Antebellum (2020) & His House (2020) Reviews

Here are a couple of 2020 horror films. Remember 2020? An entire year of horror! So don’t know if these got proper releases while we were all sat at home…

Antebellum (2020)

Directed & Written by Gerard Bush & Christopher Renz

Starring: Janelle Monáe, Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Gabourey Sidibe

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a 21st century African-American woman who wakes to finds herself mysteriously in a Southern slave plantation from which she must escape.

My Opinion:

This was… Okay? I really like Janelle Monáe & she was the main reason I watched this so I wish it had been a better film for her. I think the idea for the story was good enough but the execution was pretty terrible. And Jena Malone was awful – I seem to always really dislike her acting (especially after she screwed the dead person in that stupid The Neon Demon pile of shit). I think her performance, as well as that of all the one-dimensional “baddies”, really hurt this movie.

But more than anything, I think the big twist being SUCH a huge rip-off of a well known director’s movie really didn’t help (don’t want to name the director but you’ll know exactly what movie I mean if you watch this). It just made me think of how well the other director pulled off that twist & that it was a much better film than this one. Disappointing.

My Rating: 6/10

His House (2020)

Directed by Remi Weekes

Starring: Wunmi Mosaku, Sope Dirisu, Matt Smith

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film tells the story of a refugee couple from South Sudan, struggling to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface.

My Opinion:

This was better than I was expecting. This is the Wikipedia plot synopsis, which makes it obvious what the film is really about: “The film tells the story of a refugee couple from South Sudan, struggling to adjust to their new life in an English town that has an evil lurking beneath the surface.

But I was hoping for a decent haunted house story as well as I love a good supernatural horror. I did enjoy that, although it took quite a while to get going and wasn’t as creepy or scary as I was hoping from the Netflix image of the face peeking through the hole in the wall. But then the story takes a twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting at all and I liked that a lot. Movies rarely catch me off guard so I’m surprised I didn’t see that coming but I do like when a movie surprises me.

The film could’ve been better overall but at least the ending made up for the slow start. I think most horror movies have terrible endings (why do they never know how to end?!) so it’s nice to see one that ends well.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Black Christmas (2019) Review

Black Christmas (2019)

Directed by Sophia Takal

Based on Black Christmas by A. Roy Moore

Starring: Imogen Poots, Lily Donoghue, Aleyse Shannon, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a group of sorority sisters at Hawthorne College as they are preyed upon by an unknown stalker.

My Opinion:

Er. Um. UGH. Okay… This movie was mostly pretty damn terrible but for some reason I kind of liked it? At least at the beginning – that all went out the window at the very end. Holy hell! What a pile of shit ending!!!

First of all: Yes, I saw the original but it was many many years ago so I should probably rewatch it. So I won’t be comparing them as I don’t remember that one well enough. I just wish Blumhouse would stop rebooting or remaking (or whatever you want to call it) old horror films. Well, that’s plenty of studios, actually. And these newer films are sometimes so different than the originals that I don’t understand why they use the same name. No, I lie – they use the same name because they’re more likely to make money from a known name. Pisses me off. Honestly, they could’ve given this one a completely different name from the original as I don’t think they’re very similar beyond the setting.

So. They kind of had a good idea here but just did such an awful job of cramming the agenda into this film. Spoiler: It’s basically about the rape culture at universities. Which is an important and serious topic not really suited for this seriously stupid horror movie. To be fair, it maybe could have worked if the film had treated the topic more seriously and if the ending hadn’t been laughable. It’s a shame as a well written film on this topic could’ve turned out well. Maybe a more serious type of horror such as Midsommar? Hell, that’s basically a toxic-male-hating film too about slightly inattentive boyfriends, right?

I did really like Imogen Poots in this so luckily the main character was fine. I like her in most things but I mostly think I just love that name. POOTS! Imagine having to grow up with the name Poots!! Her main SJW best friend (sorry to use that phrase but it’s the whole point of that character) was okay but very quickly gets on your nerves as you’d expect. I did kind of like the one friend who was really dumb (she was also good in The White Lotus). And one other thing I did really like in this movie was their song. That was a good scene. I like seeing rapists named & shamed. So the movie started out well…

While I do think this movie ended up being dreadful thanks to its ridiculously over-the-top ending, I think it has been unfairly rated way too low on IMDb. 3.4/10?! Okay, that will be those who see it as having a man-hating agenda. I suppose it does but I think it could have gotten away with it & done a better job of making its point if the ending wasn’t SO in-your-face about, um, toxic masculinity. Dammit! This movie made me use the phrases SJW & toxic masculinity. Phrases I steer WELL clear of on Twitter! And I’ve written waaaaay more than I wanted to about a pretty bad horror movie. I just wish it had done a better job of making its point in a more subtle fashion. Cramming your beliefs down viewers’ throats never works, even when viewers agree with what you’re trying to say (as I do).

My Rating: 5.5/10

Les Diaboliques (1955) & In Fabric (2018) Reviews

Les Diaboliques (1955)

Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot

Based on She Who Was No More by Boileau-Narcejac

Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse, Charles Vanel

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
The wife and mistress of a loathed school principal plan to murder him with what they believe is the perfect alibi.

My Opinion:

I unfortunately saw the terrible 1996 remake of this starring Sharon Stone years ago. Rubbish! I thought I’d managed to completely put it out of my mind until halfway through this original French film, when I suddenly remembered the whole story. Damn. Well, it’s still a fantastic murder-plot-mystery thriller and I’d highly recommend the original film, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, to anyone who likes this sort of genre. (Seriously, do NOT watch the 1996 remake. Ugh.)

The wife & the mistress of the same abusive asshole plot to murder him & make it look like an accident. But many weird & inexplicable things happen as the story unfolds. The actresses in this (Simone Signoret & Véra Clouzot) are fantastic and you are rooting for them (especially the poor wife) through the whole film. And do you know what happened when the credits came up at the end of this 1955 movie?! A warning to not spoil the ending of the film for others so that they could enjoy it too! Funny. So people were dicks about spoiling movies in 1955 just like they are in 2021. At least they could avoid Twitter in 1955.

My Rating: 7.5/10

In Fabric (2018)

Directed & Written by Peter Strickland

Starring: Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Hayley Squires, Leo Bill, Julian Barratt, Steve Oram, Gwendoline Christie, Barry Adamson, Jaygann Ayeh, Richard Bremmer, Terry Bird, Fatma Mohamed

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a haunted red dress as it torments various owners.

My Opinion:

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

I did like director Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio okay but this one didn’t really work. I’d say there were certain things I liked about it, though. The score & the look were fine (even though it’s ripping off the Giallo style – Again, I should have just checked out another Dario Argento film even though I know none are as good as Deep Red or Suspiria). There are also two stories in this weird “killer dress” movie & the second one sucks. The first one, starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste & Gwendoline Christie, actually wasn’t too bad & I’d be giving the film a higher rating if it had ended there. Why did they feel the need to add the second? Also, the movie is veeeeery slow & the first story dragged on for far longer than it needed to.

I think this may have actually been a decent horror anthology instead with four or five stories involving the killer dress. I’d watch several really good stories about a killer dress! Why do one okay story & one completely rubbish one?? Well, I don’t recommend this unless you like slightly boring modern movies that poorly rip off ’70s horror classics (if you liked The Love Witch, which I thought was terrible, you’d probably like In Fabric).

My Rating: 5/10

VFW (2019) Review

Reviewed this recently in a monthly roundup post but think it kind of fits Horror Month & I quite liked it plus all the old farts in it so here it is again…

VFW (2019)

Directed by Joe Begos

Starring: Stephen Lang, William Sadler, Martin Kove, Fred Williamson, David Patrick Kelly, Sierra McCormick, Tom Williamson, Travis Hammer, Dora Madison, George Wendt, Graham Skipper

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A group of old war veterans put their lives on the line to defend a young woman taking shelter in their local VFW post, who’s running from a deranged drug dealer and his relentless army of drug addled punks.

My Opinion:

I rated this just below that existential art house film Wings Of Desire the month that I watched this. What can I say? I have well-rounded movie tastes.

I really enjoyed this one despite the extreme violence. I just really liked this group of old dudes! Especially loved that William Sadler was in this & he seemed to be having loads of fun in the role. He’ll always be my favorite Grim Reaper! Stephen Lang is great in the main role as a tough Vietnam veteran who has to defend his bar slash VFW post from crazed drug addicts who are after a girl who has taken shelter in the bar. Lang is one of those guys who has been in shitloads but I never really noticed him until he played that freak in Don’t Breathe (which I didn’t love). He’s perfect here, though, and I loved the main friendship he had with fellow veterans Sadler & Fred Williamson.

