A while ago, I had a notion to file non-beauty posts on another blog, but I’ve decided that I will just combine them all into this one. You may see the occasional random review here, from now on!
I didn’t do a movie and TV roundup last month, as we really haven’t had the chance to watch as much stuff, so now I have a post covering three months’ worth of viewing.
What I Saw
- Moana 
- Assassin’s Creed 
- The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1) 
- The Magnificent Seven 
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 
- John Wick: Chapter 2 
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 
- Arrival 
- Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children 
What I Started Watching
- American Gods (Season 1) 
- Chuck (Seasons 1–2) [2007–08]
- Doctor Strange 
- Trollhunters (Season 1) 
- Outlander (Series 1) 
- Game of Thrones (Season 7) 
- Shin Gojira 
Mini reviews follow for the shows I finished watching:
2016 | Directed by Ron Clements, John Musker, Don Hall, Chris Williams. With the voices of Auli’i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Jemaine Clement.
It’s been a while since I’ve fallen in love with a Disney movie. I really enjoyed Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Zootopia, but those never really reach the lofty, epic heights of the Disney films of my childhood. But with Moana, they’ve finally done it.
The characters and voice work are wonderful, the story is Odyssean and beautifully strange (I particularly enjoyed the Mad Max-ish action sequence with the adorably violent Kakamora), and the animation looks spectacular. I wish I’d been able to see this in the cinema.
The songs are ridiculously catchy, and the lyrics are often wonderful—particularly in The Rock’s number, “You’re Welcome”, and the glamrock-esque “Shiny”—where else will you find demigod rhymed with decapod?
2016 | Directed by Justin Kurzel. With Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling.
If you only knew the cast of this movie, you’d imagine this was a serious drama, probably British, angling for serious awards. But it’s actually the cast of Assassin’s Creed, based on the wildly popular video game series. Video game movies can actually be enjoyable (see: Resident Evil, Doom, and even Prince of Persia); unfortunately, this movie takes itself far too seriously. Fassbender brings nothing but dourness to the role (does he have a humorous bone in his body?), and the typically reliable Irons and Cotillard are just phoning it in. I was bored out of my mind, and I generally have a high tolerance for mediocre action/sci-fi films.
The Handmaid’s Tale (Season 1)
2017 | Created by Bruce Miller. With Elisabeth Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd, O.T. Fagbenle, Max Minghella, Samira Wiley.
The Handmaid’s Tale, originally a 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, tells a disturbingly realistic tale of a dystopian society in the very near future. This new television adaptation from Hulu has been slightly modernized and feels absolutely terrifying, particularly in the current political climate. Almost everything about this series is pitch-perfect, and I wholeheartedly recommend it. My husband and I binged it as fast as we could.
The series veers off from the original source material by the end—we are eagerly awaiting the second season.
The Magnificent Seven
2016 | Directed by Antoine Fuqua. With Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo.
I admit that I have never seen the original Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, which itself was based on the iconic film Seven Samurai. The story has been done many times before—while watching, I realized that this is also the plot of ¡Three Amigos!, which was a favorite of mine as a child. And that Galaxy Quest is kind of like ¡Three Amigos! in space. Seven Samurai started it all.
Director Fuqua is reunited with his Training Day stars Washington and Hawke, and along with Chris Pratt, that’s mostly it for the big names. (The 1960 film boasted more star power, with Brynner, Eli Wallach, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Robert Vaughn.)
The actors are all fine; where the movie is let down is the script, which has too much filler and yet it still doesn’t allow the audience to connect well with any of the characters. The movie is watchable, but it’s basically the film equivalent of beach reading.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
2017 | Directed by James Gunn. With Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Michael Rooker, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan.
The first Guardians of the Galaxy was a massive hit, and I, too, easily fell for its charms: a colorful superhero action space opera with irreverent humor, cute animated characters, and a rockin’ ’70s soundtrack. A sequel was never in doubt, and while Marvel and director Gunn have gamely tried to reproduce the magic of the first film, I feel that they fell just short.
