What It’s About: (via Wikipedia) The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.
I read this as, which you may notice by my list at the end of this review, I’m reading books before their movie adaptations are released this year. The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, is out today in the U.S. and October 6th in the U.K. I’m a fan of Larson, especially after the fantastic Room as well as Short Term 12 (which was also from the director of The Glass Castle, Destin Daniel Cretton). So, even though “true story dramas” don’t normally appeal to me, I decided to give this a read since I’ll happily watch a movie with this film’s cast. I didn’t expect the book to quite possibly be my very favorite that I’ve read so far this year. But, I think it probably is. What a pleasant surprise.
I liked the way in which Walls wrote her story. It’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t seem to be passing judgement on her parents & the way in which they chose to raise their children. Like a lot of people raised in small-town American Midwest, my childhood was pretty straightforward (and pretty damn boring). Not rich, not poor, working parents, regularly attended school, followed all the rules & the “societal norms”, etc. The Walls family are unlike any I’ve ever personally known and I found their story fascinating. I suppose there are other nomadic families in America but it’s a world I’ve never experienced & can’t even begin to imagine. The Walls family moved from place to place all across America, sometimes homeless & living out in the open, rarely holding down regular jobs despite having the ability to work (including the mother having the qualifications for teaching) and despite the fact that their children had to dig their classmates’ uneaten lunches out of the trash at school in order to have anything to eat. I was often shocked by the horrendous neglect endured by Jeannette, her two sisters, and her brother (and amazed that these children were never taken away from their parents). However, as I said, Jeannette never really speaks poorly of her parents – she just tells her story in a straightforward manner without the need to embellish things. Their story is so outrageous that I don’t think you could make up half of the odd things their parents did. Yet Jeannette does still give us glimpses of the love their parents had for them, especially from her father through his many broken promises that I think he himself may have genuinely believed he’d keep even though his children knew he never would.
This is a hard book to describe without making it sound horribly depressing but it’s not really that way at all. It’s truly amusing and at times had me smiling at some of the bizarre things this family went through (like when they try to move a piano into their house). Jeannette’s parents, though they will sometimes make you very angry if you read this, are truly a couple of unique characters & free spirits. It’s highly unusual for me to enjoy (or even bother to read) a true story but, as they say, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Do they say that? Hmm. Well, someone said that. Sounds like something Jeannette’s father would say. I don’t know if I’ve talked anyone into reading this but I do highly recommend it. It’s frustrating. It’s uplifting. It’ll make you angry. It’ll make you smile. It’ll make you shake your head in disbelief. You won’t know whether you want to hug or punch the parents (most likely the latter). But it’s also not soppy or trying to be some big tearjerker, which is the kind of thing that gets on my nerves. It’s just a well-written story of a girl who somehow managed to survive & to thrive after living a truly unusual childhood with two very eccentric parents. The movie has “meh” reviews so far & the below trailer doesn’t really blow me away (although I’ll still watch it). So, if you can, READ THE BOOK FIRST.
My Rating: 4.5/5
Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)
Here are three quickies for three shitty movies. I wasted enough time watching them so I don’t want to spend much time writing about them. Here we go!
Tank Girl (1995)
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Based on Tank Girl comic by Alan Martin & Jamie Hewlett
Starring: Lori Petty, Ice-T, Naomi Watts, Malcolm McDowell, Iggy Pop, Scott Coffey, James Hong, Don Harvey, Jeff Kober, Reg E Cathey
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Tank Girl is set in a drought-ravaged Australia, years after a catastrophic impact event. It follows the antihero Tank Girl (Petty) as she, Jet Girl (Watts), and genetically modified supersoldiers called the Rippers fight “Water & Power”, an oppressive corporation led by Kesslee (McDowell).
