Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

“My daughters are trained for battle, sir, not the kitchen.”
– Mr Bennet

SYNOPSIS: Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies. – via IMDB

Guys. Guys. Let’s just talk about this. I cannot believe that I had so much fun with this movie. I mean seriously. Take a classic and add a ton of zombies to it? Not traditional zombies either, mind. How exactly was that supposed to work out? Super fun, let me tell you that! I am so pleased that Natasha enjoyed this so much and made me watch it, as I had zero designs on checking this out before she insisted. Now I have seen it a few times and still think it is so much fun. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies totally embraces all that is ludicrous about it, and delivers on so many fronts. Like Warm Bodies, this is a movie that has no right to be as good as it is, and yet here we are.

Right off the bat, I must say that I enjoyed the cast. I think everyone was well cast and they all seemed to have a total ball. Sam Riley is an actor I quite enjoy, and do wish he was in more things. He’s an absolutely brilliant Darcy, and there is just no way that you are not in love with the dude when all is said and done. For reals. Riley just sneaks up on you – he delivers a harsh Darcy, a man so reserved and focused, and before you know it, you are like oooooooh… totally get why Elizabeth would fall for him. Then there is Lily James, and she is a wonderful Elizabeth Bennet. Got mad love for this character – ballsy, educated, can take care of herself and is strong? So ahead of her time and a great feminist? Hells yeah. I was rooting for her all the way. I absolutely loved watching her and Riley together, they had lovely chemistry – so contained and yet completely through the roof. Jack Huston is another actor I particularly enjoy, and I so wanted to trust Mr Wickham, but he is a smarmy bastard. Pretty one, but still.

I would like to take a moment to talk about Mr Collins and Matt Smith’s portrayal. It is evident he is having a blast portraying such a total twat, and is beyond exasperating. My inner feminist was just like “wtf” the whole time, and yet his character made me laugh and groan, and that is purely down to how well Smith played Collins. Charles Dance was also great as Mr Bennet, and I had a lot of respect for how he saw his girls as more that just marriage conduits. Well played, sir!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies totally embraced its weirdness. Right off the bat it has a crazy opening (that elaborate story and animation was really cool), girls with all sorts of weapons in all sorts of places and mad training and a mother who just wants them to marry rich. It’s insane. While being totally out there yet still loyal to the source material, this movie looks good, too. The sets and costumes are really good, and it does not come off as a budget film. It goes all out, and it really helps the cause.

As you can tell, I thought the movie was a lot of fun. Don’t go into this and expect to see the classic as you have come to expect. Why can’t people just accept this as a fun adaptation, not something competing with a classic? Don’t take it too seriously. For reals, it will ruin the experience. It is silly popcorn entertainment that is actually put together quite well, and has a cast that just makes it well worth the watch. It’s funny, it’s ridiculous, it has zombies and manages to convey a classic love story, where you get involved and want to root for Darcy and Elizabeth to just, you know, find each other. So I think in terms of that the movie delivered, and I would say watch it if you are not going to nitpick for issues and can just shut your brain down at the door and have some fun.

Review: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

“Do you ever feel like your life has turned into something you never intended?”
– Susan Morrow

SYNOPSIS: A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale. – via IMDB

Ah, Nocturnal Animals. Where do I even begin? I had forgotten about this completely, except Natasha wanted to check it out, and so we did. Goddammit, so we did. Two hours folks. Two. Nocturnal Animals is a pretentious pile of garbage that actually has some semblance of potential which is unceremoniously pissed away. The opening alone was just grotesque and came across as pretentious, right out of the gate. To shock, to inspire, to make you think that the movie has more depth than what appears on the surface? Screw that. It did not. Revenge tale, and that is that. Not even a good one, while we are at it, despite what it would have you think.

This also seemed like something I would like – dark and a thriller, plus Gyllenhaal? Ticked all the boxes. In fact, I liked the cast for the most part. The film is divided into three segments: the past, the present, the story in a novel. Three. Of these three, the novel coming to life is a fantastic revenge tale, a mysterious story that gets you worried and draws you in, and you feel for the main character of it, and are intrigued by his plight and the relationship he forms with the detective investigating the crime which the main character is a victim of. Awesome. But then there are the other two parts of the movie – the past and the present, and they are both boring and bland and just annoyed me.

