Watched, Read, Reviewed: April 2020

Hi again. Hope everyone is still safe & well. I’ve managed to put another post together, this time looking back at what I watched, read & listened to way back in April…

MOVIES WATCHED IN APRIL (ranked best to worst):

Crimson Peak – I do love a gothic horror and, while none of Guillermo del Toro’s films are personal favorites of mine, I did like The Shape Of Water & think Pan’s Labyrinth is a brilliant & visually stunning film. So I’m not sure what took me so long to check out Crimson Peak as it’s the type of thing I enjoy. And I did definitely enjoy it despite it not being perfect. The story is fine but the atmosphere & the look are what I care about in this type of film and Crimson Peak didn’t disappoint in that department. Loved that creepy dilapidated mansion! I couldn’t find many great images to use for this post but that could be because the movie is quite dark & still images don’t do it justice. I have to say the most disappointing thing in this film are its stars. I’ve never liked Jessica Chastain’s acting & she was as bad as always. I also find Tom Hiddleston a bit bland, although his character was okay, and I’ll never get why Mia Wasikowska became so big when she’s so boring (although this role was perfect for her, so I didn’t mind her in this). But I don’t care that much about who stars in a movie, although it’s an added bonus when it’s actors I do really like. So the stars didn’t ruin this film for me anyway. It’s a pretty straightforward ghost story and a tad predictable but it’s still a solid “haunted house” film with some great imagery. Overall, though, it’s disappointing compared to Guillermo del Toro’s other films. But we can’t expect Pan’s Labyrinth every time. – 7/10

Dreamgirls – Not sure why I missed this one when it was out. I really liked this & Jennifer Hudson was worthy of her Oscar. I didn’t know anything whatsoever about the musical & didn’t think I knew any of the songs but it turns out that I did know And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. Good song but those reality show contestants sing it too often! But I suppose that’s okay since it’s how Hudson became famous. Anyway, I love the Motown era and thought this was a really good look at that ’60s into ’70s time period and the rise to fame of a girl group very clearly meant to resemble The Supremes. The songs were good & it was fun hearing ones so closely resembling acts such as The Jackson 5. I have to say that the movie isn’t exactly deep but the characters are good & it’s an enjoyable film. Definitely recommend it to music lovers and anyone interested in a lightweight fictional look at the Motown record industry. It made me want to watch a good documentary about Motown. – 7/10

Captain Fantastic – Enjoyed this as well, although I have to be in the right kind of mood for “quirky indie drama with good performances”. I often like these type of films but sometimes I absolutely hate them & find them phoney & pretentious. Captain Fantastic is a good film & Viggo Mortensen was deserving of his Best Actor Oscar nomination. As with most movies like this, I couldn’t in any way relate to these characters with a very different sort of lifestyle but the film did well in making you care about them and wanting the best possible life for them. The question is what is the best possible life for them? Not everyone has the same values, goals & dreams. I admit this movie is deserving of a much higher rating than I’m giving it. It’s a very good film (it’s certainly better than Crimson Peak) but it’s a bit too “drama” for me. I like my quirky indie dramas to have a touch more comedy as well. Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, The Way Way Back, etc etc. Think I had that expectation for Captain Fantastic for some reason. But as I said – Very good film & performances. I recommend it if this genre is your type of thing. – 7/10

Blinded By The Light – It’s very hard to not compare this film to the other 2019 British feelgood movie written around another band/singer and their songs (Yesterday, in which a guy wakes up to find he’s the only person with any memory of The Beatles and their music). Not gonna lie – I’m not a fan of Bruce Springsteen’s music at all while I absolutely love The Beatles (top ten here), so I was of course going to enjoy Yesterday much more than Blinded By The Light (and I prefer Manfred Mann’s version of that song – Sorry, Bruce!).

Which film is actually better? It’s hard to say. Yesterday was very flawed and completely failed to explore the complexities of its ambitious idea but I really liked it anyway. I like a good story and Yesterday had such a brilliant idea of exploring an alternate universe in which The Beatles never existed. As I watch so many movies, I get bored with seeing the same predictable stories over & over again so Yesterday was a treat even if it didn’t quite do its brilliant idea justice.

Blinded By The Light is indeed a feelgood film. I enjoyed it & think lovers of Springsteen would all very much enjoy it as well. But the film doesn’t feel like anything we’ve not seen before. Quirky feelgood indie movies are as predictable as quirky indie dramas. I wanted to like this movie more as it’s very “sweet” and god knows feelgood films are badly needed with the world being so shit at the moment. But, while it put a smile on my face while watching it, I can’t say it’s one that I’ll remember that well in a year. Again, it’s a good film for its genre but I’ve just seen too much of this genre… Sorry! I feel bad for not liking it more.

I should point out that it’s a true story, which is great. Here’s what Wikipedia says about that: “It was inspired by the life of journalist Sarfraz Manzoor and his love of the works of Bruce Springsteen. Manzoor co-wrote the script, with Gurinder Chadha and Paul Mayeda Berges. It is based on Manzoor’s 2007 memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock N’ Roll.” I like the true story & Manzoor seems like a nice guy and I can totally relate to being moved by music. I feel that way about music & movies. I can’t imagine life without them and this film helps show just how important art can be to people. Art can literally change a person’s life. This is a well-written film with a good story & likeable characters. I do wonder how much more I’d like it if it was based around an artist I love in the same way that Manzoor loves Springsteen. – 7/10

