Review: The Equalizer (2014)

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the equalizer poster

“Got to be who you are in this world, no matter what.”
– Robert McCall

SYNOPSIS: A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by – he has to help her. – via IMDB

the equalizer gif

I missed this in cinemas when it came out (blame the exams, always the exams)and could not wait to see it. I loved it when I finally did watch it, and decided recently it needed a rewatch before I could go on to the new onw. Gathering my other half the other night, we sat down and got ready to watch the excellent Denzel tear up the town again. Let me just tell you, we were not disappointed, not even for one moment.

The Equalizer is paced fantastically – I liked that it concentrated on some story, and didn’t just get lost in action, but didn’t focus so much on the story that it was purely a drama. Also, let’s not forget Washington’s portrayal as Robert McCall. I was so impressed with him (I usually am) and I thought that he was super badass. He was very cool, well-respected, I liked the way he was so important to so many people and yet when he went home it was solitary, lonely and depressing.

That changes when McCall becomes a scary machine and starts fixing Boston, intense I tell you! There were some kill styles introduced that I have to admit were fresh and original (I know how that sounds), and an antagonist opposite McCall that was worthy of his time, escalating the events (though there could have been a more hardcore showdown). There was nothing left untouched by McCall to craft his weapons with, and that alone was entertaining enough to carry so much. The soundtrack fit with the movie perfectly, and The Equalizer was shot very nicely, too.

There was not one moment of boredom for me, and I was taken in with the entire presentation of the film. Great job all round, and I can definitely highly recommend this one. It has more substance than your average movie of this type, and though it follows a recipe, it doesn’t get boring.

Review: Death Note (2017)

5

“Every human spends the last moments of his life in the shadow of a death god.”
– Ryuk

SYNOPSIS: Light Turner, a bright student, stumbles across a mystical notebook that has the power to kill any person whose name he writes in it. Light decides to launch a secret crusade to rid the streets of criminals. Soon, the student-turned-vigilante finds himself pursued by a famous detective known only by the alias L. – via IMDB

You know, I wondered how this was going to go down. I am sure there are going to be a ton of people that are going to hate on it and knock on it (yes, I see I am right having Googled the reception and rating). Anime is not an easy thing to bring to screen, and I must confess I have skipped a lot of the things. I don’t watch anime, though my brother in law and a very close friend of mine swear by it.

Now, while I do not and have not watched a lot of animes, Death Note is one of the few I actually did watch. Well, most of it, until it got so drawn out and boring I wanted to scratch my eyes out. It was entertaining until about halfway, three quarters through, then it just got crazy. When I saw the run-time for this, I was interested to see how exactly Wingard was going to handle the whole story and bring it to life. In short, pretty damn well actually.

Yes, I know a lot of people might want to shoot me for that, and I don’t care. I liked that this was fast and got to the core of the story without all the filler stuff that just bored me out of finishing it initially. The movie felt a bit longer than it was, not because I was bored, but because there was a hell of a lot of content crammed into a short space of time. It never felt rushed though, which is a bonus. It set up what was needed and then told the story, and it came together pretty well.

A big drawback for me was the casting of Keith Stanfield as L, he just didn’t really feel right. The other actors fit and did alright with their roles, but Stanfield just stood out because he did not seem to gel with the other actors, and his performance came across as forced, which I didn’t like. Also, I could have done with more of Ryuk. Light was definitely a strange character here, like he was never scared of Ryuk, but that also didn’t always hurt this. It all just rolled along fine, just strange.

As this was done by Wingard, it looked stylish and I enjoyed the soundtrack and score. Wingard understands style, that’s for sure, so that was one of the things nailed down really well in Death Note. All things being said, I quite enjoyed this and I really think the internet is hating on it way more than it deserves.

Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

9

“I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.”
– Diana Prince

SYNOPSIS: When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, an Amazonian warrior in training, leaves home to fight a war, discovering her full powers and true destiny. – via IMDB

So I am sure my husband and I were some of the few who did not see Wonder Woman in cinema. I didn’t expect much of it before it came, and I was really surprised when the rave reviews started pouring in, which piqued my interest. I then wanted to know if this was really as good as everyone was making it out to be. So finally we sat down to it and watched it, and I liked it (but didn’t love the crap out of it like most did).

This is probably one of the best DC films to come since Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. For reals. Warner Brothers churns out some fantastic trailers for these substandard films for sure, and it is a pity because DC has some super awesome stuff to bring to the table. Wonder Woman is certainly not perfect, but it definitely demonstrates a marked improvement on what we have so far.

Yes, yes, there is the strong feminist message here that has been discussed to death and debated back and forth, so I only want to touch on in long enough to say that it was really nice to see a female heroine, a woman to come in and own on screen, and Gadot did just that. She is impressive to watch here, and I certainly think she is a great casting choice. It is refreshing to see how a woman here can be strong while being feminine, optimistic, emotional and be allowed to cry and not be looked at as weak. The movie addressed how women have been dismissed for centuries, but it didn’t feel too preachy or anything, just showed that it is a bizarre concept, and that Diana was going to do her thing despite what society expected of her. I liked Gadot and Chris Pine together, I thought they shared some decent chemistry, though I really feel that their romance was a bit too brief and quick.

I feel that the CGI was a bit awkward and rather bad at the best of times, and I feel that the movie had an incredibly long run time that didn’t seem justified. It was really long, but didn’t feel like it actually used the time properly, if that makes sense? It was like not much happened, or was fleshed out properly. I guess we will just call that pacing issues. Also, the humour was quite cheesy at times, too.

I also felt a little cheated that Robin Wright was in and out so quickly – it made me think of how Bryan Cranston was used as a big selling point for Godzilla, and ultimately you are left feeling cheated. That being said, she was really good here. I thought that Hippolyta was quite annoying – she was overly possessive and came across as cowardly and not like a strong queen, which is a pity because I think that is because something here was rushed and not looked into quite properly.

Overall Wonder Woman is quite a decent watch. Not the perfect movie, and certainly not the first super strong woman we have seen on screen, but it is quite a fun watch. It didn’t feel too long, though there were some issues with what it felt like the movie contained afterwards, and had some good costume design. Gadot is particularly good here, and certainly has you interested in Wonder Woman – totally interested in seeing where she goes from here, and how she holds her own with the guys later on. I am looking forward to seeing what comes from future DC films, to see how Wonder Woman influences their marketing, writing, and implementation.

April Blind Spot Review: The Help (2011)

6

“God says we need to love our enemies. It hard to do. But it can start by telling the truth. No one had ever asked me what it feel like to be me.”
– Aibileen Clark

SYNOPSIS: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis. – via IMDB

I didn’t really know what to expect going into this, I did as little reading on it as possible. I was only told that it is really good and well worth the watch. The subject matter is something that interests me, and it wasn’t long before I realised that this was a movie I was going to enjoy based purely on the fact that the subject matter was handled from the perspective of women alone.

Let’s get right to this by saying that there are some great characters in this, and there are some truly reprehensible ones. Emma Stone is, of course, absolutely fantastic to watch here – sassy and strong. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are brilliant – also strong women – brave women. Then there is Jessica Chastain, and she is such a sweet, innocent character. These are all characters that you like. They had good chemistry and worked well together. I enjoyed watching Celia and Minny every second, and the relationship between Aibileen and Skeeter is also touching.  On the other side of the spectrum, there is only one I really need to mention here, and that is Bryce Dallas Howard. Her character is so cruel and mean, and Howard plays her so well that you resent her guts. Ugh. Nasty stuff. I get mad just thinking about her transgressions and views.