My reception of the movie was not helped along by Amy Adams, whom I cannot stand. Her character was such a waste of space. Armie Hammer, too, felt like he was useless here – the script was so skinny. He was pretty much there for some aloof eye candy, and that is that. Gyllenhaal and Shannon are the stars of this, without a doubt. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, too, shone here. Every moment they were on screen, you were engaged. They were so good. A whole movie just about them and their segment would have been fantastic. Instead I had to sit through all that drivel and possibly one of the worst endings I have seen in my life.

I see this movie being lauded as dark, thought-provoking, deep. Pretentious, I will say it again. The movie is not as deep as it wishes to be, and because of that comes across as desperate. While we are at it, it is generic and brings nothing new to the table. I cannot in good conscience recommend this to anyone, though I am aware my opinion is in the minority.

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

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“I have loved her even when I hated her… only married couples’ll understand that one…”
– Cal Weaver

SYNOPSIS: A middle-aged husband’s life changes dramatically when his wife asks him for a divorce. He seeks to rediscover his manhood with the help of a newfound friend, Jacob, learning to pick up girls at bars. – via IMDB

You know, the more I watch this movie, the more I enjoy it. I watched this years ago at the behest of Natasha, who knows I cannot really stand rom-coms, but does know what type I can deal with. When she told me to check this out, I figured why not? She won’t just recommend me anything in this genre, so it had to be decent. Plus two, the cast is fantastic. Let me tell you, this movie is great, and I grow constantly more fond of it. It is just so much fun.

I enjoyed that this was not some stupid, soppy, desperate love story. This looked at people who have lives that fall apart – midlife crises that aren’t dealt with, cheating, insecurities, all of it. It explores embracing yourself, letting other people in, dealing with issues head on, so many things. I enjoyed the themes of this movie. And yes, love is an extremely prominent theme, but it does not make you want to retch, so that is a good thing! Crazy, Stupid, Love knows what it is and what it wants to be, and goes with it. It is smart, funny, witty, and sweet, and I appreciated all those things.

Let us not even remotely forget the cast. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are absolutely phenomenal here, and have ridiculously amazing chemistry. Really, I could watch them all day together. This is one of two movies where Steve Carell does not grate on my last nerve, and Julianne Moore is, as always, well worth the watch. Kevin Bacon’s moments were also those of pure entertainment, especially as the movie progresses. What a boring man! Also, everyone worked well together. I particularly appreciated Jacob taking Cal out to begin their main training. Oh boy!

There were plenty awkward moments, plenty funny and plenty sweet, but everything works. This is the kind of romantic movie I can revisit without feeling just plain down ridiculous. There is a lot to like about it, and a movie you can get away with watching with your other half without them wanting to slit their wrists. As you can tell, I quite like this one for a variety of reasons, and I can highly recommend it.

Oooh, oooh, before I go. Women across the globe will thank Hannah for not letting him put his shirt back on after assessing his Photoshopped beauty. For science…

Skip the trailer, just go straight to the movie.

April Blind Spot Review: The Help (2011)

“God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me.”
– Aibileen Clark

SYNOPSIS: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis. – via IMDB

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, I did as little reading on it as possible. I was only told that it is really good and well worth the watch. The subject matter is something that interests me, and it wasn’t long before I realised that this was a movie I was going to enjoy based purely on the fact that the subject matter was handled from the perspective of women alone.

Let’s get right to this by saying that there are some great characters in this, and there are some truly reprehensible ones. Emma Stone is, of course, absolutely fantastic to watch here – sassy and strong. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are brilliant – also strong women – brave women. Then there is Jessica Chastain, and she is such a sweet, innocent character. These are all characters that you like. They had good chemistry and worked well together. I enjoyed watching Celia and Minny every second, and the relationship between Aibileen and Skeeter is also touching.  On the other side of the spectrum, there is only one I really need to mention here, and that is Bryce Dallas Howard. Her character is so cruel and mean, and Howard plays her so well that you resent her guts. Ugh. Nasty stuff. I get mad just thinking about her transgressions and views.