Boy – More quirky indie drama stuff! This one has more comedy thrown in, though. So it’s a quirky indie dramedy. It was a struggle to know how to rank all the movies I saw in April. I realise I’ve given my most common “good but didn’t blow me away” rating of 7/10 to the majority this month. The rankings don’t really matter but Boy is probably a better film than Blinded By The Light while Crimson Peak is admittedly probably the “worst” of the 7/10 films. But I rank on personal enjoyment. If you like quirky indie dramedy & Taika Waititi’s humor, you’ll like Boy. Like Jojo Rabbit, the kid actors are the best thing about the film (especially James Rolleston as Boy). Waititi plays the very unsympathetic father who suddenly come back into his kids’ lives. He’s funny as usual but also an asshole (you’re meant to feel this way about him, though). I of course appreciated that this was set in 1984 & it was cute that Boy was a big Michael Jackson fan. I also always appreciate a good coming of age film and likeable characters such as Boy and his little brother Rocky. It’s worth watching to see earlier work from Waititi. It’s probably most similar to Hunt For The Wilderpeople so I think you’ll like Boy of you liked that. I think I actually prefer Boy to that one. – 7/10

Rise Of The Guardians – I have to admit that I’m always a bit snobby about DreamWorks films. In comparison to Disney and especially Pixar & Studio Ghibli, DreamWorks’ films are just not as good (in my opinion, at least). I don’t like Shrek or How To Train Your Dragon to the degree that others do (Kung Fu Panda is probably my favorite, although I have yet to see Abominable which I did like the look of). So it may be because I went in with low expectations but I enjoyed Rise Of The Guardians. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still not as good as the output from those other studios but I liked the story as it felt quite original & having the connection to all the different holidays via Santa, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, etc, was fun. But, meh, whatever. It’s still not going to be a favorite animated film. Like most DreamWorks movies, it’s a “one-time-watch” for me. – 7/10

Lady Vengeance (친절한 금자씨) (Chinjeolhan geumjassi) – I like a revenge movie & am a fan of quite a few South Korean films so expected to really like this one. I was very disappointed. Then again, I absolutely hated Park Chan-wook’s 2nd film in this “Vengeance Trilogy”, so I don’t know why I expected to like this one. Lady Vengeance is the third film, with Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance being the first & that nasty Oldboy being the second. I definitely far preferred this to Oldboy, however, and liked the main character, Lee Geum-ja. From Wikipedia, the movie is about “a woman released from prison after serving the sentence for a murder she did not commit. The film tells her story of revenge against the real murderer“. The story was a decent enough revenge story but, as with Park Chan-wook’s other films I’ve seen, the characters are hard to like (although Lee Geum-ja is a far more sympathetic character than Oldboy dude). And her red eyeshadow was cool. I’d look like shit in red eyeshadow. Anyway, the film was okay. I was just hoping for it to be a bit better than it was… – 6.5/10

Three Identical Strangers – This was a fascinating documentary about triplets who were separated at birth & adopted by different families. They and their adoptive families were unaware of the other siblings. The story of how they later discovered each other was also great so I won’t spoil that here. Then, when you think this true story can’t get any more crazy, it goes in a completely unexpected direction. I don’t know why but I have to force myself to watch documentaries even though there are some great ones. This is a really good one & deserves a higher rating but I just enjoy fictional movies more. Weird, I know. But this story is almost stranger than fiction & I recommend it to the many people who do love good documentaries. Oh – the triplets got quite famous when their story first came out & it got them a cameo ogling Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan… (below) – 6.5/10

The Sun Is Also A Star – I read & liked this YA book by Nicola Yoon (my book review is HERE). It wasn’t exactly anything new and I read way too much YA but, whatever – it was an enjoyable enough read. The movie adaptation was pretty faithful. Except for the ending! Why do they change stuff?? Well, I guess the changed ending was okay. Also, they managed to make the girl a bit more likeable in the movie (she was kind of bitchy in the book). Meh. If you like YA romance, you’ll like this just fine. But as (almost) always, the book is better. – 6.5/10

Anna – Yeah, this movie is fucking ridiculous. And kind of creepy pervy (as to be expected from Luc Besson). I love how only gorgeous women can be spies in movies. And how they have to do a bunch of fighting in sexy heels & stockings. Surely it’s easier to kick ass in appropriate clothing?! And how they have to fuck everyone (in this movie, at least – fuck the good guy, fuck the bad guy, fuck the other sexy female model because of course our sexy spy is so sexy that she has to go undercover as a model…). So if you like sexy spy chick movies with lots of fucking, you’ll like this. Is it the best of this genre? Hell no! But it’s certainly not the worst either. It was far more enjoyable than that idiotic Red Sparrow movie and probably a bit better than Atomic Blonde (which was also fucking ridiculous but I kind of liked). Overall, I guess I kind of liked this one too. It was helped by the fact that Helen Mirren was in it. The original saucy minx! – 6.5/10

Isn’t It Romantic – What can I say? It was the start of lockdown & I watched any old shit in April. And this one ended up not being too bad. At least the idea behind it was fun. From Wikipedia: “The film stars Rebel Wilson as a woman who finds herself in a world where everything around her plays out like a clichéd PG-13 romantic comedy“. I liked the nods to those guilty pleasure chick flicks, like how Wilson wears the same outfit as Julia Roberts does in Pretty Woman (above). And, although not nearly as hot as brother Chris, Liam Hemsworth is a cutie. It won’t change your life but it’s a decent enough lazy Sunday afternoon romantic comedy. – 6/10

Dark Skies – This was fine for a horror about aliens. We’ve not had a horror movie involving aliens experimenting on us in a while. This sub genre was a big thing at one point! I’ve always found the alien abduction movies pretty effectively creepy & thought this movie was an okay example of this type of film. Maybe I liked it as the whole alien abduction thing really scared me as a young kid. I honestly thought I’d be abducted & experimented on. Seriously. I think I watched way too much old sci-fi and original Twilight Zone episodes as a kid. I also like Keri Russell as an actress (love the film Waitress). The family were likeable (as far as horror movies go – it’s not the best genre for character development) & the story was fine & it was fairly creepy. Good enough. – 6/10

