As of a few days ago, I have a holiday 😀 Ten relaxing days off, no work, no plans, no pressure, just chill and have fun.
I celebrated the start of the holiday by finishing my current book, Hounded, by Kevin Hearne. It’s the first book in a urban supernatural fantasy series called the Iron Druid Chronicles. The main character is an immortal, 2000 year old Druid who has imbued himself with the essence of Iron so as to better fight of faeries. He’s being hounded by various Celtic deities who either want to kill him or help him (although mainly for their own good). Throw in his vampire and werewolf lawyers, his occult/magic shop and him being able to talk with his dog and you have all the ingredients I like. Because of this, I expected to like the book, and I did. In fact, I love it. I’m looking forward to getting the other parts and reading more about the adventures of Atticus.
Yesterday I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road with Jasper and Nienke. It was a glorious movie! Very little plot, but after seeing the trailer a few times, I was prepared for this and totally pumped to see it. All I expected was two hours of racing, chasing, fighting and sheer ridiculousness, and that is exactly what I got and I wanna see it again.
Today I finished another book, The 100, by Kass Morgan. I was intrigued by the premise of the book: Earth is uninhabited after a global ecological crisis. The survivors have lived in a trio of generation ships in orbit waiting for Earth to become habitable again. When the clock starts ticking, 100 juvenile delinquents are, instead of killed, dropped on the planet as test subjects to see if it is safe. This also ticks a bunch of my boxes: young adult, sci-fi, dystopia; but I found the execution a bit lacking. I’m missing substance. I liked the flashbacks that showed what life on the ships is like for the various social classes, but overall it felt very light, and not enough time was spent furthering the plot.
Since this is the first in a series, I expect this to pick up in later parts, but I’m not in any hurry to get them. I am curious, though, of the TV series made of it so I will be watching that sometime.
Monday after work I had a movie date with Ingrid and Nienke. Getting off work I headed for the cinema where Ingrid was already waiting. Nienke, who came by bus, showed up a little while later. First we went into the cinema to get Nienke registered for an Unlimited card, and then we got our tickets. Since we had more than enough time left before the movie, we then sauntered up to Subway for dinner.
Afterwards we went back for the movie, which was Pitch Perfect 2. I had high hopes for the film, since I really like part one. Part two had a lot of good things, but I missed spark for about two-thirds or so of the movie. I’ll probably watch it again if it’s ever on TV or something, but it’s not a favourite.
Coming out of the theater we had some time left before our bus would go, so we decided to have a drink. At first we decided on a coffee place further up from the cinema, but it was closed 🙁 So we settled on a Spanish themed café-restaurant called Cerveseria Catalana. With the others going for some beer and wine, I chose an Irish Coffee. I always like that. Too bad, though, there was decisively little Irish in that coffee. Kind of a shame, considering the price…
While we were enjoying our drinks, we figured it was a good idea to take a later bus and sit and chat some more. So that’s what we did 🙂
Yesterday was the first time since my surgery that I went to the movies again. I hadn’t dared try before since I’m still experiencing discomfort and minor chest muscle pain when I’m sitting for a long time. It’s also only been since this week that I’ve been working a full 8 hour day again (the week before I did 6 hour days, and the two weeks before that, half days). So I felt movies in the evening after working was probably not yet a good idea. But Wednesday, as usual, I worked my half day at home and then went to the city to meet up with Gert.
During the non-movie weeks, I of course missed a bunch of movies I still wanted to see. First and foremost of those was Avengers: Age of Ultron. It’s only playing really early in the day and really late now, which is a sign it will be leaving theaters soon. Gert had already seen it, but didn’t mind watching it again.
I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, I’ve gotten used to trailers spoiling huge parts of movie plots, or even the entire plot, and here there was a whole extra dimension to the plot not shown in the trailer. I enjoyed the bit with Jarvis and Ultron, when he has just formed; and really enjoyed Vision. I hope he gets to stick around.
I had hoped, after the previous movies, that the the Avengers would really be a team by now, but there is still the same distrust and lack of cohesion between the lot of them when it comes down to it. Tony specifically needs to learn to trust other people and talk to them. Banner has his issues, but he at least is making progress and I really like how the relationship between him and Natasha was shown.
