The Legend Of Billie Jean, Less Than Zero & Private School Movie Reviews

Welcome to my 80’s Quickie Movie Review Special! I’m catching up on reviewing the things I’ve watched the past couple of years and, since these three were from the same decade (the BEST decade), I’ve decided to stick them together. One is a film I saw at the time & really liked but hadn’t re-watched in years, one is a throwaway film that was exactly what I expected for its sort of genre, and one is a film I’d badly wanted to see for years & found to be a big disappointment after finally seeing it for the first time now. Here we go!

The Legend Of Billie Jean (1985)

Directed by Matthew Robbins

Starring: Helen Slater, Keith Gordon, Christian Slater, Peter Coyote, Yeardley Smith

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A Texas teenager cuts her hair short and becomes an outlaw martyr with her brother and friends.

My Opinion:

I did watch this on TV several times in the 80s & I really liked it but it never became an all-time favorite like other movies from the era (even though Christian Slater, one of my big teen crushes, was in it). It was a lot of fun watching it again with the hubby several months ago, though, and it’s gone up in my estimation due partly to nostalgia and partly to being older & able to appreciate things such as the female empowerment going on (which will have gone straight over my head when I first saw this at the age of 13 or so). It reminds me a bit of the same sort of theme running through the little known 1982 Diane Lane film Ladies And Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains and the two would make a great double feature. Any female bloggers want to come over to my place for a movie night? We’ll watch these two. Bring lots of popcorn! No pillow fights, though – we’re not going to feed any male fantasies. They can just go watch Private School (review below). 😉

I love Helen Slater (she’s a definite girl crush) and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing Billie Jean. I like the City Slickers connection with both Slater & Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson) also being in that together (love that movie!). I also like that this movie has a period scene on my list of My Top Ten Period Scenes In Movies & that I get to link to that post again. Ha! There are great songs in this like Pat Benatar’s awesome Invincible (the movie’s theme song) & Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell. Oh, that plot synopsis above is pretty crap so here’s a bit more if you’re curious: Basically, Slater & Slater (no relation IRL!) are a poor brother & sister in small town Texas. C. Slater’s motorbike is trashed by local hoodlums & H. Slater demands that the (rich by small-town standards) father of the main hoodlum boy pay for the repairs. After the father instead attempts to rape H. Slater, C. Slater accidentally shoots the asshole in the shoulder. The siblings & their friends then go on the run & H. Slater’s Billie Jean ends up a media sensation & heroine outlaw to all those who believe in how she stands up for what’s right. Through it all, her only demand is that her brother’s motorbike repairs be paid for by the prick responsible. It’s actually a great, simple story & I can see why it has achieved a sort of cult status.

I do really like The Legend Of Billie Jean even though it’s not one that I watched 1,582 times as a teenager. It’s a must see if you love movies from this era but somehow missed out on it. I’m not sure how a younger generation might feel about it but it has aged slightly better than some other movies from its time so it may be worth checking out if you like the sound of it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Less Than Zero (1987)

Directed by Marek Kanievska

Based on Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Jr.

Music by Thomas Newman

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film stars Andrew McCarthy as Clay, a college freshman returning home for Christmas to spend time with his ex-girlfriend Blair (Jami Gertz) and his friend Julian (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is also a drug addict. The film presents a look at the culture of wealthy, decadent youth in Los Angeles.

My Opinion:

I didn’t see this movie at the time as I suppose I was a little too young for it but then I just never managed to catch it on TV or anything. Anyway, it’s a movie from 1987 starring big 80’s actors so I’ve of course been wanting to see it for almost 30 years now (yikes! I’m old). I also loved the big song from this movie (a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s Hazy Shade Of Winter by The Bangles) and I saw that video full of clips from the film so many times that it almost felt like I had seen the film. Was the movie worth the long wait? No, it wasn’t. Damn – what a disappointment. I was surprised to find it quite boring, especially as the novel is from such a controversial author. I think it was one that needed to be seen at the time as it’s not at all shocking nowadays.

The film is about rich California kids & Robert Downey Jr is a drug addict whose friends try to help him when his family give up on him. Downey Jr was fine as was McCarthy, I suppose (I never liked McCarthy – he’s so boring & bland. He’s like an American Hugh Grant). I’m a fan of Gertz mainly because of my love for The Lost Boys but she feels the most miscast of the three. None of them feel quite right in their roles, though, and the story isn’t very hard hitting for one about drug addiction. The story just kind of meanders & the sex scenes with McCarthy & Gertz felt awkward – talk about less than zero chemistry.

