Watched, Read, loved: March 2017

March2017

Here is my monthly rundown of what I was up to the previous month. Right now it is still pretty much only addressing entertainment, but I hope to add some more life things into it soon too. Please feel free to comment below if you’ve seen any of these, or just to say hi!

movies-logo

Southpaw poster

Southpaw (2015) – I love a good sport movie. Even though they are all pretty much the same story, I’m always caught up. It was no less with Southpaw, and even though Jake Gyllenhaal irrationally annoyed the shit out of me, I really enjoyed this one.

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Letters to Juliet (2010) – Amanda Seyfried delivers another charming performance. Objectively I know this isn’t a strong film, but it is so feel good I actually couldn’t care less about ratings. It is foolishly optimistic and cheerful, and a great film to watch if you are feeling down.

The-Wedding-Singer-movie-poster

The Wedding Singer (1998) – The 90’s atmosphere, combined with a surprisingly affable Adam Sandler and an adorable Drew Barrymore, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Definitely one of the best Adam Sandler films I’ve ever seen.

My_Best_Friends_Wedding

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) – I HATED the ending and I really disliked the main character. What a stupid movie.

enchanted

Enchanted (2007): This spectacular Disney production made me so happy when I watched it again. It is on a grand scale and very elaborate and so lovely to look at.

underworld

Underworld (2003), Evolution (2006), Rise of the Lycans (2009), and Awakening (2012)

After years of ignorance I am finally familiarizing myself with this franchise. I had a great time with all these movies. Seline is such a strong female character and saves herself and her love more than once, and the feminist in me was cheering all the way.

four

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Continuing on this journey to watch more romantic films that are seen as classics, I got to see this. It was… okay. Hugh Grant really was quite the adorable English actor in his prime, and it is easy for him to be quietly charming. Andie McDowell also had no clue how to act. I’m not sure if she’s ever had a clue in that regard, but it really is prominent here.

zac efron

The Lucky One (2012)

The Lucky One  is not by any means the worst Nicholas Sparks film – Best of Me still holds that title – but what is most notable is the awful acting. Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron just don’t gel together. I’m forced to ask whether Zac Efron actually has a brain – there is nothing shining behind those pretty blue eyes. Sure, he’s cute and ripped, but his attempt at a tortured marine invoked less sympathy than concern about synapses firing at an appropriate rate. Schilling, yeah, also pretty bad. They also have zero chemistry and the scenes looked stage and neither actor really wanted their hands on each other. Okay, I’m done. But sheesh.

Kong

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island is what it was supposed to be: a nice action packed adventure with a handsome cast and a big gorilla. Ticked all the boxes for me, excellent popcorn entertainment.

Power rangers

Power Rangers (2017)

I had not planned going to cinema for this. I would have preferred John Wick, but I was sorely outvoted by a bunch of 30 year old men who wanted to watch Power Rangers. There is something to be said for nostalgia. I ended up having a decent enough time – I  was unaware up until this point that Power Rangers could be made into something that resembles a non-cheesy film. I’m still shocked.

books

The Guardians Trilogy by Nora Roberts: Stars of Fortune, Bay of Sighs and Island of Glass

I read these three books in the span of two weeks and I don’t regret one second of it. It is the most fun I’ve had in ages with Nora Roberts’ fantasy work.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Half-Blood_Prince

Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince (JK Rowling)

The penultimate book in the best series to have ever been written is overshadowed in intensity only by the last book. Half Blood Prince is consistently one of my favorites. It features the more mature trio, naturally Dumbeldore’s death and the discovery of the reason behind Voldemort’s apparent immortality.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)

Horace Slughorn returning to the castle to fight, Snape’s secret, Fred dying, Lupin and Tonks, Colin Creevy being tiny in death, Kreacher’s bullfrog voice, Dobby’s death, Hagrid throwing MacNair, Molly vs. Bellatrix– the last hundred pages of this book is nonstop goosebumps. I get tears in my eyes every time. Every. Single. Time. Deathly Hallows binds every single event that occurred in Potter from the very first page of The Philosopher’s Stone to the very last page of Deathly Hallows in a neat bow. This is truly the best thought out work I’ve ever read by an author.

angels-fall-nora-roberts

Angel’s Fall (Nora Roberts)

I really enjoy reading through my Nora collection at least once a year. Right now I’m with Reece and Brody, and I particularly enjoy the book – I like both main characters, the setting, the plot and development of said plot.

