Blindspot 2018 review: The Silence of The Lambs (1991)

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Plot: A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims.

People who choose to put other people through their own digestive tracts have always captured the imagination of the world. For me the very first question is, to cannibals, why though? Kuru brain disease presents itself in the New Guinea inhabitants who chow on their tribe mates. It’s a debilitating neurological disease and sounds really quite unpleasant to me. Also, cooking normal meat can be so tiring and now you want to put human skin through that process? Ick, Ick, Ick.

This film famously won the big five at the Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Jonathan Demme), Best Actress, best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally). I can say yes, I agree, to all five awards. Anthony Hopkins takes on the most famous imaginary (hopefully) cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter and I have literally never seen anyone give such a frightening and perfect performance. He seems to have genuinely terrified Jodie Foster, who gives an equally brilliant performance as Clarice Starling, the new FBI agent who is tasked with corresponding with Lecter in the hopes to track down cannibalistic serial killer Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). It is almost easy to overlook the brilliance of Levine’s work here when his other co-stars were as amazing as they were, but Bill is creepy and terrifying in his own right.

I also liked that Clarice experienced onscreen sexism – it kept it real. She’s an obviously brilliant young agent but she’s a woman and therefore must experience some skepticism and glances. Her relationship with Lecter is fascinating and Foster’s ability to switch between terrified and intrigued is wonderful.

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The move is tense and broody and Jonathon Demme created a bleak and intense atmosphere. The last few scenes alone with Bill and Clarice is full of harsh shallow breathing and sharp light, and I found myself creeping inwards toward my blanket, not knowing who would win, Clarice or Bill.

I watched The Godfather Part I and Part II in my first Blindspot year, and this is the only film that has reached that level of excellence. It’s a thriller (compared to the Horror I was expecting), superbly acted and intense. The story is solid and compelling, and leaves enough room at the end to guarantee your return for the next in the franchise.

Rating: 9.5/10

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Book Review: How To Hang A Witch (Adriana Mather)

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I’m not sure how exactly Zoe manages to find these interesting and obscure reads, but sooner rather than later I saw symptoms of what would invariably lead to a book hangover for her. I was intrigued enough to be interested, and following her recommendation (we only refer books we know the other will like), and getting a hard copy (quite hard to do, I assure you, I was looked at as if I was perhaps a witch myself after inquiring this interesting title at the local book store), I started reading. It was delicious, not knowing one thing about the book, and the originality and suspense of the novel kept me engrossed and finished it within three days. Reading a new book is risky – so much time spent on something that might not work out! – But I was well rewarded. I won’t say too much about the story – but it is YA with some interesting twists, and the high school setting and typical teenage bitchiness is perfectly mixed with the spookiness of Salem and its tainted history. I’ve always found the Witch Trials really interesting, and they are well explored in this book.

How To Hang A Witch reads really easily and fluently, and the book does not drag or have events that shouldn’t have been included. The characters are likable – especially Sam, who really suffers from the children in her school, unknown forces and how to deal with her father’s illness, but she’s luckily never marketed as self-pitying or a wimp.

I started getting suspicions on who the main villain was when I reached about 75% completeness of the book, and was proven correct. It’s a great turn of events and suitably nasty, and those last few pages were intense and anxiously read.

I am just a bit sulky about how it ended – but since I saw that there is another book out, I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Although pretty sure I can’t actually like you if you don’t like this book, I would recommend it to people who generally enjoy YA. It’s not a genre for everyone, but I do hope that those who pick it up really enjoy themselves!

Rating: 8.5/10

Movie Review: Jane Eyre (2011)

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Plot: A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he’s hiding a terrible secret

I haven’t seen a worse plot description in my life on IMDb. “A mousy governess who softens the heart of her employer soon discovers that he’s hiding a terrible secret” – really? That is all they have to say about one of classical literature’s finest novels? Okay then. My review of the novel Jane Eyre should have alerted you already that I’d been lit up with fervor for this story, and I obsessively searched for a copy of the movie to see if it would hold up with my hopes. In fairness, the movie is now seven years old, so procuring a copy was no easy task. I eventually ordered one online and had to wait two whole weeks for delivery.