And as if these three aren’t cool enough, they also crammed in other “Hey, it’s that guy” actors as further fellow veterans forced to kick ass in as many violent ways as possible. We also have The Karate Kid & Cobra Kai big baddie Martin Kove, George Wendt of Cheers fame, and David Patrick Kelly from the absolute classics The Warriors & The Crow. Oh, and the girl in this, Sierra McCormick, was in a very obscure film that I liked a lot called The Vast Of Night so it was cool seeing her although her character could’ve been a bit more likeable. She should’ve been more grateful to these old dudes whose lives she’s put in danger.

VFW has real Hobo With A Shotgun, Dredd, From Dusk Till Dawn, and even a bit of The Crow vibes going on. So if you like those, you’ll probably like this! Although it’s quite not as good as those (well, maybe as good as Hobo). A few days after watching this I also realized what else it is: It’s an example of every day on Twitter. Honestly. It’s the Boomers vs the Millennials. I wonder if that was on purpose?? And, being Gen X, I did the same thing we all do and just minded my own business while watching these people fight it out. Was definitely with the Boomers on this one, though. Loved seeing them kick ass.

My Rating: 7.5/10

One Cut Of The Dead (2017) & Level 16 (2018) Reviews

Happy October! Today for Horror Month we have a Japanese ZomCom & a cheesy Netflix movie I kind of liked…

One Cut Of The Dead (カメラを止めるな!, Kamera o Tomeru na!)

Directed by Shin’ichirō Ueda

Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Syuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies.

My Opinion:

This was fun! I found it weirdly…. Wholesome? This is a Japanese horror comedy (or, I guess, a ZomCom) & it’s one where you’re better off not knowing too much before watching it. It also gets better as it goes along so stick with it – I really enjoyed the final act of this movie when it all comes together.

The characters were good & I liked the family of three who are involved in the film (especially the mother who goes a little overboard). And it’s not at all “gory” so is worth a watch if you want a lighthearted ZomCom. This was on Film4 in the U.K. but, sadly, I think it has disappeared by now. Sorry! I should review movies while they’re still available to watch.

My Rating: 7/10

Level 16

Directed & Written by Danishka Esterhazy

Starring: Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, Peter Outerbridge, Sara Canning

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
It follows a group of girls who live at a “school” which educates them about how to be perfect young women for families that they are told will eventually adopt them. Two girls work together to uncover the truth about their captivity.

My Opinion:

No, this movie isn’t exactly the best or most original thing ever made but it IS very much my type of story so I quite enjoyed it. It’s on Netflix. By the way, do NOT look this up on IMDb if you want to see it. The images they show ruin the whole story! WTF? So I knew what was going to happen. But I still enjoyed it.

Being someone who grew up loving The Twilight Zone from a very young age, I’d have guessed the ending of this movie anyway as it’s pretty predictable if you watch as much of this sort of thing as I do. I suppose you younger people may also know what to expect if you like Black Mirror. But this is still worth a watch if you like mysterious sci-fi thrillers.

My Rating: 6.5/10

When A Stranger Calls (1979) & Lady Vengeance (2005) Reviews

Two very different films today for October Horror Month. Both were okay but I wanted to like them more than I did…

When A Stranger Calls (1979)

Directed by Fred Walton

Starring: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A psychopathic killer terrorizes a babysitter, then returns seven years later to menace her again.

My Opinion:

I’d been wanting to see this 1979 horror classic for years! “Have you checked the children?” Such a famous line & I think every teen in the ’80s knew where those calls were coming from even if we hadn’t seen this movie. And, yeah, the beginning of this movie is GREAT. The beginning, as a short story on its own, is a classic.

I have a feeling that the beginning bit is all that anyone truly remembers because, man, this one falls apart in the middle. It kind of completely goes in a different direction & we don’t see Carol Kane again until the very end when it finally picks up slightly again. So I’m glad I finally watched this but it felt like I’d already seen it since I knew all about the beginning. Didn’t realize there would be so little of that good stuff & then the rest of the movie would drag. But I’m still giving it an extra half a point for having such a well known & often spoofed beginning.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Lady Vengeance (친절한 금자씨) (Chinjeolhan geumjassi) (2005)

Directed by Park Chan-wook

Starring: Lee Young-ae, Choi Min-sik

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
After being wrongfully imprisoned for thirteen years and having her child taken away from her, a woman seeks revenge through increasingly brutal means.

My Opinion:

I like a revenge movie & am a fan of quite a few South Korean films so expected to really like this one. I was very disappointed. Then again, I absolutely hated Park Chan-wook’s 2nd film in this “Vengeance Trilogy”, so I don’t know why I expected to like this one. Lady Vengeance is the third film, with Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance being the first & that nasty Oldboy being the second.

I definitely far preferred this to Oldboy, however, and liked the main character, Lee Geum-ja. From Wikipedia, the movie is about “a woman released from prison after serving the sentence for a murder she did not commit. The film tells her story of revenge against the real murderer“. The story was a decent enough revenge story but, as with Park Chan-wook’s other films I’ve seen, the characters are hard to like (although Lee Geum-ja is a far more sympathetic character than Oldboy dude). And her red eyeshadow was cool. I’d look like shit in red eyeshadow. Anyway, the film was okay. I struggle with movies that involve children being harmed so this was a hard watch, although it made me want revenge just as much as the main character. I was just hoping for the film to be a bit better than it was…

My Rating: 6.5/10

Audition (1999) Review

Audition (オーディション & Ōdishon) (1999)

Directed by Takashi Miike

Based on Audition by Ryu Murakami

Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Jun Kunimura, Tetsu Sawaki, Miyuki Matsuda, Toshie Negishi, Shigeru Saiki, Ken Mitsuishi, Ren Ohsugi, Renji Ishibashi

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
It is a Japanese horror film about a widower, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), whose son suggests that he should find a new wife. Aoyama agrees, and with a friend, stages a phony audition to meet a potential new partner in life. After interviewing several women, Aoyama becomes interested in Asami (Eihi Shiina), who responds well to him, although as they date, her dark past affects their relationship.

My Opinion:

Well, this was fucked up. To be fair, I knew it was going to be fucked up (it’s why I’ve wanted to see it for years). So I grabbed the DVD a few months ago when I saw it very cheap. I’d say it didn’t quite live up to the hype after all this time but I suppose there’s been more “extreme” stuff since this one (I was surprised it’s a 1999 film as I thought it was a bit more recent). I mean, we’ve since had films like Oldboy which was much more shocking. I absolutely hated Oldboy, by the way – it took things way too far and I found it disgusting but I do realise that it was made for shock value. I wanted to see Audition as I love foreign films & especially love Japanese films and I always like a good horror.

I’d say the movie starts out quite well as we watch this widower go about living his life with his likeable teenage son until a friend of his has the idea to set up a fake movie audition so the widower can interview a bunch of unsuspecting young women to see if any could be a potential new wife. Of course they’re all half his age. I’m always uncomfortable with hints of sexual abuse involving children in movies and wasn’t surprised to find that be a part of this as there needs to be some sort of explanation for a woman ending up being a complete psycho in a film. But does there? Does that always have to be the damn reason? Can we not just be CRAZY for no good reason, dammit?!

Anyway. It’s a good movie & I can see why extreme horror lovers like it as, even though it starts out as a pretty straightforward film, it goes batshit crazy at the end. I do like movies that have a sudden shift like that. But I didn’t like the development of the woman’s character in this. Well, I didn’t feel her character was very developed at all. Why is she doing this, besides the sexual abuse she endured which the movie happily hinted at? For some reason I’d heard this was a feminist film but I’d say it’s the opposite? Plus, the main guy isn’t a bad guy – he’s just lonely since his wife’s death and it was his friend’s idea to set up the fake audition anyway. And god I was SO worried about their adorable dog the whole time.

This review is all over the place… I’m not really sure how I felt. As I said, I think it’s a good film (as in well made) so I’m giving it a decent rating. I did really like elements of it but was disappointed overall as it’s not as good as the hype made it out to be. I’ve not seen any other Takashi Miike films but would possibly watch another based on this. First Love is on Sky & I’m curious about that one. Anyone seen it?

My Rating: 7/10

Countdown (2019) & Mikey (1992) Reviews

Two cheesy horror movies today but I have to admit I enjoyed the one from 1992. Love psychotic children! Not sure why I didn’t see it at the time…

Countdown (2019)

Directed & Written by Justin Dec

Starring: Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Bateman, Tichina Arnold, P.J. Byrne, Peter Facinelli, Anne Winters, Tom Segura

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot follows a group of people who discover a mobile app that correctly tells its users when they are going to die.