Anyway, telling the civil rights struggle from the perspective of the women was something new, and that it was being investigated by another woman was also good. So often we hear of the plight from men, but the women, too, had stories to tell. The movie managed to balance cruelty, humour, joy and sadness very well, but it must also be noted that the subject matter, while heavy, never gets as heavy as it could. Look at it as this being a lighter serious movie, if that makes sense. Simplistic, that would be the word I would use. Also probably safe. Drama, yes, but not on the levels of, say, The Colour Purple or American History X.

A sweet film that tackles some heavy issues, but never really going for the guts and glory, but certainly carried by stellar performances and a great cast, so as to elevate it to an enjoyable watch. The movie plays it safe, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing here. Worth a watch.

100 Happy Days 2: Day 41 – 50

5

We are coming up to the halfway mark here folks! Can you believe it?! Amazing.

Day 41:

Lazy Sunday meant a lovely, lazy slow cooker chicken curry. My goodness, it was awesome ❤

Day 42:

First French manicure in forever – nice and all, just usually find them boring. However, this worked out really nicely, and lasted three whole days before I decided I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Day 43:

Ran out of my favourite eyeliner recently (Avon Always On Point) and had to order more. The new ones finally arrived and all is right and balanced in my world again. Phew.

Day 44:

This “formal letter note” that Natasha left for me on my birthday a few years ago still endlessly entertains me. I am so lucky to have such an awesome bestie, truly! “This gift is not from me” xD gets me every time.

Day 45:

Whoop! I love it when I get to hit all my step goals at work, it’s great.

Day 46:

Hmmmm, a McDonald’s McFizz is just fantastic, so refreshing in this heat. Yummy!

Day 47:

Oh yeah! Got wool for a new project I am working on for myself. I am so in love with this red! Cannot wait to see how it all works out in the end.

Day 48:

Oh wow! I’m becoming a huge fan of this Yardley Supermoist lipstick for numerous reasons. It is really moisturising, the colour holds for some time, and the shade is amazing (Toffee Cream). I can see this becoming an everyday lipstick for me, it goes with pretty much anything.

Day 49:

You can never be too old for stuffed animals, in my opinion. This is a little sand filled lizard my husband got me when we went to the reptile park.

Day 50:

Love it – Pepsi and a good book.

Review: Don’t Breathe (2016)

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dont-breathe-movie-poster

“There is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no god.”
– The Blind Man

SYNOPSIS: Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems. – via IMDB

dont-breathe-blind-man

GRADE 8So there was quite a bit of hype surrounding this one. I missed a lot of the hype in my country,  but caught a lot of it online. I decided to give it a look see the other day, and I was pleasantly surprised. As a rule, I am not usually a very big fan of home invasion films. Recently I saw Hush, which was supposed to be excellent because it brought a new spin to the home invasion genre. I liked it okay, but found it quite bland. Don’t Breathe is a different kind of animal.

It has a rather small, limited cast, but this does not detract from the film. Daniel Zovatto might have been the weakest addition to it, but between Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Stephen Lang, you are hooked every minute of it. The movie is shot really well, which is something I am starting to expect from Fede Alvarez. It wasn’t overly dark (the images, goodness knows the story got pretty messed up), which is a major flaw in these types of movies, and even when it was totally in the dark, you could see what was going on the whole time. I also thought that the movie maintained really good tension throughout, which is not an easy thing to pull off.

The story is nothing over the top, and the pacing is excellent. You get what you need, when you need it. Don’t Breathe doesn’t rush to blow its payload, but isn’t so slow as to frustrate you. A simple story, sure, but engaging from the off. And I swear, whatever you are thinking when watching this about the door? It doesn’t come close to the twist the movie actually delivers, which is refreshing. And beyond super ick. While the characters are not all likable, they do grow on you, and it doesn’t even take that long. This is definitely a home invasion with a different pattern going for it, and it works. I was really hooked from the off, and the run time is perfect – it never overstays its welcome.

dont-breathe-movie

However, even with all this praise, there were some niggles with it too, and a lot of that has to do with the decisions the characters make and some of the logic that is applied by the characters. Also, the characters are really underdeveloped, and while that is typical for this type of genre, it becomes a bit of an issue when you are supposed to root for the old man, and then the thieves, and back and forth. It’s cool because, for once, there is not one clear, innocent party to root for, but also sucks because knowing more about the characters could have been helpful. Let’s not forget the faulty alarm, multiple gunshots being fired in a neighbourhood and zero interest from the neighbours, or cops.

