned up on Netflix (or whichever service it was) instead of our usual “What should we watch?” deliberation which goes on for so long that we could watch an entire movie in the time we spend deciding what to watch. Probably one of the biggest disappointments that I’ve watched recently, I enjoyed very little about the movie Dope other than the fantastic soundtrack (which was great but also more predictable than I was hoping for). I think I’m just finally getting too old for certain teenage/twentysomething shit? Especially the quirky “indie-type” ones that try too hard (the next two are even more guilty of that than Dope).

I didn’t exactly hate this movie but no matter how many great artists you use in a film (Public Enemy! A Tribe Called Quest! Eric B. & Rakim!) it can’t disguise the fact that the story is weak & silly and only a couple of characters are likable. Shameik Moore is easily the best thing about the movie (after the music) so at least there was one character I cared about. Zoë Kravitz is also a decent character (with a much smaller role than I thought she’d have). Unfortunately, everyone else is an obnoxious asshole and the two “funny” best friends just annoyed me. Also, I suppose I’m showing my age & small town hickness but the only teenage parties I knew in the Eighties were, to quote Heathers, “keggers with kids”. Give me cheap beer in a field & some cow tipping! I can’t relate to you kids & your weird drugs. Okay – I’ve never actually tipped a cow. That seems cruel. Skip this movie & buy the soundtrack if you don’t already know all the songs. BUY the soundtrack. With actual money. That’s also how we did things in the old days!

My Rating: 6/10

Comet (2014)

Directed & Written by Sam Esmail

Starring: Emmy Rossum & Justin Long

Plot Synopsis: (from IMDB)
Set in a parallel universe, Comet bounces back and forth over the course of an unlikely but perfectly paired couple’s six-year relationship.

My Opinion:

What a load of pretentious bullshit. Feel free to give this one a go if you want to spend an hour & a half watching millennials whining about their first world relationship problems. Oh! And if you like that sort of thing, you’re really in for a treat since we get to see this couple whining in several slightly different scenarios since their relationship is shown in alternate realities. So clever!

I admit that I fell for the “parallel universe” thing in the synopsis so I put this on since I’m a sci-fi nerd. Don’t be fooled like I was! AVOID!!!!!! Do yourself a favor and go watch Arrival if you’re wanting a proper sci-fi drama. Or go watch anything other than this. Hell, just go watch a Nicholas Sparks movie if you’re wanting a bullshit melodramatic romance. At least you know what you’re gonna get with Nicholas Sparks movies since they don’t pretend to be anything other than silly & predictable. Hell, at least Nicholas Sparks characters usually have some goddamn chemistry unlike the two boring fuckers in Comet. And, most importantly, Nicholas Sparks movies know they’re stupid. Comet thinks it’s smart. You’re not smart just because you throw a “parallel universe” angle into a film to try to make it less boring. Comet is just a Nicholas Sparks movie minus any chemistry whatsoever between the characters and minus any good sex scenes.

My Rating: 4/10

Me And Earl And The Dying Girl (2015)

Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Based on Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Connie Britton

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

My Opinion:

I’m sorry this threesome is turning into a bitchathon. I’m also sorry to say that I was very disappointed with Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. But, this time, I’m not exactly sure why since this is the type of movie that’s usually my sort of thing.

I like plenty of indie movies (whether they’re the true definition of indie or just the hundreds of wannabe indies nowadays – I’m too lazy to look into whether this was an actual independent film or not). But they can either be brilliant or they can cross that line into pretentious bullshit (like the movie Comet, which stays over that line the entire time). I think the problem with MAEATDG (stupid long title) is that it crosses that line just a little too much for me to have truly bought into it. It tries just a little too hard to be unique. And, once again, I found that I just didn’t like the characters very much. Why is it so difficult to make likable or, at least, interesting and/or memorable characters? With the sad setup to this story, I expected to feel at least a slight emotional attachment to someone. At least the dying girl, right?? We didn’t seem to get to know her well – we mostly spent time with the mopey boy who’s at first pretty much forced to befriend her when she’s diagnosed with cancer. We did have the added bonus of the two boys making amateur films, which is a big YES to us movie nerds watching. It was indeed fun to see bits & pieces of their spoofs of classic films but it didn’t make up for the fact that I didn’t really care about anyone and just found the film surprisingly slow & unengaging. There’s a slight redemption at the end as I liked the presentation of the final film made by our main character and the overall movie itself ended well (as in, it ended how I expected it to and I think it was handled well). MAEATDG was certainly not a bad film. I have respect for everyone involved in its making & can understand why it would have fans. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it just didn’t resonate with me. And I actually feel kind of bad about that! I’m sorry I didn’t like it that much.

My Rating: 6/10

T2 Trainspotting (2017) Review

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

Directed by Danny Boyle

Based on Trainspotting and Porno by Irvine Welsh

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kelly Macdonald, Anjela Nedyalkova, Shirley Henderson, Irvine Welsh

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
20 years after the previous film, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to Scotland to make amends with his friends, Daniel “Spud” Murphy (Ewen Bremner) and Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), whilst avoiding the psychopathic Francis “Franco” Begbie (Robert Carlyle).

My Opinion:

I enjoyed this sequel more than I thought I would and it was better than I expected. It’s interesting that just last week I reviewed The Hustler (1961) and its sequel The Color Of Money (1986). It doesn’t always work to revisit characters with films that are 20+ years apart. However, in the case of both The Color Of Money & T2, I did thoroughly enjoy seeing what our much older characters are now up to and I don’t think either film ruined its (admittedly superior) predecessor.

Let’s face it – the Trainspotting sequel was never going to be better than the original. Trainspotting was so of its time and it captured a mood, time & place in a way I don’t think could ever be replicated now. All I wanted was a sequel that wasn’t embarrassing & didn’t ruin the characters as we remember them and I think Danny Boyle has managed to deliver this to Trainspotting fans. I’ve actually been extremely disappointed with some of his films I’ve watched lately (Trance, Slumdog Millionaire) so am very happy to say that this sequel met & even exceeded my expectations. I still like these characters. (Other than Begbie, of course… What an asshole!)

I really like the first film and think it deserves its acclaim for being something quite unique. When I first saw it years ago, it was when I was first starting to really get into films and it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before (and probably one of the most shocking I’d seen at that point in my life). I was also still in America at that point so I suppose it was very foreign to me as well. I’ve only watched it once more since (just after moving to the UK over a decade ago) so, while I think it’s a very good film, I’m not one of its obsessive fans and had even forgotten bits & pieces of it. More than anything, it was the soundtrack from the original that stuck with me (Excellent soundtrack!). I probably could’ve done with re-watching the first before the sequel but, with the help of some flashbacks which I thought were well done, it filled in a few blanks in my mind.

My point is this: I’m no expert or obsessive Trainspotting fan and I’ve never read the books so I don’t feel very qualified in reviewing this sequel. I know I personally enjoyed it and it was great revisiting the characters and seeing them together again (especially Renton & Spud. I’d forgotten how likable Spud was – he’s easily my favorite character in the sequel). This is a more grown-up film and certainly not as intense as the original but it feels “right“. These guys are 20 years older – they’re not going to be exactly the same. However, they still stay true to their characters and, though older and supposedly wiser, still make bad decisions and mistakes.

Immediately after watching this, I was mostly curious what fellow blogger Mark of Marked Movies thought of it as I know he’s a big fan of the original (and he’s from Scotland, I should add). He kindly reviewed the original a couple of years ago for my IMDB Top 250 Project HERE (Thanks again, Mark!). I figure that his opinion on this sequel is far more relevant than mine so, if you’d also like the opinion of a big Trainspotting fan, you can read his review of the sequel HERE. It looks like we both feel quite similar about the sequel so Boyle seems to have done a good job keeping loyal fans (as well as casual fans such as myself) happy. Oh yeah – The soundtrack is also okay but it’s not as awesome as the first film’s!

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Color Of Money (1986) Review

Yesterday would’ve been Paul Newman’s birthday so I decided to kick off January with my Blind Spot review of The Hustler (review HERE). And since I’m a completist, I naturally had to watch the 1986 sequel directed by Martin Scorsese. Let’s have a look at Newman 25 years older as Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson in The Color Of Money

The Color Of Money (1986)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Based on The Color of Money by Walter Tevis

Starring: Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Helen Shaver, John Turturro

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film continues the story of pool hustler and stakehorse Edward “Fast Eddie” Felson from Tevis’ first novel, The Hustler (1959), with Newman reprising his role from the 1961 film adaptation. The film begins more than 25 years after the events of the previous film, with Eddie retired from the pool circuit.

My Opinion:

This was a fun film but certainly not on the same level as the 1961 classic The Hustler plus it also suffers a tiny bit from that “dated 80’s movie” feel. This is unfortunate. However, if you’ve watched & liked The Hustler, I’d still recommend giving this one a go to see what Newman’s “Fast Eddie” is up to 25 years after the events of the first film.

The one thing I found interesting is that Newman is the true star of this movie. Well, of course he is but what I mean is that he so massively outshines Tom Cruise. I find this interesting as this film came out the same year as Top Gun but Cruise seems much younger and less experienced in this one. In my review of The Hustler, I mentioned how Newman had that special “something” that only certain actors have & it gave him a presence and a star quality that is lacking in Cruise in this film. Cruise often does have that movie star quality, though (such as in Top Gun). But I’ve clearly aged as I found the 60-year-old Newman far more attractive than the 20-something Cruise in this. Hmm! Showing my age again (I’d just like to point out that I’m younger than Cruise currently is, at least).

Newman is very good in this & actually won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Well, I think the Academy was clearly just making it up to him as it was his role in The Hustler that should’ve won instead. That’s The Academy for you, though! They realize their mistakes then reward someone another time instead. Glad he won one, though.

This isn’t as hard-hitting as The Hustler and doesn’t have the intense relationships that made that film so highly regarded. Cruise’s character comes across as an immature child (I think that’s the point) but it doesn’t make for a story that is as interesting to watch as the first film. He doesn’t have the same sort of chemistry with Newman as those in the first film had. I was never really a fan of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio but she’s good in this (and was also Oscar-nominated, unlike Cruise) and there’s some decent sexual tension between her & Newman.

The first half of the movie, which focuses on Cruise & Mastrantonio teaming up with Newman, was missing something due to this lack of chemistry between our male leads (and also due to me knowing that the first movie was so strong on its focus on human interaction). However, the second half does pick up as Newman’s character goes on a journey of self-discovery type of thing and he starts to feel more like the complex & somewhat broken “Fast Eddie” from The Hustler. I did enjoy this movie overall and liked revisiting Newman’s character. And it’s reminded me once again that I have to seek out more of Paul Newman’s work. Especially his older films… What a hunk.

Oh yeah – and I had to keep reminding myself that this was a Martin Scorsese movie so I’ve now added another one to my list of Scorsese films seen. I’ve already done My Top Ten Martin Scorsese Movies (list HERE) and The Color Of Money would break into my Top Ten (probably at, hmm… 8 or 9).

My Rating: 7/10

Oh, shit! I totally forgot to add that Iggy Pop has a small role in this! That was an awesome surprise. Check him out:

Also, I’ve know for years that Eric Clapton’s It’s In The Way That You Use It was in this since it had one of those videos with clips from the movie. Here you go! I’m not a big fan of solo Clapton but I like this song okay:

The Hustler (1961) Blind Spot Review

Today would have been Paul Newman’s birthday, so I’m reviewing his film The Hustler for my Blind Spot 2017 Series as well as my IMDB Top 250 Project. Like many classics, this was in the Top 250 when I started the project on 01/01/13 but is currently not on the list.

Let’s see what I thought of The Hustler (as well as its 1986 sequel The Color Of Money, which I’m reviewing tomorrow)…

The Hustler (1961)

Directed by Robert Rossen

Based on The Hustler by Walter Tevis

Starring: Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, Myron McCormick, Murray Hamilton, Michael Constantine, Stefan Gierasch, Clifford Pellow, Jake LaMotta

IMDB Rank: 197 out of 250 (as of 01/01/13)

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Hustler tells the story of small-time pool hustler “Fast Eddie” Felson and his desire to break into the “major league” of professional hustling and high-stakes wagering by high-rollers that follows it. He throws his raw talent and ambition up against the best player in the country; seeking to best the legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats.”

My Opinion:

Paul Newman was so damn hot. What a hunk. I lusted after him through this whole movie. It’s quite disappointing that it’s in black & white because I like seeing those baby blue eyes of his in color. But even in black & white, he’s still dreamy. *sigh*

The Hustler is very good and I can see why it’s a classic and it totally sucks that current films keep knocking old films such as this one out of the IMDB Top 250. I can sort of understand why, though, as I’m guilty myself of not exploring many movies that are pre-1970 or so but it does annoy me that most young people want to watch nothing but current stuff these days. Anyway, I enjoyed The Hustler and the acting is phenomenal, which I think it what makes this one such a classic. Surprisingly, though, it was Piper Laurie who stole the show. Wow. More about her later…

Newman was his usual self: Full of charm & charisma. He was such a great actor and one of only a handful over the years who I feel had that extra “something” that made him my definition of a true movie star. You know that “something” that’s hard to explain? I feel that “something” is missing from most artists nowadays (especially within the music industry – even more so than in film). I haven’t explored as much of Newman’s work as I’d like but I can now say that The Hustler is a must-see for anyone wanting to see him in his best roles. There’s more than just his usual charm & charisma here – he’s a lonely, complex character and the movie truly comes alive when he becomes involved with Piper Laurie’s similarly lost soul.

