Rapid Review: The Infiltrator (2016)

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“This is what I do. I’m an undercover narcotics agent, I sit with murderers and made men and I lie. I lie my ass off.”
– Robert Mazur

SYNOPSIS: A U.S. Customs official uncovers a money laundering scheme involving Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. – via IMDB

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GRADE 7I was definitely up for checking this out because, well, Narcos totally has us hooked on anything pertaining to Pablo Escobar at the moment, and not to mention Bryan Cranston being a huge draw on his own. Back in the drug game? All aboard! I was pleased to see John Leguizamo in here, as I quite enjoy him, and Diane Kruger provided a solid performance, too. The performances were all quite good, although there were a lot of characters who were skipped over. The Infiltrator gives you the information you need for the movie in the setup, and then runs with the sting. My biggest issue is that, while this was good, it missed its chance to be great. All the potential was there, but the movie played it too safe and didn’t go for the guts. I was a fan of the way relationships were depicted in this, giving the viewer a look at how a situation can get sticky when you are undercover because you really can end up liking the people you are investigating, so situations are not always ideal, and they do have crazy effects. The biggest issue is that, while the cast was good, one would expect more about Escobar and his insane cocaine cartel, and the plot never really went all in, and the vestment of Mazur getting bust were relatively low. The poster makes it look like this guy went up against Escboar and survived, when in reality it was very little of that. The movie had the potential to pack more punch than it ultimately went for. This means that the movie is good, but it never hits the highs you want for it. Worth a look see, at any rate.

Downton Abbey: Season 2 (2011)

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*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

What I liked:

  • The stark differences shown between wartime battlefronts and then the jarring peace that is experienced in other places (such as at Downton).
  • The relationship between Lady Mary and Carson.
  • Sybil and Branson – I have always liked this pairing, because it does not fit in with the times, so it gives it a dangerous edge. Plus they just look gorgeous together. Granted, the show takes forever while dancing around this thing, but Findlay and Leech have fantastic chemistry, and I was rooting for them from the off.
  • How much Edith has improved. Goodness, what a piece of work she was in the beginning! She has definitely gotten better, though I am still no fan of hers.
  • Cousin Violet does have a heart, though she never, ever wants that part of her to be seen. A big scene this was evident was when Daisy and William were getting married, and she was crying, but passed that off as a bad cold. Silly woman.
  • Lavinia Swire. I know we were (technically) supposed to hate the girl, but she was so pure, so good, so sweet, that you could not help but like her, and feel for her when Matthew was so obviously still in love with Mary.
  • That Christmas episode was absolutely fantastic.
  • Daisy and Mr Mason – so sweet.

downton abbey season 2 dance far

What I didn’t like: 

  • Cousin Isobel just peeved me this season. Last season she was some annoying comic relief – this season she was a control freak, nasty, pushy, and just plain down rude. No love for that.
  • How Lady Mary can really just be a spoiled brat (this is specifically looking at how she handled the whole Carson not joining her and Sir Richard at their new home).
  • This whole Robert Crawley scenario with the housemaid, Jane. I was not a fan of that at all, and felt it was most uncalled for.
  • Thomas being back. The man is so evil, cowardly and underhanded and annoys me endlessly!
  • Ethel and her whole pregnant, baby, can’t work thing. I know it sounds cold, but she made a stupid decision, and is holding everyone else accountable for it. She’s also pushy to boot.

downton abbey season 2 defeatist

Rating:
GRADE 8.5Seriously addictive show! We start up with the war in full swing, and it seems that everything is changed. Downton is still functioning, but with minor changes. Bates is still gone, and Anna’s heart is still broken, and it sucks. Times were certainly different, as this season showcases how desperate all the men seemed to be to serve in the war to show their loyalty to the country, no matter what. Robert Crawley was especially offended on being a “mascot” and that he was not going to be sent to the front, while William was prepared to leave his father just to join the effort.

