What I have been watching lately – #movie edition

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Hello all! Hope you’re having a lovely Sunday! Since we’re coming up to the end of the year, I’m in a wrap-everything-up kind of mood and thought it would be fun to share some of the awesome (and less-than-awesome) movies I’ve seen over the past few months. This is by no means a comprehensive list- just the ones that stood out to me for some reason or other. And of course, this list will be accompanied by plenty of monkey drama 😉 Let’s jump to it!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before– I enjoyed every second of this! I adored the series, so I was a tad nervous… but all those fears were allayed because this completely brought the book to life! I particularly liked how it took the characters and made them real, very much capturing their distinctive personalities. And Lara Jean was so Lara Jean- she was relatable and dorky and ahhh practically perfect in every way!!! So yup- one happy monkey here!!

5/5 bananas

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi– I finally watched the new Star Wars- and wish I could unwatch it. Look, I’m not trying to start arguments, and if you liked it, I’m glad you got more out of it than I did. Frankly though, if a movie bores me so much that I can leave to do chores in the middle (and yes, this is frequently my barometer for a bad movie) then I’m going to hate it. I get that the visuals are good- however that’s not why I watch movies. I’m here for the story and this did. not. deliver in that department. For all the obvious flaws- the campy scene where Leah flies through space, Rey the ULTIMATE Mary Sue, Holdo’s resting bitch face, the lame villains, the bad jokes etc- the most unforgivable thing was that it took a story about hope and made it nihilistic- that’s quite the feat! And I know this film has been analysed to death by now, so I’m sure I don’t need to get into everything, but “defying expectations” isn’t automatically a good thing. While I like unexpected twists and turns, they need to make sense in the grand scheme of things, deliver emotional punches and make me care about the characters- this did none of those things. It felt like *surprises* for surprises’ sake- which is not a good storytelling tactic. The only way this defied my expectations was that I thought it was going to be a good movie and it wasn’t. Also congrats for making the prequels look good I guess. This gets a banana peel from me:

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them– okay, so here’s another one I finally caved and watched… and that was surprisingly a good thing. While I’ve always been on the fence about Harry Potter spinoffs, this ended up delivering on a lot of fronts: the characters were stellar, there were cute animals (employed in a way that actually affected the plot- *evil eyes at Last Jedi*), the visuals were stunning and the differences between Britain and America were explored (like the term no maj- which on the surface is simpler- but also sounds less offensive). Plus there was some hidden depth in the symbolism of obscuras- drawing on how trauma can breed tragedy. I particularly liked the portrayal of Scamander by Redmayne (quickly making this a new fave HP character). And *spoilers* Grindlewald as a villain was subtly portrayed (I’m decidedly less keen on the actor that’s taken over). Overall, this worked for me!

4/5 bananas

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The Death of Stalin– this captured the sheer *craziness* of the situation. Plus, for a movie that’s historically accurate (if you want to see just how much you can watch this great video essay) and very dark, it was ridiculously funny. I was laughing throughout. Though the fact that this Kafkaesque/1984 setting was *real* always sat disturbingly in my mind. And while I reckon history buffs will get a kick out of it, I do recommend this film for everyone really.

4/5 bananas

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The Theory of Everything– the most obvious thing I can think to say about this was that Redmayne was *definitely* an Oscar-worthy performance. It was also a beautifully shot movie, though a little on the slow side. BUT it was very life affirming- really embodying Hawkins’ famous quote: “As long as there is life, there is hope”. It was amazing to see what he achieved in film form. I also felt like it could be seen as a counter to the Me Before You narrative argument (not to criticise the author, for whom it was an exercise in empathy). The only thing was I didn’t buy the romance as much as I wanted to. And, while I’m glad I watched it, it didn’t blow me away. Incidentally, I’ve been listening to brief history of time- which I won’t be reviewing  cos WHODOYOUTHINKIAMLOLIREADBOOKSIDON’TDOPHYSICS (seriously I can’t help you with black holes and the like)- but I will say it’s very interesting.

