Posted in Movies

“Wonder Woman” Kicked Ass

We all saw Gal Gadot onscreen as Diana, princess of Themyscira, demigoddess and Amazonian warrior, in Man of Steel 2: Batman vs. Superman last year, but she didn’t really get to shine until she got her own movie this summer. The box office revenue speaks for itself, Wonder Woman is set to be the highest grossing film of the summer, it’s breaking records like gangbusters, and it’s still in theaters. Still, the impact of Wonder Woman is possibly as of yet unknowable- it’s pretty amazing seeing a Jewish woman playing the warrior princess of legend, and a woman taking center stage in any superhero movie.
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The beginning of the movie is just beautiful, Themyscira is an untouched island of pure magic, populated by strong, powerful Amazons. This picturesque setting provides a perfect contrast to the smog-filled London streets and western front, which show the difference between the morally black-and-white world of Diana’s origin and the world of men and women, where there are gray areas. Diana’s character arc is partially based in her acquiring the understanding of a moral spectrum, and of the complications inherent in humanity. She sees Steve Trevor, and she sees an unquestionably good man, but his decisions confuse her, his choices seem out of character to her. She sees the gang of misfits they employ, and she sees that they contain their share of good, and does not understand how they can be so dissolute. In getting to know them as a proxy for all of humanity, she sees that they are morally complex, existing on a continuum of good and evil, not a binary. Selling goods at the war front, acting, and shooting people from behind are at first inscrutable to Diana, but she grows to understand. Her ability to empathize with others is her greatest asset, and she grows so much during the course of the film, as she takes on the world.
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The supporting actors are no less extraordinary than Gadot or Pine, both of whom are obviously wonderful in their roles, Robin Wright in particular being a standout. She conveys the love and concern of an aunt, while mentoring her young charge with the necessary pragmatism. Sacrificing her own life to save Diana is entirely within character, and her loss is a moving moment in the film. The inclusion of actors and characters of color is clearly deliberate, and it works. I have almost no complaints about the film, though it seems as though it could have easily been written by a female, rather than a male screenwriter. I know seeing the movie with my mom was an amazing experience, and I don’t doubt thousands of little girls out there had the same awe-filled reaction as I did.

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Posted in Movies

Netflix Gems: Rom Coms

We all love Netflix. It’s a service a lot of people use, which provides an excellent product and allows us to binge on television and movies in an easy and fun way. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find things to watch that you haven’t seen a million times, so I thought I would make a few lists of great things to watch on Netflix. So, without further ado, here are the best romantic comedies you can watch on Netflix.

  1. The Decoy Bride: This is a great movie, starring David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald. It’s set on a small Scottish island, where the beautiful Alice Eve portrays an actress trying to get married in secret, and the whole island gets totally turned upside down. Kelly Macdonald is lovely and sympathetic as the protagonist Katie, and the music is awesome.Image result for the decoy bride
  2. The Switch: Jennifer Aniston has her time and place, but the real strength of this movie is the cuteness between the father, Jason Bateman, and their son. This movie is not super profound, but it is a cute love story about falling in love with family.
  3. Practical Magic: Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman are both always a win, but as witches they are fun and sweet. The movie is about love, but also about sisterhood, Image result for bridget jones diaryand family. 100% would watch again.
  4. Bridget Jones’ Diary: The whole Bridget Jones cannon is brilliant, but the first film is always fun to come back to. You may have even forgotten some of the funniest bits.
  5. The Last Five Years: The songs are a bit hit or miss, but this movie-musical is beautifully romantic and terribly sad. Anna Kendrick continues to be a promising talent, and Jeremy Jordan is a great leading man. Don’t watch this if you want to be reassured of the reality of love, because it doesn’t end well.
  6. While You Were Sleeping: Wow, two Sandra Bullock movies in one list! This movie is just some sweet ’90s fun.
  7. After the Ball: A young woman gets kicked out of her family’s clothing company. What else is there to do but dress as a man and prove herself? She also happens to fall in love along the way. Very sweet, very Canadian.
  8. 10 Things I Hate About You: Another classic ’90s movie with a cast of some future famous people and some future nobodies. Funny, sweet, sex-positive and full of poetry.