My Opinion:

I enjoyed this basic, utterly predictable horror film. It’s about an app that people download that tells them exactly how long they have left to live. So, of course, those who don’t have long to live according to the app die as soon as their time runs out. And, of course, a pretty young blonde medical student downloads it & finds out she has only days to live and must find a way to “cheat death”. Not gonna lie – this movie totally rips off Final Destination. But I always liked the simple setup of that film and thought it made for a really good story (and they were obviously able to use it over & over & over again).

It doesn’t work as well in Countdown & gets far too silly at the end but it’s still an enjoyable film thanks to some entertaining characters in the smaller roles. It’s not the best in the genre but I’ve seen far worse. It was exactly what I was expecting so I wasn’t disappointed.

My Rating: 6/10

Mikey (1992)

Directed by Dennis Dimster

Starring: Brian Bonsall, Josie Bissett, Ashley Laurence, John Diehl, Mimi Craven, Whitby Hertford, Lyman Ward, Lorenzo Obias

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
It stars Brian Bonsall as Mikey, a young boy adopted by a family, who turns out to be a violent psychopath.

My Opinion:

Enjoyed this one much more. I’m so classy! Was this a good film? No. It was cheesy but fun & I liked seeing so many recognisable faces from that time. It’s a horror movie from 1992 that I’m not even sure was released (the rating says “Rejected” on IMDb. What does that mean??) about a young boy who is a psycho killer.

What can I say? I love movies with evil children. The Omen is a big favorite (not that this is even close to being as good as that). Cute little Brian Bonsall plays the psychopath. Ha! Remember him from Family Ties?! This is no wholesome TV show – he truly is a crazy fucker. This also starred Ashley Laurence of Hellraiser fame (actually thought she was a good character in this cheesy horror) & Lyman Ward of “Ferris Bueller’s dad” fame. And Josie Bissett of Melrose Place which I never watched. And Mimi Craven who I just read was Wes Craven’s wife at the time. So, the Craven & Hellraiser horror connections are cool.

I read that this movie is still banned to this day in the U.K. (how did I see it on Amazon Prime U.K., then?!). Sadly, I know why it was banned at that time so that’s completely understandable.

My Rating: 6/10

The Wraith (1986) Review

The Wraith (1986)

Directed & Written by Mike Marvin

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Nick Cassavetes, Sherilyn Fenn, Randy Quaid

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
In a small town in Arizona, a mysterious man/spirit descends from the sky and manifests in a sports car and targets a local violent road-racing gang of motor heads, headed by a ruthless bully who’ll do anything to get what he wants.

My Opinion:

I’m always a little shocked when I discover the existence of an ’80s movie that I somehow never saw. This 1986 film showed up on Amazon Prime UK so I had to give it a watch (even though it stars Charlie Sheen. Ew.). But I loved the sound of it from the plot. From Wikipedia: “The Wraith tells the story of an Arizona teen who mysteriously returns from the dead as a supernatural street-racer driving an invulnerable supercar. His intent is to take revenge on the gang who murdered him.” That sounds weird as shit & right up my alley.

The movie is fun & kind of what I expected, although it could’ve been a little cooler. Not sure how, but it obviously didn’t quite make it to cult level status although it had that potential. I think it needed to be a little more bizarre. For a weird plot synopsis, the movie itself wasn’t weird enough. Plus Sheen was a bit dull – maybe this would be a cult film now had it starred someone else? Hell, his brother Emilio would’ve been much better. Which made me think that I really want to watch Repo Man again, as I don’t remember much now but love Harry Dean Stanton.

This is another thing I love about discovering ’80s movies I never saw: I love spotting so many actors I liked, especially if they’re obscure actors I recognise from other ’80s films. Two not-so-obscure ones in The Wraith but it was great seeing Randy Quaid and Clint Howard (this was a big role for him! He’s usually not much more than a cameo). Anyway – it’s a fun movie but it could’ve been better. I want to give it a higher rating than this. I’d probably like it more if it had been one I’d managed to see when I was a teenager.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Crimson Peak (2015) & Dark Shadows (2012) Reviews

Two more quick re-posts of horror movie reviews for October Horror Month. Not the best films (especially the Tim Burton one) but they both have style…

Crimson Peak (2015)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story, set in Victorian era England, follows an aspiring author who travels to a remote Gothic mansion in the English hills with her new husband and his sister. There, she must decipher the mystery behind the ghostly visions that haunt her new home.

My Opinion:

I do love a gothic horror and, while none of Guillermo del Toro’s films are personal favorites of mine, I did like The Shape Of Water & think Pan’s Labyrinth is a brilliant & visually stunning film. So I’m not sure what took me so long to check out Crimson Peak as it’s the type of thing I enjoy.

And I did definitely enjoy it despite it not being perfect. The story is fine but the atmosphere & the look are what I care about in this type of film and Crimson Peak didn’t disappoint in that department. Loved that creepy dilapidated mansion! I couldn’t find many great images to use for this post but that could be because the movie is quite dark & still images don’t do it justice.

I have to say the most disappointing thing in this film are its stars. I’ve never liked Jessica Chastain’s acting & she was as bad as always. I also find Tom Hiddleston a bit bland, although his character was okay, and I’ll never get why Mia Wasikowska became so big when she’s so boring (although this role was perfect for her, so I didn’t mind her in this). But I don’t care that much about who stars in a movie, although it’s an added bonus when it’s actors I do really like. So the stars didn’t ruin this film for me anyway.

It’s a pretty straightforward ghost story and a tad predictable but it’s still a solid “haunted house” film with some great imagery. Overall, though, it’s disappointing compared to Guillermo del Toro’s other films. But we can’t expect Pan’s Labyrinth every time.

My Rating: 7/10

Dark Shadows (2012)

Directed by Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Eva Green, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Chloë Grace Moretz, Bella Heathcote

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.

My Opinion:

This was the ONLY Tim Burton-directed film I’d not seen so I finally checked it out. Ugh. I suppose I should update my Tim Burton Movie Rankings HERE but I’m too lazy at the moment. It’s probably second or third to last anyway.

What a huge disappointment, especially after it started out okay. Then it all went to shit in the final third. I did enjoy the ensemble cast, though – I do love Michelle Pfeiffer & am happy that (I think?) we’re allowed to like Johnny Depp again (Are we?! Hard to keep track these days). Alice Cooper was also in this (as Alice Cooper). So, bonus points for that since I love Cooper (even though the cameo was stupid and felt forced into the story – it worked much better in Wayne’s World!).

The story was just messy and the characters were hateful. Eva Green is sexy but her psycho slut character was just dumb. Meh. Whatever. I’ll give it an okay score since, as I said, it started out okay plus it had some style, as to be expected from Burton. And Alice Cooper is in it.

My Rating: 6/10

The Empty Man (2020) & The Most Dangerous Game (1932) Reviews

I’d been contemplating doing October Horror Month again this year. But I’ve just realised it’s October 1st & I have nothing prepared. Well, I’m not sure if I have the energy to post at least one horror review every day of October like I have other years but maybe I’ll give it a try as I’ve watched at least 31 horrors in the past year. So these will be re-posts or re-blogs of reviews I’ve already done. I’ll try! Let’s start with two very short reviews…

The Empty Man (2020)

Directed by David Prior

Based on The Empty Man by Cullen Bunn & Vanesa R. Del Rey

Starring: James Badge Dale, Marin Ireland, Stephen Root, Ron Canada, Robert Aramayo, Joel Courtney, Sasha Frolova

Music by Christopher Young, Lustmord

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Empty Man follows an ex-cop who, upon an investigation into a missing girl, discovers a secret cult.

My Opinion:

Hmm. I suppose this was pretty decent for a modern horror film. So many people were going on about it that I decided to check it out on Disney Plus.

I thought it started out pretty great. I really liked the stuff at the start on the mountain & thought it was still pretty good when the teenagers first got involved in the next section of the film. The movie also had a great creepy vibe, partly thanks to the music I think, so I was glad I was watching it alone late at night & getting the heebie jeebies a little as I find so few horror movies to be very creepy. I like being creeped out! Give me a creepy atmospheric supernatural horror over gory stuff.

I’d say one thing in this was too violent for my taste (not sure why that one person had to die so violently?!) but otherwise it wasn’t too over the top. I think it just fell apart for me at the end. It was a decent story & I was certainly intrigued as to what was going on but, I dunno. The ending was okay but I do feel let down by horror movie endings the majority of the time for some reason. I guess I’ve seen far worse endings.

Overall, this was pretty good compared to most the modern horror crap out there. Oh! And I really liked that creepy skeleton in that image. Kind of a spoiler but not really – it’s at the start of the film & is also what convinced me to watch this when someone posted that image on Twitter.

