Blind Spot Series: Gladiator (2000)

gladiator-2000-movie-review-blind-spot-seriesDirector: Ridley Scott

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama

Runtime: 155 Minutes

Main Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Richard Harris, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou, David Schofield, John Shrapnel, Tomas Arana

Plot: Maximus was a strong and loved Roman general, so much so that the aging Emperor Marcus Aurelius chooses him to be his heir over his own son, Commodus. A power struggle breaks out and Maximus’ family are slaughtered, leaving Maximus himself captured and put into the Gladiator games. Now fuelled by vengeance, Maximus sets his sights on rising up the ranks and avenge his wife and son.

My Thoughts: My timing couldn’t be more perfect with my Blind Spot choices lately. I’d chosen The Matrix as my choice last month right when a Keanu Reeves obsession hit, and I was over the moon to realise my June pick was Gladiator when I’ve been spending as much time as possible playing Assassins Creed: Odyssey. One thing I hadn’t realised was how long the movie was, IMDB says it’s just over 2 and a half hours but I think I had some kind of special edition because my copy was just a few minutes shy of 3 hours! Why are all these famously amazing movies so darn long?!

Anyway, I’ll get straight to the point. I did enjoy Gladiator, in fact, I got really into it for the last hour or so, but it took me a long while to actually get invested. Call me uncultured (I wouldn’t argue with you) but Maximus’ story was just so similar to Spartacus’, and that’s a story I know in great detail thanks to the Starz! TV Show, which I know came later but cut me some slack.

Once I’d convinced myself to empty my thoughts and just enjoy the movie for what it was, I had a blast. I loved how Maximus managed to get the other gladiators to work together as one unit, and his rivalry with Commodus was intense. I also now know where the line “Are you not entertained?!”. I think where similar movies go all in for the action and choreographed fight scenes, Gladiator delivers some of the best dialogue I’ve heard in a movie. You can sense when someone’s about to dish out a killer speech, and those are the best moments.

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Best Bit: The scene where Commodus is praising this ‘Gladiator’ and asks him his name will be the moment that I always remember the movie for. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the TRUE emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

Worst Bit: I get that the focus of the movie is the hatred between Maximus and Commodus, but with such a long runtime I would have liked some of the side characters to have got a little more limelight.

Fun Trivia: The wounds on Russell Crowe’s face after the opening battle scene are real, caused when his horse startled and backed him into tree branches. The stitches in his cheek are clearly visible when he is telling Commodus he intends to return home.

My Rating: In true gladiator games style, I give it 4 thumbs up!

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blind-spot-series-2019-banner-v2The Blind Spot Series was created a few years ago by Ryan at The Matinee, and is now hosted by Sofia at Returning Videotapes. As part of the Series, bloggers choose 1 movie to watch and review each month that is deemed a ‘classic’ or ‘must-watch’. To see the rest of my picks for the year, check out my announcement post here.

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Toy Story 4 (2019)

toy-story-4-movie-review-posterDirector: Josh Cooley

Genre: Family, Adventure, Comedy, Animation

Runtime: 100 Minutes

Main Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan Michael-Key, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki

Plot: Now Andy’s toys have settled in their new home with Bonnie, Woody is finding himself left behind in the closet when it comes to playtime. Ever faithful to his child, when Bonnie is upset about attending Kindergarten Orientation Day, he hitches a ride with her and witnesses the creation of Forky, a toy Bonnie makes out of trash. She’s besotted with him, and Woody makes it his goal to keep Forky safe and Bonnie happy.

My Thoughts: I was one of the first people to rage when Toy Story 4 was announced. Toy Story 3 gave us the perfect ending, and so another movie felt like a cash grab, which would have tainted a perfect trilogy. The hype and my general love of Disney/Pixar and Toy Story won me over in the last few weeks and I was dying to see #4, although I was still slightly hesitant and a little pessimistic about the new character, Forky, who the entire world seems to have gone nuts for.

Well – it took about 5 seconds of Forky’s screen time for me to fall in love. You just can’t help yourself, he’s too funny. I remember feeling the same way about the other sequels that introduced new toys, but Pixar are just too good at what they do. The simple thing of returning to the Toy Story world was just magical, and it was so nice to see the cinema full of other adults who have grown up with these movies. I honestly got goosebumps at the music!

Bo Peep is back – shamefully I don’t even remember her being absent from the last movie but oh my god is Bo Peep a badass! Now a lost toy, she leads a little ragtag bunch of other toys and it reminded me so much of Mad Max. She was a real highlight of the movie, much of which takes place in an antique store, home to the kind of creepy Gabby Gabby with a broken voicebox and her cronies who scared me more than the entirety of Brightburn (2019) which I watched the night before. This movie is a U?! Mind you – Sid’s toys in the original movie were just as scary.

