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Added by NMartucci on 1 Jan 2013 08:06
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Movies I Saw For the First Time in 2013

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December

People who added this item 107 Average listal rating (83 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.3
Grabbers (2012)
(Streaming - Netflix)
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People who added this item 248 Average listal rating (183 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 8.1
(Streaming - Netflix)
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People who added this item 64 Average listal rating (30 ratings) 5.7 IMDB Rating 5.3
Touchy Feely (2013)
(DVD - Netflix)
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People who added this item 1199 Average listal rating (805 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.3
(Theater)
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People who added this item 396 Average listal rating (246 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.1
(DVD - Netflix)
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People who added this item 1315 Average listal rating (877 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.3
(DVD - Redbox)
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People who added this item 263 Average listal rating (149 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 6.8
The East (2013)
(DVD - Redbox)
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(Streaming - Netflix)
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People who added this item 105 Average listal rating (55 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.6
(DVD - Redbox)
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People who added this item 102 Average listal rating (72 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8.1
(Streaming - Netflix)
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People who added this item 1660 Average listal rating (1170 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.5
(Theater)
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People who added this item 66 Average listal rating (59 ratings) 7.7 IMDB Rating 7.6
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People who added this item 1411 Average listal rating (874 ratings) 6.9 IMDB Rating 7.3
(DVD - Own)
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November

(DVD - Own)
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People who added this item 1692 Average listal rating (1057 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.5
(Theater)
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People who added this item 2547 Average listal rating (1718 ratings) 6.8 IMDB Rating 7.5
(DVD - Own)
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People who added this item 435 Average listal rating (285 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.4
(DVD - Redbox)
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People who added this item 239 Average listal rating (139 ratings) 5.4 IMDB Rating 5.8
(DVD - Redbox)
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People who added this item 1529 Average listal rating (970 ratings) 6.5 IMDB Rating 7
(Theater)
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People who added this item 130 Average listal rating (85 ratings) 5.4 IMDB Rating 6
Rock-A-Doodle (1991)
(Streaming - Netflix)
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(Streaming - Netflix)

"The Thief and the Cobbler" was director Richard Williams passion project. He spent 28 years trying to get the damn thing made, still the record for longest film production. To give you an idea of how long the project was in production, Vincent Prince, who costars as the antagonist, ZigZag, left the production after recording all his dialogue in 1972, 23 years before the film's ultimate US release, and when his costar, Matthew Broderick, was only 10 years old. This was also the same year that other costar, Toni Collette was born. Yes, this was a long, long journey. It makes it even more painful that when Miramax finally came along to release the film, they butchered it and left us with the cut that's widely available today.

The Miramax cut is a mashup of terrible ideas. Aside from the fact that animation styles and character designs change from scene to scene, a side effect of an almost 30 year production, they heavily re-cut the film, knocking out at least 20 minutes, added three songs, none of which particulary good, and one just outright bad and completely out of place, and added nonstop voice over narration for the titular character who were next to silent in Williams' original cut. It amounts to a 70 minute mess, a destruction of an artist's vision, and what looks like a cheap Aladdin knockoff despite being in production at least 20 years before its conception.

To me, the narration is what really throws this over the edge into terrible territory. Doing it to one character would have been bad enough, but two? Tack, the titular cobbler, speaks very few words. Originally, he was voiced by Sean Connery. Unfortunately, Miramax brought in Matthew Broderick to not only rerecord the line, but narrate the story and every single though, feeling, and desire the character may have. His voice doesn't work and there's far, far too much of it.

What's worse is what they did to "the thief". The thief, in the original cut, is completely silent. I don't know if they thought kids couldn't handle a silent character or if they just saw how successful Robin Williams' Genie character was and thought they could have their own character like that if they just brought in a comedian of their own, though both facts probably contributed. They brought in veteran comedian (and Robin Williams' former onscreen son) Jonathan Winters to provide a running commentary of cheap jokes, meta jokes, and anachronistic references over the thief's scenes that is far more painful and baffling than funny. Sure, I may have chuckled once or twice, but that's just because I'm convinced Winters had no script and just talked while watching the movie. It feels less voice over narration and more Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff.

I would love to see Williams' original cut. There's certainly a lot to work with here and I'm sure his vision was better than the final production. Some of the art design is totally intriguing and a bit avant garde. I also really like the character design of Tack, who reminds me a bit of a rag doll. I would also love to hear the original score that they trashed in favor of something completely unmemorable and uninspired. I know bootleg editions of his workprint exist and I may have to explore further. Unfortunately what Miramax released not only is terrible, but a big fuck you to Richard Williams and what he spent nearly three decades of his life working on. It's more than not being able to recommend the film. I can't endorse a single aspect of it. A ruined work of art.
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People who added this item 1774 Average listal rating (1218 ratings) 7.4 IMDB Rating 7.8
Gravity (2013)
(Theater - 3D)

Space. The final frontier for visually stunning movies with frustratingly weak scripts. Like Avatar and Prometheus before it, Gravity's effects are not quite enough to make up for a not so great movie. Although it's easily the best of the three I've listed, it still has a few too many hard to forgive moments. It's really is just so frustrating. All I want is a visionary director to get together with someone who knows how to tell a solid story, to flesh out characters, and to write interesting dialogue. None of that exists here, and while early on, I was willing to forgive it its sins, it just became a bit too much for me after a while.

No doubt, Gravity starts off as one of the most visually amazing, totally enthralling, memorizing, edge of your seat movies I've seen this year. About 30 minutes in, I had downgraded it to stunning to look at, but the equivalent of an above average collection of video game cuts scenes. By the hour mark, possibly even before, however, it had become a real clock-watcher. It just drags far more than a 90 minute film should. They just didn't have enough interesting content to justify this being anything more than a spectacular short film. I found myself just begging for the end.

