Movie Review: Arrival (2016)

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Plot: When twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.

Since I haven’t read one bad review about Arrival and about ten million people asked me whether I’d seen it, I was really rather excited to get to this. I also loved Sicario, which at that stage had been my exposure to director Dennis Villeneuve’s work.

Arrival is one of the most unique and well thought out films I’ve watch in ages. It is some of the best work I’ve seen from 2016, and would certainly have altered my Top Ten list of 2016. Villeneuve has a talent to direct the dark and dreary. His signature style is tense and the subsequent underlying tension makes him a formidable force to watch in the future. He knows how to get the most intense emotions from his films’ stars, most evident in the way Amy Adams, Jermey Renner and Forrest Whitaker portray their part of Arrival.

"Story of Your Life" Day 37 Photo: Jan Thijs 2015

I guess I see now why people were so riled up when Amy Adams was not nominated for best actress. She was fantastic as Louise, a linguist who is tasked to extraterrestrial beings when they mysteriously appear in random locations across the globe. The lingual exploration was fascinating, which explored the dissection of communication and language. It made me realize that we take language for granted and how it forms and changes us. Talking is so natural, we rarely pause to consider how remarkable it is that we are talking.

I am also appreciative that Villeneuve once again provided a film with such a strong female lead. He obviously has an appreciation for strong female characters – can we have more of him please?!

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I always feel like a complete noob when talking about CGI. Visual design is one of the areas where I truly have no experience in (or a desire to get experience in). My adventures into more serious films have shown me however how much tone and proper CGI can affect a film. Arrival has incredible CGI. The Aliens are formed in a way that is slightly revolting and highly fascinating, light years away from our perception of beady eyed human forms. There is a particular scene with Adams that was mesmerizing – I get goosebumps just thinking about it. The directing also is sad and heavy and dark, and impresses the sadness which Adams’ character carries with her.

The eventual conclusion to this two hour masterpiece will stay with you – I am still wondering about the implications of it all. The focus, despite the entire plot, is not truly on the Aliens. It is more about how would we even talk to Aliens should they arrive on the planet.

Rating: A well-deserved 9/10

Watched, Read, Loved: April 2017

April is the best month for South-Africa. Seriously – we have so many public holidays people are actually nice to each other. I took off a chunk of time as well, and it did me the world of good. I actually got some sleep in, saw my bestie and watched some amazing films. Without further ado, here is my rundown of April 2017.

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Movies:

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Beauty and the Beast (2017): The painful excitement that came when I heard they were doing a live animation of my favorite Disney classic was excruciating. Would it work? Would it fail? The QUESTIONS that plagued me.Additionally, B&B was released in South-Africa later than the rest of the world because of South-Africaitis, and there were conflicting reports to be read. Anyway, grabbing popcorn and sitting down to see this was really wonderful. I liked it, and will watch it again. I had Gaston stuck in my head for a week. I better not hear that tune soon.

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One Day (2011): HATED IT.

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Basic Instinct(1992): This is part of my Blindspot 2017 series. This year I am doing remarkably well with it, because Zoë and I watched a bunch of them in December because #besties. Basic Instinct is next on the list and quite the shocker. OMFG my poor eyes.I might never recover.

Anywhere but home (2008): I thought this comedy was quite funny the second time around (I know I’ve seen this before but I can barely remember it). It’s also titled “Four Christmases”. I’ve never understood exactly why some movies get two titles. Anyway, if you can believe that someone like Reese Witherspoon would end up with someone like Vince Vaughn, you can get through the movie. It has some funny moments, and sure they are the typical things you’d expect, but they are funny regardless.

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Twilight: New Moon (2009): I’ve been meaning to blog about Twilight as a set for ages now. I did Twilight (2008) easily, but had a couple of months delay by what succeeds it. New Moon is the most insufferable – both book and movie – but I sat through it eventually.

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Twilight: Eclipse (2010): Eclipse is a strong successor and definitely superior to the ghastly New Moon. Edward is still an obsessive stalker, Bella is still pathetic, R. Patz and Kristen Stewart still can’t act. But decisively better than the infuriating New Moon.

