Rambling Review: Logan

Logan3I haven’t done a review in ages!  And instead of being overly late to the party (like I usually am), as this movie is still in theaters, I thought I’d give this one a shout out.

I try my best to only watch a trailer or two of any film I’m interested in seeing.  I don’t read other reviews, I don’t seek out spoilery information, and I try to ignore social media posts (which is almost a permanent state at this point, as I’m always behind in everything), so I didn’t know too much about what to expect from this movie before viewing it.

I haven’t finished the Wolverine film series, or even the newer X-Men films, so I’m uncertain to any tie-ins, but this definitely felt like a stand alone film and didn’t require much explanation as to what had been happening up to this point.

Side note, I went to see this by myself.  I like going to the movies once in a while on my own, but clearly this was a shock to the two men seated near me.  “You’re here alone?” One of them asked.  “Yes.”  I responded.  “You came to see Logan by yourself?”  “Yep.”  I heard him sort of huff in surprise.  I didn’t pay enough attention to the accent to narrow down where they were from, but clearly this was a strange idea to them.  I’m not sure if it was because I was lone woman, or because I was a lone woman at a superhero movie.

At the conclusion, he asked if I liked it.  Yes.  Yes, I did.

*I like to write reviews as if I were talking with a friend, so I try my best to keep them spoiler free. 🙂

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As I said, I didn’t know much about the film before entering the theater.  The fantastic pairing of Johnny Cash on the trailer was enough to spark my interest, especially with Logan looking so weathered and forlorn.  He looked like a man whose age had finally caught up with him; a man who has seen a great deal and lost just as much.

The film is set in the not too distant future, and we’re introduced to a Logan who is clearly unwell, whose claws are getting a little rusty, has a limp, and is drinking himself into oblivion.  The strong warrior doesn’t appear to have much fight left in him, and becomes a reluctant protector of a young girl with similar powers.  And I do mean reluctant.

Mutants have gone the way of the dinosaur, and Logan is looking out for himself and the Professor, who is now in his 90s and unable to control his powers due to seizures.  Apparently there was an incident that killed a number of people and mutants in the recent past, and Logan is doing his best to keep him safe and protected.  He just wants to earn enough money to buy a boat and escape to a quiet life – enter the bad guys who think they’re good guys.

There’s been a secret project going on for years, because there’s always a secret project, and when the lab rats get loose, the big guns come out in force to clean up their mistake.  And do they ever come out in force.  There are loads of great fight sequences – Logan’s claws are still as sharp as ever, and we discover, so are the little girl’s, and she’s a dangerous little thing.

The movie is about both a literal and figurative “journey”.  Logan has lost everyone he’s ever cared about, save Charles, and he doesn’t want to care about anyone else, no matter how she might tug at the ol’ heart strings.  He’s not who he once was, and he’s not who everyone wants him to be, he’s just…tired, of it all.

The film took some unexpected turns, but honestly, they felt right.  It wasn’t a traditional spandex-clad superhero film, and I think that’s what I liked best.  It was a more “reality” based look at an old hero and what they, or any of us, are willing to fight for.

There was one aspect of the storyline that I felt was a little forced in, and a cliche of sorts – the whole white hats vs black hats kind of thing, facing yourself, and your past, but as parallels go, it wasn’t too bad.  *This one is hard to go into too much explanation without being spoilery. 

This is my second favorite X-Men film, after the first one back in 2000, and probably number 6 on my top 10 of superhero movies.  It wasn’t what I was expecting, and that was a good thing.  All the X-Men movies of late have not inspired me to care about any of these characters I once liked.  Remember the X-Men cartoon?  The writers, directors, etc. really should have taken a note from their predecessors.

You don’t have to be a superhero fan to enjoy this film.  It’s a tale we’re all familiar with, it just happens to be “enhanced”. 😉

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If you’ve seen Logan, what did you think?

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4 New (to me) Favorite Shows + 1

TVblueIt’s hard enough to keep up with the shows I’ve been watching for years (because I haven’t paid for television in nearly 5 years and generally have to wait to stream), let alone stay current with the torrent of new shows available on the numerous outlets nowadays, but since I want to be a part of it all, I had to make a concerted effort to watch some new things.

I decided to go through my various lists and watch the first episode of a number of shows, and see what struck me.  Here are the “new to me” stand outs:

lastkingdom4.  The Last Kingdom – A wonderful show I discovered via Netflix is the BBC import The Last Kingdom.  Set before England is a united nation, the story follows the life of a young Saxon prince who is captured by an invading Dane army and becomes their earl’s slave.  As the years pass, he becomes more Dane than Saxon and eventually becomes the earl’s adopted son.  His journey is a strange one as he discovers that despite his true heritage, he is a man that doesn’t really belong in either world, and yet finds himself at the center of the great changes that are to come.

It’s a period piece set in England.  For me, that’s all it really takes, 😉  but there is something unique and captivating about this show, and I definitely recommend watching the first episode like I did – I’m sure you’ll be hooked too.

galavant3.  Galavant – A comedy musical set in Medieval times starring Timothy Omundson?!  I was in from the moment I saw the first preview, but because of the not-having-tv-thing, it was just another show that got pushed to the wayside…until Netflix.  The first two seasons popped up and I was hooked from first song – Thank you, Alan Menken! (of Disney movie fame: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Tangled to name a few).

