Watched, Read, Loved: November and December 2017 and a (belated) happy new year!

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Happy New Year dear friends! The past two months have been whirlwinds! I’ve forgotten how to even blog, and I will be super surprised if my WordPress account actually allows me to log me back in.

Needless to say, it has been hectic – when is it ever not though? I finally completed my degree. I always imagined how it would feel getting that notification, and nothing came close to it because hyperventilation was the prevalent feeling – this panicked excitement and too much happy. I’ve also subsequently been promoted, so November and December were interviews and crazed stress. January is all about settling in to my new role and getting my replacement into her new role, so I can promise some extra crazy moments around the office.

We had my sister’s babyshower, and it was a wonderful day. She’s had some scares with her pregnancy, but I am happy to report that her baby girl is now happy and on her way at the end of January. The day of the babyshower was extremely hot! (It was after all December in South-Africa). We made way too much food but had a lovely time celebrating. If I may say so myself – I can organize an event! 😀

I also managed to have some recreational fun. We went to Sun City in Rustenburg, South-Africa. It has a “sea” and it was a fun day away from Johannesburg. (Also an international five star resort, and looks like the intro to Jurassic Park) However, if I ever go again, I will stay the night. The drive back was straight from a horror movie.

We also went to The Garden of Lights, annually hosted by Emperor’s Casino. It was nothing like I imagined it would be – so charming and gorgeous. It is definitely something I will revisit in the years to come.

Another nice day was visiting the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. They are so wonderfully green now and it was therapeutic strolling between the plants.

I went on another Tinder date. It’s actually a recurring event with this one guy. I just don’t know what to make of the situation at this stage. I’m sure he’ll make a decent boyfriend, I’m just not sure if he will make one for me. I also went to another singles event, which was really nice. However, the people that attend persistently do good in short bursts but later just fade into the background.

It seems too few paragraphs to describe the past few months. I feel like my life has expanded and grown, and you won’t hear from me that 2017 was a bad year. It was a pretty good year for me. I’m extremely grateful how much I’ve managed to achieved, and hopeful that I will reach some major milestones this year – which I’m keeping secret for now, but the moment they happen I will let you know.

I only have one “resolution” this year, and that is to use less plastic. Plastic consumption in South-Africa is pretty bad, and I am also a culprit. The government implemented costs on plastic bags a few years ago, but as it is still only about 20 cents a bag there hasn’t been a lessening in the staggering plastic consumption in South Africa. So I am planning to take a woven bag with me from now on and to pack my groceries in there when I shop, so as to help in a small way save this planet of ours.

Well, here is a rundown of my entertainment adventures below. Let me know your opinions! (Sitting on a thousand unread personal emails, so I might have missed some really important moments)

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The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). Hmm. There are so many strong feelings about this film currently on the internet.  Let me tell you, my feelings were strong after exiting the cinema. I’ve mellowed some, but I am not a fan of this film. I need to write a proper review for it, and I will save my commentary for then.

Pitch Perfect 3

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017): These amazing ladies have decided to exit while they are on top. I enjoyed this film so much. It is such silly humour and can be pretty darn vulgar, but at the same time it does my heart good to see female driven comedies shine on their own.

PSILY

PS I Love You: Gerard Butler, my pants were on fire. I like this film, despite fully knowing so many people hate it.

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Lego Batman (2017): What a smart, funny, dialogue savvy film. The best Lego movie and one of the finest DC movies.

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Fifty First Dates: I remember loving this film as a child, and eagerly ordered the DVD when I stumbled upon it. It’s still good – a strange mix of Adam Sandler’s best and worst sides. I can at least let my Adam Sandler movies I actually like list grow to three – The Wedding Singer, Mona Lisa smile and Fifty First Dates. The rest remain garbage though.