3½/5 bananas

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The Shooting Party– this was rather propagandistic. At the risk of alienating all zero of my posh fans, I don’t actually think I need any convincing not to go shootin’ animals. That said, I don’t think that if I was unclear on that this would change my mind- because it’s not a convincing argument to have people walking round moralising. There’s literally no real characters in this- merely lifeless husks that act as mouthpieces for an agenda. Regardless of whether I agree with said agenda, it simply doesn’t make for an entertaining film. There’s a lot of pointless, pretentious conversations and not nearly enough drama. All this ended up being was an opinion masquerading as art.

2/5 bananas

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The Birds– now this is more like it! It may start out witty and humorous but the tone steadily shifts. All this builds up the tense and magnetic atmosphere. By the end of the movie, all the little sounds in my flat were making me jump. I didn’t even realise how much it affected me until I saw a load of pigeons the next day and thought: “what are they up to?” Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever look at birds again in quite the same way. Super clever and wonderfully crafted- this is a classic for a reason! Even scaredy cats like me can appreciate it!

5/5 bananas

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Okay- so some potentially *explosive* opinions there and the question of the day is: do you agree or disagree with me on any of these? What do you think of these movies? And have you watched anything that stood out to you lately? Let me know in the comments!

Incoming: Simon Vs the Homosapien Agenda Rocked!

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Hello all,

As you might have guessed from the subject line, I really dug Simon Vs the Homosapien Agenda. Partly cos I’m a sucker for contemporary romance, partly cos I just love fun, quirky characters. Mostly though it’s cos OMG this story is remarkably cute and the mystery element worked so well!

For those of you that dot know, it’s the story of Simon Spier, who has a secret pen pal relationship with another boy in his school… and is be being blackmailed for it! And I have to say this grabbed me right from the opening line. I know I’ve been talking a lot about fave first lines recently and this just so happened to have all the perfect ingredients: it gives us the tone, the voice and the concept all in one. Plus it was pretty witty and that always helps 😉

The one downside I thought there was with the book was there were too many characters to keep track of. Plus, I wasn’t hugely keen on the sibling relationship, because they felt too different and disconnected.

That said, all the other characters really worked for me. Simon was *adorable*. And the friendships made a lot of sense. I even understood the blackmailer- he’s a dick, but his motivation made sense.

What else is there to say other than that the romance was swoonworthy? I defy anyone not to fall for this super sweet story. It’s a love story with oreos for goodness sakes! For that alone I would happily give it 4/5 bananas:

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I’m wondering who else has read it and if they’ve fallen in love with it as much as I have?

Love, Orangutan

PS I saw the movie and I liked it even more.

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Hello all,

Me again. I know, I know, two emails in one day. It’s like I’m obsessed. But I couldn’t help it you guys! I just had to fill you in on the AWESOMENESS that is Love, Simon.

Everything Albertalli did translated so well to the big screen. It made me laugh more, cry more, and I was overwhelmed by the *cuteness overload*.

There were some changes to the book version- like cutting Simon’s sister Alice out- but I have to say they streamlined the plot and worked for me. Also, the movie allowed his friends to be more pissed at him for his actions, rather than just supportive, and oof that hit me in the feels even more.

Actually, the movie overall was more hardhitting. (Pretty obvious) spoilers here: him being outed is done in an even more emotional way in the movie. I was honestly a WRECK by the end of it. Especially with the beautiful individual moments with him mum and dad- cos ach my heart! I could barely take how much it moved me.

So yeah, watch the movie already if you haven’t. I know now for certain that I want every Albertalli book to be turned into a movie! Who thinks Hollywood will grant my request?

Love, Orangutan

PS: Just take my bananas already…

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Reply all in the comments…

What the Hell is going on with DC?

*Warning if you like the movies, now’s the chance to look away!*

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After my post yesterday, you would be forgiven for thinking that I was a massive fangirl for the DC Justice League movies. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As much as I love the characters and even think some of the performances are stellar (as Book Beach Bunny said yesterday, only Jason Mamoa could make Aquaman cool), there is way too much I hate about these movies. Not to say that they’re abominable or you shouldn’t like them… I just… GAH! These films piss me off.

Oddly enough, I never planned on doing a post like this. In fact, the first film came out before I even thought of having a blog. I did write a long ranty response to the second film in my notebook when I watched it, however that was before I ever thought of talking about anything other than books on here. Then the latest film came out and I. Just. Couldn’t. Take. It. Anymore.

