Watched, Read, Reviewed: December 2018

Happy New Year, everyone! 2019. Holy shit. Well, I suppose I better post my December Roundup so I can finally get on with posting my 2018 Year End Top Ten Lists. I love lists!!!! I’ll be posting those the rest of this week. So first of all, here’s what I watched & read in December 2018.

MOVIES THIS MONTH

MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

Splendor In The Grass – 8.5/10
Metropolis – 8.5/10
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse – 8/10
A Star Is Born (2018) – 8/10
A Simple Favor – 7.5/10
Aquaman – 7/10
Mirai – 7/10
Journey to Agartha (aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices) – 7/10
The King’s Speech – 7/10
Ralph Breaks The Internet – 7/10
Bumblebee – 7/10
The Nutcracker And The Four Realms – 6.5/10
Mary Poppins Returns – 6.5/10
American Animals – 6/10
Slaughterhouse Rulez – 5.5/10
The Grinch – 4.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

*l’m going to sound grumpy in my reviews below since I’ve already reviewed the stuff I actually liked. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was especially fantastic. Believe the hype! All my reviews are linked.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse – 8/10

Aquaman – 7/10

Journey to Agartha (aka Children Who Chase Lost Voices) – 7/10

Bumblebee – 7/10

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – This was my “Christmas present wrapping movie” this year. It wasn’t as much fun as watching Road House while wrapping presents – I’ll be going back to watching that one while wrapping next year. This was still a decent movie, though, and it continues to annoy me that Lily James is so damn cute. Here’s the plot synopsis from Wikipedia: “Set in 1946, the plot follows a London-based writer who begins exchanging letters with residents on the island of Guernsey, which was under German occupation during World War II.I enjoyed the story and the characters were well developed and the romance worked well even though I don’t normally go for that sort of thing. It probably deserves a higher rating but it was still a bit too “chick flick” for my tastes. – 6.5/10

Mary Poppins Returns – 6.5/10

Mute – Hmm. Okay – I’ve been meaning to watch this as I really liked Moon from Duncan Jones (plus he’s cool on Twitter and of course he’s David Bowie’s son and that’s awesome). But then it got pretty bad reviews so I waited. I can see why it got bad reviews. It’s certainly no Moon! The characters are really hateful (the main guy & his girlfriend were okay, I guess. And the young girl). The story was pretty silly and felt a bit pointless after how it ended. It felt like one of those movies where the director had a vision of the backdrop he wanted for the film then wrote a story around it, which didn’t really work. I did like some of the imagery and always love futuristic sci-fi so I didn’t totally hate the film. But I didn’t like it all that much, either. It’s a poor Blade Runner imitation. Overall, it was a big disappointment but I like that Jones got to make the film exactly as he’d wanted. – 6/10

Thoroughbreds – This movie was pretty disappointing as well. I was looking forward to it after hearing comparisons to things like Heathers. I do like a good teen angst movie! Okay – people need to stop calling every angsty teen movie the next Heathers. Nothing will ever live up to Heathers or any of the other 80’s teen movies. Heathers was witty with some of the most quotable dialogue ever and fantastic characters. Thoroughbreds was mostly just boring, which I didn’t expect since the story revolves around the girls planning to kill someone. I do like both these actresses fine and it was good seeing Anton Yelchin again (R.I.P.) so, like with Mute, I didn’t totally hate this. It just felt a bit pointless and a little “up its own arse”. Just because a plot is a little dark, it doesn’t automatically make something a brilliant film. – 6/10

Justice League – I finally watched this since I figured I better see it before watching Aquaman (which I really enjoyed!). Meh. I really can’t get into the DCEU movies, although I did like Wonder Woman & Aquaman. The Batman & Superman movies have been atrocious, though, and I can’t stand Ben Affleck. Like most superhero movies, this felt exactly the same as all the rest. Hell, I barely remember the stupid plot now and I only just watched this last week. These stories are getting boring as hell. However, Wonder Woman has a big role in this film and she’s easily the best thing about it. She saved the movie (somewhat). It’s far better than the Batman & Superman films, at least! But the MCU movies are still so much better overall. At least this one didn’t totally suck. – 6/10