I’ve never read a Bret Easton Ellis book so can’t compare this movie to the novel but I don’t like the film American Psycho & what I’ve read of the book sickens me while I absolutely hated The Rules Of Attraction film & found it extremely offensive. I’m not normally easily offended (I’ll get into this a bit more with Private School) but, considering how much the author’s other adaptations have pissed me off, you’d think Less Than Zero would at least have some balls. This is probably the most tame “drug addiction” movie I’ve seen. Very disappointing. I watched this several months ago & barely even remember it now. Good soundtrack, though! I do remember appreciating that.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Private School (1983)

Directed by Noel Black

Starring: Phoebe Cates, Betsy Russell, Matthew Modine, Michael Zorek, Ray Walston, Sylvia Kristel, Kathleen Wilhoite

Music by Rick Springfield

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Private School is a 1983 teen oriented sex comedy film. It follows a teenage couple attempting to have sex for the first time.

My Opinion:

Being the age that I am, I saw plenty of teen sex comedies while growing up. It’s difficult to watch them nowadays without cringing. I suppose it was a very different experience to be a girl watching them in the 80s as opposed to a boy. It’ll seem strange to females nowadays but, in my day, we didn’t give teen sex comedies much thought. It’s amazing that we didn’t find them offensive & I’m happy that they’re, for the most part, a thing of the past. Private School certainly isn’t a “good” movie but, if you really love 80’s sex comedies, it’s worth a watch. It’s better than crap like Porky’s and the girls (whose boobs we see plenty, yes) are fairly decent characters instead of just feeling like victims for the horny male characters (like in movies such as Revenge Of The Nerds with its rape scene that would never be allowed in a movie nowadays. Yikes). I didn’t find Private School offensive & there’s certainly enough nudity in it for horny males everywhere so I think it gets the right sort of balance for both sexes to be able to watch it. But, of course, we get no male nudity. No surprise there!

***WARNING: SOME BOOB PICS BELOW****

Yes, we get a guy spying on the girls in the showers. But, nowadays, he’d take pictures & stick them online. 80’s sex comedies usually don’t feel sinister in the same sort of way that the few modern day films do. We also get the guys dressing up as girls & sneaking into the girls’ dorm. They’re so obviously boys, though, that the girls just have fun messing with them. Especially the below girl, who surprises everyone with a topless ride on a horse. I’m sure it was a very popular scene with young male viewers.

By the way – in looking for pics for this post, I discovered that the topless horse rider (Betsy Russell) is Jigsaw’s ex-wife in the Saw films. Speaking of movies that I find offensive, I find stuff like the Saw films far more offensive than 80’s sex comedies. Yet movies with excessive violence are more readily accepted by society while the briefest flash of a nipple starts riots (way to go, Janet Jackson!). It’s a fucked-up world. Private School is a pretty forgettable film (unless you’re a 13-year-old boy) and it sure as shit isn’t very good but at least the female characters are treated like human beings & have personalities. They’re actually stronger characters than the boys, who are quite dull.

Oh! And Kathleen Wilhoite (in the above photo with the lovely Phoebe Cates) is in this. She’s such a “hey, it’s that girl”. She’s also in Road House. God I love Road House! Road House is “good bad”. Private School is just kind of “meh bad”. I love that I got a Road House mention in here.

My Rating: 5/10

Love these songs!!! Soundtracks from the Eighties are the best. And you get clips from the movies as well. 🙂

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Finding Dory (2016) Review

Finding Dory (2016)

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy

Music by Thomas Newman

Production company: Walt Disney Pictures & Pixar Animation Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Finding Dory focuses on the amnesiac fish Dory, who journeys to be reunited with her parents. Along the way, she is captured and taken to a California public aquarium, from which Marlin and Nemo attempt to rescue her.

My Opinion:

I adore Pixar. Any regulars here will know that by now but, just in case someone new is reading this, I LOVE PIXAR!!! And we always have to wait a couple of months to see them in the UK. I love Pixar so much that I’ve even contemplated travelling to other countries to see Pixar movies when the UK has a much later release date. 😉 Finding Nemo just makes it into my Top Five (I did rank the Pixar movies HERE but I’d re-arrange that a bit now) and Dory is probably still close to the top of a list of my favorite Pixar characters (which I posted HERE on my very first day on this blog – I’ll update that list too!). So, yes – I was very much looking forward to spending more time with characters I love. Was it worth the extra wait? Well, it certainly wasn’t worth a trip to another country to see it early so I’m glad I didn’t do that.

