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:

My Top Ten Reese Witherspoon Movies

Happy 42nd Birthday To Reese Witherspoon.

I’ve liked Reese Witherspoon ever since The Man In The Moon back in 1991. I’ve even liked all her girly romcoms despite not being a girly romcom girl. She comes across as so wholesome & likable (which I’m sure some people find annoying). I do wish she’d find a different sort of role that would make Hollywood take her more seriously as an actress, though. She was very good in Walk The Line but it still feels like she’s somewhat ignored even though she has an Oscar. And I have to admit that I’ve not seen Wild (I just checked and it has disappeared from Netflix). Damn – I feel like that’s one I really should’ve seen before making this list. Seems like a more gritty role than usual?

Well, I’ll add Wild once I’ve seen it. And, of course, A Wrinkle In Time (released tomorrow in the UK – 4.2 rating on IMDb. Ouch!). Of all that I’ve seen (counting down from 19), these are My Top Ten Reese Witherspoon Movies:

19. Sing
18. Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde
17. American Psycho
16. This Means War
15. Little Nicky
14. Water For Elephants
13. Four Christmases
12. Penelope
11. Monsters Vs. Aliens

TOP TEN:

10. S.F.W.

9. TIE: Sweet Home Alabama & Just Like Heaven

8. Mud

7. Election

6. The Man In The Moon

5. Legally Blonde

4. Fear

3. Walk The Line

2. Pleasantville

1. Cruel Intentions

Yep, I love Cruel Intentions. I don’t apologize. But I do apologize for Fear being way too high. It’s really shit but it’s a guilty pleasure. And I like that roller coaster scene

Saw But Don’t Remember Well Enough To Include In List:

Twilight, How Do You Know

Some I’ve Not Seen:

Jack The Bear, Freeway, Overnight Delivery, Best Laid Plans, The Importance Of Being Earnest, Vanity Fair, Rendition, Devil’s Knot, The Good Life, Inherent Vice, Wild, Hot Pursuit, Home Again, A Wrinkle In Time

Part of me wonders if I liked the Just Like Heaven movie because I adore The Cure song.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little Lies is a seven-episode series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman & Shailene Woodley. It’s airing on HBO in America this Sunday (19th of February) and looks like it will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK sometime in March.

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the show was created by David E Kelley & directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (director of films such as Wild & Dallas Buyers Club). Having just read the book, I figured it was time I do a quick book review for anyone who may be interested in either the novel or the TV show…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Perfect family, perfect house, perfect life; Jane, Madeline and Celeste have it all . . . or do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.

My Thoughts:

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it’s certainly not my usual sort of genre (give me Stephen King, fantasy, dystopian, or post-apocalyptic!). Is it chick lit? I hate that term – It’s so condescending. And I hate the so-called chick lit genre as it tends to be the “silly” books that are given this label. I suppose it’s certainly aimed at female readers, though.

I haven’t read reviews at all but I would assume the main comparison being used to describe this book’s story & overall feel is Desperate Housewives, which would be extremely accurate. I have a confession: I’m not a girly girl & watch very few girly things but I watched all of Desperate Housewives (despite its AWFUL title, which almost made me not watch it in the first place). But then the opening DH scene started with a tragic death and a woman who then happily realized that it meant she wouldn’t have to return (some kitchen appliance she’d borrowed – can’t remember) to the now-dead woman. And I was hooked! Well-written dark humor with rich characters is something I can get behind. Who cares what label you give it? I don’t think Big Little Lies is quite as good as that first season of Desperate Housewives (as with all shows, DH went badly downhill in later years) and it doesn’t have as much of that darkly humorous streak but it’s a fun satire on parents, particularly mothers, and the crazy world of school politics.

Big Little Lies starts with a tragic & unexplained death on the night of the adult-only trivia fundraiser taking place at the novel’s school. Our three main characters, Jane, Madeline & Celeste, each have five-year-olds attending their first year of school. This is a fairly long book that I found a very quick read thanks to the way it was broken up into so many chapters & the way most chapters ended with statements from witnesses who were there on the trivia night. After the opening chapter in which someone has died, the novel then goes back to the beginning of the school year to introduce us to all our main potential victims and murderers. I loved not even knowing who ends up the victim, which kept me reading as I was anxious to find out. The witness statements at the end of the chapters give us little clues along the way as to what may have happened.

Big Little Lies isn’t exactly some piece of “worthy literature” but it was a light & entertaining read and should make for an enjoyable TV series. I’d actually like to see them up the dark humor for the show if they can. The book sounds more shallow than it actually is – It tackles some heavy issues, especially at the end, but it could’ve done with sticking more to its sassy satire we mainly glimpse in the witness statements and through the character of Madeline. Speaking of Madeline, the casting of Reese Witherspoon for this role is absolute perfection – I can totally see her as this outwardly superficial character with the deep down heart of gold. I can also see Woodley & Kidman as Jane & Celeste now even though Celeste won’t be how I pictured looks-wise but Kidman definitely has the right sort of personality & manner to suit the role well. With a lot of big names involved, including Jean-Marc Vallée as the director, I think the show is in good hands & I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the UK trailer for the TV show. I think they’ve upped the drama! Hope the show doesn’t take itself too seriously…

My Top Ten Roller Coaster Scenes In Movies

Summer is almost here which means warm weather, amusement parks, and… Roller coasters! I actually hate roller coasters. I used to throw up in the backseat of my parents’ car on short car journeys so I’m not a big fan of anything that can give me motion sickness. 😉

I was going to do a list of amusement park scenes in movies but, after watching True Romance recently, I decided to narrow it down to just roller coaster scenes since there are way too many amusement park scenes to easily do that list. I love amusement parks in movies, though… Not sure why.