Don’t Breathe is a well directed little home invasion thriller that is carried by solid performances, an engaging story, and the sheer simplicity of this. I would highly recommend this one, and I can see now why it has so many fans.

I would say skip the trailer and just go in blind (har har), much better experience.

Review: Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter

6

karin slaughter pretty girls cover

SYNOPSIS: Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7Gosh, I have had this book for a while and yet I never got to it (shame on me), which is madness, you all know that I am a major Karin Slaughter junkie. Anyway, finally it was time. I really like the fact that Slaughter has a bunch of standalone novels, and they are really good, but I am having serious Will Trent withdrawals, and totally need another look see and a story there. NOTE: It would appear that her latest novel is a Trent one, yay!

Pretty Girls is structured in a strange way, but that is not a bad thing. There are sections where a father writes to his daughter, by way of journal, then other parts that tell a certain part of the story from one person’s perspective, and then later by another. There was a plotsie that I thought about round about the same time Paul died, and I brushed it aside because come on, this is Slaughter, she is not a rookie writer. I almost kicked myself shortly thereafter because the cliché and predicted plotsie came to pass. You can ask Natasha, I was supremely miffed by the turn of events, and was not best pleased. I reminded myself that this was Karin Slaughter we were talking about, this woman has got this. My faith paid off, and she corrected what I thought was a blunder, and made it work for her.

Pretty Girls is not filled with a lot of likable characters. In fact, you would be hard pressed to particularly enjoy either of the leads, but they grow on you. I did like the deceased father, Sam, though it is evident that pain and suffering and obsession ripped his family apart. Rick was awfully nice, too. The novel barrels along, and at just over 400 pages, one would assume that it feels long. Well, that is totally not the case, and the pages rush by, expounding a story that tells you about what loss can do to a family, and the variety of coping mechanisms that people turn to, for better or worse. While there are some brutal moments laced throughout the novel (and they do pop up from time to time), they are not nearly as harsh as her usual works, which surprised me a little.

While this was not my favourite novel of hers, I had a really good time and would obviously recommend this to folks. Slaughter is good. I mean, really, really good.

Review: Hideaway – Dean Koontz

7

hideaway cover

SYNOPSIS: He was clinically dead after the accident—but was miraculously revived. Now Hatch Harrison and his wife approach each day with a new appreciation for life.

But something has come back with Hatch from the other side. A terrible presence that links his mind to a psychotic’s, so that a force of murderous rage courses through him. – via Goodreads

GRADE 6.5Alright, so my reading slump is lessening. Not much, not too fast, but I definitely have a whole lot of books I wanted to check out. I stuck with Koontz because, as we have established, they are usually fast, light, decent reads. This one took forever to go anywhere though, and I was getting right annoyed. The car accident, rescue, and hospital revival took 130 pages. That is lunacy! Anyway, while it dwindled and took forever and six days to start catching, when it did, it got interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the last half of the book. The concept was pretty cool, a man resuscitated after being dead for so long, and coming back a little different, with a super creepy connection to a pretty dark dude. Aside from that, it is pretty standard work (Koontz has a formula, or so I have noticed). A balance is struck between telling us the story from the perspective of the good and the evil, and Vassago’s character was interesting, and intrigued when he was given the limelight. I did enjoy the few times we got to read about things from Regina’s perspective, her conversations/prayers were quite amusing. There are quite a few clunky parts in Hideaway, but nothing so bad it couldn’t be read. I liked this, but didn’t love it, though it definitely takes time to get into. Some seem to have been riveted by the opening of this novel. I found it to be tedious though. Quick read, after you get past the beginning, though it won’t be breaking any boundaries of other Koontz books, as far as I can tell. Will see what the next one brings me!