I’m not referring to all DC films, especially because I haven’t seen them all (I couldn’t make it more than half an hour into Suicide Squad and I still haven’t got round to seeing Wonder Woman yet, though I want to and actually think that will be pretty good) so I’ll only be focusing on Man of Steel, Batman V Superman and Justice League. Let’s get into this shall we.

Man of Steel was far too Flimsy a Film

man of steelSuperman is probably one of my favourite heroes and while, yes I’m one of those people who actually enjoys the old Christopher Reeve films (they’re fun!), I was not adverse to a darker remake. I mean, I am completely in love with the Dark Knight trilogy and wasn’t looking for a carbon copy of something that had been done before- that would be boring. And yet, somehow this managed to be boring. And frankly, that’s the worst cinema sin imaginable.

I won’t say it’s a terrible film, it just suffers from the same issues that plague the series- starting with the fact that it’s trying to be too clever for its own good. Frankly, no one was asking for a convoluted backstory for Superman- even the old movies summarised in a few minutes! Why, oh why, did this have to focus on such a bloated history? A history that incidentally becomes irrelevant to the rest of the movies (showing how sloppily this was all put together). No one thought- hey, if we’re inserting a done-to-death-chosen-one trope, through the whole pointless codex stuff, we might have to refer to that in later movies. Nope- it’s only there to serve to make this movie longer. G-r-e-a-t.

And although this is making my review all over the place, I have to add that this didn’t help the flow of the story. The constant flashbacks and non-linear nature made it feel jumpy and made it harder to invest in the story. A story which was already hard to get into thanks to an overly-broody hero, a meh villain I wasn’t scared of and a complete lack of tension.

The lack of tension was up there as one of the worst things about the movie. Even while all the grand-scale-action managed to wipe out most of Metropolis (which also obliterates Superman’s primary goals as a character, but whatever) this movie still failed to get my heartbeat to rise above its resting state. Cos, contrary to the Michael-Bay school of thought, *explosions* does not create tension. You need to actually care for *someone* in the story for that to work. And vague threats about wiping out all of humanity doesn’t matter either if you can’t capture that sense of time running out.

Still, even though I’m being super negative here, I didn’t completely despise the franchise at one point until I heard the title for the next one…

No One Wins in Batman V Superman

batman v superman dvDavid S. Goyer (a writer for the film) once said that “Batman Vs. Superman is where you go when you admit to yourself that you’ve exhausted all possibilities”. And isn’t that the truth. To be diplomatic, I’m not opposed to the idea (though it has the juvenile aspect of “who would win in a fight, a ninja or pirate? We all know the answer is a ninja pirate 😉 ) I simply think it’s a shit title.

Where Man of Steel spends tons of time on backstory, this gets you up to date in about three seconds. And I don’t just mean Bruce’s parents deaths, I mean why he hates Superman, the whole deal. There’s about three different openings at the start of this moviestellar film making there *heavy sarcasm*. Each scene is delivered to us like *here, have some exposition*. Not only does this feel ridiculously choppy and cobbled together, it doesn’t even provide the best motivation for Bruce to fight Superman.

But whatever, the title says they’ve got to fight, so they fight. And of course, Batman is totally beating Superman… Wait, what?! Oh yeah, that’s cos even though the writers tried to give Superman an actual motivation for stopping Batman (aka in this version Batman is a murderous psycho) they kinda give up on that and kidnap his mother. So yeah, Superman’s not into fighting at all- but don’t worry too much, they’ll be a nice coincidence to break it all up anyway.

On the subject of Batman, I will probably get into trouble for my seriously unpopular view here. I think Affleck’s Batman sucks. He’s just Affleck as Batman (aka I never lost the sense that it was Affleck- the best performances make you forget they’re an actor altogether). I’ve nothing against the actor, yet I cannot deny that I didn’t buy his performance *at all*. Nor did his swanky suit and CGI convince me either.