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Directed by Irving Pichel & Ernest B. Schoedsack

Based on The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

Starring: Joel McCrea, Fay Wray, Leslie Banks, Robert Armstrong

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The plot concerns a big game hunter who deliberately strands a group of luxury yacht passengers on a remote island where he can hunt them for sport.

My Opinion:

Saw this pop up on Amazon Prime & was aware of the story by Richard Connell being a classic (inspired by those rich assholes who hunt big game) so thought the 1932 film should be interesting. Plus I really enjoyed the 2020 film The Hunt! Not that they’re at all similar, of course, but the “hunting of humans” idea is the same.

This was good but I wish I’d just looked it up on YouTube (it’s available) as the one on Prime is a horrible colorised version. Why do they do that?! Anyway, it was still a good film even with dodgy coloring. It’s a timeless story & works just as well today. Maybe even more so now, as hunting big game is somehow still a thing. How?!? The thought of the tables being turned is great. This version stars Joel McCrea, Fay Wray and Leslie Banks. Hey! The King Kong actress! I should really watch that version again. Anyway, she was good and far less “damsel in distress” than you’d expect in such an old film. I kept thinking she really looks like Penelope Ann Miller – she could have played her in her life story.

I think this film has actually aged quite well & would recommend watching the black & white version on YouTube.

My Rating: 7/10

Minari (2020) Review

Minari (Korean: 미나리) (2020)

Directed & Written by Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipdia)
A semi-autobiographical take on Chung’s upbringing, the plot follows a family of South Korean immigrants who try to make it in the rural United States during the 1980s.

My Opinion:

Was so happy to see this finally pop up on Sky Cinema as it’s one of the Best Picture nominees this year that I’d wanted to see the most. I have to say I enjoyed it much more than winner Nomadland but probably still like Promising Young Woman the most. But Minari would be a close second out of the six nominees I’ve seen.

It’s a simple story about a Korean-American family trying to start a farm in Arkansas in the 1980s. The characters are what make the film work. I’ve liked cute Steven Yeun ever since he was my favorite character Glenn on The Walking Dead and he’s good in this film. It was great seeing him in a major role. But my two favorite characters by far were his adorable young son played by Alan S. Kim and the quirky grandma played by Youn Yuh-jung. She was great & I’m happy with her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this.

I also loved this little bit of the film: I admit to having a Mountain Dew addiction (for health reasons I can’t drink it right now & it’s killing me!). Anyway – I think everyone knows it’s super high in caffeine & sugar and one of the worst things you can possibly drink so I loved that the family in this were obsessed with Mountain Dew as it’s “Water from the mountains. It’s healthy!“. That was cute. I also just really liked the relationship that forms between the boy & the grandma and also kind of liked their very weird neighbor. I wish more movies focused on having characters you care about like you do for those in Minari. I just wanted this family’s farm to be successful so they could be happy & have an easier life!

My Rating: 7.5/10

Free Guy (2021) Review

Free Guy (2021)

Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodie Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Joe Keery, Taika Waititi

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A bank teller discovers that he’s actually an NPC inside a brutal, open world video game.

My Opinion:

I still haven’t gone to the cinema through the whole pandemic & have no plans to anytime soon but, man, we’re SO missing going to new movies!!! The last thing we all saw in the cinema together (me, hubby & kid) was Onward, which was a “meh” one to end on. So we decided to end the summer school break with a trip to a drive-in.

I was very lucky growing up as there was a great drive-in not far from my tiny American Midwest town (with great pizza!) but I know it’s a novelty in the U.K. They do outdoor showings of older movies here sometimes (saw The Greatest Showman that way) but, seriously, who wants to sit outdoors in shitty U.K. weather?! Too risky in rainy England! So it’s cool that some small drive-ins have popped up during the pandemic. And it didn’t even rain during Free Guy! Yay! They just need to start doing double features – that’s what it always was at the one in America. And it was cheap, too (but it was the ’80s/’90s so I’m sure the cost has gone up). At £30 a car here, it’s good for a couple of trips but we can’t do that regularly. Was worth the cost to see one movie in a year & a half, though.

Anyway. Enough reminiscing about my high school drive-in days (I was so annoyed with my boyfriend wanting to make-out the whole time – I wanted to watch the damn movies). Suppose I should talk about Free Guy?? I probably enjoyed it slightly more than I might have as I needed a movie fix so bad but I thought it was a lot of fun. I even giggled a few times! I’m not a LOL person. Ryan Reynolds is always likeable, of course, but I also really liked Jodie Comer’s character. She’s also more than “just the love interest” – Her role is as big & as important as Ryan’s. The idea itself was good but, admittedly, not the most original. We’ve seen the whole “living in a video game” thing quite a lot. But this movie brought enough of a new spin to the idea plus the romance was surprisingly good (especially at the end). It managed to be slightly unpredictable, which was cool.

Ryan & Jodie are the characters we see the most by far but there were some really good smaller roles too. I can’t say much as I want to avoid spoilers but “Dude” was the best. That’s what got the most giggles out of me (but I’m a little immature). Also liked Ryan’s best friend and that guy from Stranger Things wasn’t too bad despite his always weird hair. And Taika Waititi was as entertaining as always, playing an evil game developer. Plus there are several cameos that I won’t spoil. Yeah, it was lightweight entertainment but that’s exactly what we all needed. Scary that it’s going to end up pretty high on my list of 2021 U.K. releases! But I can’t see absolutely loving many of the upcoming 2021 films. Let’s see how Dune turns out…

My Rating: 7/10

The Fear Street Trilogy (2021) Review

The Fear Street Trilogy (2021)

Directed by Leigh Janiak

Based on Fear Street by R. L. Stine

Fear Street Part One: 1994

Starring: Kiana Madeira, Olivia Scott Welch, Benjamin Flores Jr, Julia Rehwald, Fred Hechinger, Ashley Zukerman, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Maya Hawke, Jordana Spiro, Jordyn DiNatale

Fear Street Part Two: 1978

Starring: Several people from the first film plus Sadie Sink, Emily Rudd, Ryan Simpkins, McCabe Slye, Ted Sutherland, Gillian Jacobs, Chiara Aurelia

Fear Street Part Three: 1666

Starring: Pretty much everyone from the first two films (even the dead ones, which is a little silly!)

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia – this is for the first one but covers all three films which are just set in different years):
The film follows a group of teenagers in Shadyside who are terrorized by an ancient evil responsible for a series of brutal murders that have plagued the town for centuries.

My Opinion:

Quicker to review these all together as it’s one overall story running through all three films. I can’t decide which was better: 1994 or 1978. I think maybe 1994 was the slightly better film but I enjoyed 1978 the most as I’m always a sucker for the ’70s & the ’80s and liked the (obvious) Friday The 13th vibe of being set in a summer camp. Wasn’t as crazy about 1666 and the dodgy accents they all had but I don’t usually like horrors set in that sort of time period as much. But I did like the end of that film & thought the whole story came together pretty well (although it was a bit silly), making it a better trilogy with a more coherent story than a lot of old slasher movies managed.

I’ll say this: Don’t be fooled by the R.L. Stine connection. This is NOT Goosebumps! I was surprised when I saw these were rated 18. Oh man, they are gory. They’re full-on slashers. They were a bit much for me (but I’m a wuss). I know I grew up on slashers (big fan of the Nightmare On Elm Streets) but I could always count on old gore looking super fake. Well, the Fear Street films do have that same fake kind of gore – I think I’m just more sensitive in my old age. They were fun films, though, and I appreciate them trying to do an old school slasher & doing a trilogy all at once was an ambitious risk that I think worked. The characters maybe could’ve been a little better but they were okay (I liked the nerdy little brother the most).

I started by giving the first two films a slightly higher rating. I may change my mind but I lowered them as I don’t think they’re quite as good as some other horrors of the last several years. To be fair, they can’t be compared to things like The Babadook or Midsommar as those are very different from the “slasher” horror genre. But, as I watched 1978, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of The Final Girls which is also set in a summer camp but is spoofing slashers & which I enjoyed much more. I do admittedly love horror comedies, which aren’t for everyone, but I feel the Fear Street movies may have been better with a bit of dark humor thrown in instead of being so serious. I’m fine with the first one starting out very much like Scream & the second being Friday The 13th as I know it’s an homage to those but some may instead see them as derivative. So I think “spoof” horror comedies work a little better as everyone understands exactly what those are trying to do.

