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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: The Princess Diaries (2001)

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“I don’t want to rule my own country, I just want to pass the tenth grade.”
– Mia Thermopolis

SYNOPSIS: Mia Thermopolis has just found out that she is the heir apparent to the throne of Genovia. With her friends Lilly and Michael Moscovitz in tow, she tries to navigate through the rest of her 15th year.

My goodness, I have’t seen this movie in years, and it recently ended up on my radar again when Natasha watched and reviewed these. I should say that while I saw these, I never read the books, and don’t really plan to. I watched this movie so many times as a kid, it was ridiculous, and I really liked it. Don’t even judge me monkeys. I was wondering how it would hold up on rewatch all these years later, and I must say that I was quite impressed for a multitude of reasons.

The Princess Diaries is never going to be the greatest movie of all time or anything like that, but it is highly amusing and comes together very well… or that is just my nostalgia. Anne Hathaway was still a sweet young girl here, and Julie Andrews brings so much class and elegance to the table as Queen Clarisse. The characters are plenty fun, too, and Joe is a fan favourite, of course. His relationship with Queen Clarisse had me cheering, and the way he befriended Mia was simply adorable. Plus his comic timing? The hearse bit? So good. It’s got a preposterous story, to be sure, and is a real chick flick for teens thing, but there are worse thing that the movie can be. It is also handled way better than you would expect.

Speaking of Mia, I think I liked this so much growing up because she, too, is just an awkward turkey that is struggling to find somewhere she belongs. She is also, stupidly, crushing on that waste of time and space Josh, something that confused me even when I was younger when there is the best option of them all – Michael. Seriously – M&M addiction? Musician? Sweetheart? And she is lusting after that blonde loser? WHY?!

The music for this movie is so typical of films of this time, and is just plain awkward and not really my cup of tea. Nor should it be. It was quite the drawback for me. Also typical of movies like this, there are a load of side characters that are there, and stories/incidents are simply thrown in and forgotten about, not making the story as robust or complete as it should have been. Lastly – all these people from Europe, and no/few accents? Lies!

The Princess Diaries is actually pretty fun, even years after the fact. I am not sure if that is because I loved it then and the nostalgia remains, or what. Either way. There is some silly humour in here and the movie is just fun, some totally insane incidents occur and overall it is carried by a decent cast. Pure popcorn entertainment, but it works. Well worth the watch, if you ask me.

Rapid Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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The Dark Knight Rises poster

Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man; by then it was nothing to me but blinding!”
– Bane

dark knight rises bane plane

GRADE 8.5This was a brilliant way to conclude a brilliant trilogy! I know that Luke and I don’t necessarily see completely eye to eye on this one, but I still think it is really good. At least we can agree that this trilogy is a stroke of utter genius. Plus, Tom Hardy as Bane. I mean come on, like that wasn’t going to go down phenomenally. Tom Hardy was just an amazing Bane, and his role was simply flawless. Nolan again nailed that perfect mix in the villain, where you wanted to know more about him and see what he was going to do, but still held out that Batman would save the day. Christian Bale is, again, just the most perfect Bruce Wayne/Batman. Seriously. The way he embodies both the billionaire playboy and the Dark Knight? It’s awesome. However, as much as this movie got right, I am not going to pretend there weren’t flaws. The pacing was a little uneven, and there was some incredibly flawed logic thrown in here. For instance, I get that John Blake is intuitive and all, but just guessing Batman’s identity right off the bat was just too much for me, and there is also the issue with Bane knowing exactly where Applied Sciences was, though it is apparently “not on the books” anywhere, and not public knowledge. Also, I am not a fan of Anne Hathaway, and her Catwoman/Selina Kyle is someone that grows on you after multiple viewings, but is still not a character I enjoy a lot at all. Yeah, there were a few niggles, but so what? This movie is ridiculously quotable. My fiancé just doesn’t even know what to do with me… walking up staircases and he doesn’t turn on lights? “Ah, you think darkness is your ally.” Threatening someone? No sweat! “It would be extremely painful… for you.” My one colleague and I communicate a lot in Bane quotes (well, any movie quotes). It’s a problem, we know, yet we have absolutely no plans to change that. But truly now, Bane is awesome on so many levels (and so hot here – the ladies will understand this, though it was unexpected)! And there are so many quotes in this movie that beg to be used. One of my favourite things in this movie was the return of the Scarecrow. I adore Cillian Murphy and I am a big fan of his Dr Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow. I was thrilled to see him given more screentime this time around as opposed to The Dark Knight. Anyway, The Dark Knight Rises is another solid outing from Nolan, is really fun even though it is flawed, and closes one of the greatest trilogies of all time off properly. Go watch these all again immediately. Go on.

PS: I just remembered now – this movie was totally worth every second of my two week self-enforced internet ban prior to its release (I hate getting things late in SA)! It still remains a running joke, and Natasha still can’t believe I underwent something like that for a movie.