The Christmas Chronicles – Well, this was silly as hell but it’s the sort of thing you’d expect from a family Christmas movie anyway. And who (my age) doesn’t love Kurt Russell?? He’s still awesome, even when old and with hair like 70’s Kenny Rogers. I was a bit like “I kind of want to f*^k this Santa”. Is that inappropriate? I mean, he was in The Thing! The Thing rules. We need a Kurt Russell Santa movie directed by John Carpenter. It wouldn’t have had those dumbass elf(?) rat-looking things. As for this movie, it was fine other than those weirdass elf things. Well, I’m also not so sure about Russell singing the blues in prison (the hubby & I both pointed out a few times that they seemed to be influenced by Adventures In Babysitting for this movie). The movie would’ve been better with less cheese as the story itself, although a thoroughly predictable “dead parent” story, was suitably heartwarming for Christmas. The two kids were quite likeable as well. Can we just have a little less cheese in our Christmas movies?? It’s A Wonderful Life is heartwarming with very little cheese. And no stupid elf rats. – 5.5/10

Amber Lake This was one of those movies with a decent story idea but so poorly executed thanks to a bad script and terrible acting. The clearly very low budget didn’t help either. It really was a wasted opportunity. Oh, and it also uses the Rashômon concept of telling the same story from different perspectives. But that of course worked in the hands of Akira Kurosawa as he was a genius and one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Amber Lake is no Rashômon! Obviously. Um… I don’t actually know what to say about this. Here’s the plot synopsis from IMDb: “Three half-sisters, after being invited to their father’s lake house to meet him and each other for the first time, are each questioned by a local sheriff to explain the events that took place leading up to the discovery of their father floating dead in the lake.” It’s on Amazon Prime in the UK if you’re interested but do yourself a favor & watch Rashômon instead. Or any Kurosawa film. You won’t regret it. I kind of regret watching Amber Lake, though. – 5/10

Cam – I really need to stop trusting tweets from Twitter’s “horror community”. I’ve realized that they rave about every horror movie no matter how good or bad it really is. Cam is yet another Netflix film that everyone thinks is great, probably because they get to watch it at home as part of their subscription, which is a lot easier than dragging your butt off the couch to go the cinema to watch something that’s actually good. Netflix is the new equivalent of “straight to video” in the Eighties. Anyway, after all my bitching I can see why this would have some fans (especially horny guys). And, yes – it’s an original story so I definitely give it credit for that in this day & age of sequels and reboots. It’s a good concept but having a thoroughly annoying character as its focus didn’t really work. I don’t want to hate all the characters in a movie – it just means that I don’t care what happens to them. To be fair, this movie did have a good idea and I think I’d have liked it okay if they’d gone about it differently. Plus the porn thing didn’t work for me, I suppose, since I’m a girl. Hey – whatever happened to Babestation in the UK? Is that still around?? I haven’t been channel surfing at 3am in recent years… – 5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby – I like Nick Hornby & have read most of his books. The film adaptation of this came out a few months ago so I figured I better read the book before checking out the movie (Ethan Hawke is in it so I’ll be watching it at some point). The book was okay and very “Hornby” but definitely not one of his best. I like that there’s once again a music connection, as there often is with his stories. In this one, a guy is obsessed with an old rock star who had one big hit album then disappeared. His long suffering girlfriend (or were they married? I don’t remember!) ends up being contacted by the rock star after she posts a review online of his new album. Hey – I review stuff online! I’ve reviewed several Chris Hemsworth movies. Where’s my e-mail from him? Hey Chris – I’m totally up for a hot love affair! Anyway. Where was I? Oh, this book was fine but a little boring. The characters were weak compared to those in other Hornby novels but I sadly related to the pathetic guy in this & his obsession since I get kind of obsessed with stuff like that too. I mean, I obviously have a movie blog. The guy posted on a blog dedicated to the rock star. We’re obsessive nerds. Hornby does seem to write the “obsessive nerd” characters well. The book was a decent enough read but I didn’t love the ending. However, I do think it would make for a good movie so I’ll be watching that as soon as it’s available on whatever service. – 3/5

Currently Reading: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Nothing. Well, Grey’s Anatomy. Ugh. And The Walking Dead. Ugh Ugh. Eagerly awaiting Game Of Thrones and Stranger Things!

