Watched, Read, Loved: August 2017

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Yay! It’s spring! (I am writing this up quickly in September). The weather has turned me into a positive, upbeat person for the time being. There is something to be said to drive to work and the sun is actually up when you get there, so I am pretty thankful. The saddest thing is naturally not being in the sun during the day, but it makes life worth it.

Life-wise, we went to the Modderfontein nature reserve for a friend’s birthday. It’s quite lovely, and as it is not the one I usually head to for a it-doesn’t-feel-like-the-city feel, it felt like a new place to see in the concrete jungle I live in. Had some amazing cupcakes too, which changed my life – like WOW.

I also watched the international Dota championships – like, I still don’t know how that happened. I hope to have actually played this game by next year to have a clue what is happening.

I also did a Parkrun – naturally the morning was chillier than all the rest, but I did one. I’d love to 1) make better time 2) remember my barcode and 3) get fitter. We are doing an international health challenge at work, starting the 27th of September, and the aim is 10 000 steps a day. It is scary because I don’t think I manage 2000 a day at this stage.

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Ghost (1990) – I really thoroughly enjoyed Ghost. The effects had me giggling, while the youth of Swayze and Demi Moore was really pretty to look at. Definitely one of the best Blindspots this year, though my selection has been pretty on point if I say so myself.

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The Intern (2015) – you can read my review here. The Intern is a heartwarming film with a great message, and I had a great time.

Ella Enchanted (2004) – I seemed to have had a lot of exposure to Anne Hathaway this month, but I’m not complaining as I really like both films. Hathaway is joined by Hugh Dancy, who has the most perfect face to play any form of a Prince. So handsome. This is a really fun movie, and I always enjoy it.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) – yes, again. Don’t judge.

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Sully (2016) – probably my favorite watch this month, Sully is inspirational and I was on the edge of my seat. Highly recommended.

Wild (2014) – Wild is a prime example why I don’t like real life adaptions. The lead character was uninspiring and selfish, and a track across the NST couldn’t convince me to root for her.

Mean Girls (2004) – Is Mean Girls the most quotable movie of all time? This movie is definitely one of my favorite films ever. It is relatable, accurate, hilarious and just so much fun.

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to find Them (2016) – I have a friend who was really outraged that I talked smack about this film. His attempt to convince me was to have me watch it at home in Bluray with 3D Glasses. I don’t have the heart to say that just because something is pretty to look at it means it is good, but it did improve on rewatch.

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Stranger Things – the amounts of hearts I want to draw around this show. STRANGER THINGS IS EVERYTHING AND I NEED MORE NOW. The soundtrack, the premise, the whole I difference of it all, the miraculous amount of kids who can actually act. I was told by ten million people to watch Stranger Things, and now, after watching, my life is richer as a result. I need the second season now. Like NOW.

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Game of Thrones Season 7 – I joined everyone and their grandma’s to watch the amazing penultimate season of Game of Thrones. I still need to do a recap of the last two episodes, which are some of the best this show as given us.

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Vampire Diaries Season 7 and 8

Season 7 nearly sunk the show for me. The departure of Nina Dobrev proved to be a terrible blow to the show. The odd thing is that Season 7 started fine and halfway just lost the plot. It became so bad that Damon slipped in his number one ranking for me, and was replaced by Enzo. Even after being done with the show, Enzo remains as number one. I need to find it in me to review the last two seasons, but man, some things just can’t be forgiven, DAMON.

books

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The Rise of Nine (Pittacus Lore)

I am steadily working my way through the Lorien Legacies series of Pittacus Lore. I am enjoying the Rise of Nine quite a bit, although I still find the battles way too frequent and drawn out.

The Gunslinger (Stephen King)

Finally, I am also trying to attempt to work my way through The Gunslinger. I really like Stephen King’s way – I’m not always sure whether his books are for me, the man is amazing with words. I was about 5 sentences in when I googled a word to check what it means, and that rarely happens for me. I’ll still have to see what the book is all about, and hope to finish at least the first one.

What have you been up to this month?

