Watched, Read, Reviewed: September 2019

Oops. I’m two months behind. Well, here’s what I watched in September. I’ve managed to review the 2019 releases, linked below. I’ve done mini-reviews of the older films.

MOVIES IN SEPTEMBER

MOVIES REVIEWED (ranked best to worst):

It Chapter Two – 7.5/10
Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – 7.5/10
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – 7/10
Crawl – 6.5/10

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

It Chapter Two – 7.5/10

Hustlers – 7.5/10

The Farewell – 7.5/10

Midnight Express – I watched this movie as part of my Blind Spot Project so I’ll try to give it a full review by the end of the year. I’ll be honest – I only added it to my list for a) The Giorgio Moroder score and b) John Hurt. Those two things were great, as I’d expected. But the movie overall was just okay and I know it strayed too far from the true story. – 7/10

Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark – 7/10

I Am Mother – 7/10

Wild – Finally got around to watching this one for Reese Witherspoon’s Oscar-nominated performance. Interesting – I hadn’t realized that Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay (with the real-life woman, Cheryl Strayed). I love Reese and she was good but, obviously, watching someone walk around in the woods for a couple of hours isn’t the most exciting thing in the world. Also… Laura Dern played her MOTHER?? WTF? So I looked up their ages. Nine years apart! I guess maybe the woman’s mom had her as a teen but, come on Hollywood! Dern was good too. The movie is good. It’s wild (ha! Wild!) that this woman walked 1,100 miles to “find herself”. Gotta give her credit! It sounds like it worked. I’d like to find myself too. Preferably from my couch. – 7/10

Home Again – Another Reese Witherspoon movie! Wild is obviously the better film but, if I was honest, I’d admit to enjoying this one more. It’s a lightweight rom-com, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with those when you’re in the right mood. And I needed lightweight after watching Midnight Express! Yikes. Anyway – what I really enjoyed about Home Again was that Witherspoon’s character was the daughter of a famous film director. As a movie lover, I always enjoy films that are about the film industry in some small way (which is why Cinema Paradiso is a favorite film of mine). She’s newly separated from her husband and ends up letting three cute young filmmaker dudes stay in her empty guesthouse. The movie doesn’t exactly break new ground in this genre but the characters were likeable enough and the heartfelt soppy stuff didn’t go overboard or get annoying. The IMDb rating is too low – the movie is perfectly fine. I’m not sure what people were expecting. Maybe more romance? But Reese turns 40 in the movie and has two young daughters so I liked that there was a realistic focus on more than just “romance” in her life. There’s more to life!! – 6.5/10

Juliet, Naked – I read this Nick Hornby book last year (review HERE). It was okay but definitely not a favorite book of his for me. I had to see the movie adaptation, though, especially as it starred Ethan Hawke as the recluse rock star (good casting – it worked well). 6.5/10

Paddington – People won’t shut the hell up about how good Paddington 2 is so I finally talked my daughter into watching the first one to get started (she really didn’t want to). This movie was fine. Paddington is very cute and loveable. I’m guessing the second movie is WAY better, though?? This is certainly nothing all that special. Just a typical, sweet family movie. – 6/10

Rewatched:

Forrest Gump – It had been a long time since I’d seen this one. To be honest, I’ve been a little pissed off at this movie for years knowing it beat the superior The Shawshank Redemption as the Best Picture Oscar winner. It’s a really good film and definitely the kind of thing The Academy goes for, but I’ve never seen it as some epic classic. I mean, it’s not up there with the likes of Gone With The Wind or something. Tom Hanks is great, though. He created a truly iconic character and was deserving of his Oscar. Gary Sinise was also good but the rest of the characters have always fallen a little flat for me (including Sally Field and even Robin Wright’s Jenny). Sorry, Jenny! I totally just said Jenny in my head the way Forrest says it… I actually find most of the characters unlikeable besides Forrest & Bubba (but I suppose that’s kind of the point? Stupid is as stupid does and all that?). The soundtrack is GREAT, though, especially the Vietnam era stuff. God that was a great time for music. Inserting Forrest into bits of history didn’t work as well for me this time, though. The film is also too American (I’m allowed to say that as an American!). Overall, I felt the film hasn’t aged as well as I’d been expecting. But they sure as shit better not do a sequel. I saw the proposed sequel idea and it sounded dreadful. Just leave some movies alone! Forrest Gump is fine how it is. – 7.5/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

I didn’t spend much time reading in September and the only TV show I watched was a few episodes of Inside No. 9. I’d been wanting to check it out since it sounded weird and a bit “Twilight Zone“, which is my all-time favorite show. So far, it’s like if the brilliant The Twilight Zone hadn’t been a masterpiece of storytelling and was instead really shit. Maybe I’ll give another episode or two a chance. Maybe it gets better? It has sort of a dark humor, which doesn’t really work.

