Movie Review: Hidden Figures (2016)

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Plot: The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program.

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Focusing on the trio of female scientists Katherine Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson at Nasa in the sixties, Hidden Figures plays a vital role in educating the world about the stories of the repressed who rose to great heights while fighting unimaginable odds. The three ladies each had incredible aptitude for their work. Katherine Jackson was so accurate in her calculations her work was better than a computer. Dorothy Vaughan taught herself a computer language when computers were a foreign and scary concept. She became the first black female supervisor at Nasa. Mary Jackson fought for her right to become an engineer, and was the first black mathematician and engineer in the NACA, which would become NASA in 1958.

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Actresses Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe shine in their roles, and their fast talking, quick thinking, superbly dressed and outrageously talented selves kept me glued to the screen for the duration of the film. It is impossible to decide who gave the best performance. Octavia Spencer is one of my favorite actresses in Hollywood and seeing her as a determined genius of a woman is already a reflection of herself, it is just the career that differs in her portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan. Janelle Monáe gave me endless happiness with her attitude and her resilience to get what she wanted. Taraji P Henson delivers a demure and dedicated performance as Katherine Jackson, a woman so excellent in her profession she was more accurate than the computers so painstakingly installed by NASA. Katherine had to face inconceivable barriers in her job – not only was she black, she was a woman as well when those two categories were still fighting for rights back in the sixties. She faces uphill battles – the sexism and racism of her colleagues, finding a bathroom – this battle of hers had me the most outraged as it is an inhumanity I have never even been able to comprehend. She does this with grace and poise and so rarely loses her shit I marked her as a saint.

Kirsten Dunst is the white supervisor to Spencer’s Dorothy. Her racism isn’t deliberate or particularly spiteful;but it is so ingrained and habitual that it somehow offends more than the blatant racism Katherine faces. There is some saving for Dunst’s character, and I particularly appreciated the scene where she addresses Dorothy as “Mrs. Vaughan” – a courtesy that was long overdue.

Strong male performances by Kevin Costner as the gruff and motivated Al Harrison – a man portrayed as open eyed and realizing that science and math doesn’t have a skin color. Jim Parsons takes on the role of the close minded bigot Paul Stafford, although I got the impression that the character had bigger problems with Katherine’s gender and the fact that she was a better mathematician than he than her skin color, but even despite that Stafford was a mean and rude man who needed a kick under the ass. Mahershala Ali plays Katherine’s love interest and eventual husband Jim Johnson – he’s so charming and dignified I nearly fainted. Aldis Hidge (Levi Jackson) is a contrast to the calm Jim emits – his anger is raw and justified against the government who denies him and his family the rights so easily afforded to white people. Glen Powell as John Glenn was so incredibly charming and beautiful, and I rooted for him immediately when he chose to greet everyone at NASA, not only the white people.

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Hidden Figures is well written, warmhearted and satisfactory conclusive. Each woman gets what she needs – a promotion, extra education or the incredible right to work as part of the team who would put a man on the Moon. It might be a bit blasé in some parts – Kevin Costner hitting down the signs on the bathrooms and declaring that everyone can urinate where they want was slightly overdramatic, but the sentiment was good.

Another part of the film that I liked was the orbiting into space – it felt real somehow, the hard work, frustration and endless dedication of NASA to get men into space. It is so impressive when you think about that they didn’t have the knowledge NASA now has, they’d never done it before. They were working without computers and relied on human accuracy to attempt something that hadn’t been done before. It is impressive and inspiring.

Hidden Figures filled me with awe, respect and also a great deal of shame. I’ve never had to work as hard as these characters to be accepted in to society, I’ve never had to run to another bathroom because of my skin color, I’ve never been denied tertiary education or a promotion because of a thing I can’t do a thing to change. Systematic oppression is a real thing and I’ve often thought about it lately – society has come a long way in making sure everybody has rights, but are we still subconsciously treating people different when they don’t look exactly as we do? It’s something to consistently address until the last dregs of oppression dies away.

Hidden Figures was not only about skin color, it was about female empowerment, the power of education, the perseverance of the human spirit and about how giving up should never be an option. Excellent performances make this film an entertaining and wonderful watch, and if you haven’t done so yet, I would strongly suggest you rectify that matter.

Rating: 8.5/10

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Movie Review: Sully (2016)

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Plot:The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew.