Movie Review: Star Wars: Rogue One (2016) – NO SPOILERS –

star-wars

Plot: The Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

Rating: 7/10

I actually don’t have an awful lot to say about this. Can I say I really liked that I was in a cinema full of fanboys, and while the excitement was palpable they quieted down and watched the film without any raucous noise? Definite plus! It was also the first time I visited The Mall of Africa – I’d been dodging it since it opened because the people went there in droves and if you know me you know I don’t like the droves. Despite the heavy traffic getting in, that Mall is gorgeous and I’m definitely returning after the festive season to just walk around and get a feel of the place.

What was good about Rogue One? The cast. Mads Mikkelson definitely deserves a mention. He’s been on the circuit for a bit and is slowly making the transgression into mainstream films, something he’s dipped his toe into a few times but has traveled under the radar mostly. I might not have gone super fangirl about him in Dr. Strange, but I really do like the man and his role in Rogue One worked very well for him.

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Someone really rich at Disney had the idea to put Felicity Jones and Diego Luna together on screen as Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor. It Felicity Jones certainly carries the look of all the Star Wars girls – pretty and pure and innocent. It must be what the fan boys like, because there is definitely a similarity between her, Portman and Rey. I did like her however. Jones’ is a great actress and any role where the female is sharp, smart, loyal and brave is worth watching. I enjoyed Diego Luna after a bit. He got into his role eventually and became comfortable onscreen. He shares undeniable chemistry with Felicity Jones, which made the duo a great success.

The look. No doubt about it, the technology is now what Lucas always wished it would be. The different worlds are so unique it is quite mind blowing believing that this is truly a brain child of one man – such a visionary. The film looks great – typical Star Wars.

The humor was light and carefully woven into the story so that it didn’t drown it out. Most quips are given by Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) – the blind man with an uncanny ability to see around him. I liked Chirrut quite a lot, he had funny moments and was all around cool. (I can say that for pretty much everyone in this film).

What didn’t I liked? I feel that it lacked some heart and felt a bit forced. The world doesn’t need a Star Wars movie every single year, they just need really good ones every couple of years. I was a major fan of the Star Wars one last year, and still feel that it is the better film of the two. There are two things I thought could have been done a tad differently – that ending (won’t mention because it is truly a massive spoler) and the fact that the film went completely Constantine – sorry for the comparison – and despite the heavy chemistry and cute moments not one kissing scene. This definitely isn’t a romance film and I’m not wanting it to be one, but can I just say that it wouldn’t have hurt this film.

Anyway. I wasn’t blown over and I enjoyed The Force Awakens much more. It isn’t a bad film, and my fanboy brother-in-law and his friends really loved it, so I guess that says something. This is probably one of the last films |I will see in cinema for 2016, and it really wasn’t a bad way to bow out!

Movie Review: Finding Dory (2016) – it’s A-DORY-ble!

Finding Dory

Plot: The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way

Rating: 7.5/10

FD2

What I liked:

  • The short film: You have to have had a cold hard for a very long time if you did not enjoy that little bird. I died a little inside of the cuteness. The terror was real, the happiness and discovery and adventure was real, and the insane happiness at the end made me so damn pleased.

Baby-Dory-in-Finding-Dory

  • Baby Dory. GAASSSHH. The big eyes. The baby voice. The remembery loss. Everything.
  • The happy family unit that Dory had and how her parents accepted her disability.
  • Marlin, the clownfish with wrinkles. He’s so worrisome, and just wants to protect his son. Albert Brooks did fantastic work with his voice work here.
  • Hank (Ed O’Neill) – I liked the character but gosh I find octopuses and their tentacles really disgusting.
  • Dory – Ellen DeGeneres is amazing with returning as the ever forgetful fish. I think all grownups would acknowledge that a Dory would be really annoying in your personal life but still is really cute on screen.

FD Nemo

  • Nemo – not really the character, he was never the main focus, but that small little fin is so frigging cute.
  • The CUTENESS – obviously I found everything in here really damn cute. However, it isn’t so cute that I wanted to retch.
  • I really love this animation. I don’t always love movies with animated pictures, but there are a few that I watched as a child and preteen that I will love until the end of time. Finding Nemo is one of those films, and I am glad that Pixar made a second film.
  • The end: I was like AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH when Dory finds her parents. They loved her so much.
  • And lastly: near sighted whales and Beluga wales with connectivity issues? HILAR
  • Pixar and Disney is on top form with this film. The graphics are beautiful.

