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: Dunkirk (2017)

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Plot: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

When will it stop?That was what I thought most frequently during the duration of Dunkirk. The endless bombing, the endless attacks, the lack of hope and the unseen enemy made Dunkirk anything but comfortable to sit through. The masterful score by Hans Zimmer heightens the dread. Every time a bomb went off it felt like a vibration in my heart. The correct use of young men for the majority of the army served to highlight that World War II was fought by young, scared men. Dunkirk doesn’t make them heroes – it makes them human. The cast is excellent – from the weathered and powerful lines of Kenneth Branagh to the stoic and impeccable (as usual) performance by Tom Hardy, the movie has an ensemble cast that will leave you impressed. Harry Styles takes on his first role as an actor and he does so remarkably well. I had a moment when I heard that he’d been cast in a Christopher Nolan film, but rest assured, not only did Nolan state he had no idea who Styles was when he was cast; Christopher Nolan would never cast a subpar actor no matter who he was. Styles impressed me – he is authentic and talented and I will probably like him much more as an actor as I ever liked him as a boy band performer.

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Another mention should be given to Jack Lowden, the other pilot in Air, alongside Tom Hardy. It takes significant amount of effort to divert my attention from the talented and gorgeous Hardy, but Jack Lowden managed to keep his own. He had one of the most intense scenes in the film, trying to get out of his slowly sinking aircraft. I will hope that this is not the last time I see this actor in a film, he was talented and worth the watch.

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As for the rest? It is too much to mention. It is about young, imperfect men fighting a seemingly hopeless war. Don’t expect too many acts of heroism – the only definable act can be that of the ordinary British people who got into their little boats to head to Dunkirk and evacuate 300 000 men from imminent death. The majority of the film was intense and scary, but that moment where Commander Bolton sees the tiny ships approaching had me sniffling back tears. The moment wasn’t the often used emotional manipulation in movies – Nolan is above that and is well capable of crafting a powerful scene that hits you in the feels without having to manipulate you to get you there.

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Dunkirk is haunting. It is typically Nolan. I wouldn’t name it as my favorite Nolan or war movie, but it is excellent in both categories. It serves as a reminder of the greatness of the human spirit, and sounds a clear warning to a state this world should never enter into again. I will readily admit I am a sucker for war heroes and get pulled into it every time, and this had the same result. I highly recommend it for movie lovers.

Have you seen Dunkirk?

Rating: 8.5/10

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Blindspot 2016: final rankings

WOW. I’m done! Can you believe it?! I most certainly can’t. My 2016 Blindspot list was the list I’ve bitched about the most, not because of the bad movies but because I struggled so much getting time to site down and watch the films I chose. I’ve been really bad with schedules, which really ddin’t help the matter. But anyway, let’s stop that now because yet I still somehow managed to see all each and every film listed.

My list of 2017 is up tomorrow, and I’ve at least seen a number of them in preparation with my bestie and the remainders are great films won’t feel like a bit of a chore to get through. I also have most of those films already available, which was one of the reasons I took so long with 2016’s Blindspot – struggling to find these films.

Here’s a rundown of from least favorite to favorite. The scores are listed, but I’m not too worried about that right now, just basically listing what I remember actually liking the most.

Home alone

Spot #12: Home Alone (1990)

Rating: 6/10

This is definitely the movie on the list that I should have watched way early in my life to really love it. I can see why people my age would love it if they saw it as children, and probably has the same sentiment towards it as I do towards a film like Matilda, which again reminds me that I really want to watch Matilda again. Home Alone was lost on me, I really couldn’t find any interest in a story where the main character was a child.

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Spot #11: Love Actually (2003)

Rating: 6.5/10

There are people that actually think that this is one of the best romantic comedies of all time. I could not disagree more. There are critically few characters that are even remotely likeable and I was highly offended by most of their actions. Eugh.The best thing about this film is Colin Firth and Alan Rickman, and if those two men can’t convince me that a film is worth it, nothing can.

Back to the future

Spot #10: Back To the Future (1985)

Rating: 7/10

The same as Home Alone here – missed my chance. It was much more appealing though as there were at least older characters, but I still felt my attention wavering once or twice.