It's a shame, because given a stronger script with a more emotionally realized character, Sandra Bullock may very well have delivered an Oscar-worthy performance here. While I've never considered her the strongest actor, she does the best she can with what she's given, but ultimately, going back to Prometheus, she falls in the same trap as Noomi Rapace there. Sure, she plays the character well, but the character just isn't interesting and ultimately forgettable.

On the other hand, George Clooney absolutely shouldn't be in this film. Don't get me wrong. I love Clooney. If I have have to go through a personal crisis in my life, I pray that Clooney will be the one to talk me through it. He's just not right here. He's just Clooney in a spacesuit. He's as much an astronaut as Barbie is an astronaut. After a while, I just hated his character, especially after one scene in particular that I won't discuss here but will say it almost made me completely give up on this film.

"Gravity" is a ride. Nothing more. If you're going to see it, you absolutely have to catch it in a 3D theater while it's still around. Once it's on your TV screen, or, God forbid, your computer or smartphone, it will fall apart completely. After saying all that, you may be thinking that I'm rating the movie a bit too high. It's just those effects. They are easily some of the best visual effect I have ever scene in a film. If Gravity doesn't win the Oscar for Visual Effects, it will be a travesty. If it wins an award for anything else, it may also be a travesty. If you're going to see it, see it now, or don't bother at all.
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People who added this item 247 Average listal rating (165 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.4
Delivery Man (2013)
(Theater - Advanced Screening)

"Delivery Man" is the American remake of the 2011 French Canadian film, "Starbuck", a film that I recently reviewed and really enjoyed. You can check out that review below. I really won't go in to discussing too much about this movie, because most of what I said in that review, I echo with this one. Maybe it's a bit unnecessary, but as far as remakes go, it retains it's charm, it's sense of humor, it's heart, and it's likability. It felt like I was watching basically the same movie as it follows the original almost beat for beat, but dammit, I still really enjoyed it.

Ken Scott, the writer and the director of the original, returns for this film. Vince Vaughn takes over the lead role of David Wozniak. This may be the most I've liked Vaughn in a long time. He's downplayed, sweet, and just so likable despite being such a screw up. It just goes to show what a good role it is for the right actor. The supporting cast, including Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, and Bobby Moynihan also do a great job here. It was a great casting decision to go with mostly TV performers rather than movie stars aside from Vaughn. It leads to a really mellow balance.

"Delivery Man", to its credit, isn't a bawdier, broader comedy than "Starbuck". Instead, it actually has the same low key, quiet feel as the original. There really isn't much changed here, and yet, that doesn't feel like a flaw. I will try not to be cynical with this review, because I think I owe that to these films, both breaths of fresh air comedies that lack any sort of cynicism. I won't be one to complain that they made the same movie again or ask why Americans just can't watch a foreign language film. The fact is, this is just another go at an extremely likable and enjoyable movie. If "Starbuck" is the Broadway production, "Delivery Man" is a really good touring production. It may not be quite as good as the original, but both are worth viewing. I'd gladly sit and watch either film again.
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People who added this item 64 Average listal rating (43 ratings) 7.1 IMDB Rating 7.3
Starbuck (2011)
(Streaming - Netflix)

"Starbuck" could easily have been just a run of the mill "man-child grows up" movie, but it's elevated by its charm, its tremendous heart, and the fact that it is very, very funny. "Starbuck" centers around a middle age slacker who finds out that, thanks to his many sperm donations a couple of decades earlier and a little mishandling, he is the father of 533 children, 142 of whom have filed a class action lawsuit to learn his identity. Despite the premise, there's an undeniable sweetness here that's just designed to make you feel good, and it works.

This movie hinges on its lead, and Patrick Huard is so undeniably likable, that you can't help but root for him. This character could easily have gone the other way, as many man-child characters do. But there's just a natural charm to him that you forgive him of his shortcoming and his mistakes. Huard handles both the comedy and the real serious moments of this film perfectly. He's a sympathetic goofball, and he's able to get away with his all his faults and still come out the hero.

This film was originally released in its native Quebec back in 2011 but didn't get a US release until this year, which means mere months separate it from the upcoming US remake, "Delivery Man", with Vince Vaughn taking over the lead role. I honestly can't imagine Vaughn with the same heart and likability that Huard has, but we shall see. It's also worth noting that writer/director Ken Scott is returning for the remake, so it may be interesting to see how he translates the film for an American audience. Until then, "Starbuck" is absolutely worth checking out. It's just a totally solid, feel good movie.
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People who added this item 1421 Average listal rating (915 ratings) 8 IMDB Rating 8.1
(Theater)

"12 Years a Slave" is the kind of movie that just refuses to hold back. It's harrowing, extremely difficult to watch at times, and, well, less an emotional roller coaster as much as an emotional free fall. It offers no levity. It puts you right in there and forces you to watch. There are moments when you're pleading for the camera to look away, but director Steve McQueen refuses your pleas and leaves the camera on situations far past the point of any sort of comfort whatsoever.

That being said, it's a damn fine film. McQueen direction is brutal and beautiful at the same time. The movie lover in me couldn't stop noticing how spectacular the cinematography was while my most basic human empathy was being delivered gut punch after gut punch. It's real, raw, and only undone a couple of times by Hans Zimmer's in your face score. It's not enough, though, to fault it in the least.

Chiwetel Ejiofor delivers an award-worthy performance here as the real life figure, Solomon Northup, a free black man living in New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. He is emotionally naked on screen, bearing his soul, becoming one of the most heartbreaking and sympathetic characters on screen this year, made even more distressing by the fact that this all really happened.