BLOG PLANS FOR OCTOBER

Well, I did October Horror Month again and posted a horror movie review every day of the month. Fun but tiring – I think this was the last year I’ll do that. And I always miss being able to review non-horror during October.

October Releases I Wanted To See:

Joker – Saw it. My review will be posted tomorrow. Good film. The controversy was ridiculous.

Judy – Also saw this. My review will be posted on Monday. Thought this was really good.

Gemini Man – Didn’t bother with this after it got bad reviews. That’s a shame. Will Smith doesn’t seem to know how to pick ’em anymore.

Abominable – Think this is still knocking around at some cinemas. Might still take my daughter to it.

The Day Shall Come – Also didn’t bother with this due to fairly bad reviews.

The Peanut Butter Falcon – Man, I HATE the stars of this one but it’s had some very good reviews. I’ll check it out on Netflix.

Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil – Saw it. It was surprisingly decent.

Zombieland: Double Tap – Saw it. Okay but disappointing.

Terminator: Dark Fate – Had some fun moments but, overall, this film REALLY pissed me off.

The Addams Family – Meh. Okay but too “cute”. Was aimed at too young of an audience.

Monos – As if this showed anywhere near me… I get so annoyed at only being able to see mainstream movies locally.

Doctor Sleep – SAW IT! Of course. Being a massive Stephen King fan, I saw this opening day. It’s very good but it’s no The Shining.

I try to end with music from one of the movies I watched each month. As the Giorgio Moroder score was a big part of the reason why I chose to watch Midnight Express, here’s The Chase:

Watched, Read, Reviewed: August 2019

Happy Almost-End-Of September! Where did August go?! I spent half of it in America & half of it mega busy with work but still managed to watch some movies (Six on airplanes – What the hell else can you do on a plane?!). Here’s what I watched & read in August…

MOVIES IN AUGUST

I saw Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood while in America & Crawl in the UK (links to my reviews are below). I also saw four 2019 UK movie releases on the plane trips so reviewed those in a separate post (also linked below). I’ve done mini-reviews of the rest…

MOVIES WATCHED (ranked best to worst):

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – 7.5/10


Green Book – 7.5/10


Sorry To Bother You – This movie was a little mental but, overall, fairly entertaining. It’s very hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t seen it and also one that’s absolutely impossible to recommend to anyone unless you know their tastes really well. Now, I absolutely love “weird” movies. The problem here is that it’s not weird enough. It’s quite straightforward through most of it – it only suddenly gets weird at the end (think From Dusk Till Dawn). I’d have liked more weirdness. Strangely, it gave me Joe Versus The Volcano vibes, though I have NO idea why (but only during scenes set in the dreary workplace office). It just reminded me that I badly need to rewatch that underrated film… But where was I? I’m getting off track! I have no idea how to review this film. I enjoyed it but it’s one where I can’t imagine ever watching it again for any reason. The strongest thing about it are the characters and I especially liked Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, and Steven Yeun (probably because his character Glenn was one of very few characters that I actually liked in The Walking Dead). Oh, and I loved Tessa Thompson’s funky earrings and cool sort of 80’s style. How did I not even realize that the smarmy guy was Armie Hammer? He just has such a nondescript smarmy face. Well, I liked this movie as a one-time watch and won’t forget it. It wasn’t perfect and didn’t fully work for me but it’s the kind of indie movie I’d like to see more of: Creative & highly original instead of just boring navel-gazing and hateful characters (I’m looking at you, Eighth Grade movie!). – 7/10


The Hate U Give – This was a fairly decent look at a very serious issue, albeit from a very YA perspective. I’d been thinking about reading the Young Adult novel first but never got around to it, so I can only judge this based on the movie itself. It’s certainly no Boyz N The Hood but I see no problem with raising awareness by aiming a story at a slightly younger audience. Amandla Stenberg is good – I enjoyed her in The Hunger Games & Everything, Everything (she’s certainly in some of the biggest YA stuff!). Other than her character, though, I’d say a lot of the others were a bit one-dimensional (especially her annoying school friend). I don’t mean to sound too down on this one as it’s a pretty good film but it does suffer a little bit from the YA feel and a slightly too perfect “things might be okay” sort of ending. But not everything has to be gritty – it’s good if this movie has given a more mainstream audience an insight into this issue. – 7/10


