a very late review

Guess who finally saw Guardians of the Galaxy II?! Yup, this girl. I’m sure there are a million and one reviews out there already breaking it down, but I want to talk about it so here is one more.

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Also, spoilers abound.

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Guardians II is FUNNY. Quite possibly even funnier than the first one which is saying something. Rocket and Baby Groot are hilarious and kinda steal the show in my opinion. There was one point where I seriously considered whether I would have to leave the theatre for a few minutes to calm down I was laughing so hard.

There are very few action movies that are also comedy but Guardians has that shit nailed down. It is also family-friendly and thoroughly entertaining for adults so its no wonder they rake in a billion + before the DVD is released.

Baby Groot is adorable and I loved that the animators took the opportunity to make him so much more expressive in personality and facial expressions. At times, this little guy almost broke my heart but he is the core of the film and my favourite character.

The only part of this movie that I didn’t like, was the part that I was looking most forward to. The big reveal of Peter’s lineage, aka The Celestial, Ego.

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Ego started out great and I think Kurt Russell did a pretty great job of it, but the idea of Ego is somewhat existential and I didn’t feel like that came across very clearly. I also hate how he was supposed to be so powerful and yet was defeated relatively easily. Certainly more easily than Ronin in the previous movie!

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Additionally, I was disappointed that Peter finally finds his dad, who is a super cool being, just for Ego to immediately portray his complete lunacy and evil intentions, and then be killed off. It was too “easy” and would have loved to see Peter have a contentious struggle with his father all his life … which is apparently a very long time … and develop his super-power.

It finally looked like we had met a human supe without any (obvious) physical enhancements, “just” the ability to manipulate energy and energy balls. Most of the Marvel cast are superhuman in a physical way, from Thor, to the Hulk and Spiderman and Captain America. Now Peter is a run-of-the-mill human.

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I detest that Marvel made Ego so evil. It doesn’t fit with my idea of a Celestial and made the character so pathetically one-dimensional when he could have been the most interesting new development in the MCU. I would have preferred him to go forward mostly impartial to the plight of humans, and all our “petty” concerns, and have an ongoing relationship with Peter and his family. Ultimately, this plot line dropped a star from my review of an otherwise fantastic movie.

I did love the plot development that went into this movie. Everyone involved brought more into the universe from the intricacies of ravager society, and the gold people to information about the creation of the universe itself.

I saw this movie with my Mum who isn’t a marvel fan and doesn’t like superhero movies in general. She hadn’t even seen the first movie which I didn’t quite realize before we arrived, but she was a good sport to go with me for my birthday and even she admitted it was great. I’m glad she enjoyed it and even ventured that the trailer for Spider-man (2017) looked good so maybe I can return the favour and take her to that for her birthday!

Trailer for this movie

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Drop Dead Fred (film)

Drop Dead Fred is a HILARIOUS movie that was released in 1991 by Universal Studies. It stars Phoebe Cates and Rik Mayall.

I have been looking to watch this movie for so long now. I couldn’t find it on DVD or streaming service anywhere, other than for rent on Youtube. Thankfully, my local library just got a new streaming service that is free to members and this movie was on there. Libraries for the win!

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From IMDB: A young woman who’s attempting to find her place in the world battles with her controlling mother and a womanizing husband finds comfort and confusion with the appearance of her childhood friend. It is a zappy movie that emphasizes self-actualization.

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This movie is rated pg-13, but I watched it with my parents from a young age. Looking back, that is a little shocking because of the swearing in the movie, but I was never one for bad words so I guess my parents could tell that the language and occasional adult situation went over my head at the time.

Drop Dead Fred is a fantastic movie to watch as a family if your children are a little older. The rating is mostly for language, there aren’t any sexy scenes. Making out is about as heavy as it gets.

Drop Dead Fred is a hilarious coming-of-age story about a mousy young women taking control of her life that was previously run by her husband and mother. She overcomes the emotional abuse that was inflicted upon her as a child, with the help of her childhood imaginary friend, the rambunctious and heart-warming troublemaker, Fred. You will be in stitches over the situations that Lizzie and Fred find themselves in, both as children and as adults, and if you’re a neat-freak like me, you might just be cringing a little bit too.

The young child, Ashley Peldon, who plays Young Elizabeth in the flashback scenes does an amazing job. She is sweet and convincing in her role. It is more than a little heartbreaking to see how the mother treats her and all I wanted to do was hold her tight and love on her.