Rock Of Ages – Ugh. I fucking hated this. I’m probably being way too harsh on it since I guess it’s not the worst movie ever. But holy fuck is it cheesy!!! Okay, I was a teenager in the ’80s into early ’90s so I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t listen to Guns N’ Roses, Poison, Skid Row, Def Leppard, etc etc etc. All that cheesy hair metal! I liked all of it. But I feel the need to clarify that I preferred stuff like Metallica, Anthrax, AC/DC & Led Zeppelin at that same time, so don’t judge & assume that I only liked the more poppy hair metal like a lot of girls back then. The uglier the band, the better the actual music! 😉

Where was I?! Reminiscing. Man I feel so old now. So, yes, this music is seen as being very cheesy now & I admittedly haven’t listened to much of it since then whereas I still listen to stuff like Black Sabbath & Metallica. But it was accepted at the time and, let’s be honest, it seems damn good compared to the mainstream shit on the radio in 2020. But, while this music was very mainstream & most of the bands were too “pretty” to be fully taken seriously, they all lived that rock lifestyle to the fullest. God, the disgusting stories that Mötley Crüe must be able to tell! Sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll. That’s what I expect from these bands. This film sucks all of the life out of these bands & how they lived. It pretends to have characters living that lifestyle, especially the ridiculously stupid Tom Cruise character, while the cast sing dreadful Glee-inspired versions of songs I once liked. I suppose I was expecting a fun look at that era but it instead felt like this was made by kids who didn’t live through that time. So I looked it up and the writers are the same sort of age as me. Really?! That’s surprising, as the movie doesn’t capture a love for that era and instead comes across as phoney. So, yeah – I wasn’t a fan of this film. Obviously. – 4.5/10

Rewatched:

Lady And The Tramp – Disney classic. Puppy Lady is adorable. The spaghetti scene rules. The Siamese cats are bitches. Not the best Disney film but that’s only because there are SO MANY great Disney films. Probably still within my Top 20. Oh yeah – I ranked the Disney films years ago on this blog (here). That’s so out of date! I think I’d change some now. I should update that sometime. Anyway, it looks like I ranked Lady And The Tramp at 14. – 8/10

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – I’ve linked my original review so don’t need to say much other than that I like these films (although this & the first one are much better than the final two). – 7.5/10

Yellow Submarine – Love this psychedelic weirdness! And I love The Beatles (as I mentioned in the Blinded By The Light review above). So I of course enjoy the music in this. I’ve always liked the imagery in this one as well. Fun animation & great music & weird as shit movie. They had great drugs in the ’60s. Nothing interesting gets made anymore. – 7.5/10

The Terminal – Rewatched this one as a family. The hubby has always really liked this movie (not sure why). Anyway, Tom Hanks is good as always and the story is unique. I always knew it was inspired by a true story but, holy shit, I just looked it up and the real guy lived in the airport for 18 years!!! That’s crazy. This is a fun, feelgood movie and Stanley Tucci is a total asshole in it. I still don’t understand why his character was so mean to Hanks! – 7/10

Just Go With It – So, yeah, my daughter is liking the silliness of the Adam Sandler movies so I’ve rewatched a lot of his stuff in the past year. This one is certainly not one of his best but at least it’s far better than his very worst (he does have some very bad ones!). This one is… Meh. He always has better chemistry with Drew Barrymore than with Jennifer Aniston. – 6/10

BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN APRIL

MUSIC LISTENED TO

Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor II – I really liked the first EP, which I reviewed here, so was looking forward to the second EP coming out. Enjoyed Part II as well but Simmer is still by far the best song.

BOOKS READ

Dune by Frank Herbert – I started reading this in March & it took me months to finish as I just wasn’t able to concentrate on anything at that time. Liked it, though. I’ll maybe try to review it in my June roundup post, as I think that’s when I finally finished it…

TV SHOWS WATCHED

The Mandalorian – I’m not going to say much about this show as I’ll just ramble on forever. I adore this show (yes, The Child is THE reason why I love it so much). The Child is the pinnacle of cuteness. Nothing will top “Baby Yoda”. But, damn, it’s such a good show. It’s better than the Star Wars sequel trilogy. It’s made me like Star Wars again (not that I stopped, but I did find the recent films disappointing). And the score by Ludwig Göransson is BRILLIANT. Love it. And the artwork during the credits! Love everything about this show so far. I don’t have a bad thing to say about it.

The Golden Girls – I can’t even begin to tell you just HOW MUCH I loved watching this on Channel 5 during my working-from-home lunch breaks through lockdown. Seriously, it was the highlight of each weekday! And the show has aged well, to be honest. It’s still funny as hell. Love it and still love these ladies. Protect Betty White forever! But Channel 5 only aired 4 seasons. I’m still pissed off about that. Show the rest, Channel 5! Please!!!

The Masked Singer US – God this show was cheesy & stupid but also kind of… entertaining, I guess. I watched the U.K. one too. I was rubbish at guessing who anyone was. At least I’d heard of most of the stars in the U.S. one (except the sports stars). They really scraped the bottom of the barrel for the U.K. one! I’m not posting an image from this stupid show. Here’s The Mandalorian again…

BLOG PLANS FOR AUGUST

I’m hoping to post the rest of my monthly roundup posts for May, June & July… If I get around to writing them.