The 2011 version of Jane Eyre is fantastic, and very much what I wanted the movie to be. Mia Wasikowska is a fantastic Jane Eyre – she nails the passion of Jane so well. At first glance, Jane appears to be a mousy, plain girl who was lucky to receive an education. The viewer is naturally privy to more information – she was mishandled by her only relatives and her school was a strict and harsh environment. Yet Jane has an amazing capacity to care, noted when she takes care of her charge in Mr. Rochester’s home. Adele (Romy Settbon) is a French oddity in the prudish British countryside, and while the movie briefly references that she might be Mr. Rochester’s illegitimate child, the book illustrates better the responsibility Mr. Rochester unwillingly feels for her.

Michael Fassbender might be a bit too handsome for Mr. Rochester – in the book he is described as distinctly un-handsome (i.e. ugly) – but for intensity he is a fantastic choice for Mr. Rochester. The levels of the man – his harshness and anger towards the world and the façade he can give his more elite guests make him a really intriguing man. I would have liked it had they included his scene as the beggar woman, because it adds another level to his character – a shrewdness to not be deceived.

Judi Dench gives an – unsurprisingly – good performance as Mrs. Fairfax – her nervousness in keeping her master happy and the protectiveness she feels towards the inhabitants of the manor.

Jamie Bell is very convincing as St. John Rivers, and he makes the character more likeable than I found him in the book. St. John Rivers remains a really interesting character to consider, because he is on first glance the male replica of Jane – stern, middle class, quite plain, but further inspection reveals he has nothing of Jane’s passion and determination.

Jane Eyre is as dreary as its literary counterpart – incessant fog and rain makes the watcher feel as closed in as Jane must feel. I’ll definitely re-watch – it’s really good and made me miss the novel again. Again, I felt the movie could have included at least Mr. Rochester reclaiming sight in his one eye – the movie reunites the characters but with very little hope due to his poor condition.

Jane Eyre remains one of my favorite classical literatures. It is feminism at its finest origin – Jane’s determination to be an equal to Mr. Rochester. I have to delve deeper into this world – there is so much more to discover!

Rating: 8.5/10

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Movie Review: Tomb Raider (2018)

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Plot: Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.

I’m trying to start this review with some really sharp comment, something more verbose than “This is a poor, poor film”. As I can’t come up with something quite yet, you can take that as a start to this review and take it to heart. The remake crazy continues because apparently originality has been slaughtered. What sacred franchise hasn’t been touched? So unnecessary, yet movie houses are desperate to cash in on that nostalgic feeling, yet somehow still too lazy to develop proper scripts.

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Tomb Raider is no different. Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons and Evan Daugherty thinks their movie watchers are remarkably stupid (judging by my fellow audience members, they weren’t all that wrong). Visual and verbal clues are everywhere. Lara is forced to verbalize all her thoughts, because the audience couldn’t pick it up for themselves apparently. Clues are left everywhere – such as “Watch me” on the obviously placed video camera her dad left in his den. I also happen to think Lara isn’t nearly as bright as we must believe. She refuses to access her father’s fortune before she sets off to the island she is supposed to stay away from, yet sells her most valued possession to access to embark upon her mission. She travels with a drunken Chinese sailor (Daniel Wu) in a broken down boat because logic. They are both immediately captured when they wash out on the coast by madman fanatic Matthias Vogel (Walton Goggins). He at least provides a legitimate face to the devious company setting out to disrupt the world. Things naturally escalate and with many improbable events that would certainly have caused death to any normal person, there is a final explosion and escalation and a setup for an additional film.

I, quite obviously, didn’t like it. It was agony and I was itching to just walk out of cinema. It even seemed like that new Pacific Rim film, which looks like a Michael Bay extravaganza (though not directed by him at all), would have been a better choice. I do admire Alicia Vikander – she’s ripped for this role and performs admirably in the various obstacles set out for her, but she’s actually just way too talented to have to suffer through such substandard writing.

Although the film had some merits, I will most certainly not think back fondly or attempt to watch a second installment, which is bound to happen as the film is doing surprisingly okay in the markets.

Rating: 5/10

Movie Review: Black Panther (2018)

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Plot: T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

I remember sitting down to watch Wonder Woman last year – the nerves and anticipation and hope that a film about my kind finally being a superhero would be great. How fantastic was the notion that someone like me could change the world? How empowering it was! As I watched Diana Prince ignore male orders and march onto a battlefield because her heart dictated her to,  and I finally felt vindicated for having my own share of protectiveness towards those I hold dear.

