Movie Review: My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

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Plot:A young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity

As we head into February, it seems like it’s that time of the year again. I am a big fan of romantic comedies that doesn’t make you want to puke, and this certainly fits the bill. I watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding in June last year, and found it a really fun and sweet comedy that I will probably watch twenty times in the future again. The question is: why haven’t I ever seen this film?

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I LOVED it. It was the perfect pick me up when I watched it, and I have watched it once more already. It was so lovely. If you have a big, loud family, you will relate with all of Toula’s problems. I loved her dad and his Windex. I loved the mom and how she expertly handled dad who thought he was in charge of the house. I loved the sense of family from the women.  I loved how Ian Miller fell for and went after Toula, and how sweet and caring and understanding he was. Only a man with plenty of courage will go willingly marry in to that family! Aunt Voula was a delight, with her inappropriate comments and stories. The story about her dead twin made me laugh so hard. The film is a celebration of strange families and how we are stuck because you love them even when they embarrass you.  It is quick witted, sweet and caring. Toula’s wedding was hilarious – the level of makeup and tull and who knows what else they stuck on her was quite funny.

Definitely recommended as a delightful hilarity – it is also a quick watch so if you are like me and hate drawn out films, definitely consider this one!

Rating: 8.5/10

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Movie Review: Star Trek (2009)

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Plot: The brash James T. Kirk tries to live up to his father’s legacy with Mr. Spock keeping him in check as a vengeful Romulan from the future creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time.

JJ Abrams is a fine modern science fiction director.  He’s been behind the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fringe and Armageddon to name only a few. He’s also the creator for Alias (2001-2006), which as I slowly progress through the series impresses me even further. It’s not his best work, but it shows the variety of fields to which he can apply himself to.

2009 feels like yesterday, though it is almost – gasp – ten years ago now. Star Trek was successfully rebooted by JJ, and a clever tactic of combining old with new worked out particularly well. Starring Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nimroy, the reboot is entertaining. I’ll inform you that I’m not as versed in Star Trek as I should be, yet I didn’t feel as if I was lacking information and could follow without too much prior knowledge.

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The decision to cast Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk is only questionable until you witness him in the role. He is charming, cocky, reckless and brave and he is pivotal in the success of this remake.  Leonard Nimroy provides substantial impact, and seeing him return as an older version of Spock was surely a big moment for established fans. Zachary Quinto embodies what I always imagined of Spock – like I said my knowledge here is rudimentary – but I thought he did a great job. He is also able to portray the level of feelings Spock experience, even though his race is seemly unfeeling. I enjoyed the blatant dislike Spock had in Kirk, and how that changed throughout the film to becoming first a grudging admiration and then a tentative friendship.

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The film is quite long, but it also doesn’t feel stretched out. There is naturally a time where they set up the film, and to get everyone on the same page. It provides enough insight into the characters and the events so that the film can progress at a good pace and get to the plot as it should. I wouldn’t call the story a generic one, as it is littered with interesting information, races, visuals and action, but as a Sci-Fi we have all heard the tale of planets being wiped out and its terrestrial force seeking (somewhat uncalled for) vengeance. The end is also just slightly convenient and quick, but overall not something that deducts from the experience of the film. I know it kept me entertained throughout, which is quite the feat these days as everything seems to bore me.

I am ready to venture more deeply into the world of Star Trek, starting with the newer films and someday going back to the older ones.

Rating: 8/10

Movie Review: The Greatest Showman (2018)

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Plot: Celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

I’m speedily typing this out before I don’t finish again and then couldn’t be bothered to save my draft – yes, I did that three times. The Greatest Showman is a great way to start 2018. I really enjoyed this uplifting, beautiful and gorgeously crafted film and I was legitimately upset when it finished – I wanted more and still want more. A quick look into PT Barnum’s actual life is enough to tell you that this film isn’t a true depiction of his life. He seems to have been a driven and successful businessman, surely nice, but not the outstanding charm that Hugh Jackman brings to this movie. How charming is he? How excellent does he sing and dance? It is beautiful. Michelle Williams is also stunning in this role, I’ve never before quite liked her quite this much. She is a motherly presence and her scenes with the two daughters are beautiful and playful. Then there is Zac Efron, who seems the most comfortable in life when he can be artistic – every film of his where he’s actually been good in is some sort of musical. He’s charming and dazzling, and uses his expressive eyes to lure you into his love for Anne (Zendaya), the flexible and gorgeous trapeze artist who has had one too many rich person sneer at her. The love story wasn’t necessary, but it was still sweet.