Also probably going to hear his name thrown around during award season is Michael Fassbender. As the slave owner, Edwin Epps, he is ruthless, menacing, buffoonish, and downright brutal as he chews his way through every bit of scenery in the best possible way. By his side is Sarah Paulson, playing his wife in a thankless role. She may be even colder and eviler than he is, and plays it with perfect quite poise.

A brilliant discovery here is Lupita Nyong'o in her feature film debut as fellow slave, Patsey. If she's not up for Support Actress, I'll be shocked. If it were up to me, I'd give her the award myself. She is absolutely amazing here in ways that shouldn't be described but only seen. Her strength and command of the screen steals your focus and leaves you drawn to her.

This film is filled with quick roles from a lot of great actors that I really love including Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, and Michael K. Williams, among others. They each make the most of their brief moments on screen and make them memorable. The only outlier here is Brad Pitt, who also served as one of the film's producer's. His recycled "Inglourious Basterds" accent feels even more out of place here, and his character seems to exist only to make the point that, "See? Not all white people are bad." He's just distracting here from and otherwise incredibly strong film.


"12 Years a Slave" isn't the kind of film you enjoy. You sit there, marvel at its skill, and have the horror's of our nation's past flashed in front of you in brutal detail. While it may not be the easiest film to get through, it's worth the work. This is a film you're going to be hearing a lot about come award season, and it'll deserve the recognition.
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People who added this item 40 Average listal rating (32 ratings) 4.7 IMDB Rating 4.2
(DVD - Own)

In 1981, it was decided that something must be done about the Dungeons & Dragons epidemic that was ruining this nations youth. A cautionary tale had to be told about how roleplaying could tare your life apart. With that, Rona Jaffe wrote a tale based on inaccurate newspaper stories and misinformation regarding the disappearance of a college student in 1979. She wrote this novel in a matter of days out of fear that someone else would tell the story before her.

A year later, her novel "Mazes and Monsters", a title I'm sure she spent many working hours coming up with, was adapted as a made-for-TV movie for CBS. This ridiculous movie may have been lost and forgotten about forever, had they not decided to cast a young Tom Hanks, circa his Bosom Buddies days, in his first leading film role. With that, "Mazes and Monsters" earns its footnote in film history.

The movie itself is a poorly made, melodramatic, overblown cautionary tale centered around Hank's character, Robbie, as schizophrenic with a love for roleplaying who starts to lose touch with what's real and what's a game. You know, your average roleplayer. He disappears from college one night, and his friends have to set out on a journey to find him using their game knowledge while, at the same time, denying any involvement in this dangerous game of Mazes and Monsters to the authorities on the case.

I will admit, while I certainly can't get behind its premise, and I'm glad roleplaying paranoia has gone away for the most part, there is enjoyment in this movie. It's so overdone, is does fall into camp and moments of unintentional humor. It's just so long and its message so wrong. It may be worth watching for roleplayers to pick apart and bask in its fear-mongering, or for people that just want to see a pre-Splash and Bachelor Part Hanks. Though I was opposed to the film both as a roleplayer and a lover of good film, I can't say I didn't have any fun.

Just remember that "we are all friends in this world". If you forget, don't worry. Its theme song will repeat over and over again.
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People who added this item 318 Average listal rating (186 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 8.1
(DVD - Own)

What "The Thin Man" has going for it is its main characters, Nick and Nora, played wonderfully by William Powell and Myrna Loy. They are fun, charming, smart, and purely entertaining. Unfortunately, they are surrounded by a lackluster story focused on a run of the mill murder mystery and a cast of not particularly interesting characters. When they're not on screen, or even, at times, only on screen by themselves, the film stalls, and it takes a while for it to pick back up.

Coming into a Nick and Nora movie for the first time, I really just wanted more of the couple. They certainly work well together, and under other circumstances, I'm sure they could create something really engaging. Unfortunately, all I got here was a few bits of fun banter and some characters I wish I could spend more time with muddled by a lack of a compelling story and really anything I cared much about in their absence. I would be more than willing to check out one of the many sequels, though, if I was told there's a good story to be told.
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October

People who added this item 3890 Average listal rating (2503 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 8
(Theater)

Full disclosure: I viewed the Director's Cut and can only review the film based on that.

"The Exorcist" is a problematic and, at times, almost frustrating movie. It is full of overlong, drawn out scenes that do nothing to move the plot further and instead completely slow down the momentum. Roughly two full reels go by before anything really interesting happens, and when it does, it's interrupted not long after by misguided attempts to set up tone, themes, and backstory, all of which, while not completely unnecessary, fail to really connect the film together.

There's no denying that this is Linda Blair's movie, though. Just about every scene she's in is a masterpiece, and if that was all I was watching, this may very well be a five star movie. Between her performance, Mercedes McCambridge's voice, Dick Smith's makeup, and the, yes, torturing special effects, the scenes of Regan's possession and exorcism are inventive, unnerving, disturbing, and downright chilling.

The problem is how much more of this movie exists outside of those scenes. The fact that those scenes exist actually make everything else seem more boring and inconsequential than they may actually be. They're just downright week compared to any scene Blair's in. When she's gone, I find myself losing interest quickly.

One of my biggest problems with this film is just how much time is dedicated to setting up the backstory of Father Karras, the young, modern priest who's having doubts about his faith and considering leaving the profession. In fact, that's about all the backstory you need. It could have been handled in a scene or two at the most. Instead, what feels like nearly 20 minutes, give or take, (I can't say for sure; I wasn't timing) is devoted to building his story, one that's not very interesting in the first place. Once he is brought into Regan's story, I actually like his character and can feel for him, but he's just too much of a focus in the first half of the film.