Baby Dory is one of the cutest things ever but all the cuteness still isn’t enough to make up for such a weak story. I was even a little bored throughout the film (as was my kid). It breaks my heart to say that about a Pixar movie other than Cars! I enjoyed seeing Dory but Marlin & Nemo almost felt unnecessary, which sucks. I know they’ve already had their own movie but Dory was just as big of a star in Finding Nemo as Marlin & Nemo were. In this, it felt a bit like “well, we have to have Marlin & Nemo tag along as it makes no sense to not have them in the film”. They also tacked on an appearance from Crush & Squirt that I’m not exactly going to complain about as those two are AWESOME, dude, but I just walked out of Finding Dory feeling like I’d watched an inferior version of Finding Nemo. It’s the exact same story again minus the creativity & imagination involved in the first film. The characters are far weaker and there are none of the special little moments that made Finding Nemo so great.

The biggest new addition is an octopus named Hank & I know he has some fans. Hank is okay but, for me, he’ll never be a favorite. In Nemo, even the tiniest roles were fantastic. I could happily watch an entire movie set just in that tank in the dentist’s office… Gill, Bloat, Peach, Bubbles, etc – every single fish in that tank was more memorable than any of the new characters in the sequel.

I always do this – I’m far more critical of the things that I love. I suppose I just have really high standards when it comes to Pixar because they’ve made so many movies that I consider to be perfection. I did enjoy Finding Dory and, to be expected, I enjoyed it more than any other recent animated kids’ films from other studios. To compare it to something like The Secret Life Of Pets, I definitely liked it more. But when compared to other Pixar films, it would be fairly low down the list. I think I feel similar to how I now feel about Monsters University. Both sequels just can’t live up to the originals but that’s because the originals are so damn good (I just checked my review of that, though – I was way too generous with an 8/10! I guess it was my excitement at seeing Mike Wazowski again). But the Toy Story sequels are great so, I dunno… I’ve realized that part of the problem is seeing Dory upset & not the same silly, optimistic, lovably forgetful fish from the first film. She’s almost become Marlin in this film, which works well for his character but not for hers. The story & the characters all just worked together so perfectly in the first film whereas it all feels a bit too forced this time around. But, hell – it’s still Pixar and I still love Dory & it’s still a million times better than Cars. Maybe it’ll grow on me when I see it more at home. But I’m sad to say that I don’t think the kid liked it all that much so I don’t think it’ll get a lot of repeat home viewings unlike the Toy Stories & Monsters, Inc.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Is There A Scene After The Credits?: Yes – at the very end. I found it worth staying for, especially as a fan of the first film.

How About The Short Beforehand?: Piper is freaking ADORABLE. Just as adorable as baby Dory in that above picture and actually better than the Finding Dory film. It was great to see such a good Pixar short after being disappointed with things like Lava. Good job, Pixar!

My Top Ten Color Movies

As I already did My Top Ten Songs With Colors In The Titles, I was naturally going to do movie titles at some point too. The interesting thing is that the color songs are WAY better than the color movies! There were loads of songs I love in that list but I can’t say I totally love many of these movies (although I do really like several).

Oh well! It was still fun making this list. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten an absolute favorite. I suppose a top ten list of actors with colors in their names should be next… Betty White would probably top that list! Betty White rules.

Anyway! Here are My Top Ten Color Movies (counting down from 20 because I’m awkward):

My Top 20:

20. Black Sheep (2006)
19. Red Eye
18. Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
17. The Red Balloon
16. Men In Black
15. The Hunt For Red October
14. Blue Velvet
13. The Black Cauldron
12. Blue Valentine
11. Meet Joe Black

My Top Ten:

10. Blue Is The Warmest Color

9. Colors

8. White Oleander

7. Silver Bullet

6. A Clockwork Orange

5. Pink Floyd The Wall

4. Yellow Submarine

3. Pretty In Pink

2. The Green Mile

1. Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs

I just couldn’t rank anything higher than a classic Disney film. I miss the old days of Disney! They’ve managed to make some really good films in recent years too but nothing will top the classics for me.

Now, there are so many “Color Movies” that I’m going to have to mention some more.