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I haven’t mentioned the man of the moment yet – Keanu Reeves, who I couldn’t avoid lately even if I wanted to. Keanu voices Duke Caboom, a Canadian stunt driver who was ditched after his commercial oversold him. Guess what toy my little girl is going to be treated to come payday? My husband is going to kill me…

Best Bit: When Forky is brought home and doesn’t understand that he’s a toy, he keeps shouting ‘trash!’ and jumping into whatever wastebin he can find, leaving poor Woody up all night every night throwing him back onto the bed into Bonnie’s arms. It was just too funny, and oh Woody, I feel for you!

Worst Bit: Curse my STUPID Mum feelings – I cried 3 times during this movie. The ending got me, of course, I think you’d have to be a monster to not get a little emotional at the ending, but the occasions where a little girl was upset and crying? My heart actually hurt just watching it. I can’t deal with it!

Fun Trivia: Boo from Monsters Inc (2001) can be seen behind Bonnie at kindergarten orientation when she creates Forky.
I THOUGHT that was Boo! I didn’t spot the pizza planet truck though, good job I’m going to see the movie again this weekend.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 bins of trash…hide them from Forky!

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Men in Black: International (2019)

men-in-black-international-2019-movie-reviewDirector: F. Gary Gray

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Comedy, Adventure

Runtime: 114 Minutes

Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Rafe Spall, Kumail Nanjiani, Jess Radomska, Kayvan Novak

Plot: After a childhood encounter with an alien changed her life, Molly has spent years trying to find the Men in Black in order to join their ranks. Once she succeeds, she is thrown right into the deep end as it is discovered there’s a mole within the organisation.

My Thoughts: I think I’ve only seen the original MiB movie but I liked it a lot. It was funny, the action scenes were cool and it had aliens! What more could younger me want? With all the reboots and remakes lately, I guess a new MiB movie was inevitable, and honestly I’ve felt like the only person around who was actually excited to see it! If nothing more, we get Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson team up again, which is bound to be fun.

Surprising no one, I set myself up for a fall. I enjoyed Men in Black: International, more than most by the sounds of it, but it wasn’t what I was hoping for. It just took itself too seriously most of the time and the jokes weren’t coming fast enough. The plot is really messy, and the ending was just a bit…sad, really. Still, there were plenty of things to enjoy. I’ve decided that every movie needs an Emma Thompson cameo. After Bridget Jones’ Baby and now this, I just want her to turn up and be sassy and sarcastic in everything I watch!

There are a few appearances from some familiar non-human characters, but I kind of wish we got to see a little more of them. There’s also a brilliant, tiny new character who I’ll get into in a moment, but he’s a show-stealer. All in all, there are definitely worse ways to spend 2 hours, but if you’re going to watch a silly action movie in which cool people clad in suits shoot at aliens…you’re probably better sticking with the original.

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Best Bit: Pawny! Or Steve, as he called himself. He’s a little alien who was also a pawn on a chessboard protecting his queen, who sadly was murdered. Left feeling hopeless, Agent H convinced him to serve Molly, Agent M instead, and every time he popped up he made me laugh. I’m hoping Funko are putting in a rush order of figures of him so I can get one for my dashboard soon…

Worst Bit: Spoiler alert here! After watching the trailer, and scoffing at my excitement, my husband announced ‘It’s obvious – Liam Neeson is going to be a bad guy’. How it was obvious, I don’t know, but I spent the whole movie unable to get the thought out of my head and curse him, he was right. He’s so annoying. He did the same with Gossip Girl, he’s got a plot-twist radar!

Fun Trivia: The film was originally going to be a “Jump Street” – “Men in Black” crossover with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprising their roles from the franchise. However, plans fell apart, so it became a spin-off with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson.
[ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN AMAZING.]

My Rating: 3 pairs of standard issue black glasses that you’ll need to wear so you don’t forget all about this movie. On second thought…you don’t want to wear them, do you?

men-in-black-international-review-glasses

X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019)

x-men-dark-phoenix-2019-movie-reviewDirector: Simon Kinberg

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi

Runtime: 113 Minutes

Main Cast: Sophie Turner, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Tye Sheridan, Jessica Chastain, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Plot: During a mission to save some of NASA’s astronauts, Jean Gray obtains unimaginable powers that she can’t control, and they corrupt her. The remaining X-Men are left to decide whether she can be saved before she becomes too much of a threat to humanity.

My Thoughts: It’s not that I’ve been actively avoiding the X-Men movies, I’ve just never had that much of an interest in them. I’ve missed a few, and I know nothing about the timeline or most of the mutants powers, so when I watch one of the movies I feel like an elderly person who’s just been handed an iPad. Lost! That said, when the internet hails a movie as being awful, my morbid curiosity kicks in, so I had to find out for myself if Dark Phoenix is as bad as the critics say.