I thought the majority of these should heavily feature roller coasters instead of one just being a backdrop in a scene. However, I’ve included two films where the backdrop was so iconic that it didn’t feel right leaving them out. Hey – can I just say it’s annoying how roller coaster is sometimes two words & sometimes one?? Roller coaster seems more common than rollercoaster so I’ve gone with two words!

So, here are My Top Ten Roller Coaster Scenes In Movies:

10. TIE: True Romance & The Hole (2009)
I had to include True Romance since it’s what made me decide to do this list. And a roller coaster plays a part in the plot of The Hole, a movie I had high hopes for but found disappointing. It could’ve been a great modern Joe Dante film! But it was certainly no Gremlins.

9. Beavis And Butt-Head Do America
Honestly, I don’t remember if this was in the actual movie or just in the Red Hot Chili Peppers video for their cover of Love Rollercoaster… Anyone know?? Oh well – I love the song.

8. Zombieland
This movie always makes me want a Twinkie.

7. Big
Well, he can’t go on the roller coaster because he’s not big enough. It’s the whole reason for the movie’s plot! So I figure it deserves a place on my list. 😉

6. National Lampoon’s Vacation
Man, I really need to watch this again. Not seen it in years! Still prefer Christmas Vacation.

5. Final Destination 3
I couldn’t exactly leave this one out, either, as the whole plot revolves around the “accident”.

4. Despicable Me
LOVE THIS!! Although it’s still not quite as awesome as when Gru wins the “It’s so fluffy!” unicorn.

3. TIE: The Lost Boys & The Warriors
These are the two I really had to include even though we don’t actually see anyone on a roller coaster. But the roller coasters & the entire amusement park backdrops in both films are so iconic & immediately identifiable. Plus I absolutely LOVE these movies. 🙂

2. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
It counts. Because it’s my list & I say it counts. 😉

1. Fear
I really couldn’t put anything else at number one. Nothing tops this one (especially for Reese Witherspoon!). I have to admit that this movie is truly a “guilty pleasure” of mine. Because it’s pretty bad…

I should point out that there’s a 1977 film called Rollercoaster but I’ve not seen it so couldn’t include it in the list. Here’s the IMDB plot synopsis: A blackmailer threatens to sabotage roller coasters at various American amusement parks if he isn’t paid a huge ransom.

That sounds quite good! However, the trailer makes it look a bit cheesy & dated (but they did do horrible trailers for everything back then). Here it is:

Also, this post reminded me that I saw video of a very cool looking roller coaster at Shanghai Disney Resort. It’s called the “Tron Light Cycle Power Run”. Check it out! It looks cool. There’s video of it at this link: Robot 6.

Finally, here’s the whole video for Love Rollercoaster by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (love them, although I prefer the Ohio Players version):

Mud (2012) Review

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Mud (2012)

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring:
Matthew McConaughey
Tye Sheridan
Sam Shepard
Michael Shannon
Joe Don Baker
Ray McKinnon
Sarah Paulson
Paul Sparks
Jacob Lofland
Reese Witherspoon

Running time: 130 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Two young boys find a man who calls himself Mud hiding out on a small island on the Mississippi River. They later learn he is a fugitive and question him about it. Mud claims he killed a man who was abusing the woman he loves and he plans to repair a damaged boat that’s on the island then reunite with the woman and escape. The boys agree to help Mud with his mission.

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This was quite an odd movie and I think it’ll be a hard one to review. I decided to watch it as it made quite a few end of year Top Ten movie lists done by fellow bloggers.

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I think I remember one blogger comparing Mud to Stand By Me which got my interest as that’s one of my all-time favorite movies. Mud isn’t up there with that one but the comparison makes sense in that this is a coming-of-age drama about two boys (of 14, I think). The story focuses mainly on the boy named Ellis, whose parents are divorcing. He also thinks he’s in love with a girl from school so he’s a big ‘ol bag of mixed teenage hormonal emotions. His friend, with the kick ass name of Neckbone, isn’t so much the focus of the film but I really liked him as he reminded me a lot of River Phoenix in Stand By Me, especially with his haircut. Both boys were great and I hope they go on to do more films after this one. They’re what made the movie.

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Matthew McConaughey has never really been to my taste (or to many people’s, I think). I did like him in this, though, and I like that he’s been doing more serious roles and seems to be becoming a more highly respected actor lately (Mud is the only one I’ve seen of his more serious roles but I have to admit I liked him in Dazed And Confused as I’m from a small town and I knew a guy EXACTLY like his pervy loser). He’s a mysterious character and you never really know if the boys should fully trust him.

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This movie has a slow pace and is more about the characters than about Mud’s story. It won’t be for everyone and I’d only recommend it to those who think they may like it based on what I’ve said so far. McConaughey and especially the two boys give very good performances and you’ll find that you just want a happy ending for them all. The plot itself is quite unique compared to other films and I liked that – it felt like a “fresh” idea even though there wasn’t a lot to it. This movie has the feel of the early 80’s way of life (which I’d totally go back to if I had a time machine) and I actually wondered for a while if this was set in the 80s or if that’s just how things still are these days in Arkansas. I don’t mean that in a bad way – it’s just a very different lifestyle and one that someone living somewhere like London might not be able to relate to but, being from small-town Midwest, it made me a little homesick. Overall, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit and the only weak thing, unfortunately, was Reese Witherspoon who didn’t seem right for her role. Otherwise, I can’t really think of anything bad to say about Mud.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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