Situations where airplanes malfunction rarely have a happy ending. It’s either disappearances or crashes and morbidity is synonymous with these events. So when Captain Chelsea “Sully” Sullenberger sent out a mayday signal on the 15th of January 2009 after birds took out both of the engines on the Airbus 320 on Flight 1549 which Captain Sullenberger was the pilot of, no one believed it possible that Sullenberger could put down the plane on the Hudson River successfully. In doing so, he saved the lives of his 154 co-passengers. The successful landing was a combined result of a lifetime of experience and a man that not only excelled at his job but was born to do it. I followed this story obsessively when it came out, and recently checked again the technical difficulty this landing required. I love stories about human courage and defeating unimaginable odds (who doesn’t?), and the event kept me glued to the screen for weeks.

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That said, I’ve burned my fingers the last few months with real life events turned into movie adaptions. It’s a seemingly difficult task for directors to tell these stories accurately and keep the inspirational levels as well as the truth intact. However, with Sully, director Clint Eastwood made a film that wasn’t only true and inspirational, it is Oscar worthy.

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Tom Hanks plays veteran pilot Chelsey Sullenberger. He does so by portraying a pilot who had the correct level of confidence in his abilities, which he combined with good sense and humility. Hanks shows you all the sides – the PTSD, the stress he and his family is shouldering, the fatigue and overpowering sense of media frenzy. Aaron Eckhart is the lighter of heart Co-pilot Jeff Skiles. His importance to the success of the landing is paramount, as he did not, as I would have, started yelling “what the fuck” at the top of his lungs.

The passengers get their moments too – a woman with her elderly mother, a mother with her infant daughter, business men and women, a father and his sons rushing to make the gates for the flight – real people with real lives all just planning a quick trip. It adds a human element, and the chanting of the passengers as they braced for landing is heartbreaking to listen to.

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I was engrossed by Sully. It is chilling and inspiring and I will definitely watch it again. Eastwood and Hanks are a power combination that should be explored further. If you need to feel inspired, watch this. It is a story about thinking on your feet, being insanely courageous and calm, and using the experience life has given you to fulfill your life’s work.

Have you seen Sully? What did you think?

Rating: 8/10

Movie Review: Bad Moms (2016)

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Plot: When three overworked and under-appreciated moms are pushed beyond their limits, they ditch their conventional responsibilities for a jolt of long overdue freedom, fun, and comedic self-indulgence.

I really expected to be either wildly irritated or exasperated by Bad Moms. I wasn’t – It was actually a surprisingly fun film and catered exactly for its target audience. Mila Kunis plays Amy, an overworked mother of two young children. If you can believe she’s supposed to be washed out, well, you can believe anything. She’s still crazy gorgeous despite her wearing adult clothes all the time. Her husband is her third child – a boy-man who does nothing to help her with raising children and is eventually caught in an online cheating scandal. This understandably leads Amy to lose her shit. She drops pretending to be the perfect mother that actually cares about the strict rules Gwendolyn, who is the perfect president of the Parents association, sets. Gwendolyn subsequently loses her patience and war erupts in the pretty suburban life of these women. Amy decides to run for president at school and she teams up with Kathryn Hahn’s Carla, and Kristen Bell’s Kiki, and eventually ends up winning (if you don’t expect this you are a dumb-dumb) and shows the mothers their children are supposed to be kids and be fun and have a good time.

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I didn’t expect this amount of heart in this silly little film. There is warmth and humor and some prodding reminders that children are supposed to be young and play outside, not to be rushed from exams to sports to cultural activities. Hahn has some funny moments, though she really is typecast at the moment. It is always good seeing Kristen Bell in anything – she’s so adorably weird and this film doesn’t try to change that – Kiki is weird as hell.

I can’t really comment on more in this film – it is just a for fun film, there is a pretty hot guy, some pretty hot moms and just a film to relax with. This really isn’t for all you I-only-watch-serious-movies people, so if you don’t want a silly comedy, just don’t watch it J

Rating: 6/10

Movie Review: The Accountant (2016)

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Plot: As a math savant uncooks the books for a new client, the Treasury Department closes in on his activities and the body count starts to rise.

Rating: 7/10

What I’ll say off the bat is this: Of the two films that released in 2016 casting Affleck as a lead, The Accountant is infinitely superior to Batman Vs. Superman. Everyone, including Affleck apparently, is ready to forget all about that blunder. Ben Affleck is something of an anomaly to me. He is A-list, very famous and considered incredibly successful, and for the life of me I have no idea why. He’s a decent actor, but where does this level of fame come from? I really liked Gone Girl but that is pretty much the only film I can pin on him that went really well. In The Accountant he proves that he is worth his paycheck and works hard to give a credible portrayal as an autistic accountant. What bothered me is that his face is so tightly controlled at times it looks like he has toothache. Apart from that, I liked the character. He is meticulous and well programmed and highly functional, yet there are times when the empathy with his lonely life becomes overpowering.