Rapid Review: Black Mass (2015)

22

black-mass-poster

“It’s not what you do, it’s when and where you do it, and who you do it to or with. If nobody sees it, it didn’t happen.”
– Whitey Bulger

SYNOPSIS: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf. – via IMDB

black mass

GRADE 7I watched this recently as it came back with some great reviews. Now, while I liked it, I didn’t love it (I feel there are infinitely better gangster movies out there). That being said, this is, without a doubt, the finest Johnny Depp has been in years. I was so stoked to see a movie where he was actually doing something again, wasn’t the same cut and dry quirky character we have seen him embody recently. I liked that, and was reminded why Johnny Depp was so insanely loved at a stage. He was a crazy Bulger, and those contacts he wore really freaked me out (they really looked unnatural). Edgerton was also, as is to be expected, a solid pick for John Connolly, and did a great job with his character. I have to say, the movie played it way too safe. It was formulaic, albeit carried by really good performances. At the end of the day, it used a tried and tested formula, and didn’t even try to push the boundaries, which is a pity considering the cast the film touts. So much more could have come from this. It stays within the bounds of “safe”, but never breaks through to “great”. The pacing is fine, not rushed, not too slow, but at times I wished more focus had been given to certain things and less to others. The characters were not as developed as they could be, and for a true story, I definitely think that more could have been done. Black Mass is certainly not a bad watch, and is absolutely, one hundred percent worth it if you want to see if Depp still has the goods (which he does, here, anyway), because the performances are definitely the highlight of this film.

Rapid Review: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

27

what's eating gilbert grape poster

“We don’t really move. I mean, we’d like to, but… my mom is sort of attached to the house. Attached is, I guess, not the right word. She’s pretty much wedged in.”
– Gilbert Grape

SYNOPSIS: Gilbert Grape lives in Endora, a place where nothing much happens. The only times the police get something to do is when Gilbert’s autistic brother Arnie tries to climb up on the watertower nearby. Taking care of Arnie is mostly Gilbert’s task which can be pretty demanding, at least while you are working at the local grocery store. Then one day Becky and her grandmother pass through Endora getting trouble with the car. Gilbert falls in love with Becky, but gets problems when he tries to find time for his own private life. – via IMDB

what's eating gilbert grape supper

GRADE 8I am sure most people have seen this, and if not, that is certainly something that needs to be changed! There is a lot to like about this movie, even after so many years. For one, DiCaprio. Of course I was going to start there, you all know I head up the DiCaprio club around here hahaha. No matter how young or how old, or how complex the role, DiCaprio never ceases to amaze me. His portrayal of Arnie was heartwrenching and heartwarming both at once, and his character was adorable. He really shines here, stands out, and is so totally believable every step of the way. Johnny Depp is not to be forgotten, playing Gilbert Grape, back when he still used to take on diverse roles. I was a fan of Gilbert, he was a complex and layered character, someone I could identify with and root for. The relationship between Arnie and Gilbert is beautiful, and DiCaprio and Depp give it so much power, too. The movie is a slow burn and a heavy drama, so don’t think you are going to sit down, get ninety minutes of simple film, and move on. The story tells us about Gilbert, the obstacles in his life, the people he is surrounded by, his friendships and his family, the burden he bears, and the responsibilities he perceives. Watching his struggles is quite an ordeal, and you admire Gilbert for holding things together for so long. I think he and Becky were a great fit for each other. The humour is very entertaining in here, and at the same time it can get so damn depressing you actually feel it inside (think – bathtub, slaps). The supporting characters all contribute to the story in their own way, too, and help make this film something that lingers after you have seen it. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape gets you thinking on a lot of things in life, and is shot well, the pacing is right, drawing you into a lazy day in Endora, showing us that small town and the life it holds and the people that populate it. I enjoyed this, and would highly recommend this, even after all these years it holds up quite well.