The series follows Galavant, a knight on a mission to reclaim his lost love, but as you can expect in a comedy, things don’t always go as planned.  The show is more adult oriented despite the light hearted presentation, special guests make regular appearances, and without commercials, the 18 episodes are only about 20 mins long, so it’s an easy binge watch.  And then I discovered the horrible truth – Galavant had been canceled.  I think the show is really wonderful, and cleverly done.  I’m sad to learn that there won’t be any more of it.  If you’re looking for something different and just plain fun, I highly recommend Galavant.

vikings2.  Vikings – This was a show I longed to watch, but again, did not have access to, and then I got access to Hulu and voila!  Even if I hadn’t been entranced by the first episode, which I totally was, this show was one I was willing to put a little effort into.  Thankfully, it didn’t come to that.  It’s fantastic!  Vikings are often portrayed as this brute invading force, but this show takes us inside their world and, in particular, the life of Ragnar Lothbrok.

Tired of the routine set by his earl of sailing east to lands they have repeatedly pillaged, Ragnar makes a daring-rogue decision and builds a boat of his own to travel to new destinations.  Ragnar, besides being easy on the eyes, is a compelling character to watch.  He’s a clever man played by a subtle actor who says a great deal with his eyes.  (I’m a sucker for that, hello, Mads Mikkelsen.)  And then there’s his wife, Lagertha, a famous warrior known as a shield maiden.  She is an amazing character and my eyes are drawn to her whenever she’s on screen.  She’s a force to be reckoned with, and it’s satisfying to find a character like her.

I’m only on season 2, and there’s already been betrayal and sacrifice (literally) and loss.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store for these characters.

strangerthings1.  Stranger Things – Everyone was talking about Stranger Things so I decided to watch the first episode to see what all the hype was about.  If you’ve been on the fence, get off of it already and watch this hit from Netflix Originals.

Set in the 80s in a small town, this sci-fi series follows a group of friends, four 12 year old boys who are sort of the geeky outcasts.  (In hindsight, they’re the boys I wish I would’ve befriended when I was 12 to learn how to play D&D.)  When one of their friends mysteriously disappears, a new friend mysteriously appears, and a “strange” series of events follow as this tale unfolds.

There was a lot of information about this show on every social media outlet (there still is as season 2 is close at hand), and it was hard to stay ignorant to the premise, so if you’re like I was, I won’t give too much away because it is really well done and a lot of fun to watch.  I have to say I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, because I didn’t know what to expect, so maybe that’s a good thing…I’ve been disappointed more often than not recently when I’m looking forward to something…and despite the fact that Winona Ryder is one of the leads, she is still not a good actor, the show is worthy of your time.

And the +1 is currently in the  “undecided” section:

blackbutlerBlack Butler – The Sis has already watched all the available episodes and is a fan, but I’ve only watched a few, and am still on the fence.  I really like the premise which is about a young boy, the heir to a vast fortune in Victorian England, who makes a deal with a demon to avenge his family.  The demon then becomes his constant companion in the way of his butler, and he is “one hell of a butler”. 😉

Japanime seems to be a cross between a couple of animation types, a beautiful, stylistic art, and this odd, campy, almost childish variant.  Black Butler has both, which sometimes pulls me out of the story because the two styles are drastically different, but this is a mainstay in their animation, I’ve discovered, so it’s just something you have to get used to.

Black Butler is available on both Netflix and Hulu and the Hulu version has both the dubbed and subtitled versions, I believe.  I would recommend the subtitled versions, because Sebastian, the butler, has a wonderful, soothing voice.

Have you watched any of these shows?  What do you think?  Wanna talk about any of them?  Let’s chat!

A Discrepant Writer Reviews: Suicide Squad

I’m breaking from routine this week.  It’s time to mix up the schedule, so for today, I thought I would do a review…I’m really, really behind in those.  I mean, I never even talked about Star Wars.  Who am I?

As always, I will do my best to keep my review “spoiler free”.

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I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that DC is trying to play catch up with Marvel.  Marvel has been interweaving their stories since day one and while not all the movies they put out are stellar, they’ve put out a few great ones and their story telling only continues to get better.  From what I’ve seen so far of the DC cinematic world, the same cannot be said.

Suicide Squad, on initial inspection, sounded like an interesting premise: gather together some of the comic world’s worst and let them do something good knowing that if it all goes wrong they’re the perfect scapegoats.

First of all, there are so. many. characters, and for some reason, we needed the backstory of each one.  Actually, no, we didn’t.  As a writer, I’ve learned that when introducing a group, you should find an interesting way to do it, so it sets them all up with their individual character traits and personalities, and doesn’t waste too much time.  This did not happen in Suicide Squad.

I wish I would have timed it, but I felt the set up for all these characters was somewhere in the 45 mins range.  Way too long.  And a lot of their backgrounds could have easily been summed up in a line of dialogue.  With stories of this genre, and with a lot of side characters, I don’t feel that full histories are necessary because we don’t need to emotionally connect with each person on screen.  Besides, the movie is only two hours long.