Let’s listen to Ludwig Göransson’s awesome theme music for The Mandalorian:

Watched, Read, Reviewed: March 2020

Hi all. Hope everyone is well & keeping safe.

I haven’t posted any of these monthly updates since February. Obviously, it all seems a bit pointless at the moment. I’m not watching many “new to me” films anyway since I seem to be sticking with movies I’ve already seen & know that I like or think the kid would like. I’ve still kept these monthly lists in my drafts, though, so I might as well catch up on posting them. I’ll keep my thoughts brief (I can’t remember much after five months anyway). Here’s what I watched & read back in March 2020…

MOVIES REVIEWED IN MARCH

Onward – Last film I watched in the cinema. I reviewed it in full at the link. Enjoyed it but a weak entry from Pixar. – 7/10

MOVIES WATCHED IN MARCH (ranked best to worst)

This Boy’s Life – Been wanting to check this out for years to see the performances from Robert De Niro & a young Leonardo DiCaprio. Actually didn’t know beforehand that it was about author Tobias Wolff (played by DiCaprio). I then thought “Oh, I read his book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test!” But, never mind, that was written by Tom Wolfe. I know nothing about Tobias Wolff (except that his stepdad, played by De Niro, was a bit of an asshole). Well, they both delivered the expected good performances but biographical dramas have never really been my thing. It’s a good film but not one I’d watch again. – 7/10

Four Flies On Grey Velvet (4 mosche di velluto grigio) – Was excited to see this Dario Argento film available on Amazon Prime as I’ve been wanting to explore more of the Italian giallo horror thing since finding Phenomena interesting then thinking Deep Red was pretty damn great. Was super disappointed that Four Flies was only available dubbed in English. Argh! I hate when films are dubbed. It’s distracting & definitely ruins the film but, meh – I was in lockdown so I watched it anyway. It’s certainly nowhere near the level of Deep Red or Suspiria. As usual, there was some imagery I liked (like that doll thing up there – I love a creepy doll thing & Argento clearly does too). Shit, I dunno – I remember almost nothing about this five months later whereas I remember all of Deep Red plus its brilliant score. At least the story was ALMOST coherent in Four Flies, which I can’t say for all of Argento’s stuff (especially Inferno, which is later in this list). It also had a truly silly but fun way in which the killer got discovered so I guess I’ll give it an extra point for that. But if you’re new to Argento just watch Deep Red, which is his most accessible film. – 6.5/10

All The Bright Places – I liked this YA novel a lot. I admit I read waaaaaay too many YA books but this was definitely one of my favorites when it comes to the romance/drama side of the genre. It had very strong characters & it left me feeling emotionally drained in a way that many YA books don’t manage as so many of them feel a bit shallow. So I highly recommend the book to fans of YA along the lines of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, etc. The film adaptation, though? Meh. Disappointing. I didn’t feel they captured the characters at all, especially the boy & it was extremely important to get him right. You can feel his pain & desperation in the book but the film character left me a bit cold. To be fair, I don’t think this is the actor’s fault as he’s such a complex character that they never would have been able to bring to the screen in the same way. Overall, it’s an okay film so I’m sure people like it but I know just how good the book is so I’m hoping people will read the book first. Then, yes, it’s worth seeing the adaptation afterwards if you’re interested. – 6.5/10

Dark Shadows – This was the ONLY Tim Burton-directed film I’d not seen so I finally checked it out. Ugh. I suppose I should update my Tim Burton Movie Rankings HERE but I’m too lazy at the moment. It’s probably second or third to last anyway. What a huge disappointment, especially after it started out okay. Then it all went to shit in the final third. I did enjoy the ensemble cast, though – I do love Michelle Pfeiffer & am happy that (I think?) we’re allowed to like Johnny Depp again (Are we?! Hard to keep track these days). Alice Cooper was also in this (as Alice Cooper). So, bonus points for that since I love Cooper (even though the cameo was stupid and felt forced into the story – it worked much better in Wayne’s World!). The story was just messy and the characters were hateful. Eva Green is sexy but her psycho slut character was just dumb. Meh. Whatever. I’ll give it an okay score since, as I said, it started out okay plus it had some style, as to be expected from Burton. And Alice Cooper is in it. – 6/10

Inferno (1980) – Again, I was excited to see a Dario Argento film was going to be showing on TV on Film4. I don’t have a way to record anymore so, as it was the start of lockdown & everything was shit, I was determined to stay up to watch this at its 1:30am showtime. Not worth it!! Damn. First of all, this was ALSO dubbed. What? Why?? Let’s be honest – only proper film nerds are gonna watch foreign films in the middle of the night and film nerds want subtitles. So, again, this will have hurt my enjoyment of this one. When I mentioned that Four Flies was somewhat coherent (as far as Argento films go)? Inferno was an incoherent mess. I don’t know what the fuck was going on, but of course it didn’t help that I was exhausted & worried about viruses at that point (well, I still am now). Anyway – I don’t think anyone watches Italian horror for a good story so I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s all about the imagery & bright red blood & supernatural weirdness. Again, there’s some good imagery in this one but not nearly enough to make up for how weak this movie is compared to Suspiria. Here’s a bit about it from Wikipedia: A thematic sequel to Suspiria (1977), the film is the second part of Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy, though it is the first in the trilogy to explore the idea of the Three Mothers. The long-delayed concluding entry, The Mother of Tears, was released in 2007. Yeah, so this is sort of a sequel to Suspiria. Too bad it sucks. But it doesn’t sound as bad as the third film! Released in 2007? I’ll skip that one. Give me good old Seventies/early Eighties horror. At least this one is worth a try if you like Argento’s style as it’s still almost a 70’s film but with a weird ass early 80’s prog score from Keith Emerson. But at least that gives it a cheese-factor that often works for me personally. I kind of hated yet liked the score – I think I’ll add it to my playlist now & I bet it grows on me along with all the other horror scores I like to have creepily playing in the background while I work from home. Give me a Goblin score instead, though! Goblin are a huge part of the reason for Deep Red & Suspiria being the superior Argento films I’ve seen so far. Watch those. Only watch Inferno if you absolutely love Suspiria and want another witchy Argento fix but go in with very low expectations. And don’t watch it dubbed. I’m just too broke to watch films in the way I prefer. – 6/10