I recently read a collection of early Tank Girl comics (which I reviewed yesterday HERE) so figured I better finally watch the movie adaptation afterwards despite it being pretty widely trashed. While reading Tank Girl, I kept thinking “how could this actually work as a movie?”. The answer, of course, is that this movie doesn’t work. What a mess…
I’ll start with some positives: I didn’t mind Lori Petty as Tank Girl and thought she had the right look & attitude. I’ll try to ignore the fact that she’s not at all Australian! I didn’t love her as Tank Girl (I’m sure someone else might have been better although I’m not sure who) but I didn’t hate her. She seemed to have fun with the role, anyway. Tank Girl is an awesome character and I think that does come through in the movie even though they don’t quite capture her spirit. And, um… Another positive?? Let’s see… The soundtrack is pretty good! Although I would’ve liked much more punk plus they should’ve tried to use bands mentioned in the comic (but a “score by Ennio Morricone” actually wouldn’t have worked even if the comic liked to credit him with its score). 😉
In the comic, there wasn’t much of a storyline. Tank Girl was daft (and usually drunk) and the whole thing was crazy & all over the place. I liked that. I’ve only read the earliest of the Tank Girl comics so don’t know how many I missed or if there’s actually a similar story to the one in the movie at some point but I didn’t think it worked. The story & the script sucked. Malcolm McDowell was a pretty crap villain and… Naomi Watts was in this?! I didn’t know that beforehand – she must be embarrassed now.
I wondered how they’d deal with Tank Girl’s boyfriend being a kangaroo and, although the movie doesn’t really manage to pull it off, I’m not sure how you ever could portray that in a film without it looking cheesy as hell. I like this bit of trivia at IMDB:
“MGM insisted on cutting a scene of Tank Girl and her kangaroo boyfriend Booga reclining after sex, despite spending $5,000 on a prosthetic penis for Booga.”
I don’t know what else to say about this movie. It just didn’t work but, to be fair, I think it’s a very hard comic to adapt. I do wonder if it would work nowadays with the right director since comic book movies have gotten a lot better and “darker”. I’d like to see a violent, R-rated version. Like Dredd but with a sense of humor? I don’t know – it still probably wouldn’t work but I did read that this movie was very heavily cut & that the director, Rachel Talalay, had no control over that so I suppose that didn’t help. I’m giving it a higher rating than I think it deserves because I really like the character of Tank Girl and, at the very least, I don’t think the movie tainted the character. But I’d like to see that fake kangaroo penis.
My Rating: 5/10
Class Of 1999 (1989)
Directed by Mark L Lester
Starring: Bradley Gregg, Traci Lind, Malcolm McDowell, Stacy Keach, Patrick Kilpatrick, Pam Grier, John P Ryan, Darren E Burrows, Joshua John Miller, Sean Sullivan
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) Robot teachers have been secretly placed in the schools where the students have run riot. The teachers do a good job of controlling the unruly youngsters, until they go too far and some students get suspicious.
On paper (or on a screen since that’s how we read everything now), this movie sounds awesome. To me, at least. The synopsis (killer robot teachers in a high school!), the cool poster & the fact that it’s from the 1980s had me all excited to watch this movie that I’d somehow never even heard of. Well, damn – it’s not good. What a disappointment! I was hoping it would at least be a low budget sci-fi cult classic type of thing like Hardware or something (yes! I got yet another Hardware mention into a post!). I didn’t hate it but it’s not very good despite having so much potential to be something I’d like.
One thing I always love about watching movies from this time period is seeing familiar faces from my favorite era and Class Of 1999 has lots of these. Look – a Tank Girl connection with Malcolm McDowell! He plays the school’s principal in this – I think Hollywood had him on speed dial for these types of movies back then. The movie’s hero (Bradley Gregg – a teenage delinquent who’s actually a “good guy”) is in two of my favorite movies: he’s Eyeball Chambers in Stand By Meand also the character whose death topped My Top Ten Nightmare On Elm Street Deaths in Dream Warriors!!!
The robot teachers are played by Patrick Kilpatrick, John P Ryan & Pam Grier (with dodgy-looking fake robot boobs). Stacy Keach is the main baddie in charge of the robots and for some reason seductively eats a banana? I immediately recognized Sean Sullivan as the drunk one who Garth doesn’t want spewing in the Mirth Mobile in Wayne’s World. Finally, Bradley Gregg’s sweet little delinquent brother is played by Joshua John Miller(!), who (whom?) I know very well from lots of 80’s movies & TV shows including my favorite episode of Highway To Heaven. Haha! Highway To Heaven!! I was such a nerd. I just looked him up & he co-wrote the screenplay for The Final Girls. What?! I should really try to watch that…
To be honest, I’m not sure what actually made this movie so bad. Yes, the acting is pretty rubbish and the special effects look dodgy and the script isn’t the greatest but I still can’t help but look at these images and the overall plot & cast and think that this is exactly my type of movie. I think it didn’t help that, when it started and we saw the exaggerated “futuristic 1999 punk kids”, it reminded me of the teenagers in Class Of Nuke ‘Em High. I’m pretty damn sure that no movie ever wants to make you immediately think of a Troma film.
