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Saturday, March 18, 2017

A United Kingdom (Directed by: Amma Asante; Written by: Guy Hibbert and Susan Williams)

Prince Seretse Khama of Botswana causes an international stir when he marries a white woman from London in the late 1940s.

Starring: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Nicholas Lyndhurst

My thoughts on this film: I went to see 'A United Kingdom' having only known of the movie and of the true story behind it from newspaper articles. It portrayed a true story, which to me raises its value. The lead actors were superb. They unfolded the story with emotional restraint.
You could see that this film was produced and directed with respect for the story, for the real people behind the story, and for us, the viewers.
Totally worth watching!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Cujo (Stephen King)

Cujo is a huge Saint Bernard dog, the best friend Brett Camber has ever had. Then one day Cujo chases a rabbit into a bolt-hole. Except this is not a rabbit hole but rather a cave inhabited by rabid bats.
And Cujo falls sick. Very sick. And the gentle giant who once protected the family becomes a vortex of horror inexorably drawing in all the people around him.

Quote: "It would perhaps not be amiss to point out that he had always tried to be a good dog. He had tried to do all the things his MAN and his WOMAN, and most of all his BOY, had asked or expected of him. He would have died for them, if that had been required. He had never wanted to kill anybody. He had been struck by something, possibly destiny, or fate, or only a degenerative nerve disease called rabies. Free will was not a factor."

My thoughts on this book: I have never watched the film, so I am merely writing this review from having read the book.
Most of this story feels like Stephen King is just filling in time... until the last 100 pages. I think that he took what was potentially an award-winning tale of terror and jammed as much into it as he could until it became one of his shorter novels.
That being said, Cujo is a really powerful book in some places. While I did not care much for a lot of the things surrounding it, the core is pretty terrifying and heart-wrenching. No one wants their beloved family pet to turn on them, and a rabid dog trapping a woman and her child in a car for DAYS is damn well horrifying.
The writing is good and the ending packs a huge punch. I surely did not see that coming.
The ending to this story certainly made up for the very slow beginning.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The 89th Academy Awards

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel


ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)


ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)




COSTUME DESIGN: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE): O.J.: Made in America


FILM EDITING: Hacksaw Ridge




MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG): City Of Stars - from La La Land (Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)





SOUND MIXING: Hacksaw Ridge




Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Singles Game (Lauren Weisberger)

When Charlotte 'Charlie' Silver makes a pact with the devil, infamously brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner, she finds herself catapulted into a world of stylists, private parties, and secret dates with Hollywood royalty.
Under Todd, it is no more good-girl attitude: he wants warrior princess Charlie all the way. After all, no one ever won by being nice.
Celebrity mags and gossip blogs go wild for Charlie, chasing scandal as she jets around the globe. But as the warrior princess' star rises, both on and off the court, it comes at a high price. Is the real Charlie Silver still inside?

Quote: "From here on out we'll be working on a mental makeover, if you will. I want aggressive. Go-getting. Intimidation. You think the men are walking around apologising for everything and hugging each other? Hell, no! And the girls shouldn't be either."

My thoughts on this book: I am not a particular fan of this story, to tell you the truth.
Let us start with the good parts: you learn a lot about the pro tennis circuit. Lauren Weisberger clearly did her research because she shows you all the particulars of travelling, uniforms, practice schedules, nutrition, and the like. You learn about the image manipulation, the press, and the dance of romance. This part is pretty interesting.
Now, about Charlie: she is not dull. She is just unoriginal. There is little to her that you have not read elsewhere. She has above average tennis skills, good enough to be on tour but not excellent enough to win a grand slam. Everyone in her life keeps telling her to just quit. And Weisberger limits the perspective of the book to Charlie's, so you really only know what Charlie thinks and what motivates her. What about her father, her brother, her (former) coach? What drives these people throughout the story?
One person who is quite happy to have Charlie compete is her new coach, who is straight out of Central Casting for 'Overbearing Brute'. Again, this is a character you have seen before in dozens and dozens of books. And so is the Hot Mediterranean Lover. In a cast of utterly unoriginal characters, Marco surely is the worst. He says and does absolutely nothing that distinguishes him from the others.
I will say this much: I did want to find out what happened. I wanted to know when, exactly, would Charlie grow up and what she would do after tennis was over.
The worst part of all had to be the ending. After dragging out the various dramas at play, the ending occurs so quickly that I was left wondering whether Weisberger had been held to a word count. What was that all about?

Hidden figures (Theodore Melfi)

As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found the talent of a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the true life stories of three of these women, known as 'human computers', we follow them as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history's greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Glen Powell, Kimberly Quinn

Why I loved this film: The characters on which the film is based were special and unique on their own, and well deserving of the sort of semi-documentary films that Hollywood likes to serve up. However, to take that story and bump it up to a major feel-good film that engages the viewer from the get-go to the very end of its running time is what makes it so great!
The acting is just amazing. This is probably one of the best Costner performances in recent years (I was beginning to think that he would not be able to pull it off again).
Taraji P. Henson finally lands a great role, the best one I have seen her in yet. Octavia Spencer also gives the performance of her life as the 'glue' for the other characters.
Jim Parsons is believable and funny at the same time, although this feels like a more human version of Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
Overall, I highly recommend this film.

Monday, February 13, 2017

La La Land (Damien Chazelle)

A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Trevor Lissauer, John Legend, Tom Everett Scott

My thoughts on this film: The opening sequence - which was satirised on the Golden Globes - does not do the rest of the film justice. It is as if the cast from the FAME remake grew up, had children of their own, and then those children hijacked the Santa Monica freeway to do a ten-minute flash-mob dance sequence.
From that point on, the film gets better.
We continue towards a love story as pure as anything since the great dramas of the 1940s. It really reminded me of Singing in the Rain and the likes.
Gosling is surprising as a leading man expected to do song and dance, but he delivers the goods.
Stone, who I did not like as much in other movies, steals the film and possibly the hearts of the audience. The awards should flow like water, and she will deserve every one of them.
This is, deep down, an ode to Hollywood. The film industry has always had issues with endings - back in the day they would film several different endings per picture - and then decide at the last minute which to use. Here, Chazelle pays homage to that by giving us an alternate ending, along with the 'real' ending, and then a closing sequence designed to remind everyone that nothing in Hollywood is real, but everything can still be fun.

Monday, January 23, 2017

R.I.P. Gorden Kaye

Actor Gorden Kaye - who was best known for his role as Rene in the long-running sitcom 'Allo 'Allo! - has died aged 75.
According to the star's former agent, he passed away in a care home.
Mr. Kaye will certainly be missed.