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

I’m going to take it easy this month. I actually watched too many movies last year and plan to cut down on that as well. Fewer movies but hopefully better movies. Although I do enjoy writing a bitchy review, obviously. I’ll continue with these monthly roundups and will try to review the movies I see in the cinema. I also plan to continue the Blind Spot Project. I’ll post my 2019 choices for that next week after I finish posting my 2018 Top Ten Lists.

Upcoming Movies I Want To See:

As usual, January is a weak month for movie releases in the UK. Of the below, I’m only really interested in going to see Glass. The Mule & Green Book also sound decent.

The Favorite – Will wait for Netflix. Not a fan of the director. Hated The Lobster.

Welcome To Marwen – Really liked the plot synopsis for this but it’s had bad reviews.

Colette – Looks like a good story but stars Keira Knightly. Yuck. So will wait for Netflix.

Glass – The one film I’ll definitely go to, even though I’m not a huge fan of this trilogy. But I do like Shyamalan for the most part.

Mary Queen Of Scots – Again, it looks okay but it’s a Netflix movie for me. I’m not big on historical dramas.

The Mule – This stars Clint Eastwood so I can guarantee that my dad will be watching this one…

A Dog’s Way Home – Actually, I’m likely to go to this as well. It’s a cute doggo story so I can guarantee that my daughter will be dragging me to it…

Green Book – I really like the sound of this one and it’s had great reviews. If it’s shown near me, I may go.

There wasn’t a lot of music in the movies I watched in December (other than Mary Poppins Returns, obviously, but those songs were pretty boring). So here’s one of the best songs from Bumblebee’s overuse of 80’s music to shove all its Eightiesness in our faces. Tears For Fears are underrated. Mad World is one of the best songs ever. But they of course didn’t use that one in Bumblebee…

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The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) Review

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

Directed by Julius Onah

Starring: Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows an international group of astronauts aboard a space station who, after using a particle accelerator to try to solve Earth’s energy crisis, must find a way home after accidentally traveling to an alternate dimension.

My Opinion:

Well. This was pretty fucking terrible. I can’t be bothered to say much about this movie so this will be more of a short rant than a “review”. Seriously, though – it sucked! I’m so annoyed. This was one of my most anticipated movies of 2018. Ugh! Bad. Very bad. I knew something was up when it was suddenly on Netflix instead of going into cinemas. Now I’m worried about Mute & Annihilation going straight to Netflix. Two more films I was really excited about!

I loved the first Cloverfield. I’m one of the few who didn’t exactly love 10 Cloverfield Lane but I thought it was a decent enough addition to a series of films that promised to be the next Twilight Zone-type thing. I’m obsessed with the original Twilight Zone TV show and got really excited when it was revealed that was the direction these individual Cloverfield movies would be taking. Oh man – we’re off to a bad start. These are going to end up like the Lost TV show, not the brilliant The Twilight Zone. I should’ve known! Go away, J. J. Abrams! These are all going to be set in “alternate universes”, aren’t they? Fuck that shit. Lazy fucking writing. This is like the damn island moving. Argh!

Where do I start? Oh, I don’t care. First of all, why did this movie feel like a TV show? I felt like I was watching a long episode of Black Mirror. Black Mirror is good for what it is but I like the movie experience. You know – some sweeping cinematic epic! Okay – I suppose Cloverfield isn’t some Sergio Leone movie but, still. Did this have a low budget or something? If I want to watch a TV show, I’ll watch a TV show.

Second of all, these characters sucked. There was no set up. Straight into the story! I didn’t know a damn thing about these people, so why would I care if they survive? Our main character, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, was the only one who got some time spent on her but they must have done a shitty job since I didn’t even realize her kids had died. Is that a spoiler?! I don’t think so as I think you’re meant to know that from the start but I somehow managed to miss that. It really would’ve helped to know that. Shit. Maybe it’s not known from the start?! If so, why the fuck not?!?! Hopefully I didn’t spoil that. But, seriously, your experience will be spoiled anyway if you watch this. Because this movie sucked. (Did I mention that?).