I loved the bit where they take refuge in Clint’s house and we get to meet his family, that no-one knew he had… Yet another sign that the team isn’t really a team. The interactions between Clint and his family, were lovely and it was fun to see how the others react to being in such a normal, and peaceful, environment. It was also a nice break between the battling in the first half and the battling in the second half.
The twins were interesting, I like their presence and I am sad that Quicksilver died. It would’ve been nice to see what he could do later on. I am pleased, also, that War Machine and Falcon got to play, and that the group of them is set up to be Avengers also. I do hope, though, it is not a sign that we will see less of the big names in further Avengers movies. It’s not really the Avengers without the core group.
After the Avengers we went on to see Tomorrowland (or Project T, as my cinema seems to want to call it…). It’s a bit of an uneven movie. The visuals are stunning and I want so badly to walk around in that city and explore! The intro part takes too long (I even muttered out loud for them to “get on with it”), and then when we get the part where Casey is recruited and runs away, and finds Frank and has to convince Frank, and then they all together have to run away some more and find a way to get to Tomorrowland to fix whatever the fuck is wrong takes very long.
In contrast, once they are back in Tomorrowland, it all happens to move rather fast. They talk some with Governor Nix, learn what the fuck is wrong, figure out how to stop it, and go about doing that. There’s some final battling to create a will-they-won’t-they feeling, but it’s never quite convincing enough. You know they will get it done. The final scene with Athena, though, is quite touching.
Overall, the film has a good adventure vibe, nice scifi ideas, good actors, but unbalanced plot and pacing, and is too heavy handed on the message (The apocalypse is near and it is your own fault, if humans would just DO something, they can still turn it around. Go DO that something, now).
Last week I went to see La Famille Bélier with Gert. I’d seen the trailer among the previews before Wild a week earlier and I was fascinated.
I loved the movie, and was so touched by, especially, the ending that I cried. I can’t quite put my finger on it why, though. So I’ve spent the past few days thinking about it, but I still can’t place it.
The movie shows us the Bélier family, father, mother, 16 year old daughter and a 14 or so year old son. Both parents and the son are Deaf. The son was born Deaf, and it is implied that the parents were, too. The daughter, Paula, is hearing, and it is from her perspective that the movie is shot.
The Béliers run a dairy farm. They have a number of cows and sell cheese at the local market(s). As the only hearing person in the family, Paula is the one fielding phone calls to and from suppliers and other contacts. She also serves as a translator for her parents in situations where they interact with hearing people face to face.
Besides that, she works at the farm, and has school, which is rather far away. Suffice it to say, her days are full, and there’s always something she has to do.
We get snapshots of Paula translating for her parents at the doctor’s office, and working the cheese stand at the market where her parents can’t hear a customer’s questions.
As the movie is billed (at least partially) as a comedy, these situations are extrapolated and magnified for comedic effect. The doctor’s visit has Paula having to tell her parents they can’t have sex for three weeks to allow her mother’s infection to heal. The cheese stand scene sees Paula quip that it’s the division of work: her mother smiles, she talks.
I can imagine these situations can come across as insulting to Deaf people, but I feel they are justified here based on the point of view. It is Paula that we follow, and Paula who is often exasperated by her family’s antics, as teenagers generally are. She doesn’t always want to be the one that has to do this or do that, she wants to do her own things, grow up some. And her parents like to keep their little family as is, safe and home.
At school, it’s time for the students to pick their extracurricular activity. Paula and her best friend Mathilde are waiting in line when they see Gabriel, the boy Paula is crushing on. He’s from Paris and seems to be the odd duck at school. When he picks choir as his activity, Paula promptly follows suit.
During choir practice, the teacher makes them sing songs by Michel Sardou, a French singer-songwriter who’s been singing for about 50 years. He’s not very popular with the younger generation, but a bit of a legend among older ones for his work in the 70s. Reading his Wikipedia page, I’m getting a bit of a Boudewijn de Groot vibe for that period.
The Parisian, as the boy is referred to, has a good voice, so he gets to sing a solo at the end of year recital. During practice, however, it turns out that Paula, normally fairly soft spoken, has a really good voice.