Newman is fantastic and it’s a shame he didn’t win the Oscar but Laurie is stunning. I’m glad, like Newman, that she also got a nomination but it’s a shame that she hasn’t gotten more recognition for this role. I’ll be honest – I didn’t even know she was in The Hustler! I’ll also be totally honest & admit that I’ve never really known her as anything other than Margaret White in Carrie. I LOVE her in Carrie (she easily topped my list of My Top Ten Crazy Ladies In Movies). Who knew she could play a disturbed character with such sympathetic subtlety in The Hustler just as well as she did full-on batshit crazy in Carrie?? I love her in both roles but have a new respect for her – I’m very glad I got to see this performance.

Clearly the relationship between Newman & Laurie is what I latched onto and what made the movie for me but there are of course some other important characters and, yes – plenty of pool. The two really worth mentioning are Jackie Gleason as “Minnesota Fats”, a brilliant pool-playing rival to Newman, and George C. Scott as an evil, greedy bastard. Seriously – what a dick. I wanted to punch him in the face. Therefore, I guess he played his role well!

Summary:

The Hustler is worthy of its status as a classic and it’s a great way to kick off my choice of 2017 Blind Spot films. I admit, however, that it did drag for me at times in a way that older movies often do for those who have mostly watched post-1970 movies (like me). I have zero interest whatsoever in pool and, while this movie is not actually about pool and more about human interaction, there’s still plenty of pool. Some will of course love the actual pool scenes but the final game of pool is the only one that really matters and the one that fully held my attention. The movie is a little slow-going at first but the phenomenal performances from all involved, especially from Newman & Laurie, make the second half of the film intense & gripping. The Hustler is well worth your time if you have an interest in old Hollywood classics.

My Rating: 8/10

La La Land (2016) Review

La La Land (2016)

Directed & Written by Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt

Music by Justin Hurwitz

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

My Opinion:

So, this movie got a record 1,582 Oscar nominations yesterday (roughly). I finally saw it over the weekend & knew instantly that it would get loads of Oscar noms as this is the type of movie that’s SO right up the Academy voters’ street (and butt). Don’t worry – I’m not going to be all “this is overrated!”. Those people who go around shouting “this is overrated!” are so overrated. This is a lovely film. It’s a good film. It’s not, in my opinion, up there with the all-time musical greats such as The Sound Of Music, The Wizard Of Oz, Singin’ In The Rain, etc etc etc. It’s good! I enjoyed it and really liked Gosling & especially Stone, who are as great together as always. But I think people will realize ten years from now that La La Land doesn’t come close to touching the all-time classic musicals. (It’s also far less of a “musical” than I was expecting!)

I found the movie a little uneven. It starts out with a big musical number that has such a different sound & vibe from the rest of the film that it feels like it’s from a different movie. It’s an okay number (not my favorite & I can’t even remember the music from it right now) but it sets things up to be this epic musical when all we get are a few more “big” song & dance numbers (I did really like two of these) and several smaller-scale musical scenes. I felt bad thinking that this movie was overlong and could’ve had at least 20 minutes shaved off of it (it’s 2 hours 8 minutes) but I don’t think I’d have been checking my watch if they’d had more scenes like the musical number with Gosling & Stone in the observatory. That one was lovely & it was one of the only times I thought the film came close to the standard I expect from a really good musical.

This movie didn’t seem to have a clear overall goal or, shit, I dunno… a clear aesthetic? Don’t get me wrong – I loved the bold, primary colors and I’m still trying to decide which dress of Stone’s I liked the most (probably the green dress in the above photo). But this didn’t always fit with the other imagery or with the music when the movie tried to be more “classic Hollywood” or tried to go with a jazz vibe. Damien Chazelle was possibly trying to cram in too many different artistic & musical styles he likes instead of sticking to one main theme or at least trying to make these different styles mesh together a bit better. Being a lover of film & classic Hollywood, I was naturally more attracted to the scenes such as the lovely observatory number that attempted to imitate this (although some of the classic Hollywood scenes were somewhat derivative) than I was to the brightly colored musical numbers that felt like some 1990’s Gap ad. Or, as my hubby put it, a Feist video. 

I think what’s possibly my biggest problem with the movie (this may get me into trouble to say but, hey, no one is reading this, right?) – La La Land is a bit too “Millennial Musical” for me to really see it as all-time classic. I can’t see me wanting to watch this 52 years from now the way I’ll still happily watch all 3 hours of The Sound Of Music. FYI – I did the math to find out that The Sound Of Music is 52 years old. Then I realized that I’m sounding like the grumpy old person that I am so I did some more math and realized that I’ll most likely be dead in 52 years anyway, so… Okay, I guess if you really love La La Land & I’ve offended you with my “Millennial Musical” statement, you’ll get the last laugh when I die of old age soon. 😉

Summary:

La La Land is a good film with Stone & Gosling just as lovable together as always. I’m very happy for their Acting Oscar nominations and think they’re well deserved. I know I often come across as negative but I’m perfectly fine with all the nominations this film has received as I do think it’s a very good and, at times, almost fantastic film. It’s not like I could make a better movie! What do I make? Stupid spreadsheets! (Although I do make them almost as colorful as La La Land).

I just feel like some absolute masterpieces have actually been made in the past few years with little or no rewards while La La Land will likely win all it’s up for mainly because it’s the Academy voters’ type of “thing”. They love a musical and anything that celebrates their way of life. I truly wanted to love this movie. I wanted to be moved by a film that celebrates a “love of cinema & the arts” the way I was by Cinema Paradiso. Or perhaps The Artist or Hugo – these three films capture the filmmakers’ love of cinema in a way that La La Land never quite manages. I wanted the powerful emotional response I had to Arrival & to Room (btw – Amy Adams was ROBBED!!!). For whatever reason, though, La La Land didn’t strike a chord with me. It’s a lovely movie to take your mind off the rest of the world for a couple of hours but I didn’t walk out of it with that feeling of elation that I (and other movie nerds) get from only the truly best pieces of filmmaking.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Here’s that Feist video. La La Land is an enjoyable film but if you really don’t fancy it, I suppose you can just watch this video to get a feel for one of the three main vibes going on in it.

Plus this Gap ad:

And this is easily my favorite theme from La La Land. I do think this is beautiful and wish all the music in the film was as simple & elegant as this piece. THIS feels timeless:

Split (2016) Review

**SPOILER-FREE (and meaningless rambling) REVIEW**

Split (2016)

Directed & Written by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Neal Huff

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.

My Opinion:

This is one of those movies where I walked out of the cinema not entirely sure how I felt about it. At first, I mainly thought it was just okay. But the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it. Now, writing this a day after seeing it, I think my main feeling for Split is disappointment. I didn’t hate it. I certainly didn’t love it. A return to form for M. Night Shyamalan? Possibly. But it’s mainly a return to his ability to make movies I’m really interested in seeing as I love the setups and I do enjoy them when I’m in the middle of watching them but, thinking about them later on, I realize they’re not actually very good films (other than The Sixth Sense, to which I still remain faithful).

I think I feel quite similar about Split as I do The Visit (which I reviewed HERE), although they’re very different. I don’t think either is a horrible film and they’re indeed much better than some of M. Night’s huge stinkers in recent years but both are still extremely flawed, especially in their final acts. Split is probably the “better” film in that it’s played straight with some acting that’s of a higher standard than you expect in the horror genre while The Visit is so over-the-top silly that I’m still convinced it’s a horror comedy despite not being labelled as such. But I think Split has made me like The Visit a fraction more in that the latter was a more enjoyable film to sit through despite its silliness. Let’s face it – M. Night’s ideas are silly. Perhaps he should do them in a more comedic fashion as he did in The Visit?? Split takes itself too seriously. The characters are unlikable whereas those in The Visit are so goofily f*%ked-up that you can’t help but kind of like them. Does that make sense?? I’m rambling. Here are all the Shyamalan films I’ve seen ranked from worst to best according to how much I liked them (including one he only wrote):

Lady In The Water
The Happening
Devil
Split
The Visit
Signs
Unbreakable
The Village
The Sixth Sense

Shut up and talk about the movie, right? You know how hard it is to discuss this dude’s films in a spoiler-free fashion! One thing I’ll say for his movies is this: The majority of them have pretty big name stars and some quality acting despite the horror genre and the often outrageous storylines. I think this has helped to give Shyamalan’s films a bit more credibility than is actually deserved?

As I said, I stand by my opinion that The Sixth Sense is a good piece of filmmaking although people are sometimes negative about it now since the ending is so well known. But everyone involved acted their asses off for that “horror” film (don’t forget that Collette & Osment were up for Acting Oscars as well as Shyamalan for Director & Screenplay and the whole thing for Best Picture!). I don’t think Split’s acting is Oscar calibre but it’s still very good for its kind of film. McAvoy is of course the standout having to play various personalities but I also thought his psychiatrist, Betty Buckley, was very good as was young Anya Taylor-Joy (this is her first film I’ve seen). Oh! And I loved finding out that Betty Buckley was the nice gym teacher in the original Carrie – I didn’t know that until I looked her up just now:

So, bravo to the actors who once again help to elevate an M. Night Shyamalan film. Without them, I think this would be very much in danger of being a bargain bin straight-to-video horror (okay – it’s not straight to “video” anymore, I suppose. Showing my age!). Thanks to the success of The Sixth Sense, I think Shyamalan has been able to continue making films that are just good enough to keep him in the game. I want to like his movies more. I like his ideas but rarely like his execution. I want one of his movies to fully reach its potential (funny, as I do believe this is a line quite often uttered by McAvoy’s character). I also want to stick to my 2017 blog resolution of not writing long, rambling reviews! Let’s wrap this up.

Summary:

Split isn’t horrible and has some very good performances but is as ultimately disappointing overall as I’ve now come to expect from M. Night Shyamalan’s films. I can see why it has a fairly high IMDB user rating so far as this will either be due to a) loyal fans who’ve watched all his films as he has a surprise in store for them OR b) full-on “horror” fans as this is the most straightforward horror film that Shyamalan has made. It’s more straightforward horror than I like, personally, so perhaps that’s partly why I was disappointed. I prefer bizarre & supernatural, which is why I’ve put up with a lot of the silly shit he’s come up with. So, in some ways, I do agree that this film is a better film than a lot of his work but I personally didn’t like it that much.

Also, two things quite bothered me. The main thing was that I didn’t like some of the treatment of the kidnapped teenage girls. Shyamalan mostly makes “PG-13 horror”. That’s its rating in the U.S. but I wouldn’t let a 13-year-old watch this (it’s rated 15 in the UK). Obviously I want to avoid spoilers but there are sexual themes that I don’t think are necessarily handled that well considering the film’s low rating & young-looking actresses. There’s also an implication that two of the girls “deserve” what terrible fate may await them because, I dunno… They’re popular? They don’t come across as really mean girls or anything.

The other thing is more minor but it just annoyed me. There’s an extra bit tacked onto the VERY end of the movie, as the credits have started to roll with the final scene still going, and it feels extremely out of place. This bit should’ve been a mid or end credits scene. This extra bit is for loyal fans and some of you will love it. Half those in my cinema walked out the second the credits started rolling despite the scene clearly still continuing (why the hell do people do that?!) so those type of people clearly don’t care about this small extra bit anyway. Hey, Mr. Shyamalan! Stick something like that halfway through the credits next time to reward those who stick around! (FYI – I rolled my eyes a bit at this tacked-on scene but also admit I kind of like Shyamalan’s obvious future plan…. Why do I never give up on his films?!)

My Rating: 6/10

Akira (1988) Blind Spot Review

Akira (1988)

Directed by Katsuhiro Otomo

Based on Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Taro Ishida, Mizuho Suzuki, Tetsusho Genda

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Akira depicts a dystopian version of Tokyo in the year 2019, with cyberpunk tones. The plot focuses on teenage biker Tetsuo Shima and his psychic powers, and the leader of his biker gang, Shotaro Kaneda. Several parties, including Kaneda, resistance terrorist Kei, Colonel Shikishima of the JSDF and a trio of espers, attempt to prevent Tetsuo from releasing the imprisoned psychic Akira.