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Spots # 8 & 9: Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)& 2 (2004)

Rating: 7.5/10 and 8/10

Yes, I am fully aware that these are Tarantino films so low on my list, but I have my reasons – mostly (and I might get shot for this bout of honesty), is that I found the story a bit lacking on both and overly violent even for Tarantino. I am such a fan of Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds (my favorite), and Pulp Fiction, and these two didn’t get anywhere close to touching my top favorite films of his.

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Spot #7: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Rating: 8.5/10

I had trouble finding films this year that convinced me of its originality, and ESotSM is one of the very few that could convince me that creative talent was still alive and well. I loved Kate Winslet with her crazy hair, I adored Jim Carrey, Mark Ruffalo was adorable and Frodo was a sufficient level of creep in here. Hey! Kristen Dunst didn’t make me gnash my teeth.

Warrior poster

Spot #6: Warrior (2011)

Rating: 8/10

This movie! I was bent double with anxiety. Who must win? Does any person deserve to lose? Performances by Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy were phenomenal. I cannot accept that this film tanked in the box office, it is truly great.

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Spot #5: Memento (2000)

Rating: 8/10

Another frequenter of my Blindspots has been Christopher Nolan. He’s such an intelligent man and it comes through in his films. Memento was this year’s pick, and I unsurprisingly loved it.

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Spots #3 and 4: Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986)

Ratings: 8.5/10 (both)

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Yes, I agree. How haven’t I seen these two films up until now?! I lived for 26 years without the knowledge of how awesome Ripley was or how gross the chestbursters are, and although my life wasn’t sad before, it is all the richer now.

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Spot #2: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Rating: 9/10

Both numbers one and two for me were really sad and thought provoking films that provided insight into the very best and the very worst of the human nature. Pan’s Labyrinth is the ONLY film that could have beaten out To Kill A Mockingbird.

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Spot #1: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Rating: 9/10

The winner of the year is the gut wrenching and incredibly poignant Pan’s Labyrith. This is a bit touchy feely, but watching this film made me want to cry for two reasons – the beautiful directing and the sad story of Ophelia and her desperate escape methods from the horrors of her world.

Well, there we have it. I enjoyed the majority of this list – truly it is probably only numbers 10 – 12 that really grated on me, and yet I am not displeased about spending time with them. Did you do a Blindspot in 2016? Comment below t and I haven’t discovered your undoubtedly awesome page, send me the link below 🙂

Blindspot 2016: Memento (2000)

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Plot: A man juggles searching for his wife’s murderer and keeping his short-term memory loss from being an obstacle.

Rating: 8.5/10

The entire point of Blindspot is to see things that we were supposed to have seen ages ago but obviously never did for a number of reasons, most notably laziness in my case. Memento is definitely one of these films, and after watching it I am so happy that 1) I finally got to it and 2) somehow avoided spoilers all this time.

Directed by one of the craftiest and most intelligent filmmakers of our time, Memento is some of Christopher Nolan’s finest work. And it should be clear that nearly all of his work is fine – Prestige was on my Blindspot in 2015, I loved Interstellar, Inception blew my mind on a level that I still haven’t written a review for it. Those Batman movies? Dark and heavy and undeniably brilliant. Memento is some of his earlier work, and definitely some of the best that he’s ever embarked on. The directing is excellent, naturally – the black and white and color alternating between past and present. GENIUS.

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Guy Pearce plays Leonard, a man with short term memory loss. That alone fascinated me from a medical viewpoint.  Memories and retention of them are so fascinating and complex and the Nolan brothers managed to bring Leonard to life in a way that gives insight to the complexity of his problem. Leonard is highly organized and tackles his memory loss by notes and tattoos. I kept hoping he had some form of a tattoo on his back that would resolve a lot of his problems. Alas, he didn’t, but his tattoos on the front of his body were highly informative and disturbing. Pearce also gives the performance of his career in my opinion – tightly controlled and methodical, this role would have been a disaster in a less accomplished actor’s hands.