Then there was the plot, or lack there of.  What a convoluted mess.  Honestly, I felt that the director was having so much fun showing off his cast and special effects that he forgot they were supposed to be doing something – the mission – which, again, was all over the place.  With a comic book history that spans 75 years, there are a number of topics to choose from, and yet this is where they really fell flat.

harleyThe one redeeming thing in the whole movie: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn.  Besides being absolutely gorgeous, her sweet-crazy performance was the highlight of the film, in addition to the very few interactions we got with Jared Leto’s Joker.  Long time comic book fans are well aware of the twisted relationship they share, and considering the information of how much footage was shot of the two, I think most movie goers were surprised/disappointed with the less than 10 mins that actually appeared in the film.

This is probably because they were trying to make leads of all their characters, and now this is why so many fans are calling for a Harley/Joker film with these two actors reprising the roles.  They were fun to watch.

2stars

Sadly, this film was an overall disappointment.  It had its moments of comedy, but they were few and far between.  Comic books are fun, and yes, they often deal with real world problems, but the characters that are coming to save the day wear tights and capes.  Regardless of wanting these stories to feel “real” with a darker side, they should maintain their levity and fun.

Well, that’s my take any way.  If you saw the film, what did you think?

A Rambling Review: Les Revenants (aka The Returned)

LesRevenants

I love any show or film that keeps you guessing after it’s over.  Days later, you find yourself still wondering what some things meant and still have some pretty big questions.  The French supernatural drama, Les Revenants aka The Returned is just this type of show.

Currently contained within two seasons of just 16 episodes, with no talks of a third season, you will find partial closure and yet be left with that open ended feeling knowing there are no answers to be found.  At least not yet, if ever.  It’s one of those rare gems that lets you ponder its meaning – something I consider very French.

I’m not sure how I discovered the show initially, I think it was recommended by someone I follow somewhere, and I’m glad to have found it, although the wait between seasons was unbearable at over two years.  Both seasons are now available on Netflix.

The story is based on the 2004 film They Came Back, and is about the return of a small town’s deceased residents for no apparent reason.  They don’t all return at the same time, and many of them died at different times throughout the years, leaving the townspeople and their loved ones confused and frightened.

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They don’t look like zombies.  They don’t even look dead.  They don’t bear any marks of how they died and many of them have memory issues depending on how long they’ve been gone, so they’re just as confused.  It makes for an interesting story to see how some of them are welcomed back to their lives while some are not.

Then there is the trouble with the town’s dam.  The entire first season I remember looking at the water and thinking, “What’s really going on in there?”

It’s hard not to go into too much detail with only 16 episodes and four “families” primarily to follow.  This review could easily be much longer, but I want to keep all the mystery alive (pun intended?).  🙂

With so much to watch nowadays, I’ve become rather picky with which shows I stick with and which I give up.  If a show doesn’t grab me within the first few episodes, I don’t want to waste my time.  I know I’ll get flack for this, but I couldn’t get into Breaking Bad or, more recently, Daredevil – two shows loved by nearly everyone I know.  You may find the pacing of The Returned a bit slow initially, but that is part of the magic of this series in particular.  You get to see quiet moments in these people’s lives, and because of that, you feel you understand some of the characters better.

The Returned has an American spinoff that was airing nearly simultaneously and I don’t understand why.  This is one aspect of the Hollywood system that baffles me.  Why was creating a new show based on a current show necessary?  Are subtitles too difficult or cumbersome for the American audience?  Besides, the American version was cancelled after one season.  So no closure for you guys.

I hope for a third season because I would love to see a bit more of this story and its people, and get some answers to those questions still rattling around, but if that doesn’t happen, we can feel some of that unsettling closure that comes with foreign film.

Have you seen the show?  Or its American counterpart?  What are your thoughts?  I’d really love to discuss some of my theories, so join me in the comments!

A Rambling Review of Captain America: Civil War

I’m going to switch things up a bit this week.  No Quote Monday or Quote Monday on a Tuesday.  Nope, it’s movie review time!

As you may have noticed, I still have yet to post a review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Deadpool, among so many others, and there are a handful in the draft stage just waiting to be revisited.  I’ll get to them eventually…

Civil War

Because you know I have to talk about Captain America: Civil War (or Avengers Part 3).  Don’t worry, it’s spoiler free!

For months I’ve avoided most of the buzz in order to keep the mystery alive when the film finally came out.  Most of you know I’m Team Cap – here’s a little refresher as to why.  If you haven’t seen Captain America: Winter Soldier, here’s my ramble on that great movie.  It ranks among my top five in the superhero genre, and I think Civil War may have just joined its ranks…so which one gets the boot then…?

In today’s social media driven world, it’s hard to remain naive to story developments and spoilers unless you’re like me – dedicated to the ignorance.  I have to avert my eyes on so many things, because as you all know, I’m always behind.  It’s difficult sometimes and exhausting to almost always be on the outside, but it usually pays off.

It boils down to this – I don’t want my movie going experience to be ruined, and this harkens back to the time when I was a kid and all these devices of inundation had yet to be invented.