Safe Haven (2013): The casting for Nicholas Sparks film is never specified for acting abilities. I guess the author/filmmaker knows his audience too well, and knows if he provides enough pretty people the film will be acceptable to his fans. He’s not wrong. I enjoyed Safe Haven and the acting is really better than the acting in The Lucky One. The kids were cute and the story was okay.

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He’s just not that into you (2009): I always enjoy watching HJNTIY. My brother-in-law did not appreciate us making him watch it though, telling me that it is not also a guy-friendly film as I initially thought.

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Warm Bodies (2013): I just love this film. Nicholas Hoult is a zombie, and when he eats the brains ofTeresa Palmer’s boyfriend, he starts seeing some memories and slowly returns to human form. The cast, led by Hoult, are all quite charming and for a story that shouldn’t work it works really well.

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The DUFF (2015):yes, I watched it again. One of my favorite films at the moment. Such hilarity.lethal weapon

Lethal Weapon 1 (1987) & Lethal Weapon 2 (1989):
It was my first time around watching this buddy-cop series, and I really enjoyed it. The 1980’s were a glorious time to be alive obviously!

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Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

SO SLOPPY.

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Chef (2014): Chef is a film about good food and happy endings, and well deserved of its’ praise. I really quite liked this film!

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Arrival (2016): My review will be up next week. I loved this. Handsdown one of the finest films of 2016.

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Drive (2011): I remember enjoying Drive the first time around, but I really couldn’t remember everything about it. I enjoyed it so much this time too, it is a phenomenal film and some of Gosling’s best work.

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The Guest (2014): This film has a lot of science reasons it works well to the appreciative eye, but I can tell you that I would have loved it without the science too. Gorgeous directing, a solid plot and excellent score, this film is a great film to watch again and again.

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Prisoners (2013): Prisoners currently ranks as my least favorite Villeneuve film. It is on no level a poor film, it was just not my favorite of his. And it is five hundred hours long. *Scientific fact*

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016):

I can watch this movie indefinitely. It is the best!

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Crazy Stupid Love (2011): I definitely need to review this film again – It has been ages since I’ve posted it on my blog. One of the most inoffensive romantic comedies produced in later years, this movie will make you laugh and relate with some character in here.

Nocturnal animals

Nocturnal Animals (2016): This is my new hated film. Gosh, what a spectacular waste of my life. Pretentious bullshit.

 

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Black Hills – Nora Roberts

This is a particular favorite book of mine. I enjoy Dr. Lillian Chance – she is passionate about her work in the refuge she built and is smart and cool.

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The Concannon Sisters trilogy – Nora Roberts

While I do enjoy this series of books – Born in Shame, Born in Ice and Born in Fire, they certainly aren’t my favorite of the author. However, her love for Ireland does show when reading this, and I particularly enjoy the description of the scenery.

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Two Broke Girls Season 4 and 5

I’m enjoying myself way too much with this comedy. It shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but I end up really laughing at it.

What did you do in April?

Movie Review: 28 Thoughts while watching Captain America: Civil War (2016)

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Plot: With many people fearing the actions of super heroes, the government decides to push for the Anti-Hero Registration Act, a law that limits a heroes actions. This results in a division in The Avengers. Iron Man stands with this Act, claiming that their actions must be kept in check otherwise cities will continue to be destroyed, but Captain America feels that saving the world is daring enough and that they cannot rely on the government to protect the world. This escalates into an all-out war between Team Iron Man (Iron Man, Black Panther, Vision, Black Widow, War Machine, and Spiderman) and Team Captain America (Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Sharon Carter, Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye, and Ant Man) while a new villain emerges

DON’T READ IF YOU ARE AVOIDING SPOILERS!