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Lethal Weapon 3 – I got the third and the fourth movie to watch after Zoe and I watched the first two. I had a great time with this one as well, and the three movies I’ve seen are all equally good. How looky was Mel Gibson before he became the bitter old white man?

grease

Grease – It really seems unnatural the way John Travolta’s hips move in this film. How young was he?! How young was Olivia Newton John?! Had a lot of fun watching Grease, but it is undeniably a long film.

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Sy Klink Soos Lente – I got in my Afrikaans fix twice in films the past few months. Both (the second below) made me so happy and proud of my language and what we are achieving in cinema. Sy Klink Soos Lente is funny, smart and sweet, and I have watched it once more since the first time.

Vir die Voels

Vir Die Voëls – Same as the above. The writing is significantly better than most South-African films, and there is an awareness of dialogue in both these films that impressed me. It’s not just words, it is how Afrikaans people speak. I will definitely sit down for this again!

Eat Pray Love – I grabbed this off the shelf for something to watch with my mom. I’ve always liked this film, but this time around I found myself slightly irritated with the level of first world problems the character experiences – it’s just so much easier to have a midlife tantrum when you can travel the world. Javier Bardem in this remains gorgeous.

The lord of the rings

The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King: My heart. I am so attached to these films. They are everything. I actually don’t want to review them – how to bring justice to some of the best films ever made? My heart.

Justice league 2017

Justice League – Yep, seemed to have done this in November/December too! To be perfectly honest I enjoyed this more than – gasp – Star Wars. It is definitely one of the better offerings from DC.

Italian Job Poster

The Italian Job (2003) – Another Blindspot off my list! This went okay, just not a favourite Blindspot this year.

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Zoë got me the best Christmas gift EVER – all the way from England (I’m still naive enough to get such a massive kick from an international shipment). DOWNTON ABBEY BOXSET!!!!! I cannot describe my intense love for this show – it is simply so wonderful. I am already on to season two, and the sarcastic remarks, the amazing running commentary of the Dowager Countess, and the unbearably lovely Matthew Crawley (SOB) keeps my so entertained my pinkie is going to shoot in to the air anytime soon.

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I actually have read way too much to even remember. I am still busy with Under Rose Tainted Skies – it’s good, just very angsty. I’ll finish it soon and tell you all about it, but teenagers are generally difficult to deal with and this one even more so. I am currently devouring Marian Keyes’ This Charming Man, arguably my most favourite read of hers. It’s written so well and flows through the course of the story easily. I also revisited Laurian Clemence’s Mushy Peas on Toast, one of my favourite South-African reads ever, and consumed an unhealthy amount of Nora Roberts. Nora is a spiral – I will read so much of her and then not look at another author for ages, which is lazy and unhealthy on my part. I know I read the two books in the Stanislaski brothers again – which I enjoy despite my opinion on Ukranians not quite matching Nora’s, I also read one of the MacKade books (Return of Jared MacKade), and revisited the Guardians Trilogy. I also read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them (the original book, not the play, which I avoid on principle), and this makes me in the mood for Harry Potter, a complete reread. Who knows, maybe I will even watch the movies as a series. I am also in the mood to read Eat, Pray, Love again by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s the True North of my love of her books, and I’d like to experience it all over again.

What were you up to this festive season? Let me know!

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Blindspot 2017: The Italian Job (2003)

Italian Job Poster

Plot: After being betrayed and left for dead in Italy, Charlie Croker and his team plan an elaborate gold heist against their former ally.

This month is running the risk of churning out very little blog posts. That’s okay. I’d rather post when I’m in the mood versus loading crap because I have some demented sense of responsibility. I sat down to get through this Blindspot entry after my emotional breakdown finishing Spartacus. I can’t even contemplate reviewing it yet, I go into a hulk smash mode whenever I think of it – just ask Zoë. So I am not committing to watching another show right now. I can’t deal with having my heart ripped out of my chest a second time.