Another problem is just how many plot holes and story lines that seem to go nowhere there are. So much is left unexplained. I understand what was trying to be accomplished with these scenes, attempts to set up the tone and themes of the film, to create the presence of evil, to juxtapose the young, modern priest with the older priest who has already come face to face with evil in the past, but they are just misguided and never seem to quite fit into the plot to create a coherent story.

I have a hard time rating this film. On one hand, there's just so much here that you just don't need, so much that isn't done well, so much that could be cut. However, within the mess of jumbled scenes lies 60-70 minutes of one of the greatest horror films ever made, totally deserving of it's icon status. If you can sift through it, there is absolute gold to be found, but it's a lot of sifting, a lot of work that just feel unnecessary.

One can only imagine how different this movie could have been if any of the rumors behind this film happened. What if Kubrick was allowed to get his hands on this? What if Audrey Hepburn was cast as Chris MacNeil rather than the at times totally over the top, over-dramatic Ellen Burstyn? What if Father Karras was played by a young Nicholson or Pacino? Who knows? Maybe the film would have been better. Then again, we may not have gotten the greatness that does shine through. It's enough to make this film worth watching, but not enough to make it one of my favorites.
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People who added this item 6156 Average listal rating (4087 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.4
(Blu-Ray - Own)

Let's just say, "The Shining" is a masterful film. Everything from the writing, the characters, the direction, the cinematography, the screeching score, the performances. It's all top notch. Even at 2 1/2 hours, the film flies by, remaining engaging and thrilling throughout. There's hardly a wasted shot in the movie.

Jack Nicholson delivers one of the greatest performances in years as Jack Torrance. Not many can thrive in madness quite like Nicholson. Shelley Duvall plays the victim perfectly, holding her own even as she completely loses it; she never stops fighting. And I'd put Danny Lloyd's performance up there as one of the all time great child performances. He real without ever seeming to precocious or too adult like some child actors. The way he switches between Danny and Tony, the boy who lives in his mouth, is truly fantastic and so unsettling.

As great as this film is on the first go around, I know there's so many subtleties I missed, and I can't wait to rewatch and experience it all again. Just an all around wonderful film.
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People who added this item 1877 Average listal rating (1190 ratings) 7 IMDB Rating 7.4
(DVD - Netflix)

I should start off by saying "Poltergeist" is definitely a well-made movie. The special effects alone are amazing. The cast is great. I think Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams are great as the Freeling parents. Zelda Rubinstein own every scene she's in as Tangina, the medium. Even the kids, Oliver Robins, Dominique Dunne, and, of course, Heather O'Rourke do fine jobs with their terror. I just feel that, unfortunately, much of "Poltergeist" just doesn't really hold up.

I don't know if it's more a case of age or reputation, but I just found there to be something missing here. The pacing feels off, throwing in long scenes that don't seem to really connect with the rest of the film. There's also attempts at humor that seem misplaced and sometimes a little too slapsticky. It just doesn't feel completely solid as a film.

That being said, despite the overdrawn buildup, there are moments of sheer terror here, and they work. Sure, the tone's not always consistent, but when it hits, it hits hard. The last 20 minutes or so of this film are so intense that they make up for the meandering journey. I can't say I loved all of this film, but there's enough in here to make me glad I saw it and to understand the impact it's had on so many people. I just wish I found it as creepy as I do the so-called real life "Poltergeist curse". I guess I almost find the behind the scenes more interesting that the movie itself.
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People who added this item 298 Average listal rating (220 ratings) 5.9 IMDB Rating 6.5
(Theater)

First of all, if you hate Jackass, you can just stop reading this review. I'm not going to say anything to convince you otherwise, and you're probably not going like it anyway. It's a very specific kind of humor, but one that is almost cathartic for me. These movies always get laughs from deep inside of me, laughs that I don't usually get in most other contexts.

Unlike the previous Jackass movies, "Bad Grandpa" follows the format of a film like "Borat", inter-cutting hidden camera pranks with an overall fiction narrative. I may be going out on a limb here, but I enjoyed this more than any of Sacha Baron Cohen's movies from a strictly narrative standpoint.

On top of the over the top gags and shock humor, "Bad Grandpa" has something that I did not expect at all: a heart. There's a sweetness here that holds the film together and puts it into a level that's not just a collection of gags, it's a solid story. They didn't need to do that, but it worked for me and I'm glad it did.

I may have not gotten the tear-inducing laughs that I got from the previous films, but that being said, I did have some hard belly laughs. I actually really like Johnny Knoxville's Irving character, a character that he's been doing for years in the movies and TV show. He's over the top, crude, disgusting, and yet, somewhat endearing. I also really enjoyed the chemistry he had with Jackson Nicoll, the actor who plays his grandson. Nicoll is a natural and fits right in.

I always welcome the Jackass movies. They always hit me harder than most other comedies out there. Bad Grandpa may not be the funniest of them, but it is a great, accessible entry point if you've never seen what the Jackass guys do. Solid laughs and a surprisingly good story overall.
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People who added this item 1100 Average listal rating (756 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.6
(Blu-Ray - Own)

After years living in self-parody, it's easy to forget just how effective the original "Child's Play" is. Despite a goofy premise, it is legitimately creepy, unsettling, and a lot of fun. The Chucky effects are so well done, I'll admit, I could feel the threat, despite it being, as many people have said, "just a doll".

It's all shot in such a way, Chucky's threat is felt long before Brad Dourif's voice leaves the doll's lips. Of course, once that happens, Chucky goes from just being a boogeyman to a truly iconic character. Sure, he's only actually on screen for a few minutes, but even on voice alone, Dourif brings so much to the table here and is exactly what this film needs.