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Blindspot 2017: Walk the Line (2005)

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Plot: A chronicle of country music legend Johnny Cash’s life, from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame with Sun Records in Memphis, where he recorded alongside Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.

I’ve really had a very good run with my Blindspots this year. I really pretty much enjoyed every film on the list I’ve chosen, which makes it that much better than last year’s. I continued this good streak with Walk the Line, the 2005 biopic of Johnny Cash’s life. There is a bit more to the success of watching this film, as I’ve had the DVD for four years now. The protracted delay in seeing this reputably excellent film started to get silly, hence the adding to the Blindspot this year.

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I enjoyed Walk The Line very much. Joaquin Phoenix is simply phenomenal as Johnny Cash. He manages to be tortured, sad, brilliant and talented. He has an excellent voice. His love story with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) is not some silly romance. It has depths and it develops over years of challenges for both of them. The film doesn’t try and make Cash a hero – they show a man who had a hard life and who had a lot of inner demons. His relationship with his father, Ray Cash (Robert Patrick), is hard and littered by a lifetime of resentment, anger and unresolved issues. I cannot praise Phoenix enough – the brilliance of his portrayal and the amazing voice he just pulled out of a hat and worked with. Ginnifer Goodwin has the undesirable task of being Cash’s first wife Vivian, a woman who was clearly never happy with anything Cash did for his family. She came across as the quintessential housewife of the 1950’s – bored, whiney and unhappy with everything that she ever received. In contrast Reese Witherspoon is the bounciest of bouncies with June Carter. Witherspoon has a surprisingly sweet voice and she delivers the performance of her life as Carter. She manages to portray a woman who is successful, charming and very much human. Her Oscar as best actress in a Leading Role is well deserved, though I do wish that Phoenix received an Oscar for his role as well.

The soundtrack is another rousing success. Littered with Cash’s poignant work, the soundtrack tells a story all on its own. I also really enjoyed the pacing of Walk The Line – it is never slow or boring and it doesn’t lose track of the story it is trying to sell.

I am so happy I finally sat down and watched this – I’ll definitely watch it again. Have you seen Walk The Line? Did you like it?

Rating: 8.5/10

Blindspot 2017: Ghost (1990)

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Plot: After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.

Sitting down and finally watching Ghost was such a rewarding and fun experience for me. The 1990 Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore CGI extraordinaire feast gave me a good couple of laughs, and while I am sure the film was never created for laughs, it is a side effect of watching a 90s film with CGI in 2017 for the first time. However, the film holds really well in the test of time. It has that really hot scene with the clay and sexy time in, and that is a really well shot scene even today. The sweetness of Demi Moore’s Molly and Patrick Swayze’s business-orientated-but-wildly-in-love Sam is a really lovely relationship on screen.

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The little “devils” arriving to take all the evil ghosts made me snort with laughter. The “angels/white light” arriving to fetch the good guys is so expected but still so good to see. Vincent Schiavelli makes a really creepy Subway Ghost and did really well acting deranged and loony. Patrick Swayze’s body magic through train walls was amazing to behold. Demi Moore was really shockingly beautiful in an innocent way in the 90s – not many women would be able to pull off hair like that, and her sadness and confusion in the situation she found herself in was done well enough that I found her sincere. Patrick Swayze is attractive in a 90s way, and I really enjoyed seeing him in something other than Dirty Dancing (my exposure to him is bad, I know).

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The stand out performance is that of Whoopi Goldberg, who very deservedly won an Oscar for her role as Oda Mae Brown, the fake psychic who somehow manages to become a real one when she’s able to hear Sam when he is a ghost. She is forced to help him because he bugs her senselessly until she relents, and her irritation and attitude, as well as her quick fire remarks, made this role tailor made for Whoopi Goldberg.

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You probably shouldn’t be thinking too hard about his movie, but it is really a nice piece of cinematic history to sit through. I can see myself watching it again without any fuss – definitely excellent popcorn entertainment.

Rating: 8/10

Blindspot 2017: Basic Instinct (1992)

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Plot: A violent, suspended police detective investigates a brutal murder, in which a manipulative and seductive woman could be involved. 