That’s eight to get you started, comment your favorite rom-coms, specifically ones you can stream.

Posted in Movies

“Bridget Jones Baby” A Labor of Love

We haven’t had a new Bridget Jones in more than ten years, so it’s about time Renée Zellweger got back to charming the pants of me. The original is a classic, the sequel is hilarious, and this film, released in 2016, is a riot. A very worthy finale to a tremendous franchise, and one with a female star over forty! What a win.

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Bridget Jones is perpetually single, and having her back in the metaphorical saddle is just the best part of 2016. Her delivery continues to be perfect, and her two co-stars are the best pairing in a rom-com I’ve seen in a while. Patrick Dempsey wears so many cable knit sweaters. He’s great as the lonely billionaire our Bridge falls into bed with and yet not in love with. As a possible father, he is supportive, kind, and accommodating. By far his best moments are pretending to be Mark’s husband, and him being way too nice and kinda new age-y. The math guy wants a family, and one appears to him. His longing for a family makes sense, and his being a nice guy makes him do the right thing. He was a perfect replacement for Hugh Grant, whom all of us loved to hate as Daniel Cleaver.

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Emma Thompson is another pedigreed actress, and she brings the movie some much-appreciated brilliance. You probably need a sense of humor like that to be an OB-GYN, but she bounces off of the other characters with her good sense in a way that is both charming and ridiculous. I love her in everything, but she’s lovely in this, marrying her usual dry wit with kind sensibility.
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Colin Firth is his usual brilliant self, and I couldn’t get enough of him. He so desperately wants to be with Bridget, but he respects her and her choices and wants to do what it takes to make her happy. When he thinks that Jack is what will make her happy, he steps back. Mark loves Bridget enough to commit himself to another man’s son, while Jack isn’t quite that selfless. Also, Colin Firth breaking a window calmly is all I needed from life. I’m not sure if getting bitten or punched directly in the face is worse, but we all knew it was going to be Mark. It has always been Mark for Bridget. The film was excellent, made even better by a stellar soundtrack. It’s a fitting end to a great series, and it gives the first two films a great resolution. Also, Bridget bouncing her son on her hip one-armed is a move all moms have had to master. Good on you, Bridge.   Bridget Jones hot fabulous renee zellweger milf GIF

Posted in Movies

“Lego Batman” is Better

The commercial success of The Lego Movie was almost certainly going to be followed by a sequel, but The Lego Batman Movie was unanticipated, by me at least. Will Arnett is hilarious, and his part in The Lego Movie was highly entertaining, and it seems like intellectual property should prevent this, but nope. And now that I’ve seen the movie, I’m actually pretty floored.

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Unpopular opinion: I dislike Batman. He’s kind of bad at being a superhero, and the guy is in serious need of therapy. I have a lot of other reasons, but the bottom line is that Batman is mostly uninteresting to me. More popular opinion: I hated Man of Steel 2. I tried to watch Batman Begins but it bored me so much that I had to give up on it. I’m usually a completist, but it was genuinely so long and so dull that I just turned it off. Batman in general doesn’t interest me much, but I was such a fan of The Lego Movie that I decided I needed to see it, and it was a riot. Batman is funniest at his most self-aware, and this movie is remarkably good at poking fun at itself.