What I didn’t like:

  • About the only thing I didn’t enjoy was how preposterous the last few scenes became and that the film became drawn out in its’ conclusion. I mean how many obstacles can one fish really take?
  • Finding Dory made me think really hard about aqariums. They have some strong social commentary in there that only adults will pick up on, but really, life of fish in closed tanks look awful.
FD1
Literally, a school of fish

That’s about it. I was really excited to watch this film because I just love the original. I wasn’t disappointed in the least, and it is worth venturing out for.

 

Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

JB poster

Plot: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart.

Rating: 8/10

This is firstly the most reluctant 8/10 I’ve ever given. I wanted to go watch Captain America, but that really couldn’t happen as my mom just isn’t a superhero kind of girl and the whole point of the outing was treating her. So I sulked a little bit about not seeing the Cap – I also have the worst flu in existence and that is definitely contributing, but it all worked out well in the end. – and as you all know I’ve since seen Captain America: Civil War and reviewed it here.

2016 had a slow start to movies, but it is making progress in becoming a good here. The Jungle Book is another favourable entrance, and Jon Favreau truly did a phenomenal job. The Jungle Book looks so good – the forest is beautiful, the descriptions and storytelling is enthralling. It is obviously a great job by Disney – their new releases of old stories are gorgeous so far. It must have been a risky undertaking having a novice child as your only human presence on screen, but it paid off in the end. Despite having a few scenes where the child isn’t all that convincing, he did a great job and he certainly looks like Mowgli.

JB Kaa

I can’t say too much about the film – the plot is no secret and remains close to the original material. As was done with the less impressive Cinderella last year, The Jungle Book is the exact same as its animation. In this case it works very well. The CGI is mind blowing, the voice casting is great (Scarlett Johannson is perhaps the best as Kaa) and the songs are as addictive as when they first came out. The Jungle Book is a feast on the eyes and is worth the ticket – and definitely the 3D!

JB Kaa

Links I Love III

links i love

Happiest of Fridays, everyone! It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these, so I thought it was high time. Hope you enjoy!

9 Quotes from Kurt Vonnegaut

This cat that looks like Adam Driver. Dead.

If Movie Titles were honest (Cracked)

9 Wise Words from JRR Tolkien (wordables have been upping their game this week!)

The 17 Funniest Tweets about Grammar (Buzzfeed)

As always, the 20 Funniest Tweets by Women this week (Huffington Post)

If Disney Characters were on Instagram (buzzfeed)

8 Tiny things that stopped suicide (Cracked)

Well, there you have it. If there is anything you thought was great from the shady internet, let me know and I’ll go check it out.

Movie Review: Inside Out (2015)

Inside Out Poster

Plot: After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

Rating: 8.5/10

Joy can be sad. That statement is so deep man. Wow. Disney and Pixar united to produce this year’s most pleasant surprise – Inside Out is interesting and unique and wins this year’s race in the Originality department.  I enjoyed it immensely and am really happy I went to go see it.

Riley baby

I loved Riley’s progression from a newborn to a preteen and how her emotions carried her. It’s touching to witness the start of her life as a carefree infant to a more cautious preteen. With her maturing, other feelings arrive and it is not as easy for Joy to remain the most predominant feeling. My personal favorites were Sadness and Disdain (not the feelings, the characters). The casting of the voices worked well – Amy Poehler has the bubbliest voice ever and Mindy Kalling as Disgust was endlessly entertaining.

Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), the main and most important of 11-year-old Riley’s five Emotions, explores Long Term Memory in Disney•Pixar's "Inside Out." Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), "Inside Out" opens in theaters nationwide June 19, 2015. ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The animation was unique and pretty and original. It was simplistic but had fanciful elements as well and looked really beautiful.

My only comment that could be construed as not necessarily positive is that Inside Out might be over the head for children. They will certainly enjoy the pretty pictures, but the story is actually quite complex and intricate.

Disgust

I loved the movie and think it belongs in some of my favorite animations of all time. I don’t often enjoy animations but I think this one is a film that can be enjoyed regardless if you enjoy the genre or not. Highly recommended!

Movie Review: Cinderella (2015)

Cinderell poster

“I have to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer. Have courage and be kind.”

Plot: When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.