I was highly unimpressed to see Thomas back so soon, and evidently that slippery snake has not changed his ways. Maggie Smith, as always, entertained me endlessly with her aversion to technology, and the way she dealt with both the telephone and the gramophone was, naturally, hilarious. Only Carson is her equal when it comes to technology!

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Sybil made me so happy this season, as she was really in her element, having studied to be a nurse and caring for people. She was respected. Branson hanging around was awesome, and I was thrilled to finally see their relationship progress to something. I was not a fan, however, of the subplots that came in and ended without really giving much closure. For instance, Robert being a total twat and having that affair with the maid was something that horrified me, I always thought he was made of sterner stuff, and they dance around it and then the maid leaves. Done. Poof. Gone. No more. Really?! After the entire fuss that was kicked up about it, I would have assumed more. Also, for instance, Patrick returning. That was a thing and then bang, all gone. Oh well.

downton abbey season 2 tom branson chaffeur hot

Mary’s new beau was definitely a smarmy and nasty character, and I was not impressed. Matthew, of course, is still just pure perfection for me, and I was so sad when he was so terribly wounded at war, I could not bear to think of him wallowing in such a depression, thinking himself less a man because of his wounds. But holy joy for us, things changed! Yay! I am really starting to get worried about Carson’s health… his heart just doesn’t seem able to bear things anymore. Mrs O’Brien, still sly as a fox, has definitely changed her tune quite a bit at times. She is still cold and cruel, but she is no longer as bad as she previously was when she was with Thomas, and her loyalty to Cora is astounding.

I must say that Cousin Isobel really just worked on my nerves this season, it was not as amusing as last to watch her. The way that Downton was totally changed was interesting and frustrating in equal measure, because there was some extreme amusement to be found there, but there was also things that were irritating. Again, the divide between the rich and the poor was highlighted fully here, with the rich being more concerned about some of the space being used up as opposed to the assistance that was generated.

As much as Mary peeves me, I actually really just want her and Matthew to be together, because he does love her. Too much. It was sad to see the way the whole thing with Lavinia Swire went, but it did clear the path for them to be together. Edith has changed a lot, and with all her flaws and all she is no longer deadly nasty and cruel as she was before. I was terribly sad, then happy, then worried, then depressed watching the whole Bates/Anna story. Finally he gets shot of his wife, everything is smoothed over at Downton and he returns, but then his wife dies and Bates is in trouble, and he marries Anna and is then arrested… good gracious me, not happy times. Oh my goodness, again there is just far too much to talk about here and just not enough space! Go watch this, immediately, maybe then we will all be on the same page about it!

downton abbey season 2 dance

November Blind Spot Review: Chinatown (1974)

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“You’ve got a nasty reputation, Mr. Gittes. I like that.”
– Noah Cross

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SYNOPSIS: A private detective hired to expose an adulterer finds himself caught up in a web of deceit, corruption and murder. – via IMDB

GRADE 8Another one off the list! I thoroughly enjoy neo-noir films, and I am always pleased when I get to watch one. Chinatown is considered a classic and a work of art, and I am inclined to see why it is a classic. The script is solid, and accompanied by a great score that complements the film every step of the way. The movie is also carried by two great leads, and Nicholson and Dunaway give fantastic performances. I do think that the movie was exceptionally long. Sometimes you noticed this, other times not so much. It took me awhile to get into it, but when I was hooked, I was taken in all the way. The story is simple, but never plain and boring, but never so complex that is loses the viewer along the way. Chinatown is also shot really well. I was not a fan of one particular scene where Jake laid into Evelyn pretty solid. Everything was going fine and next thing he was smacking the heck out of her, and I felt it was jarring. I suppose it is still loyal to the times and all, but that type of stuff grates on me. And it was brutal, especially when you hear what she reveals after. Brutality for brutality man. I don’t really know what else to say about the movie – I enjoyed the concept and the execution, the atmosphere and vibe, and I liked the fact that the ending made me think, too.

