Nightmare Alley (2021) Review

Nightmare Alley (2021)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Based on Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A grifter working his way up from low-ranking carnival worker to lauded psychic medium matches wits with a psychiatrist bent on exposing him.

My Opinion:

Ugh. Okay, this is going to be a sucky review because I have very little to say about this movie. Well, all my reviews are sucky. So this will be more sucky than usual!

Man, this film was a drag. Guillermo del Toro’s output is kind of all over the place, though. I like some films, like Pan’s Labyrinth (brilliant) and The Shape Of Water. But other films of his are a bit meh. As always, though, I like the style of his movies & this one also has his great signature look to it. So, yay, it looked very pretty. But that didn’t make the movie any less boring. Nightmare Alley ended up like Crimson Peak: A great-looking but dull film. And I think I enjoyed Crimson Peak much more of these two.

How did he manage to make a movie set in an old-school carnival so boring?!? I think we just didn’t get enough of the carnival setting. Disappointingly, that’s only really at the start of the film. I LOVE a carnival/circus setting for movies & books! Freaks is very much a favorite film of mine & I’ve always found that whole lifestyle fascinating. So, when they moved away from that in this film, I really lost interest with the plot which wasn’t very compelling & certainly didn’t need to be dragged out for two & a half hours. Also, not to be rude but I’ve just never really been a fan of Bradley Cooper & he felt wrong for this role. I did think he was very good in A Star Is Born but he just felt out of place here, especially in scenes with Cate Blanchett. I think Blanchett has that true old Hollywood “star quality” so she does tend to outshine everyone in scenes with her but it was even more obvious with Cooper as he just doesn’t have that sort of “presence” at all. Which isn’t good when he’s the main character…

Also, I don’t mind this so much but the hubby complained about the amount of big name stars in this. I do agree it can throw you out of some movies, though, especially fantasies or ones that are meant to be mysterious. It just felt unnecessary to stick so many well known people in even the smaller roles here. Is that what helped it to get a Best Picture nomination? Probably! The Academy does have its favorites. Blanchett is certainly a favorite & they do seem to like del Toro. Hey – at least Nightmare Alley was maybe a little less boring than The Power Of The Dog. Maybe. It’s close.

I had more to say about this than I expected! I feel I’ve been way too harsh because, let’s face it, I’ve never made a movie & del Toro is obviously a good filmmaker. So I’ll end with some positives:

As already mentioned, this movie looks great. I also liked all the performances from the women: Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette (was sad her role was so small) & Rooney Mara. Hubby thinks I have a big girl crush on Rooney Mara. I think I kind of do but don’t know why as I don’t normally go for that tiny waif thing. She has lovely eyes but I think I’m more into Blanchett because she’s always so “sexy cool”. Yes, I liked seeing the two of them in this together briefly after they played lovers in Carol. Yes, I liked Carol and, yes, it kind of made me wonder what I see in men. And I think I just spent too long thinking about Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara so the hubby is gonna read this and think I’m in love with them. Oh, and I also learned something new about old carnivals! I can’t believe I’d never heard of a geek show since I always watch anything to do with carnivals. Anyway, here’s a brief explanation of a geek show from Wikipedia: “The billed performer’s act consisted of a single geek, who stood in center ring to chase live chickens. It ended with the performer biting the chickens’ heads off and swallowing them.” Gross. It sounds like the geeks were treated horribly so it’s a good thing the “geek shows” & the “freak shows” disappeared. It was such a different world back then. (But I did like the thing in the jar in Nightmare Alley as it reminded me of a great episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called The Jar. Loved that show as a kid!)

Here, I’ll be fairly nice with my rating as it obviously must be a good film since it’s an Oscar nominee?!?

My Rating: 6.5/10

The Lost Daughter, Don’t Look Up & Pig Reviews

Another quick trio of reviews of 2021 releases before I do my December roundup post. Liked these a lot more than the three I reviewed earlier today. Two of these are also probably going to make my 2021 Top Ten list I’ll try to post later this week. I keep moving stuff around on that list a lot… We’ll see!

Don’t Look Up (2021)

Directed by Adam McKay

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi, Himesh Patel, Melanie Lynskey, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
It stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence as two astronomers attempting to warn humanity about an approaching comet that will destroy human civilization.

My Opinion:

Watched this yesterday (but I’m logging it as a 2021 watch!). Really glad I finished out the year with this one as I’ve found the 2021 releases on services to be very disappointing but I enjoyed this one a lot. Between this and The Lost Daughter, which I watched on the 31st, I’m happy to have two more movies probably making it into my 2021 Top Ten list.