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The Lego Batman Movie makes Batman just as angsty and and as much of a loner as he’s been previously, but it’s just so funny to watch him do his own thing while his companions try to make him understand how insane he is. As the audience, we see Batman’s irrationality- but it’s funny, not frustrating. The supporting cast is a triumph- as previously stated, Rosario Dawson is always a win. Ralph Fiennes as Alfred is just gold, and Michael Cera performs an extremely Michael Cera role while being way more sympathetic than Batman is. The rest of the voice talent is first-class, and there are some real stars who you might not have recognized, including Conan O’Brien, Mariah Carrey, Jonah Hill and Ellie Kemper. Zach Galifianakis as the Joker is obviously the movie’s best character, frankly better than Jared Leto’s Joker in the epic failure Suicide Squad. The chemistry with the villains is flawless, and ultimately, I’d like to see more movies like this one.   lego lego batman the lego batman movie GIF

Posted in Books, Movies

The Lunar Chronicles Movie?

Cinder and its successors in The Lunar Chronicles have been a breakthrough in the last few years in the world of Young Adult fiction. Dystopian novels have been dominating the genre over the last ten years, but Cinder gives them all a run for their money. The books tackle race, mental illness, physical disabilities and differences, what it is to be human, and the laws of man and alien. A lot of YA books have been getting film adaptions, with varying degrees of success, including the very successful Hunger Games and the flop Divergent movies. Marissa Meyer, series author, has addressed movie rumors by saying that she no longer holds the movie rights, and that there is a script in the works. If done right, a Cinder movie could be a breakthrough for the genre, but casting could make or break the movie.

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For Cinder protagonist Linh Cinder, producers or studios may definitely attempt to white-wash the role. Meyer has specified that Cinder has Asian features or is mixed-race, with dark hair and eyes. But, since she is not outright identified as Asian in the books, it wouldn’t surprise me if they cast a white woman in this role. I have no idea who could play this complicated and nuanced character, but I hope they cast her properly, as a person of color. Her love interest, Kai, is specified as Asian, and must be played by an Asian actor, but that hasn’t stopped LA before.

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All of the protagonists are interesting, complicated and full of life. The role of Scarlet Benoit could go to a lot of actresses, since there are a lot of white redheads out there. If they’re casting for level of fame, the obvious choice is Emma Stone, who could definitely play younger, though I’ve never heard her do an accent. I also like Holland Roden of Teen Wolf fame, or maybe Bella Thorne. Scarlet would be a challenging role, she has a lot of complicated emotional baggage and her life only gets more complicated as the series continues. I don’t have any preferences for Cress, although I think Evanna Lynch could be the right choice. She plays innocent well, and she looks like Cress.

In general, I don’t have a lot of preferences for this movie. I think, if it happens, it will be a big-budget franchise, and there’s a lot at stake. My only real concern is casting characters of color, specifically Winter and Cinder, who are specified as being POC. In terms of the male roles, there isn’t huge room for error. All of the series’ characters are fleshed out, but the female characters are more complex than Hollywood usually goes for. I think that this could be a step in the right direction, assuming no one screws up.

Posted in Movies

On Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson has been in countless blockbuster films, is critically acclaimed and considered one of the sexiest women alive. She has a net worth of 55 million, and has her pick of roles in Hollywood. The only problem? Those roles are pretty scant.

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Aside from the occasional gem, most roles for attractive young women in movies aren’t great. And why is that? Because Hollywood doesn’t know how to write complex women. While this year has been groundbreaking in terms of movies with dynamic female leads, including hit fantasy adventure Malificent, there is still a lot of change that needs to happen.

Avenger Black Widow animated GIFJohansson is funny, charismatic and clever in interviews. She has become a fan favorite for her portrayal of Black Widow/Natasha Romanov in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that is saying something. Marvel comics purists and comic book fans of all colors are always critical of casting, but Johansson nailed the role of the Avenger’s single female team member. Having appeared in Iron Man 2, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Johansson is a constant scene stealer. In Iron Man 2, her allegiance is the question, until she reveals herself to be on the side of the good guys, and a total bad ass. In The Avengers, her relationships are explored and she gets to work as part of a team, something that is outside of her comfort zone, as she is used to being the team. And, most recently, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where she bonds and works closely with the titular hero, Steve Rogers. Johansson really showcases her range in that film, as Romanov has to deal with the supposed loss of a father figure, and the destruction of her life’s work in protecting humanity and working with SHIELD. Fans anticipate her role in the next Avengers movie, expected in 2015, as well as a rumored Black Widow movie suspected to be in the works.