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In a time where people out of the norm is under attack, The Greatest Showman takes a clear line in defense with its’ celebration of the strange and unusual, showing they have a place in this world and deserves respect. The townspeople who so vehemently opposes PT Barnum’s circus is perhaps just a bit of social commentary on the current residing office in a whole lot of countries. They don’t understand, so they hate. Yet the circus becomes a tight little group, and not even Barnum’s sudden lack of interest in them when he spots Jenny Lind (Rebecca Fergusson) can stop them from remaining tightly knit. Fergusson did not do her own singing and merely acted the role, but she was utterly convincing as the up and coming Lind, who (if you look at Jackman in that red jacket you would too) develops a massive infatuation on Barnum, seeing their similar upbringings and struggles as an important link. Tragic strikes Barnum in multiple ways and he’s left with a damaged marriage and a tattered circus, but since this movie is all about happiness he rebuilds both quickly.

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Is it idealistic? Yes. Is it highly improbably that Barnum was such a nice man? Definitely. However, the colors and choreography, combined with the acting, singing and wonderful set design, makes The Greatest Showman one of the most enjoyable films I have ever seen. It’s a bit early in the year to declare a film a favorite of the year (and also I’ve literally only seen one 2018 release yet), but if we measure only in pure enjoyment then I doubt anything will beat The Greatest Showman this year for me.

Rating: 9/10

Blindspot 2017: Edward Scissorhands (1990)

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Plot: A gentle man, with scissors for hands, is brought into a new community after living in isolation

Here at the last bit of my 2017 Blindspot reviews I found a movie that was so wonderful I actually wanted to finish it (I am currently so busy my attention span with anything not work related is intolerant at best). I also wondered whether this would be too quirky for me – this film is a classic and has a huge fanbase, but is known to be a whole lot of quirky, and while I like some of these types of films I do have my threshold.

Well, Edward Scissorhands was not such a case. It is wonderful and will likely finish as my favorite Blindspot this year. The set and costume design is wonderful. The directing is magnificent – Tim Burton provides a darkly magical film that is somewhat sad. The movie is the work of an original genius – Tim Burton before things went skew. Who would have thought to tell the story of a man with scissors as hands, and despite that alarming quality being a kind and untainted soul? I had no idea what this film was even about, and was expecting a darkish thriller fantasy thing,  and it was quite wonderful to experience it so fresh and new even though Edward Scissorhands is as old as I am because it was so much different.

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The lack of wonder a post-Jack- Sparrow Johnny Depp inspires is felt more acutely when you see him in his earlier work such as this. He is inspired, quirky, and enormously talented and manages to convey so much without moving that many face muscles. Whatever he’s become, he is truly wonderful as Edward.

Then there is Winona Ryder, who was truly really pretty as a young girl. My love for this actress has increased exponentially in the last few years – I’ve seen Heathers and then naturally the incomparable Stranger Things, in which she’s both great in despite it being decades apart. Her character Kim is the typical pretty high school cheerleader, who dates the buffoonish Jim (Anthony Michael Hall). She arrives late to the scene, where Edward is settled in and enjoying company with her family when she returns from a camping trip with said buffoon and some friends. She’s naturally quite horrified about this new addition to her family, and even the town’s clear adoration of Edward doesn’t make her too fond of him in the beginning.

Tim Burton manages to tell a story about small town America that is crafty, wildly creative and very accurate. The ice cream coloring from the houses is ghoulish and the “pretty” neighborhood has a rot beneath that is quickly revealed when you learn more about the residents. The residents dwellings are as unlike to their personalities them as Edward’s is unlike him – his is dilapidated and dark while his inside is good and kind, and the town residents have lovely homes with ugly hearts. Especially Joyce (Kathy Baker), who delivers a fine but quite scary performance of a tiger on the prowl, vicious when she doesn’t get what she wants.

The soundtrack is also so beautiful. Whimsical and sad, it highlights each moment in the story perfectly. I’d love to listen to it on other occasions. So perfect and magical.

Then naturally there is the fact that this film doesn’t make you sit long. An hour and forty minutes is all Edward Scissorhands demands from you, and not a second is wasted on unnecessary storytelling. Tim Burton expertly takes you from one surprise to another, and he never lets you get bored or disinterested.

I absolutely loved this. I still have to big movies to finish for my blindspot for 2017 – Goodwill Hunting and The Nightmare Before Christmas, so it might be a bit early to say this was my favorite one this year. What I do know right now is this is one of the films I am the likeliest to rewatch in coming years.

Rating: 9/10

Movie Review: Wild (2014)

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Plot: A chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike undertaken as a way to recover from a recent personal tragedy.