 I had a vague, vague idea what this film was about. Turns out it was so vague it was barely an idea. I was expecting some mildly sexy murder drama. MY POOR EYES. It is just wild sex and murder and flashing vaginas everywhere. Did I like it? I’m actually not even sure. Objectively thinking I know it was a good thriller. It is shocking to behold. I can’t help but be of the opinion that the films that are currently being produced is relatively tame compared to some of these classics. My benchmark up to here for risqué old school thrillers had been Cruel Intentions, but after watching Basic Instinct Cruel Intentions is a Disney animation comparatively.

 Excellent writing, acting and directing makes sure neither the watcher nor the investigators know whether Catherine Tramell is guilty of the brutal slaughtering of her lover. She’s cold and brilliant. It is excellent work by Sharon Stone, who is a master of manipulating her emotions on screen – she’s cold and distant, overtly sexual, sweet and charming and devastated at the snap of her fingers, expertly bringing Catherine to life in a way few other actresses would have been able to.

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Michael Douglas is the male protagonist who you aren’t ever sure is a protagonist. He’s a cop with questionable ethical values, a heavy drinker and recreational drug user who seems to have a habit of accidentally shooting people. His addictive personality is activated after meeting Catherine and he becomes obsessed with her on multiple levels. Only someone with a damaged psyche would even go close to such a person as Catherine, and that is great insight on his character.

 I enjoyed the tone of the film as well. It is a slow paced thriller with a soundtrack that suits every scene, with great cinematography. Director Paul Verhoeven is a good with creating atmosphere. The perpetual dread and distrust Detective Curren experiences is portrayed well to the audience.

 Basic Instinct is a shocker of a film and was clearly desired to be. Sharon Stone is a standout performer as this film and it is clear to see why it has become such an iconic role. I was really disturbed and shocked. It is not easy watching and will stay with you for quite a while (it is STILL with me and I watched this the beginning of April!). As for the Blindspot selections, it is worthy if only for being thought provoking and I can finally say I’ve seen it. Have you seen Basic Instinct? Let me know what you thought!

 Rating: a traumatized 7/10

Watched, Read, Loved: April 2017

April is the best month for South-Africa. Seriously – we have so many public holidays people are actually nice to each other. I took off a chunk of time as well, and it did me the world of good. I actually got some sleep in, saw my bestie and watched some amazing films. Without further ado, here is my rundown of April 2017.

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Movies:

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Beauty and the Beast (2017): The painful excitement that came when I heard they were doing a live animation of my favorite Disney classic was excruciating. Would it work? Would it fail? The QUESTIONS that plagued me.Additionally, B&B was released in South-Africa later than the rest of the world because of South-Africaitis, and there were conflicting reports to be read. Anyway, grabbing popcorn and sitting down to see this was really wonderful. I liked it, and will watch it again. I had Gaston stuck in my head for a week. I better not hear that tune soon.

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One Day (2011): HATED IT.

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Basic Instinct(1992): This is part of my Blindspot 2017 series. This year I am doing remarkably well with it, because Zoë and I watched a bunch of them in December because #besties. Basic Instinct is next on the list and quite the shocker. OMFG my poor eyes.I might never recover.

Anywhere but home (2008): I thought this comedy was quite funny the second time around (I know I’ve seen this before but I can barely remember it). It’s also titled “Four Christmases”. I’ve never understood exactly why some movies get two titles. Anyway, if you can believe that someone like Reese Witherspoon would end up with someone like Vince Vaughn, you can get through the movie. It has some funny moments, and sure they are the typical things you’d expect, but they are funny regardless.

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Twilight: New Moon (2009): I’ve been meaning to blog about Twilight as a set for ages now. I did Twilight (2008) easily, but had a couple of months delay by what succeeds it. New Moon is the most insufferable – both book and movie – but I sat through it eventually.

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Twilight: Eclipse (2010): Eclipse is a strong successor and definitely superior to the ghastly New Moon. Edward is still an obsessive stalker, Bella is still pathetic, R. Patz and Kristen Stewart still can’t act. But decisively better than the infuriating New Moon.