Also, although I loved the music in the first two films, it was very overused. I think they wanted to prove what years they were set in so they used as many songs as possible from those eras. 1994 was interesting as I have a love/hate relationship with ’90s music (I appreciated the Radiohead). And I looooved the 1978 soundtrack. They prominently used David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World and I had that song stuck in my head for days afterward (which is good, as that song is awesome). So I personally appreciated the music (how could they afford the rights to so many songs?!) but don’t think the movies did a great job of making it seem like they were actually set in each of the years & relied too much on the cool music to tell us the era.

My complaints are minor, though, and I did enjoy this trilogy. It’s not trying to be some brilliant new horror – it’s just trying to make an entertaining old school slasher. The trilogy is flawed but fun. I do wish I liked the third film a bit more as it was kind of a letdown after the first two. But I’d watch more of these if they make more.

My Ratings:

Fear Street Part One: 1994 – 6.5/10
Fear Street Part Two: 1978 – 6.5/10
Fear Street Part Three: 1666 – 6/10

Here’s David Bowie’s brilliant The Man Who Sold The World:

Once Upon A Time In America (1984) Review

Bonus late review today! I’m trying to put together my August roundup post & ended up writing too much about this one. So I’m posting it separately. Sorry for the rubbish review of such a classic… (I didn’t love it).

Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

Directed by Sergio Leone

Based on The Hoods by Harry Grey

Starring: Robert De Niro, James Woods, Elizabeth McGovern, Joe Pesci, Burt Young, Tuesday Weld, Treat Williams

Music by Ennio Morricone

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Based on Harry Grey’s novel The Hoods, it chronicles the lives of best friends David “Noodles” Aaronson and Maximilian “Max” Bercovicz as they lead a group of Jewish ghetto youths who rise to prominence as Jewish gangsters in New York City’s world of organized crime.

My Opinion:

Being stuck in bed recuperating after a hospital stay made me decide to finally watch this almost-four-hour epic because what the hell else was I going to do with my time? It’s also a part of my IMDb Top 250 Challenge so it gets another movie crossed off of that list.

Hmm. I admit that I didn’t love this one but the gangster film genre has never been a favorite of mine. I did think The Godfather I & II were good but have had no desire to rewatch them. And I’ve never even watched Casino because the violence in that sounds far too extreme for me. So I’m admittedly not the best audience for this film, which was also very violent and, er, way more rape-y than I was expecting. This won’t pass the Bechdel test! But I don’t believe in art being forced to follow some bullshit rules – This is just a warning that women aren’t treated well in this film but it’s probably an accurate representation of these violent sort of men with no morals.

I did appreciate how much time was spent showing us De Niro’s character’s past and liked the part of the film focusing on his childhood & his criminal friends the most. And, hey – Brian Bloom was in this as one of his childhood friends! He was a heartthrob in all the teen magazines I bought in the ’80s but I knew absolutely nothing he’d actually starred in (I should point out that he was also in the ridiculous “horror comedy?” The Stuff, which was horribly bad but is more my type of thing than gangster films). You almost started to care about these guys after seeing them grow up together and somehow stay loyal to each other as they became partners in crime. Almost. The characters were all truly horrible human beings and I struggle with films that have no sympathetic characters. Actually, Fat Moe was okay. Yay, Fat Moe! He was kind of likeable. Unfortunately, De Niro lost any sympathy I may have had for his character after his final “date” with the girl he claimed to love (played by Elizabeth McGovern).

Sorry for the negative sounding review! This is, admittedly, a very good and well-made film. Sergio Leone was a brilliant filmmaker. Oh, and this once again had an Ennio Morricone score. Of course. So I was very happy about that as I’m a big fan. I should point out that I really like Leone’s Dollars Trilogy (especially The Good, The Bad And The Ugly) and also far preferred Once Upon A Time In The West to In America. And those certainly aren’t passing some stupid test gauging how female characters are treated either – they’re just much more my style and I think they’re damn good films. Was hoping to like this one as much as those but do think this is as good as all the best of the gangster films that have been made.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Cruella (2021) Review

Cruella (2021)

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Based on The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith

Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Mark Strong

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Set in London during the punk rock movement of the 1970s, the film revolves around Estella Miller, an aspiring fashion designer, as she explores the path that will lead her to become a notorious up-and-coming fashion designer known as Cruella de Vil.

My Opinion:

Hmm. I was all prepared to absolutely hate this. I’m not a huge fan of Emma Stone and I’m also really annoyed with them rehashing great animated Disney classics to make shitty live action movies (just to extend the rights to these characters for longer or whatever – I know it’s some greedy business deal thing like that). And I love One Hundred And One Dalmatians. Now I’m kind of annoyed that this movie didn’t totally suck. To be fair, I’ve not hated these “villain origin” stories quite as much as the completely pointless straight copies such as Beauty And The Beast. Heck, I kind of liked the Maleficent films. But I also don’t think we need a backstory to make us feel sympathy for the villains. Can’t they sometimes just be evil for no reason? Am I meant to like Cruella now even though she later wants to skin adorable puppies?! By the way, I had her reason for hating dalmatians ruined before seeing this. Oh man is it DUMB. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that bit at the beginning. But what I don’t understand is that she later finds out it’s not exactly what she thought so, by the end of the movie, she doesn’t really hate dalmatians so we still don’t have a reason as to why she later wants to skin them. So the start was pointless. WTF? Is she just plain evil after all? Stupid.

Okay – I still didn’t love Emma Stone but the outfits were fun and Emma Thompson seemed to be having a blast as a truly evil bitch and the soundtrack was awesome. Some of the song choices made no sense and some were so damn obvious it was almost embarrassing. But, dammit, some of my absolute favorite songs were in this. It annoyed me. Don’t taint good music!!! I won’t go listing them all but a few of the best were Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones (god that was obvious but goddamn it’s a good song), Time Of The Season by The Zombies & I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges (though performed by an actor – oh my god kind of an obvious choice but not really as slightly obscure and I love that song sooooooo much that I’m annoyed it’s been introduced to Millennials now thanks to Emma f*%king Stone!!!!). 😉 Honestly. Ugh. It’s like when the youngsters suddenly liked some ’70s songs after they heard them in Guardians Of The Galaxy. Old music is the best! It’s been around for years! Seek some songs out before they’re put into cheesy Disney movies!


*This part totally ripped off The Hunger Games, though*

So… I loved this soundtrack. And I’m annoyed that it was so good. It really did help elevate the film as I thought the story was pretty ridiculous and unnecessary. But the film’s look & sound were good. They did well with that. It was a much better movie overall than I’d been expecting it to be. Damn.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Gotta end this with I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges (love Iggy Pop):

Fantastic Planet (La Planète sauvage, Divoká planeta) (1973) Review

Fantastic Planet (French: La Planète sauvage, Czech: Divoká planeta) (1973)

Directed by René Laloux

Based on Oms en série by Stefan Wul

Narrated by Jean Valmont

Music by Alain Goraguer

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb):
On a faraway planet where blue giants rule, oppressed humanoids rebel against their machine-like leaders.

My Opinion:

Well, this was bizarre!! This is the strange sort of shit I’m always searching for as I get so bored with mainstream movies since I watch way too many. I’m not sure what the hell was going on but I liked it. I also think they had fantastic drugs in the ’70s to be able to make things like Fantastic Planet. I’m going to use several images in this post to give you a feel for this trippy animated film. Here you go:

This was released in 1973. It was made in France & Czechoslovakia, the language is French, and it’s based on the novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul. Okay, I got all that from Wikipedia as I don’t know how to go about discussing this film. So here’s a bit more from Wikipedia: “The film’s narrative has been considered to be an allegory about animal rights and human rights, as well as racism.” And the channel I watched this on had the description as it being an allegory about Communism. (FYI – it’s on the Roku channel in the U.K. if you’re interested).

Well, whatever your interpretation of this film’s story, I think it can be applied to many events throughout history and the horrible ways in which humans treat others who are different from them. Storywise, it very much made me think of a couple of classic Twilight Zone episodes as well as a bit of Stephen King’s Under The Dome. The story was fine but it was the look of the animation that I most appreciated. It very much has a late ’60s/early ’70s look reminiscent of Yellow Submarine and the Monty Python animations. And something about the whole thing overall kind of gave me The Man Who Fell To Earth vibes as well. So it was very much my type of thing but it’s not a film I could recommend to anyone other than serious film blogger types. Oh! And the music in this was groovy & funky so I enjoyed that too. It’s also a movie that would probably really benefit from being watched while high on the drugs from that era (but I’d know nothing about that – this came out just before was born). I think I was born too late – I should’ve lived through the ’60s & the ’70s. Everything was way cooler then.