And finally, in 2018, we have come to a place where black people can finally celebrate the same feat. Black Panther is fantastic. I am not black, but I am South-African, and sitting in the cinema with black people and feeling their joy with this film was uplifting and very emotional. T’Challa isn’t a sidekick, he isn’t the bad guy, he is a man of royal blood. He doesn’t have to find his riches, he is rich. Wakanda is, as some have rightly said, both a view of how Africa might have been without colonialism and a celebration of retaining your culture will thriving in a modern technological world. Black Panther does not skirt around issues, it faces it head on. Slavery and the destruction of a continent is frequently referenced, as well as the deeply moral question of why Wakanda did not intervene to help their neighbors when they had unlimited power to do so. Well, to me Wakanda had the correct intuition, and I can only wish the entire continent could have seen the danger and protected itself against pillaging.

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Chadwick Boseman is an exceptional Black Panther. T’Challa is a good mix of culture, regal blood, love, humor, wisdom, kindness and some fantastic fighting skills. He was born to be King, and his nature dictates him to be a kind and just one for his people. Other tribe leaders, especially W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya’s, in wonderful South-African traditional clothes), Mbaku (Winston Duke) have issues with some of his choices, and this especially creates discord between W’Kabi and T’Challa when T’Challa fails to bring Klaue (truly excellent Andy Serkis) to Wakanda to account for his crimes against the Wakandan people.

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Michael B. Jordan impressed me immensely. I haven’t seen too much from him, and I really did not know how excellent an actor he is. As Erik Stevens the warmonger and the thorn in T’Challa’s side, he is both heart breaking and terrifying. He would have been like T’Challa if a great crime hadn’t been committed against him, and his crimes are heinous enough to have you wince but his memories are painful enough to make you weep for him. He was a strong villain, perhaps one of the stronger ones in Marvel, and I really enjoyed him.

There is a lot of humor too, especially delivered by Shuri (Letitia Wight). The movie has genuinely funny moments and the audience was in stitches as it found its crowd. Even Mbaku has some funny moments, and his humor mixes surprisingly well with his warrior attitude.

It would be very unfair to not mention the outstanding female cast as well. Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira are fierce female warriors, sworn to protect Wakanda. They have great moments together, and their chase through South Korea is especially fine to watch. Shuri is a smart and sassy young woman, and she is a technological spearhead for Wakanda, highlighting the importance of girls in technology in style. Angela Basset as the Queen Mother is regal and beautiful, and her care for her children and nation are evident to see.

South Africa had a phenomenal week last week. The fall of the Gupta empire and Jacob Zuma, the rise of Cyril Ramaphosa and the first SONA in years that didn’t result in a screaming match made South-Africans happier than I’ve seen them in a decade. The optimism in the streets could only be even more enhanced by seeing South-African faces in this film, South-African traditional wear and Xhosa being used as the Wakandan language.

I was worried that Black Panther wouldn’t be good – I really wanted it to be, if only to prove to the butthead racists on the internet that inclusion is necessary and can yield as good results as the standard white washed, male domineered films we generally get. Black Panther is GREAT, and is an excellent start to the superhero year. The cast and director and Marvel should all be congratulated for their excellent work in this film – it is something to be proud of!

Rating: 8.5/10

Blindspot 2018: Ghostbusters (1984)

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Plot: Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.

Whether you’ve seen it or not, you really know who to call. Ghostbusters (1987) is one of the most instantly recognizable films and soundtrack – like the Matrix, another Blindspot choice, you know of it whether you have seen the film or not.

Bill Murray is a surprisingly hunky (sorry) scientist, Venkmen. He is fired from his plush job at the university, and has an idea to start a business capturing supernatural creatures, and takes his equally fired colleagues Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) with. They officially become Ghostbusters, hunting down the alarmingly high number of supernatural creatures on the loose in New York City.

In fulfilling these activities, they attract the attention of Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), who has the really annoying supernatural phenomena of cooking eggs on her countertop and a demon named Zuul, who naturally won’t settle for anything less than destroying the world. The Ghostbusters set themselves on the task of saving said world, while procuring the affections of Dana for Peter.