I didn’t know the actual premise of the movie, because the storylines of some of the movies versus the original comic book series have been altered.  There were great memes of why Steve Rogers and Tony Stark might be at war, like this gem:

CivilWarMeme

But the actual storyline is much more interesting, obviously, because in the continuing Captain America theme, it deals with the current political climate.  After all the recent damage done by the Avengers while they’ve been trying to stop alien attacks and Hydra infiltration and global extermination, some people feel that they don’t care about what they leave behind, the collateral damage.

There’s no accountability, and the U.N. is calling for oversight by way of the Sokovia Accords – a document that requires the signatures of all the Avengers to comply with a U.N. council that will determine when and where they are needed.  Those who don’t sign will forcibly be “retired”.

Captain America and Iron Man have differing views on this topic, and for good reason, which leads to their falling out.  Another touchy subject, and a running theme, is what to do with Cap’s best friend, Bucky aka The Winter Soldier.  Oh, Buck Buck.

I like Iron Man a great deal.  It was his first movie that paved the way for all the subsequent films, and the first Iron Man is still one of my favorites, but I’m a Cap girl, all the way.  It’s easy to side with either man in this film, but my solution would be to find some middle ground, but as you might suspect, there’s more going on then just this document to fuel such a division in our team.

I squealed in both delight and fear during the trailer of Cap, Bucky, and Iron Man fighting.

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A great scene by the way, even if I felt it was a little unsportsmanlike, but again, there’s good reason.

Marvel has done an excellent job of weaving their universe through their films and Civil War is no different.  As most of you fellow geeks already know, Suicide Squad (which arrives in August), Black Panther, and yes, another Spiderman movie are all on their way and get a little peek in Civil War.

Overall, a wonderful film that brings to a head all the previous movies and their consequences.  I can’t wait to see what else the MCU has in store for us!

5stars

I’m already planning on when to see this again, in part because apparently only one other person, besides me, laughed at something and I can’t remember what it was.  The Sis and our friend both laughed at me afterwards as they reminded me of this, thinking that apparently the joke was meant for people of a certain age.  Sheesh.  A side note for those of you over a “certain age” and know of the RDJ film Only You, you’ll find a little nod to that movie as well.

And remember to stay for the credits, not only to pay homage all those hard working men and women who remain unseen, but also for the easter eggs.  I’m still surprised by the amount of people who leave the theater after all this time.

Have fun at the movies!

I Finally Played DA: Inquisition DLCs

DAII am so thankful for having such generous friends, like “D”, who let me borrow his XBox One in order to complete the Dragon Age Inquisition story line.

I still have a 360, which is by no means a bad thing, except to the multi-billion dollar gaming industry that dictates my game play.  I love the Dragon Age series, for many of you, this is not new information – just type in “Dragon Age” into my search bar to see all of the devotion.  I’ve already done a number of posts on the series, and so much more…

When it was announced that the DLCs for Inquisition, the extra content that gaming companies release that sometimes add a number of extra hours to enjoy, or not depending on the series, would not be released on older consoles, like my 360, I won’t lie, I was on the verge of tears.

Deep breath.

I had invested money and lots and lots of time to play the new game and then I was told I wouldn’t get any of the extras.  Nope.  Not having it.  It was kind of a slap in the face.  If the gaming companies are moving forward with the technology that comes with the newer consoles, then why did they even bother to release the game on the older ones?  I’m not going to rant about this now, but know there is a rant a comin’.

Needless to say, the DA:I extras did not disappoint and playing on the One was superior; the graphics are amazing, the details crisp, the subtitles and codex much easier to read.  I had one concern, moving over my character from the 360 to the One.  I read a number of articles that all said the same thing, but they were all incorrect.  I tried a variety of tactics to import the data, but they all failed, so if you’re like me, behind the times, let me give you a tip I received after talking directly with EA.

*If you started your game on the 360, you need to download the free version of The Black Emporium on the 360 before you can advance.  If you have all the DLCs for the One, you will obtain The Black Emporium in the pack.  Using the character you want to continue playing with, visit the emporium and create a new save.  On the screen there will be an option for exporting via the emporium to the One.  Nowhere did I ever find this information; most sites suggested using the cloud which, according to EA and my own findings, is incorrect.

You do need to have XBox Live in order to save this information to your account which is how the One will find it when you load it.  Now, on the One, under Extras there is the “Import from 360” option.  Character info will pop-up to ensure it’s the correct import and…Voila!  I wasted hours trying everything else.  Footnote, your character won’t import exactly, although it is pretty close, so I had to make a few changes which is why it’s good you start in the Black Emporium.

DAI JoHThe first DLC is Jaws of Hakkon, a new region to explore in the Frostback Basin.  There are a number of missions to complete while you search for the remains of the last Inquisitor, who is believed to have died in the area hundreds of years ago.  You will learn a great deal of history during this time with tales of the Avvars, the creation of the Seekers, and the previous Inquisitor and his political ties, lineage, and reasons for being in such a remote location.  The map is a bit confusing, as it is a place of peaks and valleys, so travelling from one location to another sometimes takes a little effort finding that one path.

With the new DLCs, you obtain new weapons and armor, but if you play these after the initial game, the armor ratings will be much lower than anything you currently have equipped, so use the schematics to build yourself something new, although most items remained of a lesser value than my current stock.  My favorites were both of the Qunari armors; they show a little skin and really are nice looking on your female Inquisitor in particular, and Dorian, because everything looks good on Dorian.