The teacher turns the Parisian’s solo into a duet with Paula. They agree to practice at her house, which results in a (for Paula) embarassing scene involving herself, the boy and her parents. Mortified she decides to keep her involvement with choir a secret from her parents.
The teacher also tells her about a singing competition in Paris. The winner gets to attend a school for talented singers, in Paris. He wants her to enter, and Paula wants to, as well. To get her ready, she practices at her teacher’s house every evening singing Je Vole, also by Michel Sardou. Je Vole is a song wherein a teenager tells his parents that he is about to leave. It’s not fleeing, it’s flying away, without substances, without other influences, the teenager chooses his own path and he begs his parents to accept this.
So between all her other duties, she now has to practice her singing both solo and the duet. And then, to make matters worse, her father decides to run for mayor. Leading to Paula being needed even more to translate.
When she finally does tell her parents she’s singing in the choir, she is met with resistance and a fight. Paula’s desire to follow her own dreams clashes with her mother’s fear of losing her. A fear she’s had ever since she learned that Paula could hear.
Her parents come to the recital at school and during the choir performance you can see they don’t really get it. Why would they, they’re all born deaf, they never heard music. They’ll be able to feel vibration, but they can’t feel that from a choir sitting in the audience.
So they look around a lot, talk to each other and keep busy while they wait for the rest to applaud to signify the singing is over.
Then, Paula and Gabriel sing their duet. As they start to hit the chorus, the sound fades and it remains silent for the rest of the song. A very powerful method to give some sort of clue to the hearing part of the audience as to how her parents and brother are experiencing it. They can, of course never fully replicate it, as hearing people will remember how music sounds, but it does make you realise how weird it must be for them to see her enjoy something they can never fully participate in.
It’s a chasm between them and it scares her mother more. Her father seems more understanding and later, when they’re back home, he asks her to sing for him as he places his hand on her throat. She sings for him, and he seems to see her passion, but ultimately can’t experience it in the same way.
Paula, who had decided against leaving her family, changes her mind at the last minute and her parents ultimately support her. They drive her to Paris and she makes the audition just in time. Her parents sit in the room to watch as Paula starts to sing. Even though they might be able to read lips (they don’t really do so during the movie) they still don’t fully understand. But then, as she starts the verse, she starts to sign along.
The lyrics are adapted slightly to better fit the actual story in the movie. And she sings about her mother’s sad face and her father’s smile and how she loves them, but she has to go and fly. It’s not a running away, but she is leaving, and they will no longer have a child. With the help of the signing, her parents finally understand, and accept.
There are some other story lines that are partly shown but get no neat endings, like her father’s mayoral candidature or her brother’s interest in Mathilde, just as life itself keeps going for others when you go a different direction.
If you can, watch this movie. It’s funny, entertaining, and deeply moving. The actress playing Paula, Louane, is also a singer (she was in the French version of The Voice) and the song is available on her album on Spotify. I’ve been listening to it non-stop since I saw the movie.
I couldn’t find a Dutch or English subbed version, so this German one will have to do 😀
Yesterday, Nienke and I went to the movies with Ingrid for that second movie for her birthday last year… The plan back then was to go see Step Up 5, but we couldn’t plan it before the movie stopped showing. And now all three of us wanted to see Wild.
I met up with Nienke after work, and we made our way to McDonalds to meet with Ingrid, and eat. It had been ages since I’d been there, so it was real fun to go. I had some of the newer things they introduced since last I’d been there.
Afterwards we headed for the cinema and saw Wild. I liked the movie, but it didn’t really speak to me. The scenery was very nice, Reese Witherspoon did a really good job as she ususally does. I understood the character motivations, rationally and emotionally, and the flashbacks were good. The secondary characters were okay to good. But the pacing felt off somehow, a bit too jumpy? Too many short bits in a row maybe. I can’t really put my finger on it.
After the movie we said our goodbyes and headed our separate ways home.
Shakespeare’s King Lear is an elderly king who decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters. He asks them to declare their love for him, the best declaration gets the biggest iece. The elder two children do so, but the youngest refuses to play this game. Angrily, King Lear gives her share to her sisters and she leaves for France with her new husband. The remaining sisters immediately show their true natures and treat their father like an old man, and even planning to murder him. During this, Lear flees the house in a great storm and loses his mind.