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So on to The Italian Job – it was quite okay if a bit forgettable. Mark Whalberg pretends he can act and we let him think he can. Seriously, I’ve always thought of him as Second-Tier Matt Damon. Then Donald Sutherland – what’s the word on him out there? He seems to have been 76 for 76 years; I can neither contemplate him as younger or older than he always seems to be. I’m also not really onboard with saying he’s a fantastic actor – age is not an indicator of talent. President Snow is a top tier thief in The Italian Job, recently on the run from his parole officer, when he meets up again with Charlie (Whalberg), and a Fast and the Furiousesquetype of team of thieves. There’s Jason Statham as Handsome Rob (don’t get why people think he’s handsome – he’s short, angry, and can’t act), then two other guys. Or three other guys. Not sure. They are all introduced in a typical fashion, with flashbacks and quips. Some of the dialogue is quite off, the humor doesn’t always hit the right spot, and it is very easy to forecast the resolution of this film. Homegirl Charlize Theron is the best with acting in the bunch working to find her father’s killer, and she made the movie okay for me. She’s a smart sort in this film, making sure the skills she learned from her nefarious father is turned into a legal and thriving enterprise. Also – really blonde and pretty and completely devoid of her South-African accent.

It seems like an Ocean’s Eleven, without the extreme charm of George Clooney and Brad Pitt to carry it when needs be. The acting and storyline isn’t as solid as it should be either. They rely heavily on the use of Mini Coopers to provide flash, and I guess when the car manufacturer launched again back in 2003 it was a big deal. But shoot me – I don’t see a man driving a mini as significantly manly. The car is so tiny – if you want to rob things just use a big vehicle.

Italian Job 1

The Italian job a decent enough heist/thief movie, with the characters as always trying to show you how nice thieves really are. Did I miss the part where the name of the movie links to the content of the movie? Or is it merely because their job in Rome resulted in the death of one of their team members? I can’t really tell, so let me know if you know.

I’ve had such a fantastic list in 2017 so The Italian Job isn’t near to the best I’ve seen, but it is quite enjoyable all the same. You don’t need to think too hard about it, so it was really quite okay to watch with my broken Spartacus and Gannicus’d heart.

Rating: 7/10

Movie Review: Birdman (2014)

Birdman posterPlot: A washed-up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of his Broadway play (IMDb)

Rating: 8/10

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It seems like Birdman will be one of the few movies I dislike and everyone else likes. It just wasn’t all that in my eyes and I don’t really get the hype. I can see why it has critics weeping with happiness – it is original and offbeat, which makes it refreshing to watch. The cast is stellar – Michael Keaton is at his best, Emma Stone continues to be my favorite young actress and Edward Norton has enough talent to leave you feeling whiplashed. The plot develops at a great pace and nothing is left untouched, except perhaps that open end that had me irritated.

Birdman isn’t to my taste, and I think that is mostly the reason I didn’t love it so much. I thought between this and The Theory of Everything (the other major film of last year), The Theory of Everything was much better. I can reason that it is here purely a matter of preference to me and that is why I feel like this. I do think that Keaton’s performance was just as excellent as Eddie Redmayne’s, and if the Oscar went the other way it wouldn’t have been unfair.

Birdman Emma Stone

My favorite parts were everything with Emma Stone in. Her acting range is wide and she is fantastic as the weird rehabilitated rich kid. She and Norton share a trait that I enjoy – they flip a switch and their performances are immediately intense – they both have this seemingly inexhaustible level of raw emotion locked inside of them.

I experienced the film as very angst ridden. It has a nervous energy to it and the musical score makes you want to go and check if you did all your homework. I read that the film was shot in this way to specifically achieve that stressed atmosphere, and therefore director did a good job with what he planned. 

Birdman was good and I think there are plenty of people who will really appreciate everything that it has to offer, but it really isn’t something I will watch again.