There are a lot of things to fight, so I think I ranked up twice before leaving the area (one must have been a carry over from Descent which I played first, because so much fighting), and there are loads of crafting items to utilize.  There are also more ocularum shards to find that will open a specific door in the area, useful before the boss fight.  Lastly, instead of runes, there are now sigils that have both positive and negative effects.  I didn’t use any, not yet anyway.

DAI DescentDLC number two is The Descent which takes place in the Deep Roads.  If you’ve played the previous two games, you’re probably like me and sort of huff at the thought of traipsing through the Deep Roads yet again, just as the Wardens must.  Wink wink.  Those blasted darkspawn!  And there are just. so. many and it is difficult.  Even at my high rank, I had to drop down from hard to normal in some areas because the enemies were just relentless and never ending.  I’m having nightmarish flashbacks just typing that.

I played Descent first, I’m not sure why, but if you’re early on in the game play, I would suggest visiting this area sooner than later because there is a ton of money to be made.  I think I ended up with 100,000 gold in addition to some great new armor and weapons.  You do have to be in Skyhold to access this mission from the war table, so you have a little time to rank up beforehand.

The Descent is a long, winding mission to solve the mystery of these random earthquakes that have started affecting the area.  This is of great importance because the dwarves mine lyrium, the whole of their economy, which both mages and Templars rely on.  You end up travelling further than anyone has before, and the landscape is quite beautiful and a little reminiscent of Blackreach in Skyrim.

Trespasser

The final DLC is Trespasser.  This is the one I couldn’t wait to get to – the end.  You cannot go back to anything unfinished once you begin, and you will receive a little pop-up at the war table with this warning.  The story takes place two years after you have defeated Corypheus, having been summoned by the council to the Winter Palace to defend whether there is still a need for the Inquisition.  After the events, you will have the opportunity to make this decision.

All of your friends have returned and you can interact with each, so make sure you talk to them multiple times to instigate cut scenes.  I played first as my female mage who romanced Cullen.  Great cut scene, fyi.  There is also a great scene with Dorian, as well as a couple of fun things with Vivienne and Josie.  There are dog treats to find which you will give to the mabari Cullen has taken a liking to that add perks such as cunning and magic, etc. but as this is the last DLC, I was confused as to why this was necessary.  Your rank will be high, your armor and weapons will be top notch, and you will have so many abilities you won’t know which ones to choose from most of the time.  This is one thing I wish they would have included from the previous two games, the ability to open the wheel of choices for all those abilities you have acquired so you can actually use everything in your arsenal.

This DLC is a great story for a number of reasons, one of them being that it continues to tie together other topics from the previous games.  The eluvians, the elven mirrors that have played a role in each game, are your means of travel in Trespasser while you try to stop a pretty big threat.  I won’t give anything away, but will only say that this paves the way for a great Dragon Age 4, which is years away, if at all, since it hasn’t been announced yet, and the creator of the series left Bioware a little while ago. 😦  So, wait, there’s a job opening?!  Bioware, please announce at least the promise of a new game…there are still so many story lines that require closure!

I freely admit it that I will play these DLCs at least two more times with my other characters I’ve created so I can see the endings for each, or at least until my friend asks for his XBox back.  This is the same friend I was able to encourage to play the game in the first place because of my (great) interest in the series.  For gamers who like RPGs, start at the beginning with Dragon Age Origins, forgive Bioware for Dragon Age II, but still enjoy it, and then find your way to Inquisition where all these stories converge.  You won’t be disappointed.

Game on!

10 Films That Surprised Me In the Last 10 Years

After my post about the unfortunate Crimson Peak, I started thinking about the movies I have seen and loved.  They had to be out there, right?!  I’m kidding, of course.  I can easily list a number of films I’ve seen in the last few years that I thought were brilliantly done.

Oddly enough, in my email the following day there was a message from StumbleUpon, a site I haven’t visited in quite a while, about The 30 Best Films of the Decade (this list discusses films from 2000-2009).  I decided to utilize this list as a spring board to create my own “10 best in the last 10”.

This was a difficult task.  There really have been some wonderful films in the last 10 years, a great many of them that I still have yet to see are on a virtual running list, so this list is about the films that truly surprised me and left a lasting impression from a variety of genres; those I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first saw them.

In order of their release date, I present to you the following:

W&GdvdWallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) – I adore this animated film.  The characters make their full length feature debut in this wonderful tale about a man and his dog trying to save the annual giant vegetable competition from a destructive beast with a taste for veg.  The thing I discovered about Wallace and Gromit, and why I love it, is the subtle humor and the dark side of their stories.  Almost more for adults because of the humor, kids can definitely still enjoy the movie because they won’t understand half the jokes anyway, just like Pixar films.  This one takes multiple viewings to catch all the little nuances and cleverly placed verbal and visual cues, and then you’ll find yourself like The Sis and I, quoting it fairly regularly in your daily life.