The youngest daughter plans to invade the realm to help her father and defeat her sisters, but she is captures and sentenced to death. The other daughters then destroy each other in jealousy over the same man, with the one poisoning the other, and then killing herself when the man in question turns out to be fatally wounded. With his last breath, the man revokes the death sentence, but it is too late, the daughter is dead, and seeing her body, Lear dies as well.
Tom Lanoye wrote a modern interpretation of this play for the Toneelgroep Amsterdam. The story lines have been compressed a bit: Gloucester as a character has been removed and his part has been merged with Kent. The setting is now a modern day business in 2008 (just before the economic crisis), and King Lear is now Queen Lear, with the part written for (and with) Frieda Pittoors.
Elizabeth Lear is the CEO of Lear Inc. A world-spanning business at the top of its power, started by her father and further built up by her husband until his death. She rules with an iron hand but she is getting older, and as such has decided to split the business in threes, one part for each of her sons. At the board meeting she interrupts Kent (played by Gijs Scholten van Aschat), who wishes to celebrate recent acquisitions, and declares her intentions. She asks her eldest son Gregory (played by Roeland Fernhout) to declare his love for her. He is unprepared, and initially unwilling, but manages to spin a tale and gets his portfolio.
Then it’s Hendrik, or Henry’s turn (played by Jip van den Dool who I also saw in Mary Stuart back in December), he also manages to spin a tale and receives his portfolio. The youngest, Cornald (played by Alwin Pulinckx), however, refuses. He loves his mother, but he will not play this game. Elizabeth is furious. She gives his part to Hendrik to divide between him and Gregory and disowns Cornald. Kent, who has been her friend and adviser for years, tries to defend him, upon which she fires him, too. Mama Lear then decrees that she will live with each of the brothers for a month at a time with her entourage, starting with Gregory.
Cornald travels to Asia to make a name for himself in micro-finance, supported by Kent who has given him contacts to start with. Gregory and Henry divide the rest, and try to keep the business, well, in business. Henry is a true businessman, he knows what he’s doing, Gregory has less business sense, he’s more in it for the money. It’s not long before tragedy starts to strike. Cornald has little success in Asia, and is being extorted and threatened to give up the business secrets of Lear Inc. The dividing of the company has scared investors and stockholders and the stocks are plummeting. Gregory and Henry try within their ability, but they can’t turn the tide.
While this happens Queen Lear tries her best to stay relevant and on top of things, manipulating the people around her as she has always done. But things are changing. Her mind is slipping, she becomes forgetful and doesn’t always recognize people anymore. Alzheimer’s is getting its clutches into her. This is good for Kent, as this allows him to stick around and try to help her, and Cornald, for whom he has a soft spot.
Besides Kent there is also Oleg, Queen Lear personal assistant and caretaker. He’s a young immigrant from Eastern Europe who sends most of the money he makes back home to his mother. Because of that, he feels deeply for Queen Lear as she reminds him of his own mother. This is not explicitly said in the play, but we had the luck that the introduction to the play was an interview with Vanja Rukavina, who plays Oleg, which gave us some extra insight into his character and the relationship between him and Queen Lear.
As the business is going under, Queen Lear is forced to cull the number of servants. She protests heavily but both brothers will not budge. Oleg calls his mother to tell her that he will not be able to send more money as the business is not doing well. We can’t understand this, as the conversation is in Bosnian, but Rukavina lifted the veil on that for those who were at the introduction 🙂
After the call, Queen Lear comes in, dejected, angry, confused, and in need of kindness and love. Her underlying attraction to Oleg comes to the surface and she tries to seduce him. While unwilling at first, he eventually consents and they end up in bed together.
This scene was added at the specific request of Frieda Pittoors, who wanted to explore a relationship that is still often seen as taboo. Older men with young trophy wives or lovers are generally applauded for landing such a conquest, while an older woman with a young boyfriend or husband is seen as weird.
After another argument with her sons and their wives, Queen Lear runs out of the building, into a terrible storm. She wanders around, lost, desolate and in the grip of her disease. She throws a monologue into the storm before she is found by Oleg who tries to take her home. They meet a homeless junk who she, in her delirium, mistakes for her youngest son Cornald (not quite coincidentally played by the same actor :D).