Wasn’t sure what I’d think of this as I’ve not been big on any of Adam McKay’s other films but, for me, this is easily his best. I thought it would be extremely political & too far-left in that typical Hollywood way as, according to Wikipedia, “The comet is an analogy for climate change and the film is a satire of government and media indifference to the climate crisis.” There’s nothing I hate more than an overly preachy movie! But it didn’t feel preachy to me & I got some good laughs out of the comedy in this. I thought the satire was pretty clever and, although they say it’s about how how shit the governments & media are, I thought it also perfectly displayed what a bunch of fucking morons the entire human race has become. I always enjoy “humans suck” satire (also a fan of Idiocracy, although I wish that film was better). It was scary how accurate this film was on how the general population would react if told we’re all going to die when a comet hits Earth. There would be as many comet-deniers as there are Covid-deniers. I would have thought this film was exaggerating things just five years ago or so (but I also wrongly thought Idiocracy was exaggerated at the time). People being more bothered about a celebrity breakup than our impending doom is SO FUCKING ACCURATE.

I also really enjoyed all the performances in this. Movies with huge star ensembles like this don’t always work for me as I sometimes find so many big names to be distracting & can take away from the story but I thought everyone was perfectly cast in this. Leonardo DiCaprio was good, of course, but I liked that it felt like quite a different role for him. And I loved that his wife was, like, the same age as him! Also really liked Jennifer Lawrence’s character and loved how she became just another meme for media-obsessed society. Also loved her obsession with the free snacks… Meryl Streep was pretty damn hilarious as a hateful self-absorbed president & I thought Jonah Hill was funny (although I can see that one role being the most divisive). And Mark Rylance was fantastic as a typical billionaire genius/idiot. I can’t call if this movie will have any acting Oscar nominations or if it’ll be completely ignored as comedy often is by the Academy. Or if they’ll only nominate Streep as usual. I think it deserves recognition, though, and I enjoyed it far more than his Oscar-nominated The Big Short.

I’ve avoided reviews & discussion of this movie but get the impression that people are pretty divided? Not sure why as I thought it was easily one of the better films I’ve managed to see this year. Maybe the truth hurts?

My Rating: 7.5/10

The Lost Daughter (2021)

Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal

Based on The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

Starring: Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Dagmara Domińczyk, Jack Farthing, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Peter Sarsgaard, Ed Harris

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A woman’s beach vacation takes a dark turn when she begins to confront the troubles of her past.

My Opinion:

I also liked this film a lot. I’d maybe say it’s actually better than Don’t Look Up but is obviously a much more serious film & I had more “fun” watching Don’t Look Up.

The acting is great in this, especially from Olivia Colman & Jessie Buckley. I’m not an Olivia Colman fan (I’m actually enjoying The Crown far less since it changed to her from Claire Foy) but have to admit she’s very good in this. And that horrible family who came to the beach gave me the absolute creeps! Absolutely cannot stand pushy, entitled people like that and there are far too many of them in this world. Why the fuck should Olivia Colman move from her spot on the beach, huh?!? Anyway – I guess the family were very good as they were menacing as hell just in the way they would look at Colman’s character. But I never really understood their problem with her. Was it only because she wouldn’t move on the beach or did I miss something else while trying to sneakily watch this in between doing stuff with the family on one of my last days off of work?? Dakota Johnson was also good as part of that horrible family (by marriage, I think – was never quite sure how they were all related) & the one who Colman connects with as her young daughter brings up painful memories from Colman’s past. Johnson is maybe growing on me – I couldn’t understand what people saw in her at first.

I think this movie does a fantastic job of portraying the fact that, for some women, there’s much more to them than “just being a mother” and that being a mother (and wife) can be very difficult. I think movies often portray motherhood as being beautiful & perfect. I’m not saying I could personally connect with Colman’s & Buckley’s character’s experience but I think it will probably speak to a lot of women. And I thought the building tension in this was done really well. I kept feeling more & more uneasy throughout this film as I didn’t know a thing about the story & didn’t know what would happen.


Hated this bitch so much!

I think Gyllenhaal has done a great job with this movie. I can’t say whether it’s a good adaptation as I’ve not read the book but I’d now be interested in possibly reading it to know even more about the characters’ motivations. Maybe I’ll read it. I don’t often read a book after seeing the movie but I’d like to know a bit more after seeing this one. It’s a very good film.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Pig (2021)

Directed by Michael Sarnoski

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows a truffle forager whose beloved truffle-finding pig is stolen.