Rewatched:

As I said above, a lot of the movies I’ve watched during lockdown have been ones I’ve already seen. Comfort movies, I guess. And some have been ones I’ve wanted to introduce my daughter to, like all the X-Men films (which she LOVED). I better point out that she’s not seen Logan, of course – too violent. I don’t have the energy to write too much about all the re-watches. If I happened to have reviewed them in full in the past, I’ll include the review link.

Jaws – A classic. Still love it but not to the same degree that others my age do. You HAVE to admit it takes a while for this one to pick up. It only becomes truly great once the three guys go out on the boat together. From there, yes, it becomes a brilliant & iconic film. – 8/10

The Hunger Games – I reviewed all but the first Hunger Games film in full as I started this blog just as the first one came out. I should try to review it in full some day as it’s the best of the four (although Catching Fire is very good too). I think these films get some very unfair treatment and it’s likely only because they are part of the YA genre. “Young Adult” is a dirty phrase to people who have become far too judgemental & seem to think art shouldn’t exist for anyone under 25. There’s awful YA & fantastic YA. These books are great reads and the films are very good adaptations while Jennifer Lawrence is perfect as Katniss. Okay, I didn’t like the final book but I think everyone felt the same way about that one. It was a disappointing conclusion. You can’t say it wasn’t well-written, though, and you certainly can’t accuse her of selling out to keep fans happy in the end. It’s a strong series & will be seen as a classic in its genre. And I say this as someone who has also read & loved Battle Royale & its film adaptation. The stories are very different, with The Hunger Games exploring some pretty complex political themes for stories aimed at such a young audience. I actually read Battle Royale after liking that adaptation so much as I wanted a more in-depth look into the reasons why they made those kids kill each other but unfortunately didn’t get much more of an explanation than you get in the movie. So don’t start talking shit about The Hunger Games. For this genre, it’s a very good series. If you don’t like the books or films, it may be because they weren’t written for you. It doesn’t make them bad and, as far as the films go, Lawrence acted her ass off and the characters were far more well-developed & empathetic than in many films – especially Woody Harrelson as Haymitch (why can’t we get his story as a prequel??). – 8/10

Coming To America – Still think this is a pretty damn funny 80’s classic. They don’t make decent fun-but-dumb comedy anymore. Comedy movies are just plain dumb nowadays. – 7/10

50 First Dates – I’m Generation X so I’m not an Adam Sandler hater. It was cool for anyone younger than Gen X to hate Sandler until Uncut Gems. You know what? You’re not allowed to like him if you didn’t like him before Uncut Gems. You can’t suddenly claim him like you tried to claim Keanu Reeves. Reeves is ours and so is Sandler, whether he’s in a good movie or a bad one (and, yes, he’s been in some very BAD ones). Sandler was good in Uncut Gems but it was a thoroughly unenjoyable film. I just wanted it to finish (I really liked Good Time, though, FYI). Give me his “dumb” old comedies instead. The Wedding Singer is great and would probably be more universally loved had it starred someone else (maybe Paul Rudd? He seems acceptable to younger people). I also happen to think Big Daddy & 50 First Dates are good so these are my top three Sandler films. Admittedly, the rest start to go downhill but he’s still had more successful films than many actors, especially in the comedy genre, so he’s clearly doing something right. And I love Drew Barrymore as well & think they’re adorable together in this, The Wedding Singer, and even Blended. Drew is especially sweet in 50 First Dates – she elevates this one quite a bit & is the true star of this film. You keep making films, Adam! I’ll watch them. Even when they suck. Just drag Drew into them when you can – they turn out much better than the ones you do with Jennifer Aniston. – 7/10

Click – Um, Click wasn’t as good. Its heart was in the right place (all about appreciating what you have in life & all that). But the comedy didn’t work as well & got too dumb at times. It also felt like it carried on for too long (too lazy to go check the runtime but it felt too long). However, Christopher Walken was a welcome kooky addition, as he is in everything he’s ever in. So I’ll give it an extra half a point for that. And also for the dog always humping that toy. Sometimes dumb comedy works, such as dogs predictably humping things. – 6/10

MUSIC, BOOKS, TV, MISCELLANEOUS THIS MONTH

MUSIC LISTENED TO

Joe Hisaishi – Dream Songs: The Essential Joe Hisaishi – What can I say? I ADORE Studio Ghibli. But I won’t go into that as I’ve gone on & on about Studio Ghibli so much on this blog. So of course I love this album as so much of it is the music he composed for Ghibli films. He’s a genius. He should be more well known (Well, he’s probably huge in Japan? What do I know!). Special shoutout especially to Hisaishi’s music for My Neighbor Totoro & Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. Gorgeous. Also my two favorite Ghibli films. The music in a film is very important to me, so it’s probably not a coincidence that they have the best scores as well. He’s to Ghibli what Morricone is to Leone’s films (to me, at least). Perfection.

