Movie Review: Spiderman: Far From Home (2019)

I’ve always had a soft spot for the Spiderman franchise. I grew up with animated Spiderman and Toby Maguire Spiderman, and I enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s version, too. I really, really adore the new versions, though. Tom Holland suits Peter Parker best, I think, and I love what they’ve done with Peter’s relationship with Tony Stark. The father/son dynamic that they have/had going is lovely to behold. I also love the new Aunt May and the new MJ. Something about the new films just feels lighter than the other versions – and more believable as high school? I adore the other versions, but none of the actors looked young enough to be a sixteen year old Peter Parker.

This latest one takes place after Infinity War/Endgame, all of which I saw way after the fact. I actually prefer that, though. Seeing them once the hype dies down makes them much more enjoyable as you aren’t going in with far too much expectation. This one follows Peter, MJ and Ned on their class trip to Europe a few months after everyone has returned to life as normal as possible post-Avengers. Happy’s now dating May, while Nick Fury is trying to regain control of the situation in general (i.e. how to fill the Tony Stark shaped hole in everyone’s lives).

It’s on the class trip that shenanigans strike, and with them comes Mysterio, and Peter is once more dragged into the thick of things – all the while trying to profess his feelings to MJ. Poor Peter!

I thought Tom Holland was as brilliant as ever in this. You can see from the start how heavy a loss it is for Peter not to have Tony around and I seriously wish we could’ve had another movie of just them bantering. ;_;

I really liked that this film wasn’t as grand scale, for want of a better phrase, as the previous ones. Honestly, what I loved so much about Antman (2015) was how the final showdown took place on a boardgame and I liked how this one was just focusing on Peter learning how to move on with his life, struggling with confessing to MJ, his friendships with Ned and Happy, and just generally more day-to-day goings-on in the life of the Friendly Neighbourhood Spiderman. The focus on a smaller scale, more friends-and-family-drama was a welcome addition to the franchise and brought all the FEELS.

Comic Books: Mini Reviews

I never got into comic books and graphic novels when I was younger, but recently I’ve been getting into them. I had read a few: Fence, Heartstopper and Pumpkinheads, but I haven’t dived head first, as it were, until recently. And now I can’t stop!

I started out with The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina because they popped up for free and I figured I’d give them a try. I’ve seen a couple episodes of the show but haven’t finished it yet. The comics are insanely dark. Like, whoa. I was not expecting how dark they were going to end up. (I’m still like w h a t). Sabrina Spellman is half girl, half witch, growing up with her aunts, but everything changes when she’s supposed to reject her human side – what follows is a series of insanely gruesome events that culminate on quite the cliffhanger. It’s now put me in the mood to finish the show, but they’re also, like, supremely different.

I followed The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina with Afterlife with Archie, which are basically ‘what would happen in Riverdale if Archie and the gang had to deal with zombies and werewolves’. I do vaguely recall old Archie comics scattered around the place when I was growing up, but I don’t really remember much about them except the art style. This set is more à la Chilling Adventures, and are quite short and horror-filled. I’ve since started Riverdale, the companion comics to the show. They’re pretty enjoyable, too!

The Swords of Glass was a pleasant surprise! It’s set in a world where the sun is about to die and a glass sword falls from the skies and lands in stone (sort of like Excalibur, but on another world). There are a few parts to it and I’m curious to see how the story wraps up. The artwork is also fantastic. Probably my favourite so far was Liebestrasse, which absolutely shattered my soul. I’M STILL NOT OVER THIS ONE. It follows two men who fall in love in Germany on the eve of World War II. I’ll just leave it at that ;_;

If anyone has any recommendations for comic books/graphic novels, do let me know!

Film Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

One of my first memories is of The Nutcracker and hearing those familiar chords. I come from a household obsessed with ballet, so of course. I love the music so much; the dances are enchanting; and I’m a sucker for anything festive and snowy. I’m not Christian, but I do adore holiday films. (Let it be said that we need more Jewish holiday films!) But I digress … Also, my love of The Nutcracker is only slightly trumped by my love of Keira Knightley, so of course I wanted to watch The Nutcracker and the Four Realms – she’s the Sugar Plum Fairy!! Sign. Me. Up.