Rating: 7.5/10

  1. Why isn’t this titled Iron Man: Civil War? Was that the first fight between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark? (The lame comments gets worse, promise)
  2. Let’s just focus for a few seconds on the fact that this entire fight starts with Tony signing something, The Captain refusing and because they are both pigheaded, a big brawl starts. MEN.
  3. When did Rhodie become an Avenger?
  4. That scene with Tony Stark and the lady at the elevator at MIT is really very sad.
  5. Vision is like the strict dad. No fun allowed.
  6. Can I please learn to Sparta kick like Captain America?
  7. I will also pay a lot of money for fighting skills like the Black Widow.Civil war natahsa
  8. And also – her hair in time of upset – it remains perfect and I want her secret.Civil War BP
  9. Black Panther!!! How great does he look? I love it.I didn’t expect him to be Prince what-what, that was a surprise. Also, the country/area’s name is Wakanda? American source material, I tell you.
  10. On a serious note – I love that the cast is looking more diverse these days.
  11. But on another note – how are only TWO of the Avengers women? That is not very diverse – are the Avengers Donald Trump supporters?Civil war audi2Civil war Audi
  12. Let’s play a drinking game – every time you spot an Audi onscreen you take a shot of Jagermaster.
  13. Is there a slightly love vibe between Vision and the Scarlett Witch? For interest sakes, does he have… all… the equipment of a man or how does that work? And isn’t he something like Tony’s best brain parts? Does that mean that Tony also fancies Scarlett Witch? So many questions!
  14. How does Steve feel to have dated a girl and her grandmother’s sister? Steve is a fox!
  15. Captain America in sunglasses and a cap. (hehehe for my pun) – it works really well.
  16. The fight scenes were incredible, well choreographed and not over the top. Although, the buses flying everywhere at the helipad? That was the height of preposterous. Does Stark Industries cover the bill for all the damage the Avengers wreck?Civil WAr barnes
  17. Bucky Barnes. Such a great character and Sebastian Stan brought everything to the table as usual. Sebastian broke my heart with all his sad and soulful looks, though I loved the camaraderie between Steve and Bucky.
  18. How sad is Penny’s funeral? Seriously, how much must our guy handle? Penny’s inclusion broke my heart because she’s the only thing that Steve had left from the world he existed in and new well.
  19. PLOT TWIST! As mentioned above, how does he feel that he does a cross generational dating vibe going on?
  20. Steve can pull me closer like he did that helicopter. MY GUY.
  21. I want to bitch and moan that husband Chris Hemsworth is not in this, but really, there are about ten million characters already in here. Same goes for the green guy – I ADORE Mark Ruffalo and think he’s great as Dr. Bruce Banner. But I don’t think the posters would have been big enough for the cast if they were included.
  22. I really liked the Black Panther. He looks great. The character is also really solid – there is a goodness in him that was definitely missing from the havoc the Scarlett Witch wrecked in Age of Ultron.
  23. Daniel Bruhl! Great appearance by a solid actor.Civil war cia
  24. Some Martin Freeman too. I hope he has some more time in future movies – Marvel can do with some of his experience and class acting.
  25. I need to watch Ant Man really soon – I wish I could have seen the film before I saw Civil War – because my cutie pie Paul Rudd is his cute self.
  26. The new Spiderman… why is his aunt Marisa Tomei and why is he so young? I just can’t.
  27. Spiderman’s talking is only second to Tony Stark’s incessant talking, and if I have to be honest there is only enough space for one talker in the franchise.
  28. I enjoyed the end and appreciated that it didn’t end with a truce because everyone’s mother is named Martha. Not that I’m pinpointing to anything else.

Ultimately, Captain America: Civil War is Marvel at its’ finest. What did DC think in sending in the substandard BvS when it was so obviously made to go up against this? There is no competition. Marvel has established its’ characters and they follow a successful if generic formula, and it works every time. I thought the story was a bit rushed and Daniel Bruhl did not get nearly enough show time or even a few flashbacks. Only when he’s achieved what he wanted to achieve you get insight into why he is doing what he’s doing.

Civil War is also sporadically like a Game of Thrones episode – there are too many characters to follow and you end up looking at things like how nice the costumes are and the action sequences. Captain America has always been the best Marvel films in terms of material, and this one slipped just a bit in that aspect.

However it does not change the fact that Civil War is a fine piece of work – the action sequences are thrilling and authentic looking (except Audis flying here there and everywhere). Of the new appearances I enjoyed Black Panther the most, and Spidey way last because really, why a reboot when the last cutie pie Andrew Garfield movie was released only last year or something?

Anyway, good job, Marvel. You entertained me really well.

Also, these arms:

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Movie Review: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Plot: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

Rating: 8/10

MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Avengers: Age of Ultron, had the extremely difficult task of living up to its’ predecessor. My love for the first movie is well known, and I’ve reviewed it on my own site as well as on Rob’s for his Genre Grandeur.