Eventually, Queen Lear is back home, still lost in her mind. Cornald has returned home, but she does not recognise him. The children fight over the downfall of the company. Henry has a plan to save what remains, Gregory is mostly on board, but Cornald disagrees. Kent is also present, still blinded from an earlier fight where Gregory attacked him. And so, with all present, tension mounts, drama unfolds and we move towards the inevitable tragedy of death, and a woman permanently lost in her own mind.
The play is a masterful adaptation of the original. The changes have made the story stronger, and relevant for current society. The actors are all quite good, but Frieda Pittoors knocks her part out of the park, she is fantastic. She manages to convey the loss of self through Alzheimer so very well.
‘t Was time for another double feature movie day, today. I met up with Gert at Pathé around 12:30 for the one o’clock showing of Chappie. I’d seen the trailer and was sort of interested. I like sci-fi, I like robots in general, but I wasn’t sure about the story line and the other characters. After seeing it, I still mostly feel like this.
The movie takes place in the very near future in South Africa. After the development of a robot police force, the Scouts, crime in Johannesburg (which is one of the most crime-ridden places in the world) is down drastically. One particular gang of criminals, containing Ninja & Yo-Landi Visser of Die Antwoord, owes a lot of money to a local crime lord. They decide to rob a money truck but realise they need to shut down the Scouts first. They learn, via the internet, that they were created by Deon Wilson, played by Dev Patel, and figure if they kidnap him, he can help them shut them down.
I really liked Dev Patel as Deon Wilson. In his free time he’s working on developing the first ever true AI. When he succeeds but is not allowed to use a destroyed chassis to test it, he steals it and is on his way home to insert the AI when he is cornered and stopped by the gang. They take him and the van with materials to their hide out and force him to insert the AI. He reluctantly does so and Chappie comes alive.
Like a baby, he learns things, but at a vastly accelerated rate. Which is good, since he only has about five days to live due to the damage to the battery and the chassis. Deon is sent away but keeps returning to help teach Chappie. He teaches him good morals like no crime and no killing, and shows him books and teaches him to paint. Ninja, on the other hand, needs him for the heist on the truck so wants to teach him gangster life. Outright, Chappie does not accept this, because no crime and no killing. Ninja then rephrases it as ‘recovering his stolen property’ and ‘making people sleep’ and teaches him other weaponry like shuriken and nunchuks.
Chappie also becomes fully sentient as he realises he has a battery that is running out. When told that the battery can’t be changed and that he will die when it runs out, he becomes sad. He does not want to die. Deon tries to help him deal (picture), but Ninja uses it as a tactic to get him to agree to the heist telling Chappie they can use the money to buy a new body. They practice by stealing cars and Chappie, having seen the neural interface earlier, works on isolating consciousness so it can be transferred.
Meanwhile, Deon’s colleague Vincent, played by Hugh Jackman, has his own robot. A military monster, controlled through a neurological interface instead of having an AI, with a fully loaded arsenal. He is trying his best to promote his robot over Deon’s Scouts but their boss isn’t buying it. So he decides to take matters into his own hand. The Scouts can only be programmed by inserting a Guard Keu into their brain. This key is under strict guard. Deon took it so he could program Chappie and Vincent finds out its missing.
He follows Deon and finds out about Chappie. He briefly manages to steal, or kidnap since he is sentient at that point, Chappie. He takes the Guard Key and saws of one of Chappie’s arms as punishment then throws him out. Using the Guard Key he later manages to install a program into all the Scouts causing them to stop working. As criminals start to realise this, mayhem is unleashed upon Joburg.
Chappie makes his way home to the gang, with some stops along the way (picture), and Deon fits him with a new spare arm. Chappie then goes with Ninja and the others to do the heist. A news helicopter catches him while they rob the money truck and the broadcast of a “Scout gone bad” brings even more panic. Both in the public, as well as in Tetravaal, the company Deon works for. The president of Tetravaal authorizes Vincent to use his robot to destroy Chappie. Which is exactly what he wants.
What follows is a robot versus robot battle at the gang’s hideout with a lot of casualties before Chappie manages to disable the mecha. Deon is fatally wounded, Yo-Landi is dead, and Ninja is left to pick up the pieces. Chappie frantically drives Deon to Tetravaal to try and transfer both his own consciousness as well as that of Deon into a new body.