A remake of this classic film was released in 2016, and man, there were a lot of angry men. I’ve been told that not all men were pigheaded in this regard, and with that I agree – some aren’t sexist prigs. However, I can see why they were so angry – the original Ghostbusters have some rather sexist attitudes – Peter Venkmen is rather persistent in Dana Barrett, even after her explicitly stating that she’s not all that interested. That type of humor was okay back in the 80’s, and I am sure a lot of men still subscribe to the nothing that even if a woman is clearly not interested, you should still harass her. But I digress. There is also the fact that all the heroes are men – and I do like a good hero – but I can see that some could feel threatened by it.

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Anyway, back to the actual film. It was fun, short and packed with adventure. The graphics aren’t half bad for the time, and it is truly fun to see Bill Murray in action. It’s not my favorite role of Sigourney Weaver (Alien forever), but she’s really good to watch as always. There were some great supernatural moments, and what I genuinely liked is that this movie manages to pass as a comedy rather than some thriller, because that would never have worked.

Ghostbusters is definitely not a bad way to start my Blindspot series, and I really hope the rest of the year’s films will be equally as fun.

Rating: 7.5/10

Movie Review: The Maze Runner: Death Cure (2018)

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Plot: Young hero Thomas embarks on a mission to find a cure for a deadly disease known as the “Flare”.

Contains minor spoilers

I have experienced a rather good start to the year with new releases. I am still not over the wonderful The Greatest Showman (2018), and I am still listening to its’ soundtrack every single day. I can’t wait to purchase the DVD and show it to everyone I know, so that they too can be as happy as I. It also provided a pitfall for The Death Cure – could anything impress me after I was so ridiculously happy?

Well, The Death Cure didn’t make me as happy (two tonally different films as there ever was), but it did entertain me. The opening sequence, the lead culprit in the massive time delay of the film when Dylan O’Brien was seriously injured on set, is exciting and intense. I also really appreciate a film where the main characters can actually shoot and is not just randomly shooting into thin air – all the actors can be applauded for holding a gun in a manner that shows they’ve had some training.

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The relationship between Thomas (O’Brien) and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), is still as tight as ever. They are in this together, and the two actors themselves share a great chemistry on set. I like Newt, he’s such a sarcastic character full of pithy remarks. I still absolutely loathe Theresa – who doesn’t, and even her final attempts at redemption couldn’t convince me to find actual time for her. He doesn’t deserve Thomas or his compassion, and I completed related to my fellow movie goer when he passionately yelled “Can this bitch just die?!” in cinema – although good sir, do not refer to women as bitches, please.

I will perhaps always hate Aiden Gillen (perhaps unfairly). He also plays a devious bastard in The Death Cure, and this does not help him in terms of affection. He is able to play a weak man really well. He meets his fate in The Death Cure in a much more brutal and enjoyable fashion than in Game of Thrones.

The film has a solid progression, and although it did start to feel long I wasn’t terrible irritated by that. There was a stage at about halfway through the film where I wondered how on earth they were planning to wrap things up in the time they had left, but they managed.

Granted that I really didn’t like the second one (I am still not sure what went on there), this film turned out remarkably well. The Death Cure is not perfect – I felt that half of the female stars had no acting power, and they are, as always, very underrepresented. I always enjoy a dystopian setting that turns out to be some clinical trial drama – that is essentially what Divergent and The Maze Runner boils down to – what ethical values are governments willing to forsake of their people when faced with a massive viral disaster? This is my food man. However, it should be noted that the rights of a patient will never be compromised for the advancement of science, thank you very much.

Overall, The Death Cure did just fine as my second film for this year. That guy with the hollowed out cheeks and funky attitude was proper badass and had an epic moment or two. Eyebrows returning – he looks like he waxed his eyebrows, and I still think it must be a challenged to be permanently surprised. I’ve never read these books, so I can’t compare it to the source material, but as a dystopian film it works well and rounds of the series just fine.

Rating: 7/10

Movie Review: Lego: Batman (2017)

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Plot: A cooler-than-ever Bruce Wayne must deal with the usual suspects as they plan to rule Gotham City, while discovering that he has accidentally adopted a teenage orphan who wishes to become his sidekick.