I was extremely excited to enter the Marvel universe on Friday night, and I was not disappointed.

Age of Ultron immediately starts the action. The Avengers are united (although they sadly never share HOW the Avengers got back as a team), and they are kicking ass. Invading the Hydra building in Sokovia, they briefly meet the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and it is very clear that they are impressive enemies. Then Tony Stark is Tony Stark and uses fellow genius Bruce Banner, to set loose Ultron, a powerful creature with artificial intelligence whose main goal is human extinction.

Age of Ultron feels like one huge act. The action never stops, and the scenes flow into each other. I really enjoyed that and thought it also worked well with the slightly less over the top fighting scenes. I really enjoyed the character development. My big issue with the first Avengers were that the characters aren’t really developed – some you know because of their stand alone movie but the first Avengers is just packed with vague references and smart mouth comments between the team.

Age of Ultron tries to give you an idea that these are (mostly) people. I found the story line on Hawkeye the most interesting and never thought that would be in the books for him. I also really enjoyed the character development Natasha Romanoff got – she’s the only female Avenger from the first movie and it is clear that she’s had a sad and unsavory past, but no further background was provided. Her story is intense enough to draw outrage and sympathy on her behalf, and also endear her to the female audience.

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The humor in AOU is a lot less forced and thus funnier than in the first movie. It is not only Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr.) who crack the jokes, it is everyone, and it makes the movie a lot more humorous. I liked the testosterone fight between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Iron Man. I also really enjoyed that Thor got more lines and that he actually spoke every once in a while, showing he had more potential than looking good – which he does, excellently. One of my favorite scenes is where everyone tries to lift the hammer, and Thor only gets uncomfortable when Captain America (Chris Evans) has the hammer twitching – proving that he is the only worthy Avenger of the hammer except Thor. Captain was also once again the sad guy that kills us with his desolation of having to live without Peggy Carter – just kill me already with that, okay?

Bruce Banner is played by Mark Ruffalo and I think it is one of the best casting choices they made. I work in an academic environment and let me tell you, he does the scatter brained scientist really really well. He is also very heartbreaking when dealing with his anger issues and his heartbreaking lifestyle choices. #lovetheguy

I also really appreciated Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver. He has that mouthy and badass vibe of what you would expect of him, but he also has an authentic quest for vengeance and I appreciated that.

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THEN: OMFG I LOVE THE SCARLET WITCH. Elizabeth does an absolutely amazing job as the female part of the Maximoff twins. Her attitude is fierce, her quest for vengeance is pure, she looks like such a bad ass and the way her powers are brought to life on screen had me in such a fangirling in the cinema. YAY to Marvel for bringing in such an impressive character in the Avengers franchise (I might add that brings the total females up to three, and the males six thousand).

The romance in Avengers came unexpected but not unwelcome. I don’t really think it was necessary because it is not a rom-com, but it is still welcome and surprisingly sweet. The two characters involved surprised me because I would never have grouped them up, but it worked out really heart twisting in the end.

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I really liked the villain. Ultron is surprisingly funny and embodies the darker side of Tony Stark’s thought. Ultron is multi-layered, extremely intelligent, not alien (good to Marvel for not going that route again) and he had me worried a lot of the time for the level of destruction he could cause. His cause was initially so noble and good, and enales great discomfort because Ultron really has something right – the human race has no idea how to maintain peace.

I thought AOU did so many things better than the first one did: humor, pacing, character development. I still like the first one more, but can’t really pinpoint why – perhaps it is Loki’s deadly charm that pushes it to the top. Age of Ultron is an excellent job done by Joss Whedon and Marvel, and the characters individually shine and as a team. It is definitely worth paying a ticket for!

American Hustle (2013)

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In 1978, con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party. They have an immediate connection and start a relationship. When Irving tells Sydney what he does for a living, stealing cash deposits from people looking for a loan, he thinks she hates him when she leaves. She returns as English aristocrat “Lady Edith Greensly”. Together they scam and work together and though Irving loves her he is hesitant to leave his solipsistic wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) because he knows he will lose contact with her son Danny who he loves like his own child. Rosalyn knows her husband is up to no good and threatens to report him to the police if he leaves her.