My Opinion:

This is my final Blind Spot movie of 2016 (see the full list HERE). I’m going to do a post tomorrow ranking & rating all twelve that I watched but I can say now that I’m happy to have ended on Akira. I liked this one a lot, although I won’t even begin to pretend to fully understand what the hell was going on! 😉

I first want to say that I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that those of you in the UK are enjoying Boxing Day. I prefer Boxing Day – it’s the day when you get to lie around all bloated & just watch TV all day. That’s what you’re meant to do on Boxing Day, right?? I think some people go shopping because of all the sales. Screw that! Okay – back to Akira

Ummmmmmmm………. I put some Japanese anime on my Blind Spot list as I’ve been meaning to explore this genre more since I have no knowledge beyond Studio Ghibli (which I love). I watched Summer Wars, which I really enjoyed, and know I’ll choose two or three more amines for my Blind Spot 2017 list (I’m happy to take recommendations!). Akira is the biggie, though, so I knew I had to get that one “out of the way”, so to speak. What can I say? I like to dive in at the deep end! And this is certainly the deep end.

For other people, I suppose this movie wouldn’t be the place to start but I think I kind of loved it. And I have no idea why! I can’t explain why or give you any more of a plot synopsis other than the one I used from Wikipedia at the top of this post. It’s an intense film but it immediately grabbed me & I was never ever bored. I’ll admit that I attempted to watch Ghost In The Shell about a year ago. After falling asleep half an hour in (I’m a parent of a young child – this happens a lot when watching movies once the kid is finally in bed), I never went back to it. Well, I’ll try that one again someday – I’m just glad that Akira grabbed my attention from the very start.

I’m not going to say much about this film. It’s the day after Christmas and we’re all exhausted, right? It’s a tough one to explain anyway. Akira is bizarre. It’s at times funny, which I didn’t expect. I really liked the character Kaneda and the fact that it seemed like someone was shouting his name every two minutes. “Kaneda! KANEDA!!!!” Tetsuo was a total dick. I liked those three weirdo kids. It’s dystopian & I love dystopian. It’s also “cyberpunk” which, in looking up the definition, it looks like I’m already a fan of anyway so I suppose that’s partly why this movie appealed to me. Even though I didn’t know what the hell was going on… Oh, and I loved that almost “body horror” ending as well! Fucked up.

As I’m clearly struggling with what to say about this one, I think I’ll explore it again sometime in 2017 & maybe post about it again when I have a bit more experience with Japanese anime. I’ll definitely be watching it again when I get a chance. Akira was a fun, strange watch and I’m very happy to have put it on my Blind Spot list. KANEDA!!!!!!!!!

My Rating: 8/10

**See you tomorrow for my ranking of the 12 Blind Spot films I watched this year & to see where I rank Akira. 🙂

Running On Empty (1988) Blind Spot Review

Running On Empty (1988)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Starring: Christine Lahti, Judd Hirsch, River Phoenix, Martha Plimpton, Steven Hill

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The eldest son of a fugitive family comes of age and wants to live a life of his own.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Running On Empty:

11. Eyes Without A Face – 7/10
10. An Education – 7/10
9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. Magic – 7/10
7. Summer Wars – 7/10
6. True Romance – 7/10
5. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
4. Running On Empty – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

This was a slight cheat for my Blind Spot list as I think I saw at least part of this film at the time but didn’t remember it. I’m not sure why I never fully explored it as I absolutely loved River Phoenix and I was completely & utterly obsessed with Stand By Me. That remains my most-watched movie to this day due to the multiple times I watched it at the age of 13/14. And, no, I’m still not over River’s death! You know how some of you younger bloggers feel about Heath Ledger?? River was the Heath of my generation. So damn talented… What a sad loss for the acting world – River was already fantastic at such a young age.

So, I’ll start with River’s performance in Running On Empty. He’s the true star of the film & his role won him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor (although I’d call it a lead role). I still often wonder what he’d be like today, at the age of 46, and how many Oscars he’d have (he’d most certainly have some). He’d be another Leonardo DiCaprio. Yep – there are some damn fine actors from my generation! Anyway, he was great playing a boy of (17?) in this film and he had just the right mix of maturity yet boyish playfulness. I sometimes get annoyed when teenagers are too mature in films – it’s not believable.

So, yeah – River is the best thing about this movie but there are strong performances from everyone involved. Christine Lahti is probably the most moving as a mother who knows she may need to let her son go in order to give him a chance to live a normal life. Judd Hirsch plays the father who insists that the family will always stay together, on the run, no matter what. And Martha Plimpton plays a girl who, along with the opportunity to go to a prestigious college, makes River’s character long to lead a normal life instead of always having to move from place to place & assume new identities every time his fugitive parents are in danger of being discovered. They’re a very close-knit family and you can’t help but want them to be able to somehow live happily ever after despite the mistakes the parents made in the past (they’re ex-hippies who bombed a napalm laboratory, seriously injuring a janitor who wasn’t meant to be there).

I think this is a sadly overlooked Sidney Lumet film as he’s done so many absolute classics (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, etc). It’s a shame as Running On Empty is a very good film with moving performances (especially from River – it’s amazing that I somehow missed out on this one as a fan of his). It has, admittedly, maybe not dated all that well in the same way a lot of 80’s films haven’t so it won’t necessarily be one that a younger generation will go for. If you grew up on 80’s films, however, this is a must-see that I think plenty of people didn’t see. I’m not sure why it didn’t get more attention but I’m glad that River Phoenix at least got an Oscar nomination. And I’m glad I finally took the time to watch it! And to once again have him break my heart… River did 80’s coming-of-age dramas perfectly.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**Yes, this Jackson Browne song was in my head the whole time. No, it’s not in the movie. Hmm – I should add this movie to my list of My Top Ten Movies With Song Title Titles! FYI – Stand By Me was number one on that list…

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW***

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker

Music by Michael Giacchino

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Rogue One follows a group of Rebel spies on a mission to steal design schematics for the Galactic Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star.

My Opinion:

This is going to be really short because a) I have a headache & want to go to bed and b) I’ve realized that no one actually reads anything that I write anyway. Ha! 😉 So I’m more interested in having a discussion about this movie with all of you in the comments instead of me rambling on about the movie for ages. So spoiler-free review but spoilerific in the comment section once you’ve all seen this. Here are my initial thoughts:

I might come back to this movie in a week and give some further thoughts on it here like I did a few days after my initial review of The Force Awakens (review HERE). With The Force Awakens, I wanted to re-visit it a few days after my excitement died down to see if I really DID like it as much as I seemed to (my initial reaction was right – I still love it). Rogue One is quite different in that I don’t instantly love it in the same way I did The Force Awakens. Not even close. I think it’s known by now that this is a very “different” Star Wars movie and I can confirm that that’s indeed an accurate statement. This one is going to take some getting used to. Will I like it more after some time has passed? I honestly have no idea. I hope so…

This isn’t your typical “family” Star Wars movie. This isn’t your straightforward black & white, good vs evil type of story. So many shades of gray to these characters, which is great & very grown-up. But that will also make for a much more divisive movie. And, no – your kids probably aren’t going to like this one very much. If at all. Do NOT let this one be their introduction to the Star Wars universe! FYI – the proper way to introduce kids is to show them in release-date order in my humble (and correct) opinion. If you don’t start with A New Hope, you’re doing it wrong! 😉

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is another strong female lead, which I’ll never complain about. I’m loving this current movie trend! She’s no Leia or Rey, though. I didn’t have the instant connection with her like I did with Rey. With Rey, I was shocked to find by the end of the film that I cared about her just as much as I do the original trilogy characters. Same with Finn & BB-8 – these characters ARE Star Wars to me and I absolutely cannot wait to see them again in the next movie. Unfortunately, I can’t say I felt any connection like this with any of the Rogue One characters. I enjoyed watching the story unfold and lead up to A New Hope, my favorite of all the films. But I just felt a bit empty by the end. I didn’t really care about these people. Oh man… I don’t want to say that about a Star Wars movie!

Okay – I did like two characters a lot. Don’t get me wrong – I really did like Jyn Erso but she wasn’t my favorite character in the end. The two who really stole the show were Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe & Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus. Actually, I loved these guys! Great characters, but they didn’t feel like “Star Wars characters” (not that anyone really did). I’d happily watch a standalone movie with these two characters, though – they were fantastic. They kicked ass, were super cool, and had great chemistry. Without them, I’d probably rate this movie quite a bit lower to be honest. I was thankful they were in it as the movie seriously picked up once they showed up.

Sorry – I said this would be super short. I’m going to end here & see how I feel about Rogue One a week from now. I certainly didn’t hate it but I also know I don’t instantly love it the way I did with The Force Awakens. I’ve not read any reviews yet to avoid spoilers but the one thing I kept seeing on Twitter was that it “feels like Star Wars!”. I’m not sure I agree with that statement. Sorry….

My Initial Rating: 7.5/10

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016) Review

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

My Opinion:

Yes! Another funny, well-written, smart “teen movie”. I reviewed The DUFF last week, which I really enjoyed despite my teen years being far far behind me, and commented that I hoped more teen movies would go in that direction as I do still enjoy a good one. Trust me – no matter how old you are you never forget high school. It’s a traumatic time! I think I’ll forever feel like it was only yesterday that I finally graduated & escaped that f*^king place.

So, yeah – I wasn’t exactly the Homecoming Queen and I could totally relate to Hailee Steinfeld’s self-loathing, angst-filled, neurotic nutjob in The Edge Of Seventeen. Hubby was like “I think she may be even more messed up than you!”. Hahaha! Nice. Funny. Seriously, though – I’d have been friends with this character as a teen. Okay, I lie – I WAS this character (but not as crazy – Holy shit, Steinfeld’s character is HIGH MAINTENANCE!).

For those who may get annoyed by phoney teen angst movies, don’t automatically avoid this one. This is teen angst done right. It has the right balance of humor & of more serious issues. Think a cross between The DUFF (pure comedy) and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic but a little too serious). The characters come across as genuine and I think it will speak to an audience of all ages from 15 or so & up. I do think certain teen films nowadays are written by people my age (like Perks), which is cool as it means people my age end up liking them but I’m not sure if they all work for actual modern teens. I think The Edge Of Seventeen avoids this problem. I can see a lot of friends my age liking this and, judging by the laughs & reactions of the much younger crowd in my cinema who made me feel very old, the younger generation seemed to be enjoying it a lot as well. I can find very little information on this film’s writer & director, Kelly Fremon Craig, but I’d hazard a guess that she’s written a bit of herself into these characters? I could be wrong but writing from experience often seems to make the most believable characters & she’s done an excellent job here. I’ll happily watch more of her work! Hopefully the positive buzz from this film is getting her noticed.

Just a quick FYI: the language & situations make this one not suitable for pre & early teens. It’s rated 15 in the UK and I think it’s rated R in the US?? Typical uptight America – R is too strict for this & means that 15 & 16 year-olds are missing out on a good movie. Maybe they should’ve added some guns & violence as opposed to swearing & sex talk, huh? Then it would be rated G in America! I’ve often thought the American rating system needs a rating in the middle, like a UK 15, which I think is the right sort of rating for this one. Sorry for the mini-rant… 😉 Back to the movie!

Besides Hailee Steinfeld’s darkly humorous unhappy teen, we have her parents and a very rocky relationship with her mother, her best friend who suddenly starts dating her attractive & popular brother who gets on her nerves, her crush, her teacher, and a boy who has a crush on her. They’re all great but the two stand-outs are Hayden Szeto as the adorably awkward boy with a crush on her and Woody Harrelson as the doesn’t-give-a-fuck teacher she confides in (probably due to seeing a bit of her own pessimistic attitude in him).

The chemistry between Steinfeld’s & Harrelson’s characters is great and I loved their complexity. There’s no sappy “teacher gives student meaningful life lesson” bullshit going on here. In fact, they speak quite horribly to each other & it’s hilarious. You can tell that, despite clearly thinking she’s a pain in the ass, Harrelson’s character also has a huge soft spot for this fucked-up kid. Both of these characters are two of the absolute best I’ve seen in a film this year and are why this shouldn’t be dismissed due to being a “teen movie”. Oh, and Hayden Szeto’s character with a crush on Steinfeld is probably the most likable character in a film this year. He’s hilariously, awkwardly adorable. Who is this guy?? He’s been in hardly anything! Put him in more movies! I’d have totally loved having a boy like him have a crush on me in high school. Damn you, Steinfeld – he’s a sweetheart. Date him! It’s like Molly Ringwald not wanting Jon Cryer in Pretty In Pink! Man, teenage girls are idiots sometimes. Anyway – Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson, and Hailee Steinfeld are all amazing in this but probably won’t get recognition due to the film being part of the teen genre.