Bad Times At The El Royale – Well, this was an odd one and not quite what I was expecting. I’d been super annoyed at missing this after loving the look of a skinny, shirtless, Jesus-looking Chris Hemsworth in the trailers. Just FYI if you’re wanting shirtless Hemsworth – he doesn’t show up until an hour into the movie and his character is extremely hateful. Damn – how can you make someone as loveable as Chris play someone hateful?! I did like the strange atmosphere to this film and the 60’s setting and the mysterious & creepy hotel but the strangers’ stories were a mess and didn’t seem to have any sort of point. You also certainly aren’t made to care about any of them, other than maybe the two characters played by Jeff Bridges & Cynthia Erivo, who are the true standouts of this film and by far the best things about it. Dakota Johnson is as underwhelming as always and, as I said, can we not make Hemsworth a bad guy ever again? I love him but, honestly – it didn’t work. Sorry, Chris! It was completely unbelievable. Overall, I did like that this movie felt a little bit unique and thought Bridges and Erivo were great together and fun to watch but, man – the movie is just kind of a mess. – 6.5/10


Crawl – 6.5/10


Instant Family – 6.5/10


Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 6.5/10


Mortal Engines – Look! Yet another adaptation of a dystopian YA novel! Hey, I’m not exactly complaining since dystopian YA is a huge guilty pleasure genre of mine but I think the general public has had enough of it. I did read this book (mini-review here) and really enjoyed it but it was mainly because I loved the bizarre concept. Basically, the cities in this dystopian future are on wheels and go around devouring smaller cities (I suppose there’s some sort of political message there). The characters could’ve been stronger but the story was enough fun that I didn’t care too much. Well, shit – this movie was pretty terrible but I can’t explain why as, from what I remember, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation. I was just bored. It should’ve been Mad Max: Fury Road levels of craziness but it was bland and the characters were so underdeveloped and uninteresting, although that was a fault with the book as well. They also shifted the focus onto the girl in the film, which is fine, but it meant they spent far too little time on the boy who’s the main character in the book. By the way, the girl is also WAY more disfigured in the book so they really did try to make her “Hollywood pretty” in the film. It’s just a surprisingly forgettable movie for one with such a nutso concept and I can’t see this having done well enough to warrant any of the remaining books being adapted. What a shame. If you like the sound of this concept, just watch Howl’s Moving Castle instead. – 5/10


Eighth Grade – 5/10

Re-Watched:

Adventures In Babysitting Yes, I still love this movie. It’s a personal favorite. – 8.5/10

Big Daddy – I don’t care what anyone says about Adam Sandler. Yes, he has some really bad movies but he also has several that I really like. The Wedding Singer is his best by far and I love it but I think Big Daddy is good too and doesn’t get enough credit – It’s definitely one of his better films. I mean, come on – it’s quotable and the kid is cute. “I wipe my own ass! I wipe my own ass!!“. Ha. I love that bit. And we once again get a small Steve Buscemi cameo! It’s not as hilarious as his Wedding Singer cameo but it’s still fun. And it’s even a little bit sweet and heartfelt without being over-the-top saccharine and annoying. Plus, quite frankly, Sandler’s character is likeable in this one. I like this movie. I like Scuba Steve. Screw snobby film critics. – 7/10

The Dark Crystal (1982) – I watched this since the new series was coming up and I’d not seen this in years and honestly couldn’t remember a thing about it. I adored the look of it. Of course! It’s Jim Henson! I’m an 80’s kid so I’m a sucker for his work. This is no Labyrinth, though – I’ll be honest and say that I still far prefer Labyrinth. I might have even snoozed through The Dark Crystal a little bit. Blasphemy, I know! I’m sorry. Maybe I’ll watch it again sometime. I did watch the first episode of the new Netflix series so I’ll try to get back to that when life is a little less hectic. – 7/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

BOOKS READ

Shattered by Dean Koontz – Well, as I said I went to America in August so I needed a light & easy read to bring with me. I love Dean Koontz but I have to admit that his novels are usually light & easy reads so he was of course my first choice of author to bring along. Shattered is one of his older books (first published in 1973 under the pseudonym K.R. Dwyer) so it was perfect as it was short since he didn’t get so overly wordy in his older books. Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia: “Artist Alex Doyle and his new family, bride Courtney and her 11-year-old brother Colin, are moving from Philadelphia to San Francisco. Courtney’s flying out ahead to get the house set up. Alex and Colin are driving there in Alex’s new Ford Thunderbird. The cross-country trip starts out as a bonding experience, but their car is being tailed by a van; a van driven by a psychopath intent on terrorizing them.” This book was perfectly fine. For its short length, the characters were developed well enough (other than the wife, but there’s not much focus on her as she’s not the one being stalked on the journey). She’s a little too perfect & beautiful, though, like most female Koontz characters. My only issue with this book is that it ended way too abruptly. Loads of build-up and then, BOOM, it was over. Huh. Kind of like sex. – 3/5

