Watched, Read, Loved: June and July 2017

*warning: gargantuan post ahead*

I want to start every post now with “yes, it’s me, and I am still alive”. What a couple of months this has been! July has hands down just been the slowest month in everything for me. It was a roller coaster – I was away in Nelspruit end of June to bid my bestie goodbye, then for two weeks in Potchefstroom for university work and then I had to rush to finalize my younger sister’s 21st birthday. And when I looked down at the date it was suddenly the 19th of July and there were no blog posts from me! SHOCK, HORROR. So I am trying to move my blog into activity again, and herewith some of my favorite posts, a Watched, Read, Loved list for both June and July. I really hope to be back to full time blogging in August, I’ve really missed everyone and the feeling of having a creative outlet.

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I started off June by watching Wonder Woman (2017). I’m not really a weeper, but let me tell you I was misty eyed reading some of the truly excellent tributes that poured in. Little girls in costumes, women everywhere just flooding cinemas to watch a superhero films and all the financial and critical acclaim that accompanied this film just filled my heart. I can’t do any more justice to this excellent work of director Patty Jenkins that has already been done, but I assure you that I will always try.

Say Anything

I also saw Say Anything (1987) for the first time. I can now put a film to the iconic John Cusack pose that is everywhere on the internet, and I’m not really surprised that I enjoyed this film because it is right up my alley. It is a short, fun and easy watch and really good in its’ genre. I must post its review soon but a severe case of apathy towards typing out reviews has taken hold of me at this stage.

 

I also saw Rules Don’t Apply (2016) which has the unfortunate distinction of being one fantastic box office fail. It’s not really bad, it is just frustratingly boring. It could have been great with its excellent set design and costumes, solid acting and notable performances. It just lacked heart and a decent turn of events.

I picked up Mother’s Day (2016) to watch with my own mother, because I can promise you Gary Marshall won’t be putting too risqué sex scenes in any of his films. I was right – there is little to no romance. If you can get past the notion that Jennifer Aniston is supposed to be the old, washed out mom in here, you will likely enjoy it. Julia Roberts is hidden under the most horrible wig I have ever seen, but the film is sparingly okay and has some legitimately funny moments in. It also casts Jason Sudeikis, and I have never seen him in anything except this and that godawful We’re the Millers – can someone tell me why he’s famous?

I also watched Bad Moms (2016) which was rather fun and hilarious. I know, I was shocked too.

Then there was Jackie (2016), a movie that got an Oscar nod for Natalie Portman. While her performance certainly deserves a nod, the movie itself is quite slow and not really worth the hype.

On the Afrikaans movie front I watched Platteland again. It is such an intense musical, and as Afrikaans as can be. I really do have a fondness of locally produced movies, and my plan to branch a part of this blog off into local films will hopefully happen sometime.

Homecoming

Spiderman: Homecoming (2017) was a first of three July cinema watches for me. I really still struggle to formulate thoughts on this film. I sincerely didn’t hate it, but I have struggled to see the reason for Spiderman for years now, and this reboot even more so. Tom Holland is okay I guess. I particularly liked Zendaya. I think it is safe to say while I still have time for amazing and new superhero films (such as Wonder Woman), the generic Marvel film has become somewhat of a repetitive bore.

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I still cannot believe that I refreshed my makeup, made sure my outfit was okay and went out on a damn Friday night (this is torture for me) to watch Valerian and a City of a thousand planets. You will see that review hopefully Friday, but heads-up: I hated it.

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I also saw Dunkirk this last weekend and that at least was worth my time. Christopher Nolan is the salve to every hurt a bombastic Bay/Snyder movie throws out, and the beautiful, heart wrenching film hit me quite in the feels.

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Series:

Yes, I know. I need to tame this wild Pride and Prejudice obsession that has gotten over me. Not only did I see the 2005 film AGAIN – this is in addition to the watch I did in May of it, I also got my hands on the 1995 series version of it. I am a bit torn. I’ve read far and wide that it is the best adaption, and while it is certainly the most faithful adaption, I really hated the score – classical music makes me want to pull my hair out.

I finally started watching Alias season 4. It isn’t bad, still has plenty of Michael Vartan in, and I want to finish it before it somehow gets spoiled by the internet for me.

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The Vampire Diaries Season 6: Season five of this vampire-tastic show took me ages to finalize. It was slow, badly planned and really unimaginative in some places. I am glad to report that season six is wonderful – it is the first season with really legitimately funny moments in, and I am having a fantastic time.

Game of Thrones Season 7: This is still ongoing and I am avoiding people or comments like the plague who have watched it – the internet is the rudest place ever.

books

On the reading front I haven’t been exactly revolutionary, but I have picked up Rage of Angels by Sidney Sheldon. I have never read anything by this author, and I am really enjoying it so far. It is fast paced plot and is well written with likeable characters. I didn’t think I would like a lawyery story, but it seems I was mistaken. I’ve hit a lag with it, and should really finish it up. I’ve slightly changed my opinion with the events that just loops all the time.

I have reread a bunch of Nora Roberts novels – Blue Smoke, The Obsession and some small ones which I really can’t recall the names of. I’ve also picked up Jewels of the Sun and Tears of the Moon, and I will review the entire trilogy once I am finished with the third book.

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I am also now reading Come Sundown – I did all the dance moves when I got a special on Loot (online shopping rocks) for this new release of Roberts. I always weep because I’m just not okay with forking out the prices retailers ask in South-Africa for new releases, so this was quite a score. I can tell you now that there is something different to Come Sundown. I will see how it ends, but it is one of the most unique books Roberts has ever done, and the tone is quite different from what she usually does.

