The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Book Review)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

My Thoughts:

I read this as, which you may notice by my list at the end of this review, I’m reading books before their movie adaptations are released this year. The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, is out today in the U.S. and October 6th in the U.K. I’m a fan of Larson, especially after the fantastic Room as well as Short Term 12 (which was also from the director of The Glass Castle, Destin Daniel Cretton). So, even though “true story dramas” don’t normally appeal to me, I decided to give this a read since I’ll happily watch a movie with this film’s cast. I didn’t expect the book to quite possibly be my very favorite that I’ve read so far this year. But, I think it probably is. What a pleasant surprise.

I liked the way in which Walls wrote her story. It’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t seem to be passing judgement on her parents & the way in which they chose to raise their children. Like a lot of people raised in small-town American Midwest, my childhood was pretty straightforward (and pretty damn boring). Not rich, not poor, working parents, regularly attended school, followed all the rules & the “societal norms”, etc. The Walls family are unlike any I’ve ever personally known and I found their story fascinating. I suppose there are other nomadic families in America but it’s a world I’ve never experienced & can’t even begin to imagine. The Walls family moved from place to place all across America, sometimes homeless & living out in the open, rarely holding down regular jobs despite having the ability to work (including the mother having the qualifications for teaching) and despite the fact that their children had to dig their classmates’ uneaten lunches out of the trash at school in order to have anything to eat. I was often shocked by the horrendous neglect endured by Jeannette, her two sisters, and her brother (and amazed that these children were never taken away from their parents). However, as I said, Jeannette never really speaks poorly of her parents – she just tells her story in a straightforward manner without the need to embellish things. Their story is so outrageous that I don’t think you could make up half of the odd things their parents did. Yet Jeannette does still give us glimpses of the love their parents had for them, especially from her father through his many broken promises that I think he himself may have genuinely believed he’d keep even though his children knew he never would.

This is a hard book to describe without making it sound horribly depressing but it’s not really that way at all. It’s truly amusing and at times had me smiling at some of the bizarre things this family went through (like when they try to move a piano into their house). Jeannette’s parents, though they will sometimes make you very angry if you read this, are truly a couple of unique characters & free spirits. It’s highly unusual for me to enjoy (or even bother to read) a true story but, as they say, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Do they say that? Hmm. Well, someone said that. Sounds like something Jeannette’s father would say. I don’t know if I’ve talked anyone into reading this but I do highly recommend it. It’s frustrating. It’s uplifting. It’ll make you angry. It’ll make you smile. It’ll make you shake your head in disbelief. You won’t know whether you want to hug or punch the parents (most likely the latter). But it’s also not soppy or trying to be some big tearjerker, which is the kind of thing that gets on my nerves. It’s just a well-written story of a girl who somehow managed to survive & to thrive after living a truly unusual childhood with two very eccentric parents. The movie has “meh” reviews so far & the below trailer doesn’t really blow me away (although I’ll still watch it). So, if you can, READ THE BOOK FIRST.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

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The Edge Of Seventeen (2016) Review

The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)

Directed by Kelly Fremon Craig

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
High-school life gets even more unbearable for Nadine when her best friend, Krista, starts dating her older brother.

My Opinion:

Yes! Another funny, well-written, smart “teen movie”. I reviewed The DUFF last week, which I really enjoyed despite my teen years being far far behind me, and commented that I hoped more teen movies would go in that direction as I do still enjoy a good one. Trust me – no matter how old you are you never forget high school. It’s a traumatic time! I think I’ll forever feel like it was only yesterday that I finally graduated & escaped that f*^king place.

So, yeah – I wasn’t exactly the Homecoming Queen and I could totally relate to Hailee Steinfeld’s self-loathing, angst-filled, neurotic nutjob in The Edge Of Seventeen. Hubby was like “I think she may be even more messed up than you!”. Hahaha! Nice. Funny. Seriously, though – I’d have been friends with this character as a teen. Okay, I lie – I WAS this character (but not as crazy – Holy shit, Steinfeld’s character is HIGH MAINTENANCE!).