Summary:

I’ve rambled on about this movie long enough. I’ve realized now that my saying this is something in between The DUFF & The Perks Of Being A Wallflower isn’t quite accurate. The Edge Of Seventeen is more like The Way Way Back with a girl instead of a boy as the central character & Harrelson filling the Sam Rockwell role in this one (their characters are quite different personality-wise but equally fantastic). I feel that teen movies get dismissed, especially if a girl is the central character, but this movie deserves recognition. If you liked The Way Way Back (I loved that one), you should like this one as well no matter what age or sex you are. Movies like these give me hope that maybe some modern teenagers will turn out alright after all & I appreciate filmmakers who credit them with some intelligence & don’t dumb their movies down for them. I still remember being a teen & I like to think I wasn’t a total idiot. And anyone who says they didn’t have a hard time in high school is a liar. Teen angst is real, people! I’m happy to say that The Edge Of Seventeen handles the angst in a realistic, humorous, and at times heartbreaking fashion.

My Rating: 8/10

You know I gotta end this with the brilliant Stevie Nicks song from my own teen years, which is not in this movie whatsoever. Wait – I wasn’t a teen yet when this was released… I just added several years onto my age there! Oops. Whatever. I love this song. 🙂

Freaks (1932) Review For The At The Circus Blogathon

I’m happy to be reviewing Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks for the grand finale of the At The Circus Blogathon hosted by Serendipitous Anachronisms & Crìtica Retrô. The first set of entries were posted a month ago but our hosts kindly agreed to a second round of reviews of movies with circus themes (which will be posted today, tomorrow & Wednesday so be on the lookout for more reviews from other bloggers!). I’m glad I didn’t miss my chance – I knew immediately that I had to grab the opportunity to review Freaks, a highly controversial & misunderstood film at the time of its release in 1932. Here’s my review…

Freaks (1932)

Directed by Tod Browning

Based on Spurs, 1923 short story by Tod Robbins

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Rosco Ates, Henry Victor, Harry Earles, Daisy Earles, Rose Dione, Daisy Hilton, Violet Hilton, Schlitzie, Josephine Joseph, Johnny Eck, Frances O’Connor, Peter Robinson, Olga Roderick, Koo Koo, Prince Randian, Martha Morris, Elvira Snow, Jenny Lee Snow, Elizabeth Green, Delmo Fritz, Angelo Rossitto, Edward Brophy, Matt McHugh

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A circus’ beautiful trapeze artist agrees to marry the leader of side-show performers, but his deformed friends discover she is only marrying him for his inheritance.

My Opinion:

Unlike our blogathon hosts, I don’t have a lot of knowledge when it comes to films that are pre-1970 or so and I’d love to expand my knowledge. In reading a little about Freaks, I noticed it was called a “Pre-Code” horror film, which is a term I’d never even heard of as a movie blogger. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

Pre-Code Hollywood refers to the brief era in the American film industry between the introduction of sound pictures in 1929 and the enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code censorship guidelines in 1934, usually labeled, albeit inaccurately, as the “Hays Code”… As a result, films in the late 1920s and early 1930s included sexual innuendo, miscegenation, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, intense violence, and homosexuality. Strong female characters were ubiquitous, in such films as Female, Baby Face, and Red-Headed Woman. Gangsters in films like The Public Enemy, Little Caesar, and Scarface were seen by many as heroic rather than evil.

Well, damn – this sounds like an awesome period! If I’m going to explore older films, I think I need to start with the Pre-Code ones. To grab one more thing from Wikipedia before I talk about Freaks in my own words, I’d like to share its opening paragraph about the film for anyone who may be unfamiliar with it:

Freaks is a 1932 American Pre-Code horror film in which the eponymous characters were played by people who worked as carnival sideshow performers and had real deformities. The original version was considered too shocking to be released and no longer exists. Directed and produced by Tod Browning, whose career never recovered from it, Freaks has been described as standing alone in a subgenre of one.

I like that quote – “Standing alone in a subgenre of one“. I think that’s pretty accurate as I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like Freaks. There are certain films that I personally think all true film-lovers (and movie bloggers) absolutely must see and Freaks is one of them.

I first saw Freaks years ago after seeing a documentary in which it was mentioned and thinking it sounded utterly fascinating. This movie is my type of thing – an originally misunderstood film that has achieved cult-status and is now finally, I think, recognized for its beauty. I’m sure many are at least somewhat familiar with the plot by now so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the film’s horror label comes not from the so-called “freaks” with their physical deformities but from the ugliness of the outwardly beautiful trapeze artist & her lover, who try to take advantage of them. I can absolutely understand, however, why this film was vilified in 1932 as its themes and the bravery of its statement on human nature are so far ahead of its time. This is back in the day when people with physical deformities were treated as nothing more than sideshow entertainment. I suppose it’s just as shocking to us nowadays to know that people were once treated like that as it was for a 1932 audience to be told that their sideshow entertainment had feelings no different than their own.

When learning of this film, I did hesitate to watch it as I was afraid it would be exploitative and that made me very uncomfortable. Freaks was indeed banned in the UK for 30 years due to being “exploitative” but, again, I think the film was just massively misunderstood for years while people still lived in a time where they feared the unknown and anything “different” that they had no control over without the advances in medicine, prosthetics, etc that we have today. So I’m sorry if anyone does feel differently but I don’t find this film exploitative (at least, not in its final form – the ending was changed massively from its original release, which apparently no longer exists but sounds like it was actually changed for the better as the original cast its stars in a much more negative light at the end).

From what I’ve read, director Tod Browning had joined a travelling circus so did have knowledge of that lifestyle and the people interviewed for a documentary I saw on the film have commented that it was quite an accurate portrayal of the circus way of life. I’ve always had a fascination with that lifestyle as it seems like such a foreign way of life compared to the humdrum, office drone existence most of us lead so I’ve often gravitated toward circus-themed books & movies. I think Browning made a beautiful film about a lifestyle he’d experienced and, judging from the film, he must have had a strong affection for it. He captured the camaraderie between the circus performers that I’ve always assumed exists (?) but, like most of us, will never fully understand or experience. I’d love to think that, while shunned by society, the circus performers in the era of Freaks at least felt like part of a family within the circus in the way this film portrays.

The existing cut-down version of this film is very short (only 64 minutes) but we get to know all the characters very well in this time. I love how Browning somehow managed to focus on several individual stories (such as a marriage, a baby being born, various romances, etc) in between the main overall story involving evil trapeze artist Cleopatra marrying a lovestruck Hans for his money. It shows you just how much movies suck nowadays – these days we often spend two hours watching meaningless effects and leave knowing very little about even the main characters.

I should point out that, though the film demonizes some of the (for want of a better word) “normal” people, we have a lovely romance between one of the clowns and a lady named Venus (I’m not actually sure what she does in the circus. Hmm…). These two care about our title characters & treat them no differently than anyone else so it’s even more ridiculous that this film was so reviled at the time as, had it made everyone seem evil and without compassion, I could almost understand why audiences would be angry. But, in reading the IMDB trivia for Freaks, it turns out that some people working at MGM protested at having to eat lunch with the cast so those with the worst physical deformities were set up with a tent outside so they could eat separately. Appalling behavior – no wonder the world clearly wasn’t ready for this movie’s message. This is why it’s a shame that, also according to IMDB trivia, scenes such as this one were shortened:

According to the screenplay, the scene in which Madame Tetrallini introduces the wandering land-owner to the performers frolicking in the woods ran quite a bit longer. It included additional dialog that endeavored to humanize the so-called freaks. She tells him they are “always in hot, stuffy tents – strange eyes always staring at them – never allowed to forget what they are.” Duval responds sympathetically (clearly the stand-in for the viewing audience), “When I go to the circus again, Madame, I’ll remember,” to which she adds, “I know, Monsieur – you will remember seeing them playing – playing like children… Among all the thousands who come to stare – to laugh – to shudder – you will be one who understands.”

Summary:

Freaks is a movie that was, understandably, very misunderstood at the time of release in 1932 but I hope it will continue to be discovered by serious film fans. Its message of acceptance is timeless (and seems especially important in this current wretched year we’re having – it feels like we’ve gone back in time to 1932 in all the wrong ways). It’s beautiful & heartbreaking and shows the true ugliness of which humanity is capable. Its marriage banquet scene, in which the “freaks” declare the beautiful trapeze artist as “One of us! One of us! We accept you! Gooble Gobble!” is an all-time classic (and often referenced, such as in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street). The ending is, admittedly, quite a shock. In that regard, I can see why audiences were so angered at the time and this is a rare occasion where it sounds like some changes to a film were actually for the better (I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen this but the re-cut ending finishes on a slightly better note for our heroes). Is the ending offensive? No more so than the way in which society treated people who were different in the old days. I think the ending is perfect and this is a great film that, sadly, had to wait several decades for society to catch up to it.

My Rating: 8.5/10

The Fury (1978) Review

Happy Birthday to Kirk Douglas, who turns 100 today! I recently did a list of My Top Ten Michael Douglas Movies & commented that I’d only seen one of his father’s films (Paths Of Glory, and that was also quite recently for my defunct IMDB Top 250 Project). I know – it’s shameful to be a movie blogger & to have seen so few movies from someone who has been around as long as Douglas! So I vowed to watch Spartacus & review it on his birthday. Well, Spartacus isn’t very “me” and I shamefully still haven’t watched it. However, I did watch one of his films. Brian De Palma is more my speed so let’s have a look at The Fury, my second Kirk Douglas movie! Maybe I’ll do Spartacus for birthday 101… 🙂

The Fury (1978)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Based on The Fury by John Farris

Starring: Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Charles Durning, Amy Irving, Andrew Stevens, Rutanya Alda, William Finley

Music by John Williams

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A government agent is determined to come to his son’s rescue when a sinister official kidnaps him to harbor his extremely powerful psychic abilities.

My Opinion:

Well, damn, I guess I should’ve watched SpartacusThe Fury is honestly not very good. 😉 How disappointing! I’ve wanted to see this for years, ever since a scene from it was shown as part of an art installation I saw at the Tate Modern. I don’t remember the artist now but it was a series of scenes from movies involving psychic powers and I’d never heard of The Fury before then. I know De Palma’s filmography is a bit all over the place but I’m a fan of quite a few of his films, especially his Seventies ones such as Carrie & Phantom Of The Paradise. Even Sisters (1972) was better than this. Considering that The Fury is dealing with the similar supernatural/horror themes that I enjoy, I guess I was hoping for something better. Heck, even Firestarter was a better look at telekinesis & the secret government study of individuals who possess these powers. But I do love Stephen King (and Drew Barrymore!). Unfortunately, The Fury pales even further in comparison to De Palma’s adaptation of King’s telekinetic masterpiece Carrie.

I guess I’ll start with Kirk Douglas since I watched this in honor of his birthday. He plays the man whose powerfully telekinetic son is kidnapped by government baddies who want to harness this power. The movie starts out well with the action-packed kidnapping but later turns silly as a half-naked Douglas humorously steals some clothes from a couple & friendly elderly mother and then hitches a ride with Dennis Franz going against character & playing a cop. By the way – Douglas is half naked a lot in this. Is this a Douglas thing? I assume he’s half-naked in Spartacus a lot too. Anyway, the movie has such an uneven tone for a while there with some almost comic relief going on. It was bizarre as there’s none of this whatsoever in the rest of the movie, which has a serious & more horrific tone than I was expecting. Because, you see, using your telekinetic powers on people makes them bleed profusely out of every motherf*%#ing orifice! It was super gross. Well, until the end… The special effects for the big climactic moment were so hilariously bad that I genuinely laughed out loud (I’m not a “LOL”er). And I’m not a special effects snob! I grew up on dodgy old effects. DAMN the end of this was funny as shit, though.

Oops – I went off topic. I was talking about Douglas! Well, he does what he can with a dodgy script, I guess. I’ll give a more “worthy” film of his a go at some point. I was excited to see Amy Irving in another De Palma/psychic ability film after Carrie & it’s cool that she has the ability this time. She’s probably the best thing about the movie, actually, along with the love interest of Douglas (played by Carrie Snodgress). It probably helped that their roles didn’t contain any weird-ass humor while the male roles in this film were lame (especially the son of Douglas – I’m surprised that the kidnappers didn’t want to give that moody, whiny fucker back to him).

My review is as off-the-rails as this film’s plot. I admit my mind wandered & I fucked around on my phone instead of paying much attention to the movie after it got silly. No wonder it had all that orifice bleeding! That’s the only time it got interesting & distracted you from the meandering plot and the fact that you didn’t really care about Douglas finding his asshole son or not. I’m trying to remember what I did on my phone while this movie was on… I think I wrote my review for Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes (Good book. Hey – King connection!). I’m pretty sure I added a bunch of pointless shit to my Amazon Wish List as well. I currently have a variety of those Japanese good luck cats knocking about in my wish list. Why do I do that? It’s not like I’ll ever BUY myself that kind of stuff. I also have an insane amount of Studio Ghibli toys & Kokeshi dolls in there. Someone buy me this stuff for Christmas so I can take them off my Wish List!