Something that always bothers me now: Why did previous decades each have their own unique style while everything has been bland and boring and the same since the year 2000? I see no difference between 2001 & 2021. And I miss art. I just feel like nothing interesting like this gets made anymore. Hmm. Well, maybe there have been a few interesting, bizarre films in more recent years (pretty much always in the sci-fi or horror genres). I really liked the style of Under The Skin, Daft Punk’s Electroma, and especially Mandy. So maybe we still get strange, arty films sometimes. Anyway, I enjoyed this movie and am glad the hubby found it for us to watch as I had somehow never even heard of it and it’s the bizarre kind of stuff I like. It’s weird as hell but I’ll certainly not forget it and I always prefer that to the many bland & forgettable films that get made.

My Rating: 7/10

Man On Fire (2004) Review

Man On Fire (2004)

Directed by Tony Scott

Based on Man on Fire by A. J. Quinnell

Starring: Denzel Washington, Dakota Fanning, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Giannini, Radha Mitchell, Marc Anthony, Rachel Ticotin, Mickey Rourke

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
In Mexico City, a former CIA operative swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect.

My Opinion:

Okay, this certainly wasn’t the best movie I’ve seen in August but I probably enjoyed it the most. In many ways, it’s quite bad. Very cliché & predictable & all that. But Denzel Washington was as awesome as always (love him) and, yeah, I fell for the cheesy friendship that was so obviously going to form between him and Dakota Fanning, the young girl he’s hired to protect as she’s in danger of being kidnapped. The movie did that very well, though, and spent a long time showing their growing relationship and making us care about them instead of diving straight into the action. They had great chemistry, which helped make up for the characters of her parents (played by Radha Mitchell & Marc Anthony) being a bit rubbish. But it’s hard to live up to Denzel’s massive star power so it’s impressive that the very young Fanning held her own against him where most the adult actors couldn’t.

Christopher Walken was also good, as always, as Denzel’s old friend in this but I’d have liked to see much more of him as well as finding out more about their shared tragic past & what has made Washington’s character so broken. So, yeah – great development of the Denzel/Dakota friendship but really would’ve loved to have found out much more about Washington’s character. This movie is very much two movies: the first half sets up the characters & friendship while the second half is Denzel going on a bloody, violent, revenge-fuelled murderous rampage. Oh boy! He was PISSED OFF. So that was fun and exactly what people like in a revenge thriller.

I actually finally decided to watch this after seeing a Twitter thread showing movies with very different audience & critic scores (audiences loved Man On Fire & critics hated it). I always find that fascinating. I now see why there’s the difference on this one. No, it’s not a good movie. As I said, it’s very cliché & predictable & a little cheesy. It’s also fun and has some great characters plus who doesn’t love a good revenge thriller?? I’m a wuss with violence but find I can stomach it a bit more when it’s for a good reason. I wanted Denzel to kill all those evil bastards! And Denzel gives his all in this – he’s not one of these good actors who just phones it in when he’s not in one of his more “Oscar-worthy” films. It’s why I’ve never paid much attention to reviews from professional critics. Are movies not allowed to just be enjoyable sometimes? I enjoyed this. It had exactly what I expect from an action thriller plus it actually gave us far better characters than what we get in a lot of other films in this genre. Admittedly, though, Denzel (as well as Dakota) are what really make this one work. I don’t think the movie would be as popular with a different lead actor. Denzel was perfect for this film.

My Rating: 7/10

Jungle Cruise (2021) Review By The Kid

My kid watched Jungle Cruise with a friend yesterday. I’ve not seen it so asked her if she’d like to write a quick review for my blog. So here’s a 12-year-old’s opinion of Jungle Cruise… 😊

Jungle Cruise (2021)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Based on The Jungle Cruise by Walt Disney

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Paul Giamatti

My kid’s review

short synopsis :
🌴🛳
lily houghton has a goal she’s trying to reach. she needs the tears of the moon to heal sicknesses, fevers etc. she steals the arrowhead, which helps her locate the tears, and sets off to find them. though others want the arrowhead as well and go after her. lily runs off looking for a cruise with a skipper and they make a swift escape 😁

my opinion :
👍👎
it was decent. it got a bit slow at times and i got a little bored during parts of it but big twists kept coming that stopped me from getting really bored ( even though i’m smart enough to guess the plot twists before they even happen because they’re all cliché 🙄 )

it could have been better though because lots of it was predictable and quite often the stuff would chop and change way too quickly and i’d look away for a few seconds then not know what was going on.

but overall it was decent and i give it a 6.5/10

Wings Of Desire (1987) Review

I haven’t finished writing my July Roundup post yet but, again, I’ve ended up writing a bit too much about a movie to include it in the monthly roundup of “brief” reviews. So here’s a review on its own for the best film that I watched in July…

Wings Of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) (1987)

Directed by Wim Wenders

Starring: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Curt Bois, Peter Falk

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
An angel tires of overseeing human activity and wishes to become human when he falls in love with a mortal.

My Opinion:

I’d been wanting to see this for years so was sooooo happy when it turned up on Film 4 (it’s still available on the All 4 rewatch thingymabob for a couple more weeks, FYI). Not gonna lie: I saw City Of Angels when it came out & really liked it and its interesting idea involving immortal angels who observe us so have since been curious about the original film. I do wonder how City Of Angels has held up – I should rewatch it. But, wow – they really are very different movies. Wings Of Desire is obviously the superior film, of course, and I liked it a lot. I’ll be honest, though – it’s very “arthouse” so is not one for a mainstream movie audience (which is probably why they made City Of Angels as the story itself is good).

I feel bad with films like these as this obviously deserves a really good write-up but I wouldn’t know what to say about it. There will be great articles out there from proper film scholars & shit. I’m only really qualified to write reviews of things like Road House, etc. “A polar bear fell on me.” Hahaha! I love that movie. No one says that in Wings Of Desire & no one gets their throat ripped out. Well, Patrick Swayze’s character Dalton was all into philosophy and the angels in Wings Of Desire spend the whole movie listening to people’s thoughts on the meaning of their own existence & shit so, hey, maybe Road House Dalton isn’t so different from these angels! Apart from the throat ripping.

Yes, this whole movie involves angels listening to people thinking about the meaning of their own lives. Wings Of Desire is way existential (that’s a Clueless quote, FYI). You know, I use that Clueless quote a lot but I think this is the first time I’ve used it within the correct context! Yay, me! So, if you’re having an existential crisis, this may be the movie for you. Or… maybe you should avoid it if you are?! Hmm. Anyway, there are some great memorable & powerful moments (such as in the image above). And I really liked the main characters: Two angels & a mortal trapeze artist (who one of the angels falls in love with – a trapeze artist is more fun than Meg Ryan as a doctor) plus Peter Falk as a movie director/star was fantastic. Didn’t know he was in this! “As you wish“!

Before I finish I really need to mention another brilliant movie, A Matter Of Life And Death, as these two films have so much in common. I think it’s fairly well known in the U.K. but not outside the U.K. for some reason. I take every possible opportunity to recommend it because it’s a fantastic film. My short review is in the above link & here’s the IMDb synopsis if you’re curious: “A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.” Both films also make use of something I really loved visually but don’t want to give it away if you know nothing about either of them (although if you go looking them up online you’ll see what I mean). But if they sound like your type of thing, I’d suggest going into them knowing as little as possible. I’d definitely recommend both of these films but I do prefer A Matter Of Life And Death overall & it’s the one I would suggest watching first of the two. The two together would make for an amazing double feature! Good stuff.

My Rating: 8/10

Upstream Color (2013) Review

Upstream Color (2013)

Directed & Written & Produced by Shane Carruth

Starring: Amy Seimetz & Shane Carruth

Cinematography by Shane Carruth

Edited by Shane Carruth & David Lowery

Music by Shane Carruth

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.

My Opinion:

Was glad to finally see this on Amazon Prime U.K. as I’ve been wanting to see it ever since I saw Shane Carruth’s other & even more confusing film Primer. Ah, Primer. I… think I liked Primer? I’m not going to pretend that I could at all follow along with the complex time travel involved but, hey, I like a smart film & apparently things were quite accurate in that film according to smart science-y people (or so I read). Gotta love a movie where you have to go online afterwards to try to figure it out. I found a complicated diagram online trying to explain it all (it’s in my Primer review I’ve linked if you want to see it).

So, onto Upstream Color. Again, it’s a bit weird and very “what the fuck is going on?”. I’d say it’s more strange than Primer since that was, really, just a time travel story even though it was complicated but I couldn’t quite figure out the meaning in Upstream Color (if there is one). What is this movie trying to tell us? What was up with the pigs?! What was the purpose of the pig farmer guy? Why was he doing that re-implanting (I’m trying to stay spoiler-free)? What was with the sound stuff he was doing? What was up with those flowers? What the hell was the point of any of this?!? Is this a circle of life type thing? This movie gave me vibes of what I’ve always assumed Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life movie is probably like (but I can’t say for sure since I never watched that since it sounds totally pretentious). But I probably will watch that someday since I’m always drawn to these sort of movies despite not being smart enough to understand them.