I’ll cut straight to the chase – it isn’t. It’s not a great movie, it has a lot of flaws, but it’s far from being a disaster. I mean, I was entertained the whole time and that’s all you can ask for sometimes. The trailer was quite misleading, I thought most of the movie would be filled with action scenes of the different mutants trying to take down Jean Gray while she kicked their asses, but those kind of scenes were far and few between.

What stood out the most to me was the dialogue. Who wrote it?! It felt like it had either been dumbed down for the audience or just lazily done…by a 10-year old. Regardless, I still enjoyed the movie, and I liked the ending. It felt like it wrapped up the story for these characters but set up an opportunity for some new movies. Hopefully, those ones will be received better!

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Best Bit: The best scene without a doubt was the fight outside Jean Gray’s family home. The slo-mo bits are just too cool. I really fell in love with Nightcrawler though – he’s adorable! Poor guy was nothing more than a mutant Uber during half the movie but he got his chance to kick some ass towards the end.

Worst Bit: Never did I ever think my complaints would include Michael Fassbender but…he pulled the subway train up out of the ground…and used it to make a fancy entrance into that house?! Is that honestly all he wanted to do with it?!

Fun Trivia: At the end of the movie, Professor Xavier and Magneto meet for a chess game at a Parisian cafe named “Les Vieux Copains” meaning “Old buddies”, apparently located on the “Rue de la Paix” literally the “street of Peace”.

My Rating: 3 ripe, juicy tomatoes, grown lovingly on Magneto’s farm.

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The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

the-man-who-killed-don-quixote-2018Director: Terry Gilliam

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Runtime: 132 Minutes

Main Cast: Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgard, Jordi Molla, Joana Ribeiro, Oscar Jaenada, Olga Kurylenko

Plot: Toby, once a starry-eyed film director is now an advertising director. Whilst shooting on location he realises how close he is to the town where he shot his first movie. When he visits, he comes across the man he hired to play the character Don Quixote…only the man believes that he really is Don Quixote.

My Thoughts: What a strange, odd movie! The Man Who Killed Don Quixote started production in the year 2000, and finally finished in 2017. There’s even a documentary about the problems and challenges the crew faced to actually bring this movie to our screens. Then in May 2018, it was released at the Cannes Film Festival. It got shown at several other festivals that year, and then got a 1-day theatrical release in the USA almost an entire year later. Finally, this month it got released on DVD & Blu-Ray! Phew…what a journey.

The movie is insane, that much is established within the first few minutes. When Toby meets his old cast member, he fully believes himself to be the great Don Quixote of La Mancha, and thinks Toby is his squire, Sancho. Hilarity ensues, but Toby starts to question what is actually real…and so did I! I completely lost the plot at about the halfway point, but it was so damn entertaining that I kind of didn’t care. I signed up for 2 hours of Adam Driver shouting the f-word in the way only he can, and I was in for the long haul.

I wonder if this is the kind of movie you actually need to be drunk for in order for it to make sense? Regardless, it’s a shame it wasn’t a masterpiece after taking so long to make, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. I found myself asking, but who is the man who killed Don Quixote? He isn’t even dead? And I guess my question got answered…in a very amusing way!

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Best Bit: Towards the end, when the crazy got turned up to 11 and Toby gave into Don’s disillusions, that’s where it got fun. Plus, that black outfit with boots Adam Driver was wearing? Yes, please. Can that be Kylo Ren’s new get up? Anyway – that’s when Don Quixote meets his end. It’s hilarious!

Worst Bit: I think it was the moment that the gold in Toby’s hand turned out to be rocks or dirt or goodness knows what – and Stellan Skarsgard showed up again. That was when I realised I had no idea what was going on, and it was useless to try to work it all out.

Fun Trivia: The film is dedicated to the memory of John Hurt and Jean Rochefort. Terry Gilliam had chosen both to play Don Quixote in past incarnations of this project, and both died before the film was completed.

My Rating: 4 murderous GIANTS that I, Don Quixote of La Mancha shall…oh no wait, they’re just windmills.

don-quixote-2018-windmills

Ma (2019)

ma-2019-movie-poster-reviewDirector: Tate Taylor

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 99 Minutes

Main Cast: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, McKaley Miller, Allison Janney, Corey Fogelmanis, Tanyell Waivers, Dante Brown, Gianni Paolo, Luke Evans

Plot: Maggie and her Mum have just moved into town, Maggie has to settle into a new school and her Mum has to find herself a new job. To fit in with her new friends, Maggie asks a lady, Sue Ann, to buy her and her friends some booze from the local shop. Sue Ann accepts begrudgingly and invites them to hang out in her basement so they aren’t drinking on the streets, but Sue Ann has one rule – don’t go upstairs.