Ice Nine Kills – The Silver Scream – This is a heavy metal album with each song being about a different horror film. It couldn’t be more perfect for me & my interests & this silly blog! I really like this album, although it’s heavier than the classic type of metal I tend to go for. I just wish I’d known about it last October when I did what will probably be my last ever October Horror Month on this blog. I don’t know if I’ll ever do a proper post on this blog again or if I’ll even post anything else at all after this but this album needs its own specific post. There’s too much to cover, as I’d like to discuss each song as well each of the movies the songs are dedicated to (many of them, such as A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Shining, The Crow & even the not-so-horror Edward Scissorhands being absolute favorite films of mine). So, I’ll make no promises but I’ll try to discuss this album in full sometime. Probably in October while everyone is watching horror movies. I recommend this album to heavy metal horror movie lovers. Thanks to the guy who recommended this album to me! It’s so me. (I thanked him in real life since he’s a real life person – I won’t pretend I discovered this album on my own).

BOOKS READ

Dune by Frank Herbert – I started this at the beginning of lockdown as I obviously wanted to finally read it before the Denis Villeneuve adaptation. It took me several months to finish as I couldn’t concentrate. I did really like it – Life is just very distracting at the moment. I’ll write a bit about it in June’s roundup post, as I think that’s when I finished it.

TV SHOWS WATCHED

Like reading books, I’m also finding it hard to concentrate on TV shows at the moment. I’ve still watched only an episode or two of each of these.

Locke & Key – Love Joe Hill’s books & especially his short story collections. Not read the graphic novel this is based on, however, but the story is intriguing. I’d like to read it first. So far, I’m liking the show but I find it far easier to watch a movie than to try to finish an entire series of something. How on earth do people manage to binge watch an entire show over a weekend?? I feel like I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I’m exhausted.

The Storyteller – This is weird as shit! It’s a Jim Henson show from the late Eighties narrated by the brilliant John Hurt and I’d somehow never heard of it. I watched only one episode (Hans My Hedgehog). It was bizarre & creepy and I’m pretty sure it gave me nightmares that night. I’d forgotten I’d watched this. I want to see the rest.

Parks & Recreation – Watched a couple episodes. It’s just okay? Am I the only person who doesn’t love TV shows from the last 20 years?

The Creeps – Watched a few episodes of this Goosebumps-like show with the kid. I’m a lover of weird & bizarre stories, especially with a twist, and I’m always trying & failing to get her to also fall in love with things like The Twilight Zone. She liked this show okay. Think Black Mirror but for kids. But it’s not great. And it’s certainly no masterpiece like The Twilight Zone.

Love, Death & Robots – Watched two or three episodes. Sounded like the EXACT thing the hubby & I would love (sci-fi & robots!!!). We weren’t impressed. And one episode was so over-the-top gory and unnecessarily sexual. Hubby said something along the lines of how it felt like it was made for horny 13-year-old boys (he’ll say I’ve misquoted him when he reads this). That’s accurate, though. Maybe the other episodes are better but what I’ve seen so far was a bit pathetic. How can they fuck up a show about robots?! Robots are awesome! Dammit.

BLOG PLANS FOR AUGUST

I’ll try to do a weekly post of my monthly roundups for April, May, June & July but I’m making no guarantees.

Upcoming Movies I Want To See (I made this list in February so I’m leaving it here for myself as I’ve still not seen even the ones that did get released. I can’t remember what half of these are now…):

The Invisible Man, Dark Waters, The Hunt, Swallow (looked interesting), VFW (what the heck is this?),The New Mutants (ha! will this ever see the light of day?), The Secret Garden, Trolls World Tour (oh god no – why is this listed?! the first one was bad enough), Antlers, Promising Young Woman (don’t remember this), Dream Horse (nor this), Proxima, Finding The Way Back (nor this), Antebellum (nor this), A Quiet Place Part II (still want to see this as really liked A Quiet Place)

Here’s Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful Path Of The Wind from My Neighbor Totoro:

My Top Ten Woody Harrelson Movies

Happy Birthday to Woody Harrelson, who turns 58 today.

I like Harrelson but I can’t say I was always a fan. But his roles and movies keep getting better and better. I’m glad he’s finally being taken more seriously as an actor. I think he’s one of those actors who people will eventually realize was underrated for many years. I think being in fairly controversial films maybe didn’t help at the time, like Natural Born Killers & The People Vs. Larry Flynt, but he was fantastic in those. At least he was an Oscar nominee for Flynt, I guess. I’d like to see him get an Oscar someday. He’s proven he can do any sort of role; from comedy to serious drama to complete and utter psycho.

So I figured I’d do a full ranking of all the Harrelson films I’ve seen. I’ll be honest and say that I could really do with re-watching most of those outside of the Top Ten. Maybe some would end up in the ten on a re-watch. We’ll see. But, for now, these are My Top Ten Woody Harrelson Movies (ranked by how much I like the movie, not the role):

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22. Friends With Benefits
21. Kingpin
20. Seven Pounds
19. The Glass Castle
18. Doc Hollywood
17. EDtv
16. Indecent Proposal
15. 2012
14. Now You See Me
13. Anger Management
12. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me
11. A Scanner Darkly

TOP TEN:

10. White Men Can’t Jump

9. Seven Psychopaths

8. The Hunger Games Movies

7. The People Vs. Larry Flynt

6. The Edge Of Seventeen

5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

4. War For The Planet Of The Apes

3. Solo: A Star Wars Story

2. Zombieland

1. Natural Born Killers

Some I’ve Not Seen:

Wildcats, Moneytrain, Wag The Dog, The Thin Red Line, Palmetto, After The Sunset, North Country, A Prairie Home Companion, No Country For Old Men, Semi-Pro, Transsiberian, Out Of The Furnace, Free Birds, Triple 9, Now You See Me 2, The Duel, LBJ, Wilson, Venom

And I won’t count his uncredited roles in She’s Having A Baby & L.A. Story

TV Shows:

I’m not forgetting, of course, his role as Woody on Cheers. I miss classic American TV here in the UK! It was weird to see him go from that sweet, lovable role to things like Natural Born Killers. And I know a lot of people loved True Detective but I hated it with a passion. I’m glad it helped keep him so popular, though.