This version follows young Clara after her mother’s died and has left her an egg, but it’s locked and Clara doesn’t know what’s inside. Additionally, she and her father are at odds over her refusal to engage with daily life, but Clara’s too sad to do more than invent things in the attic with her brother. Only her sister’s suggestion that their godfather might be able to open the egg convinces her at last to join her family at the dance. There, her godfather conspires to give her the key to the egg through a gift-treasure-hunt that leads Clara from the ball into the Four Realms, a magical place where holiday toys come alive. There she meets a whole host of colourful, vibrant characters who reveal to her that her mother was once queen.

This movie is so lovely and Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy is perfection. I do feel like it went a bit too much into the ‘we need to make this an epic action/adventure film just because’ territory, when I just wanted it to be more ballet and wonder, but it was good fun overall and definitely worth a watch over the holidays!

Show Review: Big Love (2006)

As a Veronica Mars fangirl (the show, the books and the movie, I ain’t about that last spoiler in the miniseries I don’t want to see now, ugh), I feel like I should have got around to Big Love sooner. But alas, it took me some time. Seeing Mac (Tina Majorino) and Lily (Amanda Seyfried) as best friends is great, though. Their friendship alone sold me on the show, but honestly the whole cast are superb and I’m really glad I finally got around to watching it. You also have Ginnifer Goodwin, who is just adorable. It’s also very in the theme of Once Upon a Time alums over here at my blog, seeing as how I just marathoned Manifest with Josh Dallas, her real life husband.

Big Love follows the large – and growing – Henrickson family in Utah. The family lives by ‘The Principle’. They’re polygamists living away from the fundamentalist compound where Bill, the patriarch, was raised as a boy and kicked out of when he was fourteen. He initially married Barb, intending to maintain monogamy, and they had three children together: Sarah, Ben and Tancy. After Barb gets cancer, and thankfully recovers, she can’t have children any more and Bill takes a second wife, Nicki. Nicki and Barb grew close during Barb’s cancer, as Nicki was her caretaker. Nicki and Bill have two children together. A few years later, Bill, Barb and Nicki marry Margene, Nicki’s former babysitter. Subsequently, Margene and Bill have children.

The show begins a few years after everyone’s married. Bill’s running a large business and divides his time between three houses the family share. Overall, things are quiet and normal, until drama and tension begins to chip away at their life when Nicki’s father, Roman Grant, begins pressuring Bill for a stake in his businesses. Soon the whole family and the entire compound are at odds.

What I found so interesting about this show are the characters and their dynamics. Margene is young and flighty and open-minded about everything; Sarah hates polygamy but loves her family; Ben struggles with being a teenager and wanting to follow the rules; Barb loves her husband most yet wants him to be happy; and Nicki … Nicki is fascinating. She drives me absolutely barmy at times, but she’s got her good moments and is loyal and strong. There’s also Heather, Sarah’s best friend, who is deeply religious and believes polygamy is wrong, but adores Sarah and grows close with the family despite their differences of opinion.

I didn’t know much about the history of the religion or how any of it worked before now and I think the show presents everything with an open mind. It’s also interesting to see how the family interact with different sects of Christianity. Overall, I think the series is a character study and one that tries to focus on the relationships, the complications, the humanity, more than taking sides of any argument. It’s very well done and I’m curious to see how it ends!

Show Review: Tin Star (2017)

I’d never heard of Tin Star until yesterday when it popped up on my streaming service, but I really like Tim Roth as an actor (Pulp Fiction is the movie my partner and I watched on our first date, haha) and figured I’d give it a go. I also found out the amazing Christina Hendricks is in the show, so OF COURSE.

FYI: it’s brilliant.

As usual, this has some spoilers.

The series is set in Canada (yay!) and follows an English-Irish family who have just arrived in the small, picturesque town of Little Big Bear. The opening scene is one that really sets the grim, brutal tone of the series: the family are driving fast, afraid, on the way to Calgary. They stop at a petrol station and the young son tells them he has to go to the toilet. When they pause, just for a second, a man in a mask appears and fires into the front window. We only see blood spray on the daughter, so it’s unclear who’s been hurt inside the car.