I should point out that Gugu Mbatha-Raw actually starred in what’s so far my favorite Black Mirror episode (San Junipero– I’ve not seen Series 4 yet). Probably didn’t help that “This feels like a TV show” feeling I had! Anyway – just watch Black Mirror instead of this if you want interesting morality tales with a modern technology twist. Some episodes aren’t great but overall the show is much better than this movie. And much closer to being the next Twilight Zone (although nothing will ever touch that).

Hey! The Norwegian Steve Buscemi guy (Aksel Hennie) was in this! I’ve only ever seen him in Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters. That was a decent movie. Watch that instead of this as well. And Daniel Brühl was in Rush with Chris Hemsworth’s naked butt. Great film! Watch that instead of this too. Elizabeth Debicki was in Guardians Of The Galaxy: Vol 2. A million times better than this! Chris O’Dowd was in Bridesmaids. I dislike that film but it was still better than this one. John Ortiz was in lots of stuff, including A Dog’s Purpose , which I also liked waaaaaaay more than this. David Oyelowo was in Interstellar. I hate that overrated movie but I hated this one much more. Zhang Ziyi was in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Guess what? That’s also WAY fucking better than this movie. What’s my point? Watch those movies instead! And watch Life (2017). Life sucked. I now like Life much more since seeing The Cloverfield Paradox, which is an even shittier version of Life. AND WATCH ARRIVAL!!! THAT is good sci-fi.

Man, have I even talked about this movie at all? I can’t be bothered. A bunch of twats go into space and fuck around with a particle accelerator and rip a hole in the space time continuum (I don’t know if they used that phrase – I’ve ripped that off from Star Trek). Weird shit happens but you won’t care if they all die anyway. Some gross shit happens but none of it is nearly as interesting as the gross shit in Life. I only liked one character. Well, no – I liked Gugu Mbatha-Raw okay but didn’t care too much as I couldn’t get into the movie. But Chris O’Dowd was somewhat enjoyable. His character was the only one who had a personality, at least. So. Yeah. I guess I’ll end this “review” on that one positive statement.

My Rating: 4.5/10

*It probably deserves an even lower rating but it’s still sci-fi and I’m a sucker for this genre. As annoyed as I am, I’ll probably still watch Cloverfield 4 since “supernatural Nazis” sounds bizarre enough to maybe work better than Paradox did…..

Stranger Things Are Afoot At The Circle-K

Hubby made this Bill & Ted’s/Stranger Things mash-up image after we read about the plans for the new Bill & Ted movie: Bill & Ted Face The Music. I want to see this movie SO BAD. Here’s a great, very detailed article & interview with its writer Ed Solomon: Digital Spy.

As usual, the thing holding up production is Hollywood wanting to shit all over it by making it a reboot with two whole new characters instead of a sequel. Why is Hollywood so stupid?! Solomon’s plans for the script sound like perfection & exactly what Bill & Ted fans will want. I hope it gets made the way it’s meant to be. 🙂

And here are a couple of Bill & Ted haikus from my old blogging days when I had the time & patience to attempt “writing”:

My Haiku:
Phone booth time travel
Bill and Ted save world with tunes
Dust in the wind, dude

Hubby’s Haiku:
Military school
Or time travel in phone booth?
Be excellent, dudes!

My 8-year-old’s Haiku:
Bill And Ted Are Dead
Grim Reaper Is Behind Them
And party on, dudes!

And I guess I better do a Stranger Things haiku, too:
Winona hangs lights
Eleven in Upside Down
L’Eggo my Eggo!

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Book Review)

13 Reasons Why is a new young adult TV series being released on Netflix this Friday (March 31st). There will be 13 episodes (all available on Friday) and the show is based on the novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, in which a teenage boy receives a package containing audiotapes recorded by a classmate who has recently committed suicide. The show was directed by Spotlight’s Tom McCarthy & produced by Selena Gomez. I read the book recently so figured I should review it before the show airs. Here’s my review…

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

What It’s About: (via Goodreads)
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why.

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.”

My Thoughts:

I’m not entirely sure how to feel about this book. I’ll say it was very “readable”. I usually take a good few weeks to read a book (due to lack of free time) but this was a quick & easy read plus I found that I really didn’t want to put it down as I was truly curious to see how it would end (I read it over a weekend). It’s an uncomfortable subject matter, however, and I still don’t know if I feel right about how it was handled. Plus, the below trailer for the TV show makes it look almost like an “exciting mystery”, which I don’t think is necessarily a responsible way to market the story. I guess we’ll see how the show unfolds. This IS a book about suicide. The only “mystery” is why the girl did it, which she explains in her audiotapes. The trailer’s mood just feels a bit off to me.