It was fun watching him at Wimbledon the other day. People were going crazy on Twitter over the announcers commentating on everything Harrelson was doing. I saw more of Harrelson at Wimbledon than I did of any actual tennis.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015) Review

***SPOILER FREE REVIEW***

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow, while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

My Opinion:

Well, I was attempting to take a week off from blogging but I just watched the final Hunger Games film so figured I should say something about it before the weekend (I also watched Steve Jobs this week but a review for that can wait until next week). Hmmmmmmmm……. Mockingjay – Part 2………….. What can I say? I want to stay very spoiler-free, even for those who’ve read the books as I’m sure the readers will be very curious to know if certain things get changed. But I’m not going to tell you! I can say that I’ve read the books and was a very big fan (of the first two, at least. like most people). I also think the first two films are very good. These final two, though? Well… I’ll get to that more in a bit.

What’s interesting is that my husband, who hasn’t read the books, had quite a different reaction to this film than I did. He thought the first two were good but did NOT like these final two. He had a lot to say about it but I’m not going to go into any of that – I just find it interesting that he disliked these final two so much & wonder if others who haven’t read the books will have the same reaction that he did. I think they probably will. I think they’ll feel exactly the same way about the final two films as us book readers felt about the final book.

I think The Hunger Games book trilogy is fantastic. I know it’s “YA”, which puts some people off. But it’s nothing like things such as Twilight – Collins is a great writer and the first two books are two of my very favorites that I’ve read in the past decade or so. Yeah – the first two. Not the final book. I think most readers felt the same way about that one.

I don’t know how to go about reviewing this movie as, for me, it’s impossible to review it on its own & not compare it to the book. No, I didn’t like the final book. So… I was never going to love the final two movies (not helped by the fact that splitting one book into two movies pisses me the hell off). As a whole, though, these movies are quite faithful adaptations & that’s always very important to me. It’s been a long time since I read these but Mockingjay – Part 2 is very faithful from what I remember (without giving away to the books’ readers whether or not anything big was changed). So, I can’t fault the two Mockingjay films. They did what they could with them and remained pretty loyal to the source material. Which is great! It’s just unfortunate that the source material isn’t so great.

I haven’t reviewed the first film as I wasn’t blogging yet but I reviewed Catching Fire (HERE) and Mockingjay – Part 1 (HERE). Catching Fire was really good (I gave it 8/10) but Mockingjay – Part 1 felt pointless as there was no need to turn it into two films (I gave it 7/10). Part 2 is at least a bit better than Part 1 since you finally get a conclusion instead of being left hanging halfway through a story. I once again enjoyed re-visiting these characters & stand by my opinion that Jennifer Lawrence was the perfect choice to play Katniss (although the hubby thought she seemed bored in these last two films, which I don’t totally agree with but do admit that it did feel that way a little at times).

Elizabeth Banks & Woody Harrelson have very small roles in this final film, which is a shame as they’re two great characters. The character of Peeta is once again a bit of a bore (sorry if you like him! but his character is a bit bland). One big complaint I’ve had all along & still have is that I don’t think they developed the character of Primrose (sister of Katniss) enough. Well, the books were kind of guilty of this as well if I remember correctly but they should have given more screen time to the two sisters and slightly less to the somewhat annoying love triangle. I don’t think the films fully gave you the sense of love that Katniss has for her sister and also felt they didn’t fully explain some important plot points to a movie audience that hasn’t read the books. I think I’d have been slightly lost during the two Mockingjay films if I hadn’t read the books.

Summary:

I really want to hear from you guys what you all thought of this one & whether or not you’ve read the books. I’ve not yet read any other reviews so don’t know what kind of reaction this movie is getting but I’d guess that those who haven’t read the books will feel the way that my hubby did & won’t really like this film. As I said, I can’t really fault this movie as it’s a good adaptation and I think they’ve done a pretty great job in choosing the cast for this entire series (especially Lawrence). Mockingjay – Part 2 is a good film but I kind of lost interest in it in the same way I did with the final book. Obviously you’ll want to see it if you’ve watched all the others but don’t expect it to be much different than Part 1. However you felt about Part 1, you’ll probably feel the same about Part 2

Sorry for that rather uninformative review! It’s a very hard one to talk about without spoiling things so feel free to discuss it with me further in the comments. 🙂 Just try to put a spoiler warning at the start.

My Rating: 7/10

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) Review

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Starring:
Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
Liam Hemsworth
Woody Harrelson
Elizabeth Banks
Julianne Moore
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jeffrey Wright
Stanley Tucci
Donald Sutherland

Running time: 123 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story continues to follow Katniss Everdeen; having twice survived the Hunger Games, Katniss finds herself in District 13. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her trusted friends, Katniss reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the Capitol and fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.

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My Opinion:

I love YA fiction (especially of the post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi variety!) and have read The Hunger Games books. It was before this blog started but I did review the Catching Fire movie (HERE if you’re bothered). The first two books are possibly my favorite of the YA stuff I’ve read in recent years and I think the first two films were very faithful, especially the second, and I’ve been happy with them and with the choice of actors (other than maybe Josh Hutcherson). I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of the final book so I’m naturally unlikely to like these last two movies as much as the first two. However, from what I can remember of the final book now all these years later, I think this film again stayed pretty faithful. It’s a solid movie and everyone again does a good job with their roles but I still can’t help but feel a bit “meh, so what?”. It especially doesn’t help that they’ve done that thoroughly annoying thing again of splitting the final book of a series into TWO movies. Why why why?! It’s not as annoying as the whole Hobbit bullshit but, seriously – they’re doing it to get more money out of us as opposed to making sure to make the best piece of “art” they can and it gets on my nerves.