I seem to have a knack about sitting down to watch films about real events lately. When it is done right, these films are fantastic. When it is done wrong, well, then obviously not.

Wild is somewhere between the middle – I didn’t hate the film, but I found Reese Witherspoon’s character an emotional drain. Wild is about Cheryl Strayed’s successful hike through the Pacific Crest Trail, where she rediscovers herself after the death of her mother. I’ve been through the death of a parent, so I am with everyone on the level of grief it brings. However, grief does not equal lack of accountability and I found the multiple cheatings on her husband rather distasteful, and it’s depiction of it pretty gross. There is also a heroin addiction in play, and I really pitied her husband by the end of it. Witherspoon is a good enough actress to show the selfishness of Strayed’s character on screen. Make no mistake; her journey alone in the PCT is the correct way to rediscover herself, to reset, and to begin again. The solitary journey through the wilderness appealed to me, as did the incredible scenery and the wonder of the different landscape the USA has. I also really liked that she, a woman alone, set out and discovered the world. It is also a bit strange for me to imagine as South-African – I would never dream of hiking somewhere alone in fear of safety.

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The ending especially grated on me – ending a film on an open dialogue with some profound quote is one of the greatest crimes in humanity. Give me a conclusion – show how she apologizes to her ex-husband, show how she changes her life and show her marrying Michiel Huisman – gorgeous McGorgeousface – just show me SOMETHING that isn’t an open ending.

The sex flashbacks were rather distasteful and I would probably have liked Wild better if it wasn’t so frequent. It makes the film so much dirtier than it needs to be. It does serve as a contrast to the pure beauty of nature, so there is that at least.

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Overall, Wild really wasn’t my favorite film. There are ways they could have done it better. Witherspoon is an outstanding actress so I did appreciate her efforts, but man, those character flaws in the film put me off.

Rating: 6/10

Movie Review: Australia (2008)

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Plot: Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand.

Some human rights are less equal than other human rights.

That is an unambiguous fact displayed in Australia, the Baz Luhrman epic. The Aboriginal people were the first people to inhabit Australia 45 000 years ago. They are fascinating and diverse group with over 500 different types of Aborigines, with different languages and territories spread over the dangerous continent. The Aborigines have suffered greatly since the first British invasion, and have lost land, culture and their freedom. The film Australia explores this as one of its’ concepts, primarily the fate of children who had an Aboriginal mother and a white settler father. The making of these children were depicted as consensual sex, although I really doubt whether that was the case most of the time.

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I have a deep appreciation for Baz Luhrman. He has directed a large portion of films I call my favorite. – Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet, The Great Gatsby. He has a sense of fancy and shine, and a love for the epic that can’t be anything but admired. Moulin Rouge is my favorite, but after seeing Australia again I realized my vague recollection of the film didn’t do justice to its’ true quality.

Nicole Kidman displays an astonishing amount of wit and humor, a role which I haven’t seen her embody until now. Baz Luhrman and his extravagant affairs suit her – my other favorite of hers (and his) is the heartbreakingly beautiful Moulin Rouge, which is on my soon-to-be-rewatched list as well.

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I will keep my comments regarding Hugh Jackman as clean as possible, but this is one of his finest physical appearances I have ever seen. It is greatly exaggerated it is good to see the sexual focus on a male instead of a female (I can really only think of The Guest as the only other example)

Australia is both heart-breaking and beautiful. The chemistry between Kidman as Lady Sarah and Jackman as Drover is strong, and their love story is beautiful and unrestrained. There is a beautiful romance I read that takes place in the Australian outback (I sadly can’t recall the name), and the struggles of Drover and Sarah reminded me very much of their plights.

Brandon Walters as Nullah is a fast talking child, and his innocence and freedom is beautiful. It broke my heart how badly the Aborigines were treated, how very little rights they were afforded and how they had everything taken away from them – the Australian government only issued an official apology to the Aboriginals in 2008 for the crimes against their race, which is a fine case of too little, too late.

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The backdrop of the film is naturally the raw and intense landscape of Australia’s Outback, which provides a visually stimulating experience. Australia has been accused of being overly long, and yes, it certainly is a doozy, clocking in at two hours and forty-six minutes. As many of you know, I am always first to complain about movies that are too long without any real substance, so if I tell you I didn’t feel that Australia was drawn out and overly long, I really mean it. You just have to be willing to sit down for quite a while and get through it, but the conclusion is rewarding and beautiful.

I thoroughly enjoyed Australia, and would recommend it to people who love Baz Luhrman. It made me read up on the Aboriginals, the atrocities against them, improved my already substantial admiration for Nicole Kidman and convinced me that the acquired taste of an Australian accent could be easily achieved if Hugh Jackman strutted in tight pants across a desert uttering words that I could barely understand but definitely appreciated.