Richard “Richie” DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an FBI agent, pretends to apply for a loan and when Sydney takes the deposit from him she is arrested and locked up in a cell. Irving is highly upset that she is in isolation and accepts a deal with DiMaso to help them arrest four conmen, caught through their superior skills in the business. Richie believes that Sydney is English, but not an aristocrat and no one informs him otherwise. Sydney is furious with the idea and wants to flee the country with Irving but he doesn’t want to leave because of his son. She tells him that she will do the deal but she is done with him and he can stand and watch as she manipulates DiMaso into liking her.

Irving employs the help of his friend, a man who pretends to be an Arabian Sheik (Said Taghmaoui). The Sheik is “looking” for investments in America. They target the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a man who really wants the best for his community and has been unsuccessfully campaigning to reopen Atlantic City, something he needs spans of cash for. Richie wants to make Carmine the target of the operation, but Irving and Richie’s boss, Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K) object to this. Sydney, who is still getting back at Irving, helps Richie manipulate the lady who does the FBI cash wiring and wires 2 million dollars into an account to back their story that they have the cash to give out loans. Anthony Amado, Stoddard’s boss, hears of Richie’s plans and goes over his head to approve Richie’s endeavours.

Richie, for all his eagerness, is still a newbie when it comes to operations. His over eagerness causes Carmine some alarm and he leaves, but Irving rushes after him and apologizes, and Carmine says he will do business with them only if he exclusively deals with Irving.

Richie goes behind Irving’s back and switches his Sheik with a FBI-agent who can barely speak the language. They arrange Carmine and the new Sheik to meet at the airport and they are invited by to a casino party hosted by Carmine. Victor Tellegio (Robert DeNiro), a Mafia overlord, is at the party and Irving is upset that they are now dealing with mobsters. Things nearly go south when Tellegio can speak Arabian. They are narrowly saved when a drunken man arrives and disrupts the meeting. Richie agrees to a 10 million dollar transfer to prove they are legitimate, once again something the neither FBI nor Irving cleared.

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At the casino party, Rosalyn meets mobster Pete Musane (Jack Huston) who she starts seeing behind her husband’s back. She mentions to him she is sure Irving is working for the IRS, and Pete threatens Irving but he assures Pete they will prove the investment is real. Irving, furious, confronts Rosalyn and she claims she did it because he makes her feel unloved. She agrees to keep his secret but says she think it will be better if they get divorced.

Richie admits to being attracted to Sydney. She confesses her real identity, and he becomes agitated and violent. Irving arrives and throws Richie out of the room, calming Sydney down while sorting out most of their problems. He assures her when it is all over that she, he and Danny will find a way to make a life together.

Richie and Irving videotape a number of Congress members receiving bribes. Richie gets yet another 2 million dollars allocated to the project to prove they are legitimate. A handover meeting is attended by Richie and Irving and Tellegio’s lawyer, Alfonse Simone (Paul Herman). Alfonse promises a number of criminal activities not knowing he is being recorded

Will Carmine be locked up as well? What will Tellegio do when he finds out he is being double crossed? Will Rosalyn really leave Irving, letting Sydney be with him? What will happen to the out of control Richie?

Rating: 6.5/10

I really don’t understand why everyone has been raging about American Hustle. I found it way too long, dragged out and then the ending rushed, and a very simple story at the end of the day.

However, the acting was outstanding and the costumes beautiful. The movie was stretched out over two hours and it was highly unnecessary with the tale being told.

American Hustle had a power-packed cast; something I feel can be detrimental to the story. Sure, it attracts a lot of interest, but fresh faces can give fantastic performances too. Christian Bale here stood out as the best of the cast as always. I love how he is always willing to go the extreme for his roles and he did it once again here. Jennifer Lawrence played her seemingly typecast role as a crazy woman well, and she was quite funny with her constant habit of setting everything on fire. Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper also gave good performances, with Bradley’s ‘fro stealing the moment. I thought Jeremy Renner did such a good job as the Mayor. The Mayor was mostly an innocent, good man, caught between the desperate attempts of the FBI to capture someone. Renner is quite a good actor and I’m tired of seeing him underdeveloped. I sincerely hope that this will be the beginning of good things for him.

So, basically alright but not worth the hype.