Well, I won’t ramble on forever talking about this movie since I have no explanations. There are okay articles you can find online if you want to go looking up “Upstream Color explained!” but what I read online didn’t help much either. To be honest, the people writing those articles didn’t seem to know what the point of the movie was either. Even what Shane Carruth himself has said about this movie doesn’t offer all that much insight. For example, this is something Carruth said that’s on Wikipedia under Themes & is spoiler-free (you can read a little more at the link if you want):

“In April 2013, io9.com asked director Shane Carruth if the film’s point regarded a return to nature. Carruth replied that the film explored breaking cycles:

It’s more about what those pigs are now embodying. I mean, there is a break of the cycle. These people that have been affected by this are now taking back ownership of the thing that they’re connected to…I don’t believe that narrative works when it’s trying to teach a lesson, or speak a factual truth. What it’s good for is, an exploration of something that’s commonplace and universal — maybe that’s where the truth comes from.”

Yeah… Okay…. Well, I liked this movie just fine as I do like weird films (Hello, Butt Boy & Rubber!). I think this is a smarter film than those, though, even if the explanations of it sound like a load of bollocks (I’ve put that word in here for Film Miasma). I do prefer Primer as that is shockingly now seeming like the much simpler film but I enjoyed the bizarre ride with this one. Especially the weird shit with the pigs! Amy Seimetz (from Pet Sematary and the director & writer of the equally weird She Dies Tomorrow) was good in the main role. And Shane Carruth seems very talented. He did everything with this movie! Directed, produced, wrote & starred in as well as doing the editing, cinematography & music. I’ve liked enough of what I’ve seen of his work so far to watch anything else he might make.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Cherry (2021) Review

Cherry (2021)

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Based on Cherry by Nico Walker

Starring: Tom Holland, Ciara Bravo, Jack Reynor, Michael Rispoli, Jeff Wahlberg

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows an Army veteran suffering from PTSD, who resorts to robbing banks to support his opioid addiction.

My Opinion:

This was a weird one. I think I liked it okay? Despite none of the characters being very likeable or sympathetic. I felt like this movie was trying too hard to be “worthy”, though. I felt like it had a good story (from the book Cherry partly based on the real life of author Nico Walker) but failed to make what could’ve been a truly great film out of it.

I think part of what didn’t quite make this work for me is the fact that I’m old & grumpy plus maybe a tiny bit film-snobby at times. First of all: I’m old. Tom Holland & Ciara Bravo are both good in this. I can’t fault their performances in any way whatsoever. But, damn. I know they’re in their early twenties & it’s great they cast age appropriate people instead of really old fuckers pretending to be young like in Grease or something, but… They both look about 15 to me. As I said, I do think they did a really good job and it’s partly me just me being so old but I couldn’t fully buy into these two cute, tiny, 15-year-old-looking people being drug addicts (and one also being a hardened war veteran with PTSD). Not fair, I know. They were good. I did like them in this movie even if I couldn’t fully believe the characters based mainly on how they look.

Oh, and I just wanted to make sure to mention Ciara Bravo’s coat at the start of the movie. It’s adorable!! I love it. I want one. But I’m old & not young & pretty like her so it wouldn’t look cute on me anyway. The above picture was the only one I could find of it online with the writing up in the corner (I dunno where it’s from – I found it HERE).

Anyway! Back to problem number two for me: I can be a tiny bit film snobby. I admit to very much preferring movies from the ’70s & ’80s above all other decades. As I watched this, I kept thinking that it could be a classic now if it had been made in the dirty, gritty ’70s (yeah, yeah – I know it’s based on a book that didn’t exist then but you know what I mean). The war bits especially made me think of things like Full Metal Jacket (yeah, yeah – I know that’s an ’80s movie but it’s set during Vietnam so you know what I mean). And then I just thought this movie could’ve been great if made in the past by some amazing director like Stanley Kubrick (you know, had the book existed in his lifetime). Maybe the Russo Brothers just aren’t the best choice for this type of movie? Their MCU stuff is good but a gritty war & drug drama is obviously a very different type of movie. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Cherry will be seen as a classic 30/40 years from now in the same way as things like Apocalypse Now (Maybe? Probably not.).

Well, I think I liked this movie anyway despite it being far from perfect & trying a little too hard. But I wanted to see what would happen with these characters & did want to see them turn their lives around. I also really liked that it was sort of at least three movies in one: the college years, the war years, and the bank-robbing PTSD drug addict years. The war years were probably the strongest parts of the movie but the drug years were quite good too (in a stressful sort of way, I guess). Better character development would’ve been good: So the girl’s parents only showed up briefly in her life once while she was in the hospital & then just disappeared again? And what about the family of Holland’s character – did I just miss that? I feel like something was said but I missed it. Did he have no family? I also think more of a dark humor running through this may have been good (there was a hint of this but not in a way that really worked – Kubrick would’ve been good at that!).

Oh, and Jack Reynor is in this (the drug section). I’ve liked him ever since the fantastic Sing Street & liked him in this too. I looked him up just now to see his age compared with Holland & he’s only about four years older. Yet I fully believed him in this role. He seems so much older. So maybe I am being unfair on Holland (and Bravo) just for looking soooooo damn young. Good performances anyway. They certainly made me never want to go to war or become addicted to drugs! Not that those were ever on my list of things I want to do… I want her coat, though.

My Rating: 7/10

Luca (2021) & Raya And The Last Dragon (2021) Reviews

Can’t believe I didn’t review these two big new Disney & Pixar releases right away. Well, I’ll be posting my June Roundup post next week but figured I better give these slightly more than just the mini-reviews in those posts. Here we go…

Raya And The Last Dragon (2021)

Directed by Don Hall & Carlos López Estrada

Starring: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk

Music by James Newton Howard

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya is determined to find the last dragon.

My Opinion:

I was weirdly looking forward to this. Well, maybe that’s not weird? Plenty of middle-aged women love Disney movies. My mom & grandma do too. We grew up with them. I thought this looked really good in the trailer & watched it as soon as it became available as part of the Disney Plus subscription. It’s good. I liked the animation and there were some strong characters & a decent story. Is it as strong as Disney’s very best films? No, but it’s far from the worst and has quite a reputation to live up to if compared to the best. It’s also sadly not nearly good as Moana, which it’s of course going to be compared to the most as that’s also quite recent & was very good. Who cares? It’s still an enjoyable film. And I loved her pet Tuk Tuk! Forget the dragons – I want my own Tuk Tuk!


So cute!

I’m sure what either does or very much doesn’t work for people watching this is Awkwafina as Sisu the dragon. She’s very “love her or hate her”. Well, luckily I like her (and her vag) just fine so I liked her as the quirky dragon. But I prefer when Disney doesn’t use very obvious voices & over-the-top comedians who can throw you out of the story a bit & make the films less “timeless”. I’m actually not crazy about Robin Williams in Aladdin for this same reason & I liked Williams as an actor & comedian a lot (RIP – I will forever be sad about that). I guess I just like my Disney films to stand the test of time but, hey, I’m old school. Or maybe just old… Oh well – I liked the Awkwafina dragon anyway. And I loved Tuk Tuk, as I said, and of course Raya is yet another great new addition to the “strong female Disney characters” thing so I was happy as they’re really the three main characters we see the most. Oh, and Raya’s dad was kinda hot.

I think this movie unfortunately loses its way in the middle of the film. It started out very strong and the ending was fine (although, come to think of it, I kind of can’t fully remember the ending now!). I feel like I say this in half my reviews lately (I’m old & I’m tired) but I did snooze a little in the middle so could do with watching this again sometime. I liked it enough that I wouldn’t mind a rewatch. I think, mainly, too many additional characters got added along the way and they weren’t that great compared to those I’ve already mentioned. In fact, one was really annoying (the dumb baby). Even my daughter was like “that baby is dumb” so I’m afraid my pickiness about movies is rubbing off on her. (Dumb baby is in the image below). There was also probably a bit too much going on story-wise for any young kids to follow with so many different regions fighting each other and so many characters to keep track of. I feel a little unfair rating this when I know I could do with rewatching it. But the middle bit & the dumb baby did make me lose interest for a while. Maybe I’ll change my mind & up the rating half a point after a rewatch.