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Now that I got that little rant off my chest: Is The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Freaking 1 any good? Yes, it’s fine. I enjoy the story and seeing the characters again and still think Jennifer Lawrence is perfect for the role of Katniss (even though we’re starting to see her in too many movies and I’m afraid she could someday be on my annoying list instead of my favorites list). They have some very famous actors in these movies and it feels like they take their roles seriously as opposed to just “phoning it in”, which it feels like famous actors do in some other YA films. I think it makes The Hunger Games movies feel a bit more “grown up” than others (which I see as a good thing). The final book is the darkest and the movies have been good at getting the tone right but, hopefully, no parents are letting anyone see these if they’re TOO young…

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Summary:

I don’t think I need to go into this film much. If you liked the first two, you’ll like this one even though you may be annoyed at again not getting any sort of “conclusion”. If you like the books, you’ll be happy enough with this adaptation. The acting is really good, especially for a “YA” film, and Lawrence is still the perfect Katniss. I understand that the story needed to take this direction in the final book and couldn’t just do the same thing once again but it just didn’t work as well for me and I don’t expect to like the final two films as much as the first two. Speaking of YA stuff, I saw The Maze Runner a couple weeks ago but haven’t had a chance to review it yet. Maybe Wednesday…. Yes! I’ll make this a “movies based on novels” week here at CPD since I also just watched Odd Thomas! Anyway, although I think Mockingjay is the superior film, I kind of enjoyed The Maze Runner more as I haven’t read the books and liked watching a story unfold without already knowing what would happen. I’ve watched Mockingjay as I want to see how they handle the books but I really wish they’d just made this into one film. But I’ll of course shell out money once again this time next year to see Part 2. And I’m sure I’ll complain about that once again. 😉

My Rating: 7/10

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) Review

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

Based on: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Starring:
Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson
Liam Hemsworth
Woody Harrelson
Elizabeth Banks
Lenny Kravitz
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Jeffrey Wright
Stanley Tucci
Donald Sutherland

Running time: 146 minutes

Plot synopsis:
After their victory in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark have become symbols of hope to those in the Districts of Panem. President Snow will do whatever it takes to make sure that this hope doesn’t lead to a rebellion.

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My Opinion:

I read the Hunger Games books and loooooved them (Well, loved the first two at least…). So I was very excited to see the films. I thought the first one was a very good adaptation and feel the same way about Catching Fire. I know they can never put absolutely everything from a book in the movie as there’s just not enough time – As long as no major changes are made, I’m happy. It’s been a while since I’ve read these but, from what I remember, Catching Fire is extremely faithful to the book so that should keep the fans happy.

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I’d actually be more interested to know what people who haven’t read the books think of these films. I often try to read the book before the movie and all that but it does take a little fun out of the movie for me. I just like to be surprised & like not knowing what’s going to happen. I always enjoy seeing the movie bring a book “to life” but… I have no idea what point I’m trying to make here! Just that, you know – I knew what was going to happen every step of the way.

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However, both of these films have done a great job creating the overall look of this world and especially bringing these characters to the screen. I really can’t fault ANY of the casting. Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely perfect as Katniss Everdeen. She’s totally what I’d pictured while reading the books and she does an excellent job in these films (well, she IS an Oscar winner, you know). For a young adult series, it’s a very dark story and she does all the serious & emotional stuff brilliantly. I can’t really imagine anyone else in the role. And I think with these young adult adaptations, the actors don’t always take the material as seriously & it sometimes feels like the big name actors are only there for the paycheck & are giving a half-assed performance. I don’t feel this way with the Hunger Games films, though. Everyone seems to be giving their all.

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Woody Harrelson – Also perfect. He’s a great Haymitch and one of the biggest highlights of these films. I also love Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Even though he’s not what I’d pictured from the books, he’s also one of the best characters in the films (for me). I also loved seeing Effie having a bit more depth in this one (and, again, I think Elizabeth Banks does this role very well).

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Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Amanda Plummer, Jena Malone – All good! Liam Hemsworth & Josh Hutcherson are both fine as Gale & Peeta but are the only ones that aren’t *quite* right for me (especially Hutcherson). However, both have grown on me & I fully see them as those characters now after this second film. I’d love to see Primrose get a lot more screen time – I feel that the audience barely knows her if they’ve not read the books. Also not 100% sure on Finnick or Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch – Hoffman was good but kind of just seemed his usual self.

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Summary:

I know I’ve not said anything about the story as, well, I know the whole story from the books. I loved the books – the story was really intense and I couldn’t read them quick enough. Luckily, the films are the same way – they’ve been very faithful adaptations so far and I don’t think fans of the books can have any major complaints. The world looks great and, more importantly, the casting has been perfect. I really can’t complain about any of the actors at all but the ones they especially got right were Haymitch and, luckily, Katniss. If they’d gotten the wrong actress for Katniss, I don’t think these films would be quite as successful. Catching Fire is just as good as the first film (although you really can’t top the first film just as you can’t top the first book in the trilogy). If you haven’t read the books but liked the first film, you’ll definitely like Catching Fire and you’ll get a lot more character development than you did in the first film.

It’s going to be VERY interesting to see what they do with that final book…

My Rating: 8/10

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