PansLabyrinthPan’s Labyrinth (2006) – The Sis had not seen this film prior to Halloween, but after watching Crimson Peak, and being disappointed, I encouraged her to watch this beautiful, moving, and surprising adult fairytale by Guillermo del Toro.  This import was nominated for dozens and dozens of awards, and one viewing will give you the insight as to why.  Set in the 40s during a rebellion against the fascist government in Spain, a young girl with a wonderful imagination takes a journey to discover who she really is.  I like to mix reality and fantasy in my own writing and I think that’s why this film struck me – it does exactly that, perfectly.

VforVendettaV for Vendetta (2006) – I knew nothing of this film upon seeing it, and I’m not sure who introduced me to it, but I enjoyed every minute of it.  I like the idea of alternate universes, and the idea of “what if” in regards to history.  England is in a police state following Germany’s win in WWII, and V, voiced by Hugo Weaving, is considered a terrorist for his actions that would lead the people to freedom from their government.  Along his journey he saves a young woman (Natalie Portman) and discovers an ally to his cause.  One of my favorite aspects of this film is that we never see V’s face.  He wears the Guy Fawkes mask the entire time, and although you think that would lead the audience to disconnect, it’s more symbolic that he could be any of us.

Lars&RealGirlLars and the Real Girl (2007) – I turned this film on out of curiosity and discovered a truly moving film.  Ryan Gosling plays Lars, a man who is sort of detached.  He doesn’t like to be touched, and desperate to find a connection, orders himself a girlfriend – a full size doll.  Despite his family’s protest, that he’s crazy, a doctor encourages them and the whole town to embrace his delusion, and his girlfriend becomes an active member of society.  It sounds strange, but it’s a wonderful story about family and how easy it is to write someone off rather than try to help them.  As adults it’s easy to become self-involved, we constantly worry what others might think, and sometimes we want the easy way out of a situation, but this film shows us otherwise.

LetTheRightOneInLet the Right One In (2008) – I had already read the book by John Ajvide Lindqvist before seeing the film, a rarity, so I knew the story going in, but the film still surprised me.  This Swedish film about the bond of friendship is an interesting take on the vampire genre.  Oskar is a shy boy, bullied at school, who befriends his new, odd neighbor, Eli.  Oskar comes off as a bit of a goof, but he’s a 12 year old boy, so, you know, it’s expected, and Eli is wary of him, but also intrigued.  Eli is compelling to watch, and going against Hollywood standards of “beauty”, there is something so interesting about her.  The story builds like a romance, so much so that sometimes you forget you’re watching, what is technically, a horror movie.  An American remake was filmed within 2 years and it wasn’t nearly as memorable.  Give the original a watch.

TropicThunderTropic Thunder (2008) – You may find this a surprising add to the list, but I think it’s an underrated comedy about the Hollywood system.  Ben Stiller directed the film, and there are a few versions available strangely, but despite not loving all of Stiller’s films, this one is hilarious.  I’m not kidding.  Stiller plays the typical action star who has had a string of flops, including a turn in a serious role as a man with a mental disorder who has been cast as the lead of a Vietnam War epic based on a novel.  His costars are Jack Black, a crude comedy actor, Robert Downey Jr., a multiple Academy Award winning actor who really gets into his roles, and Brandon T. Jackson, a rapper who wants to break into acting.  They end up having to become actual soldiers as the location where they’re shooting is an actual war zone.  There are homages to other war films, the jokes are funny to those who know about Hollywood, and the casting choices, I thought, were spot on.  One of my favorite parts of the film is the fake trailers at the beginning of the film.

District9District 9 (2009) – As you know, I like sci-fi.  I’m currently writing a space odyssey.  So believe me when I say, this movie completely took me by surprise.  This is not an invasion film like so many other alien movies, it’s about what happens when they seek refuge.  They become second class citizens, relegated to internment camps, where their well-being is not a concern, but learning more about their technology is.  They are not cute, friendly looking aliens, they are hard, bug-like creatures which makes empathizing with them an even greater challenge, and one director Blomkamp achieves.  This story could be looked at as a metaphor, but let’s keep it simple.  This story takes place through the eyes of a government worker who contracts an illness upon visiting one of the districts, and learns first hand how cruel and brutal the humans are and have been to their refugees.  There have been rumors of a sequel for years, and after watching this film, you’ll definitely want one.

FantasticMrFoxFantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – This is the first of two Wes Anderson films on my list.  I didn’t plan it, I swear.  The Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on the book by Roald Dahl, one of my favorite writers, and is the perfect story for Anderson’s signature style.  Using stop motion animation, this is the story of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) who is doing his best to fight his true nature for the sake of his family.  Eventually he can’t fight it any longer, and his stealing starts a war with three local farmers.  First off, the film is beautiful.  Then there’s that subtle humor and dark side again that I so enjoy.  You don’t have to have children to watch this or Wallace and Gromit, and you don’t have to be embarrassed that you liked them, just remember that animated films can be smart and fun.

