Christmas Films #2

Yeah, it’s already December 12th and I’ve watched two Christmas movies. I don’t really want to watch more of them, especially because Netflix has amazingly bad options here in Finland right now. Like really bad. They used to have better selection. Now it’s just sad. But here goes nothing…

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A CHRISTMAS PRINCE (2017)

Directed by Alex Zamm
Written by Karen Schaler & Nathan Atkins
Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb & Honor Kneafsey

Synopsis (IMDb): “When a reporter goes undercover as a tutor to get the inside scoop on a playboy prince, she gets tangled in some royal intrigue and ends up finding love – but will she be able to keep up her lie?”

A Christmas Prince is made to Netflix. So it is also so-called TV movie. And it feels like one from tip to toe but it is still well done. It is cheesy, intentionally, but at the same time it manages to level with it. It is kind of hard to explain but this movie is made tongue in cheek and it has found its balance. Weird, huh? But somehow it manages to do it.

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Usually I’m a huge hater of made for TV films. I loathe them. My mum makes me watch them if I’m home for Christmas that happens quite rarely these days. For some reason she thinks that Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy or Game of Thrones are not suitable for Christmas. So she forces everyone to watch these horrid TV movies. Talking about torture… Anyhow, A Christmas Prince is surprisingly tolerable TV movie even when it has all the clichés or maybe because of that. It has cheesy music, beautiful studio-made scenery, royals, kissing in the snow and other “fun” snow activities, horses, betrayal, the script from “how to write a story 101 by Aristotle” and even snow in New York. Oh, and a rebellious journalist lady. EVERYTHING you can imagine. But it’s ok.

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Despite the fact that A Christmas Prince is total bullsh*t, it actually is watchable. Didn’t even feel bad, on the contrary, it made it laugh with it and at it. The script could be worse and the actors, they could be a lot worse. I actually though they make quite nice job with the story like that. Honor Kneafsey is not as annoying as kids in these kinds of films usually are, Ben Lamb as the Prince is genuinely charming while under utterly ugly make-up and I think Rose McIver can balance it between being cute and funny. I just realised that she’s in the main role in iZombie and has done some nice telly including Once Upon a Time and Masters of Sex. She’s good.

In conclusion, if you want to watch corny Christmas movie, this one is not the bad choice. I liked it.

Stars: *** (out of 5)

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A WISH FOR CHRISTMAS (2016)

Directed by Christie Will Wolf
Written by Helen Frost & Don McLeod
Starring Lacey Chabert & Paul Greene

Synopsis: “Sara Thomas is the type of woman who prefers to sit on the sidelines at work, but when her big idea for a Christmas initiative is stolen, she makes a wish to Santa that she’ll finally have the courage to stand up for herself. Santa grants her wish, but only gives her 48 hours. As the clock ticks, Sara will discover how to channel the Christmas magic and speak her mind all on her own.”

A Wish for Christmas is made for Hallmark. And it’s the kind of that makes you want to kill yourself. But I actually finished watching it regardless of this all the time mounting nausea. I kind of felt somehow weirdly good after finishing it but I’m not sure if it was because I managed to do something like it or because it had something. No, it must be the first. Because no one should watch this one. Just don’t.

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The script is dreadful. Well, at the beginning I thought for about 15 minutes that it might actually work but no, it didn’t. And the more time goes by, the more horrible it gets. Actors are not good. No. Hmm, I didn’t hate all of them though, so sometimes watching were tolerable. Oh, and what is the worst; that dolly shot when that really, really important, magical thing happens to our main character. Everytime there’s a dolly shot with that same music. Just to make it sure that you understand what is happening right now.

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I gave this one more half a star because I do feel bad for Lacey Chabert, I used to like her in Party of Five. And Mean Girls too. But really; DO NOT watch this. Except if you’ve been naughty and you need to punish yourself.

Stars *½

 

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Christmas Challenge Vol.2

Hah. Two years ago I made a deal with myself to watch 25 Christmas films during December. I think I ended up watching maybe four?! I can’t remember. But as Abbi is bold enough to tackle her Christmasathon, I can do my list. Possibly. Perhaps. At least I will try and obviously tease you with my reviews. And I actually started already by watching Netflix’s much talked A Christmas Prince. I’ll get to the review later this week.

Wish me luck! And if you have any great or not so great recommendations, they’re very welcome!

Christmas in Finland

P.S. My only Christmas reviews from two years ago were Bad Santa and The Ref...