Also, I watched this and the Bronies documentary very late one night as they were both about to disappear from Netflix. I kept falling asleep through both of them so I may have not fully given this movie a chance. Okay – I think I’m now trying to talk myself into liking Class Of 1999 for some reason?? It’s an okay film but extremely dated and would only possibly be appreciated by someone my age who likes this sort of thing. I’m glad I watched it but I’m not too bothered that it has disappeared from Netflix. I’m sure I’d have appreciated it more if I’d seen it when I was 15 or so. Has anyone seen the director’s previous film, Class Of 1984, which sounds like the exact same movie minus the robots? It has a higher IMDB rating. Hmm… I’ll watch that too if it shows up on Netflix!
My Rating: 5.5/10
Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (2012)
Directed by Laurent Malaquais
Produced by Anglie Brown, Morgan Peterson, Michael Brockhoff, Tara Strong, Lauren Faust & John de Lancie
Starring: A bunch of bronies!
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia) Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (formerly titled BronyCon: The Documentary) is a 2012 documentary film centering on bronies, the adult fans of the 2010 animated television series, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
I said I didn’t want to waste much time talking about these movies but I did blather on a bit in my other two reviews. Well, this one will truly be short as there’s not much to say. I find the “Bronies” thing sort of fascinating as I still don’t understand why a bunch of grown men have supposedly latched onto My Little Pony but this documentary doesn’t really explore the “why” at all. It’s just not a very good or in-depth documentary and was quite boring considering its odd topic.
I actually don’t remember if the above guy was in the documentary but this is one of many photos that come up if you Google “Bronies” (I don’t think the guys I used in the photo at the very top were in it). You’d think I’d remember if he was but I can barely remember a thing about this now. That’s the problem – the documentary failed to make a bizarre topic at all interesting. I do, however, remember the below guy as I kept thinking he looked like Corey Feldman.
I’d say that you’d probably only want to watch this documentary if you’re a fan of My Little Pony. I actually found the bits with the voice actors (Tara Strong and, oh my god – Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation, John de Lancie!) & the creator of the Friendship Is Magic series (Lauren Faust) more interesting than the interviews with the fans of the show.
Not surprisingly, one of the Bronies talked a little bit of the bullying he’d had to endure thanks to being a fan of the show (if I remember correctly, he had a gun pulled on him? God bless America!). That kind of thing always pisses me off because, although it may seem strange to a lot of us, these guys aren’t exactly hurting anyone by liking My Little Pony. I guess it was a little disappointing that the psychological aspect of what exactly it is about this show that has apparently drawn some grown men to it wasn’t explored but, hey, this was someone’s project and they did a decent enough job gathering together fans & those involved with the show. I’m sure it didn’t have a huge budget… I’d be interested to know what My Little Pony fans thought of it but I must admit that I don’t personally know any adult fans (although I did love old school My Little Pony as a young girl!).
This is the one I had!!!
My Rating: 5/10
I figured I should end this post with something from the Tank Girl soundtrack, which had potential but could’ve been much better overall. This is one of my two favorites from the soundtrack (I’ll post the other for Music Video Friday this week): Richard Hell And The Voidoids – Blank Generation:
Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014)
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Running time: 119 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB) A washed up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play.
Birdman is definitely a film lover’s film. I’ll probably not mention it to any co-workers today if they ask what I did over the weekend because I know I’d just be met with blank stares. I’m not saying that as some film snob because I’m not – I like some things that are slightly more obscure but I also like plenty of mainstream movies. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Birdman as much I was hoping I would as a film lover.