Rating: 6.5/10

 cinderella-clip

With the annual event of a live animated Disney film, we know what to expect: the knowledge that a dress and pretty shoes will help you find your Prince. I mean, who needs personality or brains or kindness? Nope, just have your dress, shoes, evil stepmom, fairy godmother and mouse ready, coz you are going to find that handsome bastard and marry him within a first few days of your meeting. Oh, there will be some challenges, but because you are nice and everything it will all work out in the end.

Now that I’m finished with those nasty thoughts, I was really excited for this film and that it didn’t pay off. I had hoped for something more than the classic fairytale, but Kenneth Branagh produced what can really be called a reinforced version of Disney’s favorite fairytale.

Pros

Kenneth Branaugh really worked his material to the best of its ability. Cinderella is shot beautiful with such colourful style and just a slight hint of flamboyance and is able to carry the movie when the plot slows down.

cinderella-prince-charming

The casting of Richard Madden. Can the world just stand still with me and marvel at Robb Stark’s incredible beauty and talent. This guy is a phenomenon in the “Zoë and Natasha’s eternal debate on the need of male facial hair” debate – we both agree that Rob’s little moustache is delicious and should be kept in a hall of fame. The news that he was cast as Prince Charming made me so excited but he was sadly devoid of facial hair in the trailer, which disappointed me a bit. Well, Madden apparently works with either option because he is the perfect Charming to James’ Cinderella. He also does a really good job as Kit and his acting is impressive. I enjoyed the looks you got at him with his father – there was love and the acknowledgement of their duties between them. The insight into his kind heart justifies why a woman would just accept a man’s hand at the blink of an eye.

Background on Cinderella. I am naturally suspect on truly sweet people – it seems so unnatural for a person to always be kind and nice, a foreign concept in our world. James as Cinderella is then naturally suspected because that kind behavior to such wicked people seems very incomprehensible. The childhood factor helped to show that Ella was always taught to be kind to people even when they didn’t deserve it and that shaped her to become the doormat for the wicked Stepmother and her loony daughters. (I still don’t trust Cinderella, she’s too nice)

 Cinderella stepmom

Some background on stepmother, although not enough. Cate Blanchett handles this role with ease; she’s done much more with just such excellence before. It is criminal that she wasn’t more used. Some insight into her deplorable activities were given – why would a woman openly hate a young girl the second they met? It has been on my mind lately how bitter women become so bitter and cruel and this was just another case study how such things happen. I enjoyed Lady Tremaine’s attitude, her sarcasm and her constant irritation with her silly daughters, and yet you could tell that she loved her daughters despite the fact that she wanted to kill them.

The first dance between Kit and Cinderella at the ball. Call my heart soft and squishy but the romance in this scene was tangible and beautiful. That dress was incredible and Madden leading James through that dance sequence had me sighing with happiness.

 Cinderella meeting

I am a huge Disney fan, but as time progresses and I am more aware of the subconscious sexism women are subjected to each day I am more and more worried that Disney stories are what young impressionable girls are watching. Disney has been on a mission to fix their damage in recent years – Disney’s Frozen had Elsa openly question why her sister would want to marry a man after only knowing him a day. Cinderella is still unbearable sweet and kind and that must not be seen as oppression but as for the personality and charm it is. Cinderella speaks her mind when she meets Kit and has an opinion and I was like HALLELUJA. Her constant bowing to the prince at the ball had my eye twitching but I do acknowledge that feminism was allowed at least fifteen minutes of play time.

 Cinderella couple

Cons:

The movie starts with a slow pace, picks up some speed and then slows again. It dragged a bit at the end and felt purposely drawn out.

When you are gifted Cate Blanchet and Helena Bonham Carter, you used them and don’t under utilise such talent.

The opening scenes with young Ella and her parents were very kitsch, forced, cheesy, over the top and unnecessary.

This movie is exactly what you expect. There is nothing new and original, no fresh take.

Cinderella didn’t really have all that wrong with it; it just lacked either of the two things that could have made it work: magic or originality.

Maleficent (2014)

Maleficent

Maleficent: “I had wings once, and they were strong. But they were stolen from me.”