I’ll say this is very much a teen book but it didn’t feel immature or like the author had dumbed it down for its target audience. My teenage years are far far (far!) behind me but this book feels like it was written in a way that would seem genuine & relevant to a modern teen. I know nothing of the book’s success but I would imagine that current teens can relate to it whereas I feel that certain other young adult books are too obviously written by authors whose teen years are far far (far!) behind them. Okay, yeah – I’ve just looked up the author (Jay Asher) and he’s my sort of age. I also think that he did a good job with the character of Hannah Baker, the girl who commits suicide. It can’t be easy for a middle-aged man to capture the feelings of a teenage girl but I think he did well with her character (probably even better than with the main male character, Clay Jensen).

I’ll of course avoid major spoilers but the main moral of this story is to treat people with kindness and to be aware of the signs to watch for that may indicate that someone is suicidal. I of course agree with this message and would love to think that this book could save some lives but, well, I don’t think the world works that way. If anything, it worries me that this story could play into the rather typical teenage thoughts about suicide: that whole “this will make people notice me & understand what I was going through” thing. No. The bullies, etc? They didn’t care beforehand & they wouldn’t care afterwards. I hope no one thinks that because of this book. However, from the other point of view, who knows? Maybe it would help some teens to notice the warning signs & perhaps offer someone some help. Maybe. The nice ones. (Is it obvious that I thought a lot of the people in my high school were uncaring assholes?!)

I admit that Thirteen Reasons Why was a bit of a page-turner, even if the subject matter left me feeling uncomfortable. Clay listens to several cassette tapes from Hannah, each focusing on a different classmate & the role each person played in her final decision. This meant we were told several stories as Clay listened to each tape, which was an interesting way to set up this novel. Hannah Baker was a well fleshed-out character though, interestingly, kind of hard to like. Maybe that was partly the point… Due to various incidents, she turned inward so I suppose she was kind of ignored. Clay Jensen comes across as a little less genuine but I think this is due to his seeming so simple in comparison to Hannah’s complexity. Overall I’d probably recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult fiction and who is emotionally stable. But I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone who is anything like Hannah Baker’s character to read it…

My Rating: 3/5

Here’s the trailer for the Netflix series, starring Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen & Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker:

Stranger Things Poster Art By Kyle Lambert

Okay – who else is watching Stranger Things on Netflix?? I’m exactly halfway through watching all 8 episodes & I’m really enjoying it. No spoilers, please! 🙂

There are very few TV shows I watch anymore other than Game Of Thrones & The Walking Dead (which is starting to piss me off). I’ve tried a few new shows here & there but always lose interest. I may be the only person who couldn’t finish Making A Murderer (why the hype?).

Well, I’ve finally found two shows that I like! It’s not surprising that both happen to be set in my favorite decade (the 1980s). I adore Freaks And Geeks, which I’m only just watching for the first time now (it’s on Amazon Prime in the UK, FYI). How did I never see this show before? Like Stranger Things, I’m also about halfway through watching all of the episodes. Why the hell did Freaks And Geeks last only one season, dammit? Now I see why fans were so mad about that.

I started watching Stranger Things when I heard it described as “Stephen King crossed with 1980’s Steven Spielberg sci-fi”. That couldn’t sound more ME! Plus Winona Ryder is in it. Yes! Edward Scissorhands & Heathers Winona Ryder!!! Add the early 80s setting & great soundtrack and I’m extremely happy. 🙂 At the moment, I’d say I prefer Freaks And Geeks overall. I think it’ll depend on how Stranger Things ends. Supernatural horror can go very wrong at the end sometimes. But both are great & I highly recommend them if you love the era.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a link to some great Stranger Things poster art by artist Kyle Lambert. I love the deliberate Drew Struzan style. Struzan is a favorite movie poster artist of mine (I did a top ten of my favorite Struzan posters HERE). You can see Lambert’s Stranger Things poster art at this link: Huffpost.com.