Person of the Day – Leonardo DiCaprio

I’m so lazy these days and it’s almost Oscar-time already… But meanwhile let’s celebrate another great actor that I, again, absolutely adore. And it goes nicely together with my last post about great Kate. So:

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Yes, it is Mr DiCaprio’s birthday today and he is turning mighty fine 43. I have obviously loved him since Titanic (and yes again, it’s been 20 years), had a huge crush on him back then. I’ve seen most of his films, I think there’s probably 3-4 that I haven’t. And I actually think I have most of them on DVD as well as I collected them back in the days when I still bought hard copies.

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Besides Leo being one of the greatest actors alive, he is using his power and money to do good. For example his foundation has collected around 80m dollars to save the environment. It’s hard not to appreciate people who will dedicate a big part of their life to do good. Leo is for sure one of those guys. But then again, he likes to date models 20 years younger. But who could blame him? 😀

gilbertgrapeLeonardo DiCaprio was born in Hollywood and started acting as a child in commercials and educational programs. He got some small parts in TV series when in his teenage. His first feature film was Critters 3 (that I haven’t seen) but got his name out in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993. He also received his first Oscar nomination for that film and deservedly so. If you haven’t seen this Johnny Depp starring movie, you should. Already Leo is a reason to see it. Since then he has gathered five acting nominations and finally won one for The Revenant. If you ask me, he is a guarantee these days for a film, even though some of his latter films haven’t been THAT great, they’ve always been at least watchable.

As I did with Kate, I want to celebrate Leo’s day by listing my five favourite films of his. I could also list my favourite performances of his because there are quite a lot of difference in there, for example The Revenant; I admire the film and Leo is amazing but I really didn’t like it. And for sure, I don’t want to see it again. So these are my favourite ones, the ones I actually like a lot.

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5) The Departed (2006)

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I thought it would be a bit easier to choose these five as Leo tends to do quite hard, dark stuff that you don’t really want to see again even though how great the film is. The Departed is one of those dark ones that I really want to see again. It’s been way too long since I saw it. And liked it A LOT. Great film with great cast. Definitely earned all the praise it got (four Oscars).

Another film that I considered to be my number five was Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can (2002), a film about Frank Abagnale Jr., a real life conman who managed to cheat people around the world already before turning 20. The film is actually great but I made my film analysis course of it and omg how many times I’ve watched that film and shred it to pieces. Ugh. I’m not sure I want to see it ever again but if you haven’t, you should, it’s terrific! My guest review of the film can be found at Cinema Parrot Disco.  

4) Romeo + Juliet (1996)

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Gosh, it’s been way too long since I watched this the last time. I might even put it higher if I could remember it better. But I remember that first time when I watched it. I think I wrote dreadful poetry afterwards for hours. But I was a teenager and what is more suiting than two beautiful people in tragic romance. Yep. But I still love how dream-like the whole movie is. With one stellar cast.

3) The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

My review of the film. And I still stand by all those words. And deffo my favourite performance of Mr DiCaprio. He is so funny.

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2) Inception (2010)

I kind of wanted to put this on the top of the list as the film is absolutely beautiful, interesting, looks stunning and has amazing ensemble cast. Inception to me is almost the perfect film. When I first saw it in the cinema, I was stunned. I almost fell from my chair because I was leaning forward with amazement. Perfection.

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1. Titanic (1997)

You knew it all along. Who didn’t love Leo, Kate and that huge sinking ship back in 1997? And I still do. Without lying, I think I’ve seen this film at least 40 times. At least. At some point I was able to continue the dialogue if someone first started. I watched it all the time. Like ALL the time.

Fun fact: While I browsed IMDb for those links, I noticed that besides those doomed love stories all other films mentioned in my top-5 were at IMDb’s Top-250 list. I did the search, he has total of six films on that list. Talking about one of the greats.

 

Person of the Day – Kate Winslet

katewinslet_rosedewitbukaterI absolutely adore Kate Winslet. I obviously got to know her via Titanic like the rest of the world and since then I fell in love with her and her work more and more every day. There’s something so beautiful in her. And of course, she looks stunning but at the same time she looks and acts normal. She has always fought against this that everyone in Hollywood should be paper thin. She could be your neighbour yet she’s amazingly talented actress who makes even badly written characters shine. She got the IT factor. I love her. And she’s 42 today, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY to great Kate Winslet.

To celebrate her I’d like to do my TOP-5 of her performances list. I could do 10 too but as I already do those, let’s make this one shorter. No, actually, I changed my mind. I’m just going to do a list of my favourite films of her because she’s probably better in some of those films but I like others better.

5. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

AND

Finding Neverland (2004)

kate_senseandsensibilityHah, I cheated already! 😀 Never mind. Here I just couldn’t decide. On the case of the first one I like the film a lot like I tend to like all Jane Austen films. Sense and Sensibility is not my favourite and I don’t really like Kate’s character here but then again, who could not like a film with such great talents like Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant, Tom Wilkinson, even Hugh Laurie and all those other great British actors. I’ve always loved the fact that Kate is from Reading where I used to live. It makes me closer to her. At least I like to think that way. Anyway, Sense and Sensibility was nominated for seven Oscars, Kate being one of those, for supporting part. It was her first nomination, also out of seven in total come today.

Finding Neverland I like more than Sense and Sensibility but her character there isn’t as important and flashy as it is in S&S. And I find Finding Neverland so sad that I don’t watch it often. I think I’ve only seen it twice compared to S&S that I’ve seen multiple times, so many that I lost the count.

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She’s SO beautiful. I’d love to look like her. Whenever asked whom I’d like to look, I say her name. 

4. Revolutionary Road (2008)

This is my favourite performance of hers. She’s unbelievably good. Like no-words-good. The film includes so horrible mental suffering that I haven’t been able to watch it again but I still remember her look in the end. No words, just eyes. Masterful. I haven’t seen The Reader (some tough subjects…), so I don’t know if she’s even better there but I definitely think she should have won an Oscar for this role. And she wasn’t even nominated!

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3. The Holiday (2006)

Yeah, I’m a sucker for romantic comedies. And this one has Kate and Jude. And snow in England where there actually don’t snow that much. And that cottage. And Jack Black is tolerable. And I even like Cameron Diaz in this. And the storyline in LA with that old dude. Works for me. And it’s Christmas! All good. I do watch this every year, I think. And I can relate, I’m so like Iris, her character, in real life. Impossible expectations.

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2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Oh Clementine. And poor Joel. Why don’t they make more films like this? So original and ever so true. Love is pain but who can live without it? If you haven’t see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind watch it now! Like right now!

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1. Titanic (1997)

You knew it. What else it could be if you have ever read my blog? The film is worth of its gigantic name in every detail and Kate is being the crown jewel of it all. With Leo of course. I love, love, love the relationship of those two if anything is true that is detailed . Although, like most of us, I do wish they would end up together. But at least they shine on silver screen whenever they are together. (I decided 20 (wow, it actually is 20!!!) years ago that if I ever get married I will have that dress of Rose’s that she has at the end; I never did).

So, there you go! Such a great lady. I’m already looking forward to her next film. Here’s a taste:

2 Times HBO

Last week’s Monday I had a HBO day, apparently. I started my morning with the last episode of Game of Thrones of course but as I’ve subscribed HBO Nordic just because GoT and I just paid one more month, I decided to take advantage of it and watch something else too as it is full of helluva good series. I started with

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BIG LITTLE LIES (2017)

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Adam Scott, Laura Dern, Zoë Kravitz, James Tupper & Jeffrey Nordling

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

Written by David E. Kelly and Liane Moriarty

Synopsis (IMDb): “The apparently perfect lives of three mothers of first graders unravel to the point of murder.”

When I started writing this post I put on the soundtrack of the series. It’s really, really good and nails the tone of Big Little Lies perfectly. Perfectly. It’s this easy, breezy Californian vibe there but when you really listen to it, you can hear the undertone. And that is the way Big Little Lies is told. All is good before you dig deeper.

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Big Little Lies is the celebration of mature female talent. Thankfully there are still roles for women over 40. And all these women in this series deliver big time. BLL is nominated for 10 Primetime Emmys and five of them are for acting (and one for casting) and I think everyone is deserved. Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon are competing against each other in Lead actresses’ category as are Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern in Supporting. The only man nominated is Alexander Skarsgård for playing the husband of Kidman’s character. Men are supporting characters in this story but all of them are needed to carry the story. All women here are remarkable but then again, the characters are well-written. I actually think I’ve would have liked to read the novel first as I appreciate how the story is told and how you get to know more about everyone little by little. Get to understand them. Dern has the flashiest role, maybe even the most thin-layered but hot_reese_witherspoon_beautifulnonetheless it’s pleasure to watch her play. Woodley’s character is the quiet, tough one and she nails it too. Although I thought she could have taken more out of it. So, in my mind Dern wins the supporting role in BLL. The lead is celebration of two amazingly talented individuals. But as I think, Kidman has been playing this kind of role quite often (or then I just think I see her crying on screen a lot. And I mean A LOT.), it’s Witherspoon’s game. She’s awesome. At the beginning of the series you hate her character but in the end you can’t but love her. She’s flesh and blood, she’s real. And she acts every little detail out of her. I just love how Reese Witherspoon gets better and better when she gets older. She’s always been good but she’s slightly becoming one of the best.