Speaking of Dennis Franz above (honestly – I did mention him in my rambling), my favorite thing about watching old movies like this is spotting celebrities that I grew up watching. At least I got something out of The Fury – there were some great obscure actors! I’m pretty sure I saw that chick who was on ER for years (Dr. Weaver) and freaking Nikki Newman from The Young & The Restless!!! HA! I miss that stupid fucking soap opera since moving to the UK. Is Nikki still married to Victor? God those two were annoying. Oh! And when I looked up The Fury at IMDb I saw that I missed Daryl Hannah in this as well as Large Marge from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure! Now THAT’S a good movie.

Um. Screw it – this “review” is going nowhere. Happy 100th Birthday, Kirk Douglas! I’m sorry I’ve not watched more of your films as I’m sure most of them were better than The Fury. But, hey – I still think De Palma is cool & like even some of his “bad” films (other than Mission To Mars – that truly sucked). No shame in being in a De Palma film! I have no doubt that The Fury has a cult following & feel bad that it didn’t work for me. I’m now going to give this a halfway decent rating since, hell, I guess I did get some fun out of it. And a good laugh at that ending!

My Rating: 6/10


Nikki Newman!


Daryl Hannah & the ER chick!


Brad Pitt!


The No Face figure from Spirited Away which has been in my wish list for years! Years! He’s lonely. He needs someone to buy him for me.

Moana (2016) Review

Moana (2016)

Directed by Ron Clements & John Musker

Starring: Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement, Nicole Scherzinger, Alan Tudyk

Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain’s daughter’s island, she answers the Ocean’s call to seek out the demigod to set things right.

My Opinion:

Yes! Moana is a really good film that I (and my daughter) thoroughly enjoyed. I have to say that the trailers really hadn’t blown me away so I was kind of worried this could end up being one of Disney’s rare duds. It’s not quite up there with some of Disney’s oldest classics & I think Frozen is better & more timeless but I’m happy to say that Moana is fully worthy of the Disney name. It’s certainly 1,000% better than some of the its late-90’s/early 2000’s stinkers! It’s great that Disney is making timeless classics once again. And I can add toddler Moana to my list of “animated kids I want to adopt” along with Boo from Monsters, Inc & Agnes from Despicable Me. What a cutie patootie!


So adorable that I had to include two pictures…

Speaking of Moana herself, she’s also a worthy addition to the Disney name. She’s strong-willed & has no interest in that whole “finding a prince” thing that annoys so many modern women about the older Disney films. However, she also doesn’t go over-the-top in the other direction, which annoys me in some of the more current animated films. Let’s face it – Brave’s Merida is a bit of a stroppy bitch! There’s nothing wrong with being strong-willed AND likable as well… Moana gets the right balance as a female lead character and I’d be happy to have my daughter look up to her.

Animated kids’ movies don’t solely rely on one good main character, though, and Moana is filled with the usual funny & lovable sidekicks we’ve all come to expect from Disney. I may be an adult but I loved that stupid chicken! Her pet pig was super cute, the “coconut” bad guys were adorably evil, her family (especially her kooky grandmother) were sweet, and the main “lava baddie” was actually quite frightening for a Disney villain (so this one isn’t really toddler-suitable, unlike a lot of other Disney movies. Just FYI – it’s nothing too scary, though). Yeah, sorry – I’m too lazy to look up all the proper names of these characters but I can guarantee you that I’ll know them once this is on DVD. 😉 I can tell my daughter will watch Moana multiple times (and I won’t even complain about that).

There are two other characters that need mentioning: the main one is sidekick Maui, the demigod voiced by Dwayne Johnson, and the other is the shiny crab villain dude voiced by Flight Of The Conchords/What We Do In The Shadows Jemaine Clement. I think most everyone will like Maui just fine – he’s charmingly cocky and makes a great duo with Moana. Plus, his “living tattoos” were quite amusing. I didn’t really expect to like his character as much as I did. Very predictable character arc, though!

However, the villain crab (Tamatoa – I looked that one up!) will be far more divisive. At first I kind of hated that character. Then I kind of loved that character. I think… I don’t know. I haven’t fully made my mind up on him yet. Guess I’ll know how I feel after 25 times of seeing Moana at home. Anyway, David Bowie is the clear inspiration for Tamatoa so I guess that’s why I’m conflicted as I’m such a big fan.

Summary:

Disney can be proud to add Moana to its resume (Or Curriculum Vitae in the UK. Yep – I totally had to look up that spelling). The animated scenes involving The Abyss-like ocean were beautiful, especially the one involving toddler Moana (Cutie patootie!  She’s much cuter than Ed Harris). I wish I could say that Moana was perfect – However, some of-the-moment jokes that will date and songs that aren’t as instantly memorable as some of the absolute classics in Disney’s history will keep this film from being quite as timeless as I’d have liked. Still, Moana helps keep Disney & Pixar a thousand miles ahead of anything made by other Western animation studios. Keep up the great work, Disney! We’ll just pretend things like Chicken Little didn’t happen.

My Rating: 8/10

Is there a scene after the credits? Yes, at the very end. Is it worth staying for? Hmm… Only if you’re one of those who HAS to see the end credits bits. Like me. It’s fairly funny but nothing too amazing if you really gotta pee. 

I’ll just say a very small bit about the short shown before Moana:

I’m sure a lot of people have called Inner Workings a rip off of Inside Out. Well, it sort of is but that’s not really fair as it’s quite a lovely short with a great moral about following your heart & living life to its fullest. I think it’s one of the better animated shorts I’ve seen in a while and I have to admit that I do love a good, non-preachy life-lesson. The Disney & Pixar shorts really know how to “tug at the heartstrings”! I far preferred this to Lava, which I didn’t like very much. I bring this up as it’s funny that Moana is quite reminiscent of Lava. Oh well – Inner Workings is pretty good. Better than Lava but still not as good as Feast (I loved that short!).

My Inner Workings Rating: 7.5/10

Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating the 100th birthday of Kirk Douglas by reviewing a lesser-known Brian De Palma film in which he starred…

The DUFF & The Scorch Trials Movie Reviews 

Welcome to my “Young Adult Movie Adaptation Review Special“! I read one of these books (the movie was awful) and didn’t read the other book (the movie was surprisingly fun). Let’s see which was which…

The DUFF (2015)

Directed by Ari Sandel

Based on The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Starring: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Nick Eversman, Skyler Samuels, Bianca A. Santos

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A high school senior instigates a social pecking order revolution after finding out that she has been labeled the DUFF – Designated Ugly Fat Friend – by her prettier, more popular counterparts.

My Opinion:

Even at my advanced age, I still enjoy a good teen comedy. Obviously, nothing will ever compare to my 80’s John Hughes classics but there have been a couple post-1989 ones that haven’t been too bad (Clueless, American Pie, etc). But the majority are bad and full of hateful teens (like in stuff such as Project X and, sadly, Dope – a movie I was hoping to love). However, The DUFF is easily one of the better ones I’ve seen from this genre in a long time & I really enjoyed it.

Mae Whitman (the voice of Tinker Bell in all those Tinker Bell movies! You’ll know them well if you have a daughter 😉 ) plays the DUFF, aka the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend”. I liked her in the fantastic The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and she’s a lot of fun in this & totally relatable as a “real world girl”. I hate saying that as it sounds so rude but, yeah – unlike the girls in all other Hollywood movies, she looks like a normal person. Hollywood movie girls are too ridiculously attractive and it sets a bad example (especially in teen movies).

Whitman’s two best friends in this are of the unrealistic ridiculously attractive variety but I suppose they were trying to make her look less attractive in comparison. But, anyway! That’s not entirely relevant as this movie isn’t really trying to make as big of a statement on superficiality as I was expecting. Whitman’s character is, at first, entirely content with how she looks & dresses – she only changes when someone calls her a “DUFF”. So I guess the main message is more about how we treat people but there’s a bit of a moral about accepting yourself the way you are.

Anyway… Forget I said all that! This isn’t some annoying teen movie that thinks it has an important message or something – it’s just a lighthearted comedy & actually quite funny compared to a lot of current teen flicks. The humor is a tad on the raunchy side (fine by me) so this is probably aimed more at the mid to late-teen age range. Although certainly not at the same level as something like Heathers (nothing is!), The DUFF is smart & sassy like a lot of the 80’s teen classics. Hopefully more teen movies go in the same direction as this one since I’ll probably still be watching this genre when I’m 90.

My Rating: 7/10

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015)

Directed by Wes Ball

Based on The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Lili Taylor, Patricia Clarkson

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot of The Scorch Trials takes place immediately after the previous installment, with Thomas (O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers battling the powerful World Catastrophe Killzone Department (W.C.K.D., or WICKED), while facing the perils of the Scorch, a desolate landscape filled with dangerous obstacles.

My Opinion:

WHAT THE ACTUAL HELL?!?!?! I’m so damn confused by this movie! I’ve read The Maze Runner trilogy (I did a recap & review of the final book HERE last week) and, although I have some major issues with it and it often annoyed the hell out of me, I thought it was a decent enough story overall. I read the books after seeing the first film, which I found quite enjoyable (much more enjoyable than the books, actually). So I finally watched The Scorch Trials after finishing the books. IT BARELY EVEN RESEMBLES THE BOOK!!! ??? Why ???

I would assume that books can be quite hard to adapt into films, especially long books that must be reduced to a roughly two-hour running time. The Scorch Trials isn’t a long book, however. Plus, the first movie was faithful to the book so it’s even more confusing that they’ve decided to take things in such a different direction in the sequel. I’m not overly bothered about a 100% faithful adaptation as I know things sometimes need slight changing or need to be left out due to running time. As long as there are no major changes that completely mess with the storyline, characters’ intentions/personalities, or the overall themes, I’m fine with them.

Well, The Scorch Trials has major changes. No, wait – that’s not exactly right as you can’t even really call them changes… It has completely new stuff added in. It’s so drastically different that it feels like the screenwriter(s) didn’t even read the book & instead based the story on its back cover synopsis or on some weird ass “Chinese whispers” version of the story.

You know what? I don’t care. I’m not going to waste my time reviewing this. It lost my interest after it started going so completely off the rails that I went & did other things around the house while it kept playing in the background. I’m not sure what the hell was going on. After this movie, I’m not going to bother with the next one since I sure as shit can’t be bothered to re-watch this one to figure out what the hell was going on. BAH! What a stupid waste of time. Either be faithful to a book or, if that fails, don’t follow it AT ALL & just steal the name (like World War Z). At least I knew beforehand with that one that they ignored the book….

My Rating: 4.5/10 (Not lower than that since I guess I still like the characters and think Dylan O’Brien & Thomas Brodie-Sangster are good in these films)

Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them (2016) Review

Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them (2016)

Directed by David Yates

Based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Colin Farrell

Music by James Newton Howard

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

My Opinion:

I always say this then meander on for ages but I really mean it this time: I’ll keep this review very short. Why? Because I don’t have much to say. Sadly, I found this film to be a bit of a bore. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t actively like it, either, which is actually worse than hating the f*^k out of a movie. At least the hateful ones stir up some actual emotions! And the most-hated ones are fun to bitch about. There’s nothing worse than boring when it comes to entertainment & the arts. Have some balls! Make something worth watching/looking at/listening to/appreciating/hating the f*^k out of! Don’t waste my time.

I do like Harry Potter. I absolutely loved the books as I read them but they didn’t end up as all-time favorites of mine in the same way things like The Lord Of The Rings did. The movies were fine and I enjoy seeing books I like adapted for the screen but I didn’t exactly obsess over the movies & I’ve never re-watched any. Actually, I’ve not even watched the final film… Although the books were thoroughly enjoyable, I’m far from being an “obsessive Harry Potter fan” so bear in mind that I won’t automatically be worshipping this film like a fan would. I’ve not read Fantastic Beasts and went into this knowing very little other than that it was set in America 70ish years before the events of Harry Potter (right???).

Where do I start? First of all, I didn’t feel any connection to the characters & didn’t care what would happen to them. I’ve not seen Eddie Redmayne’s biggest “Oscar” performances but I’m sorry to say I’m not a fan based on his few films I’ve seen. As he’s the main character, it didn’t help that I find him & his haircut mildly annoying. Katherine Waterston, the second-biggest character, was fine but so looks like a cross between Jennifer Jason Leigh & that chick from ER (Maura Tierney – had to look her up) that I was constantly distracted by this. The woman playing her sister, Alison Sudol, had the potential to be hateful but definitely grew on me. Actually, her character and the “muggle” played by Dan Fogler ended up being the characters I liked & cared about the most (See? I’m not totally dismissive. I said something nice!). Ezra Miller & Samantha Morton, both great actors, were completely wasted in dull roles. Jon Voight was as Jon Voight-y as always & Colin Farrell was the boringly bland baddie I expected (I rarely like his performances). Oh! And then there’s Johnny Depp, of course. Is that a spoiler?? It’s an extremely small role clearly destined for big things in the sequels. He’s his usual “Look at me, I’m quirky!” self. I HATE that seeing him in movies just makes me cringe now. He used to be my favorite actor! What the hell happened??