Honorable Mentions:

Ruby Sparks
Fried Green Tomatoes
The Pink Panther (1963)
Silver Linings Playbook
Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead
Red Dawn
Purple Rain
Moulin Rouge
White Men Can’t Jump
Black Christmas
White Christmas
Crimson Tide (although it sounds like it belongs in My Top Ten Period Dramas)
The Black Hole
The Golden Compass

Two Movies I Really Don’t Like:

Blue Ruin (HATE!)
Pitch Black (ugh)

What I’ve Left Out:

There were loads of movies I had to leave out of this list, mostly because I haven’t actually seen them. I’d love to hear suggestions of ones not in this list in case I missed a big one but it’s very likely I just haven’t have seen your suggestions. I’ve been wanting to see the French Three Colors Trilogy films for years (I will someday, I promise!) and I have to once again admit my shame at not seeing Jackie Brown (the only Tarantino besides The Hateful Eight that I haven’t seen).

Finally, I just have to mention how a lot of the movies in this list happen to have amazing soundtracks! The Walter (now Wendy) Carlos score for A Clockwork Orange is one of my all-time favorites. Snow White has great songs, of course, since it’s a classic Disney movie as does Pretty In Pink since John Hughes always had good taste in song choice. Then there are three actual music movies from fantastic artists in this list: The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine, Pink Floyd The Wall, and Prince’s Purple Rain.

But I want to highlight one composer who did four of the films on this list: Thomas Newman. I feel he’s always overlooked yet he’s done so many of my absolute favorite scores for movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, American Beauty, Finding Nemo, and WALL-E. In this list, he scored White Oleander, Fried Green Tomatoes, Meet Joe Black, and The Green Mile.

The Green Mile & Meet Joe Black scores are absolutely brilliant so I wasn’t sure what piece to post but decided to go with Newman’s Whisper Of A Thrill from Meet Joe Black. It’s such a beautiful piece and the movie itself is judged rather harshly at times. I know my hubby likes the film even more than I do – I think it’s a pretty big favorite of his. Part of this will be down to the score, as both of us are suckers for a great score. Have a listen: 🙂

**Quick question: What’s your favorite color? Let me know in the comments! Mine is most definitely GREEN. 🙂

The Help (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Natasha of Life Of This City Girl. Thanks for the review, Natasha! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of The Help, IMDB rank 234 out of 250…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Movie Review: The Help (2011)

Plot: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Rating: 8.5/10

Hey, T9M readers! I’m reviewing The Help here today, because when I saw it was on T9M’s remaining movies to review for her IMDb Top 250 challenge I greedily claimed it as my own, seeing my chance to finally watch it.

I was surprised. Not only is The Help a really good film, it is also right up my alley and has stayed with me since I saw it.

What works well for this film first and foremost is a fantastic cast. To name a few, but certainly not limited to, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Allison Janney to Anna Camp all came to life as some form of a Southern Belle working to adjust to changing times.

The Help focuses on a time in America when things were changing. Women were entering the workforce, they were suddenly allowed to have bigger dreams than being barefoot and pregnant, and alongside that liberation came a movement where people realized that black people also had rights. Shocking, I know. Idiots. That’s where Skeeter Phelan comes in – she’s recently graduated and in look of making a name for herself. She moves back to Jacksonville, her home town that has not progressed with racial equality at all, and starts working a dead end job writing housekeeping tips for the local newspaper. Skeeter seeks to find the nanny who raised her, a woman whose disappearance makes her very worried – this is the woman that truly raised her, not her scatterbrained and often mean spirited mother. This leads her to embark on a project that records the tales of the black women who raise white children while their own sit at home.

In a very idealistic fashion, The Help isn’t particularly violent. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence at all. There is a time and place for it and only in certain films, and I get upset especially when it involves minorities being beaten down. Django Unchained is pretty much the threshold for me, and let me tell you, as much as I love Tarantino, that film was almost too much to watch. The Help tells and accurately depicts inequality without making it an unnecessary blood fest nor a pity party, and yet you walk away feeling definitely disgusted with white ancestry. I saw that a lot of people did feel that the movie fancily glosses over the atrocities that happened and I do agree on that point though.

I liked the most that there were some genuinely sweet white people that offset the heinous racists that were also depicted. Jessica Chastain plays the particularly kind Cecilia Foote, who has been shunned because she’s just a bit too attractive and fun loving for Hilly Holbrook, excellently brought to life by Bryce Dallas Howard. Hilly is racist and underhanded, using her status in town to control everything– social events, treatment of staff and generally just getting her way in everything. The good tries to offset the bad, but it is still so obvious about how unjust the system was – I recently saw that it was a time period where it was finally acknowledged that black people deserved rights, just not quite as many as white people. I’m not going to go all swearing about this, because I am guest blogging here, but you can please include a number of profanities to gather my opinion about this.

