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: Jackie (2016)

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Plot: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.

Focusing on the aftermath of one of the most defining moments in American history, Jackie, as I’m sure you know by now, focuses on what Jacqueline Kennedy had to face following her husband’s assassination. It is expertly and cautiously approached. There are careful hints at the infidelity of JKF, though accusations are never outright thrown. The focus is on Jackie, and the horror she experienced witnessing a bullet travel through her husband’s skull while she was right next to him. It is shown that even while their marriage probably had a few cracks, she was as drawn to the man as the rest of the world and certainly depended on him. The film is shot in an eery way, making her fragile state of mind a visible shot.

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Natalie Portman shows her impressive acting abilities to the fullest of their extent. Jackie is vulnerable yet in control, she’s learnt to master her emotions in the public eye. Her outbursts are private and only with close confidantes. Her beautiful friendship with Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) is shown and how Nancy was one of the few people Jackie Kennedy could trust and rely on. There is also a really close bond with Robert F. Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), who is forced to take control of the situation while grieving his brother.

Yet for all the excellence in directing and acting I had no lasting emotional attachment to the film. It did make me think of more than the assassinated president – it is impossible not to sympathize with Jacqueline Kennedy’s plight. The horror she had to go through – the immediate and the prolonged effects of being ripped from your life. Sudden death will always be a complete shock to the system, and facing the grief for a lost one on such a public stage is beyond our “normal” people’s comprehension. It is difficult to remain interested in a film where the main event has already passed. The assassination is briefly shown on screen but the aftermath is the sole focus. It is admirable, it is excellently portrayed, but it is never thrilling and there is no climax. I was impressed, but not moved. It is worth a watch if only for Portman’s admirable portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy, but personally I won’t be rushing to get another view in of this film.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Rating: 7/10

Valentine’s Week: No Strings Attached (2011)

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Plot: A guy and girl try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it’s not long before they learn that they want something more.

Rating: 6.5/10

It would seem as if 2011/2012 season was a competition for making two movies with alarming similarities then looking which one worked out best and made the most money. Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror were both released in 2012, and although I’ve only seen Snow White and the Huntsman, everyone tells me that was the best choice of the two.

No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits are the other two competitors. Their storyline is a formula that often gets repeated – Two people can sleep together and just stay friends.

I went to see the Friends With Benefits in cinema with some friends, and even while it was before I became TheMoviesnob (more on that title in a later post) it was pretty bad – have you ever heard the pitch of Justin Timberlake’s talking voice? I decided not to see this because hey, who needs EXACTLY the same movie twice in a year?

This movie IS like FWB except both Natalie Portman and Aston Kutcher can both act, whereas JT is just an artist who got bored with his day job and Mila Kunis doesn’t have strong enough acting skills to carry BOTH roles.

This movie felt better, a bit more real, somewhat sincere and sweet was mixed into the ridiculous notion that two people can sleep together and just be friends. I liked Emma – she managed to be feminine and intelligent and showed that it is not always the girl that is needy and needs the attention in the relationship. I think Aston Kutcher is just adorable and thought he played his part well – he was cute and very charming and impossible to resist falling for eventually. He really plays a slightly goofball-y character really well and it suits his nature perfectly. No Strings Attached focused on character development for some of the sub-characters and I liked that as well. I had such a good laugh where Adam brings all the “ladies” with PMS some cupcakes. It was a ridiculous stereotyping but it was sadly very true and I thought it was very manly of him to address the issue and in such a sweet way too.

No Strings Attached was pleasantly surprising and I can actually see myself watching this in the future again. It might not be for everyone but it I found it fun.

Marvellous Mondays: Thor (2011)

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Happy Monday, fair friends and readers. I’m reviewing Thor today. I reviewed it before here, back in the dark ages when I was still very new to blogging. I have some mighty months behind me now, where I’ve hopefully improved significantly from those early moments. I also included him in my Top Ten Movie Crushes for Zoë, which you can check out here.

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Plot synopsis: The powerful but arrogant god Thor is cast out of Asgard to live amongst humans in Midgard (Earth), where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders. via IMDb

Thinking back, Thor was probably the first movie of the new Marvel stuff I watched. I was hooked immediately, but it may have been due to the fact that the leading start is so attractive and not really about the storyline. Don’t misunderstand, folks, the story-line isn’t the worst ever, but I’ve since seen tons of movies that do it much better. The Iron Man arm of the franchise is much better than the Thor one, and this movie seems to have been produced solely to prepare the world for the Avengers-storm that was looming.

The impressive array of actors and actresses really helped move this movie along. There is the eternally impressive Anthony Hopkins, the darling of the nerd-world Natalie Portman, the ridiculously charming and mysterious Idris Elba, and the surprising (then) new-comer Tom Hiddleston who some might argue was better suited for his role as Loki than Chris Hemsworth was for Thor.

Chris Hemsworth really looks like what I’ve always thought the Norse god would look like. He was probably doing the best with the material given, and his acting isn’t bad, it is just a bit floppy in places. He has improved through the development of the franchise and he has some roles in other movies that he is really good in. I DO find it laughable that they considered his brother Liam for a few seconds for this role, because that wouldn’t have worked at all.

There is decent enough character development in here: Thor had to learn to not let his hot head dominate over his good heart (that is derived from JK Rowling’s description of Harry) and Loki went from the insecure younger brother to the mad villain.

I enjoyed the graphics, something Marvel has never skimped on. Asgard manages to be both other worldly and beautiful, realistic enough to not make me hate the sci-fi part of it (yeah, I just said that). I loved the Bifrost Bridge, one of the prettiest things I’ve seen in a while.

