Movie Reviews

Fargo (1996) – Film & Wine Club

fargo-movie-review-1996-posterDirector: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Runtime: 98 Minutes

Main Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Kristin Rudrüd, Harve Presnell, Tony Denman, Steve Reevis, Larry Brandenburg

Plot: Jerry Lundegaard is in a lot of financial trouble and is running out of options. Asking his wealthy father in law is out of the question so he hires two henchmen to kidnap his wife, with the aim of targeting her father for a hefty ransom fee.

My Thoughts: Mine and my parents’ Film & Wine Club had to take an extended break thanks to a COVID-related false alarm and a holiday (not mine) but we’re back watching great movies, eating tasty snacks and drinking fine red wine. Last week was one of my picks, the classic crime-gone-wrong movie Fargo. I first watched it years ago just before the TV series started, but here’s something strange. I remember loving it, hence me picking it for the club but I went back to my old blog to find my review in case I’d written anything smart or funny I could shamelessly reuse (I hadn’t) and I only gave it a 7/10. I guess it grew on me with time!

Fargo is just such a crazy story, it’s really hard not to enjoy it. From the conception of this awful idea of Jerry’s to him trying to cancel the whole thing, to the string of bodies left in the wake, it’s a wild ride from start to finish. We have no idea whether to feel sorry for Jerry or to hate him, and then there’s Marge (Frances McDormand), my favourite cop ever, possibly. Anything you can do, Marge can do better. Whilst heavily pregnant.

It’s the dark humour that does it for me most of all. When else can you laugh about such tragic events and have it not feel strange to feel that way? Steve Buscemi plays the character that brings the most laughs, I think. Him forever bickering with his partner in crime who barely says a word, driving through a car park as fast as possible holding his wounded face that’s bleeding everywhere, and finally being far too greedy for his own good, he just plays a really interesting character! Definitely a movie you have to watch if you haven’t already.

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Best Bit: Let’s face it, is it possible to watch this movie without endearingly using the word ‘yah’ in excess afterwards? Because it wasn’t for us, and I just love the Minnesotan accent.

Worst Bit: It bugged me the first time, and it bugged me the second time too, I’m just not a fan of the dinner scene with Marge and Mike. I get that it served a purpose to show us how Marge thinks, but it’s the only scene that feels out of place in my opinion.

Fun Trivia: When Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi) character calls Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) for the deal to be done, he tells him, “Thirty minutes, and we’ll wrap this up.” From that moment, the film’s running time left is exactly 30 minutes.

My Rating: 4 and a half wood chippers, that you’d be surprised to learn can shred a lot more than wood…

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I should point out that I’m a little behind on my Film & Wine Club posts, we’ve already watched another of my picks, The Nice Guys (2016) AND picked the next movie out of the hat which also happened to be another of my picks! It was Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

Movie Reviews

Seabiscuit (2003) Film & Wine Club

seabiscuit-movie-review-poster-2003Director: Gary Ross

Genre: Drama, History, Sport

Runtime: 140 Minutes

Main Cast: Tobey Maguire, David McCullough, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Gary L. Stevens, Eddie Jones, William H. Macy, Chris McCarron

Plot: Based on a true story, Sseabiscuit was an undersized race horse who took the racing scene by storm during the Depression-era, right when people needed an underdog story the most.

My Thoughts: Welcome back to Film & Wine Club! We’ve each thrown another 3 movies into the hat and first pick is one of Dad’s – Seabiscuit. It’s safe to say my Mum wasn’t looking forward to it. Drama, history, horse race, Depression-era was enough for her, I think. But just like the entire of the USA back in that day, that small horse won us over. Tobey Maguire plays a to-tall jockey who can’t catch a break, Jeff Bridges plays a once-successful car maker trying to rebuild his life after the death of his son, and Chris Cooper is a loner with a natural talent for rearing horses. Together, they’re a dream team.

It’s your typical Oscar-bait movie really but movies about horses don’t have a wide appeal. That’s where the talent of the actors and the directing comes into play and I can honestly say I loved every minute of it. Clearly it’s a favourite of my Dad’s but I imagine he might have been regretting his choice when Mum and I asked “Is that Seabiscuit?” every time a horse came onto the screen. By the final two races even Mum was out of her seat shouting encouragement and that is honestly the best review I can give – it tells you all you need to know!

So here I am, doing something I never expected I would be doing, and I’m recommending you a movie almost two and half hours long about a horse. It’s just entertaining, and heart warming. Let’s hope Seabiscuit has built up enough karma for when it’s Dad’s next movie, eh? Well, the next movie out of the hat was one of mine, and it’s Fargo (1996). It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it but it’s always stuck with me so I hope my parents enjoy it too. Watch this space!