Have you seen Australia? How did it rank for you?

Rating: 8.5/10

Book Review: The Rise of Nine (Pittacus Lore)

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Plot: The Mogadorians who destroyed the planet Lorien continue to hunt for the Garde, the small group of Loric survivors who have taken refuge on Earth. During a dangerous mission at a Mog base in West Virginia, John found and rescued the brutish Nine. But even with their combined powers, special abilities known as Legacies, the pair barely escaped with their lives. And in the process, John’s best friend, Sam Goode, was lost and taken captive by the enemy.

In order to save him—and our world—John and Nine must join forces with Six and Seven who have been battling the Mogs in Spain, and who are now trying to locate Number Eight in India. The Garde must come together before it is too late. They are Lorien and Earth’s only hope.

Firstly, it took me ages to write this review. Analyzing how I felt and whether the book was good took me a chunk of time. This is the third book in the series, and I would love to continue until I have finished the entire set. (Read reviews here and here or the first two books). Of the three novels I liked this one second best, after I am Number Four, although I still felt that it had plenty of mistakes.

Despite the title suggesting that The Rise of Nine is focused primarily on the adventures of Nine; the book shifts between the members of the Garde.  You barely get to know Nine – he just seems like a big brash teenager with way too much ego and way too little sense. He frankly irritated me, and he is by far not my favorite. His pissing contest with Fouris ridiculous, and if I wanted to watch Fast and The Furious for a battle of the penis, I would have. I see Michael Bay had a favorable review of these books, and it makes sense – there is a lot of bang and smoke but very little effect. Reading “The Rise of Nine” was like reading a Michael Bay film – not something I’d actually recommend that often. The book has so many drawn-out fight scenes it feels like I would guess how a book version of his work would read.

I really like Six, and wouldn’t mind a book focused on her. I guess that this series is aimed at teenage boys, which makes that wish highly unlikely to occur, but she’s an interesting character and one of the strongest. Also, least annoying.

I’m not sure where they are heading with the American Government siding with the Mogadorians, but it seems rather vague and silly at this point in the books (though not looking at the current administration, which makes it more likely). While I remember this sore point for me – the “Mogadorians” or “Mogs” is the stupidest name I have ever heard for a fictional race.

The number of dumb decisions these kids make is very high – you can just see high hormone levels drives their life choices. Particularly the final and ridiculous battle with Setrakus Ra. This “all powerful being” attacked in the middle of the series when half the Garde is seriously maimed and they still escape without a casualty? Stupid stupid.

There are some glitches and the writing is by no means perfect, and I really think I’m just too old now for this, but the books are good for light reading and are a fast thing once you get going. I found that final fight stupid. It is starting to feel that things work out for these kids because they must, not because of some brilliantly revealed plot. I am still enjoying the Legacies the kids develop, that at least remain pretty cool.

I will likely read the rest in due course, because it is good for when you want to read but don’t want to think too much about it. I wouldn’t recommend this series to anyone over seventeen actually, but it isn’t too rough just for some mindless semi-dystopian drama.

Rating: 6/10

Halloween Month Movie Review: Hocus Pocus (1993)

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Plot: After three centuries, three witch sisters are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it is up to two teenagers, a young girl, and an immortal cat to put an end to their reign of terror once and for all.

What better month to finally watch Hocus Pocus? Following news of an imminent and probably unnecessary sequel, combined with the onset of Halloween, I knew I had to finally sit down and watch this favored and loved cult classic. It was a completely different movie than I thought it would be! The acting of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy is amazing and hilarious. Sarah Jessica Parker in particular surprised me. She’s just Carrie Bradshaw in my mind, and I couldn’t see her as something else. Well, as the beautiful, crazy and really damn weird Sarah Anderson she was all the levels of entertaining – such an inspired and crazy performance. The three actresses as the Sanderson sisters work great together; they share symmetry in their movements so accurate it is almost like watching a dance routine. Realizing that Sean Murray – always Timothy McGee in NCIS to me – is the poor Thackery Binx also gave me such delight.

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I really enjoyed the performances by the Sanderson sisters and how ridiculous they were and still so nastily evil, but I did find the story just a bit lacking. There isn’t always too much structure, but even with this flaw I still had a really entertaining time with it. It’s the generic “the youth defeats the evil” storyline, and while you would just love to question everything about it, I suggest you don’t, and watch Bette Midler with really weird dentistry enchant you and make you cackle with glee.

Have you seen Hocus Pocus? Let me know what you thought!