Most of all, the end impressed me – things do not end perfectly for Phelan. After successfully publishing her novel, Phelan is shunned by many in town, including her boyfriend, but since he was a pompous, primitive prick from the very start I’m not feeling that she’s missing out on something special. It shows that actions have consequences, even when the action was required and did something good.

If you are looking for a film that accurately portrays inequality in the 1950’s, this probably isn’t for you. The Help is mostly feel good with some bad moments between, a very well-produced and acted out film for this. Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for this and it is well deserved – her sassy attitude is a scene stealer every single time. I’m likely to watch it again at some point, and am pretty glad that I took the time to watch this.

Thanks for having me lady!

American Beauty (1999) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Steven of Past, Present, Future In TV And Film. Thanks for the review, Steven! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about American Beauty, IMDB rank 51 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos I’ve used at the top of any of these guest reviews.

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The American family. Such a mystery at times. This easily explains why films and television love to portray them in various ways. What we see in public, is usually just that, what we see.

The DreamWorks Pictures film “American Beauty”, seems to create a very dysfunctional family that aims to be perfect and outstanding to all those on the outside, but with more than just dramatic flare.

This drama stars Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”, “Horrible Bosses”), Annette Bening (“The Face of Love”, “Girl Most Likely”), Thora Birch (“Petunia”, “Pregnancy Pact”), Wes Bentley (“American Horror Story”, “Cesar Chavez”), Mena Suvari (“Chicago Fire”, “American Reunion”), Allison Janney (“Mom”, “Tammy”), and Chris Cooper (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “August: Osage County”) and Peter Gallagher (” Covert Affairs”, “Whitney”).

The film was directed by Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”, “Away We Go”). It was written by Alan Ball (“True Blood”, “Towelhead”).

The film originally opened in theaters on Oct. 1, 1999 after a limited release on Sept. 8. The film would later go on to receive eight Academy Awards nominations; winning five including Best Picture, six Golden Globe award nominations; winning three including Best Picture-Drama, and four Screen Actors Guild nominations; winning three including Best Cast in a Motion Picture.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of dark humor. Most of what makes this film absolutely fun too watch, is how there’s a level of satire throughout. It’s not just from bits of dialogue but more importantly situations that occur. One situation later in the film is when Spacey’s character is just lounging at home and playing with a toy race car, when in walks Bening. She’s surprised and as they move into conversation, Spacey’s trying to seduce her. When it seems like things will succeed, she notices that he’s about to spill his beer on the nice couch of hers. Much like many of his actions in the film he turns into some sort of antagonistic person just to spite her.

There’s also a scene involving Bentley and Spacey that’s misinterpreted completely by Cooper’s very conservative father character. Cooper see’s his son, Bentley, over at Spacey’s and believes that there’s some sort of affair going on between them. While I’ll argue Cooper’s character brought this on himself, as he’s too strict and intrusive, it’s a pretty funny set up and speaks so well to his character.

The characters are all so fascinating because of who they are behind closed doors. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much what this film is representing. Incredibly flawed people, but wonderful when out in public. One scene that sent me into fits of laughter was when Bening was preparing herself to show a house, the ridiculous ritual she went through to psych herself up. Everything was so specifically planned and executed that it goes beyond that of a perfectionist. Later, after being unsuccessful, she’s slapping herself and crying for the failure she sees herself as. She’s a perfectionist and cherishes this kind of ideal family, where everything’s perfect, so it’s absolutely hilarious. Even Bening’s look for this character, is perfect! Everything is in place and impeccable, definitely that of a perfectionist. In its own way, this film is like a modern day version of “Ordinary People”, but without the huge and incredibly dramatic story.

While everyone really shined, it was Cooper, that stole the show. His conservative retired Marine Corps Colonel, even all these years later, was a far cry from anything I’d seen him play before. When he came on screen and continued to show his dominance over his family, which was evident from the way Janney’s character behaved, as well as Bentley’s, there was something of a pull towards his character. For a man you could spend much of the film disliking, there was still enough to make him somewhat vulnerable and remind you that he too is human.

One thing that I definitely noticed was the score created by Thomas Newman (“Get on Up”, “Saving Mr. Banks”). For films that aren’t action films it seems difficult to capture the feeling of a dramatic film or a comedy. Here, Newman managed to balance both. He created playful tunes and dramatic tones to fit the moment, which was usually brought on by something the character was doing or feeling. The score helped to make the film a bit more satirical at times and whimsical. Either being its own character or enhancing the different characters in the film.