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I particularly enjoyed Jon Bernthal. He seems to excel when he is playing someone cocky and arrogant, and he looks to be enjoying himself quite a lot.

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Anna Kendrick did a fine job of not being a pain in the ass. I’m still flabbergasted by her current success. It is not that I think she’s a poor actress, I just never expected her to keep going from Twilight. She is also consistently cast in the same role and that becomes tiring quickly. Dana wasn’t her typical role and it is clear that when she is given a chance, she takes it and works hard to do well. Can I just say a quick thanks here that the character at least attempted to defend herself and didn’t just curl into a ball and cry about her problems? Whoever had the balls to write a woman who would defend herself, thank you.

JK Simmons. All I see when I see this guy is Whiplash. It was good to watch him as a friendlier, saner man. Despite the excellent acting I failed to see the reason to include the treasury department in The Accountant. They served only as narrators and poor ones at that.

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The story has a very interesting premise. An interesting premise is null and void if there is no proper execution though. I was not surprised by the big aha moment in the film. If you paid attention from the start any person who has watched movies previously would have caught that. The different parts of the story failed to properly mesh – Chris has to solve who is taking out a hit on him and Dana, the mysterious man who is appearing and killing shady characters, and the Treasury department director trying to find Chris for some unclear reason. I truly think the Treasury department was only included to be the vocal part of who Chris is, because they lacked any other driving force for the film.

That stupid ending. It was nice to see what Chris did with his money and that there was a great well of caring under the tightly controlled exterior. The rest felt so rushed. It was as if the director suddenly decided they had had enough and just wanted it finished in one scene.

 

Movie Review: Me Before You (2016)

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Plot: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of color. And neither of them knows they’re going to change each other for all time

Rating: 6/10

If you read my review of the book here, you’d know that I enjoyed the book. Me Before You is quite the controversial book with a whole lot of people being upset about the approach to both paraplegic patients and euthanasia. I’m definitely pro euthanasia, and while I certainly understand why people are against it, I DO feel that people often look at it from the survivor’s perspective and not from the patients’ perspective. This is however not a debate about that, so let’s talk rather about the film.

It lacks the personality of the book. Some filler information was left out of the film, which was a good thing because there are times where the book does feel winding. It does leave out some things that should have been included though – you are never privy as to why the bond between Lou and Will becomes so strong. You also never see how sick and uncomfortable Will is, and how much he lost after his accident. Despite the impressive acting from Sam Claflin, he still at times comes across as a petulant rich white kid in a wheel chair, which isn’t what Will was in the books.

I did like that the relationship between Will’s mother and father is much better in the film. The book has them on the edge of divorce and I think that the story has enough melodrama without a crumbling marriage as well.

I didn’t like that they underplayed the difficult relationship Lou has with her sister. They are basically frenemies in the books, and turned into besties in the film. Lou’s home life is pretty bleak in the books, and apart from the discussion of some financial woes, you never really get to understand how much Will changed Lou’s life.

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The two main characters were well cast. I find Sam Claflin a really accomplished actor and he is able to bring Will to life as much as the script writers allowed him too. I had some issues with Emilia Clarke – her facial expressions were all over the show. She did manage to be Lou though, and I liked that.

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I loved the adaption of this scene! Really exactly what I imagined in the book. It was sweet and hilarious and showed the difference between Will and Lou’s frankly terrible and egotistical boyfriend.

Why the low rating you ask when I keep mentioning the things I liked? I thought it didn’t reach the emotional depths of the book, it didn’t show us why the two characters became so attached, it never really displayed how much Will actually lost after his accident. Basically if you see this film you will be a little sad, sure, but reading the book broke my heart in the way only a really good story can. What I’m trying to say here is that Me Before You is not a terrible adaption, but it does lack the heart to make it truly heartbreaking.

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Movies 2016: Worst to Best

The year 2016 will be known for a number of things – an inordinate amount of celebrity deaths and an equally inordinate amount of lackluster movies. Are these two correlated? I’m not convinced its’ not. Anyway, here is my list of movies I watched this year that was released in 2016. It’s not been a good one.

