Watched, Read, loved: March 2017

March2017

Here is my monthly rundown of what I was up to the previous month. Right now it is still pretty much only addressing entertainment, but I hope to add some more life things into it soon too. Please feel free to comment below if you’ve seen any of these, or just to say hi!

movies-logo

Southpaw poster

Southpaw (2015) – I love a good sport movie. Even though they are all pretty much the same story, I’m always caught up. It was no less with Southpaw, and even though Jake Gyllenhaal irrationally annoyed the shit out of me, I really enjoyed this one.

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Letters to Juliet (2010) – Amanda Seyfried delivers another charming performance. Objectively I know this isn’t a strong film, but it is so feel good I actually couldn’t care less about ratings. It is foolishly optimistic and cheerful, and a great film to watch if you are feeling down.

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The Wedding Singer (1998) – The 90’s atmosphere, combined with a surprisingly affable Adam Sandler and an adorable Drew Barrymore, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Definitely one of the best Adam Sandler films I’ve ever seen.

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My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997) – I HATED the ending and I really disliked the main character. What a stupid movie.

enchanted

Enchanted (2007): This spectacular Disney production made me so happy when I watched it again. It is on a grand scale and very elaborate and so lovely to look at.

underworld

Underworld (2003), Evolution (2006), Rise of the Lycans (2009), and Awakening (2012)

After years of ignorance I am finally familiarizing myself with this franchise. I had a great time with all these movies. Seline is such a strong female character and saves herself and her love more than once, and the feminist in me was cheering all the way.

four

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Continuing on this journey to watch more romantic films that are seen as classics, I got to see this. It was… okay. Hugh Grant really was quite the adorable English actor in his prime, and it is easy for him to be quietly charming. Andie McDowell also had no clue how to act. I’m not sure if she’s ever had a clue in that regard, but it really is prominent here.

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The Lucky One (2012)

The Lucky One  is not by any means the worst Nicholas Sparks film – Best of Me still holds that title – but what is most notable is the awful acting. Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron just don’t gel together. I’m forced to ask whether Zac Efron actually has a brain – there is nothing shining behind those pretty blue eyes. Sure, he’s cute and ripped, but his attempt at a tortured marine invoked less sympathy than concern about synapses firing at an appropriate rate. Schilling, yeah, also pretty bad. They also have zero chemistry and the scenes looked stage and neither actor really wanted their hands on each other. Okay, I’m done. But sheesh.

Kong

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong: Skull Island is what it was supposed to be: a nice action packed adventure with a handsome cast and a big gorilla. Ticked all the boxes for me, excellent popcorn entertainment.

Power rangers

Power Rangers (2017)

I had not planned going to cinema for this. I would have preferred John Wick, but I was sorely outvoted by a bunch of 30 year old men who wanted to watch Power Rangers. There is something to be said for nostalgia. I ended up having a decent enough time – I  was unaware up until this point that Power Rangers could be made into something that resembles a non-cheesy film. I’m still shocked.

books

The Guardians Trilogy by Nora Roberts: Stars of Fortune, Bay of Sighs and Island of Glass

I read these three books in the span of two weeks and I don’t regret one second of it. It is the most fun I’ve had in ages with Nora Roberts’ fantasy work.

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Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince (JK Rowling)

The penultimate book in the best series to have ever been written is overshadowed in intensity only by the last book. Half Blood Prince is consistently one of my favorites. It features the more mature trio, naturally Dumbeldore’s death and the discovery of the reason behind Voldemort’s apparent immortality.

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)

Horace Slughorn returning to the castle to fight, Snape’s secret, Fred dying, Lupin and Tonks, Colin Creevy being tiny in death, Kreacher’s bullfrog voice, Dobby’s death, Hagrid throwing MacNair, Molly vs. Bellatrix– the last hundred pages of this book is nonstop goosebumps. I get tears in my eyes every time. Every. Single. Time. Deathly Hallows binds every single event that occurred in Potter from the very first page of The Philosopher’s Stone to the very last page of Deathly Hallows in a neat bow. This is truly the best thought out work I’ve ever read by an author.

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Angel’s Fall (Nora Roberts)

I really enjoy reading through my Nora collection at least once a year. Right now I’m with Reece and Brody, and I particularly enjoy the book – I like both main characters, the setting, the plot and development of said plot.

Movie review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Kong

Plot: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

Rating: 7.5/10

I was only too happy when I finally had some time free and could head out and see a film in an actual cinema with actual popcorn. My choice was between Kong and Logan, and I might get shot for this but Wolverine has never been my first choice (although I hear from multiple sources that it is well worth the watch). I set out to see the gargantuan monster and my decision was rewarded for an enticing film.

My most predominant thought about Skull Island is that it is Avatar, sans blue people. I checked the inspiration that director John Vogt-Roberts pulled from and Avatar isn’t listed as one of them, but:  Beautiful untainted area without known human habitation? Check. American army swinging guns and bombs in unprovoked attacks? Check. Outrage when indigenous life revolts? Also check.