IngloriousBasterdsInglorious Basterds (2009) – By far, my absolute favorite Tarantino film, and one of my favorite movies in long time.  Following that same “what if” idea that I like, Tarantino proposes a fantasy about ending WWII by killing Hitler and his closest advisors.  This film introduced us to a wonderful villain, and the actor who played him, Christoph Waltz, that I think scared more people with his cool demeanor, and random bursts of excitement, than any horror movie villain.  I tried to stay away from the big-budget Hollywood movies for this list, and as I think Tarantino is still more of an independent director, I think I can get away by adding this one.  His signature brutality is still prevalent (and how could it not be in a war movie?!), as is his penchant for killing off everyone, but you still leave the film satisfied.

GrandBudapestHotelThe Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – I appreciate Wes Anderson’s sense of humor, but that wasn’t always the case.  It had taken a few years of cultivating my own dry sense of humor to appreciate his work more fully.  Sometimes his stories take a strange turn, but that was not the case here, and that is why I was so pleased with Grand Budapest.  As The Sis is a big fan of Ralph Fiennes, we were going to see this movie regardless, but what we discovered was a beautiful film with a wonderful, surprising story – it is no wonder why this is considered his best work.  Keeping in line with his signature style and set in the 30s, a grand (pink) hotel serves as the backdrop for a mystery involving Fiennes’ character, Gustave H., the hotel’s concierge, who provides his clients world class service.  Along with his protégé, Zero, the lobby boy, they embark on a unique adventure.  This film garnered Anderson a slew of nominations, including best film, and it is because of his quirky characters and interesting story that you will understand why.

So there you have it.  When I first started putting together my list, I was at nearly 30 movies that I considered truly wonderful in the last 10 years, so as you can see, this was really taxing to decide on just 10 (and by no means is this list complete).

I’d love to hear from you.  Do you agree with my list?  What movies have you loved these past 10 years?

A Discrepant Writer Reviews: Crimson Peak

CrimsonPeakIn the spirit of Halloween, The Sis and I decided to spend an evening enjoying, what I hoped would be a wonderful and spooky tale by Guillermo del Toro, with the always lovely Tom Hiddleston.  Those two creating a period piece – I’m in!

((sigh))  Oh, Crimson Peak.  Yep, you guessed it.  It was not all I hoped it would be.

*I will do my best to keep this review as spoiler free as possible, because as you know, I am usually behind, so by the time I get to a review, I’m pretty sure you’ve all seen it anyway.

I had been looking forward to this film for months.  Del Toro has an interesting vision in all his work, so I expected a great deal more from him.  I like the phrase “left wanting” and that is the exact phrase to describe my feelings.  The storyline was predictable, and as I sat in the movie theater, I felt sort of bored.

I couldn’t believe it either.

Here’s a quick synopsis: Young rich girl, Edith (MiaWasikowska) marries mysterious poor noble, Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and moves into his haunted mansion with his strange sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).

That’s the best I can do without giving too much away.  The film is classified as a gothic romance which is true.  It’s a mystery in a haunted grand estate that has fallen into shambles, but the plot is a thinly veiled nod to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  Even one of Jane Eyre’s best pieces of dialogue between Mr. Rochester and Jane has been slightly altered and injected into the film.  In both stories it’s a beautiful moment of the man declaring his feelings, that the string that binds their hearts together may be able to stretch across an ocean should they be parted, but it is also a bit manipulative on his part to force a declaration from the younger, naive woman.

For me, as a gothic romance, there should be an element of longing.  Stories such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and even Dracula have a strong longing between characters.  There are a number of obstacles such as social rank, separation, marriage, and even death to create this sense of longing, and that was missing in Crimson Peak.

CPinteriorWhat it did do, spot on, in fact, was the visual aesthetic.  The amazing house, which is the true star of the film, is situated on this desolate spot of land above a red clay quarry.  The clay bleeds into the earth above, hence the title.  A hole in the ceiling allows for leaves (from absent trees) and snow to drift in which creates a wonderful cinematic image, and the costumes are beautiful, even if sometimes I felt they were time period inappropriate.  *Side note, Tom Hiddleston was born to wear a suit, no matter the year.

What it is not is a horror film.  I’m pretty sure I remember Stephen King commenting on how scary it was, but it’s not.  At all.  And this is coming from a scaredy cat.  I don’t like horror movies in general, so I was predisposed to being scared by this film and then wasn’t.  A little heart palpitation now and again is good for you, or so I’ve heard, so I was looking forward to hiding behind my hands.  I didn’t.

I felt the movie took too long to set up the story.  There was too much backstory of Edith wanting to be a writer and frivolous side pieces that took away from the rest of the story.  This made me feel that some of the story was left undeveloped, and left other story ideas confusing instead of what they were hoping would be thought of as mysterious.  And then there was the plot twist.  You could see it coming from a mile away, and that’s why I think I was bored.  I knew what was coming long before it ever got there.

2stars

I know I had high standards for this film (because it was one I actually wanted to see by artists I know do great work), and that’s in part because I’ve been disappointed quite a bit recently, and I expected more from this team.  I can’t recall a movie I’ve loved in a long time, and that saddens me.  I want to be a part of this industry, and I feel less inclined to go to the movies each year.  Well, I suppose that means I’ll just have to dig deeper and write something that’ll blow their socks off!

Well, those are my thoughts.  If you saw Crimson Peak, what did you think?