Rapid Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

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“But we almost pulled it off despite what everybody thought. Worst part of it is they’re going to blame us for the whole thing. They can’t have people knowing the truth. We’re the patsies; the cover up. Don’t forget, we’re the bad guys.:
– Deadshot

SYNOPSIS: A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force. Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse. – via IMDB

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GRADE 6This movie is one of the films this year that got showered in hate. And a lot of it. I have finally seen it to form my very own opinion and, while I thought it was messy and a missed opportunity, it really was not the heinous film that it has been painted. There was quite a bit to like, but there was more to dislike, and that is quite the issue. We know David Ayer has the goods – just look at Fury, if you want a quick, amazing example. He knows how to shoot a film, and weave a super engaging story. Suicide Squad did not do that, and it sucks, because there were moments in the film where you could almost see something brilliant hiding, something that could have broken free. I thought the film boasted some super sketchy effects, and it really just threw you out of the watching experience. Let’s also look at the whole concept of the Enchantress. Why? I mean Amanda Waller creates the Suicide Squad, but in so doing creates the threat, and then her newly formed squad must end the threat? Come on. Let’s also not forget a group of psychopaths becoming besties in a matter of hours. As a psychology graduate, I had such issues with this. The music, too, was something that irritated me. Initially it was something I loved, great music choices, but ultimately it was something that grated on me because it felt like as many cool songs as possible were being squeezed in, and when the soundtrack becomes more important than the film, and overshadows what you are watching and pulls you out of the movie, you have done something wrong. I gotta say though that the performances were pretty good. I thought Robbie and Smith worked wonders together, and were hands down the standouts of the film. One of my biggest issues with this? Jared Leto as the Joker. In the trailer I could already tell he wasn’t going to work for me, but I had no idea how terrible he was actually going to be. Every time he came on the screen, I felt that he was just killing the movie for me. Ugh. Overall, the movie wanted to be something more than it was, and it was sad because you could see something awesome trying to escape the mess it eventually was. It didn’t break barriers tot he genre, and was quite predictable throughout. Not the worst watch in the world, and certainly not deserving of the hate, but it’s a decent, mindlessly entertaining watch.

 

Downton Abbey: Season 1 (2010)

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*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

What I liked:

  • The costume design. It was sumptuous, stunning, suiting and perfect. I was very impressed.
  • Maggie Smith. There is no way that you can watch this show and not absolutely love Cousin Violet and her antics. She is so strongly opinionated, but technically has a heart of gold under that prickly facade.

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  • The cast is wonderful. I think they all bring something of worth to the table. Jim Carter as Charles Carson is great, Brandan Coyle as John Bates is just perfect, I love him, and I think he and Joanne Froggart as Anna Smith work wonders together. Siobhan Finneran’s Mrs Sarah O’Brien and Rob James-Collier’s Thomas Barrow are such wily snakes. They really get under my skin.
  • Dan Stevens. Because holy wowzers, he is freaking adorable and such a gentleman and a heart-stealer. Argh! Besides the fact that he plays Matthew Crawley so well, Matthew’s character itself is just so… perfect. Definitely not cut from the same cloth as his infinitely richer counterparts, he is a hard worker, smart, loyal, good looking and so down to Earth.
  • Lady Mary Crawley’s character growth. It really took me from totally hating her to just being irritable with her at the best of times. I no longer wanted to shoot her though.
  • The courtship between Lady Mary Crawley and Matthew. I mean, I am a little phased by the whole cousin thing, but at the end of it, and despite the fact that she was introduced as a super bitch and remains quite so throughout, her character grows quite a bit, and I found myself rooting for them to finally get over their issues and get together.
  • Watching Cousin Violet and Cousin Isobel together is worth every second of screen time. They just have no time or patience for one another, but go about it in such different way. Plus, how competitive are these two?
  • Sybil Crawley. Jessica Brown-Findlay captured her wonderfully, and this character is simply a favourite of mine. The way she helped Rose Leslie’s Gwen to find work, and how she is so free spirited and happy and pro-feminism is just great, and I am quite a fan of it. She is so independent, and I love the banter between her and Allen Leech’s chauffeur Tom Branson. He compliments her because he is also so different and political and he encourages her, but he looks out for her.
  • How the divide between the rich and the poor and the working class is illustrated here. The servants work themselves to the bone, and the rich don’t necessarily realise all the work that gets done, the effects it has, and how much they differ from the help. For instance, Mary is quite dismissive about positions within the house, though she becomes rather embarrassed when she realises how important they are to other people (looking here specifically at what went down with William when he was looking after the horse).
  • The humour. It is very sharp and very dry, I love it!