And here’s another unpopular opinion, I actually thought the ending was worse than the beginning. While it was flawed, certainly, I did actually like seeing Lois do some investigative journalism and Batman supposedly-being-smart by coming up with a plan to take down Superman. Even if the plot points weren’t ironed out and Eisenberg’s Luther was GOD-AWFUL, I at least cared about the outcome of the fight. However, the writers didn’t have the courage to follow through with that story and had to stick a massive alien villain into the ending. Lois goes from vaguely interesting to completely useless and Batman and Superman are friends again- sarcastic yay! Oh with Gal Gadot shoehorned in too (don’t get me wrong, I love her as Wonder Woman, but she barely belongs in this movie). I think the impact of the (MAJOR SPOILER WARNING) death could have been that much more powerful if Batman accidentally/not-so-accidentally killed him (providing they had better reasons to fight).

At this point, I’ll be frank, my frustration with how this could have turned out became a steady dislike. I don’t think I’d have hated it so much had it not been for whichever smart Alek thought “we’d better put a monster in the end of this movie!” If they’d focused on the ideas, the actual titular fight and given some good motivations, this could have been interesting. Buuut they’d already proven that stupid plotlines were the way to go with the first movie, why stop there?

There was no Justice in Justice League

justice league cover 2*Spoilers for Batman V Superman*

Where do I even start with this one? On the plus side they got over their need to make all the colours so dark you can’t see anything. The downside is the plot is terrible. Bruce Wayne *feels* an attack is coming, so he gets to work in forming the Justice League. I wish that last sentence was a joke, but it gets so much worse. As per the last two movies, there are no decent reasons or build up for the villain. We’re just supposed to accept that the villain is the villain and the heroes are the heroes cos *reasons* (and some awful speeches). The heroes get to resurrect whoever they like (though not Superman, we’re told a million times to remember he’s dead…). And if the baddie makes obvious mistakes, like not going after the easiest target (a magical box thingy, more lazy writing there), then we have to accept it like good little chumps who bought the extortionate cinema tickets.

Except I watched it pay-per-view, because I’m not that stupid with my money (and can’t afford to watch films I actually want to see on the big screen). Anyway, why’s that all relevant? Well, because I was so bored that I wandered off to do chores for a few hours halfway through this movie. Sorry, pow pow pow, *insert fight scene*, *insert dumb joke* wasn’t enough to keep me entertained for hours on end. Especially because I couldn’t care less about the characters.

And here’s the real issue. Half of this comes down to a heavy reliance on most people knowing the characters already; the other half is, in my view, that Zach “my batman could get raped in prison” Snyder doesn’t actually get why people are watching these movies or why people love these heroes. One thing I love about DC is the deep questions  and the human struggles at the heart of their narratives. Unfortunately, they forsook the fundamental rule about storytelling in creating these movies because there’s never any real stakes. Nothing about this feels personal and the story is consequently a random sequence of events– not the great epic they wanted it to be. Maybe they should watch a Marvel movie for ideas (I should clarify, I’m not a Marvel fangirl, I just like good movies, not shit ones).

It would have been great to focus on some of the characters backstories here. For instance, Cyborg could have been the central focus of this film, since he actually has some connection with the central problem in the movie and has story arc worth developing here. But no, an unfocused team-up is what they went for and this meant that a lot of them felt underdeveloped (though #notall- I got a clear sense of Diana without having even seen her movie yet). They throw in references to a ton of different movies they want to make and hope we’ll get the message there’s a *bigger picture*. Yet no matter how many end credit scenes you tag on, this will never feel like a great series (incidentally the ending scene made me think: ooh the shit Luther is out, I bet he’s coming to ruin another movie…)

One other hugely jarring factor that I can’t overlook is that it flip flops on tone every two seconds. Partly because they seem incapable of making up their minds about how the characters should act, so you never feel like you understand why they go from naught-to-moody-to-jokey in the course of a quick minute. And I get that a lot of this is down to having more than one director, but that’s really no excuse for the overall effect to be so jarring. It goes from taking itself realllly seriously to making bad jokes. Even though the whole series could have done with a more light-hearted touch, I can’t forgive how cheesy and dumb the so-called humour is. Every time they made a joke I was deadpan; every time they said something serious, I laughed. So yeah, crap jokes don’t let you off the hook here.

It’s the sloppiness of the script and story that I have a problem with– not the careless CGI beard stuff (though that was badly done). It’s the fact that this rush-to-the-justice-league ended up being a combination of cringey and dull. And that’s why I am not a fan of these cashcow movies.

My rating: a banana peel

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So dare I ask: how do you feel about these films? Love them or loathe them? Let me know in the comments!