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I highly recommend this hilarious comedy for some hearty laughs on a cold and snowy winter’s night.

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Please Kill Mr Know It All

Please kill Mr Know It All is a 90 minute comedy that I borrowed from our local library this week. I think it is an indie film. It was unrated but I would probably place it about pg-13; it was not nearly as graphic or violent as I anticipated, and much funnier.

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The story begins with popular (and anonymous) advice columnist Sally aka “Mr. Know it All” going viral and becoming nationally syndicated. Due to the convoluted web of lies told by her business partner, she has to make up an image of the purportedly male author behind the column. She finds a face that she feels would match the column at a local movie theatre and she sketches him, and releases this to the industry, and then to the public. Unfortunately her muse (Albert) is an assassin for the mob, and not too keen on being recognized everywhere he goes. So Albert takes it into his head to kill Mr. Know It All and end the column so that he can fade back into obscurity. Albert doesn’t count on his target being the cute, awkward, bubbly redhead that he is falling in love with.

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Albert, played by Jefferson Brown, looks like a young Pierce Brosnan to me. He is so cute! I loved how he and Lara Jean Chorostecki represented their characters. Indie films like this can be very hit or miss and I think that this one is definitely a hit. Her nerdy awkwardness perfectly fits the character’s habit of writing about life instead of experiencing it, and I think that Brown struck the right balance between the aloof, emotional killer and a bewildered guy falling for this girl who keeps appearing in his life.

The only thing I would have changed would be for Sally to struggle a little bit more with the knowledge that her “Mr. Right” intended to kill her. I mean, dude, talk about an emotional betrayal!

I highly recommend you check out this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it and consider it the perfect length to watch one evening through the week, and still get into bed at a decent time to get up the next morning.

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The Finest Hours – a review

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The synopsis:

On Feb. 18, 1952, a massive storm splits the SS Pendleton in two, trapping more than 30 sailors inside the tanker’s sinking stern. Engineer Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) bravely takes charge to organize a strategy for his fellow survivors. As word of the disaster reaches the Coast Guard in Chatham, Mass., Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cluff orders a daring rescue mission. Despite the ferocious weather, coxswain Bernie Webber (Chris Pine) takes three men on a lifeboat to try and save the crew against seemingly impossible odds.

Deep breathe. Wow.

This movie certainly has anticipation down. I think I was holding my breath for half the movie, and when I left the theatre, my ticket was shredded into ribbons in my pocket from working it through my fingers during the many tense moments in this film.

I love a story that can invoke so much emotion. That is surely the point of creating anything in the first place. The last time I felt so much anticipation in a film was Unstoppable, also based on a true story. I may have to re-watch it and put a blog of here sometime soon.

In the mean-time, go watch The Finest Hours.

One of the best aspects of this movie is that it shows the harrowing events taking place both on-board the stern of the sinking oil tanker, and the experiences of the Coast Guard crew trying to reach them. Both stories were incredibly interesting and could have comprised a movie in themselves, but having both perspectives in the same one shows how incredible it was that the rescue was able to succeed and the narrow odds both crews were up against.

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Although I suspect that some creative liberties were taken in the scenes depicted, mostly due to the extremely dramatic nature, this was still a remarkable feat of will. As I sat in the theatre, I couldn’t help but think how awe-inspiring humanity can be the iron will every man exhibited to keep struggling towards life. From the actions of the sailors fighting to buy time and keep a sinking ship alive for as long as possible, in the hopes (not knowledge) that someone was coming to save them, to the Coast Guard crew who went out on a suicide mission, fully expecting to never even make it to the sinking ship, it was one heroic moment after another.

And the Coast Guard seemed to think their cutter was a surf board, cruising over, and under, massive stormy waves.

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The story made me think of soldiers in war and this movie inspired a whole new level of respect for Coast Guard members, and their families, for the dangers faced and sacrifices made, in serving. We all know that the Navy can be grounded due to poor conditions, but the Coast Guard cannot. Their mandate is to serve; if there is a ship in distress, the Coast Guard will respond.

One of the themes repeated throughout is that the Coast Guard always goes out. They don’t have to come back. This is so very different from the Marine motto of never leave a man behind and it shows the differences in mindset between the two organizations. Management in other corps will weigh the costs and benefits of performing a certain mission, and plan for the least number of casualties possible. The Coast Guard just goes out, because they don’t have the option to re-plan, re-schedule or just the “null”.