Safe Haven (2013): The casting for Nicholas Sparks film is never specified for acting abilities. I guess the author/filmmaker knows his audience too well, and knows if he provides enough pretty people the film will be acceptable to his fans. He’s not wrong. I enjoyed Safe Haven and the acting is really better than the acting in The Lucky One. The kids were cute and the story was okay.

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He’s just not that into you (2009): I always enjoy watching HJNTIY. My brother-in-law did not appreciate us making him watch it though, telling me that it is not also a guy-friendly film as I initially thought.

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Warm Bodies (2013): I just love this film. Nicholas Hoult is a zombie, and when he eats the brains ofTeresa Palmer’s boyfriend, he starts seeing some memories and slowly returns to human form. The cast, led by Hoult, are all quite charming and for a story that shouldn’t work it works really well.

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The DUFF (2015):yes, I watched it again. One of my favorite films at the moment. Such hilarity.lethal weapon

Lethal Weapon 1 (1987) & Lethal Weapon 2 (1989):
It was my first time around watching this buddy-cop series, and I really enjoyed it. The 1980’s were a glorious time to be alive obviously!

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Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

SO SLOPPY.

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Chef (2014): Chef is a film about good food and happy endings, and well deserved of its’ praise. I really quite liked this film!

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Arrival (2016): My review will be up next week. I loved this. Handsdown one of the finest films of 2016.

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Drive (2011): I remember enjoying Drive the first time around, but I really couldn’t remember everything about it. I enjoyed it so much this time too, it is a phenomenal film and some of Gosling’s best work.

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The Guest (2014): This film has a lot of science reasons it works well to the appreciative eye, but I can tell you that I would have loved it without the science too. Gorgeous directing, a solid plot and excellent score, this film is a great film to watch again and again.

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Prisoners (2013): Prisoners currently ranks as my least favorite Villeneuve film. It is on no level a poor film, it was just not my favorite of his. And it is five hundred hours long. *Scientific fact*

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016):

I can watch this movie indefinitely. It is the best!

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Crazy Stupid Love (2011): I definitely need to review this film again – It has been ages since I’ve posted it on my blog. One of the most inoffensive romantic comedies produced in later years, this movie will make you laugh and relate with some character in here.

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Nocturnal Animals (2016): This is my new hated film. Gosh, what a spectacular waste of my life. Pretentious bullshit.

 

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Black Hills – Nora Roberts

This is a particular favorite book of mine. I enjoy Dr. Lillian Chance – she is passionate about her work in the refuge she built and is smart and cool.

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The Concannon Sisters trilogy – Nora Roberts

While I do enjoy this series of books – Born in Shame, Born in Ice and Born in Fire, they certainly aren’t my favorite of the author. However, her love for Ireland does show when reading this, and I particularly enjoy the description of the scenery.

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Two Broke Girls Season 4 and 5

I’m enjoying myself way too much with this comedy. It shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but I end up really laughing at it.

What did you do in April?

Blindspot 2017: Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

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Plot: Danny Ocean and his eleven accomplices plan to rob three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously.

Rating: 8.5/10

Brad Pitt and Matt Damon really is everywhere on my Blindspot list this year. I’m back with Brad Pitt today and looking at the 2001 heist film that proves just how cool Brad Pitt and George Clooney it.

If you are a clever deducer (I know that is not a word), you realized by the rating that I liked this. A good heist film remains a good heist film, and a fast paced, no-nonsense one provides for good entertainment. I thought the heist was brilliantly planned. The film is intelligent and quirky and doesn’t take time to tell its’ story.

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The core actors certainly contribute towards the camaraderie Oceans provides in spades. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Casey Affleck, Bernie Mac – really everyone on screen was great to behold. There is a chemistry in the group that comes across as authentic. I especially liked George Clooney and Brad Pitt together. Both men were able to look and sound like old friends who were up to no good.

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My favourite girl crush Julia Roberts was on screen again. She’s so talented and drop dead gorgeous and she’s so classy on screen. It takes a lot of an actress to be cold and angry and charming at the same time.