I also should really get in to finalizing those 100 Happy Days post on here. They are just so much work and admin that I am not in the mood. I did finish the challenge, and you can few that all on my Instagram account.

As for adventures, I quickly went down to my bestie to see her one more time before she goes on her international adventure. The next time I see her will be in London, which at this stage is simply mind boggling to me.

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Movie Review: Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling (2015)

Ballade vir n enkeling poster

Plot: As a prolific South African writer disappears, a journalist is motivated by ambition to uncover the writer’s secretive history. (IMDb)

Rating: 8/10

I have this huge thing about supporting Afrikaans movies (to be fair, all South-African movies). I think we do have some talent in this country and it needs to be developed and encouraged, so I am usually quite keen to give a South-African production a try.

That said, South-African movies and especially Afrikaans movies are quite bad. It suffers from shaky story lines to horrid acting to dodgy directing and it is usually a magnificent cheese fest.

So, imagine my surprise when I went into the cinema on Friday night and watched Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling (the title translates into something similar to Song for the lonely one) and it turned into one of the best things I’ve yet seen in 2015.

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Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling was originally a TV drama in the 80’s. I’ve heard that it is an excellent retake on the old story. The story focuses on the disappearance of successful author Jacques Rynhard (Armand Aucamp). Carina Human (Donna-Lee Roberts) is a journalist at tabloid newspaper Montage and is ordered by her sleazy boss Gavin (Zak Hendrikz) to find all the dirty on Rynhard’s life. The more Carina searches, the less she seems to find: No-one that knows Jacques has any issue with him – he is a loved and respected man, the darling of the country and his own community. Desperate for information and the chance to get a post at a respectable newspaper, Carina finally hits paydirt. But when she starts comprehending the events that happened in Jacques life, the question becomes whether she wants to tell the public her information and if she can use it to find out what happened to Rynhard.

I was really impressed with the directing. Quentin Krog did a phenomenal job with his cast and the story. He spins drama and intrigue tightly together, and if you don’t know the original story you would never even begin to think what is actually going to happen. The directing also seems modern and fresh, and I loved how the scenes smoothly flowed into each other.

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I’ve seen Armand Aucamp only in one other movie, Knysna, a movie that is quite the cause of the impression that all Afrikaans movies are horrifically bad. Aucamp did a fantastic job as the adult Rynhard – he kept the character’s personality traits from Edwin Van Der Walt’s junior version of Rynhard – that there is good in everybody and that you will find it eventually. Aucamp did a very good job and could turn on the intensity when needed. His character is less intense than the adult Jan-Paul (Jacques Bessenger). Also, Aucamp is absolutely gorgeous.

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Then there is Jacques Bessenger. He always plays either the bad guy or the guy with ulterior motives, and I expect it from him when he appears in a show or movie. He did not disappoint, and his acting was the best I’ve ever seen (and his usual standard is a good one). I’ll go as far as to say that Bessenger is slightly better as Jan-Paul than Aucamp is as Rynhard – Jan-Paul’s desperation and worry for his best friend is evident from the start, and Bessenger’s performance is raw and brilliant.

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Rolanda Marais and Christia Visser impressed me very much as the older and younger Lena. Lena’s first introduction onto screen had me thinking “yep, that girl is buckets full of trouble” and I was not wrong. Christia Visser is beautiful and charming as the teenage Lena, her artistic nature shining through in all her actions. Rolanda Marais does a haunting job as older Lena, a woman at the end of her optimism who has no clue how to fix everything that is crazy in her life.

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I’m sure that Zac Hendrikz is a very nice guy. But sheeesh Gavin freaked me OUT.

The support cast contributed to the excellence of the film – Helene Lombard had such a strong impact with her portrayal of Jacques’ mom. I think the eeriest performance was by Zak Hendrikz. He was so creepy I will definitely walk wide circles around him if I find him on the street. Gosh I still have the chills.

Mysi Moolman

Also, a 10/10 for Cindy Swanepoel as Mysi Moolman. She had me laughing non-stop and the things she said is nothing short of brilliant. Her inappropriate comments and behavior had me take notes!

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I don’t really have faith in Donna-Lee Roberts. Her acting has always been questionable, especially in her long running stint in local TV soapie, 7de Laan. The extent of the success of the film can particularly be noted in her performance – her usual unconvincing acting was much better in here.

Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling had a haunting soundtrack that added impact to the story being told. It really carried the story through from beginning to end, and Die Heuwels Fantasties’ version of the original soundtrack was amazing.

The story itself is very solid. It is a trip down memory lane back to school days and those easy, amazing friendships that just happened. It is a stark reminder of the brutal punishment boys were subjected to back in old South-Africa. It provides insight into the changes that has happened in South-Africa and how people evolved. It is also a study of human nature and the impact childhood has on a person. As for the plot twists – I usually spot them quicker than I can spot plastic surgery on a Kardashian and MANY of the plot twists in here sneaked by me. I caught the big one literally seconds before it happened and had me gaping at the screen and having people in the cinema look at me like I was a bit psycho.

Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling is a shining achievement in South-Africa’s cinematic universe. The movie carries English subtitles that are well translated, which is a major plus if you don’t speak Afrikaans. The best description I’ve heard about this movie is this: “this movie stays by you, and when you think you’ve finally gotten over what you saw, it hits you all over again”. If that is not a recommendation for a movie, I don’t know what is.

The movie is being released in Australia and New-Zealand (a large number of South-African ex-pats live in those countries) so if you are there and in the mood for a really good foreign film, I suggest you try this!

PS: Lastly, SORRY for the pic heavy post! I just absolutely loved this film and is so proud that it is South-African!

PPS: Can anyone please tell me if they see the similarity between Ryan Reynolds and Edwin Van der Walt?!

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