My Opinion:

Had to of course see what all the fuss was about on this one so managed to pick up a really cheap DVD of it (£2.99!). Can’t afford this hobby anymore so I think the only movies I spent on in 2021 outside of streaming services were this & Willy’s Wonderland. You’d think I was a Nicolas Cage fan or something! I’m actually really not, although he’s grown on me in recent years thanks to his interesting film choices. Those choices are often bad & I’ve not watched those that had terrible reviews but things like Mandy & Color Out Of Space are right up my alley & this one sounded like it could be too.

It’s an interesting film & I do agree that Cage was good in it. As much as I enjoy Crazy Cage, I liked seeing him so restrained in this one. I think he and the movie portray loneliness & grief well. Was honestly expecting some John Wick type of revenge rampage so was surprised at there being very little violence in this. Although a John Wick rampage would’ve been fun too but we’ve had enough of that sort of thing from Cage so this was a nice change.

Pig is a movie I’m glad I managed to see before the end of the year but it’s not a “rewatcher” for me as I can’t see myself watching it again. But I can understand why many seemed to like it as they could probably identify with Cage’s character. I can also see why plenty of other people wouldn’t go for this movie at all & would probably call it boring as it’s very slow & far less happens than I was expecting. It’s certainly a “Film Twitter person” type of movie that I wouldn’t go around recommending to people I work with or something. You’ll love it or possibly hate it. Or just be a bit “That was okay” like me. The pig was very cute!

My Rating: 7/10

The Book Of Life (2014) Review

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The Book Of Life (2014)

Directed by Jorge Gutierrez

Produced by Aaron Berger, Brad Booker, Guillermo del Toro, Carina Schulze

Starring:
Diego Luna
Zoe Saldana
Channing Tatum
Ron Perlman
Christina Applegate
Ice Cube
Kate del Castillo

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

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My Opinion:

Hmm. I liked this movie and did think it was lovely to look at (but was probably a bit “too much” visually – they could have toned it down). As an adult, it’s not always fun sitting through kids movies but I enjoyed the story well enough in this and didn’t just want to sleep through the whole thing like I pretty much did during the horrible Boxtrolls movie. The problem with this one, though, is that I think adults may almost enjoy it a bit more than really young kids as I think the story is too confusing for those under maybe 8 or so. There’s no reason that younger kids can’t go to it – I just think they won’t like this one as much as it’s very fast paced, the story is too complex, and it’s just very “busy” – you’re constantly bombarded with the visuals, the story, the songs… I found it hard to keep up myself so I doubt a five-year-old really could.

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As I said, I did quite like the story. It’s actually told as a story that’s being told to a group of kids at a museum and I wasn’t sure that would really work at first but it wasn’t too bad – it just made it a bit harder to get into the characters who are in the “story within a story”. I put the very simple plot synopsis at the top but here it is from Wikipedia in much more detail to show you exactly what the central story is about (although, as I said, it’s more complex than this):

The spirits La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, appear at the San Angel’s Day of the Dead festival where they set up a wager after seeing two boys, Manolo and Joaquín, competing over a free-spirited girl named María. La Muerte bets that Manolo will marry María, while Xibalba bets on Joaquín. If La Muerte wins, Xibalba can no longer interfere in mortal affairs, but if Xibalba wins, he and La Muerte would switch lands.

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The girl in this is pretty good – she’s feisty and when the boys are fighting over her says something like “I belong to no one!” so I was all for that as too many female characters in kids movies are horrible role models to young girls. Her pet pig was pretty adorable and there weren’t any annoying or unlikable characters.

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The jokes in this are actually somewhat funny, even for the adults (well, one joke was SO dirty that the hubby & I looked at each other in disbelief! Don’t worry, though – your kids would NOT pick up on it. Just don’t laugh at it if you can help yourself. I couldn’t help myself…). There’s also a lot of music in this film which was sometimes fun as they did some popular stuff. Although I wasn’t sure if I should think it’s cool or if I should be pissed off at them doing Radiohead’s Creep… But, hey – it’s the first time I’ve heard Biz Markie’s Just A Friend since 1989!