For those who may get annoyed by phoney teen angst movies, don’t automatically avoid this one. This is teen angst done right. It has the right balance of humor & of more serious issues. Think a cross between The DUFF (pure comedy) and The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic but a little too serious). The characters come across as genuine and I think it will speak to an audience of all ages from 15 or so & up. I do think certain teen films nowadays are written by people my age (like Perks), which is cool as it means people my age end up liking them but I’m not sure if they all work for actual modern teens. I think The Edge Of Seventeen avoids this problem. I can see a lot of friends my age liking this and, judging by the laughs & reactions of the much younger crowd in my cinema who made me feel very old, the younger generation seemed to be enjoying it a lot as well. I can find very little information on this film’s writer & director, Kelly Fremon Craig, but I’d hazard a guess that she’s written a bit of herself into these characters? I could be wrong but writing from experience often seems to make the most believable characters & she’s done an excellent job here. I’ll happily watch more of her work! Hopefully the positive buzz from this film is getting her noticed.

Just a quick FYI: the language & situations make this one not suitable for pre & early teens. It’s rated 15 in the UK and I think it’s rated R in the US?? Typical uptight America – R is too strict for this & means that 15 & 16 year-olds are missing out on a good movie. Maybe they should’ve added some guns & violence as opposed to swearing & sex talk, huh? Then it would be rated G in America! I’ve often thought the American rating system needs a rating in the middle, like a UK 15, which I think is the right sort of rating for this one. Sorry for the mini-rant… 😉 Back to the movie!

Besides Hailee Steinfeld’s darkly humorous unhappy teen, we have her parents and a very rocky relationship with her mother, her best friend who suddenly starts dating her attractive & popular brother who gets on her nerves, her crush, her teacher, and a boy who has a crush on her. They’re all great but the two stand-outs are Hayden Szeto as the adorably awkward boy with a crush on her and Woody Harrelson as the doesn’t-give-a-fuck teacher she confides in (probably due to seeing a bit of her own pessimistic attitude in him).

The chemistry between Steinfeld’s & Harrelson’s characters is great and I loved their complexity. There’s no sappy “teacher gives student meaningful life lesson” bullshit going on here. In fact, they speak quite horribly to each other & it’s hilarious. You can tell that, despite clearly thinking she’s a pain in the ass, Harrelson’s character also has a huge soft spot for this fucked-up kid. Both of these characters are two of the absolute best I’ve seen in a film this year and are why this shouldn’t be dismissed due to being a “teen movie”. Oh, and Hayden Szeto’s character with a crush on Steinfeld is probably the most likable character in a film this year. He’s hilariously, awkwardly adorable. Who is this guy?? He’s been in hardly anything! Put him in more movies! I’d have totally loved having a boy like him have a crush on me in high school. Damn you, Steinfeld – he’s a sweetheart. Date him! It’s like Molly Ringwald not wanting Jon Cryer in Pretty In Pink! Man, teenage girls are idiots sometimes. Anyway – Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson, and Hailee Steinfeld are all amazing in this but probably won’t get recognition due to the film being part of the teen genre.

Summary:

I’ve rambled on about this movie long enough. I’ve realized now that my saying this is something in between The DUFF & The Perks Of Being A Wallflower isn’t quite accurate. The Edge Of Seventeen is more like The Way Way Back with a girl instead of a boy as the central character & Harrelson filling the Sam Rockwell role in this one (their characters are quite different personality-wise but equally fantastic). I feel that teen movies get dismissed, especially if a girl is the central character, but this movie deserves recognition. If you liked The Way Way Back (I loved that one), you should like this one as well no matter what age or sex you are. Movies like these give me hope that maybe some modern teenagers will turn out alright after all & I appreciate filmmakers who credit them with some intelligence & don’t dumb their movies down for them. I still remember being a teen & I like to think I wasn’t a total idiot. And anyone who says they didn’t have a hard time in high school is a liar. Teen angst is real, people! I’m happy to say that The Edge Of Seventeen handles the angst in a realistic, humorous, and at times heartbreaking fashion.

My Rating: 8/10

You know I gotta end this with the brilliant Stevie Nicks song from my own teen years, which is not in this movie whatsoever. Wait – I wasn’t a teen yet when this was released… I just added several years onto my age there! Oops. Whatever. I love this song. 🙂

Natural Born Killers (1994) Blind Spot Review

Natural Born Killers (1994)

Directed by Oliver Stone

Story by Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr, Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore, Rodney Dangerfield

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
A satirical black comedy crime film that tells the story of two victims of traumatic childhoods who became lovers and mass murderers, and are irresponsibly glorified by the mass media.