The show then flashes back a year to the family’s arrival in the town. Jim is the new sheriff, his wife Angela is settling in with the kids, Anna and Peter. The family want a fresh start and things are looking up in the town. Jim’s arrival at work is so quiet that the other officers are playing video games and tell him to go fishing; Angela goes to sell some fudge at a local fair and meets Elizabeth Bradshaw, another new arrival. Elizabeth, we soon find out, is the spokeswoman for North Stream Oil, who want to move in and start working around the town. Jim and many of the other townsfolk oppose this, but the push for more income into the town is strong. Susan, Jim’s friend, says people have been following her since she started speaking out. (I got really strong Zone Blanche vibes, actually.)

The harassment of those opposing the company begins to pick up, but the proof is hard to find. Until Susan is found dead in an apparent suicide on the side of the road. Not everyone believes this, however, and Jim and his officers start looking into other reasons she might have been targeted. Unbeknownst to Jim, Louis Gagnon, the head of security for the company, has bugged his office and is hearing every word that goes on.

Then, one night, Jim and his family are attacked in their home. They gather their things to leave and we arrive back at the intro scene. We find out that Jim ducked upon seeing the shooter and that the victim in the car is young Peter. (It’s really, really heart-wrenching.) Angela, too, is injured and taken to surgery. As Jim and Anna reel from the painful series of events, Jim spirals back into alcoholism and we learn that he has an alter-ego: Jack. Jack is nothing like Jim. One is a cop, one is a criminal. And so Jack begins trying to track down who killed his son by truly brutal means.

And the answer is far from clearcut … (trust me, the twists, guys!)

I was so stunned by how intricate and engrossing this series is. The actors are absolutely amazing, the scenery stunning and the soundtrack is lush. If you like crime drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat, this one is for you.

Show Review: Manifest (2018)

Awww yuuuus, this show is my absolute jam! It’s like Lost meets Heroes meets Tru Calling and has filled my sci-fi need. The plot follows the Stone family: Michaela Stone, a detective with a troubled past, and Ben Stone, Michaela’s brother and husband to Grace, and father of Cal and Olive. After a trip to Jamaica with their parents, the flight gets overcrowded and passengers are offered alternative routes if they’re willing. Michaela, who’s struggling with going home after the death of her best friend in a drink driving accident, and not sure how she’s going to respond to her boyfriend’s proposal, opts to take a later flight to postpone it. Ben and Cal offer to stay behind with her. Cal is dealing with leukaemia and isn’t responding to treatment and has no desire to go back home, either.

*spoilers*

On the flight, the plane is struck by intense turbulence, but everyone’s okay and the pilot requests permission to land. He’s met with bewilderment from the air traffic controller and the plane is diverted to another airport where the passengers are greeted by police and the FBI. After disembarking, the passengers are told that they’ve been missing for five years. Confused and upset, they’re questioned for days but are finally let go after thirty-six hours. Grace, Ben’s wife, and Olive, his daughter and Cal’s twin sister, meet them at the airport, along with Ben and Michaela’s dad, but they find out that their mother’s passed away in the time they’ve been missing, and Jared Vasquez, Michaela’s boyfriend, is now married to her best friend Lourdes. Grace, too, has a boyfriend. But the personal complications are the least complicated part of their return.

Michaela’s on a bus a couple days later when she starts to hear a voice telling her to ‘stop’. She forces the bus to stop and, amazingly, saves a child’s life. Later, she and Ben both hear the same voice telling them to free a pair of dogs. The deed leads Michaela to saving two kidnapped children. She and Ben dub the voices their ‘callings’ and soon the voices lead them to other passengers, namely Saanvi Bahl, a doctor whose cancer research is curing children with leukaemia – including Cal. (Saanvi is an absolute gem!!!)

Ben, Michaela, Jared and Saanvi begin working together to figure out the mystery of the callings, why the plane jumped through time, and what it means for everyone involved. Initially, each episode follows another member from the plane and how they’re handling their callings and how their stories propel the group towards answers (and total confusion). The storylines eventually bring the passengers to an organisation who have deeply nefarious intentions and the question of whether someone else knows what’s going on.