In the end, I found the movie too broad. It is trying really hard to be an action movie and at the same time it would like to pose you several deep thoughts about consciousness and what it means to be sentient and human. And because of this, both parts suffer. I would’ve preferred it had they scrapped the whole Hugh Jackman plot and focused on Chappie figuring out what he is, who he is, asserting himself as his own person and coming to terms with mortality, whether he actually dies or not.
I’m also not really happy with Ninja and Yo-Landi. I kept seeing them more as themselves, i.e. Die Antwoord, than as the gangsters they’re supposed to be. Which is only made worse by them actually wearing Die Antwoord shirts and them using their own names. Their acting is lacking, and as such I do not believe and feel them as characters.
So, in summary, I liked Chappie and Deon and don’t really give a shit about the rest.
After Chappie, we took a quick detour to the supermarket, and then came back in for The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Another movie featuring Dev Patel as main character. I really liked this movie. It’s an unpretentious feel good movie, and follow-up to 2012’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. In the first movie, Sonny is trying to build up his hotel in India where most guests are elderly and have basically moved in to spend their last years. Now, the hotel is doing really well, so well in fact, that Sonny and one of the residents, co-manager Muriel (a fantastic Maggie Smith), go to the US to ask for financial support from a franchise to open a second hotel. The franchise is interested but not willing to commit just yet so they agree to send out a mystery guest observer to see if it’s worth it.
Once back, Sonny is stressed out and dealing with way too many things on his own. Not only is he waiting for the observer, he also has his own upcoming wedding to worry about. And with how Indian weddings go, this means three parties. Shortly later, two new guests arrive, Mrs Lavinia Beech, who gets the last free room in the hotel, and Mr. Guy Chambers.
Sonny gets all frenzied, convinced that Guy is the observer, since the franchise CEO said he would “send his Guy”. He bumps Mrs. Beech to a barely finished room, and starts pampering Guy. Guy has more manners and switches rooms with Lavinia after dinner. Over the next few days, Sonny expends all his energy on making Guy Chambers like him and the hotel ignoring his other guests, and his fiancee Sunaina. He is also jealous of his fiancee’s friend Kushal as he is the choreographer of the wedding dances and spends a lot of time with Sunaina. Next to that, he has bought the hotel Sonny had his eye on to expand into. As a result, he gets into arguments, bungles the dance on their first party, and gets in trouble with Sunaina, and her family.
Meanwhile, the guests each have their own problems. Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Evelyn (Judi Dench) are very fond of each other but afraid to say it so they keep going in circles and missing each other. Madge is dating two wealthy Indian men and having trouble choosing between them. Norman accidentally takes out a hit on his girlfriend, and is jealous of her other relationships (as they never said they were exclusive) but afraid to say so. And Guy Chambers is interested in Sonny’s mother, who is reluctant to think of a new relationship.
And behind all this, Muriel is doing her best to keep everything together and teach Sonny to do the right thing. After all, she will not live forever and at some point he has to do this on his own. Fortunately, everything works out in the end, every one has their own happy ending, and we get treated to an awesome Indian wedding dance(party). Dev Patel is a very fine dancer 🙂
Above all you must always have courage, and be kind
I saw Cinderella Wednesday with Gert. Of course the story is a familiar one and even more so since this is a Disney remake of the original Disney animation.
The movie spends a lot of time setting the background of Ella and her family. Her parents love her and each other, they live in a nice big manor house with a handful of servants and a bunch of animals. Then her mother falls ill and dies but not before telling Ella the above, and not to stop believing in magic.
Ella grows up, her father remarries the Lady Tremaine aka Cate Blanchett and gains two stepdaughters, Anastasia and Drusilla. At first things are tense but okay, and then Stepmother turns the quiet, peaceful house into party plaza.
It is clear that Ella’s father can’t forget his wife and that this second marriage isn’t all that great. We get glimpses now and then of Lady Tremaine’s feelings and see that she isn’t happy either, but not enough time is spent on this. Anastasia and Drusilla are nothing more than cardboard.
Then daddy dies while overseas, and Ella’s life starts to change. Before long, she is nothing more than the maid, and renamed to Cinderella by her stepsisters. She runs off, or rather: rides, and meets the Prince.