Movie Review: Fight Club (1999)

fight club poster

Tyler Durden: “Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

Plot: An insomniac office worker looking for a way to change his life crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker and they form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more…

Rating: 9/10

It’s usually somewhat obvious right from the start if a movie will rock your socks or not. Sure, some movies deteriorates/improves halfway through, but it’s obvious whether I will like a movie or not about 90% of the time by just seeing the first ten minutes. Fight Club is exactly like that. I’ve seen it once before but I was young and wasn’t really paying attention at the time.

The movie starts off strongly, it is unique and it has the warped sense of humor I enjoy very much. The directing of the movie is gritty but darkly humoristic and clearly intended to make the viewer expect some form of a plot twist later on. The plot twist itself – I won’t mention too much for those that still plan to watch this – is brilliant and unexpected. Did you figure the twist out before it was revealed? Please let me know, because then you are a genius. It is so brilliant because when you DO find out little things start making sense.

The cast is spectacular. I don’t know which person impressed me more – Brad Pitt, Edward Norton or Helena Bonham Carter. I’ve always loved HBC – she is so quirky and interesting and every role she chooses suits her perfectly. I can’t see anyone working better than she did as Marla Singer. She was crazy and out of control, yet she ended up being more stable than Tyler Durden at the end of it all.

It’s quite easy to imagine that Brad Pitt is so successful because he is so wildly attractive, but that is simply not true. He is a great actor and he shows it here as Tyler Durden – he is cocky, powerful and a true anarchist. I loved his flamboyant outfits and outrageous nature.

Then there is Edward Norton… he starts out balanced, although tired, and his rapid descent into meeting rock bottom is entertaining to watch. He goes from a typical career driven man to something sinister and infinitely more interesting.

The best thing about this movie is that it is nothing what you would imagine when you see the title. The movie is about rebellion and mental illness and lack of critical elements needed for successful mind functioning and it is

Recommendation: HIGHLY

Marvelous Mondays: The Incredible Hulk (2008) by the Cinematic Frontier

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Happy Mondays, folks! We are stealthily approaching the end of our fantastic Marvelous Mondays blogathon. If you are still keen to review a movie, let me know and we’ll work something out!

Louis from the Cinematic Frontier has been kind enough to contribute. Let’s see what he thinks about the Incredible Hulk (also, if you haven’t been to his site, I suggest you hop over and click that follow button!) Thanks Louis!

 The-Incredible-Hulk-2008

Marvel Studios kicked off Phase One of its cinematic universe with Iron Man in May 2008.  The following month saw the release of its second entry,The Incredible Hulk, a reboot of the 2003 Ang Lee film that was designed to connect the Hulk to Iron Man and future Marvel Studios films.  Marvel promised fans a ton of Hulk action in this installment and a lot less of the cerebral Shakespearean family tragedy that dominated Lee’s film.  Marvel even hired director Louis Leterrier of The Transporter films just to show that The Incredible Hulk would showcase lots of Hulk action.  I saw The Incredible Hulk on the big screen not long after it opened, and although I missed the Shakespearean family drama elements of Lee’s film, I still enjoyed Leterrier’s film very much.  This review of The Incredible Hulk is my entry in Natasha Stander’s Marvelous Mondays Blogathon over at her blog Life of This City Girl.

2008’s The Incredible Hulk follows Dr. Bruce Banner, who has been on the run from the U.S. government for the last five years after a laboratory accident turned him into a giant green monster (leaving his girlfriend Betty Ross injured and her father, General “Thunderbolt” Ross, determined to bring Banner into custody).  After General Ross unsuccessfully attempts to capture Banner in Brazil, Banner is forced to return to the U.S. in the hope of finding a cure for all the gamma radiation that is still in his blood.  He must also contend with Emil Blonsky, a British soldier who has been injected with a super soldier serum that has some dangerous and lethal side effects.  A terrific cast was assembled for this film: Edward Norton (as Banner and the Hulk), Liv Tyler (as Betty Ross), William Hurt (as General Ross), Tim Roth (as Blonsky and the Abomination), Ty Burrell (as Dr. Leonard Samson), Tim Blake Nelson (as Dr. Samuel Sterns), and cameos by Stan Lee, Lou Ferrigno, and Robert Downey Jr.  Norton is excellent as the conflicted Banner, constantly struggling to reconcile with his other half (the Hulk).  Over the course of the film, Banner is working to get rid of the Hulk but must also deal with the possibility that he might have to just learn how to control it instead.