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Number 19: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice 6/10

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Number 18: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them 6/10

Number 17: Before You 6/10

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Number 16: The Choice 6.5/10

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Number 15: How to be single 6.5/10

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Number 14: The 5th Wave 7/10

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Number 13: SUICIDE SQUAD 7/10

Number 12: Rogue One: 7/10

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Number 11: The Huntsman: Winter’s War 7/10

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Number 10: Legend of Tarzan 7.5/10

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Number 9: Finding Dory 7.5/10

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Number 8: Captain America: Civil War: 7.5/10

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Number 7: Zootopia 8/10

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Number 6: The Jungle Book 8/10

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Number 5: 10 Cloverfield lane 8/10

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Number 4: Dr. Strange 8/10

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Number 3: Deadpool (8/10)

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Number 2: Bridget Jones’ Baby: 8.5/10

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Number 1: Pride and Prejudice vs. Zombies 8.5/10

Watched, Read, Loved: November 2016 – Most dramatic month ever?

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What a month! It’s been crazy. I wrote this long ass post about all my opinions and then I was like eh, don’t need it, not my country, not my cheescurl. So let’s just go on with the usual here and do the rundown of what I was up to this month as usual, shall we?

I finished exams – YAS. So far I’ve passed everything with one result still pending. I’m darn pleased with myself, to be honest. So close to being done I can smell it. I’ve been rather irritated with some things at work, but my eyes have been opened a bit – I am so fortunate to be employed by a stable company where there is a 30% unemployment rate in South-Africa right now, and I should really be more thankful about that. I also broke plates at a Greek restaurant, and I now fully understand why the Greek people are so joyous – it is therapeutic! I also managed to be caught in rain storms quite a few times, and as I’m writing this I have a disgusting head cold going on – sneezing, coughing, basically being the person I’d generally want to murder.

Watched in cinema:

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Dr. Strange(2016)

I enjoyed this film quite a lot. It really IS Iron Man on drugs and has the exact same story, but I liked it nonetheless. Benedict Cumberbatch truly is the definition of the term strange, and works superbly in this Marvel film. (and he WERKS that cape)

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them (2016)

I made no secret in my review that I had zero time for this film. What a precious waste of my time and abuse of the Potter world. Ugh.

 Watched at home:

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Aliens (1986)

So much epic. I am so glad I sat down and watched this, my 2016 blindspot series has been quite the disaster and I’m scrapping it off the menu for 2017 completely. However, I did enjoy a whole bunch of the watched films, and this was one of them. Ripley is so badass man, so badass.

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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

As mentioned above, I’ve been kicking and screaming trying to finish my Blindspots while totally not in the mood, but this turned out to be so beautiful and heartbreaking. Totally worth the time and paying attention to the English subtitles.

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Series:

Vampire Diaries Season 5

It’s good, but definitely lacks a bit in terms of my favorite – season 3. However, Elena isn’t the world’s most annoying vampire ever, which can only be an improvement. Review will hopefully be up soon 😀

Books read:

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The Dressmaker– Kate Alcott

Despite this being the title of THREE DIFFERENT NOVELS – which lead to a variety of confusion -I have all the love for this book. It is definitely not the same story as the movie that I want to watch with Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth, but I am so happy I took a chance. What a lovely, interesting and thought provoking read this was!

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The Power of Six – Pittacus Lore

The second book in the Lorien Legacies is also turning out to be a fantastic read. It is well written and well thought out, something most of these dystopian/alien/teenage books lack completely.

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I am Number Four – Pittacus Lore

I reviewed this over HERE, and it was one of the better books I read this year. Very impressed!

Love by Design: Loving Jack and Best Laid Plans – Nora Roberts

I’ll never really review this – it has little to no story line and is essentially just some smooch smoochy stories. Even in my bedraggled study brain mode this was too dumb for me, and I probably skipped quite a few pages because there are only so many scorching kisses that can be read.

Reread:  Convincing Alex – Nora Roberts

A reread that won’t be seeing another review. I find these books fun and vacant, and having met real Ukranians I can assure you that they are not Mikhael and Alexi Stanislaski, ladies.

Reread:  Luring A Lady–Nora Roberts

Same as above. It was fun while it lasted!

Reread: The Obsession (Nora Roberts) – I have so much love for this book and author (as you all know), and I’m enjoying it the second time around – I borrowed it to a friend shortly after finishing it the first time, and I must say, it is as good as my first impression of it.

What have you been entertaining yourself with? Tell me in the comments 🙂

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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Plot: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

Rating: 6/10

If I could rate this movie purely on how pretty it all looked I would have rated it at an 8/10  – it looks pretty and the magic is impressive. I have a great love for the magically conjured umbrellas, it looked simply beautiful. Humour is readily available by the movie clown Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), an unfortunate human caught in a magical mess. I enjoyed seeing Colin Farrell in a film again, I feel that he has completely slipped off the radar in later years and hope this beckons a return for him. However, I am not supportive of the move of magic to America – talk about people needing a pat on the head to feel included. I really hated the No-Maj term – just NO – it lacks originality and sounds and looks stupid. Eddie Redmayne generally impresses me when I see him in something, but I was not a major fan of his work as Newt Scamander. He was twitchy and strange and lacked confidence completely. Ezra Miller was CREEPY – that is an achievement of the film as that would probably stay with me forever.