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Summary:

The Book Of Life is a decent enough film that adults probably won’t mind sitting through as well. I do think it’s too complex for the very young but, aside from one dirty joke they won’t get anyway, I wouldn’t say there’s really anything inappropriate for kids (other than maybe the issue of “death” being discussed but you get that in most Disney movies anyway). Obviously, it’s not Pixar or Disney so it’s still just a kids film to me & I never rate those as highly as I’d rather watch a grown-up movie. I liked this okay, though, and think most kids of at least 7 or 8 probably will too.

My Rating: 6/10

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Here’s some Radiohead for Cara. 😉

Pacific Rim (2013) Review

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Pacific Rim

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Starring:
Charlie Hunnam
Idris Elba
Rinko Kikuchi
Charlie Day
Robert Kazinsky
Max Martini
Ron Perlman
Burn Gorman
Clifton Collins Jr

Running time: 132 minutes

Plot Synopsis (via Wikipedia):

The film is set in the 2020s, when Earth is under attack by Kaiju, colossal monsters which have emerged from a portal on the ocean floor. To combat the monsters, humanity unites to create the Jaegers: gigantic humanoid mecha, each controlled by two pilots whose minds are joined by a neural bridge.

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My Opinion:

THIS is what I expect of a summer blockbuster. There are cool monsters (they even GLOW!), big funky robots, lots & lots of action, characters who are cliché as hell including generically attractive leads, and a story that’s totally predictable every step of the way. Turn off your brain, munch your popcorn, and just have fun. I really enjoyed this film as I got exactly what I was expecting.

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This movie is all about the action so I’m not going to go into any of that. All of that is really good and thoroughly entertaining. Instead, I’ll discuss the characters in the film a little bit.

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There aren’t going to be any Oscars handed out to anyone in this. But who cares? The main guy, Charlie Hunnam, really can’t get any more generically attractive. The good news is that he takes his shirt off a couple of times. The bad news is that those couple of shirtless moments are fairly brief and he’s otherwise always fully clothed. His storyline starts out OH SO PREDICTABLE and ends that way as well. As does the storyline of, well, absolutely everyone in this. Again, though – who cares? We’re all going to this to see monsters & robots! 🙂

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The other characters of note are:

– Idris Elba as the dude in charge of the Jaegers & their pilots. He was just right for the role and probably put in the most effort acting-wise.

– Rinko Kikuchi as “the girl”. Another very predictable storyline here but it was a decent enough story. And we see her as a little girl too and she’s adorable.

– The scientists (Charlie Day & Burn Gorman). You’ll probably love these guys or you’ll hate them. Predictably quirky & nerdy – they’re always competing with each other in trying to figure out the best way to save the world from the Kaiju. They’re the “comic relief” but you’ll probably be rolling your eyes at some of their antics.

– The other Jaeger pilots. There are a few other “teams” but the one focused on the most is a father & son (the son is the generically attractive “prick” these types of blockbusters call for). Again – their storyline is predictable but I liked it fine.

– Ron Perlman as the “lunatic”. I think his role is meant to be a bit of a surprise so I won’t say exactly who he is but he’ll be a favorite character, I would think, for anyone who is a Ron Perlman fan. He’s also in it to provide a bit of comic relief but I really couldn’t decide if I liked his character or not. It felt a bit too silly to me.

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Summary:

I know I’ve not said much about this film but there’s really no point. You won’t exactly increase your IQ by watching it but you WILL enjoy yourself. This movie does exactly what it sets out to do: keeps you entertained without requiring you to put much effort into “thinking”. And that’s fine when you’re expecting it – I have no issue with the braindead action in this whereas in something like Man Of Steel it annoyed me as I expected a film like that to be a little “smarter” and not have SUCH excessive action for such a large chunk of the film. And while I didn’t expect anything other than the cliché characters and predictable storylines, it does keep Pacific Rim from becoming something MORE than just “this year’s” big summer blockbuster. Plenty of other past summer blockbusters are now what I’d consider all-time favorites and, unfortunately, I don’t think Pacific Rim quite manages to make itself an all-time classic in this category. But I do recommend it, especially on a nice big cinema screen.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Scene after credits?: Yes, there is a scene partway through the credits that you’ll probably want to stay for. There’s not a scene after the credits but there is a dedication to Ray Harryhausen & Ishiro Honda and the sound of a Kaiju roar.

Also, there has been talk of a Pacific Rim sequel! SPOILER if you haven’t yet seen the film:

The sequel, Pacific Rim 2: Electric Boogaloo, will focus on the Kaiju and the dance show they organize in an attempt to raise enough money for a new portal.