The one this that keeps this from a higher ranking for me is Chris Sarandan. As Detective Mike Norris, he delivers some truly stilted line reading. Also, just the way that he almost seems to be playing the character as a 1940s gumshoe just feels so out of place here. In a movie about a killer doll, he's the least believable part. Hell, even 6/7 year-old Alex Vincent, who may not be the best child actor, is more convincing than Sarandan.

The fact that I can become so invested in a story about a killer doll says a lot about the film's merit. I can't speak for the later films that ditched the horror for comedy, but at least this first film is just about everything I would want from this kind of story. A few jumps, some breath-holding, a memorable villain, and an entertaining story. After 25 years, it still holds up as just an enjoyable supernatural horror story.
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People who added this item 706 Average listal rating (488 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 6.2
Mama (2013)
(DVD - Redbox)

"Mama" is a heart-warming tale of a young, carefree musician who is forced to grow up when she has to become a mother-figure for her boyfriend's two orphaned nieces. Oh, and also the girls have a weird relationship with an over-protective ghost.

"Mama" toes the line between legitimately creepy and just plain goofy. Despite the script's clunkiness and a few too many cartoony effects, it does build up an interesting atmosphere. It's not the most successful ghost story ever told, but as a popcorn movie that's fairly accessible, it's not a bad Halloween choice.

It's virtually gore-free, opting more for jump scares and general uneasiness. If you don't take it too seriously, it's an interesting ride. It's not overly scary by any mean, but it threw a few things in there I didn't see coming and mostly held my interest, so credit where credit is due. As far as PG-13 horror goes, it's creepy enough, and one the whole family, save for the real little ones, can sit down and enjoy. It doesn't break any new ground, but it's a solid enough rental.
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(Blu-Ray - Other)

I'm sure "Trick 'r Treat" is for somebody. I'm just not that person. I understand what it was trying to doing, but I just can't say there was much here I enjoyed. It just seemed unpleasant, disjointed, and just overall weak as both a horror film and a comedy. There's just wasn't really much here for me as far as scares or laughs.

"Trick 'r Treat" is a horror-comedy anthology. It tries to have an overarching theme and some interconnecting stories, but all connections just seemed incidental. Naturally, there are some weaker entries and some stronger ones, but as a whole, it just didn't work for me.

I just can't say I cared at all about the storyline involving the group of girls including Anna Paquin or the one about the group of kids. There's one in here featuring Dylan Baker that's ok, but I feel like a lot of the tension came from me just seeing his character in "Happiness". It's somewhat creepy, but uningnorably flawed.

I found the most entertaining story in here to be one that doesn't begin until the film is almost over. It features Brian Cox, an actor who, as usual, brings his A-game, despite a weak script. It does end the film on a high note, but I would have rather just watched it as a standalone piece.

Overall, the tone hear is just all over the place. The connecting theme seems to just be "the Halloween spirit" just seems weak. I just wanted something funnier, scarier, or, at the very least, more interesting. Sure, the moments of tension and a few chuckles, but it's just not a very strong entry in any of the genres it's trying to fit into.
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People who added this item 1074 Average listal rating (675 ratings) 7.5 IMDB Rating 7.5
(DVD - Netflix)

Peter Jackson's "Dead Alive" is as splattery as splatter films get. It's a live action cartoon drenched in gallons and gallons of blood. It's hits insanity so early on, that it can only hold onto its momentum for so long. After a while, despite the fact that it is funny and is inventive, I became desensitized to it all. It became a little one-note after awhile. Yes, you're dismembering bodies in every way possible, but is that it?

It's tone is in the vain of films like the Evil Dead series and Re-Animator. Unfortunately, unlike those films, there's no character here that's really all that interesting. No one you can really hold on to through the journey. The acting just isn't that great and the character are weak. Without anyone here you really care about, all you're left with is over the top gore and slapstick humor. It's fun for a while, but it just gets played out.

This movie is really low budget, and it feels it. It makes no attempt to ever base itself in reality. However, in spite of itself, it does manage some real spots of originality. There are things in this movie I've never seen before and have stuck with me in a good way. I give Jackson credit for doing as much as he does here with so little, but it just doesn't have enough to make the journey worth it. I'd much rather seen a series of say 10 minute ideas than watch it all stretched out to 90 minutes. There's entertainment to be found, but it just feels like a long, drawn out journey.
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People who added this item 982 Average listal rating (566 ratings) 7.9 IMDB Rating 7.9
(DVD - Own)

The fact that "Freaks" is still regarded as a horror film is kind of disgusting if you ask me. Sure, I won't argue that where it ends up isn't a little horrifying, but I can't say it wasn't the least bit deserved. At its core, "Freaks" is a touching human drama. It's equal parts charming and heartbreaking.

Director Tod Browning delivers such a sophisticated piece of filmmaking here. He does such an excellent job humanizing the "freaks", showing them as these gentile, charming, likable, and, to me at least, relatable folk. At the same time, the way he shines a light on the so called "normal" performances as these disgusting, heartless, truly awful people was brave for the time and is one of the big reasons this film was banned in the first place.

I'd like to think that we as a society have evolved to really appreciate what he is doing with this film, but I know there are still those out there who would look down on the freaks. I guess I've always related much more to the freaks, so this film certainly touched me on a personal level. I was right there with them throughout just about all of this. Even when they took things to an extreme, I can't say I was against them.

Browning cast real life sideshow freaks for this film, and as such, they may not be the greatest actors, but you forgive them because they do add a level of authenticity and heart that you couldn't get without them. Also, a lot of credit goes to Olga Baclanova, who, as the conniving, despicable Cleopatra, plays her antagonistic role so perfectly.