They hit it off, they talk and flirt and go their separate ways. We then spend some time in the palace with the Prince and King. The same applies here, there’s glimpses of backstory and character stuff, but it is flimsy and superficial.
Then, ball happens, Fairy Godmother comes along (an all too brief part for Helena Bonham Carter), cgi magic happens to turn pumpkin, mice, lizards and goose into coach, horses, footmen and driver and off to the ball Cindy goes.
Visually, it’s stunning. Cinderella’s dress is fantastic and the decor is beautiful. We get some more royal background which adds the tiniest bit of plot. Cindy and Kit dance, then run off into the garden where they talk more and it is from there she runs off when the clock strikes midnight.
The rest is familiar, the Prince searches all through the land to find her, and although interrupted by a wee bit of scheming, succeeds and they live happily ever after.
On the whole, the movie misses substance. The plot is already pretty thin, and it would have been nice to really add some actual character development. Unfortunately, I find neither of the actors playing Cindy and the Prince strong enough to carry the movie.
Manners maketh man
Afterwards, we saw Kingsman: The Secret Service. This movie is fantastic! It’s a British film, and, fortunately, it shows.
Kingsman is an intelligence agency formed in the 19th century to be an independent secret service, free from government allegiances and influence. All members are gentlemen, and generally coming from a wealthy background, clad in the best bespoke suits you can find. In fact, their front is that of a high end tailor making said bespoke suits.
They are led by “Arthur”, their tech genius is “Merlin” and every member has a codename of one of the knights of the round table. This means there’s a set number of agents, and when one dies, the others all put forth a candidate. After an intense testing, process the one remaining candidate gets the job.
At the beginning of the movie, Lancelot dies, so there’s an opening.
Every agent brings in a candidate, and all are upper class youth. Except Galahad’s choice. He brings in Eggsy, the son of his candidate the last time there was an opening, and who didn’t make it. Eggsy is in his early twenties, no job, several brushes with the law, living with his mum, her abusive boyfriend and his half sister.
From there on we follow Eggsy as he goes through the training and selection process, and Galahad as he works, until the two plotlines meet and shit hits the fan.
The movie has this old school gentleman spy feel, and knows it. It alludes to it several times, and manages to blend this old school attitude with modern tools and equipment. It also has a very good mix of serious and fun. Coupled with excellent casting choices (Colin Firth as Galahad, Mark Strong as Merlin, Taron Egerton as Eggsy), this film is a joy to watch and very much recommended.
I forgive myself
Then yesterday, Kim and I went to see Insurgent. It picks up almost immediately after Divergent, only a few days have passed. We meet up with Tris, Four, Caleb and Peter in Amity where they have taken shelter. At first, they seem mostly settled in as they wait for things to happen and make plans. But things are not quite what they seem and before you know it, they’re back on the run, heading into the city with the end goal of killing Jeanine.
Along the way to do that, they meet the Factionless, split up, find people, and loose people, and we spend time with both Candor and Erudite before this movie’s endgame begins.
The movie skips a fair amount of book, but I feel this was the best choice as the skipped part is mostly repetitive of things seen in Divergent. By cutting it, the rest of the movie can take a slower pace and dive into things with more detail.
We get several touching Tris/Four moments, more insight into the other factions, more Sims, and we also get to see Tris struggle with herself. She’s riddled with guilt about the death of her parents and the shooting of Will, as already established in Divergent. Throughout the movie, we see her grow, and slowly deal with it.
The end is a bit anticlimactic; it feels a little bit rushed, and too easy. It does, however, leave a perfect starting point for the last film. And, even though I wouldn’t mind more of this series, I do hope they do just one movie for the last book.
Went to see Jupiter Ascending with Gert tonight. We’d been wanting to see it for a while now, but it was always being shown at ridiculous times (middle of the afternoon or late in the evening). But, today we got lucky as there was a 18:00 showing and with it being my day off, and Gert also free around that time, we finally got to go.
I’ve heard some buzz about the movie being both awesome and disappointing at the same time, and I can see that. Visually, the movie is stunning. The costumes, the sets, the decor, the CGI. Everything is elaborate and filled with details, and the action sequences are fantastically made.