I love the focus on family and siblings in this show. Michaela and Ben’s relationship is the central force of the show and they’re a great duo! Cal and Olive, twins with now a five year age difference between them, are adorable and protective of each other. The romantic relationships are great and really tug at your heartstrings. I love Ben and Grace together, and while I really liked Michaela and Jared at the start, I’m liking Zeke more and more. Zeke is introduced as a mystery character about midway through season one and I was pleasantly surprised to see the actor was Matt Long from Jack & Bobby! Nostalgia throwback!

The third season is airing in 2021 and I can’t wait to finish season two and find out what happens!

Show Review: A Discovery of Witches (2018)

I absolutely consumed A Discovery of Witches (the book), so it makes sense that I’d fall head over heels in love with the show. It’s so beautifully shot, so intense, so lush, so engrossing. I watched the entirety of season one on Sunday and I am in the mood to watch it all over again!

As with the book, the show follows Diana Bishop, a DPhil from Yale studying for a summer at Oxford while she finishes up her latest article on alchemical symbolism. She’s also a witch, but on the down low and not happy about the magical world in general following her parents’ murder when she was very young. In the course of her research, she finds a magical tome, freaks out, and sends it back to the stacks. Little does Diana know that by opening the book, she’s caught the attention of every vampire, witch and daemon on campus (and abroad).

Matthew Clairmont, a professor of biochemistry at Oxford, introduces himself to Diana, who knows instantly that he’s a vampire. He wants the book she discovered in an effort to learn more about the origins of vampires and why they seemingly can no longer sire humans into vampires. His son Marcus’ failed attempt at turning his best friend is just the latest in the series of confusing occurrences for vampires. Though Matthew unsettles Diana, he seems to be the only one on her side as witches harass her. Unlike the vampires, who want the book to learn about their origins and to survive, the witches want the book to erase vampires from existence.

As Diana and Matthew try and discern the mysteries of the book and why Diana is the one and only person to find it in centuries, other witches, vampires and daemons close in around them, forcing the pair to flee to France, where Matthew’s vampire family reside.

I LOVED EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS SHOW!!! It’s full of romance, magic, mystery, politics, history, architecture, scenery, science and more! I want to draw hearts around it and watch it over and over. Season two is going to be here in 2021 and I cannot wait! I must have more of Diana and Matthew’s epic romance.

Five Mini Film Reviews: The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), Ready Player One (2018), About Time (2013), The Aeronauts (2019), Jupiter Ascending (2015)

I have watched so many good movies lately and they all deserve lengthy reviews, but I’m going to keep these short and sweet for now!

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is honestly fantastically well done. It recounts the court hearing of seven (eight) activists – Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner and John Froines – charged with starting a riot in Chicago to protest the Vietnam War, and another – Bobby Seale – who wasn’t in the area but is dragged into the court room regardless. If you’ve studied the Vietnam War protests and the Civil Rights and counter culture movements, then this is definitely up your alley. It’s also a harrowing depiction of the brutality and racism so many faced simply for existing. It’s directed by Aaron Sorkin and definitely has his signature take and will grip your heart and not let go.

Ready Player One was so, so brilliant. Knowing Steven Spielberg directed it was what pushed me to give it a go as I wasn’t quite sold on the premise by itself. I’m not a gamer or into virtual reality, so the prospect of a dystopian future where VR is the only good thing wasn’t quite what I had in mind. But I gave it a go and I’m delighted that I did! The visuals are amazing, the Easter eggs and throwbacks to retro games, 80s music and classic movies were super cool. It felt like a love letter to pop culture wrapped up in a dystopian adventure and I enjoyed every second. In fact, I liked it so much that I watched it twice in a row: once alone and then again with my partner after work because I knew it would be in his lane. And he adored it, so win!