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What I didn’t like:

  • I am not necessarily a fan of the way that time jumps, and months/years have passed, but the n arrative continues as though there has been no time lapse.
  • The relationship between Edith and Mary. I know it is there for the dramatic side of things and all that, but sheesh, how bitchy can you get with your sibling?!
  • The whole legal predicament – it is explained, but not as nicely and as smoothly as I would have liked, meaning I get the gist of it, but not too much the technicalities of it.
  • How totally self-centred Mary is, and how she spends far too much time listening to outside influences.
  • Thomas and Mrs O’Brien – two snakes if ever I saw them!

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Rating:
GRADE 8.5I watched this once up until season three, then fell out with it, and decided a few months back to rewatch this and actually finish it this time around. I was particularly in the mood for something British. Naturally this ticked all the boxes, and I popped it in.

I was drawn in from the very first episode, no kidding. I love a good drama, and for a period setting and story, this was lovely. There were laughs, there were hard times, there were great relationships, there was some insane scheming, and there was character growth.

Typical of a show/book with such a massive array of characters, I was worried that I would forget them all, or not know how they all fit in. This is a normal fear when bombarded with so many people, especially seeing as how they were all introduced in the first episode basically. Getting to know Downton was a wonderful experience, and I am a big fan of the cast. Maggie Smith is a scene-stealer, of course, and her character of Cousin Violet is just immensely wonderful. She is so underhanded, so wealthy, so out of touch with how the rest of the world works, you cannot help but laugh at her. I particularly enjoyed her quip about weekends, and the competition/rivalry between her and Isobel is so worth watching. It is hilarious, and everyone is aware of it, some humour it, mostly because getting awkward doesn’t help. They are both immensely strong willed women. I also like how she is not as cold as you think, and sometimes she does particularly sweet things, but she does’t like to draw too much attention to it (such as when she relented and allowed Bill Molesley to win the flower fair).

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Then there is Matthew Crawley. I cannot lie and say I did not fall deeply in love with his character. He was more in tune with reality, solidly middle class, not dismissive like the rest of the Crawley clan, smart as a whip and simply gorgeous. He was just… different, and I liked that. Not to mention that I think Dan Stevens is absolutely super hot, and he was adorable here (just look at his relationship with Molesley after he realises how the food chain works). Jessica Brown-Findlay was another actress I was very happy to see. I think she is beautiful, and her character of Sybil is wonderful – strong-willed, cheeky, a feminist to the core, and helpful. She is also more genuine than the rest of the family seems to be, such a free spirit. I must admit, I loved watching her be all rebellious, and thought that her and Tom Branson were so sweet together.

Bates was another character I deeply admired. He was loyal and genuine and such an honest man, and he would not shift blame. When he started he was treated so badly, and it actually hurt to watch, but eventually commanded the respect of just about everyone, and that was great. Also, I liked how he had served with Lord Robert Crawley in the war, and everyone treats him terribly and dismissively and he was actually friends with Robert, and it changes things when the rest of the servants realise this. He doesn’t use connections/relations with people to get ahead, however, and will never take anyone down with him maliciously, no matter what. Thomas and Mrs O’Brien irritated me, they were such forces of evil! T

he distinct portrayal of how times are different and cultural mores and norms that have differed is something I thoroughly enjoy watching, too. Wow, there is so much going on in this show actually that I am not sure how to address it all. I don’t want to leave anything out, but there is just too much that is right with this! Obviously this means that if you have not yet watched this, you should rectify that immediately. 