My Rating: 7/10

Luca (2021)

Directed by Enrico Casarosa

Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
On the Italian Riviera, an unlikely but strong friendship grows between a human being and a sea monster disguised as a human.

My Opinion:

My beloved Pixar! I’m such a big Pixar fan. I think their best movies are among some of the very best movies overall, even compared to non-animated films. And anyone who knows me knows I love to rank movies so, if you really need to know, here’s my Pixar ranking (from my least favorite to my favorite):

23. Luca
22. Cars 2
21. The Good Dinosaur
20. Onward
19. Cars
18. Incredibles 2
17. Finding Dory
16. Monsters University
15. Soul
14. Toy Story 4
13. Coco
12. Ratatouille
11. A Bug’s Life
10. Brave
9. The Incredibles
8. Up
7. Toy Story 3
6. Toy Story 2
5. Inside Out
4. Finding Nemo
3. Toy Story
2. Monsters, Inc.
1. WALL-E

Not seen Cars 3 – Maybe I should watch that…

Okay, I honestly feel really bad about putting Luca last as I thought it was a very sweet & very wholesome film. It was actually so sweet & felt so genuine that I don’t feel right saying anything bad about it. I really did feel like the filmmakers put their hearts into making this & that comes across in the movie. The two boys & the girl they befriended were likeable and watching the movie was… Pleasant? Like, it would be impossible to think mean & nasty thoughts while watching this. It was a nice, peaceful family film.

But I was mostly just bored. And, yes, I fell asleep in the middle of this one too (I did catch up on what I missed later). I’m sorry! I apologise to the filmmakers! Your movie is very sweet and the main three characters are very nice! I complained a bit about Raya having too many characters but I think Luca is missing all the extra “small role” characters that Pixar always do soooo well. Look at how awesome each & every character is in things like Toy Story & Finding Nemo, even down to the ones with very few or even no lines (especially those turtles, dudes!). I wasn’t interested in any of the lesser characters in Luca. Okay, yes – it meant they really got to focus on the main three friends but I’m used to Pixar giving us loads of characters to love in every film. The other characters in Luca were bland other than maybe the weird uncle (I think) who lived very deep in the sea & was nice & weird. Yeah, of course I liked the weird sea monster with no social skills! That’s what this movie needed: More weirdos. It was far too wholesome. I also wasn’t crazy about the animation, which was disappointing as I did like the director’s lovely Pixar short La Luna . This just didn’t look like a Pixar film to me. I guess the style worked better as a short film.

I’ll finish this before I say anything too negative because I don’t think this movie deserves that. It’s certainly not a bad film. Not at all. It’s just not up to Pixar standards. To be fair, I was maybe a little harsh putting it below Cars 2 which I don’t even remember. But, as much as I almost hate those Cars movies, I have to admit those still did a decent job with having more than only three good characters. Sorry. I wanted to like this much more! It did have a lovely message about not hiding your true self so that was nice. (I need to stop saying “nice”)

My Rating: 6/10

Timecop (1994) Review

Timecop (1994)

Directed by Peter Hyams

Based on Timecop by Mike Richardson & Mark Verheiden

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ron Silver, Mia Sara, Bruce McGill, Gloria Reuben

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
Max Walker, an officer for a security agency that regulates time travel, must fend for his life against a shady politician who’s intent on changing the past to control the future.

My Opinion:

Okay, despite loving ’80s & early ’90s movies as I grew up on them, I had never seen a Jean-Claude Van Damme film until watching Bloodsport a couple of months ago. Goddamn, that movie was FUN! I liked it so much I gave it a full-length review HERE. It was cheesy & cliché & just the right amount of ridiculous to make it into that “so bad it’s good” category (like my beloved Road House!). Timecop, unfortunately, was not nearly as much fun but I did still quite enjoy it.

I think Bloodsport gets away with its great early ’80s feel (although it came out in 1988) but Timecop has too much of that bad ’90s action movie look & feel about it. And hints of that future horrible mullet are starting to appear. Again, Van Damme is not exactly a “good” actor so it’s hard to take him too seriously as this heartbroken cop who enforces, like, the laws of time travel or some shit. I don’t know but that sounds a bit like the Loki TV show so far! Which, admittedly, is a great idea for a story but was executed very poorly in this film. Which is a shame as, honestly, this could’ve been a kick ass movie with an even bigger budget & a blockbuster star and a far better script. But Timecop was still kind of fun even though Van Damme did his signature splits far less than in Bloodsport (but he did them at least twice including a great split across a kitchen counter which was almost as cheesy as the “tree splits” in Bloodsport). I couldn’t find a good image of the kitchen counter splits online so I grabbed this from a video:

By the way, Van Damme gets his naked bum out briefly in this movie just like in Bloodsport if you’re into that sort of thing.

What can I say? This movie isn’t good but it’s fun. Watch The Adjustment Bureau or the fantastic Predestination if you want to see truly good stories involving time travelling cop types. Watch Timecop if you want a dumb time travel story written around Van Damme doing sexy splits & Mia Sara, aka Ferris Bueller‘s girlfriend, showing her boobs. Oh! OH! And a baddie has an AWESOME (***spoiler*** but not really a spoiler as this movie is predictable) death scene. Awesomely BAD but so bad it’s awesome. Like, BAD low-budget body horror shit for a few brief seconds out of fucking nowhere in this thing. Loved that. I’m giving this an extra half a point for the best dumb death scene I’ve seen in a while.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Misbehaviour (2020) Review

Here’s another mini-review before I post my full June movie roundup sometime next week…

Misbehaviour (2020)

Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe

Starring: Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jessie Buckley, Keeley Hawes, Phyllis Logan, Lesley Manville, Rhys Ifans, Greg Kinnear

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A group of women hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.

My Opinion:

I enjoyed this despite my weird hatred for Keira Knightley. Her acting bothers me yet I seem to watch all her damn movies?! I prefer this longer Wikipedia synopsis to tell you what this is about: “The 1970 Miss World competition took place in London, hosted by the US comedian Bob Hope. At that time Miss World was the most-watched TV show in the world with over 100 million viewers. Arguing that beauty competitions objectify women, the newly formed women’s liberation movement achieved overnight fame by invading the stage and disrupting the live broadcast of the competition.

This is a true story I knew nothing about but fully support because, let’s face it, beauty pageants are demeaning & sexist. But, yeah, I totally watched them as a kid & thought nothing of them as that’s just how the world was. Hopefully they’ve modernised them a bit nowadays?? I have no clue. But I liked seeing these Women’s Liberation activists disrupt this pageant after its host, Bob Hope, made a sexist joke. As with any film adaptation, though, I’m sure it’s not 100% accurate. Okay – I looked up the real footage and, yes, it was much more dramatic in the film. But Bob Hope certainly made plenty of sexist jokes! Icky. Here’s the footage but you can’t really tell that the women are throwing flour bombs at the stage.

What made the whole thing even more interesting was this (from Wikipedia, but it gives the result away if you don’t want to know that before watching the movie): “Even greater controversy then followed after the result was announced. Jennifer Hosten won becoming the first Black woman to win Miss World and the black contestant from South Africa was placed second.” So they rightly disrupted a very sexist pageant but, at the same time, it was the first of these pageants to give other women these opportunities & the winner was a very intelligent woman with a successful life & career following the pageant (whether or not that was helped by winning I don’t know but I’m sure it helps open some doors). So arguments can be made both for and against these contests but the movie doesn’t explore that quite as much as it could have. There’s also a bit at the end in the dressing room that you just know didn’t happen in real life but that they added just to make things more interesting for the film. That’s fine – I always say that if I want the true story I’ll watch a documentary.

This story is interesting enough that I would watch a documentary too but the movie does a decent enough job of bringing a story that probably isn’t well known to a slightly bigger audience even if the film doesn’t really dig too deeply into its subject matter. But I really enjoyed the movie & everyone did a good job, including annoying Knightley & Jessie Buckley as two of the protesters. I especially liked Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the contestant they focus on the most. Oh, and Greg Kinnear was surprisingly good as the truly smarmy Bob Hope. Was Hope always so smarmy?! Guess I don’t remember that from my childhood – I thought he was an American national treasure. Huh.

My Rating: 7/10

*Here’s a small complaint about the poster for this movie: Jessie Buckley is making that dumb selfie duckface. We didn’t make that stupid face before stupid selfies came along. I’m sure you can find some old pictures – I think Marilyn Monroe will have done “kiss face” type photos. But it’s more of a modern thing. So it’s annoying to see it on someone in a film set in 1970 even though I know she’s making fun of pageants & posing. Dumb complaint, I know, but the duckface annoys the hell out of me & makes me wonder if the people actually know how to genuinely smile anymore.