A Discrepant Writer Reviews: The Quest

The QuestI am not a reality show watcher.  Other than RuPaul’s Drag Race, I have only seen snippets of shows, mostly through The Soup.  Randomly searching through the Netflix options, The Sis and I came upon a reality competition show called The Quest.  We turned it on out of curiosity, but not only were we hooked, we’re ready to sign up for next season.

Here’s a quick synopsis: Contestants are transported to a magical realm to help a kingdom under attack from a dark force.  Through a series of adventures where new skills are learned and tested, one will rise above the others to wield a magical weapon that will help them defeat the impending evil.

Now here’s what I liked about the show.  It’s a fantasy world created and filmed in a castle in Austria.  The queen of the realm, her advisors, and her kingdom played their roles wonderfully.  They had backstories and stayed in character, adding an authentic feel to this world.  It’s a combination of role playing and competition where the contestants, aka paladins, actually helped one another to succeed.  There was very little in-fighting or backstabbing, something I generally expect from most of these “reality” based shows.  Also, there was never any mention of prize money.  A trip to Europe to live out your childhood fantasy of saving a kingdom as a worthy knight is prize enough.  This is another reason I feel the competitors were inclined to be kinder to one another.

The elimination round is judged by the Greek mythological Fates (and you know how I have a soft spot for them), and you’re guided and mentored by a knight of the realm.  Now for my cosplayer friends and fellow fantasy genre enthusiasts, doesn’t this sound like the ideal competition for us?!  *A spoilery bonus, the eliminated contestants return for the final fight, so there is an honest sense of teamwork and camaraderie.

There is no telling who will be the winner.  Size and speed don’t necessarily give you an overwhelming advantage, as some rounds required a variety of skill sets.  Overall, the show is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it to those who prefer to spend their time in the books and movies of other worlds; where dragons rule the sky and heroes are created, where you can live in a castle, make friends with the queen, and save the day.5stars

It makes me want to cosplay all the more and join the Society for Creative Anachronism, which I’ve been meaning to do for ages.

Give it a watch, or if you already have, share with me your thoughts.

Discrepant Writer Reviews – Into the Woods

ITWposter*Some spoilers – will try to keep to a minimum 😉

Sigh…oh, Into the Woods, I had high hopes for you.

First off, I had no idea this was based on a play from the 80s, I just knew it was a musical fairytale, and I was in, but after the first scene, I quickly realized this was not going to be what I was hoping it would be.

Quick synopsis –

James Corden and Emily Blunt, both of whom I adore, are a childless couple living in a small village as the local baker and his wife.  They have no names, unless Mr. “Baker” counts?  A musical opening number offers us the information that they would like a child, but have yet to be successful in conceiving.

In flies the witch – the always fantastic Meryl Streep, who is the witch from the original story of Rapunzel, in which she offers a trade to the man stealing from her garden – specific greens for his pregnant wife – the veggies for the baby.*  Fair deal.  The witch gives over a whole lot of information to this childless couple about how their house is cursed and if they complete a ritual in a given time, she will lift it.

For writers, this scene will drive you crazy.  It offers all the information about the movie in one scene and without any real provocation.  It’s not as if the couple sought out her help or advice.  She just comes in one day and says, “Let me help you.  Here’s everything you need to do, no strings attached.”  Really?!

*The baker’s father was the thief, and hence Rapunzel is the baker’s sister, whom he doesn’t give a fig about finding, just FYI.

So off the couple go in search of four items that when combined by the witch will lift the curse and give them the family they desire.  They need a cow the color of milk, a cloak the color of blood, hair the color of corn, and a slipper made of gold.  Enter Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk with his white cow, Little Red Riding Hood (who The Sis groaned each time she opened her mouth – she was annoying), Rapunzel, and Cinderella.

As the title suggests, nearly the entire story takes place “in the woods” and they sing about it, often.  Sadly, none of the songs are catchy or even memorable except for one, which I will mention shortly.  The story does stay more true to the original tales in which the darker side of the storytelling is preserved, like killing the wolf to free Red and her grandmother who have been eaten whole, Rapunzel’s prince being blinded by thorns grown by the witch after being caught leaving the tower, and even Cinderella’s stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet to fit the slipper.  Yep and eww.

But the overall story is weak and drags, and this is coming from Disney…Disney! Who is the reason I have a princess complex!  And Rob Marshall, who directed Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago.  Chicago is great and so catchy!

Maybe because they were trying to stay true to the original, they didn’t realize that it didn’t translate.  A play is limited in its location changes, hence all the woodsiness (I like that word and I’m keeping it) while the action seemed stifled and the dialogue was often too on the nose. Ugh.

The two saving graces of this film – when the witch is transformed and looks like this:

ITWwitchAfter

Love it!

And when the two princes, one of whom is Chris Pine in a hilarious role as Cinderella’s prince, sing this song:

That’s it.

The story takes a weird turn about three-quarters of the way through, when the happily ever after seems too soon, but what follows is completely out of left field.  There is a moment of weakness that results in a really bad consequence and the remainder of the story threw me for an unexpected, and what felt like a forced, loop.

Given the cast, the people behind it, and the basis for the story, Into the Woods was not the fairytale I was hoping for.

2stars

What are your thoughts on Into the Woods?

*Video courtesy of Youtuber John Oncer.