Somehow, and this I find difficult to discuss most of the time, I love how brilliant the writing for this film is. The first moment I saw this film, and when I came back to it, I was hooked by all that was going on. The characters are each so different and well defined that it didn’t take much to decide how I should feel towards each one. One scene early on, that shows this is when the family is leaving the house and Bening and Birch are both impatient, but Spacey is going as fast as he can. Somehow it’s not enough. His briefcase falls open and that just manages to annoy both of them even more. Then you add in the general nature of the dialogue and you get so much clever, dark, and witty humor. It helps to define what stages they’re in in their lives and how they view each other. This writing makes for some pretty interesting situations throughout this film, that it’s hard to look away.

As a film lover I’m constantly aware of films from the past, especially those that earn widespread acclaim. However, there’s something that usually keeps me from seriously seeking out these films. Fortunately this film was just one of those films, otherwise, I don’t know if I could appreciate it for what it is and enjoy every aspect of the film. I can easily imagine missing so much of the humor or not being able to form my own thought on what I feel this film represents. Some things you can only appreciate when you’re older.

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CPD Classics: WALL-E (2008) Review

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WALL-E (2008)

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Starring (mostly voice) actors:
Ben Burtt
Elissa Knight
Jeff Garlin
Fred Willard
John Ratzenberger
Kathy Najimy
Sigourney Weaver
MacInTalk

Music by Thomas Newman

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The story follows a robot named WALL-E, who is designed to clean up a waste-covered Earth far in the future. He falls in love with another robot named EVE, who also has a programmed task, and follows her into outer space on an adventure that changes the destiny of both his kind and humanity.

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My Opinion:

This will probably be about the most recent CPD Classic as films need to stand the test of time a bit first. However, I do admit that there are occasionally “instant classics”. To me, WALL-E was indeed an instant classic.

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I get super excited about every single Pixar movie that comes out (I LOVE Pixar!) but WALL-E was the one I was the most eager to see as, from clips released before the film, WALL-E looked so completely adorable & loveable plus the film sounded like a very interesting (and brave) concept. And sci-fi! Yes! I even went into London to see it as early as possible because I could NOT wait. And, boy, was it worth the journey!

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The entire beginning of WALL-E, before he leaves Earth, is an absolute masterpiece. Complete & total perfection. Sometimes I put the DVD in just to watch the beginning again. And again. From the second the Hello Dolly music starts to when we’re zoomed down to Earth & see WALL-E continuing to do his job on this desolate planet – Oh my god – There’s a big smile on my face just writing about it. Then the very grown-up Thomas Newman score kicks in and it’s quite dark and almost eerie and you know you’re in for a very different kind of kids’ film. Then, bloody hell – there’s no talking! For AGES. And it’s brilliant! Leave it up to Pixar to get away with that. The beginning of WALL-E is just so… I dunno. Epic! Cinematic! (It’s times like these I wish I was a proper writer!). Like in the old days where they made these sweeping epic dramas like Gone With The Wind & shit. The beginning of WALL-E is easily up there with things like that and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves, probably because it’s an animated film. And sci-fi. The start of WALL-E, in my opinion, blows away every movie of the past ten years. Probably even 20. Maybe even 30!

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WALL-E, as a character, can’t get any better. Completely loveable and adorable. I never thought I could love another little robot as much as R2-D2! How can these two little robots that don’t even talk (much) have way more personality & character than most human beings? I love WALL-E’s childlike innocence – it’s so genuine & pure and makes you wish that every human could have that same curiosity and thirst for knowledge & experience & love. Love! Because WALL-E is a love story and, I don’t care what anyone thinks, is probably my all-time favorite cinematic love story (it’s close between this and Carl & Ellie in Up. Woohoo Pixar!). I found WALL-E & EVE’s romance more genuine & believable than any in those girly romantic comedy type movies that mostly get on my nerves. I get annoyed with people who moan that WALL-E is some preachy movie about the environment and how fat & lazy & wasteful we all are. Really? Um, no. That’s just the backdrop for a unique love story & a story about appreciating the little things in life. Argh! These people are missing the whole point!! (Sorry. I get passionate about WALL-E because I’ve had a lot of people tell me they do NOT understand my love for it.) 😉

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Unfortunately, (and I hate to say anything at all negative about this movie) once WALL-E leaves Earth, the rest of the film just doesn’t live up to the beginning. But it would be very hard to match the brilliance of the start so I can’t complain too much. I really really want to love the rest of the movie as much but it goes downhill with the appearance of the humans, who aren’t that likeable (mainly because they’re not very developed but, obviously, the movie is focusing on developing the personalities of WALL-E & EVE). There are still wonderful scenes (the space dance with Thomas Newman’s beautiful “Define Dancing”) and anything involving the other robots (especially cute little clean-freak M-O).