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The other characters are all a bunch of shady fellows you can never quite pin down – are they bad, are they misusing our guy, what exactly is going down. Assistance is provided due to the movie moving backwards – Leonard never knows what he did yesterday, but at least we do. It quickly becomes apparent that Natalie (Carrie Ann Moss) isn’t what she pretends to be to Leonard, and it is very very easy to quickly learn to hate her. I STILL have no idea whether Teddy (Joe Pantoliano) is a villain or what. He’s most certainly not a good guy and is one of the best grey characters in the story.

The directing is unique and brilliant – stark black and white alternating between current events that are depicted in color – I have to admit I only noticed that part afterwards reading up about it – it is quickly clear that the movie is moving backwards in a way, but the clear difference isn’t something I immediately picked up on. I’ll definitely have to see this again at some stage.

So that is basically it for my second last Blindspot of 2016. I kicked against watching it, but in the end I was so entertained that it will definitely make one of my favorites of this year.

Blindspot 2016: The list

I wanted to say happy Tuesday but since it has long since been established that Tuesdays are actually the real Mondays, I’ll just say: keep strong, friends. I’ve finally managed to pick some Blindspot choices – I actually went through IMDb’s Top 250 and chose a lot of them from there. I should get a post up sometime about what I’ve seen on that list.

Alien (1979)

I know. I’m ashamed.

Aliens  (1986)

Same ↑

Home Alone (1990)

I have no idea why I never saw this as a kid. I’m really interested.

Kill Bill Volume I (2003)

Tarantino is my man of the moment and really looking forward to this. It might be a bit violent for my taste but I am still willing to try.

Kill Bill Volume II (2004)

Same ↑

Back to the Future (1985)

When Back to the Future Day happened last year I hid in my room, ashamed and sad  to not take part in such festivities.

Memento (2000)

What is a Blindspot list from Natasha without a Christopher Nolan education?

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

This book wasn’t a part of my education at school (fuck you, Government). I want to get to both the film and the book this year.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

I haven’t really read up about this because I hate spoilers, so really keen to see what it is about.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Dark fairy tales? IN.

Warrior (2011)

Tom Hardy, my husband. But it also shows up on the IMDb list so it is worth a watch. Can’t wait.

Love Actually (2003)

Because my bestie hated it and everyone else loved it (or most people). So I will go see what I will see.

What did you pick? Link me your posts below 🙂

Blindspot 2015: The Prestige (2006)

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Plot: Two stage magicians engage in competitive one-upmanship in an attempt to create the ultimate stage illusion.

Rating: 9/10

I’ll start off saying that I’m not one of the Nolanites who obsessively watch for new releases and get violent in his defense. That does not stop me from recognizing the true genius of the man, but I don’t faint with excitement is all I’m saying. But he directed two of the Blindspots I’ve most enjoyed this year, so obviously this guy is on to something.

I chose amazing Blindspots for 2015. Both the Godfather One and Two, Fury, Interstellar, Casablanca and now the Prestige were all well worth the time I devoted to them. I have Pulp Fiction and A Good Year left and I think we can safely say that Pulp Fiction is the one that might upset the rankings here.

THE PRESTIGE, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, 2006, (c) Newmarket/courtesy Everett Collection
THE PRESTIGE, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, 2006, (c) Newmarket/courtesy Everett Collection

The Prestige is a phenomenal movie. It is entertaining, well-paced, and non-linear in its storytelling (I’ve come to realize that ol’ Nolan likes doing this). Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johannson, Andy Serkis and David Bowie are the main cast and they entertain non-stop. I’ve always thought Christian Bale is a fantastic actor, but I haven’t really seen him as jaw dropping good. I’m told that this is more his natural accent than any other, but just realizing how excellently he does accents and how his whole demeanor changes when he slips into a role is terribly impressive. Without giving plot reveals on here, because if you haven’t seen it you really should, I called one of the big ones pretty early on. All you have to do is pay attention to Tesla’s experience (an already fascinating character and his incorporation into this was a great idea). The last one, just before the end of the movie? I had my suspicions but wasn’t totally correct there – it was very well done. The movie has a fantastic end – you are kept wondering and on the edge of your seat until the very end, and then it still manage to surprise.