About Time was such a lovely rewatch! I saw it a few years ago but I wanted to show it to my partner because I think the message of the film is genuine and sincere and wholesome. It’s a movie to watch when you need uplifting, yanno? It follows a family where the first born sons have the ability to travel through time. Tim, the main character, at first tries to use the power to fix his love life, but quickly learns that even with time travel, things aren’t that simple. The focus of this story is characters, their relationships and on the importance of appreciating every moment of life. The fantasy/science fiction aspect takes a backseat and is never explained beyond we can time travel, but it works very well and it’s a movie I can see myself rewatching a lot because it’s just so darn lovely.

The Aeronauts was absolutely fantastic. It’s inspired by real events, so it’s not a direct take on history. Basically, the film follows real life meteorologist James Glaisher and fictional pilot Amelia Wren (Amelia Rennes is also used in the film, perhaps because her surname is Anglicised from her French husband’s? Not sure, not explained). Anyways, Amelia Wren is a composite character based on a few real life female aviators: Sophie Blanchard and Margaret Graham. Her husband is partially inspired by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Thomas Harris. James and Amelia and the events the characters go through in the film are used to really cover the era, and I like what the director’s trying to do. It’s important to note that James’ real life historical partner, Henry Coxwell, isn’t included, and I understand the criticism of omitting his role in James’ flight, but the director’s reasoning of wanting to represent the female aviators of the time makes sense. It’s not meant to be a documentary, it’s an inspirational film based in history, so just go into that knowing the divergence. James is real, Amelia is fictional, but the end result is wonderful.

In the film, two years after Amelia’s husband Pierre falls to his death from a hot air balloon, she’s coaxed back into the skies by James, a scientist determined to prove that you can predict weather (he’s the father of weather forecasting, basically), but he’s been laughed out of the Royal Society in London for his ideas, which many claim are far-fetched and based in fantasy. He and Amelia agree to try and outdo the French record of reaching 23,000 feet while taking readings as they go up, in an effort to help James understand weather patterns. The intensity of the flight cannot be overstated and I gasped throughout the entirety of it, but it was brilliantly done. Absolutely fantastic movie! I’d love to see a documentary on the era and James Glaisher’s real life flight with Thomas Coxwell if anyone knows of any docs? Also, any docs on female aviators, please send my way!

Jupiter Ascending was definitely unexpected but I’m glad I finally watched it! I never got into The Matrix (much to everyone’s horror, I know) but I absolutely adored Sense8, so I figured I would give this one a go (same directors). I don’t know if I loved it as much as I wanted to (and considering how much I adore Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean as actors), but there was definitely a lot to like. Visually it was gorgeous and I thought the plot was fascinating. The idea of other creatures engineering the start of Earth, mass civilisations out there in the galaxy, all very cool. If you’re a fan of space opera, this one is well worth a go!

Show Review: The Day of the Triffids (2009)

If anyone ever asks me what my favourite Cinderella story is, my answer will be shouting Ever After (1998) at the top of my lungs before they can even finish the question. Perfect Cinderella, perfect Prince Charming, perfect Leonardo da Vinci as the fairy godmother. Perfect, perfect, perfect. As a result, Dougary Scott has always been a favourite of mine and I’m therefore *shock Pikachu face* at the fact that this BBC adaption of a classic science fiction novel from 1951 with the classic Prince Charming has somehow escaped my notice. At least I’ve found it now!

The Day of the Triffids is two-part series that follows Bill Masen and Jo Playton after a meteor shower has left most of the world blind. For context, triffids are a source of alternative fuel that is pollution free and easy to grow, but at a steep risk – these plants eat people. Global warming has been diverted by these plants, but they’re not safe and must be kept under constant watch. Bill, a scientist who has spent his life studying triffids after a sting from one killed his mother, and Jo, a reporter, escaped the blindness (two of the few who did), but not the triffids.

Bill and Jo cross paths as panic breaks out and chaos ensues as a result of so many losing their sight all at once. At the same time, the triffids, now unwatched, begin to wreak havoc on London. While what’s left of the government try and gather supplies, and a man named Coker rallies those who have been blinded by the meteor to keep them safe, the triffids spread across the land and the only ones emphasising their danger are Bill and Jo. Everyone else is more concerned with the obvious diversions of everything going wrong, believing the pair’s fears overblown. (Narrator: Their fears were not overblown.)