Finally, after seeing the "One of us" seen in context, it may be one of the most heartbreaking scenes I've seen in a long time, and it's going to stick with me. Really, this is just such a well done film all around and one that I would absolutely recommend, especially if you've ever felt like an outcast.
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(DVD - Netflix)

I'm going to try to keep this short, because it's ridiculous that it's take me this long to see this movie, and my opinions mean virtually nothing here. Everything about this movie is iconic: the man, the outfit, the score, the boulder, the Nazi face melting. Even though I had never seen it before, I felt as though I had because it's so ingrained on pop culture.

And you know what, I enjoyed it. Of course I did. It's a solid, fun adventure. Harrison Ford is great. Karren Allen is great. I can't say that it won me over completely. I don't see it entering in my top 20 or even 50 films of all time anytime soon. It's a bit over long and drags its feet toward the end. But really, those aren't major criticisms. They just might be enough for me personally to push the film down a peg or two.

It's fun. It's funny. It's thrilling. It's iconic. What more can I or should I say? It's Raiders of the Lost Ark.
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(Theater - Marathon)

Some movies create their own world with their own rules, throw you right in, explain nothing, and are unapologetic about it. Not every one of those movies can do it as successfully and be as fun as "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension". From the opening crawl, you know you'd better get on board quickly or miss it completely. I jumped on, and sure, it was a bumpy ride, but oh what a ride it was.

Peter Weller stars as the half American, half Japanese, neurosurgeon/adventurer/secret agent/rock star/comic book hero, Buckaroo Banzai that easily could have been offensive had it not been so completely insane. Weller is just so 80s cool here that you can't help but love him. I wouldn't want to see anyone else in the role.

The cast also features so many people I love that wasn't quite sure I could handle it all. You got Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Ellen Barkin, Vincent Schiavelli, Clancy Brown, Dan Hedaya, and best of all, John Lithgow. To describe what Lithgow is doing here would take away from it. He is absolutely insane and commits 100%. He's a unstoppable force.

That's where this film works. Everyone is far more committed than they needed to be and it shows. While this could easily been tedious and just too much (I'm looking at you Howard the Duck), it never once steps back and gives you a chance to really think about what you're watching. It's a visceral experience. It throws so much at the wall. Some of it sticks, some come crashing to the floor, but what a wonderfully mess it creates. It's not for everyone, but if you're willing to go along with it, you can't help but have a good time.

Now, it's not too late to make "Buckaroo Banzai vs. The World Crime League", is it? Can we get that Kickstarter going?
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People who added this item 370 Average listal rating (262 ratings) 6.7 IMDB Rating 7
(Theater - Marathon)

I have to say, it surprised the hell out of me how much I just loved this movie. It has everything I want and have come to expect from Michael Crichton: solid action, tense, thrilling moments, a great sense of fun and humor, and a sci-fi aspect that eventually malfunctions leading to dire consequences. It's just a great time from beginning to end.

This is such a well cast movie. James Brolin is effortlessly charming, always fun, and a natural cowboy. Yul Brynner plays the emotionless, unstoppable killing machine so well that this might actually out Terminator the first Terminator for me. The real surprise here for me is Richard Benjamin, an actor I've seen very little from, as Peter. He is perfect here as the naive sadsack turned hero. His transformation is completely believable, and he manages to stay a relatable presence from beginning to end.

There are points when the film gets bogged down by the science behind it, but despite that, it manages to stay interesting, thrilling, and really fun throughout. Much like another Crichton work, "Jurassic Park", it presents you with an idea, convinces you how fun and amazing it would be, and then shatters all of that when everything goes wrong. While maybe not as good as "Jurassic Park", it's still a great ride and immensely enjoyable.
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(Theater - Marathon)

First off, "Planet of the Apes" is a great looking movie. The cinematography, the sets, and especially the makeup is all fantastic. It also manages to stay mostly tense, fun, and thought-provoking. It's only hindered by its slow pace and by the fact that it's message comes on far too strong. It's not exactly the most subtle film, but when it works, it really works.

Charlton Heston is perfect here Taylor, the stranded astronaut. He is the epitome of manly, cocky and self-assure when the role calls for it, and surprisingly vulnerable at time. Of course, it wasn't always easy to separate the character from the actor. One exchange in particular, I like to imagine wasn't written and was just Heston being Heston:

TAYLOR: Do you have any weapons, any guns?
CORNELIUS: The best, but we won't need them.
TAYLOR: I'm glad to hear it. I want one anyway.

Also worth noting are Kim Hunter as ZIra and Maurice Evans as Dr. Zaius. As Zira, Hunter manages to portray such a sweetness and believability underneath her makeup. And as Zaius, Evans is legitimately threatening, well spoken and dangerous. He is everything Zaius needs to be.

"Planet of the Apes" wears its themes on its sleeve, for better or worse, and makes no apologies. A bit overbearing at times, it still manages to be a solid piece of science-fiction and an overall fun watch.

One last thing. There as some lines that stick in the public zeitgeist just because they're cool lines, even if they don't really add much in the context of the film they're taken from. But, to finally see the "damned dirty apes" line in context, I can say it's amazing how perfectly satisfying and well placed it is.
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People who added this item 36 Average listal rating (18 ratings) 5.9 IMDB Rating 0
(Theater - Marathon)

"Dr. Cyclops" is a mostly forgotten sci-fi horror film, and it's probably best if it stays that way. It manages to be really bad in just about every way without having the decency to be any fun in the process. It really features no one of not, neither in the cast nor the crew. It's a weak script played out by weak actors. The story really goes nowhere. Somehow, at only 77 minutes, it still manages to drag, remaining mostly uninteresting throughout.