First of all, I’ll say that the performances are as good as I’d heard. I’m very happy that Michael Keaton is nominated for an Oscar as I’ve always quite liked him and I think he’s done an excellent job in this so it’s nice seeing him finally getting some recognition (and he’s my favorite Batman). Emma Stone is also very good as his messed up daughter and Edward Norton as a real prick of an actor. I can’t fault any of the acting or the script or… anything, really. It just didn’t really work for me overall and I walked away from the movie knowing it was one I “appreciated” as opposed actually “enjoyed”. Which is fine sometimes but it’s great when you can have both. As far as this year’s movies filled with Oscar nominated performances, I think I actually preferred Foxcatcher as a film.
Even more than a film lover’s movie, this is an ACTOR’S movie. I can see why actors or anyone with theater experience would love it. It’s not something I can relate to at all but I’ll be very surprised if Keaton doesn’t win the Oscar as he’ll certainly get all the actors’ votes. I really liked the “play within a play” concept and the use of music worked so perfectly with that. I also liked the various storylines for each character and there were some good humorous moments.
To read a great review from someone who more fully appreciates what this movie is trying to do, I’d suggest you read Cara’s Birdman review over HERE at Silver Screen Serenade. She uses big words like meta! Well, okay – that’s actually a pretty short word… I’m not going to ramble on about this movie or do a summary. This is a good movie with an original concept and great performances (including a career high from Keaton). I very much appreciate what they’ve tried to do and like that it felt fresh & original. But, in the end, I just didn’t really care about the characters (except maybe Keaton’s a little) or what the outcome would be. Still, I fully support movies like this as opposed to the countless remakes, reboots & sequels out there. I just wanted to like it more.
Okay – I’ll say a little more than that but there’s not much else to say.
I’m not a big fan of current horror movies, especially ones that are excessive on the gore (Saw type films). The Dream House type of “horror” has always been more my type of thing. Once upon a time (when I had far too MUCH time on my hands), I loved made-for-TV “horrors”, thrillers, and suspenseful dramas (usually starring the likes of Melissa Gilbert & Nancy McKeon – Oh yeah! Showing my age again!). Years ago. When I had time to waste on stuff like that. Now I want to spend time on movies a BIT better than those. But Dream House isn’t really better than any of those Lifetime types of TV movies. It felt just like one of those, only with much bigger stars.
Dream House stars Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz & Naomi Watts. (See what I mean?! Big stars!). I guess even big stars have to pay the bills, eh? I won’t go into the details of the plot because it really doesn’t matter. You’ve seen it before. Okay – a family moves into a new house with a secret & disturbing history. See? Told you you’ve seen it before! 😉
If you’re bored and have nothing better to do and it’s your type of thing – go for it! It’s short. Or you can just look at the above movie poster. It’s quite a good poster. It’s better than the movie.
So much for light Tuesday afternoon movie-watching… 😉
This kind of movie isn’t normally my type of thing. Movies, for me, are a form of escapism from real life. Same as with books. I like fiction. Sci-fi, fantasy… Most any genre is fine. But I can’t really handle true stories based on such heartbreaking & disastrous events – especially recent ones I remember well. I have yet to watch any 9/11 movies (and I doubt I will). But The Impossible looked very good from the trailer and, to be completely honest, the showtimes for it were the only ones that worked out for me and I really needed a trip to the cinema!
This movie is exactly what you’d expect – heartbreaking scenes with just the right balance of heartwarming scenes as well to keep the general movie-going, popcorn-munching public happy. Great performances from everyone involved but especially the older boy (played by Tom Holland) and Naomi Watts. I went to it and saw the exact movie I was expecting to see. I don’t know if that actually makes a film a great film, though. I’ll admit I know nothing about the real true story of the real family involved other than that I know they’re Spanish. And, no, I’m not going to ask why they couldn’t be played by Spanish actors – there are enough people bitching about that online already so I’ll just leave it to them to discuss!
Conclusion: Yes, this is a good solid movie based on true events with some great & touching performances. Is it getting even better reviews than it deserves as it’s based on such a traumatic recent event? Yes, probably a little bit. I do recommend it if it’s your kind of thing as you’ll get exactly what you’ll be expecting.
My Rating: 7/10
I’m going to some braindead “popcorn” movie next time, though. 🙂