The Prestige is well worth the watch. So happy I chose this!

Blindspot 2015: Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar

Plot: In the near future, Earth has been devastated by drought and famine, causing a scarcity in food and extreme changes in climate. When humanity is facing extinction, a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered, giving mankind the opportunity to widen its lifespan. A group of explorers must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet that can sustain life. The crew of the Endurance are required to think bigger and go further than any human in history as they embark on an interstellar voyage into the unknown. Coop, the pilot of the Endurance, must decide between seeing his children again and the future of the human race.

Rating: 8.5/10

Dr. Brand sets the somber tone for Interstellar with his rendition of Dylan Thomas’ famous words: “Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”The devastating wasteland that earth has become has had a profound effect of the human race – Earth has finally revolted against the never ending abuse it received and is slowly getting revenge – the human race is dying out.  NASA, nearly defunct, searches desperately for a planet that can sustain human life; as well as a way to get there alive.

Left to right: Mackenzie Foy and Matthew McConaughey in INTERSTELLAR, from Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers Entertainment.

That is how Cooper, a retired astronaut, gets to go into space again. His daughter Murph never forgives him, even as time passes in its strange pattern and she grows older.

I expected to hate Interstellar. I actually hoped I would – nothing is more annoying than the hype big movies generate. Sure, it is great for their budget, but it is so conformist. I thought it would be fussily intellectual – which I hate – but it wasn’t. There were some big concepts but it didn’t go overhead. The concepts weren’t constantly being discussed on screen either, which helped move the story in understandable lines. Interstellar managed to march towards three hours without killing the storyline. It was needed to properly illustrate the story.

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The graphics were amazing. Christopher Nolan and his team did a phenomenal job. The vast emptiness of space was beautiful and in stark contrast with the destructive zone Earth has become – there is a feeling that at least the human race didn’t destroy space yet. The wormhole – can I just say WOW? That doesn’t sum it up accurately but it was the only feeling I felt, awe. The water planet and then crazy Matt Damon’s planet, and I will get to him in a moment, was absolutely beautiful to behold.

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The cast did a wonderful job. Matthew McConaughey as Cooper – his apathy with being on earth, his decision to leave, his role as an astronaut – it was wonderful.  I love his slow Texan drawl so much. It makes him sound lazy and hurried at the same time, and it worked for the character. I wasn’t jumping around when I saw Anne Hathaway, but it is a testament to the excellence of Interstellar that she didn’t annoy the living hell out of me. Both McKenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain as the young and older Murphy did great – the two meshed their actions well enough that they ended up looking as the same person. Murphy’s story was really sad; losing her mother and her father and then having to watch the years pass knowing he was out there and never getting to see him. I also enjoyed Timothee Chalamet and Casey Affleck as young and older Tom Cooper, although the character took a backseat compared to Murph’s story.

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Now, let’s just focus for a few seconds on the MAD Matt Damon. I think he did a really good job in here, that his role was well done and that he was great in his part here – not a big one but an important one, showing the perils of being alone too long as well as being crazy. Why anyone would let him back into space (i.e. The Martian), I don’t know, but I’m worried.

Now, it has to be mentioned why I haven’t rated this movie at least a 9/10 – the quality certainly justifies it. I cannot for the life of me understand why LOVE had to be brought into a movie that is pure, wonderful science, and by one of the only TWO women in the movie. Anne Hathaway’s amazing Brand was totally killing it, and there she went, her choices being influenced by her silly little love story. It didn’t gel and deducted awesome points from the character and the storyline. It is a movie about SCIENCE. Done.Love is a human emotion and thus not quantifiable, idiots. If it was Anger, Jealousy and Hate would also be quantifiable.

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Apart from that one slight, Interstellar was a jaw dropping, humbling experience. I will gladly watch it again – it seems like the type of movie where you will always notice something new. The great concepts, the wonderful score by Hans Zimmer, the graphics and the acting makes for a masterful movie that can now live with the greats.

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PS: I will post two Blindspots in October, as I had no time to review one in September 🙂