This film did manage to garner one Academy Award nomination for special effects. I will say, at times, the effects did work, especially for the time, aside from some major unexplained inconsistencies. But effects alone are not enough to carry this film. There's just nothing about it that's worth seeking it out. Besides, it's barely a footnote in film history.
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(Theater - Marathon)

A disappointing entry both for Universal and director James Whale. I grew up with the Universal monster movies, and "The Invisible Man" was one that got away from me. Whale's "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" are not only two of my favorite of the group, but among my favorite films of all time. Perhaps my expectations were a bit too high.

On the plus side, you do have Claude Rains starring here who plays mad so well. He's easily the most engaging actor in the film, and he's almost never on screen. Also bringing this film up a bit is the great for their time special effects. While I was highly impressed throughout, they also ended up taking me out of the film a few times as I tried to figure out how they pulled some of them off. It's well-directed if nothing else.

Unfortunately, it's just not a very strong script. Surprising to me, it seems to opt for laughs over thrills a large portion of the time. While there are a few fun gags, it just took away from what could have been a really interesting and thrilling story of a man going mad. Also, Rains is surrounded by underwritten characters played by subpar actors. The whole film just left me wanting more, and not in a good way.
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(Theater - Marathon)

Considered to be the first horror film, nearly 100 years after its original release, "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" still holds up. It's gloriously macabre and has a look that still seems unique. I really couldn't get over the production design on this film. Everything is perfectly off, freakish and unsettling. At times, it felt as if your were peering into a peephole at a freakshow that you weren't suppose to be viewing.

Werner Krauss stars as the titular Caligari who is marvelous here. He's legitimately threatening and certifiably insane. It's a joy to watch him take control and refuse to let it go. Also worth noting is Conrad Veidt, an actor that I've come to love over the last year. As Caligari's somnambulist, Cesare, he steals every scene he's in. You can't take your eyes off of him. Together, they are nothing short of chilling.

Sure, this film amounts to a much better journey than destination. It sort of works itself into a corner and ends in a less than satisfying way, but before that, it throws so much at you. I really loved just getting lost here. More than just an important piece of film history, "Caligari" is a solid film who's influence can still be seen today.
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People who added this item 72 Average listal rating (42 ratings) 5 IMDB Rating 4.8
Black Rock (2012)
(DVD - Redbox)

Only slightly above your standard "women being chased in a forest" fair. It's helped by it's three strong leads, Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth, and Katie Aselton, who also directed the film. This is her sophomore effort following her 2010 debut, "The Freebie", another film I appreciated, but was still luke warm on. The script is written by her husband, Mark Duplass, and I don't know if it's one of his strongest stories, but it manages to at least throw in some tense moments.

I do appreciate that this film focuses more on a psychological thriller angle rather than gruesome torture like so many others of the genre. The characters were strong, though a little inconsistent at times, more so with the villains of the film, without giving anything away. Sure, it gets violent, bloody, and uncomfortable, but never does seem to cross the line. Like many of its kind, it takes a while getting in, but it tries taking its to develop its characters, and credit to the actors, script, and direct, it does manage to stay mostly engaging, though it skirt the line of tediousness.

Overall, though, the film, by nature, is mostly unpleasant and throws a bit too many unrealistic moments at you to be fully engaging. Still, I do like Aselton as a filmmaker and an actress even if I don't love her films. I'm still interested in seeing how she evolves. This one is more for fans of the genre, though depending on expectation, may not be enough to keep them interested. Don't get me wrong. It's certainly not a bad film and may be better than much of the schlock in its league. It's just not anything really you haven't seen before.
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People who added this item 2875 Average listal rating (1741 ratings) 8.2 IMDB Rating 8.4
(DVD - Own)

I don't know how much there is for me to say about "Princess Mononoke". It's exactly what I've come to expect from a Hayao Miyazaki film. It's visually stunning and emotionally resonant. The characters are strong, smart, and independent, and the story is thoroughly engaging despite it's slightly bloated run time. It's an eco-themed fairy tale for adults and, while it's message does seem a bit heavy handed at times, it delivers a solid adventure.

A big strength here is the characters who relentlessly fight for what they believe is right despite moral ambiguity. The conflict is not black and white and both sides have their share of sympathetic ideals while at the same time making decisions you don't always agree with. If there is a flaw, it's that almost every character seems a bit too in control, too cold, and too calculating. Their passions never seem to escape their stone demeanor. Still, they're interesting to watch.

It's a fun, exciting, and sometimes unsettling watch with a truly beautiful look and a fantastic score from Joe Hisaishi who is a frequent collaborator of Miyazaki's. Personally, there's just a small, little bit of heart missing for me to really push it forward into a film I absolutely love, but it's thoroughly solid and just about everything you could want out of a Miyazaki film.

I also should note that I watched the dubbed version and need to go back and watched the subbed. While the adaption, written by Neil Gaiman, is not bad, it does feel a bit stilted and oversimplified, and the English voice actors don't always work, but that may be more of a problem I have with dubbing and thus can't really hold it against the film itself. Certainly not the worst case of dubbing, but surely something gets lost in translation.
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People who added this item 1061 Average listal rating (667 ratings) 6.1 IMDB Rating 6.6
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
(Streaming - Other)

You can't fault "Kick-Ass 2" for trying, but it never manages to feel as fresh as the original. Everything seems toned down for the sequel. The jokes aren't as funny. The violence doesn't hit as hard, feeling more cartoony than the original, and the original had a guy being hit by a bazooka. It never feels as threatening or as dangerous as the original. It just goes through the motions, trying something new, but never really hitting the mark.