Rating: 6/10

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Book Review: Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn)

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Plot: On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

*Contains spoilers*

I had such a good experience finally reading Gone Girl. I watched the movie  in 2014 (I can’t believe it’s’ been three years!) and rated it my favorite film of 2014  . I plan on watching it soon again to be able to compare with the book, which I’ve owned almost equally as long but didn’t have the inclination to read. Finally picking up the novel was a good idea. I have the slight wish of not having seen the film before I read the book, because instead of discovering that plot twist I was merely awaiting it’s arrival. Would I have seen it coming? I don’t think so. Amy’s diary entries are so sweet and caring and she seems stupidly devoted and optimistic towards her marriage. Nick seems desperate and slimy and an all-around horrible spouse, a man whose frail ego was damaged when he lost his job and his wife didn’t fawn over him all the time. Amy seems like a sweet-hearted fool for about half of the book and then you get to know the psychotic sociopath beneath her pretty exterior.

Gone Girl has a fast tempo and I found it written well. I enjoyed Flynn’s writing style and the way her character’s thought patterns works. The characters are flawed indeed. I sincerely hope there aren’t any Amy’s’ out there in the real world. Amy and Nick are both repulsing, and they are a strong reminder to know your partner very well before even contemplating marriage.

Gone Girl is not a book that celebrates the best in human kind or is sweet, fluffy or romantic. It is full of nasty realizations about relationships and how bad they can be. I have to say that while I usually pick up more lighthearted novels I did enjoy this one. It’s more realistic than most though there are elements which are hopefully too shocking to be true.

I wasn’t fond of the end. Amy gets away with so much and in return she gets more leverage over Nick and no repercussions.  It jarred with my (and probably everybody’s) sense of justice. Nick in no way deserves an easy existence – he really is quite a slime ball, but Amy getting everything she wants just didn’t feel right and had the book fall slightly on its’ face in the end – like a Goosebumps for adults, the world isn’t rid of Amy’s evil.

It is just a thought here, but I think the book can also send a negative message to the world. So many women are murdered by their husbands, are abused and discarded when they cease to hold interest for their spouses, where a book where the female is clearly the villain and clearly a psychopath does not do well for the eradication for these murders.

Gone Girl was a good read, highlighting the craziness that a couple can bring forth in one another. It’s (hopefully) much dramatized but kept me entertained for the entirety of the book. Have you read Gone Girl? Let me know!

Rating: 8/10

Movie Review: Sully (2016)

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Plot:The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew.

Situations where airplanes malfunction rarely have a happy ending. It’s either disappearances or crashes and morbidity is synonymous with these events. So when Captain Chelsea “Sully” Sullenberger sent out a mayday signal on the 15th of January 2009 after birds took out both of the engines on the Airbus 320 on Flight 1549 which Captain Sullenberger was the pilot of, no one believed it possible that Sullenberger could put down the plane on the Hudson River successfully. In doing so, he saved the lives of his 154 co-passengers. The successful landing was a combined result of a lifetime of experience and a man that not only excelled at his job but was born to do it. I followed this story obsessively when it came out, and recently checked again the technical difficulty this landing required. I love stories about human courage and defeating unimaginable odds (who doesn’t?), and the event kept me glued to the screen for weeks.

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That said, I’ve burned my fingers the last few months with real life events turned into movie adaptions. It’s a seemingly difficult task for directors to tell these stories accurately and keep the inspirational levels as well as the truth intact. However, with Sully, director Clint Eastwood made a film that wasn’t only true and inspirational, it is Oscar worthy.

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Tom Hanks plays veteran pilot Chelsey Sullenberger. He does so by portraying a pilot who had the correct level of confidence in his abilities, which he combined with good sense and humility. Hanks shows you all the sides – the PTSD, the stress he and his family is shouldering, the fatigue and overpowering sense of media frenzy. Aaron Eckhart is the lighter of heart Co-pilot Jeff Skiles. His importance to the success of the landing is paramount, as he did not, as I would have, started yelling “what the fuck” at the top of his lungs.

The passengers get their moments too – a woman with her elderly mother, a mother with her infant daughter, business men and women, a father and his sons rushing to make the gates for the flight – real people with real lives all just planning a quick trip. It adds a human element, and the chanting of the passengers as they braced for landing is heartbreaking to listen to.

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I was engrossed by Sully. It is chilling and inspiring and I will definitely watch it again. Eastwood and Hanks are a power combination that should be explored further. If you need to feel inspired, watch this. It is a story about thinking on your feet, being insanely courageous and calm, and using the experience life has given you to fulfill your life’s work.

Have you seen Sully? What did you think?

Rating: 8/10