Maleficent is a 2014 Disney movie that looks at the iconic Sleeping Beauty fable from another perspective, the villain, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie). The young Maleficent (Ella Purnell) lives in the magical realm the Moors, and because she is the strongest of all the faeries there, she is destined to become their leader. One day, she has to address a young thief, and meets Stefan, a peasant boy from the nearby kingdom with which the Moors are in constant war with. Stefan and Maleficent bond, and eventually fall in love, but it isn’t real love: Stefan is soon corrupted by the things that break most humans: greed, thirst for power and jealousy. Stefan drifts away from Maleficent and becomes a squire for the King, who wishes to infiltrate the Moors. Maleficent wins a fight against the King, injuring him badly, and the King promises all his squires that the one that kills Maleficent will be the next King.

Stefan returns to the Moors, intent on killing Maleficent, but the single shred of dignity in his body prevents him from killing her. Instead he cuts off her powerful wings and takes it to the dying King. Believing it to be proof, the King makes Stefan his successor and Stefan is married to the King’s daughter. Shortly afterwards they have a beautiful baby girl, Aurora.

Maleficent is nearly destroyed with heartbreak of Stefan’s betrayal and losing her wings, and swears revenge. After saving a raven from death, she turns him into a human, and Diaval (Sam Riley) becomes her eyes and ears, and soon tells her of Aurora’s impending christening.

Maleficent

Maleficent heads to the christening, where she lays the curse on Aurora: that on her sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel, and fall into a deep slumber, and that only true love’s kiss can awaken her.

Aurora is taken by three dimwit faeries to safety, but their incompetence causes Maleficent to save Aurora plenty of times. Times progress, and Maleficent soon notices that Aurora (Elle Fanning) has none of the flaws her father has, and is truly as lovely as everyone says. Is it too late for Maleficent to take back the curse? Can Aurora be saved? Does true love exists, because Maleficent doesn’t believe it does and specifically put that into the curse for that very reason?

 aurora

Maleficent to Aurora: “I will not ask you for forgiveness. What I have done is unforgivable. I was so lost in hatred and revenge. I never dreamed that I could love you so much. You stole what was left of my heart. And now I’ve lost you forever.”

Rating: 7/10

This is the second movie I watched in the cinema in two weeks, and I still haven’t seen the Fault in Our Stars, and I desperately want to. I haven’t seen that yet because the company I went with “didn’t want to cry”. Well, let me tell you I nearly damn cried in Maleficent more than once. It is beautifully done and tells a good, tragic story about a good person so maddened by grief that they do something they regret and ultimately can’t reverse, no matter how sorry they are.

The casting was near perfect. Sharlto Copley and Michael Higgins were both perfect casting choices as King Stefan with narrow faces and high cheekbones. Copley finally seems to be the hope of the South-African acting community and did well as the lowly Stefan. His true agenda was surprising – not to save his daughter, but rather defeating Maleficent to be the greater power. I found him so deplorable in the end, broken by greed and selfishness.

The internet has been raving about Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, and I am glad to finally have seen how right they truly were about it. She was amazingly cast and Maleficent’s looks are truly the live impersonation of the Disney movie. I’ve always had this bad perception of Jolie’s acting abilities and I can admit that I was wrong – her acting was real and deep and really made the movie.

Brenton Twaithes and Elle Fanning as the iconic Prince Phillip and Aurora also worked incredibly well. Prince Phillip was also one of the characters that stood out as perfect casting – once again the live impersonation of a story book character and all. I found that both characters actually looked sixteen – something highly unlikely in Hollywood where age perception is flawed. Their love story is charmingly underdone and that I enjoyed, because for all my love for Disney movies I have always felt derision at the love at first sight angle – WHEN has that ever happened? Without giving too much away, I thought the true love scene was so beautifully done and a brilliant fresh take on the story.

What people seem to forget about Maleficent is that it is a Disney movie. If you look at it forgetting who made the film, you might feel it is fluffy and not worthy of attention. If you remember that Maleficent is from Disney and look at it from that angle you will recognize it as a good Disney movie and very much worthy of attention. The take on the story is fresh and entertaining and I loved how they worked everything from the old storyline into the new story and how it all seemed plausible. The crow (that angle was pretty well done), the little monsters, King Stefan’s surprisingly deplorable character (feeling alone in the naughty chamber, Joffrey?) and how the three good fairies weren’t actually all that sweet and kind and capable.

I love the new direction Disney is taking with their movies. It is as if they are trying to rectify the fact that they have been whispering to girls for many years that you are only there to be saved by a prince, and that girl power is an actual fact and not a myth.

Maleficent is good enough to be watchable to adults and stays away from too scary, so the kids will like it too.

Have you seen it? Did you like it?