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Best Bit: Easy, it has to be the moment that Seabiscuit won the race against War Admiral. It was the perfect victory, especially after all the animosity caused by War Admiral’s owner’s refusal to even have the race in the first place.

Worst Bit: I was gutted when Red (Tobey Maguire) couldn’t ride Seabiscuit. Red lost his family so early in life and racing was all he had. There were no ‘bad’ moments in this movie for me, just a lot of sad ones! It was slow going until the trio got together though, and I feel like Elizabeth Banks was completely underused. Those are my only complaints.

Fun Trivia: The companions Seabiscuit is given to calm him down were actually used in real life. The stray dog was named Pocatell. The female horse, Pumpkin, would accompany him to all his races through out his racing career.

My Rating: 4 and a half horseshoes that got given away to all the press that turned up.

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Movie Reviews

Thelma & Louise (1991) – Film & Wine Club

thelma-and-louise-movie-review-1991-posterDirector: Ridley Scott

Genre: Adventure, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 130 Minutes

Main Cast: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brad Pitt, Timothy Carhart, Lucinda Jenney, Jason Beghe

Plot: Louise (Susan Sarandon) is working at a diner and is having problems with her boyfriend who is never home. Thelma (Geena Davis) is married to a guy who prefers his wife to be quiet in the kitchen so he can watch football on TV. One weekend, Thelma and Louise decide to jump in the car and hit the road to get away for a while, but their time away soon turns into them being on the run after Louise kills a man who was trying to rape Thelma.

My Thoughts: Here it is, the final movie in round 1 of our Film & Wine Club and what a movie to end on. I’ll cut right to the chase, I loved every minute of this (almost). But then again that shouldn’t be a surprise as this little club has unearthed the fact I have a soft spot for movies where two characters are on the run from the law. Thelma & Louise has it all, though. Strong, female characters, a dark twist, some humorous moments, and an exciting story. Thelma is easily my favourite character as we watch her transform from this ditsy, naïve girl to a confident woman you don’t want to get on the wrong side of.

One of Thelma’s biggest blunders happens shortly after Brad Pitt turns up (surprise, surprise, one of Mum’s movies stars Brad Pitt – something I have a feeling will happen again) and it’s something you slowly piece together after knowing that Thelma has all their cash and Brad Pitt confesses that he’s actually a pro thief. Just one of the many times I found myself saying ‘Thelma noooo!’ whilst watching the movie. She’s just so trusting!

What an ending, too. I was rooting for these girls the entire time and it eventually dawned on me that so was the lead detective in their case. Of course they’d committed crimes but they were justified, right?! This is the beauty of our club, introducing each other to movies we might not have watched or even heard of before. This is up there with my all-time favourite movies now. That’s not the end though, we’re now picking another 3 movies each to put into the hat ready to start again next week.

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Best Bit: I think the most iconic scene is when Thelma robs the little corner shop after learning exactly how Brad Pitt did it, but my favourite moment was when the police were working with Thelma’s husband with a tapped phone to try and work out their location. They told him that when she called he should speak calmly and friendly with her, and obviously, he’s such a jerk to her normally that when he did answer the phone like that, she immediately hung up!

Worst Bit: Now, I never thought I’d be writing about a sex scene involving Brad Pitt and his FINE 90’s body, but when you’re watching said sex scene with your parents? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a kid or a 31 year old woman, it’s still awkward!

Fun Trivia: The scene where Louise grabs Thelma’s headphones off her and scares her wasn’t planned. In the DVD’s audio commentary, Geena Davis commented that she was supposed to get up when Susan Sarandon called her from the car, but she had the volume on her Walkman up too high, and didn’t hear her cue, so Susan came over to get her.

My Rating: A full 5 out of 5 cars that you could park in the shadow of Brad Pitt’s ass, according to Thelma!

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Movie Reviews

Goodfellas (1990) – Film & Wine Club

goodfellas-movie-review-poster-1990Director: Martin Scorsese

Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 146 Minutes

Main Cast: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco, Paul Sorvino, Frank Sivero, Tony Darrow, Mike Starr, Frank Vincent, Chuck Low

Plot: The real-life story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his life in the mob, from when he was a child running errands to his downfall, covering his relationships with his wife Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco) and his mob partners Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci).

My Thoughts: Film & Wine Club had to take a short break but we’re back, and this time we watched my Dad’s third choice, Goodfellas (1990) – cue a groan from my Mum about the length of the movie even though two of her choices were over two hours too! Seriously, I’m the only one who followed the ‘less than two hours’ rule. I have to admit, I’m not a fan of gangster movies, and I don’t really know why. A few years ago I watched The Godfather (1972) for the first time and whilst I could appreciate it, I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it. I liked Goodfellas a whole lot better, though. It definitely feels like the more modern gangster movies I’ve seen were trying to recreate what this movie does.