I’m meandering! I’ll wrap this up. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is an overlong & overcomplicated film that feels like another cash-grab due to the fact that it’s going to be yet another damn series of movies. To be fair, I didn’t have this issue with Harry Potter as it was already a series of books where each individual book was as great as the overall story (although the final book being two movies gets on my nerves). I may have liked Fantastic Beasts more if it was just one movie with a proper conclusion & no “wait for the sequel!” cliffhangers. Knowing there are going to be four more films just exhausts me, to be honest. It’s highly unlikely I’ll bother with them (unless I get another free pass like I had for this one). I don’t know the Harry Potter world well enough to have noticed the connections that fans will have loved but I didn’t feel like there were many links at this point? I’m also confused as to who this film is actually aimed at. The characters are adults so kids won’t go for it (my 7-year-old didn’t really like it plus it was borderline too scary). I guess it’s for those who grew up on Harry Potter & are now in their late twenties or so? It just seems like a very small target audience and I can’t see it gaining any new fans who aren’t already Potter fans. I guess the beasts themselves were okay, though cheesy-looking (my favorite was this dude but he’s too similar to the much cooler Groot).

As for the story… Meh. I didn’t fully follow what was going on. But I did fall asleep at some point in the middle, which didn’t help. Yep – I fell asleep in the cinema! As did the other adult I was with. I never do that. I call that proof that Fantastic Beasts is a bit of a snoozefest. It’s not a bad film but I find J.K. Rowling’s tweets far more entertaining than the story in this.

My Rating: 6/10

Your Name (2016) Review

Your Name (2016)
Kimi no Na wa
Japanese: 君の名は

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Ryo Narita, Aoi Yūki, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Kaito Ishikawa, Kanon Tani

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Two high school kids who’ve never met – city boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha – are united through their dreams.

My Opinion:

I’m a huge fan of Studio Ghibli but haven’t explored a lot of anime beyond those. I’ll happily take some recommendations for good Japanese anime other than just the Ghiblis! I’ve watched Summer Wars as one of my 2016 Blind Spot choices and still plan to check out Akira. I like the sound of Wolf Children & of 5 Centimeters Per Second (also directed by Your Name’s Makoto Shinkai). Anyway, I’d heard a bit of hype about Your Name and it has a whopping 8.9/10 rating on IMDB so I jumped at the chance to go to a showing over the weekend. Did it live up to the hype? Well, it’ll never top my favorite Ghibli movies but it’s a great film & I can see why its director has been called the “The New Miyazaki“.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot as I think it’ll be better if you don’t know much beforehand. I’ll say it’s a “teenage love story” but the plot itself is much more complex than just that. I really enjoyed the setup, in which a teenage girl and boy who are unknown to each other & live far apart share an unexplained “supernatural” connection. Maybe I just really love the thought of that as I absolutely LOVED a little known Joss Whedon film called In Your Eyes (in which a man & woman share a telepathic bond). That story goes in a very different direction than Your Name does in the end but the two would make for a great double feature. I highly recommend both of these films, to male & female viewers alike. Don’t let the brief mention of a love story or teenagers put you off: I can tell you that the Your Name audience was very mixed: men, women, teenagers, and a few under 12s.

I do think Your Name will be equally loved by male & female viewers but it’s probably aimed at ages 12 & up. There’s nothing wildly inappropriate for the very young (no violence but one, hmm, “sexy” thing that’s used as a humorous gag throughout the movie) but the story will be hard to follow for anyone under 12. Not gonna lie – I got a little lost a couple of times (something keeps happening in the movie that you can easily lose track of if not paying close attention). I could do with watching this again sometime, which I’d happily do. Sorry to be so vague! I just really did enjoy this story & think it’ll be better for anyone wanting to see this to go into it fairly blind.

Admittedly, teenagers are probably the ones who will most be able to relate to & fall in love with the film’s characters. I can’t find many pictures online but there are plenty of other characters besides just the boy & girl. Their strange relationship is a lot of fun with more humor than I was expecting. We also get to know several of their best friends, who were well developed for fairly small roles and also provide some additional humor. Although fun & lighthearted at first, the film does get more serious about halfway through and this is when it really picks up and becomes something extra special & worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Studio Ghibli. It started out a little slow but I was hooked by the end.

I really like this film as an adult, as did my hubby, and know I’d have loved it as a teen so I can understand its popularity in Japan. I’ve heard it called this generation’s Spirited Away, which I think is a fair comparison but not exactly accurate… Your Name is far less strange than the beautifully bizarre worlds in Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli films. I personally prefer the Ghibli “weirdness” of the crazy characters and the unforgettable imagery. If you prefer something more modern and fairly conventional, though, Your Name may be a good place to start if you’re new to anime. This is a very good film that’s convinced me I really do need to explore more within this genre & I eagerly anticipate other films from the same director. Gorgeous animation, characters I cared about, and a fantastic story with the right balance of drama & humor easily makes Your Name one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year.

My Rating: 8/10

**I’m going to include the trailer to entice you just in case my (always beautifully written) meandering didn’t work. 😉 But I stand by what I said in that it would be better to not know much… Watch the trailer if you’ve not really seen any Japanese anime & need convincing! If you’re already a fan of the genre, skip the trailer.

Arrival (2016) Review

Arrival (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Based on Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A linguist is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications.

My Opinion:

YES!!!! This is good sci-fi. This is what I wanted when I watched Interstellar & was left extremely disappointed. This is intelligent sci-fi that doesn’t feel the need to dumb things down for its audience but also isn’t up its own self-important arse (like, you know, Interstellar). I didn’t look at my watch once while watching this & wonder if the movie was in fact five hours long (like I did with, you know, Interstellar). Okay – I’ll shut up about the massively overrated Interstellar now (I promise!). I’m just happy that Arrival is a great high-concept sci-fi film that can easily stand alongside some of the best classics of its genre (unlike a 2014 Christopher Nolan-directed, Matthew McConaughey-starring sci-fi film that shall remain nameless).

Arrival is a movie of two parts (like all the very best science fiction films): The cool alien shit and how humanity deals with their arrival as well as the more personal “human story” (involving the character of Amy Adams) at its heart. I’m not one for overly-sentimental stories in films as they so often feel contrived but Arrival handles the story involving Adams and her personal life beautifully & I found it very moving and not at all cloying (like I may have found with another film I won’t mention but that starts with the letter I).

I’m not great at handling these emotional films! Between Arrival, Room & Nocturnal Animals (although that Amy Adams film, which I reviewed HERE yesterday, was emotional in the completely opposite way), 2016 has been quite a year for movies that had me reeling with their sheer intensity. By the way – Room was 2016 in the UK so don’t correct me. 😉

Anyway, my “reeling” comment sounded corny. Sorry! But I’m not sure how else to describe that feeling you get from those films that are so well-made, through I suppose a combination of great directing, acting, cinematography, story, atmosphere, music, etc etc, that you end up fully immersed in the world of the film. It’s weird – movies seem to be getting worse & worse in recent years but the GOOD ones are actually getting better & better. There’s a huge divide now between the (many) bad films and the (sadly far fewer) films that are so amazingly good that they almost transcend reality. Okay – that really did sound corny.

My point is this: Arrival is possibly one of the transcendent ones. I knew I’d struggle writing about it but I’ve thought about it a lot since seeing it a week & a half ago. With movies like these, I don’t like to write about them until I’ve had enough time to sort out my thoughts. I currently have this ranked just below Room on my 2016 list as it still didn’t manage to move me quite as much as Jacob Tremblay’s scarily good performance in that. However, Arrival is the better film overall. The look, the story, the relationships (particularly the main one involving Amy Adams), the message, the aliens(!)… There’s nothing I love more than a good alien film! I loved Arrival & movies like these are what keep me watching & loving them despite having to sift through so many bad ones.

I’m not great with words (making this blogging thing a massive struggle) so I’ll just leave it at this: Arrival is a damn good film. I’d love to hear from anyone who feels the same. Or even anyone who feels differently and prefers science fiction movies starring Anne Hathaway & directed by Jonathan Nolan’s brother. And, please oh please, will you discuss Nocturnal Animals with me in the comments of that review if you’ve seen it??? That movie absolutely floored me. You’ve had one hell of a month, Amy Adams!

My Rating: 9/10

Nocturnal Animals (2016) Review

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Directed by Tom Ford

Based on Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

My Opinion:

Well! This movie was certainly… interesting? I love Amy Adams but sci-fi is my type of thing so Arrival is the only one I’d planned on going to see (it’s EXCELLENT, by the way – I’m posting my review tomorrow). Hubby saw Nocturnal Animals then was weirdly insistent on me seeing it too while being cryptic as to if it would actually be worth my time. Now I understand: This is one of those movies you want other people to see so you can talk about it & discuss your theories on the meaning of the symbolism and the different characters’ actions & intentions and, umm……. Okay – This is one of those movies you want other people to see so they can maybe tell you what the f*^k is going on. 😉

Was Nocturnal Animals worth my time? Yes. It’s easily in my top ten 2016 movie releases now & I’d be surprised if it’s not still there by December 31st. But it’s a difficult watch and I can’t exactly say I had a “fun time” watching it. I highly doubt I’ll ever watch it again and, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. It’s intensely disturbing and I was kind of glad when it finished. Am I selling this one to you yet?! Ha! I’m pretty sure I’ll never be asked to contribute a quote for a movie’s poster.

I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from seeing this. In fact, I very highly recommend it. However, I’d only recommend it to a small selection of people who I think would appreciate it, like several of my fellow movie bloggers who may be reading this. You just need to be warned of what you’re getting into if you watch Nocturnal Animals: I guarantee you’ll either love this or you’ll think it’s the most pretentiously boring piece of shit you’ve seen in a long time. There’s my movie poster quote for this!

I always say this but I turn to movies for escapism, which is probably why I go for sci-fi & fantasy and never for gritty realism. I don’t like the ugliness in this world so I don’t enjoy things like true crime dramas, serial killer movies, etc. I say that because this movie is partly “gritty crime drama”. Well, it is yet it isn’t… Just be warned that these parts of the film contain violence more extreme than I’d been expecting (hubby – you could’ve warned me, dude!). The gritty parts are necessary, though, as you start to realize the full meaning behind them so I managed to muddle through despite finding these scenes very uncomfortable.

I’ll try to stay as spoiler-free as possible with this review but I think it’s safe to say that this movie is a story within a story (the book written by the ex-husband of Amy Adams, which she reads throughout the movie). So we go back and forth between Adams & the story in the book which, on the surface, is nothing more than a standard pulpy crime drama. But it IS something much more than that & only Adams and her ex-husband (and hopefully the film’s audience) will be aware of that.

I often don’t go for the “story within a story” thing (er, unless it’s The Princess Bride… Best. Movie. Ever.) but I was completely engrossed every time the movie went back to the book’s crime drama story. Yes, the story feels like formulaic “pulp” (probably why the ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, apparently never made it big as an author) yet it’s so intense & so brilliantly acted that you’re drawn into this story far more than the real-life story of Adams and her superficial art gallery world. But that’s the whole point: Unlike Adams’ real-life extravagant lifestyle, the book’s “fictional” world feels far more real & is full of a raw emotion that I’ve rarely seen captured so well on screen. Honestly, I found these scenes so profoundly & disturbingly moving that credit must be given to everyone involved in their making whether you like the movie or not. Though extremely upsetting, I found this film to be one of the most immersive movie experiences I’ve had since seeing Room, although the emotional effect was the exact opposite (Room filled me with pure joy).

As always, Adams is very good with an understated performance but it’s Gyllenhaal who really shines in what is actually the far more important role. I’ve never been a big fan of his and, though I’ve seen him in plenty of highly regarded roles, I think this is the film that has finally made me appreciate him as an actor. I also loved Michael Shannon in quite a small role as the sheriff in the book’s story. Again, he’s someone highly regarded yet I’ve paid him little attention so, for any of his fans reading this, this movie is worth you checking out just for his role. I can’t guarantee you’ll like the actual movie but he’s fantastic.

I know this is only fashion designer Tom Ford’s second film and I’ve not seen A Single Man but I definitely want to see more from him after this. I think there’s some true brilliance in this film that will unfortunately be too casually regarded as pretentious. I can totally understand why it would be labelled as such, though, as it initially appears that way with beautifully artistic shots & with rich art world snobs moaning about their superficial problems. But the movie itself is the same as book’s story within the film: On the surface it’s superficial & formulaic but deep down it’s an allegorical tale. Wait… The movie is an allegory of itself! No. Um… The book in the movie is an allegory of the real life story in the movie while the movie itself is an allegory of… Something! Maybe. I just like throwing the word “allegory” around. Trust me, there’s some crazy allegorical shit going on here. I’m sure of it!