My Opinion:

Here we are with movie number three of my 2016 Blind Spot picks. I can’t believe I’ve actually managed to review one each month so far! (the previous two were An Education & Summer Wars). Other than The Doors & Platoon, I can’t say I’ve really liked any Oliver Stone films all that much so I went into this one with fairly low expectations. Plus, I’ve never exactly loved either Woody Harrelson or Juliette Lewis. Well, I have to say that I liked this one quite a bit and both those actors have gone up a little in my estimation (22 years later!).

I suppose it helps that Quentin Tarantino wrote the story? He wasn’t involved with the actual screenplay (I read that they changed his story quite a lot) but this movie has the overall vibe of the films he directed – not just in the extreme violence, of course, but also in the rich characters & dialogue.

I think it’s difficult to make a satire on our obsession with violence that then uses excessive violence to get its point across. Does this movie glorify violence just as much as it claims the media does, thanks to shows such as the film’s American Maniacs as hosted by Robert Downey Jr’s character? I read that, at first, this movie was going to be a straight-up action film before Stone decided to turn it into a satirical black comedy. I think changing the direction of the movie was a very wise decision. Actually, this is what I read at Wikipedia – I can see why he changed his mind:

“As the project developed however, incidents such as the O.J. Simpson case, the Menendez brothers case, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident, the Rodney King incident, and the Federal assault of the Branch Davidian sect all took place. Stone came to feel that the media was heavily involved in the outcome of all of these cases, and that the media had become an all-pervasive entity which marketed violence and suffering for the good of ratings. As such, he changed the tone of the movie from one of simple action to a satirical critique of the media in general.”

I think the movie very much gets its point across and is even more relevant today as violence seems to be at an all-time high but, also, scenes of graphic violence are even more immediately accessible now than in 1994 thanks to the explosion of the Internet. It’s not some true-crime TV show (hosted by Downey Jr with, I gotta say, a really annoying fake Australian accent) that we have to worry about these days. Hell, American Maniacs looks like a Saturday morning kids’ cartoon compared to today’s video games & torture porn films never mind the disturbing clips of real-life violence which are far too readily available online thanks to everyone having their own damn video cameras in their phones. (Off Topic Rant: Man, I love my phone but wish I could time travel back to 1985 when peoples’ private lives weren’t being constantly recorded & uploaded for all to see. Kardashian-free 1980’s life sounds like a damn utopia now! Rant Over). So, Natural Born Killers is more relevant today but also wouldn’t actually work if made now as it’s no longer satire. Watching it now was quite scary, in a way, as I imagine it felt far-fetched in 1994? Now it just feels like one of those Making A Murderer type of true story documentaries that are so popular on Netflix.

I’m actually a huge wuss when it comes to violence in movies (I watch Tarantino’s with my hands over my face half the time) but am more accepting when the movie has a message like I feel this one does. There’s lots of blood in this but I was able to watch it all as it’s not as “gory” as Tarantino-directed films (which do glorify violence but are so cleverly written that I can’t help but love them anyway as a fan of film). Will someone go on a murder spree after watching this? Maybe. But someone who does that would’ve done that anyway whether or not they’d watched a violent movie or played a violent video game.

Oh crap – I really didn’t want to get into a deep discussion about the film’s message and about whether the media has a responsibility to humanity to not glorify violence and blah blah blah. That’s one of those arguments that can go around in circles for an eternity. All I’ll say is: Society is fucked. The media – including movies, TV, video games, websites – is just a reflection of society. It gives us what we seem to want based on our behavior. I think Natural Born Killers displays that logic perfectly but it’s a shame that its message, although extremely blatant, seemed to not be fully grasped by everyone at the time.

I think what worked for me with this movie besides the film’s message was its style. I loved the psychedelic scenes and Stone’s use of different colors. I thought the I Love Lucy sitcom-style scenes involving Rodney Dangerfield as the abusive father of Juliette Lewis were very inventive and the scene in the rattlesnake-filled desert was trippy. Hell, I even found the “marriage on the bridge” scene oddly romantic in a messed-up way. That’s the thing – I think most people watching this movie find themselves liking Lewis’ & Harrelson’s Mickey & Mallory despite the fact that they’re psychotic killers with no remorse. But that’s the whole point, of course. The media in the movie makes them stars and the movie itself has made their fictional characters stars. By the end, you want Mickey & Mallory to live happily ever after and THAT is truly fucked-up. That’s how good the movie is, though – it turns us into the Mickey & Mallory-worshipping audience of American Maniacs.