I would rate this movie a 6.5/10, which is slightly less than my original rating.

PS: You can check the list out here for available movies and drop me a line at natashastander@gmail.com to let me know if you would like to review some!

5 Things Friday: 5 Things happening right now

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South-Africa’s multiply disordered government

Our President put his foot in his mouth – Again

E-tolls is a new tolling system on the roads in Johannesburg that the South-African government hopes to implement. It is angering motorists because it is going to be ridiculously expensive, we are already paying an astronomical amount of tax and fuel prices are already so high nobody needs extra expenses.

Mr. Jacob Zuma released a statement saying plenty of unsavoury things about the anger directed towards E-tolling. Read it here. Great job, sir. We know you can’t run for President again but I’m sure your political party is super chuffed with you calling their primary voters backwards. GREAT JOB. I am actually imagining the Democratic Alliance (another political party in South-Africa) hosting a party in your honour.

Watching

I am currently watching Suits now. I expected it to be good, really, but was surprised at how much I am entertained by it. It is cut-throat, fast paced and high powered, and the characters are incredibly sarcastic and driven, and I love that.

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Movies

There are finally good movies being released. I love the whole experience of the movie – going to the cinema, getting popcorn, sitting in the dark and watching something come to life on a huge screen. I haven’t been the movies for a bit – mostly because I was broke, very busy and there weren’t any great movies on. THAT is why I am so excited. I’m going to make some time soon and go see at least one or two the next few weeks.

On the 8th of November, Thor: The Dark World is being released here in South-Africa. I can’t wait to see what Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman have done as Thor and Jane again.

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Next on my watch list is Catching Fire which will be released on the 22nd of November. Part of the Hunger Games series focuses on Peeta and Katniss when they get sent back into the arena only a year after they won the Games together. Katniss knows President Snow hates her, but will she be able to be victorious again? I am skeptic about the actor cast as Finnick Odair, but I am willing to be open minded and see if they bring the second book justice.

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Excited

In a month’s time, I am traveling to Cape Town, South-Africa, to go to the WSPID conference. Cape Town is one of the places I haven’t visited in my own country, and I am honestly excited to go there.

Desperately in need of:

A car,

A new haircut.

Time: For studying, Reading, Relaxing, Sleeping and Watching Series. All these tasks are crammed into the little time I have in the evening, and it is exhausting me. Luckily I am on study leave next week, so I have time then to study.

What’s happening in your life right now?

xX N

Movie Review: Thor (2011)

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At the beginning of the movie, it is 965 AD, and the king of Asgard Odin (Anthony Hopkins) wages war against the Frost Giants to prevent them from conquering the nine realms, of which Earth is a part of. The Asgardians are victorious, and take the Casket of Ancient Winters, the power source of the frost giants.

Back in present times, Odin’s son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) prepares to become king of Asgard, but the Frost Giants try to take the Casket, and prevents it from happening. Thor ignores Odin’s orders and travels to the Jotunheim to confront Laufey (the leader of the Frost Giants), and a battle ensues. Odin intervenes to save Thor and his company, but the fragile truce between the Asgardians and the Frost Giants are broken. Thor is stripped of his godly power and is exiled to earth, along with his hammer Mjolnir, which is now protected by an enchantment that can only be broken by someone worthy enough to wield it.

Thor falls out of the sky in New Mexico, where astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her assistant and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) finds him. Agent Phil Coulson arrives to inspect the Mjolnir after it becomes a local attraction. Thor tries to retrieve his hammer, but is heartbroken when he is unable to remove it from stone. With the help of Dr. Selvig, he is freed from S.H.I.E.L.D’s scrutiny and resigns himself to life as a mortal, even going through the beginning stages of a relationship with Jane.

Back at Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) learns that he is in reality Laufey’s son, and was adopted by Odin after the war. After Loki and Odin fight, Odin falls into the “Odinsleep” to recover. Loki seizes the throne, and offers Laufey the chance to retrieve the casket and kill Odin. Thor’s companions, Sif and the Warriors Three, are unhappy with Loki’s rule, and attempt to return Thor from exile, convincing Heimdall to allow them to travel to earth. Loki learns of their plan, and sends the Destroyer to pursue and kill Thor. The warriors find Thor, but when the Destroyer finds them they are defeated. Nearly dead, Thor offers himself for the safety of the humans, and this sacrifice prompts the Mjolnir to return to its master. He defeats the Destroyer, kisses Jane, and returns to Asgard to confront Loki.

Back in Asgard, Loki betrays and kills Laufey. Thor arrives and fights Loki to prevent Loki destroying the Jotunheim through the Bifrost Bridge. Thor destroys the Bifrost Bridge, destroying his only way back to Jane. Loki falls into darkness when Odin reject his plea for approval. Thor and Odin makes peace, and back at Earth Jane searches for a way to get to Thor.

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Rating: 7/10

Thor is such a good film! I would recommend it to most people, particularly if you love superheroes. It is good to watch each film that leads up to the Avengers, and understand who is who and why they became like they are. Thor is one of my favorite films, partly because I discovered the awesome Chris Hemsworth here. Not only is he super attractive, he can luckily act as well (a rare occurrence) Watching it the second time around alerted me to some characters I hadn’t noticed before – Kat Dennings (who plays Max in my favorite comedy Two Broke Girls) and Josh Dallas (Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time). Natalie Portman made a really good Jane, looking intelligent and wholesome the entire time.

On the Avengers note, I would place it after the Iron Man trilogy but before Captain America. Overall, I would say that watching Thor is not a bad way to spend nearly two hours of your time.