BLL is also nominated for writing and like I’ve already mentioned, it’s well-told. I actually watched it in a one go. Perfect for binge as it is only seven episodes. It is also nominated for directing and cinematography and also both of those are deserved. Jean-Marc Vallée is here as good as he was with his Oscar winning Dallas Buyers Club and the cinematography is beautiful, it captures the atmosphere of all of it superbly. Everything is in order here. Even though I’ve used a word “perfect” here, it is not perfect but it’s close enough. I recommend.

Rating: ****½ (out of 5)

P.S. This soundtrack is REALLY good!

 

 

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THE NIGHT OF (2016)

Starring Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Bill Camp, Sofia Black-D’Elia & Michael Kenneth Williams

Created by Steve Zaillian & Richard Price

Synposis (IMDb): “After a night of partying with a female stranger, a man wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder.”

As if Big Little Lies wasn’t good enough, I started watching another series that I’ve only heard raves and had had on my watchlist for ages (a few months that is). And again, I was not disappointed. HBO’s monthly fee is surely justified. Though I’m not sure how they could top themselves anymore? (Btw, take a good look on that poster, it’s amazing, isn’t it?)

The Night of is also nominated for 10 Emmys and was nominated for three Golden Globes and bunch of other awards and it has also won some. And again, it deserves all the praise (I feel like I’m repeating myself, but you know, HBO earns it, they just make such a great television these days).

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There are three nominations at Emmys for actors them being Riz Ahmed in the main role, John Turturro who has been also put in the Lead category although I think his role is still supporting one even though it’s a big role. Bill Camp and Michael Kenneth Williams are placed in Supporting. Camp, Williams and Turturro are excellent, of course. Especially the latter is able to flex his muscles (figuratively) in a meaty role but then again, he has always been excellent and has been cast to the roles like this before. The rizahmed_hotNight of is Riz Ahmed’s show. He’s unbelievable. There are only eight (although some of them are 1,5 hours long) episodes but the transformation that he goes through during the series is… I don’t know, I’m lost of words. Stunning. Incredible. Even shocking. I truly hope he’ll get his Emmy. He should. Just look at the last episode and then go back to the first one and see the transformation. Not just the physical stuff but especially his eyes. How one does that? I have no idea. What an acting. I’m a fan.

Looking at those Emmy nominations I keep reading “outstanding” and in this case it’s exactly the right word to describe this one. It is outstanding. I watched it too in one go. Even though it was the second of the day and time was sometime 2am I couldn’t stop. No way. Way too good for that. And I absolutely loved it that I had no idea what’s going to happen next. But not in the shocking way of Game of Thrones but in this real way, like how life happens. One just has to adapt to survive. And one has to learn to live with one’s decisions and consequences that those cause. Everything here is top-notch; writing, directing, cinematography, music (!) and especially acting. It is one terrific story told perfectly. Watch it.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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13 Reason Why Review

The series, not the book.

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13 REASONS WHY (2017)

Creator: Bryan Yorkey

Based on the book by: Jay Asher

Starring: Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, Devin Druid, Amy Hargreaves, Derek Luke & Kate Walsh

Synopsis (IMDb): “Follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.”

SPOILER-FREE as always.

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I binged Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why in one sitting, so obviously it is not bad. I’m not exactly in a target group as I’m not a teenager or even close but then again, I still enjoy watching silly teen dramas. Then again, 13 Reasons is not silly. At all. It’s quite sad and not the easiest to watch. There are even warnings before some of the episodes. But still it gets you hooked. Or at least it got me and quite many of my friends.

I haven’t read the novel that the series is based on and I’m glad I didn’t because I liked the way the story unfold episode by episode. I really wanted to know what happens next. I read that the book is kind of a thriller but the series is not. At least I didn’t see it that way. It’s pure drama with very sad background story. Well, it is about suicide after all.