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The biggest flaw was the lack of story – Newt lands in America by BOAT – since when are we not apparating, folks? And somehow is careless enough to set loose some beasts which he tries to capture in. Throw in a female magical president (and a thorough dose of shade to the current American political landscape), Gellert Grindelwald, a badly plotted love story and some new magic terms, and you end up with a queasy mess that isn’t even close to what Potter originally was. As for the two major plot twists? The one is obvious from the very start and the second surprised me – I won’t go into detail for those people who still wish to watch it.

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Sadly, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them wasn’t that fantastic. I think I love Potter too much and notice anything that doesn’t jibe with the original works. However, it looked pretty and is well acted out, which should not be ignored.

Have you seen this film? What did you think?

Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

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Rating: 8/10

I’m guessing that most posts you’ve had your eyes on tells you that you need to go in blind where 10 Cloverfield Lane is concerned. Because I’m feeling all noble I will tell you that it would be a great disservice to yourself and the quality of the film to spoil it beforehand. I went in blind, and it was the best possible way to go into this. The best I can give you in terms of plot is there a woman who is in an accident and when she awakes she is told by the owner of the bunker she’s in that there has been an attack and she won’t survive outside. Is it for real? Can Michelle live in peace with Howard (John Goodman) and Ben (John Gallagher)?

Things I really liked about this film:

The atmosphere is so tense. John Goodman gives an incredible performance as Howard. The man is so strange, and despite evidence showing you that there are some truths behind his increasingly wild conspiracies, you can never be sure about his intentions.

John Gallagher as Ben – I really liked Ben. He was certainly awkward and provided some chuckles – but it was that an awkward and uncomfortable chuckling. I also enjoyed the development he had – the blind faith in Howard and how it started wavering.

Female lead – I enjoyed her sooo much. I have to say, the couple of thriller/horrors I’ve seen have all had great female leads in, and that makes me supper happy because I really can’t deal with tears and hysteria. Get up and kick some ass!

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The end – like WTF hahaha. I did not expect that. It was like “Oh, this is done” and then it was like OH HELL NO, THIS IS SO NOT DONE.

Will there be a real sequel? I hope so. The film and characters deserve it. I would definitely go see it.

Movie Review: Bridget Jones’ Baby (2016)

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Plot: Bridget’s focus on single life and her career is interrupted when she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch … she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby’s father.

Rating: 8.5/10

I liked every single thing about this movie. I had my reservations. Reboots are mad, sequels are a terrible idea and after 10 years even more so. I was so surprised when Bridget returned exactly as we left her – a bit more mature and world weary, without her beloved Mr. Darcy. She seems okay though – she has her friends, she’s much better at being alone and she’s quite successful. However, a rendezvous with a beautiful stranger at a music festival and a similar one with the love of her life results in a positive pregnancy test at 42 and some very awkward situations. She needs to tell her parents, something that every person on this planet probably dreads the most regardless of their age or circumstances.

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If you saw my review of The Edge of Reason on Wednesday, you know that I was very unhappy with it and that it completely lost what Bridget is about. BJB is different – the core of Bridget is the same – her truly amazing thoughts and quips. Patrick Dempsey replaces Daniel as love interest #2. Is he as hilarious and as charismatic as Hugh Grant? No-one can hope to be as I still consider Grant one of the finest actors in romantic comedies. I enjoyed Daniel as a character but still feel that he’s not part of the core team of the Bridget Jones mystery.

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Mr. Darcy is back, and even with additional wrinkles he might still be the love of my life too. He’s reserved and serious and I love that about him – terrible to say but his feelings feel so much more valid as a result. My main reason for concern was that I cannot live in a world where Mr. Darcy isn’t with Bridget – she carries the torch for all the rest of us awkward girls. It’s obvious that they belong together and even if Dempsey makes a convincing case there was no doubt in my heart. I did think some of her actions were rotten though – she should have pushed through with telling them that she wasn’t sure who the father is – there are a few crimes that I really think women should pull off and that is solidly one of them.

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Anyway, I got off my moral high horse now. BJB is one of my favorite films of 2016 – even my mom was in stitches and I was so sure she’d get on HER high horse because of two sexual partners (THE HORRORS). It is truly hilarious, it is truly Bridget, I cannot recommend it enough and it is certainly better than THE EDGE OF FUCKING REASON.