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I really liked that this film didn’t take ages to get through and sort itself out – I hate a long drawn out affair as you all know. The plan was laid out, the men were recruited and informed and things went down. Can’t all films just go like that??

Have you seen Ocean’s Eleven? What did you think? I see the next film in the franchise is an all women cast – a relatively popular decision nowadays. What you all think about that?

Blindspot 2017: Seven (1995)

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Plot: Two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his modus operandi.

Rating: 8.5/10

Set in a dark and dreary city, homicide detectives Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt must investigate what is turning into a serial killer’s mad spree through town, emulating the 7 deadly sins in the most horrific of ways. Detective Freeman is retiring and after years of witnessing the horrors a decaying city can provide, he’s not too keen about taking up another job. But he somehow can’t pull away – he’s forced to worked with the new young detective and solve this last crime.

I enjoyed how dark and dreary the city was. The constant torrential downpour makes England look like a sunny palace. It’s so heavy, and combined with the decay of the city a sense of hopelessness lies in the air.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s character is a sharp contrast to the city. She’s everything the city isn’t – fresh and sweet and kind. I really liked her, how she balanced her husband out and wasn’t everywhere in the story and somehow remained so important in it.

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A thing that stands out sharply is the difference between the two detectives. Both are good men but so much difference in character. The younger detective is impulsive, perhaps because of his age. He’s by no means unintelligent but is far less cerebral than his older counterpart, who is often reflective and studies the crime and reasoning behind it well. The dynamic between the detectives shift – initially Freeman is cold shouldering his colleague (I think mostly due to impending retirement) but he begins to warm to Pitt with the case developing.

What is it about Kevin Spacey that he is so well capable to play such derange characters? It is creepy. He is creepy. So calm with an underlying menace. Madness coated in quiet demeanor. That flat of his. His belief in his work. A subtle creep. Sheesh.

How intense was the ending?! Edge of your seat business. John Doe concocted everything to make his plan infallible. I was horrified and entertained, because sheesh, what a nail biter.

Serial killers always have this dark glamour about them. It is wrong, but I have been interested in their mind games for years now – how they justify, what motivates them and how carefully they pick their victims. Seven is a film that follows one such killer in his demented ways in the best method I’ve ever seen. The film is backed by solid performances, directing, score and story to bring a thriller that will remain with you well after the end.

If you are looking for a film that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy, Seven is definitely NOT for you. It is scary and gross and relentless and keeps you nailed to your seat, but come prepared because scary man. Scary.

 

Blindspot 2017: Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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Plot: Several people are hunted by a cruel serial killer who kills his victims in their dreams. While the survivors are trying to find the reason for being chosen, the murderer won’t lose any chance to kill them as soon as they fall asleep.

Rating: 7.5/10

My venture into the horror / thriller continues, this time with The Nightmare on Elm Street. It is yet another film that I was sure would be so icky and scary that I would just puke and / or cry throughout. And guess who didn’t?! ME!

I quite liked it, but for the horror movies I watched I certainly liked Scream the most. However, this was still quite good, in a perfectly 1984 fashion – the acting, outfits, hair and makeup are so bad. That pink knitted pullover? WHY? The mother had some really interesting makeup as well. I loved seeing Johnny Depp so extremely young. Back then he was quite good looking (he has now progressed to creepy and a bad looking wife beater). I thought Freddy was quite dramatic with his crazy claws and how he put them on. I wanted to yell at them just to go Sam and Dean Winchester on his ass and burn the claw, because we all know that he would immediately perish. Pfft. I thought the movie was cleverly laid out and designed, and even sleep specialists bought in to address what Nancy Thompson went through. Heather Langenkamp was a great heroine – no crazy antics and she decided to fight back pretty quickly.

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I don’t have too much else to say this – I really watched quite a lot of movies in a short time and had no brain cells that instructed me to quite write down an opinion on it at the time. I can tell you that as for the horror genre I am really enjoying Wes Craven’s work – it is witty and well thought out and creative. The Nightmare on Elm Street is definitely worth the time to watch, and rather short too, which is always a great thing in my book!