My Thoughts: I feel like I say this too often, but Ma is one of those movies where the trailer gives away the whole story. I won’t talk spoilers here but if you want to go and see the movie – go in blind! It’ll be a much more fun experience, I promise you. In fact, the only thing the trailer doesn’t give away is why the kids aren’t allowed to go upstairs, and honestly, it’s not that much of a shock.

Regardless, Ma is a really fun little horror/thriller movie. Yes, it’s full of characters making terrible decisions – sometimes quite comically, and as I say, if you’ve seen the trailer there are no real surprises, but it’s worth it for Octavia Spencer. She’s such an incredible actress, and I’ve never seen her in a role like this before. The way she can go from a sweet old lady to a menacing psychopath in an instant is just brilliant.

I think what I liked most about the movie was the motivation behind what Sue Ann was doing. I can’t condone her bat-s**t craziness but when you find out what’s upset her so much, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Oh, and if Allison Janney was my boss? You would NOT find me standing around messing about on my phone. She is so scary! Not the most attentive person in the world though, considering how much stock went missing. I don’t care if the bottles got put back, they’ve still been used!

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Best Bit: My thoughts when Luke Evans turned up at the vets and started chatting to Sue Ann went from calm to OMG back and forth so many times. There I was, thinking he was the one at school who actually cared, then I panicked and thought he was going to stand Sue Ann up at the bar, then he turned up and everything was lovely, and then…oh boy, don’t upset Luke Evans…

Worst Bit: So Sue Ann ran over that nasty lady whose name escapes me. Actually, I think mowed down is a better term. Did anyone like, find her body? She literally got murdered in the middle of the road during the day and apart from it being mentioned once in passing by Sue Ann, no one seemed to know/care?!

Fun Trivia: The sequence involving Sue Ann noticing the porcelain cat statues had been moved, is a homage to a similar sequence in the 1990 film “Misery.”

My Rating: 3 and a half bottles of vodka that I got someone else to buy for me. Anyone giving out lifts to Ma’s tonight?

ma-2019-movie-alcohol-party

Always Be My Maybe (2019)

always-be-my-maybe-2019-netflixDirector: Nahnatchka Khan

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Runtime: 101 Minutes

Main Cast: Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Keanu Reeves, Susan Park, Daniel Dae Kim, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi

Plot: Sasha and Marcus have been the best of friends since they were kids, and their friendship soon blossomed into a relationship that ended badly. Years later, Sasha and Marcus meet again.

My Thoughts: Our little Keanu Reeves fan club on Twitter still haven’t recovered from John Wick: Chapter 3 and then BAM, Netflix goes and drops Always Be My Maybe and throws us completely off balance. We’ll come back to Keanu though, it wouldn’t be fair to make this post all about him. I have mixed feelings when I type this but, it’s so great that we’re getting more movies like this with a diverse cast. It really is wonderful, but at the same time, I wish it wasn’t so obvious that movies with a cast like this are so rare. It’s hard for me to put into words, really.

Anyway, I’ve always had a soft spot for romcoms and this one is no exception. There’s nothing new brought to the genre here and you can guess the entire story easily from the brief plot description, but when it’s done well it’s easy to forgive. Marcus is absolutely adorable, I loved his band – especially their song during the credits! Sasha is an incredibly powerful character, but probably a little too powerful for my liking, she was quite unlikeable in some scenes.

What is it about movies with chefs that make me so darn hungry? File this movie under ‘Don’t watch before dinner’ along with Chef (2014) and Burnt (2015). Always Be My Maybe isn’t going to be in many movie fan’s Top 10 at the end of the year but it’s on Netflix, easily available to most, and you can watch must worse on a Saturday night with a takeaway!

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Best Bit: KEANU REEVES. No honestly, hear me out. I know I’m biased right now. But his scene in the restaurant was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I had no idea he was actually playing himself, and I laughed till I cried. Can we have more Keanu roles where he wears thick glasses and acts like a complete douche bag? PLEASE, movie gods?!

But also – that song!
“Best believe I punched Keanu Reeves
And it was better than any scene
You could see in Speed
I hit John Wick
And now I’m feeling so appealing
Basically, I’m a god
You could call me Hercules”

Worst Bit: I liked the movie enough for the comedy but at times Sasha and Marcus’ relationship was hard to buy into. They’re both great in their own roles but the chemistry just isn’t there – I found myself not bothered whether they actually ended up together in the end or not.

Fun Trivia: Keanu Reeves filmed all his scenes in 4 days between shooting John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019). All of his scenes were filmed in San Francisco instead of Vancouver to accommodate his schedule.

My Rating: 3 pairs of thick-rimmed glasses, because Keanu Reeves, that’s why.

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