Casey Affleck and Chris Pine were both magnificent in this film. Although I was more drawn to Affleck’s character, I couldn’t help but compare Chris Pine to some of his other notable roles such as Captain Kirk (Star Trek) or Prince Charming (Into the Woods), simply because this one was so different. I love versatile actors and consider them one of the greats when they can inhabit such different characters with apparent ease, rather than sticking to the same role in thirty different productions. Chris Pine is surely a great.

Clearly I am a huge fan of The Finest Hours. It brought up a whole lot of similar feeling films that I want to go re-watch now. Hopefully I will get some blogs up on here shortly.

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The 5th Wave – a review

The 5th wave (2015) is a film based off of a young adult trilogy of the same name, written by Rick Yancey.

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From imdb.com

The human race stands on the brink of extinction as a series of alien attacks decimate the planet, causing earthquakes, tsunamis and disease. Separated from her family, Ohio teenager Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) will do whatever it takes to reunite with her brother Sam. Fate leads her to form an alliance with Evan Walker (Alex Roe), a mysterious young man who may be her last hope. Forced to trust each other, Cassie and Evan fight for survival during the fifth assault from the invaders.

I am confused as to who the target audience of this film was. The books are written for tweens and teens and the movie has the same vibe to similar films, such as Divergent. But the opening scene is of the teenage main character killing an innocent man. And her romantic interest in the movie is a college-aged man, Evan (played by Alex Roe). As a twenty-six year, I was a little squeamish seeing them develop a romantic relationship. Admittedly, Cassie (played by Chloë Grace Moretzseems older than her years and our social constructions of age and maturity might matter little in an apocalyptic world, but I do wish that Cassie’s character would have been a little older.

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I really loved the idea driving the story. I haven’t read this type of story in a while and I am going to check out the rest of the books in the series. I am hoping that they are better written than the film! The film … why is it that 90% of the time I dislike a show or a movie, it is because I feel the writing is lacking? Is writing really that hard?!

The 5th wave starts out great. Interesting and compelling. I liked how the timeline wasn’t entirely linear, I felt that it added depth to the series. I also felt that most of the initial acting was really well done. There are a lot of highly talented and well-known actors in it. Maggie Siff (from Sons of Anarchy) and Ron Livingston played Cassie’s parents and Liev Schreiber (from Wolverine and Ray Donovan) was Colonel Vosch.

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However, the plot involves turning children into soldiers to fight The Others, and their acting is childish and lacking. It is so bad you almost wonder if it is on purpose…

The director and producers have the children sitting around the barracks, playing cards and gambling in their down-time, the way adults would. To me, it would have been more believable if the kids were running around, playing like children do, when not in training. It was also baffling that the kids were not broken down into teams based on age. Instead, the 7 year olds were mixed in with 17 year olds, and expected to operate as soldiers and snipers in actual urban combat situations. Apocalypse or not, someone that young could never keep up with the older teens, mentally or physically.

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For these young ones, most of their acting was one-dimensional and even the teenagers in the group seemed to accept everything they were told without ever wondering where the non-military adults were… they were all brainwashed way too easily.

Evan on the other hand, Evan I loved.

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I thought that Evan was one of The Others, and I was half-right. I loved Alex’s depiction of him and wish that we could have seen him a little more in action. He was my favourite character in the film, and if they do another, I hope that his role, and his abilities, are expanded upon. Evan is deeply conflicted about his identity and the role he has to play in the war for Earth, which makes him the most interesting and compelling character on the screen.

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Unfortunately, throughout the entire film the plot is utterly predictable – I actually called the “plot twist” just from the trailer. It made the characters seem very stupid and naive to not be suspicious until the end. Call me paranoid, but as soon as the school buses showed up at the refugee camp, I would have been out of there with my kids. I would never have let them separate me from my children. Somehow, the kids who were told that their parents would follow behind never seem to question why they never show up, or why the only refugees taken to the base are children.

It was also obvious to me that Evan had some connection to The Others. He stayed in his family home, completely safe and secure from concern and seemed to have no need to hide. He chopped wood outside for heating and cooking, knowing that there were snipers and drones hunting in the forest, but again, wasn’t concerned and maintained to Cassie that she was perfectly safe in his home, despite her insistence that there is no safe place.

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Evan is H-O-T hot.

In the end, I felt disappointed that what had seemed like such a good idea was so poorly executed. I walked away from the movie theatre feeling let-down, and so did my viewing partner. I still find the idea intriguing and will probably check out the second and third books in the series, to see what happens. Hopefully they are better than the film.