At least you can say that it doesn't fall into the trap of most sequels. It's not trying to just rehash the original. It is trying to be another chapter in the story, and for that, I do give it credit. I like all the newly inspired heroes, and I like the massive group of villains, but I just never felt the scale of it all. It should feel bigger than the original, but instead, still ends up feeling pretty tame.

Another problem here is the character of Kick-Ass. Arguably he's always been one of the least interesting characters in the universe, and here, he seems even less necessary. It's barely his movie. His part in it feels almost coincidental. I'd being willing to accept this more if that meant we'd have more time for Chloe Moretz's Hit Girl, one of the best things to come out of the original, but even she's on the sidelines for most of the movie. Even in the rare occasion she gets to don the leather and purple wig, she just doesn't feel as fun or dangerous as she used to be. It's not just that the novelty of her being a little kid is gone. It's that the movie doesn't seem to want her to evolve as a character.

I will say that there are two people in this movie I love. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is really great here as the new supervillain, The Motherfucker. For a guy that was pulled from obscurity six years ago and put into a role that could have been very difficult to escape, Mintz-Plasse is a guy who delivers solid performance after solid performance and is always a welcomed sight. Also, going almost completely recognizable, Jim Carrey is great here as Colonel Stars and Stripes. This might be the most lost into a role I've ever seen Carrey, and if I didn't know it was him going in, I may not have been able to figure it out.

"Kick-Ass 2" fails to take it's concept further or really add anything new, always feeling a bit more toned down than it should. There's less energy, less fun, and less to say about the concept of regular people becoming superheroes. It doesn't quite recover from losing director Matthew Vaughn and Nicolas Cage who delivered one of my favorite of his recent performances in the first film. Not all bad, just a disappointing follow-up.
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People who added this item 55 Average listal rating (19 ratings) 6 IMDB Rating 5.6
(DVD - Own)

A film unlike just about anything you've ever seen that almost seems to be defying you to like it at every turn. A hack comedian finally gets a break when a third arm begins growing out of his back. It's a premise that, if it doesn't immediately intrigue you, you're probably going to hate. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

"The Dark Backward" exists in it's own world, almost a nightmarish carnival that feels like it should be animated and makes it that much more uncomfortable that everything is real. It's bizarre, disgusting, and, at the same time, a place that you just want to explore. It's got sort of a gothic sideshow charm.

This film wouldn't have worked if the cast wasn't so game. They're all in, and their energy is contagious. Judd Nelson goes against type playing the nebbish, perpetually sweat-soaked, unfunny comedian, Marty Mull. Bill Paxton is at his most Bill Paxtony as Gus, Marty's best friend, sort of a makeupless, amoral clown of your nightmares. He screams and hollers almost every line and has enough energy for the entire cast and then some. The cast is filled out by people that you can't imagine would you'd see in a movie like this including Lara Flynn Boyle, Wayne Newton, and, yes, James Caan.

Writer/director Adam Rifkin wrote this film when he was just 19 years old, and I feel that this is one I would have loved more in my teens when I had more of a fascination with schlock. Now, it's a bit too much. It certainly has it's share of funny moments, and it's nothing if not completely original. It's just hard to enjoy in it's entirety. But hey, it give you what it promises, a three-armed comedian.

Also worth noting is a short, gruesome Tom and Jerry style cartoon featured in this film that was animated by Dan Povenmire who went on to work for shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy, Spongebob Sqaurepants, as well as creating the Disney Channel show, Phineas and Ferb. It was one of my bigger laughs of the movie.
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People who added this item 274 Average listal rating (156 ratings) 7.2 IMDB Rating 7.6
Disconnect (2012)
(DVD - Redbox)

The double meaning of "Disconnect" seems driven home from the beginning. It's about a collection of people who seems disconnected from others around them and just how many terrible things can happen when you put too much trust into technology. A couple, who's already not in great shape, have their bank accounts drained. A teenage boy is tricked into thinking a girl is in love with him when really he's chatting with a fake account run by school bullies. A news reporter tries to help a teenage boy get out of a webcam ring that seems to prey on lost teens. It's less than a feel good movie.

"Disconnect" offers very little relief throughout. You're thrown into these lives where terrible thing after terrible thing happens to people who aren't necessarily bad, just lost. It revels in ambiguous morality, never wanting to give you a clear antagonist to root against. You just want everyone to make it out alright. It's interesting, but far from enjoyable, at times feeling almost draining. Little by little, you start to lose faith that anything good will ever happen again.

As a film, it's somewhat sloppy, as many interconnecting ensemble pieces are. Not every story really connects other than by shear coincidence. The handheld style is ugly and unpleasant here, though I suppose it fits into the tone of the film. The performances are actually pretty solid throughout save for a couple of characters. It was nice to see Jason Bateman excelling in a more dramatic role.

I just can't say this movie was affecting as it should have been. There are a few hits that come up and surprise you a little, but for the most part, it's pretty formulaic and predictable. There's a lot in here that will just make you feel bad without ever really offering up any sort of moral that's worth the journey. It doesn't want to give you any answers, and, in a way, I kind of commend it for that, but it's not necessarily anything that needs to be seen. It's good enough, but hard to recommend.
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Comments

Posted: 5 years ago at Jun 14 7:07
Very nice list!
Posted: 5 years ago at Jun 19 5:33
Great list and a pleasure to read your responses to movies. You have a fantastically broad range of taste in film! Bravo.
Posted: 5 years ago at Jun 19 5:36
Thanks a lot!
Posted: 4 years, 9 months ago at Sep 13 16:30
"Cornetto Trilogy" ?
Posted: 4 years, 9 months ago at Sep 13 16:36
Basically, loosely connected by actors, themes, and jokes, and all featuring a different flavor Cornetto ice cream relating to the plot.

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