My Rating: 8/10

My Top Ten Wooden Movie Actors/Characters

I’m just messing with you! 😉

I had 16 to choose from for this list and I couldn’t really leave six out so I’ll count down from 16 (but I’ll still call it a “Top Ten” to stay consistent with my other lists. Ha! I’m so annoying).

So here are My Top Ten Wooden Movie Actors/Characters (and my favorite film from each). But counting down from 16 just to be awkward…

Honorable Mentions:

16. James Woods
My Favorite Movie: Videodrome

15. Kurtwood Smith
My Favorite Movie: RoboCop

14. Shailene Woodley
My Favorite Movie: The Spectacular Now or The Fault In Our Stars

13. Joanne Woodward
My Favorite Movie: Oh dear – the only one I’ve seen is Philadelphia! But I so love her long, romantic marriage to Paul Newman. Look at them! So beautiful… 🙂

12. Evan Rachel Wood
My Favorite Movie: Across The Universe but The Wrestler is great too

11. Woody Allen
My Favorite Movie: Um, I’ve only seen one & he wasn’t IN it. So, Midnight In Paris

My Top Ten:

10. Natalie Wood
My Favorite Movie: Miracle On 34th Street

9. Alfre Woodard
My Favorite Movie: Scrooged

8. Woody Strode
My Favorite Movie: Once Upon A Time In The West

7. Scott Eastwood
My Favorite Movie: Who cares?! Look at him!! Okay, I’ll go with Gran Torino…

6. Elijah Wood
My Favorite Movie: The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy

5. Woody Harrelson
My Favorite Movie: Natural Born Killers & Zombieland

4. Ed Wood
My Favorite Movie: Well, Ed Wood…

3. Clint Eastwood
My Favorite Movie: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly or Escape From Alcatraz

2. Woody
My Favorite Movie: The Toy Story Trilogy

1. Edward Woodward
My Favorite Movie: The Wicker Man
(Edward Woodward tops the list on name alone. It’s so fun to say… Say it ten times fast!)

How much wood would an Edward Woodward chuck chuck if an Edward Woodward chuck could chuck Edward Woodward?

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

Seven Psychopaths (2012) Review

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Directed & Written by Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Željko Ivanek

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

My Opinion:

I’d been meaning to watch this movie for a while as I really liked Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges. Unfortunately, I ended up being a little disappointed as Seven Psychopaths is definitely not as good as In Bruges. There are several fantastic moments, though, and some great performances from the impressive cast. In fact, I’d say there are a few moments of pure brilliance & I’ll be sure to discuss the movie’s positives as well as the negatives. But, overall, I thought the main plot was a bit of a mess and far too convoluted.

In this movie, Colin Farrell’s character is a writer working on a screenplay called Seven Psychopaths. He hasn’t gotten very far with the script (I think he’d only managed to think up one out of the seven psychopaths if I remember correctly) so his friend (a dognapper played by Sam Rockwell) tries to help him out with the other six. Meanwhile, Rockwell (who kidnaps dogs for “boss” Christopher Walken) has managed to anger a real-life psychopath (Woody Harrelson) after kidnapping his beloved dog.

What’s unfortunate is that this overall dognapping story is the main part of the plot yet it’s the weakest thing about the movie. The main story is messy & feels too forced. Okay – part of this may somewhat be down to my dislike of Woody Harrelson. Aside from his “dumb guy” character in Cheers, I’ve never liked him in anything else. He just seemed very weak next to the likes of Walken and even Rockwell (who was fantastic in this). Colin Farrell was just his usual Colin Farrell self (I’m not a big fan of his either but he’s fine in this although his role could have been played by anyone).

The interesting thing about this movie, which I didn’t know beforehand, is that there are several other stories that get told throughout the film as ideas for further psychopathic characters are discussed. We witness these stories (such as the one with Tom Waits in the above photo) and, DAMN, these stories are good! I’d watch full movies of a few of these stories as they’re all far more interesting than the overall plot involving the dognapping & Woody Harrelson’s character. It reminded me a lot of Grindhouse & how the fake trailers looked so good that they ended up making movies of some of them (I didn’t watch Machete so I don’t know if that was any good but I really enjoyed Hobo With A Shotgun).