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Yeah – I just mentioned Thomas Newman again just like in my review for The Shawshank Redemption. Is it a coincidence that he’s scored some of my all-time favorite films? I think not! He’s brilliant and I love the WALL-E score, although much of it is very different from other scores he’s done. It’s very quirky but I think it fits the film perfectly. Because, I admit, it’s a quirky film and I know it’s not for everyone. But I adore it and the beginning is a true masterpiece that I honestly don’t think I’ll see another film come even close to topping in my lifetime. That’s why WALL-E is a CPD Classic.

My Rating: 9.5/10

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CPD Classics: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Review

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The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Directed by Frank Darabont

Based on Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Starring:
Tim Robbins
Morgan Freeman
Bob Gunton
William Sadler
Clancy Brown
Gil Bellows
Mark Rolston
James Whitmore
Jeffrey DeMunn

Music by Thomas Newman

Running time: 142 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Andy Dufresne is a banker sent to Shawshank State Prison after being convicted of murdering his wife and her lover. While there, be becomes friends with fellow inmate Ellis Boyd “Red” Redding. Through years of hardship, Andy maintains his innocence and never gives up hope.

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Why It’s A CPD Classic:

First off, I’ll point out that this is in the IMDB Top 250 so I figured it would be a good one to do today to help kick off all the guest IMDB Top 250 reviews that I’ll start posting next week (More about that after the review). And what a place to start! The Shawshank Redemption takes the number one spot, having been voted as the best movie of all-time by IMDB users. So why is that….?

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I’m a Shawshank lover. Yep – I’m one of those mainstream masses who is perfectly happy to see Shawshank at number one above the likes of The Godfather and Citizen Kane. Yep – it’s a “feel good” movie. Yep – it may sometimes try a little too hard to be a “feel good” movie. You know what? I don’t care. Because this movie DOES make me feel good! And there’s nothing wrong with that. And most importantly, to me, it has these amazing feel good moments yet it doesn’t feel contrived. Most of us film lovers can see right through that. If Shawshank was guilty of that, it wouldn’t have stayed in the number one spot for all these years. It tells a pretty straight forward story in a straight forward way. I suppose thanks can go to Stephen King for that, my very favorite author and whose adapted works will be featuring more than just this once in my CPD Classics series.

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But clearly the combination of Stephen King & Frank Darabont just WORKS. The Green Mile is also absolutely fantastic and I think The Mist is a great underrated film. Oh, and I have to mention a third very important element: Thomas Newman. I ADORE so many Thomas Newman scores. He’s amazing & doesn’t quite seem to get the credit he deserves. Now isn’t the time to go into him, though, as I think I should devote an entire post to him someday.

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I don’t know if I need to go into any detail with this review. I would assume that most everyone has seen this movie by now and, if not, I think it’s extremely well known what happens in it anyway. I love this film and I’m clearly not alone in feeling this way, although I rarely see it mentioned amongst bloggers here so I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on this one in the comments below. Is it too mainstream for the blogging crowd? Too obvious & “feel good”? Am I now going to be considered uncool and you’ll all run me out of (WordPress) town?

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I think there are a lot of things that make The Shawshank Redemption such a widely loved film and the movie just gets so many things “right” that they all combine to give us something spectacular: Feel good moments like the beer & opera scenes (which never fail to move me no matter how many times I watch this movie). Andy & Red’s friendship. The lesser characters such as Brooks & Heywood (and the heartbreakingly beautiful “Brooks Was Here” theme from Thomas Newman). Seeing the posters on the wall change, showing the passage of time. Alexandre Dumbass. The pet bird. Rita Hayworth. And, of course, the overall message of hope.

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More than anything, though, I think it’s Stephen King’s story and Darabont’s ability to give us scenes of pure beauty in a movie based someplace as awful as a prison, along with Thomas Newman’s amazing score plus superb narration from the always lovely-to-listen-to voice of Morgan Freeman which may all be most to thank for making The Shawshank Redemption as near to perfection as I think any film could ever really get. That’s why The Shawshank Redemption is a CPD Classic.