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The star studded cast carries the movie when it might have been boring with less capable actors. From Samuel L. Jackson who plays a war veteran who just doesn’t want to admit defeat to Brie Larson as the photographer with a conscious, John Goodman as the researcher who is more invested in the discovery that might be healthy and Tom Hiddleston as a tracker and ex British army officer, they are capable enough to entertain us for the hefty watching time this film demands. I also thought John C. Reilly was appropriate comic relief while also providing some wrenching moments where you wish for him to be granted every wish he has after the life he’s had. I only really highlighted the major cast but a shout out has to be given as well to everyone who is sent along on the expedition, they were all well cast.

Tom Hiddleston proves he is more than Loki. After seeing this I am definitely on board with seeing him in more films. I have to say, this adventurer look suits him really well, I was much appreciative for science reasons. It was also a really cool character to root for, and he had the world weary attitude down to a T.

In all honesty, it took me about three minutes to be on #TeamKong. Stupid Americans thinking they have the right to enter untouched areas and bomb it? Typical and the world is weary. The events of Skull Island immediately occurs after the Vietnam War, and we all know how that went down. The political messaging is very strong and we have to wonder whether it is some jabs at the current administration in America. The expedition team is certainly more diverse than anything that is being pushed by POTUS right now, and it is all the stronger for it.

Brie Larson might be the only female cast member that gets actual lines, but she does her job well and carries the girl power flag with excellence. I liked her, I liked her character and she is definitely an actress I’d like to see more of.

Some beautiful cinematography and directing impresses as well. The indigenous folk are terrifying and oddly beautiful in an untouched way. I’d naturally never return to sanity after meeting them. The massive animals alternate between jaw dropping and vomit inducing. They serve as a not so subtle reminder about the glory of nature untouched.
Kong: Skull Island is definitely worth the watch, although heavy on the political agenda. I also felt that some of the fighting scenes were a bit drawn out and over the top, but that is crowd pleasing to the majority of watchers. I enjoyed it thoroughly as it provided a good variety of actors with an important story and great effects.
Have you seen Kong? What did you think?

Marvellous Mondays: Thor (2011)

Marvel logo

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.

thor poster

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!

Midnight in Paris (2010)

MIP

I believe that love that is true and real, creates a respite from death. All cowardice comes from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And then the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face, like some rhino-hunters I know or Belmonte, who is truly brave… It is because they make love with sufficient passion, to push death out of their minds… until it returns, as it does, to all men… and then you must make really good love again.

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is touring Paris with his unsatisfied fiancée Inez (Rachel MacAdams), who just doesn’t share his affection for the beautiful French town. Even though Gil is a successful screenwriter, he wishes to be a writer living in Paris, preferably in the 1920’s if he could have his way. Inez shoots all his ideas down and doesn’t seem to think he could make it as a writer. Her parents share these sentiments and want Gil to continue earning huge amounts of cash so that he and Inez can set up in Malibu after their wedding.

Inez and Gil find that Paul (Michael Sheen) and his girlfriend are also touring France. Inez seems very impressed by the pedantic Paul, who just thinks he knows absolutely everything about anything. He offers to read and critique Gil’s novel, and Inez supports the offer, oblivious that Gil would hate it.

Inez and Paul decide to go dancing after a wine tasting. Gil, a bit drunk, declines and walks the streets of Paris. As midnight strikes, Paul is picked up by an old fashioned Peugeot car and lands back in the 1920s. He meets a large amount of his literary idols – Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll). When Hemingway hears that Gil is busy with a novel, he takes him to Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), who promises to read it and offer her opinion.

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Naturally Inez does not believe a word of the story and she leaves before Gil can prove it the following night. Gil takes his novel to Gertrude Stein and meets Pablo Picasso and his beautiful lover, Adriana (Marion Cottliard). Adriana is immediately impressed when she hears the first few lines of his novel, and Gil is very taken with her.

Gil spends more time in the 1920’s, irritating Inez and alerting the suspicions of her father Paul (Michael Sheen), who employs a private detective to find out what Gil is up to. Gil is becoming more attracted to Adriana, but when she finds out that he is engaged she distances herself slightly. Adriana leaves Picasso and goes on a trip to Africa with Hemingway, but Gertrude Stein is sure that it will not last.

Back in the present, Inez shops for furniture while Gil looks at antiques. He meets Gabrielle (Lea Seydoux), a beautiful French lady who shares his affection for the Lost Generation. Gil stumbles upon a priceless treasure – a diary of Adrienne that mentions him by name.

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Gil returns to the past where he gives Adriana a gift. They kiss, and a horse-drawn carriage arrives, taking them back to the 1890’s. Adriana expresses her desire to remain there, and Gil is perplexed with her claims that the 1890’s was the golden age, not the 1920’s. They part ways, with Gil returning to 2011.