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Stranger ThingsUm. I can’t, uh, even make it through Season 3 of Stranger Things. I think I have only two or three episodes to go but can’t even be bothered to get back to them. Everyone seemed to love it, though. Are the hubby & I the only ones not feeling Stranger Things anymore?? So disappointing after Season 1 was so enjoyable.

BLOG PLANS FOR SEPTEMBER

Ha! Well, the month is pretty much over. Crap… It’s almost October! I usually do October Horror Month but don’t think I’ll have time. Maybe I’ll try to re-post mini reviews of the many horror movies I’ve watched this year.

September Movies I Want To See:

It Chapter Two – Seen it! Thoroughly enjoyed it. My review is HERE.

Hustlers – Well, I had no interest in this as the thought of watching Cardi B makes me cringe but it’s had such surprisingly good reviews that I just might check it out…

Ad Astra – Sci-fi is my favorite genre and I badly want to see this.

Rambo: Last Blood – Nah! I’m not bothered but thought I should mention that it’s out.

The Farewell – Looks good! Going to try to go this week.

Ready Or Not – Looking forward to this after it got great reviews. Looks a bit fucked-up! I love fucked-up…

The Goldfinch – Shit! Not happy this has had such terrible reviews as I’ve been working my way through the extremely long novel for MONTHS and I’m finally almost finished with the damn thing.

Poms – Looks a bit stupid but the cast is great so I’ll catch this one on Netflix when having a girly night alone.

There was no great music in what I watched in August other than Adventures In Babysitting (which has an awesome soundtrack). Here’s the Iggy Pop song Real Wild Child (Wild One) that’s in the film. Love it.

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019) Review

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019)

Directed & Written by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch, Margaret Qualley, Timothy Olyphant, Austin Butler, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino

Narrated by Kurt Russell

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is set in 1969 Los Angeles, where an aging television actor and his stunt double and longtime friend navigate the changing Hollywood film industry.

My Opinion:

I never got around to reviewing this as I saw it a few weeks ago while on vacation in America. It’s a very good film. Yes, it’s probably one of Tarantino’s best films overall. I can’t say I loved it, though. In fact, I was a tiny bit bored and very much felt its 2 hour and 41 minute running time. But I’ll be honest: I was a little bit on edge the entire time, which probably didn’t help my enjoyment.

It was great being back in America for the first time in over a decade. I was in a super comfy reclining seat, which seems to be more of a “standard” thing than in the U.K., and I was thoroughly enjoying the superior (and, holy shit, one free refillable!) American popcorn. However, the main things running through my mind for almost three hours were “I wonder how many people in here have guns on them” and “There will be more guns in this showing than in other movies since we’re watching a violent Tarantino film” and “I’m the closest one to the door so very likely to be the first one shot if someone comes in and starts shooting“. Is this what daily life is like for everyone living in America now?

Don’t worry – I am NOT about to get into any sort of political discussion. That’s not me. I just want to joke around & chat with people on my blog about my nerdy love of movies. It just made me long for a more simple time as I do have some great memories of growing up in America and will always see it as my home. Which brings me back to the actual topic: I did appreciate Tarantino’s obvious love for the era of Hollywood depicted in this film. The nostalgia he feels for it really does show through and I could relate to that feeling as I sat there, in the country I spent the first half of my life in, feeling nostalgic about how things used to be and knowing they’ll never be that way again. Also, who wouldn’t like to rewrite some of their own personal history, right? I’d like to write some happier endings to a few things from my past.

I think this may be one of my reviews where I decide by the end of the review that I liked the movie more than I realized… This is why I keep this blog going even though I don’t think anyone reads it anymore: I’m sometimes able to sort my thoughts out on something as I write about it. Yes, I think Tarantino did a good job evoking the mood of that late sixties going into early seventies movie star & movie making world. As a lover of film, I always enjoy movies about filmmaking & that lifestyle. And what I was afraid would be the “central event” of the film but thankfully wasn’t (I won’t use the person’s or the “family’s” name), I guess maybe to Tarantino that event symbolized the loss of innocence and a more simple time in not only the types of movies being made but also in what it was like to live in America. So I’m starting to understand his “rewriting of history” in some films. It’s fun to think that, if we could erase certain events from history, maybe the world would be a different & better place. That’s the whole point of movies for me personally. I like the escapism and Tarantino clearly does too. His escapism just involves waaaaaaaaaay more violence than mine would!!