My Rating: 10/10

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(That’s the first 10 I’ve given on my site)

IMDB Top 250 Guest Reviews: Thanks once again to all who signed up to help me finish my IMDB Top 250 Challenge by doing guest reviews. I’m still amazed by the huge response and can’t believe I’ve already received some reviews! So I’ll be starting to post them next week (I’ll e-mail you to let you know when yours will be posted). There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone else would like to join in! You can find a list with the remaining movies HERE.

JOHN HUGHES BLOGATHON: Also, a quick reminder that March is when I’ll be having the John Hughes blogathon (so the Top 250 thing will go on hold for a month). I’ve had several reviews so far – thank you everyone! I’d like to receive the rest by the end of this month at the latest so that I can get them all scheduled & let you know when yours will be posted. Reviews can be e-mailed to tableninemutant at hotmail dot com. AND – I’d be happy for anyone to still join!!! You can do any film you want. See more details HERE. 🙂

Thomas Newman Scoring Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur

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I love Thomas Newman and am glad to hear that he’ll be doing the music for another Pixar movie.

Link here: Slashfilm

Also in this article is a short synopsis of the film:

What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct? This hilarious, heartfelt and original tale is directed by Bob Peterson (co-director/writer, Up; writer, Finding Nemo) and produced by John Walker (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant).

Side Effects (2013) Review

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Been putting off reviewing this because I really don’t know how to go about it. It’s a hard plot to discuss at all without ruining the entire movie. Directed by Steven Soderbergh (supposedly his final film), Side Effects is about a depressed girl (Rooney Mara) who, after a suicide attempt, is prescribed a new drug by her psychiatrist (Jude Law). It also stars Channing Tatum as the girl’s husband and Catherine Zeta-Jones as another psychiatrist.

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I won’t go into the plot at all – I’ll just discuss the performances and what I liked about the movie. I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying this is a psychological thriller and has a Hitchcock feel to it (as every review I’ve seen seems to say the same thing). I love Hitchcock and I love a good twisty-turny thriller that keeps you constantly guessing through the whole thing. There are so few quality movies in this sort of genre nowadays so I found Side Effects very enjoyable.

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As for the acting, I thought everyone did well in their roles. I thought Rooney Mara was the highlight of the movie. I’ve not seen her in her biggest role (Dragon Tattoo) but I can see how she was probably the perfect choice for the role of Lisbeth Salander – I’m looking forward to watching that now. But I have sort of a thing for “cold & aloof”. Both her Side Effects & Dragon Tattoo characters are that way so I’m not sure how great she’d be playing a different sort of character. And the “don’t give a fuck” attitude can get annoying after a while (smile Kristen Stewart!). So Rooney Mara will be an interesting one to watch to see if she can pull off playing characters who are less mentally unstable. And I think she has lovely eyes!

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I also thought Jude Law did a very good job. I liked him in this & I normally don’t like him. I can’t explain this – I have no good reason for not liking him! Just like I have zero reason to hate Channing Tatum. This is the ONLY thing I’ve ever seen him in. I think he reminds me of the type of arrogant jocks I hated SO much in high school. That’s probably unfair as I’ve never seen him in anything, not even an interview. 😉 He’s fine in Side Effects – you don’t really notice him. He’s just… There. Catherine Zeta-Jones is also fine but for some reason I felt that she wasn’t quite right for the role – I’d have maybe liked to have seen a different actress play that role. Not sure who – not thought about it that much.

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I have to make a mention of the music in this movie. I thought the score was really good, as is always the case with Thomas Newman. I think Thomas Newman scores are amazing and think he doesn’t get the credit he deserves – I plan on doing a post dedicated to him at some point.

I’m not one for ever noticing symbolism in movies (I leave that to clever people to notice & then write about). I’m sure there’s plenty going on in Side Effects. Dunno! But I kept noticing a pair of scissors always fairly prominently displayed on every desk you see in the movie. Maybe someone smart can explain that one to me – I’m too lazy. 😉 But it did make me think of Dial M For Murder – a great Hitchcock film. I did think Side Effects had a Dial M For Murder vibe to it (and definitely Vertigo. And maybe a hint of Rear Window). I’ll just think of it as a nod to the master of suspense. Nothing beats Hitchcock. 🙂

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Side Effects is obviously not as good as classic Hitchcock but at least it tries. And it comes a lot closer than most current psychological thrillers. It was a thrilling ride and one I definitely recommend if this genre is your type of thing.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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