Blindspot 2017: The Departed (2006)

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Plot: An undercover cop and a mole in the police attempt to identify each other while infiltrating an Irish gang in South Boston.

Rating: 8/10

I might get shot for this, but I’ve now seen two Scorsese films – The Departed and The Wolf of Wallstreet. Both are some of DiCaprio’s finest work, so I don’t have anything to complain about.  Are all Scorsese films this long? The length is about the only thing I didn’t like about The Departed. It’s three hours, and in my opinion only a few films are allowed to go on this long. It is good though, so I was able to sit through it and pay attention.

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Jack Nicholson makes a great gangster. He is criminal and cold and deranged in this film, and has a menacing presence even when he is nice to people. Finding Colin Sullivan and helping him out leads to Sullivan’s corruption, which makes that kind deed null and void on the scorecard of humanity. Colin Sullivan is portrayed by Matt Damon, a man so good at playing the good guy that I didn’t even think he’d do well as the bad guy. He was phenomenal as the reviled Sullivan, who has a perfect place in the State Police and so convincing even hardened cop Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin) suspects him of anything but a hardworking officer. Leonardo DiCaprio, the world’s boyfriend, plays Billy Costigan. In contrast to Sullivan, Billy entered the police force with honorable intentions. He is railroaded by his familial history, and Captain Queenan (Michael Sheen) and the cantankerous Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Whalberg) both have a hard time believing that he is what he says he is. They offer Billy a way to still serve his country despite his past, and plant him as a mole deep into the Frank Costello’s drug syndicate.

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I loved the smartness of the characters. Sullivan is immoral but is so fast on his feet that you can’t help but admire him. Costigan is increasingly desperate to get out and has sporadic outbursts no one can blame him for. I really liked Costigan – Leonardo is definitely one of the best actors I’ve ever seen on screen. He embodies his character, and although no outward displays of dread can be seen in Costigan, DiCaprio still manages to show you exactly how much anger and fear his character is dealing with. I also really liked Mark Whalberg’s character – he’s so ornery and ready to fly off the handle and action ready. He hated everyone and he didn’t care if anyone hated him back. Alec Baldwin as Captain Ellerby was an upstanding man. I liked him, his direct attitude and approach. He was a bit gullible in the end and quite easily fooled by Sullivan though. No one that pretends to be that good is really that good.

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The pace of The Departed is controlled, carefully laying out the story. It feels that it took ages to get to the end, the majority of the films time is spent developing every character’s situation properly and showing the viewer how incredibly close Sullivan and Costigan were to each other at all times. Being in love with the same woman is the best bit though. Beautiful poetry. The last twenty minutes keeps me from bitching too passionately about the length. Those 20 minutes were action packed and dramatic, leading to an enormously if shocking end. I appreciated the conclusion of the film and would have been furious if it had ended in another way – no justice would have happened.

If you haven’t seen The Departed yet and enjoy tense, complicated and well thought out films, you should definitely give it a try!

Blindspot 2017: The List

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A few things I can tell you about this list:

  • I deliberately chose “lighter” films than last year. My 2016 list and 2015 list contained some serious heavy weights. I’m happy I got through them all, but to change things up I chose some films that were in a different genre than the other frequenters of my Blindspots.
  • This list started forming as I was thinking about how little of Brad Pitt’s work I’ve actually watched – he’s quite popular on here.
  • I am going to have a lot of fun watching these, I can tell.
  • I actually have a small list of other films that I’ll post some time that I also want to watch this year despite it not being Blindspots.
  • Here is my actual list below that I hope to enjoy and actually post monthly for the rest of the year.
  1. Scream (1996)
  2. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
  3. The Departed (2006)
  4. Seven (1995)
  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  6. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
  7. Ghost (1990)
  8. Basic Instinct (1992)
  9. Goodwill Hunting (1997)
  10. Interview with a Vampire (1994)
  11. The Italian Job (2003)
  12. Walk the Line (2005)

What did you choose this year? Let me know!