June Blind Spot Review: Brokeback Mountain (2005)

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brokeback mountain poster

“I wish I knew how to quit you!”
– Jack Twist

SYNOPSIS: A raw, powerful story of two young men, a Wyoming ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy, who meet in the summer of 1963 sheepherding in the harsh, high grasslands of contemporary Wyoming and form an unorthodox yet life-long bond – by turns ecstatic, bitter and conflicted. – via IMDB

brokeback mountain
GRADE 8.5I have never, ever gotten around to seeing this movie, and I have no idea why not. It isn’t even because the subject matter makes me uncomfortable, it doesn’t faze me. I am always shocked to know that there are still so many people out there that get offended about people choosing who they wish to love and spend time with. It is an immensely private thing and has nothing to do with anybody, but that is just my opinion. Anyway, I know that this movie sparked controversy when it was released, and there is still a little taboo around the whole subject and jokes to boot. I just want to state that it is testament to the acting chops of both Ledger and Gyllenhaal that the roles that they took did not cripple their careers. Moving on to the movie itself, I thought it was shot really well and it was engaging and it was sad. Like “oh my gosh, that’s horrendous”. And not because the movie is so much pushing for and demanding you be sad, because let’s face it, Ennis Del Mar could be a real dweeb and you could not quite agree with what he was doing to his wife, no matter what the times, and I felt sorry for Alma Del Mar for knowing that he husband was not straight, but pretending anyway, but sad because it just gets under your skin, it has such a subtlety about it at the best of times. Damn, the era was different, but not so much so that we don’t still hear about stuff like that nowadays. Sexuality is still something that people hide and guard because of society’s views, and this movie shows the effect that being incapable of being yourself has on one, as well as the inability to accept who and what you are because of the standards set by society. Gyllenhaal and Ledger both delivered top notch performances, and got into their roles and made them convincing, not some roles that some popular Hollywood actors had taken on for money or controversy. They really embodied their characters, and Ledger excelled at being the angry, confused, silent one, whereas Gyllenhaal truly perfected Jack Twist, the dreamer, the chance taker. It was a bittersweet thing to watch Ledger in something again, what a loss 😦 This really was an absolutely amazing performance from him. Brokeback Mountain was shot well, had a score to match the setting (though totally not my kind of thing) and riddled with solid performances all round, from the wives to the extended families, it all comes together well. However, the driving force behind the movie will still remain the relationship between Jack and Ennis and the performances that Ledger and Gyllenhaal gave us to realise these men. Brokeback Mountain is a dramatic romance, and it is a beautiful flick all round. I think this was a great Blind Spot and I would highly recommend this movie to anyone, not just for the romance involved, but because it is a solid movie in quite a few ways.

Rapid Review: Interstellar (2014)

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interstellar poster

“We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”
– Cooper

SYNOPSIS: In the near future Earth has been devastated by drought and famine, causing a scarcity in food and extreme changes in climate. When humanity is facing extinction, a mysterious rip in the space-time continuum is discovered, giving mankind the opportunity to widen their lifespan. A group of explorers must travel beyond our solar system in search of a planet that can sustain life. The crew of the Endurance are required to think bigger and go further than any human in history as they embark on an interstellar voyage, into the unknown. Coop, the pilot of the Endurance, must decide between seeing his children again and the future of the human race.- via IMDB

interstellar

GRADE 8.5This has, undoubtedly, been my most anticipated movie of 2014. I have talked my other half’s ear off about how I cannot wait for it, so naturally I had to go the minute it pitched up here. I was not going to waste a second of my time waiting to get to it seeing how Gone Girl aired for only thirteen days in my useless cinema. If I missed this, someone was going to burn. So, what with all my excitement and anticipation, how did it stack up? I must say that I was extremely impressed. Visually it was absolutely gorgeous, though I didn’t expect anything less on that front. A solid cast carried this story for us, and I thought the performances were great all round. Initially I was not over the moon to see Anne Hathaway in such a large role for it, but she managed to not irritate me to the end. I was thrilled to see Matt Damon, I do so thoroughly enjoy the man, and McConaughey was fantastic as the lead, Cooper. The casting of the actors to play the children (Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet) was wonderful, and I was especially pleased to see Jessica Chastain and Casey Affleck play their grown counterparts. They fit the bill and were realistic and believable. I know that some people have complained about the dialogue being clunky, and also silly at times with explanations (such as explaining to an astronaut about a black hole in space), but I did not find this to be the case. I enjoyed most of their conversations (though at times it did get a little convoluted), and I was grateful for the explanations sprinkled throughout the movie, and the way it was done. It did not feel like Nolan was treating the cinema-goers like idiots, but rather just ensuring we were all on the same page, and I appreciated that. Naturally Hans Zimmer created a fantastic score to accompany the film, building up tension and emotion in all the right places, and coming in as nothing short of complementary. Interstellar manages to recreate some exceptionally sad emotional scenes, many of them stemming from the tapes that the astronauts are receiving from home in space. There was some humour in this film, which was lovely, but was certainly focused more on the dramatic aspect. I thought the multi-purpose robots were extremely cool, and I felt for Cooper, trying to be the best dad that he could. John Lithgow, as always, plays a wonderful fatherly/grandfatherly figure, and I always like seeing him, no matter how small his part. I do feel that Michael Caine could have been used more, but I understand that there were a lot of characters and time constraints. Interstellar is a long movie, but it is certainly a wonderful journey, even with the flaws that it has – as much as I have sung the praises, there are things that fall a little short of the mark, but were definitely not enough to cripple and ruin this movie for me. Interstellar was well worth the wait, in my opinion, and is a really good movie overall – most importantly, it is an experience. Christopher Nolan has, once again, delivered another stunning film, though this will certainly not be in a high running for taking over and outranking some of his other works.