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Review: Rachel’s Holiday – Marian Keyes

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Walsh Family #2

SYNOPSIS: The fast lane is much too slow for Rachel Walsh. And Manhattan is the perfect place for a young Irish female to overdo everything. But Rachel’s love of a good time is about to land her in the emergency room. It will also cost her a job and the boyfriend she adores.

When her loving family hustles her back home and checks her into Ireland’s answer to the Betty Ford Clinic, Rachel is hopeful. Perhaps it will be lovely—spa treatments, celebrities, that kind of thing. Instead, she finds a lot of group therapy, which leads her, against her will, to some important self-knowledge. She will also find something that all women like herself fear: a man who might actually be good for her. – via Goodreads

GRADE 6I didn’t know this book was part of a series, to be honest. I checked it out because Natasha reads a lot of Marian Keyes’s work, and she quite enjoys it. My ex boss did, too, so I figured “why not?”. Now, there are things that I like a lot about this, and other things that I absolutely resent. For one, really liked the way Rachel was an addict, and I mean good and proper. She refused to acknowledge her issues, would do anything to avoid responsibility or owning up to anything that is going on around her, has hurt so many people around her, and resents so many people. Her denial is palpable. Also, to see how the other patients at the Cloisters treat her is great, and to see how addicts can band together is also something. Luke Costello was the only decent character, too, while we are at it. Man, this character rocked, and I could have read quite a bit more about him – what a total sweetheart! But then there are flaws. I think the two biggest offenders are that Rachel and the other characters are totally unlikable, and then there is the sex. This really got to me, as it was constantly present – whether Rachel was lusting after some guy, using sex to fill a void, or talking about the crazy sex she had with Luke, or wanting to strip down naked and bang Chris, there was too much going on the whole time. And she hates every other girl for potentially being more in line with getting laid by some men. Ugh. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and I was not a fan. Yes. Prude. Whatever. Rachel’s Holiday is a decent read, although it drags on much longer than it needs to. I guess this could contribute to the whole thing of undertaking the journey with Rachel, of her addiction, etc. It is a field I am really interested in, hence I thought I would like the book more, but the overkill of sex was just too much for me. Not awful, and I might even try something else by Keyes, but her work isn’t really my favourite. However, as cliché as the end was, I really enjoyed the heck out of it, grinning like an idiot and all.

Rapid Review: The Witch (2015)

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“I am that very witch. When I sleep my spirit slips away from my body and dances naked with The Devil. That’s how I signed his book.”
– Thomasin

SYNOPSIS: A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession. – via IMDB

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GRADE 5After all the reviews about this, I was so excited to get to it. Pity, because I ended up not loving it, just like It Follows, which everyone else seemed to love, too. My husband and I watched this, and liked the creepy atmosphere, the  music, how the movie mostly got you wondering about things, the old English, all of that. Even the aspect of a witch, and this family suffering at the hands of it, great. But then it’s just this family’s descent into madness and witchcraft (which would have been okay – but it was so boring), no explanations, a lot of wasted potential, nothing really linking everything, nothing too clear, and I am not an idiot, I just expected more. I was all for a witch of the icky variety again, but this was just not what I was looking for. I expected something darker and way more hardcore, and all I got was a movie that had a distinctly empty feeling surrounding it. Meh. People spoke of fear, of terror, while watching this. Where? I love atmosphere in a horror, that is what makes it scary. This had it in spades, but lost the plot pretty quickly. I loved the way the film looked, and I loved the dialogue, I was a fan, and I was a fan of the hysteria that seized the family, and how it was witchcraft, considering there was a real, live witch out in the forest, but that aspect was never actually explored, and the witchcraft within the family left a lot to be desired, too.The movie was more disturbing than scary, but didn’t stay with me long after. I don’t know, this just wasn’t my cup of tea at the end of the day.