Okay, I’m now deciding that I liked this movie more than I realized. Although I was clearly a bit distracted while watching it, my experience was probably quite unique since I was in the position to be feeling the same sense of personal nostalgia that Tarantino was trying to convey in this film about a time he clearly misses as well. My main issue with the film is that the overall story is weak. The dialogue also isn’t as strong as in Tarantino’s other films in order to make up for the lack of story and the movie seriously drags in places, especially at the beginning (I kind of forgot that Al Pacino was even in this – I had a very hard time getting into the movie at first but I was busy scanning the audience for guns).

However, I think my old Brad Pitt crush has been renewed. Pitt is brilliant in this and the true star of the film. Don’t get me wrong – Leonardo DiCaprio & Margot Robbie were also fantastic. DiCaprio gives his usual best and has to do more serious “acting” than Pitt but we’ve seen Leo do this sort of role so often now. Leo is one of the finest actors of our time, yes, but Pitt has the true charisma in this film. He embodies the old school “Hollywood star” vibe from the era that Tarantino is portraying, which is fun as he’s just the stunt double to Leo’s fading movie star character.

As for Margot Robbie, she’s thoroughly charming as Sharon Tate and, like Pitt, also very much has that old school “Hollywood star” vibe. It’s a fairly small role, however, which I think was the right move for this film despite people moaning about the “female role” being too small. What happened to Tate and the others was horrible and tragic and, thank god, is not the focus of this film. That story is a backdrop and not glorified or dwelled upon, which is why I think her scenes were kept more simple and less likely to be disrespectful in any way. Unlike the Bruce Lee scene, unfortunately – I can see why his portrayal upset his family and fans although I can also understand that this is an “alternate history” thing and I don’t think Tarantino meant to cause offense with that bit. Enough with women’s bare feet, though, Tarantino!! We get it. You like feet! Most people don’t. We don’t want to see feet. Please stop with the feet.

Okay, I’ve rambled on enough considering that I didn’t even know how I felt about this movie at first. I loved its mood and its setting and absolutely loved Brad Pitt. I enjoyed DiCaprio & Robbie. I hated the “family” (but I suppose that’s the point – I just could’ve done with less time being spent on them). I disliked the bare feet. The story dragged. It was too long. There were fun cameos (as usual). I really liked the ending, which I’d accidentally had spoiled beforehand and wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it. I liked that this was less violent overall than Tarantino’s other films. To be honest, this is Tarantino’s most “feelgood” film and I liked that I was able to walk away from a Tarantino movie feeling a bit more uplifted and less stressed than I usually do after leaving his films. It’s funny that the only stress I felt this time was the real life environment around me but I’m happy to have experienced this movie in my home country, which gave me a more unique perspective. Hell, I don’t know… I think this movie is a bit all over the place and I’ve never felt quite so confused as to if I truly enjoyed a Tarantino film or not. Maybe it IS a damn masterpiece like so many are saying. There’s a messy sort of brilliance going on and I wouldn’t disagree with those who loved it even though I can’t say I feel the same way. However, I think it’s one that will age well and, over time, is likely to be more highly regarded than a lot of Tarantino’s other films.

My Rating: 7.5/10


**I’ve added Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood to my ranked list of films directed by Quentin Tarantino HERE. I really didn’t know where to put it and still might change my mind. I’m contemplating moving it up one space as it’s admittedly a much better film than Jackie Brown but, man, I love that damn soundtrack so much…

Also, I’m really busy at the moment and don’t know when I’ll get a chance to do my monthly movie roundup post. So, for now, here’s the ranked & rated list of all the movies I watched in August (six while on airplanes!). I’ll try to do at least mini reviews of these at some point but most were very disappointing anyway. I’ve starred the airplane movies (sad, I know – but it’s so I remember when I read this ten years from now). šŸ™‚

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood – 7.5/10
*Green Book – 7.5/10
Sorry To Bother You – 7/10
The Hate U Give – 7/10
*Bad Times At The El Royale – 6.5/10
Crawl – 6.5/10
*Instant Family – 6.5/10
*Can You Ever Forgive Me? – 6.5/10
*Mortal Engines – 5.5/10
*Eighth Grade – 5/10