As well as these “stories within a story”, which I liked a hell of a lot, I really loved Christopher Walken & Sam Rockwell. I like Christopher Walken but he can be a little strange sometimes. I complained about him “phoning it in” in my review of Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. He plays the same sort of character far too often but, although he’s playing that sort of character once again here, he gives such a perfect performance. His final scene is especially awesome as were the scenes with his character’s wife (played by a woman named Linda Bright Clay, who appears to have been in very little else. Why?! She’s fantastic in this! Another one of this movie’s highlights). Walken’s & Clay’s characters were both fantastic, as was their story. Well done to McDonagh on writing their parts. 

Sam Rockwell was possibly the main highlight for me, though. At least, as far as the acting was concerned – my favorite thing was definitely the “stories within a story”. I have a post about Rockwell scheduled for tomorrow & I say the same thing that I’ll say now: I don’t think he’s really lucked out quite yet in getting that one “perfect role”. When he does, I think he’ll finally get the attention he deserves. This is definitely a defining role for him, however, and probably my second favorite performance of his. I’m starting to kind of finally see the reason he seems to have some pretty loyal fans. If you’re a fan of his but haven’t seen this movie for some reason, I highly recommend that you check it out. 

Summary:

Seven Psychopaths is an odd one. It’s so good at times and just plain confusing at other times. I’m afraid that it tries a little too hard to be cool. I think it wants to be like something made by Tarantino but, although the clever dialogue is there and there are some very rich characters, the story is even more convoluted than that in Pulp Fiction. I’m struggling with rating this one as I think it deserves a higher score than I’ll probably give it but I can’t ignore the fact that the main plot really didn’t hold my interest at all. But I’m in no way trying to talk people out of watching this one as I think parts of it are brilliant and the writing is far better than we get from most movies. I’d actually recommend this one as I think a lot of people reading this would like this movie quite a lot. If you like In Bruges or Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead or anything from Tarantino, you’ll definitely like this one as well. I guess I’d rather have a few moments of brilliance than a movie that’s mediocre the whole way through.

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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Now You See Me (2013) Review

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Now You See Me

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Starring:
Jesse Eisenberg
Mark Ruffalo
Woody Harrelson
Mélanie Laurent
Isla Fisher
Dave Franco
Michael Caine
Morgan Freeman
Michael Kelly
Common

Running time: 115 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

Four magicians, brought together by mysterious circumstances, are investigated by the FBI after performing a magic show together in which they seemingly pull off a bank heist.

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My Quick Opinion:

I’ll keep this short as, unfortunately, there’s not a lot to say about it. I went in with low expectations and knowing it was going to be a simple movie with a bit of magic that would at least keep me entertained for a couple of hours. I wasn’t exactly expecting The Prestige – one of my all-time favorite films. But Now You See Me is a much further cry from the brilliance of that film than I was hoping.

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Everyone does a decent enough job in their roles but the characters are very one-dimensional. I love Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman and always enjoy watching them but they’re wasted in this film. Woody Harrelson is probably the most entertaining of the four magicians but he’s really just doing the sort of role he often does. The actual highlight of the film is probably Mélanie Laurent as an Interpol detective. But that could just be because I have a bit of a girl crush on her… I felt they could have done a lot more with her character, though, as it didn’t feel very well developed. Same goes for Mark Ruffalo’s character. All of the characters in this felt very underdeveloped, actually. Disappointing.

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Summary:

A lightweight “magic movie” that will keep you entertained for a couple of hours but won’t have you leaving the cinema asking any questions. Unlike The Prestige, which I thought about for days afterward. Hell, I still do. I left Now You See Me feeling quite empty, though, like the box after the rabbit has disappeared. (Ha! Was trying to get a “magic” reference in here somewhere. That was pathetic, though. Lol!).

I just expected a BIT more from such an impressive line-up of actors. At the very least, since the story and characters are a bit weak, I expected more really fun and cool MAGIC than we actually get. Mindless fun but a little TOO mindless. And once you’ve seen it, I have a feeling that it’s one where things really don’t add up if you were to watch it a second time. But it’s really not worth the time thinking about too much – this movie isn’t asking you to think about it beyond the final credits. Oh man – I’m being more harsh than I’m meaning to be! It was a fun watch. Nothing less but certainly nothing more. Rent it.

My Rating: 6/10

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Here’s a sexy photo of Mélanie Laurent:

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