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While Scarlett Johansson has done very well for herself as Romanov, she still has appeared in films that do less for her. In recent film Lucy, Johansson plays a party girl turned drug mule who essentially becomes invincible. The film is highly flawed, and the central premise is just false, making the movie rather hard to swallow. Johansson does what she can with what she’s given- which isn’t much. Lucy is a prime example of the roles Johansson is given – flat female characters who serve as vehicles for plot, without having defining characteristics of their own. She plays love interests, girlfriends, the kind of roles that are available to beautiful young women. These roles are mostly set pieces, not characters, even. They aren’t complex women, real people- they’re entirely defined by their relationships to other characters, either men or children, or their employment. So stop bashing Scarlett, she’s doing all she can, and she’s fabulous.

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Posted in Books, Movies

Thoughts on Allegiant

For a long time, I resisted the pull to read the popular Divergent Trilogy. I had already been disappointed by The Hunger Games books, and I have read too many other dystopias that are good to waste my tolerance for the genre on a poor facsimile. However, I did decide to give the first book a chance. I read it, and found it to be very interesting and compelling, and purely for reasons of completion, decided to read the other two.

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Here we go!

While I found Insurgent tolerable and even interesting, it was really fast paced, which made it difficult to cram all of the character development Roth wanted to fit in into the novel. I read Insurgent and Allegiant back to back, which might have exacerbated the obvious and problematic differences in the latter. Roth’s explanation of “We’re all just rats in someone’s locker” falls completely flat. If you replace every time they say “science” or “genetics” with “magic” “voodoo” or “energy” the story would be exactly the same! Oh, by the way, your whole world is a lie. And all of the characters reconcile themselves with this pretty damn quickly! The dual perspective is a bit jarring, it’s a bit distracting from the narrative flow. It is nice to see things from Four’s perspective for a change, but he and Tris seem to think fairly similarly. The world Roth created outside “the experiment” doesn’t make much sense. How can so few people be rebelling with any effect? Surely someone remembers the countless other wars fought in the name of equality? My other problem with Allegiant is that I can’t think of it ending any other way. With most endings that upset me, I can just make up my own ending and be happy with that. But with the story that Veronica Roth was trying to tell, the ending she wrote is the only one that I can see. Of course Tris would never willingly let someone die for her, if she could save them and sacrifice herself. When Tris tried to die for everyone in Insurgent, she was saved, because she was trying to sacrifice herself for selfish reasons. But when she died to preserve her city and change the world that she had just discovered, she did something entirely in character with the person she had become. But it didn’t stop me from just bawling like a small child.

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The problem is that Roth gets you very invested in Tris and Four’s relationship. So many people die in the course of the books, but Tris was the main character. We heard her thoughts and knew her deepest feelings, we connected with her. If she had not sacrificed her life for her brother, it would not have not been in character, but this is the story that Roth chose to tell. Tris and Tobias have their happiness but for a little while, it’s like teasing. They have so little time together when they’re just happy and get to be themselves. They’re always fighting a war that they were born into, and later a fight that they don’t even have ownership of. While I don’t think the ending is fair, life isn’t fair. Neither is death. Who cares? Tris did the right thing. She did the only thing she could. There was no ending to this book that had her live. Tobias honored her by defying his fears. He reconciled with his mother, and stopped the war. He did what he had to do, and so did she. The ending isn’t fair to Tobias, and I can definitely see him developing a drinking problem later in life, but it was the only ending. And, despite my grief, I have accepted that. Bye Casablanca animated GIF