Dougray Scott and Joely Richardson are fantastic in this! I wasn’t expecting to see Jason Priestly in a BBC production, but his character makes for a good introduction. He plays Coker, a man furious at the lack of care being shown to those who have been blinded and becomes an activist of sorts, although his tactics take questionable directions. I wasn’t expecting to see Eddie Izzard either, and his character becomes a supplementary antagonist alongside the triffids and adds to the chaos and fear that permeate every scene.

If you’re looking for a science fiction miniseries with a solid cast and a different take on unravelling of society, this one is a good diversion from zombies and aliens. This time, it’s plants!

Film Review: Mortal Engines (2018)

There are few aesthetics that I like more than steampunk. Futuristic tech with old-timey designs and styles? Sign me up! So it follows that I’d love Mortal Engines, but I didn’t realise how much I would love it. I’ve had the book for a while but haven’t got around to reading it yet, so I didn’t really know what the film was about besides moving cities.

*spoilers*

The storyline follows Hester Shaw, an orphan in a world far in the future after war and massive technology have ravaged the land, leaving only predator cities and at risk stationary settlements. One powerful city, London, consumes smaller cities, stripping them for parts and stealing from the citizens. The opening scene is London chasing Salzhaken, a tiny city with salt stores. When the inhabitants are shepherded into London and their things are taken from them, Hester slips through with her blade and stabs the city’s leading archaeologist and deputy mayor, Thaddeus Valentine. Hester escapes and Tom, an admirer of Valentine’s, chases after her. She tries to jump off the city and he grabs her. She tells him that Valentine killed her mother before yanking free and falling. Seconds later, Valentine pushes Tom off the side of the city for having heard the secret. He tells his daughter, Tom’s friend Kate, that he fell to his death.

On the ground, stuck in the great tyre treads of London, Hester picks Tom’s pockets and sets off, furious at having failed to kill Valentine. Tom follows, unable to shut up and now doubting everything he’s ever known. The two are found by scavengers who bring them to a slave market where they’re subsequently rescued by Anna Fang, the most notorious assassin on the continent. Let me just say that Anna Fang is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. She has the most gorgeous plane, for starters. It looks more like a badass flying lantern. She’s also proficient in all weaponry and fights for the Anti-Traction League, a group against the predator cities.

The trio are chased by a new enemy, Shrike, a ‘Stalker’ who is more machine than man, and who is obsessed with killing Hester for ‘breaking her promise’. It’s revealed by Hester that Shrike raised her after he found her near death and saw her as his child. Shrike doesn’t have a heart, but remnants of his past life as a human bleed through and there is genuine affection there. We also learn that Shrike found Hester days after her mother Pandora was killed by Valentine after she discovered an ancient piece of technology that he wanted to control. I really, really enjoyed the Shrike storyline. It’s utterly distressing but in a very well written way, and Hester’s relationship with him was a poignant background story.

Back on London, Kate befriends Bevis, an Irish mechanic who witnessed Valentine shoving Tom off London and agrees to help her find out what her father is up to. I appreciated how quickly everyone got on the same page. There was no wishy-washiness about the characters, no bargaining or bullshit. The characters adapted to situations quickly and maturely, and Kate and Bevis as a pair are just as dynamic as Hester and Tom.

Everything comes to a head at Shan Guo, the great wall barrier that protects settler cities from predator cities. The final show down was fast paced and cathartic: Tom gets to test his flying skills, Hester has her showdown with Valentine, Kate plays an essential role, as does Anna. For everyone who has ever wanted a movie that doesn’t sideline its female characters, this one’s for you!

It must also be said that I loved everyone’s outfits in this movie: Hester’s outfit, Anna’s outfit, Tom’s outfit – it’s a steampunk DREAM, lads. Truly, truly stunning. The design of the cities was gorgeous and inspired. The shout-outs to history and culture had me in awe, too. There were a lot of great current analogies and throw away lines that were brilliant.

The ending was great, too. I honestly loved every aspect of this movie and thoroughly, thoroughly recommend it. ♡