Is the film itself as deep as its story within a story? I don’t know. My mind is still working on that but I like that I’m still thinking about this movie days after watching it. That’s what I consider true art and only a handful of movies play on my mind for days afterwards. Nocturnal Animals is definitely not for everyone but, if you’re someone who wants something more than just pure entertainment, you may be the type to find this movie an intensely rewarding experience. Or you may just be pretentious. 😉

My Rating: 8/10

**To all the pretentious snobs like me who’ve seen this movie, feel free to discuss it with me in the comments! Full-on spoilers allowed, so avoid reading the comments if you’ve not yet seen this – I think it’s not yet out in America? I want to talk about this one. I want to discuss the parallels in the movie’s story & movie book’s story. The meaning of some of the imagery. The overall meaning of the movie: is it deep like the film’s book or superficial like the film’s real-world. What was with all the naked butts?!? The real life book this is based on (as opposed to the book within the movie) – has anyone read it? Should I dye my hair the same color as Amy Adams in the hope that I’ll look exactly like her? Discuss! 🙂

Kubo And The Two Strings (2016) & Trolls (2016) Movie Reviews

Here are two reviews for the only two films I’ve seen in the cinema in the past two months. Help!!! I want to go to a grown-up movie again someday! 😦 Well, at least one of these was good…

Kubo And The Two Strings (2016)

Directed by Travis Knight

Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey

Production company: Laika

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film revolves around Kubo, who has magical powers and whose left eye was stolen. Accompanied by Monkey and Beetle, they must subdue the Sisters, Raiden the Moon King and his army of evil spirits.

My Opinion:

Yep – As you probably guessed, this is the good one of these two films. We went to this as a family and all really liked it but, of the three of us, my hubby is the one who loved it the most. He’s a big fan of stop-motion animation (probably thanks to growing up on Ray Harryhausen films) and seems fascinated by the behind-the-scenes stuff that Laika put in their end credits.

Of the Laika films so far, ParaNorman is still possibly my personal favorite but Kubo is a very close second and the one I’d actually say is their “best film” so far. I hated The Boxtrolls (can’t win them all!) but the animation was fantastic as always. I admit to falling asleep in the middle of Coraline years ago & never going back to it but that’s been due to lack of time more than lack of interest. I really should finish that one but will wait until I think the kid is old enough to watch it with me (what I saw was kind of creepy – what age would you guys recommend on that one?).

As with other Laika films, Kubo And The Two Strings is dark, serious, and slightly intense. It’s one you’re obviously not going to bring a three-year-old to or to watch for the simple, silly giggles like you get out of something like Trolls. Laika doesn’t need to make those sort of films, though – we already have studios such as DreamWorks for that. As a (admittedly sometimes too snobby) fan of film, I have a lot of respect for Laika (and Pixar) making true art for kids & grown-ups alike and for never dumbing things down for their younger audiences.

As a lover of Studio Ghibli & a lot of Japanese films, I loved the setting & vibe of Kubo (although, of course, it’s voiced mostly by American or British actors). That’s my only small complaint about the film – the voices of Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara & Matthew McConaughey don’t exactly give this film a genuine Japanese vibe. But, well… it was made in the West & we speak English, so…

Anyway – I don’t want to take away from the film as it’s a lovely work of art with an original & unique story. No, not all kids will love it and you might not want to let anyone too young watch it (mine is seven & she really liked it, though not as much as the Studio Ghibli films she’s seen. Yes! I love my kid). 😉 I’d say minimum age of six on this one but, as always, it depends on each individual kid. The evil Sisters & Moon King are quite frightening and Kubo’s eye is stolen for crying out loud (this isn’t shown)… Actually, yeah – this one is pretty scary come to think of it. But there are still light-hearted moments and my daughter seemed pretty taken with Kubo, Monkey & Beetle, who are strong main characters.

I want to give this movie a slightly higher score as I think it’s very good but there’s also something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think I just have yet to fully connect with any of the characters in Laika’s films in the same way I have with so many Pixar characters. I don’t get the same sort of wave of emotion that I do while watching the best of Pixar or Ghibli but I think Laika is coming closer to someday achieving that same level of genius. I feel kind of the same about this film as I do Song Of The Sea, which I also watched recently. That was absolutely gorgeous to look at but I didn’t “care” as much as I’d hoped to while watching it. Still, Kubo is another step in the right direction & I look forward to future films from Laika.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Trolls (2016)

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Russell Brand, James Corden, Gwen Stefani

Production company: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film revolves around two trolls on a quest to save their village from destruction by the Bergens, creatures who devour trolls.

My Opinion:

Kids’ films are hard to review, which is why at one point I tried to review Cinderella (2015) in a way where I gave my daughter’s opinion as well as my own (and hubby’s – he’s actually as big of a movie nut as I am). This was because I was accused of taking kids’ films too seriously in one of my reviews and I actually got quite upset because it was a time when I cared what people thought of me. Not anymore! 😉 Screw that. I’m a movie-blogging-asshole with strong opinions & feel that even “kids’ films” should maintain certain standards. Hell, they’re even more important since what they teach (and too often preach) is going to have an impact on impressionable young minds. Which brings me to Trolls…..

I have no idea how to review this because it seriously SUCKS but my daughter LOVED it! Hahaha! I’m so conflicted!!!! My snobby self wants to trash it but, in all honesty, it’s one of my favorite trips to the cinema in ages. She giggled like crazy through this entire glitter vomit nightmare and it made me so happy that I wanted to cry. What’s better than seeing your kid happy?! So, um… Hmm.

Trolls! Ugh. Well, this movie was pretty much what I expect from DreamWorks. DreamWorks has made loads of highly successful films and I respect that as it’s far more impressive than staring at spreadsheets all day like an un-artistic loser like me but I’ll never see their films as anything more than “movies for kids”. There’s nothing wrong with this and I’m glad they’ve made so many kids happy but I prefer family films that appeal to young & old alike. And so you don’t think I’m a grumpy old fart who can’t just shut up & enjoy a simple kids’ movie, I do like some DreamWorks (I should do one of my annoying top tens! The Kung Fu Pandas & Monsters Vs. Aliens are probably my favorites while my kid seems to like How To Train Your Dragon & that weird Puss In Boots).

Trolls! Is it obvious I don’t feel like reviewing this??? Let’s see… Poppy was very cute. My daughter loved young Poppy at the beginning of the movie and, while she went too annoyingly cute at times, the character mostly stayed on the right side of the sickeningly sweet line. The kid also loved that she’s voiced by Anna Kendrick since she knows her as the Cups song girl. She also likes Gwen Stefani, who was completely wasted in a tiny role in a movie so full of music.

Speaking of music, Trolls took a lot of GREAT songs and ruined them. Again, I’m conflicted as they had the good taste to pick songs by artists such as Gorillaz & Justice (!!!) but then ruined them by turning them into dumb songs about troll hair (!!!!!). Oops – I’m being bitchy again. But I thought the hubby was going to either cry or scream & run out of the cinema when the Trolls version of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love started up… Lol! (You think I’m a snob? He’s far worse than I am). To be fair, the movie’s Cyndi Lauper True Colors scene wasn’t bad. And, hey – I think the Justin Timberlake song, Can’t Stop The Feeling, is a genuinely good song and the one thing from this film that will stand the test of time. It got the biggest reaction from kids in the cinema (some even cheered). I said something positive! Yay me! Oh, I also kind of liked the cloud dude. He was weirdly funny. My daughter didn’t like him, though – she looked at me like I was a weirdo when I said he was my favorite character. He looked stoned:

Trolls! They look nothing like the classic Trolls we grew up with. That’s annoying. I want my kid to have a genuine ugly, naked troll doll – not these pink, sparkly cartoon versions! Dammit. At least the classic ones have a brief cameo, I guess. The bad guys in this, the Bergens, were stupid & got on my nerves but at least they made me like the Trolls more. Hey – there’s another positive. Yay me! I’ve said some good things about this movie! Justin Timberlake’s character wasn’t too bad, mostly since he had the right attitude (not an asshole Bergen but not annoyingly happy like the other Trolls).

This review is too long & I’m bored. I was going to write one paragraph & be done with it. Ha! I do ramble on when I’m being bitchy. Sorry about that. Trolls! It sucks but your young kid will probably love it and seeing your kid smile will melt your frozen heart (Anna/Elsa-style!). But those goddamn troll-hair songs will still make you cringe…

My Rating: 5.5/10

**Okay – I admit I was in a horrible mood when I wrote these reviews. Yesterday, however, I watched my first proper grown-up film in months and MAN was it a good one!!! So I’m slightly less grumpy now. 😉 I’ll try to review that film tomorrow…. (it was Arrival, FYI)

Eyes Without A Face (1960) Blind Spot Review

Happy Halloween, everyone! Here’s my final review for the day, after my review of the surprisingly fun Trick ‘r Treat posted earlier today. Now let’s look at a cult French horror classic…

Eyes Without A Face (1960)

Directed by Georges Franju

Based on Les yeux sans visage by Jean Redon

Starring: Pierre Brasseur, Edith Scob, Alida Valli, Juliette Mayniel

Music by Maurice Jarre

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A surgeon causes an accident which leaves his daughter disfigured, and goes to extremes to give her a new face.

My Opinion:

Here’s a quick list of links to my 2016 Blind Spot Reviews so far, including where I’d rank Eyes Without A Face:

10. Eyes Without A Face – 7/10
9. Phenomena – 7/10
8. An Education – 7/10
7. Magic – 7/10
6. Summer Wars – 7/10
5. True Romance – 7/10
4. THX 1138 – 7.5/10
3. Play Misty For Me – 7.5/10
2. Battle Royale – 8/10
1. Natural Born Killers – 8/10

I’d been wanting to see this for years as it sounded quite bizarre. Hence, it ended up on my Blind Spot list & I finally got around to buying it on DVD. I can’t say it quite lived up to my high expectations, although it’s a very good movie and I would imagine it must have been very shocking back in 1960.

The story here is the exact one I expected. Although similar stories have been done since, I’m thinking this must be one of the (and maybe the very) first to do it. I was extremely surprised at just how much was actually shown… I expected to see nothing but we see it all in graphic detail (for 1960, anyway). Wow! No wonder it angered some people at the time from the little I’ve read of it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s funny now how blatantly obvious the special effects & make-up are but this must have been like the Saw of 1960.

I’m struggling with what to say about this film as I’m not as well-versed on those that are pre-1970 but I do wish to expand my knowledge in this area. The main thing I’ll say is that I absolutely loved how stylish this film was. The mask the disfigured daughter is made to wear is fantastic. So frightening in its simplicity. Plus she wears the best nightdress/housecoat thingy EVER. I wear sweatpants & T-shirts to bed. Why the hell don’t we still dress the way women did in the 1960s? They looked so groomed & lovely at all times. Even one of the film’s victims still looked immaculate afterwards & I just thought “Damn! Poor girl… but I love that dress!”.

I know I’ve put this as my “least favorite” of my Blind Spot films so far but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not good – I just enjoyed the rest slightly more. I think I was mainly disappointed that it was more straightforward than I expected plus the acting was a little off (mainly the father & daughter, although the father’s “secretary” and the other women in the film were good). It also wasn’t all that deep – this is a topic that could’ve been explored in-depth. Beauty on the inside, the ugliness of human nature, blah blah blah. But it’s just a pretty basic crime thriller, albeit with a gruesome twist.

However, it’s stylish as hell. Just look at the images in this post – I love the look of it all. I’m very glad that I put this on my Blind Spot list & finally got around to watching it. Black & white horror is something I truly wish to further explore & will happily take recommendations from fellow bloggers on this genre. I would imagine that Eyes Without A Face is one that will easily remain a favorite of mine within the black & white horror genre, though, as it’s one that could never be easily forgotten once seen. Shockingly beautiful, I’d love to have seen the reaction of audiences when this came out. It’s not quite up there with either Nosferatu (1922) or The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari (1920) for me but, like those, it’s so ahead of its time & there’s no denying the amazing imagery in all of them. We need more horror movies with style nowadays…

My Rating: 7/10

Oh! I totally forgot to mention that I found the movie’s score, from acclaimed composer Maurice Jarre, interestingly bizarre. It was at times too distracting but I love the Jean-Michel Jarre connection (he’s Maurice’s son). Who doesn’t like a bit of Oxygène??

However, I have to end with this music clip instead. I’m sorry! This is just SO stuck in my head since watching this. 😉

Trick ‘r Treat (2007) Review

Happy Halloween, everyone! This movie was an unplanned watch over the weekend. So, there will be two horror reviews from me today: this one and later on one of my Blind Spot choices I’d already planned to be the end to my October Horror Month. As for Trick ‘r Treat, I’d not even heard of it until fairly recently. I didn’t necessarily expect much from it as the majority of modern horrors suck. Well, Hell – this was a pleasant surprise! Let’s talk about it…

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Directed & Written by Michael Dougherty

Starring: Dylan Baker, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Rochelle Aytes, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Moneca Delain, Tahmoh Penikett, Leslie Bibb

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Trick ‘r Treat centers on four Halloween-related horror stories. One common element that ties the stories together is the presence of Sam, a mysterious child trick-or-treater wearing shabby orange pajamas with a burlap sack over his head, that makes an appearance in all the stories whenever someone breaks Halloween traditions.