The screenplay by Zak Penn (with uncredited rewrites by Norton) is interesting in that it doesn’t just reboot the Hulk franchise; it also functions as a re-casted sequel to Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk film that is now set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a lot of Stark technology and weapons show up periodically due to their use by the U.S. military and even S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a subtle appearance behind-the-scenes).  I was also fascinated by Emil Blonsky’s character arc; here’s a man who loved being a soldier so much that he was willing to have himself injected with an unsafe super soldier serum (and later Banner’s mutated DNA) that ended up turning him into something monstrous.  Burrell’s Doc Samson was also an interesting character in his efforts to understand Betty and his attempt to help Banner (most of Burrell’s scenes, along with a lot of great character development scenes, were cut out to reduce the running time; Norton’s cut of the film would’ve kept these scenes, which are available on the DVD and blu-ray).  The reference to the 1970s/1980s TV show The Incredible Hulk were also a nice touch.

The special effects are incredible (I just had to go for it), as is the production design by Kirk M. Petruccelli, Peter Menzies Jr.’s cinematography, and Craig Armstrong’s emotional and action-packed score (which even includes one reprisal of Joe Harnell’s Lonely Man theme from The Incredible Hulk TV series).  Leterrier’s direction is strong and he delivers the action goods.  Leterrier’s film is a good one, but could’ve been a great one if those character scenes cut from the film had been kept (they would’ve added more depth to the film).  Regardless, it’s still worth watching and fans are still clamoring for another Hulk film (I hope Marvel gives us one soon).

Marvelous Mondays: The Hulk by MovieRob

Ahoy folks! Rob was kind enough to review the Hulk for me for my Marvelous Mondays blogathon. If you are interested, see the list here and pops me a line, okay? Thanks!

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“We’re going to have to watch that temper of yours. ” – Dr. David Banner

Number of Times Seen – 2 (3 Nov 2003 and 20 Oct 2014)

Brief Synopsis – A scientist gets caught in a gamma ray accident which causes him to turn into an indestructible Green Monster when he gets angry

My Take on it – I have always been a big fan of superheroes, so when I heard that they were coming out with a film version of the Hulk, I was hopeful that they would do a great job with it.

What’s interesting is that when it originally was released in 2003, I probably enjoyed it more because of the lack of many more movies in the genre, but now, re-watching it in 2014, I can rightfully say that this is a disappointment because obviously it could have been done better.

Director Ang Lee tried to make a superhero movie that was more intellectual than action in order to give the viewer a  reason to think about the “why” and not just the “how” one becomes a superhuman.

I don’t think the world was ready for something like that at the time and it would take a few more years until Christopher Nolan was able to prove that it’s possible to achieve.

The storyline is weak because there isn’t much of a villain here and that’s kind of the point of a superhero movie.  When the Marvel juggernaut of movies took over this franchise in 2008, they did a better job of fleshing out the character and gave us a more enjoyable superhero movie like we all wanted.

All that being said, this movie still has it’s merits and the main one being that the special effects are very well done (for the time).

As much as I like Eric Bana, I’m not sure if he was the best choice for Bruce Banner, both Ed Norton and Mark Ruffalo do better jobs with the role in the subsequent movies.

Bottom Line – Not the best superhero movie ever made, but also not the worst.  Lee’s attempt to make an intellectual superhero movie just didn’t work out like he planned.  Very cool special effects but the storyline is weak.

Rating – BAFTA Worthy (6/10)

Thanks Rob!

PS: I took part in Rob’s monthly Genre Grandeur by reviewing Wolf of Wallstreet. Go looky see here