I also really liked the backstory, where Earth is just another planet in a universe filled with inhabited worlds and where Earth isn’t actually all that important. It’s just another commodity to be traded. The only advantage it has, is its sheer number of people, and that makes it valuable enough, that it is worth scheming and killing for.
The various aliens are fun and interesting, and the steampunk vibe coming off the ships and buildings is a nice change from standard, smooth, grey, metal in sci-fi. The glimpse of the culture of bureaucracy in the origin of humankind planetary conglomerate of Orous is fantastic to see as Advocate Bob leads Jupiter and Caine from one desk to another to get her inheritance settled. The steampunk elements are strong in this sequence, with a drizzle of cyberpunk added, and it really sets the scene, visually.
The characters are not very well developed. Kalique isn’t shown enough to have any development whatsoever. Titus is okay, but his part (with Jupiter) of the story goes so fast that it is not at all believable. Balem is fantastically played by Eddie Redmayne. His facial expressions and creepy voice make him a perfect ‘mad king’. Unfortunately, the character’s main drive, profit and a mommy-complex, is too thin to carry the plot.
Jupiter herself is sort of interesting, but I wish we could’ve seen more of her. I do like the lack of romance. Except a mention about twice, there is no swooning and pining and other such nonsense until the very end where they kiss. Which was a nice ending.
I also like Caine very much. I found his story, and that of Stinger, the most interesting and would have liked to see more of that.
Plot and story wise, the movie is lacking. Jupiter has very little agency, most of the movie she is moving around from place to place because people bring her there, and then she runs off only to be found or captured by someone else, who brings her elsewhere. The main reason for all that moving about is to gain the title to Earth from her, either by wanting to murder her, or get her on their side. This is not fleshed out enough, because the movie spends most of its time doing chases or running. The chase sequences are very well made and look awesome, but they are too long, and too often. The running away seems fairly pointless. Other than that, it just jumps all over the place seemingly without connection.
All in all, I do like the movie, but it isn’t great. I might see it again if it’s ever on TV or anything, but I have no need for it in my collection. Which is a disappointment as I had hoped, from seeing the trailers before it was released, to love the movie.
Oh, the teenage memories tonight! I went to see the Backstreet Boys documentary “Show ’em What You’re Made Of” with Ingrid and Nienke tonight. It was shown in cinemas all over Europe at the same time, and then afterwards there would be a small concert of the Boys shown live. I was a pretty big fan of them during their first three or so albums, in my early teens. I can still sing along to most of the songs if I hear them.
I was over at Ingrid’s earlier this week to have dinner and we got to talking about movies, as we still need to go see one with the three of us for her birthday. We did see Begin Again, but we couldn’t make Step Up 5 work with all three of our schedules and the times it was shown. While doing that, we noticed the Backstreet Boys film in the line up for tonight and we were both interested.
Once home, I showed Nienke, but she wasn’t really interested, so Ingrid and I decided to go with the two of us. I reserved us two tickets, which was a smart move as there were few seats left. Since we had some time between the start of the show and when I was off work, we figured we go to eat someplace. As Nienke was also in the city in the afternoon, we agreed to eat together.
We settled on old favourite Pappa Joe and I met up with Ingrid, Nienke and a surprise Marleen with whom she had been out and about. We had a good time, but then we had to leave to make the movie in time. Marleen had to go the other way, so Nienke walked us to the cinema.
There, she changed her mind and decided that if the seat next to us was still free (we had near edge seats and the single one beside us was still free when I made the reservations), she would also go. We headed for the info desk, as we couldn’t get the single seat from the machine, and fortunately it was still available!
The documentary was fun, it showed the 20 year history of the band and followed them while they were making their last album and world tour, showing both the fun times and the struggles. Nothing earth shattering, but a glorious view back in time to my teenage years, and a glimpse into the lives they had and have now as people, and not just Backstreet Boys.
Afterwards, it switched to London, if I remember correctly, where the Boys were present for the European premiere of the movie and where they would do a short a cappella concert. They sang about seven or so songs, both old favourites as well as things from their last album. They still sound really good, although their voices have changed some as they have grown older which sounded a little bit strange sometimes especially with the older songs where certain parts are so ingrained in memory.