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The story itself is cleverly made, I liked the way that each episode is one of the reasons “why” and tells a story from one point of view. But when the story goes forward, a viewer will get another point of view. Nothing is black and white. Everyone of the characters evolve on the way, almost all of them are more than one dimensional, they’re flesh and blood. These days it seems to be rare that kids or teenagers in TV are very real, they are more like something that none of us “normal” people are, like princesses or princes of Upper East Side (Gossip Girl) or way too beautiful and fashionable like in Pretty Little Liars. But in 13 Reasons teens are normal with normal faces or bodies or clothes. They come from different backgrounds with different problems. They are jocks, outcasts or something between. They’re real. And that’s what I liked this series the best besides the structure of storytelling.

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All actors are top-notch. Some characters could be a little bit more developed but everyone on board makes the best out of it what’s given. There are some tacky dialogue but not that much that it bothers. The story itself is for me a bit strange as I’m very optimist person, so it’s hard for me to relate that deep problems that takes you to kill yourself or even just be depressed. But even though it was hard for me to relate, episodes were so well done that it wasn’t that hard to see “why”.

The biggest problem for me was that I really didn’t like Hannah who is the driving force behind the whole story. She’s really annoying. But at the same time when I just wanted to throw something at her, I admired that the second protagonist of the story is someone that you don’t really like. It made it probably a bit more real. And as I wrote these kids are what I see as normal, so basically all of them are a bit sh*t like teenagers around the world tend to be.

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As I don’t want to spoil anything as it’s important to view episode by episode to see the big picture, I wonder how they will continue in the second season. It has to be the another story basically. But I’ll be watching. These kids are worth of your time.

Starring: **** (out of 5)

Persons of the Day – Birthday Boys and a Girl

I was browsing IMDb and noticed that today is a good day to be born at least if you aspire to become a director. You would be in very good company. Today is also birthday of Sofia Coppola, Robert Zemeckis and George Lucas (and Cate Blanchett but Mutant already wrote about her). So let’s celebrate their careers as directors by taking a look to my favourite films of theirs. Here’s my TOP-10 films of these fine filmmakers.

 10)

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MARIE ANTOINETTE (2006)

To be honest I’m not a huge fan of this film directed by Sofia Coppola but I do love how it is so lavishly looking. Like a bowl of cotton candy and marshmallows. Yummy.

9)

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THE BLING RING (2013)

I was surprised how entertained I was by this film. And it’s my favourite Emma Watson film after Potters obviously.  And I do want to watch it again now after making this list. Coppola did a nice job here.

8)

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DEATH BECOMES HER (1992)

I didn’t even know that this horror comedy with superb trio in main roles (Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis) was directed by Robert Zemeckis before today. As a teenager I really liked this film. I haven’t see it for years but I should watch it again. I remember that I was awed by all visual effects/make-up of the film back in 1992.

7)

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WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988)

Again another surprise. Didn’t know that this one is Zemeckis’ too. I really, really loved Roger Rabbit when I was a kid. I can’t really remember much about it now but as I liked it so much back then I guess I have another one on my rewatch list…

6)

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THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (1999)

Is it really 18 years since this came out? Wow. Anyway I was engaged by the mood and vibe of this little gem from Sofia Coppola. It was the film that made her known as a filmmaker. And she was under 30 years old back then. Not bad.

5)

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ROMANCING THE STONE (1984)

Apparently Robert Zemeckis really entertained me when I was a kid. Another one that I watched over and over again. Michael Douglas was so hot and Kathleen Turner the most beautiful woman I knew. And they had the best chemistry. ❤ I saw this again only few months ago and I still loved it.

4)

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FORREST GUMP (1994)

I’m stupidly positive person who always believes in good and gives people another chance after another. So you can imagine how a film like Forrest Gump appeals to me. We all should have a little Forrest inside of us, it would make the world a much better place. Thanks to Zemeckis for this beautiful film.

3)

Back-to-the-Future

BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

The last three on this list are such classics. I have no idea how many times I’ve seen Back to the Future and everytime it rocks my socks off. Perfect popcorn film. It feels like they don’t make them anymore this great. Hands down the best film of Robert Zemeckis.

2) 

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LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)

When at her best, Sofia Coppola, creates strangely engaging feeling to a film. And this is her best film. Hell, this is one of the best films ever made. I can still remember the feeling after seeing this film for the first time on my birthday in April. And even though outside it was dark and a bit rainy after the film, I felt featherlight, kind of gliding through the streets, everything was so beautiful. Like I carried the beauty of this film within me. Perfection.

1)

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STAR WARS (1977)

Like I could choose any other film?

P.S. I said it’s about directing but I just have to include one more from Mr. Lucas because, come on!

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Happy Birthday to Mr Zemeckis, Mr Lucas and Ms Coppola and thank you for making those amazing films!