Anyway, telling the civil rights struggle from the perspective of the women was something new, and that it was being investigated by another woman was also good. So often we hear of the plight from men, but the women, too, had stories to tell. The movie managed to balance cruelty, humour, joy and sadness very well, but it must also be noted that the subject matter, while heavy, never gets as heavy as it could. Look at it as this being a lighter serious movie, if that makes sense. Simplistic, that would be the word I would use. Also probably safe. Drama, yes, but not on the levels of, say, The Colour Purple or American History X.

A sweet film that tackles some heavy issues, but never really going for the guts and glory, but certainly carried by stellar performances and a great cast, so as to elevate it to an enjoyable watch. The movie plays it safe, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing here. Worth a watch.

Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

“My dear Belle, you’re so ahead of your time. This is a small village, and it’s small-minded, as well. But small also means safe.”
– Maurice

SYNOPSIS: An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love. – via IMDB

So I went to see this with Natasha when I did my fly by visit this past weekend. She has been waiting for this movie for the longest time, so I figured I may as well go with her, otherwise I will never get to it, despite it touting both Luke Evans and Dan Stevens in the cast (I am speaking from a totally scientific point of view here). Anyway, we tripped out for this in 3D (which I probably could have done without), and I had more fun than expected. I have not seen this since I was a child, so it definitely brought on a sense of nostalgia. There were some changes and additions, but it wasn’t bad.

First and foremost, I think that Luke Evans is the perfect pick to play Gaston. Seriously, he has immense amounts of fun with the role, and you can see it. My favourite part of the movie? Gaston’s song and dance in the pub. Oh my gosh, I laughed, it was so ridiculous and fantastic. He also perfectly captured how a person can be so hot and then open their mouth and ultimately that nasty ass ego and all will ruin the outside, too. Dan Stevens is a pretty damn good Beast, though it is such a pity you don’t get to see all his purdy throughout the film. However, he worked well and delivered quite a good Beast, and I appreciated that. Ian McKellan and Ewan McGregor had a blast as Cogsworth and Lumière , and I enjoyed them. I think, for the most part, the cast was very good. Except maybe Emma Watson. I really don’t like the girl and I don’t think she can act, so she grated on me a bit, but less than expected.

I had quite the issue with the rendition of Beauty and the Best Tale as Old as Time. Seriously – the song is iconic, everybody knows it, and yet it is such a cold, lacklustre, horrendous rendition in the movie. So bad I actually cringed. Sorry Emma Thompson, but that sucked completely. Meh. Also, some of the animation was substandard – so much of it was pretty good, meaning the few times (Mrs Potts and her son Chip especially) when you see the bits that weren’t so great, it is glaringly bad.

I understand that there was some controversy surrounding a gay character, which I just don’t get. I didn’t find it jarring in the very least. In fact, said character provided quite a bit of entertainment. Oh yes, while we are at it, let’s not forget to mention how this movie went out of its way in terms of inclusion – race, gender, sexuality, everything was pretty much covered here. At times came across as a bit forced. I don’t actually have too much else to say. There are issues, but it is also quite fun, so I think it might just be time to wrap up.

Beauty and the Beast is cheesy, amusing, nostalgic, and a touch messy at times, but it is carried by pretty good performances and is rather fun. Not something I can see myself watching again in a hurry, but I am pleased to say that it went better than expected, and is probably the best live action Disney rendition of an old classic I have yet seen (yeah, because I totally watch so many of them).

Review: The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004)

“Love does things for reasons that reason cannot understand.” 
– Joe

SYNOPSIS: Now settled in Genovia, Princess Mia faces a new revelation: she is being primed for an arranged marriage to an English suitor. – via IMDB

Oh. My. Goodness. This movie sucked. Really Ugh. I watched this directly after The Princess Diaries, and was still basking in the glow of nostalgia. This certainly snuffed that light right out. Sequels are not usually known to be particularly good or anything like that, but this? Unforgivable on so many levels!