My Opinion:

This movie somehow completely passed me by when it came out. I saw a couple of bloggers give it positive reviews last year so I’ve since been curious about it but still didn’t rush to try see it. Thank you to the hubby for seeing the DVD cheap the other night and picking it up for me as a Halloween treat! 🙂 I hadn’t planned on actually watching any horror movies for Halloween this year but I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed this one. It has the best “Halloween spirit” of anything I’ve seen in a very long time.

I do love horror anthologies. I’ve always been a fan of this format, though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Yes, this film could be accused of being somewhat derivative as it’s very much like watching Tales From The Crypt meets Creepshow meets Goosebumps. It even throws in the comic book panel thing. Well, I’m not going to complain as all work is derivative anyway. As long as something good & enjoyable comes from it, I don’t really mind.

I thought this film was quite clever in the way it connected these four stories (actually five stories, including the opening to the film). Sam the adorable/creepy trick-or-treater with the sack on his head makes an appearance in each story as do the various characters within each of the other stories. It all takes place during Halloween festivities in a small Ohio town.

What I love about anthologies is that you get a variety of stories and everyone will have a different favorite. I’m still not sure which is my favorite from Trick ‘r Treat. Possibly the school bus massacre? Or maybe the Sam segment… I don’t know! The cool thing is that I liked all of them. And I’m super picky, especially with this genre.

I’ll say something quick about each segment (using the names for each as listed at Wikipedia – I don’t know if they have specific titles):


The Opening:

This is a short story that opens the film and for some reason doesn’t seem to get counted as I keep reading that there are “four stories”. Like the rest, though, it’s interwoven throughout the film as we see these characters again (a Halloween-hating woman & her Halloween-loving boyfriend). It’s a decent opening and a throwback to Eighties slashers.


The Principal:

This is one of the two segments that I’d label “horror comedy”, yet I haven’t seen this movie called a horror comedy anywhere. Actually, the entire film has fun comedic elements so I’m not sure why it’s labelled strictly as horror/thriller.

When I got this DVD, I immediately looked up the film’s director & writer (because I’m a weirdo nerd) and discovered it’s from the guy who did Christmas horror comedy Krampus (Michael Dougherty). Krampus wasn’t perfect but I did really enjoy it and you can very much tell that these films are from the same person (especially the Meet Sam segment below, which had a very similar feel to Krampus). Dougherty hasn’t done a lot of directing – he’s mostly been a writer for things like X-Men 2, Superman Returns, X-Men: Apocalypse… Screw that superhero stuff – he needs to make more stuff like Trick ‘r Treat & Krampus! This is what he seems to be best at. Where’s the Trick ‘r Treat sequel supposedly in development? I now want a sequel.

Oops – I went off on a tangent. The Principal! This was a funny segment & you gotta love Dylan Baker as the “school principal with a dark secret”. He was perfect for this role – that dude is so weird. Anyone here ever watch The Good Wife besides me? Probably not but he’s so similar here to his great unhinged character from that show. Not my favorite segment but it’s good & probably the most “Creepshow“-like.


The School Bus Massacre Revisited:

I really liked this story, although I’ve seen it compared to R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps stories. I can see why there’s the comparison as, overall but especially with this story, this movie was far more tame than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, though – this is not a kids’ film so don’t gather the family around for this one on Halloween! 😉 There’s still plenty of blood & violence but it has a great cheesy 80’s vibe as opposed to the sick torture porn shit of today (I can’t stomach those). This story, starring kids telling the tale of the legend of a “school bus massacre” in the town’s past, is minimal on gore but probably the one that’s most in the spirit of Halloween & the scary tales we liked to hear as kids. Fun stuff!


Surprise Party:

This story revolves around four (teenage? twenty-something?) girls on their way to a party & doing the typical “let’s dress slutty for Halloween” thing. Oh, but one of them (Anna Paquin) is a virgin & looking to find a date & make her first time special. I’d assume this is possibly the most popular segment? It’s probably actually the best of the five. It wasn’t the most original if you’ve seen enough horror films but I really liked the direction this story took. Plus there’s some boobage for the male viewers, if you like that sort of thing…


Meet Sam:

If I had to pick a favorite segment, I’d probably go with this one in which we finally meet that adorably creepy sack-head trick-or-treater we see throughout all the stories. “Sam” is a great design – it had to be difficult to make something so cute yet scary as f*^k at the same time. This bit is silly in a wonderfully retro-Eighties way and I would assume this is either people’s favorite or least favorite of the five. If you just go with it & have fun in the way I believe the director/writer intended, you should really enjoy the Meet Sam segment. If you liked Krampus, you’ll like this. And vice versa.

Conclusion (the movie’s & mine):

After our five stories, the movie neatly wraps things up for each of them and gives a satisfying conclusion as far as horror films go. Again, I liked how cleverly interwoven the stories were and would only have one small complaint about something that felt forced & didn’t quite add up (involving the other story the school principal is a part of – it made no sense how he came to be there…). That’s a minor thing, though – I really enjoyed this film overall and think it’s a fantastic one to watch each Halloween.

But I admit that this movie is going to be more to my taste than to a younger generation because of its obvious Eighties influences. I looked up the director’s age afterwards to see if he was the same sort of age as me since it felt like he must have grown up on the same kind of horrors that I did (he is so he clearly did). Younger audiences may not appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor and may mistake this film for “cheesy” as opposed to an homage to the fun horrors I grew up on and which weren’t meant to be taken so damn seriously. Yeah, I enjoyed Trick ‘r Treat quite a bit and am even giving it the highest rating of everything I’ve reviewed this month. Good old-fashioned horror fun. Bring on the sequel!

My Rating: 7.5/10

John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998) Review

Vampires (1998)

Directed by John Carpenter

Based on Vampire$ by John Steakley

Starring: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell

Music by John Carpenter

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
James Woods stars as Jack Crow, the leader of a team of vampire hunters. After his parents were bitten by vampires, Crow was raised by the Catholic Church to become their “master slayer”. The plot is centered on Crow’s efforts to prevent a centuries-old cross from falling into the hands of Jan Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), the first and most powerful of all vampires.

My Opinion:

I watched this a couple of weeks ago but had no intention of reviewing it yet since I’ve been saving up to do a John Carpenter Week (or two) on my blog at some point. Well, damn – I didn’t make it to see Ouija: Origin Of Evil to review it as part of my Mike Flanagan Week so I was left short of one horror film to review this month. Is anyone interested in helping to do guest reviews for a John Carpenter Week if I ever get off my ass & do that?? This blog thing is so dead lately that I haven’t felt very motivated to put posts together… I’m cutting back massively once October is over!

I did a list of My Top Ten John Carpenter Movies HERE without having yet seen a few of his biggest films. In preparation for a John Carpenter Week & to be able to update my Top Ten, I’ve since watched these: Prince Of Darkness, Dark Star, Escape From New York, and Vampires. One of those is awesome and will be high on an updated Top Ten, one is okay, and two are pretty sucky.

Vampires is one of the pretty sucky ones but it was less sucky than I was expecting. In fact, as I had low expectations thinking that most people hated it for some reason, I ended up liking it a bit more than Prince Of Darkness. I must be missing something with Prince Of Darkness – I thought it was very badly dated. Vampires is far from good but I did get some enjoyment from it and, shockingly, I probably liked Daniel Baldwin’s character the most in this thing. A Baldwin! WTF?! I’m not sure it’s a good thing to have a Baldwin be your favorite character in a movie. I think I just liked the fact that he was quite nice (eventually) to the poor hooker (Sheryl Lee) after she got bitten by the main vampire dude. I liked Lee’s character as well and the psychic link she ended up having with the main vampire was a good plot device. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen Lee in anything before (I never saw Twin Peaks).

Speaking of nice & not nice, I think the main reason I didn’t like this movie as much as I’d hoped was because of James Woods and his complete asshole of a character. Hmm – Yes, I entirely blame James Woods for this movie not living up to its potential. He doesn’t have the “star power”. He doesn’t have the cool factor, the attitude, the charisma… Can you imagine this movie instead starring Carpenter’s favorite, Kurt Russell?? Russell had all those things in Carpenter’s films. He was a stud. He could get away with being kind of a jerk because he had that same sort of lovable rogue thing going on as Han Solo. Woods doesn’t have that. Sorry! I think I’m just not a Woods fan. Don’t tell him!!!

Oh, I also liked that priest dude in the above picture. He was another one, along with the prostitute, who was treated like complete shit by Woods for no reason. Okay, okay – Woods’ parents were killed by vampires so I suppose he holds a grudge but, sheesh! No need to be so damn grumpy. Sorry – I need to let this go. I’m sounding as grumpy as him! At least I liked three of the characters, which helped make up for Woods and for the rather bland vampires. Vampires are meant to be cool, sexy & menacing. The vampires in Vampires are so dull compared to those in some of the all-time great vampire classics. Like The Lost Boys! Did I just lose my argument? Lol. Don’t care – The Lost Boys rules. 😉

Summary:

Erm. I dunno. I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Vampires. It has some good points but the good points don’t fully make up for the fact that both the lead vampire hunter & the lead vampire are such weak characters. They’re the two most important roles so this obviously lets the movie down. However, I did enjoy the likable lesser characters as well as some fairly original vampire hunting (like the way the hunters dragged the vampires out into the sun). It also had a decent level of fun gore that I could stomach (I hate too much gore). Vampires is just a rather uneven movie and not one that I can either fully praise nor fully criticize. I’ve definitely seen worse vampire movies but I’ve also see many FAR better ones. It won’t be making a Top Ten Vampire Movies list of mine but maybe I’d give it a small honorable mention. Guess I need to make that list now. Maybe next October – I think I better watch some Hammer Horror first!

My Rating: 6/10

**I’ve just realized that I have a bit of a vampire theme going on with this & with my review of the pointless 2011 remake of Fright Night on Wednesday. Woohoo! I’ll pretend that I planned that… 🙂

Fright Night (2011) Review

Fright Night (2011)

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Based on Fright Night by Tom Holland

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Toni Collette

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot follows a teenage boy who discovers that his neighbor is actually a vampire, which culminates to a battle between the two.

My Opinion:

I might as well start by pointing out the obvious to anyone who knows me: I prefer the original Fright Night and remakes piss me off. I haven’t actually watched the original in years, though, which is why I’m not going to do a comparison review. But I’ll always be fond of it as, along with A Nightmare On Elm Street, it was my introduction to 80’s slasher-type flicks at a junior high spin the bottle party. Ah, good times!

So, this is indeed yet another completely pointless remake but is it any worse than all the other pointless remakes? I guess it’s probably at the ever-so-slightly better end of things. It at least didn’t completely piss me off & make me want to shout at my TV like that godawful A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. Argh!!! That one actually damaged the franchise & I wish it didn’t exist. This Fright Night is just a bit “so what?”. It’s ultimately forgettable but is luckily different enough from the 1985 film that it hasn’t damaged it in my mind.


These signs seemed extraneous at the time…

The only reason I decided to watch this was to see Anton Yelchin (R.I.P.). I’ve liked Yelchin ever since Charlie Bartlett & was saddened by his untimely death. He was uniquely talented and the absolute perfect choice to play Charley Brewster in Fright Night so I have no complaints there. I also liked Toni Collette as his mother and had no problem with Imogen Poots as Charley’s girlfriend even though she’s too hot for him. But that’s movies for you! The nerdy guys always get the hot girls. Anyway – She’s a cutie & the name Poots never fails to make me giggle. Finally, I loved David Tennant as “vampire hunter” Peter Vincent. He’s my favorite Doctor Who and I found him strangely attractive in his leather pants & eyeliner…


Unfortunately, while the casting of these actors/actresses was spot on, I really disliked Colin Farrell as our main vampire baddie Jerry. I don’t normally like him much anyway but he really didn’t have the charisma or the sexy charming thing going on that I expect from a vampire. As for Christopher Mintz-Plasse, I can see why they chose him as Charley’s nerdy friend Ed but he’s so typecast now that he’s starting to get on my nerves & just ended up an annoying distraction. Massive fail with the casting of these two, which was disappointing as everyone else was so good.

Summary:

Fright Night (2011) is pointless but I suppose it’s not horrible. I’m not stupid, though – I know that younger people don’t like watching older movies so are very unlikely to seek out the original. Therefore, I’m not going to waste my breath (er… fingers?) telling everyone to just watch the 1985 film. If you like Yelchin & think this looks like your type of thing, give it a go. As a standalone film, it’s a fun vampire flick. I’d have liked more humor & it dragged to begin with but it did really pick up once Tennant came into the picture more about halfway through. Tennant & Yelchin are both very good and made a fairly mediocre vampire movie not feel like a complete waste of time. Meh. I’ve seen worse.

My Rating: 6/10