At the heart of it, Goodfellas is all about the characters, and that’s what Ii enjoy the most about it. It was clear that Henry saw all of the good sides of the mob, the family aspect and all the perks it brought. He wasn’t fond of violence and tried to do the right thing, but clearly he was influenced too heavily by all the people around him. My lamest complaint about these kinds of movies is that they’re too long and they feel even longer, but I didn’t notice the time at all here, I was just fascinated.

Whilst Ii don’t think I’ve been converted to the genre (yet), I definitely feel like I’ve painted all gangster movies with the same brush, and I’ll be more open to watching more of them in the future. Tomorrow brings the final night in the first round of our little club, it’s Mum’s last pick and it’s Thelma & Louise (1991). I won’t point out to Mum that it’s over two hours long…she’ll find out herself! Then it’ll be time to pick another 3 movies each to put into the hat!

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Best Bit: This only made me laugh but in the scene at the restaurant where we first meet Tommy I spotted something. It’s when Henry and the others are laughing at Tommy’s story and I was just like ‘Hey! That’s a meme!’ I’ll hand in my critic hat at the door when I see myself out. It’s bad enough that I hadn’t seen the movie at all until now, isn’t it? Also, I know now that’s a real famous scene based on something that actually happened to Joe Pesci (thanks for the random trivia, oh husband of mine).

Worst Bit: Oh man, I was along for a fun ride up until Tommy started treating that guy serving drinks like absolute s**t and ended up killing him…that was cold, and I guess I woke up and realised that was going to be just the half of it!

Fun Trivia: Robert De Niro wanted to use real money for the scene where Jimmy hands out money, because he didn’t like the way fake money felt in his hands. The prop master gave De Niro $5,000 of his own money. At the end of each take, no one was allowed to leave the set until all the money was returned and counted.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 cloves of garlic that should always be sliced with a razor blade.

goodfellas-slicing-garlic

Movie Reviews

The Dressmaker (2015) – Film & Wine Club

the-dressmaker-movie-review-2015Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Runtime: 119 Minutes

Main Cast: Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Hugo Weaving, Julia Blake, Shane Bourne, Caroline Goodall, Hayley Magnus, Sarah Snook, Kerry Fox

Plot: After being sent away from her small hometown years ago, Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet) returns for revenge. Along the way she tries to reconcile with her mother and also find out what really happened on that fateful day, with the help of Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), who she falls in love with.

My Thoughts: This my third and final pick for mine and my parents’ Film & Wine Club, and I was really hoping I’d earnt their trust in picking good movies because this one was quite an ‘out there’ choice. If you’ve seen The Dressmaker before you know how bonkers it is, and if you haven’t, then you really should. There’s romance, there’s drama, there’s mystery, and it’s funny too. Just like how Fight Club isn’t about fighting, The Dressmaker isn’t about dress-making. We’re all riding the high from Mare of Easttown too so I was looking forward to it, although we did learn that my Dad has held a grudge against Kate Winslet ever since Titanic. He’s never forgiven her, apparently.

The characters are what makes this movie so great. From Tilly herself, arriving in the town dressed to the nines, with an “I’m back, you bastards”, to Hugo Weaving’s fashion-loving policeman, to the despicable townspeople – there isn’t a single one of them that just blends into the scenery, they all have great presence. There’s never a dull moment, either. With so many things going on, the time flies by. Just like Tilly, we want to find out what happened to that boy all those years ago. We also want to see the rest of their town get comeuppance, and for Tilly to finally find some happiness.

Where do I go from here? We’ve got two films left in the hat, the next one is my Dad’s last pick, Goodfellas (1990), and the final one is my Mum’s last pick, which she’s already forgotten so that’ll be a mystery to us all. It’s been so much fun though that we’re going to carry on, and so now I’m trying to decide what 3 movies to introduce them to next.

the-dressmaker-2015-kate-winslet-tilly-dunnage

Best Bit: Obviously the moment where Tilly finally remembers what happened when she was a child was great – but my absolute favourite bit is Tilly’s mum joining in on her date with Teddy. It’s just too funny. That, or any moment that Hugo Weaving is lusting over fabric. He’s definitely a scene stealer.

Worst Bit: *SPOILERS* I’ve only seen the movie once when it was first released, so I’d forgotten most of the smaller details and twists, but one thing I could never forget was poor Teddy in the silo. It was one of the most shocking moments in a lot of movies, because I really thought him and Tilly could be together and that would be the happy ending. It still had one of course, but Teddy!

Fun Trivia: Kate Winslet and Judy Davis had a hard time keeping a straight face while filming the scene where Liam Hemsworth strips off to get a measurement. (Didn’t we all!)

My Rating: Four and a half Singer sewing machines, the finest machines around.

the-dressmaker-movie-singer-sewing-machine