The sequel’s story is a little weaker, the jokes feel slightly repetitive, the set pieces are less exciting, the songs are not quite as catchy (in my humble opinion!), and the villain is somewhat dull. But hey, Baby Groot! Guardians 2 remains a fun movie, and it’s perfectly good as a summer blockbuster—just don’t expect it to be as good as the first. That’s a high bar, to be fair!
John Wick: Chapter 2
2017 | Directed by Chad Stahelski. With Keanu Reeves, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ian McShane, Ruby Rose, Common.
The first John Wick seemingly came out of nowhere to become something of a cult hit. I will honestly say that when I first saw the poster on a billboard, the tagline (“Don’t set him off”) made me roll my eyes quite hard, and I immediately wrote off the movie as some bad action flick.
I eventually thought it’d be amusing to watch—sometimes mindless action is fun, and I don’t usually say no to Keanu!—and holy crap. John Wick turned out to be this incredibly stylish, ever-so-slightly fantastical revenge movie with pretty rad action sequences. It even had some impressive world-building.
The sequel, incredibly, has more action than the first. As sequels are wont to do, it also has a weaker plot, fewer quotable lines, and less interesting/more annoying side characters (Ruby Rose and Common are weak replacements for Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, and Alfie Allen in the first film). Maybe even a little less style. But it’s mostly forgiven by the end, when you realize that this has only played out as the set-up to a grand finale of a three(?)-act series. I’m good with that.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
2017 | Directed by Guy Ritchie. With Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Aidan Gillen, Eric Bana.
Guy Ritchie is a weird director for me: I usually either really like or really dislike his movies.
His anachronistic version of King Arthur, oddly, falls in-between. It’s really quite a stupid movie, for one thing. But it does have its moments of clarity and invention, and to the credit of its stars, none of them seems to have realized that they are in a very dumb film. I kind of place this movie up there with 2014’s Hercules with The Rock: ridiculous, but fun enough if you can appreciate this sort of thing.
2016 | Directed by Denis Villeneuve. With Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker.
On the surface, this film is classic science fiction: alien spacecrafts visit Earth, and a linguist (Adams) and a physicist (Renner) are called in by the U.S. Army to communicate with the visitors. However, Arrival, based on a novella (“Story of Your Life”) by Ted Chiang, is not your typical sci-fi movie: there is hardly any “action”, and most of the film contemplates language, communication, and the concept of free will. It tells a fascinating story and I was unprepared for the poignance of the ending. Some will compare it with Interstellar, but I found Arrival to be far more honest and thoughtful a film. (Also, Amy Adams doesn’t spend half the movie hollering her daughter’s name.)
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
2016 | Directed by Tim Burton. With Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell, Terence Stamp, Chris O’Dowd, Samuel L. Jackson.
I’ve long been a fan of Tim Burton’s earlier work, but it’s been a while since I’ve warmed to his more recent films (I despised his versions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, and Sweeney Todd and Dark Shadows didn’t do much for me). Miss Peregrine piqued my interest for two reasons: it looked like a children’s movie—I have a toddler now, so I like to vet stuff for him—and I’ll pretty much watch anything with Eva Green.
Well, my fellow parents, this is not a film for children. At least not for those under ten or so (the film is rated PG-13). It’s not as bad as the time I thought Pan’s Labyrinth might be a children’s film (it so is not, but it is brilliant!). Still, it was just creepy enough that I think I’d have had sleepless nights as a too-imaginative ten year-old.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has a clumsily long title and is based on a 2011 novel of the same clumsily long title by Ransom Riggs. It’s a dark, fantastic, and wonderfully imaginative story involving people with supernatural gifts (it’s hard not to equate Miss Peregrine with Professor X of X-Men). The cast is really excellent, although I’m not totally sold on Asa Butterfield in the main role—he looks the part, meaning he looks like a cookie-cutter Tim Burton hero (awkward, otherworldly), but he’s a bit bland. Might just be the way the role was written, though. Samuel L. Jackson has an amusing turn as a showboating villain who could be distantly related to his character in Kingsman.
Thanks for reading!
If you have any movie or television recommendations for me, please let me know in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for something great to watch!