After rewriting the first two chapters, Stein is very much impressed with the progress Gil has made as a writer. She even says that Hemingway liked it, but wonders why the main character does not realise that his fiancé is sleeping with another character, characters that were based on Inez and Paul. Gil realises what this means, and confronts Inez. She admits to the affair but discards its importance, but Gil calls an end to the relationship, telling her that they will be happier apart and that he has chosen to stay in Paris. Inez is furious, but her parents also think that their separation is a wonderful idea.

As Gil once more walks the streets of Paris, he meets Gabrielle again, and they take a walk in the rain.

Rating: 7.5/10

I really enjoyed Midnight in Paris. I had an inkling this movie would be good. I was completely right about it (and who doesn’t love being right?!). Midnight in Paris is beautifully directed and I just fell in love with everything about it. The scenery, the love for Paris (it reignited my desperate need to stand under the Eiffel Tower), the way Paris is portrayed, and the absolutely shockingly amazing performance by Owen Wilson all just contributed to my utter enjoyment of the film.

Rachel MacAdams was for the first time ever such a disgusting cow in a role and she obviously has real acting skills to be able to portray Inez and be Ally from the Notebook at the same time. Inez irritated and frustrated me beyond belief and her idiocy of not seeing the worth of Gil while being utterly charmed by the know it all Paul.

The questioning of Gil’s sanity is charmingly underplayed and kept me riveted. Was he hallucinating? Was this all going to end in a sad way? I really kept wondering until Adrienne’s journal was found as confirmation, and even then I wasn’t sure of Gil’s mental stability. I absolutely LOVED Owen Wilson in here. He was funny and charming and really looked like a disorganised writer.

I think Marion Cottliard is a lovely actress and she was so mysterious in here. I hoped they would end up together but their eventual separation was mutual and beneficial. This was one of those movies where the star studded cast didn’t overwhelm or deduct from the final story being told, and I found a famous face entertaining rather than exhausting when being introduced.

Lastly, I really liked that even though there was a love story being told, it wasn’t gooey, and the comedy in the movie wasn’t overwhelming. I am not sure how I would classify this, but I certainly wouldn’t classify it as a rom-com. It is much too intelligent, funny and truly charming to fall into that category, and I actually enjoy rom-coms now and again.

I can really see myself watching this again.

Recommendation: It is a feel good movie and I would think that most people would enjoy this!

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor Dark World

It is not often that a sequel does better than its first instalment. I was so surprised that I enjoyed it more than Thor (2011), since I really enjoyed that a lot. I made sure I went as soon as it got released, to prevent any spills on the internet – I experienced that recently and I am still ticked off.

Bor, Odin’s father, clashed with the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eckleston) ages ago. The Dark Elves where planning on destroying the Universe with the Aether, a very powerful weapon. The Elves’ home, Svartalfheim, is destroyed, and Bor seals the Aether in a stone column. He does not know that Malekith and his lieutenant survive.

In the present, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is sentenced to life in prison for his war crimes on Earth. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is told by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) that he will become King as soon as peace is restored to the nine realms.

Loki

*Loki in prison

Thor’s mind, however, is rooted firmly on Earth, where his love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) lives. It has been two years since they have been together, and he misses her a lot. He has Heimdall (Edris Elba) keep an eye on her, and is alerted to when she suddenly disappears from Earth. He returns from Earth to search for her, and when she suddenly displays frightening protective techniques when someone poses a danger to her, he takes her to Asgard, much to Odin’s annoyance. Odin realises that she has been infected by the Aether, and will eventually die from the power that surges through her. Thor promises to find a way to return her to full health.

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*Jane and Queen Frieda

The Aether’s release causes Malekith to awaken, and he swears vengeance on Asgard. The city is attacked, and terrible tragedies happen. Thor and Odin are divided in their grief, and Thor directly disobeys Odin’s orders and leaves Asgard to destroy Malekith. He enlists the help of Loki, knowing that he risks his life doing so. They take Jane with them, as the Aether is now within her, hoping to draw it out of her and keep her alive.

Malekith

*Malekith

Loki manages to trick Malekith into taking the Aether out of Jane, but they fail to kill him. Realising the convergence of the realms is in Greenwich, the return to Earth to fight Malekith.

Dark Elves

*The Dark Elves

Will Earth survive another attack brought upon them? Will Malekith be finally destroyed? And will Jane and Thor finally manage to reconcile?

Rating: 8/10

I really loved this film. It is better than the first one, as I mentioned earlier, and it is incredibly entertaining. There are quite a few surprises and deaths, and it all fits into a good tale.

The humor was well done and luckily not too much. The scene where everyone threatens Loki should he dare betray Thor again was hilarious. I laughed at some of the impersonations Loki pulled off to irritate Thor. Basically his entire part was extremely well written. Tom Hiddleston seemed really perfect for the role. He balances Thor’s extreme presence, and they make such an interesting pair.

This time around, Chris Hemsworth improved on his portrayal as Thor. He was fine in the first film, and in the Avengers, but both of those enabled him to become better as an actor. He really is well cast.

I would definitely recommend that you treat yourself and go watch this in cinema. It is totally worth it.

Have you watched it yet?