Where to begin? Oh right, the first thing to be said is that there is some horrible CGI featured here. Luckily the movie is not too dependent on that, so we are not tortured too often. Zipping right along, the movie just discards Michael and Mia, a super sweet romance that was set up in the first movie, and it is glibly dismissed here. Come on. Anything more than “he’s touring with his band” would have been better. Then her dropping the line of “I’ve never been in love”? So you weren’t even that annoying teenager in love with him? Because that is not what it seemed like in the last movie. Let me leave these gripes and move on the the rest of the treasure trove.

Royal Engagement is simply embarrassing, really. After all the fun and entertainment we got from the first one, you would hope that this could at least be halfway decent. Even with the same cast, it is not. It is lame, flat, uninspired. The humour was so forced and stupid and the delivery is terrible, which is unforgivable. The romance story here is so generic and predictable. It brought no excitement to the table whatsoever. The entire movie is actually so formulaic. The predecessor might not have been a movie that broke any moulds, but at least it was fun. This was just awkward and silly and I was not pleased one step of the way.

This movie, sadly, also somehow manages to take itself way too seriously, which truly only hurts the experience even more. Royal Engagement is annoying, goes for cheap, cheesy tricks, and they never really land true. The story doesn’t engage you (yes, I did that), and there is nothing that makes you feel that this could be some special, treasured childhood movie. Rewatching this was a stark reminder as to why it got exactly one viewing from me when I was younger. One of the few things that work for this is the cast – Pine, Rhys-Davies, Andrews, Hathaway and Elizondo give it what they’ve got. They were quite good, even with the abysmal material, but could still not save this train wreck of a movie. Pine and Hathaway worked very well together, it’s just a pity that this is what they had to work with. This movie is so bad it can’t even be guilty pleasure bad.

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement is a colossal waste of your precious time and energy.  It is a prime example of how not to do a sequel. There is virtually nothing to praise in this (they even managed to throw a spanner in the works between Joe and Clarisse – not okay) and I spent near two hours cringing and annoyed. You could totally pretend this one does not exist and just acknowledge the first one. Seriously.

Review: The Monster (2016)

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“My mom tells me there’s no such thing as monsters. But she is wrong.”
– Lizzy 

SYNOPSIS: A mother and daughter must confront a terrifying monster when they break down on a deserted road. – via IMDB

GRADE 5I really wanted to like this more, I did. Eric and Ryan both thoroughly enjoyed it, and when it started, so did I. I could not stand Zoe Kazan’s character, Kathy. Ick, that is all I am saying. However, that in no way reflects negatively on her performance. She was brilliant, as was Ella Ballentine. They were so believable, and emotional, and that was pretty much what kept me going.

The Monster starts well, and builds a fantastic, tense atmosphere that draws you in. We are all afraid of what’s potentially out in the dark, so this works really well, because it feels like there is something out there. Then strange things happen. Never overplayed. You never see whatever the hell is out there (less is more man, less is more), and it just works. The atmosphere is heavy, and it is dark, rainy, dreary, plus there is all the emotional tension between Kathy and Lizzy, so you are totally engaged. Something is out there, and it is scary as hell. The music works, and it is shot so well.

But then things started going south. For one, I was quite annoyed at the immense amounts of flashbacks. Like, I get that they are developing the characters with that, and showing us how complex the relationship is between mother and daughter, but even with all that, the characters still feel really flat unfortunately. Lizzy and Kathy are still better than others. I also thought that the movie was rather predictable, and I was not pleased when we saw the monster. Not because it was crap, but all the creep was taken right out when I saw it. A movie can lose me when revealing too much. Also, let us not forget how that third act just fell apart. Everything was going so well, and then next thing logic went out the window and some of the most ridiculous decisions ever were made, the atmosphere was forgotten, it pushed for too many jump scares, both mother and daughter became insufferable (even more so than before), and that showdown was so stupid.

All in all it is not a bad movie, and the first two thirds were really good. The atmosphere for the film was wonderful, and Ballantine and Kazan deliver stellar performances. However, there is a lot that is wrong with the movie, too, and the third act really hurt it more than I can say. It is definitely going to appeal to horror fans who love atmosphere, but it won’t thrill those seeking a full on monster movie.