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McFarland, USA – a film review

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McFarland, USA is 2014 film, set in McFarland, California in the 1970’s. It is based on a true and very inspirational story.

Trailer via Youtube

If you don’t wan to watch the trailer, here’s the jist of it: a down-on-his-luck high school teacher/football coach and his family move to one of the poorest school districts in the country. Most of the children in this school are the kids of “pickers” (fruit and vegetable pickers in the fields) and are lucky if they graduate. The penitentiary is directly across the street from the school for heaven’s sake. But after Coach White has been fired again, it is the only school desperate enough to hire him.

To make matters worse for the White family, at least in their minds, is that they have to live in this shitty little town because the family cannot afford to live in one of the wealthier, neighbouring communities and commute. Living in a dirt poor, predominantly Mexican community in the very south of California is seen as an extremely temporary and unpleasant experience to start.

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However, as tends to happen in movies, the family resolves to try to make the best of their situation and in doing so, realizes that it isn’t so bad. Mr. White, and his wife and kids make connections with their neighbours, and then others in the community.

After White is removed from the football coaching staff after a disagreement with the Head Coach, he starts a track and field team, visualizing a success story as his ticket out of there and back into an affluent school district.

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The rest of the story you can probably figure out from there. At the end of the day, you don’t watch coming-of-age sports movies for the intrigue. The teacher is either a do-gooder out to save her students, or out to rescue themself from life, but in the process develops all the feels, and begins to care more about his/her students.

I really like the story outlined in McFarland, USA. It is a typical Kevin Costner movie, but I felt that there was a very healthy balance between the sports plot-line and the lives of the runners and the White family.

This was a movie I have been wanting to see for awhile, and I’m glad I finally found some time. It was sweet, enjoyable and entertaining, and gave me a positive feeling at the end of the movie, that carried me through the day.

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My favourite aspect of this film, is the scene depicted just above. During the credits, the typical flash-forward to present day occurs, and you see the retired Coach cycling alongside a group of runners. Intermingled are the cross-country runners of McFarland high school today, with the grown, real men whose stories were told in the film.

In a place where anyone who can get out does, it was amazing to hear how the bond between these men returned them all to McFarland after university. Many now work at the school and are landowners. One even became a police detective (funny story. The camera panned to him and I thought, wow he looks like a cop. Then they say he’s a detective … a hot one too!). This moment was just the icing on the cake for me.

If you’ve read my recent run of film reviews and don’t know which one to pick, choose this one. Hands down, my favourite of late.

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The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is a 2014 blockbuster film telling the story of Bletchley Park’s code-breaking team, which was charged with cracking the “unbreakable” German code Enigma, during WWII. It follows the efforts of Alan Turing and co, as well as telling us of Alan’s heartbreaking personal story, from childhood to his death in 1951.

Alan Turing and his team solved the Enigma Code, and it is estimated that their doing so ended the war two years earlier and saved 14 million lives.  That fact that the Enigma Code was broken remained a state secret for 50 years.

If this had not been a historical film, I would have said that the writers needed to go back to the drawing board.  Despite not knowing much about this topic, I was able to foretell many aspects of the plot, including Christopher’s fate, the identity of the Soviet spy and “the sacrifice”.

Clearly, this film is based on historical fact though and somehow, that makes it all forgiven. At the base of it, this wasn’t a spy thriller; being able to see the outcome did not ruin the movie. It was a dramatic retelling of some of England’s best – and worst – moments in the 1940s and 50s.

One thing that struck me throughout the film, was how different things were then, from now. A 25 year old woman was almost barred from being a member of the team, based upon her gender, and then further prevented from joining because of her parents’ objections.  It was indecent for her to work on a project with five men, and to work for the war effort instead of hunting for a suitable husband. Likewise, I had no idea that in the 1950s, homosexuality in Great Britain was punishable by custodial sentence or chemical castration.

I had wanted to watch The Imitation Game when it was released last year but I never got around to it.  I have always been interested in history, and took multiple classes in secondary school and uni, but somehow missed ever learning about Turing or the Enigma Code.  The Eric Walters book, Enigma, which I just read about was also based on war efforts occurring a Bletchley Park, so it was an interesting parallel to finish both this weekend.  I definitely want to go and learn more.

The movie was nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture of the Year, and ultimately won for Best Writing (adapted screenplay). Not surprising, considering it starred fantastic fan-favourite actors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Charles Dance.

It was a remarkable film that I am so thankful I made the time to watch this weekend. I highly recommend it.

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