After seeing Lego: Ninjago (2017), I wasn’t all that impressed. It isn’t awful, but there are little to no humor for me to relate to. It’s a kids movie, and as that it just fine. I was told that I had to see Lego Batman, and lofty accolades such as “This is the only movie from DC since Nolan that has been GOOD” – I was quick to point out the wonderful Wonder Woman (2017), but I had to check Lego: Batman, out.

So I’m not putting it above Wonder Woman, but there were truths to the claim – Lego: Batman is fantastic. It is hilarious and witty and the dialogue is fantastic.

How do they give building blocks such emotions? When Batman was sad, I was sad. The movie is full of popular culture references. There are some great quips – the password for the Batcave, the subtle hinting towards double standards in gender relations, and some things about dealing with your feelings that probably flew right over the heads of the little kiddos.

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Will Arnett voices the perfect Batman, creating nuances in a plastic toy that couldn’t have been there without a healthy dose of talent. Michael Cera manages to be not annoying (probably because I couldn’t see that face), and is the trusty sidekick/orphan Robin. Ralph Fiennes provide heavyweight gravity to Alfred; although he sounds still like he’s enjoying himself so much and Zach Galifianakis as The Joker manages to get real emosh at times. I also loved Rosario Dawson – I’ve become team-Rosario since discovering her in Daredevil, and she’s the best Batgirl I could wish for. She puts Batman in his place and stands her ground, and she’s an all-around stand up woman.

I don’t regret one second of this amazingly funny film, and I’d definitely watch this again.

Have you seen this? Let me know!

Rating: 8/10

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: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

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Plot: Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices

In 2012 someone had the idea to create a movie about an Acapella university group with an essentially all female cast. It was a surprising success, people (mostly females) driving out to see women be funny, silly, talented and live in a sisterhood. They returned in 2015 with lesser men in the cast, and their hilarity continued to an extent that personally, for me, it surpassed the 2012 film in terms of quality.

Nothing would stop a production company from milking a successful movie for a number of sequels, so Universal Pictures granted the production of a final, third Pitch Perfect. I collected my own girl squad (men were welcome, they simply weren’t keen), and set off to watch this final film.

I laughed. Rebel Wilson steals the show, again, with her fabulous return to Fat Amy. She’s got a massive agenda in this film – her father Fergus (John Lithgow) reenters her life and we get to see something of Amy/Patricia’s past. Is her father really reformed or is he there for some nefarious reason? I won’t tell you everything, but Rebel Wilson stunned us and she made us cry with laughter in the cinema with her amazing skills.

Naturally Beca (Anna Kendrick) has her issues being a know it all and a bit of a snob. She’s landed a promising position at a record label, but that is not good enough for her because she has all the opinions and also has never had a real job – that would have made her realize that new staff can’t always have their opinions listened to at the first go. She resigns, because finding another job is easy in the Pitch world, and when Aubrey (Anna Camp) has a proposition for the team to go sing at a military base for the troops she and the other Barden Bellas grab it with both hands.

Off they go to a number of improbable situations that will still make you laugh extra hard. Hunky Theo (Guy Bernet) has a thing for Beca and army officer Chicago Welp (Matt Lanter) develops an interest in Chloe (Brittany Snow), who is hilarious on her crush on him.

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More usuals are also there – Hana Mae Lee returns as Lilly, the really supremely strange Bella. Kudos to Lee, she has worked this awkward and hilarious character excellently. Ester Dean brings cultural and sexual diversity to the Bellas and is one of the most talented cast members in the film. Jessica, or Kelley Jakle, had me laughing at her comments, especially the “shot of white privilege” one.  John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks also returns to their respective roles as John Smith and Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberger, the hilarious and desperate commentators who follow the Bellas everywhere they go.

Pitch Perfect 3 is a closing chapter for the franchise and they send their characters of in ideal, if a bit too perfect, fashion. Everyone ends up where they always wanted to be – vet school, owner of a franchise, a singing career, or Amy, as we all do, with tons of cash and not having to answer to anyone. Some of the jokes are a bit skew, they aren’t as hilarious or as original as they were in the first two films, but these characters have become part of very fond memories for me. I watched the first one with quite a hangover and had to rewatch to actually like it, and the second one had me crying with laughter. This one? A bit lame but it was like watching old friends drive off in to the sunset.